Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Switch

Sometimes I wish I were a man. 

I don’t suffer from penis envy or wish I had a hairy chest or could push our lawnmower or anything like that.  But in a way, I am jealous of my husband.  I wish my brain were wired more like his.  I wish I had The Switch.

I’m talking about The Sexual Switch.  The ability to turn desire on and off like a garden hose.  One minute you’re watching TV, minding your own business, then you see a flash of flesh on a Victoria Secret commercial and suddenly you’re ready to go.  Your Fun Zone lights up like a pinball machine, ready to knock around a few marbles.  Screw making dinner, screw the kids sleeping in the next room, screw the blinds cracked just enough for a nosy neighbor to catch a show if he feels like peeping.  You’re randy and you’re ready.

The closest I’ve come to having The Switch was way back in high school.  Make-out parties.  Getting geared up for a little first-base, second-base and so forth, only to have lights thrown on, coupled with the heavy, purposeful footsteps of an approaching parent down rickety basement stairs.  If that doesn’t wilt your lily, nothing will.  But as soon as all was assumed well and kosher, as soon as the creak of the closing door reached your adolescent eardrums, the lights dimmed, music played on, and the baseball game continued without missing a play.

I think having kids has ruined any chance I ever had of recapturing The Switch. 

Like the other day when I decided my husband and I should take a bath.  The kids were finally asleep, the wine was red and the night was young.  A picture began taking shape in my head of the two of us luxuriating beneath the warm, fuzzy blanket of a million tiny bubbles, feeling my husband’s body resting against mine, sipping our wine as we talked.  I turned the faucet on hot, and dumped a whole bottle of bubble bath into the burbling water.  I even turned on our old lava lamp, because after two kids, the glow from a blue, Spencer’s novelty lamp is much more forgiving than the glare of eight naked bulbs screaming from the vanity. 

My husband appeared, his Iphone set to a playlist of soft, sensuous songs, filling our bathroom with velvet music.  We sank into the tub together, clinked glasses and let the hot water dissolve a week’s worth of tension.  I started to feel like a person again.  A woman.  And, dare I say, a bit frisky.

That is until the crackling monitor in the other room belted out the latest hit from our five-month-old daughter. 

“Want me to get her?” my husband asked.

I sank lower in the tub and shook my head, determined not to let a few warbling cries upset my still-tentative libido.  I focused on the music, the wine, my husband’s scruffy face cast in a blue shadow, trying like hell to block out my daughter’s whimpers.  Already I felt the painfully narrow window of opportunity start to slip shut, as my modest sexual fantasies were replaced by my fantasy of climbing into bed and falling asleep to an episode of Bizarre Foods. 

The cries escalated to somewhere between whining and wailing.

My husband, who had fished my foot out from beneath the bubbles and begun massaging it, looked at me.

“You sure you don’t want me to get her?”

I was sure.  Because I knew that, though he would try his darnedest to get our daughter to settle back down (he wanted to get busy as much as I did…no wait, a lot more that I did), he would fail.  I knew this because she was teething, and the only thing that would get her to settle down was to nurse.  The reason I hadn’t already leapt from the tub and beat a dripping, bubbly path to her door was that I knew once I’d transitioned to Mommy Mode, there was no going back.

The music stopped for a moment, and in that gap of silence came a huge, shuddering yowl of a baby who wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“All right, all right,” I muttered, and pulled myself from the tub.

“I’ll just hang out here,” my husband called after me.

I sat in the rocking chair for just under twenty minutes, rocking and nursing my darling daughter back to sleep.  More than enough time for my visions of intimacy to swirl down the drain with my now lukewarm bathwater.  By the time I made it to my bedroom, my husband had relocated our wine to our respective night stands, brought in the lava lamp, and lay on the bed in just his boxers, smiling as if welcoming me to a really hot party.

I almost burst into tears right there; the last thing I wanted now was to hop into bed and play a little naked rodeo.  And my husband looked so sweet, so openly eager to get down to business.  How was I supposed to tell him that I was ready to crash?  That our daughter had sucked my mojo out through my nipples, leaving me with the overwhelming urge to put on my most unflattering, wrinkled pajamas and call it a night?  This was supposed to happen, dammit.  The lava lamp was still on for crying out loud. 

My husband is a very understanding, rational person, but sometimes even he finds it cruelly unfair that my maternal self and my sexual self cannot occupy the same body at the same time.  And when my maternal self comes to roost, her fat ass doesn’t leave for days.  Sometimes weeks. 

I’ve been assured that this won’t last.  That someday my body will be more than a couple feedbags attached to a jungle gym.  That my husband and I will get an hour or two of private time without being interrupted by a crying baby or a toddler’s nightmare.

So as long as my husband understands that I don’t mind giving without receiving, I’ll get through this dry spell and emerge on the other side ready to be reciprocated.  And maybe by then I’ll have something resembling a switch of my own.

