Blog That’s Really a Cigarette Butt I Found on the Floor of My Car the Morning After Someone Broke Into It, Rifled Through the Glove Compartment, and Possibly Leafed Through A Library Book on Allosaurus

I know what you thought–that I’d ghosted you, as the youth say. An Irish Goodbye, if you will. One minute here, regaling you with tales of burrito selfies and de-sebumed pores, then–POOF! In the wind, on the lam, a dame with no regard for the heart of a sap like you.

It’s not that, though. It’s not you, and it’s not me. It’s This Modern Life. I’m Virginia Slim, come a long way, baby, but now I’m out of breath and de-passe. What I’m trying to squeeze through the 1980’s advertising slush pile that is moonlighting as my brain is that I am fucking tired. And I am also so, so grown-up, in all of the un-fun ways that word means.

A candid of me in the office.

But first, let me say that while I did not abandon my project of trying to do a new thing every day, I amended it to “try to do some new or special things sometimes.” Every day, even as part of a one-time countdown to Liver Spot Lane in lovely Oldsville, Cronesylvania, is just too much. So, what I did instead was, whenever something came up that I kind of wanted to do but usually say no to because it takes too much coordination and/or furtive soul exchanges on a dirt lane outside a German village, I said let me see if I can make that happen, and sometimes, I did. That has led to me enjoying or participating in the following:

  • a manicure
  • a haircut (I have what can be euphemistically described as “complicated” hair and should get these frequently, but see previous entries for why not)
  • a Sunday run with Runners Borrachos, a gang of smart types who get together and do a 5K then drink beer. I never go because of child care issues, but this time I did, and while I enjoy neither running outside in weather or the spirit of athletic competition, I did like the beer and talking at the end.
  • babysitting my niece for no damn reason other than I volunteered because I think I need to make a deposit in the Karma Bank. Also, I looooooooove her.
  • making dinner for my mom on a weeknight like I just entertain or something
  • wearing yoga pants out of the house as actual pants
  • buying a cake mix my son picked out for his school cupcakes instead of making them from scratch as I usually do. This actually works out because 5-year-olds don’t give a shit about my ginger lemon buttercream. Children have the palate of Las Vegas manhole cover.

I feel like it should be more, but one thing I didn’t like about this project was how any failure to fulfill the dictates led me to feel guilty and shitty about my life. And I am already on top of that, project I made up.

Another issue possibly interfering with my whole-hearted embrace of the countdown to, well, you know, is that I am not at all excited about this. I tried to trick myself, tried to see the transition as a positive, largely out of a sort of guilty adherence to some perversion of feminism I must have glommed onto when I was young and felt totally comfortable making pronouncements about how I wouldn’t freak out about aging because women are worth more than our appearances and whatever happened to valuing the wisdom of older women and my self-worth isn’t centered on society’s estimation of my beauty blah blah blah. I thought I was so smart. I knew nothing.

It’s the physical deterioration, of course, that bums me out, but even more so it’s the feeling that I’ve simply transitioned beyond getting to have certain kinds of experiences. It’s being treated as irrelevant by people who are younger and invisible by most everyone. It’s being an “emerging” writer only now achieving some small success alongside people born in the late 1980’s while writers my age are firmly mid-career. It’s wishing I could have overcome a lack of both economic privilege and self-worth to try this all sooner. It’s aging out of eligibility for writing contests. It’s needing to take an author photo but finding the image of how I think I look crashing up against the reality of the older woman I’m becoming. Perfectly attractive in a firm 6.8 out of 10 kind of way (number subject to fluctuate depending on the city), but with a face that is lined and dulling and yet still at the beginning of so much.

To which you may say, no shit. What did you think was going to happen? That the ravages of aging wouldn’t apply to you?  But that’s the crazy thing about this that you cannot know until you’re in it–you know it’s coming, and it’s still a fucking surprise. Maybe if I was somewhere more satisfying professionally and artistically, I’d greet 40 with a sense of triumph. I’ve had several women in their 60’s and 70’s tell me that their 40’s were the best decade of their lives, but to a person these women had children much, much younger than I did, so being in their 40’s meant they were free, free of kids at home and first husbands and the constant pull of others’ need. That won’t be the case for me at all, and that’s okay. Maybe it’s that this seems to be such a pivotal time in most women’s lives, and I just can’t figure out what it will look like for me. I fear I’ll exit it with things much in the same place, that I will have spent the time buying increasingly expensive dolphin sperm face creams and in a job I care about but which offers exactly zero opportunity for advancement or raises. (Bounty hunting is adventure-heavy but not for the upwardly mobile.)

I’m not alone, I know, in these fears, but what do we do with them? How do I talk about planning to for my parents while also shopping for kindergartens? Can I say that the specter of menopause freaks me out? Can I say that I’m sad I don’t have the chance to have another child, even though I don’t think I want one? There’s an inevitability that 40 connotes for women but not for men–a kind of ending. See what Gloria Steinem recently said about aging women–we lose power in so, so many ways, even if we didn’t have that much to begin with.

But as I’m posting this on the day my son turns five, the night before I turn 40, I want to end with, if not positivity, then appreciation. I have loved people who didn’t make it this far, who fell sick in the body or the head or just had shit luck and didn’t get to bemoan the sags and crags of aging. I don’t believe in sucking it up and shutting up (obviously), as it’s the unsaid which wields a shadow power in our lives. I think it’s okay to say this thing we’re doing is hard because then we can help each other out, help each other move on. And I am moving, in the immortal words of whoever sang the theme song to “The Jeffersons,” on up. To 40. I hope to see y’all there.


