Tag Archives: parenting

I HATE YOU

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  I was warned.

The words were shouted from the shower, heard over the falling water,  where she assumed she would be safe.  If she had locked the bathroom door she would have avoided my pulling open of the shower curtain all “Psycho”-like, leading to her blood-curdling scream.

At that point I couldn’t even remember what she hated me FOR.  13-year old girls can hate their mothers for so many reasons.

I called her father, my ex-husband and said “I just got my first ‘I hate you.'”  He laughed, not unsympathetically and said, “Uh oh, what happened now?”

I know my daughter loves me, almost as fiercely as I love her.  I generally ruin her life by not letting her use my phone or laptop the second she needs it.  I sap her will to live when I tell her for the MILLIONTH TIME not to leave all of the lights on in the ENTIRE HOUSE when she goes to bed after us.  She is clearly destined to become a raging alcoholic because God forbid I should ask her to flush the toilet every once in a while.

I’ve become one of those people that when someone mentions to me that they have young daughters I’ll say, “Oh, good luck with that in a few years,” or “You’re so lucky you have boys.”   I’m that cliched mother of a teenage girl.

I’ll check in with my friends who have daughters the same age to make sure that I’m not being unreasonable to not buy her a $125 DRESS FOR AN 8TH GRADE DANCE.  I’ll double-check when she tells me that so-and-so’s mother is letting her bring $40 TO THE MOVIES FOR A TICKET AND SNACKS.

I remember the one time I actually physically tussled with my mother.  She was blocking the door to our apartment, not letting me out for some reason.  At 5’5 she was not exactly threatening to my 5’9.  I think I just tried to push her arm or something and we did everything in our power not to break a smile at the absurdity of the whole thing.

I can’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve yelled, “If you ask me that one more time….” and not come up with an actual thing that I would do if she asked me that one more time.  I have tried reasoning, the “look at me when I’m talking to you,” yanked her tablet out of her hands and not let her use it for a week, threatened that if she slammed her door “ONE MORE TIME WE’RE TAKING IT OFF THE HINGES.”

There will be two weeks of utter perfection where she’ll actually CLEAR THE TABLE WITHOUT ASKING or offer to…hmm…I’m actually not coming up with anything else, but suffice it to say, she’s not the devil child, what my husband has called “the succubus, (second definition–“any evil spirit or demon,” not the primary definition which has something to do with seduction of men in their sleep).

There is no logic to the flip-flop of devil/angel other than the obvious hormonal stuff.  She really is an amazing, compassionate and most importantly, confident young woman.  She has great friends, great judgement and gets me.  I’m sure the reasons she “hates” me will change over time.  Maybe I’ll discourage her from dating the “bad boy,” or not let her go to the biggest party of the year, but I do know that without question that we’re in it for the long haul, together, with that unbreakable bond that I never knew would be so overwhelmingly magnificent.

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My Two Minutes and Nine Seconds of Fame

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Last week as I was walking down my sweet little New England town’s main street I saw two teenagers whispering to each other and pointing at me.  Finally, one nudged the other who sheepishly approached me.

“Aren’t you the woman who had a hot flash at the Jay Z concert?”

“Yeah,” I said humbly.  “That was me.”

“Can we take a picture with you?”

“Ich.  I just got out of the gym and I’m all sweaty, but sure.”

They flagged down a stranger who was happy to snap a few pics with the girl’s smartphones.  They giggled and squealed and within seconds I was on their Instagram and facebook pages.

“Thanks so much!” they said as they skipped to their larger group of friends waiting on the corner.

…So, that never happened.  But it could have.

Two weeks ago, on a Thursday night when I was flopped on the couch in front of the tv (essentially, where I am every night) I got an e-mail that said this in the subject:

“Timely Media Request-HuffPost Live.”

I looked at it and would have deleted it as spam if it hadn’t had an actual woman’s name as the sender. Here’s what the body of the e-mail said:

Hi Gayle,

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to let you know that the Huffington Post’s video news network, HuffPost Live (live.huffingtonpost.com) will be doing a segment tomorrow (8/14/13) at 6:30pm PT/ 9:30pm ET about being middle-aged and how it means something different to everyone.

