Top Statements to Annoy a Pregnant Lady (And My Responses)

Okay.  The truth is that most people have only the best of intentions when they open their mouths.  Well…I think it’s relatively safe to assume that their intention is not to piss me off.  Usually.  Sometimes I have to wonder.  But it’s just so easy to do.  Especially with all the progesterone and estrogen coursing through my veins.  Sometimes I feel like an underweight model with a trucker-sized dose of crank pumping through her system.  Or…Dr. Bruce Banner when he turns green and smashes things.  I’m always so nice to people, even when my internal monologue sounds like Whitney Cummings on the stupid behaviors of men.  Which, by the way, is always.  The same as the amount of time she right.  And adorable.

<aside>I have a lady crush on Whitney Cummings</aside>

Anyway, I said to my husband the other day that, unlike my best friend, who is cute and friendly and so freakishly not ambivalent about being a mommy, I don’t seem to have a problem with strangers wanting to touch my belly.  Which I appreciate.  Please understand that I take great pleasure in the fact that I’m just scary-looking enough to discourage socially inappropriate invasions of my personal space bubble.  I’m glad I have an invisible force field around me.  Felt-but-not-seen social cues that seem to shout to others that “if you touch this woman you will burst into flames just before she opens her Leviathan mouth full of broken glass teeth and bites your head off like a flaming marshmallow on the end of a twig on a sweet, cool summer night.”  I like that people tend to want to keep a distance.

But it seems that the less comfortable people feel physically invading my bubble, the more compelled they feel to say things that reveal their disturbing lack of empathy.  Such as:

You’re having twins?  OH MY GOD!  You are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo lucky!

Okay, Corky.  Settle down.  Quit jumping and I’ll give you a biscuit.  First of all, I’m really glad that you’re so excited.  Have we met?  Because you seem really…inordinately…unabashedly…excited about the alien symbiotes currently attached to my uterus.  I generally don’t get that overwhelmed at the number of fetuses inside the person standing next to me beside the frozen pizzas.  So…since it means that much to you, here’s an invitation to the baby shower.  Where everyone who is invited is being socially pressured to bring a gift.  I’m registered at Amazon for the shit I can’t afford.  Otherwise, just bring diapers.  Because two babies means two digestive tracts means lots and lots of poop.  That’s what I hear when I hear “twins”.  Poop.  Just, you know, double the poop.  And screaming.  So…earmuffs…also appropriate.  If, you know, you’re giving them to me on top of a Sam’s Club sized box of diapers.  Nice to meet you!

Do you know what they are?

It’s most likely that they’re humans.  I mean, there was that one crazy night just before my wedding where I got caught up in some drunken debauchery with the local werewolf population but, you know, I’m pretty sure they’re human.  I mean, I haven’t had any heartburn, really, so I don’t think they’re extra hairy or anything.  Plus I’m not sure about the mechanics of inter-species breeding, but I’m pretty sure that can’t happen.  Except in Twilight.

Wouldn’t it be so great to have two girls?

Ummm…why is everyone obsessed with girls?  I mean, which conversation would you rather have with your twin teenagers?  The conversation where your daughter tells you she’s pregnant or the conversation where your son tells you he got your pickup truck stuck in a mud hole and now it won’t run without belching black smoke?  I mean, I know I’m idealizing here, but really.  Doesn’t having a boy seem so much easier?  Have you ever met a teenage girl?  I’m not even sure that my house is structurally sound enough to contain the toxic cloud of emotional energy that three women, two of whom will be under the age of twenty, are capable of creating.

They’re going to be best friends for life!

Holy shit, Miss Cleo.  Take it easy.  Hows about we go ahead and let them decide what their lives are going to be like without assuming that just because they shared a uterus for a few months they’re automatically required to be besties.  What is this pathological belief that everyone seems to have that twins are supposed to be abnormally obsessed with one another.  They’ve already had to share a uterus, so let’s let them be individuals when they finally get out here, okay?

They’re going to do EVERYTHING together!

Uh.  Yeah.  Or, you know, maybe they’ll develop healthy individual personalities and decide they’d like to live as separate people rather than psychologically-conjoined twins.  That’d be okay, too.  Like, maybe one will want to be in the band and the other will want to smoke Camels behind the bleachers.  That’s cool.  Maybe, you know, they’ll want to grow up and date separate people and have separate lives and not be shoved so far up one another’s ass that they can’t interact with the world except as one half of a really, intensely weird couple.  I’d be okay with that, too.  And, just to play devil’s advocate, let’s think of some things that everyone who is human does that we would hope they don’t do with their sister or brother…Hmmm…I certainly hope they don’t insist on finding a double stall in the bathroom so that they can poop together.  It’d be great if they developed healthy and separate masturbatory lives.  Probably I’d prefer them to pursue separate sex partners, too.  Just saying.  Catching pneumonia will be more easily dealt with if it’s one at a time.  Being a whole person, too, is generally easier without your wombmate attached to your hip.  So…there are benefits to individuating.

