Lost and Found: The Libertines of Folsom Street

Photography has always been my second love after writing, and I was lucky enough to shoot somewhat professionally for a a few years. I worked as a headshot photographer (come on, now. This is L.A.) and did some street-style fashion stuff in London, combing the streets for fashionable people for magazines like Lucky and various websites. I also was able to shoot my own features when I was travel-writing. A two page photo spread in Grace Ormonde Wedding Style to accompany my feature about the Amalfi Coast was thrilling. I was hooked. But it's been a while since I was able to really shoot photos. With a manual camera and a pocket of T-Max film.

Digital cameras are great, of course, but lack the soul and grain of manual photography, in my opinion.
I also feel the same of MP3s and High Definition. Sound isn't supposed to be clean, and films are supposed to be grainy. Picture isn't supposed to be refined or appear instantly on a screen. The surprise of watching images appear slowly in the darkness is what makes photography, to me, so sexy.

This morning, my friends at Smith Magazine published a selection of photos I took several years ago at Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, along with an essay: Lost and Found: The Libertines of Folsom Street.
(Warning: Some photos may not be suitable for work.)

And suddenly, the normal girl is the one on the outside, appearing lost amidst the found.


What the Bleep...?

Archer takes a break with Albert Einstein who, appears to be flipping off the heavenly bodies of the universe.

The first time I heard the word "fuck" I was seven. The first time Archer heard the word, "fuck," he was seven... minutes old.

I don't mean to swear. It just comes out. Like snorting when I laugh or peeing when crouched over the toilet.

In my defense I have done a pretty good job censoring myself since Arch was born. I've replaced many a fuck for eff and replaced shit with poop, etc. Of course when something awful abruptly happens, "Effing Poop!" is not what comes out of my mouth.

For example, when I stub my toe or my computer crashes before I get a chance to save, or I burn myself making eggs, I curse. Loud. (Hot oil splattering on the chest deserves a few fuck-shit-fucks, in my opinion.)

I know that there are plenty of parents who are able to put a ceasefire on their expletives, at least in front of the kids. I am, sadly, not one of them.

Personally, I have no idea what constitutes as a curse word, these days, but this would be a partial list of my guesses:

Shit= yes.
Crap = no.
Fuck = yes
Bitch= yes
Asshole = yes
Ass= no
Sucks = no
Fucking sucks = yes

I desperately want to set a good example for my son, especially where language is concerned but I'm afraid I'm at great risk of becoming a raging hypocritasaurus.

I don't understand how parents can tells their kids not to do something when they themselves do it. How does one make this work?

I blame my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mary Poppins for my naivete. They were all for song and dance and jumping into chalk paintings. Never a vice in sight or a profanity in earshot.

When my parents caught me smoking cigarettes in 8th grade and told me I had to stop, they weren't sneaking them late at night behind the trash bins. When I was lectured for saying "shit" because "shit wasn't allowed in the house," I had to respect that, because it was true. No one said "shit" in our house, which was annoying, because I never had a good argument, unlike many of my friends who had parents that smoked in secret or cursed out loud.

I digress... The time has finally come for me to be more aware of my words. To stop making excuses for my potty-mouth, buck up and face the music because Archer's listening. And repeating after me.

Shhhh! He's listening...

Last week, after collapsing beside me on a heap of warm-from-the-dryer laundry (my favorite) Archer told me that he "felt like ass."

"I feee ike ass" were his exact words, not ten seconds after I had said them, myself.

"Archer! Don't say that! Nooooooo..." I howled.

But it was too late.

"I eelack ass! Eeeeelack ASSSSS!"

"Only mommies can say that!"

I was both horrified at my hypocrisy and mildly amused at the idea that Archer, who had spent all day stepping on my feet and dancing around the house, laughing and smiling and having a superb ol' time, felt like ass.

"You have no idea what ass feels like," I thought, changing the subject by offering Archer, the alphabet song.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G...

He quickly joined me, singing along, forgetting all thinks ass-ish. Of course, I won't always be so lucky. There will come a day, I'm afraid, when the alphabet song won't be so beloved.

Thankfully, after confronting my list o cuss words, I see that ass is on my safe list, which means, I'm letting myself off the hook... for now. Still, I'm afraid that next time I won't be so lucky.

Archer walks all over his blankie like a bad-ass. Ooops! I mean, bad-butt.

In the meantime.... Does anyone have a mute button I can borrow, or at the very least, some life experience they can lend to this situation? Do you curse in front of your kids? Did your parents curse in front of you? Did it totally fu.... I mean, screw you up?

Do I need duct tape? A bar of soap permanently in my mouth?

Talk to me, friends.


Looking Up

Over the weekend, we spent some time at our favorite place: The San Diego Zoo. This time with my parents. And some close friends.

