Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the category “Weekly Writing Challenge”

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Tough Old Bird

When I was growing up, I had a second family.  This family lived next door to us for many many years.  They had a daughter who was grown but they were only in their forties.  This couple married as high school sweethearts.  We moved in next to them when I was five.  I have vague memories of sitting on their porch with them, visiting as they finished their yardwork.  They smoked, and would always have a cigarette in their hands.  This was very exotic to me as no one in my family smoked.  They would be drinking sweet tea in Tupperware cups, the tall ones that had lids that no one used.  They were the muted Tupperware colors, celery green and faded pink, and they would bring me my own glass.  I remember the gentle tapping that the ice cubes made in the glasses, and the shick shick shick of the lawn sprinkler at the end of the hose.

One day, the husband fell sick.  He had lung cancer.  He was sick, and then he died.  He was only in his forties.  The day of his funeral, my friend and I tried to play quietly in the yard but we were kids and we begin to run and shout.  My father came out, grim faced, and told us to come inside immediately; we were being disrespectful.  We felt terrible.

The day our neighbor’s husband died, she put down the cigarettes and never picked them up again.  She was such a determined woman, her hair always done in a sixties bouffant flip that grayed as she got older.  She never colored her hair.  She did all her own yardwork, and my friend and I would come help her pull weeds and wild strawberries out of her yard.  She paid better than our parents did.  For yard work, she always wore zip-up coveralls that had probably belonged to her husband.  She mowed her own yard, until I was old enough and did it for her.  She amazed us by growing banana plants that grew actual bananas on them.

She always had a big dog in her big chained in back yard.  When we moved in, it was Rex, and then it was Bo.  Then she finished her German Shepard phase and started with the black labs.  Her first one was Inky.  They were all sweet dogs and would jump up to the side of the fence to be petted.  I know they were a great comfort to her after her husband passed.  On the rare occasions that she went out of town, usually to visit her daughter, and later her grandchildren, I would come in to her house and let whatever dog it was into the basement to be fed and petted.  She doted on her big dogs and they were inside as much as they were out.  They were always well trained.

As I got older, I learned what a dichotomous person she was.  On the one hand, she was strong and determined, took care of herself and her house and yardwork.  She was raised the youngest of a family of all boys, and she had a boy’s nickname and was a well known softball player in her day.  She worked for a concrete company until the day they retired her.  But her hair was always perfect, not one out of place, and she spoke in such a soft sweet Southern accent.  She always stayed in great shape and dressed immaculately.  She stubbornly refused to remarry for almost twenty years.

Lordy, that woman loved a good gossip.  When I was a child, it was mostly her talking, but as I got older, high school and college, I had gossip of my own to contribute.  She was born and raised in our town, and she knew virtually everyone in it.  I would start a story about someone, and she would say, “Oh, that’s so and so’s son.  I always knew that family was no good.”  I guess as we get older, we begin to see more sides of someone we’ve known our whole life.  Some of her gossip seemed a bit mean-spirited, but I figured that was just her.  I was more disappointed in her than I have ever been when I was visiting her when I was home from college, and she told me that “Them gays got the AIDS because God was punishing them.”  I never felt quite the same about her again, although I realized later that she was just a sheltered woman who had married out of high school and she didn’t know any better.

When she finally remarried we were all surprised.  She had been dating gently for years, but stayed out of the highly competitive, catty hair pulling that she said was characteristic of older ladies, whom she said would fight tooth and claw over a man, since there were so few of them available.  She said one time she was out to dinner with a man and a woman came up to her and said, “Get away from him, he’s MINE.”  She said she never went out with that guy again; she didn’t need the drama. 

She finally met a man that was right for her, and he lived right around the corner in our neighborhood.  They courted for a while and then married in a small ceremony.  I could never remember to call her by her new married name; I had known her by the old one for so long.  She didn’t mind.  In what I considered an impressive and admirable move, she refused to move in with her new husband and stayed in her old house.  They visited back and forth.  He was an avid hunter, and as tough as nails as she was, she was an avid hunter too.  She went deer hunting with her husband all the time, and brought down many a deer.  I remember one Christmas when she was over seventy, her proudest Christmas gift from her husband was a pair of knee-high, camouflaged, snake proof hunting boots.  I came to her house to see her on one of my trips home, and there was a huge stuffed bobcat in her living room.  I inquired as to the origin of said bobcat, and she said proudly, “I saw him in the woods and I shot me that old cait.  Had him stuffed and I keep him in here.”

