Monday, May 19, 2008

Who's Zooming Who

The bicycle is my chosen mode of transportation. I’m midway between a geared-up speed racer who sport the clickety clack shoes and body-hugging fluorescent unitards, and the schlumps who look like they picked the nearest bike off the ground and got to pedaling. Three mildew-ridden hoodies and a million wet-assed workdays later, I invested in an actual raincoat and the padded butt pants, which I call my ass pants named for a Beck song that bounces around my brain whenever I slip them on. Shock of shocks: These small concessions to bike culture actually make cycling in the rain and cold far more pleasant. I no longer have the pleasure of feeling all hard-core and judgmental of the speed racers while sporting my moldy sweatshirt, and have mostly halted my sneering at the bedecked bikers as they whiz by.

Although sometimes I wonder (judgmentally of course)—is all the shiny corporation-endorsing wear necessary? Drivers don’t dress up like Mario Andretti for the morning commute. I hate to be a playerhater (one word? Hyphenated? Playa instead of player?) but the speed racers evoke rolled eyes for a reason. Feel someone riding your tail on the Hawthorne Bridge, grunting in annoyance that you aren’t racing to the finish? Speed racer! Who is that gliding by your spot at the front of the bike line at the stoplight? Motherfucking speed racer!! In their spandex-glowing eyes, they are soo much faster than you and they can’t even wait to pass you honestly. Ever so unsubtly they jump the line of cyclists, not meeting your eye, before the light turns green and they furiously pedal away, dusting all the cyclist social contract-abiding folk.

Alas this final habit is not limited to the speed racer. I call him the Wicked Witch of the Southeast.

He earned his title the first day that he pulled a stoplight pass on me at the corner of SE 21st and Division. His bony jutting elbows and flowing wavy blonde hair evoked the Miss Gulch theme music from Wizard of Oz. I’ll get you my pretty. The early days of our rivalry (I mean, my rivalry) I would be hot on his traffic-laws-be-damned heels all the way to my yoga studio, shaking my fist as he peeled off to go to work at the corner near the studio.

I’ll get you my pretty!

Most of the time he rode ahead of me, his ill-gotten gains a result of his willingness to run lights and ignore stop signs. He passed me at every stoplight where I dutifully waited for the green. Then my schedule changed and he became an old war story (or actually a story to demonstrate how insane I can be and how I form weird rivalries at the slightest provocation.) I started seeing him everywhere off his bike.

Walking around my neighborhood, I elbowed Mr. Crud in the gut. “That’s him, the Wicked Witch,” I hissed. (Not the hugest of coincidences since living in the same neighborhood was the set-up for our close encounter of the idiotic kind.)

“Does he know who you are?” Mr. Crud whispered.

“You mean the insane woman who seethes with hatred whenever he passes her on a bike? I hope not.”

The Wicked Witch looked up from the furniture he was eyeing outside a vintage store.

Our eyes met for a brief moment. Did he? Nah.

Soon after, I bumped into him at the bookstore where he worked. I looked him straight in the eye as he passed me by, his nametag flipping in the wind caused by his swift gait. I considered following him around the store, gathering more information on who the Wicked Witch was when he wasn’t pissing me off on the road.

I brought the information back home with me. Mr. Crud had once worked at the same bookstore as the Wicked Witch and I had the witch pegged as a sci-fi geek, a club to which Mr. Crud also belongs.

“You work with him?” I asked Mr. Crud.

“Never saw him in my life until the other day.” Mr. Crud said, kindly refraining from telling me I was batshit crazy for caring.

Fast forward 2 years. I’m a working woman again. 9-5. And who should also get off work at the approximate same time and ride the same way home. Yeah, baby.

When I first spotted him ahead of me, I felt a thrill. Wicked Witch! Where have you been? I pulled up close behind him, breath-down-the-neck distance. The light turned green. I hung close, remembering a phrase my old basketball coach used to describe the optimal defensive strategy: “stick with your man like flies on stink.” I am the fly. Sir, you are the stink. I sacrificed some of my traffic law analities, running a few lights and passing on the right, to stay on his tail until we hit the Hawthorne bridge. I jammed on the pedals and waited for my passing opportunity. He didn’t know what hit him. I pulled easily ahead and pushed myself until I was panting for air.

