March 2010


It’s 10:30 on a Sunday morning, and I’ve already been up for four hours.  I awoke to the sound of scurrying children echoing through a large cabin, and the clang of wood being added to a stove nearby.  No, I was not suddenly transformed into my childhood hero Laura Ingalls; I was on a cub scout camping trip. 

Since cub scouts aren’t exactly woodsmen yet, our camping trip was actually less than a day long.  We arrived yesterday afternoon: my son, excited and bounding up the trail (until he decided the two things he was carrying were sooooo heavy) and me, dragging my feet and daydreaming, trying not to wish I was somewhere else. 

The last time we’d been camping was with my son’s prior troop from before we moved.  It was pretty much run by women, but some dads would join in for “the fun stuff” (read: don’t make me work, but I’ll light some shit on fire).  This troop, on the other hand, is incredible.  It’s run completely by men and all the dads pitch in to help – cooking, cleaning, running whittling lessons, showing how to make a makeshift tent, etc.  I was the only woman there, which I was kind of self-conscious about.  Not because men make me nervous (they don’t) or I’m bashful (I’m not) but because it felt as though I was infringing on their manly activities.

Or, as I put it to the troop leader, “Getting my estrogen mixed up in your testosterone.”

But they were actually really cool about it.  In fact, I think they thought I was cooler for it.  They all commented on my combat boots, which date back from 19whateverthefuck, which at the time I probably thought looked good with a skirt.  One guy said, “I’ll be you’ve kicked a lot of shins with those boots.”

Raised eyebrow and a smirk: “Shins?” I replied.

Yeah, I’m a funny girl.

We started off with a short hike, which ended, kind of predictably, with a big-ass rock.  It was actually a very cool vantage point, and I could see the Prudential Building on the horizon.  There were some boy scouts there on their own hike and as I passed a group of them I heard one remark, “See, first we slit Justin Bieber’s throat…”  Justin Bieber, if you don’t know, is this cute little 16 year old pop star with perfect hair and a bunch of hit singles, who about 10,000 adolescent girls love.  It occurred to me that for every Justin Bieber, there are hundreds of boys wanting to sharpen sticks, put on war paint, start some fires, and end him and his stupid perfect hair.  My estimation of the boy scouts increased in that moment.

The next hike (no break, oy) was to the top of a mountain.  Yes, a fucking mountain.  Okay, maybe it was technically a hill on a mountain but it’s 600 feet over sea level and I’ll be damned if you’re going to take that away from me.  From below, it looked – well – really steep and really far.  I have to admit, I egged on my son.  Because even though I pretend that I’m not competitive and that conquering shit does not excite me, it’s actually not true.  Try it.  Ask me to race you somewhere.  I’ll run my ass off.  No idea why.

The hill mountain was covered in dry, slippery leaves, which made the ascent really hard, but after my son executed several dramatic collapses on the way up that would make William Shatner proud (“Can’t…go…further…mom…”) we made it.  And at the top, there was nothing.  NOTHING.  Okay, there was actually a lookout tower, and a guy leaning out with binoculars, but nothing I was expecting, like an awesome view or even a flag.  And the guy with the binoculars?  He had gotten up there with his PICKUP TRUCK.  Gah!  After about half an hour of my son dropping really heavy rocks on my boots to prove that they were steel-toed, we headed back.  DOWN THE REALLY STEEP MOUNTAIN.  My mommy senses were screaming as the boys slid down the incline, sharpened walking sticks flailing as they narrowly missed falling onto rocks hidden under leaves, but under the influence of the testosterone-driven quest, I was left mute and powerless. 

And to be honest, that was the best part of it for me – learning to be quiet and let the boys be boys.  Later, after a snack and some cub scout lessons, they were all outside the cabin playing and I noticed that all the dads – ALL the dads – were inside  hanging out.  I popped my head outside and nearly cried out, “Piggy’s got the conch!” as the boys waged warfare on each other for a tin can that apparently was really fucking important.  Because to the boys, it wasn’t just a tin can: it was dominence.  It was power.  They came at each other with their whittled (deadly) sticks, escaping onto trees downed over gulfs with 10 foot drops, shouting insults at each other and each side crying that they would be the victor.  The little ones stared admiringly at the older boys and followed them blindly into the good or bad side simply based on their unflagging leadership.

Right then I knew I should go back inside, and I did.  “There’s a social order that emerges out there,” one of the dads told me later over coffee.  “Without us around, they have to figure out their place and how to deal with each other.”  I thought about this.  My son needed space from me – needed to be himself without a mom around, needed to have this time to fight battles, to make enemies and allies – and in the end, they would all be allies.  When he saw them at school, they would be something more to him than faces in the hall.  And he would learn to look to them for guidance and to guide himself, rather than be led by the wrong crowd.  That was the second time that day I was glad he was doing this.

Amidst my musing, the troop leader offered another perspective, “We didn’t tell you this until you got here,” he said, “but since you can’t turn back now I can tell you.  We consider these campouts a success if no one has to go to the emergency room.”

I opened my mouth as if to speak but then stopped.  I smiled.  “I’ve already been to the emergency room with him,” I said.  “I was standing right next to him when he got hurt.  He was two.  It doesn’t matter if I’m out there or not.  If something’s going to happen, it’ll happen.”

We had dinner (boys at their tables, dads at theirs), took a night hike, and the boys went to bed while the dads (and I) stayed up drinking smuggled beer and wine out of plastic cups, talking and keeping the fires going.  When I crawled into my bunk bed I couldn’t help thinking how much fun I’d had in such a short time.  At breakfast, my son snuggled up onto my lap, kissed me on the cheek, and leaned his head on my shoulder.  For a moment, I felt like the best mom ever.  And all I had to do was nothing.

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I’m not feeling very talkative this week.

That’s a lie.

I’m feeling totally, incomprehensively self-conscious and unable to put together two sentences without wanting to take them back.

So, in lieu of a post, I give you this:

http://www.formspring.me/marydarling

Where you can ask me anything you like, and I will try to answer without censoring myself. 

It’s for fun.  And to reassure me that when I’m depressed, people are still interested in hearing from me.  I know, it sounds so sad, but at least I didn’t delete it…

I had the most amazing weekend.  But first, let me tell you about the jellybeans.  Sometime between Thursday and today, I ate a whole bag of them – with minimal help from the boy.  I love jellybeans.  I love them enough to derail my diet.  I love them enough to eat them while I’m getting in the shower, apparently.  Yeah, I had a handful, managed to get completely naked as I ate them, and when it was time to get in the shower, couldn’t be bothered to put them by the sink and just finished them in there.

You wish I loved you as much as I love jellybeans.

Anyway, Friday I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had hired a babysitter as part of the “Keeping My Sanity” single-motherhood survival plan that I came up with recently while prostate with loneliness.  I’m so smart.  So I texted my friend Holly (’cause I’m just tech like that) and we decided to go to a blues bar in the next town.

Now, since moving to my new town, I’ve been to both Worcester and Boston to hang out, but I’ve never just hung out locally.  The town where I live and its surroundings didn’t appear to have much in the way of entertainment.  Holly managed to show me that boy, oh boy, was I wrong.

We had a few false starts trying to figure out where to go (the blues bar had closed) but our first actual stop was a bar with a live band in a bowling alley with an arcade.  DID YOU HEAR THAT?  Drinking and bowling and video games!!  I was in heaven.  We charged a game card and did a two player…oh god I don’t even know the premise because I skipped the stupid introduction and went right to the SHOOTING OF BAD GUYS.  Holly even had her beer in one hand while we played.  It was epic.

We left there and did more bar searching, finally deciding on a Chinese restaurant with a karoke bar.  This place was classic.  Holly ordered us Mai Tais and we took a seat at the bar to witness some of the worst karaoke I’ve ever seen.  The place was filled with just-turned-21s who were waaaaay too shy to sing, and the dj just looked desperate and bored.  There was an old woman-who-looked-like-a-guy who sang three songs in an hour – I swear – and she was godawful.  I sang a song and the bartender (who was also the owner) said I was the best there.  The kids were all flirting and ordering beers and doing what kids do when they think they’re drunk and really cool, and it was just too funny.  Especially when one guy tried to flirt with me.  I have to give him credit for trying, the poor thing.  When he was given his tab, he told the owner that he’d have to pay him tomorrow and the man replied, “Fine.  You pay me tomorrow or I call your father!”  Brilliant.

Saturday morning I awoke with the sudden urge to rip all the plastic sealing off my apartment windows.  It was gorgeous outside.  After doing some cleaning, I called my mom and sister and desperately tried to get them to visit.  Since they couldn’t, I decided we’d take a trip and visit them instead.  My brother was working on his motorcycle restoration when we got there, and he showed me how to put some putty stuff on his fender to get it smoothed out.  We chatted while my son rode his bike up and down the street.  It was so funny to be giving him boundaries for riding the same road I biked all my life growing up.

I headed out to Target to see if they had replacement tires for an old bike my mom had in the shed and to grab my son a helmet, since we’d left his at home.  I wasn’t able to figure out what tires to get (they didn’t have the right thing anyway) so I just, um, bought a bike.  Yeah.  When faced with adversity, I just find an alternate solution.  I didn’t even know if it would fit in my car, but with some serious moxie, I made it.

My mom threw some frozen pizzas in the oven while I biked around with my boy, and my brother’s girlfriend popped in.  Before we ate, my brother offered to take me on a ride on his (other, complete) motorcycle.  I’d never been on one before.  It was scary at first, but then really exhilerating.  We didn’t go far, but it was so much fun.  After dinner, we played my mom’s new Wii.  Apparently, I’m as fit as a 79 year old.  I think I have to practice.  I loved making a Mii – she’s gorgeous, of course – although my brother had way too much fun messing with the features while we were putting her together.

After getting my son in bed enough that at least he was pretending to be sleeping, I headed out to join my brother and his girlfriend at a VFW for some more – wait for it – karaoke.  Now, I’d forgotten that VFWs are technically private clubs, which meant lots and lots and lots and LOTS of smoking.  I swear, this is where all the smokers are hiding out.  But since I love my brother, I stayed, and made him proud with some Pat Benetar.  He and his girl were great, too.  I also ran into a classmate of mine from high school, who, though sweet as pie, happens to have gotten really fat, gotten divorced, and is dating a man who is missing his front teeth.  Although I always tell my son not to compare himself with other people, I have to say I suddenly felt beautiful and successful.  I crawled into bed after showering and throwing all my smoky clothes into the wash, which somehow felt nostalgic for me.

After magically managing to squeeze my bike, my laundry (two baskets, which I did during all that fun Saturday – thanks mom!), my son, and my other crap into my car this morning, we headed back.  We had a cub scout meeting this afternoon I’d forgotten about.  The boys did their activity and then played basketball while I chatted with the dads.  That’s one thing that’s weird about being a single mom – I’m the only woman at these things.  Next weekend, I’m supposed to go camping at a cabin with about two dozen dads.  Let’s just say I’m going to be wearing some really frumpy jammies (since I like the moms and don’t want my body to be discovered in under a pile of leaves in the woods in my foresty little town).

We went grocery shopping then my son went out to play while I made dinner and simultaneously organized our foyer to accommodate the bikes, the helmets, and all the outdoor stuff that had been in storage all winter.  We ate and then went for a bike ride around the neighborhood.  My son is showered and reading right now, and I’m about to go tuck him into bed.

If you read this far you know why I wrote all this: to capture a picture of how wonderful my life is and how happy the people in it make me.  I’m going to go sing one last song for the weekend to my boy, watch some television, read a little, and go to sleep – content.

Yesterday on the radio, a DJ said that now that the husband of America’s Sweetheart had cheated on her, no woman could feel confident in her relationship anymore.  The implication was, of course, that if the “best” woman couldn’t keep her man’s attention, none of us could.  

I hate this statement for a number of reasons.  First, I hate generalizations about men.  “Men are pigs,” I hear.  I’ve never dated a man I thought was a pig.  One might have been shallow, another stupid, and yet another inconsiderate, but I’d like to think that every man, like a unique little snowflake, has his own faults, and that it’s unfair to call an entire group any one thing.  The term pig suggests an uncontrollable lasciviousness and stupidity that is inherent to the male gender.  Any implication that Jesse James is somehow just another guy – God love him! – who this should be expected of is irresponsible and, I believe, offensive to men.

Nor do I believe that cheating is built into men’s DNA like eye color or baldness.  I think it’s a moral choice, no matter if you believe in monogamy or not.  I always thought that if it came down to it – if my relationship was so crappy that I ended up with another man or if I suddenly just felt like not being in a relationship – that I would have the decency to pick up the phone and tell my man we were through before playing tonsil hockey with someone new.  For fuck’s sake, we don’t even have to pick up the phone anymore; we can fucking text message the person (sry-we r thru-was me,not u-tlk ltr).  As horrible as a text breakup is, I think it ranks above cheating.

