Mother of a Son

When I found out I was having a boy, I was a little disappointed.

Mostly because I was looking forward to dressing my girl up in fun clothing. We had a “perfect” name picked out. I’m sure somewhere not so deep down inside I hoped I could somehow make her a better woman than I sometimes think I am.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that maybe it would be easier. Or at least challenging in a way that I could handle better. This all remains to be seen of course, and I’d rather not describe things in terms of difficulty.

I didn’t want to put my boy in all blue or sports themed onesies or shirts that claimed he was “handsome” or a “ladies man” or “Daddy’s Little Tough Guy Pro Athlete All-Star Dude”. But his drawers are filled with gray and navy pants and socks with footballs on them and it’s fine. For now.

Recently, I’ve been around a lot of toddlers. I’ve definitely been zeroing in on the boys, trying to figure out how my little guy might turn out. Basically I’m scared shitless.

There is a hyper masculine four year old who is constantly going on and on about how girls are not allowed to do this or that, how girls don’t have muscles, how girls must like Wonder Woman. He actually orders a girl he’s friends with to sit and watch him and yell “Go Insert Boy’s Name Here” while he pretend fights his friend (who he also bosses around). He insults other kids by calling them “Mom” and berated another boy for using a pink crayon.

And. I. Just. Can’t.

I cringed as I overheard a dad telling a little boy who asked him why he was putting his daughter’s hair in a ponytail that girls have long hair and boys have short hair. I was sad when a sweet five year old who sat and colored with me, decided one day to make a gun out of Legos and declare he was a cop. He contorted his face into a menacing scowl and ordered me into jail.

A woman recently wrote a listicle on HuffPo about being the mother of three boys and the reasons this is great. One of them being that she can set an example for how women should be treated. While I appreciate the sentiment, this won’t work in the real world unless her sons see actual examples of men treating women right.

I can tell my son he should respect me and that women and men are equal in terms of their human worth, but I doubt very much that he’ll see this in practice in situations outside of the house. He’ll benefit more from seeing a healthy, balanced relationship between his parents than a mother who lectures him on feminism.

Not to say that the latter isn’t important. Of course I will do everything I can to guide him into being a feminist.

But even my own words and actions can have a gender heavy tone when I put him in a shirt with a fake tie on it or joke that perhaps he’ll be tall and play basketball.

I want my kid to be whoever he wants to be because that’s what he decides for himself, not to please me or society.

I hope I can provide that kind of environment.

-Carly

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Meet Our Readers

Bee Eff Eff. According to Urban Dictionary, BFF has two definitions, the most common of which is: Best Friends Forever. The other is the complete opposite and is: Big Fat Fuck. We’re going with the first one. Probably. Either way, we’re doing it with the ladies below. See you tomorrow night. Details on the sidebar.

Naomi Huffman

Huffman_picNaomi Huffman is the editor-in-chief of Curbside Splendor Publishing, and an editor at Featherproof Books. She’s the curator of the Book Fort, a roving interactive book fair that this year will appear at Printers Row Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Newcity, Bookslut, and elsewhere.

 

Tori Szekeres

photo-2Tori Szekeres is a stranger from a strange land. You may have heard of it; it’s known as Wisconsin. She ventures into the city from the Northwest Suburbs to do stand-up and storytelling with venues such as Zanies, Guts & Glory Just Dickin’ Around, the kates, Beast Women Rising, Flabby at the Abbey, and Serving The Sentence.

 

Danette Chavez

DCDanette Chavez is a culture writer and editor but she took the scenic route getting there, spending over ten years in the hellscape that is newspaper advertising sales. She’s been published in the Chicago Reader, Chicagoist, Literary Chicago, XOJane, and the A.V. Club.

 

 

 

Catherine Eves

971549_10200982378339686_824572717_nCatherine Eves is an editor for Curbside Splendor. She was born in Australia, but basically grew up in Iowa, and now she lives in Chicago. She likes to read and sometimes likes to write, mostly nonfiction scribbled in the margins of her date book that will probably never see the light of day.

