Every year around Mother’s Day, I wonder why I don’t see any cards that I relate to. Cards that speak to me. Cards that praise the everyday accomplishments of mothers everywhere.
Like calling poison control and discovering that the thing your kid ate is non-toxic. Or answering 204 questions in the span of an hour and a half without giving yourself a concussion just for the peace and quiet. Or getting anything—really, even one. single. thing—done while children are in your care.
So, because I’m a giver, I’ve whipped up some e-cards that really capture the spirit of Mother’s Day.
Happy Mother’s Day, mama! Here’s hoping there’s a mimosa coming your way.
Back in 2012 I realized I am a feminist—albeit with a little hesitation. Claiming to be a feminist, after all, can carry a lot of pressure, and a good deal of judgement. People see feminists as shrill, bossy, angry hordes of women coming to rip men apart with their pointy feminist teeth. Snap!
So I thought, “I’m not shrill or angry. I don’t want to chew on the souls of men…maybe I’m not a feminist.”
We’re also in a really interesting time in history. It’s like the smelling salts have been snapped, and we’re all getting a jarring new look around. Organizations like Miss Representation, Feminist Frequency, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media are doing the painstaking work of really inspecting what we see and hear in TV, film, and advertising. Through that process a lot of really normal and accepted stuff is being called out as sexist. Misogyny lurks under so many things we really dig (Blurred Lines, anyone?), and one of the roles of feminism is to really look at our world, and call creepy, sexist BS for what it is. But if you’re in the shower singing Blurred Lines and thinking, “This is my jam!” and then you read about how it’s a bunch of creepy, sexist, BS that normalizes rape, suddenly you feel like a creepy sexist who normalizes rape culture. Hmm…(It’s okay. You probably aren’t.)
Feminism also tackles a whole host of topics, some of which might make you uncomfortable. Like the roles of women (and men) in the workplace. The roles of women (and men) in the home. And reproductive rights, which necessitates the use of the word vagina. (Why is vagina such a scary word, you all? 7th graders say it in health class.)
And that stuff? That makes feminism feel like a club that you’re not in.
But unless you’re the mayor of Crapville, you’re probably a feminist. Here’s a test to find out:
Do you think women are just as important as men?
Do you think it’s wrong and bad for women to be beat, groped, harassed, or raped?
Do you think that babies need parents, and that women and men should be allowed to take time off from work when said babies are born or adopted?
Do you think men can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be strong, or violent, or void of emotion?
Do you think women can be whatever kind of person they want to be? That they don’t have to be subservient, or demure, or “pretty”?
Do you believe that all people are valuable and we should treat them that way?
Did you answer “yes” to most of those? Well, friend…you’re a feminist.
We’re not going to agree on everything. We feminists—we’re going to have differences and diversity just like anyone else. We’re going to muddle through all of these topics, push back on norms, and bumble around quite a bit. And you’re not going to feel like you’re doing it right.
But you don’t stop being a parent because you don’t know all the answers. You don’t stop voting just because the issues are complicated. You don’t stop shopping until you straighten out your economic theory. You dive in. You work it out. You take it easy on yourself and your fellow humans. You know there’s room to grow.
It is actually important to use the F word
The more people freely say, “I’m a feminist,” the less people will associate feminism with harpy witch women who hate men. The more men say, “I’m a feminist,” the more we can use feminism to improve men’s lives too. (Want to see a man doing some badass work for feminism? Look no further than your favorite Star Trek captain.) The more people throw their weight behind feminism, the faster we’ll progress.
Go celebrate International Women’s Day by claiming feminism as your own. Tell your friends and family to join in on the fun. Let’s make a ruckus and do some good work. I’ll raise a fist in the air for you.
I mean sure, it took you a whole season of dudes before you were able to search the world for ONE female comedian, but hey, one is better than none I suppose. It’s a teeny bit disappointing that, by the looks of the trailer, Ms. Silverman is the sole female comedian of the season (gack!), but I guess I’ll try to let it slide. We can be friends again. I know you’ve missed me.
