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wherein i pretend i know anything about anything

9 Nov

When I’m not listening to the same mix cd that’s been in the car for a year, which I do, which is undoubtedly the source of much frustration for anyone who has to ride in a car with me, I am listening to NPR. Or Coast to Coast AM, no lie. Because I have a soft spot in my heart for crazies and the entertainment of their theories. A few days ago, George and I were on our way to the store when we heard a story on NPR about the global market. The gist of it (because my googling skills are failing and the NPR website isn’t yielding anything pertinent) was that children born now will almost assuredly live and work abroad at some point in their lives if they are successful adults.

Of course, the definition of successful is subjective. Many people (myself included) would judge a life of homesteading, tending land and babies, as a successful one. This, however, is not what they meant and not a luxury everyone — or even most people — can afford, kind of ironically. Living simply is often an expensive course to chart. It takes space to grow and raise your own food. Money to buy that space. Money to cultivate your land, get yourself some animals, house them. If you really wanted to know, I could give you the going rate for any kind of livestock you’ve got your eye on. And what they eat. And how much. And how cute they are. Because I’ve been begging for sheep, goats, ponies, a cow — you name it — for years. But this is not the point of my story (please buy me a pygmy goat for the love of god, anyone).

The report talked about the global community, how it effects the global marketplace and what that means for the future. Trends we can expect. I would’ve found it dreadfully boring if I didn’t happen to have a baby, about whom they were actually (indirectly) talking. He will, if successful, live and work abroad at some point in his lifetime. My first thought: he can’t live across an ocean from me. No way. After that, I began thinking about what that potentiality meant for him and his little friends. Ordinarily, I think about the “global marketplace” with some disdain like they just mean jerks in business class and ill-fitting suits, but this particular piece referenced many occupations that would be borderless in the future: teaching, journalism, even service jobs. And that lead pretty seamlessly into what he would need to be well-equipped in another country. Any other country. And my first thought was his health. Vaccines.

Ughhhghladgnslkngnblfdknb you are so not doing this, are you? Oh, but I am. Because I’m a hippie, totally, sort of. But, still, part of me breathes in Barney’s and wants to do a fraulien Maria hilltop twirl, wishes on eyelashes for a Jaguar despite Consumer Reports’ horrible reviews, eats Velveeta nachos once a year… and vaccinates my child. Against horrible diseases that kill people daily in other parts of the world. Parts of the world where he may, someday, live and work if he is a “successful” adult. Of course, he could get these vaccines later, should he decide to do as NPR suggests he will. But, you know what? I have a friend who lives in Indonesia. And one in Venezuela. And Morocco. I think George would like those people, and they would like him. Should I restrict my travel to places the CDC deems “low risk”? Should I rely on my own assumed immunity and the assumed immunity of those around me? Or should I abide by the adage about those who assume?

Mine is a somewhat unpopular perspective among the people I know with babies and young children. Many friends have opted out of vaccinations completely and some are on an alternative schedule (which I can appreciate, Dr. Sears aficionado as I am). I’ve done plenty of research. I’ve been selective about the manufacturers and combinations and presence of preservatives. We’ve been lucky enough (if statistical unlikelihood = luck) to not have any side effects from shots other than an extra long nap. If that weren’t the case, I may be singing a different tune. But probably not. I’ve had the vaccine debate with lots of people and while travel has entered the discussion, it’s been considered a luxury — a hope for which I’d like to be prepared. Now I have one more talking point. One that doesn’t amount to your child could, basically, kill my child, before he’s old enough to be properly immunized against whatever’s going around the playground (ahem — whooping cough). So, yes. I am a hippie parent and I vaccinate. You know, just in case George doesn’t grow up to be a pygmy goatherd.


radical motherhood

4 Nov

The term radical motherhood seems like such a laughable dichotomy. What could be less radical than the act of bearing and raising children? It’s fundamental, necessary, so commonplace that it’s completely taken for granted that most women will do it. Just typing the two words together brings to mind the time I gave a little workshop in radical homemaking for Ladyfest Bellingham, when a very earnest-looking young woman asked skeptically, after I’d given directions for making your own cleaning products and growing your own food and using some home remedies, “…but what makes this radical?” It was a good question, and I didn’t take offense. We’ve all grown up with the idea that homemaking — the choice to (at least temporarily) forego a paid career — is to squander the advances we’ve made, allowing the small part of the glass ceiling over your own head to grow closed. To say that you are most valuable in the most traditionally female role is equatable with failure, so it seems, to many (if not most) young Feminists. My answer, which I know was rambly, amounted to: I’m not taking part in the traditional consumerism, the laissez-faire approach to childbirth and rearing or the stereotypical household realpolitik. She didn’t seem convinced.

