Is it me, or has Halloween become more sanitized than a frigging Ebola ward? I hate to sound like an old lady, but times have changed, and not entirely for the better. We are just so freaking uptight nowadays.
Take costumes, for example. In 1983, there were no rules regarding what could and couldn't be worn to school on Halloween. One year my mother, who had recently inherited a nasty old fur coat from a dead aunt, dressed me up as a 'movie star'. I wore a slinky dress that kept sliding down and exposing my kid-boobs, a blonde whore wig, and the aforementioned rat coat. I also carried a 'sophisticated' cigarette holder, attached to which was one of Mom's Parliaments.
It wasn’t at all unusual for boys to come to school dressed as horror movie villains or war victims or 'bums'. One year a boy came into our 5th grade class dressed as Aunt Jemima, complete with blackface and a pillow under his skirt to look like a big, fake booty.
Completely poor taste, yes, but you have to admit, pretty creative.
My daughter’s school doesn’t even allow costumes with fake blood. Notes go home the week before Halloween warning that if a child shows up in a costume deemed 'too scary', he or she will be sent home immediately. Oh, get over yourselves.
When I was little, my mom annually brought my sister and me to the drugstore, where we each picked out a $5 plastic piece of shit costume made to look like a Disney character or super-heroine. This 'costume' was basically a colored garbage bag which tied around the neck, and came with a plastic mask. The mask had tiny nose-holes you couldn't breathe out of, and the eye-holes were roughly cutout slits that often scratched your face. You definitely were in trouble should you wear the mask trick or treating after dark, because your peripheral vision was totally impaired. Whatever, though, you just asked your friend who wasn't wearing a mask to look out for cars.
Now, let's talk Trick or Treating. We used to traipse around the neighborhood unsupervised, a gaggle of kids ranging in age from toddler to maybe 10 years old. Now, the tradition of knocking on people's doors, asking for the one thing you are never supposed to accept from strangers, is in and of itself a weird tradition. But still. It seemed...I don't know, more organic back then. I remember one elderly lady yelling out the second-floor window of her house, telling us to come on in and grab some candy from the bowl in the foyer, because she was too infirm to make it down the steps.
We totally did.
A Mom’s only job back then was to check for razor blades in apples and pin holes in candy bars (in case someone injected some kind of poison into them? That really takes a certain amt. of dedication, by the way). Now, we all accompany our children trick or treating. Granted, we carry travel mugs of wine and vodka drinks, but we still all go.
They even have ‘trunk or treat’ now, where kids trick or treat out of their friends' parents cars all parked in a lot at the church. They even have trick or treating in malls to keep kids off the street. What the fuck is fun about trick or treating in a MALL? What do they give you? Cell phone cases? Sunglasses? Auntie Annie pretzels?
I don't know. It just seems like we might need to loosen the reins just a bit. Halloween used to be dark and somewhat sinister and nasty. But that's what made it fun.
Watch out for the Insult Ninja. She lurks behind swingsets and sits watching 'Glee' on Netflix, biding her time, just waiting for that perfect moment when you are feeling your most old or fat or disorganized, and then she pounces. BAM!
It can come at any time. On the car ride to school. Mid-flip on the trampoline. While walking the dog. Doesn't matter. She is as unpredictable and arbitrary as a funnel cloud during a Louisiana thunderstorm.
I've just had my hair highlighted. My stylist went a little lighter than usual.
"It looks like you have more gray hairs than you normally do."
I'm having a bad reaction to something I ate.
"Wow. I heard you pooping, like, through the wall."
Getting out of the shower (a most favorable time to strike)
"God, Mom! I really hope my down-there hair doesn't end up like yours!"
And, this one is interactive!
"When I have a baby, will my stomach look like that?"
I lived in NYC for a decade, but I didn't really find my 'tribe' until I had a baby.
This is not meant to be a declaration that, ‘YOU’RE NOBODY TIL YOU’RE A MOMMY!!!’ or anything; it just turned out that I didn’t form any real lasting friendships in the city until I had had my kid. New moms are like frenzied hound dogs, always sniffing around for fresh blood: “Oh! You’re exhausted and wearing a newborn in a sling? OMG, me too! Let’s go to Starbucks!”
I found most of my friends that way.
I’m discovering though, as I get older, that I will probably never be as open-hearted, unguarded, and willing to let people in as I was at that time. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m too busy now. Or too damn tired. Or I’ve just lost faith in humanity in general. Hopefully not though.
