I remember, a million years ago when I was a tween but before we said the word “tween”, I subscribed to the teen magazine “YM” (short for “young miss”, then “young & modern”, then whatever), and they mocked Davey Jones in an article. His daughter, who I think was named Sarah, wrote a letter to the editor saying that Davey Jones was her dad and that it was mean to make fun of him. It was strange to me, this famous person who had a kid who read YM like me; a real person with a real dad.
I’m sorry about your dad, Sarah.
People are weird, social media is weird. Whenever I think I’ve got it down, this navigating this brave new world of connecting with people I’ve never actually met and probably won’t ever meet, something goes and throws a bit sort of monkey wrench into the works and it gets all bizarre again.
Yesterday, someone I know from Twitter and Tumblr was saying on Facebook (I know, I am doing the same double-take as you over that group of words) that her preschool-aged daughter had informed her that she no longer wished to eat her Standard Lunch Sandwich (sun butter and jelly, in case you were wondering). People were making Alternate Sandwich Suggestions, sometimes mentioning their own child’s preferences, and I chimed in to say that I’ve heard people love cream cheese and jelly, and that Juniper loves hummus sandwiches (which she does because she is awesome and hummus is awesome and long live the incredible chickpea).
Someone else chimed in, after me, to say something like “I can’t believe you know children named Juniper and Other Name and Other Name!” (all slightly unusual names, I suppose). I was a bit taken aback by this, obviously, because really WHO DOES THAT, so I immediately replied that “Well, (commenter’s name) was taken, so we had to make do.”, meaning of course to inject simultaneously a bit of humor and a bit of WHAT THE EVER-LIVING FUCK into the situation. She replied that her name was the name of queens, not (whatever) or witches or plants.
I believe it devolved from there, with the original poster (the one from Twitter and Tumblr) eventually deleting the entire post and sending all the rest of us a message apologizing for her friend (?)’s behavior.
Honestly, I find the whole thing amusing. I mean, I know I named my daughter “Juniper”. I get it. She’s not Meghan or Olivia or Ashley, and there won’t be any other girls in her class with the same name as her. People often mis-hear her name as “Jennifer”, and some people look at me blankly and blink like there’s something in their eyes while saying, “Wow, that’s different.” (Meaning, of course, “Wow, that is such an insanely terrible name. You’re all clearly on drugs and will probably go to hell when you finally leave this planet and stop taking up all the resources regular people need with your stupid hippie naming shit.” I imagine, anyway.) I know. But I love her name, I think it’s beautiful and original and lovely, and I can’t imagine her being named any other name in existence, because her name is truly and thoroughly Juniper. And Juniper is a pretty word, with musical phonemes and lilting syllables and just the right number of vowels and vowel sounds. It’s a perfect name, really, and I’m not and won’t be sorry that I gave it to her, and I won’t be defensive about it, either. It’s her name.
What’s funny to me, though; is that I can’t believe that this other person is really that much of an asshole. I can’t imagine, for instance, chatting about this topic in a circle at a party and having her come up and insinuate herself into the conversation just to borderline mock the names we had chosen for our children. (Maybe she’d do so later, privately, but probably not RIGHT THERE IN PUBLIC). I just can’t imagine that. But that’s essentially what she did, to people she doesn’t know at all and won’t ever meet. She wasn’t trolling, she wasn’t responding passionately to a political debate with her own deep-seated feelings on a Very Important Matter. She was derailing a conversation about preschoolers’ lunch choices. Really. For reals.
It’s bizarre, that special brand of quasi-anonymity that we have on websites like Facebook. Because there’s her name, right there for anyone to see. But I don’t know her, so there probably won’t be any social fallout, at least from me. And since she avoided an opportunity to say, “Oh geeze, I didn’t mean it like THAT! I just was remarking on all the unusual names, is all!”, I’d say she is purposefully being sort of an asshole, but it’s not like she is stalking me to mock my kids. Well, yet. It’s all just bizarre, and funny, and I guess I don’t have any enormous insights except to say that social media certainly helps keep life interesting.
My husband likes to help, and he likes to solve problems. He also likes to read scintillating articles on the internet about Getting Things Done or Rick Santorum or How to Be More Prolific or Why Onions Make You Cry. Mostly, he likes to forward me articles he has read online that he thinks will somehow Change My Life. Or, at least, I imagine that’s why he forwards them to me; a not-so-subtle passive-aggressive nudge. You could get more done, you could be more prolific, you could never again cry while cutting an onion if you would ONLY read the articles I forward you…
I do read them, because I like to read and I like to get things done and I’m scared of Rick Santorum and I want to be more prolific and come ON, who wouldn’t want to know why onions make you tear up like yet another cloying episode of Grey’s Anatomy? So I read them. And some of them are quite useful, and some are less so, and some make me want to tear out my hair and ram it ever so gently down his stupid throat.
