Requiem For A Boob

May 28, 2009

When I was a kid, my mom used to joke about her boobs. “They’re tube socks!” she’d hoot. “I have to roll them up to get them in my bra.”

I would cringe and recoil. “Mom,” I’d hiss. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“Why are you so red, honey?”

“Because you’re embarrassing me.”

“I’m just talking about tube socks.”

“You’re talking about your boobs.”

“Sweetie, my boobs are tube socks because I bore and birthed you and your sister, so if hearing about it embarrasses you, well, tough.”

Then she’d cross her eyes and stick out her tongue at me. I’d run to my room at that point and discreetly peer down the front of my shirt and wonder whether I’d ever have any kind boobs, let alone the tube sock kind. Although I’d have preferred not the tube sock kind, at that point in my adolescence I’d have been happy with just about anything.

Ah, the deluded innocence of youth.

I grew boobs, eventually. They were never all that impressive – I was always skinny, with the type of cleavage that, in nature, attends skinny bodies – but they were there, and they were kind of cute. Perky. The kind of breasts that you never called tits or gazongas or hooters or even just boobs. You referred to them to them in the diminutive – boobies – or in the unsexed abstract – chest. So it was that when I got pregnant and, later, began lactating and those puppies grew – like, seriously, epically grew, like frightened puffer fish – I was both alarmed and thrilled. I had hooters. I had gazongas. I had BOOBS.

For a few uncomfortable but nonetheless thrilling years, I had a rack, and it was spectacular.

And now it’s gone.

Gone, disappeared, deflated, defunct. It’s as if, after watching me wean Jasper and my husband get his parts snipped, Nature herself gave my body the once-over and said well, you won’t be needing those any more, will you? and unceremoniously removed them from my person.

They’re gone now, and I miss them. I miss them, not only because they really were kind of epic – and what girl doesn’t fantasize, occasionally, secretly, about what it would be like to have epic boobs? – but because Nature, in all of her douchey wisdom, did not restore my chest to its modest but nonetheless entirely presentable profile. Nature, being the stone-cold bitch-goddess that she is (the very same one who gave us menstrual cycles and the pain of childbirth and the indignity of random chin hairs), turned my boobs into tube socks. Just like my mother’s.

Except smaller. Small tube socks. The tube socks of an adolescent boy with irregularly-sized feet. Because, yes, one is actually – oh, god – smaller than the other.

Which is why, when I found myself, yesterday, in the fitting room of the lingerie department, desperately trying to find a bra into which my breasts would not just disappear like a pathetic wad of crumpled tissue, I lasted all of three minutes before bursting into tears.

It’s not that I want – what are the kids calling it these days? – a bangin’ bod. I’d be happy with a bod that just pinged a little. I just want to not to not look in the mirror and cringe. Which I know goes against everything that I said a few months ago, but a few months ago I had boobs. Muffin-tops and extra ass-padding are one thing when you have the upper curves to balance everything out. They’re quite another when your upper body looks like a deflated pool toy.

I’m straining to accept this new incarnation of me, to learn to love it as I’ve learned to love all the other incarnations. But I am finding, now, as summer approaches and I wrap my head and heart around the fact (is it fact? is it? I am still struggling with this) that I will have no more children, that I am still, in my way, vain, and that I want my beauty back. Maybe not the same beauty, the same body, the same sweet boobs of youth, but something, anything, that makes me swell with just a little bit of pride when I look in the mirror.

Or maybe just a tit-inflater. Anybody got one of those?

Advertisements

Humanity I Love You

May 26, 2009

The world, sometimes, is an ugly place. A spectacularly ugly place. A place that is made all the uglier for the fact that its ugliness creeps in at the edges, smothering the beauty in its path. When you look at it through dreamy or sleepy eyes – rose-colored glasses, I think is the term – it seems unparalleled in beauty – a baby’s smile, peonies in first bloom, a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie – until you blink and rub your eyes and look more closely and realize that in the shadows lurks such ugliness as you have never imagined. And suddenly the baby’s smile fades, and the peonies wither, and the Buffy movie turns out to be a cinematic crime of such epic proportions to prevent you from ever seeing a movie again.

