Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weakness from within

Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness, pronounced [ˈvɛltʃmɛɐ̯ts]) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind...It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world...The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone's own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances. Weltschmerz in this meaning can cause depression, resignation and escapism

Thank you, Wikipedia, for explaining my mental state so succinctly.  Except for the part where I think my own weaknesses also come from within.  Doesn't everyone?

P.S. A friend and I decided tonight that in a perfect world, we'd be able to have someone with us all the time who was all these things rolled into one: a nutritionist, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a friend, and a personal trainer.  Oh and who is covered by all health insurance plans.  Sound good to anyone else?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Straight as a Crooked Line

Is it as delightfully funny to anyone else that I have not one, but TWO ex-boyfriends with birthdays today?  I know, I know, you're probably like, "Wait...did she just say boyfriends?"  I did, in fact.  Prior to Smith, I was a card-carrying member of the heterosexual club (those heteros don't have nearly as much fun, by the way).  Anyway, everyone's got a story and here's mine:

When I got to college, I was known to loudly proclaim to anyone and everyone that I was straight, straight, straight.  My older housemates laughed in my face and told me, quite plainly, that they gave me until spring to realize I was gay.  The signs were there long before Smith: I had a massive crush on that girl from Stick It (Missy Peregrym) and I had once kissed a girl (and yes, I liked it) but that is a story for another time.  I met my first girlfriend in the winter of my first year of school and we were quickly inseparable.  All the U-Haul jokes and lesbian cliches applied to us.  We naively believed it would last forever, despite the huge gaping holes of communication and maturity in our relationship.  The tumult of our relationship finally ended in the fall of my junior year, three weeks after the worst time of my life (another story for another time).  At that point, I had embraced the fact that I wasn't "straight" after all, but since I was lucky enough to be at a place like Smith where "labels are for jars, not people," I didn't have to call myself gay either.  Because truthfully, I didn't feel like either one.  I still liked boys, I thought they were cute and could be funny and likable.  But I felt the same way about girls.  And I HATE the word bisexual.  I think it should be eliminated from the dictionary.  Do not ever call me that.  EVER.  Anyway, life at Smith continued and relationships came and went - none of them serious, all of them with other girls.  And then, I met Alix.

Alix and I met at a lesbian dive bar in the West Village.  We were both there purely by chance, happened to lock eyes across the dance floor, and I was amused by the worst pickup line I've ever heard (I'll spare her the embarrassment by not printing it here).  So we started dancing and talking and realized, quite truthfully, by the end of even such a raucous night that we were meant for each other.  The weekend we spent together only solidified the fact and it was from that moment on that we knew we'd be together forever.  Neither one of us has ever looked back and despite our differences in self-definition - Alix identifies as gay, while I choose to more loosely define myself as "gay for her" - our relationship is as solid as a rock.

I guess my point in telling this whole story is to illuminate the fact that there are a million different ways to be right for someone and not all of them - or hardly any of them - fall neatly into some pre-labeled category.  Alix and I work together because we talk about anything to each other, she knows the worst and best parts of me, we fight and make up before going to sleep, and we work hard, every single day, to make each other happy.  THAT is what makes a relationship work.  Not a definition, a label, or a category.  Is it easy all the time?  Hell no.  But is it worth it?  Unquestionably yes.

Friday, February 25, 2011

So, this is for a wedding, right?

...And so began our first wedding venue viewing.
"Um...yes...?" was our eloquent reply to the gum-popping, dirty t-shirt wearing, over-dyed blonde who greeted us at the venue for which we'd driven two and a half hours in the pouring rain and blowing snow to see.  We arrived fresh-faced and eager, my digital camera and moleskine notebook in hand for note-taking (go ahead, call me a nerd).  We were more than a little surprised by her apparent lack of knowledge about why we had shown up on the doorstep of the B&B that she runs, since Alix had spoken to her extensively on the phone about our wedding, our visit today, and - most importantly - the fact that this is a same-sex (i.e., GAYGAYGAY) wedding.

Which then left us utterly nonplussed by the next question: "So, which one of you is the bride?"
*insert long pause*  "Um...we both are...?"
Gum-popping blonde looks confused, then shrugs and says, "Well here's the can look in this one, don't worry, someone's staying in it but he's out at the movies right now."  Right, because it's totally okay to look in the room that someone is paying $200 a night to stay in when he's at the movies.  Good lord, but if I were spending that much money, I would consider it my God-given right to leave my dirty clothes and pornographic material all over the damn room, since one would assume that visitors wouldn't be casually waltzing through.  Thankfully, this poor man whose privacy was so nonchalantly invaded had not left either of said items out, and Alix and I retreated as quickly as possible.  Our next mission then became that of howsooncanweleavethisawfulplace.