Behold, Archer, intently watching his favorite Zoo creature do Zoo creature things:

Still watching...

Watching (Hi, Dad!)


Watching. Watching. Refusing to look away.... From the cable car:

Of course, pretty soon, we were all just as interested. We were all watching, too. I guess that's what happens when you go the the Zoo with an Archer...

... A cable car quickly becomes a magical floating box in the sky.

Friday Night Fashion

Tee by Wes & Willy: City College
A is for Archer tee (undershirt): Woopsie Baby
Pants by Okkies
Shoes by: Vans
Mom's Sunglasses by Dita


Photographic Evidence

Archer and me in the protective glass: Natural History Museum

I hate having my picture taken. Especially professionally. My first instinct every time there's a camera in front of me is to make a face: my famous open-mouthed pose, for instance. I try to pull the whole "I'm crazy! Lalala!" card, which works fine with friends and candid shots out on the town, but not so much with a professional photographer for a professional shoot.

Several weeks ago I journeyed to Matt's studio to pose for author photos for my book jacket. I brought Archer along with me, hoping to get a few shots with him as well to use for Babble or wherever they made sense. I was sure I wanted the book jacket photo to be of just me because that seemed more "author-y" for some reason. (I know. How lame am I?)

I brought a zillion outfits and tried my damnedest to pose in creative ways that didn't look forced. Except... um... That wasn't really working out. Every time the camera came near my face, I choked.

"Act natural," I reminded myself, "Little smile but not too much."

When the photographer showed me the film I gasped.

None of them looked like me. I was too funny-faced. Too come-hither, baby. Too tough. Too wide-eyed. Too head tilt-y. None of the faces fit the voice of the author. Had I opened the book and found my portrait I would have rolled my eyes. I was not someone I wanted to be friends with, let alone read about.

It's always a total buzz kill to look at an author photo and see the grimace of an "artist" who takes themselves way too seriously. Eyes that see through you. Domineering faces that contradict the voices of characters and narrators, and the book. Bleck.

It wasn't until Archer stepped into frame with me that the photos became beautiful. I watched as they appeared on the screen one by one. There was nothing forced or awkward or cock-eyed or open-mouthed or unflattering about any of the photos of us together. No preconceptions or poses or head-tilting or trying to look sexy or older or younger or thinner. Just me being me, with the person who most brings out my me-ness.

So I decided to bypass my original plan of solo author-shot. It was a stupid idea, anyway. I don't have to frown against a brick wall to look like a serious writer.

Besides, it made much more sense for my author photo to include Archer:

He is what made me an author, after all.


For those of you who inquired about pre-orders, Rockabye has just made its debut on Amazon. The book won't be available until March 28th, but by all means go and pre-order if you want!

It's the End of the Summer As We Know It...

Archer and Jackson play in Jackson's water table

And I feel fine

Better than fine, in fact.

This week marks the beginning of the end of summer: my favorite time of the year. When the sun cools and there's a nip at night and air-conditioning can be replaced with fresh-air through the windows and an open sunroof and a playground slide that isn't 567,000 degrees.

When wardrobe is not limited to wife-beaters and jeans, and this years flip-flops hit the trash and knit hats and scarves and jackets are almost wearable again. Almost. (I mean, it's never really cold here but a girl can't ignore Fall fashion, even if the rain hates to fall here and snow doesn't even know Los Angeles exists.)

Today I wore a sweater. And closed-toe shoes. And it was perfect. And Archer wore his babylegs as arm-warmers under his tee-shirt.

Around here, there isn't really a proper "end" to summer. It's kind of our permanent season. So we don't have to bid adieu to splashing water tables and ducking into the only available shade. Not really.

Well, maybe a water table in winter is a little bit much. Regardless, the time has come to say goodbye to the rabid sun and the sand that finds its way onto everything all summer long, and hello to Halloween-costume planning and long shadows to dance upon. Three cheers!

A happy ending to a seemingly endless summer. Farewell ye multiple-showers a day. So long, heat rash. Goodnight hairbrush. Goodnight mush. And the old woman whispering hush. Etc. Etc. The end.


Meanwhile @ Straight From the Bottle: Cool kids know about pollution. Like, duh!

Hair Today...

...Gone Tomorrow.



The Stranger

My apologies in advance for being so reactive this week. First the Yummy Mummy essay, then Britney and now, this post.

It all started with reading Dear Stranger, written by a woman caught in the predicament of whether or not to tell a stranger (after meeting her child once) that her son was autistic. The author wrote that she was convinced, watching him. That as a mother of an autistic son, she knew.

I recognized this pattern of behaviors immediately: Ben was autistic. And his mother didn't know yet.

