‘Bob: What are you doing?
Charlotte: My husband’s a photographer, so he’s here working. I wasn’t doing anything so I came along.
Bob: What do you do?
Charlotte: I’m not sure yet, actually’. Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola (2003)
I was very excited to attend Kiera’s baby shower because it was taking place in the beautifully designed Isola, the trattoria at the Mondrian Soho hotel. It was also going to be my first mom and daughter outing since P was born more than 2 years ago. I usually never bring a kid to an adult gathering. However, DH’s hyperbolic enthusiasm for my off-the-cuff suggestion to bring P was in fact a not too subtle plea to not leave him alone with the 3 kids. Thinks got pesky from the outset. I am slowly realizing that my daughter and I disagree on a lot of things. Style being one. She is a ‘total look’ toddler obsessed with dresses and whose style can be summarized in 3 words ‘girlie, girlie and…girlie’ and I am like, eh, eh…well, I’m like something else. P started to bully me into removing the headpiece I was wearing. We argued. And I went on and on about respecting people’s self-expression, and risk-taking and this included the way they dressed. She said: ‘Fine…but I just want you to leave it home, that’s all’. At this point, G knew better and fled to the backyard to join DH and L… My eyes were throwing darts and I was bloody keeping my headpiece!
The lunch was lovely despite my well known prejudice against ‘only moms’ stuff. Indeed, although my blog universe was quickly filled with other moms it took a while to ease myself into real life moms’ circles or conversations. In some narcissistic ways, I am petrified that I would eventually realize that my woes are so banal and common that I would then feel utterly ashamed to even have a blog to rant about my experience of motherhood. In fact, once a girlfriend mentioned my blog to another mom who said:‘yeah, I don’t really need to read about it…I do live it.’ I think I blushed, me with my Asian dark skin, I blushed!
Anyway, when eight moms have lunch together, conversations can quickly switch from diapers’ brands and best kids iPhone apps to the dreaded question of: ‘what are you doing next?’ You hesitate between the positive and cheerful scenario and the complete ‘I don’t fucking know’ meltdown. And then sometimes, you discover something very valuable in the middle: honesty. After one hour of getting to know the other ladies, I had an epiphany: bare one mom we all left some satisfying or successful careers behind us to move to New York because our other halves got a job opportunity here. All of us pushed our other halves to accept the transfer so we could live the Big Apple dream and fantasy. And now a few years later, we honestly asked each other: ‘So what now?‘ Should we have stayed in our respective countries, this would have been a no brainer: we would have kept our jobs, got on maternity leave after getting the babies out of our wombs and got right back behind our desks after experimenting with breastfeeding for a couple of months. Chop, chop and chop. No drama (hypothetically), no forced self-introspection.
Instead, we are trying to play the American game of self-reinvention; some with better success than others. Some are trying to figure out how to act American i.e. instead of saying that ‘you are jobless’, you say ‘I am exploring different opportunities’. Most of us are now looking into things or careers we never dared dreaming about. Inchallah! I have always been amazed about how Americans proudly use words like: ‘reinvention’, ‘in transition’, ‘in between this and that’ , ‘exploring’ etc. It really opened my eyes. Where I am from, you are often ashamed of life changes or so called soul searching. People around you get uncomfortable. They are concerned that you may have lost your way. They sometimes suggest that you see a therapist or swallow anti-depressants to get you back on the horse…Forget the ‘caterpillar-butterfly’ metamorphosis metaphor, I sometimes feel that over here it’s more like friggin’Mystique from the Marvel comics world!
I concluded as I was paying my bill that I was pretty happy to be a confused mom in New York. Every day I wander across the buzzy avenues of Manhattan and through the limbo that is my soul in search for my next incarnation. But I know damn well that there are maybe about 8 million of other lunatics doing just exactly the same fucking thing. I also looked at P, who fell asleep in the restaurant and wondered how many future versions of this mademoiselle will make my head spin and my blood boil 🙂
Random: bumped into the gorgeous Tawny Cypress while leaving the restaurant. Her beauty left me speechless. I was mesmerized by her but snapped back to reality when I heard her squeal ‘Oh my god!‘, turned around and saw P standing next to building workers throwing big wooden poles on the ground…Bad parenting. #dorkymama.
NB: this was my version of ‘today we are all New Yorkers’ on this 9/11…