Irreverent Mama

Thursday, August 31, 2006

This was an ad that appeared beside one of the messages in my gmail:

$26 Mama Spanx Pantyhose
Free shipping. Great prices on Mama Spanx maternity pantyhose.

Now, this is weird on so many levels. The mind reels with questions.

Who wears pantyhose when they don't have to? Who'd go to special trouble to find them at a time in their lives when they had an easy out?

"Of course I'd normally not be so casual for an occasion like this Mr. Important Client, but it's so hard to find pantyhose to fit when you're..."

"As big as a house?"


Moreover, these pantyhose don't have feet - don't have much below the knee, really - so you can "wear any style shoe." So, if I read this correctly, you can have the pleasure of wearing pantyhose that NO ONE CAN SEE. No one but YOU will ever know you have the uncomfortable, sweaty, constricting items on your person. No one but YOU will ever know how damned awkward the things are to put on when you're 138 months pregnant and a gazillion pounds heavier than normal.

You would do this, why?

Next question:

"MamaSpanx"? Who? Daddy? The kids? The monkey?

And finally:

"Breakout bras?" Is it just me, or isn't that contrary to the whole intent of a bra? The minute my bras start letting the girls break out, they are out of service. Instantly. Well, maybe I wait till I'm home first. Or maybe I just head immediately to La Vie. 'Breakout bras'. I ask ya.


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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Truthiness and Wikiality.

Apparently there is a political satirist*, name of Stephen Colbert, who likes to coin words. He proves his wit and gift with the language on his television show, giftedly and wittily entitled, "The Colbert Report".

(*Which I discovered here. Some people might have discovered this by watching his show. Quite possibly many have. Just not me.)

"Truthiness" and "wikiality" were two recently Colbert-minted words, picked up by the Global Language Monitor.

Quiz: how would you define the terms?
Stop and think about it, now.
All right, then. Got something?

My guesses:

"'Truthiness'?" I scoffed. "How silly. We have a word for that - truthfulness." A pretentious redundancy, I thought, thus proving I have never watched the clever and witty Mr. Colbert before, because his definition is indeed cleverer and wittier. And I should have seen it in the suffix. Nuts.

On to wikiality.

Wikiality is, obviously, derived from Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia compiled by anyone who wants to make a contribution. It has managed to let a couple of suspect bits of "information" out into the ether. Thus, I guessed, its meaning would be something like "information/belief which is easily accessed but of questionable validity/veracity." I was closer, but not as clever.

Okay, are you ready for the Global Language Monitor's definitions of Mr. Colbert's terms?

Truthiness: Truth unencumbered by facts.
Wikiality: Reality as determined by majority vote. (As when astonomers voted Pluto off their list of planets.)

Clever. Maybe I'll watch the show next week.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Happy in my relationship. Happy, and, for the last year or two, monogamous - and happy with that. We started out that way - monogamous. Then we were, for a time, happily non-monogamous. Now, by mutual consent, we are once again happily monogamous.

Tonight I was at a party, a child's party; the birthday girl was turning 13 and a lot of adults were in attendance. One fellow caught my eye, and I his. I was careful to wander away at regular intervals, mix with other people, but we kept on meeting up. Talking. Nodding and smiling and lots of eye contact. Lingering smiles. A little teasing, a little flirting, but light, light. Deliberate mention made of my partner, my kids.

Still. As the evening ended, there was a question, a possibility in the air.

My daughter decided to remain at the party with her friends. I went home on my own, staunch and decided. The right thing to do. What I wanted to do, really. Really.

I went home on my own, but part of me was just a little wistful. Part of me didn't want to go home alone.

But I'm glad I did.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Out for a pint with Bob. Or two. Or three. Pints, not Bobs.

Talking about his latest trip back to the UK, then of his favourite "bad bars" in Copenhagen. Forget the name. Started with an "M", a dockside bar. All bad bars are dockside, I think. Or at least Bob's are, since he was a tall ship sailor for twenty-five-ish years.

A friend of mine passed our table. A friend, her husband, their seven-year-old daughter.

"Hello! How are you? What have you been up to lately?" she coos. Friend is scanning Bob up and down. If her glance had weight, he'd be naked and hairless by now.

