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I Am Someone’s Mommy

I’ve spoken before about how I often feel like an afterthought in my son’s eyes. How his Dad can do no wrong and I’m a pain in his ass. Sean’s the playmate. I’m the teacher. He’s the joy. I’m the heavy. My illness makes me weak and Sean seems like the most capable man in the world. His Dad shapes breakfast into starships and his Mom insists he put on shoes before we leave the house (the injustice!). I’ve come to accept that, for the most part, I’m lame and Sean’s cool. I don’t like it but, I’ve come to terms with it. He may love us both the same but, I can’t compete. I’m his rock but his Dad’s his Hero and a Hero throws a pretty large shadow.

The other night however, Lochlan was sick. Not crazy sick, just bad cold sick and it had been a long day so, after I put him to bed, I went to sleep myself. Sean was out and, when he got home, Loch woke up and started calling for me. Apparently, no matter what he did, Loch was still asking for me so, eventually, Sean came to wake me up. He apologized, saying he’d tried everything but, Loch just “really needed his Mommy.” 

This is literally how Sean presents Loch's breakfast. There's no competing with that!

This is literally how Sean presents Loch’s breakfast. There’s just no competing with that!

Here’s the thing, I’m an insomniac. Sleep is a struggle for me. When I’m already asleep, I REALLY hate getting up because once I’m up, I’m often up for hours. I’ve spent way too many nights just staring into the darkness worrying, writing notes, breaking down and trolling Facebook, counting the ever shrinking hours until I have to be out of bed again and, just waiting for the sleep that doesn’t come. It’s incredibly frustrating and I really do my best to avoid it at all costs.

I didn’t want to get out of bed that night. I didn’t want to be awake until 3am exhausted at home the next day with a sick child but, my baby was calling for me so, it didn’t matter what I wanted, I was going. I understood. Sometimes you just need your Mom.

He blew his nose and I gave him more cold medicine to break up the phlegm. I refluffed his pillows, straighten his sheets and flipped his blankets and, when he was finally settled, I sang. I sang the lullaby I’ve been singing to him since the first day he was born. I sang it soft and low while I patted his back and scratched his arm. He lay on his side, his little hand resting on my knee and I could feel his tiny shoulder blades through his t-shirt, the little hairs on his forearm, the impossibly soft skin on the top of his hand. I sang and sang and, finally, I just sat. I listened to him breathe. I listened to the sound of his stuffiness, to his little, muffled girggles and, then I made the disastrous mistake of asking if he wanted to blow his nose.

“Mom! You woke me up!!” (I didn’t). “You’re going to have to do it all over again but, this time when you’re done, don’t talk to me after ok?”

“Ok, babe. Sorry about that.” (He’s sick, I’ll give him a break on the tone he’s using.) “DO you want to blow your nose though?”

“Um…Yes.” (blow)

I started again. The singing, the back patting, the arm tickles but, this time, I became aware of how amazing the moment was. I’d passed the fresh out of bed, trying to get back to it phase. I was there now, awake, in it, and the intimacy of the moment, the warmth of being there in the dark with him, the satisfaction of being able to give him the affection he needed, it all overwhelmed me. I was struck by the fact that my love for him had become a tangible thing. A security blanket he craved. Something he needed to hold on to. My very presence was like a xynax for his soul. Despite all the hero worship, in this moment, it was me who made a difference. Me who was required.

IMG_7903The thing is, being diagnosed when Loch was 5 months old, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to experience that feeling. It didn’t seem as if I’d be around long enough to ever really matter to him. To be remembered or, make any lasting impression on his life but, sitting there quietly on the side of his bed just allowing the song to settle, I recognized I’d made it. I’d lived long enough, and put in enough effort, to register as essential and, it felt amazing.

Eventually I took his hand off my knee, stood up, walked to his doorway and…

Tripped on his door stop.

“Mom!!”

“Sorry! Sorry Lochie! I didn’t see it.” (Ow. My toe.)

“Can you sing it again?” (It’s my own fault. Damn you rock.)

“Of course baby.”

I crossed back to his bed and sat down. I felt his little hand searching for my knee in the dark.

“When you’re done will you tuck me in too?”

“Do you want your arms under the blankets?”

“No, just my shoulder.”

“Ok, babe. I’ll do that.”

IMG_7838I wasn’t annoyed. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t rushing to get back to bed. I knew I would be there for as long as he needed me. His little, pudgy fingers softly moved against the flannel of my pants as I started the song again and, this time, I found myself getting choked up. For all it’s efforts, being a parent is an incredible blessing. What an honor it is to be the person who can calm and improve a situation simply with your presence. How extraordinary to be the one looked to for help and guidance, the one who offers security and, in this case, how touching to be the one chosen. The one required above all others.

I sang the song two more times, even after I knew he was asleep, not wanting the moment to end and, every time I sang, the importance of my role grew on me. The repetition was a gift that allowed me to see the wonder.

I am Lochlan’s Mom and, no matter what ends up happening to me, I can say with all certainty that I mattered. That I made an impression on this small, wonderful boy’s life. To him I was irreplaceable.

Thank you Sean. Thank you Lochlan’s cold. Thank you stupid door stop. Thank you beautiful son. Thank you lovely and haunting “Bye Oh By Baby”.

I went right to sleep that night, a completely happy girl and, a totally fulfilled mother.

Blessings to you all.

xo leigh

Being-a-mother-Picture-quote-

 

Tinder: Dating in the New Millenium

Sean and I recently came home to find our baby sitter busy scrolling her Tinder account. Loch was asleep and she was watching a movie on mute while checking out prospects. Having heard of, but never really seen, Tinder I sat down beside her to check it out. An hour later I was STILL there.

Is this is how people date now?! For reals? How old am I? It was completely ridiculous…and totally addictive.

Tinder is an on-line dating app that locates you with GPS then uses your Facebook information to create a profile (nothing about Tinder is posted on Facebook). A Tinder profile is simply your first name, age and “up to” 6 photos of your choice. It also includes any public pages you might have ‘liked’ on Facebook. Tinder then uses an algorithm to find you potential matches and you further narrow the choices by age, distance and appeal.

These days, if you’re single, you’re probably on Tinder. Since I’m not single, and this kind of technology didn’t exist AT ALL when I was dating, I completely missed the boat and, it’s a hell of a party boat!! You can literally “shop” for a person. Our sitter is a doll, with a great sense of humor, and she thought it was a riot to give the old lady her phone and allow her to drive. I learned to “swipe left” on anyone I didn’t think was right for her and press a heart button for those I thought were. I could further “examine” a profile by checking their other photos and short bio and, I could just as quickly discard someone who didn’t make the cut with the touch of an “X”. It took SECONDS for me to judge and decide. “No. No. No. God no. No. Please! Dude, where’s your head?” Even taking the time to look further into someone took less than a minute. You check their pictures – make assumptions based on their aesthetic, background location, clothes and friends – and read their “bio” which seemed to range from the bare minimum – LA<NY<CA or, their height, which apparently is a big thing on Tinder – to cleverly written self-descriptions that offer insight. If you were still intrigued you could “heart” them and their picture was stamped with “Liked” (much like the the post office would stamp a package with “Fragile”) and, if that person also “liked” you, a separate page would appear with the offer to “Send a Message” or “Keep Playing”.

thisisyourconscience.com

thisisyourconscience.com

Keep Playing!!! It actually said that. As if the entire thing was a game.

If it was, I was in it to win it.

trendblog.net

trendblog.net

Our sitter’s the best and she happily sat beside me while I continued to “play”. I became giddy when we (yes we, I was an active participant now) got a match. I was abnormally excited to come up with something clever to say when they messaged her. I was careful to take her personality and likes into account when crafting my response and check before I sent it off but, I know her well so, I think it’d be fair to say, I did a pretty good job of capturing the vibe she was looking to send out. At one point she even said, “Dude, you got him hooked!” and I felt, God help me, proud. You know what’s incredibly attractive? People who are happy, who aren’t really looking, people who don’t feel the pressure of needing anything to lead to anything.

Happily married people can apparently kill on Tinder.

Look, for many reasons I’m glad I’m not single but, it really is a new world out there and, I believe parts of it can be truly fun if you allow them to be. A friend who’s my age recently joined Tinder after a disappointing run with on-line dating and very little help from her married friends. She said the process was horrifying but, it was also kind of awesome to be encouraged to embrace your instantaneous and shallow reaction to people. She said “Tinder teaches you a lot about yourself and your biases”. She told me she realized she was kind of “nameist”. That if the guy was named Io, or Jebbadaiah or, God help her, Five (real name for a real guy who came up shirtless in her pile) she was “swiping left”. I totally get it.

ohnotinder.com

ohnotinder.com

It’s pretty easy to be judgey from the privacy of your own phone. No one gets hurt if your shallow flag flies because no one knows. You either like someone or you don’t and you don’t have to make up a whole song and dance excuse at a bar in order to have them go away. With a flip of your finger they’re just gone. You might go on some bad dates. The guy that turns out to be 4’1″, a grump or, worse, a bully but, that can happen no matter how you meet someone. I went on any number of bad dates as a single person. The guy that did six shots of tequila at a bar before the movie and then proceeded to get into a fight with someone he thought owed him money. The guy who verbally shamed me for over 10 minutes after I ordered a glass of wine because, unbeknownst to me, he had just decided to become sober. The first date who left me sitting alone for 45 minutes in a restaurant without a call, text or apology. Even the waiters wanted me to bail. There are a million jerks out there, how you meet them is kind of irrelevant, you keep trying because one day, the hope is, you’ll finally meet someone good.

