10. On Anatomy: How to use a tampon: I was a late bloomer; I didn’t get my period until I was nearing 14. I had also been lying about having it for some time since it was considered heinous in my junior high to not have to visit the bathroom every 2 hours to change your tampon (a bloody piece of cotton you stuffed inside yourself aka: the symbol of womanhood)? So, when I did finally pop, it was very exciting… UNTIL I was invited over to my best friend’s house to go in the pool during “that time of the month”— I couldn’t simply go for a swim. Enter..My first attempt at THE TAMPON. My mother brought some “OB’s” into the bathroom, handed me one then waited outside the door for me to finish. “WHAT HOLE DO I PUT IT IN?” I shouted. Ah, the days of innocence, when I didn’t know where that hole was. “Not the hole you pee out of,” she said. “I can’t find it…oh wait I think I found it… now what?” “Now you push it in.” OW. Was she kidding? NOPE. NO WAY. Nothing should go in there. “It can’t be that hole, it hurts too much—can you just help me…doesn’t water stop the bleeding anyway?” “No, you have to use a tampon,” she said, “It might be easier if you lay on your back.” I needed more space -that’s how we ended up in my bedroom. We tried every size, every kind of tampon, and every position the physical form could possibly endure. I was frustrated. “Can’t you just do it for me?” I finally asked all shameless and stuff. She paused, exhaled, deliberated, scrunched her face and said, “no.” I can’t even remember if we (I ) got the tampon in that day, but we both learned very important things: I learned which hole to put it in, and she learned that I was still a virgin.
9.On the Arts: Music (i.e Michael Jackson is a man): My mother wasn’t/ isn’t known for her cleanliness. The way I knew it was tidying time was when the music was on and my mom was dancing and singing around the house. She’d do a one two step, and then fluff a pillow. One two step, snap her fingers, sway, and wipe something off. While she shuffled, I was very busy in an imaginary life more satisfying than that reality. One day, however, I heard a sudden burst of , “A BOO BA BOO BA BOO. a boo ba boo ba boo,” which threatened the fun even my own imagination could have. It won me over, “who is this? I love her,” I said and started dancing with my mom. “It’s not a girl..that’s a boys voice — it’s Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. The song is called ABC.” Obnoxiously, now jumping around with my mom, I said, “THAT’S A BOOOYYY?” If it wasn’t The Jackson 5, it was Stevie Wonder, Sinead O’Connor, Tom Petty, Lucinda Williams, Ricki Lee Jones, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, or Joni Mitchell. Oh, and I LOVED JONI. There were always Joni Mitchell and Ricki Lee Jones CD’s in my Mom’s car, and I could never remember which one I liked. I accidentally slipped in Ricki Lee Jones expecting to hear “Big Yellow Taxi” once and was apparently nearly traumatized, “THIS is not the woman who sings about the mean old daddy, is it? I want the one who sings about the mean old daddy.” Joni sings about the mean old daddy and the milk and toast and honey, too. Ricki Lee Jones sings about nothing because I can’t understand anything she says. So my mom taught me some of the artists I don’t like as well.
8. On Safety: Kidnappers have all kinds of tricks: YUP. I guess parents have to teach us this stuff, huh? One night, IN THE DARK, we were walking to the car in a quiet, suburban grocery store parking lot (already scary), and my mother casually said, “Now be careful, kidnappers have a new way of getting kids— they’ve been hiding under cars so at night they grab your ankles and take you before you get in the car.” I must have lost color in my face and maybe like never gained it back? Here I am, 28, still thinking about it; If I walk to the car alone at night, I walk haltingly. I tremble inside a little trying to get in the car before the monster under the car can catch my ankles and eat me or something? Also, what an incredibly dumb move, kidnappers..what if you miss your 10 seconds of ankle vulnerability? Do you just get run over?? Nonetheless, thanks for this gem, Mom—it has literally been of zero help.
7. On Health: Drinking too much water can kill you: I drink a lot of water, and I highly suggest everyone drink a lot of water. When I ask my mother how much water she drinks, she says things like, “Well there’s ice in the coca cola I drink- that counts you know.” And then I get on her, “that does not count and that is not enough water.” And one day, in the middle of one of these arguments where I was being self-righteous about hydration my mom said, “You’re such a hydration-bully, you know drinking too much water can kill you…you have to be careful, you can flood your brain with too many fluids.” COOL. WHAT? I did my research and, yes, it’s true, an obscene amount of water CAN kill you—it’s incredibly rare and very difficult to consume the amount of water it takes unless you’re doing a ton of physical activity. Later on, I asked my mom where she came to the conclusion that water is fatal and she said, “Oh I don’t know, my father saw it on the news once and always warned us because it really scared him so I guess that’s where.” And that is how “anxiety disorders” have gotten passed down from generation to generation.
6. On Grammar: The word is “proposed,” and pronounce your T’s: When I was a “cute” (actually I was considered ugly) little girl totally obsessed with marriage and babies (actually, I still am), I would take note any time somebody got engaged by stating,”He engaged to her, mom!” Or I would ask, “OOO, did he engage to her?” And, every single time, my mother would remind me with increasing frustration, “The word is proposed. He proposed. He proposed. He proposed. They GOT engaged.” huh, what’s this alien word proposed? That’s how I processed that information. It’s a good thing it sunk in at some point because I’m pretty sure Ian would be rethinking engaging to me if I still said that shit. The other thing she really gets on me about is the pronunciation of T’s. Getting very dramatic and aggressive every time a T is missed, putting on her best lazy, valley girl teenager body language and repeating, “it’s not Clin—iiinn,” and then changing to an upright professor who fucking took Shakespeare for a decade or something and says, “It’s ClinTon.” I don’t know why this has come up so many times around Bill and Hillary, but it has. Considering, I’m the only one in my immediate family who does not have a New York accent, I find this terribly annoying yet totally EFFECTIVE. I never want to miss a T around her— god forbid she shames me for being some ghetto valley girl. Moms are so annoying.
5. On hygiene: The more you shave, the hairier you’ll get: I shaved for the first time in the fifth grade because I was curious, sneaky, and trying to get an in on the popular kids. I sat in the bathtub, found a razor (it was probably rusty) and shaved. Afterwards, I ran downstairs all excited, “MOMMMMM!!! guess whaaaaaaat, I shaved, I shaved, I shaved!” I thought she’d be proud of me and say something like, “Oh wow! good job!” But, instead, her face morphed, she put a hand over her eyes like she just couldn’t take another problem in this house then slapped her leg and yelled, “WHY? You don’t need to shave, why would you do that without asking? You know… the more you shave, the hairier you get.” I was like, “WHAAAATTT? Seriously??” She reminded me again and again for the next five years until there were bigger problems like my Dad’s crack addiction. Many years later, I asked, “Why did you get so upset when I shaved for the first time?” And my Mother said, “Oh, I don’t know, I think I just wanted to be there with you. Also, now they’re saying that whole theory on shaving making you hairier is actually a myth so..” Oh, cool, more unnecessary anxiety.
4. On Cleanliness: Getting in bed with your jeans on is disgusting: Again, my mother is not known for her cleanliness or organization skills so when there is something that bothers her, my ears really spike up. We lived in NYC together so all day long, your body comes into contact with the most disgusting things like subway seats and other things that a million other people touched that day and haven’t been cleaned in a decade. Not to mention, that I would wear jeans like 6 times before actually washing them because who wants to go to the laundromat?? When I’d crawl into bed with my jeans on to read a book, my mother would say, “EW. your jeans have been touching subway seats all day, don’t sit in my bed with them.” It’s like her one ‘tidiness’ pet peeve, AND, I have to say, I appreciated this lesson. It’s true. That is fucking disgusting.
