Monday, January 28, 2008

Priscilla King of the Kindergarten

See what happens when lesbians raise children...

So there we were Bets and I at a fairy princess birthday party in the enormous home of a school friend of Betsy's. We arrived late thanks to an earlier party at an ice-skating rink. The ice-skating party was a funky affair at an outdoor rink where Fat Boy Slim was blasting through speakers and kids and parents were falling all over themselves on the ice.

Walking into the fairy party was like stepping into another world. Middle-aged women dressed as fairy princesses were leading a parade of no less than 30 little girls each - with a musical instrument - around the house. A sweet friend of Betsy's took her hand and wove her into the parade. That left me alone in the manse with nothing to do but attempt to mingle with the other parents.

For me mingling with other parents is one of the hardest parts of parenting, harder even than sleep deprivation, diarrhea and snow days. I swallowed hard and headed for the kitchen.

There they were. Suffice to say it's a multi-million dollar crowd. No joke, our entire condo is the square footage of several of these family's foyers. It's just like that. Because it was an all-girl party none of the other lesbian moms were there. Even though there are six lesbian families in Betsy's class, they're all moms of boys. So there I was, the lone poor white lezzie in a crowd of heterosexual$. And my pants were damp and stained from skating all morning.

Hi everyone.

A dad approached me. The dads are frequently more forthcoming than the moms. Could be the moms are freaked by a lesbo, could be the dads are titillated. I'd seen the dad in question before, he's a short and serious fellow, goatee, crew cut. We got to talking. As we talked about carpool and sleep schedules I couldn't help but notice this man was even shorter than me (and I'm no tall drink of water at only 5'3"), that his voice was, well, high-ish. He looked at me with such an unblinking penetrating stare, I found myself squinting as if to read between the lines.

Blah blah blah about homework and camp.

What's different about this man?

Blah blah blah about after school.

There's something familiar about him.

Blah blah blah about language arts.

Something small and slight and wait a minute!

Blah blah about wood shop.

This man is a woman or was a woman! And I thought I was the odd girl out.

Around us were the straightest, most mainstream gazillionaires. Did they know? We finished our conversation. Our daughters came in for cake and raced away again. We each mingled with other parents and then everyone said their good-byes.

You never know is the moral of this day. The ice skaters with their funky Peruvian hats and beat-up Hondas in fact were all straight and blue-blood. While among the nouveau riche there was a transsexual.

You'd think that'd make mingling fun. But I still shudder at the thought of it. Maybe next time I'll go as a guy.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

No Country For Old Lesbians

37 birthday parties later...

So I decided to chill out by going to the movies. Lucy and I, with a rare night to ourselves - each of our daughters were with their other moms (a perk of separation is you never need a babysitter) - decided to go see No Country For Old Men.

If you're looking to chill out, if people are worried that you're angry and unsympathetic to people who are in psychic distress, if you have a night alone with another adult and you want to relax, if you're two violence-averse lesbians over 40, I highly recommend avoiding No Country For Old Men.

Within the first five minutes at least five people had been brutally murdered and a sad-eyed dog was shot in the stomach.

Lucy looked at me and said, "Let's go buy fuzzy socks."

That was what Betsy said to Lucy 20 minutes into Betsy's first feature length film. "Let's go buy fuzzy socks."

I'd only ever left a movie once in my entire life and that was when I was 16 (some long Monty Python I was too young and American to understand). I had a mouthful of popcorn. Just then someone else was killed with a hose or something.

I started to laugh. Lucy started to laugh.

"This is hell."

Life is short and brutal enough, why spend 110 minutes watching murder.

So off we went. We dodged 20 minutes late into Savages - another form of torture, and yes, I have sat for many many hours in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers with dying loved ones, but how many times can you hear Phillip Seymour Hoffman say, "Wen, he's got dementia. Wen, he's got dementia. Wen, he's got dementia."

Dear me, I've got dementia. I'd spent the day at not one but two birthday parties for six year old girls, negotiated a battle between Betsy and her seven-year old friend Zoe that rivaled the mayhem of No Country for Old Men, and then on this a precious evening out was subject to images of blood and gore that will forever be emblazoned upon my neurons.

"Wen, he's got dementia."


The two movies always will be entwined for us: men and a dog are murdered in a desert and then siblings have to put their father in a nursing home.

Life is like that of course, non sequitirs left and right, propelling you from an ice-skating party to a fairy princess party, from tuna sandwiches with a five-year old to a margarita with another adult.