When I was fourteen-years-old, I went to youth group. I wasn't a Christian, but I was social and all of the kids in the neighborhood went. One day, a youth pastor took me aside and told me my father was going to hell if he didn't convert to Christianity. I never went back to youth group again and from that point forward wanted nothing to do with Christianity at all.

In retrospect I realize the youth pastor was just doing what he thought was right. He was trying to save our immortal souls because he believed it was the only way to get us into heaven, a place I never believed in anyway. I try to remind myself of this when anyone tries to accost me with Christian literature or pamphlets or preach to me in the streets. I try to remind myself that they think they are doing the right thing. That they truly believe it is their moral obligation to "save" me.

Not unlike parents who take it upon themselves to preach the word of "I know your child better than you know your child" I have since Archer's birth, tried to understand where these men and women are coming from. I figured because I had a child so young, it was natural to be talked down to. So I smiled and nodded. I listened to stranger's unsolicited advice. Over and over again. They were concerned parents. Concerned that my child was somehow their responsibility.

After reading the Babble article I tried to reconcile what bothered me so much about it. The woman was clearly conflicted. And she seemed like a good person. I read her essay several times through. And yet, something was so painfully frustrating about reading her words. Something so condescending and competitive. Something that made me protective of my son and myself and all parents with delayed children on the "spectrum."

I started thinking about what it is about mothers, parents, people, that we think everyone and everything is our business. Why must we believe that other people's children are our responsibilities? Indeed it takes a village... to criticize.

This idea ties into my last post: It is my business to know your business and your business to know mine. People are spending so much time worrying about other people's children that they are ignoring their own, punishing other parent's children on the playground while their children wander off. Offering diagnosis based on projected information. Comparing. Comparing. Comparing.

As a mother of a child on "the spectrum" I have become very sensitive to people who think it is their place to do me a favor and lend insight about my child. My complex, unique child. They see things in him that cause for concern. They SEE. With their eyes. For minutes. And from that, they can determine his fate. They just know. They can decide what he needs and how to help him.

My husband thought my silence in the music class represented a "moral failure." He didn't care how awkward it would have been to approach a total stranger, or how unlikely it was that she would take my word over that of her doctor, who obviously had never suggested a problem of this magnitude. "You have a responsibility to the child," he said, simply.

And I say simply back: No you don't. You have a responsibility to your children but not to mine. Because nothing is so black and white. And it isn't a moral failure to let another parent do their job.

Of course, it could be argued that plenty of people are in denial or don't want to face the fact that their child has a "problem" but to me, it's all very tree falls in a forest. What constitutes as a problem? What does it mean to be diagnosed? What about the children since the beginning of time who weren't (diagnosed)? Not ten minutes later after reading the Babble piece, a dear reader sent me the following link to a an essay she thought I would appreciate after my various posts on the subject of Archer's developmental delays, Early Intervention and testing.

It was exactly what I needed to read after the Babble essay. Especially the following passage:

So what do we do about the eighth grader who alienates peers with his obsessive talk of baroque architecture, or the 6-year-old who'd rather spend recess talking to the hamster than playing dress-up with her classmates? Is it possible we shouldn't do anything? "Of course it is a source of deep sorrow when it is obvious that a youngster can never lead 'a normal life' because of special needs," says Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child and adolescent psychiatrist whose books include "Raising Kids With Character."

*"All the same, there is something amiss when every mother is susceptible to fears whether or not this week's fashionable diagnosis applies to her child. There is something unexamined in our thinking when we elevate the need for normalcy to a state of spiritual grace, and live under a constant anxiety that we fail to measure up to its demands."

*The fashionability, or perhaps, obsession with normalcy is by far the issue that most infuriates me. The fear and anxiety placed on today's parents by doctors and books and peers who feel responsible for stranger's children, like the author of aforementioned Babble piece:

...Who better to help identify the tens of thousands of undiagnosed autistic toddlers and preschoolers out there than the parents who know autism better than any general practitioner — parents who have read the books, examined the research and seen firsthand the different manifestations autistic spectrum disorders can take?

While we're on the subject of unsolicited advice, I'll offer my opinion on who better to identify the tens of thousands of undiagnosed toddlers: the parents. Because Autism isn't black and white. And neither are children. And books and research and personal projections have nothing to do with my child or "Ben" or anyone else with "differences".

Parents will seek guidance when they are ready to do so. And if a parent chooses not to seek guidance, well then that is their decision, not the decision of a stranger.

To end on a high-note/Newsweek piece:

I eventually did consult experts. Some of what they said was helpful, but they offered no great, demystifying insights. I never really did expect anyone to totally peg my son; the fascinating little man changes on a daily basis. One day we call him Space Cookie, the next day Sweet Pea, the next our Tasmanian devil. But he is a whole person, the sum of all his average, stellar and quirky parts, and my job is much like any other parent's—to guide him when necessary, let go when I overdo it and constantly sweep for minefields (even ones I have inadvertently laid in his path) that threaten to obliterate his incredibly unique spirit. I can't wait to see who he becomes, this boy in a bright yellow canary suit, who insists on dancing to his own tune.