And I have to admit, a lot of good has come for me out of Seinfeld’s missteps. It was his omission of the female gender that got me thinking about what’s important to me, and what it means for women to be underrepresented in basically ALL OF THE THINGS. It got me thinking about what kind of world I want my daughters to live in. It got me thinking about what I’m willing to fight for. It got me feeling that maybe I’ll take on the label of “feminist,” with whatever judgements and assumptions it might come with.
I think about all that stuff and it makes it a lot easier to toss aside the sheepishness and use my voice, however small, to make the world a tiny bit less puketastic. It’s a good use of time. If I wasn’t doing feminist things I’d probably just be playing online poker or eating too many cookies, so no big deal.
So that’s where I’m at now. I figured it’s only fair to let Jerry know that I see and appreciate his efforts. And I want to let you know, dear readers, that I’m a feminist for good. A miserably pregnant, sassy, loud-mouthed feminist. So, you know, watch out for that.
And what are YOU up to? Let’s all catch up in the comments, k?
I just got hit in the face. Hard. Happy Mother’s Day?
Okay, so it’s technically the day before Mother’s Day and I’m being a bit dramatic. But I got hit in the face by my kid real hard, so I kinda think I get a pass.
Now I need to say this: by all accounts, my daughter is a kind, thoughtful, well-behaved child. She’s smart and funny and awesome. I say that not to brag about my kid, but rather just to point out that the best case scenario as a parent is that your kid will be kind, thoughtful, and well-behaved before and after she smacks you in the face.
That’s just parenting. That’s the gig. It’s some kind of insane, child-rearing blood sport. Lord help us.
So let’s buy dumb crap and alienate people!
I read this Salon article by Anne Lamott the other day called, “Why I hate Mother’s Day.” And while I usually just smile too much, nod, and hug my computer screen when I read her work, I sadly have to disagree with this one—at least a little.*
I think Mother’s Day can be kind of stupid and obligatory, but only because we’ve framed it wrong. Mother’s Day isn’t about claiming that mothers are better than other people, or somehow more valuable. They’re not. There are zero requirements to becoming a mother. Stupid people become mothers all the time. Big deal.
I don’t think you somehow become more of a person when you become a mother. Your value is there from day 1. You’re valuable just because, and there’s no amount of marrying or procreation or anything else makes you more legitimate as a person. So we can stop mother worship as a holiday. It creeps me out.
But I kinda need Mother’s Day, okay?
I don’t need pink cards, or flowers, or certainly one of those swoopy necklaces or whatever. It’s not about that to me. You know what it’s about? Survival. I need a day when people that are important to me say, “Hey, I see you over there, and I know you’re just barely making it. Good job and I’m sorry and here’s a beer.”
It should be called “Motherhood Survival Day,” where all mothers are acknowledged not for doing it all right, or being magically worth treasuring, but just for making it through another year. Just for making it through an unending torrent of questions and comments about your daily activities, objections to whatever plans you’ve laid, several-times-daily accidental injuries to your person or property, unbridled emotions and—yes—the occasional southpaw smack to the face.
I come into and out of too many days feeling battered and bruised, not knowing if I can stitch together enough scraps of my remaining sanity to hold myself together. And I’m guessing a lot of mothers feel that way, too.
I’m sorry. I see you. Hang in there.
So, following last year’s tradition, I’ve whipped up a few Mother’s Day greetings for you to use if you wanna keep it real this year. Send and receive them with high fives and snuggles from me, okay? Happy Mother’s Day, mamas.
*it should be noted that I love Anne Lamott to freaking bits and if you haven’t read her work you absolutely should. Bird by Bird is an all-time fav of mine (thanks Matt!). Go check her out.
Next time you see a pregnant lady, you really need to stop and give her five bucks. Why? Well, the short answer is that pregnancy is the freaking worst. THE WORST.
Okay, having your leg chewed off by a bengal tiger is probably pretty bad, too. But pregnancy is freaking awful, and no one comes right out and says that because, well, I think it makes you look like a bad parent or something. But I totally don’t care about that. Let me endure the judgement and describe the terrible catastrophe that is pregnancy. You’re welcome.
Morning Sickness is a Lie
The term “morning sickness” is about as accurate as “occasional breathing” or “optional heartbeat.” For many, the nausea that comes with your precious bundle of joy happens whenever the crap it wants to, and—blissfully for some—all the live long day. I’ll let you guess which of those things happened to me.
