My Husband Does Do That Part 2 (Not My Mom Part 3)

In the early 1900s, pink was considered a color for boys.  Wikipedia quotes an article from a 1918 trade publication as saying; “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

Imagine seeing a boy baby dressed in pink?  Imagine dressing your baby boy in pink?  How can these things feel so wrong down to the fiber of our souls and yet be so completely and utterly culturally constructed and random?  But they are.

Despite my belief that gender roles are largely socially constructed, I do not practice what I preach.  I don’t live my life as an androgynous being.  Anyone who saw me would know I was a woman.  Not a girly girl, but also not a woman who is trying to make a statement about gender.  Just your average woman.

I don’t wear make-up or much jewelry, don’t do nail polish, refuse to spend more than five minutes doing my hair.  That said, I enjoy looking nice, and let’s be honest, part of that is looking my gender.  Unless I can somehow magically extract my own mind from its cultural context, I’m never going to look in the mirror at the long dark hair on my legs and think –  I look so beautifully natural, time to go out for a night on the town. 

I try to strike a balance in which I can feel good about myself in the real world, but don’t allow myself to be convinced that I have to mutilate myself, go through painful procedures, put chemicals on my face, take drugs or pills, or buy expensive hair and skin products (again filled with chemicals) to feel like a woman.

I guess you could say that balance is also reflected in my choice of mate.  While Seth also looks like a man, his gender role is quite flexible.

Seth doesn’t have a macho bone in his body.  I know more about sports than he does, and that’s not saying much.

He doesn’t talk shit about women or make nasty jokes or brag about sexual conquests (no really, I’m certain).

He is 100% comfortable with homosexuality.

He is wonderfully domestic.  He is a better cook than I am, does more housework than I do, and he is every bit as competent with our infants as I.

I’ll never forget the first time my husband and I had my Dad and step-mom over for dinner.  Seth cooked so I could talk to my family.  My Dad was utterly perplexed.  He just sat there stupefied, unable to understand what was going on.

I had arrived… I was not my mom!

I often hear women complaining that their male partners don’t “help” enough with children, do housework, etc., but these same women don’t seem willing to be flexible in their own gender roles.  As long as we have the attitude that we can do it better, men probably won’t step up, because what man enjoys feeling incompetent?

We have to believe men can care for children and manage homes, just as we believe we can run companies and lead nations, rather than expect them to “help” while we maintain control over the domains of children and home.  How would we react to that kind of attitude toward our entering the public sphere?

If you want a truly egalitarian life, don’t accept a partner who doesn’t, and don’t be fooled by the belief that there are no men out there with flexible gender roles.  You don’t have to swear off gender all together, but be willing to practice flexibility yourself.  Be the kind of person you want to find.

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True Mommy Confessions 1

These are the things no one says. 

I am tired of the color of the playroom walls.

Crying makes my organs moan and my brain ache.

I leave my kids in their cribs as long as I can get away with.

I miss leaving the house whenever I want.

I need a nap.

I need a drink.

Sometimes I wear earplugs.

I’m not always that interested in the things my babies do.

I miss laying around in bed for no reason.

Sometimes I wish I could go on dates, or at least go out, get tipsy, and flirt with people.

Breastfeeding is incredibly hard and takes more endurance and will than anything I’ve ever done (and I have a freaking PhD, wrote a dissertation, cared for my mother for 18 months while she died of a brain tumor, and spent 3 months on bed rest).

My favorite times are when I read books or write.

I am stubbornly refusing to give up my identity, Mommy is just one of many names I call myself.

Often friends and relatives are more excited to see my babies than I am.

Often friends and relatives are way more excited to see my babies than me.

Feeding babies solids is boring, not to mention messy.

My kids want to play with me, but I’m writing this blog.

When my daughter crawled for the first time, I was vaguely aggravated.

I bathe my babies as infrequently as I can get away with.

I spend a lot of time surfing the web looking into events I can’t go to.

I am jealous of my single friends.

I am relieved when anyone else is around.

I frequently feel paralyzed by the terrible, blinding fear that something will happen to my babies.

Still… I have no regrets.

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Breast Pumping, House Hunting (Not My Mom Part 2)

Hard to Believe this was real...

About two months after my twins were born, (while I was still pumping breast milk 8 times per day, never sleeping more than 2 hours at a time, walking around in nothing but a nursing bra, forgetting to eat, still recovering from surgery), I decided it was time to look at real estate.  I went online and found a house in the town Seth and I had talked about moving to someday, when we could afford it.

