I don’t know about you, but that first pubic hair fascinated me. I swear it popped up out of nowhere. One day, nothing. Next day, a fully grown hair “down there” (as certain fully grown male legislators call the female reproductive system). I kept touching and tugging it as if to verify its existence. Something was happening. Something that had to do with me remembering, to this day, the last time I fell and scraped my knee (kid), and the first time my laugh came out as a frothy giggle that startled me (teenager) in front of the cutest boy in my neighborhood, “Danny Bonaduce from The Partridge Family”-funny, but with brown hair and no freckles.
Like popcorn in our hot, greasy, yellow-domed popper, one blossomed into a dozen, which blossomed into fifty, which became a bowl–I mean bush. Lickedy split. And from that day, it became clear to me they had to go. No matter that these particular hairs evolved naturally to be there. A curly fortress, you might say, or forest, grown to protect our urethral orifice, vagina, and anus. Important job. So important that by the age of say, fourteen, I hated it. Disgusting, kinky, flattened, thick, daring to pass my bikini line, oh god, on my labia (where guys’ faces dove, I feverishly hoped), blatant bush. Gag me with a spoon.
Why? What made me and millions of girls and women loath pubic hair, bush, pussies, whatever? Spend untold dollars and hours removing it and douching, washing, and spraying between our legs to smell like Monet’s garden, not our garden? The “IT” in the previous paragraph: my home grown fucked-upedness, commercials, magazine ads (Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash? Seriously? The original sinner in the name), movies, TV shows, movie and TV stars, boys, men, porn, religion.
Damn religion. As soon as Eve tempted Adam with an apple, women got slapped with the “dirty girl” label. A morality tale. Like the bible, men contradict themselves as to whether being a dirty girl is bad or good. Luckily for them, they can have us both ways.
A dirty girl who smells like Monet’s garden.
UNDERSTANDING A MOTHER’S LOVE – AND HER DELIGHTFUL SLOBBERY KISSES
Now I understand why mothers kiss slobbery babies.
It had always seemed gross to me before. The slime, the drool with the occasional spit-up mixed in. I almost cringed as I watched mothers plant their lips on those wet cheeks.
But here I am, kissing a slobbery baby. My beautiful little girl. My irresistibly kissable child.
Also, I get what mothers meant when they said the love for a child is incomparable to any other.
Honestly I didn’t think it was possible to love a human being so much in such a short amount of time.
But I suppose it makes sense.
In life, an ounce of love inevitably comes with an ounce of pain.
A first crush comes with heartache. A pet comes with the pain of burying it. The love built between husband and wife over a lifetime comes with the unimaginable sadness of losing one.
But with childbirth, the pain comes first.
On March 5, I felt contractions worsen.
Unlike all I had heard and read, the muscles that were contracting weren’t in the front of my belly. They were in my lower back.
My supportive and outstanding midwife at Winona Health told me I was in labor and that I should come in when I was ready.
My husband drove us to the hospital a few hours later. When I got there I was welcomed with smiling faces, helping hands, and an exam that made me cry out in pain.
By midnight my contractions were coming every couple minutes.
During each contraction my back muscles tensed up until it felt like a charlie horse. I was told it was my child’s back dragging along a three-inch span along my spine.
I had just enough time to take a breath and try to center myself before the next one hit.
To block out the excruciating pain, I put myself in my happy place — a stretch of river along a favorite childhood spot at Yellowstone National Park. I imagined the cool rushing river, the huge rocks I would jump between, the fresh smell of cedar, the sound of the waterfall a few hundred yards away.
It helped me cope with the pain, but sometimes it wasn’t enough. Something would distract me — a question, a statement, the sound of her heartbeat on the monitor.
The pain flooded back with a vengeance. My mind went into shock. I didn’t know whether to scream or cry or clench my jaw.
I had to just ride the wave of pain and know that another was coming in a short few minutes.
It was the most pain I’ve ever been through, but when I held her for the first time about 18 hours later, I laughed and cried at the same time. My face almost hurt from smiling too much. Joyful butterflies crowded my stomach like I was on a roller coaster ride.
They were right. It’s a love unlike any other.
Now — two months later — I can’t stop smiling at her.
My heart leaps with joy every time I hold her.
I cherish each moment I get to gaze down at the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen.
