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Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

What is feminism anyways? One of the girls in my prevention class asked me this the other day. She has this long brown hair that reaches down her back and sometimes she wears red lipstick and Metallica shirts.

Feminism is the idea that women have the same rights as men. It was the only thing that I could think to tell her, the easiest way I could describe this idea, even though I knew that it left questions unanswered and that it didn’t fully answer her question to begin with. Do you think that women today are treated the same as men are? I asked the question to all of them.

Yeah, I mean, women can do the same things that men can. I mean, we gained the right to vote a long time ago, right? They told me that, and various other things about women’s suffrage and how we can go to work, just like men, and then the conversation switched to boys and boyfriends and I had the fleeting idea that maybe, possibly, they were right. That in their world women and men were treated the same. Maybe they were too young to understand the various inequalities, and maybe they were young enough to change those things and to live in a world where feminism doesn’t exist, where it doesn’t need to.

Then we talked about one boy, one boy that they talk about a lot, who has lots of girlfriends. Girlfriends that he cheats on and more waiting in the wing. They told me that if he attended my class he would tell me I have nice legs.

Why do you think these girls stay with this boy that treats them badly?

And they told me because they really like him, and then, with more prompting, because they may have low self esteem.

What if the roles were reversed? What if the girl were the one with lots of boyfriends? What would people think of that?

Well, then she’s a hoe.

And my heart broke a little then. At twelve and thirteen these girls, most of whom have never had a boyfriend and have never been through heartbreak and have not yet even had a first kiss, told me without even knowing that women in their world are not equal to men. Girls are not equal to boys. Some part of me had held on to the idea that my little princess bird could understand that she is a girl woman child, that she will be different than her brother and that she will grow differently and that she will understand differently, but that the rights that they share will be the same. I had hoped that maybe her world wouldn’t need feminism.

I knew that even after I explained the unfairness in that situation, and how harmful the word “hoe” is in the first place that it was one of those conversations that will take years to catch in their minds, if at all.

When I left class that night I stopped at the gas station to fill up so that I didn’t end up stranded on the side of the road. When I walked in to pay I blushed. I wore my work clothes, a conservative skirt with tights and a button up blouse and as I handed my money to the cashier he mentioned that I was “Dressed real nice”, as I turned to walk out a man nodded at me, another winked. I’ll be honest when I say I was embarrassed. Ashamed that I had worn heals to work, that maybe my skirt was too short. I’ll be honest when I say a very real part of me was terrified. It was 7 o’clock at night and my car is small and old and not very fast, it was dark out and cold and had any one of those men wanted to attack me, wanted to act out any scene that began to play out in their heads when I walked into the gas station, they very easily could have. I was defenseless. Because I am a woman and I am small I am almost always defenseless.

Girls from my counseling class, girls and women everywhere, and my tiny Wren baby, and even more my beautiful little boy-this is why we still need feminism.

Feminism is the idea that no matter how small bodied we are, no matter the outfit we choose to adorn our bodies with, no matter the way we walk or drive or speak, we have the right to be viewed as something other than an object. Feminism is the idea that I should feel safe when walking into a gas station. It’s the idea that men do not claim us or own us simply by looking at us or ever at all. It’s the idea that rape is rape and there is no in-between-and those that say otherwise are ignorant, because no matter how drunk a person is, and no matter how much make-up that person wears or doesn’t wear it is never okay to take from them the right to be a person and not a thing that has been put to use.

This is the frustrating thing about my job. I feel like most of the time when I’m confronted with these issues from these young people I can’t think of the right thing to say fast enough and before I know it the conversation has turned to boys or clothes or how “rancid” so and so is. How do you empower people this age? How do you change what their parents have told them and what they have seen on t.v. and heard on the internet? How do I, being a woman and small and maybe too young and inexperienced tell them that I’m learning with them (of course without telling them I’m learning with them), change things?

 

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My dreams

At this moment my life is kind of sort of playing out like some of my dreams come true. I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to be a mother. As a child I wrapped my arms around my dolls at night, one cradled around the waist, one around the neck. I honestly believed that they existed past the plastic and fiber fill that they were made of and I apologized when I felt they were neglected. My little flesh and bone babies now occupy the spaces between my arms and against my chest at night. When I wrap around and cuddle them to me some part of me is that little girl again, and I hold them and smell them and whisper to them. Sometimes I feel like I can smell the Cabbage Patch kid baby powder that filled so many nights of my childhood.