I don’t usually let this kind of skepticism or even the occasional blatant dismissal bother me. I hesitate to put this sort of spin on it, but I’ve been their age and I’ve also been (and remain) a zealot and absolutist about a few things. One mindset I can decreasingly abide, though: the having-babies-is-gross-and-stupid one. It is reaching totally epic plague-like proportions. And it is pissing me off.

In my experience, it started with comments like, “your baby is really cute. But procreating is environmentally irresponsible.” Or “I would never have kids but I plan to adopt older ones, like teenagers.” And “don’t you worry about bringing another person into the world?” All of those, and more, have been said to or asked of me by people I consider friends. Those are (kind of naïve) lead-ins to conversations I’m not interested in having, though I can appreciate that others want or need to have them; the merit of my child’s presence in the world is one thing I don’t care to debate. If you want to hook me, though, you can bring my devotion to Feminism into question. You can snark on other women for wanting to have or having children. Those are the conversations I just can’t pass up.

A self-imposed rule I routinely break is don’t read the comments. Truly, it’s advice to be heeded, but curiosity or morbidity or optimism maybe gets the best of me and I can’t help it. A blog post pops up on my RSS feed about the “controversy” of public breastfeeding and I want all of the comments to be supportive. To agree with me. And more often than not, if the blog isn’t a straightforward crunchy mom-blog, I’m sorely disappointed. Case in point: I won’t even link to it because I don’t want them to reap a single page view from my mention, but a popular Feminist blog recently ran a story on Lily Allen’s second miscarriage which is technically, I believe, late enough in the game to officially be a stillbirth. Any woman — forget that, any decent person — ‘s heart should positively ache for her. Instead, I read comments that blamed her for publicly discussing her personal life, for “putting all her eggs in one basket” when she had stated that she planned to take some time off from music, for even wanting to have children in the first place when she “should” be using her celebrity to advocate for adoption. I was astounded by the sheer heartlessness of these women whose fake names I’ve seen in many, many other comment threads on this particular website. They’re not trolls, they’re just…jerks. Jerks with an apparently common distaste for biological motherhood who see fit to spout nastiness on a website supposedly devoted to Feminist causes, and who do so unchecked.

In my own personal life, I’ve been treated as quaint or lazy, but the most frustrating is when I’m treated as an unwitting tool of the patriarchy. A few brave souls have taken it upon themselves to explain that I’m not living up to my potential or claim that I’m serving as a bad example for my son who will undoubtedly grow up to exploit and demean women at worst, or at best assume they’ll cater to his every whim. These people clearly know nothing of my housekeeping habits or cooking skills. These are women in their early twenties. Childless. Some go to school. Some are even unemployed. But all of them have considered themselves sage enough to dispense advice that boiled down to: DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE.

To those women, and to the women I’ll never meet who anonymously comment that they don’t want to see me feed my child in public because it’s base, that by not “contributing” I’m reversing the work my foremothers did, that I’m wrecking the environment, that I’m insipid and cliché:
You were once a child. Had someone taken the time to teach you manners, history, reverence, gardening, happy songs and good books, nurtured you into a tolerant and understanding person who is able to relate intellectually and socially to people who make choices that you, yourselves, may someday make (or may not; tolerance shouldn’t rely on commonality), we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But I can tell you this: my son won’t need a degree in gender studies. He won’t need to buy zines about slow foods and herbal remedies. He won’t turn to an insular clique to find community because he will have been raised by radical people with a radical community of their own. My time IS spent wisely, doing valuable work that benefits my world, and, for that matter, yours. It’s unfortunate that you can’t see the value of a good mother (as, equally unfortunately, the results of good mothering are, by nature, less in-your-face and remarkable than the results of bad mothering). I wish my current chosen occupation came with the same hipster quotient as, say… the person that fixes your bicycle. But we’ll just keep on keepin’ on, being radically, uncoolly domestic. And, in the future, you can even reap the benefits; I won’t be stingy.