And when her eyes come open and she looks at me and smiles, I kiss that wet slobbery face.
Mixed in spit-up and everything.
KING OF PENTACLES
The night my mother drank chardonnay until 4 am in a friend’s kitchen
looking for a third answer to the question
stay or go
I too sat in a kitchen
cradling my father in my arms and praying
hail Mary full of grace—someday
let her mail me the map
Strange birds are nesting between my legs
Made of paper wings and bulging beaks
They peck my thighs when I try to sleep
And stain my sheets with crimson eggs
A poem for mother nature’s monthly visit.
THE PERFECT MOM
by Leilah Wright
I have struggled with getting angry with my children for ridiculous things like jumping on my bed, and thereby knocking over the freshly folded clothes. I have yelled at my precious munchkins and have expected them to not act like kids on many occasions.
Why am I telling you this? Because it is heavy on my heart. Many mothers try to be the ‘perfect mom’, either from some personal idea or pressure from others.
1) There’s no such thing as a perfect mom – We all mess up. Why? We’re human. That’s not an excuse, just a fact.
2) Don’t measure your standing as a good mother by what you see on Facebook – This goes two ways. We can’t look at some moms and say, “Hey, at least I’m doing a better job than she is.” On the other side, we can’t say of our friend the super-mom, “She has everything together. I’ll never be as good a mom as she is.” Let me let you in on a little secret: you’re only seeing glimpses of those mom’s lives. Maybe she’s having a bad day and needs to vent or needs support. That mom that does crafts with her kiddos and has all her laundry done, the rest of the house is a mess. I almost quit Facebook at one point because I was comparing myself to my friends. Though after talking with them, they graciously shared the whole picture.
3) Our kids are watching us – These beautiful little human-sponges watch EVERYTHING we do. I’m sure you’ll all know the feeling of just wanting to go to the loo alone, only to see a little hand creep under the door. :) My daughter is the first one to correct me when I’ve messed up. It hurts my pride and my heart, but it also brings me to repentance. This is a good side to not being perfect (as much as I would like to be). Our children can’t watch us be repentant if we never humble ourselves in their sight. Though I wish I didn’t mess up, it does present me with the opportunity to ask for forgiveness from Jesus and my daughter, and to ask for help to not have a repeat. I am able to show my kids how to do this rather than just tell them that it’s something good to do. The love that flows from children after a parent asks for forgiveness is amazing.
Should we desire to be better parents and people? Absolutely! But we don’t need to beat ourselves up emotionally because we make mistakes. Once you notice problem you have, don’t sit there and hope for it to go away; pray, read verses about the problem, seek accountability. An accountability partner can be found in your spouse, best friend, mom, co-worker, etc.
*Note to everyone else: Please don’t expect the moms around you to be perfect, or their kids either. No one can be the perfect mom, husband, child, etc. because no one is a perfect person.
BEAUTY: THE UNFAIR CELEBRITY IDEAL…
I stumbled across an article recently about Renee Zellweger amidst the constant speculation surrounding her appearance, stating that she was putting on a ‘brave face’ as she took a walk with her partner…A BRAVE FACE?! This actually scared me a little bit. The implication that the public onslaught has enforced a personal fear, but also the sense that she has to put on a brave face and somehow ‘defend’ her appearance is utterly bizarre. It caused me to think that the problem is not Zellweger’s ‘new face’, but the problem is our supposed right to judge celebrity beauty…
Of course, Zellweger does look a lot different since her last red carpet appearance, but there are so many issues underpinning the scale of the public outcry that this becomes secondary. She has come under fire for ‘destroying’ her best asset, placing an overwhelming focus on beauty as a woman’s most valuable tool; why is Zellweger’s greatest asset not her acting ability, her professionalism, her humour? Here we go again, the public ownership of a celebrity body; women are STILL commodities. This also indicates that a woman cannot look good, bad, unkempt, feminine or masculine for HERSELF. Image is public, and the ideals of celebrity beauty is a lose/lose situation…
And why is this? It strikes me that the celebrity women who DARE to let themselves age naturally are featured in ‘Circle of Shame’ articles, honing in on their cellulite or shaming their forehead wrinkles. But, if a celebrity wants to prevent this and undergoes any form of plastic surgery, they are met with constant speculation, scrutiny and accusations of ‘fakery’ and unnecessary bodily enhancements; it’s as if to say that if they’re ‘pretty’ in the first place, they wouldn’t have to take a trip to the surgery at all. There is NO in between and the rate at which we rush to say something or laugh about the figures we see in the tabloids is even more shocking…
‘The celebrity’, then, is almost a myth, an unattainable idolisation of a Utopian ideal. The Zellweger outcry has almost been funny, like a parody you’d expect of some kind of satirical film. WHY do we care so much? WHY do we have to comment? If she’s happy with her ‘new face’, then fuck it, leave her alone. She is not a commodity, she is not publicly owned and we must STOP this interrogation of the female body if we’re to make any progress…
CAVE-LADIES AND THEIR LITTLE CAVE-BABIES
by Leigh Kinch
“It is assumed that our bodies will ‘know,’ even if we don’t, what pregnancy is like and what it is for; that we are, on some cellular level, wise, or even keen on the reproductive game.”
