Please do not be alarmed if, when you click on the links within this post, you suddenly hear the irksome music of a Philadelphia cream cheese commercial.
With Monday’s writing prompts, the guru Mama Kat directed her followers to this nifty template that, when completed, yields an “I Am” poem. What exactly is an “I Am” poem, you ask? Read on!
There were a lot of different ways this could have gone – hilarious, melodramatic, flowery, rhyming – but I didn’t think too much about my answers. I just filled in the template with the first things that came to mind, then did some minor linguistic plastic surgery.
Thank you again, Mama Kat, for your inspiration!
I am funny but anxious.
I wonder why I am wired this way.
I hear a cherry ice cream smile.
I see where I went wrong.
I want to live without the doom cloud stalking me.
I am funny but anxious.
I pretend I am the much-applauded guest of a late night talk show host.
I feel an amoeba crawling in my eye.
I touch the past, one of the few things I can always reach.
I worry about losing the people I love.
I cry when I think about what might happen and also what might not happen.
I am funny but anxious.
I understand the appeal of other places.
I say most things are not that simple.
I dream there is no clean bathroom.
I try to be nice.
I hope someone discovers the untapped brilliance that is me.
I am funny but anxious.
Welcome to the unofficial Support Section of the not-so award-winning, acclaimed, widely-read blog “The Letter T.” We value your business, and to better serve you, we’ve compiled a list of the questions our clients most commonly ask our CEO. If you don’t see the answer you’re looking for, try someone else’s blog.
What services do you provide?
Nothing of import, including:
Social media updating
Search engine optimization
General corporate communications
Stuffed animal foster parenting
Intermittent emotional comfort
Instant recall of trivial and random information
Defense of the Great State of New Jersey
Candy trafficking and dealing, sometimes within 200 feet of a school
Holiday party hosting
Where are your headquarters?
New York City, with regional offices in Scotch Plains, NJ and Dallas, TX.
Do you take credit cards?
Do you have time to write and send an urgent email blast for me within the next hour?
No, but I will.
What happened to your chin?
The small scar on the lower right corner of my face is from my cameo appearance on Nip/Tuck ’86. That year, I had a dime-sized birth mark removed. Plastic surgery has come a long way, and if I’d had it removed today, I’d probably be scar-free. But, as Karl Lagerfeld said, “There is no beauty without strangeness.”
What were you doing in Michigan and Philadelphia?
How did you meet your husband?
My husband and I went to high school together. I knew him, because he was the class president and homecoming king, as well as an athlete
and a twin, which was still rare back then. He claims to have known me, but that is simply not possible. Obviously, we spoke nary a word between June 1990 and the summer of 2008, when we reconnected on Facebook. Yes, Facebook actually can do good.
How’d you sleep last night?
Why do you look like a chipmunk when you eat?
I suffer from what my inner circle knows as “the swallowing thing.” Depending on who you ask, it may be a social phobia, and/or a severe form of globus
hystericus, and/or a conversion disorder, and/or the result of control issues that cause me to involuntarily clench my jaw so hard it will barely move. In any case, it is often difficult for me to swallow with grace and aplomb. It is embarrassing and unpleasant, but somehow, I am always able to get ice cream down with no problem.
On that note, you eat an absurd amount of cheese and junk food, yet are not yet obese. How is that possible?
With irritable bowel syndrome, everything is possible. Any day now, I will wake up and suddenly weigh 400 pounds.
Where do you get your fashion ideas?
I stare creepily at well-dressed women on the subway; I copy my fashion-forward friends; and I cut out pictures of Rachel Bilson, Reese Witherspoon, Kourtney Kardashian, and Jessica Alba from US magazine.
Why are you so afraid of barfing?
Studies show it has to do with the trauma of a reversal of fortune in front of my entire second-grade class in 1980. Plus, barfing is horrible.
I find you and your blog to be more than a smidge irritating. What can I do about this?
Please try rebooting.
Have you ever thought about writing a book?
Yes, but I am lazy and uninspired, as evidenced by the irregularity of my blog posts.
I think you should try. Are you afraid of failing?
