Nail Polish and Boys

*My kiddo had his first memorable brush with gender policing.*

Last week, the kiddos and I were watching a movie in our living room strewn with stuffed animals and the occasional Lego. While they watched a movie we’ve already watched at least a dozen times, I tried to finish an assignment on my laptop. (This never really works, and yet, I keep trying.)
The three-year-old stepped closer and closer until he was standing right next to me. He sighed a deep, dramatic sigh and looked at me.

“What’s up, kiddo?,” I asked quietly.

“I’m tired of people asking me about my fingernails,” he said with remarkable frustration.

I closed my laptop and looked at him. His response concerned me. He’s my easygoing, laid back kid who inherited my partner’s easy smile and sense of humor. He doesn’t get frustrated easily, so I knew something was wrong.

“Who asked you about your fingernails?”

“Everybody,” he almost growled.

“Who’s everybody?”

“My friends and my teachers.”

“What did they ask you?”

“Why my fingernails were painted? Why, why, WHY?,” he noted with a belly flop onto the couch. I looked at his blue fingernails and resisted my own urge to sigh dramatically or growl.

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Anger

*Who would I be without my anger? I don’t know.*

My simmering anger has come to define me. It’s familiar, even if it’s not welcome. A steady hum vibrating my bones. Never quite gone because it’s a foundation of who I am.

What I can’t make myself say is that I’m not sure what I’ll do without anger. It’s a long time companion, this rage I have for my father. It used to smother and overwhelm me, but over the years, I sharpened my anger like a sword. It was defense against him. It made me determined. It made me strong. It helped me let him go. I learned to tamp it down and pretend it wasn’t there.

Who would I be without my anger? I don’t know.

I don’t know how to tell her. I keep trying to bring it up but can’t voice the words. Maybe, I’m afraid she’ll convince me to let it go. Maybe, I know she’s right. Maybe, I don’t need it anymore. Maybe, I can move on.

***

Read the rest of my latest TinyLetter on anger and learning to let go here.

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The Problem With Nice

*Nice pretends to be a virtue, but kindness actually is.*

“I was just trying to be nice.”

“I just wanted to be nice.”

“Not nice,” I say to the toddler after he bludgeons his sister with a random toy, “NOT NICE.”

I find myself thinking about “nice” a lot lately, often before recounting a story of something gone terribly awry. Exasperation lingers in my tone. Frustration coats my words. I was just trying to be nice, but things go sideways. They tend to when I start with nice.

I’m not sure why this happens. Maybe, my attempts at niceness appear as sign of a polite weakness. Maybe, nice renders me a pushover, a people-pleaser, who will go out of her way to remain pleasant. Initial friendliness suggests the desire to be agreeable at all costs, even when other people become increasingly unpleasant. Being nice shows that I can be dismissed without much effort or time. Being nice makes me easy to overlook, ignore, and disparage. (more…)

The End Was Not the End

*Sometimes, a beginning feels like an ending at first.*

When I left academia, I kind of thought my life was over as a scholar, a teacher, a researcher & a writer. More than thought it, I felt it. In my marrow and sinew, in my flesh and heart. My life as I knew it was over. And I was pregnant with my second child, hiding from the Florida summer heat and all my expectations that I shattered with one final, albeit forced, choice. While I was hiding, I was also hedging. One day, I might return to academic life, I told friends, students, and colleagues, perhaps, this isn’t the end. I hedged to make them feel better, which only made me feel worse about the loss and my inability to put together words to explain what was happening.

I’ve written about this before, many times before, but bear with me again. I thought my life was over at 32, almost 33, because everything I imagined for myself finally appeared hopelessly out of reach. I attempted to lean into the change by making a clean break, but my breaks are never quite clean. (The more I want them to be, the less they are.) Instead, I claimed I was in transition, a constant state of flux, which makes little sense for someone who hates change and craves routine, schedule, and rules to follow. And yet, I decided to write about what I couldn’t say.

I started writing to figure out what had happened to me. I started writing to make sense of my past years training to be an academic but also to figure out what my future might be. I started writing not only about my life but also about higher ed to answer the questions that swirled in my head about the profession I thought I loved and understood, only to realize that I didn’t know what that profession actually was. I started writing to figure things out and to try to save my own life by creating a new story of who I was and who I could become.

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What Makes A Mother

*What she means is that a mother with tattoos doesn’t seem like much of a mother at all.*

“You’re a mother with tattoos,” the cashier, in the orange Home Depot vest with platinum hair, cackles. You are just trying to purchase some magnets, two lollipops, two Coke Zeros, and fire-ant killer.

You try to smile and nod, but only manage a grimace. The cashier doesn’t seem to notice. Both of your kids stare at you expectantly, but you realize they are only waiting, as patiently as they can, for the lollipops in garish flavors like watermelon and cotton candy. You hand them lollipops, and they both grin like gremlins.

With all of your purchases in their separate bags, you turn to leave. Your husband pushes the three-year-old in the dayglo cart while your eight-year-old daughter walks beside you.

The cashier isn’t finished: “I mean, you’re a mom with tattoos. What do the people at their schools think? I mean…” (more…)