It’s the kind of ugliness, as I said, that smothers and warps beauty, turning the world ugly for no reason other than proclaim the victory of ugliness. So it is, for example, that people proclaim that an image of beauty and hope – an image of a small child nursing her infant doll – is something sordid, in order to assert their belief that nursing is ugly and that bodies are ugly and that any practice of nurture that does not accord with their limited view of what constitutes love and nurture is ugly. So it is, for example, that people proclaim that the marriage of two people who love each other and want to love and care for each other for the entirety of their lives is a deviation, simply because the people who want to marry are not of different sex, in order to assert their belief that love is ugly and that sex is ugly if these do not accord with their limited view of the character and purpose of love and sex. And so by making these assertions, they drag in the cold specters of prurience and judgment and demand that we view these unarguably beautiful things – playful joy being derived from an act of nurture, the determination of two hearts to be joined in committed love – through a chilly hateful fog. Everything takes on the cast of ugliness through such a fog. Everything.

Such a fog creates hate where none existed before, where none should have existed before. I hate those who would make me second-guess a beautiful photograph of my daughter, who would force me to defend encouraging her in something – indulging the impulse to play at motherhood, to play at nurture, to teach herself the practices of love and care – that should require no defense, none at all. I hate those who would compel me to shake my fists at the state of California and shout words like evil and stupid and unfair, who would drag me into the ring to defend, again, something that should be beyond defense, something that should just be received as a given blessing – more love in the world, more hearts bound to other hearts, more hearts in exulting in the joy of sharing a life.

There is nothing sexual about a child pretending to nurse. There is nothing sordid about two men or two women loving each other. That I even have to draw together in a written breath the words sexual-child-nurse and sordid-two-men-two-women-loving is ugly and wrong because it just perpetuates the ugliness, it just gives it air to breathe, it just acknowledges that it is there and that fills me with anger, so much anger, and so the cycle of ugliness grinds on.

So I am choosing, now, to refuse the ugliness. I am not going to argue or rant or defend. Beauty needs no defense. It just is. And I am going to celebrate it.

This is beauty:


Let’s celebrate it. Maybe, by celebrating it, we can chase the ugliness back into the shadows.

Teach your child to nurse a dolly. Tell your child that Barbie can fall in love with Barbie and that Ken can fall in love with Ken. Tell them that love – good love, strong love, love that doesn’t hurt – is never ugly. Tell them, teach them, that caring for other beings, is always beautiful, no matter what it looks like. Tell them to fight ugliness by celebrating beauty. And you do the same.

Let’s all do the same.

(Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down

on it)

Please.

One Kiss Breaches A Distance

May 25, 2009

“Hello, sweet girl,” she said, swooping Emilia into her arms. “I’ve waited a very long time to meet you.”

“To meet me?”

“Yes, you. I’ve known you your whole life, and now I finally get to meet you. And give you kisses.” And with that she buried her face in Emilia’s neck and gave her big, sloppy, raspberry kisses and Emilia giggled and squealed and my heart squeezed and I thought, how is it possible that these are the first kisses they’ve shared?

She’s known Emilia since Emilia was only a few months old. And I’ve known – and loved – her children since they were small. We’ve been friends since we first found each other – found each other in this odd community – over three years ago, since I first found her and her secret place of mourning and saw my family’s future there and saw in her, amazing her, the spirit of grace and love and hope and laughter and demanded – demanded – that we be friends. You will love me, I told her. And she did, and I did, and it was good. (She will tell this differently. She will tell you that she found me, and that she demanded friendship of me and that she forced her love on me. It doesn’t matter.) (But I did find her first.)

I have loved her a long time, and she has loved me. But she had never met Emilia.

The wrongness of this is difficult to put into words. It’s a kind of fundamental wrongness, a kind of wrongness-of-the-soul, the kind that puts the universe off-kilter, the kind that makes you wake up in the middle of the night feeling that you’ve lost something or are missing something but can’t name it, no matter how desperately you grope the shadowed corners of your heart. It’s the wrongness of lack, of absence. It’s the wrongness that comes with not being able to share all of your joy with the people you love. It’s the wrongness that comes with not being able to keep and hold all of that love together, close.

