Watch Out for the Ruche

I own a lot of grey, black, and brown clothes. Oh, the brown. The light brown, dark brown, in between brown, sort of brown so let’s call it tan, brownish, oh shit is that mauve. Chocolate brown, kinda brown, biscuit, semi brown, sandy brown, russet, sepia. I have no burnt sienna, although Crayola has been trying to tell me since childhood that this is a shade of brown. I used to own so much brown and wear it all together (like an ecru shirt with chocolate pants) that my husband would call me neutral woman. I told this to a friend once and we’ve used it to describe drab clothing days since then.

I love color. I love wearing pretty, bold colors, but not lime green because no, that doesn’t look good on even you. I tend to wear color (outside of coats; I can always find an undark coat) mainly in spring and summer though because the Gap will tell you ain’t no color in fall or winter. I own all the grey suits from Banana Republic. Grey stripe, plain grey, light grey, dark grey, Heather grey, what? Why is Heather gray? She’s gray because seasonal affective disorder perpetuated by fashion.

I feel like I’m always on a quest to add more color to my wardrobe when it’s cold. Yet darks are what I always find because it’s not good enough that the sun hates us in winter; we must also dress like Wednesday Addams.

Sometimes I troll the clearance rack in Target. I’m rarely lucky because a. I like stuff to fit, and 26c. I don’t need a swimsuit in December. But one day, Target pleased me.

One day I found a beautiful, perfect for me, just my size, maroony, burgundy, wine colored sweater dress and it was magical. It had a cowl neck, was long sleeved, and had cute ruching on the sides. It was still dark, but at least it wasn’t black, grey, or burnt umber. I saw it, but I was still in the aisle between yoga pants, I mean pajamas, and clothes. I saw a random woman moving through racks so I called to my daughter, DEFENSE, DAMMIT. I don’t know if that means anything. Was it supposed to be offense? Didn’t matter, because she followed my eyes and knew to get the dress because she is my spirit shopper. (Seriously, I can open the doors to any store, say pink, and she’s back in 8.2 seconds with options that are probably not pink, but are what spoke to her as what I needed. I trust her with my get me out of this chestnut quest.)

So there we are, separated by a clearance rack. She grabbed the dress and met me with it and my happiness cannot be described. It was soft. It was pretty. It was mine. IT WAS $8.48!

Two days later I was getting ready for work, deciding on what to wear because no matter how often I say I’m going to prepare the night before, I be drankin’, and I just don’t, shut up. I decided on the dress. I went to take off the tag. Y’all. Cue the record scratch.

Maternity. Liz. Lange. Maternity.

Insert your best THIS SHIT HERE face.

I was upset at first because come on. I wasn’t in the maternity section. This is not the first time I’ve picked up something SO CUTE and then had to smack my lips together because maternity. This time, though, I was pissed. So many thoughts flew through my mind, primarily ones about how I’m not having anymore kids, how this is a slap in the face of my non-decision to not have more kids. I’m never going to need maternity clothes again. I don’t need to be reminded of that. The dress was going back.

So I wore the dress to work. Shut up, I was late.

CLEAN UP FOR WHAT?
CLEAN UP FOR WHAT?

I got so many compliments on the color, and then it happened.

It's cute. And not brown.
It’s cute. And not brown.

Let me stop here and explain something to you. I suffer from a serious medical condition called the food baby. I’ll show you if you want. After I eat, my stomach becomes enlarged and I look four months pregnant for three hours. I was in the bathroom when it happened. I came out and got a smiling, knowing glance from another woman. “Your dress is so cute. When are –” I made the DON’T DO IT face.

Come on. The food baby wasn’t THAT real. It was the dress. It was the ruching. It lies. Moreover, haven’t we been over this? Haven’t we determined that the proper time to ask a woman a question about being pregnant is never? Had she asked a dumb question, I would have given an equally dumb answer, glancing at the toilet, “Two hours.”

The point of it all is this: Liz Lange and Target want women to fight in restrooms.

Beware the ruche.

Listen, Linda. The food baby is real but it ain't ask me when I'm due real.
Listen, Linda. The food baby is real but it ain’t ask me when I’m due real.

 

What Will They Remember

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of MassMutual. All opinions are 100% mine.

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It started with a question about Black History Month, about why there’s so little time dedicated to the study of Black history. It continued with questions about why the same names are referenced, the same stories told. “Isn’t there more?” she asked. Yes, I told her. There is so much more.