 

Lauren Hooberman

LH_PicLauren has called Chicago home for over 14 years. Her favorite job in the city has been a bartender, but she makes the big bucks in education. Lauren recently completed an all-women’s comedy class called Feminine Comique, and is looking forward getting more experience! In her free time, she rides her bike in the city and practices martial arts. She lives in Lakeview with her anxious and neurotic cat, Jen.

Carry On

I leave for Ireland tonight. I will be gone for nine days.

The friend that I’m traveling with just texted me a picture of what she’s packing and it’s literally a dress, four shirts, and a pair of pants. The backpack that she’s using as her single piece of luggage is as big as the hiking shoes I plan to wear onto the plane to save space in my backpack, which is about the size of my apartment.

I have sports bras and diabetic friendly socks. Do I bring one Lantus pen or two? Can I bring my 70’s revival flares and clogs so I look taller, or settle for looking like Humpty Dumpty in jeggings that take up less room in my bag.

Accomplished

This piece from Claire Zulkey (writer, host of Funny Ha Ha, and all around cool lady) about the things we achieve with our kids made me want to share some of my “triumphs”.

I can absolutely relate to the amount of effort and worry that comes along with your first solo trip with your baby. It took me FOUR MONTHS to put him in the car and drive by myself. It was less about not wanting to do it and more because I have three other people who can help, most notably a partner who is at every doctor’s appointment and available for errands and such.

That dumb diaper bag really does need to be filled with everything from toys and a pacifier to food (even a thing of formula and a bottle of water just in case I somehow spill my breast milk or something happens and he needs to eat more) and a change of clothing. A burp rag. A blanket. Wipes. Diapers (five million). Plastic bags for dirty clothing and diapers. A changing pad. And this is nothing compared to what’s in store when he needs things like snacks or different shoes or layers or other items to entertain him.

I fretted over what I would do if he started crying while I was driving. Like, what if I were on some road where you couldn’t pull over (OK, this is far fetched, but if you’ve been on 90 with all of the construction, it’s a little more plausible. Fine, not really.)

In a couple of weeks, we’re driving to North Carolina so he can meet my partner’s family. Maybe we’re crazy, but the airport and a plane ride (and the cost and not having a car to use while we’re there for a week) didn’t seem like the better option. While I’m trying to GO WITH THE FLOW about the whole thing, I’m not so secretly terrified he’s going to cry the whole way and we get stuck in some horrible motel in the middle of nowhere. Though really, if that’s the worst case scenario, we’ll be in decent shape.

There are other, smaller things that I’m perfectly happy to admit I patted myself on the back over.

  1. Sticking a thermometer up his butt
  2. Holding his arms down while he got vaccinations
  3. Cradling him while he was having his blood drawn
  4. Letting him cry (for a little while) himself to sleep
  5. Cutting his fingernails (and accidentally nipping his finger for which I felt like I’d shot a baby bunny point blank in the face)
  6. Giving him a bath

And I know there will be other times (some of which I’ve tried to prepare myself for [like when he gets really sick for the first time]) that will probably warrant even more self-congratulations. Not because this stuff is hard, per se. It’s just new. The other worldly love and bond that some people describe they have about their children, I feel is what’s at play when you get through tiny moments with your brand new baby.

Imagining my kid with a high fever or a terrible cough is knowing that I will feel an actual tug on the inside, something squeezing my gut and heart at the same time, ever so slightly.

So when I do something I consider scary because failing at it would mean anywhere from discomfort to the death of my child, it’s a feeling of competency that I’ve never experienced.

-Carly

Twenty-Fifteen Themes

We’ve got our year planned out, at least in terms of themes. I’m also planning to flail against turning 30 and probably post about buffets, but that’s not so much a “plan” as an “inevitability” and anyway I’m getting off track. Here’s what’s on the docket for the coming months. If something has an asterisk, it means there’s room for a reader. Hit us up at  missspokenchicago at gmail dot com if you’ve got a story.

