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Preparing for the Push Off

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I’ve been in denial about this for months.

It’s almost here. Three weeks from this past Thursday will be it. The day my first, my oldest son pushes off for college.

It started out subtly enough, the departing. In May, he had his final soccer game of his pre-college life. The U-19 league. So, soon after that last game I found myself repressing a lump in my throat as I confronted a simple thing. Just a swipe, really, but it felt as though my hand were made of iron and it was dragging along a magnet. Trying to move, trying to get my finger to drag over my laptop’s touchpad to deliberately press the “delete event” prompt from my family’s calendar and alerts for his soccer practice reminders.

I shouldn’t be so maudlin. I hadn’t been driving him to practice for months. He was a late-blooming driver. It was my pleasure to take him to practice or ride shotgun as he drove. Our conversations in the car varied from laughing about a Ben Bailey stand-up routine to talking about his friends, class work, or social disappointments. Sometimes it was just silence. Or really loud Kanye West. But those days are over. I no longer need to see the alerts on my phone about his practices. So I drag my right hand with my left hand to click “delete” on the alerts.

I don’t want to click “delete.” It is really hard to click delete on that alert.

I couldn’t possibly be prouder of the young man he’s become. He’s handsome, funny, really smart, creative, clever, sensitive, caring… all the things I wanted him to become. I didn’t do it though; he came with that software already installed. I suppose I helped him learn to use it, but we all know our kids are pre-formed before we get them.

I met him in the middle of the night more than 18 years ago. He was just eight pounds and almost 21 inches long. I remember, he was so quiet, the doctors thought there was something amiss. Perhaps he wasn’t breathing well. Maybe his brain was misfiring. But his eyes… his father knew he was just fine. His eyes were bright and blue-green and so serene. So calm and observant. “I knew those eyes the minute I saw them open,” his father said. “They were your eyes. They were just like yours…”

They put him in the “french fry warmer” as we called it, to keep him cozy. They invaded him with their suction devices and wiped him of his vernix. Soon he let them have it, a robust and brief goat-like bleat from that enormous head. It was just after midnight when he was born and I was totaled. I’d been dealing with dormant but annoying labor for about 25 hours. I wanted to see him.

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They did their tests and pokes on him. They were stupid, I think now. “Haven’t you ever met a mellow baby?” I remember thinking about them the next day. “Look at him, he’s perfect…” I would sigh and stare at this beautiful son… “Connor. Hello.” I met him in the morning, around 4. It was dark and he was hungry, so I learned to try to breastfeed him. It took a few days, but we figured it out.

Look at him now! 5’10” and 150. Hair almost as dark as mine when I was his age and his big green eyes.

“You should write Batman’s in My Shower now, Mom,” he said about a month ago. Batman’s in My Shower is the title I decided to give to a memoir back when my boys were 10 years younger than they are now. I wanted to write about becoming a mother and how it’s changed me.

The title comes from the truth that in my bathroom shower for years was at least one Batman action figure for my sons to play with while they bathed. The book would be about how my life melded with theirs and how my space became theirs as we grew into one another and gradually apart from one another. I remember holding one of the boys while he played with the doll and I washed his hair and cleaned his little squirming body as he would have Batman and a squirting goldfish battle it out under the Water-pik shower head typhoon.

Washing a child in a shower is like trying to wash a hairless cat that won’t scratch your face off because it actually likes the water spraying in its face. The cat is animated, no doubt, but it’s not deadly and it’s writhing and hissing joyous coos of delight as the baby shampoo (remember that smell?) lathers and runs down their faces.

The sole remaining Batman has a layer of soap scum in his armpits and crotch; his cape is hard and stiff like a chamois that’s been hung in the sun. He’s covered in a layer of dried soap and hard water residue from years of torrential cleansing. He’s perfect.

I haven’t dared to write more than a page of BiMS because that would mean that I’ve crossed over a benchmark, that the “memoir” is activated because the moment is past; that the “mothering” is over. So I sit here, in wait. Wondering when the feelings of the intensity of his impending departure will pass and I will feel light and airy again.

“Raise your hands if you have a student who will be living on campus and you live in the area…” said the admissions person at new student / new parent orientation last week. Her eyes scanned the ballroom. At least 30 hands, including my own, went up; some sheepishly, some defiantly.

“Make no mistake. If it’s five minutes or five hours or across the street or across the country, your child is leaving home,” I almost broke out into tears at that moment. I had to keep it together. She was right, that hag. My kid is leaving home. He is about a good run’s distance, 4 miles, from home, but he’s not going to be here every day when I wake up. Nor will he be here when I avoid making dinner.

You see, Connor has been my wingman for better part of a third of my life. He has grounded me, helped me chill out, provided a better reason than a paycheck to get up every morning, and has generally made me a better person. He has made me a better mother for his brothers. He has made me a better friend to my friends and he has made me a better daughter to my parents. I don’t want to foist too much upon him because that’s not fair. I’ve done a lot of Work too, he just made it a fantastic reason to do it.

