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I have not been able to write about last weekend’s trip to see my parents.  I haven’t been able to process it yet, and vast amounts of crap from my parents are still in my car, waiting to be processed in their own way. 

On the way home from R.I., we stopped in the sleepy hamlet of the Bronx to visit a friend from college, who now has a 4 month old daughter.  We played with the baby, ignored our crying, crated puppy, and caught up on college suite-mate gossip.  The baby is adorable, alert, smiley, and engaging.  She barely fussed, and is much cuter than her Facebook photos could have let on. 

As always, when I am with a baby – my nephew, a friend’s baby, or a baby-in-utero (a pregnant friend/coworker) – I am able to separate the child from my own potential child, lost in miscarriage.  I do not blame the child in front of me.  I am able to play with him/her, share in the joy of the parents/grandparents/mother-to-be.  Am I horribly jealous?  Sure.  But just as I’ve been keeping my personal life private for many years, I dare not share my true feelings with the mom or the child.  I do not allow myself to become weepy, though I may get a little melancholy after our visit. 

Little H.’s mom is a modern Orthodox Jew.  As such, she is expected to be fruitful and multiply.  While her lifestyle is a far cry from the baby-a-year families of more traditional Judaism, she has still endured many well-intentioned inquiries as to her womb’s status almost immediately after her wedding.  As we sat and played with little H., her mom asked me, as Mr. Apron and I have been married longer than she has, if people have stopped “asking” us yet, if they’ve stopped hinting, or looking suspiciously at my belly, or if our parents have stopped slipping us how-to books under the door.  Reluctantly, and a little sadly, I assured her they have stopped nagging.

What I didn’t say, though, was the reason our families do not ask.  Given that perfect segue, I nevertheless refrained from telling my friend about our miscarriage.  Aside from two friends who live near us, and we therefore told early on about our pregnancy (thus we had to “untell” when we miscarried), my friends do not know.  I thought that was the whole point of not telling anyone until after the 1st trimester.  It was a convenience thing, a safeguard, an old wives’ tale meant to protect you from having to break bad news when the tenuous state of the new pregnancy didn’t go as planned or expected.  Why should I tell them at this point?

Mr. Apron met up with a friend of his while we were in R.I.  As we left little H. and her mom, this prompted me to ask him if he had told his friend, if his friends knew about our pregnancy.  He says most of his friends know.  Most.  Two of mine do.  Two.  And only because, as I said before, we had leaked news of the pregnancy.  Not even when a coworker and I were trapped in the car together for an hour-long drive to Delaware for a conference, and she spoke openly about her own miscarriage, did I let a word about my own pass my lips.  Still not when another gaggle of coworkers were discussing pregnancy, miscarriage, and expressing disappointment that miscarriage was not more openly discussed.  I remain silent.  Always.  I stuff my experience, my shared feelings down, down inside me until they explode anonymously on my blog.  Mr. Apron and I talk.  My therapist and I talk.  But our current frustration with getting pregnant again only seems to prolong the grieving and make our suffering more drawn-out. 

I wish I could share with my friends.  I wish I felt comfortable sharing my sadness without feeling like it will scare them.

Late at night, one little thing can tip the scales, and last night it did.  We had a stupid argument about a grocery bag (wouldn’t you like to be a fly on our wall?), and in a stupor of sadness, my mind started playing association games with my feelings.  Not like word-association (goose bumps, Christmas goose, Christmas music, claw my ears out), but feeling-association.

As in, Oh, I’m sad.  Let’s think about the other things in my life that are depressing me right now and fixate on them until I’m upset about being sad and Mr. Apron is upset, too, and it’ll be a miracle if we both manage to sleep that night, but that wouldn’t be a change from the rest of the week, so who cares?

We are trying to get away for a few days around Christmas, since it would work out with Mr. Apron’s work schedule.  He’s finally off probation, so he’s actually allowed to take a measly day off, and we were trying to take a long weekend up to see my parents/do some skiing.  But of course, when we planned it out (read: thought briefly about it by looking at the calendar), we simply counted on Mr. Apron’s parents providing dog walking services, and thought no more of it.  But they’ll have The Baby on Saturday, and yes, it takes 3 adults to watch a 15 month old.  It was even suggested (by one such adult) that we take them with us to my parents.  Beyond breaking the city-law of 3 dogs/household (my parents already have 3), it makes for less chaos to have 5 dogs (one of whom is relatively new to the clan and hasn’t met my parents’ nutso territorial hounds yet) in one house than it does to ask for 3 dog walks on a day when they’re baby-sitting my nephew?  Sure. 

All this because the puppy is still being crate-trained, and can’t be left in the house unattended.  I feel immense guilt at the prospect of her being confined all day and all night (she’s now used to sleeping with us) in her crate, with only breaks for her walks.   So the schemes and plans came out –I’d go out and visit my parents on my own, to “fulfill” that part of the plan.  Then I’d come home and we’d take a 2-day stupid ski trip or something together.  Or, we’d try to pawn the puppy off on a friend, and leave the older dog at home for my in-laws to take care of. 

