A Million Women Cried Last Night–This is Why

history-is-herstory-too-quote-1When I was 8, I wanted to be the first female pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Not because I loved the game, but because they told me it was possible.

When I was 10, my fifth grade teacher told me use my brain, to push harder, to go higher. I never doubted her, because they told me it was possible.

When I was 18, I planned a career in journalism, exposing stories of injustice. I assumed I would be paid the same any male colleague, because they told me it was possible.

Yet there were days and years in between in which I came to understand that in the real world, possible is very different from guaranteed. For so many of us, the possibilities given to those 8, 10, 18-year-olds turned out to be nothing more than lip-service, because our country was not set up for the possibles, let alone guarantees.

When I was in my early 20s, I watched Hillary Clinton enter the public stage. A woman who had been educated at a time when the seeds of those possibilities were being sown. A woman who came into the public eye with her own successful career. A woman who set off a maelstrom of controversy because of a comment about not wanting to stay home and bake cookies.

In 1992.

And there are those who still haven’t forgiven her for it.

You see, Hillary and the women of my generation, we did what they said. We played the game with the boys. Not our own game, but theirs. We played down and dirty. We wore shoulder pads, we busted balls, we often sacrificed our fertility in the process..because we were told it was possible. But the lives we were living proved otherwise.

We witnessed fight after fight to strip us of our right to control our own bodies. We were passed over for promotions, made to choose between a career and a family, vilified for making one choice or the other. We couldn’t even agree on baking cookies. Many times we were our own worst enemy, attacking each other with a volume to shatter wine glasses if not glass ceilings.

But you, you gorgeous young women who have grown up never doubting a woman could be president of the United States of America, please understand we have doubted it. And so I ask you to allow us this moment.

You may notice a lot of women over the age of 45 getting sappy, crying at what has recently come to pass. We are crying the tears of our grandmother suffragettes, our bra-burning mothers, our board-room bitch peers. And we are crying for you too, because we are one step further away from possible and one step closer to guaranteed. 

So I ask you young women, please allow us this moment.

Nothing–nothing–makes me prouder than watching a generation of  young women take gender equality, LGBTQ equality as part and parcel of their lives. Women who expect equal pay, bodily autonomy as a given right. Nothing makes me prouder than hearing how the local high school I attended has a gay/lesbian/transgender club for teens. Nothing makes me prouder than listening to today’s young women campaign passionately for further progress because they have been told it is possible..and it is.

But I ask you to allow us this moment to bask in what we were told was possible, but was never guaranteed, for all those days and months and years in between.

Allow us this moment of shine.

We are a generation that was promised a glass ceiling but often got a glass slipper as a consolation prize.

So allow us a moment while we listen to the crack in that glass echo around us.

And stand with us to break it once and for all, as we will stand with you on the other side, watching you soar.

Love,
Me

A Wish for my Son, Who May or May Not Have a Girlfriend

carDear Son,

I’ve watched you grow up right before my eyes this summer. In your confidence, in your readiness to face change, in your willingness to tackle whatever comes your way. All summer I listened as the screen door slammed behind you, as you went out on your own to explore the same neighborhood I explored as a girl. I watched as you started middle school without a falter in your step. I stood back, with pride, as you took on the new challenges without a backward glance.

But I wasn’t ready for the last two weeks.

I wasn’t ready for a girl.

When you casually told me you’d asked a girl to the school dance, I was a little taken aback. My mom senses hadn’t tingled, my mom-tennae hadn’t picked up on any unusual activity. Still, I didn’t take it too seriously.

When you told me about the back and forth correspondence I was caught off guard. When I caught you getting up early in the morning to check for new correspondence I started to wonder.

When I caught you doodling her name on bits of scrap paper, my stomach flopped over.

“You.Are.Freaking.Me.Out.” I said. But you just…smiled. A new smile. I smile I didn’t recognize. A smile that maybe, could be (oh-God-already???) for someone else.

During this last two weeks of young–let’s not call it love, let’s call it curiosity–I’ve gone from oh, isn’t that cute to full-blown stomach dropping panic. The same feeling I get when you dangle a foot too close to the edge–when one false step can send you hurtling into nothingness.

Your dad asked if I was afraid you would get your feelings hurt. But that’s not it. That’s not it at all.

I’m not ready to give you up.