I met Kara when we were chasing our toddlers around the local playground. She wore Chuck Taylors, a delightfully wild mop of ‘I’m a mom, fuck it’ curly hair, and a beautiful tattoo that spanned the top part of her shoulder.
Immediately I was all, GOOBLE GOBBLE ONE OF US, ONE OF US. I decided she had to be my friend. We connected instantly, over so many things. The fact that our husbands were both artists who made very little money. That we were on the crunchy side, but were not above feeding our kids mac and cheese when we were too tired to cook. That we adored our children but also liked a good glass of wine with grownups sometimes.
When my marriage imploded several years later, Kara was one of the first people I called. There was no judgement, no begging for juicy details. There was, simply, “Just tell me what I can do.”
It was she who lovingly looked after my daughter so I could go back to work. And she who made dinner for us many Sunday nights (a ritual that became known as ‘Dinner and a Bath’, as we’d pop the kids in the tub after eating and let them pass out while we hung out). She also saw me cry on a park bench more times than I can count. She, along with a small handful of other wonderful people, pulled me through the mire that my life had become.
Now, years later, my quietly beautiful friend is going through some shit of her own. Since we left the city for greener pastures years ago — both of us moving to different corners of the US — I’m not sure I can be there for her in the capacity that she was for me back then. I’m not sure she’d even need me to be, since she’s about three thousand times tougher than most women I know.
Still. I'll be here to help her sail through the mire. And I know, without a doubt, that there will be so much sunshine for her on the other side.
Here's something I wrote a LONG time ago. Maybe you remember this. Oldie but goodie.
Hey. Shout out to the makers of all i-products for simultaneously improving and taking a gigantic dump on my day-to-day life.
I’ve been what has been called a ‘Power User’ of Apple products for some time. I LOVE my iphone. I can pay bills, watch shows, even order cat food and sex toys, all while waiting in the carpool line at school or crouching on the toilet (sorry guys, but a great many of your photos and status updates have been ‘liked’ by while peeing, and if you say you've never done this you're lying through your teeth). The abilities of this miraculous little handheld device continue to amaze and confound me.
My ex husband was, until recently, one of those ‘Not gonna drink the Kool Aid, Samsung All The Way’ kind of anit-iphoners. Yeah, I just switched gears here to talk about my ex. But I'll come back to the point. The man, when I knew him, liked to think of himself as an against-the-grain kinda guy.
Then he switched cell plans and all that changed.
I didn’t realize until recently how a very small percentage of companies in this world are keeping us uncomfortably close in our connections to one another, pretty much every second of every day. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple in particular have enabled us to basically live our lives in plain sight of the entire world; we can be as transparent and public as we choose in everything that we do. This is what my mother would call a 'velvet trap'.
Facetime is one of those apps that I'm just not sure about. When it first came out, I, like everyone else, marveled at the way we could effortlessly have 'OMG It's just like the Jetsons!' video chats with any other iphone user in America, at any time, all from the palms of our hands. I could sit out in my yard and chat with the tops of my parents’ heads while we all drank wine on separate sides of the country (for people in their 70s, my mom and dad have embraced the handheld revolution in a most kickass way, although they are still working out the kinks. Still, kudos). I have to be honest though; the sheen has kinda worn off this brand new penny for me. Facetime is not really my thing. I have never been much of a phone person, so throw in having to brush my hair or obsess over seeing my batwing upper arms in the little mini-screen of myself while I chat with someone, and it's a no-thank-you for me.
Lily's Dad LOVES it, though. Oh my god. And this is the conundrum.
I moved thousands of miles away from my ex husband years ago, and pleasant side effect of the physical distance has been my lack of involvement in the variety of antics he gets up to. We aren’t connected on any kind of social media, and we communicate sporadically and businesslike, via text messages and emails mostly, to transact any comings and goings involving our daughter. I like it that way. I imagine he does as well.
Then the guy got a goddamned iPhone and discovered FaceTime. And I was fucked like a homeless cat in a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant.
After moving into the home of a nice divorced woman with an adorable toddler, and finally securing a full-time job, my ex husband has apparently 'gotten his shit together'. Bravo. However, now that he has discovered Facetime, it's like he and his new family are in my fucking living room EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
I did not sign off on this.
Somehow, Facetiming is different than Skyping once a week from the home computer, because you don't need an appointment to do it. And Lily, who can't sit still, carries the iphone from room to room to room, chatting and laughing with her father's giant face and louder-than-necessary voice, and there is no escape for me unless I hide in the bathroom and pretend to be having a stomach attack (which I did last night). They all cook dinner and sit down to eat, and we are witness to it. They do dishes. They put the toddler to bed with stories. They watch their favorite TV shows. Constantly. It's exhausting.
