Gender & Preference (#231)

Parents always say they don’t have a favorite child.

Everyone eventually learns that’s bullshit. I knew it earlier than most. I have four baby siblings, born anywhere from 9-12 years after me. And hell, yeah, I had a favorite.

Pretty Space Cadet Sister spat up on everything as a baby. She was not my favorite.

Obviously, Baby Screaming Sister was also not my favorite.

Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister began her life of crime early, starting with my stuffed animals. Definitely not my favorite.

My favorite was Baby Brother. Despite his rocky beginnings in the NICU, he was the easiest baby. The surgeons did such an amazing job putting his innards back where they belonged that the kid never spat up. (When he threw up, it was projectile vomiting on a Exorcist like scale, but that was rare.) He laughed easily, rarely cried, and thought I was the bomb.

Heck, with him I was the bomb. We built helicopters out of giant tinker toys. We shot each other with flashlights. We turned his cozy coup into a race car and won the Indy 500, crushing Future Lawyer Sister and Baby Screaming Sister. When I threw a comforter over my head and pretended to be “Amoeba Man,” (7th grade science had its uses), Baby Brother shrieked and giggled hysterically as I engulfed him. He would say, “Tan we pway Amoeba Man?! Pwease?”

Baby Screaming Sister, on the other hand, had screaming nightmares about Amoeba Man. By order of my mother, Amoeba Man was forcibly retired. Paramecium Man suffered a similar fate.

Baby Brother was all fun and no drama. I knew I didn’t want kids — not then, maybe not ever — but if I had to have one, I wanted a little boy just like Baby Brother.

Until I started babysitting for other boys. Seven-year-old boys, to be exact. They didn’t listen when you told them not to touch/ eat/ step on stuff, then broke/ ate the stuff that you told them not to touch, and then lied to their parents about having broken/ eaten the stuff. One seven-year-old boy locked my older sister in the basement so he and his younger brothers could pour chocolate milk all over the kitchen floor and make milk pictures.

After that, we only babysat for girls. Girls colored nicely. Girls played with My Little Ponies and liked to do our hair. Girls were positively restful, at least in our neighborhood. The only danger with girls was being burned by a curling iron. (Future Lawyer Sister learned that lesson the hard way.)

When Andy and I got married, our nieces smiled adorably and behaved perfectly (aside from the six-month-old who puked on my dress). Our nephews? Not so much. Pretty Space Cadet Sister’s son commandeered a bellhop cart and ran amok, overturning the water for the bouquets on my wedding dress (damn, that wedding dress took a beating). The other nephew had to be hauled out of the ceremony for yelling just before I walked up the aisle.

Years later, when I got pregnant, my Chinese-American husband upended thousands of years of cultural misogyny by declaring he wanted us to have a baby girl. I told him we were destined for a boy. He argued that I could not possibly know this, and angrily accused me of not wanting a girl.

“Of course I want a girl! I am a girl, and girls are awesome, and I feel like there’s so much I could teach a girl to counteract the harmful messages she’d get from the patriarchy and the media,” I explained. “Also, it would really piss off your dad.”

“Then why are you so sure it’s boy?!” Andy practically yelled. As if not having a girl would somehow be my fault, which was ridiculous since it was HIS SPERM that decided our child’s sex.

“Because I just know, is all. Because boys are exhausting and that’s just my fate, all right?”

“I don’t believe you,” Andy grumbled. “Baby D could be a girl.”

Secretly, I hoped I’d be wrong. Like Andy, I wanted an adorable, amiable little girl like our nieces. We both went into my seventeenth week ultrasound anxious to learn our baby’s gender.

Baby D had other ideas. Baby D curled up like a little cannon ball, hiding its genitals.

“Well,” said our special ultrasound doctor, “the good news is that everything  else appears to be developing normally. Maybe next time we’ll be able to see if it’s a boy or a girl.”

Andy gave a massive sigh.

“Isn’t there anything I can do?” I asked. “We’ve been dying to know, and this kid has a couple of grandparents that won’t leave us alone until they know if their  Number One Son is having his Number One Son.” (This was — surprisingly — a complete lie. Andy’s father had only called once since learning we were pregnant. The man had apparently given up on his son ever having a child. Either our pregnancy had stunned him silent or he was afraid to jinx it by calling.)

The doctor — another man — took pity on us. He suggested that I jump up and down and touch my toes while he checked on another patient.

When he returned, I was sweaty.

Baby D hadn’t moved.

“Damn it,” I said. “Obstinate already.”

The doctor tried to cheer us up by pointing out a hand. “See that? Baby is waving! Hi, Mom! Hi…oh…no, not waving,” he said with a chuckle. “It looks like your baby is doing something else, actually. Baby is pulling on another appendage. This behavior almost always means that baby is checking out his penis…and yes, there it is! Definitely male!”