You’re going to have separate cribs?  That’s not healthy for them.

Really?  You raised twins who slept in separate cribs and grew up to be serial killers?  Let’s hop on over to Starbucks and you can tell me all about how to appropriately parent my children, oh sage of organic flour (can you tell I get most of my comments in the grocery store?)!  Did you get your PhD in psychology from the dreadlocked white man over there sampling the yogurt made from the milk of the white buffalo?

You know, there are just so many twin experts out there who are not parents of twins and are not even twins themselves.  It’s truly amazing how a person of one demographic can be so incredibly educated about the complex and intricate interpersonal relationships between people of another demographic without ever having had any close, personal experiences with them.  Tell me, how much would you charge to just come to my house and tell me all of the ways that my promoting individuality for my kids is damaging them psychologically?  I’m sure it’d be fairly affordable.  Compared to, you know, paying someone with a degree in Developmental Psychology for their advice.  After all, who needs all that fancy book-learnin’ anyway, when you’ve clearly mastered the subject by watching Montel Williams and The Today Show.

Twins?  But your belly is so small to have two in there!

Okay.  I’m willing to give this one some leniency.  Most people think that by telling a woman she looks small, they are paying her a compliment.  Normally, this is true.  But the fact is that, for women who were slightly big to start with, the excitement of having a discernible bump as opposed to, say, just looking like we have the world’s biggest muffin top, can be pretty delayed.  For instance, people didn’t start asking me out loud, in public, when I was due until I was seven months pregnant.  A skinny girl carrying twins would have been obviously pregnant much sooner than me, and her bump is likely to be much larger simply due to the fact that there is less of her.  Please understand that I have been hearing my whole life about how my body did not meet social expectations.  The fact that I’m “small” right now is just another way of saying that I’m not what you think I should be.  Which, apparently, is front heavy and walking like a sneetch.

Are they natural?

Are you a Nazi?  What kind of a question is that?  I know it’s just one of those things that rolls out of people’s mouths without a lot of forethought, but seriously.  Just stop and think about the phrasing for a moment.  Are they natural?  Well, they’re not synthetic.  They’re not fucking polyester.  <aside>Would it be wrong to name twin girls Polly and Esther just for the fun of seeing who got it?,</aside>  Furthermore, by asking whether they’re natural, you’re implying all sorts of things about fertility treatment.  Chiefly, that I had it.  And you’re expecting a response, which means that you feel somehow entitled to knowing whether or not my body was capable of producing children without medical intervention.  You want to know about my reproductive health.  I’m really not trying to be a prude here but, um, fuck off!  Whether I had fertility treatment or not is (A) none of your business and (B) irrelevant to the legitimacy of my pregnancy, not to mention that of the infants that it will eventually produce.

Better you than me!

You know what, given the trajectory of our conversation thus far, I think you’re absolutely right on that one.  😉

How are you going to afford it?

I don’t know, but thanks for reminding me of the fact that we are financially, uh, what’s the word?  Oh, yes…fucked.  Would you like a link to send a gift to my Paypal account?

Are you going to breast feed?  Won’t it be hard with two?

Okay, clearly you’re some kind of pervert or voyeur or something because you’re showing just way too much interest in what’s been in my uterus and what may or may not be coming out of my nipples.  Please back off.  You are giving me weird vibes.  If you see a mother with a single child around, say, the age of three in her shopping cart would you stop her and ask whether she breast fed that child?  You probably would because you’re clearly some kind of grocery shop creeper.  Seriously?  I feel violated just due to the content of our brief conversation.  And as far as the difficulty of breast feeding two babies, I’m sure you’re the type of person who, when asked by a child why god gave women two breasts, would argue that it’s so that she can nurse two babies whilst knitting a sweater with her toes and thinking hard about ways to make her husband feel even more superior.  That tight-ass bun on top of your head and your flesh-colored shoes say it all, lady.

