Notes from the Road
Part Nine: Charlotte
(Composed in Charlotte. Published in Dallas)
Remember bookstores? I remember when Barnes and Nobles was opening stores everywhere causing small, independent stores to close. We resisted Barnes and Nobles for as long as we could, until our options were so limited that if we needed a book, more often than not, we had no choice but to put our politics aside and go to a Barnes and Noble just this once. But, look, there’s a comfy chair in the air conditioning I can curl up in for a couple hours. And, you know, I’m feeling a little peckish, I’m just going to pop into the Starbucks INSIDE the bookstore. And, oh right, I need to get some thank you cards, and my nephew’s birthday is coming up soon, I should get him a board game, and I definitely need this Hot Firefighters from the NYFD wall calendar, you know, this place isn’t so bad…
A few years ago, people were complaining on social media (which some of us cranks used to refer to as the enemy of true human interaction) about Amazon causing all the Barnes and Nobles branches to shut down. It was delicious irony (I think. I’m still not entirely sure how to use that word properly). I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything other than smug. Maybe I felt a tiny bit of dread. One company swallowing up all the others is…dreadful.
Oddly enough, the branch on West 8th St. in Greenwich Village closed in 2012 and that property has sat vacant for five and a half years. I wonder why the landlord decided having no rent income was better than reducing the rent to keep a business open. Soon enough I’m sure it’ll be a Whole Foodsmazon.
Anyway, now there’s no small or huge bookstores and we’re supposed to be boycotting Amazon, and where the hell am I supposed to go to buy a new book? (The answer to this question is here or here.)
I wanted to buy My New Gender Workbook: How To Become A Real Man A Real Woman The Real You Or Something Else Entirely for Ryan, so I looked up the nearest LGBT-friendly bookstore and took a long walk yesterday to a place called “White Rabbit.” I suppose I could have called ahead to see if they even had it (they didn’t), and I would have found out that it was less of a bookstore and more of a generic sex shop with a smattering of used books in the front, mostly from the early 2000s. But, had I known that, I wouldn’t have bothered taking the walk, and I would have missed the adorable clothing shop called “The Frock Shop” where I stopped in to see if I could find something for a wedding in Austin next month.
I suppose it’s precisely not ironic that I was looking for a book about gender identity and instead ended up spending a good half hour looking at myself in the mirror in a flowing jumpsuit and wondering if it properly represented my own gender identity.
Someone once sent me a link to a reddit thread (the first and last time I have ever looked at reddit) about my breast milk tweet. The discussion was mostly about how my tweet did or didn’t represent properly the current state of the U.S. economy, with a handful of comments about my looks, or that someone knew someone who worked with me at a survival job and said I was a pain in the ass. No, I did not read all 300 plus comments. But one I did happen to see said that I was obviously crazy and used another tweet as proof. That tweet was “If I leave the house in anything other than jeans, I feel like a drag queen.” Yep, any woman who feels uncomfortable in a skirt is crazy.
My reticence at wearing dresses and skirts has only grown since I sent out that tweet in 2012. The last time I wore a skirt was in November of last year. I can’t really imagine myself wearing one at all these days. I don’t know what it says about me. Or that it says anything about me. Or why it would say anything about anyone. But I keep wondering what it means. What does it mean that I finally realized I was GAY gay only a few months before I finally accepted that I hate the way I look in skirts and dresses? Am I subconsciously trying to signal to the world that I’m gay? And to be clear (because that’s what we have to do whenever we share any opinion on the internet now), I don’t think that lesbians don’t wear dresses. I’m not saying that. But, you know, stereotypes and all.
Who am I now that I’m becoming okay with who I am?
Notes from the Road
Part Eight: Cleveland
I can’t stop thinking about The Argonauts. I’m also reading Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson, which is all about queer love. I’m steeping myself in this stuff. I should be ready to drink soon.
As we all know, and let’s say it together: I never wanted a kid. When I got pregnant again, in 2014, I knew that even if I did want another kid, logistically there was no way I could make it work. They say babies are born with a loaf of bread under each arm, but honestly, getting a baby out who isn’t carrying extra stuff is hard enough. Also, as someone who used to suffer from chronic yeast infections, I don’t need bread up there.
When Monty was maybe two I went through a I-want-another-baby phase. The great thing about phases, like adolescence, is you just have to wait for them to pass. Could you imagine me with two kids? I can barely handle the one, and he doesn’t even live with me. Plus, I’m only going to be able to afford college and therapy for one kid.
One of my dearest friends is really good at selling the idea of a person. I would say she’s good at selling people, but she’s not a sex-trafficker. When her friends have birthdays, or other milestone events, she posts flowing prose to Facebook about their merits as people and friends. Either all her friends are superlative people, or she’s just a really good salesperson. Or maybe she’s the superlative person. Maybe it’s a virtue of her superlativity that allows her to see the best in people. Anyway, once or twice she has sung the praises of a pregnant friend, extoling the many reasons why this person and their partner are the right people to bring another person into the world. She tells us why these humans should be making more humans. It’s such a lovely concept. To love someone so much that you think “There needs to be more people like you in the world.”
Imagine if our bodies could only reproduce if we genuinely wanted to make people like the people we love (or, I suppose like ourselves, in the case of single-by-choice parents).
The day after I left my husband, I went into rehearsals for a play. The night before the final two shows I woke up covered in hives. Head to toe. (For anyone who saw A View from the Bridge at South Coast Rep on our final Sunday, I apologize. I was on a shit ton of Benadryl and coffee.) I had effectively avoided thinking much about the ruin I had made of my marriage (because I didn’t want to be married in the first place), and my body was like, “You think you can avoid your deep-seated shame and guilt? Cool. Here’s a physical manifestation of it.”
If your subconscious and your body can conspire to punish you, shouldn’t they also be able to reward you? I don’t know. I’m having trouble with this argument because I realize it discounts single-by-choice parents. One would have to love oneself so much that they felt there should be more of themselves in the world. I’m all for self-love (both emotional and physical), but loving yourself so much that you think there should be more of you seems Hitleresque (even though I know the argument can be made that he actually loathed himself, but let’s try to stay on point, people). Loving someone else to that effect is beautiful and romantic. Also, I recognize that wonderful parents who have adopted children also end up on the losing end of this hypothetical journey, but let’s pretend science can figure it out. We can’t really think about this too deeply or it falls apart.
In the first episode or two of the achingly boring new remake of Lost in Space on Netflix, a voiceover informs us that traveling as far as they have defies all laws of physics, therefore “someone must have rewritten the laws.” Okay. Let’s go with that.
Could you imagine the heartbreak this would cause? Reproduction would act as a litmus test for the depths of love. “If you loved me enough, one of use would be pregnant by now.”
Anyway, my entire point is, I think I’m sad that no one has ever loved me enough to want to make more of me. And now that I’m solidly in my late-mid, early-late 30s (ssh, just go with it), my window for making more of me is closing, and I hear myself thinking that and then remember that I don’t even want to make more of me (or more of anyone else for that matter). But the point is not about having another kid. It’s about wanting someone to want to have a kid with me. And what if I do fall in love with someone so much that I want to make more of them and it’s too late? And no, I’m not freezing my eggs, because at this point they’re probably all pickled, and also, I believe in putting money toward adopting children rather than defying medical science to make brand new children. That’s my own personal belief for my own personal body. You go do whatever you want with your body. I literally don’t care.
Ultimately, I suppose adoption and surrogacy are where this hypothetical theory falls apart. I can’t even think of what the junky science voice-over to explain it away would be.
In The Argonauts, I don’t remember Maggie Nelson attributing her new desire to have a child with her love for Harry explicitly. She may have. But regardless, what I took from her story is that it wasn’t until she met and fell in love with Harry that she decided she wanted to have a baby. She loves Harry so much she wanted to make more of Harry. And it doesn’t matter that their baby won’t share Harry’s genetic stuff. Harry is Iggy’s parent. Harry is helping to create another human. Iggy will be representative of Harry regardless of genetics. That is enough.
Having Monty has been a lesson in “I don’t know where the fuck life is going to take me,” and realizing I’m gay as fuck at 37-years-old has been a lesson in “I don’t know who the fuck I’m going to find attractive tomorrow” (though, to be honest, I have a pretty good idea, because my tastes are pretty specific and pretty narrow). And maybe I will love someone enough to want to make more of them, and chances are good that we will have the same reproductive organs, making procreating impossible (until they figure out how to splice eggs together?). And maybe there will be a child in the world at that point who won’t be our genetic stuff, but who we can help raise to be like us enough that we see each other in them.
But by then, I’ll probably be in my late-early, mid-late 40s, and Monty will be an adolescent, and I’ll be spending most of my energy precisely getting him to not be like me that I won’t have the space for another one anyway. And I’ll be content with someone loving me enough to want to sit with me on the couch and not watch Lost in Space.
The following is a guest post from Melissa Howard, Head of Prevention Outreach StopSuicide.info. This piece highlights methods for recognizing and combating early signs of depression.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Identifying When It’s Time To Seek Help:
4 keys to emotional wellness
Do you spend most of your days feeling content? Are you able to relax and enjoy your life? Is there a strong support group that rallies around you? Do you feel good about who you are? Can you say “no” when you need to without feeling a sense of guilt? And finally, can you easily share your feelings with a friend or loved one? If you’ve answered “no” to one or more of these questions, it’s time to consider ways to improve your emotional wellness.
According to the Office of Health Education and Promotion at the University of New Hampshire, these indicators determine your emotional wellness. They break down your emotional wellness into four categories: Stress Management, Mental Health, Communication & Relationships, and Sleep. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Everyone experiences stress, but the degree to which we successfully manage it tells us a lot about our emotional wellness. If you’re unable to cope with life’s stressors, you need to start to focus on stress management.
The American Psychological Association reports there are five keys to eliminating stress, they are:
Unresolved mental health issues are a major source of emotional wellness problems, so it’s extremely important to seek proper treatment for these conditions. And, when a person with a substance use disorder is also suffering from a mental health disorder, it is critical that they carefully manage both disorders to ensure that a relapse from one to the other does not occur. Once both disorders are fully active, the person’s condition can turn life-threatening.
Communication & Relationships
If we’re unable to clearly communicate our intentions, for example, turning down a drink if we’re struggling with an alcohol addiction, we leave ourselves open to emotional instability. So as we look for meaningful ways to heal, it’s important to establish healthy communication techniques.
Nothing can harm emotional wellness quite as much as being in a bad relationship. Any journey to emotional wellness will rely on your ability to have healthy relationships.
Emotional wellness can be greatly affected by our sleep habits, as poor sleep causes irritability, emotional sensitivity and a decreased ability to handle stress. And according to medical experts at Harvard University, chronic insomnia can increase the risk of developing anxiety or depression. If you’re experiencing sleep issues, work on some ways to get yourself back to waking up on the right side of the bed.
If you’ve made a committed effort to work on each of these and you’re still experiencing any of the following warning signs, it’s time for you to reach out for help.
● Talking about wanting to die or searching for ways to die.
● Feeling hopeless or as if life has no purpose.
● Experiencing unbearable pain.
● Feeling trapped.
● Increased drug or alcohol use.
● Feeling like a burden to others.
● Heightened anxiety, anger or recklessness.
● A sense of isolation or loneliness.
● Experiencing extreme mood swings.