Andy stared at the screen as the doctor moved the cursor around, showing us more views of our child playing with himself. I patted Andy’s hand and heroically refrained from saying, “I told you so!”

Instead, I asked, “Are you okay?”

Andy laughed, turned to me with a huge grin, and said,

“That’s my boy!”

The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

Being an Amazonian brunette sandwiched between prettier, blonder, more petite sisters sucks. More than one guy ditched me after meeting my sisters.

Take the Boy Next Door. I pined after him for the entirety of seventh grade. He finally asked me to the last dance before school ended. Then Older Sister, who lived with Dad (I lived with our Mom) came for the summer. The Boy Next Door told me we were done, because he was in love with Older Sister. Continue reading The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

An Atheist on Easter (#183)

Back when I was in high school in Virginia, an atheist was an anomaly. Christians were always asking me how I could possibly be an atheist. I had two flippant answers.

  1. “I was born on Black Saturday – you know, the day between Christ’s death and his resurrection. I’m doomed to be shut away from God’s light. It’s easier not to fight it.”
  2. “Well, my family used to be Catholic, but my great-grandfather was excommunicated.”

Continue reading An Atheist on Easter (#183)

Stocking Savior (#164)

My family collects college degrees. We have some BAs, a lot of BS, an MD, a JD, an MBA, a MSW, an MFA, and a Masters of Education. Big Brother added second MBA when he married. Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister married a second lawyer. I brought the most, though, when I added Andy — a Masters of Engineering AND a Masters in Cyber Security (so, HA, you Russian hackers, give up attacking my website already).

I think the only degree we missed was a PhD. Bummer. Continue reading Stocking Savior (#164)

Countdown to Christmas (#161)

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When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait for December 2nd. Not December 1st, not December 25th, but December 2nd.

That was my day to open a window on the Christmas Advent Calendar.

For my heathen readers and fellow atheists, Advent Calendars have numbered windows. On the first day of December, you open window #1. You might see a Bible verse, or the first line of The Night Before Christmas. There’s a window to open every day until Christmas Day, when you will have plenty of presents to open instead. Continue reading Countdown to Christmas (#161)

Cakes & Bellwethers (#138)

When I started working as an assistant for the Empress of International Film and Television Sales, it was a temp job, to make ends meet while I tried to make it as a screenwriter. But the Empress was soon addicted to my organizational skills. I was soon addicted to my paycheck and health insurance.

I worked long hours. In at 7-8 AM to deal with Europe, out at 7-8 PM after dealing with Asia. Right before film markets, the hours were even longer. At film markets and festivals, you were on duty 24-7. There were perks, though. Tables at the best restaurants had to be booked months in advance, with a deposit. If my boss got invited elsewhere, guess who got the pre-paid table? Me, and three friends. Sometimes it was me and some random people I’d literally just met. Continue reading Cakes & Bellwethers (#138)

Sunny Daze (#109)

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My new, China-born mother-in-law had cornered me in the guest bedroom. She’d told her son that she wanted to have a talk with me about “woman” stuff. He couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. Possibly because Andy’s father had already subjected him to the “Ultimate Over-sharing Sex Talk, Given Fifteen Years Too Late.”

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The original cover of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Courtesy of their awesome and useful website.

Well, if Sunny thought she was going to intimidate educate me with some superstitious old world sex misinformation, she thought wrong. Continue reading Sunny Daze (#109)

East Discovers the Joys of a Western Christmas (#104)

IMG_5112The year that Andy and I got engaged, he agreed to join my family in New Hampshire for Christmas. My family is huge and disjointed, however, so he would only be meeting three sisters and my Ex-Stepmother.

A week before Christmas, I spotted the ultimate in Yuletide perfection. A neon green headband with furry moose antlers that LIT UP with red and green lights. I pounced. That night, I showed Andy my prize.

He recoiled. “That’s hideous.” Continue reading East Discovers the Joys of a Western Christmas (#104)

Curfew (#102)

How late was your curfew?
How late was your curfew?

When Andy stayed with my family the Christmas before we got married, he was shocked by how late my Baby Sister came home. She was my last sibling in high school. Her boyfriend dropped her off about 1:31 AM. We, of course, were still awake, thanks to the three-hour time difference between LA and New Hampshire. Andy strained chicken stock while I frosted cream cheese sugar cookies. Baby Sister told us good-night and helped herself to a cookie on the way upstairs.

After she went up to bed, Andy said, “Isn’t it kind of late?” Continue reading Curfew (#102)

Lights Out (#99)

IMG_5041My father had a terrible temper. When he unloaded a barrage of profanity at the washing machine, my siblings and I fled. God forbid his gaze landed on you when he was pissed – you could easily be the next target. On the other hand, you couldn’t go completely out of earshot. If you did, and the man needed a hammer or wrench or rag, and you weren’t there to supply it, you’d definitely get hit with the next blast of fury. Continue reading Lights Out (#99)