Wednesday, November 2, 2016

It's good for the soul

A dear friend of mine recently wrote and thanked me for "teaching her how to mom." And while I love her with all my heart for saying that, I have to say to her publicly ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKING MIND?! First, because she was already an awesome mom and second, she must not know me at all. Because I am not the kind of mom like the ones on the Mother's Day cards who are all sweet all the time and never say a harsh word and I have never made anything in my life that is Pinterest worthy and I can't sew a buttonhole and last year I tried to feed my friends and their children raw turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. And when someone asked me to write down all our house rules, well, the only one I could think of was no sticking out your tongue except at King George, which is not exactly Great Mom material. What I think she meant was that by watching me, she knew she couldn't be all that bad, so in that spirit, here are some other horrible parenting mistakes I have made which will make you all feel better about yourselves and your parenting skills.

I let my children choose and sometimes make their own Halloween costumes. That means that sometimes they are later embarrassed by how strange their costume looks. But it also means they looked like this on Monday:
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I know! Pretty amazing and almost Pinterest worthy, yes? But there were a couple of moments when they were ironing on the reflective tape when they said are you actually really not going to help me with this and I replied no, it will be good for you. What I meant was I was still waiting for that story to load on Facebook so I could comment on it, but whatever.

It also meant that Child 1 and her best friend looked like this, which if you can't tell are the kids from "Stranger Things". And she nailed it so hard that the actor she is dressed like actually liked her photo on Instagram. So parenting success right there! And the best part was I didn't have to do a thing except listen to her whine for years about how she was the only princess without a wand and a crown because, and I know this from Harry Potter, princesses don't have wands! Witches do and when she was Hermione Granger for three years in a row, I knit her a scarf just like the one in the movie and then when the stupid producer changed the pattern in the third film, I knit her a new one. Ugh. I still hate the third film for that very reason.

I never taught the children to read. Not even one of them. I just threw the books at them and they picked it up on their own. Well, not literally threw them, but just about. With the first two, when the teacher asked how long had she been reading, I actually replied she can't read! Both times. With the third, I finally figured it out and said oh for about a year (I had no idea.) I mean, how am I supposed to know she can read when I am the one reading all the bedtime stories! I was sooooo glad when we could stop that routine because I could say no, you read this fabulous Barbie does gymnastics book to me since you can read! And then I could doze off because there is nothing more boring than a Barbie book besides maybe Barney.

I would not let them watch Barney. I may have also told them Bananas in Pajamas was canceled when it wasn't and that the video store didn't have Bananas in Pajamas any more when it still did. And when one of them wanted to be a Banana in pajamas for Halloween, I may have pretended I didn't hear her and made her a cowgirl costume instead. They were matching cowgirl costumes and did I mention I actually made them? Yep. Probably not Pinterest worthy, but I was also 8 1/2 months pregnant with Child 3, so I should get a medal for those costumes.

I never once hired a magician or a cowboy or a bouncy castle for their birthday parties. I never took them and all of their friends to the mall to one of those stores where you make the bear or have tea with your really expensive doll and her friends for like $45 per person. I sometimes didn't even buy decorations because one was born near Halloween and one near Christmas, so why do I have to also have balloons and streamers? And sometimes, I would just buy the decorations and leave them in the bag and let the children put them up at the beginning of the party. You know. As an activity. Not because I was too tired to do it myself. I also let them decorate all the cakes because it was funnier, especially the year that Child 2 turned 16 and they made her candles say 61. And they wrote something like Happy Birthday Old Man on it and we laughed and laughed.

In over 20 years, the only times I've been successful in getting them to go to be on time is when they are sick. Seriously, even during the Barbie reading years they were never in bed before 9 and often later than that. Husband wasn't much better at it than me. I used to work nights and I'd come home after 11 and everyone would still be awake and giggling and would hear me coming up the stairs and would sometimes run and jump in bed and pretend snore. Or sometimes just go jump on my bed which they loved to do. Oh, I also let my children jump on the bed.

