with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: marriage

“How’d that get in my cart?”: The joy-ish of shopping with your partner

by SweetMidlife
Sometimes we have too much peanut butter. And sometimes, Husband buys excellent hot sauce.

Sometimes we have too much peanut butter. And sometimes, Husband buys excellent hot sauce.

Greetings. My name is Leslie, and I like grocery shopping. If you read this blog, you might notice that we post about food a lot, not only because we’re in the gym working on our fitness just like Fergie, but because we like food, which is why, unlike Fergie, we need to LIVE in the gym working on our fitness.

In my case I think that my weekly-ish visit to the supermarket and to the cool vegetable market down the street is also a function of my control freak-ism. As a single girl, it was about trying to control what I ate, which translated into what I weighed and, unfortunately, how I felt about myself. But now, I’m the primary meal planner for three people, one of whom likes meat and white pasta, two things I don’t eat, and the other of whom expresses his displeasure by wrinkling up his face or turning his head as the spoon’s headed for his lips, or just says “No” in a Hobbit voice and then runs away to play with blocks.

(It’s up to you to guess which one’s my husband and which one’s the Toddler.)

Anyway,  because we should all be healthy, doing the shopping means that I get to control at least the dinner options of the household (Husband gets lunch at work, and I do buy Toddler’s food for Baby School, but iF a cookie or something gets in there I’m not there to police it, and a cookie isn’t gonna kill him.) (Yeah, I said it. Come at me, bro.)

I also do most of the cooking, and I’m the only one who remembers what got shoved in all the little drawers in the refrigerator or that we ALREADY HAVE PEANUT BUTTER OH MY STARS THERE’S THREE JARS OF UNOPENED STUPID PEANUT BUTTER IN THERE BEHIND THE SALAD WE NEVER ATE AND I DON’T EVEN EAT JIF ONLY YOU DO PLEASE EAT IT OR STOP BUYING STUPID PEANUT BUTTER.

It’s stuff like JifGate that make me kind of territorial about the shopping, and I usually do it by myself, during the day, when I don’t have to worry about Husband dropping duplicate items in the cart or Toddler having a random meltdown when he’s not allowed to reach out and shove everything off the olive oil shelf. (That’s never happened, but I don’t want to be the woman sheepishly asking the store manager about the oily pile of glass in Aisle 7.)

When Husband and I do wind up doing a joint trip, it’s usually during the weekend, when I’ve had time to clip coupons, make a list and check the store ad. I can’t organize my closet but I’m a staunch grocery lister. Go figure. So even if he runs off the rails in the meat or hot sauce aisle, I’ve got what I need and I’ve usually budgeted for the week, so a few odd sauces aren’t gonna kill me. It’s the random tandem midweek jaunts that can test my ability to zig and not zag, and that also test my ability to just shut up sometimes.

Husband and I both worked from home yesterday, and decided to hit the local grocery an hour or so before having to pick Toddler up from Baby School. This was supposed to just be a “shopping for tonight’s dinner” trip – I was making chili – so I had already Terminator-scanned the store from the door. I need ground beef for Husband’s portion, beans and tomatoes and such, a bottle of wine for me (not all to be drunk last night, of course) and yogurt for Toddler and me.

Husband was in line for Powerball tickets for last night’s huge jackpot, and you should not be shocked that we didn’t win, because if I had I would not be still sitting here writing this. (#truth) So I did a workman-like job of rounding the aisles and getting what I needed, and was mostly done when I heard my name and saw Husband making his way across the store with a full hand cart. And I swear the control freak in me started panicking, because he likes buying the same stuff over and over, even if we didn’t use half of it the last time he bought it and it’s still in the fridge hello Jif. But he is also a grown man who contributes to the groceries and it’s not fair to be the Food Cop unless it’s something really unhealthy that humans shouldn’t eat.

“Look what I got!” he said excitedly, offering two cartons of real actual juice without artificial things, which are excellent, fruit, the good burgers for the chili because he didn’t know that I already got meat, but which now form the basis of another meal, because why not buy a few days in advance? We’re here, right? And I felt my control freak shutting up. He did good.

(NOTE: I must also add that Husband’s real superpower is farmer’s markets. He finds the best cool little sauces and spreads, including the fish dip I ate all of, and this boss mango chutney he bought from his “hot sauce guy” at the South Florida Fair. Yes, he has a hot sauce guy he sees annually at the fair, to the point where when he didn’t answer his cell, I knew where to find him.)

There was absolutely nothing unhealthy in that cart, and besides the Soap Opera Digest “for me” that is totally for him and the fancy paper goods he gets, that I never do, because I am cheap, it was an excellent trip. He’s grown folk. Chill out Leslie.

