… the musings of a thirty-something, married, Southern teen librarian turned Stay-At-Home-Mom with a 14-year-old's sense of humor, an awkward spirit, and a stubborn, mouthy, redheaded country boy to accompany her through life.
One year ago, on May 5th, I was worried that my five year anniversary with Jake and my first real Mother’s Day would be ruined. I’d been feeling sick for several days. Jake and I were planning an embryo transfer for the next month and I was supposed to call with cycle day one. With 10 month old twins, though, my period hadn’t regulated yet and I was a week late. When the nurse at the fertility clinic had asked if I could be pregnant, I assured her that Jake could not get me pregnant. We’d accepted it. It was fine, but I wasn’t taking a test. She understood, but said I’d need to come in to check for cysts if I didn’t get my period in the next couple of weeks.
Two more weeks had gone by at this point and, concerned that I might have some severe feminine problems, I decided to make an appointment for the next week. Whatever scary news I received would come after our special weekend. I knew, however, that they’d insist on a pregnancy test. I figured I’d cope with any difficult emotional response at home and take one myself. Off to Dollar General I went, grabbing a can of chicken noodle soup along with my one dollar test, just to feel like the trip wasn’t a total waste.
As I sat on the toilet lid, waiting for my negative test result, I Googled reasons for a late period. I hypothesized everything from PCOS to ovarian cancer, anything other than the obvious. I glanced at the test, assuming I’d immediately be throwing it away. Much to my surprise, however, I saw not one line, but two.
I took two more tests, both of which also came up positive and called my OBGYN.
Me: “False positives, though… that’s not really a thing, right? That’s just a plot device from romance novels and teen movies?” Nurse: “I mean, yeah, basically. If you have three positive tests, you’re pregnant.”
Pregnant. After Jake had been told by his urologist that “miracles happen” in regards to our chances of natural conception… after spending $30,000 on back-to-back rounds of pandemic IVF… after having been cautioned against more children while fighting pneumonia, heart complications, and sepsis following the girls’ birth… I was pregnant.
So it was, that our sixth year of marriage passed in a whirlwind of minivan shopping, home improvements, and continued toddler joy. We celebrated a first birthday, first steps, and first words, all while preparing for the arrival of our baby boy. With no complications and zero drama, on December 6th our Thomas came into the world. The romcoms were half right, y’all. I’ve never believed in love at first sight, but I just hadn’t met the right man.
I adore my daughters. I love being home with them, hearing every giggle, witnessing every new milestone, soothing every tantrum, kissing every owie. I look forward to a future where I have two precious little girls to guide. We’ll do crafts, dance to bad pop music, watch princess movies, go shopping, do our nails. I love that I get the chance to be the mother mine wanted so very much to be to her daughter but couldn’t. Our relationship is truly everything I’d hoped. The bond I have with Thomas is not stronger, but it is… more unexpected. Whenever I envisioned having children one day, I was so focused on the idea of giving girls what I never had, that I never really imagined how I’d feel about a son. I even worried that I couldn’t be as close to a boy, no matter how I loved him.
Our sixth year was an utter surprise. It was the year Jake got his future hunting buddy and Lord of the Rings fan. It was the year his parents met their first grandson. It was the year my Gramma finally got her redheaded great grandbaby. Though I love my girls just as much, perhaps I relate to them more, understand their ornery motivations too clearly, because it’s my sweet Thomas who will rarely do anything wrong in his mother’s eyes. With his Daddy’s laidback charm, at just five months, this little guy could sell me ocean front property in Arizona.
After battling infertility and the drama of the girls’ birth, year six was the one where we welcomed a naturally conceived baby into the world without fear or heartache. While I jest that my children are in any way competing with their father, this was the year when I gave a piece of my heart to another man… one who looks just like him. Often having accused Jake of being a literal robot in his extreme stoicism, I’ve found it particularly swoon-worthy watching him fulfill the tough cowboy stereotype as his girls have carefully wrapped him around their little fingers over the last two years. Perhaps one day, I’ll feel he’s too hard on Thomas, just as I’m sure he’ll consider me to be too easy. In the meantime, however, seeing Jake snuggle and kiss the mirror image that is his baby boy…
If I still had my whole heart to give, it would be all his once again. Alas, I don’t think he minds sharing it.
When I was a kid, I adored the TV show Bewitched. I watched a lot of TV at the time, but there was something about the combination of the traditional family dynamic my life lacked and literalmagic that just did it for me. Samantha was beautiful and charming, the mod-style clothes and furniture were delightful, and Endora was the mom I always wanted. Whatever the reasons, though, while the other kids were watching The Babysitter’s Club, nine-year-old Belle thought this 1960s sitcom was the bees knees.
Years ago, I excitedly bought the boxed set of Bewitched. I still watch it when I’m working on various sewing projects and love it just as much. As an adult, however, I’ve spent a bit of time cultivating a head canon to support my suspension of disbelief and explain why Samantha would ever want to be with a man like Darrin. Clearly, this was an elaborate social experiment on her part; to live life as a mortal woman, unequal in the eyes of society to her unattractive, boring, and controlling husband. Sure, Darrin was successful, but Samantha was a witch. She didn’t even need money. Why else would she marry him, if not for research? In the new millennium, Samantha was definitely on a beach somewhere with the immortal Endora, Tabitha, and Adam, enjoying her freedom and decidedly not missing her late husband.
Maybe I was being too hard on Darrin, considering the time period, but I always took particular issue with his ban on Samantha’s magic. This was an integral part of his wife’s being, one that undoubtedly made her life easier. As an ad man, even Darrin appreciated the occasional nose twitch if it meant helping him get that account. What was sowrong with Samantha using her powers to clean the kitchen or visit Paris? Mustlife truly be more difficult so her husband could feel like the conquering hero when he earned enough money to provide her with these luxuries? I don’t have a lot of feminist soap boxes, but as much as I love this show, it remained the source of one of them… until quite recently.
It’s been almost 60 years since Bewitched first aired. Today, many of Samantha’s most impressive and hilarious tricks are simply outsourced or automated. Where Samantha twitched her nose and the house was clean, even middle class families employ cleaning services and own Roombas. While Samantha had to employ last minute spellcasting to prepare dinner for unexpected guests, we modern folks just use an extra couple of meal subscription servings. Endora can fill a room with furniture with a simple point, just to see how it looks, but we accomplish the same by downloading a free app. Darrin explained more than once that he forbade Samantha from taking shortcuts, because he wanted her to appreciate what could be accomplished with hard work, either his or hers. I used to think him a self-righteous tyrant for such reasoning, but here we are in 2023 with every comfort available to us at the press of a button and it has ruined us.
For years, when Jake has found himself frustrated with the state of the world, he’s told me that everyone needs to spend at least one summer building fence. For the longest time, I just took this as another of Jake’s Aging Rancher Quotes, but I’m beginning to think he was right. As a society, we see little to no value in work. It’s something to be outsourced, automated, and avoided at all costs. We don’t cut our lawns, cook our meals, clean our homes, care for our children, walk our pets, maintain our vehicles, fix our clothing, spend time with family and friends in person. Video streaming sites recommend our next watch and have even developed algorithms to randomly select for us. Spotify and Pandora even choose our next listen. We live for our next vacation… once it’s been mapped out for us by travel websites and all-inclusive resorts, that is. We are entertained at all times. Still, as a people, we report being the most unhappy we’ve been in decades.
When I became a mother, I was inundated with warnings of how difficult, exhausting, and trying life would be with twins. One of my horrible labor and delivery nurses even told me that we could not do it without help. Naturally, I panicked and had a breakdown… you know, exactly what a new mother needs after the most terrifying week of her life. When we got home, my aunts were there, folding and putting the girls’ clothes away, while I showered, shaved my legs, cut my bangs, and just generally reclaimed a sense of humanity after a week in the hospital. Though their intentions were good, they were eager to leave by the time I got done. It was clear that, without a mother, and with the majority of Jake’s family hours away, we were on our own… and that was actually okay. In fact, as my aunts pulled out of the driveway, I quickly realized that the old cliché of just wanting someone to do my laundry was not going to apply to me. While I appreciated the sentiment and effort, I’m just too particular about my housekeeping and graciously accepting as someone does my chores incorrectly was not going to make my life easier. So, I pulled up a chair and refolded and reorganized my girls’ drawers to my satisfaction… and I was happy.
Since then, Jake and I have heard countless couples talk about how hard parenting is, with only a couple claiming the difficulty lies in a lack of time, something we felt as well, when I was working. These people love their children, so their complaints are always paired with the same disclaimers I read in poetic mommy blogs. “This ‘motherhood thing’ is the most difficult and rewarding job you’ll ever have…” Yet, here I am with three under two, simultaneously receiving comments from some strangers about how they pity me and others about how they miss these years. So what is it? Are Boomers looking through rose-colored glasses? Has parenting become even harder? Considering the average couple now has less than two children, along with our modern technology, I’m not sure how that’s possible. My Baby Brezza sure says differently, as I make a warm bottle Keurig-style with the literal press of a button.
It’s not just parenting, though. Everyone around me constantly laments the pain of “adulting,” as though life has become more difficult. Y’all, Millennials made a damn word to whine about being an adult! Just as the generations that came before us, we spent our entire childhoods eager to grow up, only to complain once we got here. In the case of Millennials, however, we seem to be truly miserable, despite life being so much easier at nearly every income level. I can pick up a week’s worth of groceries without even getting out of the car. While I wait, I can download my favorite books or listen to literally any song or artist I choose. When I get home, I can put my children down for a nap with a handy-dandy sound machine right there to soothe them. While they sleep, I can watch any show I like, without planning my day around it, while working on a cross stitch pattern I downloaded online, marking off each row with an app on my laptop. If one of the girls cries, I just check their $25 security camera to make sure everything’s okay, so I don’t have to risk waking both of them. At any point, I can realize I need batteries or cotton swabs or dish soap, order it online and have it the next day. Life is so easy today. We have everything handed to us, just as we always dreamt and all we do is cry about it!
So, what’s missing from this generation that every other enjoyed before us? Hard work. With my staying home to care for our three under two, Jake and I don’t have the option to outsource. As I’ve written before, I struggle to understand how so many people in the same income bracket afford meal subscriptions, cleaning ladies, and lawncare, but I’m starting to feel that we’re the ones at an advantage. While it might have been nice to pay someone to dig up, repair, and rebury the septic system, Jake is justifiably proud of himself for doing so. I would love to send off my mother’s crate of family photos to be digitized, but that’s financially never going to be possible. So, I took advantage of modern technology and bought a quick scanner that auto crops. I’ll record each individual memory and reminisce, myself. It’ll take more time and effort, but when it’s all said and done, I’m going to take so much more pride in my childhood family albums.