Friend's husband, however, has a black eye (sports injury, as it happens) and it is that which commands our conversational attention for the three or four minutes of their visit until their small daughter demands their immediate departure. I have not yet had a chance to introduce Bob.

"This is Bob, my friend," I would say.

But would they have believed me, anyway? I was alone, in a pub, with a Man, and with Alcoholic Beverages on the table in front of us. Surely naughtiness was in the air??

'Course, once upon a time it would have been. Once, Bob and I were lovers. I am on good terms with all my exes bar two. (One of them being my ex-husband, and the other being a fellow who lied to me when he told me he was single. When I discovered he wasn't and stopped seeing him, this somehow became something nasty I'd done to him. Go figure. Ego is such a pointless thing.) But Bob and I are no longer lovers. We are friends, friends with a history that sometimes makes us share a naughty grin. But nothing more.

My friend and her husband left the pub. A glance was cast back through the window of the snug.

Bob grinned. "I have contributed to your notoriety." He's so cute when he's proud.

"So you have. Are they still looking? Shall I kiss you?"

He glances over my shoulder. "No. No, they've moved on." And sighs. "Damn!"

We share a naughty grin.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Final installment in this series of four, and largely an anti-climax.

Having moved themselves and their most necessary gear from their dad's house, the girls realize there's a lot more still there. A discussion determines that it would be a very bad idea for me to help them move. Nothing would inflame things between their dad and I, possible for years, like having me show up to move the kids out of his house.

Zoe rents a small moving van. She's twenty, she has a credit card and a driver's license. She rents it for a day when dad is going to be out of town.

Meantime, Daniel has decided that he, too, will move his stuff out. (!)

"There is no point in me going over there," he explains. "I only ever see dad a couple of hours on a weekend. I can see him that much one evening during the week. I don't need to keep moving between houses for a couple of hours a week."

"You'll let daddy know?"


So the day of the U-Haul comes, the kids move their gear, and settle in to my home. I think to ask Daniel about his dad's reaction to his decision to move out, and Daniel says, "I haven't told him yet."


Great. The man - the volatile, already humiliated man - is going to come home from a week away to discover that his son, with whom as far as he is aware, he has had no issues at all -- has moved out! He'll be completely blindsided. If there's anything better designed to ensure I have a raging, storming, violent, irrational man on my doorstep in three days when he returns, I don't know what it is. My adrenaline spikes through the roof.

"Go and email him NOW."

He goes. I don't know where exactly dad is this week but I do know that dad never goes ANYWHERE without his Blackberry.

For three days, the girls and I are back to anxiety mode: jumping when a car slows down in the street, peering out the window when a car door slams. All doors kept locked at all times. The day dad is scheduled to return to town, the anxiety in the house is palpable.

For some reason, Zoe thinks to ask Daniel about his email.

"Oh, dad answered that," he announces. "Said he was disappointed, and he couldn't agree with my decision, but that I'm old enough to make the decision."

Zoe just about fainted on the spot with exasperation. "When did you hear THAT? And you didn't tell us? We've been freaking out for DAYS! Didn't you NOTICE?!?!?"

He got it the day after he sent his message. Some days, I swear, that boy is too like his father. No idea. Not one emotional clue. Sigh...

That was a week and a half ago. All three kids are moved in. And none of them has heard a whisper from their father since.

"Hey, mum!" Zoe crowed yesterday. "I stepped on the scale just now, and I've lost NINE pounds! Yay, stress!" Seems she's recovering nicely. :-)

The End. I hope.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Penultimate installment.

Having driven her younger sister to my home in the middle of Saturday night, Zoe headed back to her dad's. She was to be back at university in three weeks; though she was not enjoying living there any more, it was, she decided, more trouble than it was worth to move out.

So on Sunday, back she goes, tells her dad where young sister is. He storms off again with the girlfriend. Monday, he returns, livid. Storms to Zoe, commences to screaming.

"I'm sick of you and your attitude! I'm sick of you turning the other two against me! You either change your attitude, young lady, or you can leave."

Zoe stood her ground. "I have nothing to apologize for, dad. I didn't do anything wrong." She moves past him, up the stairs to her room, to pack.

Grampa, who lives in a basement apartment, tries to intervene. "Come downstairs, and we'll talk," he coaxes, trying to calm his out-of-control son, who objects.

"If you're going to try to tell me I'm not doing right by my children, we have nothing to talk about!" Still, he does descend the stairs, and Zoe starts packing. Daniel is in his room, keeping his head down, hiding, no doubt, behind a computer game.

After packing for some time, Zoe decides to call me, let me know she'll be on her way, but her phone is downstairs and she doesn't want to enrage her father further by walking past him again. She goes to her brother's room, asks if she can borrow his phone.

She has barely returned to her room again, before dad is upstairs, still screaming - this time at Daniel! Daniel, who has had nothing to do with the furor. Daniel, who is a master at staying under the radar. Once again, it is grampa who steers screaming son away from his children. Daniel is now a little shakey, too. Zoe asks if he wants to come with her, but he says he'll just go to a friend's house until he returns to my home later that day. He doesn't want to do anything that will direct dad's rage at him.

The screaming continues, escalates. Zoe is now alarmed. She's seen her dad angry before, but not for this long, and when he came up to attack Daniel he had, in Zoe's mind, crossed from rational to irrational. What will happen when she's packed and ready to leave? She realizes she's too scared to leave her room.

She calls the police.

The dispatcher keeps her on the phone, dad screaming in the background the whole while, until Zoe is told, "The officers are at the door. Can you let them in?" Bolstered by the thought of big calm men waiting at the door, she braves the dining room in which her father still raves. There are THREE officers at the door. Two men, who go to the dining room to talk to raving father; the third, a woman, comes upstairs with Zoe as she finishes up her packing, gets the story from her.

A few minutes later, Zoe is finished and able to go downstairs. Grampa is now gone. Officers ask Zoe to step into the room. Zoe stands back against the farthest wall.

Officer: "Sir, do you know why your 20-year-old daughter is afraid of you?"


"Can you tell me why your daughter is crying, sir?"


A few more exchanges like this make it evident there is no calm and rational discussion to be had from this man. Zoe, who has no car, suddenly realizes she doesn't know how she's going to get her stuff to my house. She goes in search of grampa, not sure if loyalty to his son will allow him to help her, but what are her options? I can't come: my husband is out of town with our car. Can she use a police car as a moving van??

Grampa is not in his apartment, though. He's not in the main part of the house. He's not out front.

Grampa is out on the back porch, crying.

That was the most heart-breaking part of this whole affair. Grampa is such a nice man, a kindly, good-humoured, family-focussed, public service kind of man. The only mistake he ever made with his son is being too nice. He doesn't deserve this.

Grampa agrees to drive her. The screaming inside has finally stopped. The boxes and bags are shifted to the car. Ten minutes later, she's at my house.

Summary: two kids now live with me, the second achieved with much melodrama. What of the third? That can be the next, blessedly short, and final installment in this dreary tale.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

They did go back. I'm not sure why, frankly, but they did.

The oldest has been living there this summer. The other two spend most weekends there. (For those of you who have dived in from the ether somewhere, "they" are my three kids and "there" is their dad's house.)

The weekend after their disappointment, they went back. When it comes to conflicts with their father, as far as is humanly possible, I don't interfere. If they come to me for input, if they ask me questions, I try very hard to do the counsellor thing, and help them, through listening and open-ended questions, to discover what it is they want to do. I try very hard not to say "I think you should..." I am not objective. I simply can't be sure that my input won't be shaded by my loathing for the man - the man who is, after all, their father, and who has contributed half their DNA. Sneer at him, and I'm deriding part of them. A mother has to be careful.

So back they go the following Saturday morning. Saturday night/Sunday morning, just shy of 1 a.m., I am woken by a pounding on my door. The girls are on the front step. Becca has left dad's house. "I'm never going back!" she declares.

What happened? Something relatively mild, really, and yet not so insignificant. Despite his promises of "family time" made only two weeks prior, dad spent Saturday with his girlfriend, returning with her shortly after midnight. They'd been to a party, and were drunk. Loud, too, enough to wake Becca, who was sleeping. She came out to the landing as asked them to tone it down.

"Go to sleep!" her dad barks.
"I was asleeep. You woke me up."
"Go to sleep!"

She figured she did go to sleep, because a little while later, she was woken again, this time by the sounds of loud and boisterous sex coming through the wall which adjoins her bedroom to her dad's. She was livid, absolutely sure that this was her dad's way of giving her the finger, letting her know she didn't get to tell him what to do in his house.

She pulled on her jeans, grabbed her purse with her cell phone, and left the house. Tried to call me, but I didn't have the phone in my room and didn't hear her call. That was okay, though, because big sister Zoe was bringing brother Daniel home from a friend's house. She waited in the drive a few minutes till they appeared, and prevailed upon big sister to drive her to my house. Zoe didn't know what had happened, really, until the next morning. (Brother opted to stay at dad's because he had a friend coming over the next morning to take him to his family's cottage.)

The girls spend the day with me. Zoe went back at dinner that night. She told dad that Becca was at my place, that she'd been very upset by what happened last night and had asked to be taken to mom's.

Dad's response? Did he ask any questions? Did he want to know why she was upset? (I suspect he may have been too drunk to remember.) Did he, oh perchance, offer an apology? None of the above. "I've just about had it with the lot of you!" he bellowed, turned on his heel and stormed out with the girlfriend. Girlfriend called apologies over her shoulder.

Summary so far:

One child living with me. Dad furious. Oldest child still living with dad. Son still going between houses.

Next installment: explosion number two, this time with police!

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

I'm exhausted.

Not because of anything that I've been doing, physically, but because of the tension. Oh, the tension.

I've written previously about my tussles with the ex over the child support. He didn't pay May's, paid up in June, but put a stop on July's cheque. I've seen my lawyer and a response is forthcoming. Meantime I managed to cash August's cheque. I'm positive he'll be most annoyed by this. Stopping the July cheque was his attempt to force me into face-to-face discussions with him; I'm quite sure the only reason August's cheque cleared is that he didn't think past that initial goal.

So the shit will hit the fan when he gets back from holiday and sees his bank balance.

But that's far from the most pressing of my concerns. His small hissy fit when he discovers "Hey! She cashed the child support cheque that I didn't write in good faith!!" doesn't have me too worried. No, it's all the Other Stuff.

Other Stuff which involves the children, and will take far too much time to tell in one post. So here's the first installment.

When we divorced, back when, I was a SAHM (stay at home mom), and he was a workaholic dad. To work before they woke, home from work long after they were in bed, the kids would go days without seeing him. Imagine my surprise when he said he wanted access from Saturday morning through Monday evening! My initial, entirely personal response, was "Fuck that! You've had virtually nothing to do with them for their entire lives, and now you're going to be Daddy of the Year??" Then rationality prevailed, and I thought, "Well, he's done poorly thus far, for sure, but hey, maybe he does want a relationship with them, and I don't want to be the one to stand in the way of them getting to know their dad."

So I agreed.

From day one, my youngest hated it. I remember pulling her by her ankles from under the dining room table on a Saturday morning, and propelling her out the door. She was only three. How could I do that to my baby? Well, the oldest, then eleven, assured me that once she got there, she was just fine, her usual happy self. I chalked it up to transitional pains for the little one. Hard to leave mummy, but fine once the transition was made. So I gritted my teeth, and I forced her to go. I hated it, but I trusted my oldest child's reports, and it's good for kids to have a relationship with both their parents.

And in fact, there was a period when things were stable. They may still have preferred mum's house, but dad's was all right. Starting five or six years ago, though, it all started to fall apart. He'd just split up with a girlfriend of two years, and suddenly he was on a hunt for Ms. Right. The girlfriends came in (and went out) with increasing speed. He lost his job. (How can a partner in a firm get fired? I don't know, but it happened.) He got another that was perfectly suited to his skills, but dreadfully unsuited to his weaknesses. I saw more disaster on that horizon.

My concern with his new job was financial. The kids didn't care about that, but the new job exploited his workaholic tendencies. When daddy wasn't out with the girlfriend du jour, he was inaccessible behind a computer. They were getting restive, particularly the girls.

Once the eldest went off to university, the youngest daughter began to make more and more excuses for not going. She was now 11, this situation had been devolving for years. I was far past forcing her to go. The son went, but increasingly he was just making his own plans, independent of his father. He would go, sleep in the bed there, and be out with his friends the rest of the time. No family unit over there at all.

