Thursday, May 29, 2008
The most bizarre thing about the post, though, is my use of the word "chic." I don't really know what I meant by it, but it was clearly REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT at the time. Upon reflection, I have realized this is something that happens to me with some frequency. A concept - like Good for Travelling, or Chic, or Palazzo Pants - will suddenly seize my imagination in a vise. Sometimes, as with Palazzo Pants, the seizure ends with my procurement of an appropriate commodity. (Two pairs! Yesterday! I am so happy! But probably not for long!) Sometimes, as with Good for Travelling, the seizure is ongoing with no end in sight. Sometimes, as with yesterday's Chic, the seizure is mysteriously brief, coming on ferociously and departing abruptly, leaving no trace. Indeed, if I had not mistakenly published just when I did yesterday, I probably wouldn't even remember my short, violent encounter with Chic.
Actually, though, I think I may know (at least partially) what Chic was about. Since the baby was born, I have done a lot of thinking about the choices I have made in my life, both professionally and personally (if the two are distinct, which I sort of doubt), and how those choices have shaped where I am now and where I am going. I spent last weekend with my lovely college girlfriends, and I felt very conscious of the fact that their lives, at this moment in time, seem very different from mine. I couldn't help but feel that, over the next few years, as we each settle into the choices we have made for our adult lives, these differences will become more distinct and more important. Because, while I know that I am still very young and life still is a glorious sprawl ahead, I also know that, inevitably, every choice I make further circumscribes the choices I will have in the future. I think it is real, and not particularly pessimistic or bitter, to acknowledge that growing up is partially about the shutting down of possibilities, and that the choices that we make are important not so much because they open certain doors but because they close many others. There are things, now, that I probably will never do or be, and for a moment yesterday, "chic" stood for all of those things, rather than for ballet flats and a neat chignon. So, in that sense, I guess I was right - I never will be chic, and that's the end of that. But I sure do have some killer pants.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I am finally facing the fact that true chic is not for me. Even before the baby was born, I didn't quite have the money to maintain consistent chic, plus my job didn't really foster it (no AC, chalk everywhere, on feet for hours, etc). And now, with the baby, I really really don't have the money for the chic, plus I have to deal with all these chic-destroying things like breast pumps, diapers, and nursing pads. So I am officially giving up. I am not chic. I leave the chic to others with more money and fewer logistical constraints. I am stylish, or hip, or bohemian, or quirky, or interesting, but not chic. And that's the end of that.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Because I was at “dinner” (mostly beer, interspersed with a moule or a frite here and there) with the bridal party yesterday (see post below), and we were talking about why I’m blogging, and also the implications of sharing information about my child in such a public setting. And I thought, just read this, because I can’t say it better. It’s a perfect, beautiful statement of purpose for women doing what we (me and my buddy Heather B. Armstrong, you know) are doing. Just have a tissue handy, because if you are anything like me, it’s gonna make you bawl.
I am throwing a bachelorette party weekend for my college friend LC!
[Shot of panic-stricken face]
[Uproarious laugh-track laughter]
This was my living room floor at approximately 3AM Friday:
I picked out all the paper and ribbons at Kate’s Paperie on 57th St. The salesclerk (who, in chinos and a button-down, looked like a cross between Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray) looked at me and said gravely, “This is going to look tremendous.” At the moment of the photo above, it just looked sleepy. No, that was me. I looked sleepy. The wrapping paper looked tremendous. Hrrrmmmmmm…..
[Shot of me nodding off to sleep]
[Uproarious laugh-track laughter]
My to-do list the day before yesterday was as follows:
1) Buy bride and bridesmaids’ gifts.
2) Buy cleanser (Saturday)?
3) Get extra wrapping paper and ribbon?
4) Wrap presents.
5) Plan surprise at hotel – dinner res?
6) Go to Lolli? (Dress for Sat night?)
7) Strapless nursing bra?
9) Re-arrange flowers in house, throwing out the dead ones.
10) Neaten bookshelves.
11) Plan outfits for weekend.
12) FreshDirect breakfast groceries for Sat.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Loving an infant is an amazingly rewarding experience, because every single day, he is so different and so much more. But it’s also heartbreaking, because the little one that you cherished yesterday is only partially there today, and the little one that you cherished last month is gone forever.
