Monthly Archives: October 2009

it happened in a burger king bathroom

For a very long time, I was absolutely certain I did not want children. I had thought it all out, see. I was not the mothering type. I wanted to spend my money on myself. I wanted to travel and have nice things. I proclaimed this loudly and often to anyone who would listen, and I took great pains to get offended when people would kind of shake their heads and say, “You’ll change your mind,” in response.

I was so mellow back then.

And then I entered this period of great ambivalence about childbearing, which I didn’t share with many people. I wasn’t really sure. Maybe I’d have kids. But I definitely did not want to date someone who already had kids. I’d heard horror stories of what a minefield it was to be a stepparent, and I just didn’t even want to deal with that kind of baggage. I wanted a man unspoiled by life, other women, and offspring.

Silly old mellow me.

So now here I am. I’m in love with the man I intend to marry someday, a man who loves me back and intends to marry me too. Weddings are always best when both spouses-to-be agree to show up, right? So I’m in love with this man – this amazing, intelligent, supportive, divorced father of two. Somehow I’m pretty sure he’s still unspoiled.

We waited several months into our relationship before I met the kids. Their stability is really important to both of us, and we wanted to be sure we were serious and in it for the long haul before we introduced them into our lives as a couple. So for the first few months we were dating, he went on his own to see them and I stayed home. When we began making plans for them to spend the first weekend with us, I was terrified.

I wanted desperately to like them and to have them like me back, but I knew there was a very good chance that they might not like me at all. They might even hate me at first, which would be fairly normal and probably not even about me as a person at all, and more about me as their dad’s new girlfriend. I tried to prepare myself for the possibility of a chilly reception and I hoped and hoped we’d have a good time.

And we did. I wrote about it in the spring. We had our moments of awkward tiptoeing and figuring each other out, but no one seemed to hate me and things were fine. I, of course, fell in love with them immediately. We had a couple of other visits and things continued to go pretty well, and I continued to fall in love. And I knew they liked me, and we had fun, but I didn’t know if they loved me and I didn’t expect them to. I’m not their mama, after all. I’m just The Other.

It’s become a little tradition that when we take the kids back after visits, we stop at Burger King. Seth and I have a thing for Mocha Joes and the kids can hit the Playland and it’s a convenient location. Plus it boosts our mood just a little, because though we never let the kids see, we’re always both a little mopey when we’re taking the kids back. So we stop at BK and the first thing we do, of course, is hit the bathroom.

Mira, age 5, likes to make small talk in public restrooms. One time we were at IHOP and I was waiting outside her stall for her to finish and from her perch on the toilet, she described to me in anatomically correct detail how babies were made. It’s always unpredictable and entertaining and sometimes embarrassing.

So we’re in the bathroom at Burger King and I’m waiting for Mira and she says, “Hey Lorie, you know what?” I’m kind of only halfway paying attention and I kind of absently say, “What, Mira?” and she says, “Did you know I love you?”

I’m almost certain it’s not the first time she told me that, but I think it’s the first time it came out of the blue and it’s definitely the moment I will always remember. It’s not terribly poignant, my little sorta step-girl on the toilet with her feet dangling down telling me she loves me, but ohh. My heart grows a little bit just in the retelling. She doesn’t have to love me, but she does.

It took me a second to respond that I loved her too, of course I did. She finished and we washed her hands and went out to join the rest of the family and the whole time, all I was thinking is, I want to be a mom. I want to be a mom. I want to be a mom.

they definitely do not call me mellow yellow

For years, I have been functioning under the stunning misconception that I am basically a mellow person. In fact, if I weren’t so lazy, I could probably search in the archives of this very site just a little bit and find several occasions where I described myself in some way that seemed mellow.

If you have ever worked with me, dated me, been related to me, or hell, encountered me on the street, you are probably reading this through tears of laughter and disbelief. You might even have accidentally peed on your chair a little bit because you were laughing so hard. I’ll wait while you go get a towel and change.

You’re back? Oh, good.

So I’m confessing it now: I am not mellow. I am not even a little bit mellow. I am so not mellow, in fact, that I have often been accused of not knowing how to relax. I’ve been told that even when I think I’m relaxed, I’m actually still tense, still unwilling to let go, still afraid to lose control. If you’re like this, you understand. If you’re not, let me tell you: that shit takes a lot of energy to maintain. It really does. But it’s so hard and scary to let go.

Seth and I emailed and IMed each other for a few weeks before we ever met in person, and during one of those conversations, I confessed to him that I didn’t like watching horror movies because I tended to get very upset when people died. Everyone else in the theater would be laughing and cringing at the gore and the absurdity of the whole thing, and I’d be fighting tears and thinking about who was going to make funeral arrangements and clean up the mess and go through the dead person’s things and close bank accounts and stuff. Because no one was thinking about that in the movie and someone should think about it and it really stressed me out.

“Wow,” he said. “Sounds like someone has too much responsibility in her life.” And, you know, he was probably right.

These days, he’s pretty great at identifying times when I need to let go a little bit, but it’s often hard for me to take his advice. He’ll notice I’m in hypermanaging mode about something or other and kind of take me off to the side and say, “Hey. You don’t have to be in charge of this thing. Let someone else figure it out.” And he’s right, sort of, but on the other hand, who am I if I’m not being responsible for everything?

Of course part of me thinks nothing will get done right, if at all, if I don’t oversee it. But probably an even bigger part of the problem is that I’ve allowed it to define me. I am the person who answers the question. I am the person who solves the problem. I am the person who researches the best airfare. I am the person who makes the reservations. I am the person who decides what time we’re leaving and whether we need reservations and if you should wear a jacket. And I resent it sometimes. Sometimes I really, really resent it. But again, how am I useful to you, how am I productive, how will I have value if I let you do those things yourself?

Here are my greatest fears: being perceived as dependent, stupid, or incompetent. I am more worried about other people THINKING those things than I am about actually becoming them. And how stupid is that? I can’t really control what other people think about me no matter how I behave. But still I try. I work my ass off, wipe myself out, expend all of my energy to be sure that others see me as independent, intelligent, and above all else, COMPETENT.

I don’t know if I can stop making those things so important to me, but I do know that I would really like to be able to just relax and turn off my worries and, you know, maybe watch a gory movie once in a while without stressing out so much about who’s going to clean up those brains on the floor.