Don't tell Husband, but we also ate in the living room, or the family room, and often during those 365 bad days, in my bedroom while sitting on my bed watching reality TV. About mediums or beauty pageants or housewives or bossy cake makers. Or bridal dress shopping. That one was a favorite. And even though I am a feminist, I encouraged my children to fantasize about big poofy dresses and debate whether or not a sweetheart neckline is the way to go and do they like crystals or lace or crystals AND lace and should you wear cowboy boots. The answer to that last one is yes, if you are having the wedding in Texas, and pretty much no, not ever if you are in New York.

I have done some things that are right. No really! Give me a minute and I'll think of some. OK, they all know how to open a can of soup. With a manual can-opener. And to pour it in a pot and cook it on an actual stove. They know how to do this because sometimes they say what's for dinner and I say whatever you want to fix because I am too tired. And then they asked how to make soup and I said the directions are right on the can. And since they taught themselves how to read, they could make soup. I rest my case! Oh, and also when we all went to London and saw a painting of King George III, they all stuck out their tongues. Go ahead and give it a try. Feel the rebellion! It's better than a brownie, I promise.

Image result for King george painting windsor castle.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

I'll go first

One of my blogger friends has a theory that bloggers tend not to write when they're happy. It's hard to find topics to write about when things are going well and much, much easier to write when you need to complain. And that is true. I've been happy in India. I still love the food, the people, the scenery, the elephants. Oh, the elephants!

Image result for elephants in delhi

But it's also hard to write when you're sick. Last June I finally had surgery to remove my non-working thyroid and the months preceding and following have not been fun. Somedays I can barely remember my name and I can never, ever remember why I got up off the couch and went into the kitchen. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen doorway trying to remember what exactly it was that made me stop watching "Stranger Things" and then I eventually give up and go back to the couch and Netflix.

Today, however, it is toward the end of the month and that means we're just about out of data, so I'm not watching Netflix, and I'm blogging instead because I have something to complain about. We don't get much election coverage here in India, but we do get enough to know some pretty crazy things are happening. And that one particular interview about sexual assault is all over facebook, along with people saying that women who don't immediately report an assault are lying because you would automatically report something so horrific. Now, I, like many women, happen to be an expert on what being a victim of sexual assault is like and I can assure you that one of the reasons we don't report being assaulted is that nobody takes it seriously because it happens all the time.

Yep. It happens. all. the. time. I asked Husband if he had ever wondered the other day how old I was the first time I was assaulted. And he named the incident which I won't talk about publicly, and I said no, not that. When I was a teenager. And he said what are you talking about? So I said when I was 13 and I told him the story of how I was in a band practice room and one of the boys came in and turned off the light and grabbed my boob and tried to kiss me. I smacked him so hard, his glasses flew off and as I stormed out of the room, he called me a bitch. Because it was supposed to be a compliment. I was apparently supposed to like him trying to stick his tongue down my throat and him grabbing me. Husband said why had I never told him this before, and I thought about it and I realized that I had never told him because things like that happened all the time. And then I realized that Husband probably had no idea what it was like to have to be ready to defend yourself at all times and that even when you think you're prepared, it can still happen. So to help him understand, here is a brief history of times I was sexually assaulted with some harassment thrown in for good measure.

11 years old--A man in a truck cat calls me as I'm walking home from school. He tells me I'm going to be hot when I grow up. I'm wearing a pink peasant skirt that reaches down to my ankles and a high necked blouse, so I don't know how he can tell but I never wore that outfit to school again.

13 years old--I'm babysitting and an obscene phone caller calls over and over and over. I can't ignore the phone because I'm babysitting and what if it's the parents? I don't tell them for fear they won't ask me to babysit again, as if somehow it's my fault.

13 years old--the practice room incident. I tell a few friends but none of us even think of telling an adult because boys would never get punished for something like that, but I might get suspended for hitting him.

14 years old--There is a football player named Steve who likes to grab girls' butts. We are supposed to be flattered because he is very popular. Teachers know this is happening, but do nothing. He grabs mine several times and I say nothing.

18 years old--I'm on a date at the movies and I have to hold my purse in my lap to keep my date from putting his hand up my skirt. I describe the incident to Sister 1 who says he did the same exact thing to her a couple of years ago. The word "octopus" is used several times to describe his wandering hands.

