On Boyhood

When my kids were itty bitty, (Daughter, 5 months and Son, age 2) I made a career change, went to Cosmetology school followed by a 3-year Apprenticeship to become a Color Specialist.  In my years of training, I made minimum wage and was a Single Mother with full-custody.  I worked extremely hard as I was setting myself up for the career I have now.

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In those years, as well as the years after on the road as a Corporate Trainer, I missed a lot.  I never had the option of being a Stay-at-Home Mom and, as I saw it, could not allow myself to feel guilt about any of it.  I had no choice but to push through and provide.  I was fortunate to have a few women who gave me really good advice that at the time I didn’t totally understand but now I do. They said to me that when kids are little, anyone (not literally but someone wonderful other than you) can care for them.  When kids are little, you know when they are hungry, they tell you when they stub their toe.  My daughter, to this day, tells me she is going to the bathroom.  What these women told me is that as kids get older, they need you more.  As your kid gets into Junior High and older, sometimes they don’t say much about their day for a few hours, if at all.  You need to be around and then, when you least expect it, they just start talking.

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This week, a friend of my Daughter’s committed suicide.  She was 11.  This was a new friend of hers so not a family I knew and I have no details on the girl’s life or her family.  It still rocked our world.  Her older Sister is in school with my Son at the high school he just finished his 3rd week of.  A lot of changes going on for him as well.

This week, neither kid has stopped talking for a second.  It reminds me of when they were babies and there was a cacophony of sound.  A constant stream of chatter and someone always saying “Mom!”.  I am so grateful to be closer to home and here for them.  I am so grateful that we have a house of communication. Even with all our arguing and (occasional) door-slamming, we have love and direct talks about our feelings.

I can’t imagine what that family is going through.  It is the worst thing ever.  This isn’t even a teen suicide.  Pre-teen.  What the hell?

I saw the film Boyhood a few weeks ago with my own kids and we all loved it.  What I loved most about it was the reminder that time is precious.  I loved the quote I heard recently by Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.” and watching the children in the film’s faces age, I held my breath for what is in store for me.  My window in getting to raise my own kids is getting smaller and smaller.  What my kids loved about Boyhood was it made their life seem normal.  Single Mom, Brother and Sister, Mom working hard to provide with an occasional difficult choice in partnership. Well-meaning but not totally together Father figure.  Their life.

I am not religious but I do pray.  I pray for the family who lost their Daughter.  I pray for the girl who must have suffered in ways we will never understand.  I pray for my own kids, family and community and give gratitude for our blessings. I pray that I always remember to count my blessings.

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On Beyonce’s Feminism

Last night at the VMA’s (Video Music Awards hosted by MTV), Beyonce did this.

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Many people had mixed feelings about this coming from Bey.  They argued that Beyonce couldn’t be a Feminist because of her marriage to Jay-Z.  (Jay-Z often raps lyrics that are pretty misogynistic, but that’s another blog all together.  “It’s complicated.”).  Whether you agree or disagree in Beyonce’s version of Feminism, I was happy to see her bring the F-word back into a mainstream dialogue.   Thank you Bey, for sexing it up.

Many young women in the US today take for granted the privileges and rights they have.  Many don’t even know they are privileges that were hard earned not that long ago.  I am 43 and my generation is arguably the first to get to “have it all”.  We are also the first to have the choice to “opt out” of working when we have had our kids.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magazine/the-opt-out-revolution.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Many women aren’t fighting wanting to “have it all” because we gained access to all options from the women before us.  But many still are.  In a recent conversation with a man close to me, he asked me why we still have to be having this conversation.  My response was that it’s just the beginning.

And dare I say that the men we choose to be with in our journey are also conflicted?  What happens to men whose purpose shifts with the choices his partner makes or who is asked to be flexible and redefine who he is when the roles change?  What happens to the man who is asked to partner, change diapers, provide, be sensitive, be alpha but not too alpha….

It’s confusing.  Beyonce can be seen as “having it all”.  She can be seen as a role model for female power, sexuality, sensuality, creative control and being a working Mother.  I am thankful for that.  The debate roars on that she can’t be a Feminist because she is shaking her ass.  I disagree.

