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making plans

I suggest playing this while reading this post:

I have plans. I was about to write “big plans”, but actually, on the whole, I think they’re pretty small. But by small I just mean simple, and relatively easy to accomplish.

I’ve been thinking about this kind of stuff a lot lately because I just started school, again. But I don’t even feel like it’s really a case of again because it is so different this time around. Elementary school, middle school, and especially high school – these are all requirements, things you have to do, places you have to go for set amounts of time during the day, for a set number of years. By the time I was done with high school the thought of spending yet another 4 years in school just was almost sickening. But I went anyway.

I will never regret my time at college. I learned a lot and grew a lot, but a majority of that learning and growing happened outside of the classroom. I left with a strange potpourri of various bits and pieces of knowledge – I’ve read Foucault, sure, but I really can’t recall much of it and I’m not sure I knew what any of it meant at the time anyway. I am, however, somewhat of an expert on movie musicals and some aspects of ethnography and anthropology. In short, you probably want me on your trivia team and I am the go-to person at work for “what was that one movie with that one guy called?”-type questions, but I walked away from my college experience with very little (it could be argued no) practical or marketable skills to speak of.

I’m going to cosmetology school right now, studying hair design. Going to a trade school and going to a liberal arts college could not be two more disparate experiences, especially considering the college I went to (Bennington shout out, woot!). There’s some book work and route learning (which, first of all, was largely absent from my college education), but most of my schoolwork now consists of practical application – you are shown how to do it, and then you do it. I’m so much more invested in being in school now, which is surely in part because I am older, a little bit more mature, and paying my own way this time around, plus I chose the path without any outside pressure, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s actually a light at the end of this particular tunnel. I know that when I’m done with school I will have a skill, a trade, with which to establish myself in the larger world – a real, honest-to-goodness, thing I can do. That I couldn’t do before I went to school! Imagine that!

So I’m excited. But it’s all part of my plan. The main goal of my plan is to reach a point where I am truly financially secure, financially independent, and able to enjoy what I do and, in turn, enjoy my life a bit more. I really kind of hate that everything and everyone needs money. It’d be so much simpler if we just didn’t. People always say that money can’t buy happiness, but I would argue that it can, or, that, at the very least, not having money can hinder happiness. Less money = less options = less happiness, in my opinion. Simplified completely, I am out to have more options and, unfortunately, I’m pretty sure more money is what’s gonna get me there.

OMG, I have a “five year plan”! I think. It basically goes like this:

1.) Go to school for two years. During these two years, life will just have to pretty much continue as it has been for awhile and I’m just kind of planning on learning to be okay with things the way they are and extract what joy I can from the situation while I wait it all out.

2.) Once out of school, I will start really aggressively paying down my debt, something I am unable to do right now, and which will be greatly aided by the tips I will receive (no matter how paltry they may be as I’m just starting out with no client base whatsoever). All of this is also aided by the simple fact that, even if I pay only the minimum payments on my credit cards the whole time I’m in school, that’s still gonna be at least $1600 of each credit card balance paid down by the time I’m out of school anyway. So I’ll have started before I’ve even begun, in a sense. I’m hoping to be completely out of credit card debt within five years from now, but even if I’ve just substantially diminished it by that point I will be satisfied.

3.) Also, in about five years from now I will have made my last car payment, which will also wipe out that particular debt. Once my credit card debt is paid down/gone and once my car payment is gone, even if i was making the exact same money I am now (but I’ll be making more because of tips, and also because I assume I’ll get at least one more raise during this five year period), I would pretty much be on easy street. A lot of what is making everything feel so unbearable right now financially is because I have so much debt. Once freed from all that, I would have much more money with which to truly gain financial independence, and with which I could just plain do more of what I like.

4.) Ramit Sethi’s book “I Will Teach You to be Rich” is a favorite of mine – despite the dumb, kind of misleading title. It’s actually just a great book with really sound financial advice and information for newbies like me, not a manual for some kind of pyramid scheme. Anyway, he says to create savings accounts (high-interest savings and IRAs or 401-Ks) and to just save whatever you can, whenever you can, even if you don’t make very much. So, I already have a savings account, and until I took on the car payment, I had a small monthly transfer going into it. But now I have nothing at all, because I just can’t afford it. Maybe I can afford $5. Maybe I’ll literally do $5 a month right now. Anyway, the point of all this is that as soon as I’ve freed up all this money by paying off all or most of my debt, the trick will be to live almost the same lifestyle I do now and use the additional money not only to gain financial independence but also to start really aggressively ramping up my savings.

I’d also like to start a joint savings account with Trevor at this point so that we can start saving for things we might want as a couple, whether that be buying our first home or going on a vacation.

5.) Assuming it’s going to take me at least 5 years from now to pay off all my debt and get on better financial footing, let’s also assume that within this five years things may steadily be improving, but they aren’t going to be vastly different from things as they are now. I think we can safely say that until these 5 years are up I probably won’t be having children, or moving into a house – which are two goals of mine. Well, one of them is a maybe-goal, but the house is a definite goal.