Two days later, I was dragging Seth, the twins, and Grammy and Grampy on a 45 minute drive to see the house.  I didn’t need to see it, I was sure we had to buy it, I just needed to convince them!  You are probably thinking, well of course you didn’t convince them.  But those pregnancy hormones must be contagious, because there they were, Grammy and Grampy entertaining the twins in the car, while Seth and I checked out the house.

We almost bought that house.  Then there were several more weekends of house searching, breast pumping in the car, in the bathrooms of cold, empty houses, babies screaming in the faces of real estate agents, forgotten diapers, two of us looking at each house while the other two watched the twins.

You think that’s crazy, let’s talk about keeping my house ready to be shown to potential buyers at a few minutes notice; pulling a shirt on, throwing boppy pillows and blankets down the basement stairs, my breast pump and nursing supplies shoved in the closet, spit-up stains on the couch covered by throw pillows, Seth moving two jumperoos, two baby swings, two bumbo seats, two everything into the garage, as I run out the door, twins in hand, fleeing from any germs the visitors might be carrying.

Then there was the Lysol-ing of the house afterward.

And then we REALLY almost bought this other house.  This time in the very w.a.s.p.-y, very white, but oh so fucking adorable (laden with big old trees and gorgeous colonial homes) suburb where I crystallized my identity as “the only democrat in the class aside from the teacher.”

Oh how those teachers ate up my anti-death penalty diatribes and feminist rants.

(I remember this one kid wondering aloud in AP Government how women could be in combat roles in the military because “What if they get cramps or something when they’re on their period?”  Oooooo, did he wish he was dead by the time I was through…)

Anyway.  The house was a money pit.  It was so big compared to our tiny two bedroom cape cod, and close enough to the universe of our price range, that in our deluded, sleep-deprived insanity, we convinced ourselves we could afford it.  Then when we found out it needed completely new electrical wiring and plumbing (only a tiny drip came out of the faucets), that it had a flooding problem and asbestos.  We proceeded.

This all sounds perfectly crazy now, but oh, at the time, how I yearned for that house!  Of course it wasn’t the house at all.  I was yearning for my mother, for my own childhood, for something known.  It is amazing how even if we know our mother did a lot of things wrong, in those first months when the shock of profound responsibility and feelings of profound incompetence set in, we go right back to what we know, for me even down to the neighborhood!

Somehow picturing my kids going to my elementary school, playing in the playground where I played, watching their friends get brand new SUVs when they got their licenses, and claw each others’ eyes out to get spots at ivy league schools was incredibly comforting.  Rationality and logic be damned.  My kids had to live in that house, whether it meant eating beans from a can every meal, and their parents divorcing as they caved under the financial stress.

This may sound hyperbolic, but I’m quite certain that house would have ended my marriage.  Not more than 4 months later my depressed, desperate shell of a husband left his high paying big law job for a lower-paying one that would allow him to be the involved, present father he desperately wanted to be.  That house would have meant a life sentence at a job that was sucking the life out of him, and my kids growing up in a world where that salary would have meant more than almost anything else.  But that wasn’t us.

As I sit here in my tiny cape cod, my twins upstairs in their shared bedroom, in my scrappy little liberal, gay-friendly, cute but by no means manicured town, where various grad student neighbors leave the occasional old couch out of the front lawn to rot in the elements, I thank god that my husband had the clarity to back us out of that deal.

So new moms, beware.  This is not the time for decisions more critical than which type of bottle to buy.  I wanted that house down to the very fiber of my soul!  The pain I felt when I had to admit we couldn’t do it, so inexplicable now, left me crying for weeks.  The loneliness, the terror, the utter and complete self-depravation of new motherhood would all be erased if I just had that house.

I wasn’t just like my mother, I was my mother, a woman whose house was literally the most important thing to her.  I’m sure SHE had thought her family would be fine as long as we had the right house, but my kids would have something infinitely better… Seth.

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Why Should You Care? Confessions of an Anti-Blogger…

Okay, full disclosure time.  In addition to being technologically challenged and still grappling with concepts such as the internet (but what IS it exactly?), I used to think blogging was really kind of self-indulgent.  It seemed everybody had a blog, could we all really be that interesting?

I still find myself perplexed by the post-modern predicament in which we are all able to access each other infinitely.  With reality television and social networking and youtube and twitter (#whatevertheheckthatis,) and the like, we find ourselves spewing everything from the most inane to the most intimate aspects of or lives, communicating endlessly and to the point where communication loses all meaning.

