you’ve come a long way, baby

by Janelle Hanchett

So we were driving home from San Francisco today (why were we in San Francisco, you ask? Because we were getting my daughter a passport. And why would a 9-year-old need a passport? Because she’s going to Europe with her grandmother for 2 weeks. And why pray tell is she doing that? Because she has a cooler life than I do. Already. At age 9. Thanks for asking).

And…now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s return to the story.

So we pass this one spot on hwy 80 and I’m feeling nostalgic, so I say “Hey Mac. Look. There’s the spot where I inadvertently lit that futon on fire with my cigarette.” He laughed familiarly, having already known about that futon, since we slept on it for a few months when we first met, affectionately naming it “the flaming futon.”

And how exactly does one light a futon on fire with a cigarette you ask?

Well it’s actually quite simple. I was driving home to Davis in my 1986 BMW (in the year 2000) after picking up a futon in Berkeley at my mom’s house, which was now rigged up in the trunk, sticking out the back, wrapped up in blankets to serve as cushions between it and the trunk hood. I believe there were bungee cords involved. Anyway, after smoking a refreshing cigarette, I chucked it out the window as I always did, without any particular thought as I recall. A few minutes passed and I noticed these idiots driving by waving and freaking out and pointing to the rear of my vehicle. At first I thought they were just smitten by my general coolness (being 21 and all), but when it continued I thought I’d glance in my rear view mirror just in case, at which time I noticed something rising above my trunk, looking oddly similar to smoke and flames. So I pulled over and jumped up and down, looking blond and young and cute until somebody stopped and dealt with it for me. I’m pretty sure they just removed the blanket from the contraption and let it burn out, but I’m not totally sure. The futon had some burn marks but was still usable, so I got back in my car and drove home, smoking another cigarette of course, due to the stress.

As I recalled this story I realized that this whole futon-on-fire scenario is really something that only happens to a person when they’re 21. I mean at this age, while I may not be able to envision the exact threat, I would at least suspect vaguely that chucking a lit cigarette out the window while driving with blankets hanging out your trunk is a bad plan. I actually know now that chucking anything out of the car whilst driving (whether lit or not) is a bad plan, but I’ve come a long way so it’s not really fair to compare.

And as I kept thinking about it and we talked about the ‘old days’ it struck me that while I absolutely totally and wholly miss the pert little bottom and flat belly I had at 21, I really do not miss being a complete dipshit. Yeah, I know. Not all 21-year-olds are dipshits. But I WAS a dipshit in every sense of the word and I don’t fully miss it. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I continue to reach new pinnacles of idiocy and erroneous decision-making, but there’s a certain type of ignorance, of naivete, of pure unbridled jackass-ness mixed with childish conceit that thrived when I was 21 or so, walking around all hot (as kids that age do) but accidentally lighting bed frames on fire with cigarettes (ha! nice pun)…then thinking it was all very cute, making up cute names for the cute burned futon with my cute new boyfriend. I don’t miss that.

You know what isn’t cute? Turning 32, which I’Il be doing next week. And since I’m slightly devastated about the whole thing (not turning 32. I’m still weeping about turning 30), I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some of the reasons I am delighted I am no longer 21, in attempt to make myself feel better. So here you go.

Things I don’t miss about being 21.

1. First dates. Awkward silences that accompany them.

2.Second dates and the uncomfortable realization that this guy bites the big one but will probably try to get some any way and I’ll have to weasel out and avoid, which will require at least 6 more drinks (to grow the pair necessary to tell him to kick rocks) and the subsequent hangover.

3.Third dates. Oh wait, no. I never got that far.

4. Hangovers. I’m not sure, but I think I spent approximately 349 days of my 21st year with an outrageous unforgiving hangover. It was like the year of vomit and headaches and dehydration. As soon as I’d recover I was on my way to the next one. It was a giant conspiracy I tell you.

3. The walk of shame. If you don’t know what that is I’m not telling you.

4. The walk of shame again. Because it sucked that bad.

5. The inability to pass as a grown up even when I really wanted to and I was sure I was being mature and profound and real but those damn aunts and parents and professors and other such old people (30 years and over) would just laugh at me, seeing something in me that I didn’t see but really see now, which is, of course, unspecified dipshit syndrome.

6. Frequent interactions with 21-year-old males. Always a let down.

7. House parties. Kegs, slutty outfits, avoiding frat boys with their tribal arm band tattoos, looking cool smoking cigarettes, trying to ignore the little voice in my head, whispering the truth, confirming my suspicion that we really are just a bunch of silly drunk kids trying to pass as adults, not really cool at all, playing out numbers 1-6 over and over and over again until, well, we move on and look back at it all nostalgically but so freaking glad it’s over (mainly because of the walk of shame. Okay, FINE. If you don’t know what this is I’ll tell you. It’s waking up somewhere still in your going out clothes (and usually hungover), having to walk the humiliating morning journey past strangers or peers (who obviously know what you’ve been up to) back to your home/car/friend’s house. And if you haven’t done this you’re a bigger person than I but I tell you it will drive you straight to sobriety. Unless you’re me. Oops. Different blog post.).

8. Caring about being cool. Never being cool enough. Wondering whether I’d ever be cool. Or ever feel okay at all, in my skin, about me being me and just me with all my uncoolness, which I disguise and run from with my slutty outfits and conceit and overall cuteness.

9. No money, bad checks and making that call to Dad: “just cover this one bill, please? just this month and I SWEAR I’ll pay you back.” Oh shit. I may still do that.

10. Waiting for life to start. Waiting for my soul mate to arrive. Waiting waiting waiting for that thing to happen. That thing that’s going to make me whole and complete and grown up and that woman I was meant to be – the one those old people see and are patiently waiting for. Wondering when she’ll come.

So now I’m 32 and that thing hasn’t happened yet and maybe it will never happen but I love that woman who has come and is coming still – though she’s uncool and silly and lost and not exactly what I envisioned at 21 – because she’s whole and just right, right now, and lucky as hell to come through it all with nothing worse than a burned futon and a battered memory of former dipshit status. Damn it. I’m even kinda proud of her.

So bring it, universe. I’m ready.

here we are, mac, ava, rocket & georgia, and my maternal grandparents

what I learned this week: rain, sundays, and why Mac doesn’t suck

by Janelle Hanchett
  1. I have a ridiculous and overly dramatic aversion to rain. I hate it. I look at it as some sort of universal deal-breaker: if it exists, I’m not participating. In my life.
  2. Yes, I know rain equals water equals survival of human race, etc., but, like most unpleasant things, I just wish somebody else could handle the annoying parts and I could benefit from their efforts. In other words, can’t it just rain in the foothills?
  3. The Ergo baby carrier has a critical design flaw that I may or may not bring up to the manufacturer: it’s often more convenient to wear my baby on my back, but if I do so, the front belt cuts into my belly, making me look fatter by creating a roll of tummy over the belt. This is no joke. Something should be done.
  4. A few weeks ago Mac and I decided that we were going back to the old days when Sundays were sacred and therefore the only things that happened were church and family time at home. This was a good plan and I love it and I look forward to Sundays now all week, when we all hang out and sew and garden and cook and play games and don’t do chores or shop or have people over. It isn’t just another day any more, it’s a day for us to be a family, unobstructed. And it’s freaking great.
  5. There are many reasons my husband doesn’t suck, but one of them is that he doesn’t want an “open marriage”. Not that I asked him for one. I just happen to have heard about this a lot lately (it’s kinda creepy actually) so I asked him what he thought of such a thing. He was revolted. We actually had to stop talking about it because it was pissing him off just thinking about it. Maybe I’m just unenlightened (and you know I am) but I wouldn’t dig that sort of arrangement. I hear it works for some people, but I believe I would throw myself into a fiery cauldron of sorrow, misery and self-pity if my husband suddenly informed me that he wanted an “open marriage.” Then, when I snapped out it, I’d hunt the bitch down who he was “open-marriaging” with and beat her senseless (well no, I wouldn’t, cause I’m too wimpy for that sort of thing, but I may hire one of those burly chicks from Jerry Springer as a sort of white trash hit woman). Then, when I was done with that, I’d get a divorce. I believe Mac would do about the same, only he wouldn’t hire anybody. For sure the whole thing would be wildly unpleasant for all parties.
  6. My new favorite pastime is to find a recipe, go to the store and buy all the ingredients, return home and put the groceries away. Yes. Correct. That’s it.
  7. It’d be great if my baby would go back to pooping only once a day.
  8. It’d be great if I didn’t talk about pooping so much.
  9. Apparently it takes a really long time to recover from continued sleep deprivation. I’ve been having 7-8 hours of virtually uninterrupted sleep for the last few days (due to Mac’s brilliant middle-of-the-night solution which involves…shhhhh, lean in closely, promise not to tell my attachment parenting friends…him and a bottle of formula). Anyway I thought after 2 nights of that kind of godly sleep I’d spring back to life like a 3-year-old at 5am. But instead I am still exhausted and sleeping more deeply than I ever have in my life. It’s almost like my body is hoarding sleep like a starved person would hoard food, worried that it may go away again. However, the blurring eyes and weird hallucinations have ceased, so things are improving. I’m not fully kidding about the hallucinations.
  10. I got to the bottom of the laundry pile in the hallway and I gotta admit, I kinda miss it.
  11. I should be in church right now, but because it’s raining, I’m not going. I shall spend the day finding recipes I’ll never cook, starting sewing projects I’ll never complete, and inventing ways to get my husband to do more housework. But not today. Because it’s Sunday. Today we play.

the husband who doesn't suck

9 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | March 20, 2011

“what mess?”

by Janelle Hanchett

You knew this one was coming. This is the post where I complain about my husband’s cleaning habits. Or lack thereof. Allow me to clarify for a moment that I know men exist on this planet who are neat and tidy and generally interested in hygeine and order, but, as I said this post (but in reference to my son), I don’t have one of those. I have a husband who, wonderful as he is (and he is), falls more in line with the stereotypical dude who “cleans” a room for 30 minutes yet somehow manages to leave it looking oddly similar to the way it looked before.

This used to bother me.

Ah, shit. Let’s be honest. It still bothers me. But I’ve found some peace with it, or I’ve resigned myself. Either way, I don’t flip out about it any more as often. My new perspective came in the form of a conversation with my midwife. By the way, undoubtedly one of the finest features of having a homebirth is the visiting that occurs during pregnancy. It’s simply magnificent. A midwife comes to your house and listens to you bitch for at least one hour.  She measures your belly and does the pee-in-a-cup thing and listens to the baby’s heartbeat, etc., but then she just talks with you – not  about more tests or the 75,000 things that could go wrong at this point, or how you’ve gained too much weight or your belly is 1/8 of an inch too small or whatever…but just chats. And if she’s like mine, this woman will be strong and straight-forward, wise and maternal in an earthy, connected way – not frivolous or sappy, not old but not young – grounded and real. She’s a badass who’s seen it all and knows it all without knowing it all (if you know what I mean) . This is obviously another blog post. Forgive me, my mind is like a lost puppy on steroids.

Back on topic.

So Tosi (the midwife) and I were sitting on my couch chatting and as usual I commence whining about how my husband must have some sort of mental defect because he appears incapable of cleaning. What an ass that man…he doesn’t respect my wishes and he obviously doesn’t care about me at all because I come home from work and I’m pregnant and need help but the living room is thrashed and he’s just kickin’ it all happy and calm with the kids. Blahdeeblahblahh. She listened and then said something so profound it floored me: “Yeah, some men are funny that way – they see things differently. You know, Mac isn’t looking at the mess and thinking ‘you know what? I’m not cleaning that. I’m leaving it for Janelle.’ He’s looking at the mess and thinking ‘that looks fine.’”

Unbelievable. She delivers babies and saves marriages.

So I tested it out. One night we were sitting in the aforementioned living room and there was crap everywhere (including, but not limited to: toys, folded laundry, dirty laundry, shoes, books, school papers, shopping bags, blankets, books, socks, dishes, bugs, bark, rocks – when I say ‘crap everywhere’ I actually mean it) and I’m crawling out of my skin and about to FLIP the hell out – yet somehow he’s so calm he looks like he could be sitting in a Zen meditation room. So I ask him: “Honey. Okay. Seriously. Right now, sitting here in this room, does this mess bother you at all?” And he looks around a little confused. Then asks “what mess?”

Sweet Jesus. I couldn’t make this up.

And I realized that Tosi was right. He’s not mean and selfish. He has an inborn vision problem that causes him to see messes as neatness. Poor guys deserves compassion. (Unless there’s a recovery group for that sort of problem – Slobs Anonymous perhaps? – People for the Ethical Treatment of Housing?). Okay. Anyway.  

