Archive for February, 2007

They Had Me At ‘Scrotum’

February 28, 2007

News Flash: ‘Scrotum’ is a dirty word. You know, like dick, or weiner, or purple-headed trouser snake (which is, I know, four words, but still.)

You do not want your children to ever hear the word scrotum. Or read it. It will scar them, or, at the very least, prevent them from ever being able to appreciate Quality Literature, in which, I am told, no references to male genitalia ever appear.

(Ah, but wouldst thou have considered Shakespeare, who hath prick’d out many a character for our pleasure? For whom love might be no more than open-arse and poperin pear? Fie! Naughty Shakespeare!)

This may not be news to you. You, gentle reader, may already be well aware of the pernicious effects of the word ‘scrotum’ – even when used to very briefly describe the relevant part of the anatomy of male mammals – and so will have thrown your lot in with the good people who are calling for a ban in school libraries of this years’ winner of the Newbery Medal for distinguished contribution to children’s literature, >The Higher Power of Lucky.

If, however, you were not so aware – which is to say, if you are one of the ignorant masses who cling to the regressive and pernicious belief that the works of Shakespeare – or, for that matter, Aristophanes or Plautus or Machiavelli or (gods help us) Judy Blume – are more than common smut, you can consider yourselves hereby enlightened.

You’re welcome.

********
Ignorant philistine that I am, I had not been aware of the distinction between Quality (Smut-Free) Literature, and Great (Smutty) Literature, until the ever-alert Mir revealed in her discussion of the excoriation of Lucky – which you can find in the den of iniquity that is the Sandbox at Maya’s Mom – that there is an entire segment of the population that has known this all along. We should all look up to these people, no? They can show us the way out of ignorance.
(I love Mir, not least because she took a very flattering photograph of my breasts at last year’s BlogHer.)

(I also love Maya’s Mom, which is kinda like a chill-out room within the bigger party that is the momosphere’s bustling salon. You should check it out.)

(Oh, and? If you do join Maya’s Mom? You must ask me to be your friend. I promise to neither show you my breasts, nor shout the word scrotum at you, if those things offend you. If, however, you like that sort of thing, well, we’ll see what we can do.)

Her Bad Hair

February 27, 2007

Because I’ve nothing to add to all of the post-Oscar commentary that is circulating the Internet (except, perhaps, this: what was up with all those puke tones? Mint green? Coral? SALMON? Almost made it possible to overlook the hideous bow on Nicole Kidman’s mercifully non-puke-toned dress. Almost.)

And, because any discussion that I might offer about this today would rapidly deteriorate into cursing. (Not least, because it makes this joke now seem profoundly unfunny.)

And, because I am sick and snotty and cranky and – consequently – in the mood for a little self-flagellatory humiliation.

And – last but not least – because this fine lady threw down the gauntlet, and who am I to resist a good gauntlet?

For all of these reasons, and, possibly, a great many more that will only occur to me after I have swilled some more Nyquil, I offer you HER BAD HAIR, BANGS EDITION:

Late Eighties Goth Bangs. Hair dyed a distinctly unflattering shade of black; eyebrows carefully pencilled in with black pastel crayon smuggled out of art class because killjoy mother would not let me wear cosmetics beyond lip gloss (which, I needn’t add, represented a serious hindrance to my goth aspirations.) Note teasing of bangs at crown: lower part of the bang is brushed down across forehead; upper part is brushed upward in spiky faux pompadour. Art.

Late, Late Eighties Bangs Of Desperation. Somebody saw Risky Business, seven years too late. So. Sad.

Early Nineties Bangs Of Despair. Short, heavy, blunt bangs never go with long hair. Which is likely why I look so miserable. That, or the hideous green dress. Or both. (Note, too, that this picture provides incontrovertible evidence that Bad Bangs compromise one’s ability to appreciate things of beauty and/or adorableness. Possibly because they pull too forcefully and unevenly upon the frontal lobe, but that’s just a guess.)

Mid-Nineties Bangs Of Ambiguity. AKA Her Bad Bob, First Prototype (Version Red). Early effort to work out the precise proportional relationship between length and heaviness of bang and length and degree of layering in bob, while taking into consideration variations on colour (experimenting with taking strawberry blonde into the deeper, more burnished reds) and angle of cut (angle forward along chin line).