I find myself wishing to God that I did not have to know that you went for a run this morning with your dog, that you have an ingrown toenail, and that you’re thinking about trying a new recipe tonight, a link to which I’m also subjected to.  And yet I find myself checking and checking and reading and waiting for that one critical post that I just wouldn’t be able to stand missing.

And just because that’s what I do, I take such experiences to their logical conclusions in my mind.  I envision a world in which we will all be utterly and irrevocably interconnected and my brain will simply broadcast into yours and yours into mine until at some point I won’t know if, in fact, I’m the one with the ingrown toenail.

It’s hard enough figuring out who the heck I am without experiencing this techno mind-meld with the rest of humanity!  And yet, here I sit writing a blog, after asking myself so many times why you should care. How many of us really are that interesting that we have something worthy of being read or shown on tv or listened to, etc.?

When I was in college (there’ll be lots of these) I spent a lot of time walking, by myself.  I didn’t have a car, so I wandered around and often found myself pondering the fact that no one knew where I was.  Of course I’d see this person here or that person there, but there was no one to witness the big picture.

I was in that vacuum of known-ness -between parental supervision and partner-hood, where hours, even days can pass and no one will wonder about you.  I understand the desire to be “followed,” through a blog, on twitter, anywhere.  To have a witness.  As Ani DiFranco put it, “What if no one’s watching?”

We all want to know someone’s watching… and the truth is, I’m no different.

So why should you care?  The sad fact is you probably shouldn’t.  What do I have to offer you?  A willingness to say what others won’t or wouldn’t think to, a depth you may be craving, a snarky sense of humor, a perspective on the world that’s a little different?

I guess I could hope that perhaps my words will help someone.  That you will read this blog and feel understood and somehow your life will be better.  But, truth be told, I think that’s unlikely.  I think one could argue all writing is a selfish enterprise, all art, for that matter.

So for now, I’m going to allow myself that indulgence.  So maybe this whole blogosphere thing is really about quid pro quo.  I need a witness, you need a witness, so we’re not all just wandering around for days and years with no one really seeing us.

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Maybe we are all Undercover (My Husband Does Do That, Part 1)

There were wonderful mommy play-date moments where I felt like, wow, they get it, and believe me, no one who doesn’t have twins gets having twins.

(Don’t tell me your one and two year olds are “just like twins!”  Don’t tell me you were “supposed to” have twins.  The fact that your aunt’s secretary’s dog lives in a house with twins does not make you get it!  You do not have twins!  Goodbye.)

But a lot of the time in the midst of such gatherings, I felt this ill, empty kind of feeling as though large chunks of my identity had left the building.

Of course I could relate to topics like getting your twins to sleep (please, for the love of God!), dealing with teething, when to start solids, etc.  They may not have been riveting, and yet, I found myself hanging on the every word of those more experienced mommies… until about 6 months rolled around and I started to have this nagging feeling that… this just isn’t all that complicated… and this nagging desire to, oh, I don’t know, talk about something other than our kids for the love of fuck!

This one night, I attended a twin mommy’s night out.  It was AT A BAR – swoon!  I was so excited, I thought, ok, now we’re actually going to get to know each other, the mommies will be loosened up, away from their babes, bring on the slightly inappropriate, sexually suggestive adult conversation.  FAIL.

I remember at one point wanting to stab myself with my fork when they moved off the topic of what’s the best minivan, to a lengthy discussion of how to find baby socks that fit right.  I actually lost the will to drink.  It’s then that I started looking around at these really quite lovely, but not very interesting moms, and realizing just how white, rich, and straight they really were.

There were many other play-date topics to which I couldn’t relate, my personal favorite being why our husbands suck (and let me assure you, some of these husbands really and truly did suck quite hard).

Now don’t get me wrong, my husband can be an ass.  Then again so can I.  Of course I fight with my spouse.  But the truth is, (hushed whisper) I like my husband.  He is a fantastic husband.

But okay, not everyone has the perfect marriage.   It was the gendered aspects of the husband complaints which eluded me most, husbands not “helping” around the house, never “watching” the kids, not “letting them” buy jewelry, etc.  Really?  Am I living the in the 1950s twilight zone?

I was only willing to do marriage if it was going to be the same deal for my husband and me.  The traditional wife/mother role seemed like a much better deal for a potential husband than for me.  I guess it didn’t occur to me that others wouldn’t feel the same.

