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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sex tonight? Why not.

It took you 2 hours to get the kids to sleep.

There were glasses of water fetched, imaginary flies pretend swatted, three stories read and everyone was tucked in---begrudgingly.  But not for long.  Because then there was the crying and screaming (you) and the ultimatums (them).  The bribes. Empty threats were made and finally, they collapsed--all their ploys exhausted, to rest up for another day of killing you slowly.

It's kind of a suck job, this whole "Being a mom" business, but this it is your suck job and you may as well not complain. So you were just looking forward to an hour or two of wallowing in quiet self-pity and ice cream, perhaps curled up with a book or even an episode of The Bachelor.

You thud down the stairs in your too small pajama pants, your t-shirt has spatters of paint and reads 5K Fun Run 2006.  You can't recall how you acquired this shirt but you sure as hell know you have never ran a 5k and if you had, it would not ever be classified, in your opinion, as something a person should do for fun.

 As you traipse around the corner to the kitchen you think you hear the faint sound of the stereo playing in the family room.  You grab the Ben and Jerry's from the freezer, slam the door shut with your rear end and grab a spoon.  You are sitting cross legged, contemplatively at the kitchen table, fitness magazine (fuck you, irony) spread out in front of you when you realize that there is music playing.
 And that it is definitely coming from the family room, where, it seems, someone has turned off the overhead lights.
You can barely make out the flicker of candlelight from the shadows around the corner and you wondering if you should go and investigate (a seance?) when you hear the soft strains of melodic sex oozing from the record player.


Your spoon stops in mid air.
Oh no. Think. Think. Think.
You consider a retreat back upstairs, a fake sleep at the table.  You wish for narcolepsy, amnesia. Anything.
But it is too late.  He is already sauntering around the corner, wearing only his jeans and white undershirt.
 He is holding two wine glasses.
He has spotted you and he is smiling.

"Well helloooo beautiful."

You want to turn around and see if perhaps there is someone behind you to which he is actually speaking.  But then he winks. At you.

And he speaks again, reaching out for your hand and peering at you in what you imagine he imagines to be seductive allure.

He gestures with his hands up and down his middle aged dad sized frame.

"Are you up for...this ?"



It's a struggle that must go back to the dawn of time.

Perhaps even back to those prehistoric cave dwelling couples in the Stone Age.  She gathered the berries and hauled water and nursed Neanderthal Junior all day long.  Neanderthal Man was busy hunting bison with blunt sticks.
 He should have been exhausted.  She was exhausted.  But as soon as the baby was sleeping in his stone bassinet, here came her husband--hunching and smoldering, grunting the modern equivalent of "let's get it on".

All she wanted was to sit quietly, maybe bone up on some of the cave wall hieroglyphics.
 But her Neanderthal husband had a different plan.  He wanted to bone her.

What's a Neanderthal wife to do?
What's any wife to do?
What will YOU do?

I know this is novel, but brace yourself.

Why not go for it?

Before you even begin (put your hand down) I know you have a million reasons why not.
I'll list a few here:

You're tired. Perpetually tired.
You haven't showered since yesterday (or in the case of Neanderthal Woman, since never). 
You just put on your GOOD yoga pants.
He just WINKED at you.
You need to read this fitness magazine and eat ice cream.
The lights are on.

So many more.

But let's agree to let the Why Not's rest for awhile.
You can always say No.
Don't you say No a hell of a lot?
You are practiced in saying No.
No means No and should always be respected.
Yes, yes.  Always yes to all of the above.

But let's just take it down a notch there and explore what might happen

 if this time (brace yourself)

You said yes.

1) You would burn calories. 

 According to Mens Health, the average man burns 100 calories and the average woman 69 (hee hee) calories during the typical roll in the hay. ( Okay, so maybe you aren't burning as much as if, say, you were sprinting a (not at all fun) Fun Run, but still far more than you would burn shoveling in the Ben and Jerry's. 

2) You would be happier.

Making whoopee makes you giddy, psychologically.  WebMD cites a study that surveyed the sexual activity and happiness of 16,000 men and women and found thatsex "enters so strongly (and) positively in happiness equations" that they estimate increasing intercourse from once a month to once a week is equivalent to the
amount of happiness generated by getting an additional $50,000 in income for the average American."  (  You might not be trading in the minivan for the car of your dreams this year, but you can still take the Mustang out for a ride if you know what I mean. 

3) You would be healthier.

Listen. Girl.
You're a mess.  
You have no time for anything healthy---sure, you wolf down your daughter's Flintstones vitamins and you floss the week before you go to the dentist.  But a little 'gland to gland combat' is just about as good as any other move toward a healthier you.  
It has been proven to boost your libido, make you sleep more soundly, reduce your risk of heart attack and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. 

Unless your pelvic floor muscles are already super.  Which, in that case, disqualifies you from even reading this blog post. I almost called this post Need kegels, will travel.

Ahem.  Moving on.

4) You will feel more connected.

There's probably a lot of science to back this one up, but let's keep this more simple. Every woman I know says that while she might have a million reasons she didn't have the energy to start having sex, she's usually glad she did it anyway. Because afterward, you each other.  Of course you always love each other.  Even when you say no.  Even when he isn't interested (isn't he always interested?).
Even when you are too tired. And even when you haven't had sex since before the baby, unless you count that one time at his parents house when you told him you would do it if you didn't have to take off any articles of clothing and didn't have to move at all. 
And he was all like, sure, that's cool.

But when you do decide to ignore the Why Not's, when you do decide to just go for it, you realize that more than loving him---you actually like him. 

And you like having sex with him.

That guy, he's pretty okay, isn't he?  He doesn't care that your pelvic floor is as weak as a busted up hammock.  He thinks you're beautiful. (I wrote this one: You should read it if you don't believe you are beautiful: The Prettiest Wife in the World) even when you are irrational (which is never). And he wants to do the horizontal hokey pokey RIGHT NOW.

And he wants only you. 

Sometimes you just can't muster the energy and sometimes you will say no.  And that's okay.  Take the guilt and throw it out with the empty Ben and Jerry's pint. But take the long list of Why Not's and toss those out too.  The whole thing needs to be redetermined and reconsidered.  

If you wait for that small interval in which you have had enough sleep and feel enough energy and have enough time and you really really really want to...well, that time might never come.  

And then you might never come.

So I'm here to say this: sometimes it's okay to fake it until you make it.

(Except don't fake IT.  Make him work for that shit.)


You take the wine glasses from his hand and tell him that if he promises to never, ever wink again you will give it a go. And he wants to dance with you.
 And dancing leads to kissing and kissing leads to the stairs and the stairs lead to your bedroom.
 And the bedroom leads to bow-chick-bow-bow.

And once you are in your bed---your legs layered in post coital bliss, you are still tired but you are glad.
He touches his nose to your nose and smiles so closely you remind yourself to tell him tomorrow to trim his nostril hair. 
But boy, is he handsome. And he looks at you so happily.
You are glad you ignored the Why Not's this time.

You are just about to drift off into sleep when the bedroom door is flung open.  The tell tale sound of child sized footstep approach the bed and you brace yourself for what comes next.

"Mama.  I'm FIRSTY", says your son as he pokes you in the neck.

You don't even move or open your eyes as you speak.

"Honey?" You say sweetly to your husband. 

"Are you up for... this?"

And then you drift quietly into a long and restful slumber.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How to get divorced

I was twenty years old when I got married, for the first time. I walked down the aisle with self-assurance, ready to start my new life, ready for grown-up adventures.  I was young, which made me infallible. And because I was infallible, I was unwilling to heed anyone's advice--when you know, I said then with a wave of my hand, you know.  And I knew.

Welp.  Surprise!
It turns out I didn't know.  And after 13 years of marriage, I was divorced. 

Getting married for the second time, I wasn't so young anymore.  And I had a self-diagnosed case of Post Traumatic Marriage Disorder: the painful awareness that love can crumble and "forever" might only turn out to mean a decade or two.  And this makes it all very, very scary. And it makes me unlikely source for marriage advice.

And yet, why not me?  Why not someone who has failed?  In the same way the couple who has been married for 40 years can tell you how to be married for so long, I can tell you how to be divorced.  We both have DONE IT! 

I would say that qualifies us as experts in our respective fields. Wouldn't you?
That was a rhetorical question, I don't want to hear your answer. :)

 As such, and as a self-proclaimed expert, I provide you with the following tutorial.

1) First, you must and I mean MUST marry under the following circumstances*:

  • Try to be very young (under 25 is best, under 20 is better)
  • Try to be very pregnant (It may seem that your chances of divorce are equally high when you get married after the baby is born, but alas, you've had too much time to think and thinking equals success.  To fail, you must be much more impulsive.  So buy the maternity wedding gown and work it.)
  • Try to have just met (online would be ideal, if he/she was in prison and the ceremony occurs between plexiglass, this spells certain success)
  • Try to have a language barrier, major religious difference or be from warring hillbilly families (See Hatfields and McCoy's for more information: An example of how to do it well (badly))
  • Try to have a bad feeling from the start (which you must push deep down into your soul and promptly ignore, should it steer you in a right/wrong direction and prevent the marriage from occurring)
*The more criteria you meet, the higher your divorces chances, of course.  So if you really want to fuck this marriage up, aim high and go for all of the above.

2) Next, you must have nothing, or close to nothing, in common.  Okay, this is not always necessarily true.  Here are the things you CAN have in common in order to have a successful divorce.

  • A love of crime
  • A love of passive aggressive arguments
  • A penchant for self-destruction
  • A love of animal hoarding
3)  It's best if you hate each other's families.
4) It's best if one of you traps the other into the marriage. (Surprise! Everyone is waiting with the minister in the backyard!)
5) It's best if you know your mate has major personality flaws but you also just KNOW you can change him.
6) It's best if one or more of your friends or co-workers has seen her out and getting cozy with another man recently; it's better if this occurs as close to the wedding as possible and there was nudity involved.
7) It's best if you are getting hitched just to plan a large, well-attended, week long, alcohol and sex-fueled bachelor/bachelorette party.
8) It's best if the following thoughts run through your mind as you walk down the aisle:

  • Was his hair always in a mohawk?
  • 7th time's the charm!
  • I wonder what his middle name is...?
  • I wonder what his last name is? 
  • Screw all my friends and family for not coming.  One little knife threat and they write him off. 
9) It's best if you move far away from all support systems, have as little stability as possible, and through caution to the wind.  Better yet, just follow the mantra of that wise duo, Captain and Tennille and let love keep you together. (If one of you has her haircut or owns his hat, though, all bets are off. That kind of coolness should never be divorced.  Ever.  )

10) Once you are married, try very hard to let every little fight become a battle and to let every little problem become a crisis.  The accumulation of this stress will make you both extremely unhappy.  And while I can not say, for certain, you will end in divorce under this circumstance, at least you both will be incredibly unhappy. And unhappiness is a super great factor in helping to encourage divorce.

But then again, unhappiness is also a super great factor in staying married.  Ask that couple on the end of the street how they have managed to stay together for 40 years.  They argue all the time.  You once saw her cut all the flowers off his rose bushes with a pair of kitchen shears in a fit of rage.  And he calls her "The ball and chain" and he never smiles.  Never. Not even when he won the Publisher's Clearing House and Ed McMahon came to his house.  He just scowled at his wife and took the cardboard check and put it in the front closet.

All jokes aside, you can ask the old couple about marriage and you can ask me about divorce; truly we would both say the same thing.
There's no telling what will make it work or what will work for you.

Marriage is like jumping into the swimming pool without dipping your toe in first.
You prepare for the dive and you rely on what you know, mix it with blind faith that it will all turn out all right.
Sometimes you make that splash and the water is so biting, so cold that you just don't think you can stand to swim anymore.  And you have to get out.  Even if you don't want to. You hadn't jumped in with the plan to get right out.
Other times, the best times, the water is fine. And you are so glad to be floating or paddling or just drifting. And you stay in that pool, even if the air gets cold or the breezes blow.  It just feels right.