Eventually I consulted the experts as well. Experts as defined by me, the parent and much like the Newsweek author's experience, there was no real "diagnosis" for Archer. As I assumed, he was existing as he knew how to exist, happily, and in his own unique way. Even if that often meant spinning and wandering and laughing to himself in the corner...

Even if that meant looks from strangers making assessments, clutching their bibles.


Sex, Lies and Britney Spears

I have been thinking a lot about the significance behind Britney Spears' infamous performance Sunday at the VMA's: a man-made pop-icon falling to pieces: as American as apple pie.

I'm not even half as eloquent on the subject as Rebecca Traister whose Salon.com piece on Britney's VMA appearance held up the mirror to my own cruel reasons for needing to watch the VMA-Spears trainwreck live. I've never been a fan of Britney Spears or Pop Music in general. Pop Music is like the suburbs to me. Little voices on the headphones. Little beats made of ticky-tacky. Little producers on the headphones and they all sound just the same. )

There was a time not so long ago when I looked at celebrities as heroes and heartthrobs, pasting pictures of them on my pre-teen walls, worshipping them from afar. Because their underbellies were not exposed as they are today.

Our children are growing up during a very interesting albeit frightening time, where all potential heroes are just like us. They go to grocery stores and they accidentally flash cameras and they fuck up. Over and over. They wear zit-cream on their balconies and they burp and fart and have sex and do drugs and have nervous breakdowns and where once upon a time no one knew about these things, nowadays, everybody does. Even if we say we don't care. We know. About Owen Wilson's suicide attempt and the girl from High School Musical's nudie pictures and Christina Aguilera's pregnancy. Technology has turned celebrity into it's own seemingly scripted-drama. Everyone fucks each other's boyfriends and is always pregnant or naked or driving on the wrong side of the road.

Several years ago I went on a date with a former teen heartthrob. He was on a show that I watched as a teenager and he was "Omigawd! So cute!" I had several photos of him on my wall among dozens of other side-burned hunks, all who graced the pages of BOP and Big Bopper, two of my favorite rags, where cute boys were innocent and oh-so "dreamy."

We discussed his past-life over drinks and I admitted to plastering photos of him and his friends on my wall. He went on to tell me all of the sordid tales of young-hunk fame and fury. About an arrest in Mexico. About drug overdoses and rehab and hookers and several failed suicide attempts. When we met he was working a corporate job, living the life of a "normal guy".

His stories were heartbreaking to hear, even though, at the time I was plenty old enough to know the truth: that none of it was ever real. But I wanted it to be so bad. Like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Airbrushed and neatly creased down the middle, unfolded and taped above my twin bed.

I think the most shocking part about the Owen Wilson story was that we were surprised. (I was crushed. Crushed!) We should have known he was in so much pain. Right?

Somewhere in the last decade, we have forgotten that there is such thing as "overexposure", meanwhile Hollywood is drowning in the light of flash-bulbs and we're all worse off, in my opinion.

We're supposed to turn on the TV and watch people perform for us, entertain us, polished, pressed, scripted. Well done. Bravo. But that has become boring. We want the truth. We are obsessed with the truth, with weakness and cellulite and bad hair days.

Reality TV killed the video star. The business of Hollywood is not the same and neither is the talent. It's a giant mess and Britney Spears isn't just the posterchild for her own sad demise, but the demise of Hollywood as an institution.

And I mourn for her. I mourn for all that has been lost. From the land of smoke and mirrors to the world of coke and windows, where dreams chase pre-packaged fools into ravines and we all watch, laughing and pointing and feeling empowered. Because I may not be as rich, but at least I don't smoke cigarettes in front of my kids.

As has been pointed out before, she embodies the disdain in which this culture holds its young women: the desire to sexualize and spoil them while young, and to degrade and punish them as they get older. Of course, she also represents a youthful feminine willingness -- stupid or manipulated as it may be -- to conform to the culture's every humiliating expectation of her.

"She really fucked up," we say, unbeknownst that we are a part of that. That we are just as guilty as MTV and US Weekly and the paparazzi who scale walls for that "money" shot. We all have invisible cameras around our necks. Maybe the time has come for us to turn them on ourselves.

And just like staying at the bar after last call, when the lights go up and suddenly everyone is dark-eyed and pock-marked and nowhere near as beautiful as they appeared in the dim, maroon light, sometimes it's preferable to believe in lies. And buy into airbrushed album covers. And fairy tales. Maybe we are better off believing that basketball players don't cheat on their wives and hearthrobs don't try to kill themselves. That pop stars are always beautiful. Always polished. Always sane.