She went through some rough times.  As she and her husband got older, they took turns being hospitalized for more and more serious ailments.  She nursed him through several protracted hospital stays.  After years of marriage, in a stunning turn of events that blew our minds, her husband’s daughter got to him somehow and persuaded him that his wife was after his money.  Never mind that she was still supporting herself, living in her own home.  The daughter somehow twisted the knife, wanting her father’s money for her own, and turned him against my friend.  He threw her out of his life without warning.  We were all stunned.  She must have had a premonition, hanging onto her home all those years.  She shrugged it off, and after an initial flurry of filling us in on the dirt, she spoke of him no more.

She’s in her eighties now.  She’s gotten a bit more frail, and a bit less sharp, but there’s still a lot to her.  My parents moved away from her neighborhood, but they still visit each other and catch up on the news.  When my childhood friend remarried, I told her and her first response was, “I know his Daddy.”  She always knew everyone, and everyone’s business.  I haven’t seen her in several years, but we exchange Christmas cards.  She’s a tough lady and I think she’ll hang on quite a while yet.

Advertisements

Weekly Writing Challenge: Wrap It Up

from Kitten, Flickr Creative Commons

Why do I hate wrapping gifts so much?  Is it because I suck at it?  Is it the Pinterest/Martha Stewart inspired mandate to create ever more creative and handmade wrappings?  Is it because, as a child and a young adult, I not only had my own packages to wrap but my dad’s, since he hates wrapping worse?  And now my husband’s?

I suck at gift wrap.  Oh, I do all the things you’re supposed to do.  I have kits of expensive coordinating paper, ribbon and bow sets.  I have boxes of fancy gift tags.  I have gift bags and tissue paper.  I have rubber stamps, and handmade papers, and a Sissix punch and, well, you get the idea.  My gift wrapped packages still look as though they were done by a six year old who has spent the afternoon spinning in circles.

I can’t even unwrap gift paper.  Those tubes are hermetically sealed, taped and permanently curved.  After struggling to remove the cling wrap, I am faced with those little tapes that keep the roll from unrolling.  I manage to rip the paper every time I remove one.  Then I have to unroll the stupid thing.  I unroll it, it rolls up.  I unroll it, it rolls up.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  When I finally manage to smash and corral it to the floor, it is wrinkled and folded and compressed by whatever package I have slammed onto it.  Then I remember the present should be wrapped with its up side down, lift the package, and the thing rolls up again.

After smashing the paper flat and positioning the gift on it correctly, it’s time to cut.  Ha.  My inate non-cutting abilities kick in at this point.  It doesn’t help that my daughter has appropriated every functional pair of scissors I own and made them disappear.  I am left with lame paper clippers designed for small, fine work, not for cutting enormous swaths of cheap paper.  So I chop and whack at the paper, attempting to do the dextrous slide that you see the professional gift wrappers do.  No dextrous slide.  Instead great big triangular chunks and unseemly rips appear along the entire length of the cut.  Damn.  Now I have to hide the ugliness by folding it over.  This sometimes makes the paper too small to wrap the package and I have to start all over again.

Then comes the actual folding of the paper around the gift.  After folding and creasing the edges to hide my cutting inabilities, I began to fold and attempt to cover the present.  If the package is a simple box, I might just manage.  My inability to make hospital corners on a bed kicks in, and the corners on the package that are supposed to be so tight and crisp become messy and a little bulgy on the ends of the package.  I attempt to rectify this with lots of tape.  This is the point at which I will began my rant.  WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS WONDERFUL DO TOY MANUFACTURERS PLACE TOYS IN SUCH WONKY, IRREGULARLY SHAPED, SPINY, CURVED BOXES?  That is my rant.  Why?  Why can’t they just put the damn things in a square box?  These toys cannot be wrapped in standard wrapping paper.  At least, not by me.  This leaves only one recourse:  the dreaded gift bag.  And these are, of course, totally inappropriate for children, because children are pokers and prodders and peekers, and if you put out a gift bag, they will know what is in it immediately.  Also, the weird shaped packages have so many protuberances and fins that they typically require an enormous bag.  So any gift wrapped this way cannot be put out until the night before Christmas, because the kid will be in it in a flash.

Next this leads to tags.  And ribbons.  And bows.  All slippery, inadequately sticky, temporary pathetic things.  And you can’t put tags on a kid’s gift.  They will shake the damn thing so hard to find out what it is, that if it wasn’t legos or a puzzle before, it will be now.  So you have to use the old “one type of wrapping paper for each recipient trick”.  That way you can leave the label off, and the kid won’t know which ones are for them.   This results in them shaking and squeezing ALL the packages.  Ribbons of course are as curly and pesky as the wrapping paper.  And that little trick where you curl the little skinny ribbons with the edge of your scissors?  Doesn’t work.  They become sad and kinky looking instead.  And bows.  The factory installed adhesive DOESN’T STICK.  Don’t try to tell me it does.  The bows are off the packages by the time you carry them downstairs. 