It’s not just the babies, though they would be more than enough, but I have a job that I love. I get to work with Middle School youth. I get to encourage them to speak without fear, to talk about what they look like and what they feel like and their fears and their accomplishments without being afraid of being judged or laughed at. I get to pretend that I’m guiding them, when in reality I’m just listening. The girls that come to me all have names that remind me of flowers; as if their mothers could feel them growing and blossoming inside of them and they couldn’t help but form words like petals that would belong to them for the rest of their lives. The boys are skinny wonderful half-men who take pride in the cracking of their voices and the way that their skin will blister with acne, “Like a man.” They tell me that they don’t speak Spanish, but as they describe their family in far off Spanish lands their voices take on a poetic tone and every word comes out uncracked and beautiful. Every time I’m around them I smile. I can’t help but think of my beautiful little people. My tiny little rose bud who will grow and flower and my silly little man child whose voice will crack and splinter and become entirely new one day. I love their baby years and mourn every day the loss of them, but I do get excited for watching them grow and seeing the wonderful people they will turn into.

Other than the babies and the work my life has taken on this chaotic and wonderful rhythm. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a ball of string that keeps on bouncing down a flight of stairs, wound up pieces of me being left behind. We are almost always on the move, my little family and me, and if we’re not I’m finding time between feeding the baby and snuggling the toddler to write up lesson plans and do artwork. It’s a good feeling, like my body and mind have finally settled into the kind of pace that they have needed all these years.

That’s not to say that it’s easy. Even dreams can be difficult. Our days are hectic and most of them have at least a few tears (and usually not only from the babies). And the job, even if it is a dream and I get to work hours that work for me and do things I love and have a boss that encourages and understands me, does not pay much (as is the case with most dreams). I also miss writing. I also miss reading. I also miss bathing regularly. But, I know that all of these things will appear again in due time, and in the mean time I’m living my dream.

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Morning time

The Bird gets up early, around five o’clock. If I could, I would stay in bed with her and cuddle and coo and wrap the blankets around our heads until big brother woke with the rising sun. But, this is the noisiest darn baby I have ever heard. She rarely cries, and when she does it comes out in short caw-like bursts, but she twists and groans and clicks and tweets and grunts and makes all kinds of sounds that aren’t fit for a baby. Pure animal. So, in order not to annoy and wake brother before the dawn, I wrap her up and snuggle her close and we exit the big bed and carefully descend the stairs.

In the mornings my little birdy likes to look up at me with her swollen sleepy eyes and she gets this big, sweet, open-mouth smile on her face. I feel like I’ve known this smile my entire life. I felt similarly with my Jude. I don’t know if it’s some kind of spirit inside of them and if we’ve all been connected before any of us could remember  or if it’s that they resided inside of me for nine months and some of them was left there forever.

Whatever it is, the chirpy bird and I sit downstairs in the dark, and sometimes she gets some special grandpa time where they sing together and dance, and sometimes it’s just her and me. When it’s just us I look at her and I can’t help it, the words “Princess baby” just come out of my mouth. I don’t know why. She’s not actually a princess and the way that she grunts and snorts and turns red in the face as she wriggles doesn’t exactly make her of the princess and the pea variety, but I can’t stop myself. Sometimes she will give me that open mouth grin, and move her shoulders up so her chubby face is even more covered in rolls and I just Loose. My. Shit.

“Oh my God. Princess Baby, Beautiful beautiful princess baby!” I squeal it, and then I kiss her cheeks and her tummy and her arms and I rub my nose against hers and smell her hair.

But, I guess that’s my right as a parent. How could I fight it?

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The small man and I made a trip to the pediatrician’s office a little while ago for his three year old check up. The nurse asked us the usual stream of questions; the ones about about his eating habits, how he speaks (or a better question would be if he ever stops), sleeping, if he puts on his own pants (which, ahem, he can…but normally doesn’t), and if he had an imaginary friend. Imaginary friend? Is this a milestone of childhood? I don’t ever recall having an imaginary friend. I remember imagining that my toys were friends, but they were tangible objects that I spoke to and cuddled and pretended were real. They weren’t a non-existent entity that I named and spoke to and spoke about. My Jude had always done the same, naming and speaking to his toys, but never had what would be considered an imaginary friend. This is what I told to the nurse and this is what she quickly typed into the computer and then never mentioned again. She didn’t seem too vexed by it, but I sort of kind of was. The small mister, who has hit every development goal spot on and whom I stare at in amazement as he recounts every detail of his day, and as he uses terms like, “Doomed” correctly, was maybe possibly not doing something that he maybe possibly should be doing.

