Thursday, August 18, 2016

The big fret of a simple haircut

Last week, at my friend Allison's suggestion, I watched Sliding Doors.

All these years, I'd never seen it.

And I loved Gwyneth Paltrow's hair. Loved. I was like, this is the haircut I need! Yes! This is the cut, and this is the time!

I was going to get my hair cut short last winter and I chickened out, ostensibly because it was too cold. But mostly because I was scared.
But you know how sometimes something strikes you and you are like, this is exactly it? It felt like that.

I liked the movie, but my main takeaway was this: You change your hair, you change your life! She leaves a bad situation and gets the cute, dynamic, fun guy with the great accent!

Also, which I already knew, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.


I have a hair appointment Saturday. I have all these Gwyneth Paltrow haircut pictures on my phone. If I get hit by a bus and someone finds my phone they're going to think I'm a stalker.

When honestly, I'm indifferent to GP. I just like her hair in this one. And there's the scene with the adorable flowers! Could I do that?

I decided I really needed this haircut. (Not, I might note, to change my life and find a new man with a different accent. Just...I like her hair.)

So, I have this appointment. It was going to be for a trim, and then I decided I really am going to chop it. And yet the closer it gets, the less sure I am.

See, for a long time, the length of my hair was an indication of my state of mental health.

The shorter my hair, the more tenuous my grip on OKness. The closer I was to the bottom of that smoothy, grey, ugly pit of depression, and the closer my hair was to my scalp.

I would slide into depression, eat a lot of sweets, cry a lot, and gain weight and feel totally out of control. And I'd get my hair cut shorter and shorter.

I've read that cutting yourself is temporary relief from emotional pain. This was my hair instead of my arms. I would get it cut, and then cut again. Shorter and shorter.

I never, ever wanted to be alone, because desirability to men was equal to proof worth in the world. The hair cutting was like a subconscious way to ward men off, because the men I've always been attracted to have never been attracted to a woman with a crew cut.

Although in retrospect, the crew cut might've been OK if it weren't coupled with such apparent abject misery. Who knows?

My friend Wendy is all, hair grows and change is good.

I like this approach. I believe these things to be true.

But I also find that that I am scared to let go of my hair. Cutting it off is nervous-making, instead of a relief.

Fashion magazines are full of women with long, lush hair. Hair is feminine. Hair is attractive. Long hair is safer than short hair.

What if all my wrinkles show more? What if I look frumpy and mom-y? What if I feel unattractive?

This annoys me about myself. It really does. I'm a feminist. I shouldn't buy into the mainstream media depictions of women and femininity.

All these frets sound dumb, I know. It's only hair.

Except that for me, it's not. (Which also annoys me.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

And I am right now on the lookout for more critical decisions to make

I don't know if you remember all my emergency room shenanigans in June?

In any case, the surgeon I saw referred me to a gastroenterologist, who I finally saw last week, who suggested we do an endoscopy just to rule out an ulcer or polyps or some such.

And you guys, I have an ulcer!

Nick asked if it's because I fret so much and I said the doctor said it's most likely due to marital stress, but they're culturing it to see if they find H pylori, which is apparently this wretched little ulcer-causing bacteria.

She didn't actually say anything about marital stress. She said these ulcers are typically from NSAIDS, but I don't take a lot of those. So, yah.

The doctor, who I really like, said they would sedate me with Propofol, which was the same stuff that Michael Jackson used, but not to worry, that it was totally safe.

And I was all, if it's the same drug they knocked me out with when I did IVF, I'm all for it. That was awesome.

I am indifferent to drugs, but I tell you in all candor that I can totally understand the appeal of having a canister or whatever of that stuff at home. It is delightful.

One minute you're counting, taking deep breaths while oxygen is shooting up your nostril and you maybe get to three. And then suddenly they're waking you up and you are so comfortable you wish you never had to get out of that hospital cot with the curtain partitions all around you. I wanted to ask if I couldn't just sleep a little longer.

Post-C-section Vicodin? No, thank you. Propofal? Magical!

Oh, and this reminds me--we've started watching Breaking Bad and it makes me extra glad Nick is a lawyer and not a meth dealer. I don't think I can keep watching, though, because it's not like it's actually going to become less stressful, right, with all the cancer and meth?

Anyway, the way the doctor put it, endoscopies are totally routine, and not to worry. So I didn't think I was worrying.

I kid you not when I say that the night before I was trying to decide what to wear. Jeans? Long sleeves? Bring a sweater? What does one wear to an endoscopy?

I even realized it was ridiculous. But I was still a little fixated.

Friends suggested helpful things such as socks, Chanel, red lipstick, and conservative underwear.  This last suggestion was from my friend English, who said she always bears that in mind with the dermatologist and skin checks. Which makes sense to me, although thinking about it, I'm not sure why I care if my doctor thinks my underwear are too racy.

