You might’ve noticed that Bubbles and Beebots looks different now.
I may keep on tweaking it until I’m happy. But see, B&B is now getting enough foot traffic to receive advertising invitations and I had to rework its layout into a more ads-friendly theme.
Which is kind of exciting, though I won’t be expecting more than pocket change for a bit. Maybe just enough to get my kids some ice cream at the zoo… don’t you want my adorable kids to be able to eat ice cream, folks?
There. That was my best attempt at salesmanship because I’m so NOT a natural saleswoman. I figured I’d try the guilt angle, since it comes so naturally to parents and as far as I can tell, advertisers usually work their magic using one of a few tools:
Again, a natural selling-point for parents, since we already feel so responsible…
Hey, buy these spoons that tell you when food is too hot, so your trusting baby won’t end up burning her poor little mouth!
Sure, this cereal costs three times more, but there’s a cartoon princess on the box and cartoon princesses make your kid HAPPY. What kind of a monster doesn’t want their kid to be happy?
Using dogs and cats works well too. Aren’t they your best friend?? Don’t they deserve the best!?
Mostly of being socially ostracized because not buying Product X will make you disgusting.
I mean, what if you use a substandard deodorant and end up stinking up the subway? You’ll put your arm up to hold onto the rail, and… BAM! No more invites. You wouldn’t want to gross out your taxicab cab partner, would you?
Or toothpaste. What if that woman you’ve had a huge crush on for ages finally walks up to talk to you and you melt her eyebrows with your jalapeño egg salad breath? Don’t be so GROSS.
It also works with more literal fears about your physical safety. There are always tons of commercials for home alarm systems whenever you’re watching a crime show.
I’ve been noticing a theme here, and it mostly involves our fears of being judged. We don’t want other people to think bad things about us.
And on the flip side, we DO want them to think good things. Like, it’s great to have a fashionable product because then everyone will know you’re on the level. Or if you’re a hipster, you want a product that ISN’T popular, so you can be part of the elite club that actually appreciates it. We don’t want the ads to look too rehearsed or glossy, in that case.
Let’s say you think that girl from the Sketchers ad is pretty hot and you’d like to look like her or date her (or both, depending on your persuasion). So, maybe if you wear those tennis shoes, some of her hotness will rub off on you and then you can rock her awesome figure without having to do any crunches or lay off the Cinnabons.
And hey, Benicio Del Toro is pretty macho and successful and maybe you could also be a world traveler if you tossed back a few Heinekens. At the very least, you’d be cool.
Eh… my terrible natural salesmanship is becoming all too apparent. In fact, I should probably pull this post before any actual advertisers read it.
And go back to being a manic pixie who occasionally mentions poop tantrums. It’s what I do best. 🙂
Maybe I’m psychic, but the other day I got a distinct feeling there was something going on in our closet.
Or, maybe it had something to do with seeing this:
And then, this:
Empty space couldn’t be this exciting
Yup, this wasn’t looking coincidental in the slightest. Next, Frodo the Cat got involved:
Let me just zoom in here, in case you missed it…
Yep, there was a cute little baby lizard hanging out in the closet, delighting my kids. It ran in a graceful S-shape, seeming rather shy.
“CAN WE KEEP IT AS A PET?” Brontë squealed.
I had nearly picked it up so the kids could hold it before my husband came racing over with a bowl and paper to trap it. “Are you SURE that’s not a SNAKE?” he shouted.
“YES. It has LEGS.”
Still, he promptly walked it out the door and dumped it into some bushes. The kids were disappointed.
But it ended up being the right move, because we eventually figured out that the little guy was an alligator lizard.
And alligator lizards, it turns out, are NASTY.
Good thing I didn’t try to grab it, because alligator lizards are really aggressive and will hiss, chase, attack, and bite you HARD. Like this:
See? It’s so common, they have free stock images of alligator lizard bites all over the web. Here’s a YouTube link about some guy looking for alligator lizards and another one, where some guy thinks it’s hilarious to get his finger bitten multiple times (!?). I wouldn’t recommend this, btw, because apart from the obvious unpleasantness of getting bitten by a lizard, they also spread a lot of infections and Lyme disease.
The one we found in our closet was small though, clearly a baby. He may have been harmless…
BUT, after my parents came to visit the next day, they found THIS one sitting on their car when they were leaving to drive home:
I’m convinced it was the closet lizard’s mom, giving everyone a stern warning. “Don’t even THINK about messing with my kid!”
Ugh, okay. No problem. You guys just go do your own lizard thing, okay?
Generally speaking, Brontë and Bridget are much easier to manage now that they’re five and three. Gone are the days of three-hour fits and grocery store tantrums. Consistent refusal to reward bad behavior slowly winnowed them out.
Or of Brontë’s poop-mural experiments, which went on for months. Making her clean them up, by the way, was what finally did the trick.
Or of Bridget ruthlessly tackling the cat. We let the cat sort that one out himself.
We’ve finally moved on to more advanced kid skills, like not constantly interrupting people and getting through meals like civilized people. Occasionally, they’ll try snotty attitudes on for size, experimenting with the social ramifications, or check to see how much leverage they’ll get from being tragic.