Apple Dapple Purse

My mother kept a disgusting purse.  As a kid, I was always wary of digging through it, even if the situation was dire (i.e., I was scrounging for lunch money as the school bus barreled down the street).  Mixed in with the oxidized pennies and expired coupons would be a few cough drops sans wrappers, bobby pins, crumpled tissues, melted gum, inkless pens, loose buttons, and a half-roll of peppermint Lifesavers (never a whole roll—for much of my childhood I believed that half-rolls were the only way Lifesavers came).  And after counting out as much change as I could scrape up, I’d dash to the busstop, picking black gunk out from under my fingernails as I ran.

I always swore I would never let my purse get as nasty as my mother’s.  And for years I kept that promise.  I made it through my twenties with a purse that was uncluttered, more or less.  Maybe the occasional gum wrapper or paper clip would make its way into the depths, but it never stayed long.  I prided myself on my clean purse—you wouldn’t have to paw through a bunch of miscellaneous crap to find a few nickels in my handbag.  No sir-ee.

And then I had kids.

I dug through my purse for my keys the other day, and came up with a handful of Apple Jacks.  Not even whole, fresh Apple Jacks (which, I assure you, would have been bad enough).  No, these were smashed, stale, generic Apple Jacks.  Apple Dapples, I think they’re called. 

“What the….”  I looked into my purse, half-expecting to find a cockroach or two gorging themselves on whatever other vittles were within.  I fished out a plastic bowl, a faulty lid to said bowl, a lint-covered pacifier, a dried-out baby wipe, and a matchbox car (I swear those things multiply.  Don’t buy even one for your son or daughter.  Not unless you want to end up with an entire fleet, every make, model and color of every car every dreamed up).  I had to face the horrible truth:  After years of vigilance, of dutifully cleaning out my bag almost daily, I had finally succumbed to the Mom Purse Affliction.  I don’t know how or when it happened, but there it was, a disgustingly messy purse, complete with the mysterious black gunk to lodged itself under my fingernails. 

I cannot tell you how thankful I was that my husband was not around to witness this—despite my insistence that I have a relatively tidy purse, he refuses to go in there for anything, insisting just as strongly that it is a portable landfill.  And now he’d be right.  My purse will never be the same.

This is also true about my car.  Before children, my car was beautiful, immaculate, pristine.  Once in awhile an offending bug would grace the windshield, a bird would unceremoniously poop on the roof, a few CD cases would be stashed in the center console.  It even retained its New Car Smell, despite being several years old. 

Now, however…good Gawd.  The outside is never clean—washing it myself is a bigger production than a Broadway rendition of High School Musical.  I have break out the portacrib and toys for my five-month-old, drag out the wading pool for my two-year-old, make sure every conceivable item either one could possibly need in the next hour is in the garage so I don’t have to run inside for it—diapers, wipes, drinks, snacks, burp cloths, pacifiers, towels.  It turns into an all-morning affair, and that’s if everyone is in a good mood.  There have been many times that I’ve been tempted, in a heavy downpour, to simply douse my car in Palmolive and let Mother Nature make herself useful.

The inside of my car is another story.  A sad, painful story.  If you set a raccoon loose in my car, it would be sustained for days.  Unless it found the stash of edibles stuffed inside the center buckle of my son’s car seat.  Then it would be weeks before the little critter had an empty tummy.  Just a word of advice to anyone who doesn’t ever want to see another orange crumb of goldfish cracker ground into the floormats of her car—buy the parmesan ones.  Much easier to get out.  And always get vanilla flavored anything instead of chocolate.  And always have baby wipes at the ready when disembarking.  I’ve been amazed at what those handy little things will clean in a pinch—juice, chocolate, lollipop residue, every conceivable body fluid.  That’s what the commercials should emphasize—cleaning a little baby bottom is probably number seven on the top ten uses for wipes.

God forbid I ever get say, robbed at a stop sign or some such scenario.  I can just imagine the robber standing outside the driver’s side window demanding money. 

“Hold on,” I’ll say, as I dig through the wasteland of books, shoes, toys, and assorted baby accoutrement for my purse, only to have to paw through goldfish, tissues, pacifiers and crayons for my wallet.  And only then to find that I have no cash at all, and I left my credit card in my son’s pocket, having stuck it there after letting him swipe it through the machine at the grocery store because that was the only way to keep him from destroying the Tic Tac display in the checkout line.  And my son will inevitably be sleeping, since being strapped in his car seat is the only time he sits still long enough to take a nap.  And I’ll turn back to the robber and ask if he’ll settle for a handful of smashed Apple Dapples.  Although by then he will have already given up and decided to mess with someone who doesn’t have kids.  They’re easy to spot.  They’re the ones with tidy purses and clean cars.