We politely thanked our host, smiled while telling bold-faced lies about how we'd keep in touch and walked quickly to the car in utter silence, realizing en route that my camera and notebook had not made a single appearance.  Once the doors were locked and the engine on, we looked at each other and simply said, "Nope.  Not the one."  And the search goes on.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Leaving Kids Behind

So I've started reading this blog written by a (former) nanny because it gives me something to do while my little guy naps and because her writing makes me laugh.  I'm still wading through the archives though, and reading old posts about how much she misses the girls she used to nanny for has made me so nostalgic about all the kids I've left behind since I started babysitting/nannying.  I've probably taken care of more than twenty kids in my time, but there are two families I will never forget.  The first was a family for whom I worked for two consecutive summers, the first after I graduated high school and the next after my first year of college.

It was idyllic in some ways - Cape Cod, beaches, four sweet darling boys all within three years of age - and maddeningly frustrating in other ways - parents who didn't "approve" of discipline, being on 24-hour-call, feeling out of place in an area so much ritzier than any I'd ever been or belonged in.  But I loved those boys so fiercely that I would have taken a bullet for any one of them.  They were tough kids to take care of, there's no denying it.  The oldest, L. was three years old one summer and four the next, and he could push limits better than any child I've ever seen.  My interactions with him consisted mainly of defusing meltdowns and calmly leaving places with him screaming in tow because he refused, after three warnings, to follow the rules I set down.  W., the sweet, good-natured one of the four, was two years old and then three the following year and he was possibly the easiest little one I've ever cared for.  Not picky about food, no trouble going to sleep, loved to laugh, doled out hugs with no reservations, and told me repeatedly, even after two days of knowing him, "I wove you so much, Caywin!"  But the clincher?  The twins.  My babies.  Eight months old, and then almost two years old the next year.  With them I got a crash course in baby-raising - changing diapers with one hand, reading to two kids at once, singing bedtime songs in Spanish (their non-summer nannies were Spanish speakers so I tried to encourage their bilingual language learning as much as I could).  I would wake up with them in the night and feed them each a bottle at the same time, laid out on the floor side by side.  I would take them to the park the second summer, chasing them over and over again, just to hear them giggle with delight.  Each summer that I left (especially the second, knowing it was the last time I'd see them) I felt like my heart was breaking.  I cried so hard on the airplane ride home that the flight attendants came to sit next to me with tissues and bottles of water.  Almost four years later, the pain of leaving them has effectively left me.  I think of them often, smiling at the memories, but knowing that they are loved and cared for (though perhaps not in the way I would choose).

The sadness that still nags me is that of leaving the family I cared for during my senior year of college.  Three times a week, for four or five hours at a time, I would take care of two darling girls, S. and J.  S. was six and J. was 15 months when I started.  We bonded from the first day I showed up and I looked forward to seeing them every time.  S. was incredibly precocious and would beg me to play mancala with her over and over again, just so she could beat me and howl with delight.  She told me I should open my own quesadilla shop (with the delightfully original name of Caitlin's Quesadillas) because I made her favorite dinner so well.  What can I say, I'm quite the whiz with tortillas and cheese.  J. and I would spend one day a week together, just us.  We'd read Doctor Suess over and over and she'd fall asleep on my chest, the only place she would reliably nap for more than fifteen minutes.  They called me Cakey because J. couldn't say Caitlin, and when I showed up at their house, they would run to me for hugs and cuddles.  The day I last saw them, I came home to my half-packed room, already anxious about leaving my beloved school and immediately retreated to my best friend's room and started sobbing.  "What happened??" she asked, imagining the worst.  "My girls," was all I could say.  "I miss them already."

