FOR ALL THE HOLIDAY MISFITS

krampus

For the past 5 years I have fallen into a holiday funk. Being single, coupled with not having any family to spend the holidays with during a season where ads for love and family and togetherness and diamond rings to “show her you care” are pounded into one’s psyche ad nauseam are enough to make anyone want to go off the deep end.

Then there’s my beloved Facebook, my social media of choice and social life all rolled up in one. Only this time of year, my preferred memes containing cats or offensive snarkiness fall along the wayside to ho hum pics of newly engaged couples in front of their tree and family gatherings with everyone dressed in their holiday finest—including my own, mind you, without me.

Here’s how it’s gone down for the last 5 years. Every Christmas eve, my entire family goes to an annual Xmas play. I drop my son off in front of my father’s house (because he and I are still not speaking to one another), wish my brother and sister a Merry Christmas, and off I go on my solitary way to feel sorry for myself at home while I view their happy group photos on Facebook that I’ve been tagged in so I can, you know, feel included as part of the family.

This year, I burst into tears as I was driving away, but only because my brother had just returned from Thailand and it would have been nice to be able to spend some time drinking with him that day and getting him to admit he solicited a she-male hooker by mistake. It would have been lovely to hang with my sister, who had finally fallen into a serious relationship with her best friend, even though he had fought their love for a year. I would have loved to tell her “I told you so,” because I did. Exactly a year ago.

They’re the family I miss. Not my asshat of a father who we all have to walk on eggshells around so as not to upset him. The asshat of a father who drinks too much and picks a fight with someone, anyone just to hear himself yell. No, I don’t miss that dysfunction at all.

With the world stressing how important family is, where does that leave you when you don’t have any to spend the holidays with? It sucks, but I vowed this year I wouldn’t fall into a deep, dark depression, and so far I haven’t. Maybe it was due to the power of intention. Perhaps my hormones are balanced this week. Or maybe for the first time, another single mother was at my friend’s Xmas dinner and for once, I didn’t feel so fucking alone in the sea of coupledom.

This woman’s husband committed suicide 2 years ago. Blew his brains out on a wilderness trail, leaving behind a wife and 11-year-old son. She’s very open about the whole ordeal, which is why I have enormous respect for her. Her family is spread out all over the world, and her mother is exactly like my father, so she’s essentially alone like I am. She has no interest in going out and trying to land another husband because she can’t hack being alone, and for that, along with her honesty and bluntness, she and I get along great.

We made plans to get together next week. She’s going to teach me how to make Spanish rice, authentic beans, and chicken Verde. Any other year I’d have shied away from making plans and doing anything that required me to smile, but this year is different. This year I consciously acknowledge there are other women out there who have just as craptastic a life as me. I simply have to find them. This woman whose husband blindsided her with death. Another woman I met on Thanksgiving has 2 kids, and is separated from her cross-dressing husband (although she’s OCD and a bit of a hoarder, so who the hell knows what the story is there). She’s asked me to get together with her as well.

These are the women I need to seek out in the years to come. Not the ones with their picture-perfect Norman Rockwell lives. I don’t have anything in common with them. I’ll seek out the misfits and the wounded and the shunned. The divorced and the widowed and the transgendered. Really anyone who doesn’t live a cookie-cutter life.

For all those who are going through a tough time this holiday season, take heart. It’s almost over. Try to seek out others in the same sinking boat. You may find they help keep you afloat.

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES

Sex Ed

Last night I was sitting in front of my laptop doing what I do best—wasting hours of my life on Facebook—when it happened.

“Mom, did you and my dad ever have sex?”

Because it came so completely out of the blue, I froze like a deer in headlights, taking some time to process the question. A flurry of answers flooded my brain all at once: “No.” “Only one time.” “What do you think?” (Answer a question with a question in hope of veering off topic.)

“Yes,” I said. “That’s how we made you.”

My 11-year-old son stared at me in horror and confusion, or rather, as if he were watching a replay of Miley Cyrus twerking on the VMAs. “Ewwww, how did that happen?”

I hauled myself out of my chair and went over to join him on the couch, thinking, Choose your words carefully so as not to scar him for life. Was I supposed to get technical here and explain that sex was like putting 2 Legos together? Be funny and say, “Well son, it usually happens when you’ve had too many shots…” Lie, and tell him it didn’t happen until I turned 30?

“It happens when 2 people love each other.” (I was careful not to say “a man and a woman,” because I want him to grow up to be progressive and tolerant.) Just as I was forming the anatomical visuals in my mind, he dropped another bombshell question: “Why aren’t you and my daddy together anymore?”

