Monty and I just had an epically shitty walk to school. As we were leaving the apartment, I saw Rabbit laying on the floor near the couch and almost asked Monty if he wanted to bring her, but we’re trying to break him of that habit, so I let it be. By the time we got down the two flights to the first floor, he realized he had left her and wanted to go back up. I made the monumentally poor decision of saying it was too late and assured him I would bring her with me to pick him up this afternoon. By the time we were halfway down the next block, he was in full tears, reaching his arms out toward our apartment like Jennifer Holiday at the end of “And I am Telling You,” sobbing, “RABBIT!!!” He then threw his backpack and himself respectively on the ground and wept.
I stood there, while neighbors watched, trying to decide if I needed to pick my battles and relent, or stand my ground and not reward the behavior. I told him that if we went back home, he would be staying in his room the whole day by himself. “I want to snuggle you!” he cried. I told him snuggling wouldn’t be possible.
Have you ever had to say no to a five-year-old who just wants to snuggle? It’s fucking awful.
When I was maybe seven or eight, I would occasionally forget my bus pass. The bus stop was about two blocks from the house, and one morning, when I had forgotten my bus pass, my father decided that rather than pay the $1 fare (maybe he hadn’t brought his wallet?), he was taking my back home where I was to spend the rest of the day in my room, with the door closed. I don’t know where he went, he didn’t have a job. My mother was a freelance journalist who worked from home in her study. The rule was, if she was in her study with the door closed, she was, essentially, not home. She was not to be disturbed. As a mother who tries to get writing done at home, I get it. Midway through the day I remembered a nightmare I’d had the night before. I was so frightened by it, it took me a few minutes to steel myself just to cross my own bedroom to get to the door. I went downstairs and knocked on my mother’s study door. I don’t remember what the dream was, but whatever it was, it was scary enough that I was willing to brave the consequences of disturbing my mother to possibly get some comfort. She was warm enough to let me sit on her lap and tell her the dream as I cried, but as soon as I was done recounting, she said she was sorry, but I had to go back to my room and stay there.
I spent a lot of time in my childhood alone.
But what the fuck? When I get down two flights and realize I’ve left my water bottle, or my hat, or my Metrocard, do I have to spend the rest of the day locked in my room? What is the lesson I’m trying to impart? Though, to be honest, most of the time, when I look back up the stairs, like Harold and Kumar, I decide I’ve come too far already, and it isn’t worth it to trudge all the way back up. But you know what happens the next day? I fucking remember to take my hat (and inevitably forget something else).
I heard my father this morning when I told Monty that if we went home, he would be staying in his room. I heard my mother when I told him I wouldn’t be snuggling him. It didn’t sound good.
I told Kurt that I had threatened the same punishment my father had. Kurt reminded me to ask myself who I want to be in those moments. In that moment I wanted to be someone who was punching Kurt in the face.
Abbi Jacobson apparently said that if people don’t want you to write shitty things about them, they shouldn’t do shitty things.
In 34 years, do I want Monty writing about being sent to his room for the whole day because when he was five one morning he forgot his comfort object? Or, do I want him to say, “Gee, my mom was swell. She always made sure I had my rabbit in the morning before we left for school”? Of course, he’ll also be writing, “On the other hand, I’m 39 and I still have to carry this fucking rabbit around with me because my fucking mother never helped me separate from it. Also, I left the house this morning without my water bottle, hat, and Metrocard.”
Notes from the Road
Part Twelve: Los Angeles
First some light housekeeping.
1) I should rename this blog “101 Excuses for not Writing.”
2) I’m going to skip the part where I give my excuses for not writing.
3) We have a lot of catching up to do.
I’m in L.A. for a recurring role on a new TV show, which is amazing and awesome and what I’ve been vision-boarding in my head for years, but it means juggling a lot of logistics including flights, places to stay, transportation, child care. As the great philosopher, Bret Michaels once said: “Every rose has it’s thorn.” He also said, “Unskinny bop, bop, bop, bop/Unskinny bop, nothin’ more to say.” And I think we should all remember that.