19 years old in Moscow--I go dancing with a few friends and some disgusting men grab us and try to kiss us and put our hands on their junk. We shove them away and run out of the disco. None of us talk about it later.

20 years old in Venice--A group of men are harassing me and my friends. One of them grabs me and puts me in a headlock and tries to drag me away from the crowd. I scream and give him a good kick in the shin and manage to get away. Again, we don't talk about the incident later although it still haunts me.

20 years old in Rome--I am standing alone in the street and a man comes up to me and says "Hey baby, what you looking for? You looking for me?" And then grabs his crotch. I am disgusted from weeks of street harassment and I say no, I'm looking for a mailbox. Inexplicably he knocks off the crotch grabbing and helps me find a mailbox like what he was just doing is no big deal.

21 years old in Norway--A 40 year old man I just met asks me to be his mistress. He is married, but he thinks I should find this flattering because American women like to have lots of sex, or so he tells me. I tell my friend, but never mention it to anyone else including our male friends who are steps away when this happens.

23 years old in DC--My supervisor at the non-profit where I work tells me he liked my report better yesterday when I was wearing my tight green skirt. I stop wearing the wool pencil skirt to work. It was my favorite.

24 years old in Korea--I'm in the hospital deathly ill and a young doctor brings in a group of med students who are all men to watch me have a pelvic exam. I have a kidney infection, so I don't need the pelvic exam, but I am too sick to protest. I try to tell Husband, but he doesn't understand and thinks I'm delirious from my super high fever.

30 something years old in Korea again--I tell Husband I don't want to ride the subway alone any more in the evening because drunk men always are accosting me. He says the subway is the safest in the world. I know this is not true for women.

30 something in Korea with my children--Another drunk man keeps trying to shove his crotch into my daughter's face where she is sitting on the subway. I try to get Husband's attention to help us get rid of this gross person, but he doesn't understand what is happening. I switch seats with Child 1 and "accidentally" bump into the man with my elbow right into his stomach. He moves after that.

30 something in Aruangabad, India--I can't go anywhere in public with the children without men taking photos of them. We are harassed so badly at the Ellora caves, that a group of women on the tour with us help us surround Child 2 and Child 3 so that they can't get a good shot. We don't feel flattered by the attention and kind of wish phone cameras had never been invented.

All of the above incidents actually happened and there are a bunch more I could include, but the list is getting a little long. The only thing I ever lie about is my age (which means those numbers at the end are a little fuzzy) so if Steve the football player ever runs for Congress,  you can say you read about him here in my blog. I'm a fairly average girl who grew up in a fairly average suburban community, so I don't think my experience is atypical. And in fact, since I got married rather young, I think most women probably have more stories than I do. But I don't know because even though this is a huge, worldwide problem, we don't talk about it. So here I am telling my story and I will leave the comments open on this post so that you can tell yours if you like.

Sexual assault is way worse and more prevalent than many people imagine and we need to start believing the women who are brave enough to say it happened to them. It happened to me. The one incident I won't talk about publicly and which is not on this list changed who I am and not necessarily for the better. I don't know how else to prevent it from happening to others than by talking about it and calling it out when it happens. I would like my daughters to grow up in a world where men ask before kissing them and strangers don't grab them on the street and they don't have to travel with bandaids to put over the hotel door peephole. I would love it if they weren't scared if their car breaks down at night or if they could go dancing with their friends and feel safe. And if all the men they interact with treated them like people rather than objects, that would be better than a brownie.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Can I go find myself in India?

So I'm having an identity crisis and it's all my friends' fault. See, if you read Foreign Service blogs, then you know that there are basically three types of blogs they write.

The first blog is the type that gets all into what life is like in their country and they post photos of jack-o-lanterns they carve out of watermelons and palm trees that they turn into Christmas trees and photos of all the local festivals they go to which always look amazing and interesting and colorful.

The second type of blog is the travelog in which they post photos of all the amazing places they go to and their lives look very much like a Corona commercial and I can't figure out how to get posted in places like that and also I look horrible in a white bikini so that is not what my blog is going to be about.