Honestly, I found the whole Tinder thing incredibly amusing. I’m sure it can be just devastating if you’re never “matched” with anyone or your dates all turn out to be duds but, without risk, there is no reward. Personally, it made me feel like an incredibly successful matchmaker. I’d look at people’s pictures and say, “Ok, he travels, that’s good” or “He likes animals. That’s important.” Or “Aw, he’s hanging with his niece. You love to do that.”

thescreamingroom.wordpress.com

thescreamingroom.wordpress.com

I picked dudes with tats and piercings because she likes tats and piercings. I chose alternative looking guys I found borderline homeless but, she found hot. I avoided the clean cut guys that appealed to me but were too “boo-jee” for her. Despite being over a decade older, a “married with kids” to her “single, ready to party”, we ultimately had the same goal. We both know she deserves better in the love department. We both want to see her in a solid relationship where she feel good about herself and, just like the friend who’s my age, we both know she’s a terrific girl who deserves a terrific guy. I’m not sure if either of them are going to find him on Tinder but, it seems like a legitimate place to start.

Meeting in a bar, at work, through friends, it seems slow and archaic in today’s busy, busy, go, go, social media is mecca, world. Tinder speaks directly to our culture’s shallowness, our preoccupation with physical attraction and our increasingly limited attention span. It’s a game where the winner gets a date, a hook up, or just personal validation.

Ultimately I had to force myself to stop. It was just too fun. Too addictive. Too tempting.

Single people, I don’t envy your situation but I am slightly jealous of your applications. Permission to flirt without expectation? The ability to follow through only if desired? Picking a date out of a virtual catalogue of potential suitors? I know finding love can be tough, but lighting a flame on Tinder…that’s kinda hot.

xo leigh

ICIG Tinder

 

The Green Eyed Monster

Dear Lochie,

Like many people, I’ve spent a fair amount of my life dealing with jealousy. At ten I was absolutely dying for a white and green rugby shirt from Benetton but Granny & Granddad, not down with me being a walking billboard, refused to buy me one so I was forced to stew in my desire until that fad had passed. In the seventh grade it seemed as if all of my friends had Roots’ desert boots so I became desperate for a pair. When Christmas came and I unwrapped the box, there were desert boots alright but, they weren’t Roots. Granddad had done done “all the research” and these were “the best ones on the market”. I may have worn them but it wasn’t the same thing as liking them. In the early days you want to be just like your friends, different wasn’t better it was just different. I’m flashing back to that feeling right now with you and your friends. You’re at a stage where you’re really into Pokemon. I didn’t buy into the Skylander craze. I didn’t get down with the Rainbow Loom shenanigans but, you’re older now, know what you want and can’t participate unless you have it. I’m not sure it’s right for me to leave you out of this world just because I know “this too shall pass”. I think it’s important you not always get what you want but, I can’t discredit the comfort felt by fitting in. You’ve struggled recently with certain kids because you’re an individual and don’t just fall in. I wouldn’t change that personality for the world but I also don’t want you to be a complete outsider and if  I can alleviate a tiny bit of that discomfort simply by spending some quality time on Craigslist or eBay I think it’s worth it. The way I see it, this is your version of the rugby shirt, and darn it, I’m going to get those cards for you.

mommyish.com

mommyish.com

Not that the feeling won’t happen again. High School is ripe with jealousy. You’ll probably covet people’s cars or vacations. Personally, I wanted a boyfriend and was resentful of the girls who seemed to find one so easily. I wanted clear skin and long, tanned legs. I envied the attention the prettiest seemed to receive from everyone and I wished I had a house in the same neighborhood as the majority of my friends. The summer I turned sixteen my friend went on days off from camp and left most of her perfect wardrobe behind. For the next two days I wore all of her stuff. It was terribly bad behavior but she always looked so cool and I was dying to know what that felt like. Years later when I came clean she laughed at my ridiculousness but I still remember how amazing it felt to slip into that “skin” for a couple of days.

blogilates.com

blogilates.com

In my early twenties I started dating my friend’s ex-boyfriend in a direct violation of the “girl code”. Yes, there was a part of me that thought it was the real deal and allowed myself to believe the relationship was my shot at true love, but there was another part of me that just felt validated by his interest. He’d dated my most perfect friend. The most beautiful and talented and smart and now, now he wanted me. I’d lived in the shadow of my friends for over a decade and his choosing me made me feel worthwhile, as if my existence was somehow justified by hitting the benchmark he’d set with her. I still wasn’t confident enough to realize your self worth shouldn’t be looked for in the eyes of another.

thedailyquotes.com

thedailyquotes.com

In New York my jealousy was more focused on people’s talent than anything else and, in LA, I found I wasn’t envious of talent so much as opportunity. I felt like I was floundering, apologizing for my age and lack of camera experience, while others were getting their shot at the big leagues. I was even jealous of people’s ability to audition, a skill I’d never quite mastered. Auditioning for theatre? Never a problem. Auditioning for camera? Total suckage. I struggled hard with it and, the more I worried, the worse I was. A casting director once ate through my entire audition and I cried for five hours after.

Even as an adult with full knowledge of my wonderful life – great husband, terrific kid, all the blessings that have kept me around – I still have moments where I feel slightly green. I wish we had more success, more financial security. I can pick up magazines now and my peers are in them. They’re buying second homes and designer clothes. Their work is credited on my TV or they’re lounging in their beautiful kitchens in House & Home. I’m happy for them but there’s also a part of me that feels sick in a “I’m failing to keep up with the Jones” kind of way.

chaleaseworld.com

chaleaseworld.com

The thing is, you never know what’s really going on with anybody else. From the outside you might think my life was perfect. You wouldn’t know I was sick or that we struggled. You wouldn’t know I can’t have more children or hold down a normal job because of my health. Someone could be completely jealous of me and yet not have a clue what’s really up.

I remember being floored when a friend told me she was going into AA. I had no clue there was any kind of problem. She was one of those people who just appeared to have it all. Her life seemed ideal and easy yet, as it turned out, it was anything but. Every day was a struggle for her and her burdens and pain were only exacerbated by the fact that everything seemed so perfect from the outside, like “What could she possibly have to complain about?”

Yes, I would love an easier life. I wish we had less worry. I want to be able to buy a home I love and furnish it. I’d like to pay bills without strain and freely accept friend’s invitations to parties and trips without any sort of anxiety. That being said however, I realize no matter how many things I still want, no matter what I secretly covet, I already have everything I need. I’ve been blessed with an amazing life and it’s important I attempt, even amidst the craziness of LA, to keep that in perspective. The only thing I should truly be jealous of is people’s health. I was dealt a bad hand in that department and I think a little envy is justifiable. The rest of it…just window dressing.

pikachuI’ve learned that jealousy, no matter how understandable, just holds you back. You can’t run your best race if you’re busy looking at others racers. You can’t better your life if you spend too much time as a spectator to someone else’s. What’s that expression? The race is long but, in the end, it’s only with yourself?

Comparison is only good if you’re looking for the best deal on shoes.

That being said, I’m still getting you those darn Pokemon cards. What can I say? I’ve got a soft spot for that Pickachu.

xo Mom

brookeboon.com

brookeboon.com

 

 

Exuberance

I was recently in Starbucks – my new go to work space after I discovered how much more I’m able to get accomplished when I don’t make my writing compete with my laundry and dishes – when a father and son came in and sat at the table opposite mine. The father was older than me, maybe forty-five, and the son younger than Loch, close to four. As they enjoyed their separate drinks and explored their different handhelds, I found myself unable to work, not because they were bothering me, but because they were so charming. The little boy was just everything wonderful about childhood squeezed into one person. All fleshy elbows and turned up nose, legs dangling off the floor, his orange ankle socked feet shooting straight up in the air as he sneezed into the arm of his shirt.

Aside from the extreme cuteness and the fact that I wanted to go over and hug and kiss him because I no longer have a three-year-old of my own to cuddle, what struck me most was the boy’s exuberance. His unmitigated joy for almost all things. His outward, visible manifestation of everything that thrilled him. Finding the right table to sit at, taking the phone from his Dad and talking animatedly to the person on the other end, eating his croissant, everything was wonderful and worthy of note. Being told he was allowed to play Angry Birds on his Dad’s tablet resulted in a full body, booty shaking dance that made him fall over. He was just so into everything. He karate chopped the air when the birds hit their target. Pulled out the double fisting air pump “Yes-es!” and exhilarated “I can’t believe this”  Whoooooo’s when he completed a level. He was fabulous and, no matter how into my writing I was, it was impossible to not just abandon it to simply watch this kid exist.

That’s the thing about people who fully commit to life. They’re infectious. It’s too bad we often lose that enthusiasm as we age. Life, bills, marriage, stress, anxiety and, quite frankly, the bloody news just make it more and more difficult to be truly thrilled about anything other than flopping into bed.