Now, I realize that I’m being a little Angela here.  I really don’t care if other people want to talk about lactating all day long, every day, just meandering through the aisles talking about their colostrum and the color of the nipples.  That’s fine.  I’m totally on board for you being allowed to do that.  Go forth, and discuss your milky breasts.  But I come from a strict German family where the topics of what enters or leaves our bodies was strictly off limits.  It makes me uncomfortable, discussing things like this with my own mother.  Let alone you, who are a stranger.  Rest assured that my children will receive all of the nutrients they need from some source or another.  You need not check up on them.  If they are malnourished I’m sure that a doctor will let me know.  But as to revealing the source…no.  Just no.

Was it planned?

You have got to be kidding me.  In what universe are these questions appropriate ever?  In what universe does the fact that I’m pregnant give you some kind of social hall pass to just dig around in my personal life like a gopher in my fucking flower beds?  Know what my husband does with gophers who fuck with my flowers?  I’ll bet you can guess.  Now, there are two ways I can answer this question, and I can tell you that there four responses that my answers will get me.  Because all these people have are responses.  Nothing ever seems to shut them up.

1. “Yes, it was planned.”

The first response to this will be a sigh of relief, usually accompanied by a tossing back of the head, a hand placed stolidly over the heart, or some other outward sign of exasperated approval.  At least, these people will assure me, I’m prepared for it.  Um…I know you’ve never taken a Philosophy class but really?  Planning to have children necessarily prepares one for their arrival?  I know that in another nine months it’s going to be snowing outside and cold as a witch’s tit.  Does that make me immune to the shock of walking outside into it?  Yeah.  No.

The other response is a disapproving shake of the head and the admonition that, “I don’t understand why anyone would want to bring a child into a world where children are starving in Africa/the Middle East is in such an uproar/we have a black president, hyuk hyuk hyuk.”  Do I really need to waste a paragraph even dignifying these people with my response or will a cyber WTF face do?  =/

2. “No.”

For the love of all that is holy, don’t ever tell anyone – particularly an American rural woman over the age of forty – that you’re pregnant unexpectedly without planning to spend at least a half hour listening to her insist that you are irresponsible and deserve to starve in the street with your illegitimate litter.  They love the phrase, “all it takes is a little pill every day.”  Unless they’ve signed up as abstinence evangelists with their tight-ass pastors.  In that case you may as well just hand over your human dignity before they even get started and save yourself the discomfort of standing there listening to their hateful tirade as your ankles swell to hocks.

The other response is a pitying nod.  “Well, you’ll make the best of it.”  Yes.  Although I can’t seem to drag myself out of the pit of despair into which this pregnancy has thrown me, I will martyr myself for my children and I’ll muddle through somehow, until I finally send them out into the world and insist in nasty and persistent phone calls that they “do better than I did.”  When’s the last time your kid came home from college to visit, Mother Theresa?

You’re going to have your hands full/You’re never going to get any sleep.

You’re right.  I am/I’m not.  Would you like to accompany me to the checkout, where you can peer over my shoulder at the balance of my checkbook and make obvious and discouraging comments about how I’m probably going to wind up living in a box behind the grocery store before it’s all over with?

Who in your family had twins?

See, people love asking this because everyone has heard somewhere that twins tend to be genetic but they can never remember on which side of the family they tend to run or exactly how the whole thing works.  But they think it makes them look smart, asking it like this, because then I have to assume that they know something about genetics.  What they don’t realize is that (A) everyone knows that twins are genetic, just like you, and (B) also just like you, no one actually knows anything about how genetics works.  What people also don’t know about is my family history.  I have one great aunt on my mother’s side who had triplets and all three of them died.  Now, I didn’t know any of the triplets and I didn’t even know this aunt that well, so I don’t feel particularly close to them or their tragic story.  There are also twins on my father’s side that go back a lot of generations.  Know what used to happen to twins and other higher order multiples back in the day?  They died.  A lot.  So when people start pressing not just for my own reproductive medical information, but for that of my distant relatives, I just start talking about how Great Aunt Wilma (not really her name) had triplets that died or how Grand Dame Judy Blatch dropped a litter on the side of the road in Jersey City as soon as they stepped off the boat and that one of them is the real Jersey Devil and how the other eight had facial deformities and wound up in a side show.  This usually sends the snoopy stranger on an apparently very crucial quest for whatever is located at the opposite corner of the store.


