Now kids, I know you don’t exist yet. And yep, I’m still single and haven’t met your father yet (at least I don’t think). And OK — maybe I pray (and cross my fingers and toes and arms and legs) to not get pregnant at this time in my life, but one day, I do look forward to having you. And as sweet as it will be to watch you grow from newborns to babies and from toddlers to pre-teens, I’m also excited to see what you’ll be like as an adult. I’ve always had a close relationship with your grandparents, and they’ve always treated me as a pseudo-adult, even from the age of two, so I’ll try my best to not mother ya too hard. Continue reading
I’m not afraid of being alone.
Because loneliness only feels lonely when you give it your power. And though a city can make you have solitary thoughts in the solitary confinement of your tiny hole of the concrete landscape, you’re constantly surrounded by energy. It consumes you while it confuses you, and though you’d rather not break a smile or a sweat, if you walk the streets or catch a train, you’ll find yourself doing both. The city keeps you company, like it or leave it. And being alone isn’t better than surrendering to something you don’t want or becoming someone you’re not because you ache for love. Or maybe it’s just touch that makes you desperate. Learning to stand up single and stand up tall may not be the greatest lesson of all, but it’s one that’ll sustain you. Walking to the beat of the route you decided to take and being proud of who you are — with or without someone — is happier than sitting in the back seat when you should be driving full speed, windows down, ahead.
I’m not afraid of being wrong.
In fact, I’d rather make mistakes if it means that I will ultimately become a stronger, smarter version of myself. Falling down isn’t the same as giving in — but they are equally important. Before you can fly, you have to be able to land and yes, even crash. It’s only in the aftermath that you can put the puzzle of yourself back together. And sometimes, to recreate the parts and mold them into something that fits again, you have to hang on before you can let go. Sometimes you walk down the path or into the bedroom of something so wrong that it tastes eerily right. And it’s only when it all turns from sweet to bitter that you can feel yourself release it. Before you can figure out what it feels like to be right – to be so right, you can’t believe it – you have to be able to detect when it’s painstakingly, not. You have to admit that you put yourself there, that you’re to blame and it’s you that’ll have to change.
I’m not afraid of having hope.
Sure, seeing things as peachy-keen when life has a knack for serving you lemons may seem irrational and naive. I may be a Pollyanna with a bit of a kinky side who sees the light in all of the emptiness, the good in every bit of sorrow — but I wouldn’t trade that blind optimism for anything. Because you have to believe in something or someone or some entity that you can’t describe and you’ll never be able to define, to get yourself through the muck. There are no amounts of charming tall men in suits, yellow chariots, magical cocktails or hideaways that can disguise the unfortunate things that will happen to us all — but if you keep faith somewhere buried inside of you, you’ll never really care. Because even if everything else fades away or disappears, if everyone you know becomes people you used to know — at the very least, you’ll still see that glimmer that you tucked away for days just like this one.
I’m not afraid of imperfection.
Aren’t flaws rather stunning if you think about it? The most gregarious and gorgeous of individuals aren’t cookie-cutter or Hollywood print-outs. Instead, they’re like you. They’re like me. They’re people who have courage and wear t-shirts that show a little too much skin. They rock teeth with gaps but they do the most with what they have, where they are and however they can. The beauty I see in those around me has almost nothing to do with their style and everything to do with their souls. You can’t see what’s really inside of a person or really know how they’re light was lit until you’ve witnessed what made it flicker in the storm. You can’t look past your own silly shortcomings until you’ve been able to look past someone else’s. And not just see through them, but love those wrinkles, those crooked smiles, that freckled face. That madly beautiful, imperfect face.
I’m not afraid of being last.
Because honestly, I forgot I was racing. To the big, high-powered, executive suite job with the burgeoning paycheck. To the altar where I’d convince myself that this man grants my every wish and will lead my every dying decision. To the mortgage and the 401K, the bonds and the stock markets I’m just now starting to teach myself. To the sweet nursery with the sweet baby that’ll depend on me for everything and I’ll find myself consumed with a love I never knew possible. You can’t rush such luck or such joy — and I wouldn’t want to, even if I could. Maybe there’s an ideal time for all of those milestones and maybe it just works itself out. Maybe it doesn’t. But I’d rather be last than to be first and find myself wondering why I moved so quickly when I could have just treasured all the moments before all of my little ducks lined up in their little row.
No, these things, I’m not afraid of. But I used to be.
I needed to be the star — to be the girl who did everything so fast you would miss her if you hesitated for even a second. I wanted to fall in love as soon as I could and marry sooner rather than later. And the thought of being alone was enough to knock me off of my up-on-her-high-horse feet. I gave myself a hard time for having a heart full of hope because surely, if I was too positive, something was damned to go terribly wrong. And if I was wrong, how could I ever find all that I wanted to be right?
I was so fearful of not being the person I had set myself up to be. And if any sign of trouble crept into my picturesque view of how life should be, I would royally freak out. I had a two-year, a five-year, a ten-year plan for everything: this would happen then, that would happen after and all would be well.
But living that way — full of fear that nothing would happen just as I laid it out — was more painful than pleasurable. How can you live in the now if your now is surrounded with anxiety? And so, I decided to stop being pensive. I stopped doubting. I started just savoring. And enjoying.
Because when you stop being afraid of these things… better, not-so-scary, not-so-planned things start to happen instead. And those worries you held onto for so long, they all become things you’re not afraid of anymore. They suddenly just become… things.
My first business was babies.
I became a Red Cross Certified Baby Sitter around the age of 12, my dad whipped up some pink business cards cleverly titled “Lindsay’s Baby-Sitting” with our home number and a totally original slogan: safe, reliable childcare, and I was off to make my first hard-earned cashed. To ease me into the role that would pay a whopping $7 an hour, I practiced with my the children of my godparents: two twin boys.
I grew up with this duo — they had incomparable energy, and while I remember them always being very kind, they also always seemed extremely loud. My parents joked then (and still do now) that it was good practice for me to care for twin boys (I went on to babysit another pair of matching dudes a few years later), since the twin-generation hits me on both sides. And since my cousins are already finished birthing and have only had girls, it’s up to me to bring in the men.
Of course, the girly-girl is destined to have a house full of little guys running around. Fate’s funny.
Anyway – my very first babysitting gig was taking care of K and C, who wanted to play hide-and-seek in the dark and watch action flicks, resulting in one of the worse headaches of my life and snoring on the car ride home because they wore me out so badly. My mom found it humorous (so did my godmother) but I was nervous: what if I was a bad babysitting? Where would my boomin’ business go? My worrying pre-teen self anxiously awaited my next opportunity to care for the boys so I could prove myself as fun and responsible.
A few weeks later, I stayed in with them and they actually managed to fall asleep rather early. I munched on brownies and watched television, proud of my accomplishment and praying they didn’t wake up before their parents got home. The next few years would follow in this manner, I’d babysit and sometimes feel great about it, sometimes be exhausted, sometimes love the idea of kids, sometimes decide (at 15, no less) that I’d never have children. I guess not too much has changed — I’ll admit I still feel a little unwanted and unworthy of baby-love if I smile at some tot on the train and they burst into tears. What is it about that sound that rips my heart to shreds?
I hadn’t thought about children in the context of my own life for a while now, until Facebook popped up yesterday morning with some interesting news. One of those twin boys – the first child I ever babysat for – is engaged. He’s several years younger than me and he’s going to be gettin’ hitched before I figure out how to make a long-term relationship work. I’ve blogged for nearly a year, and doubt I’ve actually learned much of anything other than the fact that all courtships are different and must be treated as such.
Sensibility tells me that he’s in college, that he’s been with the broad for years, that he’s in the South, that his parents were married young, that he’s happy with a little home and a little church, and I’m still searching for so much more than that. I’m confident I’m nowhere close to meeting the man I’ll marry or even wanting to marry – but it’s so odd to think that the kid I babysat for has found true love before I have.
Talk about making a gal feel old.
Alright, fine – I’m not old. I know that much. I have more than enough time, and I’ve recently sincerely relaxed after realizing so many women have babies well over 35 and are fine. I don’t feel pressure to pair up, I don’t crave white lace as much as I desire my Friday night out with the girls, and if Mr. P is any indication of New York men, I think I’m going to search for transplants like me, instead. I’m happy -actually I’m quite smitten – with how my life is right now. I feel blessed to have this much success and love surrounding me constantly, and if I could capture these years in a ViewMaster to click-through in years to come, I’m sure I’d be a very joyous middle-aged woman.
But in a little girl voice, just like the one I had before I was old enough to drive, yet competent enough to care for twins, I have to whine about one thing immaturely (but rightfully so!): Hey Southerners! Stop getting married so young! It’s scaring me into becoming a Northerner, and I know ya’ll don’t want that, now!