The rest of the ride home was a perfect storm for my victory. No stoplights for him to pull his patented move and there was even a chance for me to slide through an intersection just before a line of cars approached, leaving my dear witch in the dust. Victory was sweet. I didn’t see him the rest of the ride. I was the faster rider. We both knew that. I have passed him on several occasions the honest way: both of us pumping our legs, going for the gusto on the leaf littered streets of Ladd’s Addition. This time his dirty tricks couldn’t save him.

At home, I flung open the door and jumped into the befuddled Mr. Crud’s arms. “I won!! I really beat him!!”

He knew exactly who I was talking about. “The witch?”

I nodded, raised my arms above my head. “Woo hoo! Catch this, motherfucker!”

“Well, bully for you.”

After my victory, some of the magic of the race wore off. Now I get more pleasure from riding his ass and seeing him turning his head to the side, twitching to get a glimpse of me and trying to gauge whether now is the moment when I’ll go for it. On high-spirited days, I’ll see him ahead and whisper, “It’s on.”

Perhaps it’s time for me to move onto bigger prey. Watch out, speed racers, your days are numbered.

Nobody puts Kt in a corner.

* Special thanks to the Wicked Witch for making my commute an adventure and for the extra calories burned in trying to burn you. Also, sorry for torturing you.

** I wrote this a couple of years ago but opted to leave it in the vault to marinate. Yesterday I encountered the Wicked Witch for the first time in months and felt inspired to bring you this tribute (to my pettiness and insanity). Such is the life of a transhole. As is his way, he whooshed past me while I waited at a stoplight.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Miscarriage Avenger

Since joining the silent yet large miscarriage sisterhood, I’ve gone through the stages of loss: guilt, depression, denial, bargaining, wine, cigarettes, and acceptance. While I still think about our loss every day, it’s starting to be absorbed into my psyche like a vanishing twin. It comes up when I have to tell yet another yoga teacher that I am no longer pregnant.--4 down, 1 to go on that count—or when I happen upon a baby bump at a vulnerable moment. Tears come to my eyes. I take a deep breath. I force myself not to figure out what week in my pregnancy I would be in at this moment if the worst hadn’t happened.

When not coming to terms with the sadness, I feel more than a hint of anger at the widespread misconceptions about miscarriage, the insult to injury that women who miscarry must endure at the mouths of misunderstanding, even if well-meaning friends and family, and the widespread ignorance about this common experience.

I fantasize about becoming the Miscarriage Avenger. I will wear a blood red cape, littered with all the hairs that fall out once the pregnancy hormones die down. Would blod clots be too gross? Yes. Although true to the yucky experience of passing the conceptus. MA in silver sequined cursive is scrawled across my chest inside of a heart.

Wherever a woman cries after hearing from yet another friend that “It just wasn’t meant to be,” I will be there.

“What did you just say?” I ask, laser blue eyes shaming a hole in the friend’s forehead.

“Who are you?” Asks the meant-to-be spewing friend.

“Not important. What IS important is that you never ever never tell a woman who has experienced a pregnancy loss that it wasn’t meant to be. What kind of new age crap is that? Are you saying that God is a raging asshole who derives pleasure from messing with the emotions of loving couples everywhere? Please do explain…”

“I, er, I never thought of it that way,” says clueless friend. She turns to her weepy friend. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just didn’t know what to say.”

I continue. “Even though there technically is no child in a miscarriage, parents still experience it as a loss. A loss of potential, a loss of their hopes and dreams. Would you ever tell someone that their Dad died because it was ‘meant to be’?”

“Well, maybe—“

“Silence! Another issue for another day,” I say, hands on hips a la the superhero stance. My silver sequined cape flaps in the wind. I look to the crowd that’s gathered. “Listen up, people! Think before you say that anything, no matter how wonderful or sad, is ‘meant to be.’”

The Miscarriage Avenger most definitely has a bee in her bonnet about the “meant-to-be-ers.” I used to be one of them. Nothing worst than a reformed smoker or former meant-to-be-er. I once viewed the events in my life as parts of a puzzle and a plan that I would someday figure out. God as puppet master. Every time something bad-good-weird-coincidental stood in my path I wondered “what is that nut upstairs doing this time?” I slapped together a hasty feel-good explanation. Oh, my friend Anne died when I was in 7th grade because G-d wanted me to start keeping a journal and reject conformity. Yeah, that’s it. I’m sure her parents didn’t mind. Don’t get me started on The Secret.

