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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Misjudged

It's the day of our weekly parent-baby class at one of the local hospitals, and I am running late as usual. Not that it matters -- it's a casual group for new moms and dads with babes-in-arms (or strollers or carriers or whatever works for your particular infant), and people trickle into the meet-up as they're able to. But I'm late, and before O., I was rarely ever, and I haven't yet reached the point of not caring.

Despite numerous car trips with O. since his birth, I'm apparently also still not used to using the rear passenger doors to get him in and out of his car seat in tight parking spaces. The clunk the door makes when I open it, hitting the SUV next to us, startles me. What the hell? I think. How did I so badly misjudge --

"You have got to be kidding me," a voice says. The driver's door to the SUV has opened, and a woman with a deep tan, enormous sunglasses, and a suit that hugs her buxom figure leans out. "Did you scratch my car?" she asks in a tone that implies that she's sure I have.

I gape and look because it's reflexive. With relief, I note that the black finish is clean, save for some pollen on the surface from the flowering trees that are everywhere, but the woman doesn't pause after her question. "Look what you did," she says, running a manicured finger over the metal. I look again automatically and see nothing but the track she's left in the dust as she continues to berate me for my carelessness, shaking the honey-colored highlights in her perfectly layered coppery brown hair. Do I touch the door to see what she's talking about? Or will she get angrier if she thinks I'm calling her assessment into question? I can't get a word in as her scolding rolls on, disdain dripping off every syllable.

I can feel myself shrinking into the folds of my sweater and yoga pants, suddenly hyperaware of my barely kempt appearance -- bare-faced, hair badly in need of a trim, ragged cuticles from constant bottle washing and treating all manner of stains in O.'s laundry. That I could even fit into my pre-baby clothes at this point after O.'s arrival felt like an accomplishment before I left the house, but now this woman is leveling a kind of contempt at me that I've never encountered before. And this, I realize, is what she wants me to hear. She's used to looking down on people, I suspect, as she wears her attitude like a favorite, broken-in pair of designer jeans.

Make it stop, a desperate voice whispers in my ear, the voice that's felt powerless in the face of motherhood with each day of struggle to get O. fed. I don't have the wherewithal to process anything else, least of all being talked down to. Do whatever you have to so she'll just go away, the voice begs.

"I'm so sorry," I say -- and it's true, I am. But I'm not above playing the pity card to shut down the harangue that's gone on for way too long. I gesture into my back seat. "I have a ten-week-old baby and I'm completely sleep-deprived."

"Oh, like that's any excuse," the woman spits, the acid in her venom so sharp that my eyes sting. But, as if she knows it's pointless to dig her stilettos any further into my dignity, she gets back into her car and slams the door. Sits there as she was when I first pulled in. I hope against hope that she'll start her engine and go, but she remains. I'm half tempted to knock on her window and unload a few choice words instead of letting her have the last ones in this way, but I'm too stunned by what she's implied: Motherhood? Counts for nothing.

Not that the attitude is one I've never encountered before, but I was never on the receiving end of the insult until now.

Reeling from the near-physical force of her words, I gingerly slip into my own car, unbuckle O., wrangle him into the floppy cloth carrier I've wrapped around my torso and then ease us both out again. I open the front passenger door with even greater care, trying not to imagine the woman's scornful gaze boring through her sunglasses into my back as I squeeze the bulky diaper bag out. And then I walk away, praying that my tires won't be slashed and my windshield broken when we return.

I don't start crying until I get into the classroom. I try to hide it, looking intently downward at O. as I wrangle him back out of the carrier into my arms. I press him to my shoulder and bury my face in his little neck, kiss his downy-soft hair, tears dripping all the while. He bobs his head, looking around, and coos. It's a relief to hold him, to feel his solid body nestling against mine in complete trust, to know that nothing else has to matter to either of us in that moment.

As the initial flood of emotion finally begins to ebb, the voice in my ear returns. She can't possibly be a mother, it whispers, trying to comfort me. Otherwise, she would have been more understanding. But even as this thought bubbles up, I bat it away. You shouldn't judge her on that basis, I counter. Doing so makes you no better than she is.