What part of “lazy and uninspired” do you not understand? I am not afraid of failing. I fail at least once a day and I am used to it. What I am afraid of is losing hope. As long as I talk about writing a book but never actually do it, there’s still the possibility that it might one day happen.
Isn’t there ANYTHING that motivates you?
There are a few things, including:
Fresh Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Knowing John Taylor and Simon Le Bon are out there, somewhere
The mean girls in high school
Thoughts of appearing on the late night talk show circuit – and what I will wear
The idea of making my husband/family proud
What nail polish color is that?
Most likely, it’s Lincoln Park After Dark; Midnight in Moscow; Romeo & Joliet; or Chinchilly. If you enjoy diarrhea-colored nails (which I don’t), I recommend Uh-Oh Roll Down the Window.
I have tried all the contact numbers I have for you and still can’t reach you. What the deuce?
“Deuce” is the keyword here. I am almost never without access to a landline or mobile device. If you are unable to reach me, it means one of two things. Either my shitty iPhone battery has died a moment after it claimed to be 100% charged, and/or I am doing the kind of business that shan’t be mentioned here.
Keith and I started watching “Friday Night Lights” on Netflix this summer and quickly became addicted. If you’ve watched the show, you know how intensely it sucks you in. You start to feel like you’re living right there in the small, football-obsessed town of Dillon, TX. You find yourself motivating co-workers by saying, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” You crave Alamo Freeze. You realize you actually know what number and position each of the Panthers plays. Especially Riggins. And if you’re me, you are mentally transported back in time to the trauma that is high school. So it struck me as rather uncanny that Mama Kat’s weekly writing prompts would include “Your first panic attack” – which, in my case, took place at the end of my senior year at Spiffy High.
Nowadays, the classic panic attack is almost de rigeur. (I mean, have you really even lived until you’ve experienced the joy of clammy hands, sudden onset hot flash, racing heart, severe tremors and impending sense of unidentifiable doom?) I think about panic attacks a few times a day in my modern life. But in 1990, anxiety was simpler. We didn’t know from panic attacks, as Grandma Ethel would have said. I just always understood that I was a nervous person who worried a lot and lived under a cloud of melancholy.
With graduation looming on the horizon, I felt totally isolated (which may or may not have actually been the case); I absolutely could not bear the thought of choosing a college and then leaving home to go to it; I was in a bad relationship; and I despised myself more than you can imagine. So really, things were fabulous!
You won’t be surprised to learn that “my first time” took place in gym class, the morning after I lost a huge fight with my high school boyfriend, B. I had barely slept and probably skipped breakfast, but gym stops for no man. I had no choice but to hit the weight room circuit, and made it through two or three of the machines. Then came the leg press. As I situated myself, I felt my stomach drop to my feet. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it, and sweat began pouring down my face. I tried to push the five-pound weight into the wall, but found that my legs were rubber. I would have stood up and run to the bathroom, but I was pretty sure I’d pass out. I froze in place. Clearly, I had some sort of sudden onset virus and would need to be airlifted out of school. Perhaps they would even quarantine me. It never occurred to me that this was anything other than physical.
I headed to the nurse’s office post-haste, and felt better as soon as I sat down among the derelicts with faux migraines. My pulse seemed to have slowed to no more than 200, but still, I was obviously quite ill. I waited for the nurse and when I went in, she asked me a lot of questions about my health in general. Then she asked what was going on “at home.” As a regular watcher of after-school specials, I was compelled to assure her that no one was beating or molesting me, and that neither of my parents drank heavily or abused drugs. Strangely, I also felt compelled to tell her about my college angst and B – and then, for dessert, started crying.
Hmm. I’d never known that to be a symptom of the flu.
The nurse looked at me with sympathy and said, “I think you had an anxiety attack.”
Wait, I’m not being airlifted?! You don’t have to call my parents? Frick on a palpitating stick and Panic McNervoustein!
She had me lie down for a few minutes and told me to go back to class when I felt up to it. And sure enough, I was fine. Except that now, I had a new bully in my life … one that still follows me everywhere I go.
