Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Up a Wall

As you guys already know, I can be way Type A when it comes to things around the house. I know this. I embrace it. Trying to change it would be like asking a drug addict to just, you know, stop liking drugs so much. Ain’t gonna happen.

As my husband, JT is well aware of my neurosis. My incessant need to control my surroundings rarely jibes with his DGAF attitude toward most household chores. He truly couldn’t care less if the dishes are done, the floor is swept or last year’s Christmas decorations ever came down. He’s not lazy - if I ask him to do something, he does it. It’s just that the little things that are on most homeowners’ radars, like bagging leaves or fixing broken heaters in the dead of winter, don’t seem to occur to him. Honestly, I’m not even mad. I’m jealous.

Suffice it to say that when JT and I set out to paint the nursery, we had different approaches. We were only doing part of the room. The pale cream colored half stayed the same while we covered a few accent walls a much warmer greyish/taupe shade (it’s a wonder I don’t write for Better Homes and Gardens). I wanted to meticulously edge the walls, making sure there was no overlap where they met the ceiling or baseboards. He wanted to slap paint on a roller and go to town. We actually made a pretty good team, and after about two hours, we were done. We high-fived and called it a day.

The next day, I swung open the nursery door and about toppled over. The room was a disaster. It looked like a massacre of an entire taupe-blooded civilization had occurred. Streaks of the hue ran atop the original paint in haphazard patterns but in no way coated the former color. It was clear a second coat was in order, so I popped open the paint can and got to work.

It only took about 45 minutes to run over the walls again, and this time, I was convinced it was perfect. Until I took a step back and my eyes landed on one particular corner. The intersection of two walls, one taupe and the other cream, looked like I’d painted it while jumping on a trampoline. A wonky line of taupe paint bled over to the cream wall. I mean, I’m pregnant so I’m fairly certain I hadn’t been drunk while edging that particular spot, but all evidence was to the contrary, and it needed to be fixed stat.Just looking at it, knowing it was there in all its awful imperfection, made me uncomfortable. Because that’s how crazy I am.

I decided the best plan was to cover the mistake marks with the cream paint, so I traveled down to the garage and stood in front of the wall of paint cans left there by my pals Jason and Bec who owned the house before us. Most are marked with their corresponding rooms, but I couldn’t find one labeled “Nursery,” so I gathered up a few that looked close enough and hauled them back upstairs. I set about opening the first one, stabbing at it with a screwdriver in attempts to loosen up the thick layer of paint that had formed around the lid.

JT appeared in the doorway and watched me for a moment.

“Whatcha doing?” he asked, leaning against a non-newly painted wall.

“I’m...argh....repainting...ugh….that corner!” My stabbing worked and the lid popped off.

“OK,” he said. “Why?”

“Because it’s all messy,” I said. I stirred the long settled paint, dipped my brush in and carried it over to the wall. I dotted a teeny bright white spot on the offensive area. Clearly not a match.

“Babe,” JT said, watching as I pounded the lid back on can No. 1, then started the struggle all over again with can No. 2. “It’s really not that big of a deal.”

“It is to me!” I cried, popping this lid off with more ease. I rushed over to the wall and swiped a splotch of wheat colored paint. Strike two.

“No one will ever notice that,” JT said inspecting the corner and wiping off my most recent mistakes with a towel.

“I notice it,” I said, gathering up the two cans to take back to the garage and grab more.

“Babe,” JT said again, this time with a “slow your roll” tone. “You get that our daughter is going to grow up and probably draw on these walls or want to hang stuff or ruin them in some way, right?”

“I do,” I said, stopping in my tracks.

“So they’re never going to be perfect,” he continued.

“I know,” I said, peering at the corner and feeling a shudder run up my spine.

“So, seriously, just leave it. It’s fine,” he said, taking the paint cans from my hands.

I looked at the corner again. I knew he was right.