And the whole Martha Stewart package thing, where you wrap in handmade paper from Pakistan with coordinating raffia and hand rubberstamped gift tags bearing hokey little messages?  Forget the whole thing.  First of all, why would you bother to waste this on a kid?  And really, why would you waste it on anyone?  You can spend hours contemplating the layout and message of said package, and it will be ripped off in an instant.  And anything that is hand lettered, for me, looks like it was done by a toddler in crayon.  So I wouldn’t waste my time unless the gift was actually FOR Martha Stewart.  And then it would stress me out beyond belief.

And unfairly, and horribly, I get stuck wrapping all the gifts.  First I had to wrap my dad’s.  Now I have to wrap my husband’s.  He even has me wrapping the gifts he’s bought for me.  I wish I were joking.  Plus I have to wrap my own.  Plus anything for any Christmas party or Dirty Santa.  And you would think, you would really really think, that with this much wrapping over the years, I might not suck at it so bad.  But I do.  And each package appears as if someone had stomped it really vigorously into the ground, followed by setting it on fire.  And then everyone makes fun of the wrapping I did for them.  And I want to stuff my ugly little packages into their various smirking lazy mouths.  So gift wrapping is the icing on the veritable Christmas cake for me.  And I still don’t know why I suck at it so bad.  I hope it isn’t genetic.

My Precious Point Of View

 

Why does it blogses?  Well, it blogses about the Precious.  The Precious makes us blog.  Our Precious has been with us forever, Precious has, and Precious will be with us forever more.  Precious made us go find a magic computer, one that would work out in the swamp, it has, and our Precious will help us lead the Lesser Ones to a better understanding.  The Lesser Ones never had a Precious, and they never will!  They will never touch our Precious.  Our Precious is ours and ours alone.  My Precious – it makes us disappear from Orclings and Dwarves and Hobbits and others who would steal our Precious from us.  It makes us strong, the Precious.  It brings us peace on wet nights and strength and hunger.  Our Precious protects our last strands of hair, it does, and makes our eyes so bulgy and big.  We can see the Lesser Ones, Precious and we POUNCES and BITES on the wiggly Lesser Ones, we do.  Tasty wiggly ones for you, my Precious.  We will dines on that tasty Hobbit, the one that follow us and wants our Precious.  It will kill the Lesser Ones who would take the Precious from us, and we will eats them, we will, eats them in one bite or maybe two.  And we will slip our Precious on our finger, and it will makes us perfect, yessss it will, MY Precious.  My Precious brought this magic computer to us and we will learn to speaks on it, we will.  We will blogses for the Precious tells us to.  This will warn the nasssty Hobbitses it will, and the Hobbitses will leave the Precious to us.  It will tell the Lesser Ones to leave us to our computer and our Precious.  We will loves the computer and the Precious and the computer will be a Precious to us also, the magic computer that shows us so many worlds and we will beat the worlds and keep the Precious from all of them.  My Precioussssss…

Weekly Writing Challenge: In An Instant

I had a happy and uneventful childhood and the usual awful middle school experience.  I had been an A student all of my life, with very little effort.  I had been treated as something of a prodigy as a child, mainly due to my mom’s intense grooming and pushing.  Somewhere around sophomore year, I realized that there was more to life than being brilliant, and I was determined to find that something.  I started by deliberately dumbing down.  I got negative attention from the kids every time my name was posted on that honor roll list, so I decided I wasn’t going to be on that list any more.  I started bringing home B’s.  I think one report card had two B’s on it, and my parents posted it on the refrigerator, marked in red ink, “a sad day.”  I tell this to illustrate how academically intense my household was.  Two B’s and it was A Sad Day.  My parents decided that my local private school was failing me and I was miserable (brilliant deduction) and made the worst of all decisions:  they would send me away to boarding school.  My poor parents, Wally and June Cleaver, failed to understand that in the rest of the world, “boarding school” is not synonomous with achievement, it is synonomous with “fucked up kids.” 

So I went to my new school.  I was determined that one thing would happen – I wouldn’t be a geek anymore and I would have cool friends.  I would run with the in crowd, and not have my chair pulled out from under me or spit balls put in my hair any more.  This would occur no matter what I had to do.  No matter what.  Unfortunately, this school revered four things:  academic achievement, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  They were obsessed by the sixties.  The dorm circle rang with The Who and The Beatles and The Kinks and Led Zeppelin.  Kids played frisbee outside with their hair tied back with tie-dyed bandanas.  Afros on curly-headed kids of all races were cool.  Pictures of pot leaves and copies of Timothy Leary’s writings and The Moody Blues and guitars graced the dorm rooms.  I was in way over my head.  I knew nothing of any of this.  But I was going to devote myself, 24-7, to learning this and fitting in unless I died.