Somewhere between being asleep and awake, I laid in bed wrapped up in sheets with tired eyes, listening to the sounds outside the window. In the distance, a taxi driver became impatient, two women shared a laugh, an oversized truck continued down the street, and a dog expressed concern. Tossing about and wrestling with my pillow, I tried to decide if I really wanted to nap in the afternoon or if I should get up and prepare for my night out. The cotton sheets were freshly pressed and felt so smooth against my skin, tempting me to rest for just a while longer – if only to be more enthusiastic for the hours ahead of me.
I threw my leg over a pillow the same way I would a man and shut my eyes, hoping the noises below would subside long enough for some shut-eye. All was quiet and still except for the sound of the air conditioner running and the pipes busily working away. Just as I was about to drift away, I heard something that almost always makes me beam:
It was simple and subtle, happily filling the sidewalk and bouncing off the buildings to echo up to the apartment. Drowsily, I peeked out the blinds, attempting to shield my eyes from the sudden sunlight. Right outside was a blond-haired-blue-eyed family of five with two little girls and an older boy. They looked like they lived in New York, dressed in preppy clothes and looking comfortable int he mayhem – a trait that only comes with living in a city. They happily played with one another and giggled away, their parents keeping a look out for them while talking. This clan was just about picture-perfect as it could be and I smiled at their beauty.
In watching them, I was reminded of some advice an older woman once gave me when I asked her for relationship advice. We were standing outside a cute cafe in the Flat Iron district, saying out goodbyes after a Cobb-Salad-and-Diet-Coke lunch. After a brief hug, she said, “When you’re dating someone, stop imagining yourself getting married to them. See if you can imagine them as the father of your kids.”
She isn’t the only one to give me such wisdom, my friend K said something along those same lines when comparing two men she dated. She said that while she would think about marriage with one, her feelings were so much stronger and felt so much more real with the guy she could see as a dad. At the times they both challenged me to think that way, I wasn’t interested in what they had to say. It sounded sweet, sure, but if I could imagine the nuptials, wouldn’t I naturally see nurseries, too?
Not really – there’s a big difference between seeing someone as the husband and seeing someone as the baby daddy.
I rolled over in bed and stared up at the ceiling, noticing cobwebs I needed to knock down and though I’m nowhere near marriage or babies, I tried to picture myself with a family. Could I see the strollers and the bottles? Can I see someone kissing my belly, anticipating the arrival of our child? Could I see little pigtails and tiny trucks? Onesies and picking out baby names?
Have I ever dated someone who proved to me he could be that supportive, that kind-hearted, that responsible, that dependable, that loving – to be a dad? It was simple, when I really entertained the idea – I had never been in a relationship like that. I had never really met someone or dated someone who I could see that with.
But maybe that’s the point anyway – it’s very rare to come across someone like that. True Baby Daddies who want to be fathers, who would be the type of guy who not only plays catch and plays dress up, but is financially and emotionally stable enough to stand by his family and provide for them – are few-and-far-between. And when looking for a match, you can’t just focus on how romantic or dreamy they may be, but if they are the type of man who you could see wishing your children sweet dreams as they go to bed.
Who doesn’t just call you baby – but will make a great daddy to your babies.
When I was six, I loved dressing up in my mom’s old maxi dresses, stuffing my chest to pretend I had breasts, and walk around in plastic high-heels, pretending to be a real woman. When I was sixteen, the freedom of wind in my hair driving old country roads alone was incomparable – I was finally independent, minus an 11 p.m. curfew. When I graduated from college, degree-ed and certified employable, I just knew I’d find a job eventually. I couldn’t wait to have my own little place in my oversized city, eating Ramen, and making ends meet.
I’ve always wanted to be an adult. Except now that I am one.
And some of those things – like having real ladies that fill out dresses and real high-heels that are significantly more delicate than the chunky, plastic ones, are great. I indulge in my curves, I celebrate being a woman, and though I’m not high-maintenance, I’m quite girly. The state of North Carolina, my family, my friends, and pedestrians are overjoyed I don’t drive anymore, but I get the same sense of autonomy when I navigate the city without looking at a map or Googling. And of course, the fact that I’m happier than I’ve ever been, living completely, 110 percent on my own, makes me proud of the path I picked for myself.
But then there are the things about being an adult that no one tells you about.
