The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Long Goodnight

Last August, when I started the "Middle Aged Women Like to Confide in Me" series, I knew it would be three parts because, well, there are three interesting stories of middle aged women confiding in me. My devotion to blogging had already been shifting from this blog to the Baby Bean Blog. It wasn't so much that I had more to say about my pregnancy. It was more that I wanted to preserve what I had to say for the actual baby bean. My ramblings here are (I hope) interesting and all that. Perhaps my offspring will also be interested in what I had to say here. But I know that I would love to have a window into my mother's head as she was carrying me. What she thought about, worried about, hoped for herself and me. We're all basically self-centered, and I would like to read something centered around me. I think that Ella will, too.

I thought I could keep both blogs going, but I wasn't having a lot of success. June 2005 featured exactly one post. July featured two. When August rolled around, I decided that if I was going to do this, I needed to do it. I fancy myself something of a writer, and when other people tell me they "want to be a writer," I always say the same thing to them: "Then write!" A writer writes, by definition. People who "want to be writers" but are afraid to write anything confuse me. So I said to myself, "I want to write on the Bean Blog, so dammit, I'm going to write on it." And so I came up with this three part series about these interesting/bizarre conversations I'd had, and I set to writing about it. It seemed that if I could get something out there once a week, that would be good enough.

I wrote Part 1 on a Monday. The next week, Part 2 came in on a Wednesday. I was going to write Part 3 when my daughter arrived. I got home from the hospital after 4 days, and I didn't have the energy for anything except figuring out how to recover from surgery (a c-section) and take care of my baby at the same time. When I did finally have a moment, two weeks later, I wanted to create a record of what had happened for this new being who was now the center of my world.

In other words, yes, I became that kind of woman. You know, the kind of woman who is first and foremost a mother and everything else falls by the wayside. In that wayside was this blog.

I wasn't sure I wouldn't pick it up again. Maybe I'd have some time for it. It wasn't that Bean Blog post ideas didn't pop up in my head. They did. But who has the time to sit down and write them? Not me. Or when I did have time, what was I going to write about? The mispronounciation of the word "hyperbole" by pop star Natasha Bedingfield or my partner adopting Ella? It was hard to leave my thoughts unwritten about Natasha's inability to hide behind some energetic bowl, but I had choices to make, and I made them.

Months went by without a post here on the Bean Blog.

I knew it was time to throw in the towel. At least for now.

But I had one bit of unfinished business to do, and that was Part 3 of my middle aged women posts. It was hanging over my head, and I had to write it before I could put the Bean Blog to rest. I did that this past weekend, and now I've gotten the time to write this, a goodbye to this blog.... No, not a goodbye. Rather a goodnight. I hope to waken this blog one day, probably years from now.

It will be fresh from a long slumbler. Hopefully, some old friends will find it again. If not, perhaps it will find a new audience. I want to thank all of you who've stopped by over the year or so that I've been here. I've enjoyed you and your blogs. But I'm putting my energy somewhere else now. First to my daughter, then to creating a record for her and for our next child already on the way.

I am one of those women. A mother. And I don't feel bad about it.

Goodnight, Bean Blog. Sleep tight. I'll be back for you....

Friday, November 18, 2005

Middle Aged Women Like to Confide in Me, Part 3: My Hairdresser

I had been using the same hairdresser for almost 10 years. When I started going to her, she was young, about my age, and had just moved to a fancy-schmancy salon. She was expensive but reasonable, and the haircuts were so good that I could go for 4-6 months without getting another haircut, so it seemed worthwhile to pay a little extra but to pay it less often. But as the years wore on, her prices went up and up and up, and eventually, she was out of my price range.

I was hanging out with my friend Beth Marie one day when she mentioned that her hairdresser had recently moved out on her own to start her own salon. I thought, What the heck? I made an appointment there--not with the owner/hairdresser but one of the hairdressers who worked there, Lydia.

I was five months pregnant at the time, and as I sat in Lydia's chair, we got to talking. She was middle-aged, probably in her late 40s or early 50s. She was very excited about my pregnancy and wanted to hear all about it. We also talked about her life, too. This salon was down in Delaware where my friend lives. Lydia grew up in Delaware but then moved out to California and lived in San Francisco for most of her adult life before recently moving back to Delaware. Perhaps we got to talking about that because the sperm donor we used currently lives in the San Francisco area. Anyway, we got to talking about her life there, and that was all wrapped up in my life and my pregnancy.

"I don't have any children myself," she told me," and I regret that. I got pregnant once, but I was with this guy, and I knew the relationship wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to have children, but I thought that he wasn't the right guy, and I could always do it later."

I sat there with my chin to my chest as she worked on the hair on the back of my head, and my brain began to calculate what she was saying without saying it. And then she actually said it.