I'm not sure what to do at this point. I think any attempt on my part to limit the amount of Facetiming would probably make me seem like a bitter old harpie exwife beyotch who just wants to drive a wedge between my ex and his child, and that is truly not the case. I just don't really need it in my peripheral vision every freaking second, ya know? Not exactly sure what the prudent move would be here, y'all. Advice?
I’ve always been one hell of a sleeper. My favorite pastime, besides constantly bemoaning the relentlessly sticky South Louisiana humidity, is crawling into bed at night with a bag of veggie booty and passing out face down and drooling into a good book. I am still trying to figure out a way to work an 8 hour day from my bed. I think it’s absolutely possible.
I used to be able to get by with less sleep, though. Now, less than 6 hours and my whole body and soul punish me for it. I get so cranky I actually growl to myself while getting ready in the morning— a feral dog slapping on moisturizer and scratching at mange. At this moment I am so exhausted I actually think I can hear my hair growing. I down two, three cups of shitty work coffee, feeling it souring in my stomach, wishing I could just bypass my mouth entirely and mash the grounds to a nice paste I can inject right into my arm or between my toes or my eyeball or wherever it is people inject things into themselves.
Usually I make more of an effort to get good sleep nowadays because I know what a vile and worthless piece of bitchy excrement I am when I don’t. Being sleep-deprived is what I would envision a bad acid trip to be like, but with more yawning. I speak from the dank bowels of experience in this area because
I spent the first two years of Lily’s life without any real, substantial sleep.
‘Sweep the Leg’ was a game conceived in a state of serious sleep deprivation. I created it when Lily was about 18 months old, an age where she was big enough to kinda grasp bipedalism, but not so sturdy that she could get anywhere fast without falling down a lot. The game quickly became a favorite in our house; we’d come home from the park and instead of laying down to a sweet nap like other toddlers I knew, Lily would demand, ’SWEEP THE LEG, MAMA! SWEEP THE LEG!’ and for the next two hours, I’d lay on my back in the middle of our giant, king-sized bed and pretend to be asleep. Then Lily would jump up and down next to me and shriek like a maniac. Without warning, I’d reach out and literally swipe both her legs, so that they’d fly out from under her and she’d tumble onto the bed in a giggling heap of hysterical glee. I think even then she was an adrenaline junkie; there was this insane thrill she got from never knowing when she was going to be completely wiped out. I loved the game too, because it was the only game I could play with my kid where I got to lay like a corpse. It was a setup that worked well.
That is, until one day I accidentally fell asleep mid-game and swept a little too far. Oh, I will never, ever forget the sound she made hitting the floor. It haunts me still. Nothing in the world stings like hearing your kid in pain. Except when you’re the dumbass who caused it. Then it’s a million times worse.
She ended up being fine. Just a little surprised. And probably her feelings were hurt more than anything, that Mom could actually over-sweep and send her to the floor on her butt.
That day I learned an important lesson, and was never sleep deprived again!
That’s a big, fat lie. But I think that might’ve been the last game of Sweep the Leg we played for quite a while..
I had a conference with Lily’s 5th grade teacher the other day. The woman locked eyes with me across the table. I became painfully aware of my ass oozing out on either side of my child-sized plastic seat. Uh Oh, I thought. What now?
Then she smiled. A mothering kind of smile. And a warm jelly of relief flooded my whole body.
‘Lily…oh, Lily is a delight. She has such a strong sense of herself and such good self esteem for a girl her age..whatever you’re doing, keep it up. you’re doing it right.’
‘Oh, thank you,’ I said, resisting the urge to reach over the table, cup her face in my hands and plant a hugely inappropriate kiss on her pearly pink lips. She might as well have just handed me a book deal or a winning lottery ticket; her words were a McDonald’s sundae sprinkled with xanax. The relief was so potent, I wanted to just get up and walk out right there, toss a pile of papers in the air on my way to the door, and say, ‘SEE ya Motherfuckers, I WON.”