I wanted to tell my son to read my blog, except I’ve written too many posts about his penis. Instead, I said that sometimes people love each other, but can’t live together—which is a total cop-out answer, I know. But is “Because honey, your father is Dysfunctional with a capital D” any better?

“I’ll always love your father, but we’re not able to live together because we don’t get along. I love him, but I’m not ‘in love’ with him like a boyfriend and girlfriend should be.” Gah, I felt like a politician spewing a sound bite.

“I don’t want you to get a boyfriend,” he said. Oh man, really? It’s already been 10 years. Is it going to be like that for the next 10? A vision of a tombstone with the words “My Sex Drive” flashed in my mind and I wanted to sob.

When I asked him why, he said, “Because then you won’t pay any attention to me.” Awww. I am his world, this much is true.

“I will always love you and I will always pay attention to you. If I ever get a boyfriend, I have enough love to go around.” (Not enough energy, but love, yes…)

And then in typical boy fashion, he farted loudly. We both laughed, the subject was changed and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. A mother can only take so much at one time.

HELL IF I KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MAN

BOXER

If you’ve read my blog for awhile you know I have to be both mother and father to my 10 year old boy. Often, I have expressed frustration over being at a total loss when it comes to teaching him how to be a man. But there’s no one else around to do the job, so that leaves me. I don’t claim to understand men; if I did, I’d probably be in a healthy relationship right now. Even though I write from my male character’s POV in my romances, who knows whether it’s really accurate? It may be, it may not be—ultimately, it’s a male mindset from a woman’s point of view.

Women are always complaining about how they want their men to be more emotional, more expressive and sensitive. I don’t want that. I’m already that. I sure as hell don’t need two of me blubbering over a romantic comedy. I need a man to be strong mentally, esp. in stressful or dangerous situations, and strong physically, as in they’re able to kick the ass of another man if needed.

I happen to be one of the least warm and fuzzy women on the planet. I don’t like talking about my feelings, and I sure as hell don’t want to discuss my feelings with a man. That’s what I have girlfriends for when I’m so inclined. I don’t need to know how you feel about me or where our relationship (if we have one) is going, because as far as I’m concerned actions speak louder than words. I’ve had boyfriends tell me they loved me while at the same time were screwing other women, so words don’t mean much to me.

Weakness in men makes me emotionally uncomfortable and frustrated. I know that comes across as harsh, but if you have a toothache and you’re writhing about in bed, asking for last rites to be delivered, well, in my eyes, your penis has just gotten smaller by about 3 inches. I’m pretty sure that unapologetic attitude comes from having gone through 16 hours of unanesthetized back labor, getting a cavity filled without Novocaine, and growing up with a mean, nasty father.

How does this all translate to my son? From the time he was little I was the kind of mom who, when he fell down and hurt himself, would coddle him for a few seconds, then send him on his way. (Suck it up, you’re a boy.) I don’t have a hellava lot of sympathy for him when he’s whiny with a head cold, but I’ll happily administer the Motrin and vitamin C. I don’t force him to talk when he doesn’t want to, or demand he give me a proper kiss (he gives me the top of his head to kiss). And from what I’ve seen, most people tend to act the same way with their boys, esp. dads. After all, we gotta teach our boys to be tough, right?

My son is extremely attached to me, definitely a mama’s boy, not real aggressive, slight in body, shy, anxious. These are not traits that bode well for a man, imo. Men should be confident, self-assured, outgoing, bold, shouldn’t they? In the words of my father, my son is “a weenie,” made worse by the fact that I’m a single mom.

I am embarrassed to admit I agreed with my father for a time, if only because I couldn’t get the kid out of my bed until he turned 10. He wasn’t tackling the crap out of others in football, hanging out with a pack of boys on the corner, setting off fireworks, or able to watch scary movies without becoming frightened. How in the world would he ever be able to assimilate into a society where the majority of boys are like this?

I’m reading a book called The Strong Sensitive Boy by Ted Zeff, and I realize now that my son isn’t a weenie, he’s sensitive, and trying to force him to be something he’s not will result in more harm than good. Example: I took my son to see a concert when he was 8. The Black Eyed Peas (who he loved at the time) opened for U2. He wanted to leave after the second U2 song because they were “too loud.” I was so disappointed in him. (It was U2, for God’s sake!) What I didn’t understand at the time was that he’s extremely sensitive to loud noises and I’ll never be able to change that.

It’s a shame that boys growing up in North America have a harder time of it when they’re sensitive, creative introverts—that is, until they grow up to become a famous musician or actor and the world worships them. Telling sensitive boys not to cry or forcing them to do activities they don’t feel comfortable doing will undoubtedly saddle them with huge intensive therapy bills later on in life.