"If I knew then what I know now--that was my chance to have a child--I would have kept it." She paused what she was doing, and her eyes caught mine in the mirror. "I don't know why I'm telling you this. This isn't something I tell people."

I wasn't sure what to say. Honestly, no one had ever told me that they'd had an abortion before. I'm pro-choice, and I don't judge her for what she did. I tried to get that out--my political leanings, my views on the abstract concept of abortion, and also some reassurance that I was okay with what she was saying, with the reality of abortion. I remember stuttering through that varied landscape of ideas, finally ending by saying, "We all have to try to make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have. I know that's what you did, but I'm sorry that you feel regret now."

There was a bit of silence between us, and then I noticed a mug with a Siamese cat on it sitting on her table. I had Siamese cats when I was growing up, and soon we were talking about cats and dogs and what our pets have meant to us.

I've been back to her twice since that first haircut. The haircuts aren't as good as my super-expensive hairdresser, but at half the price, I'm not complaining. We haven't broached such heavy topics on our recent encounters. We both seem happy to keep the conversation to pets and vacations.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Middle Aged Women Like to Confide in Me, Part 2: My Neighbor's Mother

A year or two ago, my old car was in the shop but ready to be picked up. The shop wasn't far away. I could have walked or ridden my bike, but it was drizzling, and so I didn't want to. I went next door to see if one of my neighbors, a nice couple named Craig and Tara, could give me a lift. When I went inside, I saw that Tara's mother was visiting. I think I might have met her briefly before, but I'm not sure. That might have been the first time.

As it turns out, she was getting ready to leave, so she said that she would give me the ride to the mechanic's. I said great, and we got into her car and headed off. She told me that she'd actually grown up right in this neighborhood and had gone to high school at the school that's about three blocks from our house. So it was strange, but nice, that Tara had somehow landed right here. (Tara had grown up in the suburbs, where her mother currently lived, and was in the neighborhood now because she moved in with Craig, who already lived here.)

The East Falls section of Philadelphia is quite stratisfied. Philadelphia's former mayor, now Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, has a beautiful house in East Falls, set amoung other beautiful, old, stone houses with ancient ivy growing up their walls, which are set back from brick streets, overflowing gardens between the houses and the street. The house that Grace Kelly grew up in is also in this area of East Falls.

Then there's my part of East Falls, literally two blocks from this beautiful area I just described. My neighborhood used to be blue collar rowhomes, nicely maintained, but rowhomes nonetheless. Retirees occupied 30-50% of the houses, having lived here their whole lives and more likely than not, being second or third generation here. Another 20-30% of the rowhomes were rented to students from the nearby medical college or students from Philadelphia University. And the rest of the houses were bought by newcomers to the area, like me. This is all changing, however, as East Falls has found itself a hot commodity in the crazy real estate boom that's gripped the country for the past couple of years. The old timers, the retirees, have left in droves to be replaced by yuppies. On my block alone, half of the houses have sold in the past two years, and the prices keep going up, up, up....

Finally, another two blocks from my house, in the opposite direction of the beautiful houses, is subsidized, section 8 housing. This section of East Falls borders another, less savory Philadelphia neighborhood, and that's where my mechanic had his shop. Right on the border between East Falls and Allegheny.

As we headed that way, Tara's mom started talking about how the neighborhood had been when she was growing up. As we left East Falls, she said, "This part of Philadelphia has always been like this." I nodded, unsurprised, while we passed poorly dressed people just hanging out in front of little, dark stores with iron grates in front of their windows.

"I remember once when I was about 11," she continued. "I had this friend who was a year or two older than I was. She was troubled, had a bad family life, you know?"

"Mm-hmm," I answered, curious about where this story would take us. I love hearing stories about people's lives.

"But like I said," she went on, "I was 11, so I didn't realize that she had problems." Tara's mom pointed to a grassy area over the way. "One day, I was looking for her so that we could play, and I came over that little hill, and on the other side, there she was with three or four guys around her, guys a couple of years older than her. I didn't know what was really happening, but I do now: They were taking turns with her."

I felt a silence descend over us--or maybe just me--as the story had taken a turn I would never have forseen. The sound of the car engine changing gears, and the jingling of her keys hanging from the ignition, sounded distinct in my ears as she turned a corner, and we headed away from the grass she had pointed at.

"I was scared, you know?" she said. "Even though I didn't know exactly what was going on, I knew that it was bad."

I nodded cautiously as she spared a glance in my direction. We were only a few blocks from the mechanic's now.

"One of the guys noticed me standing there," she told me. "I was just frozen. The other guys noticed me too, and I don't know what would have happened if the first guy hadn't said, 'No, forget about her. She doesn't have anything yet.'" Turning to me again, she explained, "He meant I wasn't developed at all. I developed a little late, thank god."

