Category Archives: Divorce

17 Easy Steps to Fitting an Antique Buffet into a Prius

Exactly 4 years ago, (minus a day) I posted this blog. I’m helping the earth by reusing, recycling, and reposting. This has absolutely nothing to do with being busy with stuff. None. I was looking up post hits since I started my blog, and this one was pretty high up on the list. Even better I have an update. Not only have the recipients formally adopted the buffet, they have also adopted a little boy. Congrats!

Step 1: In your twenties, gain possession of one large, antique buffet for free from a friend who is cleaning out a family home and already has one.

Step 2: Be thankful for such friends.

Step 3: Allow the buffet to make up for feeling insecure about your working class roots, where no matter how many family houses you clean out, you will never find a piece of furniture like this.

Step 4: Be absurdly proud how it fits perfectly in your large apartment that actually feels like a home, and not a starter apartment with milk crates and hand-me-down particle board furniture. Revel in the pantry, a built-in china cabinet, dental molding (which you will have to learn about because you have never seen such carved beauty), pocket doors and a fireplace (Ok, neither the fireplace, nor one of the doors worked, but still – it was a FIREPLACE and POCKET doors!)

Step 5: Be blissfully ignorant of how the pride in step 4 only highlights your insecurities.

Step 6: Get priced out of said apartment and cool neighborhood and buy a condo in a less expensive, working class town. Be whiny and curse the fates that have brought you back to the type of place you thought you’d escaped. Cling to the buffet even harder, even though the condo does not have a formal dining room. Tell yourself it will be great for extra storage.

Step 7: Do not hug the movers who manage to wedge into the condo what you now realize is a monolithic piece of furniture.

Step 8: Find yourself 12 years later post-divorced, post-condo, and moving into a four-room apartment, but still in possession of the buffet. Be clear with yourself why you still have it and understand your attachment to it. Don’t let that stop you from putting it in storage and playing out a twisted Scarlett O’Hara kind of fantasy that one day, as the universe is your witness, you will never live in a formal dining room-less place again!

Step 9: Be sure to have other, more likable traits and make the kind of friends who don’t hold Step 8 against you.

Step 10: Get a grip and realize paying storage fees for over a year is stupid. Gather tolerant friends to see if anyone has space to hold the buffet for you or use it until your plan for formal dining room domination is complete.

Step 11: Get another grip and realize all your urban friends have small urban spaces. Widen the search to out-of-state friends with more space.

Step 12: Find a home in southern Maine. Have a Prius-owning good friend who will help you, even though you are way past the age when friends should ask friends for moving help.

Step 13: Have the Prius-owning friend also be the type who will measure to see if it will fit in the back. All of it: 5 feet, 6-inches long x 37 inches tall x 21.5 inches deep.

Step 14: Pick up the moving van you will drive to Maine in case the buffet doesn’t fit in the Prius. As you climb into a van that smells heavily like sweaty workmen who smoke, be more fervent in your prayers that the buffet will fit into the Prius.

Step 15: Spend 15 minutes, pushing, cajoling, and sliding the buffet in the back. Spend another 5 to 10 minutes adjusting the front seats to somewhere between buffet-sticking-out-the-back-an-inch to can’t-feel-your-legs-because-knees-are-in-your-chin. Settle on abnormally bent legs and pit stops as needed to reintroduce circulation.

Step 16: Deliver the buffet to Maine friends, who quickly find it won’t fit in their basement either. Discover it fits perfectly between their open floor plan dining room and living room. Smile and enjoy when their daughter begins using the buffet immediately to have her toy frog practice his skate board moves.

Step 17: 4 years later, move into an apartment with a dining room and realize that you really don’t need the buffet anymore. Let the stewards know they can keep it.

And a big thank you to my friends: Tim (furniture donor), Brad (for trying to help me find a home closer to home), Becky and Susan (Prius owners), and Gloria, Mary, and their daughter — current stewards adopters of the honking, big buffet, and as of last month, adopters of a sweet little boy. May they all have a long life.

Photo:  A perfect fit in the Prius: the buffet arrives safely in Maine. The driver and passenger were off to the side coaxing the circulation back into their legs.

Racism: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I’ve been thinking a lot about racism lately, and that’s my unfair advantage as a white woman: I get to think about it in an abstract way when I have time, interest, and energy. I don’t have to step out the door every day and deal with it myself or worry about a male child or a man in my life being followed, threatened, or shot for simply existing.

