Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Precious

I'm have a fake engagement ring.

It's huge. It's pink. It's sparkly and takes up half of my finger. If don't even think the stone is as upscale as a cubic zirconia - more like an accidentally well-shaped bubble of plastic that was left out in the heat. 

If it were a diamond, it would probably cost more than this city will make in bridge tolls this year, so some could say I'm setting myself up for perpetual disappointment. What man could afford such a ring, if hypothetically, one were to ever love me past the honeymoon phase? Certainly not the type I'm attracted to. Surely, no men boasting heavy Queens accent and two full sleeves of tattoos are working as Wall Street traders these days. But I wear it nonetheless. 

Oh, not in public. No, only at night. At home. Alone. In bed. 

I bought it years ago when I was working for a event producer and needed to scope out a competitor venue under the guise of a bride excited about her upcoming wedding. While the ruse lasted 5 minutes, the ring lived on. I couldn't part with the reassuring feeling of it gently grazing my knuckle. 

What is it about this ring - or me - that makes me want to be engaged? Because the idea of being married doesn't call to me at all. AT. ALL. At all. Just hearing the word "marriage" makes me want to flail my limbs to prove I'm not trapped.

So what's in that ring?

Is it the attention that I'd garner at work and at parties for at least 8 months? Is it the idea that someone loves me enough to show the world using my favorite symbol, jewelry?  

Or could it be that there's a 3 carat hole in my self-esteem reminding me I need the approval of a man to feel worthy?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

21st Century Beat

Beat. Like beat down. Like finished. How could we have known then that we would take on this forgotten jacket, this blanket of fleas? Safe in our dorm worlds, fingerfucking teenagers, full of piss and beer and bad ideas. Still a promised future… Still a meaning to our past. How could we have known?

Not even a birthright, merely a breath, a laugh, a half-smile. We perfect, golden assholes, marched down the brick paths of University, bright eyes fixed on our predestined glory… Unaware of grandfather’s taxman lurking, lowering his zipper, beckoning a decade-long suck. Allen and Jack and Neal waiting, midnight, Regents Park, downstairs with the pizza boy, waiting to give us this dreadful typewriter.

All the while the bottom- feeding whores of Wall and Madison sucked and fucked our tomorrows just short of dead, only to inflate and drain again. The first time it was all a game of nothing. Later it was home. They’ll kill us all before they leave us alone.

When did you find out you were beat? Did it hurt like the names they called you in the halls, or the first time you broke? There’s no romance in defeat. I don’t think we’ll fuck our way out of this.

How do you take your poison, baby? Do you take it up your hole, or down your soul, or burning bright inside that bowl? Do you steal? Do you feel? How the fuck would you even know? We’re all criminals, sweetheart. Even you. Its alright. I’d kill a hundred just to sleep through one clench-jawed night.

I’ve seen you alone in the clubs, the bars, loud music and sweat replacing conversation. But the longing, oh the longing to disappear into essence in the dark as that song wails and those pills you took take you over. I’ve been standing by, watching through my own tears, hoping you would look at me. I can’t see myself, not without seeing the ghosts of the fathers I’ve murdered, blurred in this dusty mirror.

Fuck me and make me forget my name, my sins, my waste… I did what I did and I am what I am and I’m not afraid, not anymore. Powerless and adrift… I am beat. Nothing to do but celebrate my trespasses, my loves, my crimes. I own them all and you can kiss my beat ass all the way from Bronx to Battery. I’ll sell these sins to feed my son. I'll fly through these Southern streets at night, a carpetbagger on 3 wheels, the young and rich on my back.

Closest to my soul, you know we’re beat, baby. Howling On The Road to oblivion. Underachievers. Beautiful dreamers too delicate for the ride. Too smart for the game. Too beautiful to live like whores. Reach under your dress and give me back my Japanese pistol. I’ll show you what my bullets feel like when they get inside. We’ll show them all.

Mother, Unprepared

Getting pregnant isn’t as easy as every Teen Mom episode would lead you to believe. At least, it wasn’t for me. My husband Andy and I had to work pretty hard at it. Unlike my younger sister, who got pregnant more by positive thinking than by actual boning.