hug it out

24 Sep

I may have mentioned this before, but George is a persnickety fellow. He’s happy as a clam so long as things are going his way, as is the case with most people. Again, as with most people, when he’s feeling misunderstood or slighted in some way, he expresses…distate. We’ve been working on the most polite and succinct way to say pardon me, Mama, but maybe I wasn’t clear in expressing how dearly I love crawling away from you/harrassing the cat/not wearing pants/chewing on this ____, but somehow it’s just not taking. So, while he creates an effective script, his father and I are tasked with keeping him in that clammishly happy state. Sometimes that means our lives are not exactly how we pictured they might be.

For the first (give or take) eight months of George’s life, papa’s sling was, nine times out of 10, the only place my child would deign to nap. I could get a scant 20 minute snooze out of him in his swing once a week if the stars alligned, and he would allow me to nurse him to sleep in the dark, in the bed with about as much regularity but only if I super-duper swore not to even think about thinking about looking at my phone or iPod. He wanted to be on one of us, so on one of us he was.

Thanks to television or whatever, I had envisioned putting my still-awake baby down for a nap, humming a few bars of Mr. Sandman and looking into some fancy ass crib to see him drifting sweetly off to sleep before I made it to the chorus. I’ll pause here while you laugh. No, really, don’t hold back. Needless to say, that quaint scene has never played out here. George has, since birth, refused to be alone, ever, and would wake screaming seconds after we put him down in the midst of “limp-limb” sleep. I read books; I asked my midwife; I kept trying to convince myself that I was doing it wrong and with just a little more effort I would stumble on the answer. The trick that would make my baby sleep all night, alone, without waking to eat. Like every other baby does from the age of six weeks, if your polling group consists of strangers at the grocery and women who bore children during the Carter administration. We never left him to cry because to do so was completely counter-intuitive. My goal was to chill the kid out, not convince him that I’d run off and he may as well rest up for the long life of orphancy ahead.

Having a baby is sort of like a surprise party in your honor where the guest list changes every time you go to the bathroom. It’s the time of your life one minute, but, two minutes later, the room is full of drunk cousins, old roommates who skipped out on rent and the waitress you suspected of spitting in your salad that time you sent it back twice. The secret: just don’t go to the bathroom! I finally figured out that if I had a good thing going, I needed to cling to it, not try my luck at a little bit better. Adjust the view I’d gotten from god knows where that babies do a series of things in one way, in one order, and accept that babies are simply small people with preferences, fears, likes and dislikes and changing moods just like the rest of us.

After the revelation that George was not going to bend to my will, nor should he, we started unapologetically telling people that he goes to bed when we do — 11, midnight, sometimes even later — and he sleeps until eleven or noon. We told them that we co-sleep even for naps because he doesn’t like to be away from me, and so I don’t have to worry about his state of mind or, overnight, the potentiality of SIDS. I (for the most part) stopped acting like there was a goal, however far off, of sleeping separately, and embraced the status quo because we are generally all happy and comfortable with this arrangement. The sling goes places with us and George can, when slung, almost invariably still be put to sleep in a matter of moments. Is it a little burdensome to carry a 22 pound baby for hours a day? YES. Is the burden more than the psychological effects of being left alone, confused, sad and lonely, because your parents have things they’d rather do? NO.

I understand the need for sleep training, kind of. I’m not a single mother who works outside of the home. George has two parents, one of whom is almost always with him, who can give him as much attention as he wants. The giving of attention is, as I understand it, the main “deal” with parenting. Being a present, attentive parent means that as long as my kid doesn’t understand the concept of compromise, that burden falls to me. I have to compromise as much as possible, so that when it’s time for him to give a little back, he doesn’t feel slighted. He knows that I’m there, that I respect his needs and want the best for him. That he doesn’t have emotional memories of feeling abandoned and grow resentful when I want a shower by myself or, JUST IMAGINE: a weekend girls’ trip. People ask how long I’m willing to ride this out, but George has already formed what I see as a pretty secure attachment to me. Whereas two months ago, I had to literally run to and from the bathroom, keeping him in my line of vision and babbling at him like a buffoon all the while, I can now set him down some place safe, walk away and EVEN FLAT IRON MY HAIR some days without him going apeshit or being mad at me when I return. I attribute those gains to Nathan’s and my willingness to take a hit for the team in the beginning.

