I'm reading Katie Roiphe's In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays. I haven't read enough of the book to give a proper review. Some of the essays are perfectly lovely, like the one describing a trip to Hanoi. Others are disturbing and self-indulgent.
Roiphe is grouchy because she feels she is being judged for having a messy life. She's the mother of two kids with two separate fathers, neither of whom she lives with. As a single mom, there's a lot of juggling and her family doesn't look like the happy blond families on the cover of the parenting magazines. She's a little bitter about this judging and spends a lot of time justifying her lifestyle.
My own family isn't parenting magazine worthy. The boys are blond and my sweet hubby is around, but we're still not cover-worthy. Things are pretty messy around here, even in our blond, intact-family way.
It used to bother me a lot that our family was so weird. I couldn't go to the mommy classes, because Ian would scream and hide under the table. I didn't fit into the working-mom club, because I had too many obligations at home. Everybody else was on a Disney cruise, and I was hidden away watching Mr. Rochester's crazy wife.
At a party last week, I had a long chat with a woman who was slowly going blind with macular degeneration. She was having trouble navigating the house, so I hung out with her in the kitchen where the light was better.
She has two boys, who are the same age as my boys. They are also blond and beautiful. No IEP meetings for her. But she was also wracked with the same guilt that she couldn't provide them with the perfect lives that others seemed to have. She could no longer drive them to after school activities. Even navigating family vacations was getting hard.
I talked her down from the guilt tree, and we commiserated in silence for a while.
I think that Roiphe is so defensive about her own life choices that she misses an important point. Everybody has messy lives, just in different ways. I'm not sure when it was jammed in our heads that a family had to look one particular way. It doesn't. I'm not sure that anybody is really living that life. Even the PTA president with her perfect hair has some shit going on at home.
I've been applying for jobs lately. I still plan on writing, but we could use a little more money. I also need to do something that doesn't involve sitting in front of a computer. I've been applying for jobs where the workers have neck tattooes and big boots. I'm not sure why. I think that I'll fit in better in a place where people celebrate messiness and don't pretend that it doesn't exist.