Sunday, March 27, 2011

All This and She Cooks Too

Check out my guest post over at Half-Assed Kitchen!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Not to Care (about)

I have an ongoing debate with a few friends of mine about where Stacy London falls on the good-evil spectrum. My position is generally that whenever I watch the show, I spend at least half of it hoping that the makeover subject will punch her in the face. She just seems to represent so much of what is wrong with our society. She's shallow, superficial, snotty, and she thinks it's reasonable to expect the average person to pay over $100 for a single article of clothing. And yet, I will watch the show if it happens to be on and I happen to be in the room.

The truth is that I feel very conflicted over the whole idea of caring about how we look. Sure, appearance counts, but how much? Where is the line between wanting to look put together and professional for work and thinking I can't go to the grocery store without makeup on? The What Not to Wear paradox came up most recently after I mentioned to one of the SLDs (Stacy London Defenders) that a mutual acquaintance seems so sweet and smart and great, but she does herself a disservice with her clothes. The SLD immediately said yes, this person would be the perfect candidate for WNtW because (and I paraphrase) she just needs to get her swagger back after some major life changes. And I can see that, I can.

I can see that most of the people on the show seem to feel much more confident and happy after they stop wearing their deceased grandmother's castoff double-knit pants using a rope for a belt or whatever. But what happens after the show? Where are they three, six, twelve months down the road? Do they become obsessed with their clothes, hair, and makeup? Do they ditch the boyfriends and husbands who inevitably wear hideous, almost-too-small sweaters while shown conspiring to get their frump-with-a-heart-of-gold girlfriends made over?

As a fairly vain woman whose appearance long ago began the inevitable deterioration we all face sooner or later, I struggle not to care. I once explained to a naturally pretty, fresh-faced young friend and colleague that while she could roll out of bed ten minutes before leaving the house and throw her hair up in a knot and put on clothes off the floor and still look cute, if I did that it would just make me the sad mom who had given up. I do care how I look, and I try to wear clothes that look reasonably put together while camouflaging my ever-thickening waistline (ugh!), but I also have conversations in my head at the bathroom mirror about whether or not one needs to put on eyeliner when all she is planning to do that day is sit around the house or take the kids to the park or yes, go grocery shopping. I give myself stern lectures about how I do not have to be pretty and that should not be something that matters to me.

But true to form, I mostly don't listen. I put on the eyeliner mainly so I can go through the day without having to sigh the twenty times I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror (I've had four babies, okay? Looks aren't the only thing that deteriorate). I cry and throw tantrums when I see pictures of myself. I care too much. I long for the anti-Stacy to get a show that will teach me the rules for letting go.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Hell Has Frozen Over, or How I Became a Soccer Mom

I guess it was inevitable. Four kids and thirteen years into motherhood, one of them has expressed the desire to play a sport. Specifically, Somerset was asked by a friend to join the soccer team for which several of her classmates from both her old school and her new school play. I know what you're thinking: that sentence was way too grammatically correct to have been written by a soccer mom. Am I right?

So, I'm not a sports person, we know that, no need to get all into that and have you irritated with me about what a snotty curmudgeon I am when it comes to these things. That wasn't even my point!

I have never played a sport, of any kind, ever. Wait, that's not true! I just remembered that I played on a community center basketball team one time. I had completely forgotten about that. I think the coach felt sorry for me and put me in for the last minute of the last losing game. I remember being on the court and thinking "I have not the slightest idea what I am doing, where I am supposed to go, or what I should do if I happen to end up there." But I also remember how much I liked going to practice and having the coach take the time to show me how to hold my hands when I attempted a shot.

And that's the thing, I know. Even though I really have no affinity for sports culture (ahem, see how nicely I said that?) at all, (okay, sorry, moving on), I know that participating in sports can be good for kids. It doesn't have to be all crazy competitive with the yelling beer-gutted dads and the pushy moms. That's what I keep telling myself, at least. It's all going to be fine. Right?

When I was a freshman in high school, I really didn't know who I was (duh). And when the track coach talked to my gym class about running track, I thought I'd like to do it. I went home excited about it, and my parents said no. I was bewildered. My grandmother came up from Mississippi the next day, and I tried to enlist her in my cause. No dice. None of them could really tell me why I should not run track, except to weakly imply that my grades would suffer, even though I exclaimed repeatedly that bad grades would get me kicked off the team. I knew they were wrong then just like I know it now, but I didn't understand exactly why they were wrong any more than they understood why I was right.

My parents didn't come from the kind of privileged background that involved youth league sports. Their parents didn't have the luxury of spending either time or money on such things, and honestly they had probably never even heard of such things. They spent their time trying to keep a roof over their family's heads and food on the table, not thinking about their children's self esteem and social adjustment. They couldn't see, and neither could I, that a simple thing like running track for the school team could shape my identity as a young woman. We didn't know that playing sports makes girls less likely to get pregnant in their teens, or to stay in an abusive relationship, or use drugs. But I know it now.

So today we went to a sporting goods store and bought things that seem as foreign and exotic to me as...stuff that's really foreign and exotic. Cleats. Shin guards! Really tall socks. Somerset came home, put it all on, and went outside to kick the ball around with Joshua. And now he wants to play. Great. I mean...great! Right?