The library is like our second home. There were no required reports on African Americans this year. She noticed that. Her first year in middle school, her first Black History Month as a sixth grader, and she didn’t have to do a project on a Black person. It felt wrong. We’ve been reading about little known Black history facts ever since. Her determination to not be thwarted by the way Black history is taught in our schools, how the same, although remarkable, individuals, are discussed, is infectious. I’m reminded that I can’t rely upon schools or society to educate my children about our history. I can’t rely on others to prepare them for the future, to remind them that everything they do leaves a legacy, positive or negative.

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What I can do, though, is work with companies like MassMutual, which is embracing the celebration of Black History Month by honoring African American history and resolve. Through the month-long campaign #JourneyOfYou, MassMutual invites recognition and reflection on our family histories, what makes us who we are, in an effort to honor our past while creating a legacy for our future.

After dinner, we talk. We go around the table and discuss what happened during our day. At the end sometimes, though, we discuss one of the little known facts we’ve found. We talk about its relevance to today, how things have changed, how that legacy affects the person’s family even 105 years later, like Matthew Henson, the first Black explorer to complete a successful expedition to the North Pole in 1909. How proud the generations of Hensons must still be to have that distinction!

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When it comes to legacy, though, I’m fascinated by others’, yet frightened for my own. What will I leave? What will I be remembered for? What will my children have when I’m gone, not just physically/tangibly, but spiritually, mentally, financially. It starts with what I teach and how I prepare my children. I want them to be financially secure, sure, but it’s a process I’m still learning myself – how to be financially savvy, aware, and how to make good choices. I want them to be secure in the things their father and I did in and for society, to make sure our name and our family’s history is one to remember, for the good we did. I want them to be knowledgeable about our heritage, discovering our past, planning for their future. These are the things MassMutual stands for: protecting what matters most in our lives – our family.

And our legacies.

What will you leave?

Find out more about MassMutual’s #JourneyOfYou at MassMutual. Or find MassMutual on Facebook and MassMutual on Twitter to discuss what you’re doing to be Building a Financial Legacy.

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Me

I used to be pretty like her.

I see her, here on the train sometimes. Her. And her. And that pretty one over there. So normal. Effortlessly normally pretty.

I used to be like them.

Not only was I pretty, I felt pretty. I owned it. It was natural. I didn’t wear much makeup, didn’t make much fuss. I’m tired now, though, and it’s embarrassing. I don’t feel like doing my hair so I don’t. My husband knows me. Should I still be impressing him? Wooing him? It’s been (uses fingers to count) since 1993 (admits to inability to count). It couldn’t hurt. But, it’s not about impressing. It’s about feeling and I don’t feel good when I don’t look good. I mean, I have no intention of leaving him; he knows me. I think he loved me when. Maybe he’ll leave me because he’s as tired of me not doing my hair as I am of saying I’m going to, then not doing, my hair.

What I’m saying is I hope by now he loves me for me, undone hair and all.

What I’m saying is I need to do my hair.

I look at my daughters and there’s one who is so in love with herself it’s infectious. The hair must be done, the nails must be painted, the outfit just so. And still, it looks effortless. She woke up like this.

The other, she doesn’t care as much, and it’s for different reasons. One knows she’s awesome and knows you know it, and accepts your praise. The other may or may not be awesome; it’s not your call to make, but if you think so, thanks. If you don’t, you ain’t nobody anyway; she likes checkers and stripes.

They amaze me.

They are so different yet so alike and so alike and unlike me that it’s frightening and terrific simultaneously. It makes me wonder which parts of them are from me. Did I give them the confidence, the to hell with what you think about my mixing and matching colors? What happened to my own individual insistence of excellence and care about myself? I’ll put my hair in a ponytail in a heartbeat because it’s easy and I’m lazy but I used to be like the women on the train — I cared.

Everything takes so much effort now. I want to cut my hair short because of the burden of doing so much to it (that I’m really not doing lately because ponytail. Bush ball. Afro puff. Whatever). Doing my nails makes me feel more like myself and yet they’ve been bare for weeks. Why can’t I find the time to do that one simple thing for myself that I know will work, even if temporarily? Where is my give a shit? How did I lose it? Does it have anything to do with me not feeling like I have anyone to look good for when I leave the house? I don’t care about what the people at work think. My husband knows how I look both put together and falling the hell apart. I should try for him. I’ll get cute to go out with my friends, which means I should try harder for my husband; he deserves it more, me looking like I showered (on the days I’ve actually showered). But what about me? What happened to MY desire to look nice for ME?