Like these really difficult, emotionally-draining choices you have to make. The really sticky ones that have awful consequences but in the grand scheme of things, are best for you – even if at the time, when your vision is blurred with mascara tears, you can’t see it. It’s those decisions that you have to remove yourself from, tug at your heart-strings so they loosen enough for you to be realistic, and stand firm in your resolution, even when those heels are shaking and your heart is about to burst into open air from your chest.
Maybe we’re not warned of these difficult decisions because they don’t come around often. They really aren’t all that common, but when they come, they arrive with vengeance. They burst into your everyday, ordinary existence and demand you pay attention to them – stealing you from any other task, every other priority, and get you to the edge of tears in the middle of the afternoon.
But that’s when you reach into your adult tool belt to find your gumption, your pride, and your big girl panties. You swallow that pride in one swift gulp, gather all the gumption you can build, and put on those panties with a mission – you won’t be upset, no, not right now, not today. You’ll make the adult-like decision to avoid the worse –even if it is imminent – until you absolutely, positively have to deal with it.
You’ll distract yourself with long to-do lists that include things you’ll never actually do like clean out the junk drawer and dust the corners of your apartment. And then you’ll overexert yourself into your social life, planning and making happy hour dates, going to dinner and events, spending money you don’t have out of purses you saved for years to buy. You’ll pick up a new project or come up with great entrepreneurial ideas, but never write business plans, and leave the pieces of the masterpiece scattered about your homes until they ultimately end up right back in that junk drawer you never cleaned out.
Avoidance is a vicious circle. And avoidance is very adult like.
If you ignore a problem or a rough-and-tough, life-altering, plan-changing, dream-killing decision with an outcome you just don’t want to face – it’ll eventually go away. The adult, mature thing to do is to believe as such. The adult thing to do is to focus more on pushing our boobs up with push-ups, renting fancy cars for weekend getaways with Zipcar, and dreaming of the day when we’ll be grown up enough to avoid things better than we pretend to do now.
For the volunteer group I’m part of, we recently had the group of young, budding writers create their own fairytales. As expected, the boys’ stories were ripe with fights between worlds and superheroes rescuing the day, while the girls wrote about princesses, friendships, celebrities, and falling in love.
As I’m going around to the kids, supervising and encouraging them to keep going when they get stuck, a sweet little girl in pigtails and polka-dots looked up at me and said, “Lindsay, I’m done! Look!” She had almost filled a full page in her composition notebook and because we usually encourage them to write a few pages, I told her I wanted to read it when it was finished. She replied by saying, “But, I ended it with ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ There isn’t anything else! That’s the end!”
Out of reflex and without hesitation, I bent down to her level and asked: “But what happens after they get married?” She blushed and answered: “They are happy! They have babies! That’s it!” Not willing to let another one be fooled by the delusions of forever-and-ever marital bliss, I sweetly challenged the 10 year old: “But don’t you think it is more like a beginning, not an ending? They just got married! Think of all the things they have left to do now.”
She looked at me funny and then smiled, “Well, I guess they have a party after they get married and then they have children and then those have children.” Hoping I made a little progress, I told her she should write at least five more sentences before it was time to read to the class. Looking like something was brewing upstairs, she nodded excitedly and continued to scribble. I walked around to the different tables, reading over stories, and answering questions, as all the volunteers and I attempted to keep control of 15 children who had far more energy than we do on a Friday afternoon. As I was supervising, the girl would come up and show me her progress, sentence-by-sentence. Each time I’d push her to write a little more and off she would go to squeeze in some more lines. When it was finally time to share their fairytales, she volunteered to go third and her story sounded like every other Disney-designed plot line, except for her last sentence:
“…and they all lived happily ever after, for now.”
Clapping for her and sharing unspoken sentiments, the other female volunteers and I exchanged knowing looks – this gal had it right: in today’s time, forever seems a tad suffocating and far-fetched. Doesn’t it?
But forever-and-ever-and-always as a child isn’t that scary; it is more comforting. After all, the stories we hear and the make believe we play all end when the prince drops to one knee, lovingly begs us to spend the rest of our life with him, and we say “I do.” We conclude happily ever after when we make a vow to another person, tying us to them in what we think (and hope) will be an everlasting partnership. But if we think about it – the wedding is just the start of the next segment of our lives, a chapter (or maybe the rest of the story) we’ll share with someone else. It isn’t a conclusion, it is an introductory sentence.
So why aren’t there fairytales about marriage?
