A bunch of you e-mailed me a link to this video, including my own mother, so I figured it was time to post it here. I'm not gonna lie: It's twenty minutes long. But you'll thank yourself for watching it, I promise.
A bunch of you e-mailed me a link to this video, including my own mother, so I figured it was time to post it here. I'm not gonna lie: It's twenty minutes long. But you'll thank yourself for watching it, I promise.
And now Deep Thoughts, by Penelope Westmont...
1. Why do certain adults change the tenor of their voice when addressing small children? It's just so... patronizing. Honestly, my four-year-old can smell you talking down to her in your sacharine little girly-man voice. Can't you just talk like a grown up? Please? Since birth, my children have heard exactly ONE voice come out of my mouth. MINE. It changes for no one. I mean, yeah, sometimes I sing to them, but that's a whole different therapy session.
2. My commute is killing me softly. I leave the house at 7:00 and get home after 6:00, so even when it's my week with the kids, I get to see them for all of 3 waking hours a day. Unfortunately unless I want to live in a van down by the river, my options are pretty limited. Whether we're getting along or not, I'm eternally grateful that Dave is there for them when I can't be. I've mentioned him being a kick-ass dad, right? Because yeah. That's a blessing I can't forget to count.
3. One good thing about that long commute is that I get to be alone with my thoughts. There was a time not too long ago when I carried my Kindle with me into the bathroom because god forbid I had to sit for five minutes with nothing to distract me but myself. I even used to read books on my iPhone in the movie theater because not even movies could distract me from my own misery. I know a lot of you disagree with some of the choices I've made recently, but my drastically improved mental health wants to take this opportunity to kindly ask you to SUCK IT. The best decisions are often the hardest.
4. I missed the state of the union address last night because I don't have cable.
Not that I miss having cable.
5. I do miss naps, though.
6. Over the past 24-hours, I've seen the following two things: a photo of my boyfriend with HAIR (EIGHTIES hair, even!) AND his MySpace page. Unfortunately, it's too late to UN-see these things, but they haven't stopped me from digging him in my own growly, affectionate way. I mean, the man learned how to kiss by studying Alfred Hitchcock movies. And Rodin.
7. I think I want to start tweeting the best text message I receive every day. Some of the most stellar writing I've seen has come by way of the cellphone and it's a shame nobody sees that gold but me. I need a catchy hashtag, though. #textlove? #textoftheday? #textmebabyonemoretime? Ideas please.
8. Meet my latest culinary obsession: Portland's amazing food carts. Click over to Food Lush to see the I Can Haz Cheeseburger I ate the other day. It was literally a cheeseburger with buns made out of grilled cheese sammiches. I've eaten that now, so you can kill me and I'll officially die happy.
9. Genoa can read. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that Dave SINGLE-HANDEDLY taught her this valuable life skill (while I was busy having a mid-life crisis and a full-time job) but I'm leaning toward GRATITUDE. Unlike her brother, who would always rather play than read, Genoa is AMBITIOUS about it. She's still sounding out every word letter-by-letter, but she remains undaunted. I give her six months before she's reading faster than him. She's that hardcore.
10. While I'm on the subject, can we stop for a moment and address this MID-LIFE CRISIS thing head-0n? Because you people keep saying that like it's a BAD thing. Like, oh POOR Amanda, she's having a mid-life crisis and she's doing it IN PUBLIC. How wretched!
DAMN STRAIGHT, I'm having a mid life crisis! And you know what? I feel sorry for anyone who DOESN'T get to have one. If I hadn't been lucky enough to have a mid-life crisis, I can promise you I'd be passed out on the couch every night by 6PM, hopped up on potato vodka and anti-depressants. Actually, it'd be my mother-in-law's couch and I'd probably be spiking my lemon drops with her back pills.
Maybe I should start believing in god just so I can THANK HIM for letting me have my mid-life crisis. I'm pretty sure my children are grateful to have a mother who can stay awake through an entire Dr. Suess book without slurring and/or drooling, too.
Since when is CHOOSING HAPPINESS a bad thing? Whether it happens at age 13 or 34, privately or on the Internet for all the world to see, I sincerely hope you find your HAPPY too. And I promise not to say "I told you so" when you do.
Sunday, the kids and I met up with the baldman for another church service.
This one was recommended by a blog reader in Florida. She wanted to see how her church represented itself on the opposite coast.
I immediately said YES! (It's my policy for a reason!)
So we hightailed it down there to experience the Disciples of Christ firsthand.