Our lives are precious gifts meant to be enjoyed and lived fully, but each and every one of us encounters roadblocks. No matter what your obstacles are, it’s important that you personally focus on overcoming them. For some of us that’s a committed solo effort, for others it’s working with an experienced professional. Either way, remember it’s OK to ask for help. In fact, by doing so, you’ll not just be putting your life on track to returned happiness and joy, but who knows you could be sharing your story of hope and recovery to motivate others to get well, too. Imagine the precious gift you’d be sharing.
Notes from the Road
Part Eight: Cleveland
Yesterday was no good.
I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve been getting to sleep past 3 a.m. and spending the few hours of sleep I do get tossing and turning. Even with a beer and a Xanax, my brain is like, “Psst. Psst. Hey. Hey, you. Hey, Daisy. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Let’s figure that out right now.”
I haven’t unpacked. I used the fact that I only have four drawers in my room as an excuse, but why would I need more than four drawers? But also, the drawers are under the platform bed, so, you know, bending down. Instead, my three suitcases are just overflowing everywhere. That’s my solution.
I’ve just kind of given up with Cleveland. I think when it snowed a couple days after we got here I was like, that’s it. This is the winter of my discontent and it will never end.
Yesterday was Ryan’s birthday. I bought them an early birthday present before we went to Palm Springs, and I sent them copious amounts of cheese and accoutrements for their party the night before, but I hadn’t mailed their card, yet, and I think I was feeling generally awful that I couldn’t be there with them.
I try to be respectful of Ryan and Sam’s time when I know they’re together. Very early on, Ryan and Sam came to see the show when we were still in Seattle. After the show Sam went home, and Ryan came out for a beer with me. Sam realized she was disappointed that Ryan hadn’t come home with her, and she let Ryan know that. I couldn’t drive Ryan home fast enough. I practically threw them out of the car. I know there’s not a hierarchy, but I try to imagine how I would feel if my partner’s partner kept wiggling in on my time with them. So, generally when Ryan and Sam are together, I try to back off, and generally that’s completely okay. It’s comforting for me to know that Ryan has someone there, especially because I don’t live in Seattle and I have no interest in being there for someone 100% of the time.
Also, we were texting yesterday afternoon, and I knew they were planning on a hike, but it was getting late in the day, so I asked about it, and Ryan said they got a late start, and I instantly thought, THEY WERE HAVING AFTERNOON SEX! And I wanted to pull my comforter into the closet and curl up in a ball and never come out.
This, again, is out of keeping with my usual feelings. Normally I’m like, fuck away! But for some reason, yesterday it hit me different.
I took three melatonin last night. So determined to fall asleep at a reasonable hour, was I. And somewhere around 11:45 I realized I felt awful that I hadn’t called Ryan. I kind of tried to reach out and felt weird about it. Ryan, in typical Ryan fashion, was like, Hell yes! I’d love to talk! And the next thing I know it’s 3:30 in the morning and I’m wiping drool off my face and looking at texts from Ryan that are like, Hey, I’m home! … Baby? … Oh, I guess you’re asleep. I got up to pee and tripped over a sneaker I’d left exactly where I’d taken it off.
Yesterday was no good.
Notes from the Road
Part Eight: Cleveland
Cleveland is strange. There is not a regular grocery store to be found. I don’t just mean within walking distance. I mean, it seems that in all of the Cleveland one will not find an Albertson’s or Safeway. I wonder if there’s some kind of city ordinance that prohibits some major chains, because now that I think of it, I haven’t seen a 7/11, or a Gap, or a Dunkin’ Donuts (not that I’m complaining about that). As a result, the most comprehensive and nearest market to me is a place I call “Hymen’s” (which is not, in fact, called “hymen’s”, but the name is close enough that, you know, why not.), which is closer to Whole Foods than Safeway. The kind of place that when you get home from it, you’re $200 poorer and still don’t seem to have anything to just eat.
I did find a CVS where I bought an umbrella that I used exactly once before losing. I refuse to buy another one on principal. It is POURING rain and will be for the next two days.
I finished reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson tonight. I can not recommend it highly enough. I zipped through it and now regret that I’ve already read it so I can’t experience it for the first time again. It’s the kind of writing that makes me ashamed to call myself a writer. Nelson moves in and out of thoughts and concepts in a way that makes you feel like you’re sitting on her couch having tea with her. It’s conversational. But it’s conversation with someone way smarter than you. It’s about gender and gender presentation, and sexuality, and binaries, and becoming a mother and a step-mother, and being a daughter, and a wife. I think that’s what it’s about. I’m sure if you asked her, she would say it’s about something else entirely. But, like I said, she’s super smart. Honestly, go get yourself a copy AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE.
I’m also watching Ozark which is thoroughly enjoyable popcorn entertainment. In some ways it’s like Breaking Bad light, but the acting is terrific, and I would watch Jason Bateman clip his toenails. Honestly Jason, call me.
I watched Wild, Wild Country, which is about a fascinating subject, but, I think, tremendously poorly directed. It’s sloppy and confusing. They gloss over extremely interesting points in a maddening way. They’ll be like, “They lured a bunch of homeless people into their community under false pretenses, then drugged their beer one night, then had a dance party!” And you’re left going, “Wait, what??”, but by then they’re already onto the next fact they’re going to skim over.
