Shit My Husband Says (13)

Mosquito Nets
 

Doug: What if we didn’t have our millions of dollars and only had each other?

Me: Um, we have negative money. Literally all we have is each other.

Doug: Oh… now I’m scared.

**

Doug: What if a woman wanted to have a natural birth so she could boast about having a natural birth, but then she gave birth to a chrome baby from dimension X? She could no longer boast about natural birth because such an unnatural thing came out of her. She should have just gotten the epidural.

**

Me: A lot of good writers only wrote one book, including the guy who wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Doug: Well he tried to publish the sequel, The Countless Downsides of Being a Wallflower, but nobody wanted to buy it.

**

When I had the hiccups:

Doug: I prefer words to these grotesque noises you’re making. I prefer human language.

**

 

Here are 6 Reasons I Don’t Want Kids Even Though, Let’s Face it, I’ll Probably Have Them

As a newlywed woman on the cusp of turning thirty, I feel like I’m supposed to feel excited about the idea of having babies in the near future. All around me, friends are boldly taking the plunge into parenthood and they all seem genuinely thrilled about it.

I’ve always assumed I would have kids in the same hazy, far-off kind of way I always assumed I would get a job, get married, retire, and die. But now that I’m stepping into the age bracket where it would actually have to happen, the thought of it fills me with nothing but complete terror.

Here are the top six reasons—and trust me, there are many more—that I’m terrified to procreate.

My Body is Decidedly Slowing Down – Not Gearing up for the Most Demanding Time of its Life

When I was fourteen, I ran my fastest mile in gym class: nine minutes and thirty-six seconds. I was wearing cutoff jean shorts and my favorite lavender tank top, and afterwards I proudly flipped my hair as I walked past my crush.

That was the absolute peak of my physical vitality. I cannot overstate how downhill it has been since that day.

Now I get winded walking up wheelchair ramps. If I get less than six hours of sleep, my organs feel like they’re deteriorating. The last time I went hiking, I ended up napping in the woods.

And now, now, is when I’m supposed to feel like I’m finally ready to grow new humans inside of my body, allow my nipples to become chew toys, forgo sleep for years on end, and chase around miniature, ill-behaved versions of myself who have a million times more energy than I do? Pass.

I Was Not Born to be a Mother

I know many women who’ve always just known, without having to write anxiety-ridden lists, that they want children. They are people who know how to remove stains, understand what makes food healthy vs. unhealthy, and are quick to jump in when someone gets hurt.

I was lucky enough to be raised by one such woman. She had a home-cooked meal on the table every night. She was president of my school’s PTO. For my friends’ birthdays, she still mails them packages of festive socks that never arrive late.

For years I assumed I’d become the same type of mom, but I’ve gradually realized that I’ll never be that energetic, attentive, or generous. If I have kids, I’ll always be fighting the urge to lock myself in my room, watch old school Avril Lavigne videos on YouTube, and get lost in thoughts that mostly center around myself.

Also: I gag at the sight of blood, I consider my meals a success if they come from a frozen box instead of a drive-through, and I have never bothered to learn the different types of fabrics (i.e. if you say something is polyester, that means nothing to me).

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^Me in college, moments before giving birth to a bottle of Pepsi–which thankfully turned out to be a rather low-maintenance child.

My Anxiety is Already Off the Hook

I’m someone who has to make sure the oven is turned off twenty-five times before I leave the house.

Having cats has amplified my anxiety tenfold. When I’m not home, I experience intrusive thoughts about possible ways they could die. (What if they lick Nutella off the knife in the kitchen sink and die? What if they crawl into a Kohl’s bag, suffocate and die? What if they think we’re never coming home, get depressed, and will themselves dead?)

When I was a teenager, my mom made me wake her up when I got home at curfew each night, claiming she couldn’t fully fall asleep until she knew I was safe. I thought she was insane.

Now I’m just impressed that parents can ever sleep at all, given how many ways there are for children to die. If I have a kid, I fear I’ll never relax again.

I Enjoy Having the Tiniest Bit of Money

We have enough money to pay our bills, enough that we don’t have to freak out about unexpected car repairs, and—thanks to my second job—a little extra to put toward non-extravagant travel.

But we’re only one kid away from poverty.