Her Bad Bangs, 2007. Or, the iBob. Bangs now an artfully layered fringe that hangs neatly at point of eyebrow, thanks to skilled (and expensive) hairstylist and ceramic flat-iron technology. This will last until next hair-washing, at which point bangs will flip sideways and tidy bob layers will flip into strange Betty Boop-like wave, and I will resort to periodically pulling bangs and sides back with WonderBaby’s toy tiara to keep them from flopping into my face while I am hunched over my laptop.

And no, you will not see a picture of that. I have my dignity.

********
On a more serious note, support is needed in the Basement. Please, when you have a sec, pay a visit…

********

Oh, and? Many, many thanks to OTJ, Mom-NOS and Kyla for the awesometasticness that is nominating (naming?) me for a Thinking Blogger Award. Which, well… me? Thinking? REALLY?

It’s supposed to be a meme-ish kind of award, so I’m going to have to give some thought to how I’ll pay this forward. Stay tuned.

Dads Can Be Lactivists, Too!

February 25, 2007

Overheard at the Bunch Family Salon, as WonderBaby raced in circles with a giant bottle purloined from the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre Props Corner:

Dad #1: Do you suppose that’s formula or expressed breastmilk in that bottle?

Dad #2: If that’s breastmilk, I’d sure like to meet the mother.

Ba-dum-DUM.

The Kid Stays In The Picture

February 22, 2007
The artist.

The art.

*******
It is possible that the fact that I let my fifteen-month old daughter use my camera and then post the product of her efforts on the Internet is just so much more evidence that I am an unrepentant attention-whore who publicly exploits the precociousness of her child in order to affirm her own identity as a mother on the cutting edge of cool, if such a thing is not incontrovertibly oxymoronic. But it is also possible that I just think that the world needs more WonderBaby.
*******
If any of you Toronto-area parents are looking to out yourselves as desperately hip – or just looking to have a really good time with your children in a venue that is devoid of licensed characters – you could always check this out this weekend. WonderBaby and I are going: just look for a tiny, sparsely-haired performance-toddler, and her bad mother.

Mothers Are The New Sheep

February 20, 2007

I became a mother because everyone else was doing it. No, really – I kept seeing all those flashy strollers and cool diaper bags and hip pregnancy clothes and I said to myself, girlfrennn! We have got to get us some of that! I’d been, like, totally ambivalent about having kids for, like, forever, but then when I saw that it was cool? And that everybody else was doing it? And that it meant more shopping? I was totally on board.

Gwyneth was doing it. So were Kate and Jennifer and Sarah and Gwen and Britney, back before she lost her mind, back when she was still hot. They were all getting pregnant and wearing skinny jeans slung below their bouncing bellies (totally sexy, omg, did you see them? Slinky little tank tops stretched over those smooth round tummies, belly-buttons poking cheekily through the filmy fabric? Hott!), slouching around with their decaf lattes and bags of super-cute baby clothes slung over their arms. Some of them already had their babies, and wore them on their hips, all fat and pink and decked out in the super-cutest little Burberry newsboy caps, like the sweetest little accessories that you ever saw. Kate, with her baby in one arm and that big white Birkin on the other? That was cool. And did you see when Gwyneth had Apple at the Live8 concert with those earphones pulled down over her little blond head, and Gwyneth had her hair all long and loose and neo-hippie-like and wore those big aviator sunglasses and was, like, totally rocking out with her adorable little blond baby and made motherhood look so cool? I loooooved that. I wanted to be that.

So I decided to have a baby.

Okay, so maybe I was already pregnant by then, but when I look back at it now I can totally see that I became pregnant because that’s what was hot. And that’s, like, totally cool. I got in on the trend at the very beginning. I saw the signs: Babies Are The New Uggs. Get Them Before They’re Out.

I was marketed into motherhood. I became a mamanista.

That’s what I’m told, anyway. That motherhood is, like, the new black and that all us mothers have just been, like, totally sucked in because the media and the marketers made it look just so tempting, like something that we had to have, like a totally hot new bag except with no waiting list (okay, nine-month waiting list! But still! Waaaay shorter than the Birkin list, omg!)