Which brings us to this summer, when eldest returned from university. She decided to live with dad, as she did two summers ago. Within a couple of weeks, I started to hear the complaints:
"He's never there."
"Did you know he has a different girlfriend, again?"
"I don't care about his private life. I just wish he didn't want us all to play Happy Families with a woman he's been dating two weeks!"
"There's no food in the house again. He's always eating out with the girlfriend, so he doesn't buy groceries. And he won't give me grocery money!"

It was a seething cauldron over there. I could see an explosion coming.

The kids did try. They sat their dad down and told him they wanted to see more of him on the weekends. At the end of the conversation, it was agreed that dad would have a 2 - 3 hour "family time" each weekend. It didn't have to be fancy. Playing board games in the dining room would be just fine, but for that period, they wanted his attention.

A couple of hours over a weekend was all they asked for.

The next weekend, they got it!!! They were all very happy. (Rather jaded mum did NOT point out that they COULD have asked that he keep his girlfriend time to two hours, and given them the rest. She could have said that, but she didn't.)

The next weekend? The next weekend, the two younger kids arrived Saturday morning to discover that he was at the girlfriend's home. Had been there since the night before. He made a brief appearance Saturday afternoon to pick something up, then vanished. He did not return until Sunday at suppertime, when he and the girlfriend took them out to dinner and a movie. This was their "family time".

The youngest made her excuses and was dropped off at my house after the movie. "I am not going back for tomorrow!! He won't even be there! Dinner and a movie was all we get!!"

They all look at me. "Why do we have to go, when he's never there?"

Well, that would be the question, wouldn't it?

Next installment: the first explosion.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Breasts are Big!!

(Well, not all of them, of course. Lots of luscious Asian breasts are perkily less than a mouthful. Some breasts appear big, but aren't really, merely suffering a case of silicone bloat. Mine, as it happes, are decent. But I meant the other kind of 'big', as in topical, news-worthy, cutting edge.)

So. Breasts are Big!

And controversial, evidently. If you read the mommy blogs at all, you'll know there was a big kerfuffle about this magazine cover. The editors received 5,000 letters about it, of which 25% complained about its "obscenity". People were "shocked", didn't want their impressionable teenage sons seeing it, had to shred it on sight.

What a shizophrenic society is our neighbour to the south! That cover is positively pornographic, Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" precipitated a deluge of outraged complaints, but breasts and sex are everywhere. Everywhere!

So. Why is this (on the left) worthy of a flood of complaints, and that (on the right) is not?

And no smart-ass comments of outrage from the fashion police. I'm not talking about crimes against fashion, but of prudery that forbids the picture on the left while allowing the woman on the right to walk around - and be photographed - in that outfit.

Let me clarify. That woman has every right to walk around in that ridiculous outfit. (Though one does naturally wonder just how her nipples can stand the strain of being the sole means of support of the entire ensemble. I mean, what happens when she takes a deep breath? One does wonder this.) Setting all concerns about her taste aside, she has every right to wear that thing. And people afford her that right.

BabyTalk has every right to post a picture of a nursing baby. Why is there any discussion at all?

What's the difference? Because, as one outraged letter-writer said, "A breast is a breast — it's a sexual thing." True enough, as far as it goes. Breasts are sexual things. However, they are also biological things. In fact - hold on to your hats, because apparently this idea is radical - breasts are primarily a feeding station. Women may not spend much (or any) of their adult lives nourishing a child, but that's why they're there. If we weren't mammals, we wouldn't have them.

Breasts are made for babies. Men (and/or women) get to enjoy them; women get to enjoy men (and/or women) enjoying them - but that's icing on the cake. The only reason, biologically, that women have those things hanging off their sternums is to Feed.A.Baby. That's it, that's all. All the rest is window dressing.

The fact that so many people have completely reversed this, made breasts primarily, even solely sexual, is sad. The fact that so many people would see a picture of a nursing baby - a modest, tasteful picture at that (do you see any nipple at all?) - as sick and disgusting... Well, anyone who can see a baby nursing and have a wave of revulsion? That's pretty twisted.

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