At this point, I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t pay anyone to clean my house, do my dishes, or fold my laundry if I could. By doing it myself, I know where everything is, how clean it actually is, and although I do get to listen to audiobooks while I do chores, I get more value out of my downtime when they’re done. It took effort and excellent time management for Jake and I to get the garden planted this year, but when we’ve been successful at growing our food in the past, it’s been so fulfilling, in addition to saving us money. I could have ordered Christmas stockings and baby blankets for my children, but I love knowing that I sewed them myself, even if it wasn’t necessarily cheaper. Sure, we pick and choose, just like anyone. I paid someone to make Jake’s custom Wahoo board for our wooden anniversary last year, just as I paid for the girls’ individually carved music boxes for their first birthday. We simply can’t do everything and I feel no shame in admitting that. However, I think I might be done fretting over the fact that we’re unable to afford these so-called luxuries when so many who can seem so unhappy, regardless.
Growing up, I longed for the ease Samantha’s powers brought her, while despising Darrin for insisting she deny herself. Here we are, though, all of us modern day witches, discontent, unfulfilled, and bored, as we watch someone else carry out the minutia of our days. I’m certainly not suggesting we scrap all of the ease technology has brought us or forgo all of life’s pleasures. I have the newest Samsung smartphone. I carry a Fossil purse. Jake and I average one rodeo-related vacation every year or two. I, most assuredly, did not replace my own roof… but I did paint every room in my house. Jake did build the 360° shelves in all of our bedrooms. At the time, we’d have loved to hire someone else to do so, but perhaps we were mistaken in that desire. I look around at our home, satisfied that we’re raising our children in something we have, to some extent, built ourselves. It feels good. It’s possible that our new phones, designer handbags, and vacations would mean more to us if they weren’t one of many. Maybe, just maybe, Darrin Stephens had a point. Maybe leisure shouldn’t be our greatest aspiration. Perhaps, the real joy in life is building it for yourself.
I am a reader, y’all. I don’t mean that in an insufferably pretentious way, suggesting I read nothing but classics and historical non-fiction about World War I. I just mean I read… like all the time. I read news articles, empirical studies, classic novels, Wikipedia articles on any number of random subjects. I thought Jake might break his jaw from yawning the night I attempted to regale him with facts about the Hollywood sign. I was giddy the day he admitted that my Pablo Escobar/hippo anecdote had helped him in an online quiz. I read horror, fantasy, and even bestsellers, though I rarely enjoy the latter. I’m currently rereading a favorite young adult series and a classic. At any given time, I’m also making my way through any number of romance novels.
I discovered the romance genre with paranormal romance, when I was around 24. I had always loved fantasy and supernatural TV shows, specifically obsessing over the relationships in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Roswell, Angel, Charmed, and Vampire Diaries. I just felt like the intensity and drama of the pairings were more justified in a world with fewer limitations. Imagine my overwhelming joy when I discovered a literary genre in which the romance was the primary focus and the plot was secondary. In the last 10 years, I’ve branched out to other genres, but romance remains a favorite comfort read. There’s just something so cozy about knowing that no matter what a couple goes through, ranging from a crazy ex-boyfriend to a supernatural apocalypse, they’ll live happily ever after. What can I say? I grew up on 90s Disney.
As comforting as I find my romance novels, I do admit that the suspension of disbelief is high in the genre… so high, in fact, that many romance readers refer to the world in which these stories take place as Romancelandia. In the Real World, the men of history rarely cleared 5’10”, likely had an assortment of venereal diseases, and considered women property. In Romancelandia, Renaissance men admired sass and wit. A Scottish brogue was simply accented modern English peppered with a few archaic phrases. Contemporary men are all ambiguously wealthy 6’4″ powerhouses who love curvy girls. Indeed, Romancelandia is a delightful place, where even some fairly severe ailments can be cured by The Pene, such as…
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – as featured in Dark Desires After Dusk, by Kresley Cole and Beard in Mind, by Penny Reid
Obsessive compulsive disorder is like a gluten allergy, in that for every one hundred self-diagnosed victims, you will find one legitimate sufferer. This one person is easily identifiable, because if left untreated, their symptoms are utterly crippling. While this particular mental illness has not touched my life, I do find it pretty eyeroll-inducing when I read about a heroine who can’t even exist in society if her surroundings aren’t perfectly grouped into sections of threes… that is until she gets some of that dick. While I haven’t heavily researched OCD, it’s my understanding that treatment involves a relentless combination of behavioral therapy and medication, not a prescription of The Proper Schlong.
Anxiety/PTSD/Sleep Disorders – as featured in When a Scot Ties the Knot, by Tessa Dare and The Viscount Who Loved Me, by Julia Quinn
I actually have struggled with anxiety and PTSD. During Covid-19, I had so much trouble sleeping for more than an hour at a time, I ended up having a mental breakdown. While I wouldn’t say my husband has acted as a cure, he’s certainly been a balm. In Romancelandia, however, heroes act as a miracle remedy for an entire range of mental illnesses. Women who can’t even function in crowds can suddenly tour the world! Those suffering from horrific flashbacks at the sound of rain, can dance in it without fear! The once exhausted victims of frustrating and even debilitating sleep disorders are refreshed and have a bounce in their step! No lie, the Magic Member is better than the very best medical marijuana.
Infertility – as featured in Until July, by Aurora Rose Reynolds, The Friend Zone, by Abby Jimenez, Virgin River, by Robyn Carr, Beautiful Sacrifice, by Jamie McGuire
The titles I’m citing are not meant to comprise an exhaustive list. The romance genre is liberally peppered with all of these, none so much as penile infertility cures. Having suffered through the devastation of infertility, myself, I understand why this one upsets readers so much. Personally, I find this to be a more accurate representation of my perfect fantasy; going so far as to include Free Babies when the heroines previously thought they’d either never have children or would have to pursue medical intervention. Regardless, there’s no denying that fertility issues are rarely cured by Supernatural Semen, let alone at the rate they are in romance novels.
Sexual Trauma – as featured in Rock Chick Regret, by Kristen Ashley, Pleasure Unbound, by Larissa Ione, and Shadow Flight, by Christine Feehan
These hyperbolic romance blunders don’t usuallybother me all that much. I just don’t personally believe that an author is responsible for assigning every tough topic exactly the weight it deserves as a societal issue, when the primary plot is romance. In fact, I’ve read books where that’s clearly been the intent and they’re not really romance anymore, focusing instead on the issue in question. Even I admit, however, that sexual traumas are probably one of the most disturbing ailments for even fictional penises to heal. Sexual assault victims can struggle for years before they can comfortably be intimate with another person, if they ever get to that point. Wrapping that recovery up over the course of a few failed attempts spanning six weeks is… insensitive, to say the least. I have read novels where the recovery takes place over the course of years, montage style, as seen in Shadow Flight, by Christine Feehan. If the intent is to give a happily every after to someone who’s experienced such horrific trauma, I think this might be the best way to go.
Childhood Trauma – as featured in The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn and Dream Spinner, by Kristen Ashley
Childhood trauma is another recurring theme amongst romance novel heroes and heroines, likely because so many readers relate on some level, even if it isn’t personally. I find this plot device far less repellent than sexual traumas, however, since the characters have usually already dealt with the damage, to some extent. Sure, Simon didn’t want children in The Duke and I, because of his father’s abuse, but he’d overcome his developmental issues and made quite a name for himself in society. This trope mostly veers into the obnoxious when the problems persist in a way that impacts the characters’ day-to-day life. We often see women with abusive mothers or fathers, who interfere and disrupt their lives on a regular basis… that is until the hero swoops in to save the day with a stern talking to and a therapeutic orgasm. Suddenly Mom and Dad are on their best behavior and all those insecurities and unhealthy coping mechanisms have been replaced with a new self-care regimen and some yoga.
Physical Injuries – as featured in Rock Chick Redemption, by Kristen Ashley, Lucian, by Bethany Kris, and Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Of all the afflictions I’ve seen cured by phallic means in romance novels, actual physical injuries are probably the ones that take me out of the story the most… yes, even more than sexual trauma. Theoretically, I suppose the root source of someone’s OCD, anxiety, PTSD, or personal traumas could be improved by the addition of True Love. It’s eyeroll-inducing, sure, but it doesn’t completely take me out of the story. While fertility can’t be restored with a fantasy phallus, people do get pregnant when they’ve been told it could never happen. My son is proof. Under no circumstances, however, can you have sex a few days after getting a major head injury, Anastasia Steel. You can’t have sex after someone’s cut a tattoo from your body. You can’t have sex with freshly broken ribs. You can’t have sex right after childbirth, no matter how glorious the dick. I don’t care who’s responsible. That is some bad damn writing. Your happily ever after could have just as easily taken place three weeks later!
Once upon a time, I was an active Facebook user… very active. I was constantly scrolling, posting, checking for notifications from people I didn’t even know, and just generally pausing real life for a digital world that didn’t matter. After some insufferable Girl Drama with some insufferable girls, I decided I needed to take a break. I deleted my account, certain that I’d cave and return in a few days… except I didn’t. The next day, there was a shooting at a church in Texas and I actually had the emotional and mental energy to discuss it with, of all people, my husband. When Jake shared that he’d felt like I never wanted to talk to him about world events, because I’d worn myself out arguing with virtual strangers, I realized that social media was harmful for me on levels I’d never even acknowledged. As time went on, I felt less stress, less frustration, and like I had so much more time without it. Suddenly, my family called to inform me when someone was having a baby, getting married, or admitted to the hospital. While I felt less connected from those for whom I felt little, I felt more connected to the ones who mattered. That was six years ago and although I do use Jake’s old account to sell things on Marketplace, I’ve deleted anyone we actually know from his friends list. In my mind, Facebook has just become a place where moms go to compete and old people go to fight. I want no part of it. Instagram, however…
I became an active user of Instagram when I found out I was pregnant with my girls. I knew my Gramma would want to see pictures, but I wasn’t willing to rejoin Facebook. It took years for my family to accept that I’d left and would never return. As far as I knew, Instagram was strictly comprised of photos and videos, with little opportunity to argue with my great uncle about whether or not it was appropriate to use the n-word on someone else’s account… or at all. It seemed the obvious choice for sharing family photos, one universal enough that I wouldn’t need everyone to download something new. That was two years ago and I feel that Instagram is the one social media forum with which I can manage a truly healthy relationship. Still, there are several Instagram trends with which I want no part, such as…
Becoming a Momfluencer
I takea lotof pictures and the number increased exponentially once I had some babies. Having spent years working as a teen librarian, however, I am hyperaware of the presence I give my family on social media. My children are not only my children. They are people with feelings, who will one day have relationships, goals, and an image they want to cultivate for themselves. They don’t need to know about the times Mama sat in the living room floor and cried as they screamed, while somehow managing to look gorgeous for that carefully filtered photo. They don’t need to read about any of the negative feelings they’ve inspired, be they stress, frustration, or anger. They don’t need to be constantly dressed in uncomfortable designer toddler wear, that occasionally veers into disturbingly suggestive territory. While it’s easy enough to decide what’s appropriate to share and what’s not, now, just as I have never shared nude baby photos, I’ll never tell tales of bathroom accidents, school punishments, or private puberty moments. I limit both the types of photos and videos I share, in addition to who can see them and will likely become even more discerning as my kids grow older and more aware.