After nine months of basal body temperatures and ovulation predictor kits, I had developed a more intimate relationship with my cervix than my husband did. When that test finally read positive, I vowed to enjoy every second, because this was what we wanted. This is what we had timed, unromantic sex for.

I read What to Expect When You're Expecting and prepared myself for the bloated, nauseous snowman I would and did become. I didn’t complain when I spent more of my lunch hour vomiting than eating. I pretended not to notice the look of recognition followed by pity by the cashier at Little Casesar’s as Crazy Bread was the only thing I could stomach the entire first trimester. I prepared myself for the sleepless nights and baby poo fountains. I was ready to be a Mom.

I knew becoming a Mom would be rewarding. My breasts finally had a purpose; my lifelong tardiness finally had a reason. And, thanks to my son's sprint from the womb, I finally knew what it felt like to be ripped in half…and then set on fire. This wasn’t the hypnobirthing, lavender-scented marathon of a labor I had prepared for. (My nephew had been born after twelve long hours and that was considered a fast first labor. Shouldn’t I, at least, have had time to shower and pluck my eyebrows? Paparazzi, you know.)

Only the fear of starring in next week’s episode of I Had My Baby In The Crapper pushed me out of the door and in the direction of the hospital. Seven minutes, multiple contractions and a prayer reminiscent of the first time I got drunk made up the most agonizing car ride of my life. The nurses later told us they knew shit was about to go down when my wheelchair, pushed by my frantic hubby, rounded the corner on two wheels. Or maybe it was my raspy and breathless screams for an epidural that tipped them off.

We had lived in North Carolina for years without uttering a single “y’all” so when Andy’s counting fell into the Southern drawl of the head nurse, I mustered all the composure possible of a person on the verge of being split in half to tell him “You are from New York. The number is ten, not tin!” before another contraction left me begging the nurse to make it stop. Please, dear God, just make it stop!

After only five hours of labor, with no time for pain medication, and my son David being squeezed out of his human tube of toothpaste of a mother, the mixture of relief, awe and exhaustion crippled me. I could barely muster a smile when Andy responded to the doctor’s observation of how quick the next labor would be with “Uh uh, we’re just friends from now on. A sturdy handshake before bed will do us just fine.” I did, however, find the energy to laugh when Andy joked “Hey, Dr. T., you stitched in your initials!”

There are some things that no book, blog, or been there, done that parent can prepare you for. I fought murderous rage towards the nurse on our first pediatrician’s trip. She measured and handled him like he was just another child. Didn’t she know that this baby, with the most adorable pouty lips and button nose, was the most beautiful thing to ever tear out of a vagina? Have some respect.

I resisted my primal urge to rip my precious angel from the arms of this devil woman who dare make him howl by sticking his heel to check his billirubin level. I answered her millions of questions as best I could on so little sleep. “How old is he?” was met with “Four days” when I could’ve sworn that my bowlegged, gunslinger gait was an obvious recent-birthing badge of courage.

Even as my new rock hard, porn star breasts left two wet, growing circles on my chest, the nurse placed a Carnation Good Start Formula container in front of me. “Pardon me but what part of lactating in front of you would lead you to believe I wanted to give my baby formula? Now, please, get back in bed with whatever formula-selling Carnation representative gifted you this lovely starter pack.”

I didn’t expect to transform into a guard dog so instantly. If my son breathed too loudly or too quietly, I heard him. If he even thought about pooping, I was ready, diaper in hand and fear of bodily fluids tossed aside. One tiny whimper of hunger and my tits were out with a speed that rivaled Ricky Bobby.

I didn’t expect my newly acquired Mommy sense to tingle and tell me to scoop David up just in time for his vomit to fill the hood of my sweatshirt. Even more impressive is how I managed to disrobe and comfort him without a drop hitting the floor. Hearing “Nicely done, Mommy” from Andy was my parenting equivalent of a winning lottery ticket. The hoodie was washed and is now worn with pride.

