The Roots of My Worry Run Deep

The ubiquitous question: “Why do you worry so much?”

I am a worrier. I freak.the.F.out about almost everything; present, past, and future. This is the opposite of living in the moment, as they say; a travesty to be unable to appreciate the “gift” of right now.

I find it fascinating that I only discovered that I have high anxiety in the past few years, after realizing not everyone ruminates the way I do and that perhaps anxiety/panic presents differently in different people. Upon this epiphany, I was shocked to think that despite 30+ years of therapy and institutionalization, no one ever cared to inquire if my depression happened to co-present with generalized existential terror.

A short list of things that I am scared of:

-Being in a car, which could at any moment collide with another (surely larger, and most assuredly deadly) vehicle; flip over; cross the median in a fiery head-on wreck; explode spontaneously into flames (like many of my fears, this one is sadly not alleviated by a modicum of understanding of physics or combustion engines)… Never mind the idea of operating the car myself, which engenders entirely new fantasy scenarios involving involuntary manslaughter…

-Walking over metal grates covering holes in the sidewalk; I once had a boyfriend who fell 8 feet into one. That the majority of them are extremely well-secured matters not at all. They are death traps to be avoided at all costs regardless of how ridiculous one looks tiptoeing to their side…

-That everyone I love a) doesn’t love me b) is going to leave c) if they don’t leave, they’re going to die prematurely, i.e. leave

-Crossing bridges. They’re going to break. I’m going to fall to a prolonged, watery death. (I probably should have studied physics, but I doubt it would help; I am also afraid of tall buildings toppling over… hence:

-Heights in general. I’m going to fall. I’m going to die. I’m going to leave behind the people who depend on me.

…and it’s not just potentially dangerous/deadly situations that raise my anxiety.

Long after moments have passed in which I felt humiliated, I allow the ensuing self-loathing to occupy me. In relationships, I often overthink and project and make mountains out of molehills. I have to constantly fight a deep and abiding tendency toward fatalism.

What does it feel like? I don’t often get the breath constriction or heart-attack-like panic others describe. I do– more often than I’d like to admit– become hysterical, unable to stop myself from sobbing or regulate my frantic breathing, often spiraling into utter despair. Or I feel sick, unable to eat, heart beating like I’m on a coke binge. This is my panic. I am seized with the unassailable conviction that it’s all utterly hopeless, that I am devoid of worth, that there’s just no.fucking.point. …And that’s where the anxiety and the depression begin to boil, boil, toil and trouble together.

But WHY? They still want to know, and I do, too.

I can only surmise that it’s rooted almost entirely in my childhood and the way my attachment developed; I don’t buy that it all happens within the first year. When I was two, my parents divorced and my father took off for his home state in a pickup truck, telling me when I asked to come with him that he didn’t have enough food for both of us. I didn’t see him again until he was on his deathbed twenty-five years later.

When I turned four, my mother died of cancer and my brother and I were shipped off to the other side of the country to a strange new “mom”, who– while large of heart– was temperamentally unable to provide the sort of loving comfort a four-year-old who has lost both parents needs. Hysterics, a sadly frequent occurrence, were met with a slap across the face, a recommendation provided to her by a (clearly sadistic) therapist for “snapping her out of it.”

I was bullied. I faced emotional and at times other types of abuse. I learned (subconsciously) that there was no one to protect me, that I was alone; and yet, since there were people who ostensibly cared, I had to take care to remain alive lest I hurt them…

Every moment could be your last! For some this engenders a “joie de vivre!” – live it up today because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow! – but for me, everything becomes a potential danger; in a mind you can’t shut off, everything has the potential to terrify.

No one has ever diagnosed me, and I haven’t sought treatment, the most effective of which (benzos) are hardly benign. I do my best to drive the darkest thoughts away; I self-medicate; I try to live with it and keep the effects away from my loved ones as best I can. I try to practice mindfulness and gratitude. I have attempted meditation (a total joke for me), and work at yoga, but I may be unable to master turning my goddamn brain off, ever, for even one second.

“Why do you worry so much?” It’s just who I am.

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Heavy Thoughts

 

 

I learned that “fat” was a terrible thing for a woman to be when I was six.