Because that is what I was doing when I made my bid for mercy, wasn't it? Because I sized her up too, assumed she wasn't going to understand, and in a way, let her know I had more important things to worry about than her damn paint job. I'm suddenly ashamed. I'm not sure which to feel worse about: being denigrated by this woman or discovering that I'm guilty after a fashion of dismissing her too.

O. wriggles, trying to pull his fists to his mouth. I take him off my shoulder and settle him on my lap, soaking up the baby-sweet innocence in his gaze. It's too late to go back and change my half-assed apology. But I'm aware now of how easy it is to be drawn into taking the measure of someone else -- how parenthood has suddenly put so many more of these traps before me.

Mother versus mother, mother versus not. There just isn't enough space to maneuver between such narrow terms without risk of a slam, intended or otherwise.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.

5 comments:

TKW said...

You want me to shank that bitch? Voodoo doll?

Sorry she was so mean!

C. Troubadour said...

I love you, Kitch. Shank her? Maybe prank her. Something involving asparagus, if you know what I mean ;). I'll let you envision the creative uses ...

Good Enough Woman said...

I hate to be reductive with your eloquent insights, but she was just a bitch. Last year, I backed into a cherry red, anniversary edition, Mustang GTO. The woman was as kind as she could possibly have been. People just don't have to be like that. You are not like that, so, no, you are not guilty of the same thing as her.

Plus, I think levels of compassion *are* sometimes different depending on people's experiences, parenthood being one of them. I try to be careful about using my kids as an "excuse" to leave meetings early or be late, etc., but the reality is when your life depends on wrangling and caring for tiny people, it can get a little beyond one's control. Plus now, I'm known as someone who does WAY more than my share at work. Everyone knows I work hard, so I can throw around whatever excuses I want. It helps (a lot) that a male colleague with whom I work regularly on campus-wide service, has kids and sometime "can't" because a kid has a game or whatever. Having a lot a parents (including involved male parents) can really change a work environment.

I have a cousin who gets really mad about child "excuses," saying, "Well, that was her *choice* to have a kid." And while she's right, it seems like trying attempting to contribute to the perpetuation of society and the species should count for something.

I hear people use all kinds of reasons: pets, church, eldercare, etc., but the kid thing is even more inflammatory, somehow, as your last paragraph (and your essay as a whole) acknowledges.

And then, of course, there is the SAHM vs. the working mom. A whole other realm of potential slams.

Great essay.

And, really, what a bitch.

Hugs to you and O.!

Heather said...

I'm with Kitch. Just sorry she was so mean. I kind of feel sorry for people that focused on their stuff...to just be so mean defending it. ugh.

Your perspective is so kind and your writing is gorgeous.

Thank you for joining in with Just Write.

C. Troubadour said...

GEW -- I remember your post on that Mustang! (And the Girl's reveal to her dad about it, I think ...). But yes, I agree, the woman didn't need to be nearly as unpleasant as she was. I just didn't help the situation. I did realize afterward that anything I could have said to explain my klutziness would have been met with more or less the same response from her, so the best thing to do would have been to apologize and let her move on. I was just upset that so early into this whole motherhood thing I was being forced to come face to face with the ugly divide between those who respect it and those who don't.

As for the whole SAHM vs. working mom thing -- oh yes. That too is so very complicated. It sounds like your work environment is pretty supportive of parental needs, which, I imagine, goes a long way toward creating a culture of compassion. I wish cultivating such a culture across the lines I started to allude to (SAHM, working mom, non-mom, and numerous others -- we could subdivide forever) were an easier endeavor.


Heather -- thanks for visiting! I did feel sorry for that woman after the fact (but a good deal of time afterward, when I wasn't smarting anymore). She cut such an intimidating but ludicrous figure, flipping out about the assumed scratch. Part of me immediately had the same response to her as she did to me -- "Are you kidding?" I imagined she had to be having a pretty bad day (or week or month or life?) to fly off the handle that quickly over the incident.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Misjudged

It's the day of our weekly parent-baby class at one of the local hospitals, and I am running late as usual. Not that it matters -- it's a casual group for new moms and dads with babes-in-arms (or strollers or carriers or whatever works for your particular infant), and people trickle into the meet-up as they're able to. But I'm late, and before O., I was rarely ever, and I haven't yet reached the point of not caring.