My friend recently told me that daycare for her new baby costs $20,000 per year. “I don’t know how we’re going to afford it,” she said. “But I guess the money will just end up coming from somewhere!”

I can’t stop thinking about that. $20,000 wouldn’t just come from somewhere in my world. It took me four months to build a savings account of $1,300. The only place $20,000 would come from is me robbing banks at gunpoint.

Also, my husband and I will literally spend the rest of our lives paying off our student loans. How can we pay for our children’s educations when we can’t even pay for our own?

Travel Would Never be the Same

Travel is very important to me. Looking forward to my next adventure is often the only thing that keeps me going during long, monotonous work weeks.

Vacationing with my husband is fun and easy, and any inconveniences are fairly painless to manage as childless adults. On a recent trip, we took a train that ended up breaking down for two hours. While we were happy just to sit and read, the couple behind us had to spend the entire delay chasing after and apologizing for their seven-year-old son, who ran up and down the aisle screaming “WHEN IS THE GOD DAMN TWAIN GONNA START?”

My fears about travel post-children are also inextricable from my fears about money and friendships post-children. How would vacations even be financially possible while raising a kid? And with almost all our close friends living far away, what happens to those relationships when it’s not so easy to set off on a long road trip?

My Theory That I Can Only Do Two Things

Here’s a brief summary of my days: I work, then I write, and then I realize I should have been in bed two hours ago. That’s only two things, and there’s already barely enough time for them. Many nights, I don’t get to write.

Motherhood would be an entire third thing—and all-consuming in a way the other two are not.

I know that I could be a therapist and a mother, or a writer and a mother, because I’ve already proven to myself that I can balance two major things—even if just barely. What I don’t know is if I could be a therapist, a writer, and a mother. As much as I’d love to believe I could effortlessly juggle all three like the kind of modern-day superwoman we’re all expected to be, I’m very aware that my time and energy are finite.

If money weren’t an issue, I could let therapy go. I can picture a life without my current career, but I can’t imagine life without writing. But writers hardly make any money, and right now I can’t foresee a day when we could support a family without my income.

So writing—or at least my ability to focus on it with any consistency—is the thing I’d have to give up. I’d have to give up my favorite thing.

And yet, despite all these reasons and more, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that not having kids would mean missing out on what my mom calls “life’s greatest adventure.”

I have a friend who says that anyone who is on the fence about kids ends up having them, and I think she’s probably right. Which is why I’ll most likely end up crossing my fingers, diving in, and hoping like crazy that I will look back at this list and laugh at how completely wrong I was about everything.

Top 5 Things To Do With a Banana This Summer

I am the worst grocery shopper. I get overwhelmed and confused and end up leaving with nothing but peanut butter and hot dog buns (because they seem like essentials), chocolate chips (because duh), and bananas (because I feel like I should eat fruit, but I don’t know how to tell when the other kinds are ripe).

This shortcoming requires me to get extra creative at meal times. Below I have compiled the top five treats I have created this summer, using nothing but the four ingredients listed above.

5. Poor Man’s Fondue

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For my sixteenth birthday, my parents took me and my friends to the Melting Pot. It was the most sophisticated and delicious evening of my life. (I might actually be making this up. The only teenage birthday dinner I recall with any clarity was at Buffalo Wild Wings, which I only remember because our waiter wrote “Happy Birthday! Love, Big Wings” on our receipt, which was pinned to my bulletin board literally up until last November. Also because my ex-boyfriend—as in, he was already my ex-boyfriend at the time—aggressively jammed his hand down the back of my pants on our way out. But my memory wants to replace this with a classy Melting Pot celebration, probably as a protective factor or whatever.) Anyway, who can afford to eat at The Melting Pot anymore? I’m a millennial, for fuck’s sake. What I can afford is a half-ripe banana and a four-pack of Jell-O.

4. The Climbing Wall (or, as Doug calls it, “Fungus Growing off a Tree Trunk”)

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I always wanted to try a climbing wall. The University of Iowa has a big one, and I was totally planning on checking it out until a few years ago, when a student fell off and injured his spinal cord. Luckily the student survived and even went on to open his own brewery, which he aptly named “40 Foot Fall.” He also sued the university. (I learned all of this 10 seconds ago from his personal web page.) Anyway, I’ll probably never attempt a climbing wall so this banana is the next best thing. Also, those chips are organic sooooo I basically just became a healthy food blogger.