It’s also not some adorable, dainty little queasiness. It’s as if food is now the enemy, and your body will do anything to keep it out of your mouth/stomach/necessary locations for life. I’ve read of women puking 20 times a day. Twenty. Times. Uh, give that lady five bucks.
My nausea was so bad that my doctors gave me a drug that they also give to chemo patients. Because apparently being on chemo and being pregnant have certain similarities. I don’t know why they don’t put that on Hallmark cards. Even that prescription-strength solution didn’t keep this pleasant little conversation from happening in my head several times a day:
I’m going to die. I can’t believe this is how it’s going to end for me. A shriveled, starved mess that can’t get out of bed. Wait, no, you live in California, Melanie. CALIFORNIA. I’m pretty sure there are a few steps between this and death. Right? Of course! They’ll hook you up to IVs and give you nutrients that way! All you need is hospitalization! No. big. deal.
Thankfully it didn’t come to that, though I did ask my husband several times to check into a medically induced coma. I’m still a little mad that he didn’t at least Google it. Right? Right.
“Cravings”? Not Exactly
You always hear those adorable stories of women wanting to eat pickles and ice cream, like that’s the cutest thing ever. The reality? Pickles and ice cream—and other equally absurd food choices—may be the only thing your body will accept. So, if the choice is between the aforementioned hospitalization and, say, shrimp-flavored Cup O’ Noodle and instant mashed potatoes, you kinda choose the Cup O’ Noodle. Turns out, the desire to not die in your bed is pretty strong.
There once was a time when I favored braised beef cheek and chilled grape soup with basil foam—pregnancy reduced my palate to that of a still-drunk frat boy. Thanks for that. Give me five bucks, please. I have no self respect.
I told my doctor about this terrible starvation/inability to eat anything that can reasonably be called food and her was response was, “Luckily, the baby doesn’t need nutrition right now.” Yeah, luckily. And it’s not like I need it, right? And where is the baby getting her nutrients? She’s stealing them from your body. Like a parasite. Where’s the greeting card for that?
(Sadly, that analogy doesn’t quite end at birth. Not that I hate my kid. I don’t. I promise. Look, I can prove it.)
“Luckily,” Lots of Terrible Stuff is Normal
If you’ve never been pregnant before, all this crazy stuff will start happening to you and you’ll be like, “Holy shitballs, this can’t be right. This is how humans are made?” and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll say as much to your doctor. And she will say, “Yeaaaaaaaah. I’m sorry.” Because it totally IS right. It’s normal. For your entertainment/education/horrification, here’s a bunch of bizarro stuff that’s just par for the course with pregnancy.
Days long headaches that you can’t do anything about, because you can’t take any pain killers when you’re pregnant. A wet cloth on your head in a dark room may be recommended.
Bleeding gums. Like you’re a pirate with scurvy. Sweet.
Not pooping ever. Someone I know might have thought she was going to die of not pooping. It wasn’t me, because why would I share that? But no one wants pooping to be mentioned in their obit.
Nosebleeds. Wha…? Or a constant stuffy nose. Also wha…?
The persistent feeling of being kicked in the crotch. This happens because of a chemical that makes your joints loosen. Sometimes your pelvic joint kinda, you know, comes apart. And that process might make you Google “pregnancy kicked in the crotch.”
Extra moles. To make you feel awesome about yourself.
Chest pain due to: a baby being where your organs are supposed to go; or heartburn; or maybe a blood clot or heart attack. Hard to know. Not that that’ll freak you out or anything.
Dark spots all over your skin. To help with camouflage in the wild?
Hot flashes. Because why the heck not at this point, right?
There’s totally more than this but…why? (Oh, wait…diabetes! You can get di-a-be-tes just while you’re pregnant. And middle-of-the-night leg cramps! And anemia!!) I mean, does it need to get any worse for you to spot a lady a fiver? If so, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU HORRID FIEND?
I will take one second to address something that might come up in the comments: some people have lovely pregnancies. They say they’ve never felt better, and that it’s such a blessing and they glow and all that crap. Ladies, you owe other pregnant women fifty bucks. Somehow they caught your share of the crappy part while you rubbed your belly and made cooing noises. Not okay.
