Bare

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When I became pregnant with my first son, I was not shy about showing off my belly. My growing womb was something I presented to the world with pride. I couldn’t wait to flaunt it in stomach-clinging shirts and tight dresses. And when I became a mother, I shrugged my blouse off my shoulders easily at my baby’s hungry cries, not even bothering with the nursing cover. It was almost with an exhibitionist’s glee that I would unbutton my shirt or pull up my dress anywhere from the local coffee shop to the tearoom at the Plaza. So why was it so difficult for me, after everything, with the pregnancies and the births and the breastfeeding, to bare my makeup-free face to the world? Why was this last reveal the hardest?

 

I come from a long line of women who take very good care of their appearances – almost to a fault. There is a famous story in our family that pretty much captures the value that the women in my life place on aesthetics: My late grandmother, after hearing about a tragic teen who had committed suicide in the library of a local university asked me as if trying to puzzle out a simple explanation, “But was she ugly?” From the tender age of eleven, I was taught never to leave the house without lipstick. I thought it was completely normal for a woman to do her makeup in the morning before leaving the house, and then to come home at noon, wash her face, and do it again before eating her lunch while watching an episode of Dynasty. I remember once, when my mom was in the hospital for a minor surgery, that her twin sister came and applied all of her makeup so that she could look presentable for the doctors. When I was pregnant with my first son, I agonized over the possibility of being in the hospital and receiving visitors without having the ability to have first put on a little makeup. The prospect of being barefaced, and therefore, looking ugly, was terrifying.

 

This is not to say that up until that day, I had never ventured out into the world without makeup. It happened once before, and I was tricked into it. Years ago, pre children, the man who would later become my husband and I were on a vacation in the Loire Valley, and he had woken me up with the promise of a quick drive to get coffee and croissants, but instead, kidnapped me for a day trip to the countryside. I remember initially feeling such rage about it, when I first realized that I had been duped, like he had made me parade around the town square in the nude. “I don’t even have my powder compact with me!” I remember yelling at him. Of course, it ended up being one of the most memorable days we’ve ever had together. We drove through country roads flanked by fields of lavender and drank lots of wine and ate fantastic tomato and cheese salads and strolled hand in hand through cobble stoned streets. In the pictures he took of me that day (to great protest), nearly nine years ago, I look lovely and in love. No makeup, glasses and all.

 

For the birth of my first son, I had packed makeup with me in my hospital bag, but I never got to wear it in all the five days of my hospital stay. Between nursing the wounds of my c-section, nursing my newborn baby, fighting the oncoming first waves of postpartum depression, and greeting the countless family members that came to visit, there just wasn’t time for mascara. Even the lure of the professional baby photo shoot in the hospital room couldn’t get me to muster up the energy for a dab of concealer.

 

Once I was settled at home, however, I somehow conjured back my makeup mojo. My firstborn was a colicky child. He needed to be held nonstop. I hadn’t ascribed to any particular ideology of parenting, but looking back, I guess I was an Attachment Parent by default, namely because my baby was always attached to me since if I tried to put him down he would scream. I discovered that the path of least resistance was to hold him in one arm at all times. I became very skilled at applying BB cream, concealer, blush, and brow pencil with just one hand, often while bouncing.

 

When I got pregnant with my second, I prided myself on making sure I was a Pretty Pregnant Person – one who thoughtfully dressed around her pregnant belly, put a curling wand to her hair, and yes, did her makeup. Of course, this was all very exhausting with a toddler running circles around me, but at the time, I convinced myself it was all worth it because it was for my SELF ESTEEM. If I didn’t feel good about myself, then what kind of energy would I be projecting for my son, and my baby? It is amazing the kinds of inner narratives we can spin to help justify less than helpful behaviors.