Today it snows, lightly and beautifully, all quiet and All is well on this western front.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why the Maybe Suicide of Heath Ledger Pisses Me Off

Warning: this post has very little to do with parenting. That’s because I woke up thinking about suicide, not my own, but suicide in general and found myself getting all pissed off as the concept of suicide is known to do to me; it infuriates me. So a second warning, this post is in no way sympathetic to those who want to kill themselves. I find them enraging.

Unless of course they are plagued by torturous hallucinations as one man I knew was. He had been resident of a psychiatric hospital for most of his adult life thanks to delusions so sadistic and vile he had tried to cut off his own penis. Twenty years worth of psychotropic medication couldn’t quiet his hallucinations or dampen his delusions. Eventually he took his own life. I felt a pang of sympathy. But mostly I don’t.

And unless of course someone is in excruciating incurable physical pain.
But those with working arms and legs and careers who want to knock themselves off each time someone breaks up with them, best stay away from me. I’m definitely not the one to call in the middle of the night.

Or maybe I am.

Once a friend called to announce she was going to kill herself because her partner broke up with her.
“Where are you?” I asked.

“At home. Are you coming over?”

“No, I’m sending an ambulance and going back to bed.”

She’s still alive. Nothing like telling the whining semi-well you’re sending an ambulance to their home to perk them up.

So now here’s a young man who is father of a two year old, rich, famous and not insignificantly best known for playing a gay man in a highly acclaimed film who maybe killed himself and maybe did not. Of course being young and rich doesn’t mean you’re not in psychic pain. But rich fathers of two year olds have options aside from porking on pills. Not to mention the contribution to our culture’s continual equating of gay and suicide that his death provides.

Thanks depressed dude.

How did I get like this? Instant rage! Just add water or air to news of a suicide. You don’t even need to stir!

Maybe twenty years working in psychiatry hearing the suicidal woes of hundreds of adults. Maybe having watched too many life-embracing loved ones die long before they were ready, people contributing to others, giving gifts of love and kindness to the world. Their lives were ripped from them by cancer or accidents or strokes.

And here is some young ass who just can’t take it?
Go kill yourself then. You’ll leave more room for the rest of us we who know life is not always fun, not always easy, sometimes unbearable. Thank you for the shorter lines at movies and the supermarket, fewer death-happy drunk drivers on the road, less crowded beaches.

Oh, and one more thing. There’s a dirty little secret you might want to know: after you’re dead, life goes merrily on without you.

Red Anger by A.D. McCowen

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why I Oughta...

My peaceful little urban enclave is getting scary, murders, mayhem and the oddest recurring prank involving Sprite. We’re technically a part of the city of Boston, my neighborhood and I, but resemble a suburb in that we’re all houses and narrow streets, independent pharmacies and small grocers. There’s been almost no violent crime in the last few years but suddenly in just the last week there have been two shoot-outs.

It makes me want to buy a gun and wear it visibly in a holster as I shovel snow or take out the garbage. Just you try to fuck with me and the home in which I’m raising my child.

Some locals suggest it’s a chance for the community to band together, to become stronger. I just want to declare war.

And then there’s the dumbest act of vandalism I’ve ever encountered. At night, under cover of darkness, people (come on, we know they’re guys) throw Sprite on all the cars parked on my street.

Well there’s a good time.

Let’s see, it’s evening in Boston, we’re alive and well. We could read, see a movie, learn something, lift weights, write an email, anything. No! I know what we can do. Dude, let’s drive around and pour soda on cars.

Now there’s smart and cool all rolled up into one pretty little package.

I’d like to lie in wait not to catch and report the dim bulbs but to shout at them, Yo Bozo the clowns! What excellent lives you are living! Driving around all night with your soda.

But where would that put me? A sleep-deprived gay mother hiding behind the curtains with a megaphone hurling sarcasm. At least my car is clean. A little Sprite is always a good excuse to get a car wash.

So I buy no gun and hurl no sass. I feel mildly relieved none of it is the result of homophobia. Straight people are getting killed and no car is spared. It’s equal opportunity delinquency, which as far as I’m concerned is second cousin once removed to gays in the military. Oh goodie, we’ve been invited to the party.

Meanwhile, I’d like to buy my daughter armor. I’d like to move to the real suburbs where come to think of it, such things likely would be fueled by homophobia. Oy vey, where’s a little gay family to go?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mom-bo Italiano

Whenever I get blue I just remind myself that somewhere on this big earth is Bette Midler and I remember life is a huge glittering buxom miracle to be enjoyed and lived to the absolute fullest.  And I'm not even a gay man!