Newborns have a non-human, animal-like quality to them, and over the past four and a half months, I have watched my baby become less humanoid animal and more human, less space alien and more kid. His head, which used to smell of vanilla and yeast and heaven, now smells more boyish – still beautiful and intoxicating, but more like baby and less like angel. While his eyes used to be a little cloudy and his gaze a little fitful, his pupils are now distinctly black, and he looks out at the world with energetic attention.
These days, the only remnant of the mysterious, animal/alien newborn has been his ears. In the moments after he was born, we noticed immediately that the inner rims of his ears were pointy, and the edges of his ears sprouted black hair. “Like an elf!” we laughed, “Or a wolf!” His hairy pointy wolf ears remained even after his head hair thinned, after his vision improved, after his hands got big and coordinated enough to hold mine. The day before yesterday, though, when I got home from work, my husband said, “Look, pokey, he doesn’t have ear hair anymore.” I looked at his ears, and sure enough, they are no longer hairy and the inner rims are no longer pointy. His elf ears disappeared without us even noticing when they went, to be replaced by perfect little boy ears. I took a picture to commemorate his new ears, and it came out blurry, because he kept turning and looking into the camera, then grabbing it and putting it in his mouth with dexterity unimaginable even two weeks ago.
My eyes burn and my breath catches when I realize that I will never again see the cloudy blue-brown corneas, the small, startled, randomly fluttering hands, or now the little wolf ears, save in my own memory. To love an infant is to be continuously bereaved, to suffer the loss of a loved one every minute and every day. It is the hardest and bravest thing I have ever done in my life.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
1. My shirtdress is wrinkled. This is my fault, because I don’t iron. I never iron, and I sort of brag to other people about never ironing, tossing my head, like ha-ha-I’m-just-a-free-spirit-and-you’re-a-fuddyduddy-ironer. It feels like a charmingly careless thing to do until I actually put on an un-ironed item that needs ironing, such as a shirtdress, and then it is just sloppy and bunchy and askew, and I never seem to know this until I am out and about and staring in dismay at my wrinkled self in a shop window.
2. My shirtdress is short. Last time I wore it to work, I didn’t notice quite how short it was, because it was a warm day, so my legs were bare. Today, though, it’s chilly, so I’m wearing black tights, and the contrast with the white dress really highlights where it hits my leg, which turns out to be pretty far above the knee. Also, right before I went out the door this morning in my usual pointy-toe kitten-heel work shoes, my husband looked at me carefully and then cocked his head. “What?!” I demanded. “Well, those shoes seem funny with that outfit.” I didn’t have time to ask why, so I just went for a pair that looked different, then flew out the door, only to realize, a couple of blocks later, that I am wearing fairly high heels, which make my legs look longer (good), but the skirt look even shorter (bad). Basically, I am wearing a miniskirt with heels, which has not been OK since I was 17 and trying to get into the Limelight with no ID.
3. My slip shows. My slip always shows when I wear this dress. In fact, that’s why I wear the slip – the bottom button on the dress is really high, creating a long center-slit sort of situation in the skirt. So I wear a slip so as not to show my crotch every time I take a step. However, the slip is sort of dingy-peach color, which looks fine against bare legs – barely noticeable – but not so fine against black-tights legs.
4. My tights are pilly. Even though they’re my last pair of black tights left from the winter and thus clearly a little worse for wear, I fooled myself into thinking they were just linty and that a quick swipe with masking tape would do the trick. Turns out they are not so much linty as pilly – black tights covered with a multitude of little white pills. And still, of course, a lot of lint and dog hair, which, at this level of seriousness, are really only partially addressable by masking tape.