Fortunately I've gotten rid of all my really terrible underwear, because you know, I used to have a pair that was held together with a safety pin and whenever anyone saw it, it was really embarrassing. I had no explanation, and yet I kept it. I had them for years.


In any case, I was told I'd be in a gown and it didn't really matter what I wore, although definitely socks because my feet would get cold.

And then that night I had all these mega anxiety dreams. Like, sharks and rabies and Nick running off with some woman he met at a party. I was a little more stressed out than I thought.

I woke up late and barely managed to get dressed (with conservative underwear) and brush my teeth and get to my appointment on time.

They let you keep your bottoms on, as it turns out, so in the end the underwear didn't matter one bit. They just make you wear a gown on top to monitor your heart. They even let me keep my shoes on.  So my feet were toasty.

I mean, in case you are ever in this situation and wonder what you should wear.

When it was all done, they gave me paperwork with color pictures of my insides, including the wee ulcer. And a set of strict instructions.

The nurse said that for the remainder of the day I couldn't: drink alcohol; smoke alone; exercise; drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery; or sign legal documents or make critical decisions.

Naturally, I've resumed all of those activities today.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Today I am 47

Today I am 47.

I am 47 and not 37 or 27 or 17, but I so fortunately keep seeing all these friends from when I was in high school, and somehow those 30 extra years seem impossible.

How am I suddenly 30 years older than 17? Math has never been my strong point, but I do grasp the basic march of time. It is how things seem to work, but still.

One day you wake up and you have this new number and you don't quite know how you got there.

Does this happen to other people?

It's not that I'm upset about my age. Not at all. I'm such a better, happier, kinder, more confident human at this age. I like myself most of the time. I like this life.

I spent my 37th birthday drinking wine and crying all day long. I was certain that nobody would ever marry me, because I didn't have the right resume for DC. I kid you not with this. And that I was destined to die alone.

On my 27th birthday I was in graduate school in DC, not knowing what I was doing with my life. It was a good summer, mostly, but I still cried a lot because I always used to cry regularly, and plus by August I was only a couple months from sliding into my annual winter depression, what with the shortening of the days and such.

When I was 17 I talked about how fat I was all the time. I thought about how fat I was all the time. I starved and exercised and still, how was I so fat? I said that as soon as I grew up and had enough money, I'd have the fat sucked out of my thighs. Seriously. I went on and on about it.

I was just talking about this with Kristin, who I saw in Denver. How obsessed and unhealthy we were.

I now like those previously hated thighs.

 I'd like to tell the 37-year-old that the whole DC resume thing is such bullshit, and she was never going to marry someone who bought into it, and that in just over a year she'd meet someone, and in two years she'd be immensely pregnant and wondering why her baby didn't magically appear on his due date.

I'd like to tell the 27-year-old that she should ask her doctor for some antidepressants, because it would make grad school, dating, and really general life a hell of a lot easier and more pleasant. It would make her more pleasant.

And I'd like to tell that 17-year-old that she was beautiful and smart and interesting. And that life is so much bigger than being skinny enough, whatever that means. And that whether or not someone wants to go out with you is not a measure of your self worth or attractiveness.

I'd also like to borrow her blue Mary Quant mascara. Because that stuff was awesome.

In any case, I'm not sure how much liposuction costs, but if I had that chunk of money to burn, I'd now hop a plan for a weekend in Paris. I'd happily take these thighs, the ones with which my ancestors walked across the prairie, along for the ride. They are strong, and fine with me.

Now, I must say that I miss my old boobs and stomach, but I wouldn't trade my children for them. I'd like many fewer wrinkles, and in fact, thanks to Botox, I do in fact have a few fewer wrinkles, and this delights me.

A friend said she wears her wrinkles proudly, as she's earned them. But for me those deep furrows between my brows were earned through too much stress, and I'm happy not to wear them.

My friend Kristin, who is one scant week older than I, keeps referring to herself as a middle-aged woman. When I saw her in Denver I was all, I don't understand why you keep captioning your photos things like, "Middle-aged woman setting up a tent!" and "Middle-aged woman making s'mores!"

She said, "WE ARE middle-aged." She pointed to her face. "This is the face of middle age."

And yes, yes, we are middle-aged, and I don't actually mind my age, but I hate the moniker. She and Maude said it's because traditionally it means old and frumpy. And we are not. So we should work to redefine what it means.

In theory, I like this idea.

I mean, first and foremost, I present myself as a family person with small children. A very tired, loving, occasionally locked in the bathroom with a glass of gin, family person.

I'm not trying to pawn myself off as some young hot thing. And yet I am not ready to embrace the concept of middle age.

Now, on the upside I realize that I'm truly lucky not to be an Olympian or an actress, because by this age I would be considered so over the hill.

