Sunday, June 15, 2014

On Father's Day

Physically, it’s pretty damn easy for a man to father a child. I mean, really, it is. I know that now more than ever, from experience.

The harder part is being a father. It’s being just the right balance of disciplined and loving, of strict and fair. It’s imposing a good set of values on your kids without imposing your own preconceived judgments and other opinions that might negatively affect their growth and development. And more than anything, it’s showing up…. not just for baseball games and dance recitals, but for everyday life. For the first steps, the bad days at school, the broken hearts and skinned knees.

Not long after I learned we had a bun in the oven, I received a Facebook message from a friend that broke my heart. She was out of town with her fiance to celebrate his birthday, and she’d gotten emotional when she saw a father and daughter enjoying themselves in the restaurant together. Clueless, I asked why. She explained that, many years after her own father abandoned her family, it’s still a little hard to see fathers being good to their daughters. It makes her emotional.

For some reason, her dad decided one day that he couldn’t handle being a husband or a dad. So he left them. He left her even though she was a kid and she needed him.

And that’s when it hit me….and I mean, really hit me….that the little girl I’m carrying is so damn lucky. Because my husband isn’t capable of that. He will never leave her.

I’d like to believe that Mr. W and I will last forever. I mean, it sure looks that way….we’re about to celebrate nine years of marriage and despite a metric ton of crap the world has thrown at us, we’re still going strong. But I know that nothing in life is guaranteed. I’d probably bet on us on the tables in Vegas, because I like our odds, but I wouldn’t, like, bet my life on it or anything because that’s just silly.

But I do know with great certainty that, no matter what happens with us―even if we fall out of love, even if he decides he can no longer tolerate my utter craziness, if I decide one day that his epic rants and skewed world view are more than I can bear, or if he falls in love with some sexy stick thin bombshell named Celeste and decides to be with her (that fucking bitch, Celeste)―he will never, ever abandon our little girl. Not ever.

I realize that’s pretty ballsy of me to say, especially after saying that nothing in life is guaranteed. And this is, of course, barring some unforeseen catastrophe like mental illness or something even worse I can’t think about. But my husband, in his right mind and of sound body, would never, ever abandon our daughter. That’s something I WOULD bet my life on.

Perhaps it’s because he has spent every day of the last 13 ½ years loving me, cherishing me and respecting me. When he has fucked up, he has admitted it, and he has learned from it. He has always been especially respectful of women, from his mother to my mother and every single one of my friends. He has supported my dreams, even when they have been crazy. And even when he could have, he has never given up on me. I know he’ll be that way with her.

In some ways, he’s already a father. He was a great daddy to our dog for eleven years, even when he didn’t think he was. The first thing he said to me when I tearfully showed him my positive pregnancy test was, “It’s OK. We’re in this together.” He spends every evening with his hands on my belly so he doesn’t miss a single kick. He takes an active role in discussions on how we will and won’t raise our daughter because he cares. He already understands the important role fatherhood will play in bringing her up, and he’s ready to take it on full force even though I know it scares the hell out of him.

I have worried and stressed about a lot of things during my pregnancy, even though I promised myself I wouldn’t. But unexpected things have come up since January that have drained my energy, my emotions, my bank account and my positivity. It happens, and I’m doing the best I can to recover. But I have never—not once, not even a little bit—questioned the man I chose to be the father of my child. That is one area where I know I did the right thing. And I can’t think of a bigger blessing than that. Knowing that he will always be there for our little girl, knowing that she will grow up having a father who loves her more than his own life, is the greatest gift I could ever receive, and it makes everything else seem just a little less terrifying and stressful.

Mr. W thinks I have the hard part because I have to endure pregnancy and childbirth. And I admit, there are days when I would kill to eat a dozen oysters, drink a dirty martini followed by a bottle of wine, go out and drunkenly dance my ass off until 2 AM and pass out on my stomach without once waking up to pee. And I won’t even get into the terror of labor. But honestly, after thinking of my own upbringing and how my father being so present in my life affected the way I turned out, after witnessing the sadness my friend STILL feels after her father abandoned her as a child despite the fact that she’s done so much to heal herself, and after reading up on just how much a father’s role matters—I kind of think he has the hard part.

But he’s going to nail it. I know he is. And that’s why I will spend every Father’s Day from today until I die honoring him, cherishing him and reminding him of how much he means to his girls. I hope I will do this every day, of course. But on this day, his day, I will never forget.

But seriously, if you see that bitch Celeste, tell her to step off.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

An Open Letter To My Daughter: Your Modesty Is Your Choice

To my sweet daughter,

While I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what you will be like as a person, I haven’t given much thought to what you will look like. I’m curious, of course… will you be a redhead like your grandpa? A brunette like so many in your dad’s family? Curvy like me, slender like your dad, or a lumberjack like some of your other family members? That I don’t know. What I do know is this: you will be beautiful. Of that I have no doubt.

While your physical beauty will matter so much less than what is in your heart, it will be there. And that’s part of the reason blog posts like “Confessions of a teenage bride: Modest is NOT Hottest” bother me so much. Your beauty, your body and how you choose to express yourself will be entirely about you, not about anyone else…..not about other girls, not about the boys who will surely notice, not about the people you date, not about your dad and me….your self-expression is yours and yours alone.

I won’t say anything unkind about the teen bride who wrote this. I’m sure she’s a lovely, kind girl who is very happy. Unfortunately, though, she is a victim. She is a victim of a preconceived mindset that tells her that certain feelings, urges and actions are morally wrong. There’s nothing wrong with living her life the way she does. There’s nothing wrong with settling down young...I was extremely young when I fell in love with your dad, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

But there is plenty wrong with encouraging other girls to base their self worth on the way they dress, how much skin they show, the way they present themselves to boys and to “other wives” (honey, you don’t owe SHIT to anyone else’s wives other than not crossing the line and sleeping with their husbands)  and saving their bodies for “the one who will love them” because “they are worth it.” This is not only incredibly damaging, it’s flat out wrong. It contributes to a dangerous part of society that I’d hoped would be annihilated in my lifetime, the part that pits men and women against each other in some kind of bullshit “blame game.”

This teen bride has allowed herself to be a victim of a certain belief system. She has been raised a certain way and stuck to those beliefs without question, because she believes that’s the only path to happiness. She also believes that there is a big man in the sky smiling down on her for it, and that her reward for staying modest with her clothing will be eternal salvation in a mystical celestial heaven where she will reside with her husband and other Mormons who have remained “pure” and “good” and she can look down on the rest of the sinners from her VIP planet as she lives out her forever. She is a victim of falling prey to someone else’s spiritual experience (aka organized religion), and as a result she is of the mindset that her body and soul are not hers, but a prize to be won by another.

My sweet girl, if I succeed in allowing you to choose your own path to God, not falling victim to these shaming beliefs, and realizing very young that your body and spirit belong to you and to no one else, I will consider myself a success as a mother.

Make no mistake about it: you are a precious, wonderful, perfectly imperfect child of God. But, unlike many others will try to tell you, God is not some all powerful, judgmental, mean old man in the sky. God is simply an incredible energy force bigger than any human can comprehend. God is not male or female. God is all around you and inside of you…. and guess what? It’s up to YOU and no one else how you define God. Maybe you will find your path to God through one of the major religions already established. Maybe you will follow the path of your parents, who believe in a higher power but feel best when they don’t subscribe to any one religion. Maybe you won’t believe in God at all, but will instead choose to believe in only science. Maybe you’ll just call it “energy.” I assure you, it will be your choice, and your beliefs won’t make you a better or worse person than anyone else, nor will you be judged and damned to a fiery hell because you don’t believe everything one religion tells you.

You are a spiritual being having a human experience. But while you are having this human experience, your body is yours. I will do my best to teach you how to take care of it, eating good foods, avoiding the chemical shitstorms and high fructose corn syrup that will make you lethargic and complacent, and finding exercise that will make you feel good. And of course, there will be some rules. I want you to stay a little girl as long as you can, because trust me, you’ve got plenty of time to be an adult. You will have to obey any dress codes your schools set forth, and you won’t be parading around in tube tops and booty shorts when you’re 13….not because your body is something shameful to be covered up, but because, like I said, you’ll have plenty of time for that when you’re older (it’s called “college” and “Vegas,” my sweet, and it’s an awesome time I hope you embrace fully).

But when you reach a certain age, what you wear will be entirely up to you. You may express yourself however you see fit, whether that’s floor-length Bohemian gowns or micro mini skirts. Your body is your own, and how you dress it is your business and no one else’s. My dear, you are NOT responsible for “helping” boys and men control their lust. To make those statements is not only degrading to you, it’s degrading to men. It makes them sound like imbeciles who need “help” controlling their urges. What they look at and what they think is 100% on them, not you. Never let any Mormon or anyone else tell you otherwise.

And when it comes to “saving yourself” for “the one who will love you more than anything?” You’ll never hear me say that to you , because that’s up to you too. Maybe you will fall head over heels for the first man you ever date, marry him and only sleep with him. That would be wonderful. Maybe you will date around, explore your sexuality a bit and marry in your mid-30’s. That would be wonderful too. Maybe you won’t date men at all and women will be your cup of tea….and maybe you will never choose to get married. Hell, maybe you’ll date a couple. Whatever you decide, you will have my support as long as you are happy and not endangering yourself. You have my word on that.

Yes, your virginity is precious, because it’s YOURS, and it represents a sexual experience that only YOU will have. But it is not a “prize” you “must save” for a man. Far from it. Only you can write that story. It’s up to me to educate you on being safe as well as the pros and cons of abstinence. We’ll have those talks, and I’ll be honest with you. And of course I won’t encourage you to be sexually active in high school...but not because of some judgmental man in the sky who will send you to hell, because quite frankly those young boys don’t know shit about how to please a girl and quite a few of them won’t care. I don’t want you to feel obligated to do anything, I want you to do things WHEN and how you want to do them. Sex should be enjoyable whether you’re 17 or 27 when you start having it. Teenage pregnancy is also a valid concern, so of course we’ll have that talk, too. No MTV teen pregnancy shows for you, my dear.

But when it comes down to it,  it is YOUR body and YOUR choice, 100%. Your spirituality, your path to living your best life, your sexuality and the people you choose to surround yourself with will be uniquely yours. They will not be dictated by others’ judgments, by a fear of what men or other women might think, by any outdated patriarchal religious concepts, or anything but what you truly feel is right in your heart. Because you know what? I’m not going to treat you like someone that NEEDS those rules to be a “good girl.” I will raise you to be your own person, and in the end, I think you will turn out just as lovely, kind and wonderful as any girl who was raised to believe what Ms. Teen Bride believes.

She’s right about one thing: we do not need to seek value by being sexually appealing, nor will we find the love we seek by being traditionally “appealing.” But we ARE allowed to BE sexually appealing, confident, intelligent women who are just fine with or without a romantic partner. It is the confidence and self-love that will help us find love from another, not the length of our skirts.

I had to learn some of these lessons the hard way. I have been on the other side, where I was told I “wouldn’t go to heaven” if I behaved a certain way WITH MY OWN BODY. I didn’t wear so much as a low-cut top until I was 20 years old, but when I did, I was made to feel ashamed of it. It took me years to shed the guilt and the judgment and realize that I am in control of my body and my sexuality, and no one else is….not society, not one definition of God, not your awesome dad, who is super cool with me expressing myself however I see fit. It took me until my late twenties to appreciate the sexy curves in my figure, my full lips and my big old luscious ass. I will do everything I can to make sure you never feel the shame, guilt or confusion I felt.

You will not be defined by what you wear, how much makeup you use, how many people you sleep with or when and if you get married. You will be defined by what is in your heart and soul, my sweet girl. And though I haven’t even met you yet, I have spent enough time bonding with you lately to know that you are going to be an amazing person. I can say that with confidence.

I already love you so much, and I just know that everyone who matters in this world will love you too.

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