There is always, always an Octomom comment.  First of all, I am not, nor have I ever, attempted to look, or wanted to do anything resembling attempting to look, like Skeletor Angelina Jolie.  Secondly, I am having two.  I am not having eight to add to the six that I already can’t afford.  Actually, after I deliver these two, I’ve got a little two for one deal going on where I’m getting my tubes tied the moment they vacate my abdomen so that I never, ever become like Octomom.  However, were I to find myself with eight little fetuses instead of two, would you be the type of uninformed twat who would condemn me for having six or seven of them selectively terminated?  Because the Octomom had that option and chose not to.  See, she did what she did, at least in part, because she bought into the twisted black-and-white inflexible thinking that abortion is always wrong no matter what, in every circumstance.  So before you go judging her for what she did, make sure you’re not judging her for what she didn’t do at the same time.

And you just lost all that weight!  =(

This generally comes from people who know me and are aware of the fact that I lost nearly one hundred pounds over the past two years or so.  I just ignore them.  They are people I speak to regularly, so they have passed the imbecile test.  Passing said test does not necessarily mean that they don’t say and do imbecilic things every now and then.  It just means that I find enough value in them as people that I am willing to overlook their occasional imbecilic behavior and comments.  It’s so much fun, though, to not say anything and watch them backpedal frantically, trying to let me know that they don’t think I’m fat and that they’d love me even if I were fat.

You should get a reality show.

First of all, it is my fervent belief that no one should get a reality show.  Ever.  For any reason whatsoever.  No one’s life is that interesting.  But if anyone’s were, it would be Octomom.  Not me.

Okay.  My back is hurting and I’m pretty sure that Juniper is kneeing me in the ribs because I’m working past lunch time.  There are more comments.  There are always more comments.  But these are some of the most common and the first to come to mind, so I’m sharing them.  And now I’m going to feed.

A Warning

“Dear” Mike’s Cat:

Please be advised that up to this point I have been exceedingly forgiving of your poor attitude and refusal to be a player on Team Geer.  It is now four o’clock in the morning and, although you have let me sleep an extra two hours this morning, I feel compelled to inform you that my position on the Humane Society is rapidly swinging to a dangerous end of the spectrum.  What once sounded cruel and heartless is now sownding more and more like the appropriate response to your terroristic behavior.

Please allow me to explain something to you:  I sleep poorly to begin with.  I have a beach ball strapped to my abdomen.  I am a stomach sleeper.  It is not fun to wake up realizing that I’ve rolled onto my beach ball and that the human beings inside my beach ball are probably being deprived of oxygen.  Therefore, when I happen to have a good night, and find myself still dreaming at two, three, or four in the morning, I would like it to stay that way.  I would not like to wake up to the sound of your deep-throated howling.

At what could you possibly feel frustrated?  The dynamics of my entire househould were thrown into upheval the moment you entered.  Everything, everything, in this house revolves around you, oh feline queen of all that is dramatic.  Verily, verily, you are without a doubt, the most blatant example of everything about a cat that makes people not like cats.  You are the reason that I – who love cats dearly – can understand why some people don’t.

You scratch my walls.  You scratch my couch.  You scratch my cats.  The only things you don’t scratch are me and my husband which, it is my belief, is true only due to the fact that you are just smart enough to realize that, were you to scratch one of the bipedal creatures you consider your staff, you would find yourself (to borrow and adapt a phrase from one of the greatest skits of all time) in a burlap sack down by the river.

You refuse to allow any of the other cats in the house, who all got along reasonably well before your arrival, near you.  You sit behind the futon in the living room or in front of the mirror in the dining room, dolling out the stink eye as if you are somehow better than everyone else.  You have an attitude about you that reeks of condescension.  Were you human, you would take the form of an emo teenager.  You would probably cut yourself superficially, not due to a legitimate psychological issue with which I would be able to empathize, but due to your own patholocial narcissism, which would merely annoy me.

We are about to have twin human babies in this house.  I would like them to eventually sleep through the night.  In order to do that, they will need you to cease this outrageous rending of the peace and quiet of the household.  I have hitherto been, in my opinion, exceedingly forgiving of the many faults I find in your personality – even with new and greater faults emerging almost daily.  My patience and forgiveness were tested most recently, almost to their breaking point, three weeks ago when you ate an entire tray full of vegetable seedlings, I can only assume, as an act of willful defiance.  A statement that you have no regard for the rules of good behavior that ought to dictate the behavior of even the most antisocial feline.  Believe me when I say that I understand feline personality, and I embrace it.  Sometimes I wish I could emulate the casual aloofness that your kind is so well known for and exemplify it in my own lifestyle.  But you, Cat, are proving unmanageable.

