Sunday, June 8, 2014

(Not) Child in the City

A couple of years ago, North Star, on a sabbatical from work, bought a one way ticket to Europe, packed a bag, boarded a plane by herself, and then spent the next three or more months wandering around from place to place without a plan. I don’t remember all the places she ended up, but I know that, among others, Italy, France, Spain, India, Bali, Nepal and Thailand are on the list.  I also know that on her trip, she had a fabulous time, not just observing different cultures, but interacting with them, too. Like she tends to do, she made friends everywhere she went. Actually, I think friend is probably the wrong word. It might be better to say that while on her trip, North Star became an active participant in other people’s lives.

North Star believes herself to be so capable, she’s often said to me she believes if she were dropped into virtually any situation in any place, she thinks she would be okay. I think the same. Actually, that’s not entirely true. What I actually think is North Star is strong enough, capable enough, outgoing enough, and confident enough not merely to be okay in any situation, but to thrive. 

That’s North Star as I know her.

And then there’s me as I know myself.

If it were me on that trip that North Star took--and that's one astronomical if since jetting to Europe involves getting off of my couch--I would've found a bistro or cafe or whatever restaurants are called in France or Italy or wherever I'd decided to hunker down with things on the menu I could pronounce, parked myself there with a book so I didn't have to make eye contact with a single soul, and spent my days and nights in that same place. I also might have started smoking so I'd have something to do with my hands because gods know nothing makes me feel as conspicuous as having nothing to do with my hands.

While North Star busies herself with jetting across the Atlantic and trekking across Europe and Asia by herself (and did I mention her trip to Kenya? She's also gone to Kenya), I busy myself with pretty much the exact opposite. If Glenn or my sister isn’t with me, whatever I’m thinking of doing probably isn’t going to happen. I think, though I could be wrong by one or two, I’ve maybe done five things by myself in my entire life.  Of course, I’m not talking normal, everyday things like going to the grocery store or the mall or having a meal in a restaurant, I’m talking things that, at least to me, are significant. The list looks like this:

Things (of Significance) Kel Has Done Alone 

1. Drive to and attend a week-long Harlem Renaissance workshop in St. Petersburg
2. Fly to St. Louis to attend and be in Marnie’s wedding and then not only be dateless, but pretty much friendless, alone, and awkward at the reception.
3. Fly to Rhode Island for Erin’s wedding, where I was dateless (but admittedly not friendless, alone, and awkward) at the reception
4.  Drive to and attend The Ramones concert at The Edge in Orlando
5.  Drive to Gainesville and hang out with North Star’s then boyfriend while I looked for an apartment that I never moved into

And, well, yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

So why do I bring this up now? Why the comparisons between North Star and me? What exactly is the what of this conversation?

Next week I’m going to Chicago. And I’m doing it by myself.

Well, not by myself, by myself.

By myself with Griffin and Keifer.

But, really, with a twelve- and a fourteen-year-old who have no idea what to do or where to go, I’m kind of as by myself as I would be if they weren’t there. And I totally don’t mean that in a negative way. I love being with G and K--admittedly usually when I have one of them alone rather than both of them together--and doing things with them will be fun, and I can’t wait to show them Chicago, in Keifer’s case for the first time since he’s old enough to really know what he’s seeing, it’s just a point of not knowing what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it and not having an adult around to help me.

And before anyone points out that I am, in fact, an adult, I’ll acknowledge that, yes, I am, but I’ll also ask—

have you met me?

Or if not met me, have you read me?

Because if you’ve done either of those things, you know I’m an adult only in years.

And now I’m off to the big city, solo.

I'm off to the big city solo for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of sitting around, saying, What do you want to do? I don't know, what do you want to do? 

I'm off to the big city, solo, for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of trying to coordinate rides on the L--which I'm already nervous about figuring out how to buy three week-long passes for--with rides on the bus but failing miserably and never ending up where I want to go.

I'm off to the big city, solo, for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of endless research trying to figure out the best way to consolidate trips but not being able to figure out the best way to consolidate trips and then maybe, possibly, probably, as a result, doing nothing at all.

I'm off to the big city solo for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of wandering around, lost, six days of feeling uncomfortable, six days of not knowing how to dress, six days of not knowing what to do, six days of not knowing where to eat, six days of disaster disaster disaster.

I'm off to the big city solo for what I'm afraid is going to be exactly what I'm afraid of.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I, Gynecologist...You, Jane

'Cause I'm just a girl, little 'ol me
Don't let me out of your sight
I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don't let me have any rights
                                      No Doubt

I'm not usually one to write "angry posts," but I'm so annoyed right now, I have no choice.

About an hour ago, I called my gynecologist's office to schedule a tubal ligation. Before the receptionist would even grant me an appointment for a consultation, she asked me if they'd delivered a baby for me--the answer is yes, thirteen years ago--and how old I am. She then told me I'd need to schedule an appointment to see the doctor to figure out whether I'm a candidate or not. When I told her that I have two children, am almost forty, and have been married for over sixteen years, she said she couldn't just schedule me for surgery over the phone without coming in to see the doctor, despite the fact that I had my well woman check at their office not even a month ago.

At first I didn't know what was going on. When she first asked me if they'd delivered a baby for me, I didn't see it; when, however, she asked me my age, I realized she was checking to see if I was "tube tie-able." And I was outraged.

Okay. Not scheduling me for surgery (albeit a super minor surgery) without me coming in to see the doctor (remember, despite my having just been in not even a month ago), I could semi-understand. Asking me if they'd delivered a baby for me (which is, I guess, really asking if I've had babies because I can't see them only being willing to perform tubal ligations on people who they've personally delivered children for) and how old I am is, to me, an outrage.

It shouldn't matter if I'm thirty-nine or twenty-nine or even nineteen. If I, as a woman, have decided I don't want (more) children, that should be my choice.

And it shouldn't be questioned.

The nurse doesn't know this, but before I made this phone call, I did a tremendous amount of research. Having been on the pill for the last twelve years constantly and off and on for about ten years between thirteen and twenty-three (for acne, people! Please), I felt it was time to switch birth control methods. Not only am I the worst pill taker in the world, forgetting my pill one, two, even sometimes three days in a row, but the dangers of taking the pill after thirty-five are no joke. Neither is the fact that my insurance stopped paying for my pills, so I had to switch to generic, or the weight I've gained since switching. So after a lot of thought, once I finished my pills last month, I didn't fill my prescription and am now extra hormone--as well as birth control--free.

When I decided to stop taking the pill, I continued the off and on research I'd been doing for years on the IUD. Lots of pros but too many cons convinced me it wasn't the method for me. The NuvaRing and patch both seem to be no picnic, and even skinny people I knew who took Depo-Provera ended up fat.

And that really leaves only one thing, which is how I ended up on the phone with the receptionist who felt she had the right to question the appropriateness of the birth control method I wish to use.

Can I just say, Bitch, whatever birth control method I wish to use is the right one?

In my opinion, that phone call and the subsequent appointment I have coming up aren't much better than the forced "counseling sessions" women have to sit through before being granted an abortion.

And these things are not okay. 

These things are not okay because who has the right to tell a woman what she can or can't do with her own body? Who has the right to tell a woman maybe one day she'll want kids, so for now she should pump her body full of hormones if she doesn't want to get pregnant or just not have sex? Who has the right to assume they know better for a woman than she knows for herself? Who is so self-righteous they think they know what's better for us than we do?

You think I'm going to say men, don't you? Well, I'm not.

What I'm going to say is going to make most of you think I'm extreme and insane, but my answer is everybody. Everybody and everything.

Men, other women, society. It's all built around demeaning and controlling women's lives, from the language to the expectations to the regulations to the stipulations.

And it's fucking disgusting.

Monday, June 2, 2014

It Gets Better?

I've always been
a realist

Because I've always been this way, I could always kind of blame my fault finding on myself rather than my children. If one of them didn't sing a song to my satisfaction or deliver a line exactly the way I thought it should be delivered when they used to go to the studio, well, it didn't necessarily mean they were bad, it just meant that I had unrealistic expectations and expected perfection. When they got A's and B's on their report cards or below the ninety-ninth percentile on their standardized tests, it didn't necessarily mean they weren't intelligent enough, it just meant they weren't as intelligent as I thought they should be. Until now, the faults I found really did epitomize the statement people make that goes something along the lines of, If someone isn't nice to you, it has everything to do with that someone and nothing to do with you.

Until now, even when I found fault, I could chalk it up to the perfectionism my therapist said probably isn't very easy to live with.

But now that it's now, my perfectionism is a scapegoat no more.

Am I being cryptic? I don't mean to be.

This post is just a hard one to write.

See, Keifer didn't make
the soccer team
a soccer team
the soccer teams he wanted.

Because he's been playing travel for so long and starting for the last two years, playing every second of every game, I guess I took for granted he'd make any team he wanted to play for. I think he did, too.

Obviously, that's not what happened.

The reality is, he tried out for four teams and made two one-and-a-half. (That one-and-a-half is because one is a B team, and I have a feeling everyone who showed up got offered a spot. I could be wrong, but most likely I'm not.)

The reality is,
checking soccer club websites repeatedly
sitting by the phone waiting for soccer clubs to call
made me
way too anxious
sick to my stomach
have to go the bathroom.

The reality is,
seeing that website without his name on it
not getting that phone call
hearing that one of his teammates made one team and two made another
made me teary
made me nauseated
made my heart hurt

made me question

absolutely everything.*

*This post has gone awry. I told you it was a hard one to write. It seems, I see, like I'm sad for myself, for some kind of loss, maybe the loss associated with the idea of Keifer as a soccer player I once had. That, though, is not the case. Any sadness I feel--and let me tell you, I'm feeling a whole lot of sadness--is for Keifer. Any hurting I experience is for him not because of him.

I may be a crazed perfectionist who wants nothing but right angles and straight lines, but what I want even more is for my children to be happy.**

**It wouldn't hurt if I were happy, too.