(Wait. Are we the same Gen-X/Y post-consumer performance artist hipster parents who are trying to make terminally un-hip parenthood cool? The ones who are exhibiting their babies as counter-culture artwork on their blahgs and Babbling about how to wrap their own baby slings out of vintage rock tees recycled from Goodwill?… Is that, like, the same thing or is it totally different? I’m, like, soooo confused.)

But here’s the thing about becoming a mamanista: it’s all fine and cool and hotttt and we all love the pretty shiny things that come with babies – even the babies themselves! – until we realize that motherhood isn’t as shiny and pretty as Sarah Jessica Parker makes it look and that even a Bugaboo Cameleon and a Burberry diaper bag don’t make up for all of the sleepless nights and the sagging, sucked-dry boobies and the spit-up stains on your vintage Diane von Furstenburg wrap dress and the fact that your swollen post-partum feet will never fit into Choos again. And then we get buyers remorse. That’s what they tell me, anyway. Mamanistas will regret – do regret – having babies, because babies are so less cool than you thought they would be.

They can tell, see, because of what we say on our blogs, because of how we’re quoted in the media. They can tell because some of us, sometimes, have said that motherhood can, sometimes, be boring. Frustrating. Messy. They can tell because sometimes, some of us, admit to having a drink. Or two. Or ten. They can tell because we’re obviously desperately trying to hang on to our selfish, urban-hipster-doofus-culture-victim lifestyles. They can tell that we’re miserable, and that we’re ruining our children.

So they’re issuing public warnings now: Don’t Have Children Because It’s Trendy. Don’t Get Pregnant Because Bridget Moynihan Did. Don’t Turf Your Birth Control So That You Can Buy A Bugaboo.

DON’T GET SUCKED INTO BECOMING A MAMANISTA.
Got that? Don’t do it, because you’ll regret it. No matter how much you end up loving – adoring – your children, no matter how incalculably precious you find those moments of snuggling/kissing/playing with/gazing at/thinking about your babies, no matter how inexplicably fulfilled you feel by this overwhelming, life-changing, soul-expanding thing called motherhood, you will regret it, because nothing – nothing – makes up for cellulite and baby puke on your Tory Burch wedges and you’ll only have yourself to blame when you find yourself, some dark night, in a strip-mall beauty-salon-slash-tattoo-parlour begging a nineteen year old to shave your head and tattoo the words BABY’S BITCH on your pubes.

So, if you have ever at any point in your life been ambivalent about having children, if you never played with dolls or doodled the names of your future children in your schoolbooks, and if you now find yourself inexplicably drawn to Starck-designed strollers or Oilily diaper bags or Cookie Magazine or Babble.com, or have noticed that you discuss with some authority the relative merits of Chuck Taylor sneakers over ballet flats for attending Saturday afternoon family dance parties or kiddie salons, or find yourself surfing Celebrity-Baby when you should be doing your taxes or planning your charitable giving, consider yourself warned: you may be, or be on the verge of becoming, a mamanista, and so may be in danger of spontaneously combusting from the combined effects of sleeplessness, boredom and frustrated fabulousness. For which the only remedy is to not have children – or, travel back in time and not have children – and save your money for an accessory dog and that Birkin bag.

Because that’s all that you really wanted to begin with, wasn’t it?

********

Thank you all, beyond much, for your reassuring comments on my last post. I still feel like a bad mother, but at least I know that I am in the best possible company.

Heart, Dropped.

February 19, 2007

When WonderBaby was not quite four months old, she fell off of her change table. Well, fell isn’t quite the right word. I can’t say that she jumped – she still being in her infancy at the time – but there certainly seemed to be an element of will in the flight that she took. I had just bent down to retrieve the diaper, which – along with the baby wipes and the butt cream and the rectal thermometer and all manner of paraphernalia necessary for the tending of baby nether regions – had been flung to the floor in the frenzy of bouncing and struggling that was and is characteristic of WonderBaby’s toilet rituals, when it happened. And in the split-second that it took for her to fling herself off of her change pad and into mid-air, it seemed that I spent an eternity lamenting my terrible, terrible parenting skills: if only I had belted her down, if only I hadn’t bent over, if only I had kept a hand on her, if only I had three extra hands, if only, if only…

In the next fraction of a second, I threw out my arms and lunged forward and caught her, like a football, inches from the hardwood floor.

