“What we want to see on the page is a strong woman.”
“A strong female lead, exactly. You need to write your female characters as strong women.”
Isabelle nods on the other line, even though her producers can’t see her. Cradling her cell against her shoulder, she wipes green vomit from the toilet bowl. Her back is killing her as she rises — too many nights rocking her baby to sleep or squeezing next to her toddler on the twin bed — repeating back to the two male voices on the other end. She imagines they’re staring through windows with breathtaking views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean. “Okay, got it. A strong female lead.”
In one swift motion she throws the vomit-soaked wipe into the diaper pail, then rips the heavy garbage bag from the container, lugging it over her shoulder. “And what exactly do you mean by ‘strong woman’?” she asks, opening the back door to throw the garbage bag onto the snow-covered deck. She’ll carry it to the alley garbage can later.
One answers, “A strong woman. A woman who is ambitious and driven, incredibly confident and alluring.”
“And sexy, of course,” says the other producer, lustfully.
When she hears whimpering coming from upstairs, Isabelle winces. She races up the stairs on her tip-toes, hoping not to wake the baby as she passes her room, headed toward her three-year-old sister’s room, who’s sick with the flu. “Sure, I understand. Are you thinking she’s corporate?” Isabelle clicks “mute” on her cell phone as she attends to her weepy, pale daughter, the garbage bin next to her bed already filled with more vomit.
The producers respond.
“Oh, most definitely. Rising to the top — if not the top of her game.”
“Yeah, the type of woman who wears pencil skirts and pumps. She’s beautiful but her eyes are intimidating — she’ll steal that client right from under you. Ruthless. Masculine.”
As the producers continue to describe their idea of a strong woman, Isabelle sees a text come through her phone. It’s from her brother: “Mom asked me to take her to her chemo appointments, but I’ve got a job to go to every day, Isa. Can’t you take her?” Isabelle cringes. Her brother has never respected her full time free-lance job, which she somehow juggles with two kids at home. Not to mention, she’s been taking her mother to her chemo appointments every week for the past year, ever since she was pregnant with her second.
“We want our female leads to encapsulate that hash tag — what is it Robert?”
“Hashtag boss bitch,” Robert answers Rupert.
Quickly unmuting, Isabelle responds, “Girl boss?”
Robert disagrees. “I like boss bitch better.”
“Me too. I’m also thinking she’s not interested in kids. Or a husband. She doesn’t need anyone. Doesn’t depend on anyone,” Rupert adds. “None of this gender role garbage.”
Isabelle kisses her daughter’s forehead, watching as she closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep. Silently swiping the garbage full of puke, Isabelle leaves the room. “Okay, but you want her to fall in love with the male lead, right?”
“Of course,” says Rupert.
“But they’re competing for the same role. And man, is she catty. But he likes that. She’s just as power-hungry as he is,” says Robert.
As she dashes down the stairs, she passes the front room, sees FedEx pull up to the house. Don’t ring the doorbell! She hurries to the door, catches him just before his finger touches the button that will disrupt her only chance to take phone calls. He hands her a package. “It’s heavy,” he tells her, but she snatches it with one hand.
“Thanks,” she mouths, grabbing the rest of the mail in the mailbox. One piece of mail is from World Vision, thanking her for her generous donation to children in impoverished countries.
“Yeah, of course, she’ll figure out that money isn’t everything,” Rupert says, and Robert quickly adds, “Even though it is,” and they laugh together.
“She wants love too.” Rupert says. “She’ll just have to learn to take a backseat to get it.”
Robert agrees. “Exactly. So, to sum up, an ambitious, career-driven bitch who, wearing heels, can outrun a dinosaur.” Rupert laughs at that one as Isabelle drops the package on the dining room table and carries the garbage to the bathroom, rinsing the vomit in the sink.
After a pause, Robert asks, “What do you think, Isabelle? How do you define a strong woman?”
Isabelle thinks for a moment, then takes a long look in the mirror. “How do I define a strong woman?” she repeats, a slight smile on her face as she takes in all that she is — dark circles under her eyes, grey streaks through her hair, a muffin top, a spit-up stained sweater. “A woman who doesn’t let herself be defined by anyone at all.”