I wasn't prepared for my inability to watch an episode of Law & Order:SVU for three months because the description began with "Baby found..." Thankfully, the baby led detectives to the serial-inseminating John Stamos. Such a relief, now I can sleep soundly.

I wasn't prepared for a new daily compulsion to mop the floors to be paired with a complete lack of respect for the bathtub until the mildew started spelling out requests a la Charlotte's Web. Did every grilled cheese and peanut butter sandwich have to fall sticky side down? And I never noticed just how much my cats shed. Shouldn’t they be bald by now?

I wasn't prepared for the defeat I felt when my son would only accept a dinner of applesauce and animal crackers. I wasn’t prepared for the constant comparisons and competitions that motherhood brought, and the unbelievable insecurity that you might not be doing everything imaginable for your child.

And nothing could have prepared me for the inescapable urge to kiss every available inch of skin on my baby boy, to find myself swooning in his presence, to hang on every word or grunt or peep that comes from his tiny mouth, to find myself instructing “More” when he kisses me then “Just one more” after that, or to miss him when he was just beyond that nursery wall. I remember asking my sister what it felt like, what it would be like and her failure to explain, insisting she could never do it justice. And she was right, it is indescribable and not something you can ever truly prepare for.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Human Accordion

I find it remarkable that others maintain their figure responsibly. They inconspicuously stay within five pounds of a normal weight, as if they committed as babies not to disrupt the progressive, natural process of life.  They live steadily at one size all the way through their thirties, slightly plump up around midlife, then shrivel. 

Cut to a still of my wardrobe, ranging in size from 4 to 18.

I was skinny as a child; a redheaded, gangly arrangement of bones. I lived in emaciated indifference until seventh grade, when I simultaneously found the need for a bra, braces and glasses. With a face full of hardware and an atypically mature body, my self-esteem plummeted. 

An addict from birth, I abandoned thumb-sucking and took to propelling food into my face, just barely quieting my feelings of gawkiness as I compared myself to the junior high beauty queens like Amanda Lyons. Looking back, Amanda wasn’t exceptionally beautiful. Looking forward, I expect she’ll appear in porn. Both of these insights please me.

With the company of my two best friends - fudge and canned cheese - I lived a chubby, boyfriendless life straight up until my sophomore year of college.  At 175 pounds, it wasn’t lost on me that being a freak was perhaps a more dignified reason to be single than simply being fat. I pierced my nose and tongue and died my hair purple. I became a vegetarian and an animal rights activist, and secretly hoped that I’d lose weight from forfeiting meat. I decided that when I became thin, I’d return to my natural hair color, remove my piercings, and never again be confused for a bull.

Ten months and no weight change later, the gloriously unhealthy Atkins Diet surfaced into collegiate pop culture. My delicate, refined sorority sisters began refusing salads and shoveling pounds of cow down their gullets. “I can do this,” I thought.

I excitedly took a bite of my roommate’s sirloin steak and immediately regurgitated all over myself. I could no longer digest meat after so long in remission, so I placed a five month bulk order of the Atkins brand meal replacement bars and shakes. I stopped drinking beer and elected for straight vodka instead (no sugar!). Within a week I was 11 pounds lighter, and by the beginning of junior year I weighed in at a stable 135 pounds. I removed my piercings, reclaimed my natural redhead, and revealed the new me to boys all over campus.

The Atkins Diet was incredibly hard to maintain, as the basis of the program was meat and I was a vegetarian. While I never entirely enjoyed the taste of protein bars, eventually I wasn’t able to tolerate them at all. I quite literally could not accept them. I tried force-feeding myself, but my mouth would bounce them out like the freshman version of me trying to get into a party. I maintained my weight for the next year by eating nothing but whipped cream and eggs.

I don’t know if it was a categorically true breaking point or a complete lack of resolve that concluded my bootleg adaptation of Atkins, but I eventually lost the capacity to restrict myself. I tore into pasta, cupcakes, loaves of challah bread dipped in Spam. I devoured baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, raw potatoes. Cereal, waffles, muffin-covered pancakes. Cake, pizza, ice cream, scones, brownies, hot dog buns, nachos, chocolate-covered pretzels, French fries, onion rings, deep-fried Twinkies, spoonfuls of butter, and six-foot subs. I ate all of the foods rich with carbs and sugar that I’d missed for two years.