As we approach month seven of the tour, I’m starting to get really tired of the sound of my own voice. I’m in the thick of the usual nearing-the-end-of-tour-WHAT-AM-I-GOING-TO-DO-WITH-THE-REST-OF-MY-LIFE panic. That thing where one job is ending and you’re certain you’re never going to get another job (and, at the same time, you’re like, do I want to get another job? Maybe I don’t. Do I really WANT to be an actor? Though this panic is more of the every-day-of-my-life variety). It’s irrational, but 100% common, and 100% fucking awful. I read an obit once for some famous, Olde Timey movie star whose daughter said he never stopped worrying that the phone would never ring again. It’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay, right? There will be other opportunities. Work begets work. Someone will have seen this show and would like to cast me in their next TV
If you’re reading this and you have occasion to cast me, please know, I will continue to be an actor, and enthusiastically so, for the entire duration of my contract. There isn’t an actor alive who doesn’t ONCE IN A WHILE wish they could do something else. It doesn’t mean we don’t love what we do. It doesn’t mean it’s not our passion. You could be married to the person of your dreams, the person who meets 98% of the criteria you have for a partner, and still find yourself OCCASSIONALLY thinking, “Why am I saddled with this person and what is the easiest way to dispose of a dead body?” (The answer, by the way, is pigs.)
OR maybe I should move to a quiet town where the cost of living is low, and the population is starting to shift to a younger, more diverse crowd, and the schools are okay, and there are cows, and a little general store, and fireflies at night, and people ride bicycles, and there are flocks of wild turkeys, and a new, local brewery, and a cheese shop, and the nearest train to NYC is a half an hour away, and there’s a swimming hole, and a fishing hole, and trails, and an old railroad museum, and a candy store that an old lesbian couple just bought. And Monty can go to school, and Kurt can find a local music shop to work in, and I can…write for a living?
I don’t know where I belong. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt at home. I’ve never felt like I was part of a community. I never had the place I went to every day for coffee. Or my favorite diner. Or my local dive bar. I’ve never really felt connected to a place. I think I’d like to have that feeling. And what if it is somewhere really quiet and remote? What if it’s in the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica? Or somewhere in Northern Scotland? Or in Uzbekistan? Will the phone stop ringing if I move to Uzbekistan? Will I care? Will I even have a phone? Does Uzbekistan exist anymore?
You guys, what am I going to do when this tour ends??
I woke up this morning to a phone call from Ryan which I ignored because it was before 3pm on my day off. But I’m Jewish, so immediately I started worrying that someone was dead, also I have therapy in a little bit (which, why I scheduled that before 3pm on my day off will be the topic of the entire 45-minute session today), so I dragged my ass out of bed and called Ryan back. They had two pints of ice cream delivered to me. A pint of Vanilla Swiss Almond and a pint of Butter Pecan. Let’s file that under “I have impeccable taste in partners.” And before you think I’m being hyperbolic because it’s just ice cream, go back and read my last blog (which you should have done already because, a. I’m a good writer and b. I’m trying to make a living at writing and I need readers…) and consider what would have happened if you had compared your partner to ice cream and talked about wanting to try another flavor. Would they have had ice cream delivered to you? And if they had, would they have included the other flavor? My ex might have sent me 18 cases of their flavor with a note that said, “If I ever see you so much as look at Butter Pecan I will be disposing of your corpse in a pig pen.”
Oh, hey, what do you know? It’s time for therapy.
Notes from the Road
Part Eight: Cleveland
Important reader poll: The person who made my latte did NOT put a heart in the foam. Should I leave them my phone number?
I honestly have no idea how humans get together. I’ve done it thousands hundreds dozens of times, and yet, it remains a mystery.
Also, I worry that hooking up with someone else will effect my relationship with Ryan. I know that the point of polyamory is to be able to eat any flavor ice cream in the freezer without the Vanilla Swiss Almond getting jealous (I mean, I know that’s not the point of polyamory, but it’s a defining characteristic. It’s an “acceptable” behavior.). But what if I taste another flavor and it effects the way I feel about Vanilla Swiss Almond? Like, what if I’m like, Man, I really love eating Vanilla Swiss Almond, like, a lot, but I didn’t realize how much I would like Butter Pecan and now I want more Butter Pecan? I suppose only having three weeks in Cleveland precludes any chance of getting addicted to Butter Pecan. And who knows, maybe I could go back to Vanilla Swiss Almond next time and be like, There’s this cool other flavor I tried and I thought you might want to mix in some of its ingredients. Then I would have my favorite flavor with a swirl of something else delicious.
I flew to NYC on my day off to sing at a fundraiser for an organization that supports amateur musicians. The youngest performer was an 8-year-old girl in a communion dress that Jesus would have been embarrassed by. I ran into her and her family in the elevator on the way to the concert hall. Somehow, over the course of the three-minute elevator ride her mother managed to inform me that her daughter had played a concert with Yo-Yo Ma the night before. By the end of the evening her mother had managed to inform me of this fact no less than five times. But always in this “non-braggy,” “she’s tired because she played with Yo-Yo Ma last night” kind of way. During the concert, after she performed, she sat backstage stock still, doing nothing. I asked her if she had fun and she gave an almost imperceptible nod. I didn’t pursue any further conversation with her. Her mother came backstage with her 5-year-old sister (who, incidentally, plays the cello, but didn’t play with Yo-Yo Ma last night.) and ran around for a while talking about how much her younger daughter eats. “She just eats and eats and eats! And she loves sushi!” And some other woman said, “Well, at least sushi won’t make her fat!”
She’s going to have to use the money her little cash cows make for all the therapy they’re going to need.
I’m not at the point in the tour where I’m starting to legitimately freak out about what I’m going to do when the tour ends. Who am I kidding? I started worrying about that the day I got cast. I was holding out hope that Sarah Steele would book the gig of a lifetime that would make her unavailable for the L.A. run, but that’s looking less and less likely. It used to be summer was a quiet time, but now with all the streaming services, there’s plenty of work to be had in the summer. So maybe something will come along. I’d love to take Monty on some kind of cool vacation. Like renting a van and driving around the country for a month. Or jetting off to Ireland or something. But I’m so terrified of being poor that I can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money. What if I never work again?
Notes from the Road
Part Seven: Des Moines
I spent most of last week in Palm Springs at The Dinah Shore festival, the “largest lesbian festival in the world.” It turns out I’m too old/introverted/shy/disinterested. Days were spent at loud pool parties with DJs and drinks, and nights were spent at loud dance parties with DJs and drinks. I sent our Brunch of Shame sizzle reel to the events director back in November to see if they might be interested in booking us. They had already booked their “comedy,” though. Ryan and I went to see the “comedy.” It was two women who are sorely out of touch with modern queerness, or even just basic lesbianism. They were sorely out of touch with modern anything, really. Fuck it. They were bad. The first one made “jokes” about sex “toys” and said that if you can’t “get the job done” with your mouth or fingers she doesn’t want to bother. It’s sex. Not an oil change. She also made tired jokes about lesbian bed death and how lesbians can’t have threesomes because they’re too competitive. Right. Because we all know how chill straight dudes are when it comes to proving their prowess. The second one has apparently been doing stand-up since 1987 but hasn’t learned how to write a set up. She went on and on about how she had rejected religion as a child and how she grew up so Christian she though other religions were Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic, etc. That’s funny, she then explained, because those aren’t other religions. Hahahaha. She also made a joke about how the desert is so dry that all the lesbians at The Dinah were probably finally using that 14-year-old bottle of lube they never use. We left in the middle of her set feeling sorry for the “comedians” and the women they were having boring, efficient sex with.
I'm not saying they should have booked us instead us, but...
I booked the trip in November when I was still single and met Ryan in December. So, Ryan joined me for the majority of the trip which worked out well because I would have been miserable there by myself (see above mention of being old/introverted/shy/disinterested), and the time we spent together ended up being far more valuable than any one-night stand with some random woman.
I was feeling encroached on and claustrophobic. I was feeling like I didn’t have the capacity for a relationship and everything that entails. I was remembering how comfortable I had been with being single before I met Ryan. I was annoyed at myself for not respecting my alone time and not making enough room for myself on the lay over before this one. I had (happily) spent most of my days with Ryan and hadn’t left myself enough time to write or generally take care of my own shit.
There are aspects of our relationship that are great and very meaningful, but there are some things that can be challenging and that make me feel trapped. There are ways in which Ryan and I are really compatible and ways in which we’re less so. In other words, it’s a relationship. I was able to identify and articulate for myself some of the issues I was having, but I was too scared to bring them up with Ryan.
When you grow up in an alcoholic household, you learn that feelings are scary and have the power to destroy. Boundaries are rarely drawn, or respected if they are drawn. The concept of knowing what you might have the capacity for in a relationship is nonexistent. It’s all or nothing. Obviously a seven-year-old with active alcoholic parents isn’t going to have the wherewithal or allowance to say, “When you drink to excess I feel scared for my well-being. I can’t control how much you drink, but I can control whether or not I chose to be around you when you drink.” Good luck sleeping on the street, kid. So, you learn to hide your feelings, or disregard them. And you learn that you have two options, endure the behavior or…what? Die? Get punished for calling out bad behavior? Hurt someone’s feelings so bad they threaten to disown you? Your perfectly valid need for safety and self-preservation is at odds with the reality that in order to survive, you have to put your safety in danger. So, maybe your feelings and safety (i.e. comfort) begin to matter less. Your parents are the ones who are supposed to protect you, so when the danger is coming from inside the house, you internalize the idea that you aren’t worth safety or comfort. And as you carry this garbage with you into adulthood, it turns into an inability to tell friends or partners that their behavior makes you uncomfortable, so you learn to end relationships instead. Where you might be able to say, “Hey, there’s this thing you do that triggers me or makes me uncomfortable or that I just don’t have the capacity for, can we talk about it and find something that works for both of us in order to preserve the positive aspects of this relationship”, instead you cut your losses and walk away, leaving a wake of half-lived relationships behind you.
I was sure that if I told Ryan how I was feeling, Ryan would be destroyed. That’s how powerful feelings are. And so I was thinking I was just going to have to end it. Unpacking it now highlights the illogic of it, but in the moment, it seemed like the only right option.
I’m not even sure how it ended up happening, but I approached one of my concerns gingerly with Ryan on Saturday night. I braced myself for a tirade, which makes a ton of sense because Ryan is definitely known for their tirades… Very little of my anxieties are based in reality. At any rate, Ryan was like, “Yeah, cool. No problem.” And I was like, “Wait. That’s it?” And they were like, “Yeah, what you said makes sense and I totally get it.” So, emboldened, I went on to address a larger concern I was having, and Ryan, weirdly, didn’t scream, or melt down, or accuse me of abuse. Ryan said, “Thank you for trusting me enough to let me know how you’re feeling. Let’s see what we can come up with that works for the both of us.” And I was like… “Wait. That’s it?!”
One person cannot be everything. We have friends PLURAL because we appreciate different things about different people. One friend is the one you go drinking with. One you talk about politics with. One you cry with (I mean, hopefully not exclusively because that would be a pretty lugubrious relationship). Why do we expect our intimate partners to be everything to us? Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Just because my plate is extremely full right now, and I don’t have the capacity for certain topics of conversation, or I need more alone time than someone else might need, doesn’t mean I don’t have other things to offer a partner. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
There’s this weird thing called “communicating” that I’m learning about. You tell someone how you’re feeling in a gentle, loving way, and they respond in kind. Hopefully. If they don’t, maybe reexamine your relationship? I have never been good at it. Because of how destructive I’ve believed my feelings were, I learned to express them as anger. I’ve set boundaries like they were grenades. Pull the pin, lob it at the target, and then run the fuck away so I can’t see the destruction I’ve inevitably caused with my “needs” and “feelings.”