 

And then . . . the second born arrived. And he was needy as all get out, and on top of that, his older brother needed me even more. And between both my hands being full of children and the fact that I hadn’t yet learned how to apply makeup with my toes, putting on a full brow and eyeliner just wasn’t physically possible. And I think there must have been one day when I was just so tired that I must have looked at my makeup drawer, sighed, and decided to venture outside with a bare face. And you know what? Nothing happened. The sky did not fall down. The Earth did not shake. A house did not land on my head. I had a normal day and I didn’t scare off any small children with how hideous I looked. So the next day, when presented with the choice between taking the time to put on my makeup or enjoying a cup of coffee in the five minutes that my baby wasn’t nursing, and my three year old wasn’t asking me to build something with Magnatiles while he sat on my lap, again I ignored the call of my makeup bag. And then day after day went by and still, no makeup, unless it was a special day where I had something important to do or somewhere cool to go (which was not very often, as anyone with a newborn and a toddler knows). And like anything that you do enough times in a row, it became my new normal, and suddenly, I became a person who does not wear makeup on the regular. Years and years of conditioning reversed, just like that.

 

Motherhood forces upon you so many changes and shifts in identity. It brings with it a rawness and honesty you can’t escape from even if you try. At first it was hard when I caught my reflection in a mirror. I couldn’t believe that this was the face that I was allowing the world to see. Eventually, I got used to this new face – a face that my grandmother, were she alive today, would strongly discourage showing off in public except in extreme case of emergency. Another gift that motherhood bestowed upon me: I no longer have the time nor the desire to linger in front of the mirror and mess around with what I see. But when I do catch a glimpse, I like what is there. Without makeup, I can see my freckles. I’m not chasing after imaginary shine with a powder puff like I’d done for so many years, and instead I’m letting my skin be a little shiny sometimes which actually, can pass for a “glow” on the days when I’m being kind to myself. If I have an extra minute, I’ll put on mascara before heading out but most of the times I just say whatever, and skip it. Sometimes people tell me I look tired and I know it might have something to do with the fact that I’m not wearing makeup (in addition to the fact that yes, I am really tired) but I try not to let that get to me. This is how motherhood looks on my face, and on most days, I think I wear it well.

 

Waiting for Clementine

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MA melancholy feeling drapes

settles over my shoulders

and cloaks my chest

like a weighted blanket

like going weeks without

catchingpulling in a full breath.

 

35 weeks pregnant again—.

My head reminds me of my excitement

while my tired body

breathes heavy and shallow.

 

This is fear, this feeling.

 

I am controlled by my breath

constricted like my lungs

shoved  up into a caged feelingbroken bone prison.

Displaced within my own parameters.

My ribs an aching,  and cracking cage

This is the fear:

What if

I’ve been wrong

about all of it?

Filling the seats at the table,

Planning for memory making,

Hoping for sibling friendships,

Desiring another soft, sweaty body

a second new soul

to love.

My fear wonders if I’veHave I made an irreconcilable mistake?.

My fear is constricted lungs in a broken prison.Have I displaced myself?

Overestimated myself?

Did I trade my future for a dream?

 

But I can float above

 

look down and See my fear

as something physical.

I can float back and remember

the breath is coming.

When my body will push down

Every cell fighting for our independencedown

Constriction leading to expansion

And joy will break open through my hips—

She will take a first airy breath

Standing Like A Mountain

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I rarely come from a place of Changing Minds. In fact, a very small, bitter and hopeless part of my brain reluctantly begins to believe lately that People Can’t Change. I’ve woken up this month in a series of deep sighs: The burlap curtains have been drawn tightly; I move slowly, without the will to. I greet the toddler and smooth the baby’s hair; lift & hold her tightly. She is round and warm deep into the cavity of my shoulder- a weary head’s seamless exchange from mattress to body. In the familiar rustle, I nurse, change her, begin breakfast to the hum of a refrigerator.

I hadn’t applied for a driver’s license until I was 30 years old. Before I needed one to support the new needs of two children, I used my two God-given feet; lived in proximity to where I worked. Adapted. I made the decision after 9/11. I acted politically, environmentally, peacefully, and humanely as one person can. Because I’m no martyr, and I’m nobody’s savior either, I decided never to tell my stance unless someone asked me. But isn’t it a wonder in all of those years that not a soul did? It is truly astounding how very seldom people approach one another with curiosity about the way they live.

I didn’t know in time if I would ever have children, but the one thing I did know was that a time would come when I would have to answer for my actions to every child, as this world is their future: and we are just living in it. These precious gifts are curious and seek guidance to navigate life’s complicated struggles. Each of us answers to the child who looks around their world and grows old enough to ask: If you knew something was wrong: Why didn’t you do anything about it?- before we ever even answer to God.

There are various serious issues in this country, and that they should come to a peaceable resolve is pending. We may feel we can not govern these issues suitably or gain traction for those that are systematically marginalized. To objectify people in this waiting game is puzzling, but embrace the challenge: in our moment this is best solved by people laying firmly together, like the pieces of a puzzle. Showing our government that we are our vision realized. What does this picture currently look like? What are you laying on the line for others? If you ever think that one person does not affect much, do the math on 16 years in gas. You do.

There’s a stone in my heart for Standing Rock. And if we don’t manage to come together to change it, I imagine that rock will become a part of me. My heart will begin to grow around and absorb it; the hard knot of loss in there Always. The media has given such poor coverage in the 9 months that the Water Protectors have been on site, but I’ve learned which news outlets and twitter feeds to tune into and that in itself is valuable, as reputable mainstream journalism continues to fail us. And as I’ve learned of Wesley Clark Jr’s mission to deploy United States Veterans to offer what he’s called a “warrior’s respite” in the coming week to Protectors, there is renewed hope real heroes and good forces at play. Recently, the Army Corps have threatened a camp evacuation to deter the Vets from arriving. This is disheartening but not surprising. Please donate to their GoFundMe, if you would like to, so they go undeterred and protected.

Living in deliberate Choice seems daunting; walking bravely to what end(?) and mornings in this country are currently cold and dark. I wobble, I fall, I’m pushed; I’m learning to stand. But with each step I do my human work, the day wakes me: I pick myself up by the bootstraps, make new clear paths, and build a bridge to the future I envision for us all. I stretch myself thin, and that’s ok, I’m reaching for it; I want it. I’m trying as hard as I can in ways that a stay-at-home mother of toddlers in a modest single income home can stand to. We’ve spent Thanksgiving day creating large cloth banners to lift the spirits of the Water Protectors, because I’m an artist and I can find a way to use it. I bend over hand sewing when the machine breaks, because I can do that too. And we will close our bank account, as their plan of direct action has suggested. It’s going to painful because there are a lot of moving parts for us at this time. We’ve donated what money we can live without in increments to Sacred Stone Camp, and after that we pushed ourselves more for the Veterans going to Standing Rock. … anything to make a difference.

The more I do this, the less I try to be in the business of Changing Minds. There are many times when we can’t tell whether talk is cheap or money speaks, but in my life I’ve learn this irrefutable truth: A single person is the bankroll to a hell of a lot of Change.

 

Standing Rock Go Fund Me Link HERE

Poltically Joan

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“Bill Buckley called Joan Didion one of the “apostates.” His sister Priscilla, who was Didion’s managing editor at National Review, was more specific, calling her “a conservative” staffer who ended up a “flaming liberal.” At first glance, Joan Didion’s trajectory seems to bear this out. She went from writing for National Review and voting for Barry Goldwater to defending Bill Clinton at the height of his impeachment proceedings, to lambasting George W. Bush, to voting for Barack Obama in 2008. She seemed to be that familiar figure of the Baby Boomer generation: a conservative pushed leftward by the Sixties. In her own view, though, this “Goldwater girl” never really changed. Like Reagan (whom Didion was alone in seeing as too unprincipled to qualify as the heir to Goldwater), she stated that the “parties changed” and that her “unorthodox conservativism” hadn’t. She reminded readers into the 21st century that she was still criticizing those in power no matter what their party.

There is a good case to be made for this self-characterization. As Tracy Daugherty’s excellent new book, The Last Love Song, shows, Didion pioneered conservative cultural criticism as much as she did the “New Journalism” (applying novelistic techniques to journalism), bequeathing arguments and terms used by the movement today. In the 1960s, she accused the New York Times of having a “liberal bias.” She attacked über-liberal Woody Allen for extolling limousine liberalism in his films (none of his characters were ever poor; all lived on the West Side of Manhattan). She located this snobbery as peculiar to the “coastal cities” — a rhetorical gift she bequeathed to those who today characterize Manhattan as a type of “people’s republic” and denounce Hollywood as being typical of “the Left Coast.” While at National Review she attacked liberals who snickered at John Wayne’s death in The Alamo while the rest of the audience cried. Five years later, with Wayne even more despised by liberals, she devoted one of her best essays to celebrating his authentic, unscripted heroism (he had been recently diagnosed with lung cancer but stoically continued making action films).

The lack of this sort of authenticity would be one of the reasons she would despise Nancy Reagan. In 1968, she interviewed Mrs. Reagan, whose husband had been governor of California for a little over a year. In the resulting essay, entitled “Pretty Nancy,” she derided the future first lady as retaining a studio mindset (the way the studios catered to their stars’ wishes smacked of socialism to Didion), in which every action of hers was scripted in advance. Didion recalled a moment when the news people asked Nancy to “fake” nipping a flower bud, and made her do three takes. Didion could take comfort that henceforth Mrs. Reagan refused to be interviewed by female journalists.

Didion spent years as a screenwriter, but never stopped attacking Hollywood liberalism. Didion spent years as a screenwriter, but never stopped attacking Hollywood liberalism. She expressed disdain for liberal activist stars — familiar figures in our time — and their immature method of reducing everything down to absolute good and absolute evil. Even while she worked in Hollywood throughout the Eighties and Nineties, she saw a continuation of this immaturity. Her warts-and-all script about the doomed and self-destructive broadcast journalist Jessica Savitch was morphed by studio executives into a feel good A-Star-Is-Born type of vehicle for Robert Redford.

Although she had by then registered as a Democrat, she still saw most Democrats as elitist and fashion-conscious lefties. She was repelled by George W. Bush (another Manichean, in her book), but she didn’t succumb to the “hope and change” platitudes of Obama and his followers. Unlike those who rejoiced at his election, believing it would usher in a period of peace and progressivism, she lamented these attitudes and declared, “Irony was now out. Naïveté, translated into ‘hope,’ was now in.”

Daugherty makes no definite categorizations of Didion’s politics, allowing her the last word. But what becomes apparent throughout the book is that Didion was less a political animal and more the perpetual outsider possessed of Western cussedness (she was born in that last outpost of Western pioneering, California). A photo of her covering Haight-Ashbury says it all: To one side are the flower children clumped together, while on the other side she stands alone staring at them with a bemused expression.

This cussedness crossed party lines. While at National Review she championed leftist Norman Mailer, and she refused to criticize him when he attacked feminists in the 1970s. And yet, she found the free-speech and anti-war movements at Berkeley, which Mailer applauded, to be engaging in self-delusion.”

–  Joan Didion, Perpetual Outsider Originally Published Here

“In an era when discussions of privilege and gender have become preoccupations in certain corners of the media and, in some circles, feelings have been granted equal status with facts, it’s interesting to think about how Didion would have fared had she come to New York in 2015 rather than 1955. She is, after all, a writer for whom feelings (especially her own) are inherently unreliable sources. She assailed feminism’s “invention of women as a ‘class’ ” and wrote dismissively of the oppressed “Everywoman” who “needed contraceptives because she was raped on every date … and raped finally on the abortionist’s table.” She never got involved in the women’s movement, because, according to a friend, “she was beyond that.” Didion is, for all her sensitivity and curiosity, more than a little bit of a class snob. “Dunne joked about her archconservative values,” Daugherty writes. For much of her life, it seems, she voted Republican.

As new generations of artists and tastemakers grow hungrier for voices from worlds where mothers do not give teas and closets are not full of organdy tablecloths on long rollers, it’s easy to imagine a writer of Didion’s tastes and sensibility being called out in the blogosphere and in social media as fundamentally gifted yet fundamentally “problematic” (to use a term of the moment that Didion might have great fun with) in her politics and tone. For all her brilliance, she might be deemed too haughty to tolerate, the ultimate white girl.

But that would be both reductive and a total missing of the point. Didion may be a white girl to whom generations of white girls have been disproportionately drawn, but she’s one we—and all kinds of readers—have desperately needed. In the prefeminist 1950s and ’60s, we needed her to show that it was possible for a woman to put her writing first without apology or fanfare. In the let-it-all-hang-out ’70s, we needed her to be the disciplined storyteller who could deliver the goods while keeping herself at arm’s length. In the ’80s and ’90s, we needed her to separate the nation’s ghosts from the political machine. More recently, we needed her to grow old before us and, even amid unthinkable personal tragedy, show that it’s possible not only to remain visible and vital but also to remain unimpeachably, ineluctably cool. We still need her. Maybe now more than ever.”

–  puled from the article titled “The Elist Allure of Joan Didion” published here