Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I am both completely prepared and totally ill-equipped to raise a child

(The above is a photo of my ridiculously happy face while holding Zadie 
who will not be fully featured on the blog because she is not old enough for Internet fame.)

I spent all day yesterday with Baby Zadie and her mom, Carly. As you may recall, Baby Zadie is the most perfect baby that there ever has been, a fact I can now confirm because she let me hold her lots without crying, laughed at two of my overly rehearsed funny faces, and was obsessed with my sweater (no, seriously. Carly said she'd never been more focused on a single item in her life, albeit brief). Together we played, laughed, napped, peed in our pants (mostly her), watched Ellen (all three of us), and did Tummy Time on the "so-soft mat" with the "woodland creatures" (predominantly me). 

Following my lengthy session with this brand new human, I can confidently say that I am both totally capable of and in no way ready to handle raising a child. Here is a list of things that are required to manage care for a (new) child, based on my observations. Below each are thoughts on my own abilities to do each thing.

Hold The Baby In Many Positions Comfortable For Both Baby and Adult: Check

This is harder than you'd imagine, but I think I've got it covered. The baby is sort of amorphously shaped and has little to no control over any of its appendages but somehow still knows exactly how it wants to be positioned at all times of day. Zadie, for example, really likes to "stand up" but has zero leg strength or balance and can barely hold up her head. It is the job of the responsible adult to help her "stand" without giving her whiplash, bruised under arms or a broken leg. I sustained this for some time, but my arms hurt a little today.

Have Something To Say To The Baby At All Times: Uncertain

It is very strange to hold a baby and not say a word to that baby. It is often stranger to come up with myriad things to say to that baby throughout the entire day, and I was only with the baby for one day. I focused on observations about the baby herself ("Hello beauty! Who's a sweet girl? Look at those big eyes!"), observations about the goings on in the room ("What's crazy Ellen doing? Look at the pretty Christmas tree! Is that a kitty cat over there?"), and general commentary on the future of the baby's life ("You are going to be the smartest and the sweetest! Don't you even worry about dating until you're at least 18! Zadie, can you say "I am a Democrat?"). Carly seemed to have zero trouble in this area, so I assume it is something they teach you in birthing class.

Feed The Baby: Oy...

This whole situation presents a MINE field of issues I won't really get into for sake of the male readers of this blog, but things that concern me include how often the feeding happens (ouch); ability to stand/move/function while feeding (double ouch); and the fact that some nurse waltzes into your hospital room with your baby and shoves her on your feeding apparatus for trial-by-fire motherhood shortly after you've been through labor (emotional ouch). Carly assures me that the only real issue with it is the leaking. Yeah? Just some pesky breast leakage? No biggie.

Understand Why The Baby Is Upset, And Fix It: Oof

This seems very tricky, and Baby Zadie only cried twice throughout the entire day (told you she was perfect). Carly says it's not that hard because she's only either hungry, sleepy or dirty in the diaper plus she has this DVD called The Happiest Baby On The Block from some genius doctor who created a fool proof system to calm any screaming newborn. It involves holding them like a football while shaking them and making a whooshing sound in their ear. Apparently it mimics the womb, which I now understand to be the most terrifying place on earth.

Not Bawl Your Eyes Out At Every Special Moment, All Day Long: Damn-near Impossible

Carly doesn't know this, but I got very teary-eyed when I first walked into her apartment and met Zadie because SHE IS A LIFE MY FRIENDS CREATED. I almost cried again when I held her for the first time because THIS PERFECT BABY SMILED AT ME IMMEDIATELY. I barely held it together when Carly successfully put the baby in the baby carrier without assistance because SHE IS AN INCREDIBLE MOTHER.  And then when we were having lunch and Zadie was sleeping in the carrier next to our table, she did this little thing with her mouth that looked like she was dreaming about breast feeding, AND IT WAS SO PRECIOUS THAT I ALMOST DIED. And, mind you, my hormones are not recovering from just having a child, which is the single most insane thing your hormones can experience next to puberty.