It’s not just my children who I don’t want living under a microscope, though. I have zero desire for feedback on my every parenting decision, from snack time to forward-facing carseats, to whether or not I do Santa. Moms can be the worst, most judgmental, hateful individuals. Just as I won’t allow my children’s middle school friends to dig through the archives for humiliating family song and dance videos, I won’t expose myself to the relentless scrutiny of women who know nothing about me or my children’s needs. My Gramma loves seeing photos and videos of her great grandbabies, but her ability to do so does not include the general public. There’s a reason this blog is anonymous and I’ve given my own family pseudonyms. We all deserve privacy. I will not give that up for theremote possibility that I’ll gain the kind of popularity that could lead to ad revenue. Which leads me to my next undesirable craze…
Creating Amazon Storefronts
Naturally, the above opinions mean I don’t follow a lot of influencers. My feed is largely comprised of complex cooking, cake decorating, and crafting videos, which I harshly judge with full awareness of my inability to replicate them. Still, the occasional influencer has crossed my path with her Amazon Storefront.
Folks, even a cursory glance at my most recent Amazon orders leads me to call shenanigans on these influencers and their carefully curated shopping history. At least half of my last twenty purchases were different brands of earbuds, because keep your Lilysilk hair scrunchie for overnight curls, what a stay-at-home-mom really needsis excellent earbuds. Were I to share my Amazon purchases, it would only result in an Amazon Storefront for the insane. In the last three months, I’ve purchased:
8 different styles of leather pouches
14 different pairs of earbuds
8 pairs of women’s shoes
1 curling iron
4 different infant hats
3 jacks-in-the-box (yes, I need to know the plural)
1 high-end XBOX gaming controller
4 different lamps
3 pack of acrylic double-sided picture frames
40 pack of slap bracelets
8 pack of hand puppets
4 rolling blackout curtains
Sure, I returned most of the duplicates. I even bought more popular mom items, such as face wash, fabric softener, and hairbands. Regardless, my Amazon Storefront could only appear as a cross between that of Peewee Herman and one of the Desperate Housewives. I never have excelled at trendy, which brings me to…
Tiny Home and Van Living
It’s rare that I throw around the word “privilege.” Initially coined to call attention to legitimate social and economic advantages, our bored and hyperbolic society has wielded this term to create greater division and attach a sense of moral superiority to what often boils down to simple jealousy. In the truest sense of the word, however, there is nothing more privilegedthan glorifying minimal square footage. A component of the more widespread minimalist movement, tiny home living exalts the wealthy for having less, when so many people in this world havelittle choice in the matter. I, myself, have lived in “tiny homes” at different times in life. They just went by different names, like “trailer,” “motel room,” and “low-income housing.” My “capsule wardrobe” was a collection of Goodwill finds. The dishes I once displayed on an open shelf were a design choice resulting from my apartment’s roach problem. My simplistic décor and limited belongings were due to a lack of funding. I wasn’t chic. I was poor.
As a white, middle class, suburban mom, I am now exposed to every Marie Kondo-style fad as it arises. Each time it’s presented as a new and innovative way for people to dispose of all the junk they’ve had the privilege to buy in the first place, before painting everything in their house “natural cotton,” and filling it with overpriced houseplants. Each time, I roll my eyes so hard they’re in danger of getting stuck. While it is, of course, fine to love the color “oatmeal,” limit your dishes to four individual place settings, and decorate with copious amounts of macrame, I cannot stomach the sanctimonious attitude that accompanies this movement. I grew up in a hoarder’s home. I’ve been donating and throwing out the things that don’t “bring joy” for the entirety of my adult life. Have less if you want less, but don’t act like it somehow makes you a better human to spend $50,000 refitting a shed or van that you plan to park on someone else’s property rent free. Don’t even get me started on shipping container homes. I’ve gone without out of necessity. My three bed, three bath, 2,300 square foot home (converted garage included), on over an acre brings me joy. If living with less is your jam, excellent, but I’ve lived in 400 square feet and it was far from Instagrammable, so the champions of this movement can hold the self-righteousness. At least van and RV living have the benefit of mobility, which can’t be replicated by just buying a smaller house. That, however, reminds me how much I don’t want to…
Travel with Children
I have previously written that I am the only Millennial who hates travel. As much as I want to see something new or something old, the process of doing so is exhausting. I cannot wait for The OASIS of Ready Player One, so I can tour the pyramids from my own home. I am apparently all alone, however, because according to Instagram, travel is the bees knees. I’ve never related to the wealth of reels raving about the adventure that is spending hours in a car or on a plane… to sleep on a comforter that’s only washed twice a year… so that I can wake up and spend hundreds of dollars on basics that would cost me tens of dollars at home. In 2019, I declared that I’d rather do porn and I stand by that. Now my feed is flooded with articles celebrating travel with children and while I’m not quite willing to joke that I’d rather do porn with children, I would do some pretty degrading stuff.
Last summer, Jake and I had to bow out of a family trip to Colorado. We were a single income household with one-year-old twins, expecting a baby in December. We had to buy a minivan, decorate the spare bedroom for the girls, and redecorate their old bedroom for Thomas. As much as I wanted to spend a week in a luxury cabin with my family, it just wasn’t possible. Instead, we took a day trip to a nearby lake and watched The Hills Have Eyes in a hyperbolic reminder that vacations aren’t always fun. Meanwhile, while they weren’t dealing with mutant cannibals, my parents and step-siblings were decidedly not enjoying their Labor Day getaway. What began with an all-ages airport floor slumber party, shifted to group altitude sickness, followed by mass food poisoning, a family IV hydration therapy session, and finally, a return trip with Covid-19. The only thing that sounds worse than sleeping in an airport lobby and being several different kinds of violently ill, is doing so away from home, surrounded by other people, while caring for children.
While all of this reads like the screenplay for a bad family comedy, even normal travel involves navigating airport terminals, extended car or plane rides with changing air pressure, hotel rooms without the routine of home, and sourcing food and fun for everyone involved. This week, I had the privilege of telling Violet that she couldn’t eat the beanbag filling, Scarlett that it was time to leave the park, and the opportunity to try out the baby leash on both of them. If those every day events have been any indicator as to how a family vacation with three in diapers would go, I think I might prefer the cannibals. No amount of painter’s tape, snack tackleboxes, or a toddler travel bed from your “Amazon Storefront” is going to make a family trip any more enjoyable or worth the money than planning a family fun weekend in our comfortable home while our children are this small. Speaking of which, there is one final Instagram obsession that I wholeheartedly want to never tag.
When Jake and I bought this house, we had a short list of improvements we wanted to make. Having rented my entire adult life, I was eager to paint every room in the house. We needed a fence for our dogs. Jake had to clear some brush so we could get full use of our backyard. Over the years, the list grew. While we immediately refinished our converted garage into our bedroom; we eventually had to redo it as a family space where we could pull back the furniture and carpet when it rained heavily. That meant we had to finish the master bedroom in a way that would fit our furniture, requiring a pocket door and 360° shelves. Next, we blew insulation into the walls of the adjacent spare bedrooms, in preparation for the day they would be made into nurseries. Somewhere in there, we needed a storm shelter, a water softener, and a carport. The roof has been replaced, but now we need a new front door, a few new windows, and exterior paint. Our laundry list of little luxuries has become a chore list of necessities for a finished home built in 1980. I cannot imagine the burden that is flipping a house.
I’ve previously detailed my disdain for HGTV and how every single house looks the same. Nowhere is that more apparent than the #flipperhome hashtag. Whether you’re staring at a red brick townhome from 1960 or a Frank Lloyd Wright-style bungalow form the early 1900s, it’s going to be painted white with black trim and doors. The kitchen will have exposed wooden beams, a backsplash of subway tile, and dark green cabinets with gold finishings. The bathrooms will have free-standing oval tubs and showers built entirely of transparent glass. It’ll be staged with jewel-toned minimalist 60s mod furniture. The finished product will be homogeneously gorgeous in a feed with all the other #flipperhomes and it will have been miserably expensive, time consuming, and tedious to make it so.
HGTV presents every disaster as a hilarious adventure, complete with dialogue reminiscent of a middle school play. As a homeowner, though, I’m aware of the actual financial obligation that is a flooded garage turned bedroom, the disgusting chore of a septic system that needs tending, and the relentless hassle that is a roof replacement. I don’t even want to replicate the furniture remodels on my Instagram feed, let alone take on an entire house. As it is, Jake and I both insist on decorating our own home in classic styles and fashions we love, so we don’t have to take on the physical, emotional, or economic burden again any time soon. Our home may not be Instagram feed worthy, but that just might save me the trouble of getting all dolled up for that mental breakdown photoshoot.
Once I completed my self-assigned project to read 26 classics, I was pretty burnt out on heavy literature. While I genuinely enjoyed all but two of the titles I chose, I realized that there’s a reason why people don’t typically read classics for fun. The pacing is far slower, the world-building is more involved, the themes are less obvious, and in many cases, the dialect can be quite difficult to follow. Reading a classic is enjoyable in the way reading a PEW Research Center study is enjoyable. It’s work. So, as a balm to my somewhat raw senses, I decided to try a modern and lighthearted take on classics, with Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, following the prolific family of the same name in Regency era Britain, which officially spans the years 1811-1820.