My life so far has been pretty good, all things considered. I have very little to complain about, but as far as big accomplishments, massive milestones and the like, I haven’t had a real shitload to put on my Life's Resume. I can say with complete honesty that so far, Lily is really my highest accomplishment. My mad Momming Skillz are by far my greatest source of pride. Kind of ironic, since becoming a single parent was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
I remember sitting in my therapist’s office many, many moons ago, contemplating the idea of kicking out my then-husband. Her sage advice: ‘No matter what you decide, just remember that being a single parent is the hardest thing in the world.’ I was like, hey, screw you, lady. You don’t live with the guy.
She was right, though. And wrong, too, in some ways.
Here is MY sage advice for anyone considering walking this path:
1. Don’t mourn the loss of your social life too much.
Find a nice teenager on the block who will hang at your house for a few hours after your kid is asleep if you want to go have a cocktail or scream in your car or something. Personally, I’ve never been much of a social butterfly. I have a book club once a month at my house, so I get to see my lady pals and drink and talk about vibrators and periods and afterward I just crawl into bed. It’s kind of awesome.
2. it’s helpful to have a granola bar/cookie/trail mix stash in the console of the car for the times you forget to pack breakfast.
Also, flip-flops or sneakers, for those times you rush out of the house wearing two different shoes. I also keep tweezers in there b/c once in a while I will glance at my face in the rearview at a light and Jesus Christ.
3. Know that people will assume things about you.
People might assume you’re lonely, or that what you really want, more than anything, is another husband. If your married friends tend to be insecure (and we can all be sometimes), they might even worry you’re after THEIR husbands. Or that your disease of divorcedness is a highly contagious swine flu that they might catch if they hang out too much with you.
Your ex’s family will especially have ideas about you. Remember that these are based solely on what your ex is telling them about you, so their opinions are a weeee bit slanted. Also, it doesn’t matter what these people think. Lets just hope that they keep these opinions to themselves around your child, biting their tongues as you have almost bitten yours into Swiss cheese many times.
4. Speaking of tongue-biting…
Yeah. This is the biggest challenge ever. Maybe you and your kid’s father are on great terms, so this one doesn’t apply. I have a friend who traveled to Disney with her ex and their kid, they like each other that much. That’s not my situation. Take it from me, I struggle daily with the urge to blurt out one of the multitudinous depraved things Lily’s dad did during our marriage, especially when she is on a tear about how much better it is at his house than at mine. Not doing it can be cruelly difficult. But doing it will have even more disastrous results.
5. You will feel guilty.
A lot. No, all the time. Like mostly every second. I even have guilty dreams. Last week I dreamt that I went on vacation to Jamaica with my boyfriend and came back to find out that Lily had started smoking crack. I also lay in bed at night NOT sleeping sometimes, running through all of the things I must be doing wrong: Am I loving her enough? Too much? Preparing her for the real world? Teaching her not to loathe her body? Enabling Daddy Issues? It never ends. And you can’t even take an ambient because what if the house catches on fire and you’re too zonked to get your kid out of bed? Then what, huh???
6. You can’t do it all, but you can do SO much more than you ever thought possible.
When I go through my day, I’m amazed that I was able to get as much accomplished as I have. When I was in college, I would sometimes spend entire Saturdays laying on the couch, smoking pot and watching movies. Today, the idea of wasting a day sickens me. Not because I think it’s a bad thing to do, but because THERE IS SO MUCH THAT HAS TO GET DONE. Truthfully, I usually go to bed at night feeling pretty smug that I managed to feed, clothe, support, teach, play with, and listen to a small, ever-developing person, while also keeping our house from disappearing under a pile of laundry and cat litter. Multitasking is no joke. Today I hopped out of the shower to iron a school uniform while dripping wet with soap in my hair. I don’t recommend this, by the way.
7. It can be amazing.
I always think about that old Peace Corps ad from the 80s, where they say it’s the ‘Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love’. It’s true. Any parent will tell you that, but doing it on your own is especially tricky because, duh, you’re doing two people’s jobs by yourself. But here’s the cool part: You are your own sovereign nation. You have nobody to defer to, nobody who needs to be consulted on the big decisions. There’s nobody with whom to share a bathroom. No weird, kinky items show up on credit card statements. Bills get paid because you are the one earning the money to pay them.
8. Remember that this is all so temporary
Some day, sooner than you think, she will be gone. Grown up, set out to live her own life, which is exactly what should happen if you’ve done this whole crazy thing right. You will always be her mom. But some day, you’re going to remember what it was like to be a lot of other things too. You'll have more time than you do now. So don’t worry about the stupid scarf you don’t have time to knit, or the memoir that is sitting in pieces on your computer desk, scratched up to hell with red pen (these are hypothetical). There will be time. It will be worth the wait.