Brain Scientist

Every few days, we talk to Joey about the upcoming move. The first time that Mr. Book explained that he was going away for awhile, Joey asked “Why?” Now, he just gets withdrawn and angry if we talk about it. Since he produces so little speech, it’s easy for me to forget how much he understands. We’re both sad, of course. But it looks like the Mister now has two jobs waiting for him, which is great. It feels like we should be making maximum use of our remaining time together, but too often we end up just curled up together on the couch, being sad.

I dreamed that Mr. Book died, and woke up sure that the feeling in the dream was what it would really feel like if he died; I just wanted to fall down and stop, because it was all over. It felt like the end of the world. Doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out what that one was about.

I told Nora and Ruth, and Nora responded (politely, and friendly . . . ly), and Ruth did not. Perhaps I’ve been conversing with the wrong person all along. At any rate, I don’t think there’s anyone else I have to tell.

Me Me Me

A little more on my head: it’s not the sort of pattern of baldness that you get with thyroid problems, so I’m not worried about that. It could be alopecia—no health care = no certainty as to a diagnosis—but my father has an auto-immune disorder that resulted in itchy, patchy baldness, and now I have itchy, patchy baldness (two patches so far, with several others thinning out alarmingly), so we’re just assuming that it ain’t nothing but a family thing. The progression of my father’s disease was halted by medical intervention, but it was lengthy and expensive medical intervention, so I’m just looking at getting and hemming some cloth for kerchiefs. Oh, and my mom has me rubbing diaper ointment on my head, since she thinks that it is a panacea. I don’t know whether you saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but the way that the father of the bride feels about Windex is the way my mother feels about A+D ointment. It can’t hurt to try, anyway.

In fact, let’s make this the me post. I’m working on two romance novels right now. I’m hopeful about being able to sell them, although we’ll see. But I decided that it made more sense for me to knuckle down and try to write something salable than work on my probably unreadable dream novel, and I’m enjoying the work more than I expected to. Less art and more storytelling. Part of this is because I’d like to be able to do more things for the kids, things that take money, and if I could sell a romance novel a few times a year (of course, one every couple of months is my secret ambition, but I am trying to sound reasonable), that would go a long way toward Music Together classes or what have you. And I need new clothes. Whine whine, we are so poor, but I’m down to two pairs of yoga pants and I’d really like to be able to just get a pair of jeans or something, you know? Unless I wear my nicest clothes (in good shape, because I never wear them), I look poor. And I don’t exactly mind—I am poor—but I’d like to have a couple more pairs of pants, and maybe a couple of wrap skirts, and some kerchiefs. A couple of t-shirts would be good, too. Whenever we get a little money, it goes to the kids—and I think that they should be our top priority, and my small upcoming freelance check is going to get Joey summer clothes—but at some point, I need things. So it’s time to try harder to make some money.

I’ve been in contact with Mom #1, who probably needs a blog name at this point. Molly? She looks like a Molly. At any rate, Molly’s girls got badly sick, so I took them dinner one night last week—I’ve offered to do so again this week, since the girls are improving so slowly and now Molly’s husband has fallen ill. But I think either I will bring dinner by or we’ll have a playdate and I’ll bring something else (I’m thinking homemade twinkies, infinitely better than the store-bought kind). Molly seems like a remarkably sweet person, and now that the Mister is going bajillions of miles away, I’m going to need to make friends here more than ever.


Things just keep changing. We’re having a huge change, and it’s not a baby or a divorce. But I want to wander around in circles a bit before I get to the point. Like I do.

Mr. Book’s mother is going blind. I don’t know how much I’ve said about her situation onblog, but she is in her sixties, diabetic, and has had strokes. And now she’s going blind. At the same time, Mr. Book has been unable to find steady work here. A month or so ago, the Dowager Book asked Mr. Book to come visit her, and after talking it over, she bought him a plane ticket for March 7. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking and talking—and he’s going to stay there once he arrives. He already has a part-time job waiting, and the city where the Dowager Book lives never had a recession; he’s hopeful about adding a second job quickly. We’ll be separated for up to a year (although hopefully not that long) while I stay with my parents and tend the boys and he lives in the Midwest and saves up money to bring us out and get us a place. We could use a new(used) car, too. Mr. Book will be able to go to school out there, although that is being pushed back again, and that part is lousy—almost as lousy as being apart for so long.

We’re a burden to my parents here, and my mother lets us know that pretty frequently—and fair enough, four extra people ain’t nothing to sneeze at in terms of obligations. It’s hard for them, having us here, and it’s hard for us, too. The Mister’s mother really needs helps, and the idea of being an asset to someone is appealing. Mr. Book had no sooner asked her how the job market is in her city than she was begging him to move there and bring us along. Mr. Book and I have done the long-distance thing before, but leaving the kids behind is awful, and was the main thing that delayed our final decision. I’ll need to get us a webcam when I can so that the lads can Skype with their Daddy–in the next few weeks, I’m going to take as many pictures as I can of the boys with my Mister. And I’m sad, too. But we’re also both hopeful. We both know that we should have stayed in the Midwest instead of going to Stumptown when we married, just because it is so much cheaper to live in the Midwest . . . but we love Stumptown beyond all reason, and still have it as our ultimate goal. But it’s far in the future.