People I know casually have been forcing their babies to “cry it out” since I’ve known people with babies. I’m happy to say that none of these are close friends, so I don’t feel obligated to object. And before I object even privately, I consider their situation. Single parent? Two parents working long hours outside the home? Lots of other kids? When the answer to all of these is NO, I feel sorry for the babies, obviously, who are trying so desperately to get their points across the only way they can and being met with such incomprehensible opposition from their caretakers. But I almost feel sorrier for the parents, for frittering away this brief, unadulterated closeness. For so sorely misunderstanding what I see as the most basic tenet of good parenting: take care of your child before yourself. Do I miss reading a book with both hands or having a leisurely cup of tea and daydreaming? Sure, but someday I’ll be lonesome for my baby; I don’t want to look back on his first years with regret.

summer son

26 Jul

Has anyone gone shopping for sunblock lately? Specifically for sunblock for their baby? I am the fairest of the fair — and I don’t mean pretty. I am white. White as white can be. If my skin were smoother, some might call it porcelain, but really, I’m just pale. Some of this is by design; I have embraced my skin color and decided to allow it to remain in its natural state rather than burn it repeatedly into a tan (that, let’s be honest, probably would never get past the pink stage anyway). My best friend recently gifted me the most beautiful sunhat with the widest imaginable brim and I enjoy wearing it so immensely that I’ve been trying to figure out how to pack it for our upcoming vacation though such a thing would be entirely impractical (stuff socks in it? I don’t wear socks, though). George has sunhats and a sunshade for his stroller, which, in addition to the already kind of huge sunshade that came on said stroller, keeps him nice and shady. But. That sun, man. He sneaks in through cracks and past fabric to burn you. My kid’s first sunburn is not going to be at the hands of a lazy mother, but at a baseball game when he’s 8 that I am unable to attend for some reason during which he doesn’t REAPPLY like I will be instructing him from now until then.

So, I am in the curious predicament of having read the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen guide and still needing to purchase some sunscreen. Even the highest-rated products include warnings about organ system toxicity and neurotoxicity and contamination concerns, bioaccumulation…I don’t think I need to mention that the list goes on. I also don’t know if I need to, but will mention that we cannot exactly afford $20 for less than two ounces of sunscreen, which is the going rate for the sort that won’t, you know, KILL YOU SLOWLY.
Nathan and I were talking this over in the car, and though I think this is a little hyperbolic, I compared the situation thusly: what if antibiotics were poisonous? Not, like, super duper kill you right away poisonous, but if they had more negative effects on your health than positive effects, while only being marginally effective for their stated purpose. Because this is exactly the case with most sunblocks sold in the US. They don’t offer broad spectrum UV coverage and they have the NASTIEST SHIT in them. I’m referring to chemicals, not even, say, the mink oil in the Mustela crap that we bought and promptly returned today.
What this comes down to, what bums me out SO intensely that I have to keep using capital letters, is that, with the exception of ONE Johnson & Johnson product that is rated with a mere “moderate” health concern, none of the acceptable sunblocks are affordable (read: less than $15) or offered by well-known, mainstream companies. What this means to me is that poor people are once again getting the shaft, because they are assumed to be uninformed. Worse, are they also assumed to be so value-less that their health isn’t even a consideration? How much money have these companies made peddling ineffective, harmful products to people who are simply trying to protect their children?
I have a love/hate relationship with the cosmetics database, the website on which the EWG catalogues the safety of pretty much every cosmetic available in the US. I love it for making me a knowledgable consumer, but I hate how few options I’m left with after trolling it for even a few minutes every couple of months. Diorshow mascara, you’re incredible, but my eyelashes and I have left you to languish in your own immunotoxicity. Lorac tinted moisturizer, damn, you were non-greasy and just the right color, but my reproductive organs aren’t quite finished working. And this brings me to what really gets my goat about sunblock. It’s not what I consider to be a “cosmetic,” as in, something you use out of vanity. It’s a product meant to maintain our health. To protect us from something almost unavoidable. It’s our body’s last bastion once clothing, beautiful best friend hats and the indoors have failed. It shouldn’t hurt us while claiming to help.