And then, the very next day, Brokelynn showed up.

Brokelynn is five then one then three. We don’t know what his hair looks like or his face, or even how tall he is. I don’t pry. Brokelynn became an inhabitant of our household after the new babe showed up, and then after the trauma of a doctors trip that included three shots. I assumed that Brokelynn would become the whipping boy. Spilled juice and torn paper and snips out of the rug could all fall on Brokelynn. I assumed that this was what imaginary friends were for. Instead, when nuts or sprinkles or something else messy ended up on the floor I jokeingly turned to the small man and asked, “Did Brokelynn do this?”, and he replied, “No, I did.”

Instead, Brokelynn exists as a kind of fair-weather friend. He shows up sometimes when we get snacks. Jude pours out juice and takes an extra cup, “For Brokelynn”. In the morning Brokelynn sometimes walks out of dreams. Sometimes he joins us for a swim. But mostly he just kind of hovers around, someone that exists and doesn’t exist and who I thought would mean more than he seems to mean.

Sometimes, all of the time, I’m sure that Brokelynn exists because Delila exists. It is at these moments that I close my eyes and in my mind the words, “What have I done what have I done what have I done” echo like rain drops. It is not that Brokelynn is bad, or even abnormal, obviously he is a part of childhood that is so normal that he is included in the three year old check-up, but he is also a very viable mark of a very huge disruption in my three year olds life. I think of us before. Our cuddle time and our walks and the talks we had that were so much more deep and important that all the talks I’ve ever had before him, and then I look down at the sweet little person in my arms, who I can’t seem to stop looking at and smiling at and cuddling, and know that those moments will never be the same.

I know in some ways that a sibling is a wonderful asset to a single child. But, I’ve never been an only child. All I ever knew was having an older sister, having someone. Most of the time I think that it’s okay. The small man seems happy, he wants to hold the baby and to kiss her and is interested in the things she does. But then, when we snuggle up in the big bed at night, things are different. The small new baby squirms and squiggles, and even though I know that she’s okay some instinct inside of me says that I need to pull her in close and pat her back and feed her until she’s calm and content and sleeping. At this time I turn, and my back is to the little man and he’s sort of alone there when once not too long ago he was the one in my arms that I was cuddling to sleep. And sometimes he cries and yells. Sometimes he gets out of bed and plays and jumps and wakes everyone up and I cry and yell. But then there are the sometimes that I whisper to him, “Come snuggle with us” and he lies on the other side of Delila, so that we’re kind of this little family sandwich with the baby between us, and then he wraps his arms around her so that he can grasp on to me, and he kisses her, and he whispers back, “I love you mommy, so much.”

And then I close my eyes and I think, “Maybe it will be okay, Maybe it will all be okay.”

Image

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Delila

Surprise Surprise Starlight Eyes

That up there is my little internet secret, making her second debut, the first being her round little face’s appearance on Facebook.

Some people may be a little confused as to why I never officially announced her, why my rounded belly and widened hips never showed up on their news feed, or why the first pictures of her, nestled inside of my womb were never proudly displayed. I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly sure. My first pregnancy was so public. I displayed my growing belly, my ultrasound pictures, the name my partner and I picked, love songs to my little boy. As I contemplated all of this it just felt too personal. This was mine, she was mine, and as many feelings I may have hurt by deciding not to share, I wanted to keep the little ball of human safe and secret and hidden deep inside of me.

As a result of my secrecy, or maybe just because she was tiny and petite inside of me and didn’t begin to show herself until she was nearly fully formed, I felt like maybe she didn’t exist outside of my body and maybe I didn’t exist outside of housing her. I tried to remember how I felt through my pregnancy with my sweet boy, how I felt not myself, full and round and exposed in public. This wasn’t the same. I forgot that the roundness of my body existed and along with it forgot that a tiny person would soon be naked and squawking her way into this world. I went where I needed to go and did what I needed to do and carted the Jude bug around. Squawking seemed appropriate, as her little body felt like wings that flapped and shifted and settled into my hips. The little Wren.