After that, Rupert and Robert are speechless for a moment. Finally, one of them says, “Great. Why don’t you get us that page-one rewrite by the end of the week.”
“No problem,” Isabelle says, hanging up. Just then, the baby cries, and she’s off to the races again.
CHICAGO: Mothers have gone on strike across the globe, setting off a chain of catastrophic events.
After watching her husband snooze all day every day over a three-day weekend while she did housework, fed and entertained their three kids, and caught up on work emails, Jefferson Park native Kristy Donovan decided she’d had enough.
“Listen, I get it. He works hard during the week. But so do I. And when I come home from the office, my work doesn’t end. If I didn’t make dinner, who would? If I didn’t check my kids’ homework, who would? If I didn’t send a birthday card to my husband’s grandmother, who would?” Donovan asked in a slightly irritated tone. “So I got to thinking… Maybe I should stop. Maybe all the mothers out there should stop doing everything. Maybe we’re actually enabling them [husbands and kids] to be dependent on us.”
So Donovan began texting her mother friends. And they started texting their friends. And they texted their friends. Even some women who aren’t mothers to human children, but find that they’re the ones in their relationship or families who “keep the shit from hitting the fan,” decided to go on strike.
“We realized we were the glue holding our households together. In fact, we were the glue holding other households together,” said Natalia Cortez of Brooklyn, New York. “We wondered what would happen if we just threw in the towel. You know, if we went on strike.”
WHAT DID HAPPEN?
When every mother on the planet stopped doing things for other people, the shit in fact did hit the fan.
No one got to school on time.
No one remembered their lunches.
In fact, no one ate at all.
Underwear was worn for weeks in a row.
The dog did not walk itself.
No gifts were bought for the kids’ friend’s birthday party, or for Uncle George and Aunt Nina’s 50th wedding anniversary.
Everyone sat alone in a dark corner on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and every other religious holiday across the world. People suddenly realized they had never even helped set the table for these holidays, so how would they know how to bake a ham?
But those were the small things – all the things no one ever realized moms did.
Suddenly, people stopped learning because there were no motivational teachers.
Patients were left with doctors who just didn’t listen.
The only coworkers left in a group project were too incompetent to finish the presentation.
Cases attacking evil corporations and ruthless predators weren’t taken to court.
Science halted because no one was determined to find cures or perform experiments based on their fierce desire to protect and uplift all human beings, especially the weakest.
Global treaties were never signed as no one considered the children—our future.
Climate Change rapidly intensified as no one considered the children—our future.
CALLING OFF THE STRIKE
Three weeks after the strike began, Kristy Donovan and Natalia Cortez decided to end the strike and a solution was reached.
“This is not a negotiation. We’re not negotiating,” Donovan said.
Cortez explained: “Here’s the deal: we’re not going to say yes to everything anymore. We’re not carrying the group presentation every time. We’re not going to answer emails when we are home with a sick child. We’re not going to let you talk back to us in the classroom because you think moms and women aren’t worth respecting. And we sure as shit aren’t buying our in-laws Christmas gifts anymore. If our husbands don’t take responsibility for their own lives, we aren’t either.”
Donovan added: “And don’t you dare ever make us feel guilty for taking time for ourselves each week – or each day – to do something we want to do. Or next time, there won’t be a strike. There’ll be a nuclear war.”
“Damn straight,” Cortez said. The two crossed their arms and walked away toward a nearby spa, taking a much-deserved break.
UPDATE: FOUR WEEKS LATER.
It appears husbands and children are capable of helping out around the house and taking control of their own lives.
Who would have thought…?
When crocuses push through wet dirt, standing tall underneath a waking sun, we’re quick to be grateful for this season of life. But when the pewter clouds sink heavy in the sky, ushering in brittle winds, it’s not as easy to bow our heads in worship, thanking Mother Nature for her melancholic weather.
For months on end, it seems we’re stuck in a season of grieving. Dull, bleak, stagnant. The weather hangs heavy on us, mirroring our personal discontent. Frozen ground and bitter air dictate we stay inside.
We could decide to hate the season of winter, especially in the Midwest. Or we could choose to celebrate it, accepting the cold months for exactly what they are.