There are so many varieties of this wrongness. There’s the wrongness of Emilia and Jasper not being able to share enough of Tanner’s brief life. There’s the wrongness of them having long distance relationships with their grandparents. And then, too, there’s this: the wrongness of the distance of friends, of heart-friends who know them and love them because they know and love me, and the wrongness of my own distance and my children’s distance from the families of heart-friends. It’s a wrongness that weighs heavily, sometimes, on the soul, because it imposes a kind of partiality on love, because it prevents that love from being experienced to the fullest. Or to be less pedantic about it: it’s wrong that I’m missing out on such important parts of the lives of some of my dearest friends and they mine and it sometimes makes me sad.

The Internet transcends time and space and allows us to frolic together in the code and light, but it does not replace time and space and real, wet raspberry kisses. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t.


So we had Auntie Tanis for a while this weekend and some of the gaps in our hearts were filled. Oveflowingly filled. But abundance sometimes makes one feel more keenly the lack, and so this morning, when Emilia said where is she I miss her when is she coming back, I felt the thud in my heart resound and vibrate, thrumming through the empty parts, and I knew that today I would miss her more than ever, that I would miss all of my heart-friends more than ever, and that I would probably sit in the corner of my garden and pout and whine and maybe shake my fists at the gods a time or two.

Which is exactly what I am doing now. That, and plotting an Epic Heart Friend Tour Of Love Road Trip. First stop: Redneckville, Alberta.


I hope you’re waiting, baby. J-Man and Sausage Girl and Toady are a-comin’.

After The Teacups

May 22, 2009

Yesterday was my birthday. I have very little reflective to say about that because, you know, anything that I might say would probably have something to with growing old (I grow old, I grow old) and not getting enough cake. And that would just sound pinched and ungrateful and unhappy, which is not how it is, not how it is at all.


Not how it is at all.

So I will hold my words for now, for today, and just enjoy the sunshine.

(No) Money Changes Everything

May 20, 2009

I’ve written about abortion and depression and my relationship with my psychiatrist. I’ve written about perineal tears and my boobs and nursing another woman’s child. I’ve written about pretty much every uncomfortable thing that there is to write about, and yet it is this post that I don’t know how to begin. It is this post that I am reluctant to write. It is this post that will, I know, make me cringe in shame.

But I’m still going to write it. Because I need to say it – write it – out loud. I need to not be ashamed, and confessing shame is the only means I know to fighting shame. So.

We are – my family is – struggling financially. I know; who isn’t? There’s a recession going on. Everybody is feeling the pinch. Everybody is clucking about how tight things are, how precarious things seem, how challenging it all is. Everybody is worried. But that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing for me to admit that I am worried. I am worried. And a little bit ashamed. Because aren’t my husband and I supposed to be grown-ups? Aren’t we supposed to ensure that everything is always okay? Aren’t we supposed to be able to protect our family from the dark forces of fear and anxiety and indebtedness? Aren’t we supposed to be able to always, and under any circumstances, provide?

The downturn in the economy has compromised my husband’s industry, an industry in which he works freelance, and in which he has, historically, done very well. Historically. He hasn’t worked in well over a month. I wring a modest living out of writing – more than I did teaching political philosophy as a sessional lecturer – but it’s not enough to support us. Not nearly enough. And so we scramble, and we worry, and we fret about how to explain things to Emilia, who does not understand why we cannot go to her favorite restaurant for dinner, why we cannot take a trip across the country to visit Tanner, why we have begun to sell things. We tell her, dinner is nicer at home, we’ll go visit Tanner soon, it’s fun to sell things!

And then she asks, so will we sell more of our things tomorrow? And, will you sell my treehouse? Because I like my treehouse, and I don’t want you to sell it. And my heart breaks. Because I don’t want her to worry. I don’t know how to talk about this without causing her to worry. I am ashamed that we have to worry. I ashamed that I don’t know how to handle this.

I know that we’ll be fine, in the long run. We will be fine. My husband is very good at what he does, and although his industry might need – does need – to evolve and adapt, it won’t die. Even if it did – even if the work just ran out – there’d be something else to do. There’s always something else to do. And I am – all evidence to the contrary aside – not without skills. We’ll manage, whatever that looks like. And whatever that looks like will be good, because we’ll always have each other. Even if we’re living in a trailer in the woods – which, granted, is a lot less likely now that we’ve had to sell our trailer in the woods – we’ll be fine, because we’ll have each other. Which sounds unbearably trite, I know, but it’s nonetheless true for its triteness. We’ll have each other.