Her birth was nearly as secret as her formation. It happened early Tuesday morning, 1:35 am August 21st, nine days before her expected due date. It seemed like something was tight inside of me, but as I waited and snuggled the wee boy I figured I had hours left for the tightening to progress. I ran a bath and laid down in it. When I was in labor with the boy everything I read told me that water would sooth my body and the baby inside of it. When I was in labor with the boy this was not true. This time as soon as I laid myself down something that felt like the word calm surrounded me and something that sounded like thunder cracked outside. As the rain came down I wrapped around the tight little ball of my body and talked to the baby, “Little birdy, together, we’ll do this together”. By the time I realized this was “labor for real” I had about enough time to cry out to my father, hop in the car, and crawl through the emergency room door before the nurse on call delivered my little, surprisingly quiet, bird. At six lbs and 5 oz she seemed like a dream with tiny little feet that I couldn’t help but trace over and over.

So, no epidural this time either. Go figure.

Our little family is settling in together. The small mister needs maybe a little time to adjust, but that’s okay, maybe I do too. Our little bird is just as sweet and chirpy as she was in the womb.

Us

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So, about a week after Christmas it seems appropriate to do my Christmas post!

We had a beautiful time. It was different than years past, and on the edges there were tinges of sorrow and a stomach flu that kept me away from all the rich and wonderful foods, but there were more smiles this year than the past three years combined.

We were up before dawn with squeals of, “Christmas! Christmas!” and the mad dash to wake up all the other sleepers of the house insued. We were then down the stairs and into the family room where the tree still glowed and the presents were lined up happily and waiting the little one’s twitching fingers. The babe, of course, received a store full of toys and candy and paints. We even spaced the gift opening out, and he finished opening his last present this morning. Even so, he opened each with gusto. He yelled upon each new discovery, “Oh my gosh! A (car truck fingerpaint toy train etc.). I LOVE THIS!”, and everyone was more than pleased to offer up their gifts. He was the perfect receiver and he genuinely enjoys each one.

My brother got the chance to take leave from his base in Kentucky and spend some time with us, which has been fun and has made the family feel sort of kind of whole again. He picks on the babe and the babe picks on him. He has taught him some army wrestling moves and the babe has taught him how to translate toddler speak. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

I still look forward to the rest of the season. New years where I’ll sip sparkling grape juice, the days I plan to spend with my grandmother, days and days and days with the babe.

Of course, I still long for some. Every day I do, but always at the holidays. Isn’t it funny how when you miss someone you remember distinctly pieces of them? The rough spot inside of their palms, the way a nose curves, a gap between teeth. This season I missed the soft brush of a cheek against mine. I remembered the soft baby hairs that fell across the skin and the way her face felt soft when it pressed against mine, and the way I could smell her hair and the lotion she used when I leaned up against her. I missed our night time giggling, our comparison of gifts. But, I told myself it was okay to miss and it was okay to be happy. And I was, and I am. Happy still 🙂

 

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I don’t think that I want to be the kind of girl that hangs out at penitentiaries, or asylums, or places of incarceration. That girl whose fingertips stretch further than they are able to try to touch the flesh of another palm. One whose skin is white like paper and whose eyes look deep and dark and hidden. I like the freckles on my shoulders and across my nose. I like the way my skin smells when the babe and I have spent hours searching for polywogs and beetles in the lake. When I kiss, I like the taste of my lover’s lips and the old coffee and sandwiches that cling to his tongue to dance across mine. I don’t want to be another mouth pressed up against glass trying to feel the heat on the other side.

But in too many other ways I already am that girl and always have been. My attraction to caged things is undying. As a child I liked to catch lizards and flies and hold them close to me in an attempt to make them happy in my warmth. I’ve always loved the zoo, the fact that I could stand so close to lions and tigers and monkeys, but I would always will them out. Someone told me that if you believed in something with enough of you, if it was real to you, it was real. In childhood this is an easy concept. I believed that by willing it, I could release the animals from their cages. I believed that they would come out and lie prostrate at my feet. That they would bite me, just enough to draw blood, and then lick the wound when I cried out. I want to believe this now. That by willing the bars to come down I can grant freedom, and that in that freedom all that the incarcerated will want is to be trapped by me.

The babe is sleeping now. He gets so sweaty when he sleeps and I like to go in there and cuddle up to him and smell his hair. It still smells like newborn to me, maybe because I wash it maybe once every two weeks. No crib, babe sleeps on the mattress on the floor next to me. We’ll go out tomorrow to enjoy the sunshine, but lately this is what life has looked like for us:

Light up UCF with the aunties

A medieval wedding for my Uncle and his Bride, Eldonna

Sister and Me, who has been holding my hands in dreams and brushing my hair.

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