In our modern world, where everyone is watching something different, there are few titles that everyone recognizes. While others lament that fact, I’m just relieved that finally, I can rewatch the original Roswell for the 87th time in peace, without being subjected to the absolute horror that I haven’t seen Yellowstone. Bridgerton, however, is one of the rare shows that seems to have gained household notoriety, even if not everyone has actually watched it. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise and have perhaps just had it on your Netflix list, it’s about a family of eight children, the Bridgertons, sequentially named for the first eight letters of the alphabet and their adventures in love. Each Bridgerton gets their own book and, I would assume, Netflix season. Though historical romance has never been my jam, I made my way through the entire Bridgerton series, complete with lengthy epilogues, and figured it would be a complete waste not to review them.
As with my previous “I read… so you don’t have to” serial, there will be unavoidable spoilers, because… well that’s the “you don’t have to” part. I will not, however, share every detail of the plot or resolution, completely ruining the story or show for those who intend to read or watch. The show has already veered a great deal, so I suspect reading my reviews will spoil very little, but reader beware. I will be updating and reposting my reviews as the series continues, to include my assessments of each season.
1. The Duke and I – Daphne and Simon – Rank: 3
The Duke and I tells the tale of Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, and Daphne, the oldest Bridgerton daughter in the summer of 1813. Simon is a rake (Regency era playboy) and the best friend of Anthony Bridgerton, Daphne’s oldest brother. Having been abused by his own father, Simon has vowed never to marry or have children. Meanwhile, Daphne longs for marriage and motherhood, but finds that she’s so easy to get along with that men tend to see her as a strictly friendly or even sisterly companion, much to her despair during her first season on the marriage market.
Simon first meets Daphne when she’s being harassed by a suitor. Before he can save the day, Daphne punches the drunk herself and Simon finds himself immediately attracted to her… that is until he discovers that she’s the little sister of his best friend. Regardless, Simon and Daphne hatch a plan to convince high society, or the ton, that they’re courting. Mothers eager to marry their daughters will leave the disinterested, yet extremely eligible, Simon alone; and Daphne will attract the attention of far better suitors when they see she’s caught the eye of a Duke. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t go as planned and the two begin to truly fall in love.
Through Regency era shenanigans, Simon and Daphne find themselves forced to marry, despite their differing plans for life. Simon informs Daphne that he can’t have children and she accepts him regardless. When innocent Daphne’s mother, Violet, explains sex to her, she’s left confused at the mechanics and goes into marriage blind. In time, Daphne realizes that Simon hasn’t been truthful with her and feels betrayed by what she realizes are his deliberate efforts to mislead her and avoid conception. Through drama and heartache, the two reconcile and babies are born into a happy marriage, some of them through the epilogues of other books.
I’ve never been a connoisseur of historical romance, finding it difficult to suspend my disbelief to accommodate these charming, young, handsome, tall rakes of the Regency era. I can never forget that the average male height in this time period was 5’6″, baths occurred on a weekly or monthly basis, and toothbrushes hardly existed. Still, I obviously enjoyed The Duke and I enough to continue the series, but I did notice a glaring issue with the show. While Bridgerton has been relentlessly praised for its diverse casting, it didn’t take long to realize that most of the Black characters in the show don’t exist in the books. There is no sassy Black queen. Marina is an off-page bit character in book five. Will, Alice, and MadameDelacroix aren’t in the series at all. Simon is the only prominent character from The Duke and I played by a person of color. Lady Danbury does become an important character, but she’s barely in the first book. It’s as if the writers wanted to appear progressive without “ruining” the image of the main characters and that’s… gross. The Bridgertons are one of two main families in their story and there’s no reason why the Featheringtons couldn’t have been portrayed by people of color as well, if historical accuracy was moot.
Despite the books souring me on the show’s faux diversity, I quite enjoyed Simon and Daphne’s story. I’ve never been drawn to the Brother’s Best Friend or Fake Dating tropes, but it was fun to read such a contemporary take on this time period. The show did a fair job of depicting the characters and their story in season one, with an appropriate touch of gloss on some scenes the didn’t age well. While fans of the show didn’t ignore the dubious nature of Daphne’s attempt to conceive against Simon’s wishes, the scene in the book was substantially more rapey. I won’t ruin it, but I will warn that it might color the character in a pretty negative light for some readers.
As with all romance, the guaranteed HEA, or happily ever after, takes much of the stress out of the story. The odds for the couple are seemingly insurmountable, but it’s always in the back of your mind that everything will work out and it does. This is not a time period about which I fantasize, but I can see how some would after reading this book. The realities of history are replaced with a story about wealthy, beautiful people, surrounded by loving and accepting families. Whether watching the show or reading the book, you’ll want to be a Bridgerton and why are we reading books such as these if not for escapism? Ultimately, Daphne and Simon rank as my third favorite Bridgerton couple.
2. The Viscount Who Loved Me – Anthony and Kate – Rank: 2
In the summer of 1814, Anthony, the eldest of the Bridgerton children, has decided that it’s time to set aside his rakish ways and marry. Traumatized by the untimely death of his father from a bee sting, however, he’s determined never to love and deliberately seeks a match that will incite no truly deep feelings. Enter, Edwina Sheffield, the shy and proper younger sister of fiery Kate. Nearing spinsterhood at age 20, Kate’s sole concern is finding a decent match for her beloved Edwina. While Anthony has decided the younger of the Sheffield women fits his requirements precisely, Kate disapproves of the match, convinced that the Viscount has not given up his rakish ways. Despite the growing friction between the two, neither Anthony nor Kate can deny their attraction to each other. Caught in a precarious position when Kate is stung by a bee, the two have no choice but to marry and reconcile their differences, eventually growing in love throughout the rest of the story.
Anthony and Kate were my second favorite of the Bridgerton couples. Just typing this makes me want to reread, though I’ve never cared for the Enemies to Lovers trope. I appreciate the concept in theory. I just always find it somewhat uneven. The conflict between the two either tips into hostile and abusive territory or exaggerates what is simply good-natured ribbing. In an attempt to avoid sullying the swoon-worthy hero, the author often writes only the heroine as truly antagonistic, inadvertently coloring her as an unlikable shrew. Anthony and Kate had the perfect balance. I’m talking chef’s kiss here. They’re both assholes to each other and it is Chuck and Blair delicious. While Anthony’s absolute conviction of his early demise seems a wee bit overwrought, the animosity and attraction he shares with Kate are simultaneously quite convincing, which I find rare among these stories. I would say my favorite thing about this book, is that the couple spends basically the last half of it together. In my opinion, it is absolutely vital in this trope, that the reader experience the couple happy after all that conflict and most authors fail here.
On screen, Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley did a fantastic job portraying Anthony and Kate’s chemistry. The switch-up with Indian culture felt fun and natural. The costumes were gorgeous. That said, Netflix ruined the story of The Viscount Who Loved Me. Y’all, I am not a purist when it comes to adaptations. I love a good twist on an old tale, but Anthony and Kate’s season of Bridgerton was utter crap. In The Viscount Who Loved Me, Edwina is simply looking for a husband, nearly as pragmatically as Anthony. She never loves the eldest Bridgerton. She barely has a chance to get to know him, before he’s forced to marry Kate after he’s caught scandalously examining her bee sting. What follows is a delightful forced marriage story, as the couple comes to love and respect one another for their equally strong wills, a concept I appreciate considering my prideful, stubborn, pushy husband.
Bridgerton, however, drags out Anthony and Kate’s courtship up to the humiliation and devastation of Edwina. This unavoidably paints the leads as complete assholes, not to each other but the sister Kate adores and whom Anthony respects, regardless of his lack of romantic affection. By the time the two unite, I can’t even root for them anymore, because they’re dicks, which I suppose is a minor consolation for the fact that we’re robbed of their growing love for one another. All of this was entirely unnecessary, as the original story included a great deal of drama that could have been easily adapted for the screen, such as Anthony’s conviction that he won’t live past 38, Kate’s absolute terror of thunderstorms, and a carriage crash that nearly killed the heroine. The fabricated drama of the show hurt the story and its characters, so while this was my second favorite book, I can only hope it’s my least favorite season of Bridgerton.
After conceiving twin girls through back-to-back pandemic rounds of IVF and nearly dying in childbirth, I wasn’t exactly ready to get pregnant again this past spring. Although Jake and I had already begun the early stages of transferring a frozen embryo over the summer, I was still on the fence, myself. I’ve always wanted four children and still found that to be the case, even with twins under a year. I wanted my girls to have more siblings. I wanted Jake to have a son. I wanted a son. I wanted more noise, more chaos, more fun, bigger holidays, crazier family vacations… what I’ve never had with the brother I see once a year on Christmas. I also wanted to be alive to enjoy all of these things, so I was still erratically swinging between the insistence that the girls were enough and the idea that I was potentially up for two more pregnancies, assuming the next went smoothly.
It was on May 5th, the day before Jake and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, that I was officially no longer able to file another pregnancy under Future Belle’s Problem. I had been waiting for day one of my cycle to begin the FET process and assumed that it hadn’t come, because I wasn’t even a year post-partum. Begrudgingly, I took a pregnancy test, annoyed at having to waste the dollar, but knowing the clinic would insist. Following a few minutes of Googling early menopause and uterine cancer symptoms as possibilities for my missing period, I glanced at the test before tossing it, only to see that it was, indeed, positive. After Jake was told, verbatim, that “miracles happen” when he asked the urologist if he could get me pregnant, after spending 2020 imagining a future without children, after thirty thousand dollars worth of baby girls, I was… pregnant.
In so many ways, I am that annoying anecdote your coworker shares about her friend, whose niece got pregnant despite all odds… the woman who had severe complications the first time around, only for it all to go smoothly the second… the mother of three under two who’d contemplated a forced childfree existence just two years earlier. With all of it behind me, I can honestly say that, despite a few tearful outbursts about how I didn’t want to die, I had an easy pregnancy and a complication-free birth by scheduled C-section at 37 weeks to the day.
I now have three babies under 18 months and I love it. I love watching the girls forget they’re mid-tantrum when they start giggling as they spin in circles of protestation. I love watching them wrestle like little bear cubs until someone cries. I love seeing Scarlet run to the front door arms extended, at the sound of Jake’s keys turning. I love Violet’s contradictory stubbornness and clingy Mama’s girl status. Now, my Thomas is here and he is a dream. After months of insisting the newborn phase is boring, I adore the snuggles. Having started with twins, I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity to dote on just one, cherishing everything from feedings to sponge baths. I rarely sleep more than four hours at a time, am weeks from being able to have sex and months from even discussing an embryo transfer, still have visible bruising around my incision, and I’m already trying to talk Jake into our fourth and final.
