Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Spin the Bottle Baby!

My daughter won’t nurse anymore. She stopped entirely about four days ago. And when I tried, she looked at me like I’d just offered her a cigarette or booster shot. It hurt my feelings. In fact, it felt a lot like rejection. It felt a lot like Jr. High. I’m sure Freud would love to analyze this analogy. But I think emotions are separate from the situations that cause them. Fear is fear, anger, anger and rejection may come at all stages of life, but it still feels the same, really crappy.

In my rational brain, I acknowledge that the baby has just weaned herself. She is an independent little free-thinker, who now prefers the fast flow of a bottle, rather than my shriveled, National Geographic-sucked dry-never-to-be-perky-again-breasts. But my exhausted, hormonal mommy brain says, “She doesn’t love you anymore. She’s growing up. Soon she’ll be dating, bringing home guys with eyebrow piercings and tattoos, instant messaging her friends and calling her poor mother a really bad word that starts with “B”. And I don’t mean, “Best Mommy in the Entire World.”

I can only relate this rejection to being a 13-year-old dork in a Middle School full of metal heads, preppy biznotches and polo-wearing jocks. I’m hormonal, desperately trying to please everyone, and a little weepy. Yes, this feels a lot like Jr. High.

Sixteen years ago I was sitting in the basement of a make-out party at my cool best friend’s house. I only had one cool friend. And she was only friends with me because we’d known each other since we were six. That, and her mom made her invite me.

Everyone was playing spin-the-bottle. All the cute boys were there, Jett, Ryan, Jeremy, Skinny Chris, and Chubby Chris, and my crush, Eric. He didn’t know I was alive. Even though I was sitting right across from him, staring at him, as if he were the new Dalai Lama, he still had no idea I was alive.

I watched (terrified) as kids giddily leaned forward across the Pepsi Cola 2 Liter to exchange a tremendous amount of saliva. I was afraid of my braces locking, someone slipping me the tongue, Herpes. Fortunately, the bottle had avoided me for an hour. Stacey made out with everyone, and they were all really familiar with her (if you know what I mean). Side note: Stacey attended high school graduation with her two young children.

When the bottle finally did land on me, I was paired with my best friend’s boyfriend. We were supposed to kiss. Everyone looked apologetically at Skinny Chris, like he was about to embark on a Homeric epic quest into a cave to slay the two-headed monster. I was the two-headed monster with braces, a Little Orphan Annie perm and clothes my mother picked out the night before. My wardrobe consisted of a lacy collared blouse, tucked tightly into pleated slacks and a tasteful pair of Hushpuppies. I looked like a doily sticking out of a 1985 Sears Catalogue. But in my mother’s defense, I graduated high school without any children. And I’d like to think she had something to do with that.

I’ll admit it, I was a big dork. But I was the leader of the dorks, the queen bee dork. My entourage was the fat girls. Together we weighed close to 700 lbs and I only accounted for 82 of those. We were thick-skinned (literally), funny, and believed that between the five of us, we equaled at least one cool person.

In a way, I’m proud of being part of that clique or anti-clique. We were unpopular, but we had personality and I’ve never laughed harder in my life than I did in 7th grade Biology with those girls, making fun of our teacher, Mr. Shively, who we swore, donated his brain to science, and it was now floating in formaldehyde in the back of the classroom. We didn’t hurt each other or vie for boyfriends, because we didn’t have boyfriends, and therefore we had no reason to hurt each other. And that was okay with us. We had fun. We loved each other and learned how to survive without long legs and blonde flowing hair.

Something happens when you are rejected as a young adult. It changes your DNA into a survivor. I feel bad for the kids who were given an easy ride, the ones picked first for the kick-ball team, the girls ogled as they walked down the hall amidst their Jr. High judges. These kids were accepted as they were, before they were complete human beings, before they had time to grow as people. And because of this, many of them were stunted, left in Jr. High, to remain thirteen-year-olds forever.

My crush finally did acknowledge who I was in 10th grade. My braces were off, glasses thrown aside, and perm grown out. I’d also decided not to let my mom pick out my clothes anymore and the doily was donated to Goodwill. Eric and I were at a party and he was following me around the house the whole evening. Finally, he cornered me and said, “You used to be a dork, but now you’re hot. Wanna go out sometime?” I swear he actually said that. At that point, I learned that it never matters what others think of you. Because no matter how big of a dork you are, the people judging you are probably even more ridiculous.

And this rejection, as a mother, will also prepare me for Froggy’s teenage years, when she does call me the “B” word and dates boys with body piercings and tattoos (over my dead body). This small rejection makes me aware of the fact that I still do not have control over anybody. In Jr. High and motherhood, I'm still just a dork playing spin-the-bottle, only this time there's milk in it. And I love the person on the other side.


Anonymous said...

gosh - this takes me back to my own jr. high years. and what a great post. jcn

Anonymous said...

Your writing reminds me so much of Anne Lamott, one of my favorites. You are very gifted, Elise. Oh, do I remember the dork days, too. Just wait until the day you reveal to Froggy that you once were a "dork" --- and are OK with it now. My kids were amazed I could be semi-normal (even humorous at times?) with that horrific past.
Sorry you have to deal with such an abrupt weaning, but you are so right to recognize she's already capable of making decisions you can't necessarily change. Wow! (and brace yourself)

Anonymous said...

From one former dork (at least I hope so)to another, I shudder at your recount of those cooler-than-thou jr. high cool kids. I personally sported a butt-cut back then (which my mom said looked great, kinda like Dorothy Hamill). Great point that being a dork gives you mettle later on. Addie will surely appreciate your recount later -- though she'll probably be such a super model she won't really understand. BY then we'll be dorks again as all teenagers probably consider their parents as such.

Angela said...

That post was hysterical - I don't think we went to middle school together (I went to Brody, I don't think it got much worse than that place!) The sad thing in my situation is that at the time I didn't realize I was a dork, I only realized it later when I was in 9th grade. How sad a moment that was for me, to suddenly realize that I was not and had never been cool. How nice to be that young and innocent! And I'm still not cool but I think that makes me a happier adult. I've gotten over it and can focus on the more important things (while many of my friends out here in the 'burbs have not). Took me awhile though! Oh, and don't worry about Addie's weaning - I was sad when Henry first rejected me but now we are deep in the throws of separation anxiety and I have a toddler permanently attached to my leg. It's kind of like being pregnant again. I would love a little independent spirit right now! :)

Mieke said...


My breasts ache for you. I feel your pain. Of course, I have never experienced the rejection of the breast you write so hilariously about. In fact, Gabo was just sitting on my lap when he suddenly pushed his nose into my breast and told me he smelled milk. He pulled his head back to look me in the eye "I nurse now?", he asked with a smile and a twinkle in his eye knowing exactly what the answer would be. True confessions that I yearn to do it more. I feel your pain! It's hard to know that you'll never nurse again.

Meanwhile have you seen my breasts? I seem to have misplaced them? I can't find them anywhere.

monika said...

hilarious elise!

gee do I relate to your dork story, except that by the time it happened to you, I had been living with pierre for over a year...damn I feel OLD!!!

I never had braces, and my mother was not a benign force for good, but I sure had a horrible perm in 1985 - and the joke of it was, I went in for a long layered shag...(that was the beginning of my assertiveness training).

Yankee, Transferred said...

Funny. Funny and poignant.