I’m going to leave it there. Except to say I keep thinking about that poor mouse who died in my kitchen. She probably ate poison somewhere in the basement and somehow made it all the way up here before she expired. It’s not like when you’re poisoned you just die suddenly, unaware that anything is wrong. It’s extremely painful. It’s usually preceded by vicious cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Where was all the mouse vomit and diarrhea? Poor little guy. She must have been scared. I wonder if she wanted her mama.
Also? I keep having this awful image of picking the mouse up by her tail and putting her in my mouth.
Notes from the Road
Part Seven: Des Moines
I woke up early this morning in my Air B and B to pee and saw what I thought was a dried leaf on the kitchen floor. It didn’t make sense. I was fairly certain it wasn’t there when I went to bed. And the trees are pretty bare in this eternal winter. It was a mouse. It was a dead mouse. It was on its back. It might as well have had its tongue lolling out with little black Xes over its eyes. Like it came home from the bar really late and couldn’t find its apartment and stumbled around my kitchen for a while until it just keeled over and died. I went back to bed and dreamt of dead mice and my ex-husband.
Yesterday I got $5 in quarters to do my laundry. $2 for the wash and $2 for the dryer. Today, once my wash was done, I moved my clothes into the machine next to the washer, put in my $2 of quarters, closed the door and started manipulating the dials. It wasn't until the water started flowing into the machine that I realized I had put my washed clothes into another washer. Now I have wet clothes and 25 cents too little to dry them.
Not a terrific day so far, folks.
Though I will say the palm oil free hazelnut spread that I found at the local over-priced market is making things tolerable. Same great flavor, now with fewer dead monkeys!
Also, I saw a really hot person at said over-priced market and it highlighted the fact that I still have no idea how to talk to attractive people. I just gasped and then browsed near them until they left. Smooth.
I left my laptop in the women’s restroom at the Des Moines airport.
The details are not worth going into. Suffice it to say, I was NOT using my laptop ON a public toilet, as some have suggested. I just had it in my hand when I went into the stall and didn’t have it in my hand when I came out of the stall. I had been up since 4 am, been on three flights and in four different airports. I wasn’t particularly focused. However, I had finally finished writing the first draft of a pilot on my flight from Seattle that I’d been ruminating on for months. And I didn’t want to pay the $6.95 for internet access to upload it to the great hard drive in the sky. Also, my phone did some random update and dumped all my pictures onto my Google drive. So, if someone can get into the computer, they’re going to have access to some compromising material. Hell, maybe it’ll finally be my ticket to fame and fortune.
Kurt called yesterday to tell me that Monty is now registered for Kindergarten. Kindergarten.
Kindergarten was where I learned to hate school. Miss Mooney, my teacher, was sharp and cold and screamed at me for coloring something in “wrong.” For show and tell I brought in a ziplock bag of deer poop I had collected on my latest hiking trip with my dad, and a classmate, Robin brought her pompoms in and chanted “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? Miss Mooney! Miss Mooney! Yaaaaaaay, Miss Mooney!” Robin could speak for herself, I thought. I was on to those lemmings and this broken system from the jump. This was back when public school teachers could still hit children and did so regularly. I escaped that school before first grade and avoided a teacher who locked students in the closet if they misbehaved. I took my deer poop and hightailed it out of there.
Monty will love Kindergarten. Right?
Notes from the Road
Part Six: Palm Springs
When Monty was a baby I sang to him constantly. I had a set I did every time I put him to sleep. You Are My Sunshine, I Will (The Beatles), Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and a song that Kurt and I (but really mostly just Kurt) made up called Schreetz Times (“Sleep Time”?). Sometimes I would add One for my Baby, or What’ll I Do. There was a period of time where I sang Let it Go from Frozen every night. Kids go nuts for that damn song. Anyway, I don’t know when it happened, but at some point Monty was tired of being Pavolv’s dog and didn’t want to eat every time the bell rang, if you get what I’m saying. He associated my singing with going to sleep and for some psychotic reason, he doesn’t like going to sleep. So, he stopped letting me sing to him.
My last night in Seattle, two nights ago, he had the hiccups. I tried everything to help him get rid of them. I did this weird witchy thing where I rubbed his back and pretended to gather up his hiccups and pull them out of him. It didn’t work. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not a witch. I know, I was surprised, too. Finally, around 10:30 I started singing You Are My Sunshine, fully expecting him to stop me immediately. 15 minutes later, after Let It Go, he said, “I can’t sleep because you’re not singing enough.”
You guys. I sang my son to sleep.
Maybe I am a witch.
I’m in Palm Springs for Dinah Shore. It’s my coming out ball. Minus the balls.
I scheduled this vacation in November. I was going to sleep with every hot queerie I could consensually get my hands on. And then I met Ryan.
The summer after I left my husband, in 2005, I reconnected with a guy I had met while I was married. I was living in L.A. and he was in NYC. I planned a trip to NYC to see him for a couple weeks and then started seeing a guy in L.A. who didn’t understand how I could go to NYC and sleep with someone else when I had been sleeping with him. More than that, he was incensed because I had sat on his lap at a party. Apparently in his culture (white bro culture) when a woman sits on your lap she is committing herself to you for eternity. Or until he finds a younger woman to neg into sleeping with him. Not for nothing, but the guy in NYC ended up being an immense bucket of garbage. He told me I had put a hook in him and he was considering relocating to L.A.. Not for me, but that I was there was definitely a draw. He was all about me until another woman who had been flirting with him turned 18. The day after her birthday he told me I was too clingy. No offense white bros, but you guys are kinda the worst.