We’d love for you to join us to give your opinion and talk about your experiences. It’s very easy to join — all that is needed webcam (desktop, laptop, iPad, 4G phone — like an iPhone) and a pair of earphones. We would bring you in via Google Hangout, which is similar to Skype. The conversation will last approximately 25 minutes, will be moderated by our host Nancy Redd in Los Angeles and include members of the public.

Please let me know if you would be interested. Thank you.

I stared at it and reread it at first to myself and then out loud to my husband to see if it was actually the coolest fucking invitation I had ever received. I read Huffington Post all day and knew that it had a new live programming channel. I was stunned. Apparently, the producer (who happens to be 24-years old) Googled bloggers who write about middle age and mine was the first to pop-up. I ambushed her with questions, had an actual Skype sound check and was told that I’d be on a panel with a couple of other people. I had less than 24 hours to get it together for my groundbreaking debut.

I spread the word via facebook and e-mail and my friends who are also HuffPost regulars were as impressed as I was. I called a college professor friend of mine and asked if it was as a big a deal as I thought it was. She confirmed that indeed, it was. I adore her because she is never one to blow smoke just to make me happy.

I had a full day of work to get through (my last workshop with inmates in New Hampshire ended less than two hours before I was supposed to be Skyped into the virtual “green room,” with the other panelists). I rushed through my hour commute home and tried to gather my thoughts, making mental notes of the key points I wanted to be sure to get in.

Once home, I put on some makeup and a top that showed off my shoulders, and had a friend advise me, via Skype, how to set decorate the room I’d be doing the broadcast from. It was fabulous. I was fabulous. I had already downed one glass of wine and had another off camera. I was good to go. The producer told us we were about to go live and there I was, in split screen, with two other women, being introduced by an overly-perky hostess.

The other two women were chosen to bring a different point-of-view to the topic of being middle-aged. One of them, with a sleeping cat on a crocheted blanked behind her the entire time, didn’t believe that we actually age. The other, I’m thinking in her early sixties, well, I kind of don’t remember what she said except something about wearing comfortable shoes and riding a bike for the first time in ten years.

I managed to get two substantial chunks of air-time, one in which I happened mention, among other things, that I had had a hot flash at the Justin Timberlake/Jay Z concert days before. It was an anecdote that fit in with the main point I was trying to make about the changes my body is going through. The second chunk was much more substantive, about how I changed my career at 45, following a passion I didn’t even know I had, and entering a second marriage that is truly perfect. I talked about how my work with inmates involves telling them that it’s never too late to have a second chapter.

The 25-minute broadcast went REALLY fast and my main objective had been from the beginning to drive traffic to my blog. The hostess had a screen shot of it and there was the title of a post about aging captioned under my name. At the same time I was answering very complimentary phone calls and facebook posts, I was constantly refreshing the stats on my blog and looking at the referral sources. Although there were more hits than usual, it was a bit of a disappointment.

The next morning, when everything was feeling anti-climactic, a friend of mine uncovered this link on facebook before I did (Click on the link and see the title of the sound byte.):

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/archive/segment/woman-had-hot-flash-at-jay-z-concert/520c564d78c90a636a0001d0

At first I laughed out loud, and then, well, I was a bit uncertain about how I felt. I waited and waited to become the butt of facebook and internet jokes. I honestly feared being laughed at by strangers if by some chance, it went viral. I understood why it was a headline that would draw people in, but, it belittled a bit, the whole point of the on-air discussion.

As it sunk in, I was more than able to laugh at it and the absurdity of the whole thing. It’s funny. I wanted Jay Z’s “people” to get a hold of it and interview me. My dear friend Laura sent the link of the entire broadcast to the local paper and the editor called me, impressed that a resident in our town of 30,000 people was recognized by “Huffington Post” and had a reporter call to interview me. The interviewer was great, but I stressed the point that I didn’t want to just be the woman who had that infamous hot flash. I wanted people to know that my blog contained much more including posts about my mother’s suicide (interestingly watered down in the article by saying “her mother’s death” as opposed to that scary word, suicide), my work with inmates, and many other things. She did a wonderful job of covering those points but couldn’t resist this:

http://www.wickedlocal.com/melrose/newsnow/x511619092/Melrose-blogger-featured-on-Huffington-Post

(The first paragraph appeared as the online teaser.)