I think most stereotypical five year plans include either a corner office, a husband, a baby, a house, or all four. So, in the end, it’s kind of funny because my five year plan really is just a plan to get to the point where I can make a five year plan. haha.

In some ways, five years is not long, especially given how time has seemed to speed up for me with each passing year. So having this clear end point, once again this light at the end of the tunnel, is such a comforting thing for me.

But, on the other hand, I’m, “five years?!?”

But then I think, “in five years I will have been married to my husband for six years!” And that’s pretty exciting to me all on its own.


catharsis

You may have noticed that the question of having children has recently taken on a new urgency for me. I’ve wanted to write about the reason why for a long time, but I haven’t felt up to it until now.

I got pregnant and got an abortion near the end of last year. I haven’t written about it yet, a.) because the audience for this blog includes potential grandparents, and b.) because the emotional processing for me has been ongoing and I’ve been unsure of what I wanted to say about it. But, since you all know me, you’ll know I’ll have been wanting to say something.

Where I might, left to my own devices, go into a lot more detail – my life, and especially this instance of it, is intricately tied up in Trevor’s now, and a respect for his own privacy prevents me from delving too deeply into the specifics of the situation. For a long time, I also felt that I should never write about it on my blog because of this same issue. However, I’ve come to the conclusion, that while respect for my husband’s privacy and feelings in the matter is important, I feel it is equally important for me to share my story.

Now, I know there aren’t millions of people reading the blog, and my story isn’t really unique or inspiring in any way. But I want to share my story for two reasons: 1.) because I think abortion should be talked about, not swept under the rug, or hidden away…it should never be a shameful thing, and to refuse to acknowledge it is to make it shameful and invisible, and 2.) catharsis: I need to do this, it’ll make me feel better.

I’m not a very private person. This isn’t a story that no one has heard. My coworkers have heard it, one of my best friends has heard it, my mother has heard it. It’s not so much that I haven’t told my story, just moreso that I haven’t written it. I’m sure most of you can appreciate the difference, but for those of you who maybe can’t: writing for me is, in fact, more cathartic than talking in most instances. As a way to process something that has happened or is happening to me, writing is very effective for me – I think mostly because it is so introspective and internal. I have been a life-long journaler for this very reason. So, while many people have heard this story, I haven’t written it until now, except within the pages of my private journal, where there is one short entry dated a few days before the abortion took place, concerning my ambivalence over the whole thing.

And, boy, was I ambivalent. When the idea that I could be pregnant first entered my head, my first thought was that I probably wasn’t actually pregnant. That has been my first thought during previous scares, and has always been proven correct up until this last time. When I did the period-math and discovered I was actually over a week late, I started to get nervous. When I get nervous I just jump into overdrive – I have probably wasted hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests over the years, not because I am really that careless or had actual cause for alarm in most cases, but because I am so prone to nervous overreaction. So, even as I peed on my little stick, I thought to myself, “it will be the same this time, you’re overreacting, and of course the test will be negative like it always is”. A tiny, nagging voice in some other part of my brain said, “but you’re over a week late”, but I just tried to push that aside and focus on the more attractive explanation: that I had miscalculated, and in reality was not that late or maybe not late at all.

I wouldn’t exactly say I was surprised a few minutes later when the test showed positive, but I was shocked. You know how expectant moms will sometimes say things like “I just knew that it had worked this time, I knew we were pregnant before I even took the test” – I would say I had a similar experience in that something just felt different this time. The whole thing felt doomed from the beginning – all my mental wrangling, excuses of bad math, looking to all the times in the past when the test came back negative – it all felt like a very feeble attempt to deny the inevitable this time around. It was like, on some level, I knew. I think mostly though, that came not from some cosmic sense I have as a woman and potential mother, but from the fact that I know I’m not that bad at counting, and I couldn’t possibly be far enough off to account for being this late. When I mentioned earlier that all the pregnancy tests I have previously taken could be chalked up to nervous overreaction, I was not exaggerating or lying. This might have been the first pregnancy test I took when I was more than one or two days late, and I’m sure that, too, contributed to my feeling that this was the real deal.

They tell you to take the pregnancy test in the morning, at first pee, so to speak, because that pee will have the highest concentration of HCG (sometimes called “the pregnancy hormone”), which will make it easier to detect. Because I am impatient when nervous, it didn’t occur to me to maybe wait for a day I didn’t have to go to work. So, after I found out I was pregnant, I first texted my friend and co-worker, Esther, to tell her the results, then I took a long, hot shower, got ready, and went into work. The nice thing about working with one of your best friends is that, when something like this happens and you have to go into work anyway, your best friend is there to talk to you about it all day. Because Trevor had already gone to work, and because I didn’t really feel like texting him something like this was very responsible or appropriate, my best friend knew about my pregnancy before my husband did.