My adoptive mother, five-foot-four and somewhat endomorphic, succumbed to that peculiarly eighties obsession with thinness and signed herself up for an intervention at The Diet Center, tiny me in tow. A graphic poster on the wall cautioned against the horror of coating the “normal” female form with fat. The blue, hour-glassy inner part was “OK”; the extraneous yellow layer surrounding it, “not OK.” Brochures and pamphlets packed with colored charts, the only reading material to browse while I waited for her consultations to be over, told me that it was “good” to eat plain dry toast and half grapefruits sans sugar, and “sinful” to eat chocolate.

Snacking between meals was verboten even before the dieting, and meals themselves were often fraught with difficulty due to the intersection of my mother’s rigidity and my stubborn pickiness. A glass of milk, for instance, meant to round out a bowl of oatmeal, had to be poured over the oatmeal to create a sickening gruel, rather than sipped alongside the otherwise-slimy-but-bearable mush. A serving of octopus or beef tongue, despite my horror and regardless of my pleading, was to be finished no matter how many hours it sat getting ever-colder on the plate. First world problems, to be sure, but traumatizing nonetheless.

I began to sneak food: anything I could get my hands on; often hot cocoa powder mixed with maple syrup and chocolate chips: baking items were always on hand, if not real snacks. I ate sugar straight; licked seasoned salt off my palms.

By age ten I had reached my adult height of five-foot-two and had “blossomed” early…. and I was decidedly chubby. Certainly not enormous, but by no means slender. Uncoordinated and the opposite of athletic or graceful, I fell into a shame /no exercise/ever fatter spiral. My best friend’s preschool-aged brother pronounced me “Chumpy Checker” and taunted me daily in a sing-song voice; an older boyfriend mentioned his friend had commented on my “thick thighs.” I was devastated.

My older brother, the epitome of athleticism himself, constantly mocked my plump frame and burgeoning womanliness. I recall the nickname “Hippo” being tossed around among my lithe, blonde cousins, with whom I spent summers on Cape Cod, me swimming in an enormous men’s T-shirt and sweatpants, more often than not.

At my all-girls’ school, where being thin and especially being good at sports was essentially synonymous with being popular, I dreamed of someday, somehow, scoring a goal or hitting a home run or doing anything to earn my peers’ admiration. I believed that if I was just thin, I would be OK. By the time I was thirteen I was dieting constantly, often attending meetings, counting calories, and tracking our half-dry-english-muffin breakfasts as a mother-daughter team (one of our only activities of mutual interest).

I ate myself into obesity during my time as a stay-at-home mom in an unhappy marriage (which I dove into right after high school, convinced that I was lucky that anyone wanted my size-eighteen ass). I drowned the sorrow of my reality in whole batches of Bisquick muffins slathered with butter; in family-sized bags of potato chips eaten alternating with value packs of peanut butter cups.

When I finally left my husband I lost twenty or thirty pounds (along with the additional two hundred thirty or so) almost effortlessly, but still I struggled with hating my body. I straddled the line between “plus” and “regular”-sized and left fitting rooms in tears more often than not. When I found yoga and discovered that there was other exercise I did enjoy (!), I managed to drop down to a societally-respectable size eight, but still I hated my body. Because when you’re short, a size eight is still decidedly chubby by today’s standards (just ask Amy Schumer!).

Never mind that this body brought a beautiful, compassionate young man into the world. Never mind that it’s held friends’ hands in times of darkness and brought love through music to the ears of the dying and joy to the living. Never mind all of its capacity for love and its warmth; this is what I concern myself with, its fatness? Is that really the measure of my worth?

At almost forty, with a grown child; dear friends; fulfilling pursuits; love… can I not learn to stop self-criticizing, to stop believing that somehow life would be better if I were thinner? Can I not learn to love myself no matter my size? Can I learn to forgive those who contributed to this obsession, however unwittingly… most notably, can I forgive myself? Can I teach myself to believe that I am OK even with this subcutaneous layer obstructing the perfection of my hourglass? Would that I could go back to be in that room with that six-year-old to show her on that poster the two parts of a woman’s body that actually matter:

Her mind and her heart.

Learning To Be Good Enough

cenotes

The Yucutan cenotes: one of my happy places.

Whether kin of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or media-bandwagon-hopping, I am seeing it discussed everywhere lately, from the Times parenting blog to Fast Company. . .  it’s apparently Winter 2015’s “introverts and lumbersexuals”:

Perfectionism.