Because for years as a collective audience we were able to escape our own mediocrity, living vicariously through pop-icons, wishing upon "stars".

Britney personified everything wrong with popular-culture Sunday night. Meanwhile, we we were just as guilty, watching quietly, expecting her to fail:

Spears is living out our ur-nightmares -- showing up naked at school, or arriving at a test that we didn't know we had while everyone chortles and points and we fail. That is actually what MTV set her up to do on Sunday night and since, as we've passed around the video clip of her lameness.

Maybe what has happened to celebrity is a good thing. Maybe we are better off knowing that "celebrities are just like us". Maybe it's better we don't look to movie stars as heroes and role-models. We don't want to be them when we grow up. We pity them. We laugh at them. We blog about how ugly their clothes are.

Fine. Then we must not put blame on anybody but ourselves for what "culture" has become "popular". From Bratz dolls to Britney Spears to Life&Style Magazine because if you watch her, she will dance. Like a circus monkey beside a wind-up box.

When I was a kid, my mother told me a story about some men she once saw on a lake in northern Maine. They were in a motorboat, chasing a swimming moose around the lake. They chased it and chased it and chased it until, finally, the moose got so tired and confused that it drowned. This, of course, was the idea: torturing an animal too stupid to swim for shore until it died, all in the name of good fun for the guys at the wheel.

It's a heart-stoppingly sad vision, and I thought of that moose when I watched Spears on the VMAs, thought of how baited and trapped and ogled she was. I hate MTV for putting her up to it, hate myself and everyone else for watching it go down. But as angry as it makes me, I have to admit: The moose never jumped in front of the boat in a rhinestone bikini.

But what came first, Britney Spears or the Rhinestone Bikini? And wasn't it us who told her to wear it in the first place?

Regardless, we are finally privy to the truth: that Hollywood is as dirty as it's Boulevards, And the harder the city works to restore it's landmarks, the easier it is to see that "clean and cute" isn't what anyone wants anymore. The only real-estate that seems to sell is the Real-estate. We're living in a Real World, world.

Britney is long dead. So is celebrity, in my opinion, given away in swag bags with bottles of shampoo and mp3 players.

And I'm starting to think we have no one to blame for its death but ourselves.


*photo credit: Hollyscoop

Tuesday Trifecta

GGC Presents:
Three short films about young love, how to get what you want without hurting anybody, and kiss bandits.

Young Love on Trash Day
starring Archer Sagebrush and Little K as "The Love Interest"

Manipulative Love: A Lesson in Getting What you Want
starring Little K and Archer Sagebrush as "The Manipulator"
(watch as Archer, wanting his car back, woos little K with a banana. Hello, GENIUS!)

Love Her and Leave Her?
starring Little K and Archer Sagebrush as "The Kiss Bandit"


tune-in next week...

Let's Talk About Birth, Baby

***Disclaimer: This post may not be suitable for (my) parents (in-law or otherwise) or grandparents. Please read at your own risk, oh family of mine. ***

In my Yummy Mummy post, I received an interesting comment by an anonymous reader, concerned that I admitted "sex is not the same after a vaginal birth." She went on to say that after four vaginal births she felt like sex was better for her:

"What did Archer do to your va-jay-jay?

I've given vaginal birth three times more than you have and one of those times to a massive newborn. Yes, sex isn't the same after my three vaginal births, it's better.

How is it worse for you?"

I'm obviously glad to hear that sex is even better for her after childbirth but let me quickly clear the air before I get all TMI on your asses. Sex has not become "worse" since childbirth. Nothing is more annoying than having words minced, especially when they're on public display. I did say that sex is "not the same" after a vaginal birth. For me. And I presume, for other women as well.

So I figured now was as good a time as any to host a forum on the subject of sex after vaginal birth.

There is a chapter in my book called "Sex Isn't for Pussies.... It's for Vaginas" so this is a subject I have not only thought about in tedium but wrote about at length.

I understand why women opt for Caesareans. I also understand why some women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding for similar reasons: Our bodies are sexual up until the time they are perfunctory and that can be incredibly confusing. And to make matters worse, woman are punished for being public with their discomfort on the subject. In other words, we're not supposed to be weirded-out by humanity's most natural act(s). Sex leads to childbirth after all and childbearing women are expected to return to their sexual selves six-weeks postpartum.

When I was pregnant and even long before, my biggest fear of growing up, getting married, becoming a mother, had to with the effects of childbirth on my body, specifically my girly bits. I was scared shitless that what was once sexual would become perfunctory and thus, lose it's mojo. That no one would want to have sex with me ever again or worse, that I would be unable to see myself sexually after childbirth. That things would stretch. That crazy, dirty sex would no longer be as crazy or dirty. That I would feel different.

