Category Archives: Growing Up

Bygones 

There was a time, fifteen or twenty years ago, when I took an average of 2000 photos a year. That might not be so impressive now, in the era of unlimited digital storage, but this was when we had to buy film, carry a camera, get it developed, and hope that the shot came out right. It was expensive, especially since I was paying for it with a minimum wage job while in high school and college. 

Since then, I have moved A LOT. Over and over, I’ve packed up albums and books and boxes of prints and taken them with me. All those boxes get heavy after a while, especially when those pictures don’t mean what they used to. 

They are a record of my life, and in that, they have value. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to only keep the happy, or the current. But at what point do I stop carrying those photos with me? 

What do you do with photographs of family members who have chosen to no longer consider you family? Or of former best friends who betrayed that trust? Or of religious celebrations and milestones along the path towards what was eventually abuse and cruelty? These people and places are part of my story. I don’t think I need to memorialize them anymore. 

So, little by little, I toss them out. When I have a brave moment, I sift through them and, if I feel only loss, bitterness, or sorrow when I look at it, I put it in the garbage pile. I choose which parts of my story to carry with me to the next place. 

Today has been one of those days. As part of a larger effort to take charge of some projects I’m always meaning to do, I sorted another album today. I have another stack of photos to toss. It’s always a terribly complicated feeling. I’m sorrowful for the way things ended, for the hurt caused. 

This time, though, I’m also sorry for them because they missed out. Life is pretty good now, and they chose to step away, not knowing who I have become. They never saw me so thoroughly happy. They will never meet my fiance. They don’t get to be a part of the adventures ahead. 

That sounds a little arrogant, I guess, but at least it’s honest. Maybe a different person would be more comfortable keeping so many old pictures. Maybe some day, I will regret it. What is more likely, I’m pretty sure, is that I would continue to carry them around, to wince when I see them mixed in with happier memories, that some day, I will find myself having to explain who the stranger is. 
Today, I made more room for more photographs. Photos of my upcoming wedding, honeymoon, anniversaries, parties, graduations, Christmases, and cats. There is a lot to look forward to. Even if it requires taking a few painful moments to let old memories go. 

The trash pile

A Series of Impossible Events

2016 has been a shit year for a lot of people. 

But not for me. In fact, this year seems to be year of impossible things happening all at once. 

On September 14, 2016, Mike and I got officially engaged! It wasn’t some big, grand production, just a very sweet moment when, after a few months of talking about it, Mike looked at me and said “I’m going to marry you,” and that was about it. Well, until two days ago, when we picked up my rings and he asked, just before sliding the ring on my finger. I’m happy and excited, but even more than that is this feeling that it’s right. Like we make so much sense together that it’s the most natural thing. We thought we were sappy and schmoopy and obnoxious before, but holy cow. This is a whole new level. 

About a month ago, I finished the second longest interview process EVER, and I was offered my first choice job, just 4.5 miles from (as opposed to the 43 miles each way that I was driving), with an unbelievable raise in salary, and out of the toxic mess my previous company had become. I was able to give my notice and take a week of “staycation” before I start my new job on Monday. 

And then, tonight. Tonight, I saw the impossible happen: my Cubs, the team I’ve loved my whole life long, won the World Series. I screamed and cried. I couldn’t believe it. It still seems surreal. Impossible. 

So now, here I am, outside of a Dick’s Sporting Goods at 1:30 AM, waiting for my sister, who made it inside, to buy me a shirt, with a ring on my finger, the best fiancé at home waiting for me, and a kind of excitement that I can’t express. 

I almost don’t know what to do with this hope. What do you do when all of these things that were otherwise impossible start actually happening? 

I guess you just go with it. You take a deep breath and hold on tight, and you keep both eyes open so you don’t  miss a moment of it. 

The Day the Crayons Quit

With Pokey at his graduation

A month ago, my eldest nephew graduated from high school. Yesterday was his graduation party, and I bought him a book, The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. I picked it up at Target one day and I was stunned by the (potentially accidental) metaphor it is for the kind of people we meet and the way we feel sometimes. 
This is the letter I wrote him, taped to the inside of the book: 

My dear boy, You are just about the age I was when you were born. I could not have imagined what life would bring between our graduations. From the joyful to the devastating, from the funny to the mundane, life never stops being a surprise, and it should be no other way. 