The entrance is literally through that fridge! How great is that! Nice play #GoodTimesAtDaveyWaynes

The entrance is literally through that fridge! How great is that! Nice play #GoodTimesAtDaveyWaynes

I guess that’s why I’ve always been such a big fan of parties and holidays and long dinners with people who’s company I love. It’s so amazingly nice to have a reason to leave the everyday behind and live in a moment of excitement no matter how brief. I really wanted to go to this super cool club for my birthday this year. It’s a fully themed Hollywood bar set up like a 1970′s house party where you enter through a vintage beer fridge at the back of a garage sale. What?!?! Come on!! So good!! It’s all shag carpeting and lava lamps and beer served in #1 Dad mugs. I love the idea of it. I love the effort that went into creating it, the attention to detail and the complete lack of irony in which you can embrace it. There’s a roller skating show for crying out loud. How can you not love the idea of putting on wide leg jeans and drinking properly mixed cocktails with your friends in a different decade?

Sean & I at the Speakeasy. We were not the only people dressed up!! Yay enthusiasm!!

Sean & I at the Speakeasy. We were not the only people dressed up!! Yay enthusiasm!!

It was in the same vein that Sean and I planned our school’s fundraiser last year. It was a 1920′s burlesque slash prohibition night at a club owned by the same people as that 70′s place. These genius brothers took one of the oldest private homes in Los Angeles and turned it into a what looks like a very hip, traditional speakeasy. Again, how fun to be greeted by a 1920′s madam in a vintage hotel room just to be directed to a secret set of stairs that leads you to a vintage club? Even knowing how reticent grown ups typically are at the mere suggestion of costumes, we went ahead and encouraged theme dress and it was amazing to see how many people actually made the effort to show up in period. The thing is, once you get over the discomfort of doing something out of the ordinary, people usually have a pretty good time.

Aquaman & his biggest fans!

Aquaman & his biggest fans!

Halloween for most children is right up there with Christmas and their birthday. It’s a BIG deal and they devote themselves to it whole hog. On Loch’s first Halloween, like the newbie parents we were, Sean and I decided to embrace the holiday and try to enjoy it the way the kid’s did. Every year since then we’ve done our best to be the Supemes to our child’s superstar. We try to back up the costume he’s committed to and attempt to have fun while doing it. When he was a three-year-old vampire, we tossed around the idea of being people who’d been bitten but, to ensure we were also entertained, we ended up as Sookie and Jason Stackhouse from the popular vampire show “True Blood”. Loch had fun, but so did we. Last year’s costumes were my favorite so far because Loch’s adamant decision to be Aquaman (a costume that is NOT sold in stores by the way) stumped us on what we should be. After talking though relatively pathetic, homemade jelly fish and squid costumes, we considered – for the first time ever – abandoning our family plan. When we finally figured out something we could get on board with: Punk Aquaman fan club members, it became easy and, once again, fun. Multiple fake face piercings and our son’s own costumed picture silkscreened on our shirts, we arrived at Loch’s school Halloween party with an unbridled enthusiasm that darling boy from Starbucks would have truly appreciated. Plus, we kind of made people nervous, which was an added bonus.

The McGowans circa 1955.

The McGowans circa 1955.

It’s fun to be committed. It’s incredibly enjoyable to dive in to things with enthusiasm and, from what I’ve noticed over the years, that kind of keenness is contagious -  even if it’s just to yourself. Putting energy into something and getting positive feedback inspires you to make that kind of effort again and do it even better. That’s exactly how my family ended up with our increasingly elaborate Christmas card.

Every year we’ve been married Sean and I have sent out a Christmas card. For a while we couldn’t afford an actual card so we’d send a short letter with a separate photo we’d mass produced. Personally, I love getting Christmas cards but I wish every single one had a picture. I love to see people. How they’ve changed. How they look. It’s nice to get smiling faces in your mailbox and really, so much better than what usually ends up in there. I’m looking at you bills and black widow spiders! Anyway, in 2010, burnt out trying to write our Christmas wrap up, Sean came up with the idea to put our family on the cover of a magazine called McGowan (fonted to look like Esquire) with just teaser titles to highlight our year. It was easy and fun and the response we received made it well worth the effort we’d put into it. We were so glad we’d done it, in fact, we found ourselves in the catch twenty-two of trying to outdo ourselves the following year.

The McGowans circa 1973.

The McGowans circa 1973.

We failed.

2011′s photo strip was cute – with the added bonus of it’s size leaving absolutely no room for any sort of written debriefing – but at the end of the day we felt we could have done better. So, the next year we stepped it up and did a full fledged 1950′s family portrait that entertained us probably more than the people who received it. It was a riot. In fact, it was that card that solidified for us that sending a Christmas card to your friends and family shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should be a happy thing that makes YOU smile as much as anyone else. If you’re not enjoying it what are you doing other than adding yet another thing to your “To Do” list? So, with that idea firmly in mind, and Loch old enough to truly be on board with the revelry, we went straight over the top last year with a card inspired by Sean’s Barry Gibb hair phase and shot a Bee Gee’s type Holiday Album cover. I take the fact that people tell us they now “look forward to our card” as both a compliment and reminder that we’re doing something right.

Take a moment and remind yourself to embrace life with the joy of your inner orange socked kid. Find the things and people that make you want to double fist pump or scream whooooo! Why not commit to a little escapism? Is it really so terrible to engage in things that might make you smile?

DSC_0818That little boy’s voice. His shining face. Every day my Lochie grows farther and farther away from being a little person and I want so desperately to make sure he doesn’t lose his joy while doing so. He’s still excited about everything. He’s still lives in a world without shame or self judgement but, I see it changing. He’s aware of people now. He’s mindful of who’s watching. He’s becoming conscious of what’s “cool” and what his friends are (or are not) into.

That little boy in Starbucks didn’t care anyone was there but his Dad. He was in the moment every single second and I want my boy to be able to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible. I don’t want him (or me, for that matter) to turn into some adult who’s forgotten how to have fun. Someone too jaded to be thrilled. Too caught up to let go. I want Loch to live in a world where, even with all the real problems and worries he’ll face, he will still strive to find the moments where he can fall over laughing.

In my perfect future that joy will advance past Angry Birds…but, you know, I’ll take what I can get.

xo leigh

The Waxing and Waning of Friendships

I recently unfriended my first person on Facebook. I’ve never done it before. I’ve blocked people’s feeds when they post too frequently or I heartily disagree with their politics. I’ve ignored friend requests, not denying them so much, as simply leaving them in Facebook purgatory because the alternative feels judgey. Who am I to deny their “friendship”? We deny friendship in real life – when we can’t find the time to “grab a drink” or “get the kids together” - because time in real life is finite and it’s truly impossible to be friends with five hundred people, but on line it’s just a click, so what’s my problem? The thing is, I’m not into “collecting” friends. Though I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a rather large and eclectic group of extended friendships that seems to span the globe, my day to day group of friends is really quite intimate. Real time friendships take more effort than a thumbs up or the occasional comment. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be part of everyone’s life so you have to make tough decisions. Social media sites like Facebook and it’s ilk (Twitter, Instagram) are already monster time suckers so, to realistically get anything out of them, you have to keep your numbers low there too. I recently decided I was wasting too many hours – mostly sleeping hours – devoting myself to other people’s thoughts. So I’ve decided that when it comes down to it, if someone’s life has little or no baring on my own, I can’t take it on virtually or in real life. It’s unrealistic to think you can truly be friends with everyone, and even though the effort of being friends on line is a minimal one, I still find it necessary to make that call. A vast amount of followers doesn’t stroke my ego.* I think if you really want to properly assess how well you’re liked it’s best to look at the faces you see rather than the feeds you follow.

thehungryartist.org

thehungryartist.org

This has been a big year for friendship shifts for me. I haven’t made this many new friends since starting University and I was beginning to think “my people” would always just live in another country (Canada, UK, Hong Kong) and I’d have to just accept the loneliness that came with that fact. However, with the natural reshuffling that comes with changing schools and jobs, I’ve found that people I was doing everything with for a time are suddenly no longer part of my life and, people I didn’t know a year ago, are some of my closest friends, just scratching the surface of what could be. I found people I can truly count on this year, people I’m not ashamed to ask for help, people who share the same values and sense of humor and, for that, I feel incredibly grateful. This is not to say if I saw some of my previous friends on the street I wouldn’t be thrilled to catch up, simply that the relationships didn’t have a strong enough root system to continue to grow without the constant attention of daily care. Though the waxing and waning of friendships can feel uncomfortable, I think it’s a natural and necessary part of growth and change.

UnknownThe decision to actively “unfriend” someone, however, is an interesting one.  In real life, that process can be quite messy. I was unfriended in real life over the past two years by someone very close to me and for a while I fought it. I was sad and angry. I felt unheard and used and disappointed, but ultimately I came to understand my friend simply made the decision that, despite our past together, she’d prefer her life move forward without me and there was no alternative but to accept her decision. I’m sorry to see her go but I believe the future remains unwritten. I’m not hoping for a reconciliation. I’m just not writing one off.  Unfriending someone on line is so much simpler. All it takes is a click of the mouse and that person is no longer part of your life. If I’m being honest it was actually a pretty liberating experience and I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t do it sooner. This particular person added nothing to my life and, quite frankly, just seeing his name on my newsfeed made me angry. The whole act of cutting ties was clean and simple and, in many ways, preferable to the drawn out desolution of a real life relationship.