I haven’t told Ruth and Nora yet. I asked Nora via Facebook message what they’re thinking re: visit this year (well before we’d made this decision), and a week or so later, she let me know that they’ve started talking about what they’ll do but have no more information for me at this time. There’s no way that they’d be able to visit before Mr. Book leaves the state—Nora’s job is completely bananas this time of year, and she’s working 80+ hours each week—so I don’t feel as though I absolutely have to tell them right now. But soon, of course, I’ll let them know. I assume that they’ll just choose to visit one of us: probably me, since the boys are with me. But visits to Mr. Book would be slightly complicated, as the Dowager Book has been pretending for just over four years now that Cricket died after birth. A problem for the future.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that I am not losing hair because of the Mirena, and can keep the IUD. The bad news is that I apparently have an auto-immune disorder that is causing me to lose hair in patches. The NP at Planned Parenthood told me that I need to see a primary care provider . . . and then looked at me, realized that I don’t have insurance, and said “Or you could do what my girlfriend did and shave your head.” She was very nice. Suddenly it’s less important that I look silly in hats; I am rocking a kerchief (okay, an ugly yellow bandana, but it’s what I’ve got) every day. I’ve developed a second bald spot and am still losing hair, and that’s that. Eventually, perhaps I will treat myself to a fancy wig. When I told the Mister, I cried—I don’t think of myself as vain, but I suppose I must be, because I’ve been surprised by how sad I am to lose my hair.

There’s more good news. The playdate went well, the bread (apple honey challah) was a hit, and she has said that (although she’s sick right now) she’d like for us to meet up again soon. Phew! I spent quite a bit of the playdate chasing Joey, who was all over the place, trying to flip light switches, yank on the blinds, flip over a lamp—you name it. At one point I referred to him as an introvert and the other mom was shocked; he’s an introvert with, hmm, very robust self-esteem, so he doesn’t look conventionally shy. If you watch, though, you’ll notice that he’s running around and exploring and fearless . . . and not approaching people he doesn’t know well. Joey did not enjoy seeing me exclaim over the other mom’s charming daughters, so clearly he needs more practice at it. Kit continues to love people, and he and the girls played together happily.

I think I’ll make turtles for the next playdate.


I’m terrible at making friends. I mean really lousy; the other day, I said to Mr. Book, “I am so desperate to make friends with another mom from the moms’ group that I worry about freaking them out.” To which he replied, “Good thing that you manage to disguise that with your incredible standoffishness.” This is the same idiotic tactic that I used when dating my husband, and while I’m glad that it worked out in that instance, the experience may have cemented my impulse to hide my friendly interest. There are three moms in particular whom I see at the weekly library storytime whom I want to befriend: one has started conversations with me, which I am desperately grateful for; one is in the moms’ group and just had a baby, so I signed up to bring her a couple of meals; the last isn’t in the moms’ group, but she seems like a cool person and her daughter is bold and enthusiastic in the same ways that Joey is—and she seems to appreciate that about her kid. The third mom I’m having a hard time figuring out how to approach; Okay, yes, “How old is your daughter?” is an obvious start, but she’s usually pretty busy chasing said daughter . . . and I am shy. But I’ve smiled at her! The second mom—well, I’ve talked to her briefly, but the Mister dropped off the first dinner at her house on Thursday and apparently did a better job conversating that I have managed in months. His social skills can be really irritating. But I should be able to go along for the dropoff this Thursday, and will prepare chat. Yes, I am this broken re: people skills.

But the first mom? Well, to be fair, she has been friendly with me from the start. She has two little girls, one a few months older than Joey and one three days younger than Kit—and I asked her about and then arranged a playdate. I know! I felt amazingly forward, but she seemed enthusiastic about the idea, so now I just have to make sure the kids are clean and well-fed. I’m assuming that this is the kind of playdate where I stay with them—I think it’ll only be an hour or so, but it will be at this other mom’s place—and I will need to be (or fake) socially competent for at least an hour. Still, this feels like a good step. With the kids not going to daycare, it feels especially important for me to make mom friends so that they have a network of little playmates in town. My loneliness is just a footnote to this. I have a hard time doing things for myself, but am able to push myself for the kids.

I think I’ll bring her a loaf of bread. Do you bring hostess gifts to a playdate?