Even in my overreaction to all things big and small, I am a very thorough person. So, even though my doctor’s office cheerfully told me I was probably pregnant if the test said I was and didn’t really need to confirm it with a blood test, I went in that evening and had them draw blood anyway. This all happened on a Thursday. On Friday morning, the doctor’s office called and told me the blood test had also come back positive and I was, indeed, pregnant. I told Trevor that night when he came to bed. I had been trying to find an in, a way to start the conversation, all evening, but in my cowardice I had shirked away from disrupting his blissful ignorance to basically ruin his night and make him feel as anxious as I did. I was already in bed, but not yet asleep (how could I sleep?) when he came to bed, and in the quiet, darkened room I told him my news.

I have to put in a word here about how bad I feel for anyone in the situation of being told this news when it is unwanted news. Do you acknowledge that it is unwanted? But what if she wants it and then you have gone ahead and said you don’t? Like most smart men, Trevor countered my news with a question: “what do you want to do?” and the rest of our conversation flowed from there.

We decided to terminate the pregnancy based mostly on two things: the impracticality of continuing it given our financial situation was the foremost concern, but the fact that we had only ever talked about having children in the abstract also informed our decision. When Trevor and I met, he said he did not want to have children. Shortly before we married, we had a series of conversations that can basically be summed up by “maybe someday far in the future, but not anytime soon.” By the time we found out I was pregnant, Trevor had been intimating for some time that he may never want children after all, and I had already begun the process of reconciling this with my own barely-formed, or even as-yet-formed, wants and desires. Finding out I was pregnant put an immediate, intense strain on our relationship, and that period of our marriage was the most difficult yet. Although we emerged intact and, I would argue, all the stronger for it, this is not a course I would recommend.

The course I recommend is having a frank, honest, open discussion with each other early in the relationship – perhaps before marriage is even mentioned, but certainly after it has been – about whether or not you want to have children, and whether or not either of you are likely to change your mind. We did only half the work. We had the conversation, many conversations actually, about whether or not we wanted to have children, in which Trevor stated he didn’t and I stated I hadn’t decided yet, but we never really had any concrete conversations about whether or not any of this was set in stone. Then we had more conversations which confused the issue entirely, as one or the other of us would waffle back and forth between “yes, I want them” and “no, I don’t”.

Furthermore, once you’ve had this discussion you have to be willing to make a decision and you have to be willing to walk away if necessary (if either of you feels that strongly one way or another). Neither of us were willing to do that, even though we saw a potential conflict down the road -“down the road” was a long way away, and we would deal with it when it came. I’m actually kind of relieved it happened so early in our marriage, because can you imagine how much worse it might be later on? The potential for disaster increases with each passing year spent together, with each bond formed. As your intimacy becomes deeper and deeper, and the two of you become more and more of a family unit, the hurt and pain caused by any fracture or separation becomes that much more severe. So, again, I’m glad it happened pretty early in our relationship, because we had to reckon with it early and have come away stronger because of that.

I was the first one to say the word “abortion” and I often feel, to this day, that I gave him an out by doing that. I’m sure many women have felt the same – you do not want to force your partner to be the one to say this. In my case, saying it was initially easy. It was the most logical course of action open to us given our financial situation; the fact that we were still newlyweds living in an apartment and had not had a whole lot of time to ourselves; and given that we had never expected to be in the position to have to make this commitment so soon. But I found myself quickly regretting that I had said it, as Trevor agreed so wholeheartedly and with such fervor that it almost broke my heart. It certainly punctured my little bubble of hopeful, ignorant assumptions: namely, the assumption that, when the time came, he would want it, too, he would change his mind and embrace having a child. Is it incredibly naive to say that I still hope that might happen, that as he ages his priorities will shift in the “right” direction? While being faced with the very real predicament of my pregnancy clarified and intensified Trevor’s own feelings on the issue of whether or not to have children, forcing him to come to the conclusion that he really does not want them, it also clarified and intensified my own feelings that I might, which of course is problematic.

I still can’t say whether or not I want children, for sure. I have struggled with this question ever since all this happened, because it challenged an assumption I had about myself. I always assumed that, even if I might have wanted children at some future date, not having them would be fine, too. But being so close to having a child, and then not having one, triggered in me a much more acute desire to, in fact, have one, and an awareness that this could be a much bigger stumbling block in our relationship than I had previously thought. I used to just think, if I wanted them and didn’t have them or couldn’t have them, I would just get over it and move on, no big deal. But I see now that, should that become a conflict in our marriage, “getting over it” will not be an easy or pleasant thing to have to do. However, because I don’t want to be having a baby this August, and because the experience of making the decision to abort so clarified both of our own feelings and positions on the issue of having children, I don’t have any regrets about my abortion at all.

I won’t go into details about the procedure, but I will say that having Trevor with me was absolutely invaluable. It was hard to go through, regardless, but having Trevor there made if infinitely more comfortable and made it seem a little less like an out-of-body experience, as surreal as it all was. The actual procedure was mostly painless except for one, short, very intense pain that actually made me cry out. They had to remind me to keep breathing in the laughing gas, since I had stopped when I was so shocked by the pain, and then it got better again. Trevor stood by me and held my hand the entire time (which is to say, the entire few minutes, since the actual procedure is very quick), and let me squeeze his hand as hard as I wanted to. He looked as in pain as I felt, which is really sort of sweet, I think (does that sound totally fucked up? You know what I mean).