About the reality of promising our loyalty and life to another person forever more? It is indeed a vast commitment that carries more weight than we understand until (or if) we get there. Why don’t we teach our children and our teenagers about what it really means to be an active, giving, and loving participant in a relationship? What it means to be a partner and what we should expect out of man? I have yet needed to be rescued from my “awful single existence” by a man in a tight-white getup, giddy-upping his way toward me – but I’ve dated some pretty incredible men. They aren’t always dreamy and they don’t come with a fortune or titles, but it has been the reality of who they are that’s turned me on the most.
I’m no expert in relationships – if I was, would I be writing this blog? – but I’ve learned a valuable lesson in the last few years that’s made me want to be less of a princess-in-waiting and more of a lady in transition: stop thinking in terms of forever and take people, especially men, as they are. Not all women but quite a few, never lose the rose-colored glasses we were handed as little girls playing house and wearing plastic sparkly crowns.
But the truth is, no man will be perfect and unless you’re Kate Middleton, he won’t be a prince either. Even when we wear the lace wedding gown and sport a diamond on our left hand, there is no promise that they will be standing next to us all of our dying days. We aren’t princesses and guys don’t hold a magical solution or power to free us from our unhappiness or our lonely nights. They are added additions that if we’re lucky, will develop our character and add a few interesting plots in our own story. They don’t make us and they aren’t the only part of our existence, and our lives don’t end if we decide to marry a special one.
They come and go, and one will come and stay, maybe forever, maybe for several years, and maybe just for a night. Regardless, the advice to take is from little Miss Polka Dot: enjoy what you have and be happy that he makes you happily ever after…
The last week or so, I’ve been feeling a little homesick.
While this may break my mother’s heart (I apologize in advance, Mama), I don’t miss home all that often. I’ve come to find that home is where you make it and who you make it with, so really, right now, my home is inNew York, in the company of my friends, and in the lights of the city.
But nothing really replaces your mom. Or your dad. Or the smellNorth Carolinaeludes with the arrival of summer. Or the quiet that comes from an old country road where the only noise prohibited is the sweet melody of song birds in the morning. And no matter how many years I’m away from NC or how many friends I make or how many roots I try to plant in the pavement, holidays are tough away from the place you always spent them.
They say the mark of a successful parent is when they raise their child to be a mature, functioning, self-sufficient, and happy adult who can handle life without them. I’d say my parents have achieved this feat and I would think that all great parents want their children to turn into capable adults who create an existence that brings them joy, prosperity, and love, of course – but part of growing up is moving on.
If you’re the product of a very happy home with a supportive, loving family, and a community that encouraged success and bigger things than what sweet littleCarolinacan offer – the process of moving on means letting go of where you were to establish where you are. And it isn’t easy. I love my background but I’m confident my future has just as much possibility, if not more. But making that possibility feel just right is a process in itself.
I do consider myself an adult and I am completely independent of my parents for all of my financial needs and wants. I don’t depend on them for anything more than a daily phone call and to be there should I want to spend an outrageous amount of money flying south for a weekend. But there are times, like when I miss them that I feel like I’m less of an adult.
Maybe it is a misconception on my part to think that longing to see your family makes you more of a child and less of a grown-up, but when you travel away from home, as children should – when do you stop missing where you come from? Or not really where, but who?
I think part of the appeal of a relationship or the desire to one day get married comes from the hunger for a home. Especially if you came from a healthy and happy home – why would you not want to design the same foundation? And maybe we think by finding that sense of security or making plans for the future, we’ll stop missing what we had to leave behind to get to where we wanted to be. Maybe we think that sadness that surprises us from time-to-time will stop coming around. Maybe we think by finding love, the love of our childhood home won’t be something we wish we could capture and carry around with us, should a day ever be nothing but doom-and-gloom.
I’m not there yet, so I can’t argue effectively, but I know that nothing compares to my mother’s embrace or the smell of her perfume that lingers on you after. Or my father’s infectious laugher that burns his face and fills in the lines of his wrinkled cheeks. You can’t capture the same smells of bacon and eggs in the morning paired with instant-coffee, or the sound of the washing machine constantly running while my dog scratches at my bedroom door.
And not being able to see your parents on Easter or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – because it isn’t sensible to fork over $300 in such a short period of time, just sucks. Or knowing the baby cousins you left will only see you once or twice a year, meaning you won’t watch them grow, is sad. Or that you only get to hug your family for a week at a time, maybe twice or three times a year, hurts.
There really is no place like home, no matter how sweet your new one is.