One of the benefits of being in a relationship with someone who’s married is I can spend time with them on my vacation at Lesbian Prom, and also go play if the mood and opportunity strike. That is to say, this is one of the benefits of Polyamory. People who proclaim to be monogamous and have affairs can be awfully possessive. “Yes, yes, I know I have a wife and you’re my side piece, but you’re my side piece, damnit!” Attractive. Plus, I can be really shy, and if I were here alone I would probably spend most of the time buried in a book trying to not to make eye contact for fear that someone might actually…talk to me. “Did you see the woman with the amazing butt laying by the pool?” “You mean the one who literally read Jeanette Winterson and didn’t talk to anyone during all of Dinah Shore?” So, Ryan will be the chatty one and I’ll be the one sipping a pina colada and trying not to seem like a bulimic at a Vegas buffet. No offense to bulimics. Some of you are truly lovely people. Not my roommate in my first semester at NYU, though. When she wasn’t yacking in our only bathroom for hours, she was stealing my make-up, and talking about how smart she was. Jesus. She was awful. I got back at her by barfing all over the carpet one night when I’d had too much to drink. Oddly enough, she didn’t seem that phased by the barf.
Some day, when I have lots and lots of expendable income, after Monty’s entire school career has been paid for, I’m going to go on a vacation where I stay in a really nice hotel. Like, one with room service. One where the bed isn’t literally a murphy bed. One where there’s not stains… from hopefully pre-eaten food… on the plastic blinds. One where the bathroom sink will probably not rip away from the wall if you put any weight on it. One where there’s not a dirty washcloth left over from the people before you in the shower. One where someone was definitely not tortured and murder and stuffed into a suitcase. You know. A nice place.
And now off to see the lesbians! Maybe I won’t even bring a book…
I was sitting in the waiting room at the gynecologist’s office annoyed at the other two women there who had brought along their (male) partners. Just because they happened to get themselves knocked up, I thought, doesn’t mean I have to be subjected to a random dude while I wait to get my vagina inspected by a complete stranger. You never see women waiting in the prostate doctor’s waiting room, do you? No doubt those dudes were sitting there imagining me getting my vagina probed. If not by themselves, by some hot doctor who takes her glasses off and lets her hair down in slow motion before we have hot lesbian porno sex. . . I mean, sure, the dude’s wife or girlfriend or whatever is carrying a human life, but I’m pretty sure he’s thinking about my vagina.
It was October and technically I was 2 months over due for my yearly exam.
Like any proper date, Dr. Yamaguchi got to know me a little before asking me to strip from the waist down.
“Do you use birth control?” She asked.
“I just went back on The Pill in August,” I said.
“Why did you go off it?”
“I was on it for 14 years. I thought I might want to give my uterus a breather.”
“Do you always use a back up?”
“Well… not always,” I admitted. “But the thing is, Doc, have you ever watched the original Star Trek series?”
“Um, yes?” She looked up from the clipboard.
“You know when they beam down to an alien planet? I’m pretty sure my womb is like one of those sets. Dusty and barren. With poorly painted backdrops and rocks made of Styrofoam. Minus that last part.”
“So, you’ve never been pregnant. To your knowledge.”
“Or to anyone else’s.”
I have been having sex for 17 years with very few dry spells. I don’t say this to toot my own horn. It’s not like I’m some incredible catch. Mostly it’s just that historically my self-esteem has been so incredibly low that I’ve had a tendency to sleep with a guy if he looked in my general direction. (“Look, mama! I’m pretty!”) It wasn’t until my late twenties that I finally realized a man will fuck pretty much anything given the opportunity. My glowing personality and sharp wit had very little to do with the multitude of notches on my bedpost.
Not only have I had a lot of sex, but I’ve had a lot of stupid sex. I had sex with a complete stranger in an alley in France when I was 17, without a condom. I was roofied once when I was 19 and woke up in the morning with a man I had never seen before humping away at me like he’d bought me dinner or something. But more of this anon (I know, you can’t wait.)
The point is I have done some monumentally dangerous things in my sex life. I’m not proud. All of this is to say I had become convinced that I was incapable of getting pregnant. I was absolutely sure the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly played constantly in my empty womb. I was on The Pill to treat my debilitating monthly cramps that made me want to die every 28 days. (I’m fairly sure I’ve already lost my entire male audience at this point. Let’s get naked, ladies!)
Dr. Yamaguchi continued,
“Have you experienced any recent weight gain or loss?”
“As a matter of fact,” I said, “I went on this kick ass diet in April, I can give you the deets, if you’re interested. Not that you need it. Your body is slammin'. I lost 20 pounds. What?! I know. Badass. Then, uh, I gained back five in the last month or so. I’ve been tucking in pretty hard to the pasta and wine lately. But, don’t worry, I’m back on the diet!”
“When was your last period?”
I thought for a few moments.
“Well, technically it was in July… But I had, like, PMS and cramps and stuff in August and September, I just didn’t technically get my period. As in, my Aunt Flow never actually made an appearance. But, you know, I had just gone back on The Pill in August, so I’m pretty sure my body was just readjusting.”
Dr. Yamaguchi blinked at me a few times.
“Any chance you’re pregnant?”
“Any chance Kim Kardashian will win the Nobel Peace Prize? I’m telling you, Doc, my womb is not a friendly place.”
After the exam I was sitting on the floor tying my shoes (because apparently I can’t sit in a chair to tie my shoes like a grown-up…) when there was a soft knock at the door. Dr. Yamaguchi came in, closing the door behind her.
“So,” she said. “You’re pregnant.”
“That’s impossible,” I explained. “I don’t like children.”
“Be that as it may, you’re pregnant.”
The next 20 minutes were the funnest of my life. I had to wait in the exam room for another exam room to open up so I could have an ultrasound so we could DETERMINE HOW FAR ALONG I WAS. I opened the door and found a nurse.
“May I have a glass of water? There’s a strong possibility I might have a panic attack,” I informed her.
“Sure,” she said calmly. She’d seen a lot worse.
I called the baby’s father. We had broken up two months earlier.
Circumstances had us still living together. I had been traveling so much I hadn’t yet had time to move. I was planning on moving after I got back from my next trip to New York.