My overall impression was that this was a far more inclusive church than the UU. Zero politics. No social agendas. Just lots of GOD talk. I mean LOTS. So much that I lost my way a little bit, in spite of the fact that it was one of the most beautiful churches I've ever entered. Architecturally speaking it was utterly stunning.
The music, sadly, left much to be appreciated. Joel (a blues drummer/soul brother trapped inside a white man's body) and I kept making eye contact every time the pianist started. It was just so... WHITE. I mean, REALLY white. Like David Hasselhof white. No soul in this church at all.
But they tried hard, I'll give them that. There was nothing even remotely offensive about the service. It was just.... Friendly, Christian, if a bit overly homogonized and saran-wrapped. Basically it was the Lunchables version of spirituality. We found the service itself fairly complicated too. By the time we could find the hymn or the song or the scripture we were meant to be following, it was already over. Lots of ceremony. Not particularly intuitive for first timers.
At one point, the reverend (preacher? minister? I'm not sure I'm getting the titles right...) asked for a moment of silence so we could all bow our heads and pray for the various members of the church who had raised their hands and submitted their worry or joy to the congregation. I huddled my children close to my side and thought, FINALLY! Here is my moment! Let me just clear the clutter from my brain and...
MMmmm. Damn. What is that SMELL? Oh no. It's that fine-looking bald man sitting next to me. He smells fierce this morning, like he took a bath in pheromones. And his knee just brushed my leg. Now he's looking at me with that face he makes when... Holy hell!
If you're trying to work on your spirituality and find your inner MOMENT, you know what's a REALLY bad idea? Meeting your boyfriend for church on a Sunday when you haven't had a moment alone together in almost a WEEK and you have the libido of a 14-year-old boy.
That service felt LONG.
Every time he reached down for a hymnal or the Bible, the bastard paraded his beautiful bald head right in front of me! So all I could think about was LICKING HIM. And then our hands would somehow find one another on the church pew (where the kids couldn't see) and...
I had a full on girly-boner the entire morning.
I'm not sure I'm cut out for this religion business.
My kids, on the other hand, were CHAMPIONS. In spite of the fact that neither of them ate a single bite of the waffle breakfast I laid out for them before we left, they were angels. Squirmy, snuggly little angels. I'm sure it helped that I promised them Slappycakes if they were good. And they were. We said goodbye to the baldman and hightailed it to breakfast then filled the day with shopping, visiting my sister and general good time cavortification.
It wasn't until right before bedtime when church came up again.
"Hey mom? Since we go to church now, does that me we don't get birthdays anymore?"
This is what happens when the only religion your children are exposed to comes from the Jehovah's Witnesses who live next door.
"Hahahaha! NO," I replied. "I promise that no matter how many churches we go to, we'll never choose one where you don't get birthdays."
"What about Christmas? And Halloween?" Genoa was seriously worried.
"Those are all yours. I cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye."
Joel (who spent 35 years as a Jehovah's Witness) would never forgive me otherwise.
On Friday night, my two worlds collided and I introduced the baldman to the kids.
I know I said I wouldn't, but that just goes to illustrate a point that I've been meaning to make for a while now:
I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY MIND.
The general consensus seems to be that because I ONCE was a happily-married suburbanite, I must ALWAYS be a happily-married suburbanite or I get accused of being a liar and a fraud. But what I really am is FLAWED! In all my terrible, magnificent humanity! Of all the horrors! Happiness isn't written in stone, people. Nothing is! I'm allowed to change my mind, even if it feels (as Linda so aptly put it) like my blog is a novel with a plot twist you don't agree with.
So, yeah, I said I'd never merge the two halves of my oddly dichotomous life (dating and kids) and then I went and CHANGED MY MIND.
Although, I'd argue that I'm not technically merging my "dating" life with my kids.
Because I'm not DATING Joel. Dating is a word I use to describe nefarious flings with cute boys. I had my share of those, Joel included, but now he's a lot more than that. Sure, he's cute, but he's also my boyfriend. We've stopped seeing other people. I've become addicted to waking up with his furry chest against my back and his breath on my neck. It's not a fling. Not anymore.
He's already met my parents, my sister, every good friend in my arsenal. They ALL adore him.
But I've kept him away from the two most important people in my life.
The Catch-22 is that I don't want to introduce my kids to a man until I know that it's serious, but I can't even BEGIN to know if it's serious until I introduce said man to my kids.
So we had to come up with a plan.