Who is to say what is wrong or what is right?  Who is to say that they knew, for sure, how it would end up?

I don't know that. I have no list for that.

But I know one thing for sure.

Hope for warm water, friends.  Be brave and hold your nose.
Think hard, plan well. But be brave.
Always be glad you jumped.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

For the entire last week that school was still in session, I read post after post on Facebook and Twitter from parents who “couldn’t wait” for school to be over.
 “No more lunches to make!”
 “We can sleep in!”
 “Can’t wait to spend the summer with my kiddos!”

Those were just some of the banal, dubious comments from ex-friends and siblings, had I not had to delete them from my feed for being obvious LIARS.

Or self-medicators.  And truly? I want whatever those parents are smoking. 

Because my own feelings on the matter could not be more different.

So, in anticipation of a Summer Vacation that will go very much like the dozen or so that have preceded it, I am fast forwarding 3 months into the glorious space of September.  And giving you the essay, in three parts, that I am bound to write from the highly anticipated joyful abode of my vacant home.  

Whence the children have finally returned to their rightful place, seated behind a desk for 7 hours a day.

Then, and only then, will I find peace.

They are only quiet when they are chewing

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

By, Nicole Jankowski
Recovering Breeder
Stay at Home Mom of 4 kids and 2 step-kids
Sad Shadow of Her Former Self

I just heard some rustling in the kitchen and I thought, for a moment, I was back in the shit.  I was about to make a run for my standard “brace for impact” position (hiding in the master bathroom, crouching in the corner with my iphone with the shower running as a smokescreen) but then I remembered it was September. 
Upon further inspection, it was only the cat.

And then I laughed (like a crazy subway person laughs) at my own sheer paranoia. 
Sweet niblets, by jolly. SEPTEMBER!  The land of milk and honey.
I laughed and I laughed. 

But summer vacation, my friends, is not a laughing matter.

It is an experiment concocted by the government to test the mental and physical capacity of otherwise normal, capable adults.  It is meant to break them down to the most basic of all existences.  One day, you are waving as the school bus drives away, wearing real clothes and thinking coherent thoughts like: I am going to get some work done today and Isn’t the sun pretty this morning?
And the next you are trying to remember the thing you were supposed to do this week and after much thought it occurs to you that it was TO TAKE A SHOWER.  And then you are sad, because the odds on that are not in your favor.

That’s summer vacation for you.

And I should know.  I’ve survived 13 of them. 

This one, however, this one was the worst of all.


Even before June was over I doubted that I could make it out alive. 

For the first few days after school got out, they lounged around the house in their pokemon underwear and I thought, this is all right, man. It really seemed like summer vacation had come upon us in the most unobtrusive way.  Things were quiet. They seemed to be tired, ready to relax and enjoy some together time. 

I realize now that they were simply busy.  Busy with their internal crafting of a plan to engineer the end of all things hopeful in my life.

By Thursday of the first week of vacation I was using the phrases “sleep-away camp”, “babysitter” and “red wine” so frequently and interchangeably that I was thinking of making some sort of pinterest inspired collage of the words.
 Like maybe I could decoupage that shit into something pretty.

Except I didn’t have time for novelties like crafting or bathing or using real words because I was too busy trying to keep my children from trying to murder one another.

Against the backdrop of my autistic 10 year old running in and out for packs of fruit snacks (consumed in mouthfuls, wrappers in a Hansel and Gretel like trail) and hours spent driving my teenage daughter to various (potentially made up) “important” events, I literally spent June breaking up fights and disliking my own spawn.


Us—sitting in the car waiting for my daughter to come out of band practice.

Gabriel: wa-wa-wa-wawawawawawawa
Frankie: Stop making that sound.
Gabriel: What sound? Wa-wa-wa-wa
Frankie: That sound. STOP.
Gabriel: I’m not making any sound. Wa.
Frankie: Fine. Good.