“Breathe,” he said. “Okay, well, don’t hyperventilate.”
I texted my sister. The week before I texted her asking how often she casually contemplated suicide. She was getting used to me dropping bombshells via text. She called me back.
“Do NOT tweet about this!”
“I’m not stupid,” I snapped back. “Never mind. Scratch that.”
“Are you thinking prenatal vitamins or a trip to Planned Parenthood?” she asked.
My mother had had an illegal abortion when she was a teenager and raised my sister and me to be ardent pro-choicers. This just happened to be a choice I had never thought I’d have to make.
But the only thing I was thinking at this point was that I hoped the test had been wrong. I don’t believe in “The Secret”, but you can bet your ass I was “Secret”ing that shit as hard as I could.
The ultrasound room opened up. I undressed from the waist down again. And out came the TRANSVAGINAL ULTRASOUND WAND. I’m a size queen. I was not impressed.
“Got anything girthier?” I asked.
And then there it was on the screen. A kidney bean with a heartbeat. I was pregnant.
10 and a half weeks pregnant. I survived almost my entire first trimester without any clue that I was pregnant. Which means I had been drinking. Not like a lush, but, like I said, mommy likes her red wine… I flashed back to the answers I had given Dr. Yamaguchi in our pre-exam interview. Any idiot with half a brain would have taken a pregnancy test two months ago. But I’m not just any idiot.
I felt nothing. I looked at the kidney bean and had no reaction to it. I walked out of the office and passed the wall of baby pictures; The Codys, Tanners, Blakes and Haydens and felt nothing except the usual contempt for dumbass baby names. I called my therapist. I felt nothing.
Then I drove passed the Social Security office with the line out the door and around the corner and I felt something: Abject Terror.
Was I going to be standing in that line alone but for a screaming child at my aching teat?
I had decided back when I was married (I’m not even getting into that…) that I didn’t want kids. For the past ten years I told anyone who would listen that I didn’t want kids; that if I got pregnant I would have an abortion. Easy peasy. Thank the good voters of California that I live in a state which affords me that choice (as of this writing, anyway).
But here’s the thing, speaking in hypotheticals is way easier than acting on realities.
I Googled “Single Motherhood” and got completely overwhelmed. I Googled “Surrogate Pregnancy” and found out I wasn’t a candidate. Apparently people who want a surrogate are, like, super picky. A friend suggested adoption. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to live knowing my kid was out there somewhere being raised by strangers. I lost a beloved stuffed animal when I was 17 and I still haven’t gotten over it. Besides, what if they were homophobes? Or Mormons? I went to my local library branch and asked the kindly librarian to help me find books on single mothering. The selection was paltry to be generous. She handed me a book called, How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Child.
“I need something more along the lines of, ‘How to find cheap day care’,” I said.
“Oh, we don’t have anything like that. We can order something from the main branch. It’ll get here in about two weeks,” she said cheerfully.
“I don’t have that much time.”
“Are you writing a paper?”
I looked down at my baggy jeans and Adidas. I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I probably looked about 16.
“No. I’m…not writing a paper.”
She handed me Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I didn’t much feel like explaining that I wasn’t worried about how to raise a kid to get straight As and play the cello like Yoyo Ma by the time it’s 4. I walked away with a few completely useless books and a sense of growing panic. I bought a couple books on single motherhood that came highly recommended through Amazon. But these turned out to be books about very successful women who “just haven’t had any luck in love” and have decided to “take matters into their own hands!” and have a kid on their own. These were women with large incomes who purposefully went out and got knocked up. It was much harder to find books about women who were unemployed and just broken up with their partners and unexpectedly 10 and half weeks pregnant. I guess most people who have had to go on public assistance don’t much feel like writing books about it.
The next week was the hardest of my life (and I have watched my mother die, gone through a divorce and spent 10 days in a mental hospital). The kidney bean’s dad, having also not wanted kids, reacted poorly. Correction, the kidney bean’s dad reacted pretty typically for a dude who wasn’t expecting a child. Discussions were had. Fights were fought. Shoes were thrown. Insults were thrown. Families were called. Hotel rooms were stayed at. Scenarios were considered. Planned Parenthood was called.
My parents, in an effort to help asked if I had considered what having a baby would do to my career. As if that wasn’t one of the first three things that had run through my panic-stricken mind. Of course I had considered it. I had just lost nearly 20 pounds so I wouldn’t be “TV chubby”. I was considering growing my hair back out so I wouldn’t be “TV lesbian”. I had just booked my first TV gig since I’d gotten back into acting. Things were starting to roll. If I had this baby my last trimester was going to coincide perfectly with pilot season (That’s in the winter/spring, for my readers who don’t live, breathe and eat TV industry facts. And bless you for that.). All momentum would be lost. I’d be starting back next episodic season (fall) pretty much exactly where I was this year. Except I’d have a 4 month old…
“We think we liked her for the part, but we couldn’t be sure because her baby screamed through the audition.”
Then I started thinking about baby shoes and baby giggles. I pictured a baby grasping onto my fingers and testing out its legs on my lap. I pictured the first day of Kindergarten. I imagined teaching my daughter to add, “And I’m smart!” whenever people told her how pretty she was. I pictured sticky fingers and wet diapers and sleepless nights and immense love and gratitude.
The more I thought about it, somehow missing another pilot season didn’t really seem like much of a loss considering the reason. Besides, if Tina Fey and Amy Poehler could do it… Of course Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were both married and financially secure when they had their kids. So, scratch that. If Bristol Palin can have a kid…
And so, it was decided.
A week and a half later, I sat in the waiting room at the OB/GYN’s office with the kidney bean’s father securely at my side. A young woman glanced over at him with a look of contempt. But it’s okay, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t imagining her having lesbian porno sex with the doctor. Then again, I didn’t think to ask.