What will I do when I leave my little man?  I've already seen his first rollover, his first crawl, heard his first attempts at words, caught him as he toppled after first standing up, and taught him how to feed himself.  We practice words like "diaper" and "ducky" and he'll crawl to me, giggling, one arm waving wildly in a request to be picked up.  I sign to him, tell him "No," when he bangs on his high chair or pulls open drawers that are off-limits.  I rock him till he's sleepy and rub his back until he falls asleep in his crib.  He nuzzles into my chest when he first wakes up in the morning and he goes limp in my arms as I put him to bed at night.  I don't want to think about leaving such a precious kid in a little over a year, but I know that I will.  Someday, I tell myself, I will have a baby that I won't ever have to leave.  My own.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I don't know that many 23-year-old's that are engaged.  For that matter, I'm not sure I know anyone who's engaged.  Since I'm on this loneliness bender lately, this only serves to make me feel more isolated in some ways.  And yet, I can't imagine my life being any different.  Alix and I knew we were going to spend our lives together almost from the moment we met.  We waited 18 months to get engaged more for the sake of our respective families' sanity and for me to graduate college than for any other reasons.  I don't question our decisions for a moment, but there are times I wonder how being so atypical affects people's perception of me.  After all, it's a lot different to explain to someone that your fiancée is a woman than to say "my girlfriend," a phrase that is generally interpreted correctly in NYC.   Since Alix and I are both super feminine, we get a lot of double-takes when people see us holding hands or kiss in public.  "Coming out" is something I've had to do post-Smith that I never had to do at college, particularly since the realization and acceptance of my sexual orientation all shook down at that very institution.  Even nine months after graduating, I still have mixed feelings about the need to explain my sexual orientation when people notice my engagement ring.  I have been extremely lucky not to have encountered any public defamation for who I am, and that comes from living in places like Northampton and New York.  Someday down the line, I won't be so lucky, and I don't know how I'll react when someone openly criticizes my "lifestyle" to my face.  Will I react in anger?  Will I spout off some hot-blooded articulate reply about the inability of people to tolerate, accept, and acknowledge those that are different from themselves?  Probably not, to be honest.  I've never been good at throwing out the biting remarks when they might be called for.  I stew over them later, my cheeks burning at the embarrassment of my actual response, which was probably to laugh or defer or simply swallow and walk away.

If for nothing else, something about the fear of negative reactions is holding me back from jumping with fervor into plans for our wedding.  It's only a little over a year away and from what I've heard, weddings don't just plan themselves or go off without a hitch.  Alix and I are going to look at a venue this Friday and the thought is more overwhelming than I could have imagined.  It's only the first step in a long line of decisions that will lead up to the big day, when truthfully, all I really want is to actually be married, not to have a wedding.  I want to be able to introduce Alix as my wife, to have kids, and to enter grad school with the joy of knowing I have the most supportive, life-long partner waiting at home for me when I'm done.  The ironic thing is, of course, that Alix and I already are those people for each other.  The title and the public commitment are - albeit, fun - hoops to jump through to get to where we want to be.

There are realities to planning a same-sex wedding that would never occur to most people.  It's important to explain to every single vendor you plan to use that this is a same-sex wedding (as in GAYGAYGAY) just in case they didn't know, so that they can't back out when they realize that "Alix" is not a fancy spelling of "Alexander."  There are states where it's legal, but most where it's not (New York included).  How do you decide on a wedding party when there's no "best man"?  Do we ask both our fathers to walk us each down the aisle?  A million questions, and I don't have the answer to a single one.  All I can hope for is that this venue on Friday is beyond perfect so we can cross one tiny detail off a list that we don't even know how to write.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wanted: Friends

Here's the story...

This is me

 I used to go to college and had some awesome, truly amazing friends.  (Don't worry, they're still there.  They're just very far away.)  Then I graduated.  Then I moved to NY, where I know no one, except for Alix (and she's wonderful...remember when this happened?).  Anyway.  I spend my days with an 11-month-old, and while he's working very hard on his conversation skills, they're still not quite up to my speed.  I spend my weekends handing out cookies in exchange for money (yay for a free market economy) with people who are vaguely my age and should be good friend material but are somehow...not.  It's definitely because I'm shy but still.  I'd really like some friends.  Can we be friends?  Here are some things about me in case you need to know.

I used to wear a boot (briefly).

I illegally housed a cat in my dorm room for two years.  I could have gotten kicked out of school for this.  Instead, I didn't and Tucker and I watched Animal Planet together.

I was sad for a long, long time.  Now, it's not so bad.  Tucker, Rupert, Alix, my family, and the sunrise keep me going even on days when it threatens to pull me under again.

So what do you think.  Can anyone help me out with this friend thing?

Friday, February 18, 2011

February Thaw

This is what I'm currently obsessed with:

And this is what I made for dinner last night:
Kerala-Style Chicken Curry

(Sooo not vegetarian, but sooo good.  You can find the recipe here.)

