One of the perks of getting older is being able to let go; of friendships, dreams, expectations, without guilt, remorse or anxiety. It can actually feel good, like you’ve lost those last five pounds.
I went to an comedy open mic the other night with a friend, in a dark, dank, basement in the west village. She needed practice for an upcoming show and I was happy to hold her hand.
I sat amidst 40 or so prepubescent hipsters, who thought that working anything to do with ass-licking into their set was funny. It must be generational.
My friend and I were clearly the elders in the room, but instead of feeling nervous and scared, like I used to when I was doing stand-up, I was blanketed in relief and freedom; and not only because I wasn’t performing, but because I also didn’t care.
Physically, I had let go of this life many years ago, but it wasn’t until I sat in the uncomfortable chair, sipping my ten dollar club soda, surrounded by kids, that I realized that I had emotionally let go as well.
How and when did this happen? I have a history of holding on to things longer than is probably healthy, but in this case, I was able to let go, without losing a piece of myself. It was easy. I like easy.
A surprising thing happened when I became the Girlfriend Mom. I started to see my relationship with my parents in a whole new light. A softer light. Maybe this is obvious to people when they become parents, but since I never thought that I would ever become a parent, or parent-like, it was like sticker shock for me.
On my road trip last weekend with the GMD, we talked about parents, our expectations of them, falling short and forgiveness. Listening to her speak about her experiences, I empathized, as I put myself in the child role. I shared some of the same feelings; disappointment, frustration, and anger.
She asked me how often I speak to my parents. I didn’t really know. There are times when we speak several times a week, and times a couple of weeks will pass before we speak. I wasn’t entirely sure why she asked but I didn’t push.
It made me think about how daily calls were never our thing. It used to confuse me. I thought that they didn’t care. I wondered why they wouldn’t call. Wasn’t it their responsibility as parents? Wasn’t this listed in the How To Be A Good Parent Handbook? The simple fact is, we weren’t, nor are we, that family; no judgement, neither good nor bad. Just is.
I told her that when I was younger, I didn’t speak to my mother for an extended period of time. I was angry, as I was still wrestling childhood demons. I couldn’t have known it then, but my silence was hurtful and painful for my mother. I can now imagine that pain and hurt because of my experiences as the Girlfriend Mom. P.S. Mom and I have since made up!
As we continued driving, and talking, I started empathizing with the parents. Hers and mine. I don’t know where my profound wisdom came from, or if it would help her on her path, but like I always say, I’m a sharerer, so I offered the following.
I told her that no matter what, her parents love her, and her brother, intensely and that she should never doubt that. Humans are flawed (even parents) and they’re doing the best they can. I also added that, sometimes, their best isn’t good enough, and it sucks.
I now know (many years later) that my parents did the best that they could with what they had, and who they were at the time. Yes, at times their best didn’t cut it. Yes, they fucked up. And yes, they royally pissed me off when they called my theatrical endeavors a ‘hobby’.
However, how can you blame someone for their limitations or abilities?
I never doubted their love and as the years wore on, I learned to accept their shortcomings and focus on all that they can, and do, offer. I’ve embraced what they’ve given me and not what is lacking.
A parent may be incapable of giving you what you need. They may not be skilled in a particular area. Perhaps they didn’t grow up in an environment where they learned from their parents.
To this I say, speak up. Give them an opportunity to hear what you need— trust me, they don’t friggin’ know. After my parents called my theatrical passion a hobby, I had a temper tantrum in our den, screaming at the top of my lungs, sounding (and looking) like a mental patient. “It’s not a hobby. It’s my LIFE.”
I’m not suggesting that you have a hissy fit (although they shifted their attitude but quick), but I am suggesting communicating.
I ended my, sharing is caring moment, by letting her know that, in time, she’d learn how to work with what people, including her parents, can give her. That, hell yeah, her parent’s will disappoint her, just like she may disappoint them.
I told her that it wasn’t easy and can take years of practice, but that if she’s kind, and is open to acceptance, and forgiveness, then she would be way ahead of the game. And for the record, I told her that the, How To Be A Good Parent Handbook didn’t exist.
I spent a glorious weekend with my GM daughter, attending The Hamptons International Film Festival, eating, shopping, practicing handstands on the beach, working out, watching a Modern Family marathon, eating ice cream cake (or in her case, just the frosting) taking walks, endless talks, and birthday gifts.
We tied it up with a homemade Italian dinner at my friend’s house, complete with white wine, Zitti, pumpkin spice donuts, and laughs.
On Saturday night we decided to shake it up and watch a movie. Within seconds of opening the DVD cabinet, The Way We Were seemed to magically fall off the shelf and into our hands. Maybe it was an omen.
“I love Barbra and I’ve never seen the movie but I always wanted to,” she squealed. This was music to my ears. And how could I not know that she likes Babs?!