I’m a bleeding heart liberal from a genetic pool of people who are pre-disposed to giving others breathing room–the Dutch, so that shit’s genetic and deep. And right now pretty much everyone and every group is under fire, so how’s a lefty girl to choose? There is a macabre buffet of social, political, and environmental issues to choose to fight for. It’s an embarrassment of riches: immigrants, women’s reproduction, the environment, the political collapse of the Democratic Party that lost its focus on helping people without a voice. And then there’s the stuff to fight against, like white supremacists, people who shout using all caps in electronic communications, and Kellyanne Conway–call me conservative, but I don’t believe cyborgs should have full human rights until they can be better calibrated for balance, oh, and have a functioning brain.

So in this Cheeto flea world I’ve been darting around like a dog chasing rabid squirrels and collapsing in a corner panting until I catch my breath. Then another Cheeto flea tweet crosses my Facebook feed and I’m off and running again.

And I don’t even like exercising.

So what can I do? Where should I put my energy, because at 51, I can’t be giving it away for free like I did when I was 25. Except if you’re a hot man, then please step up to the front of the line.

Where was I? Ah, right, stop and focus. Recently a few conversations with my friend Sonia have helped clarify for me that race underpins so much of this–this fear that some white people have of losing ground they only got by 1) existing and 2) pushing down everyone else. This fear made Cheeto flea number 45. This fear continues to openly hate Obama, which is the most fucked up kind of ignorance and blatant racism. I can fight for gays, women, immigrants, and religions, but if Blacks are still considered subhuman, then everything else I do is just a Band-Aid. I should know. I went for marriage counseling around year 10, and that Band-Aid prevented us from getting to the root cause. 10 years after that, we got divorced. I’ve learned I can’t wish this crap away or think it’s one and done. That’s just for romantic comedies, and that is some of the fakest news ever.

Meeting Sonia in college and having some illuminating discussions about everything from rock ‘n’ roll to race inspired me to later read a lot of Black history that I was never taught in school, like the Civil Rights Movement. In 1986, smack in the middle of my conversations with Sonia, Spike Lee came on to the scene with “She’s Gotta Have It.” That was also life-changing–a whole movie about black people just doing regular things like trying to find love from a Black perspective. That shit was radical. Still is.

Eventually Sonia moved away, and I didn’t meet another Black person. Well that’s not true. I bonded with a nice, funny guy at a bad job. We had a lot of fun at work, and I still make this great potato salad recipe he gave me. I proposed that he and his wife hang out with my and my then husband a few times, but he politely declined. I thought at the time of something Sonia had told me about Black people having trouble trusting white people–some of us are pretty sketchy, after all. But now that I’m thinking about it, the same thing happened a few years later with a white couple, so maybe we were just a boring white couple no one wanted to hang around, Black or white.

You see how confusing this race thing can be?

After Sonia left, the gay people decided they did want to hang around with me. That worked because I don’t really think like a straight, white person. I never was big on getting married, although I did try it–it didn’t take. I’m not into working for big companies, climbing ladders, or having a big house. My one kid is great, but if he were not possible, I would have been OK not having a kid. My Moroccan friend once told me, “You’re a weird American.” And she was a weird Moroccan, so she would know. I got to know the struggles of gay people trying to define themselves outside of society’s norms–I was trying to do that too. If you’ve ever heard someone’s coming out story, which usually involves the terror of revealing your true self to those closest to you, knowing you may be rejected out of hand, then, straight, white people like me should be grateful for what we have. I just wanted to work in a nonprofit and be a writer, which meant squatting on the outer edges of American prosperity–most families don’t kick you out for that.

And so I have been to the Gay Pride parade in Boston every year, and was at Cambridge City Hall when they handed out the first gay marriage licenses, and benefited from lots of gay men giving me their cast off furniture. And then we got a Black president, so what could be better? Gay marriage! Black president! This lefty girl was snug as a bug in a rug.

Until, um, now. Cue “Home Alone” screaming kid–note that he’s white.