I have no excuse for my blogging hiatus other than mental laziness. And the devastation I felt when the famous blogger behind Hate & Anger told me my last post didn’t do it for him. (Side note: if you knew me and/or my sister, it would have.) Sniff sniff. In any case, I have turned once again to the inspiration of Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World-Famous Writer’s Workshop. In honor of today’s solstice, I now present to you my summer bucket list. Enjoy.
Find a way to achieve vintage tan: the kind of super-brown shade I used to turn in the buck-toothed summer days of yore.
The other day, a friend and I were analyzing the strange behavior of another girl we know. We came to the conclusion that this individual possesses absolutely no ability to grow as a person. At first I felt very smug about our assessment. Then, suddenly struck by a relapse of anxiety symptoms, I started to wonder whether I myself had the ability to grow as a person. After years of therapy and self-loathing, I feel better about myself than I ever did … but how much is that saying? I decided to investigate. And that meant picking up the journals I kept meticulously in high school.
A few things that struck me instantly:
My childhood bedroom obviously reeked of guinea pig chips
I had the handwriting of a lunatic
I ate a lot of candy
My flair for the melodramatic was truly unparalleled – clearly taking inspiration from the ABC After-School special and too many young adult novels
I thought you might appreciate some excerpts from these journals, written roughly this week in 1990 – my senior year of high school (class president: my husband). Please note that the views of 17-year-old me do not necessarily reflect the views of 38-year-old me.
4/2/90: Did I mention I got into Brandeis? Notice how thrilled I am. I am crazy, I know, to be miserable after getting into all five schools, but Washington is screaming for me. [This is where my high school boyfriend, B, was going to college.] I envy B because I know he will make it one day. Most people like B a lot more than my parents – they make him nervous. They make me nervous. They ARE nervous. Today was the first day of the last marking period I will ever spend in high school. We picked our gym classes 1st period – I got tennis and frisbee. Taxi driver killer LC is back in school – and guess when she has gym? [Please Google for more info – I don’t feel safe providing it.] I’m still thinking about that movie “Threads” and nuclear war. Today had no characteristic trait. It will blend into my memory and I will never know the difference between it and any other day. It sucked.
4/3/90: A [unrequited love of my high school life] looked so sad today. I asked how he was and he said “mediocre.” I asked if there was anything I could do and for a second, he looked like maybe there was [I can assure you the thing I could do was to shut the fork up], but he shook his head. On his way out of class he stopped at my desk and stared down at me with a weird look on his face. [I can assure you the weird look was his way of saying, “For the love of GOD you freak, stop writing about me in your guinea pig-scented diary.”] Being nice gets you nowhere except shit on, life is shit. The people who are vicious and cruel are a lot happier. B read me 25 characteristics of a disorder termed “anxious-neurotic.” I fit every single one. Nicole and Bob came over. Bob and I hate half a pint of Heath Bar Crunch. I feel sick.
4/6/90: Yesterday we signed in late to miss two gaywad senior assemblies [CRINGE! DOUBLE CRINGE! And note that the emcee at both asssemblies was … my husband.] Mr. O [menacing vice-principal] saw us come in and bawled us out. Like we were the only seniors who did it. Like I ever did ANYTHING wrong. Nicole and Jay weren’t in school today – they were down at Rutgers DJing. There is this thing called Derby Days Bob’s fraternity is involved in. It’s a fundraiser with sorority help. Sam, Jess and I went to Bridgewater [mall that opened circa 1989 with awe-inspiring food court]. Sam tried on this gorgeous peach prom dress – oh she looked so beautiful.
4/8/90: If only “if only” could alter the world. Sam and I had sundaes at Friendly’s, then went to the A&P for popcorn, Pringles, and dip [no, sadly, we were NOT stoned] and came back here and watched “When Harry Met Sally” again, my 8th time. Jamie had her friends over, they were being so loud and Sam told them to shut up. Tomorrow I’ll be lectured. Mom, Jamie and I had lunch at the Diet Works, and looked at some prom dresses at Doris Amster, pure tack. I did get 3 Cadbury Creme Eggs at Walgreen’s. I was thinking it would be so fantastic to keep a journal in college – can you imagine how priceless that would be years later [literally price-less]? I feel doomed – every time I do something I think it’s the last time I’ll ever do it. I can’t stop wondering if I’ll be okay, and not just okay, but happy? How hard will it be to get that way? I wonder if people outgrow neurosis? [Ha!] I can’t see it getting any better, only worse.