At every moment, I have loved the person you are. From the chubby baby you were, to the toothless flag football player, to the shaggy haired boy, to the honorable man you are today, you have never ceased to make me proud. 

Because I am older, I am supposed to impart some kind of wisdom. Because you are so young,  you must try to listen. I’ll begin with what is not said often enough: the most true things in life are most often found in children’s books. Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and so many others will speak truth and humor to your soul if you let them. 

It’s true that the things you will learn in the next few years will prepare you for life, but I do not mean academics. What you learn about yourself and others will last longer than any Intro to Chinese History class will. The book I’ve chosen for you, The Day the Crayons Quit, is about the people you will meet. You will meet people who: 

Like red, are overworked 

Like purple, are a little picky and neurotic

Like beige, feel ignored

Like gray, are weary

Like white, feel empty and unimportant 

Like black, are more than what they first appear to be

Like green, are mellow and easygoing 

Like yellow, is a drama queen 

Like orange, wants to feel special

Like blue, is at the end of their rope

Like pink, feels overlooked

Like peach, has been left out in the cold

And like Duncan, who just wants everyone to get along. 

My dear boy, with all you are, try to handle each person as best you can. Learn to be the best kind of friend to all kinds of people. Notice who is around you and strive to make their lives better. 

But Poke, don’t forget that you will often feel like these crayons as well. You will feel mellow, overworked, and all the rest, sometimes in the same day. Feeling this way is ok, but you must never let them push you to quit. Use each of these things to push you to continue to grow, to become a full, complete person. 

The days ahead are an adventure only you can live. It is one of my greatest joys to get to be a part of this adventure. 

Congratulations on your graduation, and with excitement for all that is to come, welcome to your next chapter! 

I love you, Aunt Cindy 

With Pokey, at his graduation party

Wait Gain

I’m just a few days shy of the anniversary of my resignation from The Salvation Army, a day that changed every itty bitty piece of my life. Last night, after pizza and a movie at my mom’s, she hurried out the door to give me something that I had forgotten in the move: my scale.

I didn’t really forget it. I was trying to, though. By the time I’d resigned, I’d lost about 82 pounds. Then, I had a year of nonstop change and uncertainty, and I plateaued in clothing sizes and gained a few pounds. For the last six weeks, since moving into my own place, I hadn’t weighed myself at all. And I ate a lot of food that wasn’t the best for me. Like hell was I going to step on a scale!

This morning, I couldn’t help it. I had to face the music. I stepped on the scale and in the last six weeks…. I gained a pound and a half. I was so happy!! Partly because I was certain it was going to be 10 pounds, but mostly because for the first time in maybe forever, I really didn’t care so much.

Since resigning, I’ve gained 14 pounds back. Not the best, but given the colossal changes I made in the last year, that is a huge victory. As a lifelong megafatty, it would have been so easy to wallow and eat everything and be back up to where I was.

I thought about all I’ve gained and lost in the last year, and I can’t help but think that this morning feels like a really big victory:

Lost:
– Some people I thought were friends
– My need for daily sleep aides / anxiety meds
– Guilt for “not measuring up” to TSA standards
– Fear of my bosses and pastors

Gained:
– 14 pounds
– Confidence
– Joy
– A handful of strangers who are my support, cheerleaders, and source for really inappropriate jokes (that’s you, LSKs!)
– My own car and apartment
– So much time with my family
– New friends
– A job I love
– A kickass boyfriend who makes most men look like chumps
– Better credit
– The ability to sleep at night
– So much faith in myself

I honestly don’t care at all about 14 pounds. Well, I do a little, but I know I can lose them and I don’t feel like my worth is at all tied to that number.

Each of the last three years has felt like the universe is trying to kick my butt. This year, I finally feel like I’m making progress in my fight back. A year is a super long time sometimes. But oh, the things you can gain in a year.

Brick by Brick

There are parts of the world that I am not dying to see, and art exhibits that bore me pretty quickly. One thing inhabits both of these lists: Egypt. Whenever I’m at the Art Institute with my sister, she could spend all day in the ancient Egypt collection while I quickly get to the point where my brain is screaming “oh look: another chipped clay pot, just like the last 700 you’ve seen.” My desire to visit Egypt is lessened quite a bit by its recent political climate, but I have to say, the biggest draw for me are the pyramids that showed up in the background of story books when I was a child.

They aren’t amazing because of what they look like, but because they are a testimony of greatness and power. Over decades and decades, thousands of nameless people slaved -literally- to turn crappy limestone into something great enough to house the holiest, most esteemed people of their society. One brick at a time, they carried and stacked. Each brick unimpressive on its own, like millions of tons of other limestone rocks all over the planet that go unnoticed every day.

A year ago, my life felt as barren, hot, and miserable as that desert must have been. I wanted out, but to imagine successful life on the outside was as insane as the ancient Egyptians dreaming up the first pyramid. I wasn’t the first, though. Thank God, I wasn’t the first. I had two in particular who were my own pyramids, Cory and Christin. Both had left and built their own pyramids, so I wasn’t as afraid to build mine.

How long would it take you to build your life if woke up tomorrow with no job, home, car, phone, insurance, credit, and only $374 to finance your move to another state? It’s a hell of a thing to envision, and even imagining it beforehand is nothing compared to living it.

No one, and no previous experience prepares you for building your pyramid. I wasn’t on my own – I had family and friends who have been an unquantifiable amount of help, but it’s both a solitary and community effort. Every tangible bit of building a pyramid is the result of the mental work that goes into it. Sometimes, the mental work involved was coming to the weary, humbling conclusion that I needed someone else to carry and place a brick for me.

And the only way to see any results is to just keep going.

Ten months and fourteen days ago, I packed everything I owned in a uHaul, unloaded it into my parents’ garage, and started over, covered in scars that still feel raw from time to time. I did a lot of pride-swallowing and took the exact job I swore I would never take after college and worked enough to buy a car. Stock up on some interview clothes. Pay for my coffee at Starbucks where I used their free WiFi to look for a job that I didn’t hate.

Slowly, bricks were laid, even when I wasn’t looking. Wounds healed, friendships unfolded, nightmares lessened and dreams took their place.

Today, I signed the lease on an apartment. A one bedroom apartment at the end of a street lined with old trees in a small town just outside of a university bubble. It feels like a very significant brick. It’s just a couple miles from where I live now, in a town that has managed to feel more like home in three months than anywhere has in a long, long time.

I’m going to move in over the next week, with the help of more friends and family. For the first time in three years, I’ll get to put my Christmas decorations up. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’ll have a space to invite friends into – until now, it seemed like I either had space or friends nearby, but rarely the two together.

My pyramid has a really long way to go, but today feels good. It feels like I get to finally believe that I wasn’t crazy to think about the possibility of life of the outside. Individually, the bricks laid in the last year aren’t much to brag about, but let me assure you: they were heavy, they were necessary, and they took a hell of a lot of effort. So when I look at these little silver keys in my hand, they are a lot more than just keys. They are big, gigantic bricks in my pyramid.

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Gigantic bricks disguised as tiny silver keys

Property Rights, or, For the Love of Rose

How old were you when your body became yours?

My last post was the result of trying to handle the overwhelming messages that society sends about my body (and the bodies of women everywhere), and the response was kind and encouraging, but also sad, as I read from so many other women who feel just like I do. Women may have the right to vote, own property, work outside the home, and do quite a few more things than previous generations experienced, but this week, I have been stymied by evidence that society hasn’t yet agreed that women have ownership of their own bodies and it is infuriating.

A few years ago, I had a fairly civil conversation with a friend about gender roles, with she championing the more traditional take on it. She married very young and had kids right away, fitting nicely into the traditional roles set out for her. I, as a single woman in her thirties, didn’t do either of those things. At one point, I asked her who was responsible for me: was it my father? As a college educated, professional adult, was my father still responsible for my actions? What about when he dies, does that responsibility transfer to my brother, who lived over a thousand miles away and to whom I rarely speak? She couldn’t tell me. We had known each other for over a decade, and she still did not seem to think that I am my own person, regardless of my marital status.

Less than two weeks ago, my heart broke as I listened to my teenaged cousin tell us that she feels obligated to return unwanted physical affection from guys because otherwise, she would be labeled as “unfriendly” in her peer group – a group that is entirely comprised of church friends and other students at her very conservative private school. Her “friends,” male and female, don’t seem to respect her boundaries, and for a few guys, it wasn’t until her older brother showed up and stepped in that they backed off. I find it mind boggling that in 2015, women have to have brothers step in because society doesn’t understand that her body belongs to her, and that she sets the boundaries for what she likes and dislikes.

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A selfie with Rose

In July, I got to see my best friend and her children, whom I adore. They are just fantastic, each in their own way, but I have to tell you: Rose, aged 2 1/2, is my spirit animal. Since birth, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She refused to let almost anyone hold her. She has had a huge personality since day one, loud and fast talking and a ball buster of a kid. I don’t get to see her often because they live in Baltimore, so that morning, she was skeptical of me. The older kids were happy to get tickles and hugs, but Rose wasn’t interested. “No! I don’t like it!” she said as she ran away. Now, it wouldn’t have been impossible for me to cross the living room, pick her up, and hug her despite her protests. I’ve seen that happen with a lot of kids, but that’s because as adults, we don’t let kids set boundaries. To tell an aunt or uncle to keep their hands off is “disrespectful” or “rude,” so kids get told to do it anyways. Eventually, by the time lunch rolled around, she was comfortable with me and I snuck in a hug or two, tickled her til her sides hurt, and played hide and seek with her.

At what point do we own our own bodies? Surely Rose needs people to care for her, but does that mean that she doesn’t own her body? My cousin can’t vote or get a tattoo or sign a contract, but does that mean she doesn’t own her body? I’m single and in my mid-30s, so does that mean that my father is responsible for my body?

I watched a few hours of news today and it was full of examples where the ownership of people’s bodies seemed to somehow be up for debate: talk about a high profile rape case (one of the worst violations of a person’s agency), a popular talk show host advocating immigrants becoming “property of the state” and forced into “compelled labor,” debate over the representation of women of color in magazines, twisted presidential hopefuls who seem to think they have a stake in my uterus. I flipped through Facebook and read comments about the former Subway guy who pleaded guilty to child sex abuse charges and about the Duggar opinion that wives should never say no to sex, even when they don’t want it. At what point do we own our bodies?

There are a lot of messages about out bodies that we need to filter out, but probably the biggest message to ignore is the message that one’s body belongs to anyone but one’s own self. My body belongs to me, yours belongs to you. Maybe remembering that will help us be kinder to one another. I desperately hope that my cousin understands this and is willing to hold tight to it. I pray that Rose keeps her stubborn and boisterous personality because it will serve her well, even if it gives her parents gray hair.

Friends, for the love of me, my cousin, Rose, and everyone else, can we just agree that a person’s body belongs to that person? And then, maybe we will have a tiny shred of credibility when we call ourselves a civilized people.

Another Candle

Thirty-three was supposed to be a big year, and it was, just not like I expected it to be. I am not at all where I anticipated I would be on the day I turn thirty-four.

So many mixed up things, good and bad, all together, and I can’t make sense of it in my super tired state. But:

– I do not take the privilege of another birthday lightly. I’ve buried too many friends to do so.

– So many friends wished me a happy birthday today, from here to Australia and back, from my grade school years to people I met very recently.

– Work went to hell this weekend. In a domino effect of things I couldn’t control, our staff went from nine people down to five. The few who remained ended up working hellish hours all weekend and have a hellish weekend ahead of us. I feel a little betrayed by those who left us without warning, even though I know I couldn’t fix it. I feel taken advantage of by a boss who left it to us to work like dogs while she made phone calls from home. Not that she doesn’t care, but… Holy balls, I’m tired.

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Brandon and me, the classiest people in the joint!

– One of my best friends met me for my birthday dinner. My lovely friend has a heart that is bigger than Manhattan. We laughed and got “carb-drunk” and walked around downtown by the river and talked and he bought me a birthday cupcake. My time with him redeemed all the birthday suckiness that happened earlier in the day.

