I am truly not trying to pull a pity card when I say this: I never thought that I would get married.
I dated a lot in high school, and I suppose I dated a lot in college, too, although by then I was pretty burnt out on boys and just really liked to party and read good books, write not-so-good poetry, and sing karaoke. Sometimes, when I am particularly pleased with him, I will tell Mitch that he is everything that I was ever looking for. And he always rolls his eyes and replies, “Whatever. You weren’t even looking.” And he’s totally right.
Mitch met me at a very interesting point in my life. I had just come out of a pretty long and dramatic relationship with a guy who ended up marrying THE OTHER WOMAN, which, I mean, I suppose is fair because in reality, I was the other woman. I just like to pretend that I was the one who got spurned, for one because I was heart broken, but also because it is a lot more classy. But all that drama aside, in the end, by the time Mitch came along, I really just enjoyed being single. I really liked hanging out with myself. Never get bored, never get lonely. I never had a problem going to movies on my own, going out to eat alone– although I vastly preferred picking something up and renting a movie that I could watch while snuggled into my pillows on my vastly over-sized bed. I have been told that I’m a flirt, and I think that I enjoyed flirting, but for the most part what I really enjoyed was forgetting that most relationships between the opposite sex were supposed to have some kind of a sexual drive behind them. The first time Mitch spent the night at my house, I asked him to wait in the hall while I ran in and moved all the books off the side of my bed, and even so, when he got into bed there was a Spanish Dictionary and a volume of Lorca poetry under the pillow that I’d forgotten about. Sometimes when we first started dating he would complain about something– like dishes in the sink or the fact that I did not own a vacuum. These are things that would have sent me into a complicated and near comatose condition for a few days ordinarily, but at that point in my life, I was so done trying to impress men that I just shrugged at him and told him that if he was so worried about it, he could buy me a vacuum and wash my dishes. And he did, and still does sometimes (be jealous if you want. I probably would be, too). But here is the thing… as in, the point I am awkwardly circling today– I enjoyed being a single adult. I loved having my own apartment, I loved coming home to an empty house, I loved not fighting about plans that night and not having to get to know all of Mr. Flavor-Of-The-Moments friends and family, because sometimes I ended up thinking his friends were way cooler than him, and in general I don’t really like meeting new people anyway. I loved my beautiful, simple, unattached adult life.
Being a single teenager seemed like the closest thing to Hell imaginable. I blame the media (one drunken night freshmen year of college I watched way too much TBS and started blaming Dawson’s Creek for everything wrong in my life). I clearly remember in 9th grade when it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have to just go out with every guy who asked me, I could pick and choose which guys I actually wanted to spend time with. But I was a sophomore in college before I realized that not only could I pick and choose who to spend time with, I could also choose NOT to go out with anyone.
Mitch and I are now coming to the end of Baby Watch 2010 and entering a very short time period called “Advent Baby,” and one of these days you will check on my blog, in frustration, banging your coffee cup on your coffee table wondering why I haven’t updated. And then in a few days, I will probably climb out of my haze of sleep deprivation, leaky boobs, and a sore uterus long enough to type something with zero wit and poor sentence structure that basically says,
“Am a mom. She is beautiful.”
When we found out we were pregnant, everyone thought it was a boy. Myself included. Even my mom, who is sometimes a psychic. The four of us (Mitch, my mom, myself, and my huge uterus) trooped into the ultrasound at 24 weeks and all of us predicted that I was carrying a little David Michael or Vaclav Steven, depending on which of us you’d ask, and then she put the wand on me and said, “Well… those right there?” And we all craned our necks and I could have sworn she about to point to my child’s face, and instead she said, “That’s labia.”
I looked straight to my husband, who had all ready expressed his complete and utter fear of girls, and realized that he didn’t know what labia was. In fact, he probably was waiting for someone to say, “Oh no. LABIA. That is very, very bad news.”
My mom gasped, and I breathed, “Girl.” At around the same time that the tech said, “You’ll be having a baby girl!” And I started crying like a baby (well… not really like a baby. It was more like I was crying like a Mother). And of course I was excited– I come from a family of three girls and one very fierce mom, a feminist Dad and feminist brother, and consider myself to be a pretty strong woman who knows lots of other very strong women and I was all ready making plans for pink and black tutus and rock n roll themed birthday parties, and telling her that if she wanted to learn how to box, that was absolutely fine with me….