I’ve prepared him a bit I hope too. I stopped washing his clothes for him about four years ago. He’s got it down — brights with brights. He’s good at it. That transition began subtly enough too, and I will own that I’ve relapsed a few times. Like a junkie, I’ve slipped back into Mom-mode for him and folded his t-shirts or even turned them right-side-out when they come out of the dryer. I have to stop myself sometimes from unbending his jeans from of the mind-boggling twisted rebar-like clump they’ve morphed into as I heave the next crate of wet clothes into the dryer. Some articles are easier than others to let go. Socks for one… I would rather eat McDonald’s, no. I take that back. I would still sort his socks over eating McDonald’s.

My father said to me about two weeks ago that what I’m about to experience, my child leaving home for college, is in his estimation one of the most emotionally arduous and profound experiences in my parenting. “I don’t know what it’s like to watch a child leave for college from such a deeply loving and supportive home, so you’ll have to excuse me as I soak all this in vicariously,” he admitted during that conversation. “My own mother, she was difficult. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, but she made it awful hard on me. I never looked back,” he added, “when I left for school.”

I never left home for college. I went to university locally. It was part of my life I suppose: my mother needed my vigilance. I would’ve loved to have lived on campus. I remember visiting my friends who lived in the dorms. Music, “The Cult” was always playing and the halls smelled like popcorn, pot, ramen, vanilla body spray, coffee, patchouli, Dr. Pepper, Finesse shampoo… beer…  I promised myself that if my kids ever wanted to live on campus — even if they went to school locally — that they would live on campus. I’m really glad we have chosen this.

I asked Connor about his own thoughts and impressions; if he’s ready to go, if he’s looking forward to it. “I’m excited. It’s nice though, to not want to leave, too. I’m lucky to be going, to be able to attend college, and I’m lucky to be not terribly ready to go… That it will be hard to go and nice to go… Does that make sense?”

He couldn’t have said it better.

I know I haven’t been writing here or personally anywhere is because of this. How do I go from being a hands-on, non-helicopter Mom of three to this? It is really perplexing. I bought a comforter set for his bed; sheets, pillows, all the towels and textiles. A 28-oz size bottle of Pert (his favorite) is in a bag and waiting for that first pump somewhere in his shower. Without a Batman, likely. I thought I was finished shopping and then I caught up with a bestie today who’s oldest son is also heading out soon for the first time (he’s very tight with my son) and I realized I don’t have pens for him. I didn’t buy pens or notebooks or a stapler. WHAT KIND OF A MOTHER SENDS HER KID OFF TO COLLEGE WITHOUT PENS??

I’ll tell you: the mother who really doesn’t want her kid to leave. Sure, he’s got a computer, but who needs that? We all know learning happens with a pen and paper. No. The “real learning” my son will experience will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook or in the hushed whirr of a hard drive. It’s waiting for him in the dormitory, in the lecture halls, at the dining hall, and in the random conversations with exhausted students in late-night study groups and eating fests.

Really? Did I just write ‘the real learning  … will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook’? Someone shove then trip me when I leave this room. I deserve it. Who knows where the real learning takes place? I hope it’s been taking place all along.  

I expect I will be an emotional disaster worthy of FEMA assistance when I leave him on the 25th. Every time that damned song from “Narnia” comes on my playlist, “The Call,” I start to blubber and sob, really deep ugly crying. It’s not ok. When he walks in the room, I’m all super sunshine and smiles! No, I’m not, and he gets it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from witnessing my mother, it’s that “the show must go on, kid” mentality is a one-way ticket to Xanaxia. I expect the music at the dorms on drop-off day will be Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” or some unknown genre which will pulsate and grind and moan. It will be played at a precise megahertz to annoy the shit out of aging parents and get them the hell off campus tout de suite.

There’s a part of me which needs to go for a drive, a long drive to, say, Charlottesville or somewhere similar so I can process the reality that he’s out. If he were a challenging kid or obstinate or disrespectful or basically horrid, this would be so much easier. He’s not. He’s a GEM of a human. I’ll be real with you, we argue at times, and I think it might be happening more a little now than it ever did, and I wonder if that’s because we know what’s coming.

Is it like one of those “distancing-prep” dynamics wherein people begin to isolate and curl into their corners before a big departure? I am not sure, we are pretty real with each other. He’s all-too ready at times to tell me I’m the reason we are SPEAKING LOUDLY AND CURTLY AT EACH OTHER.

Maybe not Charlottesville… Maybe  I’ll go to the parking lot of his college and stalk him.

My youngest asked me the other day, “Do you think Connor will come home, Mom? You know, just to hang out…?” I honestly didn’t know what to say. I have no expectations. My youngest and my oldest are very similar in temperament. Five and a half years rests between them; we refer to those two as “the bookends” because they are so grounded and rational.