Put Your Weight on It

I’m not really a jewelry person. I wear my wedding ring and three small silver hoops in my right ear; that’s really it. I have a few pieces of nice jewelry that sit in cases in my closet, and I think they’re lovely, but I just don’t wear it. Of course, as I write this, I am wearing black pants, a hoodie, and a baseball cap—my hair is shorter than my husband’s. My presentation is fairly butch, is what I’m saying. But a week or so ago, I decided to wear a necklace that Mr. Book gave me: a St. Francis medal. Francis is my confirmation name, and I’m a big fan, so I decided to wear it. And Joey was overcome with envy. He loves circles, and the medal is a circle—but more than that, the boy loves to be fancy. So I let him wear it, and he spent an evening taking it off and putting it on and saying “fancy” and “circle.” A few days after that, my sister Tammy came to visit, and my mother invited her to look through my Omi’s costume jewelry and see whether anything caught her eye. Well! Joey was quite taken with a necklace of big, shiny blue beads, and my mother put it on him. He broke it pretty quickly (it was, as I say, quite old, and was strung on stiff and stressed plastic fishing line stuff), but yesterday I finally restrung it and gave it back to him. He loves it, keeps calling it “fancy” and “nice,” and has gone out of his way to show it to everyone. He was willing to take it off for lunch after I explained that it would be unwise to get pizza on it, but cried for it when he was done.

Joey has wanted to accessorize since before he could walk: colorful scarves, hats, even a toy castle that he can fit around his chest (it’s made of cloth). I wrote last year about my mother calling him “a little gayboy” last year; I was, hmm, very discouraging about that, and she hasn’t said anything like it to me again. But when Joey was first trying out his necklace, I said something about putting it in the dress-up bin, and my dad said something about adding some neckties, and maybe suspenders. Lord knows I don’t see anything wrong with a nice necktie, but it was discouraging—my dad seemed so uncomfortable.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen Disco Godfather, but I totally recommend it. If you haven’t had the pleasure, let me tell you that one of the thDisco2ings I like about the movie is that it led me to think about things that have been shaved off of maleness as time goes by. The titular character is extremely macho—women want him, men want to be him, he was a cop, he knows kung fu—and he is so, so fancy. I missed disco, but I do know that it was a space for homosexual male expression; please don’t think that I’m missing that or trying to downplay it. But at least in the movies (have you seen John Travolta?), it appears to have been a place for men to be as fancy as they want to be. Of course, I know that any number of people have questioned the sexuality of men stepping outside of the crewcut and pantsuit paradigm for as long as men have crossed that line—but, damn it, it looks from here as though the culture keeps making steps toward escaping the gravitational pull of that norm and then takes two steps back.

I’ve read Cinderella Ate My Daughter (and Reviving Ophelia and The Beauty Myth and Reasonable Creatures and and and); I’ve some familiarity with the ways in which our culture is hostile to girls. But now I find myself in a position to be deeply interested in the ways in which patriarchy poisons boys. Don’t get me wrong: my kids have privilege that I don’t, which is weird. But misogyny hurts everybody, and four years and a couple of months ago, I abruptly landed in alien territory—I became a mother to boys. And now I imagine a world in which my toddler—or kid or teen or any future bub at all—can wear spangles if it pleases him without being pigeonholed, and I have to tell you, I prefer that world to this one.

Changes in Hair Growth


Anything with buttons just wants to break.

—My sister Tammy


I don’t know whether you’ve heard of resistentialism, but I was quite taken with the philosophy as a teenager. Put briefly, resistentialism explains that things are against us; to quote Paul Hellwig, it provides an explanation for “seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects.” I read a resistentialist play back in the day: a man tries to write and the pen is dry; he sets it down and it rolls off the desk; he sits, and the chair collapses beneath him. It’s an enormously satisfying way of interpreting the small, horrible events that seem to gum up lousy days, and I retain a fondness for the idea, if not the lived experience.

At the end of December, I had an IUD inserted. I was thrilled. Mr. Book and I talk about maybe, possibly one more baby—but not until Kit is five, and we’re neither of us really decided for or against him. So a Mirena seemed like the perfect solution: low hormone level, so it won’t interfere with breastfeeding; totally hassle free. Okay, sure, I started bleeding and cramping after a few days, and that hasn’t let up yet, but I can live with up to six months of that. And then I started losing my hair. At first, I wasn’t sure what the cause was—my father has an auto-immune disorder that has led to patchy baldness, and he and I were both concerned that it might have revealed itself to be heritable—but finally I looked up the Mirena side effects. I read the packet I was given at insertion, but what the official brochure lists as “changes in hair growth” didn’t register with me the same way that the WebMD “hair loss” did. So I called Planned Parenthood, I am having the device removed on Monday, and I will go on the mini pill. The mini pill is less reliable, but since we’re not ready for the extraordinary security of a vasectomy, it seems to be our best option for now. In the mean time, I have a bald spot the size of a quarter, and have taken to wearing unflattering hats even while I sleep.