2c940fe0bc7f92b7adeeac85a2ae640dWhether you fight with someone or grow apart naturally, losing friends is a part of life. Some friendships are location sensitive, some are born out of necessity, others simply have a shelf life. As you change, so too do your friends, and the combination doesn’t always work. This process can work in reverse as well. People you aren’t close with as a younger person can grow into dear friends over time. My closest confident and I were peripheral friends through high school and college, drifted apart for years and then found each other again as adults. What we share now is stronger and more important than anything we could have had in our youth. Life dealt us both some serious blows and we’re ultimately better and more connected because of them.  This isn’t to say friendships from childhood can’t be wonderful life long relationships, just that over time certain ones will become like feeds on your Facebook page, passive and perfunctory. You’re happy to hear about their lives when you can, but you no longer actively pursue the relationship.

mama-kat-promptVisiting Toronto this summer I realize this habit of limiting of my numbers extends into my old life as well. At first I was concerned I was becoming an introvert, happier to stay home with Loch and my parents than rush out to see anybody, but now I recognize it’s simply that I prefer to catch up one-on-one rather than in a big group or a crowded setting.** Sean and I have a pretty large group of extended friends in LA with whom I have no problem actively socializing. The difference is, I’m not trying to update them all on my past year. They proably saw me, at most, two weeks ago. In Toronto, there’s a lot more to say, a fire to rekindle from a glowing ember rather than one already roaring and I just find it’s easier to build up one fire at a time.  It’s a hoot to get together as a group, just not the way to truly visit. It’s my experience that I either become sick of my own voice – while I recount whatever story best explains my past year over and over – or never get past the small talk pleasantries that dominate a chaotic setting. I prefer to take the time for each person separately. That way I can properly see how they are rather than simply graze the surface. If I can do both…all the better.

tumblr_n0sv52Ixkg1t5zonco1_250I’m also making an effort to not just disappear from my LA friend’s lives simply because I’m no longer physically in LA. I usually go radio silent for six to eight weeks a year while I’m in Canada, but I started to notice that when I returned it was increasingly difficult to pick up where I’d left off. I don’t have the history with the LA people that I do with the Toronto people. So instead of trying to build a fire from a glowing ember, I found I was dealing more with a lukewarm ash. Old friendships are like old growth trees, requiring minimal maintenance to continue to thrive, new relationships are like saplings. They need more tending if you don’t want them to die. I’ve recently been lucky enough to add some great people to my life and it’s my hope that making a concerted effort to keep in touch will ensure we’ll hit the ground running when I get back.

butthesunalwayscomesuptomorrow.tumbler.com

butthesunalwayscomesuptomorrow.tumbler.com

So, while un-friending my first person was strangely freeing, I find the act of continuing to re-friend people even more empowering. Friendship is a fluid state of being. There can be no permanence without effort and I want my friends, virtual and otherwise, to know their connection to me is an active choice. That they are respected and appreciated and that I will do my best to never take them for granted. I think you can live without money, you can live without a spouse, you can live without children but I don’t believe it’s possible to live without friends. For those of you who add to my life, I thank you. To those of you I have yet to know, I await it and, for those of you I loved once, I appreciate the memories and wish you well.

Best to all of you.

xo leigh

*Millions of followers for this blog however, that would be a completely different thing!! It’s your public life vs. personal I suppose.

** Particularly where people are smoking. I just can’t do it anymore. Toronto, stop smoking man. You’re killing yourselves and ruining patios for me. :)

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Raising a Boy in a Rape Culture

Dear Loch,

You are a big kid. A powerful kid. A 6-year-old who can knock me right over. A boy who gives his Dad a run for his money. You are strong and nimble and able to use your body to get what you want…but you don’t. Instead you’re someone who uses his words, his powers of persuasion, his intellect to seek what you need. You’re the kid who asks if someone is ok and helps people up when they’ve fallen. The one who felt he should make a “moat” with his arms around the smallest girl in your class because “she’s so little mommy, people are going to knock her down.” I’ve always felt incredibly grateful for your temperament. It’s kind and thoughtful when it could be aggressive and wild. You’ve shown no violent tendencies or instinct towards cruelty. You’re empathetic and sweet and have been known to burst into tears when you feel something is unfair to you or someone else. You might give me a run for my money, but overall you are a darling boy who’s the epitome of a “lover not a fighter”. My problem lies in the fact that you’re growing up in this increasingly hoochie, shake your ass, women as objects/vessels, let me please you, sex society. You’re coming of age in a time when women are getting killed for refusing to date a boy or gang raped by friends at parties or shot en mass by teenage misogynists on a rampage. A girl was recently stabbed to death in her high school hallway for refusing to go to prom and the most recent statistics show a woman is sexually assaulted in America every 2 minutes.

This is a real ad for a high end car. It's difficult not to get the impression that women are there to service in some way from it.

This is a real ad for a high end car and though it’s cheeky (in more ways than one), it’s difficult not to get the wrong impression from it.

How do I properly raise you in a culture that uses sex as currency and women as objects. A country with high profile rape cases involving high school and college students that are so grotesque, so abusive of power but with communities that rally around the perpetrators because they’re sports stars or popular kids? How do I properly guide you through a world of sexting and snap chatting? Or an internet with teen rape clubs like Roast Busters who publicly boasted their behavior for two years before anybody did anything? On her popular and informative YouTube show “Sex +” Laci Green talks about the culture of “toxic masculinity”. How we, as a society, have created an environment where men feel entitled to women, friends, sex and when that entitlement is met with opposition some of them become so angry they lash out violently.***** Green notes that 70 of the last 71 mass murders were committed by men, mostly white men, who felt in some way alienated from the culture of powerful, cool, sexual masculinity that permeated their lives. There are entire websites (like collegeiscool.com) devoted to young people degrading themselves on camera to become famous, rich or popular. How do I ensure you make the right decisions in the wake of so many bad ones? The age old adage “if all your friends jumped off a cliff…” seems weak when we’re talking these kind of extremes.

Kids need to understand the reality of the situation. We can’t just inform our girls about how to protect themselves we have to teach our boys how to rise above it. I want you to be far above the lowest common denominator. To be aware and confident enough to speak up and say enough to the misogyny, the derogatory jokes, the “she was asking for it” justifications.

Even girls that make bad decisions don't "deserve" to be victims. coffeeandcrosswords.com

Even girls who make terrible decisions don’t “deserve” to be victims. coffeeandcrosswords.com

No more victimizing the victims ^^ and debating over “consent”. Consent should be obvious. “No means no” but YES should be the word you’re looking for. If a woman is willing she’s aware, she’s conscious, she’s agreeable and verbal about that decision. Just because you don’t hear no, doesn’t make it so.

You have to distance yourself from the base behavior of your brethren. You must fight against it. Protect, when it’s easier to dismiss. Standing idly by does not make you innocent. Complacency is akin to guilt. Zaron Burnett III recently wrote an essay that went viral entitled The Gentlemen’s Guide to Rape Culture. Rape Culture being defined by Marshall University’s Women’s Center as an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. It is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. In the essay Burnett says, like it or not, as a man you are a part of the rape culture and it is your responsibility to correctly navigate your way through it.

Australian Calvin Klein ad

Is gang rape supposed to be sexy in this Australian Calvin Klein ad?

Burnett points out, as Rutger’s college students also recently did with their “Rape Poem to End all Rape Poems”, that we’ve created a culture “in which women must consider where they are going, what time of day it is, the day of the week, what she’ll be wearing and if she’ll be left alone.” That we’ve allowed our society to get to a point where women are not safe to walk by themselves, leave their drinks unattended or, heaven forbid, pass out at a party without putting themselves in imminent danger. Yes, women should be responsible for their actions (see the above picture – Good Lord girls!), but something has gone terribly wrong if our society’s default is to pass judgement on the victim not the perpetrator. There is a serious problem if seemingly innocuous choices (choices that men like you take for granted, like clothes and independence) become the source for imposing fault or blame. It’s not a new phenomenon to blame the victim, it’s just become completely out of control. Women shouldn’t be afraid of being killed if they break up with a boyfriend, or attacked if they wear a crop top, or raped in the middle of high school.

Because there shouldn't be a need for glassware from companies like designboom to indicate whether your drink has been drugged or not.

There shouldn’t be a need for glassware from companies like designboom to indicate whether your drink has been drugged or not.

My message to you, my boy, is that none of this is right. As you move forward in your future you must take control and responsibility for your behavior and decisions. You are accountable for both your actions and the actions you fail to take. You were raised to be a hero, not a villain. As Burnett says,“You may think it’s unfair that men have to counteract and adjust themselves for the ill behavior of other men and you are right. It is unfair. But if issues of fairness bother you, get mad at the men who make you appear questionable. Because when it comes to assessing a man, whatever one is capable of, a woman must presume you are also capable of. Unfortunately, all men must be judged by the worst example. If you think this sort of stereotyping is bulls*^#, think about how you treat a snake you come across in the wild. You treat it like a snake. That’s not stereotyping. That’s acknowledging an animal for what it’s capable of doing and the harm it can inflict.” * 

article-2071890-0F1B8BB800000578-130_634x806Freud wrote extensively about the herd or mob mentality. The idea that an individual can basically turn off their conscious mind in favor of the group psychology that is often more base and violent. There’s a feeling of anonymity in a group. People felt protected, free to tap into their baser instincts while simultaneously accepting less responsibility for those actions. People often try to use this theory to explain why they did something they clearly knew to be wrong. You hear a lot of, “I was just doing what my friends were doing” or “I got caught up in the situation.” This is not a legitimate excuse. It’s a cop-out defense of the weak minded. You know right from wrong. You are in control of what you do and no matter what “everyone” chooses, you stick to YOUR morals.

You're bombard by pictures like this every day. It's bad for women and it's bad for your opinion of what women are here for.

You’re bombard by pictures like this every day. It’s bad for women and it’s bad for your opinion of what women are here for.

Whether I’m here or not, I expect you to be a good man who makes honorable decisions. Someone who behaves with forethought and respect. I also charge you to look out for those who are weaker. To speak for those who don’t have a voice. To be brave enough to stand up and take charge of a situation before things become chaotic. I’m not advocating violence to prevent violence. I’m advocating leadership that inspires nobility. Even if all you do is walk straight to the police.

Burnett challenges the good men of the male species to return to the world of the gentleman. To avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women. To think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence.** To be respectful of others’ physical space even in a casual situation and to help women feel at ease in your presence. It’s your job to communicate with your sexual partners and not, even in a relationship, simply assume consent.

Burnett says:

vogue

A real cover from Vogue Homme.

“No one is suggesting violence. In fact, that’s what we’re looking to avoid. But sometimes, a man needs to confront another man or a group of men in a situation. When I’m out in public and I see a man hassling a woman, I stop for a moment. I make sure the woman sees me. I want her to know I’m fully aware of what’s happening. I wait for a moment for a clear indication from her of whether she needs help. Sometimes, the couple will continue right on fighting like I’m just a hickory tree. Other times, the woman will make it clear she’d like backup and I approach the situation. I’ve never had to get violent. Usually, my presence alone makes the guy leave if he’s a stranger, or explain himself if they’re familiar. It changes the dynamic. That’s why I always stop when I see a woman getting hassled in public. For any reason. I make sure any woman, in what could become a violent situation, one I may or may not be correctly assessing, feels that she has the opportunity to signal to me if she needs assistance. If you see a situation spiraling out of control, and especially if someone is crying for help or being attacked, you should confront the situation. You don’t need to “break it up.” But engage, get involved, take down pertinent information, alert authorities, call the police. Do something.” ***

The world is a broken baby. When things like #YesAllWomen become necessary, the time has come to insist on change and, I believe, real change starts at home.

xo Mom

P.S. I would strongly advise clicking on all the links in this letter. They are incredibly telling of how bad things really have become.

***** The fact that these boys are lashing out with access to a high powered arsenal of weapons is it’s own issue.

^^ I am literally sickened by this “helpful” website on how not to get raped. Sickened!

* Zaron Burnett III, The Gentlemen’s Guide to Rape Culture

** Zaron Burnett III,  The Gentlemen’s Guide to Rape Culture

*** Zaron Burnett III,  The Gentlemen’s Guide to Rape Culture

4e9dc53133cf4

A Field Guide to High School

Dear Loch,

I’m one of those people who really loved High School. Yes, it’s a period of your life rife with insecurity but, for the most part, I thought it was marvelous. I often wonder when I hear people talk about High School as if it was “time served” what made my experience so different. How, even with the ups and downs that inevitably come with adolescence, I really was incredibly happy. Was it just dumb luck? Was I supremely clever? I don’t think so. I know a number of other people (your Dad included) who clearly found a happy route through a time otherwise fraught with strife, so at this the milestone of my 20th High School Reunion (of which I just attended!) I thought I’d attempt to crystalize my own personal “Secret to High School Success”. Take what you will out of it, but understand that no point in your life has to be miserable. Uncomfortable and awkward maybe, but not unhappy. You deserve happiness. So, here are some ways to go about achieving it from ages 14 through 18 (maybe even beyond).

photo 2

Ninth grade.

photo 4

25 years later.

1. FIND YOURSELF A FRIEND. I realize this is easier said than done but all you need is one person who really “gets” you for the world to become infinitely better. I was lucky enough to have a lot of friends in High School but even more blessed to have one special friend who was truly on my page. A person who shared my interests and insecurities and had a strikingly similar outlook on life. There was power and security in being part of a team. We could be keeners without irony joining things like choir and theatre and being enthusiastic without fear of ridicule. We were able to commiserate about the acne only the two of us seemed to have, go to parties as a unit and spend hours on the phone debriefing our emotional turmoils. Despite the fact I was always single and she almost always had a boyfriend, we had each other’s backs. When we were both elected student leaders – a job neither of us were ashamed to admit we wanted – we were able to do that together too. Even now, all these years later, despite time and fall outs and distance, she’s still my person. We don’t live in the same city, we don’t often talk on the phone or email but when we’re together it’s as if no time has passed. Twenty-five years later and she’s still the the one helping me twist our friend’s arms to go out or get involved. Still the two of us taking the chance on something that might be fun. They took a group shot of all the girls from my year who came to the Reunion and it made me laugh because after the requisite smiling shot the photographer asked us to “be crazy” and of the four people who even acknowledged that request…two of them were us. I know letting her into my life not only made High School bearable, it made it a joy.

photo 9

A really nice group of ladies stuck with the often awkward request to “do something crazy.”

2. DO THE THINGS YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO DO. If you like chess, join the club. If you want to act, audition for the play. Don’t get caught up in what’s cool or not cool. It’s the doing of the things you enjoy that make your time somewhere enjoyable. If you like it, do it. Plus, you’re more likely to meet the person above if you do. “Birds of a feather…” as Granny says.

3201bb104e44390a81ae111442eb9dfe3. BE NICE. Not everyone is going to like you, just don’t give them an excuse not to. There are lots of reasons people don’t take to you in High School – jealousy, supposed slights, gossip, assumptions – try not to add to the list. I’ll always remember my last year of High School when I became friends with a girl I had never hung out with before. At one point, in the early stages of our friendship, she said “I can’t believe you’re so nice. I always thought you’d be such a bitch.” I asked why she thought that and she said, “I guess because you’re popular and hang out with who you do. I just assumed it.” It was a eye opener. She thought she knew me but she didn’t and that kind of thing happens all the time. I like to think I never gave anyone a reason to hate me. Even the one person I couldn’t find any common ground with in High School I was genuinely happy to see at the reunion. Despite all our teenage differences, 20 years later, without our preconceived notions getting in the way, our mutual distaste has naturally softened into mutual respect. We might not have liked each other at 18 but we never gave each other any reason to retain that dislike at 38.

Disco Semi-Formal? Why not go as the disco ball? It's fun to go all in. Thanks to my date Brian for doing it with me!! He thought I was punking him!

Disco Semi? Why not go as the disco ball? It’s fun to go all in. Thanks to my date Brian for doing it with me!! He thought I was punking him!

4. BE ENTHUSIASTIC. Life is amazing and the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out. The same goes for High School. Invest as much as you can for as long as you have. What you put in will be reflected back. Commitment to something gives you purpose. Purpose gives you drive. Drive keeps you motivated and motivation takes you places.

5. WORK HARD. This might sound like a dismissible maternal cliche, but it’s not. In many ways it’s the same as above point just painted with a scholastic brush. In High School I knew I wanted to attend a specific University and I kept that in mind the whole time I was there. I picked classes I was interested in and focused on getting the best grades I could. I worked my a*# off and it paid off. I chose, as I often say to you, to do the MOST I could rather than the LEAST. I had no interest in simply skating by. If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it well. Frankly that’s an ethic that will serve you well beyond the 12th grade.

quotescover.com

quotescover.com

As a side note: there’s also a lot less time to get into trouble and fart around making bad decisions when you’re up to your eyeballs in school work and extra curricular and it’s a lot more fun to be on the Dean’s list than the  s*^# list. There’s a security in knowing you’ve done your best because, whatever happens, you know the result wasn’t because you could have worked harder. Ask a lot of yourself and deliver. It’s a productive way to go through life.

6. RETAIN PERSPECTIVE. Try and remember there is an entire world outside of High School. Your dramas and trials and tribulations, though seemingly epic, are simply a blip in the story of your life. If you aren’t happy, if you don’t fit in, if you feel weird or different or insecure know that 1. You aren’t alone. Even the coolest of the cool are going through their own s*^# and, 2. It’s going to be over soon. Four years is nothing. You have the rest of your life to find your place or your people, to discover who you are or reinvent yourself. I can honestly say everyone from my year who came to the reunion is an incredibly nice person worthy of respect. We might not have all run in the same circles at 16 but things change. You change. They change. The time between the 9th and 12th grade is negligible on the grand scale. I understand it feels monumental while you’re in it, but it’s just four years at the beginning of a life. A foreshadowing of your adulthood. Take it for what it is, a foundation. A place to learn how to make friends, develop a work ethic and discover who you are or might be interested in being later. It’s a training ground for life but it isn’t your life. It’ll be over in the blink of an eye so you may as well enjoy it while you’re there.

There's a whole world ahead of you. In my case I wouldn't always have those eyebrows, my face would thin out, my confidence would waiver then come back stronger. I thought I knew who I was but I was only just beginning to understand.

There’s a whole world ahead of you. In my case I wouldn’t always have those eyebrows, my face would thin out, my confidence would waiver then come back stronger. I thought I knew who I was but I was only just beginning to understand.

Looking around at the girls at my reunion I was fascinated with the passage of time and the boundaries and walls erected in youth that are able to come down when you’re older. In many ways I was also struck with the positive nature of, the much maligned, social media. None of us showed up at that reunion completely ignorant of the other’s past twenty years. Almost all of us have reconnected in some way on-line. We are aware of each other. What jobs people have. If they have families or spouses. We’re familiar with life events and shared challenges. This point was brought home to me clearly when, during the tour of the school, one of my old classmates (not a close friend mind you) took my arm after a particularly difficult set of stairs. She knew I was sick. She could see I was struggling. She simply put her hand under my arm and helped me navigate the rest of the tour. I was so grateful. Honored and touched to be known in such an intimate way and cared for without question by someone who had no vested interest in me or my feelings.

We don’t know who we’re going to be after High School. What fate will become us as we press forward with our lives. We are unaware of the cards that will be dealt but, even with that uncertainty, we should make the best of the time we have while we’re there. Be our best selves despite the fact that self will probably change. Do the most with what we have until we have more. If High School is a training ground for life, you may as well train as if you’re going for gold….because you are, aren’t you?

I love you baby.

I hope you have the best time in High School but I hope it’s not the best time of your life.

xo me, your mom

photo 8

My final thought after the reunion after party. xo

Love, Life and What to Wear – Part 1: The Closet

Dear Lochie,

First of all let me just say I hope you can call me. That I’m still here for you to talk to and we have the kind of relationship where you respect and trust my opinions. As I’ve said a million times, my dream is that these letters are simply a jumping off point to a future conversation we can have in person. But, since we’re unable to forsee what’s ahead, I wanted to jot down a few ideas just in case.

Now, it may feel frivilous or irrelevant to talk about clothes and style but, baring world destruction, I’m here to tell you it’s not. How you visually present yourself to the world is the first thing anyone sees, ergo the first thing you’ll be judged on. It’s not fair, it’s probably not right, but it’s true. What’s inside may be what counts, but it’s the packaging that often makes all the difference. I want people to know and love you as I do but, in life, before you even have the chance to even open your mouth people will have already made assumptions about you with their eyes. It’s my goal to see you’re not starting at a disadvatage.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to do a series of aesthetic run downs. It’s strictly surface. I touched on it before when I spoke on the deeper aspects of “being a man” but this time we’re staying firmly in the shallow end of the issue pool. It’s not life or death. It’s denim or kakhis.

Dare to dream of a closet like this one from fedoras.com. Good grief...and sigh.

Dare to dream of a closet like this one from fedoras.com. Good grief…and sigh.

As you age you’ll develop and hone your own style (and there’ll probably be many a girlfriend who wants to dress you) but I feel it’s my job as your mother to let you know where to start. I don’t want you to ever feel insecure because you’re unsure of what to wear and, as far as I’m concerned, there are basics you should consider embracing no matter what your future “look” or gal pal might encourage. I expect you’ll tweak this advice to make it your own but I never want to hear about you showing up at a wedding in cargo pants or at a job interview in a ball cap.

We can do better than that.

I begin this series with a list of items I hope will find their way into your wardrobe by your mid-20′s (if not earlier). You’ll discover the best ones over time and certain trends will fill in your closet, but for now, here is my list of what I believe a grown man should own.*

Chris PIne working the right fitting t-shirt, jeans and properly sized casual belt buckle. Also love a good pair of glasses. Your dad took black Ray Ban Wayfarers and put his regular perscription in them. It looks fantastic.  justjared.com

Chris PIne working the right fitting t-shirt, jeans and properly sized casual belt buckle. I also love a good pair of glasses.
justjared.com

At least 3 PAIRS OF GOOD JEANS. Not baggy and preferably not skin tight but well fitted, straight leg, boot cut or skinny. Your jean style will depend on a combination of how your body fills out and the style of the day, but definitley invest in good denim. These days jeans can take you almost anywhere. Washes should include: a casual worn in blue, dark “dress” blue, and black. Grey and sand are also terrifc alternatives.

A CASUAL BLACK AND BROWN BELT that are your size. No flapping overhang or just making it to the first hole. Buy a belt that fits. Also make sure the buckle size balances your body type. Not too big or too small.

A DRESSY BLACK AND BROWN BELT in good shape (good quality leather, no fraying) that’s not too shiny and has a classic buckle. Europeans, and people who dress like Europeans, can get away with a covered buckle but they don’t often work on the classic American male. I’m happy to take that back if you show me the belt that proves me wrong, but for now let’s just stick with the basics.

At least 6 COOL T-SHIRTS. Well fitted. Good cotton. No logos. Personally, I like a v-neck but you might be a crew neck guy and that’s great. Beware the super deep V. It’s made for a very specific kind of man, particularly one without body hair and, looking at your Dad (and the fact that your legs are hairy as a six year old), you might want to steer clear of anything that shows a pizza size chunk of chest. The most important thing is fit and quality. You need something that breathes and looks good on you. A cotton shirt should skim your body without being too tight.  It should fit your shoulders well and hit your arms at just the right location to accentuate their shape without clinging to their size. This is usually between the upper half and quarter of your bicept. Avoid cap sleeves or sleeves that go almost to the elbow. It looks wrong. Personally, I’d go with 2-3 white T’s (pitching and replacing them when they start to look tired or get yellow pits), at least one blue, one navy, one black, and one grey – light and/or dark.

Never!!! Never. Never. Never. NoiseBot.com

Never!!! Never. Never. Never.
NoiseBot.com

If you want to rock a concert T or a logo T knock yourself out, just make sure you still own a number of plain ones. People should see you, not read you. And never, ever wear a gross or rude T-shirt. It’s not funny, it’s lame, and wearing it makes you lame. Trust me on this and just don’t. Over the years you’ll find the styles and brands that fit you best and once you do, stick with them. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Knowing what looks good on you makes shopping easy. Rule of thumb: If more than one person compliments you on a shirt, that’s a brand you might want to go back to.

This might be a good time to mention that clothes look best on bodies that are in shape. Making the gym – or sports – a priority in your life is a great way to stay healthy AND ensure you look good in your wardrobe.

A HENLEY. Which is basically a long sleeve cotton shirt with 2 or 3 buttons at the neck. It’s a nice, casual look – waffle or plain – that says “I’m chill but still willing to make an effort.” And unless they’re worn to perfection or you (or someone else) likes to wear them to bed, you can officially let go of any High School sweatshirts or team shirt after the age of 23.**

slim sweaters don't have to feel conservative.  myintimateaffairwithfashion.com

Slim sweaters don’t have to feel conservative. They can look very cool.
myintimateaffairwithfashion.com

A HOODIE. Seems obvious, probably doesn’t work after 50, but a great dark grey or navy hoodie can take you so many places. Casual places for sure, but still, that one piece of clothing will definitely earn it’s keep.

A NICE SWEATER. Honestly, living in California, you don’t need a ton of sweaters. A light weight, well fitted (see T-shirt) sweater can look amazing on a man. If I had my drothers I’d say, one dark grey, one black and one color – maybe blue, camel or cream. Just start with one and move forward from there. Again, personally, I like a v-neck because it looks good with a shirt underneath, but your father has some solid crew neck ones that look fantastic despite the fact I couldn’t tell you the last time he wore one.

This is an attractive man but it's still a really hard look to pull off. ralphlauren.com

This is an attractive man but I’m still not sure he’s pulling off this turtleneck. ralphlauren.com

A BIG, CHUNKY SWEATER. This is not essential but it’s great for trips to the moutains or say…Canada. Something wool and masculine in a cream, hunter green or dark grey. Crew neck is the standanrd here and please, stay away from turtlenecks. First, because you’ll probably sweat your balls off, and second, because unless you’re in a Michael Kors or Ralph Lauren ad, it is an incredibly difficult look to pull off without looking like an un-ironic version of 1970′s apres ski.

At least 5 WELL FITTED BUTTON DOWN SHIRTS (Read: not blousy or full). A perfect, slim white one you can wear without a tie (meaning it doesn’t have to do up around your neck). A white shirt that does do up around your neck. A blue button down (checks or plain) that you can wear with a tie but also more casually with jeans. Finally a couple casual button downs with patterns (plaid etc.) that might be a little bit hipster/a little bit country. Whichever your fancy. Men also seem to love a black button down but I find with those you either end up looking like everyone else or like the waiter or bartender, so you make that call. A button down shirt and jeans is a nice way to “dress up” without actually dressing up. It’s a pulled together look with minimal effort on your part. Add a blazer, you’re practically semi formal.

This is a big guy, but he sure looks slick in a slim fitted suit. sunnydaystarrynight.com

This is a big guy, but he sure looks slick in a slim fitted suit.
sunnydaystarrynight.com

Speaking of blazers. You really should have a GREAT FITTING BLACK SUIT. It should fit like it was made for you and, if you buy correctly it should make you feel like a million bucks. A great black suit can double as a tux. It can be used as separates. It can take you from a job interview to a wedding to a bar. Tie or no tie, pants and jacket as stand alones, a tailored black suit is a wardrobe staple.*** And once you’ve learned to like suits, you can add as many as you choose. Nowadays you can even wear the right suit with t-shirts. It’s really a men’s wardrobe no-brainer.

4+ TIES. A dress tie with a sheen and no pattern in cream, bronze, black, or silver (just something classic that pops against a white shirt) plus 3 other ties of various subtle patterns. Once you start wearing ties you can branch out but I’d advise always aiming for classic and simple over busy and/or funny. Please no characters (unless you’re being ironic and you’re in on the joke) and use wimsy sparingly. Your Dad once totally rocked a turquoise floral tie, but it was for a very specific occasion (a Southern wedding) and definitely not an every day kind of thing.

WORK OUT WEAR. I’m not saying you need to be a walking billboard for Under Armour, just don’t cruise around in your sh*^test clothes and call them gym clothes. Once again, as soon as those pits go yellow, pitch it.

Casual, KICK AROUND PANTS. Joggers or tear aways. Something that’s comfortable but still looks presentable.

Leather jackets are just casual cool.  leatherstrend.com

Leather jackets are just casual cool.
leatherstrend.com

PROPER OUTERWEAR. A LIGHT JACKET like an army coat, or something casual, that you can swing on if it’s chilly but weighs very little and can be jammed into a bag (or ball) without fear of ruin. A wool (or if you can afford it cashmere) 3/4 CAR COAT that will keep you warm but looks slick. Your Dad currently has two of these on rotation, a camel one we had tailored (see ***) with a bit more room to go over a suit jacket, and a navy one that fits like a glove and looks amazing over a button down or T-shirt. They both look (and more importantly, make him feel) amazing. I’d also suggest a HEAVIER WEIGHT JACKET like leather. Your Dad’s worn a broken in brown LEATHER JACKET for years. It was a heafty investment at the time but, if anything, it keeps getting better with age. This year he also invested in a black one that’s more moto and less aviator. He loves that one too but it’s the brown one that gets the most play. A leather jacket can be a man’s best friend. It’s like cool sunglasses ****, able to elevate the most basic of looks to stylish extremely fast.

Lincoln-174-2neighborhood-x-converse-first-string-collection-16to-boot-black-to-boot-new-york-mens-randall-splittoe-oxford-product-6-3133032-476238461_large_flexSHOES. Shoes are a big deal in our house. Not just because your Dad has 2 different size feet and we have to buy 2 of everything, but because shoes say a lot about a person. Men’s clothing is rather basic by nature so shoes can become an large part of your outfit. ***** The shoes I’d recommend would be: COOL SNEAKS – non-workout rubber soled shoes you can rock with jeans or shorts. RUNNERS – workout or sports shoes with excellent support for keeping in shape. COOL BOOTS – it doesn’t matter if they’re full length or mid calf as long as they fit your proportions and make you feel awesome. The right boots should, both metaphoically and figuratively, make you stand a little taller. Your Dad loves boots – Frys, lace up military, smooth side zip boots – they all work. He has one pair he currently doubles as dress shoes. Even cowboy boots rock. Whatever your style turns out to be the right boot can bring it home. Worn in is great as long as there’s no duck tape or flapping soles. DRESS SHOES. Yep. You need them. Most of the time you can probably get away with a dress boot, or lately a cool sneak (a look I’m not personally down with but is definitely popular), but there will be some occasions that call for a real dress shoe and you may as well own a pair you like. Look for ones that are slim to the foot without being pointy or skinny. A brogue or a stylish oxford can look fantastic. Get something that doesn’t look like you just went with the cheapest lace up to get it over with. Take the time to look around. Find something you can actually get behind. Unlike boots however, these ones you must keep in shape with polish and care. No matter how casual our society has become, a scuffed dress shoes still speaks volumes about it’s wearer.

Nice, seasonal clothing from a lovely inexpensive label.  hm.com

Nice, seasonal clothing from a lovely inexpensive label.
hm.com

SEASONAL CLOTHES – Linen pants and a linen shirt are a great summer alternative to jeans and a button down and should fit a little looser to account for the heat. Flip flops are preferable to sandles or crocs on men for, what I hope are, obvious reasons. A couple pairs of loose casual shorts and maybe even a tailored pair are great for summer and get yourself a swim suit that fits and flatters as well as a rash guard to protect you from the sun. Avoid gigantic floppy board shorts that could fit 3 people. For the winter I’d say find a good beanie, well made (warm) leather or wool gloves and a cool scarf. Everything else in your wardrobe can be used almost year round.

PROPER GITCH. Whether you’re a boxer or a boxerbrief man (which, by the way, is what the 6 year old version of you prefers), until you’ve had all my future grandchildren you should stay away from breifs. Studies show they aren’t so great for your boys and honestly, they’re a bit showy. Also, though I imagine you might go through a funny underwear phase at some point in your life, stick with plain colors – black, grey, even red is fine. White has a tendancy to look crappy (pun almost intended) and crazy pickles, smiley faces and paisley are a bit much. AGAIN, as soon as they start looking ragged, lose em! Are we seeing a pattern here?

Henley, Pea Coat, Good jeans, cool boots.

Henley, Pea Coat, Good jeans, cool boots.

Remember, not everything has to cost a million dollars. Sure, it would be lovely to always shop at John Vervatoss or Tom Ford but there are great things at all price points. Check out the H&M of your day. Right now Express sells really nice men’s suits and you can find great fitted button down at Banana Republic or amazing quality slim T-shirt at the GAP. Check the quality of the fabric and if it passes the test, the only issue becomes how it looks on you. If it looks and feels good, it is good. It doesn’t need a $200 price tag to prove it.

If you’re going to spend money on anything start with the shoes. Superior shoes make a huge difference to the quality of your day…and your back. Then look to a proper fitted white button down. Your Dad had a Helmut Lang one he wore into the ground. No shirt has ever looked better. Finally look to the leather jacket. Those are good places to start with your money. After that I’d say jeans and suit. If you’re in shape you don’t need to spent $150 to make a T-shirt look good. It’ll look good by proxy.

Even super casual can feel pulled together. Thanks vogue men.

Even super casual can feel pulled together. Thanks vogue men.

So, that’s that. Yes, you’ll wear baseball caps (forwards AND backwards – sorry Dad). Yes, you’ll have some questionable fashion choices over time (I’m looking at you one shoulder-ed overalls) but for the most part you want your clothes to accentuate, rather than distract from, who you are. You want to look polished, or at least, strategically casual. You want to be taken seriously so you have to appear like someone worth listening to. As comfortable as Addidas slip ons might be, no one ever took advice from anyone wearing them. You want to look in the mirror and feel good. You want your fashion choices to tell the world you respect yourself enough to care. That you’re someone worth respecting.

I’ll love you no matter what you wear but what you wear is a choice.

Choose who you want to be.

xoxo Mom

*Cavat: If you turn out to be a rockstar or professional skateboarder and your entire wardrobe consists of leather pants or baggy shorts you can skip this letter but, for the sake of argument, let’s press on.

** Acknowledge that no matter how much you love something “the time comes” for almost everything in your wardrobe. That’s you shredded jeans with no ass.

quora.com

quora.com

*** Your clothes should never bag or bulge. They should fit your body as if they were made for it. If something you own is good but not great or, you love something but wish it fit better, never underestimate the power of a professional tailor. A good tailor can make anything – from a dress shirt or a coat to a suit and a pair of jeans – look like a million bucks for a minimal fee.

****The right sunglasses are key. Start with classic styles that won’t break the bank like Ray Bans. You can’t go wrong with classic American cool. As your tastes and budget expand you can look at lines like Persol but you can’t go wrong with an old school Ray Ban.

Dressy shirt, nice watch, rope bracelets. Stylish can come in many different forms. meandmybentley.tumblr.com

Dressy shirt, nice watch, rope bracelets. Stylish can come in many different forms.
meandmybentley.tumblr.com

***** Men can rock a cool necklace (leather, sometimes metal, I’m not much for gold), the occasional ring (I personally like a simple wedding band, but there’s no hard and fast rule) and the right bracelet – rope, copper, leather (please no diamonds) but for the most part, mens’s accessories are pretty limited. Watches are a good place to start -the right ones never go out of style and can ultimately be passed down. Cufflinks are nice if you live that sort of a lifestyle. Tie clips are currently popular with the dialed-in hipster but not all men can pull off the skinny ties that go with it, and of course, hats which, I’m thrilled to say, have come back in style. Beenies are obvious but fedoras and their ilk are also incredibly popular these days and worn properly can really add to a man’s personal style.

When all else fails you can always look to David Beckam ... or the David Beckham of your day. That man has a good time getting dressed.  fashionbeans.com

When all else fails you can always look to David Beckam … or the David Beckham of your day. That man has a good time getting dressed.
fashionbeans.com

An Open Letter to Those with Real Power

Dear Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison; Hollywood Heavyweights with back end points and a conscience; readily interviewed Sports Stars who donate money; Politicians who still believe in public service and Celebrities with hope,

I need your help. I feel as if I’m drowning in anxiety about the state of our society and I can no longer bury my head in the sand and pretend everything is fine. As a culture, an economy, even a planet we are so far from fine it’s devastating. We are in serious trouble and I’m beginning to feel hopeless about our abilities to do anything about it. I’m turning to you, those with power, with influence, with the ability to really facilitate change and I’m begging you to do something.

Let me preface by saying, although I am a worrier, I am ultimately an optimist who has never found herself strung out over conspiracy theories or spent any real time time riling against the atrocities of the world, of which there are many. I feel strongly about politics but for the most part keep my opinions to myself and send money and lend support to causes I believe in but don’t do a whole lot of preaching the word to others. I feel today, however, on World Health Day, that I must speak up about a worry that has recently left me terrified. I hope I’m wrong. I pray I’m wrong. My problem is, I don’t think I am.

Until now, I thought my biggest fear was dying of my terminal disease and leaving my child without a mother, but now I wonder if it shouldn’t be watching our beautiful world fall apart around us. I was devastated reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It was such a bleak, hopeless depiction of our future. Humanity having botched everything so terribly there was no one left to help. The only reason I finished the book was because I was waiting for the redemption that never came. I put it away in horror, but looking at the way the world is unfolding, I wonder if my child isn’t looking at a future closer to Mr. McCarthy’s than what I ever imagined. I’m petrified of the direction in which we’re heading and I’m overwhelmed and discouraged that we, as a culture, have allowed things to get this far.the-road

Perhaps history is just fated to repeat itself. I look at lost cultures like Rome, Greece and the Mayans and I think, are we next? Will anything worthwhile be able to even follow our demise or will our self-destruction, combined with our technology, be so absolute that we will, in fact, be the Omega. After reading (and confirming) the two new studies by NASA and the UN: NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It’s not Looking Good for Us and UN Scientific Panel Releases Report Sounding Alarm on Climate Change Dangers, I wonder if my current fear of being buried under a burning pile of rubble in Los Angeles’s “Big One” isn’t merely trivial selfishness in the wake of “the end of our planet as we know it”. America (and the G8) should be leading the battle to save us and yet we seem all too easily distracted by personal gain, the fight for wealth and power and various celebrity mishigas to take any – behaviorally altering – notice of the real issues at hand. While we should be fighting to preserve, protect and improve what we have, using our wealth and influence for change and salvation, we’re killing the environment, dismantling the middle class, attacking women’s rightsvilifying America’s poor while making it easier for the wealthiest Americans to take advantage of the system, and turning politics into a cesspool of stagnant infighting, potentially corrupting the democratic voice with the endless fundraising one upmanship. Frankly it’s hard to know what’s really happening anymore because we all just watch the news we agree with.

Infinite-ResourcesAnd these are just issues on the home front. I’m not even touching on world issues like North Korea, Russia and the effects of the Crimea takeover, the potential nucular fallout still looming after Japan’s earthquake, Syria and the ongoing crisis of Middle East. I know “We Didn’t Start the Fire” but we sure as hell seem to be fanning it to epic proportions.

It seems all too possible that this ongoing selfish, inward looking behavior will ultimately only bring about our downfall. Scientists are screaming it. I believe it’s time the rest of us started listening.

When did we get this insular? This clueless? Why are we not more afraid? More outraged? More informed? Where is our connection as a people? Do we truly need an alien attack, a environmental catastrophe, a unstoppable viral outbreak or a 3rd, planet devastating, world war to reconnect? How bad do things need to become before we, as a people, stop apathetically ignoring the facts.

ceasefiremagazine.co.uk

ceasefiremagazine.co.uk

The time has come to get behind a singular agenda: The Salvation of the World as we Know It.  I realize that sounds heavy handed but legitimate, respected scientists are seriously talking about a few decades left. That concept is unfathomable and yet, it remains a REAL possibility. “Decades Left” and we sit in our society of freely disseminated information choosing to talk about anything else. I understand the desire to ignore. Every day I pretend I’m not sick. I pretend I’m not dying. I believe this is something I’ve learned to do in order to survive, to not dissolve into a puddle of fear and sadness. I understand the impetus to bury your head. I just think we, as a culture, are doing it on too large a scale. We are pretending it’s all going to be okay, that we trust our leaders to not let us fall, to have confidence they have our best interests at heart. We are choosing to believe that everything will work out because the alternative is just too much to contemplate. It’s more desirable to hide in the fluff of the tabloids or in the “busy-ness” of our daily lives and focus our energy on fighting our waistline or crow’s feet rather then opening ourselves to the bigger and far more terrifying issues at hand.

It’s preferable to ignore but I believe that ignorance is going to kill us.

We need people like you to remind us of this fact.

firstcoversPlease, look into what I’m saying. Find the truth. Step up to your respective platforms and tell us what’s really going on so we can do something about it. We will listen to you. Your voices will resonate.

Major magazines and newspapers: Put a call to arms on your covers.

On-line sites, comedic news, major news stations: Come to a truthful conclusion of facts and forget the spin. Add “The Future of Humanity” to your agenda. Help us to help ourselves before there’s nothing left to discuss.

Forget your political leanings. Forget your bias. Forget your bottom line. Think of your children. Think of the future. I may not personally have one, but I sure as hell want to ensure Lochlan does.

The time has come.

Thank you.

With hope,

Leigh McGowan

smileslovesyou.tumblr

smileslovesyou.tumblr

Letting go of a Dream

There’s a letter on my dining room table. A single page form letter that has arrived in January for the past six years. It’s sitting there, innocuously tucked amoung the bills, waiting for a response. Every year I reply in the same way, with a check and a groan and a dream. This year will be different.

The letter, so innocently sitting there, is a letter from a storage facility. A Reproductive Storage Facility that holds what we one day hoped, would allow us to have another child. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. That it would require multiple medical procedures, lots of luck and plenty of money – not to mention a surrogate – but paying that bill every year allowed us to hold onto our dream. The dream of being the family we envisioned. The dream of being parents to more than one. The dream of a time when my health and our finances would be strong enough that we could create another biological child and, every year when that letter arrives we weigh our options against those dreams.

The family talent show scene from Dan in Real Life. Man, I would have loved that.

The family talent show scene from Dan in Real Life. And, if you haven’t seen that film, do yourself a favor and see it.

I always wanted a big family. Being an only child I dreamed of belonging to something more inclusive than my tiny group of three. I imagined Thanksgiving family football games, boisterous Christmas dinners and annoying, yet charming, family singsongs. I wished for confidants that were more than friends, peers with features that mirrored my own. I wanted to be part of a team. To share a legacy with others. I stared wistfully at the extended family of Steve Carell’s character in Dan in Real Life and idealized a family like the one in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. I knew it was impossible for my own childhood but I held on to the idea for the family I would create. I may not be able to have siblings or first cousins, but my children would. I would just have to recast the fantasy with myself as the matriarch.

I was told I couldn’t have more children at the same time I was told I was told I was dying. I didn’t have the opportunity to morn the lost possible future amidst the chaos of the immediate present. Because a pregnancy would almost definitely kill me, Sean – in the most final way possible – took care of our birth control issue, but not before storing what he’d lose in case what lay ahead wasn’t as dire as we were being led to believe. We prayed a future for me was possible and held on to the hope another child might be as well. We paid that storage fee every year feeding that possibility.

A letter amongst the bills.

A letter amongst the bills.

When the letter came this year it felt different to me. It no longer held the siren song of a family of four. It just looked like an incredibly expensive bill with no realistic purpose. My health is good but it fluctuates. I don’t have the strength or energy I’d like. I worry I’m not able to give enough to the child I do have, let alone to care for another. And if I’m being honest, no matter how much I’d like to, it would be impossible for me to keep up with two kids without full time help. I don’t want to take from the child I do have to give to one I think I should have. We hold our own with one. We manage. We’re happy. I’m stable. Why can’t I be satisfied with that?

There are times in life when you have to let go. Where holding too tightly to one thing makes it impossible to move on to another. Sometimes you have to close a door, no matter how much you wish it could stay open.

imagesI fixated on the idea of another child so clearly I manifested a person I felt was missing. I have a name, a face, a sense of who she’d be. I realize I could have easily had a pack of boys but, for some reason, I feel it’s a daugther that would have arrived. When I think about her my heart breaks. As if I’ve left her on a shelf somewhere. This person that belongs to me that I’ve neglected to claim. I know she’s not real but the idea of her found it’s way so deeply into my heart it got into my head. I realize now it’s unhealthy to keep holding on and the time has come to let go. Even if we could afford IVF, egg extraction, a full time night nurse/live in nanny AND keep up our current lifestyle with two children, would I even want to go back at this point? Do I want a newborn again? Could I handle six more years of diapers and potty training and mindless, random day filling? I’m just at the point where I can get excited about my career again. I want to reconnect with my ambition. I dream of a house of my own. I miss travelling. I want to show Loch the world. And, frankly, I need to be alive for all that to happen. Maybe I’ve spent too long dreaming of the “perfect” family I’ve been unable to see my family is already perfect.

IMG_2056I’ve been there, present and involved, for every aspect of of my son’s life. We’re incredibly close. What I’ve been able to do for him, the time I’m able to give him, has been a blessing to us both. I don’t want to keep thinking about what could have been, staring at my friend’s other children wistfully. I want to accept that as much as I would have loved another child, it’s not in the cards for me. My life – my current life – is amazing. It’s a wonderful, glorious gift and it’s time to embrace that and let go of the rest.

So, this year we will not be sending a check. This year we will sign the “cryopreserved disposition consent” form. I will say good bye to the chance of any more biological children, the hope of a sibling for Loch and my desire for a house filled with voices. I will accept I am an only child with an only child and relinquish my dreams of the past to better enjoy the reality of the present.

With two signatures, a notary and a stamp our tiny family will move forward.

The first thing we’ll do is start shopping for dogs.

With love,

Leigh

Mini-Goldendoodle-Photos-1300x975

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