This year has started sweet and sour. But that is exactly why it is already exciting.
In the first weeks of 2016, David Bowie and Alan Rickman left us leaving this world with an ounce less of inspiration.
DH’s grandma L. also followed her husband J., who passed away a month or so ago, leaving this world with an ounce less of devoted love. Throughout the last twenty years since I met DH, I wondered so many times how two individuals could have possibly been living apart for a total of 48hours in their entire 75 years of life together. How could they possibly do so and still love each other? The final flight of these two lovebirds put an end to all questions I had. I guess.
My relationships in New York have recently morphed into something very comforting . When living in London, I was young and malleable and basically living with my college crew or look alikes. Things were easy: we laughed at the same jokes, studied the same stuff, had similar dreams and were the only family we had around.
Then we moved. I got preggers. I now have a family with little ones whom I am trying to learn to know. Tantrum after tantrum, cuddle after cuddle, mishap after mishap. Therefore more than ever I need some grown ups behind and by me. People with whom silence is no longer uncomfortable and this, my friends, takes a fucking long time to build. It takes even longer when you are dealing with a panoply of mismatched individuals: Harlem families, child free gay couples, grandma substitutes, and single and killing it girlfriends and so on.
And then gradually, slowly, and at times awkwardly these people who have nothing to do with each other become your life support. A family who drove mid-November to a House of horrors in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills to celebrate your and DH’s 20 years of life together. A family who heard en route that Paris was under terrorist attacks. Every minute we were on this road, the number of dead people was soaring. And your celebration does no longer have any sense. It would have become absolutely meaningless if it were not for those faces facing you, trying to pause for a moment their thoughts of Paris to smile and eat your dry and overcooked cassoulet.
These same people turned up to unwrap jewelry after their kids’ morning school drop and before going to work to help me open my holiday pop up boutique and before I had a nervous meltdown due to the now infamously known as ‘where the fuck are all the chokers?’ freak out.
And that is why 2016 is of course about stepping it up with my fashion boutique Another Garde , of course keeping on discovering who my children are but it will also be a year deepening friendships in this city that is finally no longer ‘my new city’ but ‘home’.
People around me started to make babies again moving to number 2, 3 or 5 (!!!). I have stayed away from babies for a couple of years now because of the trauma of my back to back pregnancies. I was that one mom circling around you always with a glass of champagne in the hand so she would not be asked to carry or cuddle your newborn earning the moniker of the ‘why is she ALWAYS dancing?’ Mom. I have recently chilled out and now I am back to embracing all these new cute babies around me…DH’s recent vasectomy has also helped a lot 🙂 mouaaaaa
And finally L. is talking in a way that I can understand. During the Jonas blizzard, he said ‘it’s a snowstorm.’ Not ‘snow’ or ‘white’ but a clear ‘it s a snowstorm’. Welcome talking L.; papa and I cannot wait to hear more about you.
We always have busy week ends because staying in the house is barely an option with 3 hyper active tots and 1 ‘cannot stay inside’ husband. There is this underlying fear that if we don’t do anything we may really kill each other. It is a little bit like a retired couple whose kids are off to college and start crazy bunny booking all these AirBnB places all over the world to avoid getting a divorce.
‘Me on my own’ weekends would look like this: sweatpants, slippers, comfort food, TV shows marathon (I would watch anything, absolutely anything… I once got addicted to a girly teen show titled ‘Make It of Break It’, I am such a LOSER), wine, and planning (but failing) to wax.
But this weekend, we actually had no plans. Absolutely none. Or so I thought…
Saturday: Black is Beautiful.
Breakfast and lunch: no recollection of what we ate. We are now eating all together at week ends and to be honest it looks more like: kids drop-eating, mama swallow-eating and papa scream-eating. People write books and articles about French families taking their time to eat together while calmly talking about Ebola or Bernard Henry Levy…yeah right, not fucking happening in my house.
