Get Upset

A few weeks ago we got really upset. A man shot and killed several people, and he blamed his killing rampage on the women who had rejected him. Some people came out in support of him – or at least partially defending his actions by agreeing that women shouldn’t be so stuck up/brash when it comes to letting a man down. Or perhaps they shouldn’t let a man down at all. It spurred a conversation, and for a solid week #yesallwomen took over my social networks. I saw hundreds of comments and shared stories. It’s a conversation we must have, because as women we’ve all experienced sexism, chauvinism, misogyny, sexual harassment, etc. in some form. We’re afraid to walk through parking lots, or to be left alone at parties, and for good reason. We are fed up, and I saw and heard almost nothing else that week – voices of both men and women.

This week our Supreme Court made the decision to support privately held companies making healthcare decisions based on the company owners’ religious beliefs. The decision directly counters the First Amendment of our Constitution. Yet I only saw about five people mention anything about it in my social feeds. Our government is making decisions about our reproductive health based on religion, and we need to be angry about it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it more eloquently than I ever could: “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”

Unfortunately, Bader Ginsburg and the three other Supreme Court Justices who did not support the ruling were outnumbered. As she put it, our government has ventured into a minefield. It’s our job to let them know, and not to support companies who limit employee freedoms based on personal religious beliefs.

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Losing Control

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Usually when I sit down to write something I’ve figured out the topic and the resolution. Sometimes it’s “hey, be less dumb” and sometimes it’s “New Year’s Resolutions are kind of silly, you shouldn’t make them” or “sorry lady, your prince charming isn’t coming.” This time I don’t have a resolution, just a topic.

I knew it would happen eventually; three years ago when we split up I knew we’d both move on, date people, maybe live with a partner or remarry. That was the goal of splitting up – we weren’t happy together so we should both figure out some other way to find happiness. We agreed on a custody schedule for our child: 70% with me, 30% with him.

A month ago he sent a text to let me know that he and his girlfriend have decided to move in together. They had already told our daughter and he wanted me to be prepared for questions when she got home from school. It would be more convenient for everyone he said. I was dumbstruck. They haven’t been dating long, and she also has a child.

The next morning I booked a spring break trip for Ellie and me. I needed to give her good memories. We went to California, she saw the ocean for the first time, I tossed her around in the pool and played sharks. We made some good memories. Now we’re back. While we were gone they moved into the house he shares with his dad. When Ellie goes to stay with her dad tomorrow she’ll be sharing a room with a little girl she’s known for 4 months.

Maybe it’ll be like summer camp. She’s always wanted siblings. Maybe this new pseudo-step-mom will help her with her homework and ask that she reads her library books. I’m trying really hard to convince myself. I want him to be happy – I truly, truly do, and we were not that together. But I’m so desperately worried about the damage this shortsighted plan is going to have on my child.

There’s nothing I can do. I’m not in control of what happens 30% of the time. Now is where I’d really like to come to the resolution of this topic, but every time I close my eyes I can see myself sitting next to my 17 year-old daughter on a therapist’s couch talking about the situation she was thrown into at age seven.

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Cellulite

Feeling bad sucks. I try to avoid things that make me feel bad. Last week I flipped through a slideshow that made me feel shitty about the way I look. After clicking on this post I stumbled down an instyle.com rabbit hole:

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“Hey, I have cellulite!” I thought. Cellulite isn’t okay. It makes my legs look fat and old, right? I better keep reading to find the cure for this vicious killer. The full slideshow gives a few workout tips for getting swimsuit ready, and then tip number 5 reads as follows:

“5. SMOOTH OUT DIMPLES

Until there’s a cure for cellulite, there’s camo. Rubbing on a cream with retinol to firm skin can make dimpling less apparent if you start two to three months before swimsuit season, says New Orleans-area dermatologist Patricia Farris. (Try Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment, $95; chantecaille.com) Otherwise, stock up on bronzer, lots of bronzer.”

I’m active, I eat well, and the last time I visited the doctor she requested that I gain weight because I fall below the healthy weight index for my height. But I have cellulite, so I guess I should spend $95 on a 6 oz. tube of cream for my thighs.

We spend so much time worrying about the way we look – minimizing under eye circles, reducing wrinkles, contouring cheekbones – trying to achieve perfection. We think eliminating these “problem areas” will make us happier and more desirable, but our insecurities make us miserable. Constant exposure to negativity drives us crazy and makes us believe that no one could love our bodies in their current forms.

This body birthed an eight pound human after growing her for nine months. These thighs played hockey on lakes and small-town rinks for 20 years. These shoulders have carried backpacks full of books, bags full of golf clubs, kids full of dirty diapers, and friends too drunk to walk home from the bar. These feet waited tables for five years. I’m okay with this body.

I’m not going to try to cure my cellulite, and I’m not going to purchase lots of bronzer before slipping into my swimsuit either. I’m going to unfollow Instyle, avoid the negativity as much as possible, and embrace this body that I was born with – fat or skinny, saggy or toned. 

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The Things I Require

My list isn’t too long or too complicated. It’s neither a checklist of manly characteristics like some ladies keep, nor a catalog of pre-requisites before you can date me. When the infatuation wears off, and it becomes a real relationship that takes work to maintain, these are the things that I require:

  1. When I’ve made you frustrated, mad, irritated or hurt, please tell me. When someone else has made you frustrated, mad, irritated or hurt, please tell me that too.
  2. Let me know that you still want me, from across the room, without saying a word.
  3. Tell me that you love me from time to time.
  4. I don’t need you to be perfect, happy or funny all the time, but I do need to know that you want to be with me, and that you want to be with me in five years. If you don’t, let me go now.
  5. Hold my hand when I’m sad, sick, or scared.
  6. Don’t stop telling me about your dreams or talking to me until I fall asleep. I never want to lose the intimacy of being inside your head.
  7. Let me be the only woman. I’ve been the back-up plan and the mistress and the philanderer’s wife, but never the only woman.
  8. My feelings are valid and so are yours. Don’t make me feel irrational or crazy for having them.
  9. You’re going to make me cry, and when you do I’m going to try to run away. Don’t let me.
  10. Always say goodnight to me.