So we get to the checkout, and I start seeing the numbers adding up. I had an arbitrary number in my head, and we were past that before I even put all the stuff on the belt. And I started panicking, not because I didn’t have the money to spend, but because IT WASN’T IN MY PLAN. And it wasn’t even a good plan, because we have to buy for the rest of the weekend sometime, so why not last night? I originally pegged it as a quick trip because of time constraints and because I didn’t have my coupons, but it actually took less time because I had an extra pair of adult hands and no tiny shelf-clearer in the cart. And if Husband is picking his own healthy food, he’s going to eat it. And that’s awesome.

I now have a full fridge, and some yummy, healthy things to eat, and I don’t fear badness in there. The multiple peanut butters? That’s another story.


Why I’ll miss Julia the most on “Parenthood”

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

As you know if you read this blog at all, both of us are die-hard fans of NBC’s one-episode-from-the-end family drama “Parenthood,” which is not to say that we are always fans of the show’s creative choices or of its characters. But that’s what family is – you don’t always like ’em but you do always love ’em.

images
So I cried through last night’s episode, the last one until the series finale (the real finale, and not that fake NBC “the last episode before the last episode before the fall finale” crap they do in previews), because this show makes everybody cry. And I realized something weird – the character whose story I was most interested in seeing the conclusion of was Julia (Erika Christensen), the youngest Braverman daughter and, at least initially, the most financially successful besides oldest brother Adam (Peter Krause).

And that’s funny because when the show debuted, not only was Julia the least-focused on, character-wise, but probably the Braverman kid that got the least attention, perhaps because she seemed to have it all figured out and wasn’t as much drama as overgrown man-child Crosby (Dax Shepard) and perpetual screw-up Sarah (Lauren Graham). And with her sweet supportive husband and cute, if hideously bratty daughter, high-powered lawyer Julia was the one you didn’t have to worry about. So the show didn’t and neither did I – other than her pretty husband, I never paid her much mind.

When the show started, the character I most identified with was Adam’s wife Kristina (Monica Potter), who’d grown up in an unhappy family and wasn’t always appreciative of the way the Bravermans barged in, physically and emotionally, into each other’s business. (I’m from a big family who’s in and out of each other’s business, even across state lines, and I get it. We’re exhausting.) What a difference six season makes. When “Parenthood” debuted, I’d been married for less than a month. Now, right before my fifth anniversary, I realize that I relate much more to the nuances of marriage as seen through the eyes of Julia and Joel (Sam Jaeger) than to Kristina, a dedicated mother who’s become, to me, increasingly sour and self-righteous.

Julia, however, has become more intriguing because she’s had to find out who she was as a wife, a mother, a professional, a woman and even in the order of her original family. When the show begins, she’s the breadwinner, and Joel, who was in contracting and had seen his work affected by the economy, is happy to be the primary at-home parent. And it works perfectly, so the two don’t see how deciding to add another child to their family would be anything less than perfect – perfect-er! But life happens, as we know it does, and they can’t get pregnant again. Then the young woman who was to let them adopt her baby changes her mind. So they adopt Victor, an older child who’d been in foster care and who made them work for his affection because he was afraid of being rejected again.

Wow.  Suddenly Julia’s life felt real to me, more real than the nth iteration of Sarah screwing up relationships at will and Adam and Kristina’s various personal and professional conflicts. The always stable attorney quits her job, so that she can be around to provide the stability that both her kids need, at the same time that Joel’s career starts picking up again. But this causes issues that the always-solid rock of the family never predicted. She hadn’t considered how much of her identity was wrapped up in her job, how much her confidence rested on it. Meanwhile, her sacrifice at work doesn’t magically make things easier at home, and as Joel’s star rises, Julia flounders. She’s threatened by Joel’s success, horrified a little to realize how selfish that felt, and envious that he got to have an escape, one he’d not had for years.

Then came the convoluted conflict that TV shows have to have, the writerly script things thrown in just because someone in a meeting thought there needed to be some drama: Julia begins flirting with a fellow parent at their kids’ school, a dad who, like her, is a displaced professional, as Joel’s very attractive lady boss begins showing some interest in him. Because she’s always the one in control, Julia refuses to admit there’s an issue until an ill-fated kiss between her and the school dad, which throws Joel into an anger spiral that almost immediately results in him shutting her out and moving out.

