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Heels (#251)

I loved dressing up when I was young. There was no high-heeled shoe, no tutu too blinged out for me. I convinced my second grade teacher to let me put on plays solely for the costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty performed in tutus–but minus the music or ballet. 

I got tall early. My mother tried to steer me toward tailored, conservative clothes. Her results were mixed. Whenever possible, I insisted on shiny boots or four inch clogs, no matter how many times I tripped or how many inches I towered over my fifth grade square dancing partner.  

More than once, my father flinched visibly over my outfits.

My less restrained older sister asked, “What hooker did you murder for those shoes?”

I responded by dressing as an actual prostitute for Halloween. With even more outrageous boots, because, let’s face it, sex workers are very fashion forward and have the best shoes. The outfits from the notorious red-light district of my youth (shout out to D.C.’s 14th Street!) would now be considered conservative evening wear for the Kardashians. 

As a teenager, I worked in a women’s clothing store. I lived to deck myself out for Proms and Homecomings, especially once I had a 6’5” boyfriend. I wore the highest, glitteriest heels I could find, especially once Judgmental Genius Older Sister went to college. 

Sadly, my love affair with hooker heels collapsed with my arches. Excruciating foot and knee pain sent me to orthopedists and podiatrists. They prescribed custom made orthotics. And those orthotics only fit into running shoes, walking shoes, or flat, laced boots. 

Eventually I was able to wear heels on special occasions. All my competitive dance shoes had heels as low as possible. I practiced in dance sneakers, which were ugly and clunky as fuck. 

The ugly shoes were so effective that I never returned to stylish shoes. I admired pretty, strappy sandals from afar, marveling as my once trashy taste in shoes was suddenly trendy.

And then I got pregnant. 

Pregnancy feet are A Thing. Your feet and ankles get swollen, because your circulation is all messed up. 

The extra weight makes your feet expand.

Finally, your bump is so big you can barely tie your comfy sneakers anymore – just after you’d made peace with wearing them forever. 

“This sucks,” I complained to my sister when I was about 8 months pregnant. “I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of shoe ugliness, but now it looks like I’ll be reduced to Crocs.”

“Yep,” she agreed. “Or you could do what my one friend did. She’s pregnant with twins. Not a chance in hell she can tie her shoes, but she needs super supportive and comfortable ones. Every morning she sticks her feet out from under the covers and her husband puts on her shoes and socks and ties them before he goes to work.”

After I quit laughing, I said, “Yeah, but we don’t wear shoes in our house. I need to come up with something else. Or bigger shoes, at the very least. I can barely get mine on.”

That weekend, my husband convinced me to return to that which I had long ago foresworn: Macy’s shoe department. 

As we approached, I grudgingly thanked Andy for looking out for me and my problematic size 11 (going on 12) feet.

“Of course! It’s the perfect time for it,” he chirped. “They’re having a clearance sale, honey!”

Chivalry isn’t dead. It can be resuscitated by 80% off. 

I waddled wistfully past all the sparkly shoes and looked for something more practical. Like a sneaker without laces. Which I didn’t think was actually possible.

Until I saw them.

They were known as mules, backless and originally made the boudoir. But these mules, called “Nike After Party II” looked like they’d been merged with a cushiony platform sneaker. They were just my size. I slid them on. 

Heaven. Those mules were the most comfortable shoes I had ever worn in my life. I bought t wore them out of the store and until they wore out (months after my pregnancy). I searched online relentlessly, only to find they’d been discontinued years ago. Stupid Nike. 

I didn’t see them again until the night I caught Andy watching an old HBO reality series called Cathouse. Cathouse takes place in an actual, legal brothel in Nevada. The series looked interesting, though we’ve since learned that HBO made the owner appear far less horrible than he actually was. But what caught my eye immediately were the shoes. When a bell rang the sex workers would hurry out of their rooms and pose before potential clients in lingerie and killer heels. Before the bell, however, one woman lounged around in–

“My shoes!” I yelled, scaring Andy into dropping the remote. “Rewind it! Air Force Amy is wearing my shoes!”

We are probably the only people who watched that particular section of “Cathouse” repeatedly. And we conclusively proved that Air Force Amy definitely wore Nike After Party II mules.

Turns out, I still have the same taste in shoes as prostitutes. 

And those sex workers are still on the forefront of fashion. Because while I was never able to find those same Nike mules again, here are all the different types of lace-less, sneaker/ mules now available at Skechers:

https://www.skechers.com/en-us/sitesearch?t=mules

Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). 

Despite winning, baby showers were my least favorite kind of parties. There’s no dancing. The focus is all on babies. Babies are not my thing, not after spending my teen years taking care of multiple baby siblings. Traditional showers also reinforce traditional gender roles and stereotypes. While it’s nice for women to bond over pregnancy horror stories and share advice on newborns and nursing, you know who really needs an education on everything from perineal tearing to colic?

Men.

Something like 50% of all men don’t know where the vagina is. Kinda sad for women. Occasionally these numpties will double down on their mistake–even when when a gynecologist tells them off. Most men are pretty self-centered bastards; if it doesn’t impact them, they don’t bother learning about it. We women often enable this behavior, becoming uber competent, shoving “useless” men aside, and rolling our eyes over male befuddlement on everything from bottle warmers to umbilical cords. 

So-called progressive men become Beto O’Rourkes, merely “sometimes” helping with childrearing. They get kudos for babysitting their own children.

Not in my house. My husband was the driving force behind our decision to have a baby. Yet I was the one who had already suffered through 8 months of misery, with (spoiler alert!) the worst part still to come. No way was everything else gonna be on me, too.

Yeah, I made those.

Starting with our baby shower. We planned a coed afternoon tea party and invited seventy of our friends, neighbors, and relatives. Andy was in charge of the little tea sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber, and curried egg salad). I baked for days, creating petits fours in multiple flavors, plus iced cookies and scones. 

Our house is small, but our patio and yard are large (for Los Angeles). We planned an outdoor event during what is usually a not very wet month. About a week in advance, I checked the weather. 

I discovered that of course Los Angeles was going to do its best impression of Seattle for an entire week. The heaviest rainfall was expected on the day of Baby D’s shower. Because that’s the kind of relationship I have with precipitation

I checked the weather every hour for 48 hours. The raindrops in on the weather icon grew more numerous.

We would never fit seventy people in our house. I called around and got the last marquee tent in Los Angeles for our patio. Andy was so relieved he didn’t even complain about the cost. 

Since this atmospheric river was swooping down from the north, it was unseasonably cold. We begged, borrowed, and bought multiple space heaters.

Once the tent was up, our rescue dogs thought their new patio cover was the bomb. They ran in and out, wrestling. An hour before the shower, they wiped out one of the supporting legs. The tent listed. The decorative swags we’d hung were in jeopardy. I held up the tent while Andy corralled the dogs. Rain dripped into my hair.

Fey and Woofie were banished to the garage to contemplate their sins (i.e., howl in protest until they got bully sticks). 

Boyfriend Stealing Baby Sister and her California Boyfriend arrived just in time to help Andy repair the tent. Then they were drafted to make sandwiches while I dried my hair (again). They were were still cutting off crusts when our first guests arrived.

Mike and Enid were original homeowners in our neighborhood. He was a big man who’d lived through combat in World War II, yet was scared of coming to a baby shower for the first time. “I don’t know about this,” he boomed as his tiny wife pushed him into our house. “Enid said everyone’s invited, that it’s the modern thing, but men at a baby shower? Maybe I should go to the VFW instead.”

Tea party

I steered Mike over to a chair on the patio with a plate of goodies. Another elderly neighbor joined him. They admired the food and the cozy tent before reminiscing about all the babies born on the block in the fifties.

My Japanese volleyball comrades arrived next. They also exclaimed over the tent and the decorations. Next came Andy’s cousins. The cousins brought their husbands and wine. Multiple bottles, in fact.

As I waddled around delivering wineglasses, I overheard cousin-in-law Bubba telling Andy about filming his daughter’s delivery via C-section: “They put up this sheet, so my wife couldn’t see what was going on, but I’m standing, so I film over it. But man, they’re not just cutting her open, they are literally pulling out organs. And next thing you know, I’m starting to sway and they get a chair and I sit. So whatever you do, if there’s a C-section, man, do not look.”

Other husbands nodded in agreement. One mentioned how he freaked out when his baby was born yellow. He got some wicked side-eye from a few of the Asian Dads until he clarified that he meant jaundice and showed them a picture of his newborn wearing goggles under a lamp. 