I’m getting back to where I started all those years ago freshman year talking into the night with Sonia about the difference between black and white hair and ashy skin. She was brave enough to let in this crazy white girl into her life and that changed me forever for the better. It’s time for me to speak up and talk about race, rock ‘n’ roll, and hair–I learned from the gay rights movement that’s what being an ally is. I have the socially acceptable attributes like being white and straight, so I need to use my ninja skills to help others and look at my own biases along the way. Yes, even the Spike Lee-loving liberal has biases. Nobody needs a clueless ally, and white, straight cluelessness can be the worst.

So what are you being called to do? We will most likely intersect and join up at some point in a big-ass massive rally that could maybe fill Rhode Island. We’re going to need all our passion and commitment to make these long-term changes. And while you’re doing your thing, try to also to hear out whatever it is others are saying, even if it makes you uncomfortable. When I hear about the environment, sometimes I want to yell, “I stopped using aerosols, I recycle, I cut up the damn plastic rings around a six-pack of soda! What more do you want from me!?” And when I put my big girl pants on, I can say, yeah, I know there’s more to it than that. Fight, and listen, and if all else fails, laugh at yourself, and keep moving.

Photo: Sonia and I getting our U2 groove on 2 summers ago.

Happy Anniversary

Because I’m not acknowledging Friday until it happens, and I will acknowledge it on Saturday in Boston at one of 370 the sister marches across the country supporting the Women’s March on Washington, I am instead today writing about looking back.

This January marks the 6th anniversary of when I decided to stop a year of couples therapy and “take a break.” At the time, the 3 people in our family were seeing 4 therapists. I think the ratio for me and my ex was 3:1. We were getting individual therapy, couples therapy, and spending spend time with the kid’s therapist. The kid was getting off easy with just having to see one. Suffice to say, we were outnumbered, and on many days I felt outgunned. We were extraordinarily lucky that our insurance was paying for it all, and while I generally don’t have great things to say about health insurance companies, we were most certainly eating into their profit margins that year, and I did not get one nasty letter from them.

If you’ve ever been to therapy, you know it’s very time-consuming. The time spent in the office is just the beginning. It’s the hours of traveling to and from the appointment, the time spent processing all the damn therapy and doing whatever home work they assign you — hey, that 5 minutes sitting in the waiting room remembering what is was you were supposed to do for this session adds up over time. And don’t forget the hours when you sit on your bed and stare out the window, wrestling with the guilt that your kid is in therapy because of you, when you know for a fact that no other kids are in therapy because of their parents. It’s a wonder I had time for my job.

My then-husband and I had been in couples therapy once before when our son was around 2. Things improved for a while after that, but it didn’t stick. I should’ve known this second time wasn’t going to work either. We went back to the same therapist and while she remembered us, after a few sessions she confessed she couldn’t find the records from our previous time with her. And it wasn’t that she had purged her records. Oh, no, she had records from before us and after us, and where there should have our records, there was a big empty slot. I can’t think of a clearer signal from the universe, except maybe for that cartoon of the giant anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote.

I would even venture that the therapist was less than enthusiastic to see us, and many days she seemed kind of tired of us. Who could blame her? We were tired of us, too. We were also probably the most boring kind of couple for a therapist: no juicy infidelity, in-person or online, no meddling in-laws, no addiction issues to Pokemon Go or Netflix binging. Just plain old drifting apart and ineffective communication skills. We were actually highly skilled at being ineffective communicators, having honed it to a razor-sharp edge over 20 years. Yes, 20 years, so I find it amusing when divorce is described as a”failed marriage.” We were pretty good for about 8 years and had a great kid. Then things were rocky, and we decided to go to therapy round 1. That took about 3 years. Things got better for about 4 years and then they started the inevitable slide to the disconnection destination for 5 years. By my count that sounds a lot like life: some wins, some losses, and some what the hell are we doing here?

How many people even have friends for 20 years? Or a job? Or even piece of furniture? Do people call their couch that they are dragging out to the curb a “failed sit-upon”? Do people call a friendship that ends a failure? No, they probably say something like it “ran its course.” Hmmm. O, language, you tricky mistress. For the record, I have close friends who I’ve known for 20, 30, and even 40 years. So clearly  I am a successful friend maker; it’s the marriage thing that mystified me.

