Friday, April 24, 2009

Ode to a Girl's Birthday

I want this post to be, for the most part, positive because today is Mina's birthday. Ten years ago my brilliant baby came out all head and hair. Papi, Maya and I were over the moon about her. Look at Maya's face with newborn Mina. You couldn't pry that smile off with a crowbar.
Here's Mina this morning, freshly 10, in her new birthday outfit with a Carmen accessory. Not suit, though. Not birthday suit. She probably would love to be photographed naked. She's a bit of a nudist when not adorning herself in high fashion.In honor of my girl -- both girls --I want this post to be a feminist one too --- wait, don't leave . . .we're reinventing this concept, haven't you heard? Pumping new life into it. We might even freshen up the word. We're having a meeting about it later, but the point is the cause can't be forgotten. Not as long as women are still being born, which they are, like, daily I heard. I know we're tired, sisters, but can't we keep up the fight just a while longer for ourselves, our sisters, our daughters? For our even more tired mothers and grandmothers? So many hard-fought issues have wilted over three decades and women’s rights issues get more and more blurry and we're left scratching our heads, at odds with each other, clinging to protective laws. I don't know about you, but as a mami to girls, I feel it my duty to put my girls on a seesaw while I sky-jump on the other end catapulting them into the stratosphere where they are not diminished or disempowered or told this and that about themselves. And if you're not a mami, you should want to jump on it with me too. Those girls were once you.

We watched Girls Rock! last night. It's a documentary about a rock and roll camp for girls ages 8-18. It was almost a great movie, and just from a film standpoint I think it missed some marks, but the concept of the camp had me choked up from when the beginning frame rolled. Seriously I wanted to burst into tears many, many times. It's that uncontrollable crying like when I watch the girls play basketball sometimes or when they used to do TaeKwonDo, or even at holiday pageants when they sing their hearts out. Something about the breaking down of self-consciousness to just let yourself be something. Kids are so pure about that and girls seem to learn to be self conscious and coy and withdrawn so quickly that when they are open without pretense in the most natural of ways, I get the waterworks. And this camp was all about checking all of that and breaking down and through what girls should or shouldn't be. I'm a stone-cold sucker for an awkward and unique girl. I can't help but think they are granted a halo of specialness and this camp was full of those types from troubled girls to girls completely on their own planet. I loved them all. The camp counselors floored me the most though. They were the coolest most patient and mixed group of women ever. They spoke to these girls like we all ache to be spoken.

The documentary would rattle off facts such as a boy will name a talent as what he likes about himself best while a girl will name a body part. And Maya and Mina would say, "Really? That's weird." Or a girls ability to say "I love myself" diminishes from 60% to 29% between the ages of 9 and 18. And Mina said, "Shoot, I love MYself." And Maya said, "I love MYself." And I said, "I love MYself." Or that girls tend to bottle up how they feel and I said, "Do you guys let out how you feel?" and they said, "Uh, yea." As in, duh.

And I'm left to wonder about the perpetuation of the squashed female spirit. How empty do the overused and well-marketed slogans of You Go Girl and Girl Power! seem? Does this still raise our daughters' esteem? I think so. But do they address any real issues of a girl feeling ok to speak up loudly in school or not keep crap bottled up or to not feel so self conscious. Do girls feel any sense of real entitlement yet? I'm not talking about the Queen Bees of school who bully themselves into that place of power. I'm talking about girls possessing a natural, comfortable, confident empowerment. Do any of us?

Why the hell not yet?

I wish the awesome rock and roll women from that camp would hold a national forum and help us change this. I mean, they are changing it 100 girls at a time every summer, but I mean . . .help, all of us.

I often ride the line of empowering Maya and Mina as girls and teaching them a solid sense of humanitarianism. I think being a decent human being is a priority, being thoughtful and respectful and compassionate and polite. And the fine line is teaching them that it is ok to be selfless yet still feel empowered. We are selfless and compassionate because we have enough power to share and NOT because we feel we are less deserving of anything, especially because we are women. If I had a son, I would teach him the same lessons of being a human. I would not teach him to be less selfless because he was a boy, and I say this because I want the girls to know I don't teach them these things because that's how girls should act, but anybody. I think they know that.

I think the girls have never felt disempowered because they are girls, but we are starting to navigate through the most tricky of territories, which is their observations of women in videos, on TV, in magazines and how these fabricated and cookie-cutter looks relate to their budding relationship with boys, and other girls frankly. Girls are told to be modest, be a lady for f sake, yet every woman on public display is tramped up. I'm trying to buckle on life preservers for my girls to wade through these treacherous waters. I tell them it is ok to reject what everyone thinks is the way you should dress or look. I tell them that this may not be easy. It takes a lot of bravery to be the awkward and unique one no matter how special you are or feel.

I can only have constant conversations with them about everything all the time. I can only let them know it's ok to question everything and have constant conversations about everything all the time. And this really is the only real gift I can give them.

Oh Mina, you are definitely my shining unique soul. Ain't nobody squashing you! I love you so much. Happy Birthday, baby.

And Sisters? I'm in your corner.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bullet Points Are Efficient

* Spring break just passed for the kids which is a head-scratching 2 weeks long. I've been a slave to Mina, basically. Let's face facts, on the real, I am shackled to their schedule y ya! That's that.

* I don't mind being bossed around by them, for the most part. My heart's a little too soft for them. Mina's getting outta hand though because the world is hers! don't you know. Lately, she's been trying to leave the house every day wearing bright crimson lip stick. Papi ain't having it. I kinda don't mind it. 'Cause I'm a sucka for her!