3. On Classic American Sayings: “I need this like I need a hole in my head”: It’s a good saying— very clear. When I write my book, this will be the title of the chapter on my childhood. It pretty much sums it all up. My dad was a maniac and all, but my mom had a lot more presence in my life. Her reactions to the storm were just as horrifying as the storm itself some days. She’d be so sad and so angry, repeating day in and day out, “I need this like I need a hole in my head.” And I didn’t understand it or know what it meant, but it was always my cue that mom was in a wicked bad mood and most likely dad was the reason for it and DEFINITELY everything would be better if I wasn’t alive. Too dark? too bad.
2. On SEX: How to give a blowjob: OK OK. That was for dramatic effect- she didn’t give me a visual tutorial or anything. But I DID request and receive in depth instructions. It’s not her fault, I was curious and an incredibly persistent MOFO; I would get the answers I was looking for. I came home from school one day. It had been another long day of pretending that I knew what the cool kids were talking about when they said words or phrases I had never heard in my life. I was 12, a little confused, and had enough. I confronted my mother in the basement while she was in the middle of her 25th viewing of Annie Hall and cracking open her 100th sunflower seed. I sat on the coffee table and said, Mom I have some serious questions..” Naievly, she said, “OK,” paused Woody Allen, and got catapulted into a world even more uncomfortable than his affair with his step-daughter. I took it as far as I could, not letting her off the hook, “So, how do you get him hard again? Oh it needs to be hard before you have sex? You put your mouth on it and like all the way in? And so then he puts his mouth on your vagina? And that feels good? That’s what getting eaten out means?” Oh, it went on for an hour, at least. As uncomfortable as she was, she winced through the answers to every question including, “So you do this with dad?” EVERY MOTHER’S DREAM DAUGHTER.
1.On Strength, and Courage: Never give in to panic attacks– This is the most profound thing my mother ever taught me, and, in my opinion, her greatest accomplishment as my Mother. I may have been a late-blooming-menstruator; but panic attacks invaded my brain at the ripe young age of .. ten. The thing that set me off: I found out Mama Cass died choking on a ham sandwich and thought, what if I choke during lunch at school and nobody hears me? I spent the next couple years crying through classes, begging to go home, going through stints of not eating, and trying to convince myself that I was safe. But I was a child with no real life references that made me believe I was safe. My father was a real dick about it, but my mother would hold me in bed at night as I sobbed, “I’d rather have anything else but this. I’d rather have cancer.” No kidding— I have been in physical hell for over 2 years, and I would never trade it in for a life of panic attacks. My Mom had her own debilitating past/present struggles with panic attacks; her knowledge and compassion were indispensable. All of my peers thought I was certifiable, but my mother kept explaining, AND she kept making me show up for life— she never bailed me out. My turning point was 7th grade field day. That morning, I had a wicked outbreak of panic. I was hysterical, “I’m not going, don’t make me go, I can’t go, please mom, please mom,” unable to breathe, I was pleading. I think I ended up in the closet at some point. My mom said, “You have to go, you cannot let anxiety win. I promise—if there was anything dangerous about this field day then I would not let you go. Please trust me.” I sort of did trust her but the panic was stronger. In the end, I was forced to get on the stupid bus. I went unhappily and full of terror.The kicker? I had a fantastic day; I even won a first place ribbon for track. I’ll never forget running that track, feeling free or running through my door that afternoon shouting, “Mom . mom, I had the best day thank you so much for making me go!” And she said, “see that!” That was it. Anxiety has never controlled me. I moved to Hawaii, I moved to LA, and I’ve done everything in between that has ever scared me. Best part, I do not suffer from panic attacks anymore. I have shit loads of anxiety (SO DIFFERENT), but the beast that controlled me for so many years on and off has dissipated. I pass this on to all parents with children who have anxiety. Honestly, it’s not just the most important thing my Mother taught me; it’s been one of my greatest lessons in life. And, for that, I will be eternally grateful to my Mama. Thank you, mom, for not giving in to my demands. You were right. That’s what all Moms want to hear, right?
With Fun and Love,