I don’t celebrate my wins like I should. When I tell people about this gig I find myself downplaying it. “It’s just a recurring guest star. We’ll see.” I hear myself saying it, and I know I should be proud. I got this job myself (with the help of a couple friends). I heard about the role from a friend, called Jordan who happens to be close with one of the producers and got her to talk me up, casting reached out, I made them a tape and booked the gig. I did that. On Monday I was sitting in therapy saying something had to change. That I couldn’t keep banging my head against the wall. That I had a hard time being present with Monty because I’m always worried about my next job. I resolved to keep reminding myself that I am doing what I need to do in my career to book work; To stop constantly stressing; To do what I can to book work and then turn away from it and focus on the rest of my life. Less than 48 hours later I was on a plane to Los Angeles.
Life is weird.
Monty spent his summer at the YMCA day camp, which is not so much “camp” as it is a holding pen for kids during the summer. It was fine. I’m not sure he learned anything useful, except that most kids’ parent pack them literal junk food for “snack,” which makes his baby carrots and grapes look like prison food, and that when he punches a kid in the head for “being too close” to him, he doesn’t get popsicles for a week, and all TV privileges are revoked. Yes, I grounded a five-year-old.
When the counselor called to tell me about the punching incident, I imagined Monty rearing his fist back and punching this kid in the temple. Blood and teeth flying in slow motion. I instantly pictured him with a buzzed haircut and fucking rattail because that’s what the bullies I grew up with looked like. By the time I got back to camp to pick him up I was convinced he was going to end up in prison and that he was likely a sociopath. I spent the day having conversations with him about what kind of people we want to be in the world, and to use our words, and hands are for holding, and blah blah blah. In reality, it was probably less of a punch and more of a bop (unskinny bop), because face it, Monty is not Rocky Balboa, and he is definitely not a sociopath, and he will NEVER HAVE A RATTAIL. But the lesson remains the same. No punching, no bopping, unskinny or otherwise.
Ryan came out to L.A. to visit. We hadn’t seen each other since July when they came out to Brooklyn for a week and I was complete mess. Monty and I had JUST moved back into my apartment I’d been away from for eight months. I was a full-time single parent and didn’t know when I was going to work again. The timing was bad, but also so was my attitude. I was not very nice. Finally, on the last night of their visit, Ryan was like, “Pull yourself together, Eagan. Stop being a fucking idiot.” But way more loving than that. More like, “I am trying to love you and you won’t let me.” So, I pulled myself together, stopped being an idiot, and let them love me. And this visit was really, really good. They came to set when I filmed, we went to Malibu and drank froofroo drinks and ate seafood and watched the sunset, they cooked for me.
I am going to take this opportunity to celebrate my wins. I’m doing good. I have a job (sometimes), my kid is happy, healthy, and mostly nonviolent, Kurt is living with us again which is great for all three of us, my relationship with Ryan is loving and stable, I am getting closer and closer to figuring out who I am (more on that later), I have a tad of cash in the bank. I’m doing good. Things are okay. We are okay. I am okay.
“Ah, come on, honey, I wasn’t that bad!
Ha ha ha
- Bret Michaels
Indeed, sir. Indeed.
I’m still smarting from that audition yesterday. I’m trying not to globalize, but when things like this happen, I start thinking I need to quit acting and move to a cabin in the mountains and catch my own food. I know we are all entitled to a bad audition once in a while. The problem is when they’re as few and far between as mine seem to be these days, each audition becomes more important. And auditioning is a skill that requires maintenance. Eight months off is a lot. I’m really disappointed in myself.
Monty’s camp counselor informed me the other day that Monty spit at a classmate and tends to be “jittery,” and is having trouble listening to his counselors and doing what they ask of him. And, of course, my brain goes right to “Oh, my god, is my son a sociopath?” The sane part of me knows that he’s been going through a lot of changes recently, and that living with me isn’t always a picnic, and that it’s normal for kids to act out sometimes. And I know he isn’t being challenged, like, AT ALL at camp and is bored out of his mind, so yeah, he doesn’t want to listen when the teacher tells him to sit down so he can wait for them to figure out that ONCE AGAIN the school bus isn’t coming to take them on a field trip, so they have to cancel ONCE AGAIN. But, yes, I know he has to respect his elders. And yes, he has to learn how to be compliant because that’s what our education system is built on (this is a critique of the system not of teachers, so don’t @ me). And he has to learn not to get up and dance when there’s music playing because… kids should only dance when they’re instructed to?