Being a huge Barbra fan, (to say the least) I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Maybe she did come out of me. Nay, I would’ve felt something. She was going to be 21 in a few weeks, and I saw this as a right of passage. I was honored to be her guide.
I warned her that there would be tears, (mine), even though it was probably the tenth time watching it. We curled up on the couch and hit play.
It was probably the only time that I allowed talking while watching a movie, which says a lot if you’ve ever gone to the movies with me. I demand absolute silence; no whispering, no checking the phone, no nudging, no nothing. I’m a purist. But with this movie, I allowed the occasional comment.
“Barbra looks so good. She’s so cute. Robert Redford really isn’t my type. What else has he been in?”
She told me about the Sex and The City episode that references The Way We Were. I told her that I hadn’t seen it but promised to do so post haste. I have since seen the episode.
It was so fun to watch through her eyes, listening to her interpretation.
When it was over, as promised, I was crying, and through my tears I said, “Why? Why wouldn’t he see his daughter? Why wouldn’t he want to? I mean just because he and Katie didn’t work out, wouldn’t he want to see his own child?” She looked at me, and without missing a beat said, “Because he’s an asshole.”
Holy crap, had I been defending Hubbell’s actions all these years? How could I excuse his absentee father behavior? Did his good looks throw me off? Maybe his behavior added to the mystery and romance?
I didn’t want to see Hubbell in that light because their love and passion was so intense, that if I reduced him to being just another a-hole, it would’ve soiled the whole relationship for me.
Theirs was not a black and white relationship, but it was interesting to hear a 21 year-old’s point of view, because it seemed that, for her, it was pretty cut and dry. Asshole. Period. End of conversation.
I need deeper reasons and explanations, because I feel that that is more like real life. Our different interpretations probably speaks to our age, wisdom and experience.
Relationships are hard and I’m mad at Big and Hubbell for walking away because they wanted simple. Carrie and Katie are complicated women, with curly hair, and I can relate.
I was full after our weekend together, and not just gastronomically. I was full of joy, pride and a whole lot of love. Sometimes it feels as if sharing, especially with the kids, is my purpose; to bring Barbra Joan Streisand into the lives of young adults, one movie and hit song at a time. For example.
There’s a commercial running for Mass Mutual that shows a married couple out to dinner with the husband’s parent’s. The waiter places the check on the table, and both men reach for it. Notice that the women pretend not to see the check, as they mime talking to one another.
This post isn’t about antiquated gender roles but rather, what does a Girlfriend Mom do when she’s out with the kids.
Does the parent always pay, even if the child is 55 years-old? What does the divorced step-parent do when they’re out with the step-kids? Does everyone Dutch it? I realize that every relationship is different and I am only speaking for myself.
I never knew what to do when I was out with the kids alone, when my ex and I were first dating. I wasn’t the kind of person who would ask for money, so I paid.
I certainly didn’t want him to think that I couldn’t afford a few rounds of The Claw at the arcade or a movie ticket. And I was happy to do it but I remember feeling awkward because protocol was never discussed.
Was I expected to pay for the kids? Was I supposed to ask for the money, like I was the friggin’ babysitter? Would I be insulted if he didn’t let me pay, signaling that it wasn’t my responsibility because I really wasn’t a part of the family?
In my current situation, there have been times when I’ve paid the bill, let the ‘young adult’ pay or we’ve flown Dutch. The only time it feels natural (and authentic) is when I pick up the tab. The GM daughter, unlike the wenches in the commercial, always offers to pay, and while I appreciate it, I don’t want her to.
I can’t imagine her mother or father asking her to throw down some bills for her Cobb Salad, and I suppose a part of this conundrum is because I want to be a member of the parent club.
Shit, my parent’s still pick up the check.
She and I were out the other day, and after I had insisted on paying, she told me that she didn’t want me to think that she was being ungrateful or that she expected it.
I told her that I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t want to, or if I thought that she was taking it for granted. This was exactly what my father used to say to me when I offered to pay. I told her that it gave me great pleasure, also something that my father used to tell me.
This simple act makes me feel like the adult, and do I dare say the parent. I have precious few opportunities to feel this way, so when I do, I relish them.
Marriage and kids can be seen (and felt) as markers or guideposts, that help to identify oneself, and ones place in the world. If you’re single, and without children, it can feel as if your GPS is searching for your current location, while you flail about adrift.
And before you start ranting in the comments section; objecting to the notion that societal constrictions such as marriage and children define a person, or anti-traditional roles, the idea of feminism, gay marriage, low self-esteem, working for the man, and your feelings about the Ebola virus, I’ll say it again– I’m ONLY speaking for myself.
I feel directed when I’m out with the kids, if only briefly. I like it. Most of my time is spent in free fall, where anything can (and does) happen. I’m grateful, but having some good ol’ fashion, garden variety normalcy is a welcomed addition that provides balance.