My girlfriend Lucy and I don't live together but we each have a child (hers 12, mine 5) and we spend a lot of time together the four of us so that means sometimes all hell breaks loose as it did this weekend.  Lucy and Phoebe were to drop Betsy and I off in Manhattan on their way to Long Island. The kids were looking forward to the road trip. Lucy said Phoebe was so excited to see Betsy that when she picked her up from school on Friday that was all she could say, "When do we pick up Betsy?  When do we pick up Betsy?"

Then they came to pick us up.  Phoebe waited in the car as Lucy came to help us with our bags. By the time we made it out to the car Phoebe had a sleeping mask on, a wool hat pulled over that, and headphones in.  Instead of hello she announced we all needed to be quiet because she wanted to sleep.

Lucy looked baffled.

Betsy was pissed. "I want Phoebe to play and listen to Hannah Montana."

It went from there and got so bad with the five year old purposefully talking really loudly and the 12 year old purposefully sighing and groaning that Lucy turned the car around and back we went to my house.

The adults informed the children that there would be no road trip if it meant five hours of yelling and groaning.  Lucy went for a walk with Phoebe to talk with her. Betsy and I conferred in the car. We all decided to try it again.

"Trip to New York Take Two" we called it. Everything was great the second time around.
It was a good lesson for all of us.  Funks come and go.  Everyone deserves a second chance. Don't hold a grudge. You know, all the stuff I'm absolutely incapable of doing in my own adult life.

Now Lucy wants to know if Betsy and I want to accompany her and Phoebe on a trip to Las Vegas to see Bette Midler live.  Geez.  Blending families is terrifying enough when you're close to home, but to be thousands of miles a way in a hotel. Oh geez. 

But there's Bette, taking life by the horns. 

"Come On-A-My House."  

I compare the sometimes harrowing introduction of Lucy and Phoebe into Betsy's life, Betsy and I into Phoebe's,  with life before separation and think "What have we done?"  But there are also amazing times together, mostly amazing times.  And life before separation was harrowing in a different kind of way.

Come on-a my house come on I'm going to give you candy.

I've got the Bette Sings Rosemary Clooney songbook in my head.  

Maybe this is Life Take Two. Nothing happens if you don't put on a low-cut sparkling red dress and high heels every once in a while.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New York New York

We were riding the F train this afternoon, Bets and I, here in NY when for some reason I already have shoved far back into the recesses of my mind talk of Betsy's donor dad came up. We might have been discussing height or we might have been discussing weight or we might have been discussing sushi, but there it was. We talk about him from time to time and usually I'm on top of it, sharing with her information in a very careful, modulated and minimal way.

This time for some reason I sounded like a dingbat. I heard myself and thought, Dingbat.

It started like this, "You're half what?"


"Right. And you're a quarter what?"

"I don't know."



"That means your donor dad's mother is Japanese. If we saw her she would look like a Japanese lady."

"If we saw her she would look like a Japanese lady."

What in hell was I talking about? Betsy looked at me for further explanation which I didn't have so she resumed staring across the subway train at the man with the pierced lip, nose and eyebrows.

I think maybe I was high on the diversity of the F train. Visiting NY from even as nearby as Boston is like poking your head out of a cave after a decade's worth of hibernation. While you slept the world continued and everyone got really cool haircuts and great clothes. So, maybe I told myself, We're not hicks from Boston we're diversity too. Hey Bets, your grandmother is a Japanese lady.


Betsy was unperturbed. I'm learning I can make blunders both big and small and not ruin her for life.

An even more amazing learning experience took place at the American Girl Place where we got away with spending only $23. With adequate prep you can make anything happen. It took three weeks worth of "We can only buy something for $20 or less" to prepare Betsy for the harsh reality - $20 or less at the American Girl Place buys you not much more than an elastic for your doll's hair (in our case it bought us fake ice cream parlor treats). But she did it. And I was so proud.

With our American Girl Place bag in hand we boarded the F train to head back downtown where we would be back among our people, the funkadelics who can spend only $20 on doll clothes. And it was there, high on our success, intoxicated from the multi-colored world of downtown NY that I brought up the genetics.

"You're also a quarter Dutch."



The train screeching to a halt at Broadway/Lafayette ended the conversation. Thank goodness. Betsy bolted out of the train, her American Girl bag swinging behind her, an all-American-mixed-race-daughter-of -lesbians-girl, leaving this mommy with all of her explanations and analyses in the dust.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Best Lesbian Blog in the Entire Universe?

