Mood of the day: oh Boy!

I feel like I am dropping the ball a lot these days. I am sprinting in thousands of direction without knowing if I am ever going to cross ‘The’ let alone a line. Future will tell.

I have reached out recently to many old girlfriends from my London era whom I haven’t talked to in a long, long time for a project I am working on. And Oh boy, it felt good and rather emotional. Thank god for skype: I saw tired but happy women, excited new moms, serene matriarchs, beauty all around.

This whole experience made me jump back to a time and a style I used to sport on a regular basis pre mommy’s curves: the cheap Tomboy.

So, this morning I felt like wearing:
– a plaid shirt with gold studs embellishment, found for $20 in my new digging haven The beacon’s closet, a vintage/sell/exchange clothing shop by the famous Parsons Fashion School meaning that the choice is probably more adventurous than in traditional vintage stores, yeah!!!
– Old Navy boyfriend jeans I recently bought because I needed more jeans but I cannot fathom spending too much on this body that can’t be my final iteration right??? Hmmm ,I am going to have to come to terms about these new curves….perhaps…eventually.
– a stolen battered leather men’s belt previously owned by a then skinny jock stud college boyfriend, now a buff stud daddy aka DH. Somehow, I feel I am going to regret saying to the world that I am wearing my husband’s belt…Women wearing their men’ s shirts = sexy, women wearing their men’s belts = ????!!!! Yeah let’s move on for now to the next accessory
– Converse sneakers (bought 10 years ago near Tottenham Court Road in London)
– and a pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs wayfarer sunnies borrowed from little sis

London ladies, this is a shout for you: I love you, you are an inspiration! And it’s finally fucking SPRING in New York City so I am going to enjoyit  until it gets blazing hot and the deafening sound of AC units around the City gives me a pounding headache …in about 2 weeks time.

On a total random note: I dated a very handsome dude way back, who was kind of an ass to me, while being on a break with DB (Dear Boyfriend, young DH). By coincidence I saw how he looks now,20 years later, and DH is way hotter. It is bad but I felt quite smug about it 🙂 Shush don’t tell anyone…






Letter to 10 year-old redlipstickgirl

Here’s the second installment of my ‘Letter to redlipstickgirl’ series (you can read the first letter here) which is me talking to my younger self. A tad indulgent, I know but so much fun to revisit my childhood memories. This post was triggered by my daughter, P.

P has a bag for her ‘stuff’. Her stuff is things she takes everywhere and preciously keeps away from her thief brothers. She puts her bag by her bed when she goes to sleep, hangs it on the bathroom’s door knob when when she goes for a pee, or hides it under the stroller when out and about. I do empathize with her pathological need to have her very own possessions. You get like this when you have close in age siblings. I myself still get irrationally territorial with things like hair and shoes. I don’t like it when my sisters cut their hair short because it is my thing; I am the one with the short crop and with the sole right to look like a Thai ladyboy when not wearing any makeup. And I don’t like to lend my shoes; my bras, panties, jeans are all green lighted items but my shoes are a NO-NO. Luckily for me I have big feet for my height which not only allows me to keep my balance when tipsy but also prevents sisters who shop in the children shoe section from borrowing my leather boots.

Anyway, the contents of P’s bag vary with some regulars like lip balms. But mainly her stuff according to her is divided into things she needs now and things she keeps for when she is older (‘pour quand je serai grande’). I do oversee what is in her ‘Older P’ bag partly because I am worried about what message I convey to her about women and partly because I don’t trust her to wait to consume… I  thus said yes to candies and perfume but said No to red lipstick and chewing gums. I wonder whether I have the right attitude about all this and should instead let her construct her own views of her adult self. One thing I know is that I would like to say less often things like ‘You’ll have this or be allowed to do that when you grow up’. The more I have been saying it and the less this actually makes sense. I am still pondering about why it feels off and will resume this train of thoughts in a later post.

Meanwhile P’s bag inspired me to write this letter about the things I cherished.

Dear redlipstickgirl,

you got very upset last Christmas when a mistake in the Christmas catalogue order landed you with not a Chrystal Barbie doll but a pink bathtub. You are pissed off that your parents would not buy a doll to make up for their mistake. They say that you have used up your Christmas gift allowance. You are embarrassed when the school organizes ‘bring your Christmas gift’ play sessions. Your classmates all ‘mate with each other’ through their brand new Kens and Barbies. And you are standing there like an idiot with your stupid pink bathtub and no doll wants to take a bath. At least you have something to show off unlike your classmate S. who doesn’t have shit because her folks did not celebrate Christmas. You then get mad at your teacher; this post Christmas play session is such a moronic idea.