My heart still pounds when I think of it.

WonderBaby has, in the year and some weeks since that first dramatic fall, pitched or hurled or tumbled herself off of and onto a variety of surfaces. She’s an explorer, and an adventurer, and there ain’t no mountain (or chair or table or windowsill or bookshelf) high enough to deter her from her quest to conquer her known universe. There’ve been more than a few head bonks along the way. And with every thud, thump, bonk and bang, I have become more and more blasé. Pick her up, dust her off, kiss her head, sit back and watch as she climbs right back onto the rocking horse.

Until this weekend. This weekend thrust me right back into the abyss of heart-pounding panic and soul-searing self-recrimination. This weekend, we faced blood, and the emergency ward.

The blood wasn’t actually the worst of it, although it seemed pretty bad at the time. WonderBaby was performing her usual dining room table acrobatics on Saturday morning – against the futile pleading and grasping of her mother – when she stumbled and banged her mouth; there was a shout, and there were tears, but it all seemed fine until I noticed that her chin and neck and chest were covered in blood. Drenched in blood. Oh holy mother of shit, I thought, she’s knocked out her baby teeth or bitten off her tongue and I AM GOING TO HELL. But I didn’t freak out, not totally. I could tell that she was fine – in the broader, she-has-not-broken-her-head scheme of fineness – that it was just a matter of figuring out what had been cut or bitten and pressing warm wet cloths against her mouth and administering kisses and mopping up the blood. My heart did not pound or spin, at least not at a speed that exceeded posted limits.

When, however, today, she flung herself out of a shopping cart and landed, with a dull thud, on concrete, on concrete, my heart spun – it spins, it’s still spinning – with all the force of a cyclone and very nearly burst the confines of my chest. It was only a moment, a split second – I was right there, I was keeping near, because she kept trying to climb out, she’s so good at climbing out, and in the split second that it took for me to turn away to quibble with the husband or he with I about some banality or another it happened, something happened and all we heard was the thud. And then, silence, for what seemed an eternity.

And then we were both there, on the ground, pulling at her, clawing at her, encouraging her screams, willing her to scream more, louder, because the screams were better than that terrible moment of silence, that moment that was just a moment ago that felt like forever when she just lay there, when she lay there, silent, on the hard hard concrete for only a second but also for an eternity. And then, grabbing her, both of us at once, and squeezing her between us and moving, quickly, together, one body, away from the cart, abandoning the cart and ignoring the eyes, the looks, the stares – I know I know I know I know I am terrible I let her jump I wasn’t there it’s all my fault bad mother bad mother bad mother – and hastening for the car.

She was calm by the time we arrived at the ER. By the time that we were ushered into Pediatric Emergency, she was fussy, and belligerent, and determined to make full use of the available wheelchairs and stretchers and bedpans for her own amusement. We sat, exhausted and diminished, while she dismantled the waiting room. She seemed fine, but we, we were not, we having clearly revealed ourselves as bad parents, the worst parents, negligent parents, our daughter having been hurt – for the second time in one weekend – while in our care. As my husband put it later, it felt as though we were made to wait in that waiting room, under the harsh glare of the lights and our consciences, for the sole purpose of sitting and thinking about what we had done.

What if you get one chance, but only one chance, to get it wrong, to make THAT mistake, he asked, and this was that chance, that mistake?

And later, after the doctor had said that it seemed that she hadn’t hit her head, at least not hard, and that she seemed fine, that we just needed to watch her, keep an eye on her (those eyes that so fatefully strayed): did we dodge a terrible, terrible bullet? Did we get lucky? Did we get away with something? THIS TIME?

We’ve been beating ourselves up ever since.

We know – I know – that we can’t protect her from every bump and tumble. That even the best parents look away at the wrong moment, sometimes. Loosen their grip, trust that the safety belts will hold, trust that the safety belts are just in case and that it’s no big deal if they’re missing or broken and that even though you never leave child unattended it’s okay if you look away for just a second, just a second.