So there I was armpit deep in personal therapy, couples therapy, and secondhand therapy from my son’s therapist. When it took my ex about 8 months before he could articulate what he was angry about, a vision of being in therapy for the rest of my life flashed before my eyes. That’s when I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. Of course I had to talk about it with my therapist first. When he suggested we take a break from couples therapy, my relief was so visceral, I nearly slid out of my chair. I was just so happy to have an open slot every other week, I forgot that “taking a break” pretty much means the same thing whether you’ve been dating for 5 months or married for 20 years. No one is fooled that it means something super good is coming after the “break.” Except me, but I was so overwhelmed with all the therapy, I didn’t think past that freed-up hour. My ex understood better than I did, and of course asked the inevitable question, “For how long?” In my head I said, “Forever. Is forever good for you?” Then I knew I was truly done with everything.

Six years later, and despite the election, I am currently therapy free (we’ll see how long that lasts), I have a great life, a great kid, my ex and I work pretty well together on his behalf,  and we respect the separated lives we’ve created.

So go ahead and call it a failed marriage if you need to. I’ll say it ran its course, and maybe we can agree that I had a very successful divorce.

 

The Dating Game

Remember when I was perusing Craigslist solely to gather information for you, fair readers? Well, today we’re moving on to part 2, dating advice. I may or may not be dating — if you want to find out for sure, you’re going to have to buy me dinner and drinks. A lot of drinks. But I digress.

I was with my friend Mike visiting our favorite bartender in Boston, and we noticed a young couple in the middle of what had to be a first date. It was pretty plain to see the body language. He was chatting and working pretty hard at being charming and funny — leaning in, if you will. Both Mike and I decided we’d be happy to have been on the receiving end of his efforts. But the young woman was less than enchanted. She was bordering on being rude, looking away, looking at her phone. Our favorite bartender confirmed our suspicions and filled us in because she’d been eavesdropping. Hence one of the many reasons she’s our favorite bartender. She was in favor of the young man, who was holding up his part of the date, but the young woman seemed to be too caught up in her own insecurities — there was a fair amount of tugging at her skirt, looking at her phone, and fiddling with her hair. She was clearly not present. And even if she was, hey, if you’re not into it, then you need to find a graceful way to end it. That’s what grownups do. Or maybe we all need to be aware of whether our date is into it, and if not, have the courage to end it gracefully ourselves.

The three of us heaved a collective sigh of relief that it wasn’t us, and we agreed that this is what’s so hard about dating when you’re young. At that age, most of us often only want someone for the sake of wanting them, and we really haven’t figured out what we want from ourselves, never mind a partner. And yet there’s this great pressure to be out there and dating and finding The One! So you go on dates, dragging along your wheeled baggage that definitely does not fit into the overhead compartment. (I’d like to give shout out to my friend Lora who introduced me to this apt metaphor. She also told me plenty of stories of being on dates with folks in their 30s and 40s who should know better and still have a death grip on their luggage. So sadly, this does not just apply to the young ones.)

Sometimes I regret that I didn’t date more at that age, and wonder if it would have made a difference in my choices. But was I even ready for it? Would it have been just a series of dates like the one I witnessed, only it would have been me worrying about my body, clothes, hair, stupid shit? To be fair, back then we didn’t have phones to check, but would my eyes have been darting around like a trapped animal? Or staring into the middle distance like fictional characters do when their lives are hitting bottom? Would I have been able to learn from it? I’ve recently become addicted to enamored of a website called A New Mode, which among other things dispenses a lot of decent, sensible relationship advice aimed at straight women, but I think all humans can find something useful in it. There is also a lot of insight into how straight men think. I could write a whole blog on this topic alone, and maybe I will — it’s totally fascinating.

But for this blog, I like how A New Mode focuses on loving yourself first, having a full happy life without a partner, the fun of dating, and not taking anything too seriously at the beginning. And it’s good enough that I can overlook the fair amount of hard sell of various $49 videos that will reveal for the FIRST TIME! The THREE SIMPLE WORDS that will make the man you want crave you and devote himself to you forever! As a writer, I find the word “crave” an interesting choice. Obsession is too scary and in all states, illegal, but the word “crave” is marketing genius. It’s being wanted without the scary part, although it’s still too scary for me. As an older, wiser woman, I can happily skip the craving and devotion, and have many better uses for my 49 bucks, thanks.