Going to the gym took a hit this week since I worked 7-8 one day and 6-8 two other days (yes, those are 13 and 14 hour shifts.  Have I mentioned that my job is crazy?).  Needless to say, going to the gym at 9 PM when I have to wake up at 4:15 AM doesn't sound too appealing nor is it very healthy.  I'm at a stalemate with my weight loss and after seeing a personal trainer last week, I'm hoping things start to look up.  He's given me a weight-training plan and if I follow it three times a week, do cardio twice a week or more, and keep track of what I'm eating (and actually eat - a blog entry for another time), it should all fall into place.  Maybe in a month or so?  Stay tuned, as always.

As for my other job, we're still bracing ourselves for the whirlwind of customers that nice weather and Food Network appearances bring through the door, especially on the weekends when we're already overloaded.  The simple fact is that there is not enough oven space to keep up with the amount of cookies we are selling during a typical two-hour long rush and so while my shifts often fly by, by the end of them I have crazy-eyes, my hair is coming out of its bandana, there's flour all over my jeans and chocolate on my apron, and all I really really want is a beer.  Or something stronger.  Thankfully, my boss is relaxed enough that she will in fact give us something to sip on while closing on particularly hectic days.  She says we are her champion team and she couldn't do it without us.  It feels nice to be appreciated, even if it's for doing something as simple as ringing a cash register and making espresso drinks as fast as I can.  And no, as employees, we don't get sick of the cookies.  Our favorites may change, but we don't ever stop loving them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Will You Be My Valentine?

Today is an awesome day because I have two valentines. That's right. TWO. Obviously Alix is one of them (sigh, I know, aren't we disgusting), but the really special one is my little guy because - get this - today he is 11 months old! I absolutely cannot believe that in a month we'll be celebrating his first birthday and that I've been taking care of him now for almost eight months. He can do so many things that he couldn't do before, and crawling is only one of them. He babbles constantly now, desperately trying to form words, and I'm convinced that he can say "diaper" even if only I can understand him. He can eat solid foods (banana and sweet potato, so far), even if it takes him half an hour to go through an inch of banana. The way he eats is pretty hilarious too: he will pick up a piece of banana in his right hand, for safekeeping. Then he will eat with his left, occasionally dropping a piece or getting one stuck on his lower lip. Finally, when the tray is clear, it will dawn on him that he has one piece left, hiding in his right hand where he put it twenty minutes ago! A grin will slowly spread across his face as he attempts to maneuver this last (slightly mangled) bite into his mouth. I'm still spoon-feeding him at each meal as well, to make sure he gets enough to eat before losing patience with the whole ordeal.

Sadly, he is not picking up any of the sign language that we I am learning at our weekly class.  Monkey is as independent as they come (except when he's sick or cranky, then all he wants is to be cuddled) and will thus spend the entire class roaming around the room, playing with the toys, and attempting to steal our teacher's notebook and water bottle.  When we're home, I sing him our songs (I can sign to Twinkle Twinkle and Skitter-a-dinky-dinky-do.  I bet you never thought those would be useful life skills.) and I sign every sign I know when he's eating, drinking, having his diaper changed, playing with his toys, etc but so far - nothing.  I have an anxiety-guilt complex about this issue too, since it took a lot of courage for me to ask my bosses if they would be willing to pay for Monkey and I to take some sort of class together this winter, in an attempt to combat the daily monotony of not being able to go outside.  They agreed, even though they're not rolling in dough, and they are genuinely happy that he and I have something to do each week, but I still feel like I'm somehow not doing a good enough job at getting their money's worth if he's not signing anything.

I wish I could post some pictures or videos of my little man, but he's not my baby to exploit...for imagination purposes though, he's a behemoth of an 11-month-old, completely tow-headed, and has a grin full of four front teeth that would make your heart melt.  Happy Valentine's Day, little man.  I love you to pieces.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gay Parents

Someday, Alix and I will be them. We will be that same-sex couple - God willing, not the only one that everyone knows - who have a few kids in the local school and do things like bring vegan brownies to bake sales and nurse their infants in public. We'll probably even own a jogging stroller, wear our babies in slings, use cloth diapers and positive reinforcement and have strict rules about TV watching and homework. Maybe you approve of these things, maybe you don't, but regardless, they're going to happen. And it bothers me to no end that our parenting styles will be noticed, appraised, and judged more than others' simply because we are a same-sex couple.

Long before I knew that I was not entirely straight, when I imagined myself as a mother, it was almost always as a single parent (perhaps this should have indicated to me at the time that I didn't feel a strong connection to the idea of spending a lifetime with a man). But the fact remains that even this choice, had I made it, would have been far more socially acceptable and tolerated than the family that Alix and I will create over the next few years. Even - perhaps especially - the process of creating a family will for us be far more complicated than the average couple. Most people who decide to have children at some point use the "Well we're not not trying anymore..." approach and then wait to see "what happens." Inevitably (if they're blessed), two pink lines show up on a stick and their lives are changed forever. For us, it will involve processes I don't even understand yet, but I think will go something like this: find eligible sperm donor through reputable agency, acquire enough sperm for multiple children, buy sperm, have inserted into uterus in gynecological office (how romantic!) and then wait and hope for the two pink lines.