Just the other day, Jake announced that raising kids with me was the best thing that’s ever happened to him and the feeling is utterly mutual. Watching my husband go from the rough and tumble toddler girl dad he’s become to the sweet and gentle (for him) father of a newborn boy is absolutely precious. After years of declaring mid-spat that he’s an unfeeling robot, there’s nothing quite so dear as watching my cowboy husband hold his tiny son in his callused hands and talk sweetly to him.
I spent a lifetime anticipating being the career woman and the working mom, went to college for seven years including graduate school, threw myself into my career as a librarian for another ten. I never planned to stay home with my children, scoffed at the very idea, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. While I fully intend to reenter the professional world one day, simply put, I just love being a mom… and I still don’t like kids.
Growing up in the South, I was raised to understand that women like children. Little girls love dolls. Teenaged girls eagerly jump at the chance to babysit. Baby fever becomes rampant in a woman’s early twenties. Any gal who doesn’t want to die alone had better start having kids by 25. Those are some Southern facts, right there, so imagine my confusion when I realized none of them applied to me.
Having lived on ten acres until age 11, I didn’t really grow up around other kids at all, let alone little ones. I had a couple of younger cousins, who I babysat once or twice, but I largely considered them nuisances who got us older kids in trouble. I never spent time with young children with any regularity. My first job was at a car lot, not a daycare. In fact, when I did get a job at a daycare in college, I made it two days before quitting. An education major in my undergrad, I still considered specializing in early childhood/elementary and even arranged to shadow my second grade teacher. That was the day, y’all. Despite my religious Southern upbringing, a childhood surrounded by suburban girls who wanted to be teachers and stay-at-home moms, a degree program that pedestalized anyone who worked with kids… the day I spent time in a well-managed second grade classroom was the day I realized that I just don’t like children.
Over the following years, I honed my affinity for teenagers, having initially assumed I only favored them due to their closer proximity in age. During grad school, I substitute taught nearly every day of the week, preferring high school, but happy to take middle school jobs when they were all that was available. More often than not, however, if elementary openings were all I could find, I’d take the opportunity for a rare day off, unless I desperately needed the money. As time passed and I moved further from my own teenage years, I loved working with teens just as much… and dreaded spending any time with children at all.
It wasn’t that I hated kids… at least not well-behaved ones. I just didn’t find them especially interesting. They couldn’t share compelling opinions or stories. Their senses of humor were undeveloped and generally revolved around the obnoxious and immature, but rarely clever. They were often oversensitive and whiney. Regardless, their parents considered them absolutely brilliant and wholly infallible. I frequently worked with children as a librarian and nearly every single reader’s advisory question posed by a parent, came with the insistence that their child’s reading level was two to three higher than their grade. I can count on one hand how many times that was actually true. When they misbehaved, in ways that were entirely developmentally appropriate, their parents wouldn’t hear it, whether they were screaming and running in the library or bullying others in programs. Teenagers, however, warranted scorn and contempt if any attention at all. When the societal blind spot for an age group I didn’t particularly enjoy was coupled with the overall disdain for the one I did, I struggled to even imagine myself as a mother in the distant future. Clearly, I didn’t feel the way everyone else felt about children. Maybe they weren’t for me after all.
A few months before Jake proposed, I became increasingly concerned. I knew Jake wanted kids and, in theory, so did I. I just… really didn’t like ’em.
With genuine distress, I shared as much with a coworker in her 50s, who had two young adult children and two still in Catholic school. If anyone could shed some light on my situation, it was a woman living exactly the life I thought I wanted.
Me: “I don’t think I like children.” Coworker: “Of course you don’t. It’s the end of Summer Reading.” Me: “What if I don’t at all? Jake wants kids. I thought I wanted them. I’m not sure I like them, though.” Coworker: “I don’t especially like other people’s children, either. I like mine, but I never really cared much for their friends. You’ll be fine.”
I didn’t know that was allowed!
In the nearly five years that followed this moment of enlightenment, I met a few others who shared this thought process. A friend at the Northside Library had little to no patience for… well, most humans, but she loved being a mother. At the same branch, a friend living with her parents had more of a sisterly relationship with her young son, yet doted on him all the same. A coworker at the Cherokee library had a surprise baby just before 40, after having accepted a childfree existence. A veteran who named Sarah Connor her hero, she’d never really considered herself maternal… until her son arrived. She still had little feeling toward children in a random sample, but adored being a mother. I’ll admit, it still isn’t a common sentiment among suburban and rural Southern women, but evidently it happens… such as in my case.
Apparently my robot husband and I are quite the pair, because I find myself in the company of Other People’s Children far more frequently these days and I feel little on a personal level… neither disdain nor joy. As with other random folks, I passively wish them health and wellness and go about my day. I do my best not to judge other parents, while still generally finding most small children grating. Yet, somehow, I seem to have endless patience for my own. Objectively speaking, I’ve no illusions about my offspring somehow being superior to others’… except that they’re mine, so they’re naturally cuter, smarter, funnier, and less disgusting by my incredibly biased assessment.
I, of course, still smile encouragingly and affectionately at little ones during storytime, just as I’d expect others to do with mine. I’d never intentionally hurt a child’s feelings and that’s all I really ask of others. I love my nieces and nephews out of necessity, whether I feel much connection to them at this age or not. I do try, but it still doesn’t come naturally to me to snuggle someone else’s baby, tickle their toddler, or get down in the floor and play with their kids. As utterly smitten as I am with my own babies, as I attempt to cajole Jake into our #fourthandfinal while still being on lift restrictions, Other People’s Children… they still don’t really do it for me. I still don’t like kids.
When I was little, the 1986 film The Worst Witch was one of my favorite Halloween movies. I could never catch it when it was on TV, though, and eventually forgot all about it, replacing it with cinematic classics such as Halloweentown and Twitches, both of which could probably win Oscars when compared with the former. Ten years ago, I remembered this old favorite of mine, bought it on DVD, and now watch it a weird number of times throughout the month of October… and sometimes, like… March. Jake must occasionally wonder if he did, in fact, marry an awkward, chubby, 12-year-old, as he comes home for lunch to see me singing along to this terrible children’s movie, eating “candy salad” from a ramakin.
While Netflix has recently produced a much more polished version of The Worst Witch, based on the 1970’s book series, there’s something about Tim Curry passionately singing “Has anyone seen my tambourine?” that can’t be beat. Don’t you worry, though! You don’t have to buy this gem on Amazon. It’s free on YouTube, in its entirety, and it is worth every c. cent. Here are my thoughts, approximately 25 years after my first magical viewing.
Why does Mildred get all of the blame when she and Maud make the wrong potion? Maud was the one caught trying to sneak her spell book in, so she could cheat. Both girls were equally cavalier about the amount of each ingredient used. Why was Mildred the only one sent to Miss Cackle’s office?
As a kid, I really empathized with Mildred, but as an adult, I realize she’s kind of a mess… even for her age. She insists that she tries and can’t help the fact that things always go wrong, but she also admits to blatantly ignoring simple instructions, like gathering pondweed at midnight. How hard is it to read a clock, Mildred? These problems are of your own making…
… and yet, nothing excuses an educator speaking to a student like this: “Oh dear, Mildred. Oh Mildred, oh dear. You must be the worst witch in the entire school.”
Seriously?!?! She’s twelve. The conversation even ends with a playful “Was I nasty enough for you?” You mean when you told her that she ranked last in thewhole school, because she made a potion incorrectly? How much room for error is allowed? Is not the punishment for failing a test a bad grade? This wasn’t even supposed to be the cruel teacher! Speaking of which…
… when Mildred and Maud are gossiping about Miss Hardbroom and she appears in their room to yell at only Mildred, did she curse her name like Lord Voldemort or is she always watching this child? That’s disturbing and I don’t think she should be allowed within 300 yards of a school.
I understand that the girls are awarded their cats in order of excellence, meaning the lowest performers get their cats last, but they still get cats. I don’t actually think this is a bad system. We coddle weakness too much, today. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding high performers and I am decidedly anti-participation trophy. That being said, who was in charge of procuring the cats and why couldn’t they find enough black ones? Black kittens are literally the most common color put up for adoption. Even if they couldn’t find a black cat for the lowest performer, why couldn’t they change the color in a world where humans can be turned into animals?
Ethel Hallow is one of the villains of this story. She’s a bully and deserves the criticism she gets for it. That being said, much of Mildred’s distaste for her is voiced in regards to her successes, getting upset at how often she does well in class or is chosen first for games. “Just like her to be the first one to get her kitten to ride.” Well, Mildred, if you actually made the effort you keep claiming you’re making in a high-pitched whine, perhaps you’d be more successful in school, too.
These villains are fabulous. I love that they plot their evil moves in song and dance, while wearing multi-colored robes, that match their hair. Once again, I am Team Villain.
Miss Hardbroom is clearly the Severus Snape of this tale and just like Snape, she never redeems herself. “Ethel Hallow shows promise, Mildred Hubble, anything but. Mark my words, Mildred Hubble will never graduate as a witch from this academy!” “That’s very good. Who’s that? Oh. Mildred Hubble. Four.” What are the professional standards for educators in the wizarding world?!?! What does the interview process look like? Do they require teachers to hold vendettas against their least favorite students? Just as the Dursley’s made me cautious of British CPS, Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches makes me pretty wary of their education system. Why doesn’t Miss Cackle take this Miss Hardbroom down a peg and remind her that her role is to support Mildred and build her up? Then again, why didn’t Dumbledore intervene in Snape’s abuse?
How did Mildred think ketchup was blood? She might not be the worst witch, but she might be the dumbest.
Mildred didn’t just scream in terror at the sight of ketchup, she screamed literally 21 times when Ethel came out of the bathroom wearing a mask. Why do these witches scare more easily than humans?
Why wasn’t Mildred suspicious of Ethel for being so generous as to loan her a broom, especially with the pointed and sinister comment “It’ll take very good care of you”? It wasn’t just Mildred, though. No one raised a brow to the school bully loaning a costly piece of equipment to the spaz who bested her in front of the whole school. Now that I mention it, are there not school brooms? My schools always had optional communal equipment, even if it wasn’t as high of quality as something you might buy personally. Hogwarts had school brooms and I have a hard time believing that an almost 400 years old international academy for witches wouldn’t. Is there a school-wide conspiracy to humiliate Mildred?
Why do these girls want huge, sexy noses if no one else in their world has them? This seems like an offensive stereotype of witches, when even the young and attractive ones, like Miss Spellbinder and Miss Cackle’s niece, Donna, don’t have them.