When I was 19 and a Teacher’s Aide for the most well known Feminist Professor in the United States, Bettina Aptheker, I stood in front of the class in a mini-dress, lipstick, cowboy boots and curled hair.  I did this on purpose.  I wanted young students to see that you could be a Feminist and look traditionally feminine.  In the late 80s, lipstick Feminism hadn’t happened yet.  It was shortly after that Naomi Wolf wrote “The Beauty Myth” which was a breakout book and school of thought for Feminism at the time.  Yes, beauty standards are a problem for women but ALSO, women can do what they want with how they look.  Arguably, this is why women now feel inclined to say that getting surgery or cosmetic alterations is “their choice” but let’s not digress.

Ass shaking aside, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  On a global scale, we are still facing massive inequality in most developing nations.  In China, it is highly dangerous to identify oneself as a Feminist.  To “lean in” simply isn’t an option.  My friend Erika Merrill traveled to Kenya this summer with the Daraja Academy which aims to provide funding for the education of girls.  Here are some facts about the global situation for the education females.

Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70% are girls.

Human Rights Watch, “Promises Broken: An Assessment of Children’s Rights on the 10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” [December 1999]

Less than 2¢ of every development dollar goes to girls.
Nancy Gibbs, “To Fight Poverty, Invest in Girls,” Time Magazine [February 2011]
Women’s education was the single most important factor behind falling levels of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world according to a 30-year study.

The US Institute of Food and Nutrition

A girl who receives secondary and higher education beyond grade 7 has, on average, 2.2 fewer children.

United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990

An extra year of primary schooling raises a woman’s eventual wages income by 10%. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25%.

George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A FurtherUpdate,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002]

Every extra year of schooling reduces infant mortality by up to 10%.

T. Paul Schultz, “Health and Schooling Investments in Africa,” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 13, no. 3 [1999]

http://www.daraja-academy.org/why-girls/

If you or someone you love, thinks we no longer “need” Feminism I would like to provide the following photo from the “We Don’t Need Feminism” movement on Tumblr as a cautionary tale.

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2704889/Have-completely-misunderstood-concept-Women-Against-Feminism-blog-sparks-fierce-backlash-statements-I-like-men-compliment-body.html

We still do.

On Peter Pan

My Daughter was in a production of Peter Pan this week at our local community center.  It was good and she was really fun to watch.  Having not seen this play or film since childhood, I was strangely surprised by my lack of emotional connection to the Peter Pan character, or really the spirit of the play.  Why?  I always wanted to grow up.  I always wanted to go to school.  I have never uttered, “Oh, I wish I could be a kid again.” When people talk about their inner child, I picture mine  trying to get a job already.  I always loved the sound of high heels clicking on the sidewalk and I developed to-do lists from age 10.  I think I was born serious.

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*My “inner child”.  Age 4

As I found my mind wandering during the shows slower moments, I thought about how each character in Peter Pan represented an Archetype in modern romance.  For a story that was written in 1901, the story line remains relevant.  I wondered, does the ongoing celebration of this 100+ year-old fairytale perpetuate underdeveloped emotional lives?

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If you have not seen the play or movie since you were a kid, allow me to refresh your memory.  Alas, if you don’t want your love of Peter Pan tainted, I suggest you stop reading RIGHT NOW.  I am a fairytale buzzkill from this point on.  I should also state that I am not touching issues of ethnicity in this exploration.  Just gender.  An analysis of genocide deserves it’s own space for certain.

Let’s start with the central figure, Peter Pan.  A man-child who just wants to play play play.  Peter refuses adulthood and insists on nothing but fun all the time.  And the woman-child who loves him, Wendy.  When they first meet, Peter has lost his shadow (is this where Carl Jung got his theories?) and sneaks into her bedroom to steal it back.

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Having attempted to adhere his shadow back onto himself and fail, Peter asks for help and Wendy obliges. In her stitching, she unintentionally hurts him thereby fracturing his facade of impenetrability.  Shadow intact, Peter appeals to Wendy to come to Neverland and  be a Mother.  She obliges, leaving behind her duties to her own Mother and Father.

Wendy’s Mother and Father are the classic male/female of days bygone (one would hope).  The Father is bossy and grouchy from working all the time and wants nothing but “a little less noise”.  The Mother is busy abiding and scuttling around making sure the house is clean and the kids are quiet for him.  We see that what is expected is for kids to “grow up” and become just like them.  And that really doesn’t look like a lot of “fun”.

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*My Daughter as a Lost Kid on the right

In her new role as a Mother in Neverland, we see Wendy taking care of kids and falling in love with Peter.  Both she and Tinkerbell indirectly express their feelings for him (often competing with each other) and he misses their coy attempts entirely.  Peter is confused, clueless and disinterested. Oy-unrequited Love.