I have often said, I believe firmly, that my main job as a parent is unteaching Monty all the garbage he learns out in the world. I send him to camp with food I know he loves and unpack a full lunchbox at the end of the, everything in it untouched, except maybe the pretzels, if I’m lucky. One afternoon at home he ate half a dozen hardboiled eggs. One kid who probably still doesn’t even know how to put their socks on by themselves says “eeeiiiww!” when he takes out a hardboiled egg at camp and that’s the end of that. And the list is growing. Snow peas? Forget it. Pickles? Fuck off. A sandwich on bread that contains some nutrients? Shove it right up your ass. A snack that doesn’t have gummy bears or cookies or JUICE?! Call DPS. The other day I asked him who was smarter, the kid who said pickles are gross or me. Monty said the pickle-hater was smarter.
Oh, and dolls, dollhouses, and anything pink? Not a chance.
What am I supposed to do? Buy him a pink scooter just to prove a point? I might as well flush 60 bucks down the toilet. Should I keep packing him healthy food that he’s not going to eat? His counselors think he’s not paying attention now? Just wait ‘til he has to go half the day having only eaten five Teddy Grahams at lunch because that’s all the sweets I’ll agree to give him anymore until he shows me he’s eating the rest of his food. When I make him promise that he’ll eat his real food before his sweets, is he going to actually eat it, or is he going to learn how to sneak around my rules? Am I helping him to be healthy and set up healthy habits or am I teaching him to resent me?
I remember struggling all through grade school with whether I wanted school lunch or packed lunch. First there was the issue of my lunch box. Honestly, I don’t even remember what was on it, but I remember knowing it was supremely uncool and I was embarrassed to use it. Then there was the fact that my mom insisted on packing me whole, nutritious foods. The closest I ever got to a treat in my lunch box was a Kudos bar. I was already the laughing stock of my class. The nerd food didn’t help my image. So, I would beg my mom to let me get school lunch. The cool kids got the school lunch. But you want to know something about the Department of Education’s “food”? It’s fucking disgusting. Even at eight years old I knew this to be fact. So, I would soldier my way through that food as long as I could before folding and going back to the actual food food my mother would pack for me and the cycle would start again.
I joined Monty for lunch at camp one day early on. This was before I started packing his lunches. I guess I figured the DOJ had gotten its act together and was serving actual food. Lunch was a baloney sandwich (I’m not kidding), on squishy white bread, a Dole pineapple cup (in syrup), and baby carrots (!!!) with powdered ranch seasoning. Like, why? Why not just the fucking carrots? Baby carrots are a kid favorite. It’s a scientific fucking fact. Kids like tiny versions of food. And carrots are sweet. For fuck’s sake. Oh, oh! And to DRINK? CHOCOLATE FUCKING MILK. Chocolate milk. They take a perfectly acceptable drink and add high fructose corn syrup and chocolate FLAVOR to it AND GIVE IT TO SMALL HUMANS. And then they’re expected to sit down and listen?! Come the fuck on.
I asked Monty if he would prefer if I packed his lunch for him from then on and he quickly said yes. Each day since there’s a new thing he loves that he now thinks is “disgusting.” And the cycle that I put myself through in school will continue with my progeny. I am bracing myself for the next however many years he has left of public school (which is, literally all of them, since he only starts kindergarten this fall) during which Monty will vacillate between desperately wanting to be cool, suffering through the “food” they serve at school, and enduring being called a nerd when he folds and brings A DELICOUS HOME-PREPARED lunch.
“My mother sent me to school with cheese sticks, and seaweed snacks, and FRUIT! All the other kids got chips and gummy bears. That’s why I have to live in a cabin in the mountains and catch my own food."
