Martyr May I.

The conversation usually goes like this:

Person: Wow! Congrats on getting into NYU! That’s an incredible opportunity.

Stacey: Aww, Thank you. I’m really excited.

Person: Is your son going?

(Here, as we say in theatre, is a “beat”. The length of the “beat” usually depends on how many times I’d been asked that question within 48 hrs. The extent to which I go to explain my choice is directly proportional to the level of maternal guilt I’m feeling that day, but it all boils down to this:)

Stacey: No, He’s not going (… insert excessive rambling here as needed.)

(Next, the reaction. It varies and is typically some combination of: 1. A “beat”, some type of facial grimace, followed by an expulsion of air … usually from the mouth and then 2: Oh … )

Person: … who is he staying with?

Me: …my mom.

(Now, the conversation either ends here or rambles on in some awkward dance between my guilt and the other person’s judgement/the judgement I perceive them to have, then dies an even more awkward death in pregnant silence.)

This post is not an explanation of why my son will not be moving to New York with me. This post is about the fact that this question is always the first to be raised with mothers pursuing lofty goals.

I have watched my mother, and countless other mothers “sacrifice”, martyr their peace, happiness, and in some cases their physical existence for children who didn’t benefit one way or the other from said sacrifice. In some cases this “sacrifice” was ultimately the child’s downfall. Why? Because all that additional motherly love was enabling, that’s why. Mothers and specifically single mothers have for far too long worn the badge of the martyr, forfeiting any dreams or potential they had before they gave birth. It’s as if your goals and desires for yourself can’t exist in the same space as parenthood, or if they can, those goals and desires had better damn well be minimal and involve a papoose. (I just pictured my 5’8” 155lb 14 year-old strapped to me as I navigated Washington Square and died a little.)

Ye verily I say unto all the mothers who think they have to give up happiness and personal satisfactions in order to be a “good” mother … fuck all of that … in its entirety. I am a 37 year old woman with a lot of life left (hopefully), and a lot of shit I want to do. I love my son immensely and will not cease to handle my basic parental responsibilities, while also continuing to do everything within my power to guide him into a successful life. That, for me, is what parenthood is about. I refuse to give up my life as a testament to what a wonderful mother I am. I would rather live a full and purposeful life that can serve to inspire and empower my child into a better way of living. My pursuit of a full and purposeful life just happens to involve me being away from my kid for a while. This is not an ideal situation, but it is not Life’s job to serve up ideal situations. Besides, I’m pursuing graduate education for baby Jesus’s sake, not smoking crack. (Unfortunately, the latter in the eyes of some, seems to be a more acceptable reason for a maternal hiatus :/.)

Then there’s the shitty male/female double standard. If I were a father, even a single father, I don’t think anyone would give a second thought to me taking off to school or even better enlisting with the military and leaving my son with family. In fact, it’d be encouraged. This, in the eyes of some, makes a father joining the army, potentially being deployed to war, and killed a better choice than me, a mother, pursing higher education. I don’t blame fathers. Hell, I don’t even blame the people who ask me this question. It’s kind of just the way things are. We exist in a patriarchal society where the man goes out hunts the meat, clubs us over the head then …

Maybe you think I’ve written this assuage my guilty conscious and maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t give a fuck* what anyone thinks. Maybe I do, but I shouldn’t because it’s my life. Square biz, I don’t know a parent who doesn’t have regrets about choices they’ve made raising their children. I know I will have regrets a plenty, possibly with the decision to leave him in Charlotte for two years topping the list. Time will inevitably reveal the decisions that will land my ass in a shitty nursing home per my son’s request. However, If I look at my parenting job so far I can honestly say the danger of me stewing in my own juices while medical staff is on break is pretty remote. All I can do is check with my gut, check with Sonny Jim, and pray for the best

Rosie.

*Please read the linked article ad nauseum. You will either become completely reckless, stop being afraid of what people think and live, or both. Shouts to KNKYTHT for sending it to me, it was the highlight of my week.

An admission, if you will.

I have a confession(s) to make. Well, let me start from the beginning, then lead into the confession(s). Maybe, that will make what I’m going to say easier. I’m a late bloomer. I’ve only began to find and nurture the creative side of myself over the last 10 years, and not consistently until 2005. As a child, and later teen, I was fairly average. Although I did go to an “alternative” school. I was never quite sure whether it was because I was genuinely some sort of child prodigy, or whether they were meeting their “black student” quota.

I was a sickly kinna kid. While out of school (and that was often by the by) I watched an obscene amount of public television. Fred Rogers was the higher power that I came to know and trust. In my tiny mind I actually had a personal relationship with him (see this blog post). I attribute much of what I did know in my early years to PBS, and to my credit, I probably was a bit of a bright egg. I’m sure it was part of the reason I qualified for the alternative schools I went to. On down the line though, I was quietly moved from the alternative program into regular ass high school.

I didn’t mind. I generally liked school, but I was by far no academic. My grades were quite average. During the first quarter of my freshman year; they were well below average. Yes. I’d become Jane B. Student. I drifted along barely maintaining a C average with little or no extracurricular activities and no nudge in the right (or any) direction from the adults in my life. Before I go on, I must say that I don’t wish to play the blame game here (well I do a little, but I’ll get to that). There was just my mom and 4 children in the 80s-90s in a housing project in North Jersey. I’m sure much of her aim was to get us to adulthood alive with at minimum  a high school diploma. This she did achieve. My guidance councilor however, Ms. Gary, was about as useless as you could get.

Ms. Gary was always one slice of triple chocolate cake away from a massive coronary. She defied death daily with her snack times and 1+ hour-long lunches. She spoke as a pig with a sinus condition might. I’m not quite sure how she got the gig of guiding the young and tender minds of the future. Sadly, I’m not so sure guidance councilors are much better today.

Well, anyway, I had the traumatic experience of having to find out through my over achieving brother who at that time wore the title of ” the-only-college-graduate-in-the-family”,  that I should have “gotten off my ass and gotten some college applications in” (and that was the kinder gentler remix). Needless to say after the verbal assault and battery I endured, I was in Ms. Gary’s office quicker than you could say “chocolate cake”.

“Ms. Gary, my brother thinks I should have applied to college by now.”

heavy nasally breathing followed by food consumption.

“Oh. Isssok. Hyou cah go ta community collegesh.”

“Huh?”

(No, the idea of community college had never occurred to me.)

“Myeah (takes another bite) isss the same two yeahz. I’m headed to lunch…”

(“Oh” I thought, “This was just a snack?”)

“…hyou nee anything elsess?”

“N-no?”

That lie caused me to waste two good years of the tax payers hard earned money on classes I never needed for a major I never pursued.  Eventually I moved south, squandered more tax payer money, got  pregnant, and realized I needed to really get serious about what I wanted to do with my life or become my own ghetto doppelganger. I went to school for real, came out with a practical career as a respiratory therapist.

In the midst of all this education, I rediscovered a love for writing that had sparked when I was in the 11th grade, but my focus, was the kid (men and alcohol ranked pretty high for a while as well.) I got it together eventually, then realized a painful truth…

***this is me getting to the point, pay attention***

As much as I love writing, as much as I love art, and artists.  I’ve never felt well read or cultured enough to be considered a “real” writer.  Anti-climactic to you? For me its plain humiliating at times. I have a fairly intellectual set of friends. I have to admit, at times, I feel like they’re  talking over my head. They’re either talking about things I never quite got around to learning about,  books I never got around to reading, music I never got around to hearing. I feel awkward and embarrassed when entire Facebook comment strings run on into infinity about a topic that I am mute to speak of. I squirm. My humiliation grows.  I avoid social media and dive into the self perceived mundaness of my existence, until something I can relate to comes up, then I reconstitute back into my witty online persona.

This, cultural retardation(?), has also contributed to the birth of a wee inferiority complex troll that dwells in the middle of my self (possibly behind my solar plexus chakra). It exists to make me feel like shit every time I’m around folks who I deem to be somehow intellectually/culturally superior to me. I wrestle with him when I find myself in situations.

I try to talk against its’ nagging little voice:

“Stacey, you’re fine.  They’re people just like you. You’re okay, they’re okay.”

(nervous laughter)

When that shit doesn’t work, I resort to grammar school tactics.  I make myself feel some how superior by picking apart their intellectual validity when or if the opportunity presents itself:

“What an idiot? He used “moot” when it should have been “mute”. How’d he get out of high school, jeez!”

If neither of these work, if I can’t bare the feeling of that fucking troll walking up and down my fragile little ego, then I seek comfort in vices.  Thankfully today they do not include drugs or alcohol, but I do have to confess that I am guilty of Netflixing until I pass out or I feel my eyeballs melting. *Feelings your judgmental gaze*

Granted, this is not some horrible physical affliction from which I suffer.  It’s actually on some levels pretty shallow considering there are people who live deeply meaningful lives having never been educated past elementary school. So in some respects I need to get over myself and go read a fucking book if I want to be able to hold proper dinner conversation (whatever in the hell that means.) On another level though, I have to stop comparing my insides to other people’s outsides. I’m valuable. Period. If I never read another book. Listen to another note of new music, my life is and has been meaningful.

So what I never got the push some kids got. I never read or went where some kids went. I was  fortunate enough to get a very good education that put me on the road to being a  writer. I was fortunate enough to have a mother that set an example that did not reflect the others I saw around me. I’m good right where I am. I will stop (eventually) allowing my lack of knowledge about a topic keep me too embarrassed to ask questions for fear of looking: stupid, uneducated, not in the “loop”, unhip or simply S-Q-U-A-R-E.  I will (eventually) learn to determine if really even want to know about a topic or if  my desire to know is based in a desire to be accepted. Then act accordingly.

Ok. Cats out of the bag. I kinda feel better now, :). I hope someone besides me finds this useful.

Stacey Rose

(Rosie’s off-line identity.)