Surely you must know that when humans lose too much sleep they tend to become cranky.  You must also be aware, regardless of the fact that you act foolish, that our possession of opposable thumbs puts us at a distinct advantage over you.  Were you to have evolved with an ability to manipulate your surroundings sufficiently it might be us renting rooms from you.  Sadly for you, this is not the case.  My soft heart is calcifying daily, and at a more and more rapid speed.  You are in dangerous territory and I feel compelled to warn you what awaits if you persist in this truly senseless behavior.

Instead of lounging in front of a wall heater, striking fear into my walls, couch, and other cats, you may find yourself crouched at the door of a steel cage with your litterbox located only inches from your food bowl.  Instead of striking fear into the hearts of the other cats that surround you – now crowded around you rather than hovering nervously a few feet away – you will be the object of all of their hatred, both righteous and displaced.  You will still howl nightly, but rather than being greeted by your father or myself coming down the stairs to placate you, you will find yourself howling yourself hoarse until morning, when someone will come to feed you kibble that is far, far below the standard you’ve come to expect.  And no one – please believe me when I say this – no one is going to adopt you.  Ever.

I urge you to modify your behavior to bring yourself within the scope of acceptability.  I can only take so much.


The Woman Who’s Running This Show

Author’s Note:  This really needs some heavy editing, but I felt compelled to publicly declare the conflict and then attempt more rest.  Line edits will come later.

B&E Queen

I learned how to break into front doors in college.  I’m very irresponsible with keys.  My mom will tell you.  She told every one of my college roommates before she even introduced herself.  “Hi, you must be (insert name of psychotic college roommate of choice).  Stacey is very irresponsible with keys.  Oh, I’m her mom.  Nice to meet you.”

So the skill came in handy when I needed to break back into my dorm room after a shower, say, or when I’d left my bag of pot books inside.  I’d like to make it clear right now that I’ve never, ever used this skill for nefarious or otherwise illicit reasons.  It’s only ever been used to break into my own residence – or the residence of someone who explicitly asked me to do it for them in a pinch – in an attempt to retrieve my (their) own things, or just to sit the eff down because I’m eight months pregnant and it’s god damned cold outside.

It’s never taken me more than ten minutes before.  So to the following useless tools of B&E I’d like to say “blow me:”

  • Stems of plastic flower arrangement
  • Wires inside stems of plastic flower arrangement
  • Various thicknesses of cardboard
  • Zip tie
  • Wreath hanger
  • Shingle that blew off my roof
  • Piece of extra thick sandpaper
  • Errant chunk of siding
  • Kid who sent my husband a box of Hot Wheels with postage fucking due, necessitating my leaving the house to go settle up with the mail carrier in the first place.  You, sir, are the biggest tool of all!

Also, to the lid of the pint of strawberries in the garbage beside my door:  Bless your clear little plastic heart.  You may be the bane of the environmental movement, but you will forever be special to me.  =)


I am finally, finally done with the painting project in the nursery.  Did I mention finally?  Because I’m finally done.  I always have these grand ideas and then about halfway through bringing them to fruition I realize that I have commitment issues.  And then I wind up with half a project painted on my wall and zero motivation to finish.  In order to complete this one, I realized, I needed to work on it in the mornings and evenings.  My husband’s man cave, where he spends his mornings before work and his evenings before bed, is in the back part of the nursery.  The poor bastard got no alone time because I could only work on it when he was there to keep me company.  Otherwise I just got mega bored.

But I did finally finish and the project taught me a few things about life.  They are:

1)  Perfection is a myth.  It is also irrelevant.

There are flaws all over the place in that project.  Where it says “You is kind?”  Yeah, I had to literally reprime and repaint the swirls and stars yellow and start them over from scratch.  The wall is still shiny where I made the mistake, from the non-uniform extra coat.  But only I know it.  And if I don’t point it out to everyone who walks in the room, it’s going to stay that way.  Where it says “You is smart?”  Little tiny pencil marks everywhere that had to be covered up with yet another coat of yellow wall paint.  And guess what?  Even the camera couldn’t tell.  You can see, where it says “You is important,” that I messed up some of the lettering.  Also, “You is smart” is a lot thinner than the rest of the lettering.  Also, I wound up putting the swirls in the exact same position on “You is kind” as I did on “You is important.”  And when I sit in the chair on the other side of the room and drink my morning coffee and deny my husband his alone time I don’t even care because, taken together, the whole thing looks so cool.  The fact is that no one could have painted that project any better than I did.  The point is not that it’s perfect.  The point is that I invested my time in it.  It taught me how to slow down and relax rather than rush for the finish line.  And every time I look at it I can be proud of it, instead of just admiring it.  And that’s why I love it.