Our western society thinks Bruce Willis in the Die Hard films or James Bond when they think of “real men,” or (shudder) Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t know about you, but I think I need to reevaluate my definition of masculinity. After all, I had to reevaluate my definition of a “real dog.” I wanted a Lab—strong, steady, reliable, but the weight limit in our complex dictated we set our sights more on little runt dogs. Well, that and my son insisting on a Chihuahua after seeing the movie, Beverly Hill Chihuahua. While the Chihuahua we ended up getting is certainly a miserable diva to the tenth degree, I’ve learned to be thankful for what we have, even if I have to grit my teeth the entire time

What’s your definition of masculinity? Do you think perceptions of men are changing?

CANCER SHOULD BE A FOUR-LETTER WORD

pink trailer for breast cancer

photo by Amy Guth

This is a difficult post for me to write. I wanted to choose something else, anything else to write about, but this is what has been consuming my thoughts lately. Not my novel that’s coming out, my writing, my poverty, my extra fifteen pounds—none of that concerns me at the moment.

Last month, October, was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I wanted to interview a friend of mine who had survived breast cancer. “Survived” is probably too dramatic a word; she was given the “all clear” from her doctor six months ago—the doctor who had opened her up twice to remove the cancer, and when there were still traces, proceeded to remove both her breasts.

After her last operation, she began sending out numerous resumes, because she was tired of being poor and having to rely on disability checks. She has two boys to support on her own—a four-year-old and an eighteen- month old. A job came her way very quickly; she’s a hard worker, responsible, and diligent. She began working full-time while still receiving doses of chemo and radiation.

I asked her once, “How do you do it? Aren’t you physically exhausted?”

She looked at me wearily and answered with the typical single mother response: “You do what you have to do. I don’t have the luxury of being tired.”

I planned to interview her so I could ask her those difficult questions one never sees asked of a cancer patient:

What was your very first thought when you heard the words, “You have Stage four breast cancer”?

What does it feel like physically to have no breasts?

How did you feel emotionally the first time you undressed in front of your boyfriend after your double mastectomy? (The boyfriend who she later found out had cheated on her because she wasn’t “there” for him while she was going through chemo.)

Are you royally pissed off at the Universe, or God, or whoever for giving you this diagnosis at twenty-five?

 

I wanted to write a post that celebrated her incredible strength and determination, courage and accomplishments. A post that described how far she had come, and what her plans were for her future.

I don’t have the chance to interview her now, because a visit to the hospital three weeks ago revealed the cancer had spread to her bones. It’s everywhere, and there’s nothing that can be done anymore. My friend is twenty-seven, she has two children, and the powers that be have given her a finite time to live.

Her father is also a close friend of mine. Whenever I see him now he has tears streaming down his face. For those who think that men don’t cry; they do, but only when the pain is too great. I don’t pretend to know what he’s going through. The unspoken agreement in this world is that no parent should have to bury their child. It goes against the laws of nature. Most things traumatic can be gotten over in time—divorce, heartbreak, job loss. But you never get over the death of your child.

What keeps running through my head over and over these past two weeks is the first line of the novel, Love Story by Erich Segal: What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?

It’s unfair, so very sad, and my heart breaks for her children.

OH WICKED MOUTH

Photo by dawnzy58

It was a truly craptastic week. One of those weeks where I wanted to lock my son in a closet and keep him there until he turned eighteen. Course with the way kids are now, he’d be off to college for a few years, and then inevitably come home to live with me again. Leave for a year, then come home to live with me again; marry, divorce, and come home to live with me again. The joke nowadays is to wait until you’re forty to have children, because by the time they come home to live with you, you’ll be dead.

The problem with my son is his sassy mouth. He’s ten, and already I get “Yeah, whatever,” when I ask him to do something. I thought that kind of crap didn’t happen until the teenage years. The advice I get from everyone is: “You’d better nip that in the bud, ‘cause it’ll only get worse.”

When he says stuff like that to me, I have to squash my first instinct due to those pesky Child Protective Services laws, so I try the calm, reasoning approach, instead. “I am your mother, and you are not to speak disrespectfully to me.”

You can imagine how well reasoning with a child works. It doesn’t. I’ve tried the taking stuff away approach, too. No 3DS for a day. He could give a rat’s ass, really.

“Wait until your father gets home,” is usually the go-to for frustrated moms at their wit’s end, except in our case, there is no father coming home, so I continue to get the rolling of the eyes, and the “Nah,” when I tell him to do something.