Connor needs this though, to have his own experiences, and I’m so happy for him that he will have them. I’m equally happy that my other sons will miss him a lot. My middle son is excited for him, and he’s really bummed out. “It will be weird around here, without him,” he said. “Like, for every morning of my life, he’s been here to play with or annoy or learn from. He’s taught me so much…” he turns away, stops talking and leaves the room. I start to well up. I know he’s welling up. It’s a frequent occurrence, these bloated, trailing-off conversations about Connor leaving for college.

We talk, we parents, about how we’re robbed of time with our kids. How they grow up and change so fast. How the days drag on but the years fly by… All the clichés and adages and truths. In the end though, we don’t want them here when they’re 33. We want them out and about and falling in love and starting their own families maybe or going to graduate school or getting married… we don’t want them in our basements. We don’t want them in their footie pajamas all their lives — EVEN IF we could have them at cute and floppy, sticky-fingered, sweet-smelling 22 months, all their lives, we wouldn’t want that. Not ever. Don’t tell me you would. “Just one more day… like this…” No. You want them to grow and learn and thrive and shave.

Another friend and I were talking last week. Her son who is Connor’s peer is her youngest of four. He and Connor “played soccer” together when they were five. He is leaving too, for a college five hours away. She was telling me about their conversation they had about his “drop off” at school. She said she asked him if he thought it would be like hers, when her parents helped her unpack her room and they made her bed, and put her posters on the wall and hung up her clothes in the closet… they met her roommate, and then they all went to dinner and walked around the town a little… then her parents spent the night in town and had breakfast in the morning together before they left her alone with her “new life.” She asked him if it would be like that for him or would it be the type of situation where they unpack their car, drop off the boxes and leave him in the dorm to figure it out. No lunch together, no walk around town, no overnight at the local Marriott. She waited, she said, her eyes uncertain, a twitch betraying her calm.

“He said, ‘It will be the second one, mom. Dump and drive. I’m ready. You’re ready. I’ll be back…'” and she sighed after she told me what he said, and we laughed about it, because it was so “him” to say that.

“But I’m not ready…” she said, quietly, her lips pursing as her eyes gazed around her roomy kitchen. Empty of chaos and crusted mac & cheese pans.

And the friends are leaving too. That’s a part of this gig that no one really tells you about: that when your kid takes off for college, his friends are likely doing that as well, so all those faces and sounds and cups you cleaned up and backpacks you danced around won’t regularly be in your way again, either. We’ve been blessed to know lots of his friends, and his girlfriend? Don’t even get me started. Every time I think of her leaving too … it’s not good. I am like Mike Myers playing Linda Richman and having to take a break during “Coffee Talk” and ask you all to tawk ahmonst y’seves becawse I’ve becohm verklempt.

Right now, it’s late. I’m up writing and he’s in the other room watching “Bob’s Burgers” and I can hear him snorting and giggling. It’s really late. He should be in bed.

I’ve got 20, shit, 19 days before my father watches my son eagerly leave his home reluctantly. God help me. If it’s so good for him, why does it hurt so much?

Thank you.

 

Mindfulness can be Confusing and Political Correctness Fatigue

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The thing is … Life is not perfect nor predictable and that’s the only predictable part of it.

That clichés are often true doesn’t help.

Alert: Stream of consciousness commences … now. 

I’m starting a Mindfulness course tomorrow.

Gosh, just that sentence makes me laugh. There is no easy way to “be” in the moment. “Being in the moment” means there is no moment to be in as it’s always fleeting. If we say to someone, “be in the moment” — to her, or him, or whatever pronoun is least offensive (more on that later), that moment could be really shitty. So saying “it’s [that shitty moment] over” isn’t really true because we are not the person who experienced it, even though we know the quickest way to recover from that shitty moment is to realize it’s over, but for the person who experienced it: it keeps coming back, looping.

That looping, however, is totally addictive and most people like it because the brain doesn’t really know the difference between pleasure and pain — it just knows how to dump chemicals which are responses to stimuli. So more and more adrenals pump and we are on heightened states of alert and that alertness makes us feel important.

To someone…

“Be in the moment” is bullshit. But it’s also the Zen riddle, isn’t it?

Next … I am calling in sick due to political correctness fatigue (PCF — it’s a thing).

I wanted to say to someone today, because we’ve had an abbreviated week with Monday off for most of Americans, “The good part about thinking Tuesday is actually Monday is that Friday comes much sooner.” Thoughts like that happen often and I like to think are very Winnie-the-Pooh of me.

But I decided against saying that, or anything at all about it because I’d quickly be chastened to remember “Some people still had to work on Monday… and we should be grateful to them, so there is no such thing as thinking ‘Tuesday is actually Monday‘… there is no sooner Friday for those people…” the implicit next thought I’d infer from that astute person is that I should go fuck myself because I’m an insensitive jerk for assuming all Americans got Monday off.