Notes from the Road
Part Five: Boston
There’s approximately 8000 inches of snow on the ground and it’s still snowing. The entire city is closed. Yesterday while grocery shopping I somehow managed to talk myself out of buying pasta? I think I ate one vegetable the entire week I was in Schenectady, so it’s probably just as well I don’t have an entire box of pasta to eat on my own. I did buy Oreos and ice cream, though. So, I’ll be okay. Also, I bought two bottles of wine and drank…more than I should have last night. I could really use some pasta.
I felt better after writing last night. Go figure. It’s one of those things that I know to be true but very easily forget.
During our video hang out last night Monty gave me and Kurt a concert. I have to say, it started off pretty bad, and I almost asked for my money back. He spent the whole first part of the concert standing on his piano announcing a song and then he just walked off. Like, who the hell do you think you are, man? Have a nervous breakdown on your own time. Your fans are expecting a show. But then he came back out on his scooter, introduced his scooter (“Scooty”), and played a cover of “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” which, while it sounded absolutely nothing like the original, was really something else. His version is just sound effects from his keyboard. He then played two original tunes. The first was called “Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day,” and the second was called “Seaside, Oregon Vacation,” and went like this: “Best vacation/Seaside, Oregon/With the best Mama and Papa.” Just wait til I take him to Disneyland. He is going to lose his god damn mind.
One of my castmates suggested I rethink my living situation with Monty and Kurt because I’m missing Monty’s childhood and it only happens once. It was a really helpful comment. I didn’t already feel tremendous guilt for “choosing my career” over fulltime parenting. I wasn’t already mentally castigating myself daily for not being there for my child. I don’t already want to jump off a roof every time Monty is too mad to look at me during our video chats.
Oddly, this arrangement of Kurt and Monty living in Seattle for now turned out to be sort of perfect. Kurt’s father is dying, so it’s worked out nicely that Kurt has been able to be there with his dad. I think it’s important for both Kurt and his father that they’re getting this time together. Not to mention the logistical help Kurt is able to offer that would be impossible from across the country.
Most of the rest of the company is staying somewhere else in Boston. I’m all the way the hell out in Braintree because I’m cheap and didn’t want to spring the extra money for the closer hotel. The Thomas Kinkade puzzle is really coming along.
Notes from the Road
Part Five: Boston
This past week was rough, kids.
Last Monday a member of my community, Ruthie Ann Miles and her friend, Lauren Lew suffered an unspeakable tragedy. I can’t go over the details because it’s basically all I’ve been thinking about, and I’m on over load. You can look it up. Trigger warning: babies died.
My friend, Donna sent me a link to a news piece about it the night it happened, and I spent the rest of the night weeping. It’s been a week and it dominates my thoughts. I don’t know how anyone comes back from something like that. Ruthie is seven months pregnant and is now faced with the impossible task of being present and available for her newborn while mourning the loss of her daughter. How do you do that?
The intersection in which the accident happened is in the neighborhood I grew up in. My parents still live there. I have crossed that intersection thousands of times in my life. I have crossed that intersection with Monty. I’ve used the Chase bank on that corner dozens of times. Monty and I have bought toys at the discount place on that corner. I had my 7th birthday party at the McDonalds on that street.
And anyway, that’s beside the point. It can happen anywhere, any time.
That is the existential dilemma of being alive, isn’t it? Living means risking death.
One of the reasons I never wanted to have a kid as because I was afraid of death.
I have been consumed by this and am trying to find a way to continue without being disfigured.
I had a two-week layoff after Minneapolis, which I spent in Seattle. Thank god for the break because I was getting loopy toward the end of Minneapolis.
Side bar: Minneapolins are there for theater. They packed that theater to the brim and laughed like they were watching a Norman Lear show. I was fully on board for it. After Chicago where audiences were…chilly, it was nice to have a solid back and forth.
Our first city back was Schenectady. If you ever have opportunity to visit Schenectady… make other plans. Sorry about it. Maybe Schenectady is a lovely town, but honestly guys? Worst week of the year.