And who wants to be a total asshole and sit there repeating, “My husband does do that,” and adding obnoxiously, “My husband cleans more than I do.  He’s a much better wife than I am. ”

Then again, am I really even there if I just sit and nod and sip my white wine?  I feel like I’m “passing” in a way. Not in a way that could be clearly labeled, but in a more subtle, and yet poignant way, I feel closeted

I long for the day when I can find a way to be out and proud, but I’m not even sure what to come out as.  There is no magic word for my lifestyle, or the collection of identity bits that make me up.  I find myself wondering if we are all really undercover, looking at each other from inside our closets thinking she’s just a little too normal.

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Sleeping with the Enemy (Not my Mother, Part I)

I got married for one reason.  I found someone I wanted to marry.  I didn’t decide I wanted to marry and then find a man.  In fact it just as easily could have been a woman… or no one at all.  And yet, here we are.  The relationship I am in is nothing of what I pictured when I envisioned marriage – probably because I was envisioning my parents’ marriage (shudder).

My parents’ marriage was not only traditional in terms of gender roles, it was abusive.  So for me, demanding to be treated as an equal wasn’t just a preference, it was a way to ensure I wouldn’t be a victim.

For a long time, when I thought about who I wanted to be, the answer was a resounding, “Not my mother!”  I utilized many strategies to accomplish this goal including pretending boys didn’t exist, wishing I could take a pill to make myself a lesbian, and repressing any and all sexual or desirous impulses and feelings.

Many expensive years of therapy later, I was ready for an experiment.  I had finally started dating, not seriously, just getting my feet wet.  Then I met this kind of vile guy.  He was arrogant and thought he was a huge stud.  We’ll call him Russell.  Let me provide some examples to illustrate his ridiculousness.

1) He lived in a filthy apartment with a kitchen where everything was covered in a layer of crust.  Pots lay on the stove with rotting month-old food.

2) He had the nerve to tell me my sink was “disgusting” and need to be cleaned.  (He was absolutely right, it was the double standard that got me.)

3) After staying over the night at his place, he failed to offer me any food or drink in the morning, but proceeded to make coffee for himself.  When I pointed this out, he sent me across the street to a convenience store.

4) He believed as the man, he should always drive.  (Uh, hell no).

5) This is the funniest one.  He did not believe in waiting longer than three dates to have sex.

This was the kind of person I had always feared, as though somehow his mere existence would turn me into my mother.  And yet I ventured courageously into his web of double standards and sheets that had gone way too long without being washed.

I did this to prove something to myself.  Russell wasn’t like some kind of disease that could be caught and turn me into someone else.  Dating him taught me that I didn’t have to hide away because my self-respect could be lost just by his presence…  I compromised some, and so did he.  I let him drive a lot of the time, but you can be damn sure he waited longer than three dates.  In fact, I would venture to say he learned something from all that waiting.  Most importantly, when it was over, and I always knew it would be (poor guy, I don’t think he realized it was merely an experiment) I was still me.

A few months later I met my husband.  On our third date I told him I never wanted to have a television in my house, that I could never wear a diamond engagement ring, and that I was only interested in raising children if my partner shared the childrearing 50/50.  Nothing I said seemed to scare him off.  He took me bowling with his sister and some friends.  His sister showed me her tattoos.  He lost miserably.  I had never seen a man so comfortable sucking at something.  He had a blast.  He let me drive.  On our third date I blurted out aggressively, “I’m not going to have sex with you.”  He told me I was presumptuous.  The rest is history.

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Postpartum… Party?

Ahhhh..... bed rest.

My twins were four months old. Prior to their birth I spent three months on bed rest, and the four months before that too nauseous to do much. The months preceding those, well, those were spent in the panicked whirlwind that overtakes an aspiring mother when she is told that she will never have biological children. So a few shorts months into motherhood, I had had it, and came to the very ill-timed conclusion that I was ready to party.

Remember college? I am still not over it. If I could go back right now, I would. Oh the debauchery I never engaged in, and oh, the sex I could have had! Where were my priorities?!

So during late-night breast-pumping sessions, and after the twelfth diaper change of the day, I found my mind engaged in this fantasy about, well… partying. Where could I go, and most importantly, what could I drink when I got there? After all, partying really isn’t partying when one is tiptoeing around the house so as not to wake two newborns, rummaging through the remains of bygone barbeques for leftover alcohol. Besides, the one thing I needed more than a drink was to get out of the house!