Mothers (5/27)
Orgasms (6/24)
Swimsuit Season (7/29)*
Sleepovers (8/26)*
Mean Girls (9/30)*
Sex Ed (10/28)*
Online Dating (11/25)*

-Rose

A Love Letter to the Sick Day

As a kid, I loved sick days. It helped that I wasn’t sick. No, aside from an early tangle with a forced air heater and the occasional stomach flu I was relatively injury and accident free. I attribute this natural good health, moderate cowardice, and after age 10 transitioning slowly into an indoor kid. I played sports when I was little, but after we moved to Minnesota pre-teen athletics turned into serious business. Girls were ultra-competitive and ice hockey was terrifying. This coincided neatly with my self-consciousness and angst hitting peak levels, culminating in a general feeling of “fuck teamwork, I’m going alternate between staring at my shitty complexion and reading a book for two hours, and fuck everything else too”. What a peach.

But back to sick days. Sick days were the greatest. Left home alone with large amounts of unstructured time – the luxury of a full eight hours (!) – I read, watched TV, and ate buttered noodles with parmesan. The house was gloriously quiet. My parents were at work. I wasn’t at school. No one was yelling, no girls were snickering as I walked past, and Ray Bradbury Theater reruns were playing on the Sci-Fi Channel. At that point we lived in the lower level of a duplex with large windows and a sunroom. Light streamed through, casting shadows on yellowing issues of Funny Times or The Mists of Avalon. It was peaceful and perfect.

Sick days are important. Maybe even more so as an adult, where being busy is the ultimate humble brag and working 60+ hours is a badge of screwy and terrible honor. Often it feels like people are convincing themselves that it’s a virtue to be a cog in a machine, a martyr to endless, churning productivity. And I feel like I’m sounding like the 13-year-old who hated gym class with that last part, but I owe a lot to the sick day. Through those hours, I figured out what made me excited, the words and pictures that came alive and stuck around, rattling for months and years and decades. This is probably why I still remember that episode of Legend of the Hidden Temple where Olmec’s face fell off, revealing the machinery beneath. It was intense.

Eventually I started to write little things – mostly lists, and then stories. They were pretty terrible. But still. It might not have happened without a pseudo-Mayan talking head, Lynda Barry comics, and the time to bury myself in them completely.

The sick day is not about being sick. It’s about free time, and a lot of it. No agenda and no expectation. No apologies, because free time is awesome. Free time is amazing. Free time is never wasted.

It’s also about buttered noodles. Feel free to sub out for a comfort food of your choice. Flexibility is what the the sick day is all about.

-Rose

boys worth having

I hand the phone to S. so they can catch up, occasionally yelping “I JUST WANT TO KISS K.S. ALL OVER HIS CUTE FACE” while I look up more boys, more men, on Facebook, LinkedIn (not suggested), YouTube, even our alumni directory.

The Facebook

Every now and again, I go through my list of “friends” on Facebook and delete people.

I was especially conscious of the fact that I didn’t want just anyone to see photos of the baby or in general, have access to that part of my life to potentially share that with others.

Unfriending those folks wasn’t hard.

But there were some people I kept around for unexplainable reasons.

I suppose it was because I felt some sort of guilt about severing the tie. To me, it felt extreme to purposely disconnect when they hadn’t done anything and probably weren’t looking at anything I did or said anyway. Chances were slim that any of them would notice or take offense.

I hate even admitting this because it places an importance on Facebook that I’d rather it not have. Then again, I use it to share what’s going on with me, even if that’s on a fairly superficial level.

Recently, I unfriended two people for very different reasons.

The first I accidentally did on their birthday. I felt like a huge asshole for the timing and swear up and down it was not intentional. But subconsciously it wasn’t entirely coincidental as they must have been coming up more in my feed because of it.

We haven’t spoken in well over a year. I’ve known this person for quite awhile and we’d managed to keep in touch even after we’d lived in different cities and pursued other paths. The last time we saw one another we had a really uncomfortable conversation, one in which I think they felt hurt. Enough so that they pretty much stopped contacting me. I suppose I was waiting for some sort of confrontation or for them to express their anger/sadness so we could have a meaningful discussion. But time kept passing and it never happened.