So, to review: My dress is bunchy, my slip is showing and looks dirty, my heels are too high, I am showing far too much leg, and all of that leg is covered with dog hair and little white balls of fluff. On top of all of this, I am wearing a red belt, an absurdly jaunty topper to such a dingy little mess. I look like a crazy lady, or perhaps a slightly down-at-the-heels stripper wearing fake “professional clothing” as part of her act as a secretly-slutty office worker. So I am (as usual) hiding sulkily in the Latin classroom, and since Ms. N isn’t here today, I am hiding in the dark with the blinds pulled and the lights off. On days like this, I really hate myself and all of my so-called “fashion,” and I wish fervently that I could just wear invisible no-fashion outfits, like plain T-shirts and wrinkled chinos and faded boxy cardigans, and thus not be subject to such spectacular failures like this one. “Why did I even think any of this was a good idea?” I mutter to myself furiously, not even sure what I am referring to anymore, and not even sure why I am so very angry at myself. The only cure for this misery, I reasoned, would be to buy myself a new tote bag online, which I did. However, the triumph was significantly dimmed by the fact that I was really just copying my friend H’s new tote bag – my faithful readers will notice that this is my second copy of her stuff, damn her - so it wasn’t even my own idea.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
The birth of a child (perhaps particularly a first child) offers women a pause, a window of time during which they are forced to stop and dramatically change what they are doing. For some women, the pause may be a short one, and they may rather quickly pick up approximately (though never exactly) where they left off, returning to the same work and pursuing the same goals, whether implicitly or explicitly. However, some women, I think, find in this pause something else, a volta, a time to entirely reevaluate the condition of their lives.
My life, since I graduated from college, has been very, very full; my job as a public school teacher is exceedingly demanding of my time and energy, and I have consistently held one or two additional freelance positions on top of it, partly for the extra money and partly for the feeling of blind, bustling productivity. I have (on purpose?) left myself very little space or time to evaluate what I am doing, whether I am happy doing it, or what else I might do instead. But the slowdown of late pregnancy, the full stop of childbirth, and the long, dreamy baby days that followed have forced that space and time upon me, and I have lifted my head from its place in the sand to take long, slow, careful breaths.
For me, this blog feels like the canary in a mineshaft, or maybe the bellwether, of my new life. It is my desire to “make something” (as my friend H says), to make some sort of lasting meaning of my days, and to open my experience to the world. This, along with other decisions that I have begun to make, still feels tentative, and I am deeply afraid not so much that I will change my mind, but that I will simply forget and go back to the things I am used to doing and the ways I am used to being. It seemed for a moment that this week might be the end, the time when I get re-swallowed by the world, never to see myself again until, perhaps, the next child. But the week is over now, and looking around, I notice that I am still here, and that I have - miracle of miracles - actually written something. And here it is.
Friday, May 9, 2008
The really mysterious thing here is that everyone over the age of seventeen knows that birthdays are not particularly exciting stuff. Nothing exciting happens on your birthday. You may have a party, but first of all, the party probably won’t be on the actual day of your birthday, and second of all, it probably won’t be an especially wonderful party. You may get gifts, but they probably won’t be exactly what you wanted, unless you were careful to specify exactly what you wanted, in which case it won’t be a surprise. We all know these things about birthdays. And yet, every year, I persist in being excited. Even now, I am watching the clock in the corner of the computer screen, thinking, “It’s only an hour until my birthday!”
A little child can be excused for thinking that something magically exciting just might happen on her own Special Day, because a little child has not been in the world for a very long time, and she has no sense of proportion, and it is easy for things to be exciting to her. A little child does not know that the world is, quite simply, exhaustively normal. As I am no longer a little child, I know that tomorrow will not be particularly special. The computer is not going to explode into roses and chocolate at midnight and start singing to me, because computers don’t do that. There will be no bizarrely extravagant gifts, like a spa weekend or a vacation or a Very Expensive Handbag, because we are not wealthy and neither are our friends or family. I know that it will be a regular Saturday just like any other. Even if my husband is very very nice to me, and even if I decide to eat extra cake or spend a little more money than usual, it will still be a normal day. I am very sure about that.
This year, though, I am 30 years old. Having given birth on New Years Eve, I entered this year a mother. And this year marks my fifth as a wife. I don’t know what this all means, but it seems that maybe it is a special year, and I still can’t help but think that tomorrow is my special day - even though I know it is not just mine and not particularly special - my own special day, inside my own special year, for me to be happy for myself.
1. My tummy is softer, darker, pouchier, and wrinklier.
2. My butt is flat. This is very, very sad, because my butt used to be my best feature. I now no longer have a best feature.