We arrived in Boston this afternoon and were informed shortly thereafter that our show tomorrow has been canceled due to weather. So, I’m getting drunk, doing a Thomas Kinkaid puzzle and some laundry. Really just trying to keep it together.
If you want to help Ruthie Ann and/or Lauren you can do so here:
Notes from the Road
Part ONe: Seattle
I kept Monty home from school on Wednesday because he was complaining of a sore throat and had been coughing throughout the night. He absolutely could have gone to school, but my feeling is, if you can afford (time and/or money-wise) to keep your kid out and prevent the entire rest of their class getting sick, do it. It’s a courtesy to the other parents and, eventually, to yourself again… I’m painfully aware that most American parents don’t have the means to do this because our system is garbage. But if you can, you should. Also, I’m leaving in less than a month, so a day with Monty was welcome.
I was worried that keeping him away from screens was going to be a challenge. Play time activities are not my forte. But we did all kinds of nifty things. We spelled words. We played with blocks (he got upset with me because I asked him not to knock the affordable housing complex I was building down. I can be SUPER unreasonable). We listened to music and jammed out. I tried, unsuccessfully, to build a fire. We took out all his stuffed animals and counted them, and jumped on them, and buried ourselves under them.
At one point he took out his favorite rabbit, Rabbit, another rabbit, Dotty, and a small mouse and said it was a family. The mouse was the baby, and Rabbit and Dotty were the “Parentmates.” Parentmates, you guys. In this case, Rabbit and Dotty were sitters, presumably raising the mouse baby together.
I have been trying to figure out the right terminology for my relationship with Kurt. “Baby Daddy” is… let’s say problematic; Reductive, to say the least. “Co-parent” is okay, but also kind of reductive. But “Parentmate?” Sure, it sounds like a term used in a science fiction novel. Like the person to whom you’re assigned to raise offspring with in order to repopulate the nuclear war ravaged Earth. But, it’s also kind of perfect. Kurt is not just Monty's Dad to me. He means more to me that just the identity of being Monty's Dad. He's my Parentmate.
Parentmates, people. Get on board.
Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
I was listening to my news podcasts while making breakfast just now, yelling at my phone every two minutes in response to the horrific GARBAGE going on in the world, and I felt compelled to sit down and write. I don’t know what I want to say, necessarily, but considering I call myself a writer, I figure I should heed the call to write when it strikes, regardless of cohesive ideas. Especially given that I have seven rounds of Words with Friends waiting, and a new Nintendo DS (Thank you, Liza Walter!!) with a handful of games I’m eager to play, the compulsion to write is unusual. As Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
And yet (or and so?) here I am.
I don’t know how or where to begin with the state of the world. It is honestly terrifying. If I were unemployed right now, I’d probably head down to Alabama and help Doug Jones. I don’t know much about him besides headlines I’ve seen in passing, but I do know this: He’s not a pedophile. Jesus Christ.
Al Franken resigned today. Democrats have generally taken the high road when it’s come to dignity and morals, not stooping to levels many republicans will to win votes, or calling on fellow democrats to do the right thing in light of accusations or scandal (Bill Clinton notwithstanding), and sometimes we (I) wonder if we should go ahead and play as dirty as the other side does. These are scary times and sometimes it seems like we’re moving backwards, but all in all, haven’t we, as a country generally moved forward in terms of civil rights? I’m talking about the larger picture. Yes, our record is still deplorable in many, many ways, and we have a long way to go in terms of granting every human being basic human rights, not to mention equality, but we have been moving forward in incremental steps and I wonder if that’s because we have refused to get into the mud with the other side. We take a few steps forward and a few steps back, but I think the momentum is generally in the right direction. So as scary and as important as the loss of Franken is to the Senate, it may be the right thing in terms of the way this country deals with abuse toward women. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance.
It seems like the GOP’s long game is about securing money and power for a very small group of people so that when the shit does inevitably hit the fan, they imagine they’ll be shielded from it (perhaps they should ask the French how that worked out for them…). Maybe our long game is securing basic rights and dignity for everyone so that life gets generally better for everyone. And that means sometimes falling on our sword?