I’ll admit I, as a person, tend to let a lot of things go until they build up to the point of explosion. My college ex used to call me an earthquake, and it wasn’t because I rocked his world in bed. I have a temper. It comes out of nowhere, and it’s nasty. It’s not something I’m proud of. Every therapist I’ve ever had has told me when I get mad, I need to count to ten before I speak or act. If I could count to ten first, I wouldn’t be sitting on their freaking couch talking to them.

My son’s father told me on more than one occasion, “You’re mean and nasty just like your dad.” Did I get my temper from him? Who knows, but taking meds has done nothing to curtail it, unfortunately. My ex tells people he left me because I slapped him across the face. He lunged at me and grabbed me. What would someone else have done? Count to ten, and in that time hope to not get punched?

My brain reacts; I think later. A few weeks ago, a group of twenty-somethings were hanging out on the grass in my complex, drinking. I had to pass them on the way to take out my trash. The diva followed me, and being the yappy Chihuahua she is, she started barking her little head off at these kids. “I’ll kick that fuckin’ dog’s ass,” I heard one of the guys say.

Do you think I counted to ten? Hell no. I flew off into REACT mode. I wasn’t thinking, period. I froze, and turned toward him. I said, “If you touch my fuckin’ dog, I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass.”

Now, there’s a situation that could have ended badly. Luckily, the guy backed down and denied saying anything, but let’s face it—I’m not very intimidating. I’m a 5’5” 130 lb. white girl, almost 45 (middle-aged, for God’s sake!), college-educated, from a middle-class background. My visible tattoo is frou-frou flowers on my back. The women who live around me are Hispanic, maybe have GEDs, a kid or two, or three or four, and their visible tattoos are skulls, and words written in script on their breast, like “Love is Pain,” and one of their baby daddy’s lips on their neck.

Moral of the story: One of these days I may very well get my ass kicked if I don’t watch my mouth. And watching what I say needs to apply to my son, regardless of how mad I am. Yesterday, we went to one of those Do-it-Yourself Recycling Centers. If you ever go to one, pray to God you don’t get stuck waiting behind homeless people who recycle for a living. When we were finally done throwing all our cans and bottles onto the tiny conveyor belt, I asked my son to take our empty bags back to the car while I settled up with Mr. Recycling Dude.

Son rolled his eyes, said “Whatever,” and walked to the car, empty-handed. Not only did Mr. Recycling Dude look shocked at the gross disrespect, but Ms. Homeless Gal even gave me a look like, “Oh no, he didn’t.” I stomped to the car, thinking “Ugh, I hate my life. I hate being a mother. Kill me now.” When I got into the car, I faced my son and told him, “When I ask you to do something, you’d better damn well do it, and if you ever disrespect me in public again, you will be sorry. That’s two days without your 3DS.”

And there’s where I should have stopped. But I didn’t. I had to throw in, “I will not raise a fuckin’ spoiled ungrateful brat.” I couldn’t help it, I was furious. Truth is, one of my biggest fears is my son growing up to be a spoiled, ungrateful, disrespectful,the world owes me, self-centered bratty adult. We all know everyone blames the parents when this happens.

So what am I supposed to do? Should we spend a week living on the streets in East LA, eating in soup kitchens, hanging with kids who only have rocks and broken toys to play with? Should he receive only a roll of toilet paper for Christmas? Ship him off to military school? Marry a drill sergeant?

All I know is at the moment, I’m at a complete loss.

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVIN’ IS EASY

Photo by Thomas Tolkien

The beginning of summer is like New Year’s Day for me—an opportunity to set goals. I had a lofty writing goal this summer: Finish my current work-in-progress, a contemporary romance, or some may say, actually write it, since I was only at 20,000 words. No problemo. I had the entire summer ahead of me…

Three glorious uninterrupted months of my creative muse spoon-feeding me chocolate mousse and rubbing my tired shoulders whenever I became stuck. I had the days to sleep in late in order to “replenish the well,” and the nights to dress in my most luxurious dry clean only lingerie, while tapping away at the keyboard, listening to sultry jazz in the background, a glass of chilled Riesling by my side.

Seriously?

I’m a single mother of a ten-year-old boy. We have a diva Chihuahua, three cats, and two parakeets. And an invisible sign tacked up on our front door that says: “All kids welcome.”

Here’s an example of a typical day:

“Mom, wake up, the dog pooped in my room again.”

I stagger out of bed in my boxer shorts and ratty T-shirt to clean up said mess. The cats swarm around me, demanding to eat. No sooner are the cats fed when one promptly throws up on the carpet, not the floor right next to the carpet.