Second, I hate the implication that a woman is somehow responsible for keeping her man interested in her.  Granted, I actually do think that both partners have a responsibility to be tuned into what attracts their mate.  I’m not talking about jumping ship if your mate changes hair color, but if you started dating at 150 pounds and you end up at 300 pounds, I think that you shouldn’t be shocked if your mate doesn’t want to have sex with you anymore.  If your relationship is strong, however, I’d expect you’d listen, talk, and stick it out and work together while you get healthy again – not go secretly trolling for a replacement.

A woman is not “lucky” to have someone interested in her, nor does she need to actively fight a campaign to keep his interest away from all of the trollops of the world.  If a guy wants the trollops, he doesn’t deserve the girl.  And she would be better off with someone who does value her.  By the way, you can reverse the genders on those statements and I believe it still holds true. 

By all accounts, Sandra Bullock is a talented, successful, pretty, and nice person.  So are a lot of women, none of whom deserve to be treated any less respectfully than she does.  Hopefully, their boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses/whatever have more sense than to take them for granted.  None of them are any less likely to hold onto a partner because a public relationship that seemed perfect went south.  I hope that this actually makes those good partners appreciate their value and make sure they are paired up with someone who appreciates them.

And in the meantime, it looks like Jesse James has been served a pretty hefty punishment.  No, it’s not the public humiliation or the possibility of sinking ratings.  It’s the fact that he’s going to have to live without a really incredible woman for the rest of his life.  And on behalf of Sandra and every woman like her, I hope it sucks.

Sometimes, knowing you’ve had PMS is a very relieving thought.  No, I wasn’t out of my mind.  No, my emotions aren’t running rampant over me like tidal waves for no reason.  And this week, that is the completely legitimate, honest excuse for how I’ve been feeling.

It most certainly wasn’t because of St. Patrick’s Day, even though it always makes me think of my father.  My father is a jerk.  His dad died on St. Patrick’s Day.  My grandfather was absent a lot, and distant in the years I and my siblings knew him.  We never sat on his lap.  He never smiled when we did something cute.  When we visited, he sat in his easy chair in the patio, alone, and smoked cigars.  He dropped off my grandmother at our house almost every Sunday until she died, but he never stayed.

My dad used to tell my mom that no matter how bad of a father he was, he wasn’t as bad as his dad.  It was as though he felt exonerated for his distance, for his absence, because it wasn’t as far nor as great.  But it was still really far.

When my grandfather got sick in his last few years, he wasn’t talking to my aunt.  Ultimately, when he died, she was there, although I don’t know if they made up for whatever stupid thing kept them in silence for so many years.  My dad’s family is both Irish and Italian, and there’s a lot of drama and stubbornness and grudges among them.  I never wanted to be like my dad’s family.  I wanted to be like my mom’s: loving and warm and accepting.

I haven’t spoken to my dad in two and a half years.  Since my 30th birthday.  Since our last phone call.  He started wishing me a happy birthday, and I started yelling at him.  Betrayal, I cried.  His lawyer had filed the contest against the adoption that morning, funded by my father’s endless money, and yet he could wish me a happy birthday with a smile in his voice.  I told him I never wanted to speak to him again.

Those birthday wishes – interrupted – were the last kind words I got from him.  No gifts.  No phone calls.  No cards.  I didn’t want anything.  I would have sent it back.

Last Christmas, I was thinking about what a stubborn bastard he is.  What a misguided, stubborn bastard he is.  And then I realized that I was just like him.  He was in the wrong, but I was being just as stubborn as he was.  We could go on like this for years.  In the meantime, my son didn’t have his grandfather.  So I sucked it up, and sent him a Christmas card, saying I was sure my son would like to see him if he wanted to call.

He never did.

I’ll probably always think of him on St. Patrick’s Day, since I think of his father.  It makes me wonder if we still won’t be talking in ten years, and I’ll get a call from one of my brothers or sisters from the hospital, like my aunt did.  And if I’ll go.

But, no, that isn’t what’s been bothering me this week.  My dad hurt me once, but he doesn’t hurt me anymore.  It was PMS, and I’m over it now.  Trust me.

I’m in a terrible mood.  A really fucking horrible evil terrible mood.  So I’ve decided to make a list of things I hate.

1. When you get a hole in your nylon or sock and have to keep adjusting it all day long because you have no other option than to keep wearing it and pulling it off your toe occasionally.

2. Secrets that aren’t presents.  The only good time to keep a secret is when it’s a present.

3. Having to be the one to call people all the time.  Can’t you pick up the phone too?

4. When a TV show takes a break for like, 5 weeks.  Why?  WHY?  Don’t you know I have very little evening entertainment?

5. Bastard executives on power trips.

6. Wasted passion, in any form.

7.  When you realize you could have just said something to someone who said something offensive/evil and you were so much in shock that you didn’t and you feel like an ass because the moment has passed.