I also know this whole motherhood thing is going to challenge me on so many levels, but at least this one I can see coming. I know kids are messy and unruly and wild, but I also know that’s part of what makes them wonderful. And I’m going to have to give in to that chaos to a degree if I’m ever going to stay sane.

Right then, I decided to let the botched wall serve as a reminder of my need to calm the heck down. Hopefully, I’ll remember to look at it whenever my daughter has dumped her toy box and the entire contents of her closet in the middle of the room for the 10th time that day and laugh.

And I’m not even worried about her drawing on the walls. I bought the paint that lets you just wipe that stuff right off.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Let the Shame Spiral Begin

I couldn’t believe my luck. It was playtime at Smiling Tykes Preschool, and out of the two dozen other toddlers, I’d scored the ultimate playtime prize. Most days, I never made it to the toy box fast enough. My shyness and disdain for the rushing horde of my peers usually kept me in the back of the pack where I’d end up with a box of half-broken crayons and a book whose every page was already defaced with a doodle. But not this day. On this day, I’d decided it was my turn for glory. I’d watched too many other girls spend playtime reveling in the splendors of the coveted item, and now, that feeling would be mine. So when my teacher announced we were free to pick out our toys, I mustered up all the speed my tiny legs could manage and hurled myself at the big wooden box. There, on top, was the floor-length, beaded green ball gown fit for any princess worth her weight in sequins. Our teacher had probably plucked this gem out of a donation bag some spinster sent to the school a decade prior, but to us, it might as well have been haute couture. It’s puffy sleeves, cinched waist and taffeta-stuffed skirt were all mine for the next 20 minutes. Granted, it was easily a woman’s size 6, and therefore laughably large for our 4-year-old frames, but none of us ever cared. It wasn’t about fit. It was about ownership. 

As the other girls looked on dejected, I stepped into the dress and pulled its sleeves up over my shoulders, feeling myself transform from an awkward pigtailed wallflower into a graceful, regal woman, the envy of all around her. I spent the entire playtime either legs crossed, perched on one of the tiny plastic chairs as though watching over my court or taking a quick twirl to watch the translucent “crystals” shimmer.

What I Thought I Looked Like:

What I Probably Really Looked Like:

Other girls who had never bothered to talk to me stopped by my makeshift throne to touch the gown’s satiny fabric or tell me how pretty I looked. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Because the thing is, I knew this moment was about more than playtime. This was me showing myself that if I just put aside all the incessant anxiety I had about every single little thing, I could really be somebody. Putting on that dress was the first step toward my new future as a cool, calm, confident person, I just knew it.

Apparently, I’d been concentrating so hard on imagining my new life that I hadn’t heard when the teacher informed us that play time was over, and we needed to return our toys to their rightful places and get back to our desks.

“Rachel?” she asked, snapping me out of my daydream. I looked around and saw all my classmates hustling back to their seats. My heart sank as I realized my moment in the sun was over, but as my peers started to glance quizzically my way, I knew the dream had to end. I crouched down, picked up the bottom of the dress and, for reasons I’ll never understand, opted not to step out of the gown, but yanked it up over my head instead.

I instantly was immersed in a sea of green, blind to the outside world and in direct danger of toppling over backward as the hefty material rendered me top heavy. I yanked again, but the dress didn’t budge. I could feel the tug of my hair and realized the dress had somehow adhered itself to one of my pigtails. I began to panic. Even through the forest of material, I could feel 24 sets of eyes on me, judging, wondering what exactly the heck I was doing. I honestly didn’t know myself. I just knew that I’d become the center of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. I had to fix this. I had to get back to normal. I just wanted to be the quiet girl no one looked at again. Why, oh why, had I even tried? Wasn’t this what I’d always feared more than anything? To me, the idea of embarrassment had always been far worse than any monster under the bed and now here I was, meeting it face on. Well, dress-covered face on.