There, I said it.n-VINTAGE-MILKSHAKE-large570

You see, for some reason us boy moms are expected to back off when it comes to other females. Oh, sure, we’ll probably be consulted here and there on matters of the heart. We’ll engage you in thousands of conversations about respect and consent. But when you are mom to a boy, there are ingrained expectations that one day you’re going to up and leave, not just physically, but emotionally. Us boy moms are indoctrinated to expect that someday you’ll hitch your wagon to another gal’s star and take off for the moon. And us boy moms? We are advised to stay out of it, not become too involved, do everything we can to avoid becoming the dreaded stereotype of the meddling mother-in-law. We are urged to accept that fact that some day another woman will replace us in your hearts and that’s just the way it should be. A daughter is a daughter for life, a son is a son until he takes a wife and all that malarkey. I don’t necessarily believe it has to be true, but I’m also not one to take chances.

Oh, I know you’re so, so young. This will be the first of many crushes, the first of many moments of hummingbird heart flutters, of butterflies and stomach flips. I remember them. I remember them with the first boy I kissed and I remember the way they made me feel when I met your Dad all those years ago. There will be plenty of flits and flutters for you as well. There will be disappointments and heartaches. There is so much ahead of you. But if this is your first faltering step, there is something I want you to know.

You are worth fighting for.

I fought for you. I fought hard to bring you into the world when it looked like it wasn’t meant to be and I fought hard to keep you here. For nine months I shielded you with my body, with the comfort of my very own self, but just because you were born doesn’t mean that I stopped cradling you, stopped cocooning you. I protect you with every fiber of myself. I still fight for you every day, though you may not see it or be aware of it or know it. I am a mother. I do what mothers do.

You are worth fighting for.

vintage-varsityDon’t give your heart away to someone who isn’t worthy of looking after it. There will be those along the way who have temporary custody, those from whom you will learn. Love, like many things, can take time to learn to practice well. There will be those who love you more and those you love more. You will think you can’t go on, can’t tolerate the pain of a reciprocity not given, but you can. I promise. It’s often out of the ashes of those flames that the best parts of yourself are born. But whether it’s for a day or a week or a vow of forever, make sure whoever holds your heart is strong enough to keep it safe.

I hope some day you meet the right person, the one who will fight for you as hard as I have. The one whose chest will dance with the beats of your heart and the music of your breath. Look for the warrior in their soul, that core of shining armor willing to battle for you. Not fight for your love or for your respect, but willing to protect the squishy inner bits of you, the ones so delicate and ancient we keep them hidden. Summon the warrior within as well. Do the same for her. May you both close your eyes at night knowing there is someone there to shield your heart.

I know this is all a long way off. I hope this is a long way off; but if the last two weeks are any indicator, probably not as long as I’d like it to be.

If I do have to turn you over one day, I’ll sleep easier knowing you’ve hitched your heart to  someone who will battle just as hard as I do.

Love,
Mom

*I’m using the pronoun she for the sake of flow. Right now it’s a she. In the end it could be a he. It could be a they. Love is love, heartbreak is heartbreak, and my hopes holds true regardless.

Cool Kids

1950s-greasers-02Dear Son,

Ever since the Sharks challenged the Jets to a dance rumble, kids have been talking about who’s cool and who’s not. Oh heck, it probably started before that. There was probably a group of Neanderthal kids who thought their puma skin loin cloths were better than the Cro-Magnon kids’ leopard skin thongs (they were wrong, leopard skin always wins). Greasers vs. Socs, Jocks and Burnouts, Dauntless vs. Abnegation. The divide between cool and uncool and who decides which camp you fall into…it’s been around for a long time. Longer than me.

How do I know? I’ve been on the inside, I’ve been on the outside, the B side and the flip-side. I was on the outside only to find out that people thought I was on the inside. I have been around the popular block a fair few times. I’m going to let you in on something. There are ways to tell if someone is cool or not, but they’re not what you think. You probably won’t believe me now, but maybe you will someday.

It doesn’t matter what kind of shoes someone is wearing or what kind of computer they have. It doesn’t matter how long or short their hair is or who they’re dating or what kind of music they listen to (well, maybe a little of that) or whether or not they can kick a ball into a net. It doesn’t matter if they have braces or glasses or crutches or freckles or red hair or if they’re tall or short or like boys or girls or both or neither. What’s a cool kid?

Cool kids are kids who love what they do and do what they love, whether it’s math or chess, lacrosse or Michael Flatly river dancing.

Cool kids don’t do things just because someone else tells them to.

Cool kids know that dare is just a word. tumblr_m748xauilV1rxnozfo1_500

Cool kids know that everyone makes mistakes, that everyone deserves a second chance. And sometimes a third.

Cool kids know that everyone has a different idea of what is or isn’t cool.

Cool kids aren’t afraid to stand out, even if it makes them unpopular.

Cool kids know what irony is.

Cool kids stand up for what they believe in.

Cool kids don’t have to wear a certain brand or a certain style or a certain color.

Cool kids don’t have conditions.

Cool kids talk to the new kid because everyone was the new kid once upon a time.

Cool kids aren’t perfect.

Cool kids aren’t the ones with the most friends.

Because nothing…I mean, NOTHING, is a cool as a musical group number
Because nothing…I mean, NOTHING, is a cool as a musical group number

Cool kids aren’t the ones that win everything.

Cool kids know the difference between cool and mean.

Cool kids know that making someone else feel bad is totally uncool.

Cool kids know the difference between noticing differences and exploiting them.

Cool kids care, but not about being cool.

Cool kids usually don’t think they are.

Cool kids believe their parents when their parents tell them it’s not what’s cool that matters, but how you live your life. Down the line anyway.

Someday you’ll see.

Love,

Mom

 

In Case of Emergency, Read This

4677620_origI am a note person. I leave little scraps of encouragement and wit in the lunch boxes and have been known to stuff a love note or two into my husband’s wallet between the credit cards. I keep boxes of written evidence of a life well-loved and lived. Even the blog is really just a series of notes if you think about it. So next week, when I travel across the Atlantic leaving my husband and sons behind for a week, I will likely leave behind a paper trail. A popcorn string of thoughts, making sure that those I love know they’re loved.

Originally I was gong to write this and post it from the airport. How sweet, I thought, to have a little blog post full of all the things I love about my family for them to discover as I’m hurtling over the Atlantic on a wing and a prayer. Then I had a terrible, no good, very bad thought. What if something happened in the middle of flying across six time zones? It would be nice that my family would have a little reminder but what a terrible thing to be reminded of. Then the little evil blogger who sits on my shoulder, the one with the horns and the cape thought I bet it would go viral. Woman pens love for family moments before plane goes down sort of thing. And people would read it and get all teary and sentimental because well…who wouldn’t? But all those things, all those good things I feel for and about my family would forever be tied up in tragedy. Not good.

Why is it that the emotions we feel seem more poignant when there’s an emergency? Why do we wait until the last minute, when someone is about to walk out the door or call it quits, the towel mere seconds from being thrown in–to tell each other the important things? Not I love you so much as the reasons why I did and do and will continue to do so.

vintage-mail-009

I don’t want my sons to learn their smiles light up my life because I left behind a letter to read in case of emergency. I don’t want my husband to discover my life would be gray and dull without him because of a note I left behind. I don’t want my feelings for the people in my life to be a post-script, a break-the glass scenario. I want them to know today. And yesterday. And tomorrow.

I am always heartbroken and broken-hearted when I read letters left behind by parents. They play and pluck on my heartstrings as expertly as a harpist. As a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, a sister, as a writer, I know I would do the same. I would be frantic there wasn’t enough time to tell my loved ones everything I needed to tell them. Everything from don’t forget to floss to make sure you listen out for the “I love you” that sings with every beat of your heart. Which is why it’s even more important to scatter their lives with those reasons in the every day. Not just for emergencies.

lettersMaybe I don’t’ show it enough. Perhaps my love for my family gets overshadowed by the mundane, stuck on the bottom of a pan like so much baked on, caked on gunk. Maybe it gets lost in translation or in transit or in the spaces between. Those shiny things that make me smile or count my blessings, those things sometimes get lost in the Mondays, in the laundry basket, in between the cracks of the sofa. But I don’t ever want my family to hear about them in something that begins In case of Emergency.

So I won’t put them here.

This should be the post that goes viral, not the one stamped with tragedy, but the one tied up in life. The one that reminds us all to look to the left and look to the right and to tell the ones on either side out loud. The one that makes you remember that we have today, but not always tomorrow. In case of emergency shouldn’t be the reason, it should be merely be a reminder.