3. I have perineal scar tissue, pursuant to my baby literally tearing me a new one. (All readers who have had no childbirth experience are now writhing on the floor in disgust and possibly vomiting. Sorry.) This is not really an aesthetic problem, but it makes SOMETHING painful and a little scary. I have heard, though, that there are people out there who have more than one child. This means that, in many cases, SOMETHING eventually gets accomplished even after one has given birth once, so I remain optimistic.
4. I poop more often.
5. My breasts are bigger. They say that, after you're done nursing, your breasts stop being bigger and may, in fact, get smaller than they were before. I plan to be a true believer in the extended nursing philosophy.
6. I am no longer allergic to wine.
7. My hair is falling out.
8. I have asthma.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Monday, May 5, 2008
Just as I think a lot about things being good for travelling, I also think a lot about things being good for out and about. Some main out and about concerns are as follows:
1. Depending on what I am doing, and how long I will be doing it, my bag must be large enough to carry any number of the following: a bottle of water, a book or magazine, a light sweater and maybe sunscreen in the summer, hand cream, lip balm, maybe some mints, maybe a snack, blotting papers or powder, a pen, tissues or a handkerchief, wallet, cell phone, and keys. But bags can’t be so large that they get in the way. Straps must be the exact correct length – too-short straps don’t go over the shoulder, but too-long straps drag on the back and bang on the leg. Small purses and clutches are for insane (or at least insanely organized) people and the suburbs.
2. Outfits must translate easily in several situations. For example, let’s just say you are working in the morning, and then going to the record store in Williamsburg with your husband and baby in the afternoon. You will feel like a damn fool in the latter situation if you are wearing something only appropriate for the former situation. (I forgot about that one yesterday and had to traipse around Williamsburg looking like a middle-manager/soccer-mom wearing a white T-shirt, black work trousers, black pumps, pearls, and the baby. Not that I advocate the Williamsburg look, indeed I think the Williamsburg look is generally vile, but a pair of jeans would have done me a world of good.)
3. Shoes must be walkable but also attractive, even if attractive in the dowdy-chic vein, which is one that I mine shamelessly. They must suit the weather: in the winter, for example, a thin sole is certain death, while in the summer, a thick strap or lots of coverage could give you a rash. Also, if the forecast suggests rain, shoes must hold up to it. (As a side note, I am totally mystified that people think that ballet flats are always good for travelling. Ballet flats are indeed lovely and versatile, but absolutely useless if it is cold, almost useless if it is raining, and too sweaty in the heat.)
Having a baby has introduced additional out and about anxieties, as follows:
4. Baby carriers and nursing tops must be worn in the exact correct combinations such that I will be able to nurse the baby without taking anything off. For example (1), sweaters/jackets are to be worn over, not under, the carrier. For example (2), a Boob nursing shirt and a wraparound carrier could be trouble, as the wrap keeps the baby really close to you and the Boob shirt requires a bit of space to be adjusted correctly.
5. If the day’s destination(s) might allow for pottying the baby, baby’s undergarments must be potty-ready. A regular prefold-with-wrap situation is difficult, because one would have to lay baby down to remove the situation, then take baby to the potty, then lay baby down again to replace the situation. This is a pain in the butt, especially in a public bathroom where the changing table is outside of the stall, and especially if the diaper is dry and doesn’t need to be changed. Better is a cloth diaper folded into a pull-up cover and maybe held up with a diaper scrunchie. Still a little awkward, especially if the baby is little and has little wiggly legs, but better. On the other hand, a pull-up style is really bad if the baby has a big poop, so if you are going out and about before the baby has had his big poop of the day, probably better to just go back the prefold-with-wrap situation.
6. In addition to the considerations listed in item #1, bags must also allow for the out and about diapering kit, general random baby things such as toys and washcloths, and nursing pads.
The truth is, of course, that my punctilious obedience to these anxieties often results in my being bizarrely over-prepared and overloaded for any given situation, cutting envious, half-hateful glances at light-and-chic characters like this person*. But really, look again. What if she goes to the coffee shop and the AC is really strong? What if she sweats her sunscreen off? What if she has to wait a long time for the train? What if the train’s not running and she has to walk cross-town? What if her baby gets hungry? Obviously, she should have prepared more carefully for being out and about.
* These pictures are from The Sartorialist. I hope I do not get sued for using them?