I tackled the music.  To this day I have a working knowledge of music from the sixties through the nineties second almost to none.  I have a CD collection spanning five decades – hundreds and hundreds of CDs.  You see, I internalized everything that went on at this school as The Way To Be.  Except for the academics part.  I was going to give that a rest.  I tackled the clothes.  I put holes in my jeans and got ratty old t-shirts and got rid of all my wanna-be preppy regalia from my previous academic institution.  I bought drug-addled posters and put them up in the room and in my windows.  And I tackled the drugs.  I had heard whispers about them from the cool kids at the old school, but I was so far removed from all that that I hadn’t even been around kids who were drinking before.  Again, way, way over my head. 

I tried drinking first.  Of course I pulled the Swill Mixed Alcohol Until I Vomit routine at the first party I went to, disgusting everyone.  But for some reason, this was something I wanted to revisit.  And then my roommate taught me how to smoke pot.  And how I loved it.  I loved acting stupid, even stupider than usual.  And then I found quaaludes.  And speed.  And LSD.  I would put anything in my mouth that anybody handed me, just to be cool.  I had lost my mind.  Completely distracted by my coolness, I missed my first bout with depression, chalking it up to the loss of a quirky punk rocker with a mohawk who had caught my eye.  I took up smoking cigarettes, Marlboro Reds, calling them “Cowboy Killers” and sitting in my dorm room closet learning how to blow smoke rings.  I was so distracted that I completely failed to fill out any applications for college whatsoever.  Just completely didn’t notice that the kids around me were all filling theirs out.  As it turned out, it didn’t matter.

As my classmates matured into senior year, I found myself hanging out with younger kids who were easily impressed.  One night, two of the kids came by my dorm room and wanted to know if I wanted to go up on the mountain and smoke some pot.  Of course I agreed.  Since it wasn’t dark when we left, I didn’t think to turn off the lamp in my dorm room.  And that one lamp changed my entire life.

The staff head of the dorm made his evening rounds and found my lights on, along with those of the two boys I had gone off with.  He tackled them first, knowing that they would be pushovers, and sure enough, they blurted out everything.  Armed with this information, he came to me, and I had little choice but to confess to my crime.  I was suspended immediately and a hearing for my possible reinstatement was scheduled.

Now keep in mind, up until now, my folks knew about none of this.  They were an hour away, and had no idea what I had become.  After all, I never went home.  I stayed in the dorms every weekend to party.  The irony with the cigarettes was, the school had a smoking permit for students.  If the parents signed the permit, kids could smoke in designated areas.  In an extremely stupid case of reverse psychology, my folks signed the permit.  Just one more thing to illustrate my coolness!  I took up smoking immediately.  When my folks came to pick me up after the expulsion, to say that they were blindsided would be like saying, well, they were completely blindsided.  They were both grim and stern, and my father cried when my petition for reinstatement was denied.

They took me home, and this was where the real craziness took over.  Mom got me into the state college where they taught; with my grades it was a shoo-in, but I couldn’t start until January.  This was October.  Instead of making me get a job (which is what I would have done, to keep me out of trouble, or putting me in rehab, which I would have laughed at but they probably ultimately would have peer-pressured me into shape), they left me at home.  Every day.  While they went to work.  So I watched soap operas all day, stole their Eisenhower dollars to buy cigarettes, and found me a dealer who could keep me supplied with weed.  I had no transportation so I walked to the Zippy Mart every day to buy a pack.  It was my only exercise.  I smoked a pack a day, and took a shower before the folks got home so they wouldn’t smell it on me.  I smoked outside.  They didn’t smell it because they never got that close to me.  They never hugged me, they never asked what was going on with me, and they just basically gave me the cold shoulder.  They never even asked me what kinds of things I had done.  They really didn’t want to know.  I guess they figured, if they didn’t talk to me, I didn’t exist.  And I didn’t.  That nonexistence was the most pitiful period of my life. 

The event, with a night and the dark and a lamp, changed my life forever in one quick stroke.  I went, in my parents’ minds, from prodigy to damaged goods.  But this did not straighten me out.  It strengthened my resolve.  I would still be a cool kid.  No matter what.  My mind was set.  And so was the addictive personality, although it took me years before I would figure that out.  Everything changed.  But nothing did.

