How to Lie to Yourself and Others

Sometimes when I say yes, I’m lying.

1. What I want to say to my children’s school is:
“No, I don’t want to help with the five-year strategic plan task force but I feel obligated because I don’t work and because I want to be an involved parent so it reflects well on my kids.”

2. What I want to say to the old friend I run into in the Costco cereal aisle is, “No, we shouldn’t get together. I’m glad to catch up and that no harm has come to you and I’m a teensy bit surprised you’re still with the man you always called a bastard at playgroup and I will write down your email on a dry cleaning receipt but I will never contact you because I never really liked you that much.”

I never say this.

And here are some more things. Not lies, but living them feels like lies. Because it turns out:

1. I am not all that maternal.

I thought having children made you maternal. That the hormones would wash over me, coat me in endless sacrifice. Can’t you picture it? Like Ma making jonnycakes and fighting the blackbirds off the corn, Mary Bailey tending to sick Zuzu, Sally Field and Forrest. I realize these people are fictional. But I know real moms like this too. Okay, two. One. But I do know one who has a perpetually full and giving heart and I don’t think it’s just curated for Facebook. I do not have this. I don’t. I get tired. My lap gets crowded. I have limits. The hormones did nothing to bump this up.

2. I feel a teeny bit gypped.

Was this a trade? Because sometimes I don’t see what I got. I know what I’ve lost. I want my legs back, without the bumpy varicose veins. I want my brain cells, I want to finish crosswords again. Even the Saturday ones that are hard. I’d settle for Thursday. I want my work clothes. I want things you have to dry clean and the time to drive to the dry cleaners. I want my breasts back. I really, really, really miss them. These wet balloons resting on my ribcage? I don’t know you.

I want my edge back. My snarl. I used to go months without caring about people. Motherhood ruins you for edge. It robs your indifference. You have to walk around, your heart open and exposed. Do you know the exhaustion of giving a crap about people? It’s unbearable. And what did I trade for this? Fear and anxiety, exhaustion, impaired thinking, humility and vulnerability, empathy and real feeling, love without end. The chance to feel the real deal. The really real deal. I have never been so tired in my life.

And I would never go back.

Honest.

Erotica for Mommies

Momerotica Chapter One:

I grab my keys and phone and walk out the door. Let’s say it’s a Tuesday. Let’s say it’s cloudy but warm. I am holding nothing. I skip down the steps. I open the car door and I get in! The car smells like: nothing. I put on my seatbelt, just mine. I back down the driveway. I turn on the radio to the station I choose. I choose NPR. They are talking about things that interest me. I feel my brain grow.

The End.

Momerotica Chapter Two:

I wake up. Nothing and no one has woken me up. I just woke up because I woke up! Because I was done sleeping!

Everything is fine. Everyone is fine. No one I know or am related to needs anything.

I roll over and look at the clock. It’s nearly eight o’clock!

Outside, a bird sings.

The End.

Momerotica Chapter Three:

I go to New Seasons Market. I remember the reusable grocery sacks. The children are at home learning to read. We have acquired some sort of governess.

I have a neatly lined notebook outlining a week of menus for the family. I buy everything I need for one complete week of breakfast, lunch and dinner. I read labels. I measure Garam Masala. I consider a melon like it’s a prospective college.

When I’m done, I stroll around the Wellness section. I smell many samples – lavender, gardenia – lovely – but purchase nothing. Everything I need is in my cart.

I will not return to this – or any grocery store – for seven days.

The End.

Momerotica Chapter Four:

My husband comes home from work. He says: “How was your day?”

I sauté the chard. I look at the green leaves in the pan, so fresh and spring-like when I started. Now in the pan, they’re shrinking. Could they disappear?

The children are not learning to read. There is no governess. I am not interacting with them, although I quit my job as a vice president of marketing so that I could – ostensibly – spend time with them.

“It was fine,” I say. I turn so he can see my smile.

He takes a step toward me. He comes close. “Was it really?” he says, gently, gently. He puts his arm around me. His deodorant reminds me of my 20s. He takes my hands.

“Someday they will go to school,” he says. “Both of them.”

“And I’ll cry because I miss them so much,” I say.

“I know,” he says. He takes the wooden spoon and finishes dinner.

He washes, peels and slices organic peaches for dessert.

The End.

Momerotica Chapter Five:

I wait for the TriMet number 19. From the bus stop, I look across Bybee Boulevard to Westmoreland Park. It’s been a long, wet winter. Everyone’s been slogging.

They’re re-doing the park. For months there’s been mud, construction fences, bulldozers, warning signs. And now, all of a sudden, I realize they really will finish it. It won’t always be like this. There will be a natural waterway, gravel-lined paths, gracious trees.

I kept forgetting it would ever be done.

I forget so many things.

The End.