I’m Forty

So here it is, 3 am, a week into the 40th year of my life and I’m wide awake.  I’m awake for a myriad of reasons, the main one being that I’m not asleep.  My mind races about everything. What needs to be done, what I haven’t done, what I should have done, regrets, grudges, shame, what will I do and when the hell am I going back to sleep?  Perhaps firing up the old computer and writing at 3am is not the fastest way to get some zzzzs, but I’ve also been reading for the past hour and that shit ain’t helping either.

The past few weeks leading up to the official marking of me as a, horror or horrors, middle aged woman, I received a lot of unsolicited advice from friends of mine in their fifties.  All of them seemed to be trying to reassure me that this was not in fact the end of my life.  Geez a monetti, if you keep telling me its not that bad- well then it certainly is THAT bad.  Lots of the advice sounded like it came straight from a motivational Pinterest pin.  “You’ll love your forties”. “You’ll look the best you’ve ever looked”. And my personal favorite, “Forty is the new 20”. Really, 40 is the new 20? I really must take issue with this one- because honestly 40 is not anything like 20.

At 20, I was in college, taking naps in the middle of the day, staying out all night, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, chain smoking cigarettes and well, ahem, other items.  I swore I would never work with computers.  I would live my life as a performing artist. I did not understand why my college was forcing me to have an e-mail address that consisted of just a bunch of letters and numbers that no one, except maybe Rain Man, could remember- and I was never going to check anyway.  I despised the idea of these new fangled cellular phones, because I did not want people to be able to track me down anytime of day.  And quite honestly, even though I live and breathe by my phone now- I still don’t like idea that people can track me down anytime.  I know I can put it on silent- its permanently on silent- but I’m going to have to check it eventually.  If I left the house, I’d simply leave a note for someone telling them where I’d gone- or maybe I wouldn’t and they would just have to wonder- but they certainly couldn’t just call me and find my ass.  I am wistful for the days when I just had a phone plugged into the wall and no answering machine.  If you called and I wasn’t there than too damn bad for both of us- or perhaps just too damn bad for you…I didn’t want to talk to you anyway.  I know this is a cliche attitude we’ve all heard a million times- but we’ve heard it a million times because its fucking true!  We’re all too god damned connected.

At 40, I cannot stay out drinking all night long and show up for work at 8 am as if I’ve just had a good 8 hours of beauty rest. I cannot smoke cigarettes- because they’re going to kill me.  I’m ten pounds heavier than I was back then (ok, we all know that’s a lie, but that’s the most I’m admitting to).  I’m married with two kids, a mortgage, a pile of debt, mental illness (don’t act surprised, we all already know I’m fucking crazy), two email addresses, a plethora of social media accounts, a full time job, and volunteering for WAY too many things all because I’m an idiot who can’t seem to say no to anything. Except PTA…I can’t stand PTA- I know that makes me a terrible parent….but…well sorry- get off my back already.  I can’t do everything….and those bitches are downright judgmental (sorry to my wonderful friends who are active in the PTA and make my childens’ school fucking awesome- but all your cute snack making, carnival coordinating and shit just makes me feel like a big fat loser).

Speaking of school, when have we, as a nation, decided that a leprechaun must visit every kindergarten room each St. Patrick’s day and tear shit up, pee green in the toilet and leave coins all over the place??  As if the fucking Elf on the Shelf isn’t bad enough? (see my hilariously funny post about that asshole- you’ll love it). That green bastard didn’t visit anyone when I was a kid.  They’re supposed to be sitting at the end of the rainbow guarding their god damned pot of gold- not knocking over chairs and tearing up perfectly good paper in kindergarten class rooms.  I love my children’s kindergarten teacher and I know this was not her idea- she’s forced into it because she can’t not do it when every other K class (I’m just going with K now because I’m tired of writing out the whole word) in the world is doing it.  Then my child comes home wondering why the hell the leprechaun didn’t stop by our house?  And we’re freaking Irish!! We invented this crap and no where in my “how to be Irish handbook” does it say the leprechaun makes visits to your house to spread cheer and glee to children.  Isn’t that Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy’s jobs?  In fact, St. Patrick’s day really has nothing to do with leprechauns at all.  The truth is, according to religious theologians, and as cited in the Bible, and according to a myriad of Vatican resources, it is a high holy feast day that should be celebrated with reverence by knocking off work early and getting shitfaced.  And as a good Irish Catholic girl (okay, middle aged woman), I abide by these rules stridently and with my head fully immersed in Guinness.