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Unexpected Wife

Man With Sis’s Children

He had had enough.  His friends were questioning his sanity.  He had gone above and beyond, really, so why did he feel so guilty?  When he lost Sis he felt like his life was over.  He had spent his life protecting her, and ultimately, defending her when her relationship fell through and the father of her children left her.  After all, in those times, no one had children out of wedlock.  That was just Sis though.  She was such a beatnik.  She had always been such a free spirit.  The kids at school had treated her like a freak.  And a freak she was.  She was beautiful in an odd way, with her pointed chin and her quizzical eyes.  But she dressed unlike anyone in her class, preferring to haunt thrift shops for ratty old pieces of clothing that she put together in odd ways.  She found a used drum set, and she banged away on them at odd hours when their folks were not around.  Which was often.  Their folks had been drunks, long before that became stylish, and he found himself at home with his little Sis all the time.  Their folks had both died badly – their mom fell down the stairs (although everyone swore Dad pushed her) and Dad bled out in the hospital Emergency Room with bleeding varices from his ruined liver.  He had wound up with a strange little sister and a lifetime of bad memories. 

Then Sis got hooked up with a man more freakish than she.  He fancied himself a poet, and a free spirit and he and Sis moved in together long before that became acceptable.  When she found herself pregnant, her father disowned her, just before he died.  He was just sober enough for it to register that his daughter was pregnant and not married, and that even for him this was unacceptable.  The disowning was a formality, really, as he died broke and had nothing to leave them.  Sis and her man fought on and off for two years, and then suddenly she was pregnant again.  Imagine that.  The brother had been slipping her little bits of money and food when he could, that useless son of a bitch Sis was with didn’t think that a job was included in his adult duties, since the man was not a man at all, but a miserable weakling who could not be bothered with anything. 

He had never married.  He had seen his parents’ marriage go bad, and violent, and he felt that the institution held nothing for him.  He was determined not to be a worthless drunk and didn’t drink alcohol at all.  He worked at a thankless job at a local newspaper setting type and put away little bits of money after the rent was paid and the groceries were bought to give Sis to help feed her kids and keep the little house from being foreclosed on them.  Finally the useless bastard left her; even the ghost of a responsibility was more than he could handle and it ran him off.  So Sis was left alone, never married, with two kids out of wedlock to take care of.  She was the town pariah.  She had been known in school as a bizarre girl, and her behavior with this useless man marked her as untouchable.  So she had no one to help her, except him, and he did the best he could.

Then the worst happened.  Sis got a lift home from the store one day and was killed instantly when the car she was in slammed into a bridge abutment.  The two kids had been left home alone, and when he got the call and no mention was made of small children in the car, he went to go get them.  What choice did he have?  There they were, tiny and alone, but oddly undisturbed by their abandonment.  This was not the first time Sis had had to leave them home alone.  He tried to think of a way to explain what had happened, but they were so small, and looked at him so strangely that he just told them that Sis had been in an accident and would not be coming back.  This seemed to satisfy them; neither of them questioned him at all.  So he just took them home with him.

With his limited funds, he was able to hire an elderly woman in the neighborhood to care for them when he was gone to work, and then money and food were even more scarce.  He found a second job delivering the papers early in the morning.  Nothing had prepared him for having small children.  They cried, and shrieked, and ran around the house, and tore the place up.  The woman who was keeping them reassured him they were fine, that all small children were like this.  He spent all his money on rent and on food for them.  He went to work, and he came home, and there were children there, and then he got up before dawn and went to work again.  His social life had never been very active; he had had few girlfriends since he was so soured on marriage and so busy with his Sis.  Now, though, there was no chance of anything at all.

So, as luck would have it, he met someone.  There was a woman on one of his paper routes who had been widowed young, and she began to take the habit of waiting for her paper to arrive so she could chat a few minutes with him.  Still he did not take her out, or call on her, for quite some time.  After all, the children were at home, and the elderly woman who kept them could not be prevailed upon to keep them of an evening, and who could blame her?  One morning, the woman on his paper route invited him to dinner.  He stammered and stuttered and finally explained that although he was unwed and had no children of his own, that he was left with the responsibility of caring for Sis’s children and that there were two children at home waiting for him.  “Bring them,” she said.  It turned out she was childless, for she had lost her husband before they could have children.  So he brought the children to dinner at her house, and they ran, and shrieked and generally behaved as they always did.  But the woman seemed curiously undisturbed.  She found the children adorable.  And, he supposed, as children went, they were. 