Well imagine my surprise to find (daughter of Are You My Mothers a la has been nominated as one of the Best Lesbian blogs of 2007.

Thank you to whomever made the nomination (I swear it wasn't me). I am honored and thrilled and promise to try to keep representing as best I can and to learn to like the word lesbian, to not suggest that it sounds like something that happens to your skin in the winter.

I need a better moisturizer I have a bright red lesbian on my elbow.

Did you see that man? He's covered in lesbians.

It was so gross, during class she was peeling her lesbian.

Thank you all my dear sweet readers again and again. There must be a way to vote. I will keep everyone posted.

Here's what I did today: spent ten hours that I absolutely did not have gathering the creme de la creme of Betsy's old baby and toddler clothing, placing it in bags, making a list for each bag of every item in the bag, and taking all seven bags to a local children's clothing resale store where I was paid $45 for the lot. That works out to be $4.50 an hour for my time never mind that I should have given it all away. I blame it on Hannah Montana and the resultant loss of brains cells that listening to her CD has caused.

But back to lesbians. Are lesbian mothers more embarrassing than straight mothers? I'm guessing in winter they are (the puffy puff mama down coat/vest snapped up to the neck, the LL Bean duck boots, the Peruvian knit hat with earflaps, need I go on).

I tried not to embarrass Phoebe my girlfriend's daughter during racquetball yesterday. I play so terribly I thought if I sang a Bette Midler tune loudly it would make it look like I wasn't really trying and therefore not as bad a player as I really am. Well that didn't work. Turns out twelve and a half year olds don't appreciate Bette Midler covers during racquetball. Nor are they fond of 46 year olds rapping in public.

Straight mothers at least apply make-up. If someone is going to embarrass the pants off of you better they've put their face on. And I hear lipstick helps keep your lips from getting lesbians.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tushy Montana

A hot water bottle dressed in my t-shirt tucked in for the night in Betsy's bed. If that's not a transitional object I don't know what is. One of the ever-shrinking evidences of toddlerhood in a little girl who just discovered Hannah Montana.

We had to listen to the Hannah Montana theme song at full volume no fewer than 15 times today while making lasagne. We also had to spend 45 minutes picking out just the right outfit in which to go to the supermarket.

In just the last week, maybe the last 48 hours, Betsy has become aware of her hair, skin-tight jeans, and the word fashionista. That in combination with it being the middle of winter (i.e., my ever-graying hair is so flacid and filled with static I call it seaweed-on-a-rock, my wardrobe consists of a 10 year old down jacket and fleece-lined pants, my skin tone is that of white laser printer paper and just as dry) is making me feel really old and dumpy.

Then Betsy shouted "Stop!" when I started to sing along with Hannah Montana. "You're embarrassing me."

"But no one else is here."

"Cookie's here."

Cookie is our cat and apparently she too thinks I am yesterday's oceanfish and tuna.

It dawned on me that I will be getting grayer and dryer and shorter as Betsy gets taller and smarter and more beautiful. So I kept singing.

"Mommy I'm not going to help you make lasagne if you keep on singing."

Then of course she had to poop and wanted me to wipe her. In the bathroom Betsy had peeled off all her clothes and was sitting naked on the toilet reading an American Girl Doll catalog. I still help her with the tushy part but she's in charge of her vagina. It's a childrearing technique I pulled out of my own arse.

To my budding teenager I said, "You know one day soon you're really going to have to start wiping your own tushy."

"I know," she said.

Until then she'll sample growing up by rocking out to Hannah Montana and sshing the mother with the bucket of wipes.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Sex Lives of Parents

Two weeks ago at Red Rock Canyon. A far cry from Boston.

It just dawned on me that, freed from the clutches of, I can write anything I want, in any format, on any topic.

Today it goes like this: The sex lives of adults exists in such stark contrast to the childhoods of the children they are raising, tucking into bed each night, reading to from the Berenstain Bears, teaching to ride a bicycle.

The bedrooms of parents filled with tears and sweat, broken dreams, betrayal, lust, desire. Down the hall a child sleeps with a teddy bear, dreams with a pacifier, lips apart, eyes closed, arms and legs outstretched. A humidifier hums, a baby monitor one-way witness to new beginning, a lifetime yet lived, blank slate, potential, a world of possibility.

Listen to the breaths taken in and out, in and out while your wife removes her make-up, dries her tears, covers her breasts in an oversized t-shirt. While your husband brushes his teeth, lifts the toilet seat to let flow a stream of urine careful like you told him. While you find your place in the book you have been reading for over a month. While you wonder whether to kiss him first, kiss her first, touch his arm, touch her breast, touch or ask, ask or touch.