3A. The Banana Boat

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When I was a kid I liked to memorize children’s books and demand that my family listen as I recite them word for word while spinning around in the middle of our living room—because I was a three-foot tall megolamaniac drunk off my own power. The first book I ever memorized was about Ernie and Bert having a picnic in the park, where they were eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches. This therefore became the first meal I ever prepared for myself, I loved it, and it has remained a culinary staple in my life ever since.

3B. The Banana Boat, Embellished

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I’m in the process of writing in to Ernie and Bert about this. (Unless they’ve been banned for being gay? Am I too late?)

4. Decapitated Alien Heads

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I don’t have any stories about aliens. Wait, I take that back. There was an entire alien race, 86 members strong, that lived inside my imagination from the time I was five until I turned fifteen. Their last name was “Lacroe,” and all their first names were L-words I found in the dictionary such as “Lacrosse” and “Lactose.” I made my best friend write down all of their individual hobbies, hairstyles, and personality flaws as I described them to her in great detail over the course of three summers. These treats get double points for being both tasty and bite-sized.

5. The Bahama Bratwurst

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Doug laughed and laughed the first time he saw me eating one of these, but you know who had the last laugh? Me. I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank if I ever get around to patenting this. It’s the perfect summer treat: all the taste of the Banana Boat but with more flair. As festive as a hot dog but without the ground up cow lips and pig snouts. Eating this is the closest I will ever get to being a vegetarian. It also makes it easy to pretend you’re at a ball game.

There you have it, folks. Let me know if you have any other banana ideas that I might find aPEELing!

Shit my Husband Says (12)

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***

Me: I discovered a paperwork hack at work that is going to save me hours of time each week!

Doug: I’ve discovered that when I’m teaching two classes, I can get out of teaching one class if I hire a young Polish child to come in every day, say “I am Doug Foster,” and start a movie. If anyone asks any questions, he just repeats “I am Doug Foster” and hands out another copy of the syllabus.

***

Me: How do I smell? Good or great?

Doug: It’s not good or bad. Just dirty and funky. Like an old whore.

***

Me: Do you think the reason my book isn’t getting published is because it’s a little too good?

Doug: Oh yeah, that’s the number one reason books don’t get published according to “Unpublished Authors Monthly”—the only magazine written by unpublished authors, for unpublished authors, about unpublished authors.

***

Doug (on having children): Babies may shit in diapers, but a baby is a shit in the diaper that is your life. Only it’s one you can’t wipe away; you just walk around with it until you start chafing.

To the Person Who Gets my Job

Four years ago, I first walked into what will soon be your new office.

I’d had a terrible year of job-hopping leading up to that day. I’d gone from a boss who was abusive to a boss who was a criminal to a boss who “accidentally” underpaid me on every paycheck.

I didn’t know it then, as I nervously stepped in here bracing for the worst, but this would be the first place to treat me well. This would be the job that saved me.

A lot is about to happen to you in this little office.

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If you’re doing it right, this job will change you. It will take your perceptions of the world and flip them upside down. Especially if it’s your first real therapy job out of school. Especially if you grew up with any privilege at all, which I presume you did, since you went to school. Your heart will soften and your skin will thicken simultaneously. You’ll find yourself empathizing with felons and abusers and parents who neglect their children. But you’ll also grow tough. I went from being someone who believed everyone’s “I-wasn’t-using-drugs-I-was-just-around-them” positive drug test stories to someone who has a reputation, I’m told, for “not taking any shit.”

This job is unique in that it constantly toes the line between the intense and the mundane.

There will be days when you do nothing but read celebrity gossip. There will be days when you help someone change their whole life. There will be weeks you get so bogged down in data-entry that you won’t feel like a human anymore. There will be moments you’ll realize you have become the only support in somebody’s life, just because you’re the first one who listened.

Many of your favorite clients will go to prison. Some will get better. A few will die.

Just keep working.

You’ll watch lots of good co-workers leave, briefly get jealous that they appear to be on their way to better opportunities, sporadically browse job listings on your lunch breaks, and then gradually hear that everyone who left is unhappy at their new jobs. You’ll even watch old co-workers come back. Try to tune out the noise; there are complaints to be had at every workplace. Find one trustworthy co-worker to vent to once a week about the things that really are bullshit, and then let it go.

Keep the job to 40 hours. Paperwork waits for you; life does not. Cultivate your hobbies, take vacations, read books and watch movies that have nothing to do with death or drug addiction. You don’t stay in this field by burning yourself out.

Your new office comes with more baggage than most. You’ll soon hear about the beloved counselor who had this job before me—the one who killed himself.

Don’t dwell on this, don’t let it creep you out, but don’t pretend it never happened either. Find one small way to privately honor his memory, even though you never knew him. Just by sitting in that chair and gazing out that window and doing the job every day, you’ll come to share an experience with him that even those who knew and grieved him have not.

You are getting the best boss in the world. He will go to bat for you a million different times in a million different ways, all the while weaving humor into heavy situations—a rare and refreshing reminder, in a world that usually forgets, that life need not be taken so seriously. You’ll never have a boss quite like him again; let that be the reason you stay here longer than you otherwise would have. It will be worth it.

I think it’s a sign of a good job when you feel conflicted to leave it even when you know, logically, that it’s time. I feel torn. I question my decision. I have to tell myself that I could always return, even though, as Robert Frost said, “…knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.”

So, it’s on you now. I hope you and this job are finding each other at just the right time. I hope you can take this tough but amazing gig and make it your own. A co-worker of mine once observed, amid the turnover, that the employees who thrive here tend to share the same two qualities: the ability to let things slide off their back, and a dark sense of humor.

It’s true. I hope you have both.

Best of luck,

J-Bo

I Went to a Mary Kay Party, And it Was The Most Anti-Feminist Experience of my Life

It all started when my friend “won” a free Mary Kay pampering party through David’s Bridal. I accepted the invitation without hesitation, figuring it would be fun to enjoy a free mini-makeover with friends.

Wrong.

Our Mary Kay consultant’s name was Maci. She was 25 years old, smiled a lot, and wore a full face of thick, glimmery makeup. She stood in my friend’s living room and launched straight into a marketing pitch about how Mary Kay is the ultimate female empowerment opportunity. You can make a six-figure income just by making friends and having fun! You can be your own boss! You can set your own hours! You can help other women and really make a difference!

I am very sensitive to pyramid scheme language, because it stole my boyfriend away from me in high school. He was just a normal, down-to-earth dude until an older co-worker started taking him to Amway meetings, at which point he transformed into a tiresome droid with big, green dollar signs where his head and heart used to be. He lost money, and I lost him; that kind of brainwashing really changes people.

Ever since, I’ve have PTPSD—post-traumatic pyramid scheme disorder. Just hearing the phrase “six-figure income” gives me a dull ache in my heart. Also: gas.

“You can even earn a free car!” Maci squealed, pulling me out of my flashbacks. She was holding up a large poster with pictures of six different cars. The infamous pink Cadillac was featured front and center—an atrocious Barbie fantasy you could not pay me to drive. “Now let’s go around, and each of you tell me which one you would choose!”

I felt knots tighten in my stomach as the first woman pointed to the BMW.

There’s an overpowering social pressure that we, as women, feel to be polite. We frequently stifle our thoughts and feelings to avoid causing a stir or making situations awkward. Mary Kay and other “multi-level marketing” schemes that target women know this, and they exploit the hell out of it.

So when the question came around to me, of course I didn’t say what I was really thinking (“This is tacky as hell and I want no part of it”) and instead found myself saying, “Um, maybe the Chevy?”

Next, she made us go around and say what we would do with an extra $600 each month.

It was like being a kid again, the way we were expected to grab at prizes being dangled over our heads. When I was seven, my mom gave me a Barbie sticker every time I didn’t wet the bed. When I racked up ten stickers, I got to go to the pet store and watch the fish. (That was way more fun than this.)

Next came the exfoliation and makeup demonstration, which seemed like somewhat of an afterthought. Maci gave vague instructions on how to apply each product as she continued to spout off benefits of the Mary Kay life and make semi-sexist comments like, “Every girl loves a good deal!”

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“Now let’s go around again,” she said once our faces were all pink and polished. “And tell me what impresses you most about this business.”