We then meet Captain Hook.  The original Bad Boy?  He doesn’t give a shit.  He is totally fine being “the creepiest of creeps” and laughs at death.  Though his one weakness is his fear of a crocodile who once ate his hand.  His fear ends up being his downfall.   Captain Hook is supposed to represent evil in the good versus evil dilemma but I end up wishing he would win because he is far more entertaining than anyone else.  What this says about me probably isn’t so good….

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*My Daughter with Captain Hook

Peter feeds Hook to the crocodile winning the good versus evil battle.  He then flies Wendy and the Lost Kids back home.

Time passes and Peter returns to Wendy to take her back again (for Spring Cleaning!!!!!) yet to his and her dismay, she has grown up and had a child.  He cries on the ground at his discovery that she broke her promise to never grow up. When she exits the room to attend to her grouchy new Husband, he is met by Wendy’s Daughter Jane.  Jane has been waiting for him!  She has all the same qualities he loved about Wendy.  She knows how to tell stories and stitch pockets and is willing to travel.  So the man-child finds a replacement  in a YOUNGER WOMAN. Shocking…

The End

Ugh

“Peter Pan Syndrome” has inspired many a self-help book and magazine article helping women try and avoid him.  No woman wants to have “Wendy Syndrome”.

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I am going to go out on a limb and say that a high percentage of Bay Area men well into their 40s and 50s could be considered Peter Pans.  Some even call Northern California a “playground”.  Home of Burning Man, the Mountain Bike and Polyamory.  I have met CFO’s who wear hiking boots to work. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year which named San Francisco as the number one city LEAST likely for love!!!

BN-BM702_LCITIE_NS_20140212203502

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303704304579378902170592732

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When I told my daughter about “Peter Pan Syndrome”, she asked if that was a real thing.  We had a nice discussion about growing up and what it means to different people.  I told her how I always wanted to be a grown up and asked her if she likes being a kid or wants to grow up?

She said that she likes being a kid but that growing up means being closer to death.  That, I understand.

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*Me and my shadow

On Bonnie

I first met Bonnie when I was a teenager.  She was dating Bob, who was a good family friend since I was a baby.  Bob and Bonnie met on the Tina Turner tour in the early 80s.  She was Tina’s PR person and he was a Roadie.  They fell in love and when he proposed, Tina sang “Let’s Stay Together” for them on tour.

Bonnie was from NYC, had curly, red hair, was a high-powered business woman and was Jewish.  I was intruiged and enamored by all of those things.  I wanted to be just like her.

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After college when I was moving to NYC to be a Performer, she gave me a huge, black leather bag as a gift.  She told me that all the Dancers and Actresses she had ever known have to carry around “tons of shit” for their classes and auditions and I would need this. She was right.  She was that kind of person and also had no problem with cussing often.

I remember getting the news that she was in the hospital with Leukemia.  She was young and it was sudden and shocking.  I called her regularly over that next year as she was in and out of treatment, most of which she never remembered. Miraculously, her sister was a match for her as a blood marrow donor and that spared Bonnie’s life for many years.  Unfortunately, with that came something called graft-versus-host disease.

Nonetheless, Bonnie beat Leukemia for 5 years and her remission was considered a miracle.  For many years she lived a normal life, worked (eventually remarried) and although she and Bob divorced, we stayed close.  I had a personal crisis in 2001 when I was pregnant with my daughter, toddler in tow.  My marriage fell apart and I couldn’t work because of a pregnancy complication.  I suddenly had no income, no place to live and was on my own.  In desperation, I considered moving into a trailer park in Eureka.  I ran this idea by her and she said, “No.  Jews don’t live in trailer parks.” Unbeknownst to me, she banded together with Bob and another family member to basically pay my rent for a year while I got on my feet.  She was an angel to me and I will never forget that generosity.

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After I spent 4 years becoming a Colorist, Bonnie became my client.  She was picky-picky-picky and made me better at what I do.  She expected the best, nothing less.  She was loving and devoted and came to see me on and off until she no longer could leave her house.

This was her last visit to the salon in April.

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We spoke a few weeks before she breathed her last breath and she told me that what might end up killing her was dehydration.  She just couldn’t get enough water in her.  I asked her point blank if she thought she was going to die and she said she might.  I knew that she had surrendered the fight at that point.  I could hear it in her voice.