I realize I could have been the one to make the first move. I could have said I knew they were upset about something and assumed it was that last interaction, etc. But I didn’t.

Perhaps we both decided on our own that this friendship was over and there was no need to hash it out. It happens all of the time.

So why get rid of them now? Well, a selfish reason really. Maybe we’d never bury the hatchet or become the friends we used to be. But when I got pregnant and have now had the baby for over three months and never heard a word from them, that hurt. I know I have no right to say that my having a kid should somehow trump their feelings or be the reason they “give in” first. Except that is how I feel. Even one “Like” on any of those posts would have at least seemed like a gesture to say “I know we haven’t been in touch, but I’m still happy for you.”

Perhaps what I said back then was unforgivable. Either way, it’s obvious they aren’t interested in being friends. so why did we need to stay connected on Facebook?

The second person I met through a friend of a friend many years ago. We haven’t seen one another in about that long. I have no real attachment to this person, not personal or professional. They were nice enough from what I remembered and I had no reason to keep them from seeing stuff like baby pictures or dumb posts.

I noticed they would comment on my statuses a lot. And not in any kind of fun, supportive way. Instead, it was this weird humor that seemed to try to knock me down. At first I didn’t really think much of it. But the longer it went on, the more I realized: This Person Is A Troll.

It was a weird conclusion to come to, but it was true. Why would someone I hadn’t seen in over a decade single me out in what I can only imagine are tons of posts on their Newsfeed just to make a dumb comment on my status?

In my gut, they always made me feel weird and kind of bad.

At first, I added them to a list that I use when I don’t want to share certain things. That already sort of seemed like a lot to do for someone I wasn’t actually friends with.

When it happened again recently, it finally dawned on me that I didn’t have to sit there and decide if this ONE PARTICULAR PERSON WHO I DID NOT CARE ABOUT should be excluded from seeing something.

I could just unfriend them.

I didn’t have to feel guilty about it or worried that I’d have to explain myself because even if I had to, what was the big deal? Besides, it might feel good to point out to this person that they were trolling me.

And just so I don’t let on that I’m some Facebook saint, not too long ago I discovered I’d been BLOCKED by someone I wasn’t even friends with. I won’t deny that I did like to hate-read their public statuses, so it made sense that they decided maybe I shouldn’t even get the pleasure of that.

However, a friend of mine will send an occasional screen shot of their posts so I can eye-roll-lol-are-you-serious for a good laugh.

I know, I’m terrible.

-Carly

30 on 30

I’m not super excited about turning 30. There, I said it. I know, age ain’t nothing but a number, blah blah blah but what it boils down to for me is I want more time. I want five years back. Maybe seven. But with everything I know now, from how not to date losers to confidence (possibly related to the first thing) to what type of bang looks best with sad, wispy hair. I want more, more, more, because I never think I’ve done good enough. Or enough period.

I feel like I’ve wasted so much time, but have a sneaking suspicion turning back time isn’t possible. So until Science gets on that Dorian Grey Theorem, I made a list of the best and worst parts of coming up on 30. In the coming months, I’ll review this in an attempt to find some kind of balance or acceptance (I won’t). But making lists is comforting and puts things in perspective – and hey, there we go. That’s one thing that comes with age.