In and out, in and out, from the room down the hall, soft breathing, your own flesh and blood reborn, a second chance. You want there to be nothing in your child’s way, no thought or fear or limitation like that which stops you before touching your wife’s arm, your husband’s shoulder, from asking, touching, asking, for something you know not even what any more.

Such rain here today, like you wouldn't believe.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bare Naked Mommies

So until what age do you shower with your child? Until what age do you undress in front of them? It depends on the child I presume - not to mention the adult who for the purposes of this discussion I'm assuming to be healthy and appropriate. And of course gender matters. If you're a dad with a daughter it's different than being a mom with a son or a mom with a daughter or a dad with a son or a...

A friend of mine stopped showering with his daughter when she tugged on his penis and said, "toot toot."

Another friend stopped bathing with her son when he started pooping in the tub - on purpose as a joke.

Some households - gay or straight - are just naked households as in everyone sees everyone else naked all the time. The household I grew up in was the opposite of a naked household. We rarely saw each other without at least six different layers of clothing on.

My own home is somewhere in between. I change in front of Betsy and will shower with her if she can promise not to grab my breasts.

"I can't promise today," she's been known to say.

It's not just my breasts she's titillated (I had to) by. If Betsy knows someone within a 30-mile radius of our house is naked she will make an all out effort to see them. She's interested in it all: breasts, vaginas, penises. Though she's especially obsessed with comparing the size of women's breasts. Her life's dream is to attend a mammogram with me.

"Please please can I go watch them smash your bobbies?"

"Absolutely not."


"Children are not allowed to watch mammograms."

"Then I'm going to become a mammogram giver."

"You want to be a doctor?" The Jewish mother in me was thrilled. "You'd be a great doctor."

"No I want to give mammograms."

She wants to be a technician. That's fine too.

I think it's about stimulation. If a child is over-stimulated by something it's likely not appropriate. And that can vary from child to child, moment to moment.

It's up to us as parents to keep up and adjust accordingly.

Of course as a lesbian I'm a bit paranoid about at-home nudity, as if the biggest fear of the religious is just this: a house full of bare naked vaginas, children over and over again exposed to middle-age muff.

Why that would be damaging and households sporting sagging scrotums wouldn't be, I can't say.

The real issue is this: at some point our children will be repulsed by the site of us naked. And that my friends is likely the time when we must close up shop.

Monday, January 7, 2008

American Debt Dolls

Hey All! Welcome to the new home of Are You My Mothers. This cyber-duh is going it solo in the blogging world. Hats off to and the others but I've opted for a single-family home so to speak. Come visit. Whenever you'd like.

For today's opener: 5 Year Olds and Addiction

Betsy, daughter age 5, is as addicted to American Debt Dolls as Cher is to fame, as W is to money, as Harry Potter is to Butterbeer. She reads the American Debt Doll catalog in cars, trains and airplanes, on the toilet, at the dinner table (she tries). She talks about American Debt Dolls incessantly. She knows which friend has which doll, knows the pets, beds, and clothes that come with each doll. She tucks her two Debt dolls in to bed each night in their pajamas, props them up against the wall so they can watch her take a bath.

This might sound cute to some of you, developmentally appropriate especially given that Betsy is an only child and Julie and Molly (see above) are more or less surrogate sibs. But for me it's becoming the equivalent of a fingernail against a blackboard - on a good day.

If I have to hear one more story about Julie and Ivy or Molly and Emily every marble is going to fall from my head. I've come close to saying, "Betsy mommy doesn't care about American Girl Dolls." But I know better.

Betsy's favorite pastime is she and I on the sofa with popcorn and hot chocolate reading American Debt Doll catalogs. I do this because I've banned them from bedtime reading.

"It's not reading."

"But it's words, mommy."

"It's like candy, words that are like Nerds or Sweet Tarts."

"But you let me eat candy."

"Not for dinner."

"But this is bedtime."

"Bedtime is the dinner of meals."

The marbles by then have started to slip out of my ears.

I was addicted to things too when I was younger, obsessed over bows and arrows, matchbox cars, and making clay penises for all my boy dolls. But weren't those educational preoccupations? Wasn't I exploring gender? I suppose Bets is exploring something too, girlie-hood and growing up and social relations. But it's so darn expensive. And so darn boring.

Still I made another date for the couch and the catalogs. Soon there will come a time when she doesn't want mommy near her on a date. You can be damn sure when that time comes I'll grab Julie and Molly and trail her like a bloodhound.