Like the other day, when Bridget fell into some gravel and scraped her knee. Viking that she is, she handled it by punching everything around her, including the air, which made her fall over and over again, growing ever angrier.
I raced over to help her with her bloody leg and she responded by boxing my legs like a violent leprechaun. This didn’t go over very well, because mommy is not a punching-bag. Even if you’re sick or injured.
Which pretty much set off a cascade of bad behavior for the next few hours, during which time her sister Brontë was the perfect, model child: holding mommy’s hand, cheerfully doing everything she was supposed to, and giving heart-melting monologues about how much she loves her family.
Because I don’t know if this is typical, but my kids like to take turns acting out. I think that one of them acting like a hooligan gives the other the perfect opportunity to look angelic by comparison, and they relish the opportunity to rub their good behavior and all of its associated privileges in their sister’s face.
But, growing bored with their good cop/bad cop routine, they changed places yesterday. While Bridget was snuggling mommy and bringing her flowers, Brontë was accidentally spilling huge glasses of chocolate milk and then later wouldn’t shut up about the “giant turd she’d been wrestling” during lunch because Brontë has picked up that mommy’s weakness is finding your bad behavior hilarious.
Yesterday was the day when Brontë forgot how to put on shoes, after years of doing it correctly, and suddenly found the request outrageous. She wouldn’t quit pushing around her sister either, grabbing toys out of her hands on account of her possessing such a “stinky butt,” which probably made sense to her wound-up toddler brain.
At any rate, it all culminated in last night’s dinner episode. Bridget was quietly eating her taco while Brontë somehow hovered in a blur about the air pockets around her seat as my husband and I desperately tried to have a conversation:
John: So then I went to the manager meeting, and
Brontë: I’M THE QUEEN OF JELLYFISH.
John: I went to the managers’ meeting where they were talking about…
Brontë: I HAVE A BURRITO. MY EYES ARE BLUE. I WANT TO GO IN THE POOL.
Me: Stop interrupting, Brontë. Wait until your dad finishes what he’s saying.
Brontë keeps jabbering on for the next few minutes while John and I try ignoring her until it stops. Bridget keeps eating her taco, watching the whole thing play out. Finally, John looks over…
John: Okay, Brontë. What were you saying?
Brontë: I WANT TO GO SWIMMING AT MIDNIGHT WITH THE POOL LIGHT ON.
John: Not tonight, because you’re going to bed on time. Maybe this weekend we can go swimming when it’s dark outside.
Brontë (stomping away): I’m EXCUSED!
John: Come BACK here and sit down. We didn’t excuse you.
Brontë (making a face): HMPH!
John: Go to your room.
Brontë screams down the hallway before slamming the door. The room gets quiet. Bridget takes another bite of taco, her tiny legs swinging under her chair.
Dieting SUCKS, so there’s usually some triggering event that convinces someone to start eating better.
For a friend of mine, it once was getting thrown out of a roller-coaster line by an attendant twice her size. For me, it’s been arguing with my five-year-old about not actually being pregnant. Because she insists that the last time my belly got SO BIG, she ended up with a baby sister.
She doesn’t mean any harm. It’s just that toddlers are painfully honest without any grasp of the social ramifications. Like how she keeps playing with grandma’s upper arms because they’re so “fun and squishy.” Or like the other day, when my daughter grabbed a handful of my postpartum belly and asked why it looked like that.
“Because you lived there for year,” I told her. “Your sister too, before you’d even taken down all the staples from your posters.”
She was understandably confused, and I’ll admit leaking a twinge of bitterness into my response. Even though I should know better, because kids say ridiculous, rude things all the time.
It touched a nerve, though, because my jeans are indeed getting tight. I can still CLOSE them, thank you very much, but it’s not super comfortable and results in some sideways flare-out. My husband looks mildly panicked every time I frown at my muffin top, because it could mean all the chocolate is about to vacate the house.
The weird thing is, I actually lost the baby weight from both of my pregnancies within six months. You see, I’d grown up hearing countless women talk about how they used to be so skinny and had such fast metabolisms until they had children and then never managed to regain their pre-pregnancy figures again.
Since I didn’t have a fast metabolism to begin with, the threat of permanent explosion seemed imminent. So I hopped right onto a diet and exercise program as soon as I recovered from childbirth. I knew I had to unleash a Tony Horton-style dictatorship onto those rioting hormones before they swallowed me whole.
And I conquered it LIKE A BOSS. Why? Because I was prepared to fight that estrogen-soaked battle of making people, but knew nothing of the parenting lifestyle’s insidious creep. It turns out, you still can’t let your guard down once pregnancy is over, because having kids makes it really, really easy to put on weight.
So I’ve been thinking about why this is, and have decided to warn prospective parents about what they’ll be up against:
1- Kids have really small bodies
Once you have children, you’ll never take a normal, grown-up step again.
See, most of your free time is spent in their company. That means if you walk anywhere on foot, you’ll have to take them with you, usually while holding their hand.