But the other advice makes a lot of sense to me because it validates what I learned through hard-won life experience. I’ve spent my post-divorce time getting to that place of filling my life with things that bring me joy, being happy with myself, changing a few things I’m not happy with, and letting go what doesn’t really matter. But I wonder, would I have been able to truly understand this advice the last time I was thrashing about in this arena as a 20-something? I was definitely carrying over-regulation-size luggage, and I was an 80s angry feminist who had just extricated herself from a messy, abusive, dysfunctional relationship. OK, I waited two years after the relationship, but still. I think in that time I managed to unpack the equivalent of a cosmetic bag, and angry feminists don’t wear makeup. Would I have really been able to love myself and not just plaster on a fake sticker, “Yes, I love myself, now date me!”? I really had no idea who I was, and I don’t think I had any business dating, not even for purely recreational purposes.

But to be kind to myself, I Googled “Dating Advice from the ‘80’s,” just to see what advice was available to me at that time. And while I may not have been ready to follow today’s advice back then, I think I can safely say there was no way to be successful using the advice of that time. Phew, that’s a load off. Check this out advice from a book called How to Be Popular with Boys by Stacy Rubis (1984):

  1. “Boys get an ego boost from your awkwardness. It makes them feel more in control, more manly. And at the same time they get more protective toward shy, trembling you.” Hmmm. If that were the case, I should have been beating them off with a stick. Awkward was my middle name! Don’t get me stated on the trembling, what am I? Some Hollywood starlet from the ’30s?
  2. “Don’t take any chances when getting ready in the morning. Always put effort into looking good. Effort, plain effort, is often the only real difference between average and stunning girls.” Hey, I always made sure my “rat tail” (a little chunk of hair in the back that is about 4 inches longer than your short hair) was dyed blue and braided. Believe me it looked good. Really good.
  3. “Another good way to turn a crush into the real thing is to determine your man’s schedule of classes for the day…Figure it out and arrange when to bump into him…a lot.” Um, I think this is called stalking now, and is illegal in all 50 states…
  4. “Try eating at one of the ethnic food stands in the mall, preferably a taco place where it’s hard to discern the ingredients of a meal. Then say to a boy whose plate is piled high, ‘What is that you’re eating?’” Yeah, because meat, various vegetables, and cheese are so ethnic, that they are hard to identify. That aside, practicing inflection seems key to this advice: What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? I don’t think I quite have the sexy innuendo down right…

So, there you have it. Dating is never easy in any time or stage of life, but it sure makes for good blog fodder, and that, my friends, brings me great joy.

 

I’m a Delicate Flowah

Many years ago, while walking down the street in Boston, I overheard a woman say loudly, in a distinct Boston accent to her companion in answer to some unheard comment, “I’m a delicate flowah.” It’s been one of my catch phrases ever since. Because, yes, even a chain-smoking, whiskey-drinking, grizzled Bostonian can be delicate sometimes. I don’t know if she was all those those things, but let’s face it, that’s why people like that accent, because it sounds like those things, and that is way more interesting than someone speaking so blandly, you don’t care if they are delicate of not.

So while I like to fancy myself a tough Bostonian, I do have my delicate flowah moments, and a few of them have occurred at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). I do like aht. I like aht a lot, and I learned just enough aht history in college to be obnoxious at the Museum of Fine Ahts (MFA), which is full of all the good oldies. But this contemporary aht stuff is different. Oh, sure, I saw Mapplethorpe back in the late 80s when people had their panties in a twist about his naked photography, but that’s different. Photography has at least something I can relate to in that it was created by a camera. No, I’m talking about my past few visits to the ICA, trying to be a good cultural citizen. But it’s not easy — what with contemporary aht’s lack of reference points and odd materials (is that plastic? Dried blood? Sawdust with metal shavings glued on bricks?). Sometimes an “installation” takes up whole room, and there are random pointy things and sandy things and crap hanging from the ceiling. When I enter such a room, I’m a total delicate flowah: I find it very disorienting and disturbing. I look to the little white card to throw me a bone, to tell me something, anything, grounding about this piece. But it says the installation was created in some studio in New York, or Los Angeles, or New Mexico (art never seems to get made anywhere else) and put together by the museum’s curator. Then I go from delicate flowah to indignant working class girl: What?! The ahtist couldn’t even get his lazy ass down here to put together this scary, weird thing himself? How is that aht? More power to you if you can make a living creating weird-ass installations in a studio and just ship it out around the country, but I sure as hell don’t need to see it.