ps. California Baby sunblock rules.

controlling birth

18 Jul

There are so many easy ways to fuck over women. I rewrote that line about fifteen times before deciding that is precisely what I mean to say, so I should just say it. It starts during adolescence with — well, a million things, but not all pertinent to this discussion — hormonal birth control. At a time when our bodies are coursing with hormones already, new ones that make us do crazy, crazy shit, make us un-live-with-able and prone to falling in and out of love with just about anything at the drop of a hat. When I was fifteen, a different song changed my life every 45 minutes. You want to argue about how this right here is the best film ever made? TRY ME. The hem of my pants seems to be 1/4 inch shorter than it was last week which means I am the fattest, ugliest, most worthless person in all of humanity’s long history — and WHAT’S THAT? You aren’t contradicting me heartily enough SO YOU MUST AGREE. So, when someone suggested that I try hormonal birth control to ease my hellacious cramps, considering that someone was a physician, I assumed he wouldn’t lead me astray. I didn’t smoke and I wasn’t over 35, so the only two risks explained to me didn’t seem to apply. Oh, but funny thing: there were these other risks he forgot to mention. The risk of totally going off the deep end when the naturally-occuring hormones already in your body take offense to the introduction of these johnny come-latelies and the ensuing hormone war leaves you suicidal and obsessive-compulsive. I was told repeatedly to “ride it out” while my body tried to normalize, but eventually I weighed the positives and negatives and darned if debilitating uterine pain wasn’t the better option. Enter “natural family planning.” A terrible, stupid, why-did-they-do-it name that makes you sound like an Evangelical Christian. Are you an Evangelical Christian? Sorry; I am not. Neither am I anti-hormonal birth control. I just think it’s something that adversely affects lots of women who can’t figure out what’s wrong with them. I also advocate for women knowing as much as they can about their own bodies because this makes us healthier (most importantly) and smarter consumers (secondarily), meaning we can’t be railroaded into sub-optimal care by our doctors/midwives (god forbid!)/ARNPs.
Natural family planning began my interest in women’s health and my own reproductive system. I come from a staunchly feminist, pro-choice family so this was no real revelation. Women’s issues were always discussed and reproductive rights are something for which my mom and I have both fought, basically, forever. Being able to identify where I am in my cycle is something that has saved me money, headache and heartache. It also quite literally saved my sanity and I know I’m not alone in that. For a pretty comprehensive guide to NFP, maybe try this book out (the publisher of which is not paying me but is welcome to, wink wink, nudge nudge).

Now we’ve come to way #2 to give women the screw job.

First, though, let’s have an interlude to discuss our president. I voted for him. Grudgingly. I told myself that no viable candidate would ever align with my beliefs. And this guy would at least maintain the status quo. HA! Good one, Obama! You got me.

People are such wackadoos when it comes to reproduction, especially reproduction that does not include them. You’ve got the president willy-nilly mandating that impoverished, sick women have to carry a pregnancy to term despite a still very legal medical procedure meant to protect them from exactly this situation. You’ve got crazy nutsos who are free to adopt 500 children if they’re so worried about babies, but prefer to birth twenty of their own and take them all to picket outside of Planned Parenthood. And then, there’s #3:

Forcing women into birthing situations without their consent, by preying on their love for their unborn child. Just as it’s not okay to get someone drunk and sleep with them, it is not okay to ply someone with threats and horror stories and expect them to make an informed, well-thought-out decision. The spectrum of loving motherhood is broad, and includes not only the excited, doting, round and glowing mama-to-be but also the mother who is staring down the barrel of birthing a brainless mass of cells that will somehow make it to full term. Both of these women deserve to have their wishes respected, their health considered, and their lives valued above convenience, prior engagements, fear of lawsuit or personal politics. Wait. I need to say that again. The spectrum of loving motherhood is broad, and includes not only the excited, doting, round and glowing mama-to-be but also the mother who is staring down the barrel of birthing a brainless mass of cells that will somehow make it to full term. Both of these women deserve to have their wishes respected, their health considered, and their lives valued above convenience, prior engagements, fear of lawsuit or personal politics. Women’s choices need to be heard and respected. Women’s birth plans need to be adhered to. People need to stop doing unnecessary surgeries and giving drugs unnecessarily just to make it home in time for 30 Rock.