And kid bodies are very small, which means their legs are really tiny. They can’t walk at a grown-up pace. If you try to walk like a normal person, the child will trip on the sidewalk, smack their face on the ground, begin screaming and make everyone stare at you in horror like you’re a monster who won’t wait for your kids.
So, you’ll have to start walking at the pace of someone with ten-inch legs. It’s slow, even without accounting for them being mesmerized by the mysteries of sidewalk grooves or the life-freezing eurekas of passing thought, both of which will occur approximately every 15 seconds because kids really don’t care about getting somewhere on time.
Clearly, strollers would seem to be the obvious answer here, except they mean sacrificing the exercise your pent-up toddlers so desperately need. I’ve seen far too many über-fit moms pushing grumpy, pudgy 8-year-olds in strollers to think strollers are a good idea once the kiddos can walk.
2. Kids take ages to get through everyday activities
Things that used to take 30 seconds now take 10 minutes, if not half the morning. Things like just putting on shoes and walking out of the house.
You used to just grab your keys and walk out the door, but now you’ve got to clean up, change someone, and lace their shoes up, assuming that locating shoes doesn’t become it’s own drawn-out detective saga, or that said child isn’t naked, which are both wildly optimistic assumptions when parenting.
Remember how I said kids get mesmerized by sidewalk cracks? Apply that same principle to eating a meal or exiting a vehicle…
You’ve unsnapped their car seats, you’ve opened their door, and you’re now standing on the side of the car while they stare blankly into space. “Okay sweetie, time to get out of the car,” you say.
So they take a step forward and start messing with the parking brake. Thirty seconds go by and you’re telling them, “Don’t mess with that, sweetheart. It’s time to get out of the car now.”
And then they step onto the doorframe, hold the back of the front seat with one hand, then stare at the ground with all the intensity of someone trying to solve the Palestinian crisis. They just keep standing there, as you look at your watch.
It’s all you can do, at this point, to not scream, “GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR,” except you’ve read about how vitally important it is to never, ever rush a child through trying to do something. Because rushing your kid means being impatient, which makes them feel incompetent, eventually destroying their self-esteem and leaving them sobbing in the women’s bathroom a decade from now, right after their pole-shifts, wondering where it all went wrong.
If only frustration burned calories.
3. Because kids want to eat garbage
Before I had kids, I used to go to the farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce with which to make elaborate meals from scratch. In fact, my insistence on unprocessed food was once a bone of contention with my Hot-pocket-eating boyfriend (later my husband).
I assumed I’d keep my lifestyle up after the kids were born, neither envisioning how much less energy I’d have, nor my frustration at seeing a thousand carefully-prepared meals splatter against the wall.
Or how desperate I’d be to keep the kids from rioting. Ideally, I’d love to feed the kids healthy food, all the time. I do still try, but it’s hard to keep throwing money and time at meals that end up in the garbage when literally every television channel and store display is flashing cartoon utopias of brightly-colored garbage that’s so much easier and cheaper.
You’ll also find yourself in the grocery store with a wound-up kid and a dozen reproachful eyes, just waiting for the looming meltdown, while knowing you could either put a stop to it all with a 50 cent treat, or hold your ground through yet another public episode of overwhelmed-mom-with-the-tantruming kids.
The struggle is real. And sometimes I cave.
4. Because kids don’t eat much
You know how you finish your lunch because you paid for it and you don’t want to throw your food away, only to get hungry an hour later and have to pay for something else?
Yeah, kids don’t worry about that. They don’t care what you just spent on their dinner when you’re eating out and will push it aside then literally start throwing a fit about being “so hungry,” 20 minutes later.
You’d think a few rounds of “Well, you should’ve eaten your dinner then, because I’m not not getting you any more food” would fix that, but they’re surprisingly stubborn. Because kids always plan roughly five minutes ahead of wherever they are now. They don’t remember how hungry they ended up being last night and won’t apply that lesson to this evening. Sometimes I’m amazed the human race is still around.
Even when they DO eat, it’s frequently only a tiny bit. I’ve watched my daughter suck the chocolate out of a croissant, pick the croutons out of a salad, lick the parmesan off pasta, and pick the Shake-n-bake coating off pork chops before loudly declaring that she was done.
My husband cleans up our kids’ leftovers like a champ. It just sucks too much to spend your hard-earned money on a meal that ends up only two tablespoons lighter, so my husband takes one for the team by polishing off the rest. Problem is, I’ve noticed him pushing the kids to order something he really likes an awful lot. Which makes sense, because you may as well order something you like if you’re going to end up eating most of it… except it’s a slippery slope from being thrifty to eating an extra, fatty meal because you “have” to.
Most of these meals, I notice, involve a lot of melted cheese. On the plus side, he’s really been leaning on our 3-year-old to practice her silverware, because who wants to polish off a meal someone’s massaged with booger-hands?
5. Your own habits start to backslide
So… you find yourself ordering increasingly empty-caloried garbage in hopes that your kids will possibly eat it, then polishing off said garbage so you won’t feel like you just set your wallet on fire.
You find yourself keeping a few more boxes of cookies around too, because it’s so helpful to have little rewards handy for when your kids finally pick up all their Legos and use an appropriate receptacle to pee into.