On another visit, I remember just wandering around in the warren of small rooms with all kinds of visually incomprehensible things, and I was longing for something to ground me — anything — paint, clay, plaster, metal of any kind. I got so agitated that at one point I found a dark room and just curled up and sat on the floor, even though it was showing some random art film. At least I knew there was a video camera involved in its creation, and I breathed into my knees until I wasn’t so delicate. It maybe didn’t help that I was there with my unhappy life in tow — a less-than-delicate mother-in-law, a fraying marriage, and parental overwhelm. But I had all those things in the MFA, and I never had to resort to curling in a ball.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I accepted my friend’s invitation to see the 2016 Oscar nominated short films on Super Bowl Sunday, showing at, yes, the ICA. But I figured, what the heck. My Bostonian citizenship only requires me to care about the Super Bowl if the Patriots are in it, so thankfully I was off the hook this year. I liked the idea of doing something unrelated to football and I’m in a much better place in my life. We’d be seeing films, and I could bypass all the scary aht. I also can be delicate with intense films, but these were short, so I figured how bad could it be?

Let’s just say I wasn’t the only delicate flowah in the group. Don’t get me wrong, they were all quality films. It’s just that three of the five were pretty intense. But it was nothing that two glasses of wine at dinner after and some general discussion about the intensity couldn’t fix.

It still doesn’t really help me understand contemporary aht any better, but at least I know I can go to the ICA without curling up in a ball, so maybe I’m not so delicate after all. But I am a wicked good flowah.

Photo: From 10 bizarre works of art from weirdworm.com, The Physical Impossibility of death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hurst

 

 

Confessions of a Lazy Bostonian

Boston just celebrated another Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on the Fourth of July. People come from all over the country to be here and experience the concert, the 1812 Overture with Boston’s ringing church bells and firing cannons, and of course the fireworks. For a number of years, the event was even nationally televised, which I was proud of until I realized it moved the fireworks to be an hour later to synchronize with other nationally televised fireworks, like those in New York. Why do I have to get home at 12:30 or 1 am because some poindexter television programming executive thinks New York fireworks are more important? When the televised contract wasn’t renewed, I breathed a sigh of relief that the fireworks could return to the earlier time slot, and I could get squished home in the human river of attendees at a decent hour.

But the funny thing is, I haven’t made it down to the Esplanade since then. Which reminds me, let me apologize to all the tourists who find our names unpronounceable. On Thursday I was by the river near where the concert and fireworks are held and a tourist couple asked me, “How do you pronounce that place with the fireworks, ‘Es-play-nade’?”

For the record, it’s pronounced “Es-pluh-nod.” And that’s the same with or without the Boston accent. Then they wanted directions to that place with the shops and restaurants that begins with an “F”. Ah, Faneuil Hall, another hard to pronounce/remember word. I pointed down the street and told them to go that way, and then to ask again in a few blocks. That’s my strategy rather than trying to explain how to get somewhere with roads that twist and curve unhelpfully and the term “city block” is more of a quaint suggestion than a useful measure of distance.

But back to the Fourth—when I was younger, my friends and I would go in groups—different groups of friends for different years, and we each had a favorite strategy or place to see the fireworks from, based on years of trial and error.  The main objective for all of them was to swoop in around 6 or 7 pm in a place that wasn’t wall-to-wall people, have a bit of time to socialize and eat, then watch the concert on the big screens they set up for anyone not actually sitting in front of the stage, see the fireworks, and get out. Two intrepid friends actually kayaked and watched the fireworks on the river. Two others braved the all-day-on-the-oval experience. I’m a trooper, but that’s too hardcore even for me. My idea of a good time does not include being stationed all day in one spot guarding the boundaries of your blanket against enthusiastic patriotic encroachment.

The first year I didn’t go down to see the fireworks in person was when my son was just four months, and I couldn’t face the sheer amount of stuff I would need to bring him. Not to mention I was still a new enough mother that I couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to quiet him if he decided, being a new enough baby, to howl like he was getting murdered. But as I watched the fireworks on TV that year, it so awfully paled in comparison to seeing them in person, I vowed like Scarlett O’Hara to never miss them in person again. And I didn’t for a long time.