But that’s still hard to explain to a three-year old. Why we can’t, right now, have extras. Why we need to be content with ‘each other.’ Why we need to just make do, and to find some joy in that. Why we insist that this is good, this is fine, this is fun, when the worry is plainly written on our faces.

I see the confusion in her face, and I’m ashamed. Ashamed that I can’t explain it better. Ashamed that I set her up for this, by not working hard enough to let her know that her world of plenty should never be taken for granted. Ashamed that I took that world of plenty for granted. Ashamed that I am ashamed.

Which is, as I said, why I needed to say it out loud. Because maybe, maybe, if I can fight the shame, I can fight the worry, and if I can fight the worry, I can fight the confusion. For her. For us. So that it will, it truly will, all be okay.


So that I can say that, and mean it. For her.

Here is where I say, I so need commiseration. We need commiseration. Will you share your stories, or your advice? I was part of a call with Katie Couric yesterday, via the Silicon Valley Moms Group – of which Canada Moms Blog is a part – on the topic of children and the recession, and all I could think, throughout the call, was how it was easy for me to think abstractly about the recession, and talk about how to help the less fortunate, etc, etc, but that I was unwilling – wholly and shamefacedly unwilling – to talk about my own experience, and my own fear. Which meant, of course, that I had to suck it up and blog it, and it was – is – every bit as painful as I thought it would be. Anyone care to throw in her voice with mine, make it feel a little less scary? Or just, you know, tell me that I should be grateful to have a roof over my head and stop whining?

To Jasper, On His First Birthday

May 18, 2009

How, my love, did we get from here…


… to here?


It is not possible that it has only been one year. It feels as though you have been in my heart forever, my dirty-faced little monkey boy, my chunkster, my Jib. It feels as though I’ve loved you for an eternity.

I have, and I will.

Happy birthday, little man.

Bang Bang, Baby

May 14, 2009


All that worrying about guns, and I somehow forgot that I grew up in Western Canada in the seventies. With parents who collected antique rifles. You know: old guns. Which, apparently, they used as art.

I don’t know. It seems to me that if I spent my infancy crawling around a gun rack, and I turned out okay, well, maybe my daughter can be exposed to the odd game of shoot ’em up and not turn into a card-carrying member of the NRA and Junior Dick Cheney Fan Club.

Here’s hoping.

Janie’s Got A Gun

May 13, 2009

So, the other day, when I was worrying about the potentially deleterious effects on my daughter of too much exposure to princess culture? I think that I have bigger issues to worry about:

So here’s the thing: I played games like Cops & Robbers and – yes – Cowboys & Indians (it was a different time) and Star Wars – complete with Light Sabers and sticks wielded as guns and sound effects – p-chew! p-chew! p-chew! – when I was a kid, and I loved it – loved it – and yet I still managed to grow to be a liberal pacifist and so I’m not inclined to a knee-jerk reaction of horror at the idea of children engaging in imaginative play that involves weapons. In theory.

In practice, when my three and half year old daughter cocks her fingers in the form of a gun and points them at me, mock-execution style, I recoil and quietly freak the hell out before telling her, in as calm a voice as I can manage, that it is simply not nice not nice at all to pretend to shoot someone in the face.

Then I debate whether or not to march down to her preschool in the morning and demand to know how and why it is that the preschoolers are engaging in pretend gun-play – because she did not learn this at home – and where the hell are all the princess dollies, dammit? Then I contemplate home-schooling. Then my head explodes.

Then I calm down and ask myself why I need to freak out over everything. Why do I freak out over everything? Is this worth freaking out over? Or, you know, do all preschoolers make a game of executing their mothers every once in a while?

She’s only three. Three. This is nothing, I know, in the bigger scheme of growing up and going to school and making and losing friends and falling in and out love and – oh god – sex and drugs and gah gah gah, but still.

I’m going to need more Ativan.

(Thoughts welcome. Am I freaking out unnecessarily, or is home-schooling in order?)

I Contain Multitudes, And They All Blog

May 12, 2009

Psst, hey… did I tell you? I have another not-so-super-secret mom-blogger hideaway. It’s over here. Today I compared myself to Jennifer Garner, which, you know, maybe didn’t come out so well for me, but still. I felt like doing it. Which is really what that space is for: mom-blogging, as I feel like doing it. Or something like that. Anyway.

Like you don’t get enough of me already.

Like that would stop me.