There’s a little recovery room where they let you lay down and give you candy, and usually men aren’t allowed there because there are other women recovering from the procedure in the room, too. But because there was no one else in there at the time, Trevor got to stay with me for awhile, until someone else did need to come in. I was crying, kind of residually from the pain, and then also just because the whole experience was so intense and surreal and I didn’t really know how I felt about it yet. And he just held my hand and stroked my face and few times and picked out candies for me from the little basket. If it weren’t for the whole abortion thing, it might have been one of the most tender, intimate moments in our relationship.

In sum, my ambivalence toward having children, and the newfound urgency with which I’ve been pondering the question, stems almost directly from this experience. Over the last three or four months, I’ve thought a lot about Trevor and my’s relationship and how much it means to me. It seems the height of stupidity to even ponder losing him so that I can have children, probably especially now, when I’m not even sure I want them. But, at the same time, it also seems the height of stupidity to ignore the situation, the potential conflict, and just wait until some unspecified, future date to deal with it again, or to have it thrust upon us once more. The thing that is so frustrating about it is that Trevor is, mostly, a known quantity, whereas having children is not. If I could just know what I’d be gaining and losing by having or not having them, I’d feel so much more equipped to make a more permanent decision. But there’s no list of pros and cons in the world that could make this kind of decision for you, and, as I’ve stated before, why do I need the permanence? Why can’t how I feel about it today just be enough for me, enough for now?

Even though I don’t want to be having a baby this year, and I’m glad I aborted last December, I often think about how far along I would be on a given date. Today I would have been approximately 18 weeks along, which is about 4 1/2 months. I guess it’s kind of masochistic in a way, but I like to be aware of that. It’s sobering to me, and it actually helps me to remember why we terminated it in the first place.

I’m starting cosmetology school later this month, and I wouldn’t have been able to go to school if we were looking forward to having a young child to raise. I may not have even been able to work, once it came along. I may not know yet whether or not I want to have children, but I do know that I want to have a life first. I want to learn to do something I’ll enjoy, I want to make better money, and I, just generally, want to do more before I have children.

After the abortion I told Trevor that I didn’t think I could ever go through that again. Now that I’ve gotten some distance from it, I have to amend that. I think I could do it again, if I had to, although of course my preference is not to have to at all. Having actually exercised my right to a safe, legal abortion has made me that much more staunchly pro-choice, and has really personalized all of the recent debates over the issue in regards to health care overhaul, too. So, although I don’t ever want to get an abortion again, I, more than ever, want to be sure that I can get one if I want or need one – that anyone can get one if they want or need one.

A new goal of mine, that I had hitherto not really outlined within my own personal fight for abortion rights, is to make abortion more affordable. Luckily, my health insurance covered a portion of my abortion, but I still had to come up with $275 that I really didn’t have. If I didn’t have a partner who was willing and able to help me cover not only the costs of the actual procedure, but also some of the bills I couldn’t pay because I had to shell out for it, I would’ve really been in an untenable situation. No one should have to choose between gas money or food or paying an important bill and paying for their abortion. And the current assistance that is available through some clinics is meager at best and, while it is a great asset to lower-income women and families, middle-class women are often left stuck in-between a rock and a hard place – making too much money to get any assistance, and too little money to just be able to pay for it on their own.

Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now, I just thought it was interesting how in this case that phrase “the personal is political” really applies. Thanks for reading about my experience, I’m happy I shared it with you all.

Two is Enough?

I have been thinking about children a lot lately. I thought about them yesterday because there was one exceptionally bad specimen carousing around the shop while her mother got her hair done. This morning, one of my favorite kid clients of ours came in with his dad and was as polite and adorable as ever. But beyond my daily exposure to the children who walk through our shop doors, I’m bound to think about it regardless. I’m married, although I’m really too young to get those constant questions and that overwhelming sense of pressure from other people around the “when are you two gonna have kids” question. And although I’ve thought about what I will from here on out refer to as “the children question” in some permutation many times throughout my life  (since I was old enough to play with a baby doll, at least), it becomes more urgent with each passing year.

I feel like I am a game show contestant and there are x number of doors to choose from and choosing door 1, or door 2, or door 3 – each one leads you on a different path, and each one is mutually exclusive: if you pick one, you can never pick the other. And I feel that I’m being asked to make this decision NOW. I hear you guffaw-ing – I am under no illusion that my fertile years are over (although 18-25 is supposed to be the peak age range, people), that I, for biological reasons, need to make this decision any time soon, but it feels urgent nonetheless. I’m trying to make plans, ya know? I want to know, to a degree, what my life will look like 5, 10, 15 years from now. But I can’t really explain where the pressure comes from – surely it is to some degree driven by social constructs, and to some degree self-inflicted, but I don’t really understand why or even how.