Blog In Which I Consider the Puritans and the Morality of Facials

This project has problems. I worry that its emphasis on doing things for one’s self is selfishness in the guise of self-care, a justification for indulgence. That I haven’t been able to fully go for it is ultimately less important than that I’m now suddenly thinking about it all of the time; in fact, my inability to do one new or rarely done thing each day has fostered disappointment, which (because I’m me and part of the Ethos of Erin is making everyday slights or setbacks indicative of fundamental and existential flaws in myself and in the justice of the universe) has led on some days to a frustration I just don’t have room in my emotional schedule to deal with.

But as I said earlier, being a hero isn’t all glamour and sandwiches named in your honor. A bumper sticker once told me that John Wayne said that bravery is wanting to give up on a project you told the internet about but still riding your horse anyway. And so, I ride.

John Wayne
You know you’re a Burqueñ@ if seeing this makes you want a breakfast burrito.

After taking a run in the foothills last Monday, on Tuesday I made cookies. But I always make cookies, so I decided to use the last round to make not several regular-sized cookies but one giant fucking cookie. Perhaps my disregard for the social contract and even the laws of physics has you worried for the well-being of not only myself but also those I love, but fear not, dear reader: the cookie maintained its structural integrity and harmed no one in either its conception or its execution. I cannot vouch for its flavor because it’s so big I was too scared to eat it and I’m kind of trying to drop five pounds because I think my body has heard me talk so much about aging that it felt like it needed to accelerate the death of my metabolism.

On Wednesday, though, I got to indulge in a more traditional self-care activity: I got a facial. Don’t be concerned that I’ve suddenly abandoned the Midwestern Protestant Great Depression mindset that is apparently a part of my genetic code—it was free. A friend of mine, or more accurately the long-ago ex-girlfriend of a friend, is opening a new day spa in Albuquerque: The Remedy Day Spa. As part of prepping to open in the UNM area, the owner generously offered to a group of friends and associates the opportunity to receive a gratis service in order to provide staff with the chance to work out the kinks that arise in a business’ first few weeks. But I initially ignored this offer, or rather, my default mindset is yeah, I don’t get to do that, so I pushed it aside. This isn’t an attitude that’s new to me since becoming a mother, though that’s exacerbated it significantly. There’s a cult of martyrdom in the discourse of motherhood, with self-abnegation held as the primary indicator of someone being a good mother. It should be pretty obvious that the same is not true, has never been true, of how we view fathers. No doy, right?

My mother modeled this trope to her bones. At no point during my childhood do I remember her doing something she wanted to do, and the few times she made moves to try (like go to night school to finish her degree), she was guilted into stopping. Even now, she colors these moments less as lost opportunities than as decisions she made to put her children first. This drives me bonkers because implicit in this is that if she’d done more for herself, it would have been at our expense. If I wanted to, I think I could make this even more about me, think that in there is a judgment about my own life and choices, such as raising a child while having a demanding career. As a bounty hunter.

But I know that’s not what she’s doing. My mom did not finish college and had me young, and while she loves her children, she would never wish for us to mimic her path. What I grew up seeing was a very loving mother who had made a choice to live almost entirely for her children, and I wanted nothing to do with that. As a child, I embraced a certain kind of selfishness as a refutation of this sort of life. I would never so totally sacrifice my own well-being for others, which meant that I was pretty certain I did not want to have kids. I was scared by the idea that making someone required losing yourself.

Here I have to note that I don’t think this is how my mom would characterize it, the all of it, were she to write her story. And I wish she would, write it, to show me all the ways I’ve been wrong. She’d once harbored small fantasies of writing, maybe journalism. Who I am is not without precedent.

Her influence can be seen also in this reluctance I have toward pampering, one of the few socially acceptable ways for women to slow down and pay attention to themselves. it’s not just my current lack of time or money that disallows for this but also the spectre of Puritan ancestors haunting my choices, whispering slut when I buy the face cream over $10.

But if it’s free, then my morals get a bit, let’s say, loose. Because of this project, I changed my mindset just enough to schedule the time to let a stranger rub lotion on my face.

To sum up: I got a facial and it was pretty terrific. My aesthetician was really lovely and afterwards, I must be honest–I glowed.

Skin selfie. Not at all weird and gross.

I think now that I’m adding new facial crevices every year (joining the already existing “A Few Lines Composed While Laughing at Inappropriate Things” and the one in the middle of my brow I like to call the “WHAT IN THE HOLY FUCK, JUST MERGE ALREADY” wrinkle), I should take care of the skin I’ll most likely be stuck in for the next 50 or so years because I come from a long line of cheap, mean people who stick around waaaaaay after the party’s done.


Note: As bounty hunting season progresses, it’s getting harder and harder for me to write. Let me just say that after this facial last Wednesday, here’s a list of the “ooooh, neat” that followed:

Thursday: I watched two episodes of “The Good Wife”

Friday: I went to the mall and had people put makeup on my face and watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time

Saturday: Not a goddamn thing

Sunday: Went to Acoma Pueblo to watch the dances, on invitation from a student

Monday: Umm….I made an elephant out of Legos?

Tuesday: Nothing…Oh, this isn’t really novel but I did watch the latest “Downton Abbey” and was thinking it was actually a really funny one and then BOY DID THAT TAKE A TURN.

Which one of these should I write a blog on? Legos, right? Wrong answer! It’s “The Good Wife!” It’s ALWAYS “The Good Wife.”