I have never met a more feisty and determined person than Bonnie.  She inspired me and always will.  I was amazed, honestly, that she lived as long as she did.  The amount of hospitalizations, blood-work, surgeries, transfusions, tubes in her chest, weird skin reactions, reactions to dental work-all of which she overcame and any one of which would take down most people.  To the end, she refused to complain and wanted only to hear about my life and push me to be the best I could be.

RIP Bonnie Feingold

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?pid=171776834

 

On Vacation

This year, my family and I rented a beach house together and will spend a week on vacation.  The house we rented is only about 35 minutes from my actual house and 15 minutes from the house I grew up in.  At a beach I grew up going to every chance I could. I was a beach girl, back in the day.

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*1985 Stinson Beach.  Crutches were mine from a non-drinking related ankle sprain.  Actually, it probably did involve California Coolers

In my beach years, I had a tan, long Blonde hair and I dated Surfers.  The beachy lifestyle continued through college (location changed) where I studied on the beach, worked by the beach, ran on the beach.  You get the idea. When at last I found I could no longer tolerate ANOTHER beautiful day, I traded health and happiness for angst and suffering NYC-style.  While in NY, I became an (aspiring) Actress, got rid of my Valley Girl accent and avoided the sun as well as overly-happy people. I learned I was actually a translucent shade of white and that I had been dating dumb-dumbs. No men in NY told me, “you think too much”.

I did have this uncontrollable urge when pregnant to dig a hole in the sand to put my tummy in so a few times in that 9 months I went to the beach.

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Besides this moment of glory, I was an Urban Dweller all the way.  When my son was born, we moved back to California to the town I live in now.  As the years have gone by (13 now), the call to be by the water gets stronger and stronger.  I realized this week sadly, that I have become that person that craves a somewhat different life than I live.  And yet I don’t know if I can change my life, at least for awhile. Wise women have told me that the 70s Feminist Tenet of “having it all” is a myth.  We can have it all, just not all at the same time.

Only after I had my kids did I start to comprehend the meaning of sacrifice. The purpose of my life became completely clear.  I felt the full weight of providing and nurturing, endlessly. The necessity of stability and the exhaustion and satisfaction of being stretched thin. Parenting, especially single-parenting, is hardcore.

The good news and bad news about my kids getting older is that I now have more time on my hands to think about ME.  For years, people would ask me how I was doing and I would be…clueless.  Me?  Feelings?  There was no “me time”.  I was thoroughly out of touch.  Yet, I found great liberation in that state.  Me? I am a Mom.  I am working for them.  I get up for them.  I clean, work, think and act for their well-being.  I loved this freedom from the self-centeredness of my past.  The total lack of Existentialist questioning.  Free from the naval-gazing emptiness I felt in my 20s.

On Vacation, we have time to reflect.  I have accomplished a whole lot in my life thus far.  And when I boil it down, I now think I will have really “made it” if I have a hot tub and can see the sunset regularly.  This week I got a taste of what that feels like.  And it happens to be a lifestyle I can’t actually afford.

Or can I?

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On Heritage Day

For many years, I traveled for work and my kids and family were troopers.  They dealt with me being gone for days at a time and often I worked 16-18 hour days while I would fly across states to teach or conduct meetings and come back.  I was on a plane every week at least twice.  As you can imagine, this was quite a juggling act as a single Mom and looking back on those years, I can’t believe we pulled it off.  Every so often, I had a complete failure and this story is one of them.

 

It was 9 PM on a school night and I had just picked up my then pre-school girl and 1st grade boy from my Mom’s house after a long trip away for work.  We were heading home when I had a sudden moment of bad-mom panic. Tomorrow is HERITAGE DAY at school, I remembered.  A wave of fear flashed over my body as I vaguely recalled the memo that suggested we research our family’s heritage and create a dish to bring to school to share.  And your child would present the dish to the class with a speech about his heritage. The memo gave no direct menu suggestions but I imagined all the lovely Mommies chopping vegetables for Borscht, pressing corn for tortillas or melting chocolate for a French pastry.  A moment of perfect togetherness whilst simultaneously enforcing lineage and traditions. Making memories to last a lifetime….

It was just as we were driving past United Liquors as I had this thought and you know what comes next.

I pulled over.