But then the friends began to scatter and in the pre-during-post divorce years I didn’t have the energy to throw myself into that party of more than 100,000 people. I do have my Bostonian pride, though, and told myself I’d get back to it once life had settled. And then I moved to my current apartment up on a hill, and I discovered I can actually see the fireworks in the distance from the end of my driveway. So life is now happily settled, and I’m finding it really hard to make good on my promise. I could be talked into it, but there is no one to do it—my friends still scatter to other places for the Fourth, and my teen son prefers to stay camped out at his computer until the fireworks come on, when he’ll join me at the end of the driveway to oooh and aaah.

So I feel a little guilty that people come from all over to see this, and I was lazy and stayed home. But at least I didn’t watch it on TV, and if I’m being perfectly honest, I selflessly made room for an enthusiastic out-of-towner to have a grand time on the esplaynade. What’s more patriotic than that?

Tokophobia, or June Is Bustin’ Out All Over

I don’t know if it was the long winter all on its own that did it or that the long winter delayed people shedding their layers, or both, but something made me forget the hallmarks of spring—pregnant bellies. Suddenly I’m surrounded by them, and there seems to be waaay more of them this year than usual. I’m not one of those women who looks wistfully at a pregnant woman and trots out an out-of-focus montage of memories fit for a Hallmark channel movie. Nor do I wish I could go back there again. No way. I had one and done, and since then, I think I have become tokophobic, that is, having the fear of pregnancy—I love that there is even a word for it. I was going to make up gestationphobia, but tokophobic is way better.

As my son gets to be an older, more independent teen, my fear also seems to be getting worse. Or is it really just that the bellies are everywhere I turn this spring? Curse the nice weather! I look up on the train, belly in the seat across. Walk from the station to work, three of them are bearing down on me. The third one is even more frightening—she’s pushing a stroller with a kid already in it just ahead of the belly. Dear, god in heaven, have mercy! A walk at lunch reveals the same. I was lulled into a false sense of security when I walked by the river after work, and was blissfully accosted by leagues of runners, all of them non-gestating. But then I rounded the curve in the path and saw the belly and her partner talking to another pair, post-belly, with their offspring in a stroller. I nearly jumped into the river to keep from getting pregnancy cooties.

I don’t have anything against pregnant woman, as I was one myself, and procreation is generally the way to go from an evolutionary point of view. It’s more like I have an irrational fear that I will catch it from them if I get too close. This happened once before when my son was only about three and three women in my office got pregnant, one after the other. In an office of only 25 people, it was kind of alarming, and those of us who weren’t pregnant nervously joked that there must be something in the water. I switched to bottled beverages. I knew I was a prime target for a second child, and I had my hands and heart full with one, so I didn’t need any extra risk, thank you very much.

And the truth is I am the kind of person who would also have been fine not having a kid. I’m glad I did, just as long as you don’t ask me about the baby and toddler years, or when my teen hasn’t taken out the trash….again. I have no nostalgia for the pregnancy—five months of fighting nausea with my only weapon: eating and ultimately hating every cracker known to mankind. Meanwhile the pregnancy books mocked me with their grossly small and unfair estimates of how much weight I should be gaining and when. Those books ain’t for women who are nauseous morning, noon, and night—“morning” sickness, my ass. You eat to keep the feeling of puking at bay and then you gain 30 pounds out of the gate. I looked for the pregnancy book to validate that little fun fact for me, but I couldn’t find it.

But it’s more than the pregnant bellies that terrify me. They remind me of the countless stories of the “oops” baby women have later in life. Although I imagine you can only have an “oops” baby if you’re not as phobic as I am. But still, it’s the proximity and the idea. Here I am, happily post-divorced, and on metaphorical Boylston Street in the Boston Marathon. I can see the finish line, where my offspring will head to college and find life at-large way more interesting than at home. And I can do all kinds of interesting things beyond ensuring my kid is interesting. And cue a … baby? Sleepless nights, spit up as a permanent accessory, and the cuteness that can kill.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it. Mother nature knew babies can be a royal pain in the ass, so she made them like crack or meth. The highs and lows are insane. One minute they are wailing as if you are trying to murder them and the next minute they smile and giggle and you’d do anything for them, including accessorize with spit up and not sleep.

I prefer my no-talking, easy-going, game-playing teen, thanks very much. So, pregnant women of Boston, don’t taking it personally if I dodge you or move away. I’m just embracing my tokophobia and saying no to pregnancy.