Excuse Me, But Your Nipple Is Showing


The other day in the checkout line, I exposed myself to the cashier.

I didn’t mean to.  Honest.  I’m not into that kinda thing (much to my husband’s chagrin).  And trust me, after nursing two kids and swiftly closing in on thirty-five, the last thing I want everyone at my friendly neighborhood Publix to see is my booby.  Maybe my bra-strap, my lower back or in the worst of cases, a little crack, fine.  I can deal with that.  But really, my boob?  And not just my boob—my nipple.  My nipple.  I’m Saint Augustine’s version of Janet Jackson.

Before children, I was hyper-self-aware.  At least once an hour, I checked my appearance out in a mirror or other reflective surface just to make sure my teeth were spinach-free and my hair wasn’t sticking out everywhere.  I’m not one of those women who always looks polished and made-up by any means, but before kids, I showered daily, brushed my hair and tried to make it out the door with, at the bare minimum, some lip gloss, and in most cases, a bra. 

During this blissful, child-free era, I saw a commercial with a woman on it talking about the ease with which she could use whatever product she was pitching, and how nice it was to have one thing in her life that she could count on, as about a dozen kids swarmed around her like piranhas.  Then she smirked at the camera and said something like, “I can’t even count on taking a shower every day.”  I remember sitting there on the sofa, probably flipping through a magazine or eating or engaging in some other luxurious and leisurely activity that I used to revel in pre-children, and thinking in disbelief, now why can’t this poor woman count on taking a shower every day?  Is her life really so hectic that she can’t squeeze in five minutes under a spray of water, give the old pits and crotch a little how’s-your-father, maybe slather on some Pert and give everything a good rinse before anyone notices her absence and all hell breaks loose?

How smug and naïve of me.  How very smug and very, very naïve.

So I stood in line to pay for my groceries and Rollie told me he wanted to help slide my card—something I started allowing since it was the only way to keep him from destroying the Tic Tac display.  I picked him up and held him on my hip, guiding his hand as he ran my card through the machine and punched in my PIN.  That day I wore a tank top with one of those built in bras, usually a bonus because since having kids I’ve found that some days not only do I sometimes skip taking shower, but I also started taking shortcuts when getting dressed (I’m still waiting for them to come out with jeans that have socks attached to the cuffs, and shorts with built-in underwear). 

Unfortunately, holding my darling, thirty-pound-boy on my hip while wearing an only somewhat-supportive tank top and being distracted with making sure he doesn’t type in the wrong code and lead to my purchase being declined (now wouldn’t that have been embarrassing?) was not the wisest thing I could have done.  Because after completing my transaction, I looked up at the cashier, waiting for the automatic and obligatory have a nice day, and perhaps a comment about how simply adorable my son is, I noticed that her eyes weren’t meeting mine in a friendly smile.  Oh no.  Her eyes were instead focused on something else, and they were quite large and round.

And suddenly I had a premonition, a terrible, terrible sense that something awful was about to happen.  Had my son left chocolate handprints all over my shirt?  Was a giant tarantula creeping its way up my torso?  Had someone snuck up to me and written something obscene on my shirt when I wasn’t looking?

All of those would have been welcome alternatives to what the cashier was actually staring at.  Because just then I felt oddly exposed…and a little chilly. 

I looked down.  Yep.  There it was.  My boob, nipple, areola and all.

Balancing Rollie on my hip had pulled my shirt down at the bottom, causing the neckline to sag, pull, and eventually give up its cargo, revealing it to the poor cashier and anyone else who wanted to take a gander.

“Whoa,” I said, dropping my son like a hot, whining potato and adjusting my shirt.  “Yikes.  Sorry about that.”

After the slightest pause, during which I’m sure the cashier was making every attempt to banish the image from her mind, she smiled and shook her head.

“That’s okay,” she said, like I’d just given her an expired coupon instead of her own personal peepshow.  But I could still see the look in her eyes.  She was young, possibly in college (please God don’t let me just have flashed a high school girl), and definitely didn’t have kids.  I could tell by her face.  She looked disbelieving, and a bit…smug.  I knew what she was thinking.  God, lady, don’t you even notice when your boob is hanging out there for the whole world to see?  Shouldn’t you be wearing a bra—you have kids for crying out loud.  Women your age should be wearing turtlenecks and sweatpants and covering yourself up as much as possible. 

That’s what I would have been thinking, ten years and two kids ago.  That’s what I used to think when I saw that commercial with that stinky, shower-skipping lady, or whenever I’d see a harried, frazzled, frumpy-looking mother bustling a flock of children through my checkout line.  I’d take one look at the stained shirt, the frizzy hair, the naked face of the woman as she pawed through her purse for coupons, her checkbook as she barked at her kids to stop messing with the Tic Tacs and I’d think, Kill me if I’m ever that disheveled and un-self-aware.

Good thing no one ever held me to that pact.