Alright, I know that as usual I’ve gotten way off topic here- so let’s get back on track.  Forty is NOT twenty.  It is TWENTY + TWENTY.  My ass is tired.  I work a full time job and take care of my children.  And I don’t want this to turn into a big old fight between working mothers and stay home moms- because yes I’ve seen the bumper sticker, “Every mom is a working mom”.  And its true, every mom is a working mom and it is a full time job.  But, if you’re a mom with a job outside the home- well then you’re a person working TWO full time jobs.  And that’s fucking exhausting. And I don’t like to hear about how women who “choose” to stay home do so because they value their children more than a career or some such bullshit.  I would love to have the “choice” to stay home.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve dropped my children off at day care and sat in the parking lot crying my eyes out because I DO NOT HAVE THE LUXURY OF CHOICE.  I do love my children more than my career- but staying home ain’t the hand I’ve been played.  So, if I want to bitch about having too much to fucking do and can’t make cutesy snacks and come to every goddamned PTA meeting- its because I’m working TWO FULL TIMES JOBS!!!! (motherfuckers) Again, sorry to my wonderful friends who are stay-at-home moms- you’re total rock stars and I’m jealous as hell.

Okay- again back to being 40.  It is definitely not the new 20. But, I do find I am much more comfortable with who I am and care less about what people think of me.  That’s part of why I started writing this blog.  I was tired of hiding what I really thought for the sake of someone else.  Here I can write about my life, insult, cuss, and be my true self (who apparently has a major potty mouth). Who am I kidding?  I still give a giant shit about what people think.  I’m still crushed with every rejection.  I’m still scared every time I publish a blog post at what people will think, if they’ll hate me, if they’ll decide I’m unworthy- you know, the regular.  I still am unhappy with my 125 pound frame (shut the fuck up right now…its true, it says so on my driver’s license). I still cry when someone I thought was a friend turns their back on me.  A friend of mine was just telling me that if people do that then they’re not good enough to be my friend in the first place- but it still fucking hurts.  But, I’m striving to love myself more and appreciate each moment.  (Alright, now I’m starting to cry- fuck, why the hell am I awake??).  I love my stretch marks and scars and see them as proof of a life where I’ve taken risks- lots of them- and I’ve survived.

And hopefully, my stay-home mom friends and PTA rock stars will not hate me.  I’m 40, I’m tired and I can’t sleep.  Cut me some fucking slack.

Locked Out

For the past 10 years, my best girlfriend and I have escaped our families and gone to the mountains.  We eat, drink, smoke, talk, do puzzles, giggle and generally everything we can’t do on a day to day basis.  I know you think “doing puzzles?”  But, if you have small children you know that completing an actual puzzle is a monumental task.  This annual retreat is full of sweat pants and granny panties, no make-up and no cell phones; full on nitty gritty girl time.

We stay in a little cabin in the mountains of SC miles from any kind of real civilization.  The closest place is a gas station about a mile down the road.  Its really more of a convenience store/gas station/hamburger joint with an antique, home furnishing and jewelry department.  The burgers are the greasiest, best burgers you’ve ever tasted.  And since there is no cell reception, they have a nice pay phone outside for convenience.  Its really the only time in my life I ever have an opportunity to use a pay phone anymore- so that’s a nice trip down memory lane…but we’ll save that for later.  The convenience store/gas station/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelry store is really one stop shopping for all your mountain needs.  Honestly, the person who came up with this place is a pure genius.  “Yes, I need gas, a beer, some beef jerky, a burger and a shabby chic refurbished chest of drawers.”  Done and done.