2)  It’s easier if you’re enjoying it.  So if you’re not, take a break and come back later.

Did it feel good to have my changing table pulled into the middle of the room and a mess of random paintbrushes, paints, paper stencils and pencils scattered about the room?  No.  It irritated the piss out of me.  But I learned with the first rushed brush stroke that this was not a project I was going to be able to finish quickly.  It was going to take layers and layers of patient strokes.  It was going to take a couple of weeks, given the amount of time I can reasonably stand in one spot before my feet just explode.  And every time I got angry at the project I started to dislike everything about it.  I began to think about just giving up and painting yellow over everything and just saying to hell with the entire thing.  So I’d drop my brush and growl at the ceiling and then look back at the penciled on design and I loved it.  I loved the design. The thought of a plain yellow wall in its place, particularly a plain yellow wall underneath which was such a cool design, made me sad.  So I’d drop everything, clean out my brushes, cap my paints and give it up.  Sometimes for the entire day.  That’s why it took me two weeks to finish.  But when I finished it this morning I had no hard feelings toward it.  What’s more, it became easier to stay in the lines with the lettering and the filling in of the stars.  The less I stressed out about it the more enjoyable it became.  And sometimes the only way to stop stressing about it was just to walk away from it altogether.

3)  Everything looks better from a few steps away.

Now, I did edit the full photo that I’m sharing on here, but only because I was trying to get the colors to come more true, and also because I liked the softened, vignette look.  But it’s true.  You can see the flaws in the lettering and line work in each of the close up photos.  In the faraway one, the lettering matches the book cover flawlessly and the whole thing looks, in my opinion, pretty damn cool.  Sometimes, in order to see things better we just need to be a little farther away from them.

4)  Even the most heinous mistake can be fixed if you take the time to fix it.

I was originally using paint pens to color the initial stencil design.  Yeah.  Bad idea.  The colors were jacked and watery.  There was no way I’d be able to trace the scrollwork, even with the finest tip of the pen.  While it would have been quicker and easier with a super fine tipped paint pen than with a flimsy craft brush and some cheap paint, it wound up looking one million times better when I accepted the idea of using the flimsy brush and investing the time, rather than investing money and buying the pens.  I got through the lettering on “You is kind,” one star, and one line of scrollwork before I realized that this was shaping up to be a royal disaster.  I put the cap on the paint pen and panicked.  I left the room, came back.  Nope.  Still looked like complete shit.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, the color I’d originally picked for the filigree and stars?  Black.  Yep.  A yellow wall scarred with all-wrong black paint pen marks.  Life seemed pretty hopeless in that moment.  And then I realized that we had leftover yellow paint and my stepfather is a contractor.  My basement is thus filled with a cornucopia of high-hide primers that are designed for just such occasions.  Also, hiding pen marks on a wall?  I’m about to have twins.  I’d better get good at that.  It cost me the entire first day of painting – you know:  The day you actually feel motivated to work on the project?  Yeah.  All that first day motivation had been trampled.  But I discovered that it’d been replaced with a much slower burning motivation to finish well rather than the motivation to finish fast.

5)  It’s actually pretty cool, if you accept its flaws.

Back to the beginning.  If you’re looking at a project – or your life – through a high powered microscope of scrutiny, you need to stop.  Step away from it.  Just back up a few steps.  Four did the trick for me.  Four steps back and a blink of the eye and I realized that what had looked hopelessly slathered before was, actually, pretty damn amazing.  My impatient ass had managed to create exactly what my brain had dreamed up.  Even with the flaws, the colors outside the lines, the shaky scrollwork and the too-dark stars, I’d managed to make something that, when viewed fairly, as anyone aside from myself might view it, was so damn cool I couldn’t believe I’d created it!  Be fair when you’re judging your work.  Take your inner critic over your knee, give her a spanking (not like that, you naughty bastard), and send her to her room for a while.  She’s being a bitch.

An Ex-Pothead’s Letter to her Younger Self

I’m ripping off this writing prompt.

Dear Twenty-Year-Old Stacey,

Put down the pipe.  Step away from the buds.  You look…like an ass hat.  Some people are capable of smoking a little weed every now and then and still managing the requirements of life.  You are not.

In a few months you’re going to get busted for having a pipe in your car.  You’re going to spend thirty days in jail.  You’re going to fail out of school and have a gigantic loan to pay off.