So now I know that I have to give specific tasks and explain very carefully what needs to be done around the house, making sure I don’t leave anything up for interpretation and, even more importantly, making sure I don’t assume that something is so obvious there’s no reason to mention it…I recall somebody telling me once that she instructed her husband to move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. So he did. She didn’t say “turn it on.” And my sister-in-law told me recently that she had to explain to her boyfriend that after he takes the trash out, it’s critical that he insert a new bag.

Whoa. Deep stuff.

But now I kind of just laugh at my husband’s creative techniques. Kind of. In between fits of hysteria. Recently I’ve noticed that right outside our bedroom door, in the hallway but still kind of right at the threshold, there’s this pile of clothing that never seems to move. Well, I move it. But then it comes back. Pretty much every day it comes right back, not unlike my children. So I inspect the pile one day and see that they appear to be Mac’s running clothes. (yeah, he decides he’s getting “fat” so he runs for 2 weeks, at which time he ceases, because he’s already lost 18 pounds and an entire waist size. UNCOOL.). So I ask him, actually chuckling, “sweet angel heart love kitten, why do you put your running clothes in our doorway every day?”

And he responds “well, since I run at 5 in the morning and it’s dark, I didn’t want to wake you up by turning on the bedroom light and finding my clothes.”

See what I mean? Wonderful. How do you get mad at that? It’s so damn cute. And thoughtful. He’s always been a much kinder person than I am. I probably would have flipped on the light purposely and crashed around a bit just to wake him up so he can see how hard I’m working.

So I gave him a kiss and suggested that perhaps he keep them in the same drawer, so he can just open it and grab the contents in the morning. No light required.

He seemed impressed by my ingenuity. But now there’s an ironing board in the hallway where the clothes used to be.

Oh well. One thing at a time I guess.

thinking about his clean house. no, definitely thinking about something else.

11 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | March 18, 2011

sorry, but I think you have me confused with a grown-up

by Janelle Hanchett

It was just another day – just another trip to the grocery store, just another check-out line…until, after answering the monumental bagging choice question (which really isn’t monumental at all, unless you’re within a certain radius of San Francisco, where plastic bags have been outlawed or some such nonsense), I was slammed suddenly by a large boulder, which flew in from the left, unannounced, smacking me squarely in the head and leaving me confused, lost, and shaken.

Well actually there was no boulder. But it might as well have been a granite crater, the way it stung and burned and hit me, hard…that teenaged checkout kid and his quiet inquisition… “Would you like help out with this, M’am?”

Dude whah?

Did he just call me m’am? My grandmother is a m’am. My mom is even a m’am (albeit a young, very pretty one). But me? I’m not a m’am (you worthless little shithead juvenile). Not nice, Janelle – stop that~!.

Well, yes, evidently I am a m’am. I know this because everybody keeps calling me it. Using my vast deductive reasoning skills, I have concluded that somehow, unbeknownst to me, I’ve wandered into m’am territory and, as we all know, there ain’t no gettin’ outta here. In fact, I’m so entrenched in m’am–hood that when people call me “miss” I look at them gratefully but knowingly, because while it strokes my ego for a moment, I know they’re just being kind. And in a way, it almost stings more.

I mean goodness, I’m only 31. Well, 32. At the end of this month.

And I know I lead a ‘m’am’ sort of life with the husband and multiple offspring and house and family vehicle and lack of stilettos, etc., but it’s just that I don’t feel like a m’am yet. I don’t feel grown up. I look it, and occasionally I act it, but I’m not really there yet. A friend of mine recently joked that she and her husband often wonder what their kids would have been like “had they been born to grown-ups rather than them.” For obvious reasons I adore this woman.

And she’s right. I mean it appears that there are people out there who feel prepared and sufficiently matured and ready for this parenting gig…or maybe they just pull off the façade better than I do. But at this rate, I’ll be grown up and settled into myself and wise enough to raise kids around the age of fifty, when I’m too old to reproduce. What a jip.

Seriously, sometimes I try to be stern and adult-like at dinner when my kids are misbehaving and I get those damn giggles right along with them and I can’t keep a straight face as hard as I try. And sometimes I make strange, random unsolicited noises solely to be loud and annoy people, just like my 5-year old. I sing 80s ditties in a horribly offensive operatic manner, driving people nuts intentionally, because it’s fun…and I think I’m funny pretty much all the time and when I get overtired I cry and lash out and complain like a 2-year old nearing the breakdown point. But yet, I’m 32…the prime child-bearing age. The ‘right time’ to be a mother, the right time to settle down and take care of other humans and guide and lead and love…to be wise and grounded and a ‘m’am.’

So, grocery store check-out guy, I just want you to know that I die a little death every time you call me that awful name and you think you’re just being polite but really you’re launching me into a new level of existential angst. Thanks for that.

And by the way, yes, of course I want help out to my car. Can’t you see how tired I am?

Gifted and BITE ME Education

by Janelle Hanchett

So I walk into my kids’ school the other day with my stunningly gorgeous baby on my hip (this has nothing to do with the story, but she is in fact gorgeous and yes, I am that lame, shamelessly singing praises of my infant’s loveliness). And this lady follows behind me, cooing and making a huge deal about the aforementioned baby, so of course I love her instantly, even though I just met her, and I’m struck by her exceptional taste in babies.

Then she says, “Oh, is Ava enrolled here next year?” And I respond “no, she’s going to public school.”

Hold up. Background. We currently have our kids enrolled (thanks to the mammoth generosity of grandparents) in a very expensive, fancy school in one of the most yuppie-filled, hyper-educated, wealthy cities in the whole freaking world (I mean I think it is, having not been to every city in the world). I won’t mention its name, but I will tell you it’s on Hwy 80 between Dixon and Sacramento, and it starts with a “D.” But that’s all I’m saying. And there’s this type of mother who lives in this town…you may know her…she’s pretentious and quick-mouthed and affluent (not really affluent, but just enough to feel better than the poor people) and she has an assuming air about her, one that figures every child at least plays the cello by kindergarten and writes Russian and plays two sports and does theater, very well. In fewer words, she bites the big one and I hate her.

But I digress.

So this little number asks me politely about Ava’s continued enrollment and I say “no” and tell her which school Ava will attend and oddly, this news isn’t too shocking since many third graders bail to the public schools for fourth grade. But then she drops a bomb on me, with an almost imperceptible flicker of evil in the eye: “Oh, that’s a good school. The G.A.T.E. program is good – you’ll be happy there. My daughter did well in G.A.T.E.….”

But I had already stopped listening. I froze for a second and stared really hard into her mean steely eyes, hoping my silent derision would register somewhere in psyche. I mean, that is precisely the sort of behavior that makes me want to beat certain mothers with blunt objects. She knows perfectly well that not every kid gets into the “Gifted and Talented Education” program. She knows that a kid has to score very well on a pretty competitive test to get in. But despite all this, she refers to it as if everybody does it and everybody obviously participates and if your kid were going to public school, clearly she would be participating in the smart-kid (translation: “children of good parents”) program. Obviously.

I felt like asking her “Do you ever wonder why other mothers hate you? Because I can clear that up for you in about 12 seconds.”

But I’m a rock in the stream. All Zen and shit. So I didn’t say anything other than “Okay, thanks. Bye.”

You see…my kid didn’t get into the G.A.T.E program. There. I said it. And I’ll admit that it hurt my pride. My ego wept in the corner for at least six minutes after I read the results. I almost demanded a retest, confused at how my daughter could be reading at a 9th grade level and not be considered above average. Or how any kid of mine could not be considered above average. Duh. Then my ego took a new approach, getting mad because I only had her tested at the persistent requests of her teachers. So it’s their fault. Confused, I asked Ava about the test and she said nonchalantly “well, I didn’t know why I was taking the thing, so if I didn’t know an answer, I just sort of skimmed it and filled a bubble in.” Sweet. I’ll blame her score on that and move on.

So of course this woman’s comment burned a little, but what lingered was a total disbelief that a person could be so damn out of touch. I mean why not just be nice? She dropped that statement knowingly, with a complete and total awareness of the fact that it’s really kind of an elite group those damn G.A.T.E. kids, and rather than just being mellow, chatting it up with the commoners and whatnot, she saw an opportunity to brag, to look cool, and hopefully, (if all goes well), to make another mother feel inadequate and small – and she took it.

And I thought to myself as I passed her again “Can’t we all just get along?”

Then I thought, ah, whatever. Gifted and Bite Me Education.

At least I’m nice.

Most of the time.

oh. yeah. you know what you can do.