And after a while, that kale & quinoa salad isn’t looking so appetizing to you either. I’m not sure it ever really did, but it’s a lot easier to lie to yourself without all this peer pressure.
You get used to meandering along, taking 45 minutes to do what used to take you 10.
Plus, you may be eating a few more chocolates now, because it’s the only vice you’re still allowed. I mean, after you’ve put all that drinking, swearing, and watching violent movies aside, what else can you do?. Who doesn’t want to stuff their face after 300 hours of Caillou?
Either way, these are some of the health pitfalls to watch out for after you move into a lifestyle with kids.
It’s tough, but I’m sure we can overcome it: start following an exercise program and letting the kids get hungry enough to choke down some well-balanced meals. Remind my husband to stop ordering out for pizza or bringing home fast food before we’re shelling out for whole new wardrobes of pants…
I haven’t been keeping up with my blog for the past few weeks and ho boy, did the comments, postings and emails blow up. It’s like that old episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy lets everything pile up on the chocolate factory, only I wasn’t seeing the chocolates threatening to avalanche because it was all happening in the mystical, invisible land of the internet.
So, today I literally tackled 4000 emails. They weren’t entirely my blog’s fault because I also spent half the day unsubscribing from various marketing assembly lines, which was a dragon whose slaying was long overdue.
I mean, what else was going to happen to an openminded, very curious (likely undiagnosed attention-disordered) woman like myself? SURE, I’d love to learn about the world of cycling and how runners should eat. How about the mysteries of ancient civilizations and Abraham Lincoln’s private letters while we’re at it? Of COURSE, I want to hear about whenever your breakthrough mascaras that will change my life forever go on sale (shockingly perfect eyelashes -> ? -> perfect life!) And WOW, you’ll tell me whether I have a fire, air, earth or water personality with your free quiz if I just enter my email that you promise not to share with anyone? (So weird, because Six Flags over Georgia keeps telling me about their promotions, though I’m almost positive I never asked).
Aaaaand on top of that, I started taking a French class with my mom and working out early in the morning, which screws up my powerfully creative middle-of-the-night writing time more than you’d expect. You see, mom and I thought I would be nice to do something together, like take a French film class. Except she’s a retired French teacher and I… well, I learned some French from hearing her speak it when I was little and later studied it in school, but I haven’t used it in quite some time. Picking a class that would neither bore mom to tears nor be ridiculously over my head was a true challenge.
So, I took a placement test and according to the Alliance Francaise, I’m an Advanced Intermediate, but it hardly feels that way when I’m watching French war films from the 60’s, paying extremely close attention to everyone’s body language in the desperate hope of figuring out a gnat’s wing of context, and reading out French dialogues in class while feeling about as ashamed as I’d imagine feeling after just peeing on the public floor. (Why do they have to talk SO FAST!?)
The entire class is in French, including the instructions, and while I understand about 87% of it, I nevertheless have to hear myself answering the teacher in cavewoman grunts while watching her look at me with that pained, patronizing expression that means she’s pretending that I don’t sound like an idiot so I won’t get discouraged. When it’s just too rough, I occasionally break into English again, whereupon she looks mildly startled by my capacity for abstract reasoning, as though she’d assumed my aching attempts at normal French conversation reflected my general aptitude. This must be how blind people feel when others shout at them in slow, simple language. Or immigrants, when natives assume that their fractured grammar represents how their whole brain operates.
Eh, I complain because it’s entertaining, but I’m actually enjoying this class a great deal. I like being forced to learn something new. You see, I spend most of my time around toddlers, and while I love my kids to pieces and cherish the time I spend with them, it’s not exactly an intellectual challenge, right about now. For example, I spent the bulk of today’s afternoon helping my 3-year-old practice writing her name, which consisted of her randomly scribbling on a paper then looking really proud of her alphabet mastery. Essentially, she was me in French class, except she’s blissfully unaware of how far off she is, whereas I can’t help but catch every micro-condescension in my French teacher’s eyes.
But in addition to taking the French class, I’ve also started waking up early to work out. You may be wondering why, given my obvious night-owl tendencies…
You see, I decided to start exercising more and eating better after my five-year-old started asking me if she was going to get a new baby sister.
“No,” I told her. “Daddy and I are happy with two girls. We aren’t going to have another baby.”
“But your belly is sooo… BIG. Like when you were making Bridget.”
“No, I’m not having another baby.”
“But it’s getting BIGGER and BIGGER!”
Frankly, I think she’s being a bit of a weight Nazi, because I’ve only put on around ten pounds or so.
Maybe 15. Okay, maybe it’s 15 and I happen to think 15 pounds from skinniness is a little premature to start asking your mom whether she’s pregnant. Still, I read something about how only yoga pants and toddlers tell the truth and figure if your belly is getting big enough for your kids to notice it, it’s probably time to jump on it before it becomes a larger issue.
And it could be worse, given that she’s also been asking her dad if he’s making her a baby brother, since she assumes women make girls while men make boys. Which makes primitive sense, assuming you don’t fully understand the process.
So, I’ve recently embarked on a P90x exercise routine in the mornings, because doing it anytime later throws off my entire day, as well as a bold attempt at eating better. The whole process has made me reflect on how much easier it is to get fat and out of shape once you have kids.
As previously mentioned, my husband and I have wildly different circadian rhythms. He falls asleep by nine, whereas I don’t even try for another five hours or so.
Partly, this is because I’m a freelance writer who must squeeze in work whenever a toddler isn’t demanding I admire her pee or open up yet another yogurt cup.
But mostly, my husband and I are just differently wired. He gets groggy by 7 PM, while I will literally have no memory of any conversation we have before 9 AM. “Write it down!” I’m always reminding him. “So I can read anything worth remembering after coffee.”
On the other hand, whenever I accidentally wake him up in the middle of the night, he jumps up, looks at me as if I’d just dumped the cat box all over his room, then repeatedly grunts while flinging the covers over his eyes to avert the horrors. He claims to have no memory of said reactions, but his disapproval is nevertheless made abundantly clear.
So my stealth skills have dramatically improved because I like a challenge (even if said challenge is just moving things around in your husband’s room so he wakes up confused).
Still, I’d been trying to stop that lately until the other night, when I realized I’d left my phone in his room and… argh… it was 3 in the morning. I didn’t want to wake him up, but I needed to count up how many Anglo-Saxon kings died suspiciously young in the Kingdom of Mercia.
Why? Because they didn’t have a lot of reliable methods to figure out causes of death back then and so many kings died within a couple of years of taking the throne, often in their early twenties, and aren’t you curious too?
Maybe not, since I’m uniquely weird like that and in retrospect, this question probably could’ve waited until the next morning. But it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Plus, I’ve now been tiptoeing around my husband long enough that I assumed I could slip in to access Google and sort out all the Anglo-Saxons without my husband ending up any the wiser.
And I approached this mission like a ninja boss: I squeezed the door knob completely before opening the door. Leaving the light off, I walked toe-heel, toe-heel to the nightstand to quietly melt my hand over my phone. I really thought I was getting away with it, when…
He suddenly lurches forward in bed with enough force to knock a pillow off.
He turns his head toward me.
He takes a deep breath, rubs his temples, and says…
“I’ve been letting her use my dragon costume again.”
He sighs in relief.
Okay, so the man was clearly dreaming. Apparently, about loaning out his dragon costume again.
Wait a minute. Who has been borrowing his dragon costume? It sounded like an admission. I try to imagine any situation where you’d be nervous about admitting this fact.
Wait… he’s obviously been loaning out his costume to some other woman and had to finally come clean about it before all the costume-swapping led down a dangerous path. I mean, a kid wouldn’t fit into a grown man’s dragon costume, right? So my husband must’ve been loaning it out to some lady on the sly. To some nefarious end.
“Who borrowed your costume?” I asked him.
“I don’t remember,” he said.
“You were JUST telling me about it.”
Like that’s not suspicious. Knowing he’ll be mindswept by full consciousness any minute now, I scramble to satisfy my curiosity via a different route:
“When was the last time she borrowed it?”
And he looks annoyed, like I’m asking him to remember what he ate for dinner two Thursdays ago.
“It was…” he starts. “Borrowed what?”
“Your DRAGON costume.”
He blinks a lot.
“I have NO idea what you’re talking about,” he says.
It’s everywhere right now: NO PILLOW TALK FOR PRESIDENT! His marriage must be hanging by a thread!
Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.
But I wouldn’t pin it on whether or not they keep separate bedrooms, because my marriage is doing just fine and my husband and I…
… have our own bedrooms too.
I’ve hidden this fact for a long time, for reasons the current media explosion is making obvious: I didn’t want people whispering about how my husband and I were probably having marital problems and were maybe even headed for divorce.
Because sleeping in separate bedrooms is strangely taboo. It makes people think your marriage lacks intimacy.
So I kept it quiet until the day I moved next door to the kind of neighbor who would march through your house, taking inventory, until she couldn’t help noticing two master rooms with giant beds in them.
She’s exactly the kind of neighbor I’ve desperately needed. The kind who knows everyone in the neighborhood: where they live, what they do, how they’re currently fixing up their house and what kinds of BS problems they’ve been having with the school district. The kind whose confident, direct approach could be the perfect Yang to my Yin-like ballet of barely grasping what color car anyone drives and fretting about how anything I might say could possibly offend someone. (Did I say ‘hi’ wrong? Did they just give me a weird look?)
Well, I respect that kind of of forthright honesty and couldn’t bring myself to counter it with a bunch of lies. We were going to be living next door to each other for a long time and I could tell we were going to be friends, so why start out with some Three’s Company-style charade?
That’s John’s room, and mine is upstairs…
She looked at me sideways until I told her, “He snores, and I’m an insomniac.”
And that’s pretty much how it happened, how I came out about our separate bedrooms deal.
How it all began
My husband and I never intended to sleep in separate rooms. We slowly evolved this peaceful arrangement after our bedroom had turned into a nightly battlefield.
You see, I’m a hardcore night owl, chronic insomniac and very light sleeper. He, on the other hand, is a champion snorer who can wake you up through three closed doors, from a different story of the house.
He also considers his sleep utterly sacred. “Like a religion,” to quote him exactly, which makes him prone to extreme grumpiness whenever woken up in the middle of the night by my tossing and turning or because, say, I needed him to roll on his side because my ears wouldn’t quit bleeding.
I used to stare at him at 4:30 in the morning, irrationally resenting how easily he could just drift off like that and reminding myself how wrong it would be to shove a pillow over his face right now.
I felt horrible about being mad at him for something he couldn’t help, but I was just…
so t i r e d.
We tried everything. Earplugs, nose-strips, even sinus surgery. None of it worked. Turns out, they’d have to reset his entire jaw to fix the problem and it wasn’t worth the risks.
It finally all came crashing down one night when I was pregnant, in that brutal late period of pregnancy where nothing is ever comfortable and you find yourself overheated, aching and flipping into broken starfish positions across your bed, trying against hope for a few sweet hours of oblivion as your baby keeps digging her foot into the underside of your ribs…
It was during these painful hours of sweaty exhaustion, when his spoon-in-the-garbage-disposal snore was pushing and pulling two inches away from my ringing ears like Satan’s own accordion, that I finally snapped:
“I’m sorry, but you have GOT to GO.” (Before I kill you, darling.)
Either pitying me or fearing for his life, the poor guy relocated to the couch.
Well, the couch kept happening until it turned into a futon that turned into the office converted into another bedroom. Then we ended up buying a house with a serendipitous second master bedroom and could finally stop pretending that this sleeping apart thing was a temporary deal.
Some unforeseen perks
Although my husband and I started sleeping in separate rooms for purely practical reasons, we’ve discovered the arrangement offers real perks beyond being able to get a decent night’s sleep.
You see, one of the coolest parts of being single is having complete dominion over your own territory. Being married means companionship, but you can sometimes lose all of your personal space, which is probably why couples tend to carve out man caves and femme dens.
On the other hand, having your own room means:
You can express your decorating style without having to compromise with anyone. My bedroom involves a bathtub with peach curtains and chandeliers. I keep fresh flowers on my coffee table, next to a tea set and whatever fluffy indulgences make me happy.
My two daughters call my room the “girl clubhouse” and like to hang out on my flowery bedspread with all of our cats, purring in harmony around the throbbing pinkness of my rose-strewn monument to glittery estrogen. The whole place reeks of vintage movie stars and unicorn magic.
Meanwhile, my husband can put up that monkey-drinking-booze poster that that he finds hilarious without me giving him crap about it. His place is one big Testoster-oni treat of electronic wires, open closets, spread-out zombie comics and tiny hair shavings.
He can leave his underwear on the floor or refuse to change his sheets until they don’t bend anymore if he wants to and I don’t have to care, just as he doesn’t have to deat with having a thousand throw pillows in his way.
We don’t have to watch each other clip our toenails or nose hairs, because we have separate, private places in which to do these things. Kind of like when we were dating and didn’t have to watch every nasty step of each other’s transformation. We can still pretend to just wake up like that.
Having separate bedrooms doesn’t mean we can’t still visit. Or even stay a while.
But it’s not a given. You’re on boy or girl territory with a temporary visa.
Maybe that sounds cold, but it’s actually fun. It keeps you courting… you can’t juse scratch your butt before Dutch-ovening your partner while knowing they’ll have to put up with it. Unless neither of you minds, I guess.
Keeping a little mystery can bring dating excitement back to the marriage. You still have private territory. Your own identity. Your own refuge to think or read or do whatever without having to entertain anyone else.
Maybe we should rethink the separate bedrooms taboo. It may not be right for everyone, but it doesn’t obviously mean a marriage is falling apart.
So stop being so judgey, people. You just made me defend Donald and Melania Trump.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re browsing your Facebook feed when you come across a bunch of photos of your friend Alex deep-sea diving in New Zealand. Why look, the whole family is there… all bronzed and smiling.
You’re happy for Alex. Really. Because Alex is your buddy and you think it’s awesome to go to New Zealand, just like it was awesome when he went to Copenhagen a few months back.
Not that you’d know, having never been to either place yourself. (You start counting the years since you’ve been on vacation…)
Does it bug you? Does it bug you that it bugs you?
Well, don’t worry, because it’s completely normal. You see, researchers have found that money doesn’t buy happiness after all… unless we have more of it than our friends and colleagues do. We care most about how we’re doing compared to everyone else around us.
Which makes sense. I mean, if everyone in the village has two goats and your family has FOUR, then you’re probably feeling pretty successful and respect-worthy until someone in the village builds a skyscraper.
But that skyscraper family needs love too. Look, I’m not trying to be intimidating, but I’ve got some pretty impressive resources myself. I have assets that have only been available to an elite percentage of lucky people…
That is, as long as you’re counting all the people who have ever lived since the beginning of time. Which I am.
Laugh at my adorably child-like imagination if you must, but comparing myself to people who lived hundreds of years ago makes me feel a whole lot better than reading about the Kardashian sisters’ weekly armpit-bleaching (I may have made that last part up, but you get my drift).
Plus, it means feeling filthy rich every time that I:
1. Eat Oranges
My darling mother-in-law from North Carolina recently visited, seeing our new house for the very first time.
She was most gracious about it, but what seemed to truly impress her most was the orange tree we have in our backyard. Imagine seeing an orange tree through your bathroom window, she sighed wistfully.
Now, growing up near towns with names like “Citrus Heights” has left me somewhat oblivious to my backyard citrus privileges, but seeing her perspective helped me realize how unusual it actually is… Oh yeah, people used to receive oranges in Christmas stockings, back when they were an enormous deal because non-local goods were really expensive.
In fact, Marie Antoinette, who’s the very symbol of whimsical decadence if anyone is, had orange trees from Spain and Portugal wheeled into the gardens of Versailles in planter boxes every morning from their warming rooms, as a statement of her fabulous access to luxury goods.
And here I am, staring at oranges from my bathroom window. Like a BOSS.
2. Drink Hot Chocolate
I like to start my day with a nice cup of hot chocolate, like it’s no big deal at all.
But this habit would’ve once pegged me as a pampered aristocrat.
Because chocolate used to be unbelievably expensive. The Aztecs believed it was a divine gift and used it for currency.
It first appeared at the French court of Versailles in 1666, during the wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. Versailles, of course, was world-renowned for ridiculous self-indulgences and nearly pornographic levels of luxury at the time.
And even THEY were impressed by chocolate. After Louis XIV’s married Marie Thérèse of Spain, who loved the stuff, the king granted the first chocolate manufacturer in France, David Chaillou, a monopoly, which kept chocolate unbelievably expensive for a very long time.
Yet here I am, starting each day with a heaping cup of chocolate, the 17th century equivalent of breakfasting on Beluga caviar sprinkled in gold dust while setting hundred dollar bills on fire.
3. Pepper My Food
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is the dried spice everyone keeps in half of their salt and pepper shakers. Nowadays, it’s the bare minimum of any spice collection, something found on every table at any truck stop in any random backwater town.
But it used to be something only insanely wealthy people could afford to use.
In fact, the Dutch still use the expression “peperduur,” which means “pepper expensive,” to refer to outrageously costly things. It’s a holdover from earlier times, when pepper was literally more valuable than gold. It’s rumored that Alaric I, King of the Visigoths, and Attila, who ruled the Huns, both demanded ransoms of black pepper in exchange for stopping their attacks on Rome during the 5th century.
4. Salt My Food
The word “salary” is actually derived from the word salt, coming from the Latin “salarium,” or “money to buy salt with.” Apparently, people used to picture incomes in terms of how much salt they could buy.
Salt is sacred. Greek, Jewish, Catholics, Buddhists, Tibetans,followers of Shinto, Southwest Native Americans, and other religious groups historically involved salt in holy rituals.
And yet, I can boast an embarrassing wealth of saltiness. I have table salt, Kosher salt, and two kinds of sea salt at my disposal… I can throw salt into my baths, as well as on my food. I can buy a HUGE amount of salt, more salt than I could use in years, and I don’t even run around bragging about it.
5. Flip On the Air-Conditioning
For most of human history, we’ve had to live in the elements the best that we could.
If it was snowing, we could build shelters, sew thick clothing, wrap ourselves in furs, or build a fire.
But if it was blisteringly hot, there wasn’t much we could do, except not wear a bunch of clothes (I’m talking to you, Victorian England).
Before that, there wasn’t much people could do to deal with the heat, apart from jumping in the lake or making someone wave a fan at you.
So whenever I flip on the air-conditioning, it’s basically the new world equivalent of filling the room with expensive ice cubes or having a team of servants waving a bunch of ostrich feathers in my face.
I should probably be reclining on a couch and eating grapes whenever I do it.
These are just a few of the ways I like to pretend I’m a powerful empress in the ancient world. Just think about how impressed medieval people would be if they travelled forward in time to behold the splendor of my lifestyle.
But don’t be jealous. You’re probably an aristocrat too.
Hey, we all have to make tough choices in our lives, each involving unique hardships and challenges. So instead of fighting, I’d like to take a moment today to appreciate all the other women out there. Especially the ones who are typically at war:
You guys are bucking the trend, facing criticism from everyone who believes any “normal” woman’s primary focus should be on having children. You’re changing ancient stereotypes about women being walking uteri while creating more independence and career opportunities for future women everywhere.
We don’t ALL need to have kids, and I thank you for bearing with those of us who are trying desperately to calm ours down at the restaurant or grocery store. Your taxes help pay for the next generation’s education too, so I thank you for being team players who are contributing to the group at large.
Plus, there didn’t used to be many options for women who didn’t want to focus on being moms, and that’s unfair. Our wages were pitiful, we were locked out of many career tracks, and were eventually viewed as old maids trying our best to scrape together something resembling a life after clearly being unable to land a man.
Thank you so much for helping to change this.
You guys have it ROUGH. You’ve got the pro-life crowd demanding you see every pregnancy through, regardless of circumstance, while experts demand you leave dysfunctional relationships or marriages, and then your morality is considered questionable after following everyone’s advice.