Three minutes later:

Gabriel: wawa-WAAAAAA-WA-WAWA
Frankie: I have to hit you now. (Hitting him)
Gabriel: Didn’t hurt. WAWAWAWAWAWAWAWA
Frankie: This will. (Hitting him harder)
Gabriel: MA-MA-MAMAMAMAMA!  Frankie hit me!

Me: (Reluctantly, to Frankie) You can’t hit him. I guess I would have to ground you if you hit him. Again.
Frankie: No one listens to me. I think this is going to be the worst summer ever.

I see Dominic tearing into his 14th bag of fruit snacks in the far back of the mini-van, tossing the wrapper into the air with glee.


Me: Welcome to the club, dude.


UP NEXT: I join Instagram and my teenager is not happy....

Friday, June 13, 2014

You might be a Daddy, if...

All it takes is biology to be a Father, but it takes much more than that to be a Daddy. 

 You might be a daddy if... 

 1) You know all the words to the Dora the Explorer theme song and yet can't remember the pin to your ATM debit.

 2) You have been thrown up on, peed on, found baby food in your hair or breast milk on your collar. And were too tired to care. 

 3) You can't drive your coworkers to the bar for happy hour because it's too much work to move three car seats. 

 4) You've hidden in your wife's closet to take a business call. Or eat the last of the Halloween candy. Or both, at once. 

 5) You have never referred to watching your own children as "babysitting". 

 6) You cried when you took the training wheels off.

 7) You covered your ears when your wife mentioned a "training bra". 

 8) You can't wait for "date night" with your wife, but even with the fancy underwear (hers) and the cologne (yours) and the wine (both of you and LOTS) all you both talk about is the kids.

 9) The last time you had sex, your wife whispered huskily into your ear, "Can you be fast? I have to be up for a feeding in 3 hours." And you complied.

10) You have kissed a boy and liked it. And your heart aches over the thought that someday soon he won't want to kiss you back anymore. 

 11) You think sometimes One Direction is actually, secretly, really really talented. 

 12) You worry all the time. 

 13) You tell your wife not to worry. 

 14) You have eaten a half chewed chicken nugget and drank imaginary tea.

 15) Somebody asked you what the greatest part of being a Dad was and you couldn't think of anything to tell them. 

 Because it is all great, even the parts that aren't good at all. 
 Because you know you are in possession of something magical and fleeting.
 And words, which can't begin to explain, are nothing. 

 Because loving them is everything.

Read PART ONE of my Father's Day series here:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How To Make a Father (Father's Day, Part One)

There may come a time that you might wake up in the middle of the night and say to yourself---I think I would like to be a father.

You will roll over excitedly and peer at your sleeping wife, her brow furrowed in dreams and drool puddling from her open lips.  You will think, 'should I wake her now and inform her of this revelation?'.

Then you will remember the last time you woke her up, for a different revelation (the one about wanting to learn to unicycle) and you will rub your arm instinctively where the bruises were from that experience.

You will decide it can wait until morning.


In the beginning, it will be a secret.  You will see your wife flash her crooked smile and watch her cross and uncross her legs at a dinner party and think, I'm going to make a baby with her tonight.  You will have to leave the room to distract yourself from this notion, lest other party goers see evidence of your thoughts.

There will be deals between parts of you and parts of her that are unspoken and unrealized---
Sperm: 'Hello egg, you can run but you can't hide."
Egg: 'Bring it slowpokes'
Sperm: We've been training, we are--each of us-- now  the Michael Phelps of fertilization.'

You will come home from work one day and see her crying on the stairs, her head in her hands.  You will steel yourself against the disappointment and rub her hair, you will tell her "It's okay, we will try again next month" and  be surprised when you sound much more cheerful than you feel.

But then you will see her slowly lift her head and flash a crooked smile at you with blotchy eyes. She will just nod her head slowly and then  in circles, yes, yes, yes.

And then you both will cry, at the collision of what is starting and ending all at once, unseen and yet, right there with you, on the stairs in early evening.

