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An Open Love Letter . . . To Target.

Logo of Target, US-based retail chain

Image via Wikipedia

My Darling Target, how I love thee.  It is true that while in your presence I’ve been known to black out. When I awake I have purchased fuzzy Christmas socks in August,  a dozen bottles of mini nail polish, jeggings and a Hello Kitty cookie jar, and somehow these items came to a total over a hundred dollars. That’s ok, because, your little red bull’s eye came to represent a beacon of hope to me. Nine months pregnant, feeling like too much of a whale to be in public and slowly going crazy back at the nest, you were where I would turn.

Of course, you are one of a kind to me, but with your many locations I could pick a store off my beaten path and shop in anonymity. At that point, acquaintances were dangerous. They would want to discuss the fact that I was going to pop any day, or they might innocently ask me how things were with my “boyfriend,” or they may even be bold enough to ask me what my “plans were for after the baby was born.” In my hormonal and slightly paranoid state, I would of course interpret this to be a comment on my marital state, or lack thereof. To be honest, Target, I was deeply ashamed to be a . . . (gasp). . .

Unwed Mother.

I really have no idea where this strange shame came from. I am about as open-minded as they come.  I was a bohemian at heart before I started grade school. I think one of my imaginary friends was a homosexual. My friend group looks like a United Colors of Benetton ad, but for some reason, when I was pregnant, I found myself hiding my ring finger. So I would slip away, as much as a woman carrying forty extra pounds and the weight of the world on her shoulders is capable of slipping, to the place I felt the most free from judgment. And in a giant twist of irony, this was a suburban Target.  I would wonder your aisles, soaking in solitude and sipping on a sinful iced late.  Oh!  My dear sweet Target– you  created my personal version of heaven and put a Starbucks right inside your door. I can shop your wares with a caffeine buzz!

Within your sanctity, I would joyfully purchase a jewel toned Mossimo Empire waist top in a size XL reasoning that $13.50 for yet another top to fit over my belly was a small price to pay for the temporary increase in self-esteem.  I could shop, with little to no judgment from the foodie/health nut types who frequent my neighborhood grocery store, for the Market Pantry brand of spaghetti sauce that I adored and ate almost exclusively for the last weeks of my pregnancy.

We had a little routine, you and I, for our meetings. Once my coffee was secured, with eyes averted, I would discreetly walk past your “Club Wed” section. I didn’t really care to be reminded of the wedding I was not planning. I would then make my way to the baby section and spend hours gawking at baby bumpers, onsies and burping cloths. I would awe at the tiny shoes you carry, knowing that very soon I would be responsible for feet that would fit into these miniature shoes. Then I would well up with tears looking at the “big boy” section, wondering at the fact that my yet to be born child would one day wear a shoe size bigger then my own.

If I was not numbed and/ or emotionally exhausted enough from all this, I would wonder over to home section and stare at random items like, weed wackers or skillet sets. These domestic items objectified my unhappiness and shed harsh light on the uncertainty of my situation.  As hard as I try, I couldn’t make myself buy a weed wacker for a home in which I didn’t feel comfortable. I reasoned that I didn’t need a whole set of skillets; I could get by with one if it was just the baby and myself. Here in front of the storage solutions and slip covers, I was safe to quietly process things I didn’t allow myself to think about anywhere else. Like, exactly what were “my plans for after the baby was born”?

And if all this retail therapy got to be too much, I could always head to your dressing rooms. There I would find a bench to sit on and the privacy to shed a few tears before I put my brave face back on, complete with my new Sonia Kashuk kiwi lip gloss, and drive home to face my boyfriend. He never noticed, Target, how much time I spent with you, or the money that went into our relationship. Truthfully, he never noticed much. Had he asked me, I would have had to confess: I was having an emotional affair with you. You offered me the solace of routine, safety and small creature comforts, usually for under $29.99. Most importantly you offered me little glimpses of the truth I could barely stand to look at by myself.  At that point, no offence Target, I would have taken those things anywhere I could get ‘em.

Now, we’ve all moved on. I still visit your red sanctuary from time to time to pick up an inexpensive pair of shoes for my little boy, or stock up on some shampoo. But, times have changed darling. When I peruse your home goods, and neglect to buy cozy blankets or welcome mats, it is only I am searching for the very best for my family and my home.  When I cruise by Club Wed, or the baby section, I only see possibilities. Were I to shed a tear within your walls, it would undoubtedly be due to seasonal allergies or one of the sappy sweet greeting cards you carry.