The most recent helpful article he sent me was this one: 500 Words Before 8am, It was a fine article with an interesting take on being prolific: that you (the “you” in question here being me, probably) should produce first, early in the day, before you begin to consume. In the case of the author, he makes it a point to write 500 words each morning before he can check his email, check Facebook, read the news, etc. In this way, he holds, he clarifies what information and media he actually wants to consume that day and can be a more thoughtful consumer, not an empty mindless one. I am sure that this works well for him, and that he is very prolific, and that he has always been nice to his mother and held the door open for little old ladies. I’m also quite certain that he is not the main caregiver for two children under the age of six.
I said as much to my husband, and he replied sarcastically that yes, no one with kids had ever created anything, and that I had missed the point of the article.
I’m quite dim, you see. Dim and probably exhausted from being the main caregiver for two children under the age of six. So really, what do I know?
I do know that he composed that email response to me while sitting upstairs in his office, ostensibly working for a client that he probably met at a gathering he went to while I stayed home with the kids (The two. Under six.). He was wearing clothes, most likely probably clothes that I went out shopping for, selected, and purchased for him. He had showered and washed his hair using body care items that I, again, shopped for, selected, and purchased for him. He wasn’t hungry because he had eaten a breakfast of food items that I purchased and brought home, and he was able to focus because he made some black tea (that I bought) in the teakettle (that I bought). If he had to make a sudden bathroom run, he could rest easy knowing that there would be toilet paper, because I would have noted that we needed some and gone to the store to provide it. He needn’t be preoccupied with what he’ll have for lunch that day (because there’s food that I bought) or what he will have for dinner that night (because I will have shopped for, planned, and prepared the meal). He doesn’t need to worry that his children are due for an appointment with the pediatrician or some vaccinations, because I handle all that. No concerns that they might not be going to the correct preschool or that they need new clothes or that they won’t be registered for kindergarten on time, because again, I handle all of that. What to do this weekend? He’ll never give it a passing thought–I’m responsible for planning those things. And for keeping up with our friends, and planning social gatherings, and date nights, and booking the sitter, and and and and…
Sean works, and Sean pays the bills. And mostly, he does the laundry and cleans up after dinner. And he sits in his nice quiet office and thinks nice clear grown-up thoughts. And he answers me when I text him in desperation at the end of the day and ask, “WHEN exactly are you coming downstairs????”. And sometimes, he does things like shame me by telling me that I’m not patient enough with our son, that I shouldn’t have that snappish tone in my voice the 78th time that day that he implores, “Mama?” .
He does those things, my husband. He does those things and he sends me helpful articles and can’t understand why I’m not able to just get up and write 500 words; when I’m already getting up at 6am just to get our son out the door for preschool. Oh sure, maybe I could dip into the 5’s and get up even earlier. But the 6am was supposed to be to write, too; but I didn’t factor how long it takes to rouse him each day, rouse him and make sure he’s awake and functioning and getting the kids ready for the day. So now the 6am is just to get ready, and I’m afraid that if I start into the 5’s it will just be the same thing, only earlier. And frankly, I need to check my email in the morning. I need to see what the weather will be like so I can get the kids dressed. I need to see if so-and-so replied about a possible playdate, or if we’re on our own. I need to check the local events to see what’s going on today, if the one indoor playspace has open play or if we’ll have to go to the other one, or is there a library singalong today? I need to know these things so I can continue to stand with our children on the merry-go-round of Maternal Love and Care, stand there and feel slightly nauseated from the motion but keep carefully holding on to them, holding on so they don’t fall and all the while keep smiling and waving enthusiastically at my husband so he can take our picture.
BRYCE: So, Abraham Lincoln is dead? Why is he dead?
ME: Well, he died a long time ago. He would be dead anyway, but…someone killed him.
BRYCE: WHAT? Someone killed him? Why?!
ME (shrugging): Because they didn’t want him to be president any more.
BRYCE (incredulous): Why didn’t they just VOTE?!
Rachel Maddow defers to Steve Colbert to describe a Fox and Friends clip in which a co-host says witheringly that women shouldn’t have to go to Planned Parenthood, because they can get pap smears and breast exams at Walgreens.
Sean sent me a link to the Colbert Report clip this morning, so I could watch it and laugh like he had. Because it’s ludicrous, obviously; and that makes it hilarious. I did laugh…it was hilarious. But I also felt terribly sad.
Sometimes, living in the liberal, educated hamlet that is Boston, living with my feminist husband, keeping company with similarly feminist friends, I forget. I forget that there are a large number of people out there who hate me, just because of my gender. I forget that there are people who would say witheringly that I should go to Walgreens for important health care tests, who would look on me with sneerful scorn for desiring proper health care, for the simple and inescapable reason that I do not possess a penis.
I forget this sometimes. Because I am busy going about my life, a life that is infinitely female in nature simply by virtue of me being female, but is mostly just a life. A life that requires errands and routines and work and introspection, like anyone’s life. I am too busy to reflect on my femaleness and what it means, most of the time.
And then, when I am reminded so abruptly of the fact that in many peoples’ view, I am Less Than simply for my gender; that there are people who because of my gender think I am undeserving of normal healthcare procedures; it takes my breath away for a minute, and I have to take a minute to regain my composure.