The secret is out.

You will buy books, you will build cribs, you will doubt yourself.

You will gain 10 pounds of sympathy weight.  You will use words like "lactation consultant" and "onesie" at happy hour with male coworkers.  You will look around your house and see nothing but danger lurking in every plant, every sharp edged table, every choking hazard.

You will wonder if this nighttime revelation, like the unicycle experiment, was a smart choice. If you will know what to do, you want to learn what to do.

You will realize, in a grip of terror, that your destiny is already predetermined. That none of it could not be undone or rewritten.

You will see your wife's thick belly rising and falling in her sleep and consider, irrationally, running away.

But you will stay.
You know nothing, you aren't prepared,
but you will stay.

You will drive your wife to the hospital in the middle of the night, frantic and excited.  You will drive both of you home, exhausted, dejected. Not yet.

You will drive your wife to the hospital, suspicious and hopeful. You will call your parents and hers.  It's time.

You took classes and had a plan.
But no one told you what you really needed to know.

There will be blood.  There will be a finger-less clenching at your heart so fierce that you will be glad that you are in the hospital, should you need a cardiologist or a transplant.
There will be irrational guilt and selfish musing---This looks painful, I did this to her.  I'm glad it's not me.

There will be screaming and tears.  And then, brightness, as you wonder, confusedly, if God himself had opened a window to Heaven.  And you were an atheist. And you were a cynic.

But you are not sure of anything anymore when the walls shake with a cry that you have never heard and yet always known.
They will thrust a warm thing into your arms and you will look at a baby that appeared from nowhere and look back at the nurse, shaking your head.
You will say, "I don't know how to hold him" but she will smile and just pat your shoulder.

But you are holding him.
This is not like the unicycle, there is no trick, no special skill involved. You can't fall. You just know. You look at your wife and she gives you a tired, crooked smile.

I'm doing this, I'm really kind of good at it. You want to scream out loud to her with relief and pride.

You are holding him, this pink skinned child you made out of unseen matter.

But when you realize that, really it is him that is holding you, it is done.

You are, inexplicably, amazingly more than anything you have ever been.

You are a father.

How do you know you're a daddy?  Find out here:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nice Girls Say Yes

I started saying yes when I was still a little girl.

Nice girls do, you know.

I said yes in the classroom, in the back seat of the school bus with papers flying overhead.  I said yes at my friend's house, at sleepovers, tucked inside my Carebears sleeping bag.  I said yes to boys with pimples and pocket protectors and yes to short, elderly English teachers in suntan pantyhose. I said yes to cashiers and clerks, doctors and neighbors.  I even said yes to a nun in the church basement.

It was always yes.

It was middle school, or even earlier really when it began happening all the time.  I didn't seem like a 'yes-girl' at first glance--I was just a white kid with a blond afro, wearing red tights and a acid washed jean skirt.  I had friends--band friends---but enough, anyway.  I smiled a lot and rose my hand to answer the questions I knew the answers to.  Maybe I was smart enough, but I wasn't a fabulous student.  I liked to make people laugh.  I was a little too loud.  I was, altogether, just...nice.

But I was hiding something dark, something that remains with me still, even though I am now quite old enough to know better.  It's taken me 20 years to admit it, but the problem is real and it never seems to go away, no matter how hard I try to shake it.

I couldn't (and I still can't) say no.

It's not the word NO itself that I can not say, of course.
I can form the nasal consonant "n" and let my breath whoosh out the "ooooo".  It's really quite easy.
I can use the word in casual conversation:  "No way, you did not just tell me that everything is half off tomorrow at the thrift store! No!"
I can sob it loudly, pounding my fist into my pillow: "No, no, no---it can't be! Why didn't any one tell me about the half off sale?"
I can scream it into my reflection in the mirror, when no one is at home: "NOOOOOOO!  YOU HEAR ME?  I. SAID. NO!!!!!!"