I’m trying to learn how to go with the flow. It’s very much in my nature to have a plan, an outline, even just a rough sketch. And I feel the children question gnawing at me precisely because deciding to have children is such a fundamentally life-altering decision and if I decide not-to-decide right now then I can’t see my future at all clearly – I have no plan. And being unprepared, not planning -well, any planner will tell you, that just strikes fear into our O.C.D. little hearts. I don’t ask for omniscience, just shapes in the fog – but postponing this decision just makes everything formless.

I just started reading a book called “Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice” by Laura S. Scott, and I’ve already learned a lot, just within the first 10 or 20 pages. There is a little subset of the childfree who are basically postponers. They didn’t make a decision, they let nature take its course (or didn’t, as it were), and then they just kind of became childfree. Often, they postponed having children out of uncertainty, but over time came to the decision that, after all, its perfect that they never became parents because they like life just as it is. Sometimes, they postponed having children until it’s too late (until it becomes biologically impossible, or at least, improbable) – and then the decision has been made for them, although they may still embrace it as their choice. What I am afraid of is being the postponer who comes to the point where I can’t have children anymore and finds myself regretful, ultimately childfree by circumstance rather than choice. I am a big-time procrastinator and I don’t want to procrastinate my way into the worse decision I ever didn’t-make in my life.

Also according to “Two is Enough”, there is a subset of the childfree known as “acquiescers”. They come to be childfree in deference to a partner’s wishes. This isn’t always as awful as it may sound – it isn’t always as much a sacrifice as simply a compromise, and it’s not as though this decision is usually made lightly or without full awareness of the consequences. An acquiescer is usually someone who has made peace with their choice to remain childfree, even though that choice may have been a more difficult one for them than it was for their partner.

It’s likely that, if I remain childfree, I will sort of be a postponer/acquiescer. Trevor is probably about 95% sure that he does not want to have children. It’s not so much that I do, but rather that I just always assumed I would. And I’m now at the point where I’m trying to separate out all the noise and concentrate on what I really want, and what is going to be best for us. What are the consequences of having children? Of not having children? Do I really want to raise a child or do I just want a cute baby to coo over? Am I actually attached to the idea of having children or am I just attached to the idea that I should, or that I was going to, or that I’m supposed to? It’s hard to separate out all my myriad motivations both for desiring and not desiring to have children, and to come to any consensus over what it all means and what I really want. And, in the meantime while I try to decide, the weeks and months and years will just continue to fly by.

But I do hope that, in all things, I will be able to teach myself to simply not decide, to be spontaneous and fluid and mutable. I think there’s a certain freedom in that. It eliminates that game show feeling – the door 1, door 2, door 3 – and opens up all the doors, all the possibilities, all at once. After all, ignorance is bliss, right? If you don’t know which path you’re on, you can’t ever get lost, can’t ever really get off it. That is just so comforting to me.

My new male fantasy

Have you seen those gift books titled “Porn for Women”? It’s a series of books generally featuring pictures of handsome men cleaning, cooking, doing the dishes, or in some other way fulfilling a fantasy I think many women share about the men in their lives (or the men they wish they had in their lives, rather).

I have flipped through them before and gotten a few guffaws out of them, but I never really put much thought into the whole phenomenon until recently. It occurred to me the other day that the things I fetishize men for nowadays has completely changed from what I used to fetishize about them. The guys I dreamed about when younger had always been the type of guys I could never have access to – somehow, even if I had no actual interest in dating frat boys, the fact that they had zero interest in me made them all the more appealing. Ditto for muscle-y, stud-type guys (who more often than not are gay anyway), and, of course, dark, tortured, hipster musician types. None of these men are men I would’ve actually likely enjoy dating, but they had always figured heavily in my daydreams nonetheless.

Now that I’m married, I find good husbands REALLY attractive. Not attractive in the same sense as my teenage crushes, where I might foolhardily try to actually pursue them, but more as a comparison to my own husband (sorry, honey, but it’s inevitable). Most of my exposure to these men is at the shop where I work.

What makes a good husband or, rather, what makes me think they’re good husbands? They talk about their wives (and not to bitch about them). They give her cooking rave reviews, they talk about vacations they’re going on together, they ask for advice on whether she’d rather like a spa day or a piece of jewelry for her valentine’s day gift, and they’re really excited they just found out they’re pregnant! What are they going to name they baby?! Gosh, I hope it’s a boy! Etc.

Sometimes, their wives come into the shop with them and then it’s not just how they talk about them, but how they act toward them that sets my heart a pumpin’. And then it’s: “Would you like a drink, honey, while I’m getting my hair cut?”, “Why don’t you leave the kids here? I can watch them while you shop.” It is the real life equivalent to those “Porn for Women” books and I see it at least once daily.