What frigging crossroads demon did Tim Curry make a bargain with and how many years are left in his deal? This man is a household name and has starred, almost exclusively, in movies that can only be described as fabulously terrible. You have not lived until you see Tim Curry’s disturbingly sensual music video cutaway from The Worst Witch, as he flies around in a cape singing about how gremlins are going to mess up every cassette from London to Idaho.
“Oh Miss Hardbroom, your girls? … I love it, Miss Hardroom. Let’s get this show on the road.” Iwant to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, here, and assume they were going for flirty towards Miss Hardbroom, a consenting adult, but the Grand Wizard might be a sex trafficker.
“I was a fool to trust you! You abominable child, Mildred! Get out of my sight!” “Go to bed without supper and I’ll see you in my office, tomorrow at noon.” “If these are the witches of the future, I hate to think what the future will bring. What is this generation coming to? I’ve got to split. I’ve got another gig.”
It was a performance put on by children. It’s like a flashback to my years of softball… and basketball… and volleyball… and just gym class.
Why does “turn these witches into snails” turn witches in to snails, but “Ethel Hallow is now a frog” turns Ethel Hallow into a pig? Why does no one believe the former, when they saw the latter? I don’t understand the rules of magic in this world.
Why would Ethel confess to Maud, Mildred’s best friend, that she bewitched her broom, humiliating not just Mildred, but the entire school, in front of their Celebrity Rockstar King? Furthermore, why wasn’t she expelled for this, when Mildred is repeatedly threatened with expulsion for innocuous mistakes? Are there actual guidelines for expulsion or is this just the 80s?
“Once in a purple moon, there is a special young witch, who shines above the rest. Often, she goes unnoticed, because she’s out of step. I have seen this girl trying to fly. Oh, yes, I have. I’ve watched her at play and seen how her friends treated her. The best witch isn’t always the girl who comes out on top of tests. A true witch has witchcraft in her at all times… and this is what you have, Mildred Hubble.”
I… I don’t even know where to begin, folks. First of all, these are bold words from a man who cut his visit short, blowing off a feast that was prepared for him and dismissing an entire generation, because a child made a mistake in what amounted to a school play. Second, on what is he basing his praise of Mildred? He’s never even met her, which brings me to my third point. When was he watching her?!?! The Grand Wizard visits for the first time on Halloween night, but he’s “watched her at play and seen how her friends treat her”? I once had a man show up on my doorstep in a hoodie at 9:00 at night and tell me that he was a Mormon and wanted to come inside and speak to me about Jesus Christ… and I didn’t piece together the fact that that probably wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up for years. Y’all, even I can tell that the Grand Wizard is 100% buying children.
“Now, Mildred, have you made any plans for this unexpected holiday?” “No, Grand Wizard. I suppose I’d better practice my flying.” “Would you like to practice with me?” “With you?!?” “Oh, absolutely.” ::he said seductively::
Just recently, Jake and I found the nicest public lake nearby. Living on the outskirts of the county, it’s nearby no one else, but the exact distance to the swim beach is 18 minutes from our front door. It’s small, clean, has picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and allows for boating, fishing, and swimming. After the distance, the second best thing about this little lake, is that it costs $5 per car, per day. The nearest aquatic centers costs more than that per person.
Last Christmas, my step-brother announced that he’d booked a company-owned luxury cabin, in Crested Bute, Colorado for Labor Day weekend. The whole family was welcome, at a discounted rate, which depended on how many committed. Because the cabin could only be reserved for four days, the plan was for everyone to stay at a nearby hotel for three to four more. My parents and all of my step-siblings were enthusiastically in, without private discussion, while Jake and I offered non-committal responses, knowing we’d talk about it in the car.
Though we didn’t wish to share the details of our financial situation with my entire family,from the beginning we felt it was optimistic, at best, to think we could take a family vacation in a year when we planned an embryo transfer, which costs about $4,000. So, with the final total up in the air, we tabled the idea, under the heading of “Wouldn’t That Be Nice?” In April, Zane clarified that the cost would be $100 per adult for the full stay at the cabin. Jake and I tentatively agreed that we could probably swing that, but that the hotel was out. In May, we received the wonderful news that we wouldn’t have to pay for an embryo transfer after all. In June, however, I read an article about how the used car market was going to get bad again and finally admitted that we couldn’t actually fit three children in rear-facing car seats in my Sorento.
So, we found ourselves the proud owner of a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica… along with a $1500 pending tag and title and a $100 car payment, when both of our cars had previously been paid off. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was $1500 on our emergency credit card. All the while, my pregnancy was progressing and we needed to move the girls into the larger bedroom, so we could ready their old one for their baby brother. After purchasing a new closet kit, wood and brackets for the 360° shelves Jake built, stain, paint, brush and roller kits, curtains, and additional shelving to make the most of their small shared room from 1980, we were easily looking at another $1200 on said credit card.
In August, I conceded that Colorado just wasn’t doable. A 12 hour drive with 14-month-old twins would be miserable. With gas prices as they were, it would cost an additional $400 just to get there, making it no cheaper than flying. Flying on a holiday weekend sounded even worse with the current transportation issues, all for the equivalent of an extended weekend. We’d already put so much on the emergency credit card, yet still felt we could pay it off completely with our tax return, avoiding any interest. While we could justify charging new baby preparations, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to put a leisure trip on credit, even if it was during my 35th birthday. Instead, we would take our girls on their very first lake trip and save approximately $1,495. While everyone else was in Colorado, our family vacation would comprise a few hours less than 20 minutes away. So, in this time of 40-year-high inflation rates at 8.4%, historically high gas prices, soaring electric bills, and general financial discontent across the country, I sent a group text bowing out of the family vacation… and I was the only one.
Y’all, I try to remember that what other people do with their money is none of my business… and I have a lot of practice doing so. Even before I quit my job to stay home, I never got manicures. I cut my hair and Jake’s. I owned one purse, a leather Fossil bag, which I’ve been carrying for three years, as I did with each of the previous three. My clothes have always been bought on sale from Kohl’s, Target, Old Navy, or Amazon.I keep the newest or last edition phone, only for the camera, because I make annual photo albums. Jake’s was five years old until he got a free upgrade. We don’t have cable and keep our streaming services to a minimum. We rarely eat out, cooking at home with groceries we buy ourselves, sans meal kits. My weekly splurge is maybe a $10 sushi bento box, with Jake’s equivalent being beer. When we do get fast food, we literally always split something we buy with a coupon.
Don’t get me wrong .We’re not destitute or struggling without. We have nice computers, a 75″ TV, and quality furniture. Jake owns the newest XBOX and I the latest Cricut machines. However, these are already paid for, so we spend a lot of time at home and rarely do things that cost actual money when we go out. When we go to the zoo, I get a free pass from the library. We go to the park, farmer’s market, free festivals, church events, rodeos with tickets from Jake’s uncle. We stream new movies or check them out from the library. We host two separate DnD games every other week to maintain a pretty decent social life for parents of small children. For fun, I do various crafts and read, while Jake works in the yard or plays video games. Our tax returns go, primarily, to pay off the 0% emergency card or home improvement projects. Our mortgage payment is a little high, but it’s most certainly balanced out by the fact that we have very little debt beyond that.
I’m not complaining about my circumstances. I live in a nice, spacious home on over an acre, in a safe neighborhood, in a small suburb, in the state with the third lowest cost of living. I love my used car and Jake has no complaints about his 12-year-old truck. I like saving money and enjoy the challenge of finding coupon codes. Target clothes are enough for me. I enjoy painting my own nails. I don’t want a new purse. I’m content to be able to buy and cook good food. I’ve done the math on meal kit subscriptions and they’re a terrible deal, only slightly worse than eating out. I just don’t understand where people are getting their money and why they have so much more than we do. No matter how hard I try to be a good and non-judgmental person, I’m frequently left scratching my head at how people are affording their lifestyles.
With Jake’s friends and family, their circumstances at least make sense. His friends have largely gotten loans to start their family farms and run cattle. His sister has land and cattle because her husband once won quite a bit of money at the NFR and started his own business. One cousin is high up in oil and another helps run the family rodeo company. They’re also all 10 years older than us and most of them can’t even comprehend the term vacation, they work so hard. It’s not these folks who are confusing me and I genuinely hold zero bitterness toward them for their success. When looking at people our age, in similar life situations, though, I’m not bitter, but I am at a loss.
I’m not even on social media, but I still see some of my own family members, who’ve just bought their first home and had a baby in the same year, taking vacations, getting manicures, hitting Starbucks every day, and trying out expensive subscriptions, knowing that how much they earn annually places us firmly in the same bracket. They make similar money to what Jake and I do now or what we did before, but while paying for daycare. Still, they buy new cars, don designer handbags and jewelry, shop at pricey boutiques, and eat out all the time. They never seem to financially struggle during the holidays, whereas Jake and opted out of trading gifts between adults years ago. They had elaborate weddings, live on just enough land to cost some serious upkeep, and own farm animals that earn no revenue and essentially amount to expensive, but Instagrammable chores. They buy hundreds of dollars in gifts for their kids, keep them in stylish clothes and the latest tech, and take so many family vacations. I don’t even like to travel, but I’m still wondering how all these middle class people with small children are affording to do so, while Jake chooses a vacation horror movie on Netflix and I Google “fun and free family activities?”
I did not rejoice in the fact that my family all had to miss their flights and sleep on the airport floor with their many babies, came down with altitude sickness, got food poisoning, and experienced several Covid-19 cases during their Colorado trip… but I did rejoice in the fact that Jake and I didn’t put $1500 on a credit card to share in that experience. Similarly, I try not to somehow console myself with the idea that all of these people are drowning in debt. I truly hope that’s not the case, because although Jake and I had to pay $30,000 to have some babies, our house payment, new car payment, and minimum on the 0% credit card are the only monthly installments debts to our name. We also have investments, outside of Jake’s retirement. While they’re not as robust as they once were, with Bitcoin having bought us our babies, they still equal around $35,000. Additionally, although I’m staying home and these other couples earn two incomes, were I still working, the cost of daycare would have voided my pretty decent earnings when our boy arrives.. Even when Jake and I were both working, earning six figures together, we weren’t even able to daydream about keeping up with the Jones’s the way everyone else seems to be doing, so effortlessly.
What is it? Is everyone investing without me? Have they all inherited money? Are they printing it? Are they somehow not paying $4 per gallon in gas and $250 a month for electricity? Are the seemingly normal life expenses Jake and I experience so ridiculous? Do other people not need to have their thermostat replaced, upgrade their car with the increasing size of their families, repaint the occasional room, and save up for a new front door? Are these people, who seem to be living so lavishly in such similar circumstances to ours, somehow living in a pocket dimension where it’s the 1990s and a bag of frozen chicken doesn’t cost $30? Are they just spending more money? Do they have no savings? Are they all drowning in debt? Am I missing something, here? Am I just blind?