I’ll admit that I don’t know what it’s like to be a boy, having never been one myself. I have had enough friendships with boys, and know enough about child psychology, to know that we ALL went through that same awkward, terrible period that some people call ADOLESCENCE– even the word sounds ominous– and that boys often times felt just as rejected, just as alone, just as pressured as girls. But I can only speak from my experience as a girl, because that’s all I know.
Dude, let me tell you. Being a teenage girl really, really blows.
A few years ago, my friend Melissa and I decided that we were going to reclaim our youth. This ended up meaning that we spent a summer drinking a lot, passing out in weird places– at one point we burned things that our ex-boyfriends had given us– we danced on tables a lot and made the men around us feel very, very uncomfortable. It was a fantastic summer. But the thing is– neither of us did that when we were young. If I were going to honestly ‘reclaim my youth’ it would involve a lot of being interested in guys who ended up trying to date my friends, crying myself to sleep, and wondering what was so wrong with me. And, although she has never really said this to me, I think that Melissa’s youth involved a lot of turning down skeezy guys that she didn’t want to date, or trying to find the least skeezy of them all to date for awhile, until we could graduate and move out of the world’s most repressed Midwestern town and discover that there was a whole wide world out there, and some of those boys WEREN’T skeezy guys, they were MEN.
I was that girl that was always on the Friend List. That drove me crazy, as it does everyone else who has ever been deemed ‘The Best Friend’ but never ‘The Girlfriend.’ More like a Wingman than a Prom Date. I spent at least three years of high school totally in love with one guy who was constantly asking me to hook him up with my friends, and ended up kind of dating a circle around me (including a few month period where I swear he was interested in my sister). As if I had a sign on my head that said ONE HUNDRED PERCENT UNDESIRABLE, HAS NO FEELINGS, BASICALLY JUST A DOORMAT.
I am grateful everyday that I got to a place with myself in my early twenties when I could care less about dating. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I went through a completely blissful period where I was pretty heartless when it came to men, and was very clear that I was enjoying myself and having a good time. I think I even told one guy that I wasn’t looking for anything serious; that I preferred a more ‘organic’ connection. For awhile, I supposed I was pretty skeezy. I had times when I was not very proud of myself, but WAY WAY WAY more times when I was incredibly proud of myself. I never once had a moment of feeling like I COULDN’T get a boyfriend if I wanted one, and I never had a moment where I felt like I NEEDED to be part of a set. It was the first time in my life that I was completely centered on being myself and moving towards my own goals. It was incredibly empowering. And incredibly freeing.
At this point, most of my maternal fears are centered around my daughter being healthy when she is born. But as the day gets closer, I find myself more and more thinking about how awful growing up was, and how much I wish I could instill in her a little more of the attitude I had in college. I don’t ever want my daughter having a perfectly Molly Ringwald inspired moment, sitting in front of her mirror crying because she thinks she isn’t pretty. I don’t ever want my daughter to have to have a conversation with her Prom Date about how he’d much rather take her best friend, and she lets him and smiles and says that it’s totally okay, without at least pitching a monumental fit involving the words, “Oh NO, you go right ahead and go with her, because I have BETTER things to do, and YOU, sir, are CRAMPING MY STYLE!”
One of my most precious memories came in my sophomore year of high school. I’d been asked to Prom– which of course was such a big deal– and then my date stood me up. The pictures from that day are so sad it’s comical. Here’s me, getting my dress on, getting my hair done, waiting at the door….. waiting…. waiting….. and then changing into my pajamas. My Dad kind of lost it a little– which is kind of shocking, if you know my Dad. As far as I know, he couldn’t care less about Prom. In fact, I’m pretty sure that by the time I was a teenager, my Dad was pretty sick of the whole teenage girl scene. No one hates drama as much as my Dad. But when I went and put on my pajamas, he went a little crazy. He made me put my dress back on, re-apply my make up, and kind of forced me into the van and drove me there himself. He walked me to the door and told the attendants my name and that I was coming in. “Is her date here?” The guy asked (because at my high school, sophomores had to be accompanied by their junior or senior date in order to attend Prom. Fascists).
“Nope.” My Dad said, glaring at the football coach and taking me by the elbow to walk me to the door. One hundred percent my total hero. “But she’s going in. Have a good time, honey!”
It’s unavoidable, I know. No one gets through ADOLESCENCE without feeling like they are dying of a terminal case of the Lonelies. The best that I can do is let her know that when she sets sail on the Sea of Crazy that is puberty, her Dad and I are there to hold her compass, chart her progress, and tell her everything we know about the dangers of the sea and her intended destination– and keep whispering into her hair at night that we promise, promise, promise– IT GETS SO SO SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS.