I get it… by Dan Hines

Danny walks. An update from Dan, who is kind of miraculously, and certainly inspirationally, recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome. He posted this video a few days ago, which prompted our exchange:

ME: You. Are. Walking

Dan: Sort of. The video you saw was the third try. The first two I fell.

ME: You know I want five paragraphs about that.

And here they are:

 

There’s a scene, a few actually, in the movie ‘What About Bob’ where a young boy stands on a dock. He’s staring at the water and all he wants to do is learn to dive. He wants it, doesn’t know how to do it, and is scared of it. Despite encouragement from Dad, Mom, Sister he continuously backs away, making excuses, and goes back to the house.

I get it.

Some of you know my story so I won’t go through it all, but it was 16 months ago when I last took any real steps on my own without some form of help. Whether it was a wheelchair, a walker, a cane, a therapist’s arm, or even a kitchen counter or wall. A few times in therapy, I was able to do it for, like, 5-6 feet– my therapist waiting in front of me, open-armed, like a mom teaching her baby how to walk. “Come on, I’ve got you’” ‘Cause I am, in fact, a giant baby.

When you go through something, anything really, you go through “the stages.” You know ’em. But there’s one they rarely mention, the one that really matters. It’s the, “Fuck it, I’ve had enough of this” stage.

December was a bit sad for me, personally, which made Christmas a bit tough. New Year’s Eve hit and I made the same declarations as everyone else, “This year will be different!’ I woke up January 1st, and I played the daily game:

“Am I wearing socks?’”

With peripheral neuropathy, you gotta check. I look down…I guessed wrong. Shit. This year is the same.

So January 23rd was a big day. I was growing frustrated. The wheels in my head were spinning. I was missing the things I once had: life, love, ability, purpose. I know my value, but was obsessing over my weakness. About 8:30pm, I reached the unspoken last stage.

“Fuck it. I’ve had enough of this.”

I get up, turn on the lights and set up my phone at the end of the hall. I head back into the kitchen, and turn around. I let go of the cane and the counter. And I start. I get 5 feet and BOOM, I’m on the ground. Now, since I can’t stand on my own, I crawl into the kitchen so I can use a chair to get back on my feet.

2nd try. This time, ten feet and… BOOM. Crawl to the kitchen, grab my cane, and head towards the phone. Like a coach at halftime, I need to review this. I think I see my mistake. I re-set the phone, press record, and start again. Third try’s more than a charm. It’s history.

 

So there the boy stands, on that same dock, with that same view, and those same fears. He knows what he has to do; it’s run through his mind a thousand times. Just dive, just dive, just dive. And from somewhere courage builds. He bends his knees, puts his hands in front him, takes a deep breath. And dives. That dock (the hallway), the unwitting stage.

“Fuck it. I’ve had enough of this.”

And I get it.

Lil Yachty, Aziz Ansari, and Tide Pods

My boys listen to a variety of rap music, the breadth of which I am only recently learning. Last night, Brodie magically connected his phone to the car stereo and DJ’d the ride home. As he and Teddy giggled and guffawed over particularly embarrassing lyrics to endure in front of Mom, I started earnestly listening to them.

Ick. Now my children were literally SUV-trapped in a parenting moment that I couldn’t let go.

“You guys realize how BAD this is, right? You understand misogyny? These lyrics are dismissive and demeaning and maybe a little violent and otherwise terrible. YOU KNOW THIS, right? You cannot possibly SING ALONG to this… right???”

“Yeah yeah yeah… we know. We would never. We just like this beat. It’s sampled by everyone. And mom, the next song is seriously only about it being cold in Minnesota.”

And it was. But between the sophomorically raunchy lyrics (that they totally know), Aziz Ansari (who they love), and Tide pods (WTF), I feel like our kids are being bombarded with troubling examples of intimacy and flagrant stupidity. If teenagers are eating detergent, what other things must we remind them not to do? And though my boys aren’t dating yet, I kind of need them to know that what they’re reading isn’t the norm, except that it is, only it shouldn’t be, and then beleaguer them with definitions of consent and power differentials… ultimately encouraging them to lean on their faith, or at least rely on how they see Bernie treat me. The mortified eye rolling and protestations to please stop ensued.

But I won’t stop. I have no idea how the fuck-the-insecure-girl rap message is playing on their pliant brains. They are also reading an un-nuanced defense of a grown ass man who is so awful at sex, it seems like he’s using these very wretched lyrics as some sort of primer. And when my otherwise lovely, kind child actually uttered, “but she could have left any time,” well, I died a little. And then another trapped-in-the-SUV parenting moment began.

It’s frequently exhausting being the only girl in the house. I mean, even aside from the fact that I’m the only one who ever knows where anything is. Though it is up to both of us to make sure our boys know what it means to be a man, they spend most of their time with me. Dammit if they’re not going to learn what it means to be a feminist, an ally, a chivalrous friend, and whatever the opposite of Aziz Ansari is, dating-wise.

I explained how it happens, how a woman could feel so gross after a date, she’d publish a play-by-play, effectively shaming him and attempting, I guess, to exonerate her participation in it or even alleviate the ick feelings of being duped. Every woman I know has had an Ansari date—hopefully few of ours involved someone with that much fame, or with all of the fingers in mouths. What do you think we’re talking about when we drink Chardonnay and make horrible paintings together? Why don’t mommy book clubs ever read anything? Bad sex stories can be hilarious.

Except this one wasn’t because of the power, fame, and even age differential between a woman hardly sprung from girlhood and a man acting like a teenage boy with a porn problem. Though few 22 year olds on a date with an actual, award-winning person would be savvy enough to memory bank his fumbling, creepy advances to make fun of them later, I think all of us wish she had had the wherewithal to high tail it outta there. But I know why she didn’t, and every woman I know gets that. But how do I explain that to teenage boys?

Teddy and I were driving home from the orthodontist. The campy fabulous REO Speedwagon just couldn’t fight the feeling anymore. Immediately I was transported back to the roller rink at the mall, where this song was usually designated for the couples skate. Preteens with sweaty hands and back pocket combs would hold hands and make awkward circles and conversation. It was a sweet memory that my children will never know. Teddy is 13 and I’m trying to explain what constitutes sexual assault and why firm lines around consent get blurred when people drink wine and get naked. Apropos of this conversation:

“Did you know Wilt Chamberlain said he had sex with, like, twenty thousand women?”

“I remember that! That was a popular sound bite in the ‘80s. I remember boys trying to figure out if that was even mathematically possible.”

“Yeah. Three times a day for 24 years.”

So, maybe kids really aren’t all that different.

I thought I had a few more years before I was teaching them that casual sex can be super lame, occasionally dangerous, and ironically requires an even higher level of communication than when you’re with someone you know well and love deeply. Thanks, Aziz. And just to be safe, I keep reminding them not to eat Tide pods.

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A more nuanced commentary… 

Fifty and Fine with It… by Steve Safran

I’m 50.

This will mean very little to you. Your Facebook feed is full of people who can’t believe how old they are, how old their kids are, and how time flies. You can’t believe you’re older? He can’t believe his daughter’s starting kindergarten. Apparently, none of us get how time works.

But believe me, it has happened. I’m 50.

Here’s a summary of my forties: Divorced, cancer, failing eyesight, impaired hearing, relentless back and nerve pain, job losses, and I shut down my own company.

But here’s another summary of my forties: Two kids in college, employed, healthy family, great summers, travel, and… I’m engaged.

A friend emailed and asked me “What have you learned?” Well, plenty. I’m comfortable telling you: the older I get, the less I know. Honestly, that’s a great feeling.

When you’re a teenager, you have an answer for everything. At least, that’s what the adults told me. “You have an answer for everything!” they yelled. I thought that was a good thing. Shouldn’t you have an answer? But as I’ve gotten older, I realize I don’t have the answers. My previous answers were, in fact, bullshit. I was bullshitting people and was damn good at it. I am quick enough to hold court on any topic for about 30 seconds, and simultaneously afraid people will find out I have no idea what I’m talking about. Dad still thinks I should have gone into law, but history has proven this quality was perfect for many years spent working in TV.

Now, at the ripe age of 50, I don’t bullshit. If I don’t know the answer, I say, “I don’t know.” It’s liberating. I also don’t care that I don’t know. Scratch that– I love when I don’t know, especially if it’s an interesting question. It gives me the opportunity to do a little Google research and learn something new. We live in a time I’m calling “The Great Overconfidence.” Everyone has an answer for everything. But they’re bullshitting, too. When the Supreme Court lays out its decision, suddenly everyone is a legal scholar. When scientists make a discovery, everyone with a Twitter account has a Ph.D. in Science-y Things. Too many people are sure they have the hot take on everything from broth diets to Oprah’s Presidential fitness. Me? I’m happy to learn from experts.

At 50, I’m confident and comfortable enough to say “no.” That peer pressure thing? We’re done. Guilt trips for no-shows or last-minute cancellations are for your 30s and 40s. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. And I love that my friends are all of the same mind. Can’t make it to the party? Fine. Just don’t feel like coming? You don’t need an excuse. We’ll catch you at the next one.

It’s not all “I don’t know” and “no,” though. I’m a (slightly) less cynical middle-ager; I just know what I like. But these days, I’m more inclined to try new experiences. Fiancée Kim will come up with a “pop-up vacation” idea, and we just go. The kids are older now, so we have that flexibility—another perk of this aging thing. Seeing my three kids mature into young adults is an absolute joy. I raised them all the same, but they’re three distinctly different personalities. I love that about them. At 50, I appreciate them even more for being the unique beings they’ve become.

Perhaps the biggest secret is that I’m a squishy sentimentalist. As I age, I get squishier. The truth is, I really hated being a kid. I wasn’t good at it. I was one of those “old for his years” kids. I’ve been 50 for a long time. It’s just that the calendar finally caught up with me.

Funny to think now that I dreaded turning 40, when I’m really looking forward to my fifties. I’m getting married in July. The next few years are filled with graduations and other great milestones. Eventually, because time insists upon marching on, even Britt will turn 50 and that will be fantastic. (For her friends, I mean, because there will be a Prosecco party, for sure.)  I may even become a grandparent in the next 10 years. (No pressure, kids.) By 2028, I fully expect to look back on my fifties with pride.

Not that I’m rushing to get there. Those things are really far away, and also right around the corner. Seriously, I can’t believe I’ll be turning 60 in 10 years…

STEVIE KID

Stevie, in his “old for his years” suit.