Ultimately, of course, I try to remind myself that the answers to these questions don’t actually matter. I have a nice life, one I’d have only dreamt of at one time. While we do make sacrifices to allow me to stay home, they’re both worth it to us and not that much greater than what we’d have been making were I working to pay for daycare. I wouldn’t turn down manicures, fancy haircuts, and massages, but I don’t feel my life is poorer without them. My children are too young to enjoy movie theaters, eating in a restaurant, or vacations. Jake and I appreciate the option to pause the movie on HBO Max and discuss or rant. We like cooking together every night, feeling it makes our marriage stronger. As for the Colorado trip, in hindsight, it seems we had much more fun watching The Hills Have Eyes after taking our girls to our new little $5 lake.
Still, no matter how hard I try to just mind my own busines, be thankful for all of many blessings, keep from looking into other people’s bowls… I can’t help but wonder, why does everyone have more money than we do?
Having grown up the fat, frumpy, awkward girl from a dysfunctional home, it has essentially been my life’s goal to be a cliché Basic White Girl. I jest, but sprung from an unstable foundation, I have genuinely always aspired to be an unremarkable suburbanite. At first, I aimed to be the working mom with an ideal career for a family. When life… shifted those plans, my new ideal became the stay-at-home mom and wife, who returns to work as a teacher or librarian, when her children reach school age. I want to spend my thirties and forties sitting in school drop-off lines, chaperoning field trips, having family game nights, hosting fantastic slumber parties, and embarking on family road trips, all without pretense.
While I’m well on my way to this hard-won life, there are a few trends that will forever expose me for the convert I ultimately am. I do love me some printed leggings, Converse shoes, Friends reruns, avocado toast, and romance novels; however I consider Starbucks and iPhones to be for shmucks, bestsellers virtually unreadable, reality television completely unwatchable, social media an utter waste of time, and wine reminiscent of Mass. Most of all, what keeps me on the outside of all Basic White Girl social circles, is my absolute hatred for HGTV.
Aside from a handful of shows about families with over a dozen children, I’ve never been a fan of reality TV – a fact that will forever contribute to my inability to converse with my family at holiday celebrations. It’s not an elitist viewpoint, by any means. I watch plenty of trash television. I just prefer even slightly better acting and production values. While I wouldn’t cite that as a main reason for my HGTV loathing, it is a contributing factor. The disasters are just so telegraphed, the drama so rehearsed, and even a cursory Google search on the experiences of those who’ve actually been on the show will reveal that the “makeovers” are falsified in many ways. This is an issue with all reality TV, though. It’s not unique to HGTV. However…
HGTV is fantasy fuel, but these things are fantasies for a reason. Living in spaces as formal, as loud, as stuffed to the brim with furniture would be overwhelming for most people. A couple of statement rooms and pieces, like a green kitchen, a deep blue velvet reading chair, or a plant corner, are enough of a “pop” for the average human, without lowering resale value. Of course, no one wants to watch a show where an average looking home is transformed into a slightly less average home with the addition of a single colorful accent wall, a patterned rug, or some new light fixtures. Unless you’re Pee Wee Herman, though, that’s likely going to be enough for your senses. I just don’t have the suspension of disbelief to look at the after photos of an HGTV room without a headache coming on at the very idea of spending every day there.
On the same topic, a common criticism of HGTV is the careers and corresponding budgets of their chosen contestants. Why does no one have a real job? Why is the budget always $900k?!? Is living in the state with the third lowest cost of living blinding me to real finances? No, actually. I just checked and it’s not. The average cost of a home in the United States is $354,649. The average in my state is $181,574. Jake and I paid $210,000 for a flip from 1980 with 2,300 square feet, counting the converted garage. It sits on 1.13 acres and has no HOA, because we’re not communists. Were we contestants with our budget on House Hunters, we’d be looking for garage apartments in Flint, Michigan.
Everyone’s house looks the same.
Somehow, while simultaneously looking down on average home décor, HGTV also manages to define the concept. When I was a kid, my mother refused to paint any room in the house any color other than white, insisting that it “makes the room smaller.” When I asked how that was possible, she conceded that while the room would still be the same size, colored walls would create the appearance of a smaller space. In hindsight, I understand her reasoning. It was the 90s, after all, and the average person knew very little about decorating and color theory.
In our modern world, this is no longer the case, as anyone who’s ever shopped for curtains or throw pillows can see from the targeted ads directing them to numerous interior design articles Yet, somehow, everyone’s living room is still painted a ridiculous shade of white called “gilded linen,” accented with “minimalist” furniture and light fixtures of wicker, bamboo, and rattan. The entire house is fitted with light colored wood, subway tile, shiplap, or marble, depending on the year it was decorated. The “eye-catching” features comprise a couple of plants, a gold-trimmed mirror, a neutral patterned rug, a wall of crosses and/or a sign declaring this .13 acre dwelling to be a “Farmhouse“. Chip and Joanna Gaines seem like lovely people, really, but my stars have they leached all the color from the world.
While the above accurately describes the varying degrees of Farmhouse Chic in the quintessential suburban/rural home, the trendy urban dwelling is positively bursting with retro 70’s colors and mod style art and furniture. Bonus points are awarded based on the number of thrifted, antique, or locally commissioned finds. Emerald green velvets, tropical patterned wallpaper à la my parents’ prom backdrop, yellow gold light fixtures, and so muchwicker positively overwhelms the senses in these homes. One can’t decide if they should look at the vaguely pornographic statuary, the funky red velvet sofa, or the geometrically patterned accent wall.
None of these individual trends are bad things. A white room with light-colored wood can feel airy and light. A thrifted retro chair and brightly colored shelf or desk can draw the eye to a nice reading corner or home office space. The problem arises when normal folks in normal homes attempt to perfectly copy the spaces they see on HGTV shows, forgetting that humans will actually be occupying these showrooms. Perhaps in some cases, this look is truly what these individuals love, and it’s just not to my taste. I know people who detest color and others who abhor what they consider the mundane. If that’s the case, more power to them! I have seen so many variations of both of these extremes, though, from people who’ve visited Waco or the art museum one too many times, that I’d wager in many cases, it has more to do with getting the “right” look than the right look for them, whatever that might be… and I blame HGTV.
The choices are often impractical.
A researcher at heart and once by trade, I have actually taken quite a bit of care to avoid biased searches for this post, keeping my inquiries as general as possible, such as “interior design trends HGTV.” Still, I’ve found numerous examples of recommendations that are just completely and utterly pointless and/or impractical. The pointless ranges from a wall of clocks, to a fake mantel, to mounted decorative wooden doors, to words on the wall, my foremost detested popular décor since the first time I read the words “live, laugh, love.”
While I can ascribe what I see as pointless to a matter of personal taste, I simply cannot forgive the impractical, such as a chalkboard wall anywhere but a children’s space. Who is going to take the time to clear those shelves and counters to etch out cutesy diner drawings and phrases? How quickly is it going to get smudged? How thoroughly is it going to have to be cleaned to avoid that 1980s second grade classroom look? Who is going to dust all those knickknacks on that open shelf? What books are in those decorative stacks? Is that giant fig real? If so, what are the care instructions? If not, does it look fake up close? Why is the fireplace in the middle of the room, taking up so much space? Is it functional? If so, how does the room not fill with smoke when there are no doors? If not, why isn’t this space being occupied by something more useful or, at the very least, less structurally permanent?
Jake and I moved to our almost rural suburb of Cherokee, on the outskirts of the county, five and a half years ago. Do you know how many brick houses were painted whitein 2017? Zero, because we live in a state known for it’s wind andred dirt.
What in the actual Hell, y’all? How do people not realize that these homes are going to be pink in five years? No amount of power washing is going to fix that and you can’t unpaint brick.
Why, oh why, would anyone want marble countertops? They’re more costly. They stain and are prone to etching if exposed to acid. They’re not especially heat resistant. They need to be sealed annually. There are arguably better options, but according to my research, right behind painted brick, marble is the trend of 2022, along with subway tiles. Just as with the chevron printed walls of 2010 and the grey on grey of 2015, these fads will also fade, only this time, it’ll be far more expensive to remodel.
Trendiness is expensive.
As you can see, the issues I have with HGTV all fall under the umbrella of their constant promotion of trendiness. I got a few of my examples for this post from an article titled Interior Designers Forecast 2022 Design Trends. It opens with a paragraph on the environmental impact of fleeting interior design choices and the importance of developing a long lasting personal style, before going on to push in vogue furniture, “more marble,” and even tiny homes. Other HGTV articles recommend contemporary furnishings, brightly colored chandeliers, and gold-touched wallpaper. Unless these things specifically appeal to you, they are going to get old fast, as they become just as dated as the Tuscan style décor of the early 2000s. They aren’t going to be cheap to replace, either.
When Jake and I bought our home, open floorplans were all the rage and had been for quite some time. While this is still a prominent layout in new construction, in a post-Covid world, people often find themselves working from home alongside their spouse and children. In time, open floorplans might become less popular… and that’s okay with me. Jake and I love the spacious feel of our great room, just as we love our granite countertops. We’ve no desire to erect walls or install marble to keep up with the times.
If you love your loud dining room wallpaper and furniture as much as I love the papasan chair in my red reading space full of plants, everyone else can go kick rocks. If you’re prying off your shiplap to put up subway tile, because you’ve heard that shiplap is on it’s way out, you need to turn off the TV. While it can be fun to play around with throw pillows, floor lamps, and wall art, as HGTV does encourage, the larger furniture purchases and makeovers really should be built around genuine personal preference. While I’ve seen numerous homeowners pushed to make pricey, fleeting, or impractical decisions, I have never seen personal taste come before modern style on any HGTV show… and as much I detest it, I’ve watched a lot of HGTV these last few years, which brings me to my final point.
HGTV gives me wartime flashbacks.
While all of the above reasons for my HGTV hatred are true, I’ll admit that I do possess a certain level of bias that has thrown that general distaste into flat-out loathing. Folks, I confess that I cannot watch HGTV without having flashbacks to Covid-19 infertility appointments. That chipper over voice plays, those preppy Urban White People costumes flash across the screen, someone says the words “open concept”… and suddenly I’m sitting alone in a waiting room, next to a chair with an ‘X’ taped on it, wearing a medical mask, Googling adoption horror stories to take my mind off the news.
