Holiday Social Contracts: Landmines for the Socially Awkward

Jake: “What do you wanna watch?”
Me: “We could watch Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.”
Jake: “I thought we were done with Christmas movies.”
Me: “That’s not a Christmas movie. It’s a New Years movie… and in seven months, we can watch Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.”

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Y’all, I love the holidays. I don’t mean that the way normal people do, either. I mean aggressively so. I love the decorations, the music, the holiday movies and episodes of my favorite TV shows. I watch and sing along to The Worst Witch and Hocus Pocus on repeat, starting in late August. I love the garishly themed jewelry and t-shirts and hats that are suddenly acceptable on October first, but I pull them out in mid-September, regardless.

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One of the major concessions of my marriage involved selling my six foot tall hot pink Christmas tree and decor that looked like it was stolen from the set of Babes in Toyland. No one will ever convince me that red and green M&M’s and Reese’s Bells don’t taste better. I love the holidays so much, that I’ve been a little depressed for the last two weeks, because the season was almost over.

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I will, however, admit that there is one aspect of the holiday season I loathe entirely… 

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… and that is the minefield of social contracts.

In my field, anyone who doesn’t consider themselves to be entirely crippled by their own introversion, is labeled an extrovert. This somewhat skewed view means that many of my coworkers consider me to be quite the social butterfly, due to my comfort level socializing with all eleven of them. They’re not entirely wrong, either. I quite enjoy my job. I spend each day with the same handful of people, whose personal stories and worldviews and interests I’ve come to know and respect. I have numerous casual interactions with customers that rarely go deeper than a reader’s advisory discussion on the abusive relationship dynamics present in Nicholas Sparks’ novels. I see the same teenagers at each program, where we discuss who would win in a battle, Doctor Who or The Hulk. Overall, as someone who always scores on the cusp of extroversion and/or introversion, I get exactly the right amount of stimulation in my position… now.

When I first started at the Cherokee Library, I was completely overwhelmed, socially. I didn’t know my coworkers’ backgrounds, religious views, entertainment interests, political affiliations, or tastes in music. If I mentioned my desire to buy a house near the local Catholic school, so I could send my kids there, would I appear judgemental to the nonbeliever? If I told my coworkers I couldn’t handle the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, because of their political hostility, would they shun me for my less liberal viewpoint? If I casually suggested that Taylor Swift lacked depth, would I devastate her biggest fan by inadvertently calling him shallow? Every night, I went home and turned over literally every interaction in my mind, wondering if I’d said the right thing, left the correct impression, presented myself accurately. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be well liked, but properly understood. It was fine with me if someone didn’t like me, as long as they didn’t like me for reasons that were valid. While taking on the new title of Teen Librarian was daunting, the social implications of starting at a new library again, left me emotionally spent. It’s been five months now and I’m only beginning to relax, to feel like I belong. In short… extrovert my ass.

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So, while I love, love, love the holidays, I think I’ve finally realized that what I truly enjoy is the build up. I love sitting at home, reciting every word to Hocus Pocus, with the cat. I love watching Thanksgiving episodes of How I Met Your Mother, on my tablet, while Jake plays video games. I love listening to Christmas carols on the Google Home, while making peanut brittle in my kitchen. I love showing pictures of my Christmas stockings to my coworkers, and oohing and ahhing over photos of their pets in reindeer antlers. I love driving through Christmas lights with my husband. What I really love is sprinkling the everyday, homebody familiar, with bright colors and lights and glitter and festivity. The grand finale, though? That stresses me the fuck out, primarily due to the aforementioned endless mandatory social contracts, such as…

Bringing a Dish

On December 22, I burst into tears when my three-ingredient peanut butter cookies tasted exactly like three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, and angrily tossed them in the trash.

Jake: “They’re fine. Why don’t you just make another batch and cook them less?”
Me: “Because they aren’t good and all the women in your family will be judging me on what I bring. If I take those after taking Oreo balls to Thanksgiving, they’ll all think I can’t cook.”
Jake: “What was wrong with the Oreo balls?”
Me: “They were a no-bake dessert. They’ll think I’m a just a Pinterest cook and they’ll all hate me, because I can’t make cookies!”

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Of course, in the end, there were plenty of desserts, too many in fact, which I knew would be the case, but social norms required I bring something.

Being in Someone Else’s Home

Why do I have to offer to help my mother-in-law in the kitchen, when we both know there’s nothing for me to do and little space in which for me to do it? Why does she have to stop what she’s doing to pretend I’m useful and let me spoon butter she’s already melted onto biscuits she’s already made? 

Why is there only bar soap in the bathroom? How many people have used this hand towel? How obvious is it that I dried my hands on the bottoms of my jeans? Will I look rude if I get out my antibacterializer?

If I don’t eat these “appetizers”, am I going to hurt someone’s feelings? Can you call a bar full of cheese an appetizer? Literally, I see queso, next to a plate full of cream cheese with cranberry sauce, two cheese balls, and a plate of sliced cheese. If I eat this, I’ll die.

Where do I sit? I like the chair that doesn’t require me to sit next to anyone else, but is there some unspoken familial claim to this chair? Am I in Uncle Buck’s Chair? Okay, I’ll sit on the couch by the arm and Jake can sit next to me. Why doesn’t he ever sit down? He’s been pacing for the last 30 minutes. Wait. Is anyone else sitting down? Should I be standing? But… I don’t want to lose my couch corner.

Gift Giving

Zetus lapetus, y’all, I do not get gift giving. I’m 30 years old. I make $50,000 a year, in one of the cheapest states in the country. If I want something, I can buy it. If I can’t, no one else can, either. So what is the damn point of gift giving? Why do I have to spend $20 to buy a gift for someone that they might like, just so they can spend $20 to buy a gift for me that I, quite frankly, probably won’t like, and pretend that we’ve done some sort of charitable service, when both of us had $20 to spare in the first place? A couple of greedy, materialistic, little bitches trading twenties is, in no way, symbolic of the gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus. If anything, we should just all donate that $20 to give Christmas to a family down on their luck or buy toys for children with incarcerated parents or purchase a goat for a family in a third world country or literally any better cause. I can sort of understand close family trading gifts, knowing the recipients will enjoy them, but why, oh why do the women in my family draw names for each other’s children, when they could just all spend money on their own children, whose interests and wants they already know?!?!

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Don’t even get me started on Dirty Santa, where I’m supposed to spend $40 on a gift for no one, so I can stress myself out by over-analyzing the social etiquette of stealing home decor from my mother-in-law or leave in frustration when I contribute a gift I kind of like and open a bowl of decorative wicker balls and a diabetic cookbook. If I refuse to play, I’m anti-social and if I bring a gift I’d truly enjoy, I’m the weird one who brought the Spock Bluetooth speaker. If we must all leave with gifts, why can’t we each spend $40 on something for ourselves and open them in a big circle with genuine delight? I don’t understand.