Now the clientele are what you might call “mountain folk”.  Let me apologize in advance to any mountain folk who are reading this.  But really, what are the chances?  You can’t get cell reception there- so I’m pretty sure the internet connection ain’t too great either. This is supposed to be a funny story- so keep your moonshine drinking, jug blowing, banjo pickin’ hate mail to yourself- and get a sense of humor already.  (please don’t hurt me)

I’m sure there are many beautiful mountain gals out there, let’s not forget the beautiful Charlene Darling on the Andy Griffith Show.  She could’ve easily taken the crown for Miss Appalachia.  I know she was gaga for Andy- but really, Barney would’ve made a good catch too.  He was young, employed, breathing- what more could a girl ask for?  But alas, I’ve never laid eyes on anyone as good lookin’ as Charlene Darling in this neck of the woods.  So, needless to say, the best part of visiting the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store is that for a few minutes each year, no matter how bad I look, how fat I am, how much my roots are showing…. I am the prettiest girl in town.

I believe it was our second year on this annual retreat, when the unthinkable happened.  We mustered up the energy to walk the five feet from the bed to the rocking chairs on the porch.  We were still in our pajamas, I had slippers on, she had only her socks, we’d settled in to play cards, drink coffee, smoke ciggies and enjoy the morning.  Eventually, one of us had to go back in to get something and we realized our fatal mistake- we were locked out!

Remember, no cell service, no landline, no keys to the car, no fucking keys to the cabin, a mile from the gas station- SHIT!!  We both decided this qualified as full on EMERGENCY situation. I mean we could die from exposure!! What the fuck were we going to do????  So I had a brilliant idea.  We throw the coffee table through the window.  It seemed like a perfectly logical idea to me, how else would we get in?  But, as she always does, (bless her heart) she talked some sense into me.  And suggested we walk for help.   So we grabbed our smokes and began the mile long walk to the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store seeking aid.

Now, we had a long rocky dirt road to walk down hill first before we even reached the paved road.  Remember, I had my slippers and she only had socks on.  So we compromised and I gave her one slipper.  Thus, we began our journey with only one slipper on for each of us.  Still in our pajamas, with one slipper on each foot, we casually walked the mile down the country lane with truckers and bikers whizzing past us.  No one seemed to find it unusal that two women would be walking along side this road dressed in pajamas- which by the way also means- NO BRAS- boobs were bouncing all over the place.

On a side note, I’ve known this chica since college.  We were in sorority together.  And anyone who’s ever been in a sorority knows there are certain rules of conduct one must uphold at ALL times- whether you’re in college or not.  There were very specific rules about smoking cigarettes.  Apparently, these rules were written before the whole lung cancer scare began- what a bummer.  Anyway, two of the biggest rules pertaining to cigs were that one should always roll your ashes into an ashtray in a ladylike manner- never tap!  You know, those disgusting women who tap there cigarettes- such trash.  They’re also the same women who wear tank tops with no bras and feather their hair- yuck.  The other rule was to NEVER walk down the street smoking a cigarette.  Honestly, what could be more unladylike then walking and smoking?

Well, she decided having a smoke while we walked seeking aid for our full on EMERGENCY would be a fine idea and offered me one as well.  Always the lady, I politely declined.  And she was all, “what the fuck?”  I gently reminded her that in our sorority a lady never walks down the street smoking.  Again, she talked some sense into me, waving her arms around and said, “Who the fuck are you trying to impress?”  She was right, we were walking down a road in the middle of nowhere, in our pajamas, with no bras, one slipper on each foot…really I don’t know why I thought smoking was going to hurt my reputation.  So smoke it up I did.

We finally reached the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store and realized we had no money for the pay phone.  There was a Southern Baptist church right next door (sorry I forgot to mention that early- but really who the hell cares).  Again, I apologize in advance to my Southern Baptist friends, but hey, I’m a cradle Catholic and we don’t understand all your jibber jabber.  It was a Sunday and the parking lot was packed.  I thought we would definitely find someone to help us in there.  But, again, always the sensible person- she convinced me that if we went in there they’d be trying to save our souls, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, handling snakes, baptizing us in giant pools of water- you know everything but helping us get back in the cabin.  And she was right- we had no place in a church that morning.

So we went into the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store and asked to use the phone.  The teenage boy behind the counter offered us his cell phone.  What??  A cell phone that worked out here in the middle of nowhere?? Apparently, only one carrier had conquered this highly lucrative market.  Being a full on EMERGENCY, we immediately dialed 911.  And then before they answered- hung up.  Because you know, a 911 call coming from a gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store is never suspicious.  So of course, they called back and we had to explain the whole EMERGENCY.  The dispatcher kindly suggested we call a locksmith.  God bless the dispatcher- she was a GENIUS!

So we used the PHONE BOOK- I know- where the hell do you even get one of those things?  And called a locksmith.  Of course, he was in church handling snakes at the time and said it would be at least an hour before he could come.  We told him to meet us at the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store.  So we sat outside and patiently waited in our pajamas, no bras, one slipper wearing, cigarette smoking glory.

Upon his arrival, with his mountain wife in tow, he suggested that he follow us to our destination in his van.  Then we had to explain that we had no car and could we pretty please have a ride?  Hesitantly, he agreed and we sat on the floor of a locksmith van.  Keys, picks and other tools of the trade jingling all around us as we directed him back to the cabin.

In just minutes he had us back in our humble abode and we wrote him a check.  He had saved us from this life threatening EMERGENCY and we were ever so grateful.  The landlord now keeps the key in a coded lock box outside the door.  Please God don’t let me ever forget the code!

By the by, I don’t smoke anymore.  Just want to make sure y’all know what a lady I am.

We’re Not the Rockefellers

My dad grew up poor, dirt poor, poorer than dirt, maybe middle of the earth molten lava type poor.  He was born during the Great Depression, the son of a plumber and a nurse in Charleston, SC.  The Holy City, as locals call it, had still not recovered from the “Late Unpleasantness.”  For you Yankees or foreigners, that’s Southern speak for the Civil War.  There was little money to be had and even less opportunity for any kind of advancement.

My Papa, (pronounced paa paa- like what a sheep says except with a p; that’s Charlestonese for grandpa), was not a very good plumber.  In fact, I think he hated every minute of it.  My father was his right hand man on most jobs and Papa dubbed him “Colonel Brokem” because apparently all he did was break shit.  They didn’t always have enough to eat and sometimes my dad would sneak over to the Star Gospel Mission (run by those heathen Prodestants) for a free meal.  He was poor, but he wasn’t stupid.  Well, apparently, that never sat well with my Irish Catholic Papa because if he found out, Dad would get an ass whooping like nobody’s business.

My Mama (again pronounced like what a sheep says; Charlestonese for grandma), hated being a nurse.  She graduated first in her class from nursing school, despite the fact that she had smacked the head nun in the face at some point, according to family lore.  I think Mama (not yo’ mama- remember like baa baa) and I must have had a lot in common, because I often find myself wanting to smack people across the face.  To date, I can report I’ve been mostly successful at refraining from doing so, mostly.  Anyway, my Papa used to say that the only part Mama liked about being a nurse was pulling the sheet up over a person’s face.  That means they were dead and she could go home.  I always like getting off work early too.

So like I said, they were poor and like all parents Papa wanted a better life for his children.  He knew the way to a better life for my father was to go to college.  At that time, all you needed to get into the local municipal college was a recommendation from your high school principal.  Being good Catholics, my father had spent his entire educational career in the parochial system;  being beat up by nuns and told how he was going to hell for even thinking about anything at all.