My friend and co-worker, Esther, and I have one question: who ARE these men? Why have we never met or known (or, more to the point, dated) any of them until now? Obviously they exist, but where the hell do they come from? There’s always been what I (perhaps somewhat unfairly) believe to be the myth of the perfect man – he cooks, he helps clean, he takes care of the children, he is kind and considerate and always knows the right gift to get – you share with this perfect man a perfectly egalitarian relationship, a partnership of equals – he might even consider himself a feminist. Although somehow, even though you share this perfect, equal relationship, he ends up footing the bill more often than not and opens a lot of car doors for you and such. But, surely, these men don’t actually exist?! Well, it turns out they might. And some of them get their hair cut at MY barbershop.

I sense (hope?) that this is not true – I mean, that these men are not actually perfect partners, but rather that they appear to be perfect partners out in the public eye. I’m sure they, too, leave their dishes in the sink and put empty milk cartons back in the fridge, and forget when that dinner with your friends is, and get pissed about the heating bill, and are actually secretly TERRIFIED that they’re about to be a new dad. But regardless of the reality of what these men are truly like, their public persona presents to me a brand new fantasy – the perfect husband fantasy. When you add in the hot-dad fantasy that my friend, Sarah, and I, had already started to cultivate while in college, it’s pretty much a one-two punch right in the ovaries.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband is pretty perfect for ME. But I will probably never come home to him vacuuming with his shirt off , telling me there’s a roast in the oven, and he just put a load of laundry in the washer, either. I think, in reality, each man has his strengths and his weaknesses as a partner, just as each women does. I’m sure Trevor would like to come home to me vacuuming with MY shirt off, telling HIM there’s a roast in the oven, and I just put a load of laundry in the washer, too.

But, let’s face it, it’s only marginally more likely to happen for him than it is for me.

Committed

I just started reading “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I might be the only person left on the planet who has not yet read “Eat, Pray, Love”, but I’m just not drawn to it at all. This book, on the other hand, seemed very appealing to me. It’s part memoir, part history lesson on marriage. Gilbert famously went through an awful divorce, and had sworn she would never get married again. But then she meets and falls madly in love with Felipe. He’s also been through an awful divorce and, while they swear lifelong commitment to each other, they also swear they will never get married. Until Felipe is denied entry into the U.S. after one-too-many visas and they find that, if they want to stay together in the home they’ve built in the U.S., they must marry. Gilbert then sets to learning as much as she can about marriage, so that she might make terms with it before entering it once again.

I can really relate to her impulse there – to learn all about the socio-political history of marriage when faced with it – because I’ve been doing much the same thing as of late. Except I waited until AFTER I got married to do it. My marriage is basically, as I believe really any marriage is, a huge leap of faith. I love my husband very much, but I don’t think that love alone is enough. I’ve loved other men, and yet I’ve known (if not always immediately, eventually) that we could never have successful, sustained relationships. I married Trevor because I think we can, because I trust him to work at it with me, and because he is generally very easy to live with. However, I don’t know that anyone ever marries anyone else because they are sure it will work – maybe there are people out there who’ve had this experience, but my experience has been one of trust, faith, and a willingness on my part to put in the work it takes to make my marriage last. If any one of those key elements were missing, I don’t know that I would’ve attempted it based solely on romantic love.

What all this means though is that I’m not sure our marriage will work, will last. And I’ve mostly made peace with that now. But my first reaction, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s, was just that I felt this huge need to just KNOW MORE. What is this institution? How did it come to be? What did it mean then? What does it mean now? How does it apply to me? How do I do it? How have other people done it? Unlike Gilbert, there is still a sizeable stack of unread books about marriage sitting on my nightstand – I just never got that far. Somewhere along the way I guess I decided I didn’t really care about the context of my marriage – just the content. But I’ll read her book, because it’s only one book instead of many and she’s already done all the work for me.

When I say I just started the book, I really mean it, and my first observation about it actually has nothing at all to do with marriage.

I just finished reading the opening “Note to the Reader”, in which Gilbert writes about how she tried to write the book as though she were just writing it for 27 readers: 27  women who “constitute (her) small but critically important circle of friends, relatives, and neighbors” (all women). I have a couple things to say here. A.) 27?!, B.) “small” circle of friends? I mean, she’s older than I am – and I hear she did have quite an eye-opening finding-herself experience while traveling the world, no doubt meeting many amazing women along the way, some of whom I’m sure are part of this list. But, 27? Maybe I’m being too cynical. Or, more likely, maybe I’m just jealous. I envision being surrounded by all these amazing, inspiring people – counting them as friends and they counting me as a friend, too. Mostly I envision that some of them, after we’ve met and fallen for each other, of course – will move to Spain, and Prague, and small Greek islands – and then I will visit them there, where I will have very “Under the Tuscan Sun” experiences (which, P.S., is pretty much how I think of “Eat, Pray, Love” playing out, having never read it). However, I really don’t know if I can ever envision having 27 of these kinds of individuals in my life. That seems like too much good fortune for anyone.

Shawna, Alyssa, Sarah, Jeni, Esther, and my mom, Laura – these are the women I would write my book for. It’s so interesting to me when put like that because that would just be such a challenge, to write something that would appeal to all 6 women, each with their own insanely different experiences and worldviews. But then I think it would keep me true to myself, it would keep my voice authentic and genuine – because the one thing these women have in common is intimate knowledge of the real me.