If spring is a time to bloom and inspire change, and summer a time to explore and engage, and autumn a time to harvest and gather, then winter is a time to rest and recharge.
But it’s too difficult to rest and recharge in a society that tells us our worth is measured by our productivity. Rest is sinful. And the guilt you feel when you indulge in a cozy night in is warranted.
Except, it’s not.
While perennial plants lie dormant under hardened ground, we still expect our bodies to grow tirelessly, forever reaching toward the sun. While enormous beasts sleep inside caves, their heavy bodies rationing energy, we still expect to run the race that has no finish line. All of nature takes this time to slow down. Yet we stare out the foggy windowpanes, questioning our value during moments of idleness.
If only we could see that every season is worth celebrating. Every mighty wind, every howling storm, every sprinkle of dew, every burning ray of sunshine. And every chapter of life. The chapter in which we scale corporate mountains, arriving at the top successfully, is just as worthy as the chapter in which we spend our days chasing toddlers, accomplishing nothing but having changed a few soiled diapers. The chapter in which we are dizzy in love and the chapter in which we wallow in grief all are woven together seamlessly in the end, creating a rich and fulfilling life, filled with joy and sorrow.
Every chapter—every season—teaches us something, whether sunshine or tempests.
Your bleak, wintry season might seem like it’s lasting longer than nature intended. But just remember: soon the season will change, and seeds planted months ago will finally begin to sprout from the dirt, blooming into the most beautiful flower you’ve ever seen. And soon after, that flower will wilt just the same. For that is one absolute truth.
Seasons can be long, but seasons change. And every season is worth celebrating.
Under a bright winter’s moon, they sparkle, reflecting the stars shining in the night’s sky above. In the distance, tropical waves roll against a sandy shore, creeping ever closer toward them. Soon, the warm water will rise, wrapping its omnipresent hands around them, pulling them closer, deeper—swallowing them into the sea. Like the Alpha and the Omega, there is no beginning, no end. Like the sun, they will never burn out, not for a million years.
Upon their pile on the sandy beach they lay, indestructible, yet capable of destroying everything. Brought to virgin lands by working hands, they are no longer wanted elsewhere. Here’s where they’ll live—forever—never decaying. Until, that is, they slowly, silently find their way back into your lives. They won’t look the way you had first seen them underneath the Christmas tree, bright and shiny—whole. They’ll be tiny, microscopic, filling every inch of your lungs and gut, slowly dragging your body into the depths of the ocean from which they came.
Eventually, they will become part of you.
Eventually, they will own you. Control you.
Perhaps they already have.
It was your choice, after all. You wanted a perfect Christmas. Next year, you’ll want the same. Birthdays are no different. Self-care Saturdays are to blame.
When you step inside Target, they wink at you from the shelves. It’s modern life, stacked carefully, hung tidily, looking like they belong. But once they fill every inch of your house and your garage, you dump them in the trash. They’re taken away, and as long as they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind.
But they’ll come back. They’ll seek vengeance. They already have.
It’s what we want, though. We all do it too. We buy the things and wrap the things and give the things and toss the things and eventually, we drink and eat and are the things.
They’re underneath your tree right now. And one day they’ll suffocate each other on a landfill heap.
But they’ll be back.
And they’ll survive to enjoy many more Christmases than you ever will.
“Mommy? Why don’t you look like her?”
It’s an innocent question I don’t expect to shatter my insides like a brick against glass. But it does, for so many reasons, when I see what my daughter is pointing to.
It’s an ad for matching mother/daughter dresses—pretty, pink, polyester and sized Petite. The mother is gorgeous—a stunning blonde with a tiny body, toned arms and legs, and a flat tummy only surgery can accomplish. The daughter looks up at her mother with admiration and love, something I haven’t seen from my seven-year-old since our breastfeeding days.
I look at my daughter, whose expression displays disgust and disappointment. I can see it on her face: Why are you so chubby? Why doesn’t your hair shine like hers? Why don’t you wear makeup and act feminine? Why don’t you look pretty so I can be proud of you, Mommy? She doesn’t say these things but I can see it in her eyes. And I feel it too.
It’s probably my fault. She was playing a game on my iPad and stumbled upon my Instagram. These days, any kid can practically trade stocks online by seven years old, so it was no surprise she’d already been scrolling through my feed. But it’s a shock to my system to realize that my daughter feels the same thing I do when I catch glimpses of Mommy Influencer posts: shame and self-loathing.