Talking to Children

I’m a woman and a librarian, so it’s just assumed that I like children. I don’t. I don’t like babies. They’re fragile and they’re always leaking and it’s inevitable that they’ll start screaming like a newborn banshee and I won’t be able to find the mother. I don’t like little kids. I don’t have the patience or the sense of humor for them. Why are you still telling me this story that I think is about Spongebob? Why did you choose me to tell? Am I sending off pro-child vibes, because I work very hard to maintain subtle anti-child vibes. Why are you making that face? Was I not supposed to ask that? Fuck, don’t cry and get me in trouble.

Give me tweens and teens any day, but the holidays inevitably mean someone will leave me alone with a small child and I will make them cry or tell them something I shouldn’t have. I’ll refuse to hold someone’s baby and call it “it”. Someone will ask when I’m having children and I’ll either sputter through an awkward, but appropriate, answer or make a wildly inappropriate joke about how I can’t get pregnant the way we do it. The build up to the holidays does not necessarily mean associating with children, but the holidays themselves are crawling with them.

Talking to Adults

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I love my family. I do… but we do not get each other. I don’t mean that in some sort of coming of age drama way, either. We’re just very different people; or rather, they’re all the same people and I’m very different. My aunts, uncles, and cousins love body humor, the occasional racist joke, maybe something about killing a cat and I just don’t get it.

Jake: ::talking about our Christmas tree:: “When we get home, I’ll take it in the back.”
Me: ::giggling uncontrollably::

Jake jokes that I’m randomly an 8th grade boy sometimes, likely because I spend so much time with 8th grade boys, but the humor is all relatively innocent and is very rarely gross or cruel. I don’t understand why poop is funny and I understand even less why comparing our former president to a monkey is funny. I was genuinely horrified to hear my dad’s cousin giggle over the news story of the teenage boys who were just arrested for sexually assaulting their teammate with a pool cue, because apparently rape by instrumentation is funny if it’s done to a boy. Fortunately, my public school administrator uncle was just as appalled and I wasn’t the only one seemingly lacking a sense of humor. My humor is very dry and my family rarely even gets that I’m joking. When it’s not, it’s usually comprised of dorky and innocent puns.

Conversationally, I’m extremely intellectually curious. I like to theorize about the average age of parents who shake their babies, the effect of commonplace Photoshop on the children we’re “fixing” when they become adults, how technology is contributing to pornography addiction in teens and apparently, none of this is Christmas talk. I have one or two cousins who seemingly enjoy these discussions, but we’re not the norm. Even my fashion sense is completely off base. They’re Miranda Lambert to my Zooey Deschanel. They wear National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation t-shirts, while I bite my tongue about how much I hate that movie, in my giant hand-crocheted Christmas tree hat and my Meowy Christmas cat shirt. None of us is wrong. We just don’t really fit.

Jake’s family has been nothing but kind to me, but if I thought I don’t fit with my family, goodness I have no idea how to talk to those people. On the 23rd, at his big family Christmas, he must have pulled me aside three different times to ask if I was okay, because I’d hardly said anything, but it was just so much people and we have nothing in common. I don’t have kids. I don’t understand the appeal of rodeo. I’ve never castrated a bull. I don’t want to look at the dead mountain lion in my brother-in-law’s truck. I don’t fry stuff. What the fuck am I supposed to say?!?! Trust me, baby, you want me to keep my mouth shut, because if pressed, I will randomly start talking about the presence of second wave feminism in the Harry Potter books or why marijuana is not a gateway drug and the benefits of legalization. Just let me be a mystery, dude. Jake, of course, being the most extroverted person on the planet, fits in everywhere.

Me: “I wish I fit in with your family as well as you fit in with my family… actually I wish I fit in with my family and much as you fit in with my family.”

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Elf on the Shelf and Santa Claus

I have always hated Elf on the Shelf. At best, it was a brilliant marketing ploy, by its creator, who has sold over 11 million copies.* For most people, however, it’s a slightly creepy self-imposed chore of a tradition, which many parents regret ever starting. I knew, when it became popular, that I wouldn’t be purchasing an Elf for my own children. I’m even more certain of that fact 12 years later, as I watch my family and friends scramble around to perform for their children nightly, for the duration of a season that’s supposed to already be plenty magical by nature. Speaking of which…

I used to be one of the masses, the people who thought parents who didn’t play Santa were ridiculous and depriving their children of the magic of Christmas, but as time has gone by, I don’t really understand why we do this; though I do know that I’ve already lost this battle and Jake will insist. If you’re a religious person, though, as I am, then why do you need to add magic to the season with a cartoon character? Yes, yes, Saint Nicholas was a real guy, but the modern depiction of Santa Claus no more resembles Saint Nicholas than Disney’s Pocahontas does the historical woman. We’re not honoring a Saint, anymore. We’re revering a caricature, who often overshadows the true Christian value of the season, ironically through the very un-Christ-like means of greed and materialism. If you’re specifically nonreligious, shouldn’t you be opposed to such fairy tales? Isn’t that one of the primary principles of Atheism, that one shouldn’t have faith in what cannot be seen or proven? Doesn’t the modern Santa Claus directly defy both of these belief systems? Isn’t this entirely appropriate conversation for Christmas dinner?!?! Can I please just go home and only talk to my husband now?!?!

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Sources
https://www.today.com/series/holidays-made-easy/elf-shelf-turns-10-secret-history-santa-s-little-scout-t62531

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You Can’t Scam Lucille Bluth

A couple of months ago, on one of my rare 12:00 – 9:00 work days, I spent the morning watching Hocus Pocus in my pajamas, with my cat, Thackery Binx, on my lap. I snapped a carefully framed photo of little black cat ears in front of the screen and shared it on Facebook, declaring that it was never too early to start watching Halloween movies, especially my favorite of all time.

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When I got to work, I put my phone on silent, stashed it in the drawer, and went along with my day, at some point opening Facebook in the desktop background, just in case Jake messaged me. Not an hour later, I was surprised to receive an urgent message… or really any message… from Grandma Kay.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my Grandma Kay. She’s the sassy, witty, forthright, bibulous, matriarch of the family. Essentially, she’s Lucille Bluth.

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Case in point, several years ago, at our family Christmas party, my cousins were discussing the idea that telling children about Santa is a breech of trust, because it’s a lie. Grandma Kay, in the process of enjoying her own drink and making another for someone else, held one drink in each hand and shouted “That’s fucking bullshit!”

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Merry Christmas, everybody!

One summer visit, she was showing me some old photos and sentimental knickknacks, of which there are plenty, because she has more money than God and is completely unaware of that fact.

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Grandma Kay: “Your grandpa and I painted that giraffe together. What—? It’s chipped! Lupe must have done that with the vacuum!”
Me: ::in jest:: “You should have her deported!”
Grandma Kay: ::hopefully in jest:: “I should!”

If you’re ever standing in front of the mirror, wondering if your outfit for the family party works or not, have no fear. Grandma Kay will let you know, as soon as she sees you. Some popular Grandma Kayisms include:

“Oh, but that’s just not in!
“She’s just put on so much weight.”
“She’s been so stressed lately and she’s lost a lot of weight, but she looks great. She’s got a really cute figure, now.”

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Now, she might be a wee bit critical of us, but you have never seen anyone go mama bear like Grandma Kay. She might be allowed to tell us all of our faults, but if anyone else tries, they’d better be ready for a verbal filleting like no other. The Thanksgiving Day I showed in tears, because a family member unrelated to my grandmother (and who has a tendency to overshare on medical issues) had been sending me such vicious and hateful text messages, that I’d actually stopped reading them, Grandma Kay took my phone from me, read through the texts and loudly declared:

“Well, then. I’m glad she won’t be at Christmas. Now I don’t have to listen to that cunt talk about her twat over dinner.”

I genuinely share these stories with delighted amusement, because while Esther Walton, she may not be, I’ve never doubted that Grandma Kay cares. It’s just that I’ve always been my Gramma Mae’s best girl. She’s essentially the one who raised me, with her PG swear words and enabling “But he likes his bacon raw!” ways. So, an urgent message from Grandma Kay, before 1:00 in the afternoon, when the family crest includes a warning not to call this woman before 11:00 am, is a bit unorthodox.

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Grandma Kay: Belle? Where are you?????
Grandma Kay: Answer me now!
Me: I’m here. What’s wrong?
Grandma Kay: Where?
Me: At work? What’s going on? 
Grandma Kay: You need to answer your phone!

My father works for the electric company, my stepmother for the Salvation Army and is currently deployed on hurricane relief, and my three stepbrothers are just boys in their early twenties, so when I checked my phone to see missed calls from Grandma Kay, Aunt Dee, and my dad, I was certain someone had died.

Me: “Dad? Grandma messaged me on Facebook, panicked. Is everything okay?”
Dad: “Well, no. Someone called her and told her they were you and that they were in a Texas jail and needed $2,000.”
Me: “Dad, that’s a scam… a pretty popular one.”
Dad: “Well, I know that, but she didn’t and she didn’t want to call me, so she called your Aunt Dee and they were both worried. I told them you couldn’t be in jail, cuz you were just posting on Facbook about how you were watching Halloween movies with that damn cat.”
Me: “Umm… yeah, and no discredit to Grandma Kay or anything, but if I were in jail, she’s literally the last person I would ask for help.”
Dad: “I know. You’d call your Gramma Mae.”
Me: “Well, yeah, but Grandma Kay is also the least likely person to give me $2,000. I have $2,000 and I’d pay it from that before I’d ask her for a dime, because she’s more likely than you are to tell me to suck it up.”
Dad: ::cackles:: “Well, you’re probably right.”

Once I’d been assured that my stepbrothers hadn’t been killed in a car accident, I took a walk around the block to ease my nerves and messaged Grandma Kay, who told me the same story.

Grandma Kay: I knew it couldn’t be you, that you wouldn’t go to Texas, when we had plans for your birthday on Sunday. It really did sound like you, Belle, but drugged.
Me: You’ve never heard me drugged, Grandma.
Grandma Kay: Well, that’s true.
Me: I’m just glad you didn’t send them any money.
Grandma Kay: You know me better than that. I told them “You’re married now. You need to call your husband or your father” and then I hung up on them.

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Y’all, my grandma literally told me to solve my own damned problems and hung up on me in my hour of irresponsible need! There has never been an old woman so vicious!!!!

Just a few days later, I saw Grandma Kay at my 30th birthday lunch, where she gave me the customary $50.

Me: “This is about $1,950 less than I requested, Grandma.”
Grandma Kay: “Oh, yeah right! You better just stay out of jail.”
Me: “I’m just saying…. for the future, if you and dad ever have a debate over where Belle is: in a Texas jail cell or at home watching Halloween movies with the cat, always go for the latter.”

I assist a lot of naive elderly people in my daily work. Naturally, I’ve always worried about my grandparents being taken advantage of; but I can apparently rest a little easier, because it seems it’s not so simple to scam Lucille Bluth.

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The Best Laid Plans…

I had it all planned. I would mail the invitations and send a polite, but firm, text message to my mother, simply stating that too many bridges have been burned and she is, therefore, not invited to my wedding. I’d find a way to subtly mention the presence of security, so she knew that if she were to show, it wouldn’t be overlooked. Perhaps I’d even blame my dad, claiming he said he wouldn’t come if she did. After all, the only reason he claimed he was joking when he did say it, was because my step-mom yelled at him. Sure, I hadn’t worked out the details. I hadn’t really told Jake or Gail that she was texting me more lately, trying to mend fences, but I figured I’d let all that be Future Belle’s problem.

I had it all planned, more or less… until she showed up at my new job, unannounced, uninvited, and unwelcome, seeing as how we’re not open and are still a construction zone. When she said my name, I genuinely thought that this could not be happening. Not even she was demented enough to think I’d want to see her at the new job I didn’t tell her about and that it was appropriate to disturb me during my first week, when we were still surrounded by construction workers. I turned, and there she was, with her kicked puppy look, the one that always reminds me of a sad Kathy Bates, the reason I can’t watch movies with Kathy Bates. She stood at the walker I knew she’d been using, despite having informed me specifically that the doctors have told her again and again that there is nothing physically wrong with her… emphasis on physically.

Me: “What are you doing here?”
Her: “I just came to see you.”
Me: “We’re not open. You can’t be here.”
Her: “Okay, I just came to say hi.”
Me: “You have to leave. This is a construction zone.”
Her Husband: “Alright, we know. We just came to say hi.”
Me: “You have to go. Now.”

The director of the system had left only hours earlier. I can only imagine what he’d have thought if he had assumed I’d invited my, apparently invalid, mother to tour an unopened library. Fortunately, she and her husband left before anyone but the construction workers noticed, leaving me shaking. I never know what I feel when I see her… anger, pity, longing? This time “ambushed” ranked pretty high, as I typed out a text message to her. It was cruel and hateful and I was angry, but even in hindsight, I can only think how she refuses to respond to any other expression of my wishes. I have asked to be left alone (particularly at work), in every other way I can fathom, so the only thing left, it seemed, was to be ugly… or reprimanded professionally. I pressed send, terrified that her husband, Victor, would return to berate me for it.

Mental illness receives the most blame for who my mother has become, of course, but I place Victor second in that column. My mother has always been… embarrassingly weak. Even when she was young, she was a chameleon through and through, adapting her personality to those who surround her. With my dad, she was convinced she wanted to live on ten acres and spend her money on boots and livestock, neither of which ever gave her any real benefit. After things went south there, she let herself be completely absorbed in having young children, both dressing and acting like a child in many ways, from oversized Tweety Bird t-shirts and fanny packs, to childish humor and  hobbies. Perhaps that was part of the cause of the divorce, not necessarily the effect, but I’ll never know. Then, she met this weird little man, who wears a conductor’s hat, lives in isolation, and makes his money from odd jobs and pyramid schemes, both of which naturally required her money, before she quit nursing to watch Netflix and self-diagnose herself on WebMD all day. This was the same man who convinced her to leave me and move in with him my senior year of high school, the reason she couldn’t “afford” my college application fees, the man who frequently tells her how horrible everyone in her life has been to her, increasing his isolation of her to only his home, where he plays into her contrived illnesses and doesn’t allow her to drive.

I think, often, about how different my mother would be, had she married someone even remotely normal. Perhaps she’d still be working, exposing herself to the outside world and the people in it. Maybe she’d share some random hobby with him, like disc golf or traveling with Renaissance Fairs. Maybe she’d still exist, period, because she is simply a shell of herself, today, and a poor one at that. Gone is the woman who insisted we wear my Gramma’s matching Christmas outfits for the family photo… who volunteered to chaperone every field trip and supplied cupcakes for every class party… who took me out of daycare just because she had the day off. I don’t even recognize her anymore, but I miss the woman she was.

In a weak moment, I called Jake and shared a touch of my mommy drama. I often joke with him that he can’t know the magnitude of it all until after we’re married and he’s trapped. I immediately regretted telling him. Despite my willingness to share everything else, I find I want to keep this particular pain from Jake. I left work just a few hours later and spent the evening ignoring his calls and crying over the horrible text I’d sent my mother, thinking that a man so respectful of his own parents was far too good for me. I thought about watching the home videos I have on a disc, but I know they would just make me long even more for someone who’s gone, and I’m not that masochistic. I thought of my wedding day, of dressing with only my Gramma and bridesmaids by my side, of the whispers from those who will never understand and I cried. I thought about having no mentor for marriage and motherhood and I cried. I thought about how I can’t do all of this without the mother I had at 7-years-old and how I’ll never see her again and I cried. I reread my text message and I cried.

Stop coming to my work. Period. I cannot talk to you. I’m working. I choose not to see you when I’m not working and forcing me to see you when I am is completely inappropriate. I didn’t tell you I switched libraries for a reason. Don’t come see me. Just assume that you are never invited to any part of my life. My wedding. The births of my children. Stay. Away. Do not respond to this message in any way other than to respect my wishes. I am not discussing this or anything with you.

The best laid plans… well, maybe not “best.”

How Alcohol Poisoning Reminded Me How Good I Have It

Jake and I had a great day on Saturday. We went to a festival in Springfield, ate fried food and candied nuts, watched Netflix, and then walked around the park to make up for the calories we’d consumed. We had a pretty low key night ahead of us, when I checked my phone to see that Catherine, Laura, and Gail were calling me out for a night on Catherine’s patio. I’d promised I’d come, even last minute, if they sent me the invite and Jake, in all his good ol’ boy charm, was game, especially since Gail’s Terry would be there, so he wouldn’t be the only cock in the hen house. Conveniently enough, we’d just been to the liquor store and were more than prepared for this BYOB with whiskey and coke and the small bottle of Strawberry Smirnoff I’d bought to mix with Fresca… only I’d forgotten the Fresca.

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I remember a great deal of the night. I remember Jake arguing politics with Catherine. I remember sitting in the grass with Laura, talking about her marriage. I remember making fish sticks when we got hungry drunk and walking around the block. I remember teasing Gail about her newfound veganism and Terry about their five year engagement. I remember playing on Catherine’s daughter’s swing set. I’m so glad I remember all of that, because I had a great time… until I didn’t.

You see, I also remember judging my shots without a glass and drinking straight from the bottle. I remember wondering why I wasn’t feeling it more. I remember feeling good and drunk and then thinking I really didn’t want to be any more drunk, but that I didn’t have to worry, because the bottle was empty anyway. I remember Laura realizing this and making me stick my finger down my throat… Jake trying to carry me inside, after Laura’s failed attempts to rouse me… and throwing up. I remember that last one the most. The rest of the night was just a blur of pain and humiliation… and apologies, because y’all, I am a grown ass woman. I have no idea what I was thinking. I haven’t even been close to that drunk since the summer of 2011, when Gail, Malik, and I decided to mix shrimp and peach vodka to celebrate my new apartment. Even then, I had an excuse in the fact that I’d lost about 60 pounds and had no concept of my new tolerance. I’m 29, not 19. I don’t even get drunk enough to be hungover anymore, let alone lose the ability to stand or speak. I’m not that girl. I chase chick beers with water and ibuprofen, not vodka with vodka… and thank goodness Jake and my friends know that…

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… because through all the misery and mortification, what I remember most clearly was Jake and Laura working to get me inside and clean up any mess in Catherine’s house, all while assuring me that I didn’t have to apologize and it was okay, that I’d be okay, because losing that kind of control is terrifying. Ashamed, I begged them not to laugh at me or tease me. Laura spoke in motherly tones while cleaning up vomit. As I dry-heaved, Jake held my hair, rubbed my back, and told me over and over again that I didn’t have to be sorry or embarrassed, because he’d done far worse. The two of them sat in the kitchen sharing their own cringe-worthy drinking tales as I fell asleep on Catherine’s couch.

I woke a few hours later to find Jake in the kitchen and told him I wanted to go home. After 30 minutes of gathering my stuff, we headed out, before Catherine, Gail, or Terry woke to witness my shame. Jake helped me up the stairs and onto the couch, where he was once again unbearably sweet to me as I recovered from just that short trek.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Thank you for being so nice to me.”
Jake: “You don’t have to be sorry.”
Me: “Will you be nice to me tomorrow, when I don’t feel good?”
Jake: “I will always be nice to you.”

Still drunk, I showered and changed as sunlight filtered through the window.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Are you going to break up with me?”
Jake: “I wouldn’t dream of breaking up with you.”

That afternoon, Jake came into the living room to find me with a throw-up bowl in my lap, texting Laura a thank you.

Jake: “How are you feeling?”
Me: “Bad.”
Jake: “Well, the good news is, you don’t have to worry about how many calories you ate, yesterday.”
Me: “I’m embarrassed.”
Jake: “Oh, I’ve been much more embarrassed. Do you remember what you drank to make you so sick?”
Me: “All of the vodka.”
Jake: “Were you just drinking straight from the bottle? Did you think you were a saloon owner in an old western?”

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There is no way I would’ve had more than a fourth shot, had I been using a shot glass, let alone a sixteenth.

Gail texted to ask what time I’d left that morning and I realized that Laura hadn’t told anyone about the events of the previous night. She’d kept my humiliation private. Jake spent the rest of the day watching Harry Potter with me and taking brief breaks to check on the Cowboys game, as I failed to keep down pretzel sticks and water… and wondered how I got so lucky to have such amazing people in my life. Those two are both getting homemade peanut brittle this weekend.

The One Promise I CAN Make to My Future Children

Dear Future Children,

I have six or seven unopened pregnancy tests under my bathroom counter, right now… and not out of hope, but paranoia. I’m not ready for you yet. You’re really more of a concept, an eventuality, and as such, I can’t make a lot of promises. I can’t promise I’ll never yell at you. I can’t promise that I’ll put my phone away every time you have a story to tell. I can’t promise that I’ll never send you to school sick, because I was certain you were bluffing. I can’t promise that I won’t look away for a second, missing the moment you climbed too high and fell and broke your arm. I certainly can’t promise to never embarrass you.

When you’re 11 and just starting to notice that other people judge you, and you forget to tell me that you need a cover for the report that’s due the next morning, I’m wearing my Star Trek pants to the store, or we’re not going. In 2035, when I catch you having a hologram chat with that boy you’ve been crushing on, I’ll interrupt to explain that it’s late and you’re now grounded. If you’re a cute redheaded girl, then I genuinely apologize for how much worse your dad will be on your first date.

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It’d probably be more accurate to just go ahead and promise that I will embarrass you. I’ll sing and dance to 50’s music, when I clean. I’ll use outdated words and phrases, like hogswoggle and hokum. I’ll wear t-shirts that say things like “Having fun isn’t hard, when you have a library card.” I’ll do these things even more when you complain. The one promise that I absolutely can make to you, though, is that I will never embarrass you online.

When you get stuck in the doggy door, I’ll text a photo to your grandma… but I won’t put it on Instagram. When you throw a tantrum at the mall, long after the acceptable age to do so, I’ll record it and send it to your father… but I won’t live stream it. When you have your first wet dream or your first period, I’ll update your Aunt Gail… but I won’t update Facebook. When you’re caught cheating on a test, I’ll make you tearfully tell your dad… but not Youtube.

The people who love you will know all of your embarrassing stories, just as those who love me know mine. That’s the cost of having family and you should never take that for granted. That photo of you, proudly wearing nothing but underwear and a princess crown, will make the annual family album. However, when you have a falling out with your best friend in the 7th grade, she won’t be able to tag everyone you know in it, along with the one where you smeared your diaper all over the crib.

I know that I’ll make mistakes as a parent. There will be times when I forget to sign your permission slip and keep you from watching that video in class. Maybe I’ll forget that your friend is allergic to melon. I’m sure I’ll yell at you for something, only to realize later that your father is to blame. In response, I’ll atone privately, not while wearing a sign around my neck on Facebook. In turn, I vow that you’ll receive the same courtesy. You’ll be lectured and punished, but it will happen behind closed doors. I’ll receive validation from your dad and Gail, not that woman I graduated high school with 25 years earlier.

When your first boss Googles your name, anything scandalous to be found will be your poor decision making, not mine. Large scale shame and humiliation will never be part of your punishment. When I’m angry with you for being a disrespectful brat, I’ll tell your grandpa, not all 157 of my closest social networking pals… only for you to read all about it four years later. I don’t know anything about being a parent. I can’t promise that I’ll be any good at it. I can, however, promise that I will not ruin your online reputation, before you even get the chance.

Visiting the Family Ranch

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That sounds so made up.

Last Friday, I drove straight from work to spend the weekend with Jake, in Wellston. Lately, my grandma has been dubbed Beagle Sitter, so I didn’t have to go home to get Jude and the other supervisory librarian was comfortable with my leaving an hour early, to make up for a previous late day. Still, Wellston is an hour from Shetland and an hour and a half from the Northside Library, so it was quite the trek and I was glad I’d be getting nearly three days with Jake for my efforts, since I’d arranged to work the evening shift on Monday. I was both hungry and tired when I arrived in Wellston, as was Jake, after working nights on the rig for a week. Neither of us objected to going to bed early, knowing that we’d be attending Jake’s nieces’ basketball games, first thing in the morning.

Y’all, we have officially entered new territory. I am no longer being introduced. I’m being included. This was not a meet and greet, but a family event.

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Having previously met everyone, I wasn’t caught up in a lot of pleasantries with Jake’s family. His brother-in-law, Cody, seemed friendly enough, while his sister, May, briefly said hello between plays, as she was coaching a herd of five-year-olds, her daughter Lucy included. Jake’s nine-year-old niece, Shana, seemed shy, so Jake and I were mostly left to enjoy the game. I don’t know what Jake looked for in me, as I watched his nieces play… perhaps nothing. What I noticed, however, was how wonderfully supportive his entire family was of this slightly silly game. I also admired how patiently his sister coached, without coddling. I couldn’t help but think how much more I might’ve enjoyed sports had I been taught with such positivity.

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On second thought… nah.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for actually playing sports, I enjoyed watching. From an educator’s standpoint, I found the teaching methods fascinating. As a woman with working ovaries, I found Jake’s open interest and encouragement quite appealing. It’s a good thing, too, because Lucy’s game was immediately followed by Shana’s, in a nearby town.

As I set my stuff down, at the next game, and turned to sit next to Jake, I noticed my seat had been stolen by Lucy, who just looked up at me and grinned. She is, clearly, her Uncle Jake’s smallest fan. Not wanting to deprive either of them of their bonding time, I took a seat on her opposite side and, surprisingly, got the chance to bond, myself. Lucy is both ornerier and more outgoing than Shana and she chattered away with me as I snuck her m&m’s, because a little bribery never hurt anyone. Together, we teased Jake, who teased us in turn.

Jake: “I won a trophy just the other weekend.”
He was referring to the trophy he’d won at the engagement party, as the champion of a drunken carnival game.
Me: “It wasn’t a real trophy, and he cried when he didn’t win the other one.”
He was genuinely mad that his teammate lost him the title of Beer Pong Champion.
Lucy: “Ha ha. You cried!
Jake: “I didn’t cry. pouted.

There are a lot of different ways in which I find Jake attractive, but none of them have ever matched watching him snuggle and talk with his niece as he cheered the other one on at a game that was going quite poorly. At 28, you just don’t care about his six pack. It’s all about dad potential.

This game led to Dairy Queen for the kids and Chinese food for the adults. Afterward, we went directly to Jake’s sister’s trailer, where we all chatted and helped Jake’s parents with their new tablet. The entire day had been spent with Jake’s family, but it was nice to get to know them better, without the pressure of a First Meeting. Knowing we’d have time the next day, I wasn’t bothered, until…

Mrs. Granger: “Your Uncle Benny’s coming down to the ranch to go quail hunting. He wanted you to go with him.”
Jake: “Yeah. Dad told me. I may do that.”
Mr. Granger: “You comin’ down first thing in the morning?”
Jake: “Well, I don’t know if I’ll come down first thing.”

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We hadn’t seen each other for nearly two weeks and now he wanted to ditch me? On the one hand, I didn’t want to tell him that he couldn’t do something, or manipulate him into feeling that way. Jake had already mentioned how limited his time to go quail hunting would be, with his work schedule. On the other hand, we’d specifically planned to spend the weekend together. Not wanting to discuss it in front of his family, but unable to completely hide my hurt feelings, I got kind of quiet, until we got in Jake’s truck.

Jake: “You okay? You’re kind of quiet.”
Me: “I’m… um… I just… I’m good.”
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Jake: “‘Feelings are for the inside?'”
Me: “Um… yeah. They belong with the last Horcrux… it’s just… I had a great time with your family. I enjoyed getting to know them better, but I thought we’d have time tomorrow, because we planned to spend the whole weekend together. That’s why my Gramma has my dog and I even arranged to go into work later on Monday. Now you’re leaving the state to go hunting and I feel like you’re just ditching me. I don’t wanna tell you not to go, because I know you want to hunt with your uncle, but we had plans and it hurts my feelings.”
Jake: “Well, you can come. I wasn’t just going to leave you.”
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Me: “Why… why would I assume that? I’ve never been to your family’s ranch. You’ve never mentioned taking me and I’ve met your parents twice.”

The most functional part of mine and Jake’s relationship is how we communicate. At no point did either of us raise our voices. We were both genuinely surprised by the other person’s assumption. Jake was truly sorry he’d made me feel as if he didn’t value his time with me and I was excited that he wanted me to see his family’s ranch. So, the next morning, we got up early and headed further south to The Granger Ranch.

Y’all, I am not pulling a Belle-esque exaggeration here, where I make some hyperbolic statement and assume you’ll read it as such. The Granger Ranch is a legit, fully functioning ranch. This is the family legacy, which Jake made it more or less clear, will one day be the subject of the Granger boys’ prenups. Over 2,000 acres, a 3,000+ square foot house, hundreds of red angus, and a custom brand comprise the multi-million dollar ranch run by Jake’s parents and his brother. Jake occasionally assists, but tries to distance himself, because he does not want to be a cattle rancher. This, folks, is why I worried that Jake’s friends might think I was after his money, as he’s currently one third of the eventual ownership. His brother Craig’s girlfriend, Matilda, is why I worried Jake’s family would think I was after his money, as she seems to be. I can only assume that this is also why Jake’s mom was so… cool to me, after Jake left me at the house, to go hunting with his uncle for a few hours.

Mrs. Granger: “So, Belle. You don’t like this stuff at all?”
Me: “What?”
Mrs. Granger: “Going out in the pasture, seeing the ranch?”
Me: “No, I do. I just don’t think I’d take to quail hunting and I know Jake really wanted time with his uncle. I didn’t want to intrude.”

I tried a few times to engage Mrs. Granger in more conversation, offering to help her clean the breakfast dishes, but she didn’t seem eager. Soon after, Craig stopped by and briefly said hello. Not wanting to push myself on anyone, I sat down and crocheted a hat for Jake’s smallest niece, Chloe, with the yarn he’d bought me on the way, so I’d have something to do. After I showed Mrs. Granger what I’d made, she seemed impressed and asked if I’d like to go with her and Mr. Granger to find Jake and his uncle and see the ranch. She seemed pretty surprised when I was eager.

As we rode in the high-end ATV, Mrs. Granger began to point things out on the ranch, like the windmill she’d requested for Christmas a few years past. She seemed pleasantly surprised that, while I wasn’t necessarily knowledgeable about country life, I was interested. For a good 45 minutes to an hour, the Grangers drove me over the ranch, telling me all about their land, while lovingly sniping at each other. When Mrs. Granger snapped at her husband to quit going over so many bumps and he sped up, I couldn’t help but think that Jake is definitely his father’s son. Eventually, we found Jake and Benny and took Jake to retrieve the tractor to pull his uncle’s truck out of the mud. A boy riding a tractor…

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Jake: “What are you doin’?”
Me: “Chillin’ with your parents.”
Jake: “You havin’ fun?”
Me: “Yup. I love you.”
Jake: “Love you, too.”

Then he kissed me in front of his mom. Sigh.

Not wanting to be in Mrs. Granger’s way, when we got back, I walked down to the horses I’d seen and talked to them and petted them for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. I didn’t realize it, but Mrs. Granger had been watching from the kitchen window. It was like talking to a different person, when I returned. She told me who Jake was in high school and asked if I could tell the difference between him and Craig in old photos. I’ve known for months that she’s a bit high-strung, often worrying needlessly, but I could see how deeply rooted in love that was. She’s a good mom. Mr. Granger is a good dad. May is a good sister and mom. We had a dinner of ribs and homemade pecan pie, and headed on our way.

Me: “I think they liked me. I liked them a lot. Your sister seems like such a good mom. I’m glad I like her, because…”
Jake: “… you hate your sister-in-law so much?”
Me: “Well, kind of, yeah. I’m not proposing, but it would really suck to have two sisters-in-law I didn’t get along with one day. That’s kind of the same reason I like your mom so much. She may be a little high-strung, but her intentions are good. She’s a really good person.”

A few days later, Jake and I talked on the phone, after he’d gone back to the ranch to quail hunt for another day.

Jake: “Yeah, I asked her, kind of trying to catch her off guard, ‘So, do you like Belle?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, she’s real sweet. She’ll actually talk to ya. She’s a lot better than Matilda.”
Me: “Woot! I’m the favorite. Does she seriously hate her that much?”
Jake: “Well, apparently Craig called to say he and Matilda were going to come over for dinner and mom told him not to, claimed we didn’t have enough ribs. When I told her we had plenty she snapped ‘The only time that woman comes around is when dinner is served!'”