Shawna and I grew up apart, but never grew apart, despite our differences.

Alyssa is my war buddy – we went through high school together, and she has an uncanny, encyclopedic knowledge of all my likes and dislikes. She is the life of the party, and neither of us shy away from the ridiculous.

Sarah knows how my mind works better than I do, usually. She is fiercely intelligent, insanely witty, and always hilarious – I laugh more around her than around anyone else.

Jeni is wise and strong and she always does the right thing even if it is not the easy thing. She is a walking, talking  challenge for me to do better, mostly because she is so good and because she believes in me even when I don’t.

Esther is my girlfriend, we would be great for each other if only we were lesbians – she doesn’t let me get away with anything, and she makes me see sides of things I never would’ve been able to see on my own.

My mom is my mom, my best friend, my confidant, and she’s been there for it all.

All of these women are absolutely hilarious in their own distinct ways, and I would fart in front of any one of them without shame or (much) embarrassment, a mark of how well we know each other. But my absolute favorite thing about my friendships with all of these women is that they always pick up right where we left them, regardless of time or distance or a marked absence of phone calls or emails. When I’ve lost my way and I can’t pick up the right thread in my writing and nothing is coming out the way I want, these are the women I will write for. I can only hope that one day, I, too, will have 27. Yeesh, Elizabeth Gilbert. Stop bragging.

I’ve been looking at apartments and nothing is ever everything I want or need, and I’m worried about whether or not I can get financing for a new-to-me car by the end of February. Our next door neighbors are loud and totally rude 80% of the time, I want a dog and can’t have one in this complex. The list could go on, but the point is that what I dream about all the time is my own, cozy home with things just the way I like them. I would cook all the time in my wonderful kitchen, in my adorable house, somewhere away from the city, with my adorable husband and our amazing dog(s). There might be tall grasses, or wheat fields, or tons of tall skinny trees bunched closely together, but there would definitely be an old dirt road. And maybe even a cow or a pond with some ducks.

Lyrics:

“Helping the kids out of their coats
But wait the babies haven’t been born oh
Unpacking the bags and setting up
And planting lilacs and buttercups oh

But in the meantime we’ve got it hard
Second floor living without a yard
It may be years until the day
My dreams will match up with my pay

Old dirt road,
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
knee deep snow
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Watching the fire as we grow
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
o-o-o-o-old

I got a man to stick it out
And make a home from a rented house oh
And we’ll collect the moments one by one
I guess that’s how the future’s done oh

How many acres, how much light
Tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap
On a little road barely on the map

Old dirt road,
mushaboom, mushaboom)
knee deep snow
mushaboom, mushaboom)
Watching the fire as we grow,
mushaboom, mushaboom)
o-o-o-o-old
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Old dirt road rambling rose
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Watching the fire as we grow
(mushaboom, mushaboom)
Well I’m Soldddddddddddddddd”

Thanks, Feist. You always seem to get it dead on.

My not-dream road trip

Let’s keep this within perspective here, folks. This is just my dreaming-in-a-reasonable-manner dream road trip. I suppose a true dream road trip would really be like a year long and encompass the whole contintental U.S., but who would go on that trip with me and how would I afford it?

Now, unlike many people I know, when asked if I would rather go somewhere brand new or go back to places I’ve loved in the past – I’m going to choose going back to those much-loved destinations from my past. Most of the road trip I’ve envisioned takes place in California, and mostly at places I once lived or that my family made a tradition of visiting. I’ve also made a point of planning the trip in such a way that lodging costs are minimal – at only 4 stops along the way will we need to pay for our lodging. Most of the costs associated with the trip will be from gas and food purchases. This trip also makes it possible to kill more than two birds with one stone, as it were: I have many friends and family members who I’ve been longing to visit and, although this plan leaves out all of those on the east coast, I pretty much take care of everyone over here in one fell swoop – it’s amazing!

So, let’s begin!

We’ll start out from Portland and drive a scenic, forested 7 & 1/2 hours to Trinidad, CA. Trinidad is a tiny coastal town in Northern California. Trinidad, Arcata, and Eureka all pretty much run right into each other and they are a short drive from Redwood National Forest, which, if you haven’t been, is just one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s Redwoods meets coast and it’s perfect! I’m trying to talk myself into camping while we’re there, but every time I read that “bear-proof food lockers” are available at the campsites – it makes me think twice. One of the cottages at Bishop Pine Lodge may end up providing a welcome second option if I can’t suck it up.

We’ll stay in Trinidad one night if we’re paying for a room, but maybe more if we camp since it’s so much more affordable, then drive the easy 3 & 1/2 hours down the California coastline to Mendocino. Mendocino is another small coastal town, about 2 hours north of San Francisco. I came here with my family as a child on numerous occasions. The coastline is beautiful, the village of Mendocino is adorably quaint, and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens is my favorite place in the world. When I was 10 or 11, I once meandered through the forested garden path, singing aloud while small birds chirruped happily all around – I’m not kidding, this actually happened. It probably looked and sounded something like this, just for your reference:

It’s a magical place.