"Oh," I said. By this time, we were stopped in front of the mechanic's shop. The drizzle had turned to rain, and it bounced off the glass of the windshield. The rhythmic noise of the windshield wipers sounded loud as they went back and forth.

Tara's mom looked straight ahead, but I could tell she wasn't looking ahead. She was looking into the past. Maybe she was wondering what would have happened to her if she had developed early instead of late. But that's not what had happened. I sat in the car with her. My hand was on the door handle, but the intimacy of the rain and the gray kept me there until she finished her story.

Still looking ahead, she finally continued, "So they turned away from me. I stared at my friend, just laying there in the grass, looking at nothing, and then I turned and I ran all the way home. I told my mother what had happened, and she told me that I wasn't to play with that girl again. And I never did. But sometimes I wonder what happened to her."

I nodded sympathetically. I tried to come up with something to say. It seemed like I should say something. I think I came up with something along the lines of, "That must have been scary for you."

Whatever I said, it broke her out of her reverie. She turned towards me, blilnked her eyes, and I could feel her inflate with the persona of Person Giving Ride to Friend of Daughter. "Okay then," she said, looking at my hand on the door of the car.

This was clearly my cue to go. "Thanks for the ride," I told her. "Have a nice evening."

I stepped out of the car and into the gray, rainy evening. I watched her drive off before seeking cover. She turned the corner and was out of my sight within a few seconds.

Days later, I would tell Tara about the ride her mother had given me. Her mother was sort of hippy-ish, so I assumed that she told everybody and anybody stories like that. I assumed that Tara had heard that tale, and many other tales, countless times. Apparently not. Tara was shocked that her mother had spoken to me like that. "My mother would never talk to me about anything having to do with sex," she said.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Middle Aged Women Like to Confide in Me, Part 1: My Mother-in-Law

I met my then-future, now-current mother-in-law, Kay, after the Bread Winner and I had been going out for close to a year. This was a little more than five years ago. It was the Bread Winner's college graduation, which is the reason that Kay, who lived in Texas at the time, was out east. In addition to my mother-in-law, other family members were in attendance, including my future father-in-law, Fred, and the Bread Winner's twin sister. Like most people's parents (that I know anyway), the Bread Winner's mother and father had divorced some time ago. Both of them were remarried. Kay had recently moved onto husband #3, and Fred was married to his second wife, whom he'd been with for about 15 years.

Kay arrived the day before the graduation, and she, the Bread Winner, and I had dinner together. The next day, the Bread Winner was busy running around in her cute little graduation outfit and doing graduation things, and I found myself walking side by side with Kay, about 30 feet or so behind the Bread Winner's father and step-mother.

Kay and Fred had both been into folk dancing when they were in college. Fred was not a tall man, probably around 5'8" or 5'9", and Kay, like her daughter, was a small woman. They naturally paired together as dance partners, and one thing led to another.

As we walked behind Fred and his current wife, Kay said to me, "She's too big for him," referring to his wife's size as a dance partner. I hadn't thought of it before, but a quick glance at them revealed to me that she was right. Fred's wife was not a huge woman by any stretch of the imagination, but she was just about his size, and as a dance partner, the woman should be smaller than the man. So I nodded in agreement with Kay.

"Sometimes I can't believe they've managed to stay together all this time," Kay continued as we walked through the green grass and shady trees of the beautiful spring day. "You know, he went directly from me to her."

"Really? I'm not sure I did know that," I said. The information didn't sound completely unfamiliar to me, but neither did it ring a bell in my head.

Reminescing, she said, almost as if to no one in particular, "I never understood why he was so interested in sex. He wanted to have sex, what seemed like all the time to me, and I just did not understand what the big deal was. Now with Sean," she said, referring to her new husband, "I finally get it."

I missed a step as I walked beside her. Shaking my head slightly, I tried to think of a way to respond and finally came up with, "Oh."

"I don't know what it is," she went on, "but ever since I turned 50 and have been with Sean, sex is just so much fun. And now I understand: That's why Fred wanted it so much!"

I searched for another response, one better than "oh." I came up with, "Hmmm."

"And you know something else?" she asked. "My breasts have gotten bigger!"

I knew I could respond with actual words if I really set my mind to it, and finally, victory! "Is that so?"

She laughed. "Isn't that strange? At 50, my breasts have gotten bigger! And I like sex!"

Strange? Oh yes. Yes, indeed.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Who Told You Not to Poop in Public?