8. Complete and utter lack of motivation.

9. When the cats crap on the floor even though their litter is clean.

10. Coconut.

11. Having money and having to spend it on bills when you’d really like to get a massage.

12. Missing calls when your phone was right next to you.

13. When your fingernails just won’t fucking GROW.

14. Being sick and not being able to find out what’s wrong but getting stuck with the bills.

15. That part in Last of the Mohicans when that girl walks off the cliff ’cause that guy died.

16. Crowns.  The teeth kind.

17. When you start laundry and then you realize that it’s really late and you’re going to be up until, like, 11:30 before it finishes, by which time you’re really not going to want to fold it.

18. Death.  Death sucks.  Even if you don’t know the person and you’re just reading the obituaries.  Especially if you’re reading the obituaries.

19. Right before you fall asleep when you know that in seeming minutes you will be awake and having to go to work again.

20. When you don’t have anybody to watch a good movie with.

I could write more.

But there was a moment in there when I thought about something that I love and it totally took my steam away.

1. When someone hugs you, and you can tell they really mean it.

‘Cause that just makes everything better.

I’m so sorry I haven’t been updating lately.  First, I read an interesting article on the health effects of wireless networks, so I shut mine down, and I wasn’t very inclined to blog from my desktop.  Then work got reeeeally busy, so I wasn’t blogging from there.  And, honestly, I’ve been, uh, sort of happy.  I know – it’s strange – but it’s not so conducive to blogging.  But don’t worry: I’m quite tortured tonight.  Yes – MEN – grrr – I mean, “ha ha!” – but that’s not why we’re here my dears, are we?

I’ve been going out nearly every weekend since January, which has been harder on my brain than my wallet, believe it or not.  It’s been such a change getting used to taking time for myself.  After the first three weekends, I thought to myself: should I take a break?  It actually took me a minute to put it into perspective.  One night out a week doesn’t make me a bad mother.  It makes me more…me.  But that’s not easy.  It’s addictive – being yourself.  Particularly when your life revolves around a child.  It’s a hard balance to strike, but I think I’m doing okay.

Friday night I got dolled up and went out to a club.  I love doing that.  A woman came up to me and told me how nice it was to see me after so many years, and I had no idea who she was.  I’d been pretty consistent in the scene about ten years ago, but dropped out when I moved away.  I commented on the exchange to someone, saying that I supposed despite its awkwardness that it meant that I was memorable.  He laughed at me and asked if I seriously needed someone to tell me that.

I do, I suppose.  I have a terrible habit of assuming I know what others are thinking, even if it’s simply that they’re not thinking of me.  One thing that I’ve been working on the last few weeks is to stop assuming I can read minds.

This is really hard for me – admitting that things aren’t in my control.  If I know what someone’s thinking, I can love it or hate it, fix it or throw it away.  I’ve had, like so many people, moments in my life where I was hit with something by surprise that hurt, and left totally bewildered.  As you get older, I think the urge grows stronger to keep that from happening again.  But the truest path to success in that is to simply not open yourself up to being hurt.  I’ve seen others try it.  I don’t want to.  Instead, I’ve imagined myself some kind of emotional prognosticator, staying distant enough to suffer only minor injuries.  All said, it’s really no better.

Friday at work, I was chatting with a coworker of mine who I also consider a friend.  He told me that I had enemies at my workplace.  I scoffed.  Me?  Enemies?  At work?  Somebody takes work personally?  Someone takes me personally?  That’s just ridiculous.  But after we hung up it started to bug me.  Why did it bother me that someone wouldn’t like me?  I tried to focus on what he’d said afterward – that if everyone liked you, you weren’t being yourself.  And that if you were getting things done at your job, you were bound to piss somebody off.

I’ve come to realize that not only is there no way I can possibly know what’s on the minds of others, but, in fact,that the only way to be happy is to stop concerning myself with it entirely.  To have faith in what I do and to believe in the good opinions of those who I actually care about, including my own.  To say things like, “You never know” and “Why not?” instead of shutting myself off to possibility.  And to believe total strangers when they imply that I am a memorable person.  Thinking this way actually feels really, really good.

Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t give a penny for a particular person’s thoughts, but hey – it’s only a penny.  And I’ll live.