But, oh, holy Mary mother of God, that second, that second is all that it takes and once that second passes you can’t snatch it back. And then it doesn’t matter, whether you were bad, or good, or a little bit of both.

The blood, I could handle; I know that motherhood, parenthood, is a river of blood and spit and shit and tears. I know this; I expect this, however hard it gets. But that silence, today, when I looked away, when she fell, when the world stopped – the silence overwhelmed. I know that it was nothing (although we are still watching, we will not sleep, listening for her to stir, listening for her breathing, reassuring ourselves that she is fine); I know that we will go through this again; I know that – given WonderBaby’s daredevil nature – we will probably go through something like this many times over. I know that my heart will pound to the point of bursting again and again and again. And I know ( I pray) that it will all be fine, more than fine.

But how do we do it? How do we calm our hearts? Do our hearts ever calm? Or do the hearts of parents always beat harder, faster, always threaten to burst?

It’s no wonder we drink.

Where’s the Guide to Chocoholic-Proofing Your Marriage?

February 16, 2007

I ask you, is pilfering and sampling of one’s Valentine’s gift by one’s spouse (the giver) a good reason to get pissy with said spouse?

A Valentine’s heart, pillaged and scavenged, left with only the half-bitten carcasses of unwanted fondant. A clear case of marital (and confectionary) delinquency – but one warranting punishment?

(In my defense, the heart was left, untouched, for two days. Two days. And it was the only source of chocolate in the house. I did not receive chocolate. I deserve, I think, a medal for my restraint.)

*******

Been to the Basement lately? There’s been some interesting discussion of late: issues with pregnancy, issues with activism (!), and, currently, issues with certain manifestations of depression. Those visitors would love to hear from you.

Because Every Day is Valentine’s Day ‘Round Here…

February 15, 2007
Man of my heart; girl of my heart; loves of my life. Happy day of love to you, every day and always.

Exposed

February 13, 2007

Yesterday, I received a very sweet e-mail from a self-professed ‘dedicated lurker’ who asked the following question: I wonder if you are ever concerned that your daughter’s (beautiful) image will remain in cyberspace, with no mechanism for you — or her — to reclaim it or her privacy?

She meant no disrespect by the question, she insisted; she just wanted to know. But she had been, she admitted, afraid to post the question as a public comment, afraid of being misunderstood as judgmental. I understood her concern. The question makes a clear point: shouldn’t I have second thoughts about posting my daughter’s image, about sharing that image with strangers? Should I not be more protective? I have asked myself these questions many times. I have asked myself these questions every time that I have posted a picture of my daughter

I have not come up with any easy answers. But nor have I resisted the temptation to post her image. I continue to post her image, with some abandon. The other day, I posted a picture of her in the bath. I had the thought, at the time: is this sharing too much, with too many? Perhaps.

There is much that I could say about the various arguments that I have had with myself about the ethics and the safety of posting her picture. I have thought about this long, and I have thought about this hard, and although at the end of the day I haven’t got an answer that addresses all potential questions and concerns, I have come to the conclusion that I am acting within reasonable bounds of care when I post her image. Those are arguments for another post, maybe, someday, or for discussion in comments. The question that most concerns me right now, however, is this: why do I post her picture?

In his Camera Lucida (Reflections on Photography), Roland Barthes distinguishes between the studium of a photograph, those elements of a photograph that provoke an interpretive (cultural, social, political) response, and the punctum of a photograph, the element of a photograph that punctures, or wounds – that which provokes an emotional response in the viewer by establishing a direct relationship between the viewer and the subject of the photograph. I seek out photographs of other people’s children for the punctum; I post pictures of my daughter for the punctum.

I post her picture, and I seek out pictures of other parents’ children, because these photographs establish a relationship. I seek out those relationships as photographer, and as mother: I seek the poignant moment of understanding, the punctum, in photographs of other mothers’ (and fathers’) children; I look at those pictures and imagine that I see what those other parents see. I admire the curve of a cheek, the ridiculous angle of a pigtail, and I imagine that that was the detail that moved the photographer, the parent, in the moment that they clicked the shutter. I imagine that I see, in your photographs, for an instant, your child, through your eyes, and I am punctured by that moment – that fleeting moment – of connection. In that moment, I feel that understand you, because I understand, viscerally, your love for your child. I recognize our shared experience of intense, inexpressible love. I want to share my own experience of that inexpressible love with you, with someone. So I post my own pictures.


