I have incredibly unique views on what is like to be an aunt, because I believe myself to be one of very few people on this planet who actually is one, and therefore am considered a bit of an expert. Obviously not really, but I have become an aunt to three children (THREE!) in a relatively short period of time – something like two or three years – and I’ve had to up my aunt game really darn quick. This did not come totally naturally to a woman whose previous experience with children was thus:
Sometimes I would see them on TV shows
When I would see little babies in real life, I would never understand why sometimes parents gave them little shoes. They can’t actually walk… CAN THEY?
OK to be fair when I was 22 I did assistant teach a room full of 5-8 year olds for a year. In Italy. Some of them didn’t even speak English so that was scary. But basically I just did whatever my awesome boss teacher women told me to do and tried to be helpful but inconspicuous. Until the days when they were out sick and it was me and it was all
Anyways, now I am An Official Aunt to three kiddos who live in the area so I see them very very frequently. There’s D. who’s 8; V., who’ll be 2 in late October; and G., who was just born less than two months ago. (OK his name is Gabriel and we call him Gabriel the Babe-riel.)
What is my role in these childrens’ lives? I’m still not 100% sure, though two of them I’ve known since the very days they were born (and in G.’s case, since the very second he exited his mother’s body. His mother, my sister in law, is a ninja, and she did it naturally, no drugs, with basically no screaming, and… is that a real thing? Does she work for the Syndicate?)
It’s hard to know what your role is other than Official Social Media Documenter Of Their Lives. This is like, basically 100% officially my role, since their parents aren’t much on Facebook or Instagram, and far-flung relatives would like to see photos. Plus, the kids are INCREDIBLY cute.
But mostly I just try to love them as hard as I can, which is very, very easy. Easier than I imagined. Disturbingly easy. Actually it sucks. I know that went around the corner real fast but give me a chance: I’ve often heard of parenthood as having cut out part of your heart and having it walk around in the world without you 100% being able to protect it and being an aunt can’t quite be to that level, but if the way my heart and head feels around them – and even more when away from them – it’s got to be close. It’s a helpless love and you’re completely succumbed to it.
I don’t mean to get melodramatic but I would LITERALLY THROW MYSELF OUT OF WINDOW IF IT WOULD IN ANY WAY HELP THESE CHILDREN. OK it’d be a ground-floor window, but that’s not nothing. No, I really would do anything. And these are for children who have spewed all sorts of bodily fluids on me. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
The best part of being an aunt I would say is watching unique human personalities develop right before your eyes. And they’re such… lovely little people. They have good parents – great parents – is the most of it, but I’ve also got to believe some innate little core to them is clear-hearted and kind and that’s what I love most about them. D. – you’ve NEVER seen a better older sibling. It dashes my heart to think how much better a big sister I could have been to my tiny little baby brother and sister and instead I just like, punched them in the head all the time. He’s got a pure love and grace around his little siblings, and you can tell he adores them as much as any of the adults do, and that fierce protectiveness is there as well. V. – for a not-quite-two-year old, she’s pretty much the funniest person I know. She’s got a confidence and an awareness of things around her that feels astounding for somebody who just started walking like 10 months ago. She will work away at a toy for hours at a time by herself, figuring out how it goes together or how it might function. I think she’s got a little bit of an engineer – like her dad – in her. She’s astute, and charismatic, but also guileless. I mean, as a two-year-old should be, I guess. It would be weird if she were a crafty little bastard. She asks for pick-ups from everybody, and will plop down in your lap whenever she wants, dragging along a favorite book and pleading that you read it to her. For the millionth fucking time. And Gabriel, let’s be honest, he’s totally a non-functioning blob of a person, but he’s adorable. And freaking giant. He’s a giant baby. I’m worried about him. Don’t get too giant, baby.
Every second of watching them all grow is both like – you can’t wait for them to grow and grow and change and you also hate it so much and want them to stay the same forever because each moment they feel perfect.
Yes, sometimes they’re little shits, but who amongst us, even know, is not? That’s what ties us together as humans – sometimes we act like assholes, no matter our age or station.
And that’s what being an aunt is like. I pretty much recommend it forever. Except diaper changing which is really just awful.
It seems like every time I lurch towards blogging again, like an ancient unused car trying to start over its motor, I feel like I owe whoever still reads this site some sort of explanation. But I’ve started to think it’s less that and more a justification to myself. And I don’t know that anybody cares about that, myself included.
Mostly I think I just need to remember the feeling that comes with writing. Often it’s annoyance, fear, vulnerability, nervous about looking stupid and entitled, especially with blogging – the assumption that anybody would want to read anything I put on here.
But the good feeling is one worth recalling. When you feel like you’ve got something to say, a little bit of a purpose, and overall it’s like solving a puzzle. It’s the gratification of taking words from thin air, rearranging them until they fall right into place, the awareness that you KNOW they’re in their right place, and the satisfaction that comes from hearing that ‘click’ in your mind when it’s all been built out. I’ve been miserable all my life at math and science but I imagine it might be similar to when you figure something… scientific or math-y out. A sense of order. That you created. OUT OF NOTHING! YOU MAY AS WELL BE GOD!
The hard parts are hard to get over though – for me, especially, the sense that I have anything worth saying. Not totally sure how you get over that, or how I used to never worry about that. Jesus Christ, I would write about literally the most inane things. Now I feel like I must have Something-with-a-capital-S to talk about before I can even get started.
Anyways, I guess the path forward is just keeping toeing your way into it, nudging yourself inch by inch, until you’ve staked a space, claimed, it realized you didn’t even have to claim it because it was yours all along, and it starts to feel more natural. Consider this practice on that front.
Have you ever told people you’re going on a vacation by yourself? You should try it sometime. The reactions you may get are varied and interesting. I’ve decided they fall into the following camps:
#1: I THOUGHT YOU WERE A NORMAL PERSON, BUT YOU ARE CLEARLY DISTURBED
This is a relatively common one. Probably the most common. You’ll be chit chatting with somebody, mention you’re taking off to the beach for a few days, and out of politeness they’ll ask who is going with, and when you say, “Just me!” they become very uncomfortable and their eyes skitter everywhere. “Oh… wow… that’s so… cool!” they say when they are really thinking, “Yeah, you definitely need to go on vacation. TO A MENTAL ASYLUM WHY ARE YOU GOING ANYWHERE BY YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING DANGERS ARE MANY 1. STRANGER DANGER 2. BEING ALONE WITH YOURSELF AND YOUR THOUGHTS FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME 3. BOREDOM 4. PEOPLE LIKE ME THINKING YOU ARE TOTALLY BONKERS 5. BEING ALONE WITH YOURSELF AND YOUR THOUGHTS FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME.”
#2: YOU ARE BRAVER THAN MAHATMA GANDHI AND COOLER THAN TAYLOR SWIFT AND I WANT TO BE YOU
I like this reaction a lot because it does make me think that I am relatively badass for doing what is a very easy and common thing. “Woah, you’re going on vacation… by yourself? What are you going to… do? I wish that I COULD DO THAT!” Well, you can. Later in this post I WILL DETAIL HOW and smile with smug superiority as your eyes grow ever wider at my astounding capacity for human abilities that no one else on earth contains. I am amazing, it is true.
#3: THIS IS JUST LIKE A NICHOLAS SPARKS NOVEL YOU PROBABLY WILL FALL IN LOVE WITH SOME TORTURED HANDSOME HUSKY CARPENTER AND DRINK WINE UNDER THE STARLIGHT
This reaction may be my favorite because I got it from one of my coworkers and it is funny. No emotionally unavailable woodworkers yet, but I am sitting here quite comfortably with a bottle of wine so that part was correct.
To be honest, as I’m snarkily detailing these reactions, I’m sitting here thinking and I’m not 100% sure I ever HAVE taken a totally solo vacation. The first time I semi-dipped my toe into the solo vacationing waters was when I went to visit my brother back in the late aughts in San Diego. He was stationed there with the Navy, so was working all day and often odd hours, so I was pretty much on my own for near a week. I was nervous and I wasn’t looking forward to it. But before going, I remembered the Internet existed, so I found things to do. I booked myself a surfing lesson in La Jolla. I reserved a spot on one of those big buses that goes around on tours of cities (yes, they have those in San Diego too, and it was actually pretty awesome). I found highly-rated Yelp spots and went there to eat and drink on my own. I did also book my brother and I one day into a sea kayaking expedition. It was so great and so beautiful, until the guide told us he’d seen a great white shark the day before, and then also my arms got so tired and I nearly vomited from the choppy waters. Anyhoo. Great trip, and it helped me realize the value of time spent on my own, something I know I had spent many years furiously running away from.
Since then there have been a variety of semi-solo trips, mostly visiting far-flung friends who are working during the day so I’m generally left to my devices for food, drink and entertainment until evening. And now I’m on my own in a little beach cabin I found, somewhere on the Chesapeake Bay. How I did it? Like everything else: I searched for info on the internet. Then I paid money for some lodging that looked reasonable and under three hours from DC, and I rented a car and drove myself here. Where’s my book deal, people who published Eat Pray Love? WHERE IS IT?
Anyways, it’s pretty good here. The upsides are what you might imagine, and the downsides are what you might imagine. Upside? I don’t have to talk to anybody. Downside? I don’t have anybody to talk to. Both are equally wonderful and annoying at the same time. Luckily, I do make pretty good company, if I say so myself, and I know how to keep the day moving: a sunrise wake up with coffee over the rippled bay– surprisingly clear and still, the water never going deeper than a foot or two for nearly the length of a football field. Dipping in that water and knowing I’m the only person in a wide swath swimming in it at the moment. Listening to fishing boats across the cove motor up and roar out to wherever they’ll be making their catches. More coffee, then yoga on the porch, my increasingly-creaky joints yielding to the rhythm of a few sun salutations. Ever more coffee, a good few minutes lathering up with sunscreen and then the meat of the day – reading on a lounge chair on the little private beach that accompanies this tidy cabin. I’m in a small neighborhood here and there are several houses on either side of me, so I watch the folks come and go to the beaches as I tear through the books I downloaded on my Kindle and sweat copiously, turning over every once in a while and going to sit in the shallow water when it gets too warm. Lunch? At some point that happens. I brought plenty of food and have been making some of it but the hosts made sure to mention I was welcome to anything in the pantry, so I’ve also been eating like a six-year-old, snagging Lays potato chips and making myself Kraft mac and cheese. More reading, an hour here and there doing work, a cocktail concocted out of liquor that previous guests must have left – bad vodka and a cold can of tonic water, splashed with artificial lime juice. It tastes like college, so I sort of like it.
Then it’s dinner and the porch and a glass of wine as the whole world turns dusky pink. I’m watching somebody jet ski in the bay right now as well as a hummingbird dip into a feeder hanging just a few feet beyond the screened-in porch. And I’ve got my laptop and I’m typing a thousand-word post after not having blogged since 2014. EMOJI SHRUG. Soon I'll go to bed, because I'm the kind of person who goes to bed at 9:30 these days, and I'll do it all over again tomorrow.
Another reaction I received to my solo trip was, “What are you doing, a writer’s retreat or something?” I’m only here another day and a half but maybe I should give another post or two a try. After all, there’s nothing but time and a cushy wicker sofa on the twilight-lit porch, covered in a floral print, calling my name.
2014 was sort of the year I finally started to get my act together, skin and beauty-wise. It was probably a little late, at 34. My skin is basically already melted off my face. Young'uns, what they say is true: You'll regret not taking excellent care of your skin in your 20s by the time you're in your 30s. OH WELL EMOJI SHRUG. It is what it is. Anyways, my skin looks a lot better than it used to -- at least to me (you'll probably never walk up to me and be like ERMAHGERD YOUR SKIN IS GLOWING but at least now I can look in the mirror and not weep and that's what really matters, right?)
I also got into makeup more seriously. Now, I've had guys tell me "You don't need to wear makeup" and here are couple of things on that misguided, if nicely intentioned statement: You definitely think I'm not wearing makeup when I'm wearing makeup. If you saw me without makeup, like, your world would be turned upside down. Your brain would recoil in on itself from horror. If you see me, and you don't want to run screaming, or worry that I'm a suffering from a chronic disease, be assured: I am wearing makeup, even if you can't tell.
Second: I do this stuff because it's FUN. Not that women can't be into video games, obviously, plenty are, as this past year has shown us, but I never have been, but: makeup is like video games FOR YOUR FACE. I think? Is that the worst analogy of all time? Anyways it's great fun to see what treatments have a visible effect on your skin, or learn a cool makeup hack that makes your face look not corpse-like. It's all very rewarding, and it's fun to look pretty, and it's fun to talk about products with your friends. Men, yall need to get in on this.
Anyways I thought I'd share what stuff I liked doing in 2014. Leave your beauty/product recommendations for me to try in 2015 in the comments.
BONUS BONUS BONUS: My favorite beauty site in 2014 was xovain.com. That's the one site on the internet where you SHOULD read the comments. And you should also sign up for Amanda's beauty/product newsletter which is awesome.