all in the name

The moon hung steady in the sky like a gold dollar with a rabbit for an eagle. I liked running at the park. On Airport the buses passing smelled of exhaust and Pittsburgh. The scooters passing reminded me of Ceiba, Puerto Rico and I thought maybe because the air was so clean except for that small-engine exhaust and maybe that was the reason it summoned Ceiba.

If I were a genius I’d isolate the ‘mommy safety hormone’ and inject it into Annie when she turns sixteen. Sixteen years is a very symbolic age. In fairy tales girls got pricked by spinning wheels and other arcane furniture, and in modern age, they get their licenses. I used to be reckless. But after having Annie, I suppose all the oxytocin left over kicked in and made me into the safest person alive. It’s dreary sometimes. No more racing on the interstate, or hanging out in dark alleys or rooftops at midnight. I used to be terrified of even driving on the highway at all, until Robyn and I took a rental car up to Ohio and I realized it was just my tin can of a car that was frightening me. (I love my tin can of a car.) Anyway, if I could, I’d inject that hormone into Annie come sixteen.

Remember that eye doctor who was kind of a jerk but very complimentary about my optic nerves? He recommended this new kind of contacts, Accuvue Oasys, and really talked it up.  It was basically the only time he was nice the whole appointment. He gave me a pair to tide me over till my glasses came in, and it’s such a scam!  I’m pretty sure he s getting paid to push them. They cost thirteen dollars more per box, which he didn’t mention, and they get cloudy real fast. Plus they supposedly ‘let in more oxygen’ but weirdly, I’ve got way more of the floating things. They get annoying. Zach says the charm lies in the fancy name with the fancy Y, which is probably true. Like Jennifyr or Chrystyl or Heathyr. Just like many of my friends, I use a pair of contacts for treble and four times as long as they’re intended, and the Accuvue 2 can handle it. I think these are designed to get cloudy rapidly, to get over the problem of all the people like me and my friends. It’s like new electronics. Or Blu-ray. The Accuvue 2 will be phased out like VHS or eight tracks. And now, I’m forced to go and get another eye exam just to get Accuvue 2 again! Scammy scam.

At the park today I felt totally out of place and thus behaved like a sulky teen behind coral lipstick. When I realized how aloof I was acting, I tried to rein it in. The park was full of moms and dads. I was thinking about it and my inability (or reluctance) to befriend these people, and trying to parse it. At first I was being petty, thinking, well, he’s wearing Keens and those horrible surferboy sunglasses and I don’t approve of what his apparel states about him because he can’t make a statement about himself that doesn’t cost 150 per outfit and she clearly doesn’t have a sense of autonomy, she’s wrapped so far around her kid that she hasn’t taken the time to put on some lipstick or a nice shirt. But what was really happening, besides how judgmental I was being, was that I was having a total identity crisis. Have any of you heard about “mommy cards?” They’re business cards, but for moms. They say “mommy of so and so” and then list a number and email and things like the kid’s allergies.

I wholeheartedly disapprove.

Would you cede your entire identity to someone who’s only been alive for 9 months? Or 18 months? I don’t mean your life, or anything like that. Just identity. I don’t have any mom friends (other than Piper, whom I just met, who is totally her own person)– I don’t have any mom friends because who wants to be buddies with some lady whose stroller and diaper bag cost more than the Kelly blue book of your car?

I had never realized how important an identity is. I hadn’t graduated when I got pregnant, and I’d had other plans for after graduation- whatever, I’m not complaining at all. I just mean that my carefully constructed identity was shattered. Hell, I think anyone’s identity would get shaky if you gained seventy pounds in nine months and suddenly had no way of working a regular job. If you used to be thin and could walk without waddling and suddenly you couldn’t drink beer or smoke  a cigarette. And what if, on top of that, you felt like the blackest black sheep, that you’d been terribly immoral? That you’d let down the whole town where you were raised, which is a community of missionaries?

And then, as if that wouldn’t be enough to make you question who you were, what if suddenly, after nine months of tears and rage and stasis, a tiny person was suddenly there that you found you loved more than yourself? A tiny person who made you into the carefullest person you never were before, who altered your world view in a shattering way. And afterwards you could never again hear about any child being abused without imagining it happening to your own baby. And then you can’t listen to the radio anymore, and you’ve got to skip bits of the paper, and your nightmares become more imaginative than you ever thought they could.

So I realized this today, that I’m frantically shy at the park and frantically aloof and haughty, because I’ve regressed to high school, essentially. I don’t identify with the neglectful mothers and definitely not with the overprotective ones who won’t let their kid try and crawl up the slide.  I don’t identify with the ones with no makeup, nor with the ones who look like they’re going out to the country club later. I don’t identify with the rich ones, nor the Asian ones. (It appears that poor people don’t really come to the park.) I don’t feel like being friends with the people who don’t share their toys or their crackers. See? See how picky I am? It’s bad. But I understand it now. If I were truly confident, if I’d figured out who I am, then I wouldn’t mind being friends with people I didn’t see eye-to-eye with.

(If any of you are still reading this, by the way, I’m astonished.) The third thing that really concerns me is that I live in a town where there’s no in-between ground. I don’t personally know anyone other than Ray and Iris who has children, and even they only have them two days of the week. Rebecca says that no one can really grow up in this town, and I’m starting to believe it. A college town is sort of resigned to always being a college town, isn’t it? No one seems to grow very much. No one buys a house because it’s far too expensive. We are all the same, year after year. The parties, the bonfires, the bars. I get panicky, thinking about it. I’d like to move. Not to find myself, or anything kooky like that, but just because I wanted to a long time ago. I never thought I’d be in Chapel Hill past graduation. People (some, anyway) don’t seem to understand. All they know is coffee and bars, and how to drink and drive safely, how to get a girl’s number, how to measure success in espressos and tip jars.  I feel crazed and alone. It might be the full moon. Or maybe it’s a natural reaction to doing as much and as best as I can and being told that I need to get a night job in addition. I feel like an animal who turns and lashes out when cornered.

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