I’ve recently received an email from a person I respect. Sort of. Well, I mean, I do respect this person because this person is a human being and deserves respect, but now I’m feeling all silly about it because this person has at the end of its email a signature (I shit you not):

3rd Person Pronouns: they/their/them

Item of note, this person’s name is the Spanish feminine for “the.” Knowing what I do of languages and of culture (limited but with aspirations of growth), I TRULY and SINCERELY wonder if a more appropriate PC name, and one in keeping with the English use of pronouns (so it’s already exclusive of all cultures seeing as how it’s English and all English are bad, just ask the Amish): “they/their/them” would one be lacking in any culture and would simply be Prince’s adopted glyph for his name:

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But because that’s clearly already taken, we could make a new one like this (it’s just a prototype):

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But even here, I’m constrained by the eventual truth that I will have left someone out. That I’m being exclusive. That I’m not truly open-minded. That it shouldn’t be mostly pink. Well, what you call pink, I call magenta (which has a lot of blue in it). See?

I hope I’ve covered everything though. That heart-like looking thing is supposed to be a heart, for love, but also for the actual heart in all artichokes, but then I didn’t want it to be unclear that I wasn’t including gamblers, so I drew a “club” in it, which of course could be exclusive because clubs are exclusive by nature, right? I mean the clubs one joins, not the ones dealt in a game of poker (or any card game! I mean to include all!) or the ones used by cavemen or golfers.

I was inclusive to all agronomists, grassists, turfists, sportos, Biarritzists, and potheads over to the right with that patch of grass (it looks like grass, but you can call it whatever you want, ’cause free world right?).

The far right is the tail of the Ichthus, which is that fish glyph one might observe on the tailgate of a car driven by a person who follows Christ — not in traffic, follows (however, you never can be sure), but you know, a person of faith.

Moving on.

The sun-like looking icon is a splattered egg. You are wrong for thinking it was to include helophiles. You are a fool. I shun you. Eggs aren’t just for breakfast.

That thing that looks like an “I” is for egoists and narcissists. And for people who like architecture because it resembles a column. It’s also a letter, so writers (POETS, TOO!) are included.

On the upper part, we have something that looks like waves in the water. That’s for hydrists. I made up the word.

Those who are stoned, or whatever, can find representation in the far lower left area — the scattering of dots, which can be interpreted as atoms, the insides of a capsule of Oxy, or dust motes in the winter coming through the southernmost window in a dilapidated abandoned crackhouse — OR — just places where I left my stylus too long.

The swirl-like item near the narcissist’s mark is a swirl. It’s for ice cream lovers. But only soft serve. The hand-packed ice-creamists will simply have to fend for themselves. Or it’s for recovering addicts because life feels swirly for them… but not just them, it feels swirly for all of us. So it’s for ice-cream, toilets, and addicts everyone.

That thing to the left of the hydrist’s glyph is a surfboard. Everyone has to catch some tasty waves.

And to the left of that is not a tree. It’s an atom bomb exploding. Look, where is the love for our nuclear engineers?!

Is that sort of a yin/yang thing going on center left? You tell me. I’d like to think so, but I’m open to whatever you think feel.

Those two dark “round-shaped” images near the yin/yang (“ish”) thing are supposed to represent Newton’s cradle. Just in case some of you refuse to accept the tree thing is NOT an atomic bomb. Or instead of being Newton’s cradle, it could be a smirk. RIGHT?!

There’s a paw-like looking thing. That’s where my cat stepped. But I do eat meat, so there’s that too.

That star-like part in the near-center (or maybe too far left for some of you) is from the early beginnings of this drawing. I can’t remember. But let’s make something up right now: it’s the “less than” sign. For all of us in our moments of inadequacy and self-doubt.

I think the reason why most of the world has a headache is because we are lost; lost from trying to do all things and follow all people and be nice to everyone and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and let everyone have a 50th chance and wait and see and #hashtag.

We all have our sense of right and wrong and count on it: they will clash with others’. I say we own our shortcomings, notice the shortcomings of others without really getting overworked about it and move on and do what works best for us.

Here’s me: if we’re worrying about being nice to everyone, we’ve lost our boundaries and when we lose our boundaries we become codependent and when we become codependent, we lose resilience and then it’s a free-for-all and everyone gets to be included and excluded.

That’s… sort of life. Tell me when you are constantly feeling included.

It’s a sad state of affairs when we worry more about offending others than we do our own sense of self and what works for ourselves.

What I’m saying is NOT about excluding others; it’s the opposite: it’s the taking into consideration that you’re definitely always going to be pissing off someone else at any turn, and to learn to be OK with it.

ANNNNNND for the people who are constantly working to look for ways to be excluded and to be offended: to get over yourselves. Person up. I won’t say “man up” because that’s mean. That’s gender specific, and being gender specific is limiting and so now I risk being seen as acerbic and mean and exclusive and horrible and WRONG even though we all know what the hell I mean.

