Friday, November 29, 2013

A Complainer Meets Sorrow, and Gives Thanks

By Joy Pullmann

I complain a lot about pregnancy (if you haven't noticed). I whine about how fat I am, and uncomfortable in myriad minor ways. But a few weeks ago, something made me sick of myself. It was a friends' funeral for their unborn child.

Their son died at about 19 weeks old. There is never very much to say about funerals. Thankfully, it was a Christian funeral and family, so grief in that case can be temporary. And I do not like to use other people's stories and sorrow as a morality tale—too much talk cheapens grief—but the little boy's death did make me realize how foolish I am. I complain frequently and crankily about a perfectly normal pregnancy (at least, as far as we know) while another woman and friend would give her right hand to have her little boy still kicking her ribs out. A commenter made a similar point a few weeks ago on one of my rants. And she was right.

My 14-year-old brother died in a car accident on my 19th birthday. Because of that, I sometimes look at my precious children and wonder if one of them will die before me. Or, worse, I wonder if one of them will not join me in heaven. There's no way for me to know, and it's not helpful to sit there morosely thinking of all the evil that may happen. Instead, I try to be thankful for what we do have, which is a great deal. One of them is this tiny little child inside, whose irritations to me mean he is not dead.

Image by The Bywaters.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Denim Adventures, or, A Flowchart for Pants Shopping

By Mary C. Tillotson

you've served me well, old friend
I needed some down-time on Saturday, and I must have really needed it because I had this crazy idea that during my "down-time" I could run out to a store and buy a pair of jeans "real quick."

I would be less stressed because I'd have one thing off my to-do list, I reasoned. I do need jeans, after all.

My favorite pair (from my sister-in-law; they didn't fit her) is growing holes in the knees and I don't think they can hold out much longer. My second-favorite pair I purchased for cheap at a thrift store, and like other Aeropostale jeans I've gotten at thrift stores, they fit great for the first month, then start digging into my belly while exposing my backside. Not quite the look I'm going for.

Also, they are Aeropostale jeans. I'm done with my early 20s and would like to find a different brand that fits, thank you, and hopefully for longer than a month.

Noble goal in mind, I set off for a department store, envisioning myself enjoying a cup of tea near the fireplace, wearing my new jeans. Yes! This was an intelligent way to spend my allotted "relax" time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Going on TV = Basically Not Worth It

By Joy Pullmann

This afternoon, I was scheduled to go on a TV program to talk about government preschool. I told the producer I couldn't make it to a TV station to record, because my husband is taking a test from 1 to 5 (therefore gone with our only car) and the show window was 2:30 to 3:45. Luckily, we could do the show over Skype, as long as I had a hardline connection.

Pertinent detail: The children nap from 2 to 4. Also pertinent: Our router is located in our unfinished basement, so I had to rig up some makeshift background. I duct-taped a navy sheet to our heater vents.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Defense of Emotions

By Mary C. Tillotson

Image by Alin Klim
When I was a sophomore in college, I dated a guy, and it wasn't a great relationship. I spent a huge amount of energy struggling with an intense desire to not be dating him alongside an inability to find a good reason why I shouldn't. "I don't want to" is selfish and therefore not a good enough reason (I reasoned) because that was based on emotion.

I spent the beginning of my senior year sighing to a friend that I was having the hardest time in the world getting over this other very attractive man. He was smart, mature, from Michigan, good with kids, and surrounded by plenty of other like-minded women at a college 500 miles away from me, and would graduate two years after I did.

When he asked me out later that fall, I was more relieved than anything else. Oh good. Now I don't have to get over you. We've been married for a little more than a year, and marrying him is one of the best decisions I've ever made.

In both cases, my emotions were right on (hindsight, and some friends I didn't listen to, told me the first guy had a lot more growing up to do), and my reason was off track. I've done some maturing since then, and I've come to realize that my strong hunches are generally on target. It sort of bothers me: like most people, I want to think I make rational decisions instead of emotional decisions. But, at least with me, my emotions are usually wiser.

Let's go back to college for a minute. I remember hearing some people say that women shouldn't learn Greek, or shouldn't earn Ph.Ds, or that women were generally less rational than men. All of this bothered me to the core, and I think much of it came out of the overeager liberal arts college student's zeal to save the world via Aristotle.

I think it's stupid to say women shouldn't learn Greek or earn Ph.Ds; if you're a woman and you want to, go for it. It's wrong to think of women as crazy, hormone-ridden creatures that can't be trusted with anything important or meaningful. It's inaccurate and insulting to think of women as a little less intelligent than men, or not quite up to speed.

But I'm haunted by the fact that my hunches are a better decision-making guide than my reason. It's not just relationships -- it's basically any big decision.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Apparently, Baby Bunching Is a Thing

By Joy Pullmann

I had no idea there was a name for our inability to schedule conception, which has resulted in three babies in four years. But, apparently, there is. It's even trademarked, and there's a book coming. It's called "baby bunching."

According to other women I chat with, older women will often go deliberately for baby bunching because they have fewer good years of fertility left and they want to get kids in while they can. Some want to get the birthing years over with, which I am quite sympathetic to (I'm playing with the idea of "four by 30" but I hate pregnancy so much we'll see if we make it...or, which is more likely, if we continue to have children constantly despite my hoped-for 30-year cutoff). Other, less-organized people like me, keep having these kids during what are obviously highly fertile years, and we won't kill them, so we love them instead.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A woman and a voter but not a woman voter

By Mary C. Tillotson

So, the elections happened.

In Virginia, where I live, the governor's race ended up being extremely close, with both major-party candidates getting less than 50 percent of the vote. Maybe I'm a bad person, but I never get super emotionally invested in these things. I did my research, and I voted, and if I find out the results Wednesday instead of late Tuesday, that's fine with me.

The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe won the election, and before you can say "human dignity," my Twitter feed started filling up with comments about how female body parts actually won the election, and now are safe because McAuliffe will be in office. And how the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, failed miserably because he's anti-woman.

Let's ignore for a minute that on the same day in New Jersey, the male pro-life candidate got more women votes than the female Democrat opponent. (More on that here.) But of course that doesn't matter because women don't count as women if they vote pro-life. (Let's also ignore that mathematical inaccuracy of saying all or nearly all women are pro-choice. Check out the last pair of graphs at Gallup.)

I'm not a Republican, but I generally vote that way; I'm not into third-party voting and the Republican candidate usually has less horrible ideas. And I'm sick of being lumped in with the single-issue "women voters" who are more likely to refer to themselves as a body part than a whole person.

I am a woman, and I am a voter, but apparently I'm not a "woman voter."