So there it is. Go forth and procreate you poor bastards. I’ll give you five bucks if I see you.
I don’t know what it is about today; about this week or this month… Maybe it’s been years now, maybe a lifetime—but I’m hitting a little bit of a tipping point when it comes to how I perceive my body and its various shortcomings. For review, let’s list out what’s wrong with me (limited to physical appearance, of course—we only have so much room here):
deep forehead wrinkles…nay—crevasses
stretch marks (thanks kids)
flabby arms (or underarm dingle-dangle, as Ruthie would say)
untamed bikini line
splotchy pores on legs
hairy uprising on the facial region
several “companion pounds” I’ll call them, that may never leave me…
And you know what? Who gives a shit?
I have all of those things because I’m a human person. I am a human person who has yet to develop some crazy disorder that prevents me from aging. So, as I get older—as we all are forced to do by the time-space continuum—I look older. And, I ask again, who gives a even a tiny turd about it?!
Take just a moment to think about how nuts it is that we try to stop aging. I mean, when you see a product in the store labeled “anti-aging,” do you think, “What kind of crack pot monkey dreamed that up, and how stoned was the group of people that launched it into reality?” Because that’s what you should think. That’s what we should ALL think.
The Silver Fox of Snark
I started going gray in my mid-twenties. It’s not really a look that most people want to cultivate. I discovered I was gray when I stopped dying my hair. I was like, “I’m gonna be all natural and embrace myself and yadda yadda,” and my head replied, “Well, that’s fun because we’ve changed a few things around here.” And there it was. I kind of decided (likely due to my frequently mentioned laziness) that it is way too much fuss to dye away the gray. I just didn’t have the energy to put up a 70-year-long fight against, of all things, my freaking hair.
So here I am nearly a decade later and I’ve got a whole lot of that stuff sprouting out of my head. Every now and again it bothers me, but I really don’t care. My plan is to let it all come in and take over, then I’ll rock that business like I’m Steve Martin. I mean, look at that guy’s hair. Pure, 100% silver white and no one cares. Which brings me to a sticking point…
Men are allowed to age. Women are not.
Yep. That’s the deal. Steve Martin sports his gray hair like nobody’s business and he seems distinguished. Hillary Clinton grows her hair out and pulls it back instead of coiffing it just so and people go bananas. Hey, people: shut up. Because Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton is allowed to look however she wants. She’s allowed to get older, and to decide not to invest endless time and money into pretending she’s not getting older. Just like I am. We’re all allowed—men and women—to age with grace, and dignity, even affection (!) for our changing selves. My new rule: if Steve Martin can do it, so can I.
And then there’s the Thinspiration problem
I think the reason this is all on my mind right this second is because I keep happening upon what I’ve learned is called “thinspiration.” It’s like all those “how to drop 10 lbs in a month” or that picture of a woman squeezing her leg with the caption “how to solve the cellulite problem.” (Here’s a hint: stop squeezing your leg like that!)
Pinterest is brimming with these things, but so is the Today show, major news outlets, magazines—basically everywhere you look, you can find some “solution” for the problem of your—ahem—normal human body.
And to revisit my last point, how many dudes do you think are trying to solve their “cellulite problems”? How many under-eye creams do you think dudes are buying? Waxing kits? Boxes of hair dye? Skin primers? Lip balms? Anti-whatever-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you salves? Not nearly as many as women are. If a guy can save his money to go to the movies instead spending money to rip/bleach/laser blast his hair off, don’t you think you’re allowed to do the same? And menfolk, if you find yourselves falling into the trap of needing to look like a glowing, 2% body fat stone sculpture of a human, don’t worry about it. No one cares. Be a real human person with skin and hair and flaws. It’s okay. For all of us.
I don’t need to feel beautiful
I think our normal response in this discussion is to affirm beauty. To say, “No, no! You look [enter appropriate compliment here]!” And while this, indeed, is quite comforting, it doesn’t entirely solve the problem. Because, you know what? I’m not going to be “beautiful” when I’m 85. In fact, I’ll likely fall well below the beauty standard far, far before then. So will you. Even if you get surgery and shellac the crap out of yourself, everyone’s going to know that you’re not a 16-year-old girl. (Which is, apparently, our effed up standard for what people should always look like.)
I need to feel human. I need to watch time mark the days around my eyes and on my hips and through my hair and somehow feel more like myself, not less. I want each season to bring new scars, new wrinkles and more sag and for all that to make me feel that somehow, some way, I’m winning. I’m living. I’m human. I’m aging. It’s great.
Closing eyes and clicking heels
I want to believe all of these words through and through, without batting an eye. I want to banish that pang of guilt I feel every time I’m presented with the b.s. yardstick society so politely reminds me I’m not measuring up to. I want to embrace my changing, aging body without the knee-jerk reaction to sculpt it, starve it, or slather it into some other, better form. But for now, I’m closing my eyes, and clicking my heels, just hoping I’ll be transported to a mental home, free of these crazy, shrieking, body-hating monkeys.
And so, heroes of the internet with sagging boobs, and gray hair, and furry potbellies, I ask you to join me. Try with me. Get everyone you know to be down with aging. Wouldn’t it be rad if in 2033 there isn’t a single person out there writing this same freaking blog post? Fighting these same shrieking monkeys? There’s no place like…
What do you think?
(p.s. Check out this TED talk from model Cameron Russell. If models are still bummed about how they look after, you know, being the model for how people should look, maybe we’ve got it all wrong, huh?)
A very kind, smart, caring, professional, and good-looking friend (that last part is irrelevant, but what the hey—it’s true) just received her very first piece of hate mail. The criticisms aren’t about widgets not being springy enough, or jeans shrinking in the wash. The criticisms are more personal, more pointed, more…lively.
These kinds of things basically make you want to retreat to an igloo, living out your days in the company of dead fish and wandering arctic wolves. Or, at least, that’s my first response. So, being the kind, smart, professional person that *I* am, I thought I would save her the trouble of writing a reply. Feel free to use it yourself, should the occasion arise.
Dear Concerned Sir/Madam,
Thank you for your valuable feedback!
There are so many items and facets to address (wonders, really!), but I will do my best to give you the attentiveness that you so kindly gave me.
First, I must commend you on the tremendous effort you have displayed. Your thoughts were carefully constructed, and neatly typed out. There was not even a trace of food from the anger-snacking I assume you participated in before, during, and after writing this. I mean, there was not even a small amount of Cheeto powder or Ding Dong filling…color me impressed. And then, you folded the letter, put it in an envelope, addressed it properly, and took it to the post office! Were you going there already? Or did you make a special stop just for me? Either way, just look at that follow through.
Secondly, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your thoughts about my sexual orientation. Did you know that I didn’t even know I’m a lesbian? It’s true! Here I’ve been dating and enjoying men my entire life. A feel a little foolish for being so blatantly out of touch with myself, but grateful for your brave counsel. Someone else suggested that you may not be more in touch with my feelings than I am, but rather are using sexual orientation as an insult…but that seems below both of us, doesn’t it? I’m glad you agree.
I also really enjoyed the sweeping generalizations you used for entire groups of people. Some people call that prejudice, or just being an unbearable troll, but I can see how you were just trying to be efficient. Equally impressive was the way you disparaged both my employer and the people we serve—that way no one has to feel left out!
It got a little ramble-y toward the end, but you did bring it to a swift and succinct close when you stripped me of my value both as a “woman” and as a “human being.” The feedback from my peers suggested that perhaps this was an ugly overstatement, and inappropriate for civil dialog, but you know what I see? A fresh start! There’s no where to go from here but up! In fact, any future criticisms you might have are essentially unnecessary at this point: what could you possibly expect from someone who has failed both as an expression of the female gender, and as a human being of any kind? If you find yourself disappointed in me in the future, I think it’s safe to say you have yourself to blame; appropriate expectations are key.
Again, thank you for your valuable feedback—I regret that I need to wrap this letter up to attend to my many personal and professional shortcomings that you’ve painstakingly outlined. I can only hope to attain the kind of human perfection that you’ve clearly attained, removing my need for self-reflection, and freeing me to mercilessly judge members of my community with impunity.
[Your Name Here]
p.s. Just for future reference, is anonymity required when sending merciless judge letters? Or was that just for an air of mystery? Be patient with me, please (see above re: failed human being).