And even though I opted for a vaginal birth, even after complications with my pregnancy, a part of me was quietly hoping for a C-Section. Because a baby out the vagina is a very hard pill to swallow for some women. It was for me.

I couldn't breastfeed for longer than six-weeks and for those weeks I pumped until I bled. I had four ducts that worked after two breast-reductions and I hated it. I hated breastfeeding but I have a feeling that had I been able to breastfeed, I would have had a hard time with it anyway. Because even though I haven't had sexual feeling in my breasts since I was an 8th grader, I have always perceived my breasts as sexual. I was unable to change that after giving birth. I tried to flick the switch but couldn't. Just like I couldn't find the switch during labor when the doctor offered me a mirror to watch my baby crown. I didn't want to see what it looked like to have a baby coming out of there. It was not "beautiful" to me. It was frightening. Horrifying, even.

For me, pregnancy and childbirth caused what I call a "sexistential crisis" personally defined as the psychological changes that occur when a woman who has always thought of her body as a sexual thing, is suddenly expected to step into a new skin, with a new set of instincts, momentarily dismissing years of formulated inclinations, mainly of the sexual persuasion.

And a lot of "sex feels different after vaginal birth" has to do with that. It also quite frankly has to do with the fact that sex did and still does feel physically "different." (Ahem: Items in overhead bins can and may shift during landing.)

I was given an episiotomy after one push. My doctor told me I would rip if he didn't perform the procedure so I gave him the "okay". But the incision he made was so large, I barely had to push twice before Archer came out.

"You're young," he said, "You'll heal quickly."

But I didn't.

I was uncomfortable for a year, itchy from scar-tissue and often in pain after sex. Certain sexual positions were off limits because of discomfort. And new positions that I never cared for before, took their place.

Fortunately my fears of becoming a hallway (as in hot dog down a hallway) were put to rest. The vagina is a muscle that doesn't suddenly become wizard's sleevesque after childbirth and if a woman learns anything in the locker room, it's that kegels are a girl's best friend. But a woman's inner workings are far more complex. Bits and pieces move and change and flexing our inner "muscles" doesn't change the fact that things can feel different up in there. During sex. After sex. Riding the bike at the gym...

Our bodies are meant to handle childbirth. Our bodies are built for breastfeeding. And women are supposed to be comfortable with these things. We're supposed to look at ourselves like "mama goddesses" or "earth mamas" but it's not that easy for some women. It wasn't that easy for me.

I have always felt that I was in the minority for feeling this way, like there was something wrong with me for being lie-awake-at-night afraid for my sexuality after childbirth. That my discomfort with viewing my body as anything other than sexual was something that made me immature, misogynistic, or worst of all, unmotherly.

And it made me wonder how many other women felt or feel this way. How many mothers who delivered naturally were afraid of sacrificing their "pussies" via a vaginal birth? How many new mothers are going through the same sexistential crisis, and worst of all, have no one to comfortably discuss it with?

And so for the good of honest-empowerment, I have questions for you, most insightful of readers:

1. How did you as a childbearing woman separate your sexual self from your baby making self?

2. Does sex feels different for you after vaginal birth? How so?

3. Do you have more sexual hang-ups after a vaginal birth? Less sexual hang-ups? Why do you think this is?

4. How do you perceive your bodies now that you have given birth and how has that perception changed your sex life if at all?

5. What about women who haven't given birth? Do you struggle with the same fears or not at all?

If you feel uncomfortable leaving your name, please feel free to comment anonymously. Thank you in advance for being respectful and supportive of your fellow ladies.


And speaking of vaginal birth (or not) my husband's TV show, Deserving Design (Hal story produces) debuts tonight on HGTV. Check it out!


...To one of the most beautiful families I know, on the arrival of their brand new baby, Campbell George: perfection.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!


Yummy Mummies: The Empress' Old Clothes

During my stay by the pool these last few days I've been able to catch up on my magazine reading. I'm a loyal reader of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, two magazines I hold in high esteem for their impeccable style and usually delicious editorial content.

I have fallen in love with Rita Wilson based on her charming and empowering essays about fashion and life and fashionable life. I may not agree with all of Bazaar's cover girls (Britney? Paris and Nicole Richie?) but I'm willing to overlook whatever politics were involved in such decisions to excitedly peruse the various fashion spreads. Month after month. (Have you seen Prada's chunky shoes for Fall? I don't think I have ever fallen so hard. So fast. For a shoe.)