I was at Borders bookstore on Saturday, and as much as I would rather not have, it became apparent that I must use the bathroom for "number 2." I went in, hoping no one else would be there, but someone else was in a stall. I assumed the position on the toilet, and by looking at the foot action of the person next to me, I began to suspect that she was probably wrapping things up, so to speak. Maybe I could get the bathroom to myself if I could hold out for another minute or two.

I was right, and she left. Actually, with the noise created from the flushing of her toilet and then the running of water as she washed her hands, I was able to get things underway before she was all the way out of the bathroom. I wasn't experiencing any kind of catastrophe or anything like that. Just normal stuff needed to come out, and it came out in a timely manner, and then I was done. But as I sat there for about a minute or so, feeling the time crunch of not knowing when someone else might enter the bathroom, I had a flashback.

I was about 10 years old, and I was at a Bob's Big Boy restaurant with my mother and one of her friends. I had to use the bathroom, so I excused myself and went. I don't think I knew until I was sitting on the toilet that I could poop. But from that position, it became apparent that I could. It wasn't like the above experience from Saturday where I knew going in that the stuff was at the gate and ready to come out. It was more like my body said, "Oh, it's a toilet. Let's see what we can come up with." I remember sitting there, and I contemplated just getting up and returning to the table, but then I thought, "Nah, I'll just stay here and wait it out." As things took a bit of time to work their way down, I remember vaguely feeling the time crunch, but dismissing it by thinking about how long my mother could be in the bathroom at home. The woman took a book in there and it could be 20-30 minutes until she exited. So I decided that I would just stay there until things were done.

When I returned to the table 10 or 15 minutes later, my mother joked, "I was about to go see if you fell in!" Her friend laughed. I felt that I should be embarassed, but I wasn't sure why. I said, "You spend lots and lots of time in the bathroom sometimes." The smile slipped a bit from my mother's face as she glanced sideways at her friend, and then she said, "Yes, but that's at home."

And that was basically how I learned that one should not poop in public. As I washed my hands last Saturday (the bathroom still thankfully empty except for me), I wondered if everyone had an experience like the one I'd had at age 10. Did everyone need to be told? Or did most figure this out without a somewhat explicit social tip like the one I got from my mother?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wondering

Is it wrong to covet the closest parking space to the door at the gym? Really, you have no idea how much satisfaction I get, the sense of victory that overcomes me, when I get that parking space. And then I think, "I'm at the gym. Isn't the point to get some exercise? Shouldn't I be happy to walk from one end of the parking lot to the other?" But no. That spot, next to the door. That's the one that I want. And when I get it, I often cannot restrain myself from doing a fist pump and uttering a gutteral, "Yes!"

Monday, June 20, 2005

Why Are There Different Strokes for Different Folks?

As I mentioned before, I joined a gym, and the main purpose of joining was to be able to swim to my heart's content. When I joined, I got two free sessons with a personal trainer, and I elected to do my personal training in the pool. At my second session, we did different swim strokes. The one that I found particularly confusing was the side stroke. I've swam sideways here and there for as long as I can remember. My version of the side stroke involves basically doing the doggy paddle at a slant. Little did I know that I was supposed to be scissoring my legs in rhythm with my arms, and oh my, it was confusing.

Today I was at the pool, just sort of floating around (it's not a pool with lanes for doing laps), and I tried half-heartedly to do the leg scissor thing of the side stroke, just for fun. I still can't really get it all to work out right. And it got me thinking: why are there different swimming strokes anyway? Why isn't there just the best one/fastest one? I assume that would be free style.

Actually, I'm willing to make room for two types of swim strokes. I'll allow the doggy paddle, too. That's what kids (and most grown-ups) do naturally. But do we really need the side stroke? The back stroke? The breast stroke? The butterfly? And who came up with these? Especially the butterfly. That is the most bizarre looking mode of swimming ever. What purpose does it possibly serve?

Think about it. Some guy (or woman) had to come up with the butterfly. First, I'm going to hoist my shoulders up out of the water, then pull my arms around and dunk my head under the water, and at the same time, I'm going to throw my ass in the air, then slam my crotch down into the water, throwing my head back up to start the process all over again. Yeah! That's cool! It just baffles me. I can sort of see the side stroke and the back stroke being created. Hey, let me see how fast I can go swimming sideways (or on my back). But the butterfly? Why, dear lord, why?

But even the side stroke and the back stroke are a bit confusing. Or their world wide acceptance is, at least. I mean, you do see people running sideways in the Olympics? Or backwards? And why not? It doesn't make sense. The goal is to be the fastest. PERIOD. Not the fastest going sideways or the fastest going backwards. I'm sure some idiots out there have had running races where people ran sideways or backwards, but it's just for a joke. These aren't events sanctioned by the NCAA. So how did swimming work all these wacky ways of swimming into local and international events?

Just curious.