They’re all the same, too. Young (mostly white) women, between the ages of 25 and 35, with long, lustrous hair, a perfect heart-shaped face and pouty lips, tanned skin without any sign of sun damage, and toned, taut bodies. All six of their kids—each one a year apart (and you’re telling me that flat tummy is the product of “hard work”?)—are just as beautiful as she is, smiling for the camera in their adorably tailored outfits, which look more like mini adult wardrobes than anything small children would actually choose to wear. (What happened to kids wearing hideously bright graphic tees printed with images of the Little Mermaid or Spiderman?) These mommies are rays of sunshine, spouting either Bible verses or literary quotes taken out of context under photos of their family snuggling in their warm, cozy homes. But they have bad days, too, which can be noted when they smudge a bit of mascara under their eyes once every three months and admit that “parenting is messy.”
Listen, I don’t know what these women’s real lives are like, and for all I know, they might truly be miserable. But what matters is how they’re shaping the world my daughter lives in, and they’re shaping it into a world that’s even more obsessed with the way women look, raising standards to impossible heights. But what I’m most ashamed of is that I am letting them. In fact, I’m encouraging these impossibly beautiful and perfect women—whose husbands make insane salaries, which allow them to spend all their time and money perfecting their appearance—to make money off said appearance. And that’s all it really is, isn’t it? Just appearances.
Yet here I am, still frozen with embarrassment and shame, staring into the eyes of my daughter who gazes back at me wondering why I can’t just try a little harder to be pretty and thin, and choose fashionable, matching outfits we both can wear.
So I do what I know is best: use this as a teachable moment to educate my daughter, make her a stronger, more resilient person with a kind heart and an intellectual mind.
“Because,” I say, grabbing my iPad. “She’s a dumb bitch who’s got shit for brains and spends her only brain cells obsessing over the way she looks, and we’re too smart and too cool for that shit, little lady. Now, quit being brat and go be useful for once!”
There. That’ll teach her.
“What? Why are you staring at me?”
“I’m not staring at you.”
“You’re staring. Actually, I think the term is ‘looking sideways’ at me. Why?”
“No, you’re right. I am. I guess I’m just wondering why you’re smiling.”
“Why I’m smiling? Do I have to have a reason to smile?”
“Yeah, actually. I think you do.”
“I have to have a reason to smile, a reason to be happy?”
“Let me ask you this: is everything in your life going the way you’d hope it would?”
“Is everything in my life going the way I hoped it would? Well, I mean, not everything.”
“What’s not going to plan?”
“Well… I guess I’d hoped to have gotten into that Ivy League grad program.”
“But you didn’t?”
“I didn’t get in… But that was years ago. I’m over that now.”
“What about your current job? Is it really the job you’ve always dreamed about?”
“Of course not. My dream job was to be a heart surgeon. But, come on! That’s a tall order.”
“Not really. There are plenty of people who are heart surgeons. A lot, actually. They were able to get their dream jobs. Maybe they worked harder than you. Maybe they’re better than you. Maybe life has better to them.”
“Where are you going with this?”
“I’m saying, you’re not in your dream job, you never got into that Ivy League grad school you applied to, and are you even making the amount of money you were hoping to make by thirty?”
“Hopes are dreams are not reality. But I’m still making pretty good money.”
“So, you’re just going to stop reaching for the stars? You’re just going to be complacent?”
“I’m grateful for what I have, even if my whole ‘dream’ career didn’t work out.”
“But didn’t you also want to have a family by now, too? How’s that going?”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Hey, I’m just repeating back to you what you’re telling me. What about those abs you always figured you’d have?”
“Oh, no one cares about abs anymore!”
“You do. I know you do. I see it when you look at your body. So tell me, do you really have anything to smile about?”
“Are you trying to tell me that I shouldn’t be happy?”
“Why should you be happy if you haven’t gotten what you wanted out of life? If you’re not the person you’d always hoped to be?”
“But all of those things are superficial. They’re not what make me me. It’s just stuff on paper.”
“Yeah, and your paper is a blank page, buddy.”
“So I shouldn’t be happy? I shouldn’t smile?”
“Do you have any reason to be happy?”
“What about the reason that it’s a beautiful day? The sun is shining?”
“Yeah, it’s shining because of global warming, and life’s gonna get real shitty real soon. You really should wipe that smile off your face.”
“I should just punish myself? Be miserable because life isn’t perfect? Because my life isn’t what I hoped it’d be? Because life has disappointed me?”
“And you’ve disappointed yourself.”
“Okay, really? You’re going there?”
“So unless I have a reason to be happy, I shouldn’t smile? Be carefree? Enjoy my life?”
“Now you’re catching on!”
“And one reason isn’t enough? I can only be happy if 100% of my life is great?”
“Finally, you’re learning.”
“Feeling pretty miserable now, aren’t you?”
“You’re welcome. Have a nice day!”
He looks at his reflection in the mirror, watches his smile turn to a frown. Goddamn these internal monologues with his reflection. They always end in tears.
Mama. Wife. Singer. Actor. Teacher. Runner. Writer. Reader. Daughter. Interior Designer. Carpooler. Dog Lover. Dog Mom. Human. Friend of Jesus. Hater of Satan. Kale-eater. Wine-lover. Dancer. Sister. Ex-wife. Entrepreneur. One-night stand affair have-r. One-too-many-glasses-of-rose-and-I-blurt-my-husband’s-penis-size-r. Forgot-about-my-tampon-for-three-days-er. Actually-never-read-the-Bible-in-my-life-r. Yogi. BOSS BITCH!
That’s right. I do it all.
But how do you do it? You might be wondering.
And I’m here to share with you my secret: the truth is, I don’t!
I’ll be honest with you, you guys. I’m just stringing together a bunch of random-ass nouns and verbs to make it seem like I’m incredibly productive and more talented than you are. Basically, I’m just listing everything I can think of and making it sound like I’m an expert at it, but you know that’s not true (except for the tampon and affair). In actuality, one thing is probably true: I have ADHD and at the ripe age of 37, still haven’t figured out what the eff I’m doing with my life. But I desperately want to look important and better than you. That’s why I make it seem like I’m an expert at arranging pillows when IRL I’m just copying whatever I see on Joanna Gaines’ blog!
Truth is, I call myself a mom, but really, I spend most of my time screaming at my children to not touch their super cute headbands while I try to get the perfect photo of them sitting upon the forty pumpkins I’ve bought that will inevitably rot on my porch—committing horrendous food waste—while my kids’ wear not-seasonably appropriate outfits exposing their kidneys to freezing weather. They hate me, and let’s be honest, I hate them.
And when it comes to singing, well, I act like my voice is special but actually once I saw a fly die mid-air and flop to the ground when I tried to sing along to Ariana Grande.
Oh, and I’m a writer, too, although the only thing I write is captions, and most of those are already written for me via the FabFitFun content marketing specialist. But I tell people I’m a writer anyway, never mind the fact that I’ve also literally never read a book in my life (well, not since fourth grade, anyway).
Did I mention I also have a podcast? If you already thought I was narcissistic and boring as hell in real life, just wait until you have the pleasure of hearing my voice crackle through your speakers, recorded on my shitty microphone I stole from my ex-boyfriend. (He was a “musician.”) I don’t even edit it! You have the pleasure of listening to every painful silence and ear splitting “um” and “like.”
I know, I’m amazing. But guys, even I have my bad days. And I’m here to share with you the only way I get through it: Grove Collective Cleaning Supplies. Buy now and use the code “FULL OF SHIT” to get 20% off your next purchase! #ad
I can’t wait for you guys to see my next post, which will include me looking somberly at the camera while holding a political sign borrowing the trendiest political opinion. OMG, I forgot to add I’m a political activist too. In reality, I don’t even know who the governor of my own state is and I steal all my opinions from celebrities. Have a great day, frans! Kisses! Now, here are some pictures of my ass.
To The Powers That Be:
On this Hollow’s Eve, I, Hagatha Darkwood, hereby resign from my position of Scary-Ass Witch in the Spooky Woods where I have spent three hundred years lurking behind lichen-covered tree trunks in the shadowy forest, luring children and stray dogs alike into my primitive cabin.
Due to the recent allusions to my kind made by Donald Trump and Rudolf Giuliani, I have discovered I no longer wish to hold the title of “Witch” and hereby request to cease all connection to The Salem Witch Trials.
For centuries, evoking the name of a witch conjured images of women with spidery fingers and wart-covered faces, wiry grey hair and cackling laughs. Beautiful, if you ask me!
Alas, presently Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani have associated themselves with this most beloved word, turning a once-respected title into nothing more than a way to gain pity from musket-toting rapscallions. When people think of witches, they no longer think of independent women with a vast knowledge of herbal medicine and a fondness for black cats; now, in our place is the carroty face of a foul-mouthed swine and his bald little friend.
The innocents hanged at the Salem Witch Trials were just that: innocent. For decades after learning the this truth, when we thought of Salem and 1692 we envisioned a chaotic scene of false accusations and spectral delusions—bored teenagers and territorial adults spitefully lying about their dull neighbors. Now, when we think of the Salem Witch Trials we shall involuntarily envision two Beelzebub-possessed fools fumbling over their 50-word vocabulary, whining in their New York accents for mercy for which they do not deserve. Curses! They sully even the darkest moments of history!
I can no longer allow myself to exist in the same category as these imbeciles! Especially since I was no innocent at the Witch Trials, and truly am a badass, powerful sorceress who’s got more talent in her long, green fingernail than those two turds have combined.
Therefore, it is with a heavy, Satan-possessed heart that I offer my resignation for title of “Witch” as well as my association with the “Salem Witch Trials of 1692.”
Any company that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani claim to be part of is no company of which I wish to be. And I’ve already spoken with Lucifer Himself. He says he doesn’t want them in any of the circles of Hell, either.
Signed in blood,
Gather round, children. Let me tell you a story.
There once was a young woman who hadn’t a care in the world. She was beautiful and smart, popular and wealthy. In her closet hung clothes of only designer labels, which fit her svelte-yet-curvaceous-in-all-the-right-places-body without needing a tailor to employ. Her home glimmered sparkling white, brand new and spacious, an open floor plan with all the latest Restoration Hardware furniture tinted the same dark wood. Nary a piece was handed down or used; hell would freeze over before a mismatched pillow or mug weaseled its way into her Country Living worthy home. Every item that lined the shelves and sat upon rustic benches fit her brand: all her pillows and blankets and dishes and candles were tinted the same faded blush. When it came to life goals, every goal she had she crushed without breaking a sweat. Every six months she was promoted without asking. Her megawatt smile earned her bonuses from bosses and adoration from colleagues. By thirty, all of her career dreams had come true, and she rose to the top of that blush-colored mountain with a proud smile. She climbed and she climbed, her path linear and absent of falling rocks and mudslides. Her positive attitude and penchant for platitudes inspired envy in the hearts of others. She never complained, just kept calm and carried on, sipping her coffee and stopping for Instagram-worthy photos on sunshiny days. Every few posts, a dark cloud emerged in the sky, which meant a perfect opportunity to wear her adorable new rain boots, her eager boyfriend snapping a photo of her splashing in the rain. #learntodanceintherain she’d caption for inspiration.
Her life was perfect. She was happy—blessed—grateful. And every day was like this until she died.
Now, children, wasn’t that the most boring fucking story you’ve ever heard?
It is seven o’clock in the morning on a Saturday and I am awake. The October sun bursts through the unveiled windows at an autumn angle. Its buttery light temporarily blinds me as I open my eyes. My bedroom is freezing. I have left the window open to counteract the blasting heat. I asked my incompetent roommate to turn the heat to sixty-eight degrees or lower at night; sometimes, I think she actually cranks up the heat, just to piss me off. That is the narrative I tell myself. I have often been told I make up stories in my head—that I project my own vengeance onto other people. No one is out to get you, Lucinda, my mother has often told me. But I think otherwise; I believe that at the core, everyone is out to get everyone else. We are selfish beings who are trying to survive. We all operate on one single objective: we want to get what we want. When things stand in our way of getting our way, we are angry and combative. Or, we become passive aggressive. And I am certain that she is passive aggressive. I am always certain of what people are thinking and feeling, because I am a witch.