“Can you help me clean this up?” I shout to my son, who’s in his room playing video games.

“What? I can’t hear you, Mom, my game’s too loud!”

Next-door neighbor kid walks in my front door without knocking. “Morning.” Diva Chihuahua begins to bark furiously despite seeing this same kid every day.

“Can you make me breakfast, Mom?”

“Will you please help me—?”

“Can’t hear you, Mom, the birds are squawking too loud!”

A knock at the door. It’s another one of my son’s friends. Diva Chihuahua growls, spies one of our cats making a beeline out the front door, and takes off after her.

After rounding up the Diva and making breakfast for everyone, I eat whatever scraps my son has left on his plate, clean up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry, grab a second cup of coffee (or third, or fourth), and finally sit down at my computer to write. It’s almost noon. I have a sex scene on the agenda.

My office is the dining room, without any doors. “All right,” I tell myself, “time to get in the mood. Think sexy thoughts.”

I start to type…

His fingers caressed the inside of her bare thigh—

“Mom, I’m hungry!”

slowly creeping up to discover she

“Mom, what are you going to make me?”

wasn’t wearing any underwear. Her smile gave him

“Mom, can you make a sandwich for my two friends also?”

permission to venture further. But first he planned to slowly undress her and

“Mom, come on! What are you doing?”

carry her to the bed where he’d

“Mom, we’re hungry. Come on!”

Heavy sigh. —just fuck her without any foreplay. The End.

Multiply this day times June, July, and August, and you have my summer.

SODAS FOR THE KIDS AND MARGARITAS FOR THE MOMS

My son turned 10 on Friday. I threw him an Angry Birds theme pool party. If I never see another one of those little fuckers again, that’d be all right with me. An angry bird, that is. The kids were fine—unruly and demanding, in that way kids can get when they’re jacked-up on lots of sugar and the pizza delivery guy arrives an hour later than he’s supposed to.

Being that I couldn’t afford to have a petting zoo at the party, and jumpers are no fun when it’s almost a hundred degrees outside (I kept envisioning a turkey roasting inside one of those cooking bags), I thought it’d be kinda fun to organize games where the kids could win prizes. I might not be crafty like Martha Stewart, but I may be able to give Julie McCoy, Cruise Director if she were on Valium, a run for her money.

Problem was, when it came time to give the winners their prizes, they’d already all been scoured over by the losers. And when it came time for the treasure hunt where each kid was supposed to have a turn, all bets were off if you couldn’t find the angry bird eraser fast enough. I cajoled, I pleaded, I threatened—

It went from:

(In my best Julie Andrews voice from The Sound of Music) “Now, now, Children, everyone must get a turn, it’s only fair. You want to be good boys and girls, don’t you?” to:

“Please, if you don’t settle down quickly, I’ll have to double my dosage of meds tonight.” And, finally:

“If you don’t knock it off, all you little demons are going to Hell!” (Imagine this being screamed using the voice of the crazy bus driver in the South Park cartoons)

It didn’t matter what I said to these kids. It was “to each his own,” “live or let die,” “the weakest will have his body eaten if we’re stranded on a deserted island for weeks after a plane crash.” A friend said to me after, “I definitely can’t see you as a school teacher responsible for 30 children,” which goes to show you how well my hunt turned out.

At the end of the day, my feet hurt, I hadn’t eaten, I was sunburned, and I didn’t even get to have a piece of cake. Two days later, I still feel like I’m hung over from the preparation, execution, and clean-up of it all. Now I know why parents spend $500 bucks to have John’s Incredible Pizza host their party.

I think the sheer joy and excitement seen in my son’s eyes was worth it, although it’s debatable. I got him everything he wanted for his birthday—a habit of mine that I seriously questioned this year. I thought about giving him one present only— a soccer ball, and a used one at that. Considered the fact that I was probably creating a spoiled, self-centered kid; that he should learn sooner rather than later what disappointment truly means, since life is full of it. But I couldn’t do it. As a mother, I’m admittedly too soft.

Before we went to sleep that night, I realized for the first time in 9 years, my son’s father didn’t call for his birthday. Didn’t send a card, or gift. I’m not sure whether or not my son noticed. If he had, he didn’t mention it. He thanked me again for throwing him his party, and for getting him the best presents ever.

“I know you worked really hard, Mom, so I’m going to give you a massage,” he told me. As he worked his little magic for 15 seconds, with his “two-finger massage” on my shoulders, I knew it wasn’t up to me to teach him what disappointment was. That honor has already been bestowed upon his father.

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