Time I took my shower: 1pm; which is so ghetto since we did actually have something we had to go to. How could I forget about P’s first class play date??? Some parents had organized a gathering in Central Park to get to know each other outside the stressful morning school drop also known as ‘please don’t talk to me cause I haven’t brushed my teeth yet’ awkward morning meeting.
It was great to see all the kiddos play together and actually see that P knew their names. It is impossible to have any idea of what is happening at school because every question we ask my ‘usually cannot shut her mouth’ daughter is answered by a ‘No’:
‘Do you have friends? No.
Did you enjoy your soccer class? No
Did you play soccer? No.
What songs did you learn? No.’
It got so bad that I seriously started to think that the whole school, after school and extra curricular activities were a big Ponzi scheme because:
‘What do you in school then? Sleep, go to the restrooms and eat.’ Okayyyyy then…..
The plot thickened when many parents shared similar intel. Everyone laughed it out ‘Ha ha these kids are nuts’ but I could feel it, I could see it…Some of us were getting the Carrie Mathison crazy/million of thoughts look ‘Oh my god, what if it was not a school but a cult?’ Mouaaaaa.
After running 20 blocks after my kids on their scooters, I looked at DH and silently implored ‘let’s get a beer at our local’. Two hours later, we are barging with 3 tots wearing scooter helmets into the anniversary of Bebe noir, a clothing retail store, where African beats are blasting and gorgeous shop assistants are showing us their new collection. P is busting some devil moves on the dance floor, G is ransacking the clothing racks and stealing a blue nail varnish and L…well he has decided to peek into the fitting rooms…Initial high pitch screaming was then followed by a huge ‘Awwwwww’ followed by L finding firm breasts to rest his head on for the rest of the evening.
Let’s be clear here. I keep telling people that L is not as social as his siblings and very clingy with his mom. Obviously if you do look like Rihanna, he’ll pretend he has no mother nor father. Poor little orphan. Come to think about it, I should ditch his ass in this store each time I need to do grocery shopping on the other side of the road. I am SO doing this.
Can I also say that 3 little helmets running around women with long legs in high heels is very stressful??? I kept thinking: bowling, strike, …oh shit!!! I did have 2 pints of beer…I know.
Time we all went to bed: 11pm
Sunday: Nikita, I will never be.
DH got a nasty bug so Black Ops today is Me on My Fucking Own. OK, he did set up a CIA assets bootcamp in our courtyard using all the tents, tunnels, outdoor tricks we have before signing off for the day…but still. It was a lonely, very lonely mission.
DRONES. EXPLOSION. NO EXTRACTION.
What did I do? I stared at my legs for a long time thinking shit like:
‘I will never buy again from H & M because the sweat pants I got last month were basically disintegrating in front of me (and last time I checked I do not have freaking invisible lazer beam mutant eyes!). ‘
‘How long will L keep this fake tattoo on his arm? It’s been 2 weeks. Freaking ridiculous.’
‘Who sings that song I have been obsessing about on Spotify? No, no, I cannot ask anyone about it because my taste in music is shitty at best. It is so embarrassing how shitty it is.’
‘I am addicted to Instagram.’
‘Why am I wearing Penelope’s Halloween golden tiara?’
‘I wonder what BP (Business Partner) is doing now in Joshua Tree Park?’
It got really scary when after an hour, I started to have the same thought popping back in an angrier mode like: ‘I am never fucking buying SHIT again from H &M!!!’
Yeah, could never be a spy. Would NEVER pass the solitary confinement test.
Oh also… time I took my shower: N/A.
Have a great week everyone!!!
Some random pics from my weekend…
‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’
Martin Luther King Jr.
Something that has been happening with G in the last few weeks got me thinking about self-identification and got me to revisit my own past struggle with my diverse identities. Basically (not) G thinks he is a black boy. And not in the cheesy Vanilla ice ice baby but as a boy with ebony skin and curly hair…My Manga faced boy sees himself as the 6th member of the Jacksons Five. Indeed, in all the books, IPad games, etc. if there is an illustration of a black boy, G points at the little boy and assertively claims: ‘it’s me, it’s G!!!‘ Every single time!