Hello, Princess

May 11, 2009

It’s a photo of me on my wedding day: just me, alone, posed at an angle, looking slightly over my shoulder. I’m not quite smiling, but not quite not smiling, either. It’s one of the very few photos from our wedding day that I like; I usually hate how I photograph, and the photographic record from that day produced few exceptions. This photograph was one of them. I like this photograph.


So does Emilia. “This is pretty, Mommy.”

“Thank you, sweetie.”

“Can I have this in my room, Mommy?”

“Of course.”

“Is it your wedding?”

“Yep.”

“You’re wearing a big dress?”

“Yep.”

“You married Daddy?”

“That’s what he tells me.”

“Why do you have a different face from what you have now?”

Ah. Ah.

How does one explain aging to a three year-old? That photo was taken over 13 years ago. I was in my mid-twenties. I was young, impossibly young (and yet, how old I thought I was. I was 22 when I met my husband. I thought that I was a woman of the world, well-travelled, experienced, mature. How was it that I could ever have thought that I was anything other than a child?) That photo is a photo of a much, much younger me. Of course I look different.

“I’m older now, sweetie. That was a long time ago. People change as they get older. You don’t look the same as you did when you were a baby, right?”

She frowned. “But you’ve got stuff on your eyes.” She stabbed a tiny finger at the photograph. “You’re wearing make-up.” She said it as though it were an accusation. She said it as though it were something that I’d been keeping secret from her, something that I’d concealed and denied and prevaricated upon – a secret past as a real, live make-up-wearing girl. A girl who bore little resemblance to the frumpy matron standing before her. I had, it seems, been withholding some very important information from my daughter: I hadn’t always looked like a mom.

Not all moms are frumpy. I’m not exactly frumpy myself, strictly speaking. I get good haircuts, which I don’t necessarily always, you know, brush or anything, but still. I wash. I wear lipgloss. I have really good shoes. But I don’t spend a lot of time buffing and polishing and making-up. I just don’t have the energy. And truth be told, I don’t really care. I just don’t. It’s not that I’ve given up, it’s just that in a showdown between putting on eyeliner and getting fifteen more minutes of sleep, eyeliner – or straightening irons or mascara or Crest WhiteStrips – sleep will always win. I’m simply no longer that girl, because I am, simply, no longer a girl. I’m a woman – a woman dragging out the long tail of her thirties under conditions of extreme sleep-deprivation – a woman who has had two children and no Botox – a woman who has grown comfortable in her own imperfect skin.

And yet, my daughter – my daughter, just three and a half and already exposed to the culture of GirlTM at preschool and in playgroups and on television (why we embrace Dora in this house, and limit – though not deny – exposure to the Princesses: because Dora – with her un-belashed eyes and her little pot belly – is so ordinarily, naturally girl-like) – my daughter looks at me and sees something that doesn’t accord with what she is learning about femininity. She looks at the picture of me on my wedding day, and sees someone who looks a litle bit like a Disney Princess – someone with big, thickly-lashed eyes and a puffy dress and a look of serene docility – and then she looks at me, the woman, the mother, and sees something different. And for a moment, I cringed, and was – for a fleeting moment, a fleeting moment – ashamed. And then I was ashamed for feeling ashamed.

I knelt down and took the picture in my hand. “I still wear make-up sometimes. Just not all the time. I look nice with make-up, I know. But I also like how I look without make-up.”

“I like how you look too, Mommy.”

I smiled, gratified.

“But I also like your make-up. And your princess dress. And maybe you could have sparkles, too. And eyelashes, and a crown. And you could wear them every day, or maybe just Saturday. And look like a girl. I like it when you look like a girl.”

Damn.

Where does one go with this? I don’t want to teach her that pretty is something to be disdained – I like me some pretty – but I do kinda want to nip in the bud the idea that ‘looking like a girl’ = looking ‘pretty’ = looking like a princess. Is there a place for princesses in our ideas of what’s pretty, without making ‘princess’ the determining factor? And how do I balance that with the realities – for me – of aging and wrinkles and mascara-fatigue? How do I encourage her to see that beauty as beauty, and to recognize it as as feminine as anything that Disney can crank out?

Or should I just give up, ScotchGuard the ol’ wedding gown and make like a middle-aged, Dyson-and-laptop wielding Cinderella? PRINCESS IS THE NEW BLACK.