Whereas as a plain old regular person, nobody is saying such things. So I feel pretty lucky, you know, to not be an Olympic athlete or Hollywood star.

Although on a side bar, don't you think if you won an Olympic medal you'd get naked as soon as you were home and dance around the house wearing nothing but the medal?

You know I treat my birthday like my own personal New Year's Eve, and I think about what I learned and accomplished in the past year.

In terms of accomplishments, I got an article published on The Mighty site. I took a storytelling class and got up in front of a big crowd and told my story. I mostly did a lot of procrastinating and not writing on my book...

I learned a lot, however. There have been some big learning years in this past decade.

Last fall I reconnected with a bunch of Peace Corps friends I hadn't seen in 20 years. And I learned, once again, that deep friendships endure through time and space and distance. And that I am lucky to have those people in my life.

I learned that damage and trauma from my past can resurface at the most unexpected moments. And until you see it and name it, you cannot understand it, but it sits inside you corrosively until you do.

In this past year, learned that while I believe myself to be so strong, I'm much more vulnerable than I think, and that I am lucky to have not only a very loving family, but a whole loving village.

Today I learned that while Thomas Wolfe may be correct, you can't go home can, for your birthday, get the same Stan Smith sneakers that you wore in high school. The ones that were just like your dear friend Nicole's.
And this will make you incredibly happy.

Big hugs and love,


Thursday, August 11, 2016

There's always something happening and it's usually quite loud

My friend Rachel recently asked if I'd been working on my book this summer.

Honestly, I don't even know anymore if I have it in me to write a book. But that's a whole nother topic.

In any case, I said that not only had I not been writing anything at all, but being at home with the kids, I don't blog, and I barely answer email. I can barely think.

She nodded. "Summer is like a dumpster fire."

Yes. She nailed it.

With kids, summer is like a dumpster fire.

I don't know about yours, but my kids have this uncanny ability to know when I have focused my attention on something of particular interest to me.

And they appear.

I can be cleaning, putting away dishes, whatever, and they will evince no interest, or sometimes even recognition that I'm there--even if they're playing right beside me.

But say they're in another room playing Lego or doing a puzzle or watching a show, and I decide to sit down and read a book. Or answer an email.

I swear. It's like the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They're all, "Mama is reading something. She's totally engaged. I can smell it."

Their little noses twitch, they detect my interest, and they come running.

"Mama mama mama! What are you doing, Mama? Mama play with me Mama!"

India will wiggle into my lap, inserting herself between the book and me. Between me and the screen. "Baby pictures! I want to see baby pictures!"

This is always her demand. Me. Make it about me.

And then eventually I go back to doing something utterly banal and am all, "Hey! Wanna help me clean out my closet?"

Ha. Not so much.

Sometimes I keep that up for like five minutes and then sneakily pull out my book or laptop and see how far I get.

But it's joyless when it's so brief and furtive, so I've mostly stopped bothering.

I'm an introvert. And the lack of time and space to be alone in my head is hard for me.

Sometimes I just want to be all, stop touching me! Stop talking to me! Stop breathing at me! Stop it stop it stop it!
And then your kid winds up with your socks in her drawer.
But on the other side, I must say that I feel so grateful that I can be home with them for these long summer days. I do.

Jordan has started choosing to read on his own. He picked up Nick's old Calvin and Hobbes book the other day, and he is now hooked. It's delightful. He loves to sit on or curl up in my bed and read.
This wouldn't happen if we didn't have all this unscheduled time.

Most days we have no agenda. We go to the pool almost daily, and that is perfect. It has been a hot hot hot summer. We love to swim and jump and do somersaults. It's really fun. Plus, all of that makes my progeny tired and more tractable come bedtime.

We wear a lot of sunscreen. They get annoyed by all the sunscreening, and I am all, listen. Mama has many spots and wrinkles and regrets her foolishly unsunscreened, if lovely, youth in South Asia.

Here. Wear some zinc SPF 5 million.
And look both ways before you cross the street. Stop, drop, and roll if you're on fire. Don't drink and drive.

In July my dear friend Wendy invited us to join her wonderful family in the Outer Banks. I got to hang out with Wendy and her parents, and our kids adored each other.

It was magical in so many ways.
(Also: Duck Donuts really are all that. I was previously indifferent to donuts.)

And now, I must admit that in desperation I've let my children watch a few too many mindless videos.

The other day India came in my room when I was taking off one dress to try on another and she said, "Oh! Are you changing your look?"

Where'd she hear this? Barbie. This is Barbie-speak.

Occasionally they discuss Barbie and her friends as if they know them. And then one day when I came in to turn off the TV, Jordan said I was killing their vibe.

So, yah. There you have it. That's my current shame.

It's a dumpster fire.