I wish I could say I am a reformed perfectionist. Unfortunately I am an active perfectionist. I know that it’s “not necessarily a personality trait to aspire to” as Terri Cole points out in last week’s HuffPost Canada article. I am working on it.

A former boss of mine had a sign that read “perfect is the enemy of done.”

This, too, I know (though can any writer or editor ever truly reconcile the two?)

I grew up with a parent who never even asked what my grades were, although diligence in all things was certainly expected. I was the one who felt absolutely crushed at not attaining the A. Truth be told, anything less than A+ is disappointing (which made college’s omission of this option rather tragic for me). Interestingly, I often expect, require, and desire the accolades even if I haven’t worked particularly hard for something. My mother will tell you that this is because everything “came easily to me.” (Which is certainly not true of sports, which I dreamed day and night of being a star in).

Perfectionism creates a deep fear of trying things we might not be good at, or alternatively a deep conviction that we’re just not good enough at what we’re trying. Either condition is ripe for creating crippling anxiety. (And in the case of sports, an additional vicious cycle of inactivity and weight gain).

I can trace some of my perfectionism to having an older brother who was practically worshipped in my family, who was good at literally everything he ever tried. He won a creative writing prize at college with his first short story. His art was entered into shows in school. His poetry was good. As a teenager. In his second language. He was an athletic star in every sport but basketball (he being only five foot three), a talented musician, a brilliant orator and debater.

I am still not sure how I am supposed to live up to that.

Especially, you see, as he died young. And everyone knows that the pedestal grows even higher for those we have lost.

I felt for a long time that since he was my mother’s favorite it would have been so much better were I the one to go. Which is a heavy burden for a child, I suppose. Part of me thought that if I was smart enough and talented enough I could somehow make her as proud and heal some part of that devastating wound. But I rebelled and rejected her, too, perhaps so fearful of not being perfect that I might as well go ahead and be the worst.

When I finally graduated from BU after sixteen years of night school, although I’m not one for gowns and caps and all of that jazz, I was excited to walk across that stage and have them say “magna cum laude.” So my mother could hear it. Two B’s in my entire college career, Ma! At a renowned university! (Where, may I toot my horn, it is apparently harder to get an A than most places!)

The Dean stumbled over my difficult name and missed the honors section of the card, apparently. There was no announcement. My boyfriend, knowing how much I’d been looking forward to my mother hearing the news, turned to her and explained what had happened.

“Well, of course Desiree got honors,” she scoffed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I cannot identify myself by how excellent my grades are, or how many accolades I get at work for a job well done, right now. I have to find other ways to measure my own success, and perhaps this has given me the freedom to be good enough. I promised myself I would volunteer when I got laid off, and I did, for over a year for a local parks organization I love. I was proud of myself for following through, for doing something meaningful, for working to improve my skills during the lay-off period. Then my boss retired, and I had to spend several weeks caring for my (other) brother who had been in a bad accident and then helping my mother who had her hip replaced, so I resigned. I accomplished what I set out to do, and I will find another organization to donate my efforts to, but it was enough for now.

Even if I haven’t found a new job yet, the right one is out there for me and I will keep looking. I’m not worthless because I don’t have full-time work. I have found my own “worth” again, in being a better mother and sister and daughter and partner, in making music and in writing, and I will find a way to balance those things and cobble together some kind of income. I am learning that I don’t have to be perfect. I can be good enough, which is a much happier place to be.

Sisterhood Of The Cluttered Vanity

I am a naturally messy person. I diligently intend to cultivate the habits of neat people, and when they are as simple as making the bed, sometimes I even succeed with some regularity:

(Painting by Nathalie Mermet-Grandfille)

(Painting by Nathalie Mermet-Grandfille)

Being a Virgo (and I do go in for that sort of thing), I really prefer organization. I actually love organization. I could marry it. Perfectly aligned outlines, and color-coordinated Post-It flags, lists and containers with labels, and generous amounts of clear space for the eye to rest. . .

. . . So I am constantly at odds with myself. (It’s an excellent internal environment for breeding anxiety, in case you are interested in the mechanics of that sort of thing.)

While I wouldn’t say I “enjoy” cleaning like the (possibly questionably sane) folks who say it’s “therapeutic,” but finding a place for everything and putting the things in those places does provide me deep satisfaction. It also provides me deep guilt. (Hey, there’s a great new dartboard movie title; maybe a Catholic Church piece?)