Anne Enright skeptically writes in Making Babies about the innate sense mother’s are presumed to have about pregnancy, bodies and parenting. If it were true that this sense exists, and I’ll say right now that I have only the slightest inkling of that inborn faculty, then why are there so many texts written about the subject? Why does the What to Expect conglomerate have its own movie? Why are there endless online discussion boards that contradict internally and whose sheer length render them useless? Aside from the obvious profit, I think the answer lies in a real need, one that combats the idea of a natural knowledge.
Before I go any further I want to assure everyone that I don’t deny the existence of a nurturing instinct. Lots of women find they know exactly what they’re doing as soon as that sneaky sperm weasels its way into the egg. I for one was astounded by the confidence with which I held my daughter on her first day in the world. But the notion that I should know my body, my daughter and what to do with both of them is laughable to me. It applies unimaginable pressure.
Despite my reticence towards mantras, I have one: “If cave-ladies can do it, so can I.” My relationship with the mantra is complicated, largely because of my tendency to over think it, rendering it useless. While it has occasionally helped with some of my more insurmountable anxieties, more often than not it leads to a series of questions. What did cave-ladies know about pregnancy and motherhood? At what point did a cave-lady even realize she was pregnant? Was it when the urge to push became undeniable? Terrifying. I imagine the infant mortality rate among cave-babies was significantly higher than it is among their twenty-first century counterparts. It likely took a lot of trial and error to successfully raise a child to fifteen and cave-mums would likely benefit from some warning regarding what to expect. While suggestions of what music to play to a fetus are useless to the average neanderthal, I’m sure they would have appreciated some instruction about labour and delivery.
As much as Heidi Murkoff’s patronizing tone annoys me, I needed her books. Although I forgot everything I’d read as soon as I felt Joanie’s wriggling, slimy body for the first time, I’m thankful that I am not a cave-person, and that I can refer to a vast library of resources for advice about baby sign language, poop taxonomy, and chapped nipples. I have no innate sense when it comes to the aforementioned topics and I challenge anyone who implies that I should.
Note: If you’re like me and you don’t feel like being placated by TLC (the channel not the girl group. If T-Boz, Chilli and Left-Eye want to placate me they’re welcome to) or Heidi Murkoff or Vicki Lovine, then I recommend Anne Enright’s Making Babies. Enright treats her readers like the intelligent, mature and thoughtful people that they are. Her book is an island of reality in a sea of schmaltz.
“I can’t picture you with a kid.”
“Neither can I.”
I’m too spontaneous. My passion for writing and journalism was constantly competing with my passion for buffalo wings, rum and Steve Madden; there is no room for a kid in the newsroom or at the bar during happy hour and being six months pregnant squeezing those ridiculous swollen dogs into new candy apple reds is just negligent- everyone knows five inch heels can’t handle that kind of stress. Yet, there we were in the bathroom waiting for a pee stick who decided to use the entire two minutes to make up its mind. I can’t do this. I’m too young. There are so many places I want to travel to. If I get a great deal on Groupon I want to be able to just book it! To call in to work sick and live my life! You can’t do that with a baby there’s planning. Clearly not enough in this situation but that’s beyond the point. The point is… Do babies even get passports? I mean how often would you have to update that photo? I don’t have time for that. Who hikes Yosemite with a papoose? Seriously. I want to wake up in the morning and see a sting ray under my hut in Bora Bora not a diaper genie. And now I’m positive that’s not going to happen.