That part felt stupid and rushed, but it went to the heart of the problem in many relationships of any type – people not talking to each other and assuming they’d all work out because they always had. By the time Joel realizes he’s screwed up and wants to sort it out, the divorce papers are being signed. Julia’s dating a college friend who is now her boss at her new law firm, the kids are adjusting to the split as best they can, and she pleads with him to just sign the papers already…about three seconds before they wind up in bed together. And from there, the two start a semi-secret reconciliation, which was cemented in last night’s episode when Joel moves back in. Daughter Sidney is thrilled but Victor, who knows a thing or two about chaos, isn’t convinced. How do they know, he asks, that they won’t wind up fighting and miserable again?

They don’t. And this is where I realized how much I love Julia and how I will miss her the most, because she and Joel have the most real conversation about marriage I’ve seen on TV in some time, maybe ever. Joel realizes that Julia’s still in close contact with her now-ex, still her boss, and that this makes him uncomfortable. They both realize that they hadn’t considered a lot of stuff, and that there’s a lot to talk about. Joel doesn’t want to fight about it, because he, like the kids, is afraid of the fragile truce fracturing. Julia, on the other hand is “afraid not to fight,” because she doesn’t want the problems that exploded the first time to be repeated. So they sit in their car, away from the kids, and hash it out. It’s not pleasant. But it’s part of making it work. And I believe it will.

I have told this story before, but it bears recapping – the best advice I’ve ever gotten about marriage was from a former college Christian fellowship staffer when I was a freshman, who told us that she’d learned in her first year as a wife that “love is not a feeling. Love is a commitment.” Marriage is work. Marriage is details and conflict and compromise and just talking about stuff you’d rather just put a Band-aid on before moving on to brunch, because it never, hopefully, ends. “Parenthood” is the story of several marriages, but somehow Julia and Joel’s, the one that briefly ended, is the one that seems the most real, the story that is the most about these two people and the choices they make to do the work. Julia used to be the one I ignored because she seemed so figured out, but it’s her conflicts that made her real. Bravo.


Bringing Sexy Back. In a Few Days.

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here. And that exclamation point was about all of the energy I have today.

I have a cold that I caught from my husband, who had it over the weekend. Some time on Monday night, it crept into my nose and I am sorry about that visual. But that is how it feels, y’all. I spent most of yesterday in bed, since my husband stayed home to take care of me and to make sure that the toddler didn’t wreck me, himself or the house. I feel better today, but still yucky, and it’s just me and the little boy today. And also Peppa Pig, monster truck videos on You Tube, and apricot preserves and a spoon. Those are my helpers.

I realized sometime this morning that the leggings I am wearing this Wednesday morning have been on my body since Monday night. They looked cute when I wore them with high boots and a cute dress to see my cousin be sworn in as State’s Attorney for a nearby county.  Now, paired with this red t-shirt with Cupid on it and various food stains, they look, well, sad. And that my sweet husband has had to share a bed with that for the last few nights.

Yeah, buddy!

Which reminds me of a lesson that I am learning, 4 years into this marriage thing, and that is this: sexy is fleeting. Sometimes I am snotty and achy and exhausted, and I can’t be bothered with showering, let alone lipstick. But that is okay. Because it be like that sometimes. Shoot, my normal is kinda natural, with maybe lip balm and lipstick, and if I am felling really fancy, eye liner. But these last few days I have ridden the train to grubby. But you know what IS sexy? A man who goes to the Rite-Aid at 7 am to get you more Dayquil and hand sanitizer. Because that is a man who cares, and who sees past the snot. And who doesn’t want to get sick again. But who also sees me through the ick.

So, I will take advantage of this rest, and put water on my body, and bring sexy back. Soon.

Yep.

Yep.

 


Fabulous ’15! Five resolutions you can keep!

by SweetMidlife
It's a blank slate. You might as well fill it well.

It’s a blank slate. You might as well fill it well.

 

Leslie here! I greet you on this fine New Year’s Day from the Sweet Midlife’s southern headquarters, over a green smoothie and an episode from Season 4 of “The Wire.” My husband is sitting on the couch next to me under an afghan knitted by my Great-Aunt Martha. Many of those details figure into my New Year’s Resolutions…stop rolling your eyes. Yes, yes, I like you have been super stoked about all the stuff I was gonna do on Jan. 1, involving diet, exercise, job, you name it.

And Jan. 27 I, like you, was like “Screw it. Ice cream and couches rule.”

My sister wrote recently about her resolution to be more loving, and that’s an amazing thing to promise. That’s certainly on my list, but here are five more things I think I can stick to. For real. Stop side-eyeing me. You haven’t read them yet!