But when you ask me to babysit your pet Parakeet with Tourette's Syndrome while you go hiking in Mozambique for 4 months?  I will, inexplicably, unwillingly and yet, begrudgingly tell you yes.
He only eats the homemade leather of organic mangoes? I must drive three hours weekly to purchase said mangoes and do I mind using my own teeth to chew them into bite sized pieces so they don't get lodged in his beak?  Of course he does.  Of course I don't mind.  Yes.
Can I call you daily at 2 AM Eastern Time (8 am Mozambique time) so Mr. Peepers can chirp you a happy morning rendition of On Top of the World?  You bet.

If saying yes is a disease, I have a fatal case for which there seems to be, even after such advances in technology as the internet and breast implants, absolutely no cure. It is, apparently, a life long affliction that results in being the only driver in the carpool, the assistant leader of the Tiger Scouts, missing a number two pencil cause you gave the last one away on test day, the last one to the table when the cake is being served and keeper of Parakeets with an affinity for Imagine Dragons and curse words.

And the affliction is often, very loud, very time-consuming and very, very painful.

There is no cure for Excessive Yes-ing.  And trust me, I've searched.  There is no self-help audio program (if there were and someone came hocking it door to door, I'd surely buy it---how could I say "no" when the introductory offer of $99.99 ends tomorrow?).

I often wonder how much of my need to say yes is deep seated in my development, how much of it comes from the excessive pressure that has been placed on the generation of women my age (29 years old on my last 6 birthdays).  From the earliest point in our life we were told we could have it all---a family, a career, love and sex and every single thing on the continuum between them.  We were given more and more opportunity, more and more options---but no one offered us less or took expectations away.

If as a young girl we asked if we could be President of the United States, for the first time in the history of our nation, our parents told us "yes".  They were proud. Of course we could.  We could do anything we wanted. But we had to do what society wanted us to do, too---the same things our mothers had to do. We could get a degree in Astro-physics and climb Mount Everest, but by the time we were 25 they were asking us if we had a boyfriend, did we want to get married and have children someday?  We knew they wanted us to say "yes".  

We understand very early in our development that nice girls say "yes".

Even if, as a baby crawling on our hands and knees, our first word was "no", we learn quickly that "yes" is better. Yes makes people happy, yes gets us what we need to survive.  Yes means another cookie, yes means someone picks us up and kisses our necks. Yes means we disappoint no one.
We are five years old in knee socks and Mary Janes and the neighbor next door asks us if we like kindergarten. No, we want to tell them, No---kindergarten sucks, lady.  We have to take naps and the classroom smells like paste.  But we smile and nod our heads yes because we know what that woman with the saggy stockings and the gardening shears wants.

She wants us to say yes.

I have no cure for my own problem, but I do have hope for the future. I'm raising my daughter to understand that it's okay to say "no".  It's not an easy feat. This often creates turmoil, because the person she says "no" most to, is me.  But it can't be helped. I don't want her to inherit my disease.

How many 29-again year old women hide their illness, like me?  I know there must be others out there, saying yes to run the Book Fair, yes to the Billy Rae Cyrus 1980's mullet, just because the hairdresser was so convincing, so forceful?  Just because there was no one else, because they felt guilty, because they were supposed to say yes?

How many women are hand-feeding chewed up pieces of mango to a borrowed parakeet in their kitchen, just because they never learned that it was okay, that the world would still turn, that they would still be loved and liked and wanted, if just this once...

The Nice Girl Said


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Heard about you, Maya Angelou

Heard about you, Maya Angelou
and decided to have a good cry
on the stairs.  Was almost to the hall, barefooted
when I realized I was holding my
breakfast peach, one bite gone.

Does poetry die with you, Maya Angelou?
And if so, will you take
from me too
the 'cold defeat' and leave no traces
no rages, no mastodons of remembering. Let remain
only empty cages,
where birds with wings once clipped
fly on
winds written in a fine, lilting hand

love verses to the clouds?

So I dry my eyes with my skirt hem
and think about writing.  Hold the peach, turn it over in my palm.

Think about the smallness of held objects.  Wonder if you,
Maya Angelou
can finally claim
the sky.