Then I went to bed.

I repeated this the next day. And again the next day. And the next.

In just one summer I packed on 40 pounds. I had glided through my college graduation procession a swan, then waddled into my first adult job a duckling caught in an oil-spill.

My first day at Marrow Public Relations began with the Vice President gazing lovingly at my globular abdomen and asking when I was due. I considered giving her a date, but didn’t know whether I looked more second or third trimester. 

“I’m just fat,” I admitted instead. We shared a mutual blush and silently acknowledged that we’d never speak again. Later that night, I wept and polished off a sleeve of Oreos while I dialed the Weight Watchers hotline.

The following day, I armed myself with WW books and a schedule of meetings. The WW plan operates on a point system, wherein every food and beverage imaginable is represented by a point value. Based on my height and weight (once again 175), I was permitted to consume 24 points per day. I never strayed from my points target, ingesting one fat free Jello Pudding pop and 10 Bud Lights daily. I can’t say whether or not WW was effective, both because it was a short-lived endeavor and it was a drunken one that I don’t remember.

As the age-old adage says, “one thing leads to another.” My skyrocketing intake of beer eventually led to my most successful regimen to date: The Drug Cleanse. Which wasn’t so much a cleanse as it was simply not consuming calories and vomiting a lot. With an eighth of an ounce of substances in my bloodstream each day, the urge to eat disappeared entirely. Hunger took a back seat to the impulse to talk nonstop at maximum volume about taboo matters. I effortlessly lost 35% my weight and 95% of my friends.

In addition to the dwindling desire to chew and swallow, The Drug Cleanse eliminated the ability to sleep, show up to work, and feel feelings. I spent my days blowing my nose and making To-Do lists. The only way a task was crossed off was deeming it unimportant when the deadline passed. My eyes appeared to cave in and I lost the incentive to smile. At 115 pounds, I could have raided the closet of a 12 year old and passed for 50 at the same time.

While the plan was effective, it was unsustainable, due to its exorbitant cost. After exhausting eight months of rent money and my entire savings account, there were no funds left to support my habit. I softened the blows of withdrawal by drinking magnums of Yellow Tail Shiraz mixed with 100 proof vodka-soaked pineapples and raving about my homemade “sangria.” I decided that I could give up everything else if I could just keep this. After all, I needed to nurse myself back to health. Sangria was hydrating as well as nutritious. It was virtually fruit salad. I could definitely maintain a low weight on fruit salad.

I started gaining weight instantly. At first I attributed the gain to the sudden absence of drugs, but when I started noticing empty pizza boxes in the garbage and spoons coated with the remnants of peanut butter on my nightstand, it became clear that I was eating in a blackout. I continued to eat in a blackout for the following three years.

At a record 193 pounds, I had reached my breaking point. Literally. My seams were ripping open with each lunge to pet the dog.  As a lifetime subscriber to the emotionally unhealthy mantra of “It’s All or It’s Nothing,” I quit drinking and became a vegan. I swore off dairy and liquor and started eating blanched tempeh and foliage found in my parents’ backyard. When I quit smoking, I’d often eat an entire shrub.

It was difficult to find someone with the patience it required to accompany me to dinner. When the waitress would ask for my order, it took over an hour to explain what the term “vegan” meant, and the entire next evening to dictate my long list of substitutions to the menu’s one vegetarian dish. When my plate came out, it was always wrong, and I’d send it back mainly to be admired for my discipline. While I did drop 45 pounds, it was likely due to the simple shrinking process that follows an alcohol-induced bloat.

Much like The Drug Cleanse was difficult to sustain because of the cost, Veganism was difficult to sustain because of the definition. I decided, out of convenience, that it was unhealthy to deprive myself of calcium and introduced dairy back into my rigid life. I’ve since been on a two year tour of every Pinkberry location in Manhattan.

At the time I’m writing this, I could afford to lose 15 pounds. At the time you’re reading this, my stats will likely have changed.