In case you couldn’t tell, the recent threats to women’s health and rights are really bothering me. If they are bothering you, too, please take action here. If they are not bothering you, please try putting yourself in the very realistic situation of having little money, a debilitating disease and an unexpected pregnancy that could result in a special needs child and a serious and potentially irreversible deterioration of your own health. If I’ve alienated you with this post…well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

asking for it

11 Jul

Everyone has a set of personal rules — even the most freewheeling of us have a stopping point, a place that makes us uncomfortable. Solid boundaries are one of my most prized possessions. I guard my set like the family silver, and I inherited it in much the same way I would’ve an heirloom. Nobody, but nobody, lasts thirty seconds in my family without firmly defined boundaries.
So, by and large, I respect other people’s, no matter how weird I may find them. I know they’re what keeps society chugging along. They’re the reason for all successful relationships. But there are some that just make my skin crawl, and I have been repeatedly faced with one in particular recently: The “when they can ask for it” rule. Those of you who breastfeed undoubtedly know to what I am referring. It’s the common rule among breastfeeding women that as soon as your baby can ask for milk, you ought to stop nursing. What was a nurturing, healthful bonding experience goes from sweet to capital G Gross with one word like a reinvention of your stupidest middle school crush: hopelessly devoted twelve year-old loves other twelve year-old madly until the latter shows interest and then…oh, nevermind.
A couple of weeks ago, after diligent fist opening-and-closing during every nursing sesh for months in an attempt to teach George his first sign, he did it… I think. The sign for milk. OH MY GOD! I shrieked. And got out my phone to record the event. He must’ve meant it because despite my alarming reaction, he did it again. And again. It was akin to the feeling I get when I find common ground with a person who doesn’t speak the same languages as I do. The fervent head bob and grin to say, “I understand!!!” But times a thousand million bajillion. The victorious feeling of being able to definitively communicate with my baby was liberating and validating and such a relief. One less thing to guess about.
So why would anyone deprive herself of this victory? Moreover, why would you punish your baby for finding common ground with you? Can you imagine the effort it took? I can’t. And (thankfully? unfortunately?) I don’t know anyone who believes in this practice well enough to say WTF? What is your rationale? I’m betting I’m better off not knowing. Anyway, there’s always PBR.

what? this old thing?

8 Jul

let's get serious

There’s a strange, (seemingly) typical female response to certain situations that I find really irritating. Wait, FIRST: I’d like to state for the record that I attribute most “typically female” things, and all annoying “typically female” things to socialization — the way we are taught to be more polite, quieter, less intrusive, et cetera forever and ever, for alas, the list of things we’re taught to be and boys are not is endless and sad.
But anyway, it starts pre-parenthood with compliments, say… on your outfit.
Friend One: “I like your dress.”
Friend Two: “This? Oh…thanks. It barely fits me; I’ve gained like five pounds in the last week. And it was only like $3 at the Salvation Army.”
Friend One: “Oh my god, I am so much fatter than you.”
Friend Two: “What? No way, my thighs are repulsive.”
and… SCENE
I am compelled to deflect compliments in this same way — don’t get me wrong. Compliment me and, on a good day, you will get a sheepish thank you. On a bad day, I will mention my stretch marks/frizzy hair/giant boobs and point out the small hole in the side seam of my shirt. A simple, gracious look in the eye and thanks is something I hope against hope to someday master.
If this weren’t bad enough — that we are socialized to demean ourlseves at the smallest praise — there’s another thing that pits women against women in a weird, underhanded way that I have just discovered. It’s a particular brand of mompetition that I never would’ve guessed existed, and I find it absolutely, positively infuriating. It starts with someone, in my experience usually a casual acquaintance, inquiring about the way you do something. Anything. Diapering, let’s say. Another mom mentions that she uses gDiapers. You mention that you cloth diaper. And she comes back with something like, “Oh, I thought about trying that…but I just didn’t have tiiiiime and it seems kinda gross. FOR ME. But it’s so cool that you do it.” This kind of retort, while I understand is often made in the same spirit as the “what, this old thing?” compliment deflection, is way ruder. It’s a veritable pat on the head. And I’ve experienced it so many times in the past year that I’ve lost track of all the things I do that are “cute.” Using a diva cup? good for the environment, sure, but ew! You have to rinse it out in the sink? Making your own baby food? Sure, you know all the ingredients but I’m just so busy. Being vegetarian? I totally should, but I just really love regular food. REGULAR FOOD! Those words were uttered to me. By a reasonably intelligent human woman.
This is perhaps the kind of inactivity I find most offensive. People who don’t know the benefits of, for example, breastfeeding can’t be blamed for choosing not to do it. But if you know it’s good for your baby and you can’t find a sexy nursing bra so choose formula, I have no words for you. Scratch that — I have a LOT of words for you, but I doubt you’d be interested in hearing them.
Because my fury at this was so great and so consistent, I had to check myself to make sure it wasn’t stemming from my own issues. Was I embarrassed or ashamed of any of these practices and more sensitive to perceived criticism? But the answer was always no. I am nothing short of thrilled with cloth diapers. I am a terrible cook, but mashing steamed food? Can’t mess that up. I hate disposable pads like poison; if they vanished from the Earth forevermore I’d throw a party.
It’s possible to talk about ourselves and our choices — be it what to wear or what to feed our babies — with grace. There’s no need for underhanded compliments that imply the other is slaving away with shit smears on her forehead while you sip lemonade with your fancy girlfriends. We can exchange information without being mean to each other or ourselves and the sooner we figure out how, the sooner I’ll stop dreading meeting new moms. The upshot of this phenomenon is that I am astounded and bowled over with gratitude when this ideal free exchange happens, wherein nobody is self-depricating but everyone is open to suggestion. Because we’re all just doing the best that we can, right?

o pioneers

23 Jun

This is potentially going to be a really passive-aggressive post. Just thought you should be fore-warned. How passive aggressive it actually turns out to be remains to be seen, as the post-Ladyfest hashing-shit-out meeting is tonight.
Without further ado, here is my favorite moment from Ladyfest Bellingham 2010:

In case you can’t make out what is happening, a mama deer and her two babies appeared and trotted across Holly Street. I ran across the parking lot to take thier photo. That’s right; my favorite moment had nothing to do with Ladyfest. Kimya’s performance was a close second; as I described, it was awesome. But that was because of Kimya, not Ladyfest.
I had really high hopes for this festival. I LOVE Ladyfest — the Olympia one — and I love feminism. I love groups of women doing things together. I love influencing change, or trying my damnedest. But this was not any of those things unless you use the most liberal definitions. Yes, women were together in various spaces. They may have been individually feminist. But what I so hoped would happen: the enfranchisement of DIFFERENT women, discussion of the dire, dire, omg life-and-death issues that affect women (especially in our community, which is seeing the highest and most terrifying domestic violence statistics of all time), help for those of us who need it, celebration of the EXPERT, not the casual hobbyist or recent convert…none, or very little, of it happened.
I did my best to bring other types of women to this festival. I’m proud that I was able to work in a frank discussion of childbirth with birth professionals, though so few people came. I’m also disappointed in myself, despite my own baby-related time and schedule limitations, that I didn’t push for more involvement and change. So, Ladyfest ladies, if you read this: I blame myself as much, if not more, than I blame you.
My hope for next year (because I am hereby swearing to do next year what I didn’t this year) is that we will focus more on real, live ladies. The ones that need our help. The ones that don’t feel cool enough to come to punk shows, the ones who don’t have babysitters. The ones that are REALLY REALLY good at something, who have tried to make themselves a living, however meager or plentiful (because wealth is not a disqualifier), and could use our free support. My hope is that next year, we won’t shoot ourselves in the feet so many times with (yes) bad jokes and frivolity. That we won’t lob the local, strangely anti-Ladyfest press so. Many. Softballs.
I don’t want to despair at the state of young feminism in this country. I don’t think I need to, rather I should probably just despair at the state of youth in general. But these ladies have so much spark and smarts and potential that I’d hate to see waste away in Bellingham’s myriad dive bars. May they stay long enough to grow into their intelligence and help this town out of its rut. I’ll be here to do my part.