4/9/90: I really hate Passover. I know this is sacreligious [sic], but the seder drives me crazy. I believe in God, but I have my own image of God [impressive]. Some of these rituals are so silly. And who are we to say we are the chosen people? I feel so lonely. I wish I had a car. I have this new song onbsession. It’s called “Cigarette” by the Smithereens. Their lead singer is from Scotch Plains. The town was actually mentioned in Rolling Stone once . [This September, I heard the once-famous lead singer perform at the annual Italian Festival in the parking lot of St. Bart’s, but had to leave in haste due to an irritable bowel episode.]
4/13/90: This has been a miserable week. It all started Tuesday morning. Grandma is in the hospital. She was going to drop Jamie and D off in Westfield, then go home and pick up a few things. I was really rude to her. She kept nagging me to come with her and have lunch with her but I blew her off so she left, and she was gone a long time. I thought she was sulking at home and waiting for one of us to call and beg her to come back (she did that on July 4th). Usually when someone’s late I start to have scary thoughts, but this time I didn’t. In the middle of “General Hospital,” she called and said not to get excited, but she’d blacked out and had an accident and was in the hospital, Overlook. I got hysterical – I cried so hard – just the way she said it, and I kept picturing the accident, this old lady all by herself, she must have been so scared, and she kept saying thank god I didn’t go with her. I felt guilty somehow, like somehow I could have done something if I’d been there, and I felt guilty for being so mean – I kept crying, I didn’t know what to do. She said she was fine but that they didn’t know why she blacked out [this was probably an early and unrecognized sign of the problems that started to plague her four years later], and her chest was bruised from the steering wheel. I kept crying. I called my father’s office but the service answered so then I paged him. I was crying so hard he thought I was Jamie. That night we went to see her. There was no room available, so she was in the emergency room. Her clothes were all smushed into this little silver basket on the bottom of the bed. Her coat. Her Reeboks. When we left I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to stay with her. B thinks he is smarter than me [he isn’t]. He said I wouldn’t have gotten in to Penn [probably not, thanks to my stellar test-taking abilities]. Even while I knew that, it still sounded like an insult [uh … maybe because it WAS?]. It’s 2 weeks and six days til my 18th birthday and I must figure out a way to let A know. These are such troubled times. I wonder if I’ll ever feel okay again.
I am much funnier now – does that count as personal growth?
Given the amount of junk food I ate then and continue to eat now (although after 35, I had to draw the line at Pringles), it’s a huge miracle I didn’t experience MORE personal growth
I made a lot of mistakes.
I could not write to save my life.
These are always troubled times.
I actually do feel okay.
Have I grown? I’ll leave that to the people who knew me when!
Editor’s note: I was midway through the writing of this post when Allison, the talented proprietress of No Shoe Left Behind, published a post about our friendship. The post — I am proud to report — earned “Fresh Pressed” status, and drove an insane amount of traffic to The Letter T. In fact, I owe pretty much all my traffic to Allison — she was the very first non-friend/non-relative reader I had. I am forever grateful for her support, encouragement, viral marketing, and appreciation of the finer things in life — T. Belden, ice cream, French macaroons. Huge thanks! May we both land lucrative book deals that are optioned into screenplays.
Another huge thanks for all the great feedback from the blogosphere — it’s very motivating and I really, really appreciate it!
First Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minillo. Then, in what I’m sure is just a total coinkydink, Jessica Simpson and that guy. Leeza Gibbons (a cougar at 53) and the 40-year-old head of the Beverly Hills Board of Education. And of course, my personal favorite, Prince William and Kate Middleton. Betrothals abound! And I’m sure that even if Jessica did have to pay for her own massive ruby rock — even if Prince William did not go to Jared for the big ass sapphire his mother once wore — the affected parties are still in the pre-wedded bliss phase of their relationships.
With my own nuptials a mere 10 days away, it’s not that I’m not also in that phase. It’s just that said phase is now mixed in with a faint hint of anxiety. Maybe it’s more like a dash of anxiety. Fine, a few tablespoons. But you get the point. In the past four weeks I’ve had two bad colds, one of which is currently plaguing me. I can’t fall asleep. I feel like there’s a 300-lb man sitting on my chest, and when I try to inhale, the air isn’t getting all the way into my lungs. (It’s just a touch of psychogenic dyspnea –which I’ve had since 1981 — at least I hope.) My skin is so itchy that I have black and blue marks from scratching. I have an ingrown eyelash (simple trichiasis – yay!) and a deep crack where my top and bottom lips meet. Shout out to angular chelitis — thanks for making me look like the Joker. (Note – in some cases angular chelitis is actually caused by a riboflavin deficiency. Riboflavin! Please note I take this as a sign that I’m not eating enough Franken Berry cereal.) My big toe is sore from what I can only assume is gout. I’ve had to stop using my special keratin shampoo and replace it with Selsun Blue thanks to a delightful case of seborrheic dermatitis. I’m not kidding — think Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. Picked cuticles? Check. In short, I am repulsive.
Now, this may sound really bad — and don’t get me wrong. It kind of is. But I’m not surprised by it. It would actually startle me if I went through a major rite of passage and didn’t have at least a tiny meltdown. The weird thing, though, is that I’m not consciously worried about anything. Keith is an amazingly kind, patient, big-hearted person and I still can’t believe he’s willing to marry me (especially in my current state). I’m fairly confident that St. Thomas will not implode into the Caribbean and am only slightly uneasy about the possibility of American Airlines losing our suitcases. So I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly the real issue is.
I think it’s partly just the concept of doing something with so much magnitude. It’s MARRIAGE. It means you have one of the answers you have long, long sought — that one of your greatest quests is complete: you spend years wondering how this particular facet of your existence will turn out, and now you know. It means you’re an official grown-up. It means a part of your life (albeit, not a particularly pleasant one) is over. And that means you’re getting old.
For me, it’s also the step that most people assume will follow the wedding. As you may have guessed from previous posts, the thought of having a kid(s) is absolutely terrifying on every possible level. And unfortunately, despite what Kelly Preston would have us believe — time is not on my side. If I’m gonna do it, I gotta do it pretty soon.
But ultimately, I think the thing I’m most worried about is myself. I have zero doubts about Keith’s ability to be a good husband — there is no possible way he could be anything other than that. But as you also may know from previous posts, this is my second marriage. And it’s really nice to think that the first one failed solely because of the other person involved or because we were just a freakishly bad pairing. But what if that’s not why it failed? What if it turns out I am fundamentally incapable of being a good wife?
Keith didn’t seem concerned when I brought up this idea. But to be fair, he was petting our new iPad at the time, and to be fair-er, very few thingsworry him.
I was then compelled to pose several things that I felt might indicate my bad wife destiny: I was blogging while I could have been helping him with his laundry; I became inappropriately agitated when my Blackberry froze the other day; I complain constantly; I buy too many pairs of shoes; I see the glass as entirely empty.
Keith typed the following into the App store search bar: diagnose mental disorders.
Then in typical Keith fashion, he spent the next five minutes reassuring me and telling me I could always talk to him about anything.
For a little while I felt better. But then another thought occurred to me: Maybe I was really just worried about keeping two families happy on a six-day vacation in the Caribbean. Or getting blood poisoning from my picked cuticles. Or barfing on the pl…
Maybe it really isn’t the wedding … maybe I just need something to worry about.
It was bound to happen sooner or later – and I’m actually shocked it took this long. But last night – with less than two months to go – I finally had my first wedding anxiety dream.
As my loyal readers know, anxiety dreams in general are no stranger to my sleep life. They strike at least once a week in one of two genres: Bathroom or School. For details, please see Dream On (March 2010). Last night’s dream better not have been the pilot episode of a third genre, as it was the kind that cast its “scurry” (translation: scary) aura in such a way that I could feel the creepiness lurking in the air all day.
The wedding was scheduled to start in half an hour. We had missed the photo shoot but would still have to pay for it, I still didn’t have any make-up on, and my hair was flat on one side and in frizzed out Jewfro mode on the other. The make-up person was, however, hard at work painting the face of my sister, the maid of honor. And the palette she was using featured lime green eye shadow, with frosty bubble gum pink lipstick. Jan told me not to complain and to leave my sister alone.
Frick on a drag queen’ed stick.
Desperate to get things back on schedule, Dream Me tried to call the event manager, but she was nowhere to be found. The resort’s main number took me in circles and/or disconnected me, and her cell phone went straight to voicemail.
Dream Me left a message along these lines, in a super-nice voice: “Hi, I am SO sorry to bother you … hope all is well. Just trying to get in touch because we’re getting married in half an hour …”
Restlessly, I walked around a bit more in my (wrinkled and stained) white sundress. There were 100 uninvited guests (we’re expecting about 20) perusing an array of hors d’oeuvres that did NOT include pigs ‘n’ blankets (the worst part of the dream). No one we had actually invited was there, but the guests included people Jan hates; people I used to work with eight jobs ago in 1996; a distant friend wearing a fedora and giant aviator sunglasses with an oversized blazer; and a morph of Don Draper and a frat boy from college named Ira.
I had forgotten to pack the decorative glass that Keith would break at the end of the ceremony in Jewish fashion, so that was out. It did not occur to Dream Me that it could have been substituted with ANY glass. My future BIL (I’m not naming names) lost the wedding rings he was in charge of holding.
I had also forgotten to secure something “borrowed” or “blue,” and so the hotel spa asked if I wanted to wear the disposable blue paper unmentionables usually reserved for those undergoing bikini waxes and fake baking. I did not. Even though Dream Me attempted to self-soothe and pretend it was not a big deal, this made her/me very anxious.
Amid all this, Dream Me had to pee like a racehorse. But, as is always the case in my dreams, there was no viable relief option. Every facility within the five-star resort was filthy, had no doors and/or was occupied by mean high school girls. You’d think with the money we’re spending, said resort would cough up a decent crappair, but no. So Dream Me went with the least of all evils, a toilette that was clean but stood about six feet high and required a stepladder to access. Let’s just say that did not go well.
So now, the morning after this “dream wedding,” I am feeling a bit torn. I very much hope the dream was not a psychic vision of any kind. The impact of a wedding devoid of a usable bathroom and a tray of pigs ‘n’ blankets could be devastating. But in a way, I’m feeling a little relieved that my null-worry period seems to have come to an end.
I know, you’d think I would have been thrilled to be so carefree. But in the immortal words of the French political thinker Alexis de Toqueville (shout out to my friend Lisa, whose life and thesis were briefly ruined by said French political thinker) improving conditions lead to unrest. And so I worried that I wasn’t worried. I worried I was forgetting to worry about something, but I didn’t know what. And then I had to worry about not knowing what to worry about. And then I worried about things that weren’t even remotely issues, because I was desperate to worry. It was worrisome indeed. As is this post, no?
Each year, for her annual “well-woman” visit, Jan still sees the very same doctor who delivered me. I am always surprised to learn that Doc Baker, of “Little House” fame, is not part of his practice. I’m also always alarmed when I realize that it’s obviously legal to practice medicine well into your 100s. But anyway, much like Jan, I am loyal to my long-time gynecologist, Dr. A. Because I generally see Dr. A roughly once a year, and because these visits inevitably conjure thoughts of child-bearing, I often find myself taking stock of my life while there.
I first met Dr. A in 1996, when I was young, innocent and still hopeful that I’d get married and become a mother before the chances of having a kid with Down’s Syndrome octupled. In the early years of my relationship with Dr. A, I didn’t really pay much attention to pregnant women surrounding me in his waiting room. Their lives were about to suck, as far as I was concerned, and I was just glad I wasn’t them.
I remember once Dr. A walked into the exam room and apologized for being late.
“I had to tell a patient she wasn’t pregnant,” he said.
“Wow. PHEW! Right? Dodged a bullet with that one!” I replied, feeling incredibly relieved on behalf of the unknown patient in question.