I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed and sad and California is burning.
But. Monty asks to cuddle with me every morning. So, I have that. I don’t know what I’ll do when my time in Seattle is up. I may end up Tindering my way through the country just for cuddle-buddies. (TBH, full disclozsh: Monty is the only person I actually want to cuddle with.)
He’s a bit obsessed with my belly. I think it started last spring when he learned that he was in there when I was pregnant. He asked to get back in. I explained that he was too big, and he curled himself up into a ball to try to be small enough. Ever since then he wants to look at, squeeze, and sleep on my belly whenever he can. He likes it when I push it out and make it big. Last week I told him that someday he’s going to meet someone with a big, fat belly, and they’re going to fall in love, and he’ll get to cuddle that person and their big, fat belly. This morning he made me tell him that story again.
When I dropped him off at school this morning, his classmate, Kennedy, who was seen yesterday morning sobbing in the corner because her breakfast plate was blue and not pink, announced that she was going to marry Monty. She going to have to stop worrying about the color of her plate and start eating what's on it if she wants that to happen.
I'm really good at parenting.
Notes from the Road
Part one: Seattle
When Monty was about a year and a half, a friend with a kid the same age asked what she should do about her kid trying to climb out of her crib. I suggested she put her kid back in a sleep sack for a while to discourage her from climbing at night. Another mother with a kid around the same age as ours said, “No, no, no! She needs to learn how to sleep with a blanket!”
She needs to learn how to sleep with a blanket.
Take a moment and imagine an adult who never “learned how to sleep with a blanket.”
“Where does this thing go?! Do I sleep on top of it? Do I throw it in the air and somehow position myself so it lands on me? Do I wrap it around my neck? How does this work?! WHY DIDN’T MY MOTHER HELP ME LEARN HOW TO USE THIS THING?! CURSE HER!”
Kurt and I recently went to a parent-teacher conference at Monty’s pre-school. Monty’s teacher was a bit concerned because Monty brings his stuffed rabbit to circle time every day and always uses her for show and tell. She also mentioned that he’s having trouble putting letters in the correct order when he’s writing words. Also, he holds his fork in a fist.
In his defense, he’s four.
I went to his class for a Thanksgiving lunch and saw the posters all the kids made. In true American schooling fashion, they all made exactly the same damn thing. A collage turkey with the words “I’m thankful for” written at the top, the things they’re thankful for written in the feathers, and at the bottom “Happy Thanksgiving.” I told Monty how proud of him I was and how impressive it was that he wrote words. Then I saw the other kids’ posters and realized, Monty’s was really a mess. I mean, it was truly a collection of letters in a mish-mash. Two feathers had the words “mom” and “dad” which he never calls us, and the third was just scribbles. At the bottom, as best I could make out, was written, “THAXXXX4Y HAL,” in a variety of font sizes. The closest another kids’ writing was to Monty’s was one that said,
Which, at least, is decipherable.
So, yes, we need to pay some attention to Monty’s writing skills. And it’s a good reminder. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in how good he is at drumming, or how comfortable he is around adults, or that he’s doing pretty well with reading, that we forget there are other skills he might need in life that require our focus.
That said, he’s four, and I’m fairly confident he’ll figure out that letters need to be written in order from left to right to form English words. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to walk into his freshman orientation at college holding his stuffed rabbit. And the chances are good that eventually he’ll develop the dexterity to hold his fork in an “acceptable” manner.
THAT BLANKET THING, THOUGH.
Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
I was talking with a castmate and friend the other day about my co-parenting situation with Monty’s dad, Kurt. It’s too complicated to explain, and since I’m interested in keeping readers, I’ll skip it. Suffice it to say, I’ve been living in NYC since May while Kurt and Monty have been in Seattle. It’s largely due to finances. It sucks and it’s far from ideal, but it was the only way we could find for me to continue pursuing my career. We didn’t know how long this arrangement would last, only that it wasn’t permanent and that the end goal was to get to a place financially where all three of us could live near each other in NYC.