Despite numerous car trips with O. since his birth, I'm apparently also still not used to using the rear passenger doors to get him in and out of his car seat in tight parking spaces. The clunk the door makes when I open it, hitting the SUV next to us, startles me. What the hell? I think. How did I so badly misjudge --

"You have got to be kidding me," a voice says. The driver's door to the SUV has opened, and a woman with a deep tan, enormous sunglasses, and a suit that hugs her buxom figure leans out. "Did you scratch my car?" she asks in a tone that implies that she's sure I have.

I gape and look because it's reflexive. With relief, I note that the black finish is clean, save for some pollen on the surface from the flowering trees that are everywhere, but the woman doesn't pause after her question. "Look what you did," she says, running a manicured finger over the metal. I look again automatically and see nothing but the track she's left in the dust as she continues to berate me for my carelessness, shaking the honey-colored highlights in her perfectly layered coppery brown hair. Do I touch the door to see what she's talking about? Or will she get angrier if she thinks I'm calling her assessment into question? I can't get a word in as her scolding rolls on, disdain dripping off every syllable.

I can feel myself shrinking into the folds of my sweater and yoga pants, suddenly hyperaware of my barely kempt appearance -- bare-faced, hair badly in need of a trim, ragged cuticles from constant bottle washing and treating all manner of stains in O.'s laundry. That I could even fit into my pre-baby clothes at this point after O.'s arrival felt like an accomplishment before I left the house, but now this woman is leveling a kind of contempt at me that I've never encountered before. And this, I realize, is what she wants me to hear. She's used to looking down on people, I suspect, as she wears her attitude like a favorite, broken-in pair of designer jeans.

Make it stop, a desperate voice whispers in my ear, the voice that's felt powerless in the face of motherhood with each day of struggle to get O. fed. I don't have the wherewithal to process anything else, least of all being talked down to. Do whatever you have to so she'll just go away, the voice begs.

"I'm so sorry," I say -- and it's true, I am. But I'm not above playing the pity card to shut down the harangue that's gone on for way too long. I gesture into my back seat. "I have a ten-week-old baby and I'm completely sleep-deprived."

"Oh, like that's any excuse," the woman spits, the acid in her venom so sharp that my eyes sting. But, as if she knows it's pointless to dig her stilettos any further into my dignity, she gets back into her car and slams the door. Sits there as she was when I first pulled in. I hope against hope that she'll start her engine and go, but she remains. I'm half tempted to knock on her window and unload a few choice words instead of letting her have the last ones in this way, but I'm too stunned by what she's implied: Motherhood? Counts for nothing.

Not that the attitude is one I've never encountered before, but I was never on the receiving end of the insult until now.

Reeling from the near-physical force of her words, I gingerly slip into my own car, unbuckle O., wrangle him into the floppy cloth carrier I've wrapped around my torso and then ease us both out again. I open the front passenger door with even greater care, trying not to imagine the woman's scornful gaze boring through her sunglasses into my back as I squeeze the bulky diaper bag out. And then I walk away, praying that my tires won't be slashed and my windshield broken when we return.

I don't start crying until I get into the classroom. I try to hide it, looking intently downward at O. as I wrangle him back out of the carrier into my arms. I press him to my shoulder and bury my face in his little neck, kiss his downy-soft hair, tears dripping all the while. He bobs his head, looking around, and coos. It's a relief to hold him, to feel his solid body nestling against mine in complete trust, to know that nothing else has to matter to either of us in that moment.

As the initial flood of emotion finally begins to ebb, the voice in my ear returns. She can't possibly be a mother, it whispers, trying to comfort me. Otherwise, she would have been more understanding. But even as this thought bubbles up, I bat it away. You shouldn't judge her on that basis, I counter. Doing so makes you no better than she is.