Everything just takes so much time. That feels awful to say, that I show up to work in a three-day old bush ball that I’ve, um, neatened, with no makeup, and it’s because doing otherwise takes too much time. I am mortified when the younger girl decides to leave “as is” but is she getting it from me or is that part of her let me be me persona? I don’t know. This is about me. I can’t help her with her until I figure out me. Why don’t they tell people that before they become parents? That there are parts of ourselves we won’t even know exist until after we have children, that we’ll still be trying to figure those parts out, what they mean, when we are showing our children how to tie their shoes and do single digit subtraction?

Fuck math.

I tied my shoes at three and none of my kids could read by kindergarten. My point is, some things I’m doing wrong and maybe I should be thinking about that more than the fact that I may have worn these grey pants three times this week. Where is the All clothes freshener spray thing? This isn’t really going the way I intended, especially because if I iron these pants again, they’re gonna smell burnt.

Maybe I’ll go do my hair.

Probably I won’t. Because I’m tired.

Do my hair.

Where is the division between who I want to be — woman, mother, me — and who I need to be for them, for now? I don’t know, because tired, and reasons, and SOMEBODY PLEASE DO MY DAMN HAIR (should I just cut it? My mother cut her hair EVERY YEAR to about an inch from the time I was in kindergarten to damn near high school).

It’s about more than hair, isn’t it?

My Apple Cart’s Perilous Perch

I texted him recently that I was happy. He asked if I was using the sarcasm font. I wasn’t. It was genuine. It was an out of the blue realization that this, this life, this family, this existence, this us, is happiness.

He asked me years ago what he could do to make me happy. I told him there was nothing he could do, that the ability to be happy was within me and wasn’t something he or anyone or anything could give to me. I didn’t mean the feeling one gets when there’s a thoughtful gift or the right kind of Oreos get bought or a child smiles or a midday call just to say hi. I meant overall, that no one else can make (and keep) us happy. To me, that was implied in his question, the part about it being continuous or long lasting. To him, he just wanted me to be happy and he thought it was within his power to make that happen. Temporarily, occasionally, he absolutely can. Regularly? That’s all me.

I can tell you today that I am happy. Right now. I was happy yesterday. Maybe I’ll be happy tomorrow. And then maybe my period will say you are so gullible and things will go back to the way they were, when I questioned everything, when I waited for the other shoe to drop, for the bad news, for the inevitable death or heartache or show cancellation or slip down the stairs or accident or job loss. Inevitable. I’ve been waiting. Maybe I always will, subconsciously. I like it when it’s not on the surface.

At the same time, I’ve forced myself to not wait, to not expect, to just live. Take the happiness and run. I’ve often considered that text: I’m happy. Were all the apples going to come tumbling out now, bruising them, smashing them, affecting everything?

When does the questioning start? Does it start when we marry? Have kids? Land a good job? Or is it always there, just under the surface, waiting, goading, tickling the one spot we can’t reach to swat it away? I wonder. Kids don’t seem to worry as much as adults. They enjoy the moment, even if a broken something might be at the end.

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I want that. I want to enjoy my days and fall into my nights remembering the fun of the day, the good things, even the hard things, but knowing the hard things weren’t going to keep me from moving forward, that the hard things weren’t end-all things. I hate that being happy isn’t automatic, at least for me. It’s not a given. It’s something I have to work at. It’s not always hard work, and sometimes I realize that and that makes it sweeter. The more open I am the more I see how good things can be, at long periods of time, minus the worry, minus the what ifs, minus the consideration that the apple cart is at the top of a very steep hill, teetering. I’m behind it, able to push it down, and beside it, able to hold it still, and in front of it, perfectly placed to be run over.

I’m in control.

I choose happiness.

I choose to let them make me happy, to welcome it, to not over-question it. It just is. It sounds hokey; I don’t care. Maybe it’s not like this for you. Maybe your psyche says ain’t nothing to be despondent about, so your setting is defaulted to happy. My knob has way too many settings to let happy be the dominant selection. But. I’ve found a remote and I’ll be damned if my finger doesn’t find the happy channel BY ITSELF which makes the fact that it was already there — changed by him and my kids and my father and my friends, and writing, and probably cookies — sweeter.

I meant what I said: no one else can make us happy; it’s no one else’s responsibility, not long-term, and more so if we don’t want to be happy. I want it. I want it so bad I was searching for it and didn’t know that’s what I was missing, that it was right here, all along, that I had it, and I could keep it.

It’s not as elusive as I thought.

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