The Worst:

  1. Energy. I get tired. I need a full night’s sleep. So lame.
  2. “When do you think you’ll get married?”
  3. Pitiful tolerance. Brutal hangovers.
  4. The fashions of your tween years come back. You walk past Lane Tech and everyone looks like an extra from Buffy (TV show, not movie). 90s styles being a thing is tripping me out so hard. Maybe this isn’t the worst so much as weird and hilarious. But yeah. Flowered dresses with spaghetti straps. Chunky platforms. I can’t.
  5. “How do you feel about being an older mother?”
  6. Never tell anyone you might want kids someday. Never tell them you don’t want kids. Never tell anyone anything because after 27 they will make your uterine future their business and any preference you express is ammo to judge, judge, judge and pour on the unsolicited advice. Also, from what I hear this never ends. Cool.
  7. Still not sure what I’m doing in some major life areas.
  8. Your mom isn’t 40, she’s 60, and everything that comes along with that.
  9. 25-year-olds killing it.
  10. “But really, when do you think you’ll have kids?”
  11. 22-year-olds killing it.
  12. Insecurity and its pal anxiety still alive and kicking.
  13. Acute awareness of the passing of time.
  14. Eating like an asshole has more consequences. I’m not going to stop doing it. But, yeah. It’s real and upsetting.
  15. Regret.

The Best:

  1. My friends in their 30s, 40s and beyond look good. This is soothing.
  2. Bullshit tolerance at an all-time low. Oh man. Not putting up with things is heady stuff. I encourage all young ladies to start doing it as soon as possible.
  3. I can drive a car.
  4. I can ride a bike on the street.
  5. I don’t date garbage dudes. I’ve settled on one. Hey-o! Kidding so hard, my long-term guy is wonderful and being with him is pretty great and occasionally a little sad, because it throws the shitty relationships of the past into sharp relief. Like wow, I really put up with that when I could have had this.
  6. I don’t hang out with garbage people. Generally. Not by choice, anyway.
  7. “No.”
  8. My cousin is a mini-adult now and I can sort of talk to her like a real person. She also takes a million selfies but that’s fine. We text sometimes.
  9. Staying in is the greatest.
  10. Did I mention I don’t date garbage dudes?
  11. After a billion years of therapy, have come to some understanding of family, history, and how brain workings. Still fuck up but have greater awareness of why it happens and sometimes how to make it better.
  12. Confidence.
  13. I don’t buy twelve shirts at the thrift store that kinda look okay, I hold out and buy one that actually fits.
  14. Perspective.
  15. I write more. That might be the first half of this list for you, but it’s forever this half for me.

-Rose

Green Ghost Golden Hour

There are specific places that make me step back for a minute. It’s more than location. It can be a time, a temperature, a smell – those sensory details that give physical places weight and context. Sometimes these places are far-flung and exotic, either through distance or unfamiliarity: The sweaty, garlicky heat of a Taipei night market. A dusty stretch of Austin highway in a caramel Fiat the sales rep is still pissed you chose instead of a giant SUV. Pretty much anywhere in the South. Sorry Toronto, I know you’re technically in another country but it felt a whole lot like home.

Right now I’m really into my living room late at night. Early morning is good too, but like 10:30 or 11 at night is best. I do my stretches and look at the curtains.

They hang like green ghosts, illuminated by streetlights. I start by doing that thing where I walk my hands forward, feeling the stretch in my always-tight shoulder blades. I think about all the places I’ve lived that I wanted to be good so bad, but I was pretty bad at making anything good. I never wanted to come home. Home was screaming and immovable clutter growing up, then ants and roommates, then-

I do those weird chiropractic exercises that my boyfriend calls carpet-swimming. It hurts but it’s that good pain. Muscles and tendons shifting, I think about the guy who wouldn’t move in with me because he said my taste sucked (okay, there were other reasons too but come on), and all the stupid, shitty fights. How I never had my boyfriend over to my place because I was ashamed that I couldn’t do it, that trying to make my domicile cute inevitably ended in rage and crying and one time a punched wall.

I lift my head up to revisit the curtains. They’re cheap, gauzy numbers from Urban Outfitters seven years ago, sun-bleached and slightly shredded in places by our asshole cat. I bought them during a time when I was scared to do anything with my apartment because I felt like (I knew) I’d fuck it up. They sat there for years, never leaving their shipping boxes.

For the first time, I like coming home. I move into child’s pose and my gaze swivels up to the ceiling, but I can still see them out of the corner of my eye: something delicate and fluttering, a thin but present protection.

-Rose