Some friends were not quite down with the whole baby thing yet, and others just didn’t seem that keen on partying “quickie”-style in between breast pumping sessions with a ragged, un-showered shell of my former self, still recovering from surgery and sporting some nasty stomach rolls and baggy maternity clothes.

Dang! What’s a girl to do? Enter mommies. Kindred spirits who would surely comprehend my unflinching desire to run away and pretend that we can, in fact, go back to college, even for just two delusional hours between feedings.

Thus began my love affair, (and eventual disillusionment) with Mommies. Mommies truly are amazing (even despite being at times mind-numbingly boring). How do they do the things they do? Hell, how do they do anything on that little sleep? And most amazing of all, most incredibly, inhumanly amazing are the twin mommies, many of whom, going it almost entirely alone, devote their every waking hour (and there are no sleeping hours) to the care of not one, but two needy babies.

I had felt “gotten” by these twin mommies in ways that had literally saved my life during a trying, frightening pregnancy, and four months of sleepless twin hell. They taught me almost everything I knew about the logistics of being a mother of twins, as I read hundreds of their posts on our twin mommy yahoo group during my bed rest.

And so I began to attend my new version of “parties” – the playgroup. Yes, our kids were only 4-5 months old. It was us who need the play, we were ravenous for it! So we packed up our double breast pumps and pumping pillows, we gathered our millions of children and their tons of gear, we squeezed all that crap into our Saturns (um, okay, that was just me, for the rest, it was mini-vans) and whether we’d showered yesterday or last week and whether our hair was brushed or not, we met up for some much, much needed girl talk replete with plenty of laughter, and just a little alcohol (shhh!).

And if in my desperation, I left some basic and rather critical aspects of my personality out of it, so be it.

Bottoms up, I would play the good little mommy, for now.

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Undercover in the Suburbs

I never wanted to get married.  I never wanted children.  I was sure I could have a wonderfully succulent life without these instruments of the patriarchy, and I’m certain I could have.  Okay, in all honesty, I still thought boys were icky well into my twenties, so it was downright hard to envision marriage and children would ever happen to me anyway.  Thus while my feminist ideals were entirely sincere, they also helped me avoid being disappointed.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I walked into a clothing store in New York City and fell in love with a girly pink dress with just a teeny bit of lace trim around the bottom.  Instead of squelching my desire as I normally would to quell the inevitable cognitive dissonance attached to such urges, I walked out of there wearing the dress.  Screw the fact that I didn’t have the right shoes or bra to go with it, or anywhere fancy enough to wear it.  My mother had just died a few days before, and I was feeling a bit like a snow globe whose little white bits had gotten all shaken up, and it was yet unclear where they would land.  I wondered who I would be without my mom, who would I be if I wore this dress, who I would be with all these contradictory parts of me floating around in a little glass orb…  Was I suddenly just like all the other girly girls or a tomboy enjoying one aberrant evening in my new pink dress and sneakers?

So here I am seven years later, and my whole life feels like that dress.  Definitely what I wanted, but also not me.

This blog is about feeling like a radical and looking like a soccer mom.

This blog is about maintaining one’s creativity in a cookie cutter world, and being a smart girl at a time when everyone seems enamored with idiocy.

This blog is about feeling not quite conventional, a bit too eccentric, not straight enough, and way too feminist to hang with the other mommies, but not quite out there enough to take my kids and move to some kind of collectivist commune or join that lesbian separatist movement after all.

This blog is about being a mom of twins, as if I didn’t already feel like a freak!

This blog is about trying to live a holistic lifestyle without relocating to a giant bubble on the moon where no one has ever heard of McDonald’s.

This blog is a tribute to the love of my life, a true partner in every sense.

It is about sustaining an egalitarian marriage while systemic barriers force us into traditional roles.

This blog is my anthropologist notes from a culture that is both mine and yet deeply foreign.

This blog is my answer to such frequently asked questions as “Where’s your minivan?”

This blog is my study on whether to speak up and say my husband DOES do that, or just smile politely and pretend I’m also living in the 1950s.

It is about wanting and not wanting and trying to reconcile all the different parts of myself.

This blog is about acknowledging that I love my kids with a kind of passion like nothing I’ve never felt before, then admitting that the endless days of repetition are turning my brain into a pile of poo-poo, and that I skip out the door on my way to work.

This blog is about who I will be as wife and mother, and who I will be apart from a wife and mother.

This blog is my coming out party, and my attempt to figure out which closet I’m in anyway.

This blog is about waking up one day, undercover in the suburbs, trying to reclaim all those little pieces of myself, and watching to see where they will land.

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