I mean this: grow up.  Stop taking emotional selfies. Stop sharing. Stop. Draw a boundary and discern.

You’re going to let so many people in traffic ahead of you you’re going to be late. You won’t ever get there.

Polarity is a real thing. Accept it. Get used to it. Without it, our compasses (not metaphorical — yet) wouldn’t work.

I need a nap.

Thank you.

 

Blue Monday: The Day After Mother’s Day

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I bet the boy who asked me to prom 30 years ago is glad the post I wrote about that experience is being replaced…

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I have long disliked Mother’s Day. Not only because my relationship with my own mother was complicated (show me a mother – daughter relationship that’s as smooth as silk and I’ll show you two medicated people), but also because well, it’s stupid. My own mother also disliked Mother’s Day, especially going to the Catholic Mass on Mother’s Day because she heard the mewing of the priest on the altar talking about his own sainted mother. Let me tell you… nothing like a supposedly chaste and godly grown man spewing unrealistic honoraria about his own mother to make you vomit in your mouth a little.

The very concept that everyone has to cool their narcissistic jets to be nice to their mothers (who may or may not deserve the homage, quite frankly) for one of 365 days of the year is jacked.

Who is Mother’s Day really for? Is it for the kids… to feel like they did it? They spent a few hours on one day thinking and being nice to Mom? Is it for the mother? Surely that can’t be it. If this poll is correct, most moms just want to be left the heck alone.

I won’t bother with the notion that it’s all about Hallmark and Our Lady of the Shopping Mall, because it’s no notion, it’s a verified fact. Last year, people spent $2.3 billion (B) on flowers last year. Flowers die. Just sayin’…

I can’t wait for the Home Depot ads to start up for Father’s Day… Actually, I can wait.

What matters to me most of all, and is the best barometer of an authentic Mother’s Day homage is the condition of the kitchen after Mother’s Day ends. 

I will not share photos I took.

My father suggested I not write this post. He started out our chat today friendly enough, asking me about my Mother’s Day. “It was fine; I just spent about two hours cleaning the kitchen from it…” and he HOWLED with laughter. Thanks. Then he started to tell me about how my mom didn’t care for the “holiday” either.

He suggested I not write about my kitchen because well, that would tarnish the good feelings that came from celebrating Mother’s Day.

Yeah. I’d hate to tarnish that good feeling of my family lovin’ on me all day yesterday with cleaning a sink, scrubbing the counter tops, hand-washing the expensive kitchen knives, loading the dishwasher, wiping down and shoving the kitchen table back to where it belongs, putting the fondue pots back in the boxes and bringing those boxes back to the basement where they live, but only after the forks are cleaned from the dishwasher.

The years of my kids bringing home handmade trinkets and tissue paper flower bouquets from school are over and I’m a little sad about that. My oldest son tweeted me last night, around 11pm telling me Happy Mother’s Day and that he loves me.

 

Maturing Mother

Because our kids are children for a finite period of time, the work of Mother’s Day largely rests on the shoulders of adults in the picture. It will be interesting to see if and how my kids choose to celebrate Mother’s Day with me as we all age.

I have a neighbor who has one child. A son. He used to spend all day Mother’s Day with her, but now he has kids of his own, so I’m guessing he’s busy being armchair QB for his kids to remember their mom. To make up for being absent on Sunday, he visits with his mother all day Saturday and I think that’s pretty cool.

I’m not writing this to shame anyone. I’m writing it to do all I can to preempt an error next year and to keep resentments in check manage expectations. If you really mean to honor your mother, clean up. Do it without asking. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Even if you do it semi-completely, all is forgiven because you tried.

Little kids who are cogent about holidays love Mother’s Day because they get to participate in it even though they have no clue about how much we do behind the scenes for them.

Usually my kids serve me breakfast in bed; I get a few flowers from our garden and it’s a sweet and cozy experience. They sit on the bed and talk to me and we have a nice time. This year, I didn’t get that treatment because I attended a brunch hosted by my mother-in-law.  Upon my departure to the brunch, my middle son hugged me awhile and said, “Thanks for putting up with me for the last 15 years” which was really nice to hear because he’s a tempest in a teapot at times. When I told my older son, who dashed down the steps and out the door to bid me farewell in his bathrobe, what his younger brother said and asked him if he’d like to say anything to me he said, “Hello” which is pretty appropriate because this kid so far has been a freaking dream to raise. My youngest didn’t make the dash to the driveway.

So this year, instead of my kids bringing me breakfast (and they would do their best to clean-up after themselves before I would come downstairs), my husband quietly honored my mothering of his children with a cup of coffee and a biscuit and strawberries. It was really sweet.