* But I drew the line on Saturday. Mina and I were meeting people at a restaurant and after exiting and locking my car I heard clumpedy clump on the parking lot pavement. I turned to see that Mina had slipped on some silver, spike-heeled ankle boots that I had left in the car, and she was seriously trying to wear these out like nothing. I said, "Have you lost your mind?" And she shuffled back to the car to put her converse back on.

* This just in regarding triathlon training: Swimming can go F itself. Ug. I'm head over heels about cycling, of course, and I'm even liking the running ok - que sorpresa! - but the swimming? Ug. It can jump in a lake. And swim itself. I ain't diggin the swimming, y'all, and I was a competitive swimmer when I was younger. I mean, if you call being mediocre competitive. I'm trying to figure out a way to swap out the triathlon for a cycling event instead without looking like a punk-quitter. Punk this, Swimming!

* I've been writing. Writing on the real. I finished a story. I'm over the moon about this. Thanks to all of you for your ridiculous encouragement. Seriously.

* I'm almost done with my second nutritionist's class, Traditional Naturopathy. After my next test, I have to do a project! Like, write a paper and stuff. Awesome.

* Husband recently said, "Holy, you're efficient with time." I beamed about that, but then realized I'm anally efficient. I'm close to having a problem. Like, I'm boiling water and soaking almonds and loading the computer while taking down the trash and laundry on the way to walk the dogs and making a biz call and signing a school note efficient. It's all calculated and planned so every minute fits together like a puzzle. And I have to write every single thing down or I forget the second the minute hand clicks on something else. In fact, I better write down to examine this problem a little more when I have time because am I present during 75% of what I'm doing? Who cares! I get a shit load done!

* What were we talking about?

* Happy Monday.

Friday, April 10, 2009


My Aunt Remie was 13 when I was born, five years younger than my mother. It's easy for me to think that my mother's problems started at the moment of my birth, but obviously she was troubled before. Remie will testify to the stream of unease and darkness before me. Even my mother has said her unhappiness started at age two, which is secretly funny to me, sort of, because two? For real? But it's hard to tell if she is over blowing the truth. It's certainly not an over-truth to her. These details -- and the evidence of her complete inability to shake her demons -- makes forgiveness a softer pill to swallow. But I have sliced up my feet trying to walk the edge of objectively forgiving her -- looking at her from every angle but a child's -- and being the child who, whether my mother could help herself or not, had to buffer her insanity against myself by myself; to instinctively stave off her overwhelmingness and know that I was not what she was, even though I didn't know what that meant. She bore deep, though, into that divine cushion with which I was insulated. She cut in enough for me to question myself for most of my life. It was the isolation and loneliness though mostly that left me a thread away from breaking entirely. Her frantic, manic, angry energy could swirl all around me and I could wrap myself into myself, blanketed by other-worldly worry and self silence, and I could feel somewhat untouchable. But I didn't know that the loneliness would shred me down so. I didn't know until much later. I'm still not sure if I'm built up completely.

Mama couldn't save me. Nor could my Aunt Remie. My grandmother wasn't equipped to deal with my mother's force. And Remie was a child, but honestly, Remie was troubled too.

They were equally wild, my mother and aunt. They were drinkers and drug users and they became sexual as soon as they recognized the power in catching a boy's eye. But my mother was cut from my grandfather's cloth: mean and cold, and Remie from Mama's, loving and naive. My mother was mod and edgy and Remie was a biker-hippy girl. My mother's personality drove her as an artist, and Remie's personality drove her nowhere, really. Remie dropped out of 11th grade to run away with a member of the Hell's Angels. My mother loved to tell how Remie came skulking back to my grandmother pregnant with lice and ring worm. My mother would never admit that they were similar. Mostly their differences kept them from ever being close. Today, they don't speak, which doesn't affect me either way. To hell with anybody treating you like shit. Remie still tries now and again to bond with my mother. She can't help herself. She'll yearn for sisterhood, want to bridge their motherlessness. She'll reach out because she feels Mama would have unwittingly done the same, but my mother shoots her down, acts uppity and put out.

When I was a kid, I died at chances to see Remie. She was flighty though. On the move with boyfriends, fucking up a little here and there, at odds with my mother or quietly disconnecting a bit from my grandmother. But when she did see me she gushed over me. Pummeled me with affection. Gave me donuts for dinner. Fawned over me like I was the greatest being that ever was. And I died for that. She'd tell me over and over how much she loved me, how much Mama loved me. She was full-face smiles, and waist-long blonde hair and blue eyes and over-plucked eyebrows and shiny pink cheeks and long jean skirts and batik halter tops and feather roach clips dangling from the inside line of her hair just behind her ear where the beaded, leather cord bounced off her breast bone. She smelled like herbal shampoo and cigarettes. And then she'd be gone, or my mother would keep me away. For months, maybe a year here and there. Two years was the longest when we lived abroad. I'd have to shove back into myself again and turn the volume down of bottomless hurt, the type a kid feels when they want something to return so badly.

Remie found me on Facebook a couple months ago. I hadn't talked to her in six years. When I saw her name, I busted out in tears which caught be off guard because I didn't know I harbored that for her still. But then she wrote me an email; the type of email that you know happens in life. You know other people do it, exchange these feelings and regrets, but it was unrecognizable to me at first. She told me she loved me, but not as well as she should have, that she should have helped me more as a kid but she couldn't figure out how. She said she knew how much I had been through and that she was sorry she had let me down. This makes me emotional mostly because that girl who I was as a child seems nearly mythical. Like she was caught between the earth and space, invisible but still some kind of unseen force. A girl who shed her strength when she broke free -- practically traded it in -- and has spent decades trying to patch it back on. And my aunt knew me then. She knew and loved that girl. I wasn't a ghost.

I wasn't a ghost.