“Have you thought of your options.”
Sure, I had. But what were they? Have a baby. Kick out Jimmy Choo to make room for Osh Kosh. Drop out of school to PlaySkool. Put down the pen to set up one to play in.
Or don’t. Adoption is an option. Earn my tiger stripes just to give my cub to someone with less of a pride.
Or don’t. To just pretend it never happened. I mean, Forever21 doesn’t do maternity.
“…and that sound is your little girl’s heartbeat.”
They said it was okay to cry but I couldn’t. You don’t pre-order MAC’s new midnight sensation just to make it run. And I would make sure my daughter would know that, or would I? Maybe some happy couple somewhere far away like Arkansas wouldn’t let her wear make-up until 16 or she would be given to some psycho pageant people in Pasadena who would have her glitzed out at six months. I couldn’t let that happen to my baby. My baby. But was I her momma? Constantly teetering on this tottering life was no place for a kid. So I had to stop being one.
“I’m having a girl.”
The last 18 weeks of my life had now planned at least the next 18 years of it. She would be mine. She would stalk shoe sales with me. She would be my editor. At the end of the day, it only matters what she has to say. She would be just like me.
“I don’t hear anything.”
She was just like me. Spontaneous as all hell. It’s okay to cry they said but I couldn’t. I don’t remember it happening like this on the tv shows or in the movies. The chapter in the health books didn’t elaborate on this. The doctor didn’t break it down like my body did. There was no what to expect when you stop expecting. there’s nothing on un-nesting. one minute im sitting there answering phones and making appointments at my desk. the second minute im up and bolting down the hall passing the click-clacking Manolo Blahniks, my hush puppies stay silent towards the little girls room, the rest room. where this little girl is not resting but not awake. a little girl controlling her own fate. while i was kicking around parenthood, she decided to never kick. i close my mouth and scream. and the tears who have been planning this for so long finally make their escape and i don’t even try to stop them. they grab hold of the covergirl clump crusher and run.
WOMEN ISSUES…OR ISSUES THAT SURROUNDS A WOMAN
Every morning , almost all dailies have a report on women abuse. Mostly domestic violence , dowry issues and early marriage. Each day , I read the story remains same but victims change. The culprit is seldom caught and rarely punished.
I feel that laws are useless when the enforcement is zero, in some instances below zero , yes going into negative area. The enforcers start abusing and humiliating the victim , they sort of make it appear , that she “asked for it”.
World has two sharp division, people who are on the “Man’s side” , this group also has women and the other “Woman rights ” fighters, they are vocal but can not always win, because women issue is a social issue.
If dowry is a bad practice, why do in-laws ask for it ? If beating up women is wrong, why don’t family members interfere ..it seems that society as a whole wants to support the strong and beat up the weak..those women who are strong economically or otherwise , they are seldom abused , but those who are vulnerable due to child marriage or poor back ground..they are tortured and killed..and this cycle is continuous.. Parents feel that marrying off a daughter is important to just move that burden from one’s shoulder to another, they don’t mind if she gets killed..I know that is a harsh way of putting it..but look at the way young girls at 11 are becoming mother and then their kids are getting killed or they are dumped for next victim…
HEY WHAT ABOUT ME?!
Exploring the mind of a man who didn’t give me his card
I recently went to a conference with my fiancé – one of those social affairs where everyone is given a name tag and you’re expected to mix and mingle with the crowd. An awkward moment with a stranger got me thinking…
For a brief couple of minutes during the conference coffee break I was left alone. Next to me, I observed a quiet, bashful middle-aged man fumbling through his conference materials and we caught each other’s eye for a moment. I smiled, being polite. He returned the smile and extended his hand to introduce himself.
We went through the usual ice-breaking questions of what we do, why we were there. The banter was friendly and a connection was made. Moments later my fiancé rejoined me. Seeing that I had made a new acquaintance, I introduced him to Mr Bashful and they went on to talk about themselves, dutifully going through similar introductory questions. Mr Bashful at one point reached out for his business cards and gave one to my fiancé, then proceeded to store his business cards back into this pocket.