When I have successfully arranged my possessions into like groups in a frenzy of de-cluttering, I am confronted with some profound questions:

-How does a person own two tu-tus and not know about it? How could it be it that both of those tu-tus are purple?

-Why have I wasted a zillion and a half dollars buying twenty-seven sparkly eyeshadow palettes in the same color range, no fewer than sixteen “miracle” foundations which provided nary a benefit never mind act of God, and enough razor cartridges to make bare as a baby’s bottom an entire rugby team?

-How many trial-size shampoos can a person possibly own? The answer is correlated to the number of tiny refillable travel shampoo bottles that person has purchased (in order to avoid buying more disposable trial size shampoos) that can never be found on the frantic eve of a trip.

-Why do I even own a curling iron?

Maybe these things proliferate when we’re not looking, like reverse shoemaker’s elves running around making a horrible, regret-inducing mess.

Just as soon as I tackled the clutter recently and promised myself I’d buy no more hair products until the gajillion I have are gone, my new hairdresser, a curly hair expert, goes and tells me I should eliminate dimethicone from my styling regime because it’s drying my curls out. Guess what every single hair product in my arsenal contains? So now I have to buy all new products. It’s a never-ending cycle. (First world problems,  as they say!)

In my quest to live a life guided by grace, one of the simplest things I keep nudging myself in the direction of doing (with varying degrees of success) is just buying less. Bring less into the house and there are fewer opportunities for my inner Tasmanian devil to wreak havoc and thus for my anxiety and guilt to arise. Everyone wins! Except capitalism!

Sometimes that doesn’t mean buying nothing. . . I’ve come to the realization that it can mean splurging on one nice leather handbag instead of repeatedly buying inferior plastic ones that have to be thrown out. That crazy lady digging around in those dress tiers to find the fabric content label is me. . . I no longer buy things just because I am attracted to them: I almost always put down the polyester.

I am at least cognizant that four crystal balls is really enough for a gadje.

crystal

If I manage to keep all of the things together in their thing places, flaunting their too-much-thingyness, the visual reminder may someday be enough for me to remember that enough is enough.

Buy what you love. Keep what brings you joy. Savor its beauty by treating it with care.

“Use it up, wear it out;

Make it do, or do without!”

“Take My Wife. . . Please!”

I gave my boyfriend a fridge magnet that reads “Marriage is having someone who will die for you. . . If you don’t kill them first.”

1399743_10202825790224779_934501217_o

The famous Henny Youngman one-liner in the title, like all great jokes, is funny because it is true. So many couples drown in mutual resentment. To paraphrase either Henry Rollins or Chuck Palahniuk (the quote is lodged in my mind but its source proves elusive), they are “killing each other with the mundanities of daily life.”

We are not married, it is true, even after nearly ten years together; I am probably the more reticent one, having already given it an abysmal attempt once before. . . But my reluctance is largely financial, since it cost me almost twenty grand to get out of the last one.

I do believe in marriage, though, even if I have no parental model and my own first was a failure. Not necessarily the religious or paperwork sort, but at least the idea of finding someone you don’t mind spending forever with. Strike “don’t mind”: WANT to.

I grew up with several incredible examples in my extended family of cousins-once-removed and family friends. Emily Esfafani Smith’s Atlantic article Masters of Love ( http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/ ) discusses a longitudinal study of what observable traits make a difference in the “three in ten” of those who have wed who “remain in happy, healthy marriages.”

Unsurprisingly, an undercurrent of mutual support seems to be key, but I had not thought about the body language aspect: That couples who do not last often do not physically turn toward one another when communicating. (A simplification of an excellent study and a fascinating examination, to be sure. . . It is worthwhile reading!)

Anecdotally rather than scientifically speaking, the loving, lasting marriages I know of seem to be what I think we all hope for: Best friends forever. A clever division of labor never hurts, either. My aunt has made all of the (delicious and precisely, impeccably planned) meals and my uncle has done all of the dishes for some thirty-nine amicable years.

My boyfriend’s grandmother’s near last words to us were “take care of each other. Love each other.” Which, naturally, sent both of us into sobbing fit. Then we remembered that she had previously told us that the secret to a happy marriage is just finding “someone whose bullshit you can put up with.” Which helped us to smile through our tears.