Maintain Sanity While Planning For The Baby's Entire Upbringing: Impossible. 

Things that Carly and her outstanding husband Matt have already decided:
1. Where to live based on what is best for the baby.
2. How to incorporate religion into their life and the life of the baby.
3. Child care for the baby when they are both back at work.
4. Something called "sleep training."
5. Proper baby doctors and proper vaccinations for the baby.

And she is only two months old!! The deciding of things is endless!! And it's not like you can just blow off a few decisions if you get tired of deciding, or like the baby is going to take a pause from the break-neck speed of growing up so you can chill out for a bit. Once that baby is born it is GO time, for the rest of your life. 

I called my mom after I left Carly and Baby Zadie (well, after I cried my way down their apartment stairs because I'M NOT GOING TO SEE HER PERFECT FACE FOR ANOTHER WEEK NOW).
  • "How are they??" she asked. 
  • "They're perfect!" I said, and then, "It's so weird though. It's like the exact same Carly, but with this little baby!"
  • "Well what did you expect?"
  • "I don't know? Perhaps that her entire personality would be wildly shaken by the process of giving birth to a child and the continued, daily stress of raising that child, forever??"  
My mom laughed really hard, and then changed the subject to something involving a Christmas gift for my Dad.  

Apparently you just know how to handle being a mom the minute you become a mom. This remains hard for me to fathom, so I'm going to hold out a little bit longer...perhaps until I can successfully love one without bursting into tears. Also, thank GOD Carly went first.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

All I Want For Christmas: 2012 Edition

Aside from world peace, a healthy 2013, and a puppy for R (that I magically don't have to walk!), here is what I would like to receive in commemoration for a day that is in no way my birthday.

(Apologies in advance to the people who have already purchased my 2012 Christmas gifts. I forgot this blog post was a "tradition" until I couldn't think of anything to write today and looked back into the archives.) 

  • Phillip Phillip's CD - I don't want to buy the good singles on iTunes. I want the physical CD so I can stare at the cover featuring that scruffy, baby-faced, tragically-named Idol winner.
  • For the leaders of our nation to do the right thing regarding this whole fiscal cliff situation - I don't personally think "the right thing" is open to interpretation, so I'm leaving it at that. 
  • See above. Replace "leaders of this nation" with "Supreme Court Justices" and "fiscal cliff" with "DOMA/Prop 8." Same explanation applies.
  • An actual sock bun device (Like This One, but in Brown Hair) - Because I'm currently using a sock rolled into a sock bun shape, and it's not really working. 
  • For Donna Tartt (author of The Secret History and The Little Friend) to come out with another book - Those two are really SO good, and I'd like to another.
  • Tickets to a So You Think You Can Dance!! live taping - I don't know when it's coming back, and I don't know that it will be taping in L.A. when it does return. All I know is that I must be present for a live show, finally. Note: tickets to the SYTYCD tour would also be nice, but cannot serve as a stand-in for the live show experience.   
  • And on a related note: This T-Shirt  -NappyTabs fo' LIFE! 
  • For Meg Ryan to make another really good movie - or go to television already. I miss her so much sometimes... 
  • For Chris Messina to NOT make another movie (or TV Show) of any kind - Seven films in 2012, and I'm still not convinced that he's not also in Lincoln. Spread the wealth, guy!
  • The Vidalia Chopper (As Seen on TV) - I AM tired of all those tears, plus I still have no idea how to properly cut an onion. 
  • To go to The Esalen Institute - Mostly for the massages and/or late-night hot springs, but also because I hear it's like stepping into a crazy, 70s cult in there! 
  • A DVD compilation of all seasons of House Hunters International - Or if that's too hard for you to execute, HGTV, could you at least start running them all day every day?  
  • A lifetime supply of this wine - I keep a picture of it on my iPhone at all times so I can show it to the waiter at every restaurant that offers wine. 
Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On Gawker.com's Rant On Lena Dunham's Book Proposal

I'm going to keep this one brief because I really do believe anything published on Gawker.com and anything published by Lena Dunham should be left up to the reader's own interpretation.

That said, this story surfaced recently, and it contains some interesting details. The basic overview is this:

  • Lena Dunham sold a book proposal to Random House for 3.7 million dollars (that's a lot in so far as book proposals go).
  • That book is called Not That Kind of Girl, and it is being touted as,"frank and funny advice on everything from sex to eating to traveling to work."
  • Gawker.com got a hold of the 66-page proposal and leaked it on their site with extensive commentary (in typical Gawker.com style).
  • Lena Dunham's attorney (whose name is Charles Harder, if you happen to be looking for a good attorney) demanded that Gawker.com take down the proposal.
  • Gawker.com took down the proposal but left up 12 sentences from the proposal with commentary on those sentence. You can read them all here, but I've pulled out an example:
    • The sentence: I've never kept a diary, [because] if a girl writes in her diary and no one's there to read it did she really write at all?

    • The commentary: Lena Dunham's personal litigation counsel Charles Harder has contacted Gawker to relay a demand from his client, Lena Dunham, that we remove the above quote from our web site. In order to clarify our intent in quoting the above matter from Dunham's proposal, we have decided to append the following commentary: The quoted sentence demonstrates that Dunham is incapable of conceiving a rationale for writing that doesn't serve the goal of drawing attention to herself.
Here's my thing about this whole issue. Gawker did exactly what Gawker does. They leaked info with snarky commentary about a person they've decided to hate because OF COURSE they would hate Lena Dunham. You can call it mean (because it is), you can call it hysterical (also true), or you can call it completely unnecessary (I'll leave that up to you), but there are no surprises related to this situation. Gawker is a specific voice doing a specific thing, which they've been doing for YEARS.

...which is ironic because one could say the exact same thing about Lena Dunham.

She wrote a book about her life which contains unrelatable stories about her privileged upbringing and the very specific thoughts in her head about said stories and upbringing. Someone paid her a TON of money for it, much like the ton of money someone paid that E.L James person for her "stroke of genius." You can call her over-hyped (some do), you can call her wildly solipsistic (I do), or you can call her completely unnecessary (again, up to you), but there are no surprises related to Lena Dunham. She is exactly who she has been since she first starting making things that people determined to be "the voice of our generation." At this point you either like it or you don't.

I read Gawker sometimes. Sometimes it makes me laugh, but sometimes it makes me cringe. I do not consider it a critical piece of my culture or the culture of "my people." I read/watch Lena Dunham's work sometimes. Sometimes it makes me laugh, but more often it makes me cringe. I do not consider it a critical piece of my culture of the culture of "my people" either, despite what the media/many of my friends are trying to convince me to think.

I think my point is, who cares? When it comes to Gawker.com, the Internet (or rather our very small corner of it), and Lena Dunham's lawyer/defenders the answer seems to be EVERYONE CARES. But do they?

Do we need a Lena Dunham so that we can fight about whether or not she sucks? Is that important? Same goes for Gawker? Do we need journalist bulliest so that we can fight about whether journalists should be bullies?

This is not a rhetorical question unless no one cares enough to respond, which, given the subject-matter is a choice I certainly respect.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How To Be a TV/Film Writer: When Writers Hate Writing

On Tuesday I sat on the couch and watched TV from 4:30pm until 8:30pm. It was mostly episodes of House Hunters and Property Virgins because I decided that counts as research for if/when I can ever afford to buy a house, but at the end I got sucked into a Vh1 re-run of Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT, and that's not technically applicable to my current career trajectory (though "become Kenny Ortega" should really be on any smart person's vision board).
I am proud to say that this marks the first time since I left my job that I've gave in to the desire to close my laptop and veg out for an entire afternoon. I am not proud to say that this marks the bagillionth time I've considered it, only to be stopped by some combination of intense guilt or a well-timed moment of inspiration.

I've been writing for enough years to know that every day wasn't going to be filled with nine hours of blissful, uninterrupted creation just because, hey brain! I sacrificed income for this lifestyle! But I have to admit that the decision to not write because you just don't feel like it weighs heavier now that the product of what that writing session might have been is your livelihood...well, your intended livelihood.

The creative process is about as easily explained as it is understood, but at its core, it is just another form of work. There are days when you'd rather procrastinate with absolutely anything rather than sit down to write the pages you need to write. I have re-organized my closet in ROYGBIV order; experimented with varying degrees of a smokey eye, thank you pixiwoo.com!; and assigned myself to a personal Quick Fire Challenge: vegetarian chili, contents of your cupboard, 20 minutes, go!

"But you're a writer!" you yell at yourself, "writers write!"

That is true, but that doesn't mean that we don't hate it from time to time. I know that I can write - I've done it countless times before - but that doesn't mean there aren't still days where I wake up gravely fearing the blank white page, days when I am certain I have no idea what I'm doing. On these days - aka this very day - I try to remind myself that writing is like working out. (Bear with me, especially if you know my gym attendance history)

Sometimes you're excited to hit that elliptical. You've got a nice playlist going. You're wearing your deep fuscia sports tank with the built in bra. That slightly creepy trainer who gives you the right kind of "hey" nod is in the building. You know that parts of the work out will be tough, but your eyes are on the prize. You look forward to the feeling of accomplishment you'll have when your 45 minutes are up. And so you jump on that machine and go.

Sometimes the idea of that elliptical makes you want to punch things. You hate every song on your playlist. You look fat in every built-in bra top you put on. You keep dwelling on that miserable moment 20 minutes in when your forearms start to sweat. Whose forearms sweat?? You don't care how good you'll feel once it's over. Working out is overrated! Inner thigh chub be damned! And so you avoid that machine and find more DIY projects on Refinery 29 that you're never actually going to attempt.

But here's what I've trained myself to remind myself when the harrowing memories of hours spent on one page of dialogue surface just as I'm about to dive into an edit: five minutes of exercise is better than no exercise at all. Even five minutes of half-assed exercise (anyone else "lift" 5 lb weights while watching re-runs of Sex & The City?) is a plus. Because here's what tends to happen. Five minutes turns into 10 minutes, which becomes 20 minutes, which somehow turns into two and a half hours, and suddenly you've written the entire one-page synopsis for the YA novel you're pitching. When you woke up the idea of writing that one-page synopsis was crippling. Now it's done. And somewhere during those two and a half hours that you tricked yourself into, you loved it. It felt awesome. You came up with a line so brilliant that you considered copying and pasting it into an e-mail to your boyfriend. Subject line: Get ready for retirement baby! 

Writing is a muscle, and shockingly like an actual muscle, the more you work it, the more comfortable it feels to do that work.

I know that is a fact. I've experienced that fact in practice hundreds of times.

And yet I still spent 30 minutes writing this blog post instead of editing the book proposal I'm supposed to be editing right now.

At least I worked out this morning...in front of The Today Show...for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Brave Post Regarding the Types Of Sex You May Or May NOT Have In Your 20s

My friend Rachel Hollis wrote a very brave piece for HuffPost Women yesterday about her experience with sex in her 20s. It's called, I Only Had One Kind Of Sex In My 20s, And It Was Amazing. 

Rachel wrote this very brave piece in response to another HuffPost Women piece called 15 Types Of Sex You Have In Your 20s.