They began to see the woman more and more often; she somehow found out where they lived and brought them a casserole dinner one night.  She brought gifts for the children too:  toys and little outfits.  He felt as though he were taking advantage of her, but she persisted in her wooing of him and the children, and before long, she began to feel like family.  A year after he found his “gentlewoman caller”, she began to drop hints and before he knew it, somehow he found himself engaged.  He told her he could not afford a church wedding.  “Then we’ll just go before the justice of the peace,” she replied.

And so, one afternoon he checked out early from work and picked up the children, as the woman had specifically said she wanted them present.  They met on the sidewalk; the woman had a camera and proposed a photograph of the three of them, him and the two little children.  She snapped the photo, and they went on to the justice of the peace, who married them with the two children standing with them, wearing their best clothes.

Years from then, when the children asked about the picture he told them, “That’s how we were then, before Mama came to be with us.  It was just the three of us, since we lost Sis.”  They did not remember Sis, all they remembered was Mama.  And the man who did not believe in children, or in marriage, came to find himself happily ensconced with both.

Weekly Writing Challenge: I Wish I Were

When I first started pondering this writing challenge, narrowing it down enough to pick one thing that I wished I were seemed impossible.  I wish I were rich.  I wish I were travelling.  I wish I were thinner.  I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener.  I realized after going through slews of “I wish I weres” that what I really wish I were is more satisfied with my current circumstances.  I can never seem to be happy with my own life; I always wish I were somewhere else or doing something else or doing something with someone else.  I guess some of that is just human nature:  the grass is always greener and all that.  But really, the true definition of happiness seems to be being present in the moment and enjoying it just for what it is.  So what I really wish I were is happy.

Happiness has eluded me.  I can remember a few times in my life I have been truly happy: one time in college when I was all done with my studies for the winter and I had my boyfriend with me and my Christmas presents bought and no bills to worry about.  I remember distinctly thinking:  I am really happy right now.  I was happy the day I got married.  I was happy the day my daughter was born (although it was a horrible day for me, physically).  But during my day-to-day life, I have virtually never been content.  Medical school was actually pretty good.  But then I got to residency, and that was one of the most horrible experiences of my life.  We were completely abused by the staff and the upper level residents.  Living in New Orleans during that time made me happy, and I did get some time to enjoy the city.  But while at work I was distinctly miserable.  Then I took my first job in Atlanta, and things went from bad to worse.  I hated Atlanta.  I was miserable.  The driving and traffic situations were horrible.  I got lost all the time.  I didn’t really make any friends and for most of the time, I couldn’t find a boyfriend.  I was really lonely.  Then at work, they worked our butts off.  We were kind of like a sweat shop for young doctors out of residency.  My boss went through seventeen partners and potential partners in a matter of a few years, because she was so controlling.  Most days I didn’t even get lunch.  When I finally found a boyfriend, he turned out to be a real nut case.  I understand that pornography for most men is a must, but he had an entire room devoted to it.  I felt like I had stumbled into a den of iniquity.

When I met my husband and we moved back to the deep South, I felt things would be looking up.  I would make new friends and we would be closer to my parents, since we were planning on having a child.  I wasn’t overly thrilled about moving to a small town, and as it turned out, my reservations in that area were well founded.  I just don’t fit in.  Again, all my friends are old friends that I’ve had since childhood, adolescence and college.  And none of them live around here.  My husband blames me and my hermitlike nature for the no new friends thing.  But I didn’t use to be like that.  I just feel so judged here; I don’t go to the right church or have the right friends or know the right people.  This is a pretty tightly woven city, and they just don’t welcome newcomers.  So my only company is my husband and my child, and sometimes that’s just not enough.  And I hate my job.  I mean, I really hate my job.  I am tired of the hours and the call and the tiredness and the stress and the near-fatal emergencies and the surgery and the clinic and just, everything.  I have told my husband I would really like to retire from this job but he just doesn’t think he can support us on his salary alone.  But I have so much stress at this point that I just feel I am really really going to lose it.

So, I wish I were happy.  Some of my unhappiness is my circumstances, and some of it is that it is just plain not in my nature to be happy.  Spending time with my daughter and husband makes me happy, but as I said before, I don’t have nearly enough time for that, and sometimes I just need something a little more.  I miss my friends.  I hate that I haven’t made new ones.  So if I could wish for one thing, that thing would be happiness.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind The Gap