Don’t Steal My Thunder

The narcissism of people / groups who think they should get in on Mother’s Day action really chaps my hide. Political correctness and fear of marginalizing during these benign holidays have butchered the intention to the point of being unrecognizable. My simple day of recognition has been hijacked, co-opted and morphed into a feeling of isolation for people who DON’T directly celebrate Mother’s Day but are somehow involved in a kids’ life.

This day is mine. Get your own.

Mother’s Day is for mothers. Adopted mothers also count. Plain and simple.

Don’t make my SINGULAR holiday about your sense of disenfranchisement, and don’t try to get in on my action. Single dads don’t count. Aunties whose siblings are still raising their own children don’t count. If your great aunt or grandmother raised you, she gets massive props and you better dish them out. The thing is: let the kids decide who gets the flowers. That’s when it’s real.

Human pet owners who fancy themselves “mothers” don’t get a nod here, either. You didn’t squeeze out that cat or fill out adoption papers with a judge in an official legal court to take in that animal. If you truly identify yourself as the mother of a dog or other animal, you need help. You’re not educating that animal, you’re not walking it to school or folding its laundry or wondering if your animal will meet the wrong crowd and start taking drugs. You’re not teaching it how to ride a bike or to clean its room or helping it select classes for the following academic year. You’re not driving that animal to soccer practice or voice lessons. You’re not sweating paying for college for that animal. Oh God… maybe you ARE…

So… let’s get that shit straight. Pets aren’t children.

I’m sure what I’m saying chaps someone else’s hide. Welcome to the 21st Century. That someone who owns a fish wants in on my day chaps my hide.

The way I see it: if you have a uterus that either successfully birthed a baby, or tried to host one but couldn’t and you are raising the human product of someone else’s uterus, you’re mothering.

I know what mothering is. I’m acutely aware. A successful Mother’s Day –to me– will give me a pause from that acute awareness. And let’s get real… that needs to extend into the following Monday too.

So uh, peeps, let’s get this right for next year. Don’t make your mother clean up after your homage to her, because that’s no different from the other days of the year, when she is absolutely mothering you, and mostly without complaint.

Thank you.

 

 

What I Didn’t Do At Senior Prom

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Back in the last century I was in high school. In 1986 I was senior and around this time of year, I was invited to go to prom.

The boy who asked me was the captain of the football team. He was the president of the athletic boys’ service club. He was a nice boy and over the four years of high school we experienced at the same time, I barely knew him. So I was a little surprised he asked me, but flattered nonetheless. He had a sterling reputation.

I remember the occasion, we were in the senior hall. I was probably late to class or something and the hall was quiet; I even think it was after school.

He asked me with a note. Like a piece of looseleaf paper folded with letters in pencil that formed words on it.

I suppose I was an intimidating person back then?

“No! You were definitely never a ‘glass half-empty’ person, you were always upbeat!” my friend said to me today, as we compared notes about the situation.

But what this is showing me as I remember it, is that this boy really didn’t know me very well either.

I got along with everyone in high school. I didn’t belong to a clique, I sort of hovered in and out of groups. If anything, I was likely most in alignment with the “preppy” crowd, simply because I loved cotton. I knew athletes, I was funny, I knew a few of the vo-tech crowd, some of the super smart people thought I fit in with them. I would say overall, that my high school class was pretty inclusive or not very cliquey…? I suppose I will be corrected, but I feel like by and large, we all got along.

My nickname was “Buffy” because I wore a Buffalo Yacht Club crewneck sweatshirt often and because well, I was from Buffalo and I guess because I was preppy. But that was how you dressed in Buffalo. Button-down collars, turtlenecks, Levi’s, khaki skirts or pants, loafers, and fair isle sweaters. Because I came from the land of snow, I had LL Bean clothing up the giggy, and I did a lot of sailing, so I think I was already preppy by default.

I didn’t know a thing about Jordache jeans or Sassoon clothes or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. The school where I came from had a uniform: you wore a hideous plaid jumper every freakin’ day with a yellow or white blouse with a Peter Pan collar. Every fourth Friday we got to wear pants. While I utterly hated that uniform, it spared me from years of serious wardrobe missteps however, I had a hard time adapting to the idea that you didn’t wear the same thing every day for the rest of your life. I am sure I suffered some style bruises. In short, I was a style dork.

That this particular boy invited me to prom, was interesting. He was not flashy in the least. He reminded me even then as an older man; his stride was awkward and stodgy. Our coupling would be most unpredicted, and possibly entertaining.

If there was any scuttlebutt about his asking me beforehand, I had no clue. I had a major-league, like the kind you read about, crush on his best friend, one that I’d had since the dawn of man for years, and so by simple crush-anxiety-association I knew this individual. I was pretty good friends with his best friend though, the kind of “heyheyeah!how’reyoudoingi’mgoodyeahokherecomesBipsysookbye…” good friends that left you running home in tears from the bus stop or punching the hell out of a pillow imagining it the girl he preferred instead.

I’m good. I’m good.