Resentment burned on my cheeks beneath my blush. What I wanted to say was this: “I’m impressed that anyone older than twelve could be gullible enough to fall for this bullshit. I’m impressed that an organization that claims to be Christian is so unapologetically materialistic. I’m impressed that people like you were so easily able to lure away the first boy I ever loved.”

But being a lady means saying none of these things. “I don’t know,” I sighed when it was my turn. “I guess it’s cool that you guys get cars.” Maci’s face lit up as tiny pink Cadillacs danced in her eyes; it was exactly what she wanted to hear.

“Let’s end with a game!” she clapped. She gave us each a piece of paper, asked us to number it 1-15, and told us to get our phones. “Now write down the names and numbers of fifteen of your friends who I can talk to about these great products!” The prize for whorring out our friends’ private information? A one-time use lipstick sample.

How amazing would it have been, right then, if we’d collectively revolted? If one of us had boldly stood up and said, “I’m sorry, but this is fucked up,” as the rest of us applauded in unity?

Mary Kay knows that women won’t do that.

As I looked around at the others nervously scrolling through their phones, I realized I had no choice; I filled my paper with fifteen fake names and numbers. Then I collected my one-time use lipstick sample, and promptly lost it between two couch cushions.

Before she left, Maci insisted on having a one-on-one consultation with each of us. I went last, watching on as all the polite women got talked into overpriced exfoliation packages they would later say they regretted. (“It’s not a good idea to buy just one product,” Maci explained, “Because we can’t guarantee that the chemicals will mix well with other brands.”)

“Which package appeals to you most?” she asked when my moment was upon me, presenting me with a list ranging in price from $100 – $450.

“I have to pass,” I said. “I’m trying to save money.”

She nodded. “I’d be happy to set you up with a payment plan.”

I had to stifle laughter as I declined. Payment plans are for cars—not facial creams.

“When can we schedule your follow-up?” she asked, not missing a beat as she smiled at me hopefully from across her open appointment book.

It was then that I realized exactly how well-trained she was. It was so subtle and skillful, the way she skipped right over “Do you want to?” and went straight for “When can we?” Even on a linguistic level, it was difficult to escape her traps.

I told her I had a lot going on, but that if my schedule opened up in the future I’d give her a call. (Later I would regret this—why did I feel inclined to lie about possible future interest to save her from feeling embarrassed?)

“Maybe we could schedule your own party,” she suggested as I started to walk away. “I noticed you wrote down a lot of numbers.”

It was the first time I felt kind of bad. Even though Maci was a predator, she was also, of course, the biggest victim in the room.

Later that night, I discovered Pink Truth—a web site where former MK consultants have confirmed everything I suspected. Consultants have to buy all the products they sell and are often encouraged to start out by going thousands of dollars into debt on a Mary Kay credit card. If they don’t meet certain sales expectations, they are pressured to compensate by purchasing more products themselves. As much as 99% of consultants lose money. And the cars are not gifts at all—unless you keep recruiting new women and selling more products at a rate that is virtually impossible, you have to make payments. If you leave the company, you lose your car.

Two days later, I received a postcard from Maci that was every bit as cheesy and alienating as the party itself. A border of lipstick kisses surrounded three typed sentences of gratitude, ending with the line “One of my favorite parts of doing this is getting to add new friends to my life.”

As I ran my finger along the lipstick kisses, I thought about six figure incomes, being your own boss, and new cars. I thought about how even if it were all true—even if being a Mary Kay lady really did deliver everything it promised—it would never be worth it.

I don’t even want to imagine a life where I view everybody I meet in terms of how much money I can wring out of them, where I brainwash people with fantastical language that estranges them from those who love them, and where I earn my living by exploiting the entire spectrum of vulnerable women—from those who are struggling financially, to those who long for an escape from unsatisfying day jobs, to those who are simply too nice to say no ten times in a row to overpriced hand lotion. Especially under the guise of “friendship” or “female empowerment.”

Because female empowerment has nothing to do with buying, selling, or wearing products.

It has everything to do with saying no—repeatedly, if we have to—to the people who try to take advantage of us.

Update

I have deleted the J-Bo.net Facebook page, on account of not having updated it since 2013.

But I do regularly post to Twitter, so come follow me!

See you soonish for a more interesting post,

J-Bo