How long we stay in Mendocino will depend on how much money we have to spend on the trip as a whole. I’ve decided that we’re going to stay at a B&B while we’re in Mendocino, preferably with either a jacuzzi tub, a beautiful ocean view, breakfast served to your room, or all of the above. Here’s a prime candidate: Agate Cove Inn, as is the Glendeven Inn. So, you can see how money will be the deciding factor here – one night, no more than two nights at best before we move on.

From Mendocino, we’ll drive 6 hours to Fresno, CA. I know what you’re thinking: “FRESNO?!” The Central Valley is in no way a beauty spot, and Fresno, home to Kevin Federline, is no exception to that general rule. However, it is Trevor’s hometown. His parents, aunt and uncle, and many of his friends still live there – as does my grandmother. We have a place to stay and we can spend some time with family and friends. And then, there’s also a Weinerschnitzel in Fresno, so I’m sold already. We’ll probably stay in Fresno for 3 or 4 days and then make the 4 and 1/2 hour drive down to San Bernardino.

I know what you’re thinking, again: “SAN BERNARDINO?! The armpit of California? What’d you wanna go there for?!” A couple things. Firstly, it’s one of my numerous “hometowns” (the product of moving every 2-4 years during my childhood) – it’s where my dad was born, and I still have family in the area. Most importantly though, it’s where my friend, Shawna, still lives with her husband and their NEW BABY ALEXANDER WHO I HAVEN’T EVEN MET YET! Here, I’m hoping to trespass on my uncle Rene’s kindness and stay at his place in nearby Riverside. We’ll probably stay 2 nights, leaving on the third day.

From San Bernardino we’ll drive down to Phoenix, AZ – about a 6 hour drive. Here we’ll stay with my friend Alyssa and her husband, Owen, in the new house THEY JUST BOUGHT, LIKE REAL ADULTS AND EVERYTHING! Phoenix is another one of my hometowns. I’ll probably make my husband visit my old high school with us, and then of course I’ll make a stop at the best Latin imports store ever, Suenos, before eating lots of REAL, HONEST TO GOODNESS Mexican food, which I’m sorry to say that Portland doesn’t really seem to have. This is going to be the “breather” part of our trip, our mid-way point, and I hope to stay a good 4, maybe even 5, days.

So, at this point in the trip, there are two options: we can drive 7 hours from Phoenix up to Las Vegas, where we’ll play for a night or two before going back over to San Bernardino. OR we can just go directly from Phoenix back to San Bernardino. This again will depend on the money factor – because I’ve done the staying-at-the-cheapest-place-in-Vegas thing before, and this time I really would want to do it up. Even if it’s only one night, I say The Bellagio should just about do. The thing with me and Vegas is that I have been here, like, 3 or 4 times….all before I was even close to 21. So if we go I want to make sure we get to see a fun, cheesy show (I did see Siegfried and Roy though, so that was pretty amazing); we get to eat somewhere nice OR an insane buffet (one or the other, folks); and that we have some money to a.) gamble a little with, and b.) buy cheesy souvenirs with. I originally wanted to take this opportunity of being in Vegas to do a vow renewal on or around our anniversary, performed by “Elvis” – but when I saw how expensive the packages are at most of the little chapels, even if you don’t need the legal marriage piece of it, I got kind of discouraged. It’d be hard to talk Trevor into it in the first place, but much harder to do if it cost $200 plus to do it. Anyway, from Vegas it’s about a 4 hour drive back to San Bernardino.

In San Bernardino we’d just pop in for that evening, having done our visiting on the first leg of the trip, and find somewhere to lay our heads to rest for one night before moving on again.

From San Bernardino we’d drive the 7 hours to Monterey (with a possible stop in Fresno to have lunch or dinner or something with family on our way back up to Oregon). I don’t really care where we stay here. I will have done the luxury thing if all works out well with Mendocino. We can stay at a Motel 6 for all I care, there’s a hostel in Monterey, too. As long as it’s near Cannery Row, and the aquarium! The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the best aquarium in the world, and my other favorite place to be – the otters are my favorites! We’ll pretty much need to spend a whole day there, and then we’ll definitely need to get some clam chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf.

I’m pretty “take it or leave it” with nearby 17-mile drive and Pebble Beach, as well as Carmel – they’re nice, but I wouldn’t mind missing them, having seen it all before on numerous family vacations to the area. It’ll just depend how much time we want to spend in the area, and how exhausted we are by the whole trip by this point.

From Monterey we’ll drive up about 6 hours to Mt. Shasta. We’ll probably stay at one of the area B&Bs and might even partake in some hot springs action, despite all the new-age-y hippie types who will inevitably be there, naked. But we’ll just stay the one night before heading up the final 6 hours back to Portland, and home.

Whew, I get exhausted just writing about it. This trip would be about 57 & 1/2 hours driving time, over about 23-25 days. AMAZING! I wish I could start tomorrow!