Several months ago I started to notice a trend that had nothing to do with fashion at all. Or did it? The words "Yummy Mummy" started popping up like mushrooms, citing books like Momzillas as "Yummy Mummy" manuals. Apparently, these books have launched a revolution in Yummy Mummyness with quizzes like "Are you a yummy mummy or a slummy mommy?"

The Urban Dictionary lists conflicting definitions for what the "Yummy Mummy" is, but according to Harper's Bazaar, the "Yummy Mummy" is a mother who juggles her career and party-girl lifestyle, mainly of the Manhattan socialite cum businesswoman sect.

Fashionable and Motherly? Fuck yes. But wait... Wait. Wait...

Before I open up a dialogue with myself about why "Yummy Mummy" bothers me more than any "Mommy War" catalyst has, let me start by addressing my hypocrisy on this issue:

I fully support the working mother. And more than that, I fully support the style-conscious, fully made-up, heels-at-the-playground mom. I wish for the days of yore when everyone dressed up and well, even if they didn't bother to leave the house. When there was no such thing as shorts and the only Crocs in existence were wandering around Florida. When dressing well and looking good wasn't considered "shallow" but "respectable." When people dressed up for one another socially. When people dressed up to go to the supermarket. When everyone, regardless of her budget, could dress well because even JC Penny carried pea coats and pencil skirts and stacked heels and felt hats. When mothers, even of the stay-at-home variety, wouldn't be caught dead barefoot in the kitchen because I don't care what anyone says -- Comfortable shoes are not sexy. And a woman should always feel sexy. Life's too short for sweatsuits outside the gym and pajamas beyond the bedroom.


A "Yummy Mummy" would agree with me, yes. She would agree that career is crucial for a woman who loves her work. She would agree that there is no such thing as sacrifice. That she can juggle a dozen blowtorches if she needs to. That there is always time in the day to get shit done. To do it all. Whatever that "all" means... And yet...

And yet...

Something isn't right here. Something isn't real. Something is totally and completely wrong with this picture:

"...The very outgoing Rellie clan makes social obligations easy by bringing the whole family: Hubby Euan is a dinner-party favorite, and their firstborn, Heathcliff, has become enough of a social fixture that he appears occasionally on style.com by himself. Despite being a devoted mom, Sykes Rellie sees the importance of alone time. Recently, she sent her husband with the kids and the babysitter to the Hamptons and spent three days on her own. "I was very creative during the day, and I did my Pilates and yoga and came back refreshed," Sykes Rellie says. "I would say 'me time' is a higher priority for me than 'out-and-about time,'" she explains..."

I am well aware that fashion magazines are in business to make the average woman dizzy with jealousy. And they do a fine job of doing so. I am well aware that I could never in a million years afford even one outfit in any high-fashion spread. Not even a belt is in my budget. Not even a nou-vintage ring made out of plastic. And yet, I adore looking. Pressing my face against the glass of glamour and doing what I can with what I got: A size 8 and a two-hundred dollar a month clothes budget.

I adore reading about the fashionable lives of actors and models and even socialites. I read with piqued interest about their fabulous parties and boyfriends and tidy sex scandals, delighted by the simplicity of such seemingly difficult lives. But when it comes to motherhood and reading features about "how mothers do it all" without even a trace of irony in statements like:

"From breast-feeding to Bungalow 8, how do these glamorous Manhattan moms juggle careers, babies, and beauty yet still find time to party?"

...delighted is a far cry from what I feel. As a mother. But also as a woman who looks to successful women as role models. Real role models.

Because, let's be honest, we all know how glamorous multi-millionaire mothers find time to party. It's hardly rocket science.

What is it with us as women that we feel the need to categorize ourselves? That we must label one another and create groups to rebel against and belong to? Yummy Mummy used to be the name of a breakfast cereal, after all. Perhaps such a title needs to be discontinued from media outlets like its predecessor.

What angers me most about the way motherhood has been "modernized" is that it has simply gone from one group of carefully presented lies to another. From 50's housewife to successful multi-tasking alpha-mom to this?

"Look how far we've come!" I like to think. And we have come far. But "A Fashionable Life: Yummy Mummies" puts us right back where we started: the mythological cliches that frustrated our mothers and grandmothers.

Here's what I know: The Yummy Mummy doesn't exist. She is a mirage: an Empress in flesh-colored Lanvin. I also know that breastfeeding doesn't make you skinny and that sex is not the same after a vaginal birth. I know that women don't look this good without professional lighting and air-brushing:

Yummy Mummy, Lucy Sykes Rellie
photo credit: Amanda de Cadenet

Fashion and parties and parenting can go hand in hand. But there is a whole hell of a lot more going on beneath the surface. Of me and you and Lucy Sykes Rellie and THAT is what makes a mummy "yummy": The truth. The irony. The humor and darkness and humanism.