Things That I Don’t Worry About
1. Identity theft.
2. Wearing black with navy.
3. Wearing black with brown.
4. Wearing socks with sandals.
6. My baby being cold when inside the house.
7. My baby getting sick.
8. Baby pee on the rug (or anywhere else, really).
9. Putting away dishes that are still a little dirty even after going through the dishwasher.
10. My height.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
My lovely mom friend H sent me this email about her Upper Breast Side experience, and graciously said I could share it:
i went to the upper breast side. apparently i have been wearing the wrong size bra all my life. i though i was a 36b before nursing and now a 36c. um, nope. am apparently a 32d at present. talk about brigitte bardot. hubba hubba! they made me solemnly swear to come back periodically and then go to orchard corset when i am done nursing because "you have to stay on top of these things." i also accidentally bought two boob tops. oopsie.
"You have to stay on top of these things," indeed.
Friday, May 2, 2008
At work, I only wanted to be home. The normal, workaday expectation of consistent, competent action felt intrusive and unreasonably demanding compared to the cloudy, intuitive ebb and flow of my days with the baby. As my principal outlined the classes I would be teaching, I felt only a mounting sense of dread at the haphazard nature of the tasks being put to me, at all the work I will have to do, and at the inevitably half-assed way that I will be doing it.
Home, though, was much, much worse. I knew that my working and my husband staying home would not be a simple one-to-one flip of the roles we took when my husband worked and I stayed home, because I am the mother, whereas he is not. But neither of us had really thought through what it would look like. So when I got up with the baby in the morning and my husband stayed in bed, I felt shock – this is no different from the days that he works! – then immediate, mounting fury. Worse, when I returned home around 4PM and eagerly snatched the baby up, my husband, perhaps exhausted from his first baby-care day, went immediately to sleep, leaving me on the living room floor cradling the baby, still wearing my work clothes. I felt, again, shocked and furious – is the baby all my responsibility except when I’m actually at work? – and also tired and alone. The baby was fussy but would not take the breast, instead biting down – hard! – and squirming and complaining irritably.
Just as I thought I would die of frustration, my friend M. called and seemed to understand the depths with which I was struggling. She had a doctor’s appointment, she explained, but I could come with her if I liked, and then afterwards we could hang out. Her doctor was on 74th Street and Broadway, and while she was in his office, the baby and I wandered in wide, ragged circles from 71st Street to 77th Street, from Broadway to Columbus Avenue. I stared absently into the windows at Urban Outfitters, Loehmann’s, and Barney’s Co-op, and I wandered aimlessly into and back out of Starbucks and some shoe stores. The baby, tucked into his sling and cozy in a wool hood, gazed at the people and the cars, and, as only babies can, at nothing.
It was dark and chilly and beginning to rain, but I could not bring myself to stop and sit down anywhere. I felt as though I had never been more confused or unhappy in my life. I did not want to be angry at my husband – after all, what did he really do? – but I was desperately furious. All I wanted was be with the baby, but I felt poisonously resentful that my “getting” the baby seemed to be the default position, and then miserably guilty that I felt resentful. Work, I reflected, beginning to cry, would take the joy out of the baby, while the baby would take the joy out my work, which, after seven grueling years, has lost most of its luster anyway. I do not want to care about work, I thought, or anything at all other than my baby, myself, and this blog. I could not be reasonable and remind myself that this was only the first day or that it would only be eight weeks until summer vacation. I was lost for the moment in misery, wandering the Upper West Side umbrella-less, drawing stares with my baby, my misery, and my thigh-high red boots.
When M. got out of her doctor’s appointment, she asked me what I wanted to do. Really, I wanted to go to American Apparel and buy a T-shirt that my new mom friend H. told me was great for nursing, because all I wanted to think about was nursing my baby and, possibly, T-shirts. But I was aware that this would sound foolish at 8:40PM on a cold, rainy weekday evening. So instead, we bought some raspberry leaf tea and dark chocolate with cherries, then went back to M.’s apartment for tea, chocolate, and television. On Without a Trace, the blond F.B.I. agent was pregnant and telling her boss that she’d be right back to work after the baby came, and I was so dazed with misery and exhaustion that I didn’t really think to connect her situation to mine until the next day.