I swirl my cape around and hop a breeze to my next miscarriage outrage.

A similar situation to one that was recently tossed at me from a friend, a well-meaning, much loved friend, a friend who just had her first child 6 months ago, which unfortunately lends a certain air of superiority to anything she says. Not fair. But nothing about miscarriage is fair.

A recent miscarriage victim opens her email at the office. Her friend writes “All things happen for a reason. You were so nervous about being pregnant, maybe you weren’t ready to be a mother. Now you know. I just know that you’ll have a baby soon. I’m sure you’ll appreciate your baby so much now.”

The Miscarriage Avenger swoops through the office window. “Don’t cry, sister. I’ll take care of this before you can hit delete, which you should right now before you read the email over and over again and get lost in a ‘how could she say that?’ bog. Delete!!”

She nods. She deletes.

I fly away to find the offending emailing friend, wiping poop off the wall while her baby kicks and cries on the changing table. “May I have a word?”

She jumps in front of her baby. “Who are you?”

“That’s not important. What is important is your friend. She lost her pregnancy. She needs you to say you’re sorry, to cook her some soup, to listen to her tell her story no matter how many times you’ve heard it before without saying a word, or telling her any cockamamie theories about ‘all things happening for a reason.’”

“But they do,” she protests. The baby halts its cries and starts cooing at me. Aw, the Miscarriage Avenger made a friend.

“You may believe that hokum, but there’s no need to subject your grieving friend to your theories about why she miscarried. 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, most of the time for no apparent reason at all. Genetic abnormalities are most often the culprit, but sometimes, pardon my French, shit happens. Nature works in mysterious ways. Some of them break people’s hearts. If you found out your precious child had leukemia, would you want your friend to tell you ‘everything happens for a freaking reason’?” I catch my breath and stick my tongue out at the baby. The baby laughs.

“No, I guess that would be kind of inappropriate.” She picks up her baby and bounces it on her hip.

“Yes! By zygote, she’s got it!”

“I think I’d better call her. Thanks, uh, Ma?.”

“That’s Miscarriage Avenger!”

In reality I responded to my friend’s email with a brief thank you for her prayers. I don’t want to poop all over my friends’ good intentions, which is why we need MA. I thought that I’d be comfortable confronting unintentionally hurtful comments after a few weeks of getting used to the miscarriage landscape, but I find myself worrying about sounding too defensive, too angry, and alienating the people I love. I felt the same when trying to explain why a sexist joke is offensive. Somehow being on the receiving end of the hurtful comment gives you less credibility. As if feeling offended makes one prone to extra sensitivity and –ism-based delusions. I worry that I’ll hurt my friends’ feelings or that later they’ll whisper about how “overly sensitive” and “angry” I am. And should they have kids, I’m sure I’ll be called jealous to boot.

There is a lot of confusion around miscarriage. I even found myself ranking different kinds of miscarriages. When explaining my miscarriage I was quick to add that while I technically had an unviable pregnancy that my body held onto the conceptus until it was removed via D and C. My body was ready to go the distance, to beat this dead horse as long as there was a whip. I distinguished myself from other women whose bodies indeed expelled their embryos. Never mind that their bodies were actually doing what they were supposed to while mine held on like a jilted lover gripping a love note whose scribbled emotions were long dead. I saw my jilted lover uterus as somehow superior.

In the meantime I’ve done some reading on miscarriage. I filled in some of my blanks. A lingering why me remains. Not hot and throbbing but a dull ache.

The tests done, karotype figured, and my body on its way back to pre-pregnancy hormonal balances—how do I know for sure? I got a face full of zits that says the magical pregnancy hormones have left the building—we are left with the why. I don’t know if Miscarriage Avenger is up for this one. Her compassion is limitless, her tongue silver, but the why of miscarriage, the existential why, is her kryptonite. The final touch to her costume will be a question mark in the middle of the rippling muscles of her, I mean, my back. As long as I’m a superhero, might as well add some muscle tone.