In laughing our collective butts off /reminiscing about those days today with a good friend, I can say with certainty that if I had one class with this person, maybe two, it was Senior Art (which was so much fun) and / or Senior English. My issue is not so much that I don’t remember now if we had a class together then, it’s that I didn’t remember then if I had a class with this boy then. My friend laughed and said, “Wow, you really didn’t really know him very well…”

So no… we didn’t spend much time together at all.

I have harbored this story for 30 years.

I’m not bitter about it anymore, but it’s time I shared it. After all, what’s three decades? Thirty years. 360 months. 1,560 weeks.

We have a ton of mutual friends on Facebook but he knows to not even bother asking me anything again.

There are handful of people whom I suppose know about my prom night. This boy, whom I will mostly consider gutless, me, my parents (one of whom is dead), possibly his parents (and they should be ashamed of themselves), a couple friends I told in frustration and tears about what happened, and possibly one more person.

So back to “The Ask.”

I call it “The Ask” because my own son has asked a girl to prom. His “ask” was themed after a film set because he and his date met in film class. Their arrangement and situation is very much as how I constructed mine for prom:

  • nothing heavy-duty,
  • everyone’s leaving for college in three months,
  • let’s not fall in love or even try, and
  • can we go as friends?

My son’s invitation was cleared a few hours before he did the formal “promposal” (bullshit that kids have to put themselves through these days) based on a movie set theme because they met in film class junior year. Regarding “promposals” I read somewhere that the average budget for a promposal is somewhere between $75 and includes tickets to Beyonce and $500. UM… FOR AN INVITATION TO A FREAKING DANCE… People… save the money for college. Prom will never have a high return on investment, trust me, I know.

My son’s budget was $22.19. We spent the majority of the money on movie theater candy and white pen markers. They are going to go and have a marvelous time. Mostly because they’ve known each other for about two years and there’s no weirdness.

Back to My Story

That my “The Ask” was written in pencil should’ve been a sign. I feel like I’m 80% sure that the “invitation” was multiple choice… as in:

Molly, Do you want to go to prom with me?

A) FUCK YEAH! LET’S GO! AND VEGAS AFTER?!

B) IS YOUR BEST FRIEND GOING WITH US TOO?

C) MMMMM…K.

D) WHO IS THIS?

E) WHY?

-the boy who shall not be named… yet

If I know me, and my sense of humor and my treatment of other people those years ago, I’m pretty sure I would’ve added a choice which would’ve been this:

F) “F” is for going as “FRIENDS,” right?

I was just beginning to have an interest in another boy who was also completely interested in me and was very clear about his interest. This boy would walk me to class and he would wait for me after mine. It was all very sweet, and new, and I liked the attention. The prom date boy was much more subtle, shy and not nearly as invested in me. If there’s any data to the contrary, I’d love to see it.

>crickets<

So while we were alone in the hall this one afternoon, I do remember seeing him in person and we talked about it. I had not yet really dated anyone for more than a couple dates at our high school. I had dated other boys from other schools. Most of the boys I knew were friends. I had two brothers and my relationship with my mother was often conflicted, so my “girlfriend time” was reserved for a few select girls, most of whom shared energies similar to my mother’s (as I later learned in psychotherapy) so those relationships were sort of conflicted too.

I had major crushes on boys in our school, and I was on the market for a date or a beau, but nothing like that had materialized. I actually thought I was invisible to boys for a very long time.

Anyway, I said yes, that I’d love to go to prom with this boy and I wanted to be very clear that “we were going as friends,” and he nodded (denoting comprehension and agreement) and even said something along the lines of, “Sure! Totally! Easier that way… I get it.” To me, asking someone to prom, which was about four weeks (three days, seven hours and 32 minutes) away from the invitation was hardly a first date. It was the expression of interest in HAVING a first date, at least by prom. Plus I had that other guy online. 

Look, I can’t imagine the pressure to ask someone to prom. So from that regard, we handled it well.

The next weekend we went to a movie, I want to say it was “Nothing In Common” (HA! That should’ve been a sign) starring Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. And in the dark, he leaned over to me, reached into his pocket, and asked me to hold his …

Asthma inhaler. No joke.

Snort.

I did. For 90 minutes I held his asthma inhaler. After the movie we went to an ice cream parlor. I am sure we chatted about the film as he drove me home. I didn’t write about any of it in my diary.

I’m sure we talked in the halls at school and I recall a few phone calls. We may have even gone to a party together or met up when we got there. I’m sure it was confusing to him (even though I was clear about it) that the other boy who newly held my romantic interest was lurking about.

The weekend following the movie, I brought him to a crab feast at a scrappy and established rowing club in Georgetown. My dad and mom were there as was one of my brothers, maybe even both. Putting a 5’10” asthmatic football player amidst a squad of 6’3″, 230# or stronger GodhelpmewhatwasIthinkingbringinghimtoallthatwhenIshould’vejustgonealonesoIcouldogle oarsmen was awkward for him I’m sure, but it was a social occasion and I was making an effort to include him in things, to get to know him better, and to do what I could to ensure we’d have a fun time at prom.

