Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back on the Market in Stepford

Well, I just found out that a recently refurbished Stepford Wife is about to hit the market. A few months ago, I heard about her second breast augmentation, tummy tuck, full body lipo, and new Mercedes. I had assumed these improvements were her scheduled forty-five-year maintenance and done for the enjoyment of her Stepford Husband. It seems now, however, that this work was done because she was about to be put back on the market and everyone in Stepford knows you can’t get anything for a forty-five-year-old Stepford Wife unless she’s been properly maintained.

The other Stepford Wives are now busily discussing her options amongst themselves. Because this particular Stepford marriage lasted longer than ten years and she hasn’t worked outside the home in quite awhile, she will surely get some sort of spousal support on top on the $2100 per month in child support she’ll receive for her three children. Because Texas is a community property state, the couple’s assets will be divided down the middle and distributed once all the debts are satisfied. Sadly, the one million dollar home will probably have to be sold. However, there are places in Stepford, less desirable neighborhoods such as my own, where a Stepford Ex-wife can survive on her half of the marital assets and spousal/child support until she’s put back into to service again.

This morning, while instant messaging regarding the soon-to-be Stepford Ex-wife’s options, it occurred to me that while I feel really good about how I look, the fact remains that I’m not exactly in marketable condition. I’m much more like a well taken care of used car. I don’t have any obvious body damage from past collisions, my paint job still looks pretty good, and the interior is nice and clean. However, once you get under the hood, well, let’s just say I could use some engine work. Under the facade of my size eight clothing lie Spanx and a Miracle Bra that camouflage the hail damage on my rear-end and my flat A-cup boobs. So as to not be too hard on myself, I feel I need to mention that my tummy does not need to be tucked. I have been graced with a flat stomach and a small waist, so I try to emphasize that as much as possible without highlighting what is above and beneath. I’m concerned that at forty-one, this feature of my figure may soon begin to change. It is my understanding that as my estrogen levels drop with age, my mid-section will begin to thicken.

This displeases me greatly and I pray I’ll be able to fight off this assault with core training and yoga. So far, so good. I’ve made peace with my rear end. I could make it smaller and less lumpy, but I have decided I’m not willing to invest the time needed in knee-crunching aerobics to make that happen. I’m working on making peace with my breasts. There is no exercise available to alter their current state and augmentation is financially out of the question, so I’m left with the Miracle Bra, which is really not a miracle at all. It’s much more like a slight of hand than any real magic.

As I’m pondering these uniquely Stepford issues, it occurs to me that one of the reasons I’m okay with how I look is that I never plan to be on the market again. It’s not that I think my marriage could never end in divorce or that my husband could never die. It’s just that I can say with all certainty that if my husband spontaneously combusted at lunch today, I would never go back on the market. The thought of a man other than my husband seeing me completely naked is not one that I’m willing to entertain. Further, I do not want to see what is under the hood of any other forty-plus year old man ... ever. I’m not afraid of this as much as I am just uninterested. There are so many things in my life that I still want to do. So many areas of myself that I feel are unexplored. In the script I’ve written for myself, it’s just a given that if I ever find myself without my husband, I won’t go looking for another. Instead, I will go looking for other parts of me. I tell my husband all the time that I think I’m about one-third done with this life. And he responds the same every time: “You think so, Kristi? You think you’re going to live to be one hundred and twenty? Really? Really?” And I say, “Yep. Really. Yes, I do. I still have a lot to say.” And I’m sure as he looks at me and smiles, he is thinking, “Yes. God, help us all. Yes you do.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Guilt Cliff in Stepford

It’s the first week of summer camp for my soon to be second and fifth graders. And my mommy guilt is in overdrive. It happens every summer. The first couple weeks of camp are always an adjustment—the schedule, the location, what friends are going to be there, are the counselors nice, do I have to eat the food in the cafeteria, can I swim with a shirt, why do I have to share a locker with boy, why are Gameboys only allowed on Friday’s, and the list goes on and on and on.

As my children adjust a bit more each day, the Stepford Wife in my head repeats her mantra “... if you didn’t work they could be home having a leisurely summer like their Stepford friends.” And I tell this bitch, who continually refuses to mind her own Stepford business, “SHUT UP!” But in true Stepford fashion, she refuses and it becomes a matter of just waiting it out. Eventually my children adjust, dare I say even begin to have a fabulously fun summer, while their friends have begun to be bored at home and have grown sick of spending twenty-four-seven with their Stepford moms. Yes, this is truly the time of year I have the hardest time living in Stepford. It’s the time of year when I’m almost swept away by the tsunami of “you’re a bad mommy because you work” messages that permeate the very air I breathe.

More than just about anything in my life, I want my children to be happy. But damn it, more than that, I want them to know HOW to be happy. And I know from my own life, that learning how to be happy is HARD. Learning how to be happy is not fun and as a matter of fact, sometimes it down right sucks. However, learning how to be happy sure beats the alternative. I can say for sure, that I am happy. This has not always been true and I don’t like everything about my life, but I choose happiness each day. And that is how is it has to be. And that is how it has to be for my children too.

Will they rise to this challenge when they are adults? I don’t know. I pray they do. I pray that by constantly restraining my instinct to shield my children from every uncomfortable situation, that they will learn that their happiness is a choice and not a matter of their circumstances. I pray that even though we live in the sanitized world of Stepford, they will learn that all the material things they are blessed with and those that they are not, do not and cannot make them happy. I pray that by talking to them about politics, war, poverty, and the inevitability of death that they will see so much more to life than cell phones, Ipods, and Wii’s. I pray that by working they will see me as more than their indentured caretaker and provider of all their heart’s desires. I pray they see a work ethic and develop one of their own. I pray they see how hard my husband and I work at being married and that marriage is not a perpetual honeymoon, but a deep commitment to another person you may not always like, but hopefully always love.

Whenever I’m tempted to slip into helicopter-mommy mode, I ask myself exactly what I’m trying to accomplish with my children. I’ve asked myself these questions every hour on the hour this week trying to talk myself off the guilt cliff to which I’m clinging. Am I trying to create the “perfect” childhood where my children never have to struggle, feel uncomfortable, sad or upset? Do I never want them to have to do something they they don’t want to do? Or do I want my children to learn as many of the hard lessons of life while they are still under my protective gaze and I have the ability to intervene and counsel and give advice? Do I want my children to face their first set backs in life AFTER they are adults ,when the consequences are so much larger and the safety net is gone? Do I want my children to be self-righteously indignant the first time they get a boss who couldn’t care less if they want to work, arrive on time and have a good attitude?

I know by the end of the week I’ll have at least one leg swung on top the guilt cliff and by the end of the month no part of me will any long be hanging over the edge. I also know my children will have settled into their new routine, enjoyed some really cool field trips, and made some new friends. Their still small bodies will be tanned and their brown hair will be highlighted gold. They will have played approximately twenty soccer games, swam in an indoor pool ten times, and eaten four ice cream cones that came off an old fashioned truck. I think its going to be an okay summer in Stepford after all.

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