What are you going to do with your life?

My budding mid-life crisis is apparently that I want to do all the things.

• write and illustrate children’s books
• run a cute farm, like one where there’s a corn maze and people come to pick out pumpkins
• be a travel writer/photographer
• move to a small town and run a photography business and unite the town with spirit-boosting photographs of their lives
• become a letterpress printer
• freelance design part time, have more babies and be a stay-at-home mom
• make jewelry
• move to a mountain town and open a gift shop where I make and sell art and gifts
• write short stories
• get paid to blog and do it better than I do it now, obviously
• work for a social-justice nonprofit
• work on political campaigns and bury Republicans for the next 40 years
• be a trust-fund kid
• make wine
• teach design
• flip houses and retire early

Grey areas

grey areas

The thing for ladies to do these days is put shocks of pastel in their hair. You see it everywhere, across race and class lines. Lilacs and pinks and teals and robin egg blues. A sea of bobbing cotton candy, as far as the eye can see.

Not me. It reminds me too much of my high school, where girls would bleach their hair with peroxide and use Kool-Aid paste to color it a rusty red-orange when their mothers wouldn’t buy them real hair dye.

This morning I colored my own mop brown. Just plain old brown, like it used to be, before the grey crept in. It started taking over last year. It’s hard to say if it was circumstantial or if it’s just age. Maybe both.

I remember being so upset with my mom while I was a pre-teen when she openly contemplated coloring her greying hair. I felt like it was a betrayal of who she really was. My mom had this beautiful, lightly salt-and-peppered head of impossibly curly hair. Hugely curly hair. My mom wasn’t the sort of woman who was preoccupied with capturing and holding her youth hostage. My mom was aging beautifully and would never try to fool anyone. That’s what I thought at the time. That hair color was a lie.

I was a kid. I didn’t have any idea that the years would come for me too, some day, before I was ready.

Now, of course, I would tell my mother, “Do whatever you want! Be happy! Be free!” Life’s too short to let a sullen pre-teen make your decisions for you.

Mom never did color her hair. Still never has. Now it’s nearly all grey. Still huge and curly. Beautiful, of course, just like her.

As for me? I’m addicted to the boxed stuff. I battle the creeping grey invasion every few months with a new box, a new set of disposable gloves, a new chemistry set inside. Sometimes I think I’ll just leave myself be and let nature take its course and try to live like one of those fabulously sophisticated women with long, grey locks. But I am not those fabulously sophisticated women. I am still trying to get comfortable in this earthbound body and here it is changing shit up on me.

The grey got to me before I was ready. I’ve got to beat it back, like a fire. I’ve got to live the lie. The lie for me is more true than the grey.

Salt and pepper

The past few weeks I’ve not been able to keep up with the greys. I was plucking them for a good long while but now they are everywhere. Witchy, thick, kinked-up ones and frail, wispy ones you barely notice unless the light hits them the right way.

I can’t keep ripping them out. The ratio won’t allow it anymore.

I know it’s a normal part of aging but it’s unsettling, this change. How do they go from dark to light so rapidly? Internet science tells me that they don’t just turn grey, that they grow in that way anew. But I don’t buy it. It feels like every morning brings a new batch of complete, long, grey hairs. I Where’s Waldo them in the mirror every day and yank out the unruliest, the ones that give me away. It’s pointless but I’m not ready to just let them be yet.

‘You got a copperhead kiss hidden up your sleeve, thirty-three’

I’ll be 33 in two weeks.

To mark this occasion, I have Googled famous people who died at 33 and re-learned that Chris Farley and John Belushi were both 33 at the moment of their untimely demises. Not to mention good ol’ Eva Braun, who is the postergal for bad taste in men.

Ahhhh, what a refreshing dose of reality on the eve of my continued slog toward middle age.

I am going to go ahead and start wistfully thinking back on 32 since it takes me a month to write a single post these days.

Thirty-two was a good year. I kind of can’t believe it went down how it did but I’m happy with it. I did some things I never dreamed I would or could but now I have a bit of a taste for the unexpected and unobtainable. So we will see how that pans out.

Grown-up decisions

I get annoyed at how often I balk at the trappings of adulthood. Bills show up, expecting that I pony up for all the amazing and comfortable things I have access to on a daily basis and I feel personally affronted. BUY WHYYY DO I HAVE TO PAYYY FOR STUFFFF! my brain says, seizing into the fetal position.

Paralysis sets in when I have to make important decisions. Hell, even not very important decisions, like getting a haircut. Sometimes I agonize internally over things to the point of being totally unable to decide how to move forward. Which looks a lot like inaction from the outside. Which triggers guilt and anxiety, which further cements the paralysis. It’s a mess up in my head. I feel like I’m not qualified to do any of this stuff that I have to do. Like, who would sell me a house and let me have a baby? Who was responsible for that? You’re fired!