My favorite boat captain and his lovely wife will tell you, more specifically, the secret is DATE NIGHT. Raising their son while living and working in the most isolated of places for many years, they made it a point to schedule some special time away from their usual routine every single week, without fail. It seems to be like exercise. . . Keep up the habit and it is easy to get moving. Slack for a while and suddenly re-starting seems insurmountable. Thirty-plus years in, she still smiles at him like she knows a secret, and he still looks at her like she is the prom queen he can’t believe he has scored.

Something else I have noticed: Each of the individuals in the good marriages I am thinking of is creatively or professionally fulfilled. More so than most of us who have settled for careers quite far from our passions! I wonder whether it is partly that they are happier overall because they are pursuing meaningful work and have encouraged each other’s artistic or otherwise satisfying activities (despite the potential economic consequences)?

My uncle insists that his wife (she of the perfect dinners) “solved most of my problems by marrying me,” and their incredible unity through the most adverse of experiences makes me suspect he may be the one person for whom Rebecca Webber’s Psychology Today article “Are You With the Right Mate ( https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201112/are-you-the-right-mate ) might ring hollow. For the rest of us, she points out, there is almost certainly no one person who will magically not annoy us or make us question if we have made the right decision. We can fantasize about a mate with different habits or characteristics or someone who just wouldn’t be so. . .

. . .But that person does not exist. If not that idiosyncracy, then some other. A bugaboo you haven’t even conceived of.

My man and I have our share of issues and miscommunications (someday I will write all about the Headless Chinese Porn Affair; quite a hoot, in retrospect) but goddammit, he’s smart enough and nice enough and I like him! (And for many other reasons which don’t fit neatly into an SNL reference).

I hope we will be one of those forever couples: that we continue to teach each other and (rather eerily) share tangential thoughts, that we find a way to divide chores mutually satisfactorily, face adversity sharing our strength as well as our grief, cherish each other, communicate openly, and support one another in becoming who we each hope to be.

Let’s Talk About Ink, Baby

artselfie

According to the New York Times, 27% of Americans now have a tattoo. They’re not just for sailors and loose women anymore, ma!

My uncle John was a sailor when tattoos were just for sailors and “loose women” (and those newfangled motorcycle clubs). Some of my fondest memories are of his incredible storytelling (many long nights reading The Princess and the Goblin aloud to us with unrivaled inflection and drama), and while I loved getting a glimpse of the dragon on his bicep, I always asked for the story behind the question mark tattooed on his forearm.

“What does it mean?” I’d beg while my cousins and I sprawled on a lumpy old bed, in the eaved rooms of the summer house we all shared, for our bedtime story. And with a gleam in his eye, and a conspiratorial grin, he’d say, “Ah, Desiree. . .” and give each time a new version of the answer “that’s only for me to know.” Such mystery! Such intrigue!

So strong was my longing for my own mysterious ink that I tattooed my first “jailhouse,” as they’re called, when I was about sixteen. With Bic ink. I knew that needle + ink = tattoo, but was not so much aware of the imperative nature of that ink being India. I was not so foolish the next time.

As a budding young palm-reader, I had become exceedingly alarmed that my “decade lines” on my inner wrists were rather tragically abbreviated. Palmistry holds that your dominant hand carries the fate you are born with and the other the fate you create yourself. Neither of mine has more than two and a half lines. My birth mother died at twenty-seven. So I tattooed (permanently, at last!) an ankh, the hieroglyph for life, over those lines on my left wrist. (Call me superstitious or silly, but it’s holding strong so far!)

At eighteen I rushed into a small mistake which I regret and will someday cover, but each of my other tattoos holds great meaning for me. . .  A dragon of my own, in honor of my uncle and for my son whose name means Dragon in Old English, on my right bicep: my strength. A butterfly in flight (not pinned down flat and dead): metamorphosis. A wave inside a circle that I needed to get on my first trip to Maui. My brother laughed; he also felt compelled to get a tattoo on his first trip. We promised each other that we would “come full circle” back to that perfect place in the middle of the ocean, together, again and again.

I have a consultation with a new artist for my next ink: a map of the place where those summers with my aunts and uncles and my cousins held so much magic, the place where my cousin and I now each visit our lost brothers buried on a cliffside overlooking the Bay, the place where a piece of my heart will lie forever.

Don’t ask me what I’ll do about my tattoos when I am old. I will be thankful to have grown old at all, and certainly to carry my memories and my sense of self on my skin.