My initial reaction was: ‘Oh fuck, he is really really color blind’ (Note: he is struggling to identify primary colors). But as I started to study his big smile while proclaiming his ‘blackness’, I realized that his odd thinking was more complex and actually more beautiful than simple color blindness. The kid may flunk his public school ‘Gifted and Talented’ program entry test but he made me proud – a lot – in the last few weeks.
He reminded me that for a long time, I could never identify myself as Asian because I grew in a predominantly white neighborhood and thought I was just the same as my then fair skinned best friend Mariel. I remember studying for hours my face in the mirror of my parents’ old wardrobe and would not ‘see’ that my eyes were slanted, my hair was blacker and thicker than anyone else in my class (bar my sister), that I did not have any nose bridge (despite pulling my nose for an hour every night in bed and if you want details: yes it hurt and yes I felt stupid doing it…crazy girl) and that there were many reasons why my name could not be Stephanie or Adele. I would not ‘see’ but I knew I was different.
He reminded me that it took me almost 2 decades to reconcile my various cultural and ethnic identities and a lot of resilience to overcome the abuse from French kids calling me ‘Chinetoque’ (French racist slur for Chinese people) and from the Lao people calling me out for being a ‘banana‘ (no comment).
Because of all this, I wanted my kids to grow up in a place like Harlem so they can see and understand things such as:
– people of different colors besides your parents can fall in love and have kids together
– or white women are not necessarily the adoptive mothers of dark skinned children but can be the nannies paid by dark skinned parents
It became a kind of obsession to promote diversity in our family life; obsession obviously rooted in my own childhood insecurities.
But my kids seem to have taken their very own journey about their understanding and experience of race and class. G showed me something really new to me. He showed me that a boy with a caucasian dad and an Asian mom sees himself as a proud and happy black boy. And I will blast anyone who try to correct him and force him into boxes. I will blast them – Manga style.
What do you see when you look yourself in the mirror?
PS: meanwhile my daughter P is adamant she lives in the ‘Park’, I am at loss about what she means by this…I shall investigate and report to you soon 🙂
Very strange weather. Last week I was boasting about New York’s Indian Summer to all my European mates and this week is a mix bag of rain, thunderstorms and tornados alerts, Fall breeze, hot and sunny afternoons etc… As the French say, ‘c’est n’importe quoi!’ (It’s anything…and everything). So I decided to just mix Summer and Fall:
– my favorite summer jumpsuit from United Colors of Benetton. It is as comfy as pajamas. And it has helped me a lot to hide my bump in the early days of my pregnancy with L, after I gave birth to L and …now. Yep, it is kind of the same bump, and it looks like it is here to stay, the kids even named it. They call it ‘LE BEBE’ (the baby)…
– my mint pumps from Nine West
– a scarf by Day Birger et Mikkelsen
– and my most precious item of clothing: a trench coat from Louis (Vuitton) that I literally snatched away from some skinny gal during a sample sale (back when my cousin was working for LVMH). I am not proud.
Every fashionista has read at least one article or two about French women’s (supposed) natural and effortless chic. My little brain went French woman + scarf + trench coat = BINGO. Except that how effortless chic can you really be when you can no longer freaking close the trench coat???? Oh well…
On a side note, I met up for a coffee with Lou, a childhood friend from France, who was visiting New York with her hubby. We haven’t seen each other in about 18 years and it is was shocking how easy it was to just pick up the conversation and run with it. Great feeling. It was also funny to talk to someone who knew you as a child and as a teenager but then missed your adult years because they say things like:
–‘It’s hilarious because I would not have pictured you with a husband and 3 babies. You were so adamant about not getting hooked up with anyone, so independent!
-‘Back then you already seemed rather unaffected by shitty stuff that would happen around you, like floating above the crap.’