I have a hard enough time raising kids with a supportive partner, so I can’t imagine dealing with a screaming kid for hours, day after day, all by yourself… no one to shoulder the burden for a bit, while you regain your sanity. I honesty don’t know how you do it, but I’m impressed as hell that you keep it together the way you do.
Kids are a nearly-endless pool of energy and irrational desires. It’s DRAINING to take care of kids all day, Sisyphean at times… you slave over meals they refuse to eat or even throw on the floor. You clean out bodies and butts that get dirty five minutes later. You spend hours trying to either figure out why they won’t stop yelling, dumping out every jar in the house, or trying to stick silverware in the light sockets, only to relive the cycle again and again.
Trying to keep a house with little kids in it clean is like trying to file a huge stack of papers in front of high-powered fans. You can spend the entire day on your feet: chasing kids, putting out high-priority fires, and never getting a break, only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of it.
And meanwhile, everyone’s rolling their eyes about how you’ve probably been eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day, while assuming you’d undoubtedly be doing something more important (i.e. better paid) if you had the skills for it. It’s tough to be a SAHM in a society that equates work with identity, but you’re still doing important work. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to pay other people to it.
You guys are troopers, taking on a full work week during the day, then spending your evenings raising your kids. While SAHM’s don’t always get to take breaks, they do get some control over their own schedules, whereas you’re locked into a sunrise-to-sunset grind from the moment your alarm first starts screaming.
The American workplace doesn’t accommodate parenthood nearly as well as the rest of the developed world. You weren’t necessarily given much maternity leave, if any at all, and may have a brutal time reconciling your work schedule with the needs of your family without either shortchanging your kids or damaging your upward mobility. It’s a constant tightrope walk.
Meanwhile, you’re being shamed about letting strangers raise your kids, as if it were always a choice. Keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table is probably a higher priority, right?
And even if it is a choice, what’s wrong with being invested in your career? Maybe you’ve worked long and hard to get where you are and didn’t stop caring about it the moment you had a baby. Why doesn’t anyone question working fathers like this?
Even though it sounds like the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging. The technique is tricky to master, it HURTS for the first few weeks, and it’s very easy to get discouraged and give up.
It also takes an enormous amount of time. You have to breastfeed babies every couple of hours, which makes it tough to do much else. Doing so in public makes many people uncomfortable, which means you’re either living under house arrest for the better part of a year, or suffering lots of uncomfortable stares from people who find it disgusting.
But experts now recommend it as the healthiest way to feed your infant, so you’re working hard to do right by your kid. Good luck, and keep your chin up.
Since experts now strongly encourage breastfeeding, moms who use formula also face loads of social disapproval, even the unspoken suggestion that they’re lazy or don’t care about their baby’s health.
And that’s an incredibly painful judgment, especially if you really wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t build up enough milk or had a baby with latching issues. Beyond that, there’s a good chance you had to go straight back to work, which makes it exponentially harder.
Pumping enough milk takes more time than I can imagine being available to you at a full-time job, even with breaks, and women who try are looked down upon by their coworkers. It’s also much tougher to produce milk for a machine than a baby. Many moms smell their baby’s clothing or look at baby pictures when they try because the right mindset helps. I have the deepest respect for any working moms who manage it at all.
It’s easy to feel like a failure when you feed your baby formula, but don’t. Many, many generations of healthy babies were raised on formula and your kids will be absolutely fine.
It’s a bad time right now for liberals in America. Our side lost, and the entire government is packed with members of the other team.
And now we’re fighting amongst ourselves as we scramble to understand how it all happened. There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, many calling another subgroup the weak link in the chain as we splinter into warring factions. Was it racism? Was it elitism? Was it the failure to focus on the economy or the failure to do what we were doing even harder?
I don’t know, but I hope we don’t cannibalize ourselves in the process. We’ve got to keep our heads in the game, guys. That win margin was awfully narrow.
I may not be on your team, but I’m friends with many of your teammates.
In other words, we may not back the same horse, but we often have similar values. I think most of us want to live in a world where people don’t fear for their safety, where they can be productive and take care of their families, and where our kids can grow up with a good education and ample opportunity.
We both want less crime, fewer unwanted pregnancies, healthy people, and a healthy economy where we can live comfortably after putting in a hard day’s work.
We both want these things, even if we have different ideas about how we can get there. Maybe it’s naive, but I’m really hoping we can both learn to start talking to each other instead of demonizing the other side. I think we’ve probably got more in common than we realize, because it’s usually the extremists taking up all the air in the room.
Besides, we’ve kind of been forced to pick teams in the grand Super Bowl that is American politics. I’ll bet most Americans aren’t 100 % strict adherents to EVERY last position and theory spouted off by their political camp. Most are probably more moderate than that, which means we have some common ground to logically hash out some of these issues.
In short, I think we’d all do well to recognize that while we face some hardships, everyone else has hardships of their own. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, so maybe we could put down our arms and try to understand someone else’s perspective, while giving ourselves a break at the same time.