Teen Mom

My Facebook news feed is filled with the gummy smiles of infants and the bizarre over-sharing that is a relative stranger’s sonogram (oh, thank the stars there was no social media in my day!)

My friends are all having babies at the appropriate time. In the NorthEast, that means our 30s. . . .Whereas I had mine at eighteen.

teenmom

The girls I grew up with, and women in my adoptive family, were decidedly not teen moms. College and career came first. My birth mother, though, had my brother when she was seventeen. I was with her in New Mexico for four of my five “formative years” (if the psych textbooks are to be believed), so maybe a part of me was stuck back in a place where it’s fairly or even perfectly normal to get married and have babies (or have babies and not get married) right out of high school.

I had some major complications during my pregnancy, so after I was a week in the hospital in Florida, where I was living, my estranged family had me med-flown back up to Boston (just me, the pilot, and my two cats, who had followed behind the ambulance in a taxi) so I could be treated at Brigham & Women’s. If you’re going to be dying having a baby, it’s a good place to be.

I was followed closely there, and every week when I entered the OB/GYN unit, I felt the stares. Stares from suburban women in sensible haircuts and their corpulent, balding husbands, and stares from pairs of sixteen-year-olds with slicked-back ponytails and braces and bright blue eyeliner who were on their way to their special teen wing, which I no longer qualified for. I was stuck in between two demographics: certainly not the typical “teen mom” with my prep school education and Brahmin upbringing; but lacking the requisite years behind me to be anything but a pariah to the pregnant ladies of “proper” age.

As I planned my wedding in summer school (after missing part of my senior year), my algebra teacher got wind of it and laughed, “well, everyone needs a first!

We got married (in retrospect) mostly so that I could prove to my family that I was right and going to have a fairytale life despite my flouting of their (clearly old-fashioned!) traditions.

I shopped for “mom clothes” that I hated– a pale yellow crew-neck blouse and a navy skirt with a dainty floral print to match, rather than my velvet and fringe-y Stevie Nicks ensembles– hoping to be taken more seriously; and signed up for a new mom’s group in my town, wanting to meet women with kids my son could grow up playing with since none of my own friends had babies.

With their Baby Christian Dior layettes and their frosted $200 haircuts, these post-career, stay-at-home moms looked straight down their noses at me. When talking about their husbands they would gesture toward me and say “and your. . . whatever.” They sneered at me for not having a car (there was a bus down the block which went directly to my house. . . it would be different in New York, surely?), and they whispered plans for meeting up to one another to ensure I wouldn’t participate in their clique beyond the prescribed hour a week.

At playgrounds, too, I was typically shunned. Although I found it insulting, it was fine because I was the only mom who seemed to care to actually play with my kid. (He’s pretty cool).

Many years later a friend told me a story of being at the same parks in Cambridge where I found the mothers particularly unfriendly. She looked quite young when her daughter was pre-school age, although she was in her late 20’s. She tried to join a circle of woman chatting while watching the children play, and was stunned when one of the other mothers turned, narrowed her eyes, and spat “excuse me, we don’t speak to nannies.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My son missed out on having kids he was always with because the parents are best friends. He also has no close cohort of cousins, as I did, because my cousins are having children now, in their 30s, and he’s a teenager. This is one of the sadnesses I harbor for my choice, because for me they were the closest thing I knew to sisters. I hope he will have that closeness with my niece, at least, although they are seven years apart.

It is difficult, too, that we are in an affluent area, especially his father (we’re long-since divorced, unsurprisingly): my son’s friends have media rooms and playrooms and basketball courts and koi ponds and sixty-inch televisions. . . Of course I wish we’d been more financially stable when we had him, and could have bought a big house with a beautiful yard instead of a small condo. But I don’t think that having everything handed to you builds any character, anyway, even if it were an option. I do believe in spending on the things that matter, like music lessons and instruments and great summer camps and art supplies!

Even if my son hasn’t had the Caribbean vacations and palatial playrooms we both envied as children growing up with wealthy peers, he, like me, has been raised to believe in the importance of education, art, family, and home-cooked meals, and in embracing peoples’ differences rather than denigrating them. It’s what’s inside that counts (although if the outside is Stevie Nicks, that’s cool). After all of these years I’d still rather hang out with my kid than those catty women, anyway.