Then the third type of blog is the one that I hate the most and can't stop reading because I love them so much: it shows things that people actually make in their actual country that is way, way better than anything I will ever make. These people post photos of amazing furniture and say things like "look at this antique looking bureau that I made out of popsicle sticks, string, and nail polish just by following instructions on Pinterest!" or "Did you know you can make pumpkin pie out of a can of kidney beans?" or "Look how easy it is to make mozzarella out of things you can find in your freezer!" I will never, ever make mozzarella out of anything but a block of mozzarella and my freezer has mostly bacon and gluten free flour and I defy anyone to make mozzarella out of that. Thank goodness my post actually has cheese, not that I can eat it anyway.

So I read these blogs and I think, that's what I should write about! And then go look at all my vacation photos which are sadly lacking white bikinis and are mostly of my front yard because we actually never go anywhere besides Goa (which is awesome but hard to photograph when you are running from the hawkers on the beach) and I didn't have time to take photos of Thanksgiving dinner because I was too busy re-cooking the raw turkey I almost served to people. And for Christmas we cheated and went to see Star Wars and then to dinner at the chicken place at the mall that the children will not stop asking to eat at. But I don't blame them because doesn't it look delicious? And also it's not raw. But who wants to read about that.

Image result for nandos

The problem is, there aren't any blogs out there about the under-achievers like me because who wants to read about a middle-aged woman who never travels anywhere, binge watches Marvel shows, and constantly fights to get her dog off of the couch? I think the only people who would read that are my mother and perhaps Child 1 when she is bored to death and homesick, so do you see my problem?

Oh, speaking of couches, you will all be happy to know that I won the Great Battle of the Slipcovers and the couches downstairs are a lovely red. Well, they are mostly red. Almost all red, except that they forgot to cover the huge throw pillows which are still an awful greenish gold and clash pretty horribly with the red couches. So I asked the housing officer if I was supposed to ask for the cushions to be covered separately because I thought maybe I did something wrong and she said NO YOU'RE NOT THAT'S RIDICULOUS and I should send her an e-mail and she would fix it. Did I mention that I love our housing officer? She is amazing and I totally am not just kissing up because we have an awesome house (we sooo do). She told me a story about a family who wanted to change houses because they saw a man-sized monkey on their roof, so I told her I felt cheated because there is not a single monkey on my roof and she promised to issue me a man-sized monkey the next time she gets one. And by the way, Happy Year of the Monkey!

I actually miss the celebrations for Chinese New Year, although I don't really miss the annual breaking of my ankle that usually goes along with it. It's been about 2 1/2 years since my last ankle injury, and I don't want to jinx it so I'll stay away from Chinese New Year celebrations which apparently are dangerous for my ankle. But I'm still jealous that Child 1 went to a Chinese New Year party and got to eat dumplings and noodles.

But anyway, back to my topic about not knowing what to blog about, I'm just stumped. I feel stuck. I don't have writer's block, I just don't like any of the topics I think of well enough to say anything about them. So instead of writing, I just keep binge watching Marvel shows and playing thousands of games of Solitaire. I'm getting really, really good at Solitaire. OK, actually I suck. You would think that after playing it so much that I might finally get good at it, but I'm so slow because I keep doing things like helping Child 3 with her homework and telling Child 2 that yes that headband goes with her Pokemon T-shirt and fighting with my electronic personal assistant who won't listen to me and likes Husband better. Yes, you heard me right. Husband got me an Amazon Echo for Christmas and she goes by Alexa and she is EVIL and she is going to take over our house and kill us all, I am convinced. She ignores me all the time and yet Husband only has to think "NPR" and she'll tune right in, that little hussy. Oh, she makes me so mad! Why would you want to listen to NPR when there is a whole station with Imagine Dragons? Yet every time I say "Alexa, play Imagine Dragons" she says she can't find a Magic Dragon station and should she create one? Ugh! 

Alexa is definitely not better than a brownie. But you know what is? Superbowl commercials! I was unfortunately not awake when this year's game was played, but thanks to the magic of the internet which sometimes works here, I got to see a Weiner Dog Stampede! So adorable. Totally does not make me crave hot dogs at all. Really. Not at all. Um, if anyone in Delhi has a Hebrew National, I will pay you a thousand dollars. (Not really. But I might go for 1000 rupees. Call me!)