I want you to see and feel the details that I cannot adequately put to words. I want you to gasp at the impossible, powerful fragility of her little arms, and to smile, suddenly, involuntarily, at the expression of intense joy on her face. I want that single, wet, strawberry curl at the crown’s edge of her forehead to grab at your heart and squeeze it, hard. I want the detail of the droplets of water to call to mind for you every bath that you have ever taken with your own child. I want the photograph to puncture the distance between us as parents, different people with different children, different lives. I want you to see her through my eyes, to know my love for her, to recognize it as your own. I want you to be punctured.

This is not what Barthes meant, exactly – for Barthes, the photographer is absent from consideration in the experience of punctum. The only relevant relationship is that between the subject of the photograph and the individual who beholds the photograph. But we parents-as-performance-artists cannot separate ourselves from those beings that form the very core of, the very reason for, our art: we hold them out to each other as mirrors-cum-camera lucidae can you see yourself in my child? Can you see me in my child? See how my child looks at me, and how I look at my child! See what I see! See how I love! See how we love!

It was the punctum of a photograph that touched me, that disrupted me, in the recent flurry of news and discussion that surrounded the death of Anna Nicole Smith. It’s a recent picture, of the model, with her baby, you’ve probably seen it: Anna Nicole sits, excessively tanned and looking somewhat dazed; her husband/lawyer sits to her left, on the margins of the picture. On Anna Nicole’s lap sits the baby: she’s just slightly off-center, pulled close to her mother’s body; this detail touches. But what punctures is this: the frilly pink headband that adorns the baby’s head, the garish accessory that asserts the mother’s possessive devotion to her daughter’s femininity; the detail that says, loudly, childishly: this is my baby girl; I made her; she is mine. I, as a mother, have never been tempted to adorn my baby with frilly pink headbands, but this detail punctures me – because I recognize, in my heart and in my gut, that childish, girlish pride: I made her, she is my girl. And in that moment of recognition, I feel, in my heart and in my gut, an impossible connection with a woman whose distance from me – in space, in form, in character, in spirit – was so great as to be nearly infinite.

Anna Nicole did not take that photograph; it is entirely possible that she did not even dress her baby for that photograph, that she did not select the frilly confection that adorns her daughter’s head. Still, the moment of puncture remains: I feel that I have shared something, however miniscule, of the emotional experience of new motherhood with this other mother, this doomed mother, so unlike me, so very, very unlike me. And although I am discomfited by this, I am also glad for it. It humanizes what would otherwise be irretrievably dehumanized. It humanizes her. It humanizes me.

My lurker worries that I expose too much, that we expose too much. I worry about this, too. But I also feel, deeply, that the exposure – the candor, intentional and accidental – is necessary to connection, to the humanity of the communities that we build, across universes of difference. I feel, deeply, that I would lose something, that we would lose something, if I kept myself and my daughter (this unique being who is also and always an extension of myself) behind our fences, safe as houses, concealed from view.

Blah, blah, blah…

February 12, 2007
Because I’m lecturing on Hegel this week and, although it’s tempting to try to whip something up about how public reaction to the death of Anna Nicole Smith demonstrates the extent to which our culture really is a world of self-alienated spirit wherein our understanding of ourselves as self-conscious subjects can really be radically thrown by our recognition of a washed-up drugged-up former Playboy centerfold as another self-conscious subject (okay, semi-conscious, but nonetheless possessing of a consciousness – limited or otherwise – that might be negated by death… BIG SIGH…), although such Hegelian analysis of the death of a Trimspa model is tempting, my brain is too tapped out to do much beyond contemplating the unbearable cuteness of being that is demonstrated by the WonderBaby…

Hegel’s interrogation into the Phenomenology of Spirit can really be most effectively answered by a baby’s smile: I am aware of myself as mother because she presents herself to me as known. Also, because she says to me, with that smile: HEY! I SHIT IN THE TUB! FOR YOU!

… I haven’t much to say. And in any case, whatever it was that I might have said while under the influence of the complete works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, E-Online and one too many glasses of blended scotch, you probably don’t want to know.