For reasons best not detailed, at this time, I don’t really blame Mrs. Granger for this. The situation sounds like Matilda probably is after Craig’s money, but at the very least, she’s a controlling woman who doesn’t want him to have much to do with his family. I also see it as promising that Mrs. Granger is just as forthright as her son. My own family has always been loud and opinionated, never leaving you to wonder where you stand. That, I can do. Fake, I cannot. Overall, I am beyond thrilled that Mrs. Granger likes me, because she is clearly the one to please as Jake and I continue to grow closer… and that we do.

Jake: “So, do you want to go somewhere the week after next?”
Me: “What?”
Jake: “You have some time off, don’t you? Do you want to go to Ruidoso and ski?”
Me: “I have Friday through Tuesday off. Are you serious?”
Jake: “Well, yeah. Let me look at my budget. I’ll let you know for sure.”

He called just a few days later to tell me he’d booked a room. I didn’t have to plan anything. I just have to go to Wellston on Friday morning, right after I get my last Gardasil shot, and we’ll head out from there to spend our first weekend together that will actually involve sex. I’ll hyperventilate later. Right now, I’m too excited.

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Birthdays and Boyfriends: Meeting the Parents… and Best Friend

So, I celebrated my 28th birthday last week and I did so with such enthusiasm, I’m going to have to have that Logan’s Run themed 30th birthday party I keep talking about… and that city-wide lantern release.

Remember, Gail. This one’s on you.

As I mentioned last week, in my brief Blogiversary post, two of the most significant celebrations I had planned for my birthday were the introduction of Jake to Gail and Terry and his introduction to my dad and Lena. After my late evening at the grown-up arcade with my work friends, on Wednesday night (my actual birthday), I went home to get ready for Jake’s arrival on Thursday morning at nine, as we’d planned. In fact, the previous week, when I’d driven to Wellston and Jake had made me dinner, we discussed this plan, in depth. I told Jake that I intended to take a half day substituting job if I could find one, assuming he’d arrive in Shetland around noon, as he usually does when coming from his family’s cattle ranch.

Jake: “Well, I’ll be there at 9:00.”
Me: “You will? I thought you were leaving that morning.”
Jake: “Yeah, but I’ll leave early.”
Me: “Okay. Are you sure? I don’t mind taking the day off, as long as it’s to spend time together, but otherwise, I need to work.”
Jake: “I’m sure. I’ll be there at 9:00.”

I wasn’t just being pushy, here. While the only times Jake has ever postponed plans have been when he’s driving back from his family’s ranch, it’s also been every time he’s driving back from his family’s ranch. That’s why I was just short of nagging when I asked. So, imagine my frustration to receive this text at 7:00 on Thursday morning.

I’ll be there around lunch.

Even know that three months is too soon to threaten to throat punch the boy, but I was just so frustrated. I could have been working. I haven’t subbed all summer and I could have really used a half day’s pay. Jake, though… well, Jake’s in oil. We have substantially different incomes and likely always will. Half a day’s pay means very little to him and I’m not super eager to admit how difficult September has been, especially with the Gardasil vaccine that I’m getting, at least partly, because of him. I tried to look at things a little differently. Now I had a whole morning to finish sewing my flannel Star Trek pants… for which no one would be paying me. Nope. I just couldn’t get over it, so I kept my texting brief, for fear of sounding bitchy. Verbal and textual chatterbox that I usually am, Jake noticed and called. He said he wanted to make sure the plans were still the same, that we’d be going to the botanical gardens and to the outdoor store. He clearly wanted to see if I was mad and I’m just not all that great at hiding emotions, but I was polite, if brief. When he arrived around noon, I was still a little reserved. Jake actually had to stop me and ask to see the Spock shirt I’d raved about getting with my birthday money: “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.” Ultimately, I decided the best bet was just to say something to him, rather than let it stew.

Me: “I’d have worked this morning if I’d known you’d be late.”
Jake: “Ugh. Yeah. My brother was being a dick, so I didn’t get out until later.”

He clearly didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to pry, but I quadruple checked that he’d be there early in the morning! Still annoyed, I set it aside and we started our day with lunch. Midway through our meal, I’d forgotten all about my frustrations with Jake and was just so glad to be with him. I always convince myself in our time apart that he’s not as great as I remember and I’m always wrong.

We had a great time. I stole my country boy’s new phone and changed his theme to pink and his ringtone to Turn Down for What, the latter of which I’m still not sure he’s been able to fix. We joked and talked about politics and I, again, took his phone and pretended to change his Facebook relationship status (he doesn’t Facebook at all), only to have him tell me to go ahead. After lunch, we went to the gardens, which were, quite honestly, boring. Did you know that botanical gardens just equals “trees and bushes”? When we’d gone to the zoo, Jake had been strangely gifted at naming the plants, so I’d thought it would be a fun activity, but I was wrong… except for the Jake part. That part was nice.

After the gardens, we went to the outdoor store and Jake asked if I wanted him to buy pretty much everything I touched. While it’s sweet that he wanted to get me a birthday gift, that’s not really how that’s done, so I declined everything but a bag of cotton candy jelly beans. We played a shooting game and Jake told me the official names of the fish in the tank. As much of a city girl as I can be, there’s something so… familiar about Jake’s country roots. All my life, I’ve grown up around men who hunt and fish. My ex-husband wasn’t into any of those things at all and there’s something almost… comforting in Jake’s down home side. He’s so friendly and laid-back, but at the same time, he can argue Lord of the Rings vs. Harry Potter (he’s wrong). Ultimately, you’d think I’d find discussing types of fish dull, but it’s almost… soothing.

By the time we were supposed to meet Gail and Terry at the bar, I was pretty tired, but Jake had other ideas, which made us later than a nap would have. Regardless, everyone seemed to hit it off quite well. Terry and Jake are both from small towns, with farmer/ranchers for parents. The conversation was easy and fun and my three margaritas put me so far over the limit, by the end of the night, that I jokingly programmed a sex shop into Jake’s GPS… and he drove there, when I refused to tell him what it was.

Finally, we went home and crashed for the night. The next morning, we woke up late for Jake and at normal human hours for Belle.

Jake: “It’s 8:00. We’ve wasted half the day.”
Me: “Shut up. It’s like the middle of the night.”

I made breakfast and somehow, the topic of my taking a job the day before came up again.

Me: “I was just frustrated because I asked for that very reason. I could’ve worked a half day. I don’t even know if one would’ve been available, but I couldn’t look because you said you’d be here at 9:00 and I blocked out the day.”
Jake: “I can like… give you money if it’s that big of a deal.”

Me: “Duuude. Noooo. I’m pretty sure that’s prostitution, so let’s not.”

I’m pretty sure that is the boyest thing he has ever said and that’s saying something. Ultimately, however, he got my point and understood the level of frustration I felt, so I feel the communication was successful. It wasn’t a fight, but it was our first disagreement and I think it was a productive one.

After breakfast/brunch, we went to see The Gift and then to meet my parents. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t want to make Jake more nervous by admitting so.

Jake: “I can’t believe I forgot my beard trimmer.”
Me: “It’s not that bad. Besides, I set the bar really low. They’ll love you.”

That’s me… being supportive.

I was right, though. Lena enthusiastically talked about my steps and both she and my dad told stories of their numerous trips to Mexico. My dad was thrilled to have a cattle/hunting/camping conversational companion and Lena and I bonded over how awful all of those things sound. Both of them loved when Jake told them how he doesn’t care for tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair.

Dad: “Are you going to go to the rodeo with him?”
Me: “Oh, I’m sure I will. His whole family is into rodeos. His dad was a rodeo clown.”
Jake: ::laughing:: “That is not true.”
Lena: “You’ll learn that Belle is her father’s daughter. They’re both dramatic story tellers.”
Jake: “Oh, I got that one a while ago.”
Me: “Hey. The difference is, want you to realize I’m being dramatic. My dad wants you to believe that he saw a cricket the size of a pony.”

It was great. They liked him. He liked them. It was a little loud with the live music and that was a damned shame, but it was just… fun. No one liked my ex-husband, so this is new and I’ll tell you, it’s awesome. I’ve always hated the idea of being with someone who doesn’t click with my family again and I’m pretty sure Jake with his stuffed deer head (who he’s refusing to let me a) decorate for Christmas or b) name Buzz) fit in better than me with my Ravenclaw Quidditch sweatshirt.

So that was my birthday and Jake’s introduction to some of the most important people in my life. I’m not sure it could’ve gone better, either. My daddy likes him. My stepmomma likes him. My Gaily likes him. Perhaps most amazingly, after three months, still like him.

Blogiversary Number Three!

The trouble with my blogiversary is that it’s actually on my birthday…

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… not that my dad remembers when that is. After I sent the “what’s up?” text, I checked my voicemail to receive his happy birthday wishes.

The man is a parody of himself.

Anyhoo, the blogiversary post is always a tough one to fit in, because I love birthdays. I birthday myself to death. Saturday, I got together with Gaily, Catherine, and Laura. We stuffed ourselves with cookie cake, pizza, and liquor and talked about boys. I told them all about how I drove to Wellston after work on Thursday to see Jake, who made me the boyest and sweetest dinner ever: pork chops and canned peas and corn on paper plates that got soggy before I was finished eating. It was wonderful and he obviously missed me as much as I missed him, so I stayed the night and drove home at 6:00 the next morning.

Monday, Gaily and I drove 40 miles for donuts that aren’t as epic as everyone claims and I illegally downloaded Trainwreck for us to watch while crafting. Last night, Niki brought sushi over and we gorged on leftover cookie cake and caught up on each other’s lives. Tonight, on my actual birthday, I get dinner with my favorite lady in the whole world: my Gramma. Later, I’ll see my work friends at a grown-up arcade. Tomorrow, my guy comes to town for two days to see me and meet Gaily and Terry and then my dad and Lena.

So, if this week is any reflection on how 28 will go, I feel like I’ve come a long way. I started this blog on my 25th birthday, a grad student carefully navigating the dating world, while still coping with a young and tragic divorce. While I’m hoping I’ll get a full time position at the library soon, I’m pretty darned content with my life right now. I have wonderful friends and family, a career I love, and a blog I’ve maintained for three years to the day. I’m excited to see my future entries. It’s not the life I planned at 18. It’s better.

What is it about mothers?

What is it about mothers?

There’s no other relationship that, no matter how abusive or toxic, society tells us we’re obligated to repair. Grandparents are often photographs and maybe a birthday card. Brothers and sisters can live entire lives without crossing paths, once they’ve reached adulthood. Dads are practically optional in American society. We’re not even obligated to our spouses. Mothers, though… mothers are worshiped. It’s really quite beautiful that we demand such respect for women who gave their youth, their bodies, their tears, and their hearts to their children, only to watch them leave. This week, the Humans of New York Facebook page is covered with stories of actual mothers who gave every part of themselves to better their children’s lives. All over the country, people are having Gilmore Girls marathons, ordering flowers, maybe even catching planes… because it’s your mom.

“It’s your mom.”

That’s what they say. That’s what they always say, no matter the time of year, like it excuses everything. They don’t understand that just because I have a mom… it doesn’t mean I have a mom. All of these relationships can be explained away in a sentence or two…

“Oh, I never really knew my grandparents.”
“My siblings and I aren’t really close.”
“I don’t have a dad.”

… but tell someone you won’t be calling your mom on Mother’s Day and you’re lucky if you only get a loaded silence. I, myself, share your sweet memories of school field trips, movie marathons, and birthday pancakes. I smile over remembered arguments about what to wear on picture day, how to fix my hair, and whether or not I could watch that movie. I understand your fondness for your mother, because I remember what it was like to have one. Those memories, however, have long since been overshadowed by the far more recent ones of threats, manipulation, abuse, and abandonment. I didn’t get to debate over the value of Greek life, during my senior year. I got left for an online boyfriend two hours away. I didn’t just argue with my mother over wedding plans. I got to inform her that if she hit me one more time, I’d be pressing charges. I didn’t get pancakes for my last mother/daughter birthday. I got screamed at for suggesting therapy. I got a birthday cookie hurled at my front door.

It’s not that I don’t want to see my mom. It’s that she’s not here, anymore. I miss my birthday pancakes so much it hurts. It hurts a lot more, though, to reconcile and sit across from someone who looks like her and sounds like her, and think I finally have her back… only to end up crying over episodes of That 70’s Show about how I wish Kitty Foreman could be my mom… because that’s what we do. You have lunch and manicures with your mother, with whom your biggest disagreement was a boyfriend or car or apartment. The women whose mothers have been taken by addiction or mental illness… we fantasize about our favorite fictional moms and do our best to get our mothering elsewhere. If we’re lucky, we have caring dads, aunts, friends, to walk us through the hard times… but it’s never enough, because there’s just something about mothers.

Textersation Tuesday

04-28-15 2We are the cool kids.

04-28-15 1 I’m about 80% sure he didn’t get that pun.