I told my castmate that it may be we end up finding a three-bedroom place. It would be more affordable than getting two two-bedroom places, and certainly more livable than the both of us living in studios with Monty shuffling back and forth between us. That shit ain’t cute.
No one is suggesting that this is an easy solution. For instance, it would make dating difficult, to say the least, but frankly neither of us are at a place right now where we’re trying to find partners. It turns out I love being single. Also, between my career, my child, and the tornado that exists in my head, I don’t have time for anyone else. And whoever we both do end up dating, they’re going to have to be 100% on board with our arrangement. Kurt and I are close. We get along really well. And we’re raising a human together. And that’s that. Neither of us have room for jealousy, possessiveness, or insecurities.
My castmate asked if I thought maybe we were setting Monty up with false expectations about the way the world works; That parents who separate usually don’t live together anymore. It’s a fair question. But here’s the thing, I think the way the world works now is pretty terrible. Extreme hetero- and gender-normativity, along with virulent misogyny and homophobia have created a system in which most families can’t function in a healthy way. Parents stay married “for the kids,” or because it’s financially impossible to separate, and if they do separate and make their kids deal with the logistics of their failed relationship. People marry who never should have. People have kids who definitely never should have. And MOST of the time, if one parent has to sacrifice their career in order to raise the kids, it’s the mother. No one sneezes at the thought of a father working so much he’s rarely home. But people ask me constantly if I feel guilty for not being with Monty. (The answer by the way is “yes,” but I’d be suicidal if I gave up my career.)
So, what’s the false expectation? What’s the damaging lesson we’re teaching Monty? That two people who love each other in many ways and have a kid together can figure out a way to make it work so that their child grows up with both parents around? That making enough money two have two separate places big enough doesn’t seem to be in our wheelhouse? That people don’t have to be romantically involved in order to make a relationship that is “supposed to be” romantic work? That people are capable of all kinds of different relationships? That his parents love him so much that they decided to buck tradition and figure out what worked best for their family?
I told my castmate that when Monty is old enough to understand the concept of romantic love we can explain to him that his parents used to feel one way for each other and they’re relationship changed, and they figured out how to make it work. God forbid he learns that people are complicated, and relationships are nuanced. What if he grows up to be the kind of person who doesn’t blindly accept what everyone else tells him about the way his life should be? What if he learns that men and women can have relationships with each other that don’t involve sex or romance? What if he learns that even after we stop loving someone romantically we can still care for them, be kind to them, and carry on with them in our lives? What if he realizes that he can choose to keep people in his life based on how they enrich each other’s lives, and get rid of the ones who are damaging? What if he comes to view relationships as living things that change and grow and require maintenance and attention?
I left my castmate and met up with Monty and Kurt at the playground. I asked Kurt what he thought about how we would explain things to Monty when he’s old enough to understand what romantic love is.
“Daisy,” he said, “I’m almost 50 and I still haven’t figured out what romantic love is.”
Amen, Brother. Amen.
Several times now I have posted a blog here declaring I would begin posting more often, only to then fail to keep my word. I’m like that friend who keeps saying, “Let’s tooooootally get together soon!” but never actually makes a plan to see you. Yeah, I’m that guy.
I’ve been trying to figure out what’s keeping me from posting more often, or even, in truth, from simply writing more often. (I say “simply writing” as if writing were ever simple. As if sitting down to write wasn’t excruciating.) A conclusion I’ve come to is that I tend to write with rigorous honesty which is exhausting and scary even when you don’t plan on sharing what you’ve written with the world (and by “the world”, of course I mean the modest handful of people who read this blog).
We are supposed to project and air of success. People want to work with successful people. Our persona on social media is supposed to be one of cheery optimism. No one wants to work with a drag. But I suffer from depression and anxiety, as I’ve made abundantly clear in previous posts, and I tend to share the world as I see it, through blue-tinted glasses. It turns some people off, I know. It may cost me some jobs. But I believe it a) is more interesting than being Sally Sunshine (which I couldn’t be if I tried), and b) can help others who experience depression or anxiety. The more we share our struggles, the more normalized they become and the more likely people are to reach out for help if they need it.