Do these things for me, and I’ll try my hardest to do the same for you.

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When I Knew It Was Over

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Long before the word divorce crossed my lips I knew it was over. I stopped trying to work on it, because there’s no point in working on a relationship with someone who is working on a relationship with someone else.

It’s been three years since we split, and because I took to writing about it, I’ve been solicited for advice several times. Many of the women reaching out ask when I knew it was over, what was the last nail in the coffin of my marriage? The truth is that there were 100 nails in the coffin, not just one. There’s counseling for one nail, or two, but not for 100.

So here’s the shortened version:

Perched on the bathroom counter with my back against the mirror, legs crossed kindergarten-style; I blinked away tears as I stared at the plus sign on the pee stick. For ten minutes I sat on the cold tile, trying to figure out how I wasn’t going to ruin his life by walking out of the bathroom to announce I was pregnant. He wasn’t ready. I knew I’d have to do it on my own. He was happier than I expected.

Although I had my suspicions before we moved in together, I discovered the first signs of infidelity when I was four months pregnant. Again two weeks before my due date. I thought getting married would fix everything, but text messages at 3 am became the norm. He usually wasn’t home for me to hear his phone buzz. He spent nights getting drunk with his friends, while I watched Disney movies with my toddler. It was my fault. I forced him to grow up. I forced him into a family that he didn’t want. I could never be enough for him.

Ellie and I had nice weekends together. We had breakfast dates, birthday parties and time with grandma and grandpa. He wandered in and out of our little life. On Saturday mornings Ellie always climbed into bed with me. She’d lay her little blonde head on my pillow, close enough so I could smell her baby morning breath. She’d pet my hair and jabber at me while I stretched and yawned. One Saturday morning he was in her spot, and she asked what he was doing there.

I imagined her as a married, lonely woman, waking up alone most days, accepting that she was being cheated on but yearning for something more, and I couldn’t do it any longer. I decided I’d rather be a divorced woman with some hope for the future than one who gave up on any trace of happiness at age 26.

When those women send me their stories, I can read the sadness in their words.  Some of them have moved on with their lives and some have stayed in their relationships. It’s hard not to intrude in their lives now, to check-in on them. I hope they’re all happier than they were when they came to me for advice.

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Fairy Tales and Badass Women

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When I was five my parents had to re-record The Little Mermaid twice because I kept wearing out the VHS. I sang, I twirled, I flipped my hair in the bathtub. At 14 I watched Ever After on a never-ending loop, curled up in my white comforter atop my waterbed, sobbing along with Drew Barrymore. Before I knew what a hooker was I had seen Pretty Woman at least ten times. As a girl of the 90′s, I loved fairy tales. SAVE ME! Save me from these cornfields! Give me everything I can’t even imagine wanting!

So I waited. I dated. And I got knocked up. Eventually I realized there was no prince on his way. He didn’t exist. I was responsible for my life.

Women are raised to have incredibly unrealistic expectations of relationships. I speak of women because I have first hand experience being raised as one and raising one. We were taught by example through movies, books and music. My parents never sat me down to tell me that those relationships weren’t real. My friends and I discussed “the perfect man.” Our hormonal, teenage minds fully expecting him to materialize when we ran off to college.

Now in their mid-to-late 20′s, I know too many women who are waiting to be saved. Lifetimes halted for a perfect creature to walk in and take them away from the misery they live. There are no perfect creatures. You’re flawed, too, as you should be. Imagine how insecure you’d feel spending your flawed life with a perfect human. There will be someone, though, and he won’t be perfect. He won’t always live up to your expectations. You’ll be horribly disappointed sometimes. And sometimes he’ll be horribly disappointed with you because you didn’t live up to his expectations. And then I’ll congratulate you, because that is what a real life relationship looks like.

Welcome to real life. It’s where you live. It’s where all those actors who play fairy tale creatures live as well. I present, Exhibit A:

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While you’re getting over your fairy tale dreams, I’d like you to take a minute to check out these super badass women who are nothing like the women in those fairy tales we grew up watching. Rather than spending our days in misery dwelling on the perfect men that don’t exist, let’s all study these ladies and perfect our crossbow skills.

Who’s with me?

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I’m Sorry

I’m sorry that you’re lonely. Someday I hope loneliness is so distant that you can’t remember how it felt.

I’m sorry that I haven’t met your expectations. I’m still trying. Every single day I try. Your expectations feel like an asymptote on a graph, and my efforts can’t meet it.

I’m sorry that he doesn’t love you as much as you need him to. So many others do. I hope you’ll give your love to the ones around you and to yourself. Someday there will be one who loves you more than any other has.

I’m sorry that I wasn’t ready for you. I was too young and too stupid. When you’re older you’ll remember watching your mother grow up right beside you, you’ll remember being poor and feeling uncertain. I hope you’ll also remember that I did the best I could.

I’m sorry that I caused you pain. I hope it was quick like tearing off a band-aid. I hope it didn’t leave a scar, and if it did, that you can’t remember what caused it.

I’m sorry that I didn’t say goodbye. When I came out of my room you were already gone, blankets and pillows stacked on the tattered couch. I would’ve dragged myself out of bed to say goodbye if I had known. I would’ve run a marathon and waded through a muddy pond and swam across a river if I had known that I would never see you again.

I’m sorry.

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