Here is an excerpt from that piece to give you a sense of the subject matter:

"Between the ages of 20 and 30, your life is probably going to involve a decent amount of sex. And since this is the decade of exploring your options, that sex tends to be anything but uniform.
Here are 15 types of sex that you probably have had (or will have) during your 20-something years"

And another:

"You're Convenient" Sex: Location, location, location. Maybe it's the person who you've run into in your apartment building on occasion and shot a (you hope) seductive glance, or that friend of a friend who lives three blocks away and made out with you at that party a few months back. You'll probably phone him or her after midnight and only when you're bored. And you'll hopefully enjoy yourself thoroughly once that call is made. (If the convenient sex also happens to be "just plain bad" sex, it likely won't happen more than once, which brings us to...)"

And here is an excerpt from Rachel's piece that explains her reaction to the above:

"I don't for one second want to pass judgment on someone else's choices in life and I'm all for owning your own sexuality. But I take real issue with the implication that every woman is running around engaging in casual (and it sounds like, unfulfilling) sex. Very few of the options even seem enjoyable or fun, and if nothing else, shouldn't sex at least be that? This list makes it sound like an impulse purchase, like, "Girl, we've all made these same bad choices, no big deal." But we ALL haven't made those same choices and some of us think sex IS a big deal.

I'll be honest with you, I've only had sex with one man and I've been married to him for the last eight and a half years. Now, before your head explodes and you start yelling that I can't possibly write about sex since my experience is limited allow me to point out that the eight and half years I've been married were basically the whole of my 20's. So doesn't it stand to reason then that I should be able to identify with at least a few of the types of sex written on that list? By not having sex in "a hostel hallway" did I somehow not enjoy my 20's as much as other 29-year-olds? I have to doubt it."

I don't know Emma Gray, the writer of the first piece, but I know Rachel Hollis. She is an incredibly accomplished professional who runs her own businesses despite having three, young boys. Here's her blog - MyChicLife, which you should be reading every day. She does not live in some small town in Arkansas (no offense Arkansas) where the sexual norms are stuck in the 1950's. She is not "unaware of what goes on with kids these days" just because she happened to get married when some of us were still blacking out off vodka sodas. She is as modern a woman as women currently come, and that's exactly why her opinion on this issue is so important.

I'm with Rachel - I don't care how much sex you want to have, with whom, where, under what circumstances. What I care about is the implication that you or anyone in their 20s should and will probably experience 15 different kinds of sex, especially if one of the 15 is "Barter-System Sex"
("Sometimes you just really want some help putting together your IKEA furniture. And sometimes a little bit of (purely) physical pleasure comes out of a day of Allen key usage. It's really a win-win situation."). It's not really a win-win situation.

I cannot believe I'm going to say this as a liberal, free-speech loving woman who believes experimentation is very important to ones sexual development, but I think there's something irresponsible about Gray's piece. It applies a certain universal attitude about sex that is, frankly, not universal. Strong women read it and say, "whatever, that's one person's opinion." More impressionable women may read it and say, "crap, I'm not having any of the fun, cool, exciting sex I should be having in my 20s. I need to get on that, stat." Is one bad notch on the bedpost the end of the world? Not necessarily. But speaking from experience, sometimes regretting sex in your 20s doesn't add up to a funny HuffPost women listicle.

Here, in my opinion, is the most important message contained between both these articles. From Hollis:

"I never had "One-More-Time Sex"... but I have had How-Many-Times Sex, and anniversary sex, vacation sex and make-love-to-me sex. I've had sex to make up and sex to make babies. I've had take-one-for-the-team sex and sex so good that the memory still curls my toes even years later. I've had it fast and slow, in multiple ways, even on multiple continents. The point is, I've had a lot more than 15 types of sex and even if they didn't make the list, all of them made my 20's exciting and fun and special."

I'm happy that Emma Gray wrote her piece. It gave me something really interesting to think about as a woman.

I'm happier that Rachel Hollis wrote her piece in response. It gave me something to be really proud of as a woman.  

What's your take?