We’ve been through a lot, Target.  I’ll never forget what you have done for me and I will secretly miss the frequency of my caffeinated shopping dates with you.

Ever Yours,

C.

p.s.

THIS IS AMAZE:

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Unintentional Other Woman

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and...

Image via Wikipedia

Lynn finally got her ass out of a less-than-lustrous long term relationship. It was not horrible. I mean it’s not like he cheated on her, or beat her, or had some alternative life style that she happen to stumble upon one day when she wondered into their basement on a whim. But she got out anyway, because she had this nagging suspicion that she deserved something better. This, in my opinion, makes it even more ballsy.

I for one have rarely (perhaps never) had the maturity to say, “Hey- this is just not quite the direction that I want my life to go in, I think there is something more out there for me.” No, I was the type to hang on until the very bitter, bourbon-induced- broken-window and shit blowing up in my face, end. I had to make it abundantly, some would say overly, clear to myself that this relationship was NOT going to work. It was easy for me to confuse love with other things. As in, “Oh, I just love him so much that I am going to stay with him despite the fact that he got mad at me and let the air out of my tires.”  Now that I am oh so much older and wiser, I can look back on incidents like that and realize: I didn’t love him. I stayed because I didn’t believe that there was anything better out there for me. I mean, who else was going to love me so much that they would go out and buy 10 cans of fix a flat so I could get to work?

So Lynn believes and she leaves the lack-luster relationship and eventually is ready to dip her toe back into the shark infested waters of dating. Enter the new guy, I shall cal him: Mr. LOL.

At first Lynn is not really that in to him. I am relieved when she tells me this because, to put it as nicely as possible, he is a cheese dick. There are 200 hundred text messages from him in a matter of three weeks.  He calls her pet names like “baby” and “gorgeous” which just seems creepy.  In my world, if I have not burned at least one dinner for you and you have never gone to the store on a tampon run for me, then sorry, but it’s too soon for “baby.” He also punctuates every sentence with a: ! and most often follows that up with a, you guessed it: LOL!!! Is this a man? Or a fourteen year old girl?

As it turns out, it could have been his fourteen year old daughter.  Mr. LOL informs Lynn yesterday that he is in fact married with kids. Ugh. Sucker punch to the gullet! “I am so, so sorry!” I tell her. “Eh, no big deal,” as stoic as Jay-Z, Lynn says, “on to the next.”

But it is a big deal- because she had the gumption to believe that there was something better out there then a boyfriend who didn’t believe in her. And what is the first flipping thing that awaits her in the supposed sea of single men? A friggen cheater and one who does not even have the decency to identify himself as such in the first place. If you are gonna be the “other” woman/man, you damn well get to decide that up front.

I try to make her feel better by relating a similar story that happened to me years ago. Out of nowhere comes this dashing Brazilian dentist who tries to sweep me off my feet. Literally. He once tried to tango with me in a pub while all my friends sat around drinking PBR and feeding change into a jute box. I suppose this sort of behavior sounds romantic in theory, but it was way too much after a very short while. Something did not feel quite right. One night, while out for my Birthday, he informs me that he is married with a child. I leapt out of his car, stood in the pouring rain, where I proceeded to repeatedly kick the tires of his overpriced tin can sports car until my friends came out of the bar and drug me inside.

And these are not isolated incidents. It’s not like I have done a formal survey, but just yesterday I found out that this has happen to three other friends. That’s five unintentional other women just on Thursday. This of course, does nothing to account for the wives and children and even future relationships that will be shaken by these cheaters. Because they will be found out. They always are. I will never forget the day I was 15 and Ward Cleaver, aka, my Grandfather, waltzed into my bedroom and informed me that he had been “Guilty of a brief indiscretion.” If June and Wards relationship was not safe, then whose was? The effects of these “indiscretions” as people like to call them last longer and go further than any lonely housewife or horny husband might realize.

And just one tiny effect is that it chips away at our collective faith in love. It slowly erodes the belief that there is something out there for each of us, and that when we find it, it will not end in two hundred LOL-ING!!! texts messages to another woman.

I say to Lynn, “Frigging cheater, it just fires me up. Oh, well there ARE good ones out there. Shit like this just makes you even more grateful when you find one.”

“True.” She says.

I hope she believes me. And for all of our sakes, I hope she keeps believing in something better.

 And now, something so terrible, I can’t quit watching. Freeeeak:

 

What to Expect When You Were NOT Expecting.

“Either you got a boob job or you are prego. Your boobs look HUGE!” Lynn announces. It was the end of a busy night at the restaurant where I waited tables and I was hunched over wiping down a shelf full of condiments. I took a deep breath, put down the mini mustard and say to Lynn, “Unless the University is giving out student vouchers for books and a boob job, I think it’s safe to say I must be prego.”

Lynn’s face turned the color of the ketchup I was wiping and I could have swept the floor with her jaw. Normally I would have fallen over laughing at her reaction, but I had only known that I was unexpectedly expecting a baby for a few weeks, and I was still busy picking my own jaw up off the floor.

That was four years and nine  months ago, but lately I have noticed an influx of my friends and acquaintances who have come down with a case of the “Unexpected Pregnancy,” or they, like my friend Lynn said upon finding out I was pregnant, “got knocked the fu$k up!”   I would like to point out that I am intentionally not using the expression “Unplanned Pregnancy.” I imagine that those are words that are most often whispered by not so well-meaning individuals around water coolers and hors d’oeuvre tables. “Unplanned Pregnancy,” is an expression that implies some sort inherent flaw in the mother to be, as if she was too callous and/or lazy to bother planning her pregnancy. I prefer the expression “Unexpected Pregnancy.” It sounds like a zany surprise, a last-minute house guest, or a freak weather pattern, and best of all there is no judgment. I mean, an unexpected house guest could happen to any one of us.

So now that we have the terminology down, I’d like to share a few of the things I learned during my own unexpected experience.  Here is what NOT to do when you are expecting:  please, please, please, for the love of God, do not go out and buy that book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” If you insist on buying it please read it slowly and sparingly, not obsessively and compulsively, like I did. Let me be clear, this book could scare the maternity jeans off even the most courageous mom-to-be. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a bunch of prego-elitist fear mongering and no matter how much I bitch, I’ll  never get back that hours of sleep and general sense of peace I lost due to reading that book. The text will go into long detail about birth defects that effect something like one in every one million babies that are born under a full moon. Then it will heap on guilt and have you believe that if your baby did have this rarest of birth defects it would most certainly be your fault. Everything from Alka-Seltzer to zucchini is hypothesized to have some adverse effect to your unborn child.   “What to Expect” will make you feel confused, paranoid and completely inadequate, and these are two areas in which pregnant women need no additional help.

Now, what TO do (the very, very abbreviated version): Go ahead and get over all your preconceived notions of what a mom should be, which are probably based on what your mom was (or was not) and what society says a mom should be. Guess what? This is your experience, your life, and you get to determine what kind of mom you want to be. You want to make casseroles in your Manolo Blahnik’s? You want to make organic casseroles in your Tom’s? You never want the word casserole mentioned again in your presence?  Great, fine, whatever, because you are in charge now and this is one of the few perks of being an adult.

Immediately after this first step, proceed to step two: get over all your fears, insecurities and doubts about your ability as a mother. So, you’re unmarried? So, you don’t have the perfect job? So, none of your friends have kids? So you are afraid you don’t have a maternal bone in your body? So, your friends don’t quite trust you with their house plants let alone their children, your idea of cooking is a microwave chicken pot pie and you find the idea of breast-feeding simply repulsive? Well, this is my advice: So what? Really, it does not matter.

Line up all those feeling of inadequacy, look ‘em in their beady lil eyes and say, “So what?” Because, you are about to live outside of what you ever thought yourself capable of and you will look back and say to yourself, “damn, I did that!” Sounds deceptively simple, but make no mistake it’s actually one of the most difficult things I’ve ever faced. But it’s worth it.

Take it from me, an admittedly somewhat selfish girl who found herself: pregnant, unmarried, in a dead-end relationship, with no nearby family, a waitress, a college student, with little to no personal example of what being a good mother was, and with the strong suspicion that I had accumulated enough liquor over the years that milk would immediately curdle upon making contact with my breasts, it is very much worth it.

 There is a sign above my son’s bed that says, “I am a Dream Come True.” The thing is, when he first came into my life I didn’t know this, but now I know there are no words that are truer.

 And my last piece of advice is: what you should expect while you are unexpectedly expecting is that you will rise to the occasion of creating the perfect situation for you and your loved ones, as only you can do.

Enjoy, and just be glad THIS can’t happen:

Kicking Cartoon Ass

Eeyore being sad.

Image via Wikipedia

At the risk of sounding like a complete psychopath, I have a confession to make: I hear voices. The voices in my head sound a lot like the five o’clock news. They are all doom and gloom with the occasional side of sensationalism.  “Next at five, Candice will never find what she calls “fulfilling” work in this economy. She ought to be grateful to have any job at all! And stay tuned as we uncover breaking news of how Candice has probably taken years off her life in her many failed attempts to quit smoking! And later, watch as we bring you exclusive coverage as Candice gets her heart ripped out of her chest and stomped on again because she was misguided enough to trust another man!!!”

  If Eeyore and the teacher from Charlie Brown had a love child, it would sound exactly like one of my voices:  “Wah wah waaah. Oh . . . bother.” These voices, or my “script” as I refer to them, have been following me around for as long as I can remember.  Over the years their incessant chatter has become more like background noise, like a television on in the other room while you are trying to sleep; you eventually train your ears not to listen. Although certain situations really aggravate the script and the voices get louder. For example, say I am about to walk into a room full of people I don’t know very well. Suddenly my News Anchor Eeyore will go berserk and gets all Stephen King’s Carrie on my ass and shouts “They’re all gonna laugh at you!!” Or, say I am thinking about taking a much needed vacation to Mexico, the voice kicks in: “You don’t have any business going to Mexico! I mean all kinds of horrible things are going on over there! Besides, how are you able to afford a vacation right now? I mean, there are people practically standing in line for handouts and you want to go gallivanting off to Mexico??”

Heaven forbid that something wonderful happens! The voices will become deafening, like a keg party in your living room when you have to get up for school the next day and no amount of covering your ears or hiding under the covers will allow you to get any rest. Such was the case when I got engaged: “Oh… you’re gonna try that again. Haven’t you learned anything from the last several times you tried being in a relationship? Do you know what the divorce rate is these days? Besides, why would you think he really wants with someone like you anyway?”

Perhaps the worst was when I decided that I would give this whole writing thing another try. This time my voices didn’t even dignify their thoughts with words. They just burst in to shrill, hysterical laughter at my dream.

Sounds crazy, right? It is. But believe it or not—I am actually very lucky that my voices sound as crazy as they do because I am better able to recognize that they are not me. I mean, I actually enjoy meeting new people and I will never, ever turn down an opportunity to travel. And love; sure it’s shat all over me before, but so what? I still believe in it. And writing, well laugh all you want but I have known since I was old enough to read that one day I would make my living with words. The great news is that the crazy-Eeyore-piss- on-sunshine-fear- mongering-news-caster is not me!  That voice is not me at all and there is a lot of power in knowing that. There was a time when I thought that the script was part of me and even worse, I thought that the voices were right! (doom and gloom can sound so authoritative) I am not sure how they got there, or what purpose they could possibly serve—but I do know that everyone has ‘em.

My girlfriend Lee runs around like Chicken Little. Even though she is one of the strongest, smartest and most successful women I know, she is constantly bracing herself for the worst the case scenario. Even in the midst of all her dreams coming true she has one eye on the sky and is wondering “What the hell am I gonna do when the sky starts falling?”

If being thoughtful and caring was an Olympic sport my friend Lynn would be on the Wheaties box. She is the type of person who notices that something might be going on with you before you know it yourself. She has the uncanny ability to see the good in others and to make the best out of the worst situations. She is the type of girl who could probably make having a flat tire in the middle of the desert an absolute riot. However, she is always haunted by her voice: The Roadrunner. “Meep meep!” He screams at her constantly. Always pushing her to do more, move faster, get it right and figure it all out! Poor girl can barely sleep at night because the Roadrunner is always running her ragged.

And then there is my friend Milana, who has been blessed with one of the hugest hearts I have come across. She dreams big and has the absolute tenacity to make these dreams a reality. Yet she carries around the voice of Yosemite Sam with her everywhere she goes. This fiery, hair-trigger tempered nut job is always threatening to go off and destroy all the things she loves.   

Clearly it is not actually characters from the Warner Brother’s cartoons we watched as children or the creatures from beloved children’s books that have infiltrated our minds. We got these scripts from some pretty heavy places. Maybe it was an abusive step dad who was always screaming. Or a father we never thought we could please but we ran ourselves down trying anyway, or maybe it was being raised by people who had very dark views of themselves and the world. But facing down a personifications is much easier than facing the real thing. So, as cute as Eeyore might be, with his tacked on tail and big dopey eyes, I have decided I am tired of this donkey trying to run my life and piss on my dreams. He has to go.

So I put the little donkey in a cheap suit and I sit him at a news desk. And he starts in with that same story. About how I am not allowed to be happy when there are so many miserable people out there. About how the world is a scary, scary place and I had better watch my step. He goes on to tell me that I have no business having dreams, they won’t amount to much and he’d hate to see me disappointed. And all the while I am slowly stepping further and further away from him. His voice takes on the “Wah, waah,” quality as I continue to step away. He probably thinks that he has won again and that I am just going to retreat in the shadows as usual. That is when I get my running start. I start barreling straight toward him and as I pick up speed I think of all the things that I have missed out on, all of the things I would not risk because I was busy listening to this negative bitch tell me what the world is like. I think of all the ways that this voice has tricked me into being less of who I actually am.

I plow into my “script,”  and I knock the daylights out of Eeyore.  I scream: “Shuuuut Up!” Once that poor little donkey is on the floor I look at him and say: “You are the one with no business. No business telling me how to live my life!”

And so, that’s how  I kicked Eeyore ass. And I will continue to kick it until I am free.  All those things that seemed so desperate and real, those voices that ran me around in the same circles I hated, they started to loosen their grip. What kind of nasty script are you running from? Who personifies your “voices”?  Is it time you drug Gargamel out into the streets? Are you sick of all your callous sarcasm getting in the way? Maybe it’s time for you and Garfield to have a little go time. All those demons can be personified into a harmless character and then faced down and defeated. Unless you tell me it’s Snoppy. Then you got big problems, real big problems.

It’s Complicated.

In exactly thirty days my son will turn four years old. Four. Years. Old.  And I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will be a wreck for the month of September. It’s an odd experience, being in the presence of this little boy. There is a perpetual lump in my throat and tears are always springing up out of nowhere. And even though my whole life I have been somewhat of an “emotional person” in the last four years I have learned more about the complexities of love than I ever thought possible.

And this kind of love, the love that we have for our children, it’s always complicated. For instance, the lump in my throat, is it there because there is so much that I want to say to him? Or because I am afraid I will say all the wrong things? And the tears in my eyes? I never really understood the expression “tears of joy” until my son came along. Those are what I was I was shedding four years ago when he was born and they put him in my arms for the first time and they are what I am wiping away as I try to write this.

Loving a little boy is complicated; rarely will you find yourself in circumstances where you can feel enlightened, angry, frightened, week, heartbroken, joyful, giddy and drop-dead tired all about in as much time as it takes to have a pizza delivered or build a fort out of blankets. I am heartbroken that my baby is “gone” but I am elated that I get to watch him grow up. He is in a particularly magical phase right now. There are moments when I look at him and I can clearly see the baby he was and the man that he will be. He traded in his chubby lil legs for hairy boy ones, but he still crawls into my lap every night and asks to be rocked. He asks me questions like “Where is Sydney Harbor?”  and “How did they make mummies?” but he still pronounces Yellow “Lellow” and in the morning when he crawls out of bed he likes to pretend that he is a butterfly coming out of his cocoon.

Years ago, while pushing my baby in his stroller, an older man looked down lovingly at my son, who was all swaddled up in pastel blankets and looking out at the world with these monumental brown eyes, and the man said with a smile, “It’s hard to believe one day he will grow up and break your heart.”  I am surprised that the day came so soon. In four short years he has broken my heart, mended it, grown it, and done it all over again. Who would have thought that breaking your heart would actually make it stronger? Who knew my son could teach me so much about love. Loving a little boy—it’s infinitely worth all the complications.

And, in the intrest of all that is freaking cute watch a baby sing the Beetles: