My Delectable Little Munchkin!!!!!!
Today, you are seven magnificent months old!!! You’ve been quite the little traveler since last I wrote you a letter you will (hopefully) never read. We started the month back in upstate New York at your Babcia’s.
“Hello, Babcia! I miss you! But not the bed that was so small that it muscled Papa out onto the literal actual floor every night!”
DIGRESSION about your mama and her electronics: I spent our last days upstate taking a break from writing, courtesy of my computer giving up the ghost. I then very stupidly took it to some local chop-shop to try to get it fixed, with the instructions to wipe the hard drive and re-install the system software. I guess I should have specified “re-install somewhat recent system software,” because when I got the machine back it was running an OS from 2010. I shit you not, little baby who definitely cares about her mother’s system software. It took 20 minutes to boot up, and every keystroke had a lag time of like 45 seconds. It was like working on Windows 95. What the fuck? Ever since I had you, I have been relying on fifteen- and twenty-minute slices of time to write. That is how my articles and book are getting done. Suddenly that time was being spent trying to locate Word and type two sentences. Anyway, long story short I ended up dipping into my savings and buying a new computer, and your papa is going to get the old one reconditioned. I AM SURE YOU CARE. But you should because this is a life lesson, kid. People in rural computer clinics are dipshits, or play the most obnoxious pranks ever imaginable. The end.
After a grueling two-day car ride back to St. Louis, you spent a week delightedly reuniting with YOUR SHAPEYS!!!! Your dad and I spent the week sweating our literal (in his case) and metaphorical (in mine) balls off, unpacking all of the shit that we had packed up in anticipation of moving out of your house, which we allegedly sold but didn’t. It was kind of worth it, though, just to see you so happy with those shapeys again (or, more accurately, I probably have an emotional attachment to that condo, because it is where we brought you home from the hospital).
(On the road, you did love the king-sized bed in the motel, as well as the MOTEL CUPS, both cardboard and plastic. Holy shit, I could have saved about $150 on baby toys at this point and just bought a bulk pack of kegger-style Solos and you’d be the happiest Kid in the Western Hemisphere.)
(You’re naked here because you’d just taken a HUGE crap, and I kept yelling for your dad to come assist, and he didn’t answer, and I thought he was just dicking around in the bathroom ignoring me, but really he’d ducked out to use the tiny motel gym.)
The last two days of our time in St. Louis were spent with you having a perfectly decent time and me going totally fucking unhinged in anticipation of your first trip on a plane. I have been so conditioned to be ashamed of interrupting the US Weekly-reading bliss of your average economy-class traveler that the mere thought of being trapped on a flying e.coli-canister with you in a bad mood made me break down every day in shrieking, panicked sobs. Your dad basically had to take the reins in the house while I spent my days hyperventilating and crying it out.
(Also, with you taking baths in your new duckie tub, WHICH YOU LOVE. I don’t think you realize baths have any discernible purpose beyond HOORAY SPLASHETY PLAY PLAY PLAY. This is the only reason why you are anything approaching “clean” any of the time.)
AND THEN…the day came to get on a plane.
We got to the airport…
And you goofed off for a few minutes…
…and then, you fell asleep. You slept through boarding (which they make people with babbys do with the rest of the hoi polloi now, because Platinum Diamond Elite Polo-Playing Butt-Card Business Fuckos need more time to get settled into an airplane seat than a family with a little baby does. Everybody knows this).
You slept through the first two hours of the two-and-a-half our flight. You didn’t cry when the air pressure change got to your ears. You nursed, and you looked around the plane, and everybody in the neighboring rows made faces at you and told us how cute you were. Then, after a mad hurtle through the Denver airport (20 minutes to make a connection between two gates that literally COULD NOT HAVE BEEN FURTHER AWAY FROM EACH OTHER), which you thought was delightful fun, we settled into our second flight, which you spent bouncing off the walls, shoving every single filthy accoutrement from the seatback pocket into your mouth (Jeebus help us, you didn’t get sick), and generally charming the other passengers.
We finally arrived in Eugene approximately three hours past your normal bedtime, and you were surprisingly amenable to the car seat on the way home from the airport, by which I mean you only had a minor shit-fit, and not a major one.
Since then, we have been settled in to the spectacular new room your grandparents built on the end of their house, for the specific purpose of guilting your mother into spending as much time at said house with you as possible. IT’S WORKING. Every day, your grandparents act like it is the greatest gift in the world to babysit you for a few hours, while your mama writes her articles (more on that soon), finishes her book (less on that soon), and…get ready for it…GOES TO THE GYM.
Your grandma was kind enough to add our whole family to her Family Membership at the Y, and that includes babby swim classes that we will take soon! GET READY! But for now, it more importantly includes your mother finally, finally wresting herself off of her ginormous buttocks and getting some goddamned exercise for the first time since you were born. The Y is only two blocks away, so I can be beckoned back to the house anytime you start melting down. Yes, I am enjoying the possibility of shedding the twenty or so pounds of Mom Bod that have decided to take up semi-permanent residence since you arrived on the scene and I started eating my feelings. But more than that, I am enjoying the act of taking care of myself again. For the past seven months, all I have wanted to do is take care of you. When you were first born, I told your father I wished I could be awake for 24 hours, I wished I didn’t need to eat, I wished I could be the constant source of care you needed all the time. And more or less I was. But eventually, I realized that unless I took better care of myself (or, you know, any care of myself), I was going to keel over and die, and then where would your boob gravy train go?!?!? SO, the gym.
We love it here in your mama’s hometown, where you rock your spiffy new T-shirts and get carted around the neighborhood in the ludicrous ultra-deluxe Radio Flyer seat-belted, cup-holder-having wagon that your papa and I had shipped here because you loved the (decidedly more DIY) wagon setup at your babcia’s so much.
Last month, the two teeth that you grew were the cause of untold amounts of agonized crying, sleeplessness, drool-based pooptastrophes, and more than one occasion when you decided to treat your mother’s boobs like five feet of Bubble Tape. We’ve been terrified of teething ever since — and then last week, your papa brought you in from playing with you in the backyard and said: “Guess what’s going on with our daughter? She’s got another tooth.” And sure enough, one of your big fat top front teeth poked its way right through, and we didn’t even notice. It’s not big enough to show in pictures yet, but hopefully by your eight-month letter you’ll be looking like a little bunny rabbit.
You continue to explore the culinary delicacies of whatever region you happen to be in — here you have taken a particular liking to the ripe Oregon blackberry, which you like to enjoy in your first-class laundry basket accommodations while wearing another spiffy new T-shirt that makes you look like Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink.
You aren’t quite old enough to partake in most of the games and toys in the game/toy closet your grandma set up, preferring instead to get your maw around ping-pong balls, kitchen utensils, rocks, watches, and anything else that may potentially kill you. Your actual baby toys are mostly fodder for your new best friend Billy Budd, the idiot Cairn Terrier who doesn’t let his Cone of Shame stop him from patiently waiting by your side until you get a squeaky toy within his range, and then straight-up stealing it from you. So far you have only grabbed Billy Budd with your Not Gentle Hands a few times, and he hasn’t seemed to give a shit, but I am vigilant when he’s around and barely let him within three feet of you most of the time. Because, see, he’s an idiot.
Your babbling has more purpose now. Every once in awhile I think your BAH or GAH is actually, possibly, referring to an actual thing or person. You also have a more complex set of emotions (though they’re just as intense, bless you). Sometimes when your papa or grandparents take care of you for awhile and you don’t see me, and then I come back into the room, you crack a smile so big I think it’s going to bring the house down. And then, just as fast, you reach out to me and grab me and start to bawl. It’s like: OH, YOU!!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!! WAIT!!!!! WHERE WERE YOU?!??!?!?!?!?!?
We continue to dress you quasi-androgynously, and everyone continues to refer to you as he. “How old is he?” Sometimes I just go with it, other times I say: “Actually, he’s a non-gender-conforming she.” I realize this is obnoxious. But in the last week, I have never wanted to protect you more from the relentless gendering that plagues us from (before) birth.
It’s my fault, of course, because this week I embarrassed you in print YET AGAIN, by writing what I thought was a pretty funny think piece about why I sometimes flip you the (JOKING) bird after you fall asleep, if you’ve given me a hard time in that department. Of course I wait until you’re snuggled in next to me, sighing and content and fed and unconscious, and I only do it as a joke, and I thought this would be readily apparent in the piece, but it wasn’t. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I expected people to be offended. I expected, even, some threats to call CPS (and there were). Oh hell, I expected everything I got, but it still hurt. There were the usual insistences that I am far too ugly to have my visage displayed on the Internet at all:
— I’m not saying it was ALL bad, because it wasn’t. (I’m especially grateful for Mr. Pierce’s astute contribution):
But there was certainly plenty of this:
And, of course, the expected intimations that I am abusive, and a superlative bestowed upon me with a lot of thought, even though I’m pretty sure Ted Bundy had a mother too.
Don’t misunderstand me, sweet perfect daughter of mine. I am so glad you are a girl (for now; you can choose your own gender identity when you’re older!). Because I’m a girl, and I like being a girl, and I wouldn’t want to be a man. But I also know that if I were a man writing with bluntness and humor about my life, I would not be getting this kind of seething, gendered crap about it. People say that because I am a writer for the Internet, I should just get used to this shit and grow a thicker skin, but that ONCE AGAIN puts all the responsibility (and most of the blame) on the person (THE WOMAN) getting stuff done to her, rather than the people (often, but not always men) doing the doing. Oh, dear daughter, even though you will probably be very intelligent, how many jerkoffs are going to fail to take you seriously, cut you off mid-sentence to mansplain your own area of expertise? How many assholes are going to demand you have sex with them, and then, when you refuse, tell you you were ugly and fat to begin with (if you’re lucky; if you’re not, they’ll just take the sex they were due in the first place). How many more assholes are going to blame you for being too slutty/too puritanical/too sensitive/too bold/too anything, if something awful happens to you in a frat-house basement in 2034? How many times, when you’re growing up, will you go HEY MAMA, WHY ARE YOU CRYING? only to hear, “OH, well, mama got called a ‘cunt’ in print again.” I cannot change any of this. I cannot protect you from any of this. I take only mild (and guilt-ridden!) comfort in the fact that because you’re a Caucasian you’ll still have it better than your sisters of color. All I can do is keep dressing you like James Spader for as long as you’ll let me.
Oh, my daughter. My daughter, my daughter, my daughter. You babbling, interactive, enthusiastic, exploration-mad, squealing, flapping, grinning, hugging, snuggling, TV-watching (not a lot! but you love Mr. Robot!), not-that-great-at-sleeping, tooth-growing, perfect little bean. I want to explode I love you so. I want to squeeze you until you pop, and then eat you whole. My precious, precious daughter.
All my love,