In any event, the whole thing was a fantastic and rather short-lived high. I think the time has passed for something, some bigger breakthrough to come of it, but that’s okay. I have to not give up on that one big break, that one person who reads my work and bumps me to the next level. I haven’t lost patience, quite yet, and will continue to be the poster child of what it means to fully embrace the changes that I have made in my life, despite the hot flashes that temporarily stop me in my tracks.

Inmates As Human Beings: When The Media Gets it Right

I just finished watching the very moving Netflix series, “Orange Is The New Black,” based on a book by a woman serving a 15-month sentence for a crime she committed at the request of her very alluring female lover.  I know from the work I do with female inmates, that the fictionally named Litchfied House of Correction is based on an actual prison in Connecticut where the majority of “my” women served time.

After doing a marathon binge-like watching of the show, I was very curious to ask the women I work with if the writers had gotten it right–if some of the joy and disturbing elements of being incarcerated were accurate.  My women don’t have access to Netflix so I asked them some questions about the amount of sex between the inmates themselves, sex with the officers, joyful birthday and holiday celebrations and the freedom to roam around the grounds without constant supervision.  They confirmed that it seems as if the writers had captured the reality.

Most of the women said that their sentences and prison time weren’t so bad, but that it’s the multitude of restrictions  in the reentry program where I see them once a week that are worse.  In my position I have to remain somewhat neutral but I listen and try to understand what they mean.

People who don’t work in this field have a hard time sympathizing with the male and female felons I work with.  I think they generally feel as if they brought this on themselves and deserve what they have coming to them.  They don’t have the opportunity to get to know the people, the humans behind the crimes.

“Orange is The New Black” does a magnificent job of humanizing the inmates in the show. The writers transcend the drab, beige prison uniforms by allowing the narrative to slip away to the back story of at least one character each episode. We see the vulnerabilities, the mistakes, the addictions and the normalcy of these women before they landed in prison.  I have been moved to tears by each one.

In my work, I see women in two settings–one group in jail and the other in the aforementioned reentry program, an actual 5-story converted brownstone.  In jail, I stand in front of a new group of women every two weeks. They are all in their uniforms, drab colored and the same.  They are faces for the first few minutes all somewhat similar to the 1,500 or so I’ve already seen before them.  They are interchangeable.   As we go through my 50-minute workshop, they become much more than faces.  They are women who became addicted to painkillers in middle-age.  They are women who have shot heroin with their parents in their teens.  They are women with Master’s Degrees and they are mothers.

In the grand parlor where I sit on couches with the released women, women on the threshold of going back to their lives, they are in their “street” clothes.  I see their unique style, some in maxi-dresses, some in cutoffs, some in business attire after coming back from work.  I see them.  I see who they were before their sentencing.

Since watching “Orange is The New Black,” I have had these quick shadow glimpses of these women in their prison uniforms –quick flashes of them moving around to visit the other inmates or sitting in the prison cafeteria telling jokes.  I see them dancing in front of boom boxes with the drawstring of their pants flopping around, showing their moves and teaching the older inmates how to line dance.  I see them in a setting that none of them ever wanted to be in making the best of the situation.  Then, like in a movie, those images evaporate and get sucked back into their current selves.

Many of them know each other from their time in prison. They laugh, they joke, they talk about this guard and that lunch lady.  They’ve seen pictures of each other’s children and met each other’s families during visiting hours.  They cheer each other on and feel happy when their time is up and they can walk out the door of the halfway house for the last time.  They become Facebook friends.

In my position I am not allowed to keep in touch with the inmates once they leave.  It is probably the hardest part of my job.  In some cases I’ve spent nine months, a day a week with these women and I know I’ll never see them again.  I’m not even allowed to hug them goodbye after they’ve opened up their hearts and fears to me.  I see them in my mind picking up their children and spinning them around in the air.  I see them dancing in their living rooms.  I see them transcending their time as prisoners and starting all over again as the individuals they are, and it makes me smile.