“You know,” he informed me, “Some people actually WANT to get pregnant.”
A few second passed as I attempted to process this news.
COME ON! You expect me to believe that?! Sheesh.
Actively wanting to be pregnant was such a foreign concept to me at the time that I literally could not fathom such a possibility.
It’s not that I didn’t or don’t like kids. I happen to be quite fond of them and some are even fond of me as well. It’s just that the whole thing scared the bejesus out of me. Pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding filled me with an almost unbearable sense of anxiety. I certainly did not see anything beautiful about pregnancy, between the weight gain and the excessive gas and the puking and the “cankles” and the pooping on the delivery room table. I knew about post-partum depression and the toll kids could take on a marriage. I envisioned my theoretical husband losing all interest in me and my 400-pound body, turning instead to his nubile, boob-implanted secretary whose name was always Tiffany or Heather. I knew there were no fewer than 10 bazillion things that could go wrong. And I really, really, really questioned my own parenting ability. What if my child turned out like me?! I shuddered to think. How could I risk doing that to someone?
People told me that I was going to be a great mother one day, and that my lack of enthusiasm was just the fear talking. I hoped this was true, because what kind of horrible, selfish, sociopathic person didn’t want kids? Jan told me repeatedly that if it was such a horrible ordeal, no one would do it. I wasn’t convinced that she herself would have done it if she’d known what a disappointment I’d turn out to be, so this was not particularly comforting.
But the tide began to turn on October 23, 2004. That was the day Sloth dragged me to Bumblefuck, Michigan, where a litter of champion-sired Wheaten terrier puppies had been born six weeks earlier. I agreed to go ONLY because Sloth promised me we’d just be surveying the options. I can’t believe I fell for that bullshit. Once a Wheaten puppy licks your face, you’re doomed.
Ollie could not have been a bigger pain in the ass. There were many, many times (usually after the destruction of a pair of costly shoes and/or the eighth indoor pee incident of the day) I really wasn’t sure I could keep him. But at the same time, I felt a kind of love for Ollie I had never before experienced. No matter what he did, ate, tore up or peed on, I could not stay mad at him. When other dogs stole his toys or refused to play with him, I wanted to cry. When other dogs sniffed his nether regions, I was ecstatic that he’d made friends. When he was sick, I drove him by myself to the vet, through the ghettos of South Philly, without batting an eyelash. I went out of my way to patronize supermarkets that carried Frosty Paws. I told endless stories about the cute things he’d done. I truly believed he was the cutest dog in the history of dogs. I created an email address for him (firstname.lastname@example.org); he corresponded with Jan, Dave, Howie and Jamie on a regular basis. I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I threw him a first birthday party. He and his canine friends – Howie, LuLu and Dolly – all wore little hats. I’m in no way equating a dog to a human baby, but the point is, for the first time, I finally started to get it. There was a reason everyone did it. There was a flip-side.
A few months after we adopted Ollie, my friend DB called to tell me she was pregnant. I expected to feel the same way I had for many years when friends shared news like this: Oh well. Another one bites the dust. I was shocked to feel something completely unfamiliar to me instead: happiness for her, and a faint hint of jealousy.
Friday morning at Dr. A’s office, I saw an attractive couple come out of the exam room holding a sonogram print-out. They admired the image for a few minutes and then attempted to find a time slot during which they could both be available for some high-tech, supersonic follow-up test. They pulled out their Blackberries and took turns posing different dates, unable to agree on anything until long after the baby’s due date.
At first I found this mockable. Then I picked up some of the helpful pamphlets for expectant mothers and read about such fascinating things as chorionic villus sampling, second trimester terminations, the potentially lethal H.E.L.L.P Syndrome, cord blood, eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and a host of other issues not all that relevant to someone who was not weeks away from giving birth.
What a relief, I thought. I am SO glad I’m not dealing with all this stuff.
But suddenly I found myself getting teary.
What the hell? Eek. I guess the smell of my aging, rotting eggs is irritating my eyes.
Of course, that wasn’t exactly the allergen. It was this realization: I still worry a lot about all the scary things. But I worry more that I’ll never have a real reason to worry about them.