Sunday, July 26, 2009

Placeholder re: "wonder"

Wonder (courtesty of

An devout agnostic's reflections on the wonder of motherhood coming soon...

"Borrowing Robes" disrobed

Remember in the first act of Macbeth, when Ross greets Macbeth as the Thane of Cawdor? "Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?" Macbeth asks, not understanding at that point that he has, in effect, been promoted.

It's a moment that's always resonated with me, not just because it's a beautiful, sensual turn of phrase, but because of the poignancy of that moment of confusion and insecurity. To me it seems to suggest that in some way Macbeth feels like an imposter, long before he murders to become king. Something in me relates to that sense of being an imposter. I like it as well because just the term "borrowed robes" suggests, though perhaps not in this context, compassion, a la "if you were in his shoes." Writing is, to me, part and parcel to compassion. (Though apparently not compassion for LaToya Jackson or Sarah Palin.) I like the idea that you can, over the course of your life, borrow many, many robes.

Hence the title of my blog: In it, I want to borrow the robes of better, more disciplined writers; writing is, to me, part and parcel to compassion; and to me, "borrowing robes" is a metaphor for stealthy exploration of what one can become.

On owing LaToya Jackson an apology

Okay, okay, so maybe it was murder. We'll see. I'd just like to say for the record that if JANET had uttered the M-word before LaToya, I wouldn't have snarked.

Wow, that's amazing, when in respect rankings, the woman who flashed her nipple for a kabillion viewers wins out over someone else.

Does that mean if Sarah Palin flashed her nipple, I'd respect her more than LaToya, too?

On baby shakes

I count my blessings in many ways: by the number of lobster ravioli slathered with lemon butter I just called 'dinner', by every crumble of golden wax I plumb from Henry's perfect ear, by the many fabulous people who have graced my life. And now there's a new way in which I count my blessings: In seven months of out-of-the-womb motherhood, I've only had the urge to shake Henry -- as in "shut-the-fuck-up-I'm-so-tired-I-could-sleep-through-Sting/Johnny Depp/Jeff Goldblum*/Dexter Filkins/Andrew McCarthy-in-the-80s-naked-in-my-bed-and-I'm-desperate-to-get-something-done-that-has-nothing-to-do-with-you" twice. And I took deep breaths, walked out onto the back porch for a few moments, and imagined myself smoking a cigarette. Both Henry and I survived that horrible urge thankfully never transformed into action.

They say you forget the pain of childbirth. Hogwash, I say, I'll never forget the sensation of daggers dive bombing my uterus, but fortunately I have mostly forgotten the feeling those two terrible primal moments when I wanted to shake Henry. And primal it is: even though I've read a million times how dangerous shaking a baby is, and of course I cried the one time I hurt him trimming his nails, there I was, crazy with lack of sleep, desperate to take a crap or brush the moss off my teeth or God forbid take advantage of that Kiehl's shower gel I'd stockpiled for moments like this, that's what I wanted to do: shake. Not smack, not throw, but SHAKE.

Which makes me wonder where on earth that clutching, frantic urge comes from. It was like I was an urban spaniel who shakes a toy, still bred to shake a bunny even though likely the closest he's ever come to wildlife is a copy of "Where the Wild Things Are." I felt like an animal. Later, it made me wonder if our primate cousins, when they too are driven to psychosis by mothering, shake their infants.

And yet, for me, that's been one of the tenderest, most profound and most humbling aspects of becoming a mother: the every day reminders that I am an animal. When I nurse Henry, I'm no different than any other mammal, and somehow that recognition is deeply fulfilling and reassuring. When I'm stressed over or overly micromanaging some bit of baby care trivia, like in the first days when I switched a bracelet from one wrist to another to try to remember which breast I last nursed from, I remind myself that baboons, rats, elephants, and meercats don't wear bracelets. I quickly learned to not even think about it: Raising your child to the breast that needs to be drained does not demand conscious thought.

Still, it shocks me sometimes that we humans manage to perpetuate our species by raising babies: it is dull, dull work spiked with occasional fury. In the early months, baby care amounts to hours and hours of tedium punctuated by an occasional moment of joy, or the prospect of a moment of joy. It's like slogging through a bowl of skanky rice that never ends, forced to eat it with a serving spoon, because just once in awhile, you get a teaspoonful of chocolate mousse.

But back to the shaking thing, and the fact that I resisted the primal urge, in the end I think experiencing it just those two times made me more compassionate. Who knows how else my life could have unfolded -- indeed, how it has unfolded for other men and women -- where shaking a baby, regressing to spanielhood, felt inevitable.

*It's true. I heart Jeff Goldblum, even though he's apparently now dating a 12-year-old. Whoopsie, I inverted the numbers, she's actually 21.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reflections on the word "RETARD"

Word of caution to those who don't know me: I'm very liberal and very politically incorrect. If you're not down for that, click that mouse somewhere else and move along. I'm sure there's some treacle-spewing blogger out there whom you'd prefer.


My new favorite rediscovered word is "retard." I've recently rediscovered "retard" because my sister uses "retarded" as her preferred term of ultimate scorn and because it was frankly the only way to accurately describe the sounds that my soon-to-be-seven-month-old son Henry makes when we were updating the pediatrician on his, eh-hem, "lack of progress" in the babbling department. (Post on the quest for the perfect child is coming soon.)

I'm fairly certain that "retard" is as wonderful a word as "modernity" -- "retard" because it's so ugly sounding; "modernity" because it's so gorgeous. "Retard" is a word that sounds like a turd in a Dixie cup; "modernity" is a word that sounds like salmon mousse in a Waterford goblet. (Not that I dig Waterford or even own any, but you know what I mean.) I also love that as a noun, which is the way in which I'm using it, "retard" is commonly pronounced in an uncouth, technically incorrect way: "RE-tard." (According to Merriam-Webster and their delightful audio rendition, "retard" should be pronounced "ri-TARD".) It's also so wonderfully retro, like eight-track tapes of Cat Stevens, Marshmallow Fluff, or those shoes from the 'seventies called Cloud Climbers.

I like "retard" because it cuts to the chase and it's alarming, and even though people might be shocked that you use it, everyone immediately knows EXACTLY what you mean: they can immediately envision the short bus; the drool; the completely ridiculous, irrational gut-level assumption that retarded people don't bathe and surely must smell bad.

I also like "retard" because there are lately so many wonderful ways in which I can use it. Not only does Henry tend to sound like a retard, but California's EDD* is clearly run by a pack of retards, LaToya Jackson sounds like a total retard claiming that Michael was murdered, anyone who is a Sarah Palin fan is a retard, and our government's seeming incapability of doing anything serious about global warming qualifies them as well as a pack of retards. But lest you think that I only assign the term "retard" to others, let me assure you that my inability to properly sync my iPhone makes me a retard, too.

My deep thoughts about "retard" have led me down memory lane, too, to another term that all ten children on a street I lived on as a kid used: "flicted" (pronounced "FLICK-ted"). Someone who was a real dumb-dumb was "flicted," which is pretty funny because clearly one of us had heard the term "afflicted" and thought it was a noun, as in "Dickie is a flicted."

Needless to say, I hearby nominate "flicted" for common use. It might not be as offensive to those retards out there who don't like retard.

* = California Employment Development Department. I'm unemployed, qualified for unemployment insurance, not receiving checks, and there is no way to talk to a real person there, all of which rather defeat the purpose of unemployment checks in these tough times, which is to make sure that those without jobs can still buy things, pay their rent, and support the economy. And I suspect I'm not alone. So EDD is mos def run by a pack of retards.

Posts coming soon will include:

"Everything I know about motherhood I could have learned from farm animals"

"Reflections on the word 'retard'"

"Reflections on diaper turds"

"Will blogging bring my brain back?"


"I'd like my baby shaken, not stirred."

Why the hell am I blogging? Plus: an invitation to deconstruct the title of this blog.

For those of you who know me: your pokes and prods in my dimpled ass are finally bearing fruit (to brutally and tastelessly mix my metaphors), and I'm finally going to WRITE. We've hired a cleaning lady, baby Henry can finally entertain himself in the pack 'n' play if he's armed with something shiny, the teenager across the street is willing to watch him when I've had it, and I've crossed off every teeny tiny little procrastinatory task I have listed in my Google task list. In short, I have no more excuses. Oh, and I know myself well enough that the only way I'll really write is if I have an audience that reacts and thinks I'm funny. I'm that vain.

I hereby unveil "Borrowing Robes", the content of which as of now will be two-fold:
1) My probably completely unoriginal musings and rants about motherhood;
2) Aerating ideas for and progress on a book (More on that later. nothing to do with motherhood, at least thus far.)

Why the hell is your ridiculous blog called "Borrowing Robes," you ask?

Bonus points and a clafouti to anyone who can identify the reference. I promise I'll fill you in once you all have made your guesses.