– My dog has not adjusted to the move well and has had diarrhea. TMI, I know, but I’ve been cleaning up so much ick, and it makes me lose my cherub-like demeanor. I’ve been impatient despite knowing that she is just scared and lonely. Yet she still is happy to see me. She still looks at me with her big, happy eyes like I wasn’t the mean one who made her stay in the bathroom while I went to work. Tonight, she slept with my shoe tucked under her chin.

– Today, my little brother and his wife were ordained by my former denomination. I’m equally excited and terrified for them. I don’t know how to process that.

– I have a first date tentatively scheduled for two weeks from now, which is kind of far away, but the first chance our schedules line up. I don’t know how to process that either, because so far, I like talking to him, but the unknown is scary.

– I’m waiting to hear about another interview. I think it went well, but if not, I am going to be so disappointed. I’m doubting my ability to do more… To be more…

If I had any candles on my cupcake, today would have added another one. I don’t know how I feel or what to think about all of it. Good and bad and in the middle and…

Bloom Baby

When she was born, my niece, Sarah, was itty bitty. She is a twin, and they were so early that she was this teeny little pink baby who was far too little for her pink clothes. Maybe that’s why I called her Sarahberry; she was such a little bit of shocking pink that stood out from her older and twin brothers.

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One of my very favorites. Just look at her eyes.

The only girl with three brothers, it’s no surprise that she ended up seamlessly floating between princess and tomboy. She played T-ball like her brothers but wore sparkles when she wasn’t in uniform. She discovered she liked soccer a lot more than baseball, so she eventually dropped the one for the other and she has stuck with it. Life with brothers is good training for the battle field that is soccer, and while she is still little, she is tenacious.

One summer afternoon, my younger sister, Noonie, and I took the kids to the neighborhood park. It was one of those afternoons that only happen in cereal commercials, where the weather is perfect, the kids behave, and every playful football spirals. At some point, Noonie made Sarah a clover crown. When we were in the kitchen, I took her picture with a bit of fear.

“Oh, baby girl, stay like this as long as you can. Don’t ever stop being the little girl with dirt on her knees and flowers in her hair.”

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Flower girl

I was afraid of what would be inevitable: the heartache and struggles that we all face as we grow up. I took the picture as proof to myself, and someday to her, that life was once as simple as summer tans and clover crowns.

Sarahberry is thirteen now, in so many ways. I often find myself saying that teens are the age group I understand the least. She’s proving me wrong, and I don’t mind it at all. Of course familiarity helps, but she really isn’t all that hard to understand: she likes soccer, “old people food,” learning how to cook and do crafts, bugging her brothers, and reading. She has never met an animal she doesn’t like and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She is bright and beautiful, happy and generous. She never seems afraid to be herself.

A few weeks ago, she came to stay for a few days over spring break and we hung out. She doesn’t seem to think or care that I’m not cool, and we watched nerdy TV, went to see Cinderella, and walked around the mall where we looked at prom dresses.

She is not likely to get any taller than her present five feet, has fewer curves than I did at 13, and her bubbly self makes her seem even younger, so she has seemed like a bit of a late bloomer to me. We pointed out dresses we thought were pretty, which were garish, and which ones our fathers would hang us for wearing. To my delighted relief, she was quick to say that she had no interest in wearing “the slutty stuff.”

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At Pa's birthday dinner

We talked about everything, from her teachers to boys to what kind of veterinarian she wanted to be. We walked through racks of clothing and all I could think is You’re growing up too fast! Stop it!

It’s a horrible, wretched bit of wonderful misery to both love seeing her learn and experience new things while also wanting to hit pause and just enjoy this. Someday, she won’t be thirteen and all I will have is photographs and memories of this incredible girl. There won’t be choir concerts or games, and while there will be new things to enjoy, I so love the kid she is right now.

“I get my toes stepped on a lot because I’m a defender.”

A few weeks ago, Sarahberry tore her ACL at soccer, so she had surgery last Friday. On Tuesday, I went to keep her company and give her mom a chance to get out of the house. We watched Adam Sandler and she laughed like it was the funniest thing she’s seen. Later that night, I offered to paint her nails for her, but I have to say, her toenails were a challenge: tiny, oddly shaped, and sort of deep-set into her toes, and I ended up doing a pretty sloppy job. She told me that it was OK, though, because everyone has a hard time with painting them. Because of getting stepped on all the time on the field, her toes take quite a beating.

She was being literal, but there is a lot of truth in that statement. We are called to defend those who need it, and in doing so, we get stepped on. Sarah has a defender’s heart. She can’t help but love the wounded animal, give to the friend who has less, or help the old person who needs it. Her tenacity comes in handy here, because she doesn’t back down or give up easily. She is still young enough to not have had her toes stepped on too many times in the process, and as I kept painting her nails, I wanted to beg her: Do not stop defending. No matter how many times your toes are stepped on, or how much it hurts to keep walking. Keep your heart just like it is.

In a lot of ways, my Sarahberry is still, thankfully, the girl with clover in her hair. She is still usually covered in some combination of dirt and glitter. What I think I understand better now is that my darling Sarahberry is not becoming a new person but she is continuing to become her own person. What a beautiful and appropriate word “blooming” is for her. In every stage, she has been beautiful and captivating, and she will continue to be. I get to be one of the lucky ones who gets to be a part of that. I don’t know how I won that lottery, but dang, I’m glad I did.

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We're so classy. So very classy.

Grumbled Gratitude

I was up super early this morning and worked my full shift, only to have to go back to work a few hours later when a pipe went bad and there was water everywhere. I ended up crawling under cabinets in a dress to do some minor plumbing. And so, God, I am thankful for the ability to work, the assurance of a paycheck, and the basic knowledge needed to fix leaky pipes.

I was supposed to have a relaxing evening of hockey and my big comfy chair, but instead, I’ve gotten fifteen phone calls from work because the closer has never closed before. She won’t call the other manager for fear of being insulted or belittled. And so I am thankful for the gentleness of spirit that you give me with her, the chance to be her unofficial pastor, and the kindness with which she views me.

I’ve made terrible choices about food this weekend and I have a huge arsenal, fully stocked with verbal bullets to aim at myself for every bite I took – even the healthy ones. Help me to be thankful, God, for the privilege of having a choice, and help me to be kind to myself.

Every song on the radio, every word of overheard conversation, every time my mind has wandered – even my dreams – all circle the same struggle these last 36 hours and it seems like the universe is throwing it in my face. Heaps of thanks for Mary, who has the spiritual gifts of listening and prayer, and who doesn’t seem to judge me.

I am going bonkers with the need to help my two best friends and it kills me that I cannot be there to help, even though I wouldn’t know what to do when I got there. They are just too far away, and a thousand miles apart, and it kills me. Kills me. But in your infinite wisdom, you placed us in a time of cell phones and Messenger apps, and so I thank you for the all-meaning, sometimes meaningless conversations we have, the ones that save me, in spite of geography.

I am drowning in questions and am frequently just seconds away from a temper tantrum about the things I want that I do not currently have. It seems like the more I try to figure them out, the more confused I get. Hesitantly, I say thanks for the time to wait. The time to heal. The knowledge that I am not supposed to know everything, cannot know everything, and really don’t want to spoil the surprise.

I have quite a lot to be thankful for. More than I could list. Help me, God, to regain a spirit of gratitude.

Amen.

Raise Men, Not Husbands

I don’t have children, but I’m pretty far into the stage of life when almost all my friends have kids. I love them. I adore them. I hope and pray and worry for them. My friends are often overwhelmed and bewildered by the process of raising kids, which leads to a great many of them reading and sharing articles about how to navigate the minefield of childrearing. Most of the time, I ignore it. Tonight, I one caught my eye and, quite frankly, it is a mediocre, patronizing stink-fest at best.

See, the article, 10 Tips for Raising a Son Who’ll Make a Great Husband, made me wonder. I’m single, some of my friends are still single, and we know what it’s like to try to sift through the potential list of men. I might not be raising kids directly, but I certainly have a lot of them, nephews in particular, who are influenced by my behavior. What, I wondered, are the things that will make them into the men I hope they’ll be?

