Ennui

This morning I was listening to “Highway Junkie” by the Yayhoos from the 1996 album Rig Rock Deluxe: A Musical Salute to American Truck Drivers. It got me revved up for the morning and reminded me of my dream of becoming a trucker after retirement. Before I was married, I loved being out on the road. The highway promised freedom and greener pastures in every approaching median. I thought truck driving was a great way to combine my two passions: abandoning my responsibilities and smoking. Now I am tied-down and tobacco-free, so the job has lost some of its appeal. Also, I don’t really like to drive at night, and I can barely get through the grocery parking lot in my mini-van without hopping a few curbs. Another dream down the toilet.

Before the truck driving industry allured me with the idea of being my own boss and taking showers at gas stations, I wanted to work in a skyscraper. I didn’t have a particular job in mind, just being in the building seemed like enough of an adventure. Then at age twenty-four my dream came true when I took a job as a file clerk at a law firm in downtown Austin. Our office was on an upper floor of a building on Congress Avenue; looking north there was a view of the state capitol and looking south a view of the river. However, I could not see any of these views from my office in the file room behind the elevator shaft. Being a file clerk and having my desk in the file room was super convenient—sort of like if I had a job as a janitor and they gave me a desk right in the bathroom.

I had my own cart, just like the guy from the mailroom in all the movies from the 1980s starring Michael J. Fox. I circled the floor twice a day to collect papers and files from the secretaries. Then I would take the papers and files back to the file room and stare at them until I got so bored that working seemed like a relief. The job required certain qualifications that could only be learned after completing first grade, like a working knowledge of the alphabet and the ability to read the date. Also, there was a tremendous amount of hole-punching, both of the two-hole and the three-hole variety.

The files were stored on floor-to-ceiling sliding shelves to maximize space. Sometimes I would be between rows doing some filing or napping and a coworker would come in and push the shelves back, squishing me between the rows. I would scream out, “Stop! You are crushing me!” Usually it was a middle-aged secretary, and she would say, “Oh, I didn’t know you were back there,” and then when I crawled out we would both laugh awkwardly. Then I would start deliberately misfiling her paperwork.

Eventually, I left the second most dangerous job in the world and moved to another downtown building that looked directly over the river. I worked my way out of the file room and into a deluxe secretary’s desk, complete with a high-top counter so visitors could stand and look down on me. Again, I did not actually have any windows, so I could not see the view from my desk, but I would stare out at the view when I was called into my boss’s office. I would even sketch the skyline on my steno pad while he was rambling on so I could gaze at the view later while sitting at my desk counting the minutes until happy hour, ahem, while I was typing some law office crap, ahem, playing solitaire. After four long months I was fired from my position, and I got a job at a three-story building out in the suburbs. My days of living the dream were over.

I often felt like a caged animal at the office. I remember going into the hallway to cry while working as a secretary for a small firm in New Jersey. I just wanted to run. The job was not difficult, and I only worked part-time, but I was bored, and not just for the twenty hours I sat stagnantly behind a desk, but drowning in boredom. I answered phones. I typed from dictation. I edited. I filed. I stapled things. I considered sticking toothpicks in my eyeballs. At the end of each work day, I ran to my car with my hands waving in the air and peeled out of the parking lot on two tires.

It turns out that what I do for work actually matters. I don’t have to choose between being a truck driver and a secretary. At this point, I have established some other options, like maybe I could work for Fedex. I do look great in shorts.

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MILF

This is my son a few days after he was born. He did not weigh 60 pounds like I was expecting, actually he still doesn't.

This is my son a few days after he was born. He did not weigh 60 pounds like I was expecting, actually he still doesn’t.

This summer my kids will be seven and five. Even though it has been years, there are still days when I feel thankful that I am not pregnant, and then I chug a pot of coffee, shoot some tequila, put on my tightest pants, and hop on a roller coaster—just because I can. I know pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time, and I should have been grateful, but I felt more like I was serving a sentence. I love my children, I even like them; I just prefer them outside my body. My second pregnancy was easier to endure than the first because I had a toddler, and pregnancy made us sort of the same. We both liked to take long naps in the middle of the day, we were both constantly sober, we wore a similar style of elastic pant, and sometimes we even both peed on ourselves.

Now as my kids get older and parenting becomes increasingly challenging—babies are a breeze—I think back to my pregnant self, taking naps under the desk at my office, spending Saturdays on the couch watching Rock of Love marathons, and I think, what the hell was my problem? Maybe the actual pregnancy had nothing to do with my frustration. Maybe with the first pregnancy I was dealing with the loss of my independence, the acceptance of a great responsibility, and the disintegration of life as I knew it. Once my son was born, it all felt right and even worth it, but the nine months of stewing almost did me in.

The following is a reflection of a first-time, glowing (sweating, really, especially under the boobs) pregnant lady:

In my mind, growing another human life requires a lot of calories, and a large portion of those calories should be in cake-form and eaten in bed while watching reality television. My basic pregnancy diet theory was based on the idea that by not drinking alcohol, I would automatically be consuming fewer calories, so I could eat anything I want. This proved untrue pretty early in the pregnancy, as I could no longer fit into my regular clothes minutes after I peed on a stick. Once I realized I was not going to be one of those girls who looked like she just swallowed a basketball and that I would be more like one of those girls who looked like she swallowed an entire basketball team, I told my elastic waist pants to hold on tight because they were in for a wild ride.

I gained the full 25 pounds of recommended weight in the first six weeks. Other than the extreme gigantism, the pregnancy was going well. I was only sick for the first few months, and I felt pretty agile, like for instance if I dropped my piece of late night cake, I could easily roll off the bed and retrieve it. I read all the pregnancy books and subscribed to the weekly pregnancy email updates. (Your baby is now the size of a hamster! You are now the size of Australia!) I was inappropriately nonchalant about the labor process, and even once compared it to training for a sport, like a volleyball match, which might have been a valid comparison if during the match I accidentally swallowed the ball and then had to volley it over the net from my vagina.

I was so ready to be done with the pregnancy, to meet this baby that everyone had been talking about, that I was willing to go through any means necessary to get the job done. If the doctors told me that in order to get the baby out they were going to send a team of ninjas to my house to attack me, probably right in the middle of my favorite meal, I would have said, “Sign me up!”

Finally after eating my way through three seasons, my due date arrived. There it was circled on the calendar, the day that had been etched in my mind since my first doctor’s appointment 67 pounds ago. Seven days later, I checked into the hospital for an induction. I put on a backless gown—finally some room to breathe—and then settled in for some heavy breathing and gripping the sides of my rocking chair. I paid attention in labor class. I saw the videos. I knew what to do. I let the nurse know that I would not be getting the epidural, and she was polite enough not to laugh, but did suggest that if I changed my mind I should let her know as soon as possible. I had a killer mix CD, so I was sure I would be fine. A few hours later, as I rocked faster and faster with my husband staring at me from a nearby chair with blood coming from his eyes, I suggested he get the nurse and see what she could do. I was not against any measure, like euthanasia for instance.

Eventually, I got an epidural. Then about two hours later, one of the most exciting moments of my life happened: I gave birth to my son. He was perfect. He looked like a miniature version of my husband, which was a little weird, but adorable. I, however, did not look like a miniature version of anything. In some of the photos from the hospital I look like a really fat Sally Jesse Raphael, aided by the fact that while I was pregnant my vision got really blurry, and I had to get glasses to see my food.

Princess Fiona by Day

I am currently reading-slash-devouring Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. In one chapter, Lamott describes her use of the topic of school lunches as a go-to writing launch. Lamott includes her own first draft on the subject and cleverly suggests, “The contents of your lunch said whether or not you and your family were okay.” Lamott continues, aptly narrowing her focus to the importance of the sandwich: “Your sandwich was the centerpiece.”

I thought about my own school lunch, and the sandwich that often appeared as its centerpiece. My mother used to pack a salami and mustard sandwich on . . . wait for it . . . cinnamon-raisin bread. If this sandwich was any indication of the well-being of my family, then obviously we were in deep shit. Other kids knew it, and they would comment that my sandwich was “grody,” and I only made matters worse for myself by eating every last bite— even the crust. I remember that my mom also used to put Coke (secretly generic cola, wink, wink) in my thermos. It would explode and spray brown liquid all over me and my delicious sandwich.

Writing about my sandwich-of-shame reminded me of another memory from the elementary school cafeteria. There was a girl from another class who ate at the same time as us, and other kids in my class—multiple kids—would mention how this girl looked just like me. I found this shocking, and I failed to see the resemblance. Now, I don’t usually like to criticize children about their appearance, but given that this girl is now an adult and I have already mentioned that she supposedly looked just like me, I feel like I have some leeway. If they wanted to cast an ogre on Little House on the Prairie, then this girl would have been a perfect fit. She had long, frizzy, colonial-style hair; she wore handmade, floor-length flowered dresses, had no chin to speak of and was doubly burdened with big bones and pudginess.

I remember defending myself and explaining that we looked nothing alike, but the other kids would just look at her, then look at me and clearly reiterate, “Yep, you are like twins.” I would study her to find some redeeming quality while simultaneously smoothing down my hair with salami grease and shrinking in my chair to appear daintier. Today, I have the image of this overgrown milkmaid of a girl etched into my mind. When I picture myself in elementary school, it is usually her that I see.

I wonder if Angelina Jolie questions herself when people compare her to the Octomom? Does she look at the Octomom and worry if it is a true representation of how the world sees her? With that pairing it is like the Octomom is the pre-drinks version and Angelina is the two-in-the-morning beer goggles version. I am sure Angelina knows exactly which version she is, but Octomom might not be so sure. Maybe Octomom thinks she has a shot at being the hotter doppelganger. As for me, I remember sitting in the elementary school cafeteria with my salami and mustard on cinnamon-raisin bread, brown stains all down the front of my shirt, fully confident that I was the beautiful beer goggles version.

****Discussion of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird taken from the First Anchor Books edition, 1995.

Match.com

As we all know, Martha Stewart is on Match.com. (You can pretty much search anything on the web, and her profile will come up.) As I read her profile, I started to think about what I would write if I were to sign up for Match.com. I am married, so I am not necessarily looking, but most likely neither is Martha. She just published a new book titled, Living the Good Long Life, which she mentions in her profile, and she also uses “thegoodlonglife” as her username. Joining Match.com is a genius publicity stunt, and I would like to get in on the action.

I don’t have a glamour shot like Martha, so I am using this photo because it shows that I am easily excitable, and it makes me look younger.

I don’t have a glamour shot like Martha, so I am using this photo because it shows that I am easily excitable, and it makes me look younger.

37-year-old woman
Seeking: Someone who likes to babysit, do the dishes, and be the designated driver
Within: I’d prefer not to leave my house
Relationship: Married
Kids: Two kids who like to sleep in the bed with me and who will probably need expensive dental work in the next few years.
Ethnicity: White/Caucasian
Body type: I have had a nice rack
Height: I like to say that I am 5’6”
Faith: Skeptical
Smoke: No, but I might pick it up if I ever go to prison, turn eighty, or start working at an ad agency in the 1960s
Drink: Like a frat boy on nickel beer night

I did some online dating back in my early twenties when Match.com was still new and creepy. I went on one date with a nice guy, we dated for about a month until he stopped calling me, and then I was forced to stalk him. Back then if you went on an online date and the other person wasn’t a psycho, then you probably needed to take a good long look in the mirror.

Here’s how I’d define myself: unemployed with very little earning potential. I cuss like a sailor, I dress way too slutty for my age and lifestyle, and I never squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom.

I love to cook, especially recipes from fancy foodie magazines. I usually get frustrated because the recipes are too complicated, so I abandon the project and go sit on the couch and polish off a bottle of wine. My house often looks appealing and tidy, but if you start opening too many closets and drawers, you will probably become terrified. These are also metaphors for me generally.

Please send me a message if you are interested. I am scared to fly, so geography is sort of a big deal. I am also afraid of lightning, wrinkles, commitment, chainsaws, and the NRA.

Starts

R3 VSU

Writing starts somewhere, but not always at the beginning.

Sometimes as I am going about my day a little spark will ignite—a little ember that seems worth writing about. Usually these are little moments, and it isn’t always something exciting or all that interesting, just a moment that seems right, as if I can already read it. When this happens, I like to type my ideas, even if it is just a few lines so I can go back to them later. When I sit down to write I will usually browse through my files to see if I can create something out of the ashes.

Today I found this little collection of “starts” about my daughter. I am not ready to use them yet. Maybe when she is older these will become reflections in a larger essay, but for now they are just little glimpses.

This afternoon my daughter asked me to be a guest speaker in her pretend class of baby dolls. I asked what she would like me to talk about, but she just directed me to sit down—crisscross applesauce—behind her row of half-dressed but very obedient students. Then she handed me a stuffed elephant and a small pink hair dryer and told me, “Rose petal likes her hair blow-dried.” While I blow-dried the elephant, my daughter went through the contents of her purse, pulling each one out and showing her students, “This is my lip gloss, this is my mirror . . .”

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My daughter shows up in our room in the middle of the night prepared to stay for the long haul. She brings her blanket and a stuffed animal, places her sippie cup of milk on my nightstand, and puts her slippers on the floor beside the bed.  When I wake up in the morning, it feels like I am the one who is just visiting.

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My daughter likes to say, “I love you more” after I say, “I love you,” but then she wants me to say “I love you most” back to her like from the Disney movie, Tangled. Therefore, she plays the part of the adorable and kind-hearted lost princess, and I am the evil old witch that kidnapped her. This doesn’t really work for me.