And while I was obsessing about which friend could possibly handle the puppy responsibility, I began to think about how few friends we have that we could ask.  How few friend I have, especially locally.  I began to think about how we’ll never go on vacation again.  At least not together.  By the time the puppy can be out of her crate all day unsupervised, it’ll be six years from now (when I’m depressed, I’m prone to exaggeration), and maybe by that time we’ll have a baby.

Which put me on a jag about pregnancy, the miscarriage, ovulation – you name it.  The miscarriage last fall and the subsequent depression into the depths of winter led to overall feelings of listlessness, complacency, and boredom.  My job was rapidly becoming inhospitable, and our lives were a little too easy.  So we brought home the puppy.  Every time I think about getting her, it brings back the miscarriage.

Every morning now, I’m using the fertility monitor.  I’m waiting, waiting for it to tell us that today’s the day to dive under those flannel sheets, that today’s our best day, that today will change the course of our lives.  That I’m ovulating.  As I turned it on this morning and read “17” (day 17 of my cycle) and learned I am still not ovulating, it just reinforced all this despair. 

Something’s wrong with my body, our puppy, our vacation, and I feel powerless.  I feel sad.

“Cool outfit,” my coworker said casually as I waited for a turn at the copier.  “The kids really enjoy your style, no joke.”

And as my heart melted into an oozy pile of love, acceptance, and validation, I assessed what it is exactly that I am wearing today that elicited such a comment. 

Definitely the most distinctive piece I have on today is a skirt made for me a former student’s mother.  It’s light blue hand-dyed old-fashioned chenille (like the blankets your grandma always had on the beds), complete with fringe tickling my knees.  To battle off the winter chill, I also am sporting an off-white men’s long underwear-style Henley I picked up at a genuine “dry goods” store in the Federal Hill section of Providence as it was going out of business, paired with a lurid red Orlon acrylic cardigan picked up for $4.00 at a job-lot style store, intended for use with school uniforms.  It’s a child’s XL, so the cuffs of my Henley peek stylishly out from beneath.  I also have on candy-striped knee socks (a trend I will never let die), which I’m hoping tie together the whole outfit with their lifesaver’s colors.  On my feet are T-strap Doc Marten’s from the late 1990s. 

The kids enjoy my style.  Ha.  When I was in high school, we would often arrive a few minutes before school started, and we’d find ourselves killing time by walking the main hallway.  As the school was a 1960s circle, we could just keep walking round and round without too much effort, which was all our brains could handle at 7:00am anyhow.  On these walks, a particular friend would enjoy counting how many oblique stares my outfits would elicit as we rounded the school.  Whether it was the bright orange Pendleton wool pantsuit, or my dress made from 26 neckties, she never seemed to tire of entertainment at my expense.  At a conservative Minnesotan school where our limited shopping diversity meant the trends were specific (yellow Columbia coats, Winona knits mittens, brown Doc Marten’s oxfords, American Eagle tank tops), hideous (white socks with Birkenstocks) and rarely defied, I stuck out.  Sure, there was the ROTC guy who always wore army fatigues, and the Marilyn Manson girl with her sullen black clothing, chains, and heavy eye make-up, but then there was me, and very little variety beyond that.

Over the years, my initial inability to figure out even simple trends like bootleg jeans, waffle knit shirts, or Umbro shorts (I never knew what a Tretorn was until this year), has morphed into some sort of defying-the-mainstream identity.  I wish I could be proud, confident, and somewhat oblivious like Jerry Spinelli’s “Star Girl,” but I’ll settle for some respect of myself as an individual, as a “cool teacher.”  Or, at the very least, a dork-tastic teacher with some respect from some teenagers for my “cool outfits”.

From my limited study of male toileting habits in public restrooms, I have come to understand there is a strict unspoken rule about which urinal to use when entering the restroom.  I believe there was even a computer game to this effect.  There is logic involved in trying to determine optimal distance from other men, and the rule usually dictates that you leave one space between yourself and the next pissing man.  It goes without saying this is especially true if you encounter a full wall of urinals, and only one other man is using one. 

I would dare extrapolate this same rule to situations when there is a long row of ATMS, changing rooms, or seats at a long counter – any public situation where you want a little more privacy that you could ever hope to get.  I think the rule also applies to the gym.

While some gyms have time limits and wait-lists for their machines, and you have to put up collateral to sign-up in advance for an elliptical, my own gym is usually sparse when Mr. Apron and I choose to go.  This is by design.  We try to avoid the after-work crowd, and start acting squirrelly when hoards of people come in close proximity to us with their pending sweatiness.  Plus, the parking lot is a bitch to get in and out of, and the few designated spaces there are too often taken up by overflow luxury SUVs whose owners are getting their nails at the salon next door.  One day I’ll call the tow company myself. 