On a side note, he has always insisted that that was the main reason he made sure we did not go to Catholic school.  Although, I’m pretty sure it was more the fact that you actually had to pay for it when we were coming up, and the man was thrifty.  Okay, thrifty is too nice a word, let’s just tell it like it is, he was cheap.

Anyway, as senior year came to a close my Papa marched my father over to Father Manning’s office to request a recommendation for college.  Apparently, not only was my father good at breaking shit at home, but he also had a reputation for being down right stupid at school.  Father Manning told my Papa that he would not write a recommendation for my dear old dad because he was too stupid for college and suggested Papa continue training him in the plumbing trade.  God bless my Papa, because he insisted on the recommendation on the grounds that my father had to go to college because he was too stupid to be a plumber.  Remember this was  the early 1950’s and really nobody gave a shit about your self esteem or crap like that.  Sometimes, I think we all need to be a little more frank about shit like this- honestly, telling people the truth can be all the motivation they need to stop acting like a complete asshole.

In my dad’s defense, he went on to be a commissioned officer in the Navy, a high ranking government official and traveled the world has a high paid bullshit consultant.  So, for being so “stupid”, he did pretty good for himself.

My father made all of us painfully aware of his poor upbringing to make sure that we were thankful for every single cent he ever spent on us.  He never understood the fact that teenage girl’s needed to have the “right clothes” and try to “fit in” for their mental wellbeing.  All he could see were dollar signs.  He constantly behaved as if we were two pennies away from the poor house and as he said about EVERYTHING…”if we buy that we’re going to lose the house!”  Really, we’re going to LOSE THE HOUSE, because you won’t buck up an extra $20??

I remember one time I needed a pair of sneakers, so he decided Sam’s Club would be the perfect place to go buy my new kicks.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been shoe shopping at Sam’s, but shoe selection is not their strong suit.  If you’re in the market for giant industrial tubs of peanut butter or huge bags of rice that could feed all the people in China then they’ve got your back, but shoes, not so much.

I ended up with the dorkiest, ugliest, off brand sneaks you’ve ever laid your eyes on and I cried in the line to pay for them, I cried on the way home and I cried every time I had to wear those stupid sneakers.   And did my father care that I didn’t like these shoes?  Not one iota.

In college, cell phones were in their infancy.  My very best friend and roommate was the daughter of a highly successful urologist.  And therefore in my opinion- RICH!!  She had one of those fancy cell phones.  Now for those of you that are under the age of 30- you may not know this….but cell phones didn’t always fit in your pocket.  No, hers was in a giant leather bag that you had to carry around with you and plug into the car every time you wanted to use.  Have you ever seen those old war movies, where the army guys in the heat of battle would call into their COs on the giant wind up phone?  Yep, it was pretty much like that.  Oh, how I envied that bag phone.  I vowed then and there that I knew I would be successful in life when I was able to buy my very own bag phone!  Even though, I’ve now got my nice little smartphone that lets me do a billion more things than that bag phone, I’m still yearning a bit for the posh notoriety that came with carrying that giant bag.

Anyhoo, I decided I couldn’t wait until I could buy one for myself.  So I put together the pitch to my father on why it was so important for me to have a “car phone”.  Yes, back in the olden days we didn’t even call them “cell phones”, they were “car phones” because of course the only time you’d need to use it was inside your car.

The pitch included all the important talking points: safety, safety and of course safety.  I didn’t dare mention the word “cool” in the pitch at all.  I knew very well that my father did not give a shit whether we were cool or not.  But, as you can guess, the pitch went no where.  It started out, “Dad I’ve been thinking I need to get a car phone…..” end of conversation.  He just completely freaked out and said, his favorite retort for everything I’ve ever asked for, “No! What do you need that for?  We’re not the fucking Rockefellers!”

So, no, I did not get my car phone and am fully aware that I am in no way or will ever be a Rockefeller.