Step one was to tell Dave I was planning on making the introductions soon and to see if he wanted to meet Joel first. Personally, this is about the only thing I'd ask for when Dave finds a girlfriend (Are you there God? It's me Amanda...) I'd want to meet her before she hung around my kids. You know, check a bitch out. Only seems fair.
The offer will always be on the table, but this time Dave declined.
Step two was simple: KEEP IT CASUAL.
Keep it chaste.
We decided we'd set up PLAY DATES solely for the benefit of the children. My kids have known about Joel and Liza for a while and they were chomping at the bit to meet them both.
Alex: "His last name is GUNZ? How AWESOME!"
We decided to meet in public. We didn't hold hands. We just hung out. We invited Sara and Ethan so it would be a group. Less pressure, we figured. The more the merrier.
It wasn't about sneaking in date time when we're around the kids and it won't be about playing happy little family. It'll be a while before I invite Joel and Liza to our home because I want to keep my children in control of their personal space. It's THEIR home. I don't want attachments to form prematurely. I'm going into this with my eyes open wide.
But honestly? It went GREAT. My first impression was that I had somehow managed to make a really big deal out of something completely natural and totally obvious. It felt EXACTLY like a play date. We met up at Wunderland, a nickel arcade on Belmont. The kids were so busy kicking ass and taking names that they barely even NOTICED the grown ups, much less gave a shit that it was actually, for mom at least, A HONKING BIG DEAL.
For now, though, I feel an odd sense of relief about all of it. Particularly about Genoa, who's had a lot of stranger anxiety this year, especially around men. It shouldn't have been such a surprise, but they got along gangbusters, giggles and all.
He's a keeper, that one.
Anyway, we're still forging our little path here, so tell me! Please! My lovely divorced friends - how did YOU handle this? Any words of wisdom? I may be a woman scorned by the anger of her audience, but I'll always be humble enough to continue listening.
I feel like I'm in a pretty academic position for this particular experiment, having been a brunette, a redhead and a blond in the space of only a few months.
Being a brunette was great. It was just so... NATURAL. I felt beautiful from the inside because it was all me. Nothing added, nothing lost. It was also the color I bore when I was first single. Men never complained. They also tended to mention how much they loved my glasses, which was weird.
Did I ever talk about this? How when I was first single I honestly had NO IDEA that men would ever find me attractive. They really hadn't noticed me ever before, so what could possibly be different this time? I know a lot of you think I left my husband so I could go slut it up, but that isn't true AT ALL. I honestly didn't think I'd get much attention, if any at all. My inner fat girl had zero clue that she'd been a walking sexual stereotype for so many years.
Textbook naughty librarian, right here! Who knew?
Let's just say it was a good summer.
Then I became a redhead.
Which was was pretty much a disaster. SOME men liked it, but because the color was so audacious and not even remotely found in nature, it didn't have quite the impression I might have hoped. It also seemed like there was a general feeling that redheads are bitches.
The strange thing was that women everywhere ADORED it. There's probably some fundamental truth in there that I'm not quite psychologically evolved enough to understand, but yeah, STRANGE. Red is less threatening maybe? Who knows.
Then I went BLOND.
Oooh! Let's talk about blond!
I've had neon white hair for less than a week and the results are ASTONISHING.
I immediately - I mean IMMEDIATELY - noticed how people reacted to me. Within 24 hours I texted Joel the following:
Men notice me.
Women shun me.
Maybe it's because my hair itself is just so SHOCKING. I'm fully aware that it's not at ALL natural. This is a color that stands up and says NOTICE ME, BITCH. It's fuck-me hair. It's not real life hair, it's actress hair. I've had to rely quite a bit on my brazen personality to pull it off, but man.
Men not only look at me, but they look twice. They start with the hair and then notice my face, which is probably for the best because after years of being a fat girl, I've learned that my "you have a pretty face" is my best feature. (Never say that to a woman! Unless you want her to cut you.)
Usually I get a third look, too, and it's always a thorough assessment of my babymaking abilities, followed by major eye contact, a haphazard hello and the kind of endearment you'd expect to hear from a coffee shop waitress.
THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE.
Of course, if there just so happens to be a wife or girlfriend present, it gets even better. My first solo blond venture into society happened in my natural habitat, a Target store, where I pushed my cart around like I always do and filled it with the various detritus of my banal suburban existence. Not rubbers and Astroglide, but paper towels and Annie's Mac & Cheese. But every time I turned the corner to a new aisle and encountered a couple, the reaction was the same.
The man would notice me and give me a quick top-to-bottom assessment before averting his eyes as if he'd just tried to watch an eclipse without the protection of those special glasses.
The wives were even MORE fun. They'd take one look at me, catch their husband's reaction and then DISMISS me as a lesser form of human being. We're talking eye-rolling, heavy-sighing, chin-upping aversion here. I thought it was funny the first time, but by the fifth it got a little cumbersome. I mean, the DISDAIN. I get that my hair is ridiculous, but really? REALLY? It's THAT threatening.
Forget about a cat, I feel like I'm wearing my boobs on my head.
At least the lesbians still look me in the eye!
And artery-busting cream sauce!
My recipe for Tillamook Mac & Cheese is up at Food Lush. It's so rich, you may just as well peel a stick of a butter, eat THAT and put your cardiologist on speed-dial.
I can only eat about half a cup before I need to roll over and take a nap, but I'd serve a few of you a triple serving. A BUCKET maybe. You know, just to thank you for being such soft, caring souls.
Going blond turned out to be a bit of a marathon. Since my hair was already dyed red, it was a huge challenge for the student stylists at the Aveda Institute to get me to a color that wasn't a bright shade of salmon. Just like the brazen women who don the color in the first place, red is stubborn as hell to get rid of. It took a triple process: an hour of bleach, wash, another two hours of bleach under a heater, wash, and then finally some extremely burny toner over the washbasin. My scalp is still smarting.
Basically I had bleach on my head for five hours on Saturday.
Surprisingly enough, my hair totally survived. I had only processed it once in eight years, so it was in really good shape. It's still a bit frizzy and the curl isn't quite sure what to do with itself yet, but yeah. I'm blond. Platinum!
I feel the need to break down this concept of changing my hair color FOR A MAN.
OF ALL THE HORRORS!
You people have a pisspoor short-term memory, dontcha now? I started thinking about going blond ages ago. It's actually number five on my Life List. I've always wanted to go blond, if for no other reason than to conduct my own social experiment. Do blondes actually have more fun?
How the hell else am I gonna find out?
I'm no doormat. I swear, it's like you people don't know me AT ALL. Joel didn't make me do this! I offered to do it myself because I wanted to see the look on his face the first time he saw me blond. And let's just say it's a good thing he had his daughter that night because otherwise we not only would have broken my bed, but several ribs and a femur or two as well.
But just for the sake of the argument, let's go ahead and assume that the ONLY reason I went blond was to make a bald man happy. Maybe I forgot to read that particular chapter in the feminist manifesto, but WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT?
Isn't GOOD SEX an imperative part of the feminist agenda?
In fact, what the hell is wrong with YOU if you wouldn't trade a day in a salon for a chance at satisfying your lover's high school wet dream? I mean, REALLY? You wouldn't do that? Seriously?
Not to get too intimate here, but I'm the kind of woman who really enjoys making her partner happy.
I mean: REALLY.
This whole idea that I did it just for a man is ridiculous. I did it because making my man happy gets ME off. There was no altruism in this; it was a purely selfish endeavor.
Was it worth it? I dunno, but I'll get back to you just as soon as I can sit down again.
One of the first things I did on my epic quest for wordlessness and spirituality was to take a quiz to see where I landed on the religion spectrum. The quiz asked a bunch of questions that I mostly didn't understand (god, heaven, hell, sin, multiple deities are not part of my regular vocabulary), but the result was entertaining.
I scored 100% Secular Humanist with a 95% match for a Unitarian Universalist.
Sadly, I only came up a 3% match as a Jehovah's Witness.
Since my sister (a fellow godless secular humanist) had fond memories of her old UU church in Massachusetts, she invited me to join her and her girlfriend, Sophie, at the downtown Portland service yesterday. I dragged the baldman and his daughter along for the ride. Such troopers!
Based on everything I'd heard about Unitarian Universalism, I thought it would be the PERFECT church for me. I understood it to be a very inclusive religion. All faiths - or non-faiths - included. No judgement. No preaching. Just a place where everyone is welcome regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey or how they arrived there.
And hell, they sing songs! And barely mention the word god! How could it go wrong?
Let me tell you how.
I could have forgiven the sign, honestly. This is PORTLAND for christ's sake. I know what I'm up against.
But it went downhill from there.