To me, I was reciprocating, doing everything “right.”

The next day, I went with my mom to a dress shop or the dress section of Garfinkel’s, a really nice store here in D.C., which had a “no-formal returns” policy, and I selected a lovely dress that was off-white / soft pink and reminiscent of the flapper-era (and being even then an F Scott Fitzgerald devotee I was all too ready to pay homage to my one true love) gown. It consisted of two parts: a sweet silk camisole-sheath dress beneath a gorgeous lace overlay with fringes and pearls. The buttons were covered in silk and went down the back. I had a nice pair of bone pumps to wear and my mom said I could borrow her string of pearls.

The next day I told him all about the dress and he nodded (denoting comprehension and agreement) and even said something along the lines of, “Sure! Totally! Easier that way… I get it.” (Yes, I used the same words as above because why not….)

Then either that same week or a week later, again by looseleaf paper, but this time in pen, was another note… the likes of which I will exploit because it’s my memory and my blog and while the wording might be off, the intention is on point:

Dear Molly,

I am a classless shit and I have no guts. I am turning tail and will not take you to prom even though I asked you three weeks ago, you said yes, we had an understanding, and you’ve bought your dress which is non-returnable. Instead, I will take someone else I asked the other day. She goes to another school, so you don’t know her. She said she would go with me and so I am an asshole. #sorrynotsorry

Can we still be friends? Please circle your answer:

A) Sure! No hard feelings. go to hell

B) I am a little hurt right now, but in time I will understand. I want you to have a good time at prom. go take a flying leap you asshole

C) Wow, this is awkward! Sure, have a great time! Love ya! go fuck yourself

and just for good measure I added one:

D) go fuck yourself.

-heath coward

I was humiliated. It’s not that I considered myself above him or better than he was, but who does that?! I mean really: who the hell does that?! Did his parents know he was such a shit? I never met them. Did he even care about what our mutual friends thought? I did.

All the boys with whom I was friends had dates already. The boy who I eventually dated around the time actually did take me out, but we couldn’t stay out too late. He took me fishing. Not exactly ideal and I couldn’t wear my dress, but I wasn’t alone crying in my soup. He was a nice boy and we dated for another six months or so and I cared for him a lot. It wasn’t meant to be and that’s OK, but he treated me well and took care of me that night. We are still in touch albeit virtual and very high level.

When I got home later from fishing (I still smirk at that), a good friend who had a limo and who’d dropped off his date due to her curfew picked me up and we went to a few of the afterparties. So I had lots of the fun and none of the pressure to put out, to get married, to HAVE A GREAT TIME NO MATTER WHAT!? or to leave. Vindication: the boys I hung out with later on said they’d had a better time with me and all our friends than they did with their dates. It was all just hanging out and I’m A FUN PERSON, DAMNIT!

So I didn’t go to my actual prom. But I was asked! And I said yes! And we had an understanding! So while I didn’t make a big stink about it, I didn’t keep it totally private. I was pissed but above all, I am a lady. I wanted to key his fake Mach 1 car. I didn’t. I wanted to booby trap him near his car so he’d step into a bag of dog shit and get it all over the inside of his car and it would stink for the trip to the prom, but I didn’t. I just ignored him…

COLD

AS

ICE.

I knew the girl he took instead. We’d met a few times over the year at games, parties and other events, months before he asked either one of us to the same event. I knew her through mutual friends. She was very funny, engaging, and outgoing. She didn’t (and still doesn’t) strike me as the kind of girl who would have said yes to him (or anyone) if she knew he’d already asked someone, especially someone she knew, who had said yes and who had already bought a dress. I know I wouldn’t have done that.

I may have some generalities confused and maybe some social events backwards or even not included, but I know for certain that he asked me to go to prom with him. I know for certain I said yes. I know for certain I held his “asthma puffer” during a movie; I know for certain I bought a dress and really loved it; and I know for certain he creeped out with about or less than two weeks before the event.

So when my own son asked his date to prom a couple weeks ago, I told him, “You better not welch on this deal. You take her no matter what. You take her. If she becomes a nun between now and then, you take her. If she falls in love and gets married, you still take her. If she confesses undying love for you even if you can’t reciprocate, you take her. If she asks you to hold her asthma puffer when you take her to a movie, you hold that puffer and guard it with your life. You take her. You still take her. DO YOU HEAR ME????????”

My son heard me. He will take her. She’s lovely. He’s classy. This is what you do. You don’t welch on a deal like that.

I’m not bitter. Anymore. Writing this was a little hard; I didn’t want to sound like a brat, but writing it brought me to I realize that I did nothing wrong. I have sort of been holding on to this concept that I caused it to happen, when I know I didn’t.  Catharsis can be fun!

Thank you.