I have to do something about my house in Memphis. My sweet little house in Memphis where my baby was born. I can’t keep it. I would love to keep it, so that when Holden is old enough, I can just take him over there and show him the spot where he was born in a big blue pool, and the spot on the counter where I used to feed him new foods while he sat in his Bumbo seat, and the spot in the living room where he used to sleep in the little swing. But I can’t keep the house. I am losing money to keep that house. We have renters and they are great and seem to be taking good care of the place, but I have to simplify things and get control of my finances back. And that won’t happen unless I get a big fat raise at work or I sell my house. But you need money to get a house ready to sell. And if there’s one thing I don’t have, it’s money. Cue paralysis.

Do you think people in 1929 agonized over their inability to feel grown up well into their 30s? Or do you think maybe they had to start feeling grown up when they were, like, eight years old, working in garment factories and raising their infant siblings because one of their parents died of dysentery on the Oregon Trail*? So that by the time they were 31 they were so exhausted and lucky to have escaped with all their limbs that they didn’t really entertain existential fuckery? I suppose it is a function of the luxury of modern middle-class living to even be able to despair over how difficult it is to feel qualified for adulthood.

And yet the modern middle-class life is impossible without the easy acquisition of debt, which hangs over our heads and sucks out so much of the oxygen of daily life that it’s no wonder we’re all super grumpy all the time despite all our toys.

What was I saying? Oh yes, I have got to sell my house. Not, like, RIGHTNOW but at some point. It’s coming. I have never sold a house before but I imagine it is painful in new and exciting ways to me. It’s making me sad to contemplate cutting the cord connecting me to my old life — the one where I grew up and grew into myself — but I have to keep reminding myself that home is wherever I make it and that, despite how much it is going to cost me to get the place ready to sell, the money I save in the long run will be very helpful in paying down the debt I’ve accrued to get here. Right? Right.


* Sometimes when I have had too much coffee, I mix really stupid metaphors.


Motivational poster

It’s 10 p.m. and I’m sitting at a blue plastic table, sipping a canned Coke. I’m surrounded by banks of whirring silver washing machines, and I’ve figured out that by sitting at this table, I can feel the blasts of cold air from the AC. It’s a nice counter to the heat radiating off all these dryers. This is the Wash Tub Coin Laundry, open 25 hours, according to a sign on the side of the building. I am not entirely sure that’s meant to be funny.

Visiting Laundromats every other week or so is something I’ve been doing since we moved. Of course, I should be doing it much more often than that but we literally use every piece of clean fabric in the house before I get weird about not having anything to dry off with after a shower, and surrender and load my car up with every rag we own.

Our landlords were kind enough to leave their washer and dryer in the house for us in case we wanted to adopt them, but they warned us that there was an issue with the washer that would need to be repaired. I tried to get a repair company to come out and look at it but they refused to do so since the house is rented. Besides, I think having the thing repaired to the degree it is probably going to need might cost more than I am willing to spend on a repair job. Just a hunch. I finally decided the other day to throw in the towel and just buy a new washing machine because going to the Laundromat is a pain in the ass when you’re single and you just have a trash bag full of your own clothes. It’s practically torture when you’ve got three towering baskets full of three people’s clothes — some of them sporting more than a little poop (I won’t tell you whose) — to wash and dry using every quarter you can possibly get your hands on.

The Wash Tub has an interesting ethos. There are three things on the wall that are not washing related:

• A poster featuring the characters of the Marvel Universe
• A poster featuring a blonde beach babe busting out of her bikini while reclining in water
• A calendar featuring pictures of churches

There’s also a pool table. When I first got here, there were a couple of guys playing a game. Now the guy who helped me get my clothes inside (such service!) is lying down on it, watching TV. There is a group of three teenagers who came in with no laundry; they just wanted to play the shitty arcade games, I guess. I feel like someone should tell them they’d get a better value for their money if they gave me their quarters to finish drying my jeans. It’s an investment.

I remember doing my laundry in college sometimes at that Laundromat next to La Siesta, near Murphy Center. (I seriously just had to sit here and think for a few minutes about what Murphy Center is called. Shameful.) I didn’t have any concept then of the sheer volume of laundry that was to come in my life. Just like I have no concept now of how much laundry is going to be involved as my child gets older and we stop being lazy and put him in two-piece outfits more often.

Life in Murfreesboro was ages ago. I think if I went back to my old haunts, I’d be really pissed that I let my youth slip away so quickly. But what can you do. I purposefully did not put a question mark on that last sentence. Because I am not asking.

Moldy McOldfart strikes again

I just saw the comment “datz ma last day of skool” on the Facebooks.

I had to physically get up and walk away before I replied, “Oh yeah? What fucking horrible school would that be?”

Old, old, old.