This post is written as a response to a specific challenge.  The question as I read it is, should children be allowed in adult venues like nice restaurants or shows, or should they be left at home so adults can enjoy some grownup time?  As I begin working on this I have the feeling that I too will be hung up in the gray area between “kids” and “no kids”.  My life has a BC (Before Children) and an AC (After Children).  In my BC life I was very intolerant of other people’s children.  It didn’t help that I worked as a babysitter through high school and college.  After all, hell is other people’s children.  I winced when I saw children on an airplane with me, glared when I saw a family with kids in a fine restaurant, and muttered impolite things about people’s kids behind their back.  To me, they were little pains in the butt who should be seen and not heard, and preferably not seen at all.  I trumpeted the joys of having no children, and announced to my poor friends and family that children were selfish little savages and I wasn’t having any.  So with this foundation in mind, at age 37, I became…

AC:  After Children.  I gave birth to my only child when I was 37 years old.  I had been married for almost two years, to a man whose stated main objective for marriage (short of the marriage itself) was having children.  He had divorced his first wife because he wanted children, and she did not.  She finally gave in and said she’d have children, but he knew she’d never forgive him for forcing her position and went through the divorce anyway.  On our first date, he told me if I didn’t want children I should just move along.  By age 35, I was no longer certain that I did not want children.  I thought maybe I might want at least one, but figured I was probably too old.  After a year of marriage, we decided it was time to start trying.  I figured, we’d probably try a year, and then because of our age we’d probably have to see a specialist.

It took one try.  The first month off my birth control pills, I got pregnant.  I was not quite ready.  To say the least.  However, those amazing nurturing female hormones kicked in and I was ecstatic.  We were going to wait to tell my folks until I was at least through my first trimester, but we convinced ourselves that we should tell them in case something happened to them before they found out they were going to be grandparents.  So, armed with this excuse, we went ahead and called them before Thanksgiving.  I was due in July.

I had an amazing pregnancy.  I never threw up once.  I never missed a day of work, until the day before I was induced.  Then I had the delivery from hell.  I have a blog post just for that.  And when the baby arrived, she had a hellish case of colic.  I went back to work four weeks out from the delivery because I was so miserable at home.  My husband thought he would try keeping the baby and working from home with a sitter.  Ha.  Those of you with children know what a laughable statement that is.  So I was back at work as an Ob/Gyn, on call every third night AND getting up to take care of a newborn.

My daughter is seven now, and although I’ve had my moments, I would never trade her for anything.  We never had another baby – we had some events at work that prevented that from being practical.  Since I am forty-four now, I pretty much accept that there will be no more children.  So does my husband.  It just so happens that we have a very good, intelligent and well-behaved child (doesn’t everyone?).  Actually, this is not a coincidence.  As those of you with children know, having a good child is no accident.  We spent years of training and coaching and teaching exactly what we expected of her behavior in every circumstance.  And if she misbehaved, we took her out of the situation.  It has been that simple.

Now we are caught up.  And we will enter that gray area I mentioned at the beginning.  We have taken our daughter to many events and restaurants that were definitely fairly formal and might not welcome children.  And she has done very well.  We have been approached by strangers who said things like, “You know, I was a little apprehensive when I saw a little kid come into this restaurant, but she has just been the best kid ever!  I can’t believe how quiet and well-behaved she is!”  Now partly, we have earned that.  We have worked our butts off to raise a well-behaved and socially acceptable child.  But this has also been sheer luck.  She is mature for her age, and she has the ability and temperment to do what we ask.  Not every child has that, no matter how hard the parents work.  And now I will let you in on my little secret:  I feel guilty each and every time we bring her to an adult venue.  I know she will most likely be very good, but the old me remembers the lurch of disgust and anger I would feel seeing kids coming in to nice places when I was younger.  I know that there are people in there feeling that way now, and that I am the cause of that.  And I know that our and her every movement are being monitored to be criticized later by the non-child people.  Because I used to be one once. 

So to sum up, I think that certain children, if they are well-raised and have the capacity to do what is asked of them, may be safely brought to traditionally adult events, like weddings and nice restaurants and plays.  You may get lucky that night.  Or you may not.  But I think just enough parental guilt should be reserved for these occasions; we need to remember what we felt like when we were childless, and try to act accordingly.  And if that means taking the child straight home, then so be it.

