Dear Rache and Nick,
Ten years ago, my two best friends married each other.
You don’t know them, but they’re really awesome.
I kid, I kid.
Everyone knew I’d be the first to bust out waterworks at your wedding. No one bothered with bets, because it was a gimme. The real question was, where would I hide all the tissue I’d need?
When the day came, I was too elated–at first!–to cry, but tears gathered in my eyes when I saw you, Nick, weeping at the altar. I wasn’t personally marriage-inclined, but I rejoiced the brilliant light shining forth from the union of your two beautiful souls. Read more…
I’m getting married in two months.
We’ve set a date. The location is planned-ish. We selected the song for our first dance around two minutes after I said “yes.”
The rest? Not so much. But I’m not stressing, and I’m not looking for advice, because here’s the thing: This wedding is about me and my fiancee, and the pace at which we’re planning it is a reflection of who we are together. Whether we plan everything tomorrow or skate right down to the wire, we’ll have our day amidst a small but lovely (and patient!) gathering of friends.
It’s all gonna be great. Even if the first wedding dress I bought didn’t fit just right, it’s still not a loss. My son’s excited commentary when he saw me in it was worth so much more than $99.
“You look like a girl! You’re a princess!”
No matter what dress I wear or where I proclaim my commitment, I’m sure I’ll feel like a princess that day, too, surrounded by friends and enveloped in love shinier and more enduring than any store-bought material.
When I moved into my new place a few months back, my BFF said, “At that amazing price? In L.A.? There are bodies under the floorboard. Seriously.”
I laughed, but I wondered if she was right that something wasn’t adding up. The property was great; the house, spacious. The landlords were nice, but their niceness seemed almost suspicious in light of my conversation with Mackenzie.
Today I can tell you the problems reside in expectations.
When we moved in, the landlords emphatically stated that the laundry room and driveway were ours. “One of the units in back gets the back parking space, and the other one knows there is no parking space.” Expectations: clear and set, on both fronts.
We told the landlords we were happy to share the laundry room, but the landlords rejected that. They told us it was cleaner to just keep everything separate and distinct. We acceded and came to see the laundry room as ours.
The old tenants moved out within a few weeks of our moving in. Shortly after moving in, one set of new tenants came to us and said, “The landlords told us you’d probably be fine with our using the laundry room. That cool?”
Alarms went off, but I said, “That’s fine, as long as you only use it late in the evening. I already have to negotiate for a living during the day; I don’t want to have to do it at home with my own washer and dryer.”
A few days later, the new tenant and landlord showed up on my porch. “I work late,” said the new tenant, “and I don’t want to have to look for parking late at night. Can I park in front of your driveway sometimes, if I move the car early in the morning?”
I said, all the while marveling at how dramatically different the expectations set with our neighbors were from those set with us, “That’s fine, as long as you understand you’ll have to move the car really early depending on my fiancee’s work schedule.”
Two weekends in a row, I went to do laundry at 5 p.m. and found both my washer and dryer occupied. The second time, I texted the neighbor. “Please do not use the laundry room before 9pm.” Since the spoken boundaries weren’t being respected, I wanted to set clear written ones.
That same weekend, the other neighbor hounded us more than once about using the driveway for parking because she didn’t want to have to walk. My fiancee and I made clear to her that, while we wanted her to be safe at nighttime, we were not going to negotiate the driveway because she didn’t want to walk an extra dozen yards.
I emailed the landlord and expressed frustration at the different expectations that had been set between the three sets of neighbors. She wrote back that she was happy to do a full recant with the neighbors. Regrettably, I rejected the offer and stated I thought we’d gotten things sorted out.
“Racism is dead, folks. Move on!”
“Why are we still talking about race? I’ve never once seen an act of racism. It’s only people in backwater Arkansas who still think like that.”
“I don’t see color, and neither does anyone else these days. I don’t see why some people still want to live in the 1950s when racism was actually a problem.”
I’ve seen dozens of variations on these words in the past few days. I’d look for direct quotes, but honestly, I’d get so grumpy scanning through comments for the verbatim gems I’d end up devouring a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s instead of writing this blog. (And I don’t even eat dairy! Or added sugar!)
Aren’t I pasty white person? Yes, indeedy! But as the pasty white mama of a lovely mocha-colored cub, I’ve been inspired to research race and racism in a way I wasn’t before, back when I thought it didn’t exist save in backwater Arkansas.
Oh, yeah, I did.
Since I was told my child would experience racism someday, I’ve been a motivated race researcher. The things I learn now and teach my son about are the things he’ll be better prepared to face as he grows. A decade ago, I could afford to think whatever I wanted about race and racism. It was (mostly, Arkansas excepted) a historical artifact, not a real thing that had real impacts on real modern life.
Then I started seeing, really seeing, articles I’d glossed over before: ones addressing racial profiling prevalent today, ones discussing Hunger Games fans’ horror upon discovering a beloved character was (gasp!) black, ones discussing prevalence of racial prejudice even in 2012, and pretty much everything ever posted on PublicShaming. Examples are endless, once we start looking, but then–how many people go out looking for them, assuming racism doesn’t actually exist anymore? I surely didn’t, and see through comments such as those starting this post that many folks still stand in my old shoes.
I used to say I was color blind, before I realized being color blind was a privilege I was afforded by my skin color. It’s much harder, after all, to be color blind when you are singled out for the color of skin on a daily basis, such as for driving while black, shopping while black or simply being black in the “wrong” neighborhood. As one friend wrote about her experiences in law enforcement: Read more…
My mom was into any and every “science” that could help her understand people: graphology, birth order, body language. She was an enthusiastic student of every such science she could find, and honed her skills on her children.
My mom’s desire to quantify personality traits meant I knew from a tender age that I was an “introvert.” The word was meaningless to me. “Introvert” might as well have meant the same thing as “subatomic particle.” I knew each was a real thing, just as well as I knew neither had any impact whatsoever on my daily life. Silly mom! I just took her tests so she’d stop pestering me to take them, a strategy that worked until she found a new book with new tests. Read more…
My Friday evening took a scary, unexpected turn when a neighbor intercepted my son and me on our porch. “Come here,” he told my three-year-old son, Li’l D. Li’l D hid behind my legs.
Conversations with this neighbor had been friendly to date, so I smiled and said, “Nope. That’s not likely to happen. He saw a cricket on the door, and he’s convinced all bugs are out to get him!”
My neighbor ignored me, instead addressing my son again. “I told you to come here.” He held out his hand and said, “Come here and take my hand.”
Bemused by the weird turn of the conversation, I said, “No. I don’t believe in forcing kids to respond to adults, even close friends. It’s important training for them learning to trust their instincts.”
Again my neighbor ignored me and demanded my son respond to him. Li’l D planted himself more firmly behind my legs. Again, more vehemently, I said, “No.”
“How are you raising him?!” my neighbor demanded, finally addressing me. Read more…
I am invincible.
I am invulnerable.
I can do 482 things at once, as long as one those things is not breathing.
I used to think I was tethered to my computer while working on important projects, which is to say, every single one of my projects. I’d tell myself with increasing agitation, “Just this one more sentence/document/email/calculation and I can walk away. That’s all. I am in charge!”
Not so much, it turns out. Not being able to walk away is the surest sign of not being in control. (Come to think of it, this probably means my son is right when he tells me he’s the boss.)
“Frantic” and “harried” are foes of productivity, not indications of it. I could bore you with the details of this personal discovery, but that would be beside the point.
The point is duckies.
If I find myself gnawing on my lip, leg bouncing while I switch between 38 virtual windows, I take that as a sign I need a reset. I step away from my computer and amble toward a nearby duck pond.
I’m no stranger to ducks. I am an Oregon Duck, after all; we weren’t so named for an abundant population of snow leopards. While ducks might not be exotic to me, it’s calming. Ducks don’t care about spreadsheets or presentations. They want breadcrumbs and naps in the sun. If they do show any sign of caring, it’s because they have ducklings in their care.
A month ago, I noticed a mama duck walking with her ducklings. Seeing me seeing them, she ruffled her tail feathers in warning.
A few days later, our paths crossed again. Once more, I reassured Mama Duck in English I’m sure she understood that I meant her babies no harm.
Her menacing tail feathers warded me off, but not before I’d snapped another picture.
Weeks passed without a picture when, yesterday, I found my perfect little ducks all in a row. Their mama was standing a little bit back, letting her babies see they could survive without her while simultaneously cautioning me with a reproachful gaze. (She speaks English; I speak Duck Body Language. Definite reproach.)
As I finished my walk around the pond, I thought about the ducklings. I’ll miss them when they’re gone, testing out their wings and new environs. But I’ll be glad I met them, and cheered by memory of their mom’s protective posturing. Nobody better try telling her size matters!
Most of all, those ducklings will remind me how important it is to get up and walk it out once in a while. I perform better when smiling, after all, and it’s mighty hard not to smile while thinking of my three sleepy ducklings all in a row.