Oddly enough, there were NO children there. Liza was one of the only kids in attendance. Which is just WEIRD. According to my sister, children were an integral part of the UU services at her old church. Her favorite part, in fact. But they were eerily missing here in Portland, almost as if they'd been banished to a basement somewhere. I already feel like I don't get enough time with my kids. I don't see myself joining a church where they can't sit next to me.
Then... The pastor proceeded to spend the beginning of the service espousing upon the need for gun control. I sat in a crowd of like-minded head-nodders as he bragged about how many guns they've taken off the streets and then passed around a collection bowl for Cease Fire, a political organization with which I fundamentally disagree.
As far as I'm concerned, the separation of church and state should go both ways. Politics have no place in religion. Maybe it's just me, but the whole reason I'd even go to a Unitarian Universalist church in the first place is that I don't want to be told how to think. I want to show up there to be reminded TO think. To remember that there isn't only one way to think.
Instead, the supposedly inclusive Unitarians spent the first ten minutes of their service subtly reminding me what a horrible excuse for a human being I am because I staunchly believe in protecting my right to self defense.
Somehow, it managed to get even worse.
The theme of the day was diversity. Which, hey, great! I'm all for diversity. Especially on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's birth. The pastor (who also happened to be the only black person I saw at the service) spoke at length about how much he'd love to see his parish LOOK different. How they obviously aren't doing enough to include peoples of color. That they need more outreach to brown people. Forget about the fact that we have a black president! Obviously the dearth of color in his parish is a sign that MLK's dream has yet to be fulfilled.
He may be right, but the sermon fell on deaf ears. I was still smarting from the outright prejudice I had just experienced myself. I couldn't be in the moment; I was too busy clenching my fists. Before I could even THINK about my own fledgling spirituality, I was made to feel as if I was not only unwelcome, but unwanted.
That's not diversity. That's ELITISM.
The message was loud and clear:
We only want you if you think like we do! BONUS POINTS if your skin is the same color as a caffeinated beverage!
Instead of a place where multiple viewpoints are accepted and cherished, the UU is a beacon of political correctness. Basically, if you need weekly affirmation that you are the perfect bearded, white, liberal, progressive Portlander: sit your ass in a chair at the First Unitarian Church and you'll leave feeling like your shit don't stink.
It was little more than a progressive liberal circle jerk.
For the record, I'd be just as horrified if they had handed out NRA stickers at the service instead of ones that said Gun Free Zone. I value ALL political ideologies, even if I disagree with them. Same thing with religions. But that respect has to go both ways.
Needless to say, I won't be going back.
It's not a bad place to start doing my moment work, for which I've carved out ten minutes a day from my already short lunch break. So far I can only really report that it's not going all that well. I get down there and my brain sounds like this:
"Today's moment brought to you by a Max train crossing a bitchin' steel bridge!"
"Oooh! Bright orange duck feet!"
"Moment. M-O-M... That spells Mom!"
"I wonder what Genoa is eating for lunch right now?"
"Wish I remembered my hat this morning."
"Shit, I forgot to pay the Comcast bill last night."
"Do boyfriends expect presents on Valentine's Day?"
"I bet he'd love another steak salad for dinner tonight."
"Mmmm, furry chested bald men..."
And so on.
The harder I try, the worse it gets. The baldman keeps telling me to try on his mantra for size:
BE GLADLY SILENT
But every time I try it, I'm just glad for him. Or glad for the cute duck feet making ripples in the water. Or that my kids are safe and healthy. Or I keep thinking, "Be gladly freezing your ass off." Or "Be glad you're on a walking path and not in a van down by this river."
I did have the tiniest of breakthroughs last night, though. I'd just gotten off the phone with the kids and was driving home late from a photo shoot in Chinatown. I had the windows open and Aretha Franklin was Saying A Little Prayer For Me. When I turned toward the bridge, a train blasted its horn from the tracks at Grand Central Station, which are the very same tracks I can see out my office window all day long. I knew I wasn't really all that close to the train, so the fog must have carried the sound, but it was so magnificently loud that it slammed into me and filled up all the hollow spaces in my chest.
It was a perfect moment.
I turned off the music and tried to stretch it out, but by then it was lost. Which makes me wonder if the trying itself is what makes me fail. Maybe I can't make the moments happen. Maybe I just have to open my doors, welcome them in and let them have their way with me.
On Sunday, the lesbians are taking us to the Unitarian Universalist church downtown. When I invited Joel's daughter, she asked me what it would be like and since I haven't been to church in a decade, all I could come up with was, "I dunno, but I bet there'll be singing. And cookies!"
It's a start.