You are not responsible for anything that’s going on at home.  You moved an hour and a half away so that you wouldn’t have to watch certain people crash and burn.  So stop worrying about them.  It should be the other way around.  Don’t go home every weekend.  Stay at school.  Read.  Study.  Do the work you’re capable of doing.  Don’t major in Psychology.  Take a few classes, if you want.  You like the theory classes.  But you don’t want to practice and you know it.  Start writing.  Keep writing.  You can’t write when you’re stoned and all those fabulous ideas you have when you are stoned?  Yeah.  They suck.

Know what else sucks?  Most of the people that you’re hanging around with.  They’re not bad people, in general, but they’re bad for you and the reason you feel like you don’t fit in with them is because you don’t.  Don’t be so afraid of being a loser.  The losers are actually pretty cool.  You should have learned this already.  I shouldn’t have to sound like an after school special.  You should have watched enough after school specials by now to know that all the cheese and corn that seeps from them is, in fact, essentially true.

You’re going to leave Edinboro with a lot more problems than you arrived with.  But you’re also going to leave with a really, really priceless friend.  So when she starts talking to you at the elevator on your floor and doesn’t shut up about the sorority she’s pledging until you both get to the Psych hall, let her talk.  Smile and nod.  Be polite.  She will convince you that not all women are incarnations of Satan.  She is going to be there for you when your boyfriend cheats on you.  She’s going to be there when your life starts to fall apart.  She’s going to be there when you get out of jail.

Eight years from now, when you get married, she’s going to be your maid of honor.  She’s going to have her son two months before you have your daughters.  And that brings us up to speed, but you can believe that she’s going to be there for every major life event for the rest of your life.  She’s going to be the one person that you don’t wind up on bad terms with.  Hopefully, there will be more of those people, but if there never are you can bet your ass there will be her.

Yeah.  Things do eventually look better.  Enjoy finishing your undergraduate degree.  But do it faster.  Don’t waste so much time.  You’re racking up bills that you and your husband are going to be paying off for what will feel like forever.  You’ll feel guilty over them.  You’ll wish you’d taken some time off between high school and college but, sad to say, if you hadn’t started smoking weed in high school you’d have blown through college on time if not early.

Then again, I can’t tell you where you’d be if things hadn’t happened the way they did.  You’d owe less money, that’s for sure.  But you may not have met your best friend.  You may not have married the first boy you ever dated after all those years wandering far from home.  You may not be having twins.  You certainly wouldn’t be the type of mom who can tell them from personal experience why they shouldn’t do the things you warn them not to do.  I know that right now you don’t think you want kids.  But if you’re really honest with yourself don’t you have to admit that you only think that because you’re afraid you’ll fail at motherhood the way you’re failing at everything else?

I have to say it again:  You’re failing because you’re hiding behind the pipe instead of trying to succeed.  As long as you’re that pothead that lives on the sixth floor you don’t have to be an industrious student.  You don’t have to be a competent adult.  You don’t have to be a whole person.  Quit being such a whiny little bitch.  Put down the pipe.  Fail for real, not just for lack of trying.

The Produce Section

Today, in the produce section, I was simultaneously praised for keeping my babies (although I never considered not keeping my babies) and verbally flogged for being different.  Yeah.  The produce section is hard fucking core.

I really want to share the story with you but first I need to set the stage.  My town.  My town is in Pennsylvania.  My town has a population of approximately 9,800.  We are above Pittsburgh, and the river that runs through my town meets another river in Pittsburgh to make the Ohio River.  My town is the seat of my county.  It is situated in the middle of a national forest.  My town is beautiful – starting just outside of town.  In town, however, there is an oil refinery, which is my next door neighbor.  My end of my town smells, depending on the temperature, weather, and day, like fish, rotten eggs, or the fires of Hell itself.  It’s really not that noticeable once you get used to it.  Just outside of my town is a dam.  The dam creates a lake.  Beneath the lake lies what used to be the Allegheny Reservation.  Six hundred members of the Seneca Tribe were forced to move from the land, onto which European Americans had forced them in the first place, by John F. Kennedy in 1961.  Also displaced by construction of the dam were two small villages and a hamlet.  These people were forced out of their homes so that the entire area could be flooded.  This happened six miles from my house.  The residents of my town are 98 percent white, according to the 2000 Census.  According to the same Census, the two largest age groups in my town are under 18 and 25 to 44.  Males tended to make a median income of 32,000 per year.  Women made a median income of 22,000.  The average family income was 41,000 per year.  That’s not a lot of money, folks, but it’s more than my family makes.  Also, keep in mind that nearly 11 percent of the population in 2000 was below the poverty line.

There are a few big names in town, and those names are attached to people with lots of money.  There are many, many dirty names in town.  Those names are attached to people with lots of arrests, drug problems or legacies of poverty.  If your name is famous in my town, either for money or lack thereof, it will influence how you are treated on a daily basis.  Everyone doesn’t know everyone in my town, but if everyone knows your name they’re going to assume they know you.  And if they know the rumors associated with you they’re going to assume they know the truth.

No one knows my name.  I like it that way.  Some people know some of my relatives’ names.  I try to keep anyone from finding out that we’re related.

The overall atmosphere of my town is one of thinly veiled xenophobia and conservatism.  People in my town are mainly white, mainly republican, mainly racist and mainly fans of silly things like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.  I speak not from blind judgment, but from experience.  I once brought a boyfriend home from college to celebrate a family event.  He was black.  I’m white.  As we walked into the hotel where we were staying, he received three separate threats – one of hanging, one of shooting and one of drowning.

So, stage set.  Let me give you a bit of character background.

I have tattoos.  They are visible.  My left lower arm, from the elbow down, is covered in tattoos.  My right arm has two on the back of my wrist.  My chest is covered.  None of my tattoos are suggestive, insulting, judgmental or otherwise untoward.  On my chest, above my heart, I wear a banner that says “Thanatos.”  On the other side of my collarbone I wear a banner that says “Eros.”  The rest of my artwork consists mainly of forties style birds, stars, nautical themes and some black shading.  I have my upper lip pierced with a small, clear diamond stud.  I wear black glasses.  My nails are clean.  My hair is clean.  I’m wearing a tee shirt, black 3/4 length sleeved sweater, and a pair of olive green canvas pants.  I smile at others.  I say “excuse me” and “thank you.”  I’m carrying a green reusable shopping bag.  I’m looking for a pint of strawberries that’s not turning black.

I’m approached by a woman with white curly hair.  I look over, say “hello.”  She gives me the once over and snorts.  She reaches in front of me and takes a pint of strawberries and starts to leave.  She turns around.

“How far along are you,” she asks, eyeballing my Sneetch belly.  I place my hand there.  She sees I’m not wearing a wedding ring.  Doesn’t realize that it’s only because my fingers are so swollen.  I tell her that I’m eight months.  “Well,” she says, rolling her cart to the other side of the produce rack and picking up a package of raisins, “at least you’re keeping it.”

“Them,” I say.  “I’m keeping them.”

“Twins?”  She touches her chest.  I hope she doesn’t have some sort of cardiac episode.  I really don’t need everyone looking at me as though I gave her some sort of bad mojo.  I nod.  “Lord have mercy,” she says.  My brows knit together.  It’s not intentional.  It’s just a natural reaction when I don’t understand the direction a conversation has taken.  “Hopefully you have a good family that can help you,” she says, shaking her head.

“I have lots of help,” I say.  I’m stunned.

She puts down a package of dried cranberries and looks right at me.  “You’re not going to be able to work,” she says.

“My husband works.”  Why am I telling her this?  Why do I feel the need to justify myself?  Why is my internal censor so incredibly functional?  There are so many things roiling in my head just clamoring to get out of my mouth that none of them can seem to find their footing.

“Oh you’re married,” she says, looking again at my naked ring finger.  I nod.  My brain screams at me, go look at peaches! Cereal!  You need milk!  Milk is at the other end of the store, for fuck’s sake!  Abort!  Abort!  Run!  I stand there.  My cheeks are hot.  “At least there’s that.”

And then she’s gone.  Just turns away and heads for the mushrooms, still shaking her head.  I finish my shopping and leave, suddenly aware again of the sideways glances and whispered remarks that I’d grown so accustomed to that I’d failed to notice for quite some time.  I notice, too, that the kid in front of me buying Mountain Dew and a bag of candy with his food stamp card isn’t of any interest to anyone.  I notice that the girl in bright pink pajama pants with a greasy ponytail, sores on her face, black teeth – a sign that she’s a skin picker when she’s smoking meth – draws no attention whatsoever.  I’m sad that I’ve become so used to being so blatantly judged that I stopped noticing it.  I’m sad, too, that it’s okay in this town to let oneself go, forfeiting any attempt at personal hygiene, but that having tattoos and a lip ring makes one a sideshow.

I’m sad that such a beautiful part of the country is plagued by such an ugly little town.