1) Be specific about my health goals while being realistic and non-sadistic. That rhymes. Almost like a Johnnie Cochran situation. But there are no gloves to fit into this one, just a middle-aged woman trying to fit into the clothes she was trying to be too skinny to fit into last year (and ain’t that a pip?). Last year I had a very mapped-out goal, to dive into a clean eating program, to work out a specific amount of time, and lose a specific amount of weight. This worked out quite well until a kid came to live with us in March, and to paraphrase Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody have time for making tomato soup from scratch. I beat myself up for my failure to fit my previous resolve into our new life, and got fatter for it. This year, I have decided to be proactive about my eating and working out and not use my fatigue as an excuse, because either I’m gonna do it or I’m not. Won’t get done for me. But I also refuse to use a timeline, and to beat myself up if that arbitrary deadline doesn’t pan out. Instead it’s day by day – I’ve got this smoothie, already told the guys at the gym they’ll see me today, and am going to hit my ab work the minute I get finished typing this. If we get lunch I get a salad or something not fried. I keep that up. I feel good about it. I go to bed and don’t tie my self worth into the choices I made. And then start over tomorrow.

Let's do this! Sweaty and set on change!

Let’s do this! Sweaty and set on change!

2) Call my grandmother more: And my aunties and my uncles, and my goddaughter and cousins and all the people I wonder about but don’t always pick up a phone and talk to.

3) Write everything down – I am not the most organized person in the world (understatement understatement understatement) and making myself write stuff down – my grocery list, the errands I have to run, my blogging and work interview schedule my work out goals – keeps me honest and accountable and not slapping myself in the forehead and going “Acck! I was supposed to blah blah blah!”

4) Finish what I started – meaning the novel I’ve been hovering around for three years in various incarnations. This year. For real. Been too long.

5) Be better to my skin: My consistent skin care regimen for the last 43 years, between a Grand Canyon’s worth of products, has basically been “Black don’t crack.” (Ahem) But my family’s excellent genes don’t mean I shouldn’t wear sunscreen, or daily wash my face with….something, and drink lots of water. I need to not be the first woman in my family to look her age.

I think these are all do-able. Sometimes stuff is hard, the stuff we need to do to survive. But it doesn’t have to be awful, or unpleasant. Let’s do it! Who’s with me?


The weird, friendly adventures of a black Christian lady looking for a Hanukkah menorah

by SweetMidlife
And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall's.

And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall’s.

“Happy Hanukkah!”

Over my shoulder as I (being Leslie) rush out of a fancy chain home decor store here in West Palm Beach, I hear the very sweet and apologetic clerk, who has just explained that her establishment is the latest on my crossed-off list of places that do not carry menorahs. This is my fifth Hanukkah season with my husband, who is Jewish, and the beautiful candle holder that his late mom got us for our wedding seems to have vanished in our last move, or in the ether, or with a tiny Jewish group of Borrowers who also seem to have stolen the mate to every one of his socks.

Because we already had one – or used to – I have never had to go shopping for a menorah before, and foolishly believed that in an area whose populace that no less an expert than Jason Alexander described as “a preponderance of Jews” would be a hotbed of menorah-hood. That it would be the Menorahhood.

Oh, foolish silly Goy.

I am not Jewish, but I am a wife, so in the last five years or so I have become our household’s procurer of most holiday and special-occasion paraphernalia and accoutrements, including wandering into Judaica stores looking for seder plates, making Passover reservations, ordering matzo ball soup en masse, hunting for High Holiday tickets and, as today, driving around the greater West Palm Beach area looking for a menorah. When I first began these errands years ago, I braced for the weird looks – and boy, did I get them! – at the red Afro’d black woman wandering, confused, through the Kosher cookbooks, looking like the loser in a very specific scavenger hunt.

But you know what always wound up happening, on those trips and today, on my menorah hunt? Everybody, pretty much to a number, was awesome. Welcoming. The guy in the Judaica store could not have been more helpful. The ladies in the various delis looked bemused but walked me through the rugelach and smoked fish dips with patience and kindness, because it was clear I was out of my depth.

And today, two separate clerks, the aforementioned lady at Restoration Hardware and the one at chi chi stationary store at Paper Goods, said “Happy Hanukkah” to me. And it made my heart grow a gazillion sizes. Understand that I am a Christian, and my celebration of Hanukkah is because of my husband, who in turn goes to Easter services with me. It’s also a nod to the Jewish roots of my own beliefs.

The ladies at those stores do not know this. I assume that I look different than the other people who have come in looking for menorahs and candles and stuff. But they listened to what I wanted and greeted me accordingly, and it was sublime.

Many of my Facebook friends of several religions have recently pondered the downright nasty response they have gotten from some strangers who have received their sincere “Happy Holidays” and spit it right back at the giver, to strike a blow for the War on Christmas. I can see standing up for your beliefs, but don’t be nasty about it. (Those people, no matter how fervent their Christian beliefs, are being bad citizens and, if you think about it, not exemplary Christians, because we all know the best way to interest people in your beliefs is to take their heads off when they say something nice to you and can’t tell if you’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, Druid or otherwise. But go on being outraged. That’s such a good look on you. Said no one ever.)

So I loved that these women wished me the happiest version of the holiday that corresponds with the thing I was looking for, because that makes sense, regardless of my appearance, or of fear of insulting me – it wouldn’t make sense for me to be insulted, but you’ve met humans, so you know they sometimes take operatic-level offense to the stupidest thing.

I wind up finding not one but three different menorahs in the most random of places – the stockroom at a nearby Marshall’s, where a nice clerk was about to discount them and put them on display. She, too, doesn’t blink an eye when I happily swoop in and grab one, because a sold menorah is a sold menorah. When I light the candles tonight, I’ll be grateful for my family, and the joining of two cultures, and for the resilience that the holiday celebrates, as well as for people who understand that what these holidays have in common is Divine love and the love we’re supposed to show to each other.

And that’s something to be happy about.


Solange, my sister and me: Rocking our natural hair down the aisle

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

So the talk of the Internet in the past few days – well, some of the talk, anyway – has been about Solange Knowles and her fierce, fierce wedding style. Lynne and I were so impressed, we were both wondering if we could get remarried so we could rock fly wedding capes. And that all-white attire rule for the guests made everyone look like they were posing for some lost ’90s TV movie called “A Very EnVogue Wedding,” a videotape which I would totally have owned.

So caught up was I in the capes and the monochromatic wedding guests that I plum near missed another aspect that some people found notable in both good and hideous ways: Solange’s gorgeous, gorgeous wedding Afro. Although she’s straightened her hair occasionally, Miss Knowles’ tall proud crown of queenly poof is her signature, so I didn’t even notice it in the wedding photos, other than that it added to her fierceness.

And why shouldn’t she wear her hair natural? She’s a beautiful woman. Why shouldn’t she look like her on her most special day?

Apparently, some people disagree. Those people are cordially invited to…well….obviously their opinions are of no tangible use to Miss Knowles, who is a diva and don’t care. But as the young lady above can attest , the Web was wild with ignorant folks who had rather strong objections to Solange having not straightened her hair before saying “I do,” either because it’s not fancy or polished enough for such an auspicious occasion, or because they just don’t see it as polished enough for work, or the club, or yoga class or taking out the trash. You know, at all.

The Huffington Post story the beautiful Charnel Grey references in the video makes the same point – that it’s annoying to have to defend the way the hair comes out of your head, to black people, to white people, to anybody. A) It’s not your business B) We’re done changing for others. If we want a ‘fro, we’ll wear a ‘fro. If we want a weave, we’ll get a weave. Mind your own business and your own daggone hair.

Obviously, this is a topic Lynne and I both feel strongly about, because we both have natural hair – I with an Afro, and Lynne with her dreads. And having both been natural for a decade before getting married, neither of us even considered straightening for the day. I had thought about doing some sort of crazy updo, but at the end of the day, I let it ‘fro out even more than usual, and just went with it. I looked like the best version of me – better dress, better makeup, better jewelry. And a better ‘fro.

This pic wasn't their first date, but this was also a memorable one :).

A ‘fro for a fancy Palm Beach wedding

Lynne, meanwhile, let her dreads grow out and had them twisted into the most exquisite updo-drop-crown whatever that was. (She also rocked a veil, a rhinestone headband AND a big ol’ orange flower, to the objection of some people who thought it was too much. Knowing Lynne they should have known it was just enough.)

Loc'ing in on love.

Loc’ing in on love.

One of Lynne’s friends was talking about the whole Solange situation and, told that we’d both worn our hair natural for our weddings, suggested we write something about it, which got Lynne to tell her a story about another bride who wore the most smashing mod daisy-covered wedding dress for her 1970 wedding. And under the Minnie Mouse-esque veil, she wore a sleek Mia Farrow pixie…

Except that the day before she’d been wearing a ‘fro. But she bent to pressure from some older family members that it wasn’t appropriate, not special enough, for a wedding. Our Daddy told us that when he saw her at the rehearsal dinner his first thought was “Who’s that?” Because his bride was supposed to be wearing a ‘fro. Not for political reasons. Not for fashion reasons. But because that’s how she wore her hair, in her life as her, and that’s how she’d wanted to wear it when she married the love of her life. (Her sister and maid of honor, the late Aunt Ann, made up for it with her own Afro. Fly, fly fly).

Again, our mother looked amazing on her wedding day. But she didn’t look like she wanted to because she accepted the pressure that she had to change herself to be proper. I suspect she wouldn’t do that now. But as for you and your own wedding – if you want to get tracks, flatiron, shave your head, whatever, do it. This is not a political speech. It’s a hug, a cry of love, that says “IT’S YOUR WEDDING. DO YOU. BE THE MOST EXCELLENT SPLENDID VERSION OF YOU. NOT OF WHAT YOUR MAMA OR YOUR SISTERS OR THE INTERNET SAY. BE YOU.”

And then you’ll never be more beautiful. Trust us.


Five Minute Friday: We “belong”, we belong together

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Go.

I write about music, among other entertainment, for a living, so these “Five Minute Friday” prompts often shake off some automatic lyrical connection in my brain (and believe me, there are a lot of ridiculous ’80s songs living there among the cobwebs).

So this week’s, “belong,” immediately made the Pandora in my brain start singing Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” a now 30-year-old song that featured a children’s choir in white, shot in a gauzy light, as Pat sang about spiritual, physical and emotional connectedness while wearing a white head wrap and gloves with little holes in them. (Holes=spiritual openness.)

At 13, I imagined that was the ultimate love song, about connecting in ways you haven’t even considered, as if the whole rhythm of the earth and sky had prescribed your meeting, as if you existed in accordance with the beating of the clock. That was something I was looking for, I know. It was also very melodramatic, and 13-year-olds bathe in that stuff.

I always wanted to believe that existed, even in college, when a paranoid and sweetly misguided guy in my Christian fellowship group told me that he’d loved the song until he’d really examined the lyrics and decided it was New Agey and demonic and asked you to belong to the thunder.

He meant well, but that’s not what Pat was talking about. Actually, if I could go back to college I’d tell Steven (I think that was his name) that the song could actually be very Christian – We believe God created the night, the thunder and all the elements Pat sings about, as well as our desire to connect to Him and to each other. He gave us the desire to want to be with other people, as friends and lovers, in a way that echoes the way that he loves us, that’s so natural that it’s like the sound of the thunder.

I am glad to say I’ve found that with my husband person. Pat would be proud.

Stop.


The “On the next ‘Mad Men'” treatment on my life

by SweetMidlife
Their lives are glam and “Mad.” Mine is random and has cereal in its eyebrows.

If you’ve ever watched “Mad Men” (and I can’t assume that you have, because you gotta do you), you have seen the purposely cryptic previews, which show disparate clips from the next episode over super-serious music that are mostly one line snippets with no context, providing no clue to the next week’s plot. I think they’re kind of pretentious, like “Other ordinary shows actually tell you what’s gonna happen next week. We’re not gonna do that. Losers.”)

Bur the randomness resonated with me this week, as I found myself in weird conversations with my husband, the baby we’re hanging out with, my cat, that were so strangely funny that they bear repeating. They’re weird. But funny.

“I swear to God, you’re going in this carrier….Cat…Cat…No, seriously. Give up….Oh, Lord.”

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“How did you get prunes in your ear?”

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“Should I put the baby in pants?”

Husband: What do you mean? Of course you should put him in pants! He can’t just go out in a diaper!

“I meant, just a onesie or jeans over the onesie. Geez. Have I ever taken him out in just a diaper?”

Husband: “No! That’s why I thought it was weird!”

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“How did you get pee in your socks?”

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“You are taking this pill, Cat. I swear…you are taking this pill.”

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“Oh, my gosh, how are you hungry again?”

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“No, in fact, I am NOT awake. Leave that baby in his crib. He’s still asleep. Do not bring him in here…Hi, baby!”

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“How did you get cereal in your eyebrow?”

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“Cat, do not poop on my floor…do not poop on my floor….Oh, man…”


Stuff I’m learning: My kid-related first judgmental stranger moment

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here! I am an expert on judgment, being a professional columnist, blogger and judge of things. And I expect blowback sometimes, even with the judgement it warranted, because that’s just how it goes. But that’s when it concerns stuff I think or feel, that has to do with my decisions about “American Idol” or Oprah or whether Denzel Washington is the best whatever there ever was (He is.)

Now, I know what it’s like to be judged, by a complete stranger, about a decision I made that, in that judgey stranger’s mind, would endanger a child. And I have been told to expect this, now that we are hanging out with a baby for the time being. But it still made me want to punch somebody.

Let me set the scene. I am standing at the counter of the local outpost of a huge drug store conglomerate, having placed baby wipes, an ear thermometer and a bottle of wine in front of the cash register. The friendly cashier informs me that I could not buy the wine at this time, as Florida laws prohibit the sale of such things before noon on Sunday. OK, I say, happily putting the wine behind me. I’m not a wino, so I don’t go “What?” or try to hide it in my baby bag.

This may have been the start of the judgement – I think it was – because I appear to be a mother buying alcohol while holding a baby. And I admit I thought “Is that weird?” before I went to the counter, but then decided that it didn’t matter. It’s not like I was drinking it there, or that I’d bellied up to the bar at Blue Martini and ordered a Cosmo with the baby on my hip. It’s legal (after noon on Sunday, anyway), they sell it and I was gonna try to buy it. So I couldn’t, so I cheerfully give her my credit card and rewards number, and waited for her to finish up.

And then she judge-slaps me.

“Is Mommy hurting you?”

I have only been hanging out with this kid for a few weeks, so I still take a couple of seconds to remember that people are talking about me when they say “Mommy” and that my own mother didn’t sneak behind me and was not, in this case, sticking me with a straight pin from behind. Then I realize “Oh, snap. She’s talking me….Accusing me.”

“I’m sorry?” I say. But she keeps staring at the baby, who is happily sucking on his pacifier and smiling at her because he likes attention, and addresses him. Although she is clearly addressing me, as the only person who understands English on this side of the counter is me.

“That bracelet,” she coos, in the most chillingly fake-cordial manner, like I’m on idiot. “She looks like she’s hurting you.”

The baby she is “speaking” to continues to stare and smile contentedly, not like someone being hurt. I look down at my bracelet, which looks like metal spikes but is really just cleverly-engineered plastic, that pulls apart, is not sharp, is quite dull and most importantly not hurting the baby only slightly leaning against it. Because this is a talky expressive boy who would not be shy about telling you he was being impaled. Or at all uncomfortable. Or wondering why you’re not sharing whatever is in that bowl with him, like, right now.

“Oh, no! It’s not sharp. It’s plastic. He’s fine, see?” I say, snapping the elastic on it so she sees it’s all a clever fake. And you know what she does? Are you ready for this, y’all?

SHE KEEPS TALKING TO THE BABY.

“Well, it looks sharp,” she says, her voice now condescendingly saccharine and pointed, now full of sour grapes as if I was the person who’d made an assumption about her and her character. “She looks like she’s hurting you.”

And I want to say “Bisnatch, if I was really impaling this child on my arm, I would want you to call 911 or whatever. But I showed you it was plastic and not hurting him, he is telling you it’s not hurting him because he’s smiling like you’re made of Similac and peaches, and you’re being really condescending, so you need to give me my bag that does not have wine in it and instead is full of things that prove I am taking care of this boy rather than stabbing him with fashion, and keep that mess to yourself. Or at least talk to me like an adult and not like a stupid child.”

I do not say that, of course, because I am not crazy, and because she didn’t deserve my dignity. I take my bag and go home. Here is the thing – I have seen parents and guardians do things in public that made me suspicious, and I have wanted to say something, but don’t, because I don’t know that family’s life and unless it is very obvious that they’re pushing the child down the steps, or forcing them to eat paint in the checkout line at Target, I am not getting involved.

I am reminded of my mom’s story about being in the supermarket and telling us, her twin three-year-olds, that Superman could fly “because,” because even though she and my dad were stalwart in always coming up with answers for us about everything, at that moment it was after work, she had two toddlers pestering her about some nonsense, she wanted to go home and she was fresh out of creative, you dig? But a woman in the aisle who was listening frowned at her and said “You never tell those babies ‘Because.’ You give them an answer” as if she knew that my mother was a neglectful stupid person and not a then-current Masters in Social Work candidate who knew all about what to tell her kids. You know why she didn’t know?

Because she didn’t know her. And because it wasn’t her business. My mother wasn’t cursing us out. She wasn’t beating us or impaling us with dangerous accessories. She was just trying to get us to shut up long enough to go home and keep being an awesome mom, because she was and is awesome.

But this stranger saw fit to butt in and assume things about her based on one tiny exchange. I suspect that it may be because she, as I am, is black, and people seem to assume that black women are inclined to be bad mothers unless someone corrects them.

(And before you think I am “bringing race into this,” a phrase which makes me giggle angrily like I WANT people to act like I’m a neglectful wretch in a Lifetime movie, consider this. The day my husband and I flew back with the kid, the nice women who had helped me in the bathroom by finding my wipes to help correct a baby butt explosion saw me a few moments later meeting my husband in the terminal with the baby carrier, because as a man he could not actually come into the bathroom with me. They were visibly shocked that I was not alone. “Oh! You have a helper!” one woman said, only half trying to hide her surprise. Not, “Oh your husband or partner is here! Great!” Nope. “A helper.” Lady. It’s my husband. But we don’t have the same skin color, so he must just be a stranger or, I don’t know, the guy I hired to carry the diaper bag for today. I mean, I’m 42. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a single mother. But I am not one, and I don’t think that at my age, were I not black, that you’d assume that. Also, I have this ring on my finger. It should not surprise you that I am married or partnered. And yet….)

I have told this spiky bracelet story to many mothers, of every race, and all of them have similar stories of nosy people who don’t have a good reason to tell them they are mothering all wrong. Here is the thing. If you see my endangering this or any child in my care, like danger you can prove, do something about it. I know you’re trying to help. But don’t be cute about it. And then don’t get snippy with my when you’re wrong.

And don’t tell the baby about it. He doesn’t speak English yet.

 


How I learned to stop worrying and stop hating Valentine’s Day

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

In the film “Valentine’s Day,” starring apparently everyone on director Garry Marshall’s email list, Jessica Biel’s character throws an “I Hate Valentine’s Day party, because she’s single and fed up with the glaring pressure to be coupled up, at least for that evening, and the disgusting displays of happiness and cannoodle-ness of the stupid happy people rubbing their stupid happiness in her face.

I, too, was glaringly single for most of my adulthood, so when this guy from high school I had been hanging out with as friends asked me out for an official first date for that Saturday night, I did some quick math and screwed up my face.

“That’s Valentine’s Day!” I said. “That’s not a good idea. That’s too much pressure for a first date. Can we do it some other day?”

What I didn’t know was that this guy had decided that he was in love with me for months, since we met for a friendly drink and he’d laid eyes on me for the first time in 20 years. He says he knew he was going to marry me in that moment. He also decided to keep all that to himself, aware that this could sound a wee stalkery, and because he correctly identified me as a skittish tiny fawn with a sketchy track record who was just looking for a reason to flee out the back door and run far. Far. Away. He also says he knew that I might balk at having a first day on a such a traditionally loaded date, but took the chance.

And so did I. And now we’re married, so I guess he was right.

Here’s the thing – just because I’m now a wife doesn’t mean I forgot all of those years of being solo on the supposedly most romantic day on the calendar, right up there with the anxiety-inducing New
Year’s Eve and its all-important midnight kiss, and Every Wedding Where The Line For The Bouquet Toss Gets Whittled Down To You And The Bride’s 10-Year-Old Niece. I have tried very hard not to be a so-called “smug married,” as Bridget Jones would say, because I was single way longer than I’ve been married and would never assume that having a ring on my finger qualified me for knowing anything more than my single friends. I hate those people and I’m determined to never, ever be one of them.

I noticed that a bar when I spent about a year as a regular in my single early 30s was having the Jessica Biel special, the anti-Valentine’s Day party. And if they’re going to make a lot of money on it, I wish them well, because times are rough and any occasion that can draw more business to you is awesome. And if you’re single and need an extra special reason to go drink, or a fun night out with single friends who don’t wanna be alone, or don’t want to face the smoochers, I get it.

Then again…I wish that when I was single I had not let some arbitrary day get to me, like it was extra-illegal to be without a partner that day, or the Pathetic Police were gonna show up and cart you out while slapping a scarlet “S” for single, or spinster, or sadsack, on your chest while the villagers mock and laugh. It’s just a day. You were single yesterday. Maybe you’ll be single tomorrow. Maybe you’re good with that, and maybe you rue each day. But rather than allow Hallmark and your coupled friends and your mama make you feel bad, remember that while it may be a bummer not to be included in something that seems to welcome all your friends and their partners, that its better than being thrown into depression, or maybe even talking yourself into some sloppy kissing situation you would have avoided on any other day.

I’m not going to say “Be your own Valentine” or anything like that, because that’s condescending. And I’m not going to say “Just buy something for your cat, or your Grandma,” because while those folks deserve something good, it’s not the same. So just know that you’re awesome, no matter what the date. Focusing hate on a fake holiday doesn’t do anything but make you want to drink and eat chocolate, and possibly hate-dial your Xs. You’re better than that. And tomorrow is another day. Maybe there’s a nice non-stalker around the corner waiting for you. One could always hope.


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