I would like to make a final word about completely inappropriate destinations for children.  Children should not be brought to anything with adult content.  By this I mean shows or movies with vulgar language or frightening content or violence, or bars, where drunken people may act in a way frightening to a child or in a threatening or sexually inappropriate manner, or shows with naked showgirls, or any other event which would be, if rated, age inappropriate for children.  I believe that should be written in stone.  And there is one last place, in my opinion where children have no place:  at their mother’s Ob/Gyn office.  This is, of course, because I am an Ob/Gyn.  When we need to see a patient, there will need to be adult discussions about adult body parts and then those parts are probably going to be looked at.  And I think a child staring at their mother with her legs spread, while a stranger does things with pieces of metal equipment, is one of the most inappropriate situations of all.  I cannot believe that women bring their children to appointments and expect to discuss sexual matters, and infidelity, and sexually transmitted diseases, and expect to be examined while their child(ren) stare at them in utter bewilderment.  I cannot imagine how anyone can justify that.  Children should not be taken to places where they may suffer physical, emotional or mental harm, or be forced to comprehend situations with very adult content.  Period.  And there is no gray area there.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Splash of Color

This week’s writing challenge asked for a post about color, which got me thinking about colors, which got me thinking about rainbows.  In this case, Gay Pride rainbows.  I have lived in New Orleans and in Atlanta, both of which have some of the biggest Gay Pride festivals in the US.  I used to love Southern Decadence weekend in New Orleans.  I was actually down there Labor Day weekend of this year, but Hurricane Isaac had just made his lovely debut, and the place was empty.  I was sorry to have missed out.  They know how to throw a party in New Orleans.

I will preface this with the statement that I am heterosexual, and as far as I know, I always have been.  I was never even interested in some of the “experiences” that people dabble with in college or after.  So let’s just say, I am very secure in my sexuality.  So secure, in fact, that homosexuality has never had the “ick factor” for me that some people associate with it.  And yes, some of my best friends have been gay.  I just had to throw that in. 

As a woman’s physician (Ob/Gyn), I consider myself an advocate for women’s health, and that includes all women.  I have read articles on healthcare for gay/bisexual women, and yes, there are some different issues that need to be considered.  Sexually transmitted diseases do not manifest in some of the usual ways, and some patients are caught blindsided by an STD because they were unaware that their partner was not just gay, she was bisexual.  I have had several patients who have had transgender surgery and are now female.  They also have special health care needs.

The main thing though, that got me thinking about GLBT issues, was not my patients, but something else at work.  When I lived and worked in another city (I won’t say which one), two of my Ob/Gyn partners and one of our midwives were gay.  That was out of four physicians and three midwives.  Working with these women every day began to make me notice things.  For example, they never told me they were gay.  I had to figure it out.  Once I figured it out, they were good with me knowing, but they certainly didn’t bring it up.  In fact, they brought it up so seldom that I actually “outed” our boss to one of the new docs when I found out she was a lesbian also.  She didn’t even believe me!  They never mentioned their partners at work.  And none of them even had a picture of their partner in their office, even under the guise of “friendship”.  Despite being highly educated and having high powered jobs, or maybe because of these things, they were highly closeted.  This all began to strike me as incredibly sad.  I was single at the time, and in my thirties, and was hoping maybe to meet someone and settle down, and it started me thinking.  Dating is HARD.  Being married is HARD.  Even if you are straight.  And being gay just adds a terrible amount of pressure to an already difficult situation.  You may, for example, not even be out to your family.  You can’t even talk to them about your dating/marriage woes.  You can’t bring your partner home for the holidays.  You can’t show off your partner to your straight friends, for fear of being stigmatized or outed where you are at a disadvantage.  You don’t get to bring your partner to work picnics, or Christmas parties, all for fear that some of your employees are homophobic.  You can’t even keep a photo on your desk to smile at during the day.  And unless you live in one of a very few states, you can’t marry them.  This on top of just plain old dating and relationships, which even under the best of circumstances are incredibly hard.  This situation is unfair, and very sad.  That first year I worked there, I became a card carrying member of the Human Rights Coalition and have been one now for twelve years.  Nobody at work asked me to do it.  I just did it.  I read their mailings, because I want to know what businesses are hostile and which are sympathetic to the cause.  I want to know the latest politics.  I do not know why I have taken this so personally, but I think it is because I dealt with this with friends on a personal level, and also on a business level as a patient advocate. 

I also believe in gay marriage.  I understand that churches are under no obligation to espouse this, and that is their business.  What I believe in is legal civil marriage, with all its rights and opportunities.  As a physician, I have seen so many occasions in which a patient is terribly ill, and the partner receives no healthcare information or no ability to participate in healthcare decisions because they have no legal status.

I am also perfectly delighted with adoption into gay families.  Every child deserves a chance at a loving family, and kids adapt to families of all kinds with amazing resilience.  Sure, these families have all the same problems that straight families have.  I’m not saying they’re any better.  But they’re certainly not worse.  There’s nothing wrong with having two dads or two moms.  At the practice I mentioned previously, we did a lot of infertility work for gay couples.  There was a lot of activity at the sperm bank!

And let me just say, I don’t eat at Chick Filet anymore.

Post Navigation