So my 4-year-old and 6-year-old perused the shelves of our local liquor store with their haggard mother trying to determine what off these shelves could pass for a representation of our heritage?  Certainly I couldn’t bring in alcohol (when, in fact, that probably would be the best representation of our heritage).  What else is there at liquor stores? Beef jerky.  Chips.  Ice Cream.  Gum. Cigarettes.

Pop Tarts

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The next day, my son attended his first grade Heritage Day with 4 boxes of Pop Tarts and gave a short speech about how Pop Tarts are a part of his heritage because whenever he or his Sister get sick, they are allowed to eat Pop Tarts.

We are all “damaging” our kids in ways they will most certainly blame us for later.  We don’t know exactly how the scars will be made.  One friend puts all her loose change in a therapy jar, for future use.  The current, ongoing complaint about me is my cooking and that my solutions are (predictably):

A) Put some Barbeque Sauce on it

Or

B) Why don’t YOU cook dinner

But that, dear readers, is not a real problem in life.  My kids will survive having a Mom that is a shitty cook.  They are surrounded by love and well taken care of.

And the truth is, those kids loved the Pop Tarts.  Better than the Borscht.

 

 

 

 

On T.B. Sheets

It’s been many years since I have written about Mike, a man I loved from age 19 who died tragically 9 years ago. I will never forget the moment I met him.  I was just starting my job as a Hostess at the swanky Mexican restaurant I would work at all through college (Hostess, then Waitress, then Manager).  I was seated on a bench outside in my bright blue, spandex halter mini-dress, red lipstick and curled hair (my style icon at the moment was Laura Dern in “Wild at Heart”).  I may or may not have been smoking a Camel cigarette.  Ok, don’t tell my kids but I was smoking.  And he asked me if he could have one.

 

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He was a Bartender at the restaurant and he was stopping in to get a newspaper.

That he could read.

While he sat in his AA meeting.

Friends….the ONLY people who read in AA meetings are at an AA meeting because the court sent them.

And that didn’t stop me from falling in love.  As I mentioned in On Unicorns, I seem to have a faulty love mechanism that only has an on/off switch.  Once switched on, it is damn near impossible to switch off.  So, I loved him despite how the next years would unfold.  Despite all good evidence not to.

We all used to go to a dive bar after work.  This bar had a juke box and on that juke box was the album by Van Morrison called T.B. Sheets.  I would watch Mike across the room as he would smoke, drink, flirt with girls, play pool and at the end of the night he would put money into the juke box and play the title song from the album. It is 9 minutes and 34 seconds and I wished it would go on forever.

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Some nights, he chose me to go home with.  He was 9 years older than me but no longer had a car after his second DUI.  He would ride me on the handlebars of his bike to my cottage.  We would play Al Green and slow dance, smoke more cigarettes and kiss.   He would tell me stories about his childhood in Texas.  He would tell me that he loved me.  He would pass out.

 

He had to get up early to work construction and I remember the smell of cigarettes and alcohol from the night before, mixed in with the sweet smell of the jasmine flowers that covered the door and gate to my cottage.  When we would see each other the next evening at the restaurant he would often ignore me, as if nothing happened.  And I would be tortured.  And then we would do it again.

 

Those years were intense for me.  I had broken up with my first love by badly breaking his heart.  I found out my Dad was dying.  I discovered Feminism.  I was 19 and I felt 100.

 

I forced myself to get a nice boyfriend who treated me well, who had his drivers license.  Who wasn’t an alcoholic.  Who I cared for but wasn’t in love with.  We moved to the City after I graduated and I started the next chapter of my life.

 

Many years later I would write songs about Mike.  “Fool Like You” went like this:

“Ride me on your handlebars

Your two-wheel limousine

Bottle in your pocket

Your broken enemy

My heart’s already breaking and I’m falling to my knees

Lost hopes, skinned palms and dirty company

And you said, What am I doing with a fool like you?”

He used to tell me I was too good for him.  When we would slow dance, he would kiss me on the forehead and call me a fool.  I knew he was right.  I also knew that the whole world could disappear at that moment and I didn’t care.  I was happy.

I called him when my band, Drugstore Soul, recorded our first CD and told him the song, “Into You” was about him and that I would send him a copy.  It was the last time I would hear his voice.

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I found out that he died tragically doing construction on Valentine’s Day, at age 42.  He never had kids that I know of.  And he is one reason I know for sure that you can love someone, they can love you and life just has another plan for you.

“The cool room, Lord is a fool’s room”-Van Morrison, T.B. Sheets