Ugh. Cindy.
I should have known better. The problem lies in the title itself: the article is not aimed at raising good men, but rather aimed at raising good husbands, as defined by the dominant cultural standard of “good.” Gahhh!

The writer chooses a fairly random list of things that sound like solutions to her top pet peeves and reinforcements for the standard definition. They made me cringe:

1. Put the seat down.
A courteous gesture, yes, but one that insists that women’s needs are superior to men’s. One of my two best friends is a man, and when we go out, it’s generally me and his male friends. I’m outnumbered, and you know what? I put the seat down myself and then lift it back up when I’m done because there are more of them. Both sexes can operate a toilet seat. If women don’t want to sit in a bare toilet rim, they can take the 0.2 seconds to look and see if the seat is down.
Instead: Teach him to be courteous to people of all genders and physical needs.

2. Notice her haircut, even when he doesn’t.
I hate that the author so quickly jumps to valuing her physical appearance, and encourages him to lie in order to reinforce her ego and boost her confidence. She basically says to not feel guilty about making him go to the salon with you because it teaches him about how much effort his wife will put into her appearance. I can hear my friend Deb wretching as she reads it.
I don’t care a whole lot about my hair. Noticing that it is a few inches shorter doesn’t impress me. However, I am really impressed that someone has asked me several times what I’m reading and how the book is going, and if someone were to notice a particularly successful recipe, I would be over the moon.
Instead: Teach him to be interested in the things that encourage others.

3. Teach him to unroll his socks.
True- and then to continue the effort of doing his own dang laundry. Or, at least, doing his share of the work around the house, no matter what that arrangement might be. As a result of a bargain made long before I was born, my father did all the laundry. In fact, as a kid, I never understood why women would ever need to know how to use a washer because laundry is “men’s work.” Major points for my parents in teaching egalitarianism on this one!
Instead: Teach him to successfully do every kind of house work so that he can help in equal measure as an adult (or do it himself if he lives alone).

4. Teach him to walk with her.
I don’t have a problem with this one, other than to say that I hope it would be metaphorical as well as literal.

5. Teach him to walk by the street so that if a car swerves onto the sidewalk, he gets hit first.
What the everblooming hell are you talking about? If a car swerves onto the sidewalk, everyone is screwed, and my nephew’s legs are no less precious than anyone else’s. What this really is is reinforcing a kind of chivalry that seems cute, but is strangely nonsensical.
Instead: Teach him to use common sense while being courteous.

6. Put gas in her car, because it’s hard to do when you have kids.
Aside from the annoying assumption that kids are automatically a factor, it again comes down to the simple act of being courteous.

7. Choose battles wisely.
I am all for this one, as long as you also teach him to not be a doormat or whipping post, and to fight the ones worth fighting.

8. Wipe your hair off the counter when you shave.
Finally, one we can all agree on.

9. Surprise her with dinner and flowers, for no reason, but don’t miss Mother’s Day.
Alright, dinner and flowers are great for some occasions and for some partners, but that doesn’t work for everyone. The over killed idea of “love languages” is pretty valid. I know one couple who, after decades of marriage, has learned that while she may appreciate a nice bunch of daisies, what really makes her know she’s loved is when he does the dishes or cleans the bathroom without provocation. Hello, how’s that for marital success!?
Instead: Teach him to communicate in ways that will mean the most to his partner.

10. Make sure “I love you” are the last words she hears at night.
I don’t dislike this one, but I’d expand it to say that I would hope his actions and words are successful in communicating love as an overall message. His partner would, I hope, be able to say, if nothing else “I know he loves me,” even if it’s a bad day or a rough patch. I would also hope that he is honest about how he feels in a healthy way. He may be mad, or happy, or grumpy, or whatever, and he shouldn’t have to keep that from his partner.

And so, dear parents, I beg you, as someone who is still looking, and on behalf of the nephews, cousins, and kids I love so dearly: do not focus on raising a good husband. Focus on raising a good person. One who is kind, courteous, respectful, and loving to everyone, and not just the one he’s sleeping with. Your sons deserve better than to be groomed for marriage. They deserve to be taught how to be good people.