Because that is what I was doing when I made my bid for mercy, wasn't it? Because I sized her up too, assumed she wasn't going to understand, and in a way, let her know I had more important things to worry about than her damn paint job. I'm suddenly ashamed. I'm not sure which to feel worse about: being denigrated by this woman or discovering that I'm guilty after a fashion of dismissing her too.

O. wriggles, trying to pull his fists to his mouth. I take him off my shoulder and settle him on my lap, soaking up the baby-sweet innocence in his gaze. It's too late to go back and change my half-assed apology. But I'm aware now of how easy it is to be drawn into taking the measure of someone else -- how parenthood has suddenly put so many more of these traps before me.

Mother versus mother, mother versus not. There just isn't enough space to maneuver between such narrow terms without risk of a slam, intended or otherwise.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.

5 comments:

TKW said...

You want me to shank that bitch? Voodoo doll?

Sorry she was so mean!

C. Troubadour said...

I love you, Kitch. Shank her? Maybe prank her. Something involving asparagus, if you know what I mean ;). I'll let you envision the creative uses ...

Good Enough Woman said...

I hate to be reductive with your eloquent insights, but she was just a bitch. Last year, I backed into a cherry red, anniversary edition, Mustang GTO. The woman was as kind as she could possibly have been. People just don't have to be like that. You are not like that, so, no, you are not guilty of the same thing as her.

Plus, I think levels of compassion *are* sometimes different depending on people's experiences, parenthood being one of them. I try to be careful about using my kids as an "excuse" to leave meetings early or be late, etc., but the reality is when your life depends on wrangling and caring for tiny people, it can get a little beyond one's control. Plus now, I'm known as someone who does WAY more than my share at work. Everyone knows I work hard, so I can throw around whatever excuses I want. It helps (a lot) that a male colleague with whom I work regularly on campus-wide service, has kids and sometime "can't" because a kid has a game or whatever. Having a lot a parents (including involved male parents) can really change a work environment.

I have a cousin who gets really mad about child "excuses," saying, "Well, that was her *choice* to have a kid." And while she's right, it seems like trying attempting to contribute to the perpetuation of society and the species should count for something.

I hear people use all kinds of reasons: pets, church, eldercare, etc., but the kid thing is even more inflammatory, somehow, as your last paragraph (and your essay as a whole) acknowledges.

And then, of course, there is the SAHM vs. the working mom. A whole other realm of potential slams.

Great essay.

And, really, what a bitch.

Hugs to you and O.!

Heather said...

I'm with Kitch. Just sorry she was so mean. I kind of feel sorry for people that focused on their stuff...to just be so mean defending it. ugh.

Your perspective is so kind and your writing is gorgeous.

Thank you for joining in with Just Write.

C. Troubadour said...

GEW -- I remember your post on that Mustang! (And the Girl's reveal to her dad about it, I think ...). But yes, I agree, the woman didn't need to be nearly as unpleasant as she was. I just didn't help the situation. I did realize afterward that anything I could have said to explain my klutziness would have been met with more or less the same response from her, so the best thing to do would have been to apologize and let her move on. I was just upset that so early into this whole motherhood thing I was being forced to come face to face with the ugly divide between those who respect it and those who don't.

As for the whole SAHM vs. working mom thing -- oh yes. That too is so very complicated. It sounds like your work environment is pretty supportive of parental needs, which, I imagine, goes a long way toward creating a culture of compassion. I wish cultivating such a culture across the lines I started to allude to (SAHM, working mom, non-mom, and numerous others -- we could subdivide forever) were an easier endeavor.


Heather -- thanks for visiting! I did feel sorry for that woman after the fact (but a good deal of time afterward, when I wasn't smarting anymore). She cut such an intimidating but ludicrous figure, flipping out about the assumed scratch. Part of me immediately had the same response to her as she did to me -- "Are you kidding?" I imagined she had to be having a pretty bad day (or week or month or life?) to fly off the handle that quickly over the incident.