Whatever the end results, I can only hope that our kids turn out to be anything like this young man. He is a credit to his mothers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Does 23 feel different from 22? Not so much. But a co-worker at the bakery asked me nonchalantly what I had learned in my 22nd year and even though he was half-kidding, it made me think. So much has happened in the past year: I graduated college, I moved to NYC, I moved in with Alix, we got a dog, I got two jobs, we moved apartments, we got engaged...I think that's about it. But as for things I've learned? Much harder to pin down. If I had to pick three things:

1. I learned how to let things go. There are people and situations that you will never be able to change and your energy is much better spent changing yourself and your own situation than worrying about someone else's mistakes.

2. I learned that no matter what Alix and I face, we face it together. After an incredibly scary and difficult summer, we came through it together and only grew stronger and closer in the process.

3. I learned that dog parks have weird hierarchical structures, that couches come apart to fit through small doorways, that an old milk jug makes an awesome vase, that there will never be too many cookbooks, that it's possible to love a child who's not yours so much you'd dive in front of a bus for them, and that gratitude is never overrated.

Birthday pictures? Here ya go!

New oven mitts!

New food processor!

New Kindle! (Best used with oven mitts on, for protection)

Hint: I also got a new camera. Hence all the pictures. Especially the two up top of our two favorite boys.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality

(Ten points to anyone who can name the musical group responsible for this post's title)

So after a month of working relatively normal work hours every day (7 AM to 5 PM), my boss's rotation has changed and she's back to shift work, which means so am I. This week I'm working almost 60 hours, in addition to the sixteen I'll be working at the bakery over the weekend. This is what a typical day looks and feels like for me these days:

5:25 AM - Wake up to most annoying alarm possible. No charming bell chimes for me. Roll out of bed, weigh self with fingers crossed. Sigh in relief or grimace in annoyance, depending on number. This morning sighed in relief! Pack food for day, put clothes on, rub eyes vigorously, pack clothes for the gym, keep yawning and rubbing eyes, kiss Alix good-bye and run downstairs.

5:45 AM - Trudge to subway station. Realize it's raining and forgot to pack umbrella.

6:00 AM - Catch downtown 1 train, transfer to cross-town L train, walk 20 minutes in freezing rain, arrive at work by 6:50.

7:00 AM-8:00 PM - I'll spare you the blow by blow, but this can be the longest, most boring, and still most fun 13 hours of my life. It consists of diaper changes, feedings, Baby Einstein videos, Toddler Radio on Pandora, naps ("It's time to go to sleep, Monkey." He pops his head up and starts to cry. "It's time to go to sleep, Monkey." Repeat until sleepy enough for me to leave the room to only mild crying. As you can tell, we are still in the beginning phase of "crying it out.") Further activities include playing with toys, more diaper changes, more feedings, a bath, and if we're lucky, an adventure to the grocery store, thrift store, or library.

8:00 PM-8:40 PM - Make groggy commute home but stop at gym before getting there. Change slowly into workout clothes while seriously contemplating skipping the gym just this once.

8:45 PM-9:30 PM - Cardio on Arc Trainer for 45 minutes. Thoughts go something like this: Ok, 45 minutes isn't that long. Here we go with a warm-up. Oh jeez, Lady Gaga on my playlist again. Must update iPod soon. Warm-up over, increase then decrease resistance in five minute increments. Is it 9:30 yet? What if I only do 30 minutes? I'm really sweaty and it says I've burned lots of calories. But oh yeah, I ate those cookies today. Fine, I'll do the whole 45 minutes. Now we're on to Miley Cyrus? I hope no one near me can hear my music. Wait, does that guy come to the bakery sometimes? He does! I wonder if he recognizes me without my apron and bandana. On second thought, definitely not. Ok, last ten minutes. If I increase the resistance every two minutes until the end I'll burn lots of calories. Go. Finally, finally done. After five minutes of core work, I drag myself to the shower, knowing that if I think I'm going to shower when I get home or when I get up in the morning, I'm seriously deluding myself.

10:00 PM - Make it home, kiss Alix hello, brush teeth, fall into bed, and set annoying alarm for tomorrow.