Originally posted, August, 2011
It’s easy to let our daily lives consume us, and easy to lose ourselves in the process. I mean our true essence. The ‘you’ that laughs at people tripping up stairs, and the ‘you’ that dances along with Jennifer Beals, while watching Flashdance.
That was me last Thursday, at 6pm Dubai time. I find the heat intriguing and the fact that I cannot understand a good goddam thing that the Pilates studio driver says to me, quite amusing. This is who I am.
It was July 20th and I had wanted to play tourist and see Dubai. Oh, I saw Dubai all righty because I decided to take the Big Bus Tour; an air conditioned double decker, that travels around the city, hopping on and off as you see fit.
I was genuinely excited. I love tours… and buses. I think riding the bus, especially in New York, is a terrific way to see a city. And if you can get over the fact that you look like a big ol’ dork, it’s really fun.
At a cool 100 degrees (without the oppressive humidity) I decided to brave the heat and sit outside on the top deck, which was covered but still quite warm. I was going to take advantage of the view, sweaty crotch be damned.
I had my hat, sunscreen and water at the ready. Bring it on Dubai. I plugged in the headset for the running commentary and we motored.
“Islam is the official language of Dubai… Islam means voluntary submission to God.”
We drove through downtown and stopped at two malls. Malls here are landmarks and considered sights not to be missed. I took a pass. I’ve been to three malls since I arrived. I’m good.
The Burj Khalifa is pretty extraordinary. It cost $1.5 billion, stands at 2,717 ft, is the tallest building in the world and has the fastest elevator at 40 mph. It also has the world’s highest occupied floor at 160.
I was enjoying the hot wind whipping at my delicate face, when my legs and heiny felt as if I was sitting in a puddle. I wore shorts (bad idea- hot skin on plastic seat) I was sticking and sliding, though I didn’t care, because I was sightseeing in the Middle East!
I switched buses so I could take an hour Dhow cruise along the Dubai Creek. A client of mine said this wasn’t to be missed. Unfortunately the cruise wouldn’t depart for another hour, so the air conditioning was left off.
The boat was empty, save for an Asian mother daughter duo. I took a seat and tried to meditate myself into thinking that my elbows were not sweating.
The Asian daughter sat down right next to me. And I mean RIGHT NEXT TO ME. The friggin’ boat was empty and she choose the seat next to me?
I turned to her and said, “You have to sit right here?” Yes, it was sarcastic with a side order of bitch! But my knees were dripping and I needed room to wring out.
She said something to the effect of, “My mother and I were sitting here.” What? Her mother was sitting across from me and looked mighty comfortable; in her own row, I might add.
I picked up my bag and slid (literally) down a few seats, I muttered under my breath, “That’s okay, I’ll give us both some personal space.”
A few minutes later, the daughter asked one of the men selling beverages if he had change for 500Dhs (about $138 US) because she wanted a drink, which cost 5Dhs ($1.38 US) He did not. She asked me but I didn’t have any change either.
I immediately asked myself what I was doing. It was hot and she was thirsty and it’s $1.38. I took out 5Dhs and handed it to her. She refused but I insisted. I said, “It’s okay, just pay it forward.” I’m not sure she understood.
She bought her 7-Up (that’s only going to make you more thirsty) and I looked at her mother and then at the Pakistani beverage man and said, “See, spreading the love.” They in turn responded with what looked like, “See, crazy lady, with dripping elbows.”
The boat slowly filled up and we had a nice crowd. We took off down the creek, and after five minutes I thought, can this boat go any slower? I was surely going to fall asleep.
When the cruise was over, I waited outside with the other passengers, under an awning, for the Big Bus. And we waited. And we waited. And as the temperature climbed, I started to feel claustrophobic. I breathed deeply, and thought about glaciers.
In the 40 minutes that I waited, taxis came and went, and with each passing one, I asked myself why I didn’t hop in any one of them and call it a day. It was just like when I didn’t get a cab when I was in Prague, and dragged my suitcases to my hotel over cobblestone streets in 95 degrees.
I’m sorry that my shoulders aren’t covered and my shorts are above my knees (sometimes it’s too hot to be 100% respectful) but what, Mr. and Mrs. Arab family, do you not understand about waiting your turn in line to board the bus?
Two families of four, confidently and boldly, cut to the front of the line, as if the 15 of us infidels didn’t exist. The balls. The gall. The rudeness. I wanted to say something but I promised to keep my nose clean and my head down.
I hopped off at the Dubai Museum, located in the Al Fahidi Fort. The fort was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. Think the Arabic version of Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum. (only without the celebrities) The aim is to present the traditional way of life in Dubai.
Back on the bus, we passed gold, spice and textile souks. Cardamon anyone?! The last stop was at yet another mall, so I peeled myself off of my seat, climbed down from the bus and hailed a cab. Look at me wising up.