I guess I did change but not so much 🙂
When I woke up this morning, I really felt like I had drunk 5 cosmos, smoked 20 fags and as if a body snatcher was crawling out of my limbs pulling away my bladder with its teeth… I was feeling old, basically. And then G stood in front of me wearing only his underwear, exposed, and shouted with gusto with his arms wide open: ‘Mama, I am perfect!’ . Could this just be the Botox cocktail I really needed?
To be honest, I did not know how to react to my son’s proclamation of self-love. My first thought was: ‘where did he get this from? We never use the word ‘perfect’ in this household…’ And it was quite a sobering epiphany. Where I grew up, perfection simply can never be attained. Is it because French education breeds generations of analytical, self-aware but pessimist, overly critical and eventually gloomy adults, as suggests Patricia Druckerman, author of Bringing up Bebe, in this article for Vanity Fair.fr (sorry this one is in French only)?
I, indeed, remembered 2 instances in high school when the goody two shoes girl I used to be thought : ‘what the fuck?’ My history teacher’s preferred saying used to irrate me. He was gloating every single freaking time he said it: ‘18 is the grade the best student deserves, 19 is the teacher’s grade and 20/20, well …is God‘. It was not even a catholic school so you’ll understand my confusion there. And then my English teacher, while giving me back my very final high school exam paper, said with deep regret: ‘Pfff….I do feel bad that I have never managed to give you a 20/20 in the 3 years that I have taught you…‘. She have me a 19.75 !!! How absurd was it? To this day, I am still not sure what I was supposed to take away from this off the cuff remark.
But perhaps it was not my education but it was my ‘Battle Royale’ like home. For those who have never watch this Japanese cult movie, here’s the synopsis: ‘A group of ninth-grade students from a Japanese high school have been forced by legislation to compete and kill each other in a Battle Royale‘… Of course, I am not sure there was ever a winner in my home because it seemed we were never good enough anyway. Lao style. You would say something that really makes you proud and my mom would snap out of her daydreaming and would say: ‘I think my larb (Lao meat salad) has too much fish sauce in it‘. What the fuck ???? Congratulations, compliments, and nice words in general are NOT in my family DNA. In fact, something really weird happened this week. We were on a Skype session with my mom and P was talking to her and suddenly my mom blurted out: ‘I love you P’. I think my ears must have blocked it out. But DH later said: ‘did you her what your mom said? That was touching, right? I mean, has she ever told you that she loved you?’ I laughed: ‘Nope. Are you mad? What do you think?’
Don’t get me wrong, DH and I are all about positive reinforcement or should I say positive realignment (yeah, his family can be as fucked up as mine) and we make sure to value our kids’ good deeds and successes. But I realized on second thought that what G said this morning put the light onto something else. It was not about me saying that he was good, it was about him having the balls and candor to say ‘I am perfect’. When was the last time you heard a grown up say something that ballsy about themselves? And say it in an unapologetical way , without caveats or a ‘hahaha I was kidding’ afterwards? Fuck that. Maybe that is why I feel so old. Maybe it’s not the wrinkles or the extra fat or the yellowing teeth. Maybe it’s the audacity for self-appreciation that is missing. So to finish off my very tiring and stressful week I am going to play G’s game and be ballsy myself. Here’s my ‘I am’ list:
I am very funny.
I am resourceful.
I am kind.
I am real.
What’s your list?
And here’s little G in all his ‘perfection’ 🙂
a large American wild cat with a plain tawny to grayish coat, found from Canada to Patagonia.
- informal, an older woman seeking a sexual relationship with a younger man.
As Jules and I were giggling contemplating the state of our messy lives, our DHs looked on, shook their heads, smiled (almost lovingly) and cooly went back to their pool game. No judgment.
I may never be and look like a cougar and will always be a silly dork but I guess, my salt and pepper haired man does not seem to care much about it. And it is just fine by me.