"But that doesn't mean the new mother is flitting around to spa treatments all day. She's balancing intense fitness regimes and yoga postures with product launches, regular dinner parties, and the kids' playdates. "It's not all manicures," says Kelly Killoren Bensimon, 39, a separated former model turned writer and television personality who shuffles her two daughters, Sea, nine, and Teddy, seven, around in a deliciously yummy-mummy white pickup truck."

If this is so, there is no difference between the June Cleaver of yesterday and the Yummy Mummies of today. And that is frustrating. That isn't progressive. That is NOT redefining the modern mom.

Motherhood can and should, in my opinion, be fashionable-- dressed to the nines in Balenciaga if a mother is lucky to afford such delicious designs. But let's be honest: A mother is not a mother unless her shit is stained with drool. And there is nothing "yummy" about bullshit stories congratulating women for getting manicures and still having time for a play-date on the weekend. Because even in a fluff piece, vacant as the eyes of the women featured on its pages, shielding readers from the reality of motherhood goes against everything we should perceive as "modern."
"...Kemble's not an anomaly on the New York scene; she's just one of many glamorous young moms who seem to balance an active and engaged social life with at least the appearance of a perfect family and a successful career..."

The modern mother doesn't have a perfect family. And she doesn't pretend she does, either. And that is the kind of woman I want to read about. That is the kind of woman who empowers me. And goddammit, I'll bet my entire wardrobe, she's just as fashionable. Maybe even moreso.


Cross-posted @ Straight From the Bottle

Fear and Loathing...

... In Los Angeles?

Nah, we're in San Diego at my parent's house where there is a pool and sprinklers and air-conditioning. And I'm not leaving this chair or my perma-wet-bathingsuit until hell freezes over, or at the very least, cools the eff down.

And speaking of bathing suits, I wrote this piece last year about struggling to find a fabulous one-piece for post-pardum (ahem) issues and I would like to extend this link to all of you in search of some supremely cute retro-fabulous shit, I own the red polka dots and FYI, they run small.

Over and out.


Nice Hollandaise: A Weekend Recap

Ruth Adams and her very dangerous Polka Band

Friday afternoon Hal and I left our tantrum-having darling and set off for our first weekend alone since the summer of 2004. Our last getaway, celebrating our whirlwind four-months together as bf/ gf, we came back all pregnant and shit. (Hi Archer!)

Three years later (this weekend) getting pregnant was NOT an option. But having good silly couple-ish fun was. Quite.

Friday morning, we set off for Minneapolis for a wedding, and even though Minneapolis is hardly an exotic destination for a couple of marrieds desperate for a honeymoon (One day!) it was pretty awesome.

Honestly, at this point, we could have rocked Death Valley like a couple of desert-loving honeymooners. Humping amidst tumbleweeds and running around screaming, "yahoo!" to the wind.

Hal in front of Nye's Polonaise, very sad to hear "last call!"

I attract freaks and weirdos, impersonators and circus folk like celebrities attract groupies:

With an Elvis Impersonator named Larry who spent the entire night with us.

...Perhaps, because they can sense my inner-freak. Because behind all of this quarter-life-crisis confusion I am really a sixty-year-old male Elvis impersonator.

Regardless, Nye's Polonaise (or as I accidentally told our cab driver, Nice Hollandaise) is currently ranked favorite bar of all time. At least, this week (subject to change) and no doubt I would have quickly become a regular had we stayed longer in town. Regardless of how not-very-underground the place is. Not even close.

We danced all night to Ruth Adams and the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band. And they are sooooo not kidding when they call themselves dangerous. Ruth may not look intimidating here but she's a total maniac. A real force to be reckoned with. A hurricane:

You don't believe me? See Ruth rap:

...The Ruth! The Ruth! The Ruth is on fire!

See Ruth bark like a Pomeranian:

Other weekend highlights included one of the most amazing antiquarian book stores I have ever seen. We spent hours thumbing through first editions and old records, gazing into the spines of classic and unknown works. Records. Prints. Piles of dusty pamphlets. Perfection.

Hal, caught empty-handed in the vinyl section, downstairs.

Step into my office, baby.

And then, like Bill Clinton before us, we stumbled in to Peter's Grille for some brunch. Here's a little background information about Prez Clinton and his history at Peter's, in case you were wondering:

After reading the good news, we excitedly ordered from our Bill Clinton signature menus...

...Skipping over but almost ordering the President Clinton special (unfortunately for me, there wasn't a vegetarian alternative for Canadian bacon)

Part one of our two-part commentary, starring Hal and his facial expressions, located below:

(more videos to come as soon as I can figure out how to un-corrupt some of my video files. My camera seems to have caught the flu.)


*For more on vacationing away from children and/or Hal and me acting like assholes, go here.