I was taken aback and thought to myself, “Wait, what about me?!“
So I said to Mr Bashful, teasingly, to remind him of the etiquette faux pas he just committed, “Oh, how come I don’t get a card?“
Alarmed at his own mistake, he immediately made a comeback. “Oh I am so very sorry!“, quickly fumbled through his pockets to get his stack of business cards, and embarrassingly passed one to me with the usual two hands as a gesture of respect.
It was a small incident, but one which demonstrated how we each may have prejudices against certain people. These prejudices are mostly hidden, but occasionally let themselves out the bag through accidental gestures.
I don’t know why Mr Bashful didn’t give me a card and practically ignored me the moment my fiancé stepped in. It could have been a myriad of reasons: his nervousness in front of women, his thoughts that guy to guy conversations are more appropriate, seeing more value in building a relationship with my fiancé instead of me. I don’t know, I can only guess. My guess is that he has certain views about women which inadvertently influenced his behaviour – a small gesture of neglecting to give me his name card, despite me having been the one who first struck up a conversation with him.
I felt a bit brushed off, but forgave the small mistake. It’s not the first time this happened. Not long ago at a wedding an older surgeon similarly extended his business card to my fiancé but not me, despite having spoken to both of us.
I’m not timid and shy – no – that wouldn’t have been the reason why Mr Bashful passed me by. Our conversation before my fiancé arrived was cordial, witty, and appropriate. We had made contact but the conversation quickly shifted to “men only” the moment my fiancé arrived, and I was ceremonially excluded at the business card round. The next time, I should conduct a social experiment: if I presented myself as an independent woman, and was by myself during a similar occasion, speaking to a similar man, would he treat me differently? My hypothesis is I would be given a business card if I were alone!*
In summary, my hunch is that the forgetting to hand me a business card (I was standing right there!) had to do with the following reasons:
Mr Bashful perceived me to be taken, someone else’s – he saw my fiancé and I as a single unit, and to give my fiancé a business card would suffice. I was covered;
Mr Bashful subconsciously believes that business cards are a male matter. Although he ordinarily tries to be “equal” in giving both men and women his cards, this time he had a slip of the mind and forgot his manners. The fact that he was genuinely embarrassed when he was called out revealed that he too thought the omission was inappropriate.
It could have been both reasons above. Or Mr Bashful could have simply forgotten – an honest mistake. I can only hypothesize at this point.
Or, I could just email Mr Bashful and ask, since I now have his name card…!
What about you? Have there been instances where you were brushed off, forgotten or neglected because of your sex, gender, race, age, or any other reason?
Have you forgotten to give your business cards to certain persons in a social setting? Or worse, was the omission purposeful?
*it would be hard to come up with scientific conclusions, since it’s hard to control the main variable (i.e. the male subject. Mr Bashful could have been a unique case; another man in the same social situation may have given me a card)
I’m a single mom. I have five kids. I escaped an abusive relationship because I got to the point where nothing could be worse than staying one more second in that house. I exchanged comfort for unknown. I feel guilt every single day of my life. I know I took the right decision. I still don’t understand why my kids don’t see it and keep asking me why I don’t go back to daddy. They were there, they should know why.
Some people admire me… I still don’t get why. What’s to admire? That I left 5 kids without a dad? That I tolerate abuse for so long? That I’m alone and lost in another country miles away from every person dear to me?
I get questions like: How can you manage alone with 5 kids? I rub my eyes. I have everything. My question is: How could a widow 80 years ago manage 11 kids and no washing machine or fridge or disposable diapers or Nintendo’s to keep the kids quiet for a while.
Who should I please? Why I get judged? Why if I chose to be happy I feel this guilt all the time?
WHO I AM
I am confused.
I am a woman, a girl, a female…but I am not very feminine.
My mother tells me to wear prettier clothes. My sister asks if I’m a lesbian.
If I’m a girl, does that mean I have to wear pink, do I have to wear flowers in my hair and make-up on my face, all to convince you that I’m a girl, that I’m a woman?
Do I have to wear revealing clothes and get drunk on vodka to attract a man, a boy, a male?
Do I have to feel afraid of sex?…
Should I feel guilty for being honest, and not a bitch?
I am a woman, I know this, but it seems other people aren’t so sure.
I don’t know if I’m a feminist, but I know what I want to be.
I want to be strong, to be attractive, to be sensitive, to be accepted, to be understood. I want to be a good person.
A person. Not a label.
I am a woman, I am a girl, a female…but don’t try to label me with these things.