Last Sunday morning, when Mr. Apron was working, I managed to haul myself to the gym.  I selected a treadmill from the row of 6 or 8 available, and began to work myself into the delirious state I call exercise.  Within a few minutes, a man chose the machine directly to my left even though every other treadmill was free.  It wasn’t as if he was strategically positioning himself in front of the TV that had the best choice in Sunday morning pundits; each treadmill has its own TV, with a vast choice of channels you can select yourself.  He was just being a dick and ignoring the rules.  He then proceeded to aim his remote at the channel changing box by his knees, and change my television station no fewer than 47 times.  One minute, I’d be happily watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon (with or without headphones, cartoons are quite preferable to Glenn Beck), and then next, it’d go to HSN, or CNN, or something else I did not select.  The cable boxes are quite close to one another, but this was ridiculous.   I had to keep the remote in my hand and keep flipping my channel back every time he grew restless, which was, oh, about ever 15 seconds. 

I bet he’s the kind of guy who chooses the urinal right next to someone else, and tries to talk to them.  In my passive-aggressive rage, I began ever-so-slightly angling my remote so as to change his channel “by mistake” as well.  At least I didn’t start peeing on him in retaliation, eh?

Last Friday night, we were supposed to go see the Harry Potter movie.  I am someone who has been a diehard HP fan since 2000, when I borrowed the first three books from my sister’s friend, and read them all in a long weekend.  I went to a release party at Barnes & Noble for Book 4, pre-ordered all the others, and have seen every other movie in theatres. 

But I didn’t want to go to the movies Friday night.  I was in a dour mood, brooding over a student I’d seen that day at school. She, who doesn’t volunteer many ideas in class, and generally keeps to herself all day, opened up to me Friday afternoon during our session.  She confessed to me about how she’d been picked on at her old school, bullied by exclusion, and how she avoided someone at this school who used to go to her old school.  Though I felt I’d done right by her by listening and letting her know she could always come to me, I couldn’t get her out of my head, and my melancholy threatened to befoul the entire weekend. 

As our peanut butter reserve was running low, I began thinking of a different activity to get us out of the house that didn’t involve Entertainment.  There’s a new peanut butter restaurant not so far away, and they grind the PB fresh in front of you.  The spread is so good, Mr. Apron (not a big PB fan) confessed some of it “fell into” his mouth soon after I brought it home.  And scarcely 5 days later, the jar was almost empty.  The PB store was dangerously close to my favorite Anthropologie store, so I thought a combined trip would cheer me up. 

Too bad they closed at 8pm.  It was 7:48pm, and we had no chance of making it.  The website said the downtown store was open till 9pm, so we rushed downtown, scored a dream parking spot, and were greeted by bolted doors barring our entry to the well-lit interior yumminess.  No signs on the door proclaiming the true hours, so, dejectedly, we went into Barnes & Noble to read strange magazines. 

Because things always seem better in the morning, the next day I had my unrequited Anthro trip, and we scored a fresh jar of PB, too.  While perusing the sale rack, I spotted a beautiful brown skirt, appliquéd in myriad earth tones with a birdie on the front, and a ruffle on the hip.  “Oh, buddy, look at this one!” I called.  “Cute!” he said, encouragingly, “see if they have it in your size.”  Of course they didn’t.  Only 2’s and 4’s.  But I moved on, half-heartedly scanning for anything else to catch my eye.  It was pretty slim pickings that day, even on the regular price racks.  Aside from being impress by the bed-frame made of pipe, a ladder, and hung with a canopy of antique doilies, we were pretty non-plussed. 

Yesterday as I came home late, after a long meeting, Mr. Apron greeted me excitedly.  Seems my final Hanukkah package had at last arrived in the mail.  He made me open it that night, even thought it was my “big one” and it would be, as I often put it, “blowing your wad” to open it before the grand finale last night of Hanukkah.  I pulled out of a non-descript cardboard box some non-descript brown tissue paper.  Inside that was the skirt, in my size, that we had seen at Anthro last weekend. 

“But when did you go?” I demanded.  “When did you have time?  They didn’t have it in my size!” I protested.

He had gone to the store some weeks earlier, on a day off, and found the skirt.  It was not in my size then, as now, but he’d inquired if it could be ordered from another store.  The sales lady had called 8 different stores before finding it in my size, in Massachusetts.  As I was flipping through the racks last Saturday, Mr. Apron knew I’d never find it in my size, but he also knew it was trucking along the roads, merrily chugging towards our door. 

It is great fun to have a spouse who is not only a scheming, conniving, devious, generous man, but also a fantastic secret-keeping gift-giving actor.

Setting: the bathroom.  Mr. Apron has just exited, Mrs. Apron has just entered, wearing her sock monkey pajamas.  She is brushing her teeth.  She looks down at the toilet, squints, and says, with a mouth full of toothpaste: “Mubby?”

Mr. Apron, in the bedroom, busy changing into his fuzzy robot pajamas, replies, “What?”

Mrs. Apron spits into the sink, but has neglected to rinse off the ring of foam around her mouth.  There is probably a drip of toothpaste on her pajamas, as well. 

“Next time you shave while you’re pooping, can you please clean the stubble off the toilet seat when you’re done?”

 “How did you know it was me?”

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December 2010