18 Jun

Full disclosure: I am a really judgmental person. I always have been. As previously stated, I am very decisive (unless we’re talking about dinner, in which case I just want it to magically appear in front of my face). If I find something I haven’t already made up my mind about, I research it within an inch of its life and make a decision quickly. I like to be well-informed because I like to argue but hate to be wrong. LET’S BE FRIENDS!

I can — because I’ve had to — often (obviously, not always) separate the person from his or her decisions. Just because you circumsized your son doesn’t mean I think you’re a bad person (though I most definitely think it was a really, really regrettable choice). Maybe you scheduled a c-section or didn’t breastfeed and you plop your kid in an exersaucer for two hours at a time. We can still squeal together over how cute our babies are. I try. I try SO HARD, you guys, to be nice. Sometimes I even feel a little shameful about the path we’re on. Example: At Temple, some people asked George’s Hebrew name. He doesn’t have one; he didn’t have a bris. Would I love for him to have a naming ceremony that didn’t include genital mutilation? YES. Is that available in this community? Not that I can find. So, I hemmed and hawed and finally offered up his middle name as some kind of consolation to these strangers who have no vested interest in my son’s privates.

please don't cut my weiner off.

My best friend in all the world told me shortly after George was born that the few months after her eldest daughter’s birth was a terribly lonely time for her. Her gut told her one thing and everyone else told her others. When she finally started following her gut, she found that the world opened up to her: resources appeared and validated the choices she made with love, not herd mentality or selfishness (the desire for more sleep, more time to ourselves, unencumbered life-in-general). I was lucky to have been given that bit of wisdom so early on, and the freedom to be a loving, intentional parent has made my decisions a lot easier.

look out, there’s boobs in this post

7 Jun

Parenting creates chasms between people who may have otherwise thought they had some common ground. This is something I am learning the hard way, over and over and over. I don’t mean my childless friends, because they are actually more tolerable than they used to be, in their novelty. Recede from all social activity for almost a year and everything is “cute” — you’re hungover?! Oh, you crazy kid! You overslept and you’ll be 15 minutes late to lunch? HA HA
What I mean is that totally normal people with whom you may have formerly struck up pleasant conversation, say, in line for coffee, now have a reason to share with you their Decisions, and you will almost certainly find them horrifying. You will later relay your conversation to another totally normal person, commenting that you under no circumstances judge other parents but can you believe ____? They will then admit to doing exactly what you described, then repeat the process with someone they think is likeminded but is absolutely not.
The only good thing that I’ve found about this so far is that the people who agree with you and validate your choices are like new crushes. My first parenting crush was Dr. Sears. “Dr. Sears basically says letting your baby cry it out is inhumane,” I proudly announced to Nathan. “Dr. Sears says vaccinations are very important.” “Dr. Sears believes in sharing sleep.” “Dr. Sears thinks this sandwich I just made is excellent.”
The downside is when your parenting crushes betray you, and mine almost all have. Dr. Sears is still going strong, and so is at least one other mama who out-hippies me by a longshot. My most disappointing crush moment came when a mother I thought was cool looked at me in a mixture of grossed-out shock and mortification as I undid my nursing bra and tried to wrangle a flailing, crying, hungry George. I’m sad to say that I instictively said apologetically, “Oh…do you mind?” She looked around to see if anyone was watching and shrugged. “I guess not,” she said. “That’s why I brought a bottle, though.” Instead of telling her to go F herself and feeding my son like I should’ve, I pretended that there was a possibility he wasn’t hungry and staved him off for another ten minutes before we retreated, him hollering and confused, me pissed and flustered.

i told you

We haven’t hung out since.