Showers are usually a socially acceptable way to collect baby loot, but not for us. Andy and I had gotten a ton of baby hand-me-downs from my older siblings. We had two infant car seats already, a slightly gnawed regular crib, a portable crib, and a ton of gender neutral clothes ranging from newborn to age two (thanks to Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, who refused to allow dresses or the color pink near her two daughters). Our tiny house couldn’t house much more baby paraphernalia. There was no registry on our invitation.

Despite this, my friend JK brought Baby D his own soft blanket. Andy’s aunt and uncle staggered in under the weight of an enormous jogging stroller (which had to go into the garage immediately). A few other guests brought cute outfits or toys, but many just showed up to eat and swap stories. Just like a regular party.

And no, we didn’t play any games, though we sent our guests home with mugs bearing a snowflake and the warning message: “Baby D, Arriving This Winter.”

On their way out, we encouraged folks to fill their snowflake mug with baked goods and candy. Most of them didn’t need much urging.

Our neighbor Mike was the last to leave. “Enid!” he boomed, waving a mug full of cookies. “I got a party favor, see?! How about that? I can’t believe you and the girls have been holding out on me all this time, having baby showers like a secret club. Those sandwiches were good. And cakes! The VFW is small potatoes compared to this.”

I gave Mike an extra mug with some petits fours and said, “See, Mike?Showers aren’t all bad.”

And that C-section advice from Bubba? Yeah, that came in real handy. But that’s another post.

Belly Up (#249)

I used to play volleyball with a big group of women. About half these women were Japanese Nationals, living in the Los Angeles area while they or their husbands were working for Toyota, Honda, or other Japanese corporations.

These Japanese women never played volleyball professionally. Many hadn’t played since their school days. And yet they were amazing. They could run down and set a ball like pros. They never gave up on a play, wearing down and demoralizing the strongest, biggest, hardest hitting white women (like me). 

Continue reading Belly Up (#249)

The Itch (#248)

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy.  There were six months of puking. There was weight loss, weight gain, anemia, and cankles

Pregnancy was miserable, but I didn’t think you could actually become allergic to being pregnant.

Turns out, you can.

My arms started to itch. I looked for bug bites. Nothing.  Just light redness.

Continue reading The Itch (#248)

Don’t (#247)

Elizabeth Warren, Presidential Candidate, has claimed to be Cherokee for years.

After Trump questioned her claim in about the most racist way possible, Warren took a DNA test which shows a possibility of Indigenous ancestry 8-10 generations ago.

The Cherokee Nation was very unhappy with Warren’s claim and her DNA test.

White people everywhere said, “I don’t get it?”

So here’s a super abbreviated primer for my fellow white people, culled from recent real-life conversations, Facebook battles, and Twitter discussions.

Continue reading Don’t (#247)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Amen, Girlfriend (#244)

When I was seven months pregnant, my Chinese-American father-in-law insisted on coming to visit. Jay insulted me personally and women in general. His ceaseless efforts at home improvement culminated in disasters and emergency home improvements for my husband and me. Jay refused to desist. I lost my temper and yelled some mean things at him (all the meaner for being true).

A good hostess never yells at a guest, no matter how trying. A smart wife sucks it up and stays on speaking terms with her in-laws, no matter how insane they are. And a decent mom-to-be will put the needs of her future child ahead of her desire to throttle her maddening father-in-law until he drops the screwdriver of doom forever.

Continue reading Amen, Girlfriend (#244)

New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

A few years ago, a thirty-something couple moved into the house behind us. They had two girls under age five and another baby on the way. When the mom told me that her husband once danced and sang on a table, I assumed she was indulging in nostalgia rather than foreshadowing.

Until festive lights went up in the backyard. This was followed by a disco ball, loud music, and the chanting of “Drink, drink, drink!”

Another neighbor called and asked where the frat party was.

“At the newborn’s house,” I replied.

Continue reading New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

When I was a little girl, my mother organized caroling and a party on Christmas Eve. We sang our way around the block in Washington D.C. We were met with universal delight. Those were magical times

My Ex-Stepmother carried on the tradition in the suburbs of D.C. and then New England.

Until I dated a guy from rural Tennessee over the holiday season, I never thought some people might find caroling…odd.

Continue reading The Dogs of Christmas (#242)