When Monty was born I was given a clean slate. A fresh start. I was able to forgive myself my regrets and “bad” decisions. Every step of my life brought me to Monty. It was and is the ultimate lesson in gratitude.
I left NYC in 2003 because I was restless. I left because I wasn’t disciplined enough in my career and I felt I had developed a bad rep among casting directors for giving less than terrific auditions. Whether this was true or just a paranoid perception, I can’t say. But I was auditioning very seldomly and getting cast even less. My heart wasn’t in the game anymore. I felt beat down and tired. So, I escaped my life and went to Los Angeles.
When I moved to L.A. I was in the middle of what I now call my “20 Year Lost Weekend.”
I did not spend 20 years in a drug-induced, blacked out stupor. I worked. I made a few movies. I was on Broadway for a third time. I played a variety of women in various states of duress on TV. I got married and divorced. Bought and sold a house. Quit the business. Finished school. Got back into the business. I lived my life. But generally, when I look at the time between when my mother died when I was 13 to the time I had my son, almost exactly 20 years later, I don’t recognize that person. It’s as if a stranger was living my life for two decades.
And suddenly I had a human life I was responsible for (“Suddenly” means 41 weeks of pregnancy, of which I was only away of 30 weeks…). I had a white, cis male that I had to raise to be… better. Better than a lot of the white, cis men I have known. Better than the toxic representation of white, cis men that he will be bombarded with from every corner of our culture.
Better than me.
I take that responsibility very seriously.
The great weight of that responsibility, coupled with depression that was now hormonal and chemical, meant I have spent much of the past four years feeling as though I were treading water. True, I’ve managed to make huge strides in my career. I wrote and produced a one-woman show before Monty was a year old. I won awards for my writing. I made the gigantic (and terrifying) leap to move back to NYC. I have managed to turn a corner in my career with regards to my discipline and my abilities. I have worked hard. (Success! Success! Success!) But, if my achievements were taken away, what would be left? I am Monty’s mom. I am an actor. I am a writer. But who am I beyond that?
I have made the agonizing choice to leave Monty with his dad in Seattle while I pursue my career with a focus and discipline I’ve never had before. I feel like a monster most of the time for doing this. It feels incredibly selfish. But my other option is to move to Seattle and, what? Try to make a living doing theater in Seattle? Give up acting again? Be miserable? I would be with my child, true. But I would be giving up my dream and who would that make me? What kind of mother could I be? How can I teach my son to follow his heart and never give up on himself if I am doing just that? How can I teach him to be better if I’m not being my best? How can I teach him how to be better than me when I don't know who "me" really is?
How can I stop being a stranger in my own life?
I’m hoping he will forgive me for not being there. Hopefully he will understand this sacrifice. Hopefully he won’t resent me for too long. I am his mother. He will resent me. Just hopefully not for this or just hopefully not for too long.
I am incredibly lucky that Kurt, Monty’s dad, is a superhuman with a massive capacity for understanding. I would not be able to do any of this without his seemingly endless support. There are times I worry that all I’m doing is traipsing around New York City, seeing shows and schmoozing, while Kurt works full time and raises our son day in and day out. He is there for all the stubbed toes and ear infections, the bathtimes and bedtime stories, breakfasts and dinners, tantrums and nightmares, hugs and kisses. All of it. And I’m here. And he never fails to remind me that what I’m doing is vital. He reminds me that in order for me to be the best mother to Monty that I can be, I need to be here. And he does this despite the fact that we aren’t together romantically anymore. He does this while knowing that I’ve been falling in love with someone else. He does this while being the world’s best dad.
Monty is in the best hands possible.
But he’s not in my hands, which torturous. And necessary. At 37 years old, I finally get to figure out who I am. I have to figure out who I am.
I recognize that this is intense navel-gazing. So, feel free to move on. I hear there’s a great piece about single, working motherhood on Goop…