With one more mighty tug, I managed to get the dress entirely over my head, where it stayed in place like a cathedral veil. My racing heart and pounding ears convinced me that for now, this would have to do. So, with the dress still attached to my head and dangling down to the floor behind me, I walked over to my chair and sat down, as if Nothing Ever Happened.

Every single face pointed at me froze in an expression of utter shock and confusion. No one said a word. Even my teacher remained silent as she cocked her head sideways like a perplexed puppy. For what seemed like an eternity, we all stayed that way, nobody quite sure what to do next, least of all me.

Finally, my teacher walked over to me, bent down and asked if I needed help.

“Yes, please,” I muttered, not able to make eye contact.

She took me by the hand and led me to the bathroom connected to the classroom. The door wasn’t even closed before the eruption of laughter coursed through the room. After much shimmying and unavoidable hair pulling, I was free from the dress. But I knew I’d never be free from the shame. I returned to class as the students mercifully quieted down. No one spoke about it for weeks. Then, one day, the boy in class I harbored a secret crush on responded to my playful jab about his drawing of a house being “silly,” with, “Well, at least I don’t have green hair!” and the entire room burst out laughing all over again.

That was my first taste of embarrassment, a feeling I’ve actively avoided since. Of course, there’s no way to entirely escape it, but I’ve found only buying dresses that I can step into helps.

This all has got me thinking about embarrassment, why it affects us all so much and really, why we even care. If you can remember your first embarrassing story, or even a not-so-long-ago one, I’d love to hear it, either here or at Maybe if we talk it out, these things won’t seem so scary any more.

And maybe we’ll all realize that at one point or another, we’re all little girls with green dresses stuck to our heads.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Size (Evidently) Matters

Lady at Walgreen's: "Oh! Someone's having a baby! How far along are you?"

Me: "Five months."

Her: "Wow! Really? Man, at five months, I was twice your size!"

Me, in my mind: Yay! I feel good!

Literally ten minutes later at a restaurant:

Random acquaintance: "How far along are you?"

Me: "Five months."

Her: "Wow! You're HUGE!! And you still have so far to go!"

Me, in my mind:  I suck so bad.


I love the fact that people want to chat with me about my pregnancy. I gladly will talk to you about it all day. I can go on and on about what it feels like to have her moving around in there, what we want the nursery to look like, how great my doctor is, anything. I'm dangerously annoying right now when it comes to this.

But the one thing I don't love doing is defending however much weight I've gained/not gained over and over to people who are usually strangers and therefore, not my doctor.

I know I'm a little over cautious in my dealings with people. It's part of being selectively shy. In social situations, I usually think of 50 things I could say before convincing myself they all make me sound moronic. So I opt to say nothing and end up coming off as cold and disinterested. It's why I've had more than one friend tell me, "I thought you were really bitchy when we first met." It takes them a while to realize that I am bitchy, but not in an intentionally standoffish way.

So because I don't usually say anything to strangers, let alone offer up my thoughts on the size of their bodies, it's always a bit jarring when one does it to me. I'm never quite sure what to say. To the "you're not gaining enough weight" people, my initial reaction is, "Do you want to look in my freezer? Because half-eaten cartons of ice cream don't lie."

When it comes to the "You're HUGE!" people, I want to slap them. No! What I really want to say is, "I'm not sure why you think it's OK to say that to me." Then just see what they do. What could a reasonable response to that possibly be? The only real one is the truth: "I want to make you feel bad about yourself because in some weird way it makes me feel good about myself."

More likely, they'd say something like, "Wow! Those hormones are really amping up your bitchiness!"

And maybe they'd be right. But here's the bottom line. Instead of perpetuating society's brutal obsession with how much weight is too much, what women REALLY should look like and (the worst of the worst) what's "normal,"  why not talk to me about literally anything else?

Give me any baby-related topic, and I will have you so bored within two minutes, all you'll be thinking about is an escape plan, not my waist size.