There’s something about HGTV that is just so totally innocuous, that it has apparently been endorsed by the American Medical Association for it’s calming effect on anxious, primarily female, patients… because I rarely see it playing in any gender neutral office, such as the dentist. I get it. There’s simply nothing truly objectionable about the programming, in a broader sense. What could possibly be less threatening than home décor? Most certainly, in a year when every news story was about the number of deaths in various cities, it was the obvious choice. I suppose it worked in my favor, after all, that this experience didn’t ruin something I truly enjoy, like reruns of Friends or Bewitched… because even before it gave me flashbacks to one of the most difficult times in my life, I hated HGTV.
Jake and I met in the summer of 2015, at 30 and 27. He was working as a fluid engineer an hour away, in an oil town. I was living in the suburbs, working as a half time librarian and enjoying a break from substitute teaching during the financially leaner summer months. We met online, during a time when the stigma had lifted just enough to make it ubiquitous, but not quite so much that everyone had become utterly jaded and exhausted by the entire process. Compared to the modern woes shared by my single friends, it seems 2015 was something of a Golden Age for online dating, when the majority of people approached it with some genuine sense of purpose. After all, if you were going to risk a coworker finding your profile, you were at least going to try to meet someone.
From the beginning, things with Jake were… uncomplicated. Essentially strangers, there was no immediate “spark” or “love at first sight” moment between us, because we weren’t the leads in a paranormal romance novel. I thought he was funny and had pretty eyes. I liked his beard. He thought I was cute and smart. We talked long enough for the restaurant to close for lunch and he texted within the next couple of hours to tell me he had a good time. We didn’t kiss until our sixth date, what with him having been my literal second of most things and eventual first of quite a few. He met my parents on my birthday and I met his on Halloween. I said I love you at four months and he immediately said it back. We first slept together after eight months, when we went skiing in New Mexico. That was the same weekend we hypothetically discussed marriage. By one year, we were making serious plans and that Thanksgiving, I had a ring. A week later, we’d set a date.
Just kidding… I was totally a prude.
We were married just shy of two years after that first date and bought our home a year later. Aside from the election year of back-to-back pandemic IVF cycles, followed by that time I almost died in childbirth, our relationship has gone pretty smoothly.
We’re genuinely happy.
We are each other’s best friends.
There is no one I’d rather see every single day, beyond my baby girls andmy Gramma.
Still, quite often, he drives me absolutely mad.
As a former 23-year-old divorcee from a terrifying relationship, I can honestly say that I have never considered leaving Jake. I know what a bad marriage looks like and this ain’t it. That doesn’t mean we don’t fight. We met as whole people. We weren’t clueless youngsters from a Nicholas Sparks novel, embarking on an adventure together, with no idea what lay before us. We were grown adults possessing clearly set ideas about how the world works and the best way to approach it. We were and are both stubborn, opinionated, insufferable know-it-alls… and sometimes we clash.
Indeed, we do take pride in it.
Last night was just such a time. There’s no need to share the details of the fight, as I’m usually a firm believer that one shouldn’t air their dirty laundry in public, but I can assure you, Jake was in the wrong. I was the victim of course… though there may have been a throw pillow hurled in his direction, before I tearfully left to take a walk around the neighborhood. As I walked, pregnant and hormonal, I thought of all of Jake’s flaws. He’s stubborn, pushy, has the pride of ten men, and may or may not be a robot completely incapable of human emotion. Then I thought of all of my flaws. I’m often neurotic and high-strung, stressing out easily over inconsequential details. I, admittedly, have a flare for the dramatic and cry easily. Then, I acknowledged that combined, these flaws… actually complement each other quite well. Where I’m unsure and anxious, Jake is confident to the point of arrogance. In the midst of my stress, he’s always there with that Texan drawl, assuring me that “It’ll be alright”. While he takes few things too seriously, I highlight their urgency, sometimes quite necessarily. While he sits stoic, I rant about the injustice of the world. Despite our flaws, despite the fact that other people often wonder how, we do still fit. He is the string to my kite and remembering that, I began to think of all the reasons I love my husband.
He’s hardworking. When Jake left oil, at my request, he started at the literal bottom working on sewer lines for the City of Cherokee. He made eleven dollars an hour, at a time when I was making more than double that, despite having a bachelor’s degree in hydrology and several years of oilfield experience. He took call shifts and worked all-nighters and never once complained or acted like it was beneath him. He spent his weekends helping his parents on the ranch. Even now, he spends a good deal of his time off doing chores around the house, helping me fulfill whatever grand new vision I’ve formed. He is truly the hardest working individual I’ve ever met.
He’s ambitious. Five years after taking his $11 per hour position, Jake has a lengthy title that, summed up, means he’s the stormwater manager for the entire city. He spends his days explaining to engineers why their building permits were denied and rebuffing their attempts to resolve the whole “misunderstanding” with a sexist joke and a good ol’ boy handshake. He draws up plans, gives presentations, prepares for audits, and fights for budget items. Were I still working as a librarian, he would officially be making more money, just as I wagered he would five years ago. There have even been talks of him eventually becoming the director of public works. He will always strive for more. In the process, he’ll always take care of his family.
He’s responsible. One of my requirements when dating, was to find someone who didn’t need me to be the grown up in the relationship. I didn’t want to have to budget someone else’s money and time, pick up after them, or nag them to do household chores. Sticker charts are for children, not adult men. While Jake and I sometimes disagree about which chores take priority, idle is not a word one could use to describe him. He is always working on some project, digging drains in our yard, tilling the garden, filling in holes the dogs dug, installing a closet kit or building shelves for the girls’ new bedroom. Not once in our marriage have I ever felt like he consistently failed to do his share.
He’s even-tempered. On our third date, Jake and I met at a Fourth of July festival. He was at least thirty minutes late with no prior explanation, because his cell phone had died. I had seriously considered going home, but with no other holiday plans, I decided to stick around at least until it bordered on truly pathetic. When he arrived, I was flustered and awkward, having worried I’d been stood up again, so I forgot the blanket I’d brought to lay out until we were halfway to the other side of the park. I expected Jake to be annoyed at having to turn back, but he seemed entirely unphased. Growing up in a volatile household, this was a balm to the senses I’d never deliberately sought. Since the beginning, Jake has been cool-headed, rarely raising his voice or even getting angry. This stoicism occasionally presents itself as a lack of emotion or feeling overall, but day-to-day, it’s quite comforting to know that this marriage only includes one irrational partner.
He’s funny. I’d met stoic, even-tempered men before Jake, but they all seemed to take themselves too seriously. Jake takes nothing seriously. While that sometimes drives me a little crazy, it works to my benefit as well. The man is nearly impossible to offend. I’ve only managed it once, when he came out dressed for his family’s Thanksgiving in a rodeo vest and cowboy hat. I’d never attended a holiday with him, so I didn’t realize this was how everyone in his family of cowboys and rodeo performers dressed for nice gatherings. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have offered to put on my Buzz Lightyear costume. Yet, in five years, that’s the only time I’ve hurt his feelings. As obnoxious as his borderline arrogance can be, Jake is confident enough for the most self-deprecating of jokes. He can laugh at himself, which makes it sting a lot less when he laughs at my own blunders and antics. I, myself, am not typically known for my gravity, which makes for a delightful marriage. Jake and I don’t even drive with the radio on, instead opting to talk and joke until we laugh ourselves sick. Being married to him is just fun. I love that my girls will witness that.
He’s a fantastic dad. Growing up, my parents loved me. They just weren’t very good at it. As a result, I’ve sometimes doubted my ability to be the mom I hope to be, but I have not for a moment doubted Jake as a father. He’s never shied away from feedings, tantrums, or dirty diapers. Since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve struggled in the mornings, only recently able to get up with him. He’s taken on getting the girls fed and settled in their play yard before he leaves work for several months now. It’s not just the duties of parenthood at which he excels, though. It’s also the joys. Jake comes home for lunch every single day, cheerfully getting the girls up from their nap and helping to feed them, often taking the lead depending on how I feel or if I’m working on something else. When he comes home, it’s clear he can’t wait to see his little ladies, letting them crawl all over him, stealing his hat, badge, and phone. He loves being a father and he’s really good at it.
He’s masculine, without being chauvinistic. When I was dating, I made a lot of exaggerative jokes about requiring a classically masculine man. A Real Man was Louis from Interview With a Vampire, crying one tear every thousand years. If he wasn’t a better shot than I was, he wasn’t a Real Man. Real Men didn’t drive sedans, but pickups. I’m sure I could search the early days of this blog for more examples. This was all hyperbole, of course. I’ve met some great guys who fit none of these descriptors. Manicured, well-pressed men just never did it for me. The catch, however, was that the men I described often came with antiquated, even downright offensive ideas of gender roles… until I met Jake. Jake cooks the majority of our meals. He never balks at changing a dirty diaper or cleaning a toilet. When I was working full time, he respected a career that most men I’d met openly mocked and we split the household chores 50/50. He’s not exactly one for flowery words, but now that I’m home, he frequently mentions how much we all benefit. He doesn’t belittle my contribution as a stay-at-home mom, make me qualify my time, or attempt to control our finances. I’ve also still never seen him cry and he’s a better shot than I am. Oh, and he drives a pickup.
He has never, not once, asked me to change. My entire life, I’ve never quite felt like I belong. It’s difficult to say that without unintentional Breakfast Club emphasis, but I mean it without drama or angst. I’ve always operated on a slightly different frequency than everyone else, often unamused by popular comedy or overly interested in odd topics. I like to be around people, but get anxious around too many. I’m a homebody, but I never stop talking. I prefer crafts to sports, but frequently roll my eyes at what passes for art. I’m too conservative for liberal circles, too liberal for conservative circles, and too opinionated to keep my mouth shut. I’ve zero interest in the personality tests that attempt to make me feel better about such attributes and will overzealously cite studies about how they’re complete and utter hogwash. I’m too quiet at times, too loud at others. I always choose the wrong moment to share that anecdote about Pablo Escobar’s hippo menagerie taking over Columbia.
In the last seven years, though, I’ve realized that all of this is okay. I don’t need to fit in with the mean girls of my twenties. I don’t have to pretend to possess a political bent when I don’t. It doesn’t actually matter if I bring up the legalization of marijuana with the wrong audience. Jake has never once asked me to change anything about myself. From my weight, to my hair, to my volume, to my beliefs, to my interests, to my poise, to my temperament. Jake has never criticized me or been embarrassed by my awkwardness or clumsiness. He’s never asked me to be anything other than exactly who I am, so the least I can do, is offer him the same courtesy and love him, flaws and all.