Well, young lady, let me tell you that the bathtub story will make many people laugh to tears during dinner parties in your adulthood. You will keep laughing about it, in fact. I have forgotten all the dolls I ever had but never forgot the bathtub that I have kept for many years to come. Because eventually Barbies do need a bath. Always. Besides you will use  one day the metaphor of the bathtub to define yourself and write: ‘Like a Mattel bathtub, I am not the shiniest toy in town but I am reliable, sturdy and I matter’. Hope this can be a consolation to you.

Another thing that you are treasuring but will keep it a secret is your illustrated dictionary for children. You often have it by your side. Your dad is proud; he tells everyone that you are a smart one and that the only things that interest you are books. You do like words but I know the main reason you like your dictionary is how polyvalent it is. It can be a bed, a minivan, a screen for your Barbie doll (that you will end up having the year after the bathtub fiasco) to change clothes etc. The pages illustrating different landscapes or rooms in a house are limitless decor sets for your Barbie. It only costs $3 and can be easily stored on your desk.

You have no idea how your dictionary is inspiring to me these days when I start wondering if I should buy any toys for my kids. See, I almost never buy them anything because they get pretty spoiled by other people. Sometimes I feel a tad guilty about it but remembering you play pretend to fry eggs in front of page 54 (aka the page on the kitchen appliances and utensils) helps me hold a firm stance on this.

There is also this other thing that you stole from a mall during your ‘I am such a rebel little thing’ period: a box of colored plastic elastic bands. You don’t even know why you stole it: for the trill, because you liked the colors, because it was so unneeded that you really had to have it. Not sure but it became your  the reminder that you could be a badass delinquent from La Banlieue but chose not to. The truth is that a month after your elastic bands theft, you will get caught by security guards trying to steal oversized bras and baby socks…  This episode will cure your kleptomania for life. Yep, the security guards will hardly have the time to scold you because they will have to reanimate your mom with salts. She will faint and drop on the floor like a dead fly. She will not believe her own eyes that her goody two-shoes girl is a thief…Yep treasure your cheap elastic bands because they are the last thing you will ever steal.



NB: you will actually steal something else in your 20s: beer glasses from English pubs. Not very classy. If you can try to control yourself, it would be nice. They are really a pain in the ass to pack and move from a city to another.

P and her bag


Activist mama: Justify myself, no more

Most IQ tests would probably conclude that I am an idiot. And I am not even going to fight this.

When people ask me what I do, many expect one of these two straightforward answers: I am a stay at home mom or I am a working mom. I never really managed to choose which box was the most relevant to me, let alone describe it. I am often tempted to respond: ‘Life is not in black or white but in a various shades of grey…’ Which probably would make look like
A- a wanker or
B- a failed motivational speaker or
C- a mythomaniac or very possibly,
D- all the above

Instead, I either answer ‘I am in transition/in between things’ (which can be translated into ‘don’t ask more questions or I will cry right now, right there? Do you want you me to blow my nose with your top? I don’t think so…) OR I list, in no coherent order, everything I think I do:

– I take care of my 3 kids from 6-9am

– I am coordinating a grassroots group of families in the neighborhood who want to give a free French English bilingual education to their children

– I order diapers online

– I do the laundry on a weekly basis

– I try to cook every day

– I am freelancing as a business coach for social entrepreneurs like these awesome change makers, MarioWay, who designed an upright wheelchair which I think can really change the way we perceive disability.

– I rant about me, myself and I and procrastinate aka I have a mommy’s blog (to read absolutely by the way in order to decide whether or not you should create a new contact entry after I gave you my phone number)

– I add 10 items in my Gap online store basket every day, only to empty it because I am too broke

– I am venturing into Fashion entrepreneurship ranging from the unlikely (Accessories design) to the most likely (Fashion e-retail)

– I organize parties where adults get drunk and kids bump each other’s head in a bouncy castle.

– I take care of L (for real) in the afternoons.

I also go through this list very quickly so that people get confused and focus instead on how cute they think my kids are.

It’s like when you have your first job interview after graduation and you transform your experience of helping your parents catering nems for Lao weddings into a full fledge ‘entrepreneurial experience’ or when you are using the same internship to cover 100 distinct sets of skills. Verbal diarrhea to fill gaps: it never fools anyone but you do it anyway.

The not earning money is getting really tough for me. I sometimes feel that in the world of today, a woman who pays someone to care for her children while not earning any revenue is seen as a freak. Someone told me few months ago: ‘Normal -as in not filthy rich- women these days either work or take care of their children. Paying child care is an oddity (real words said were ‘du Jamais vu’ , literal translation ‘you have never seen this’) if you don’t work’.

The economic logic of their statement seemed indeed flawless. I should probably have been angry; instead I was embarrassed and admitted: ‘Well I guess some of us can’t just do it. Maybe, I am not physically or emotionally equipped to care for my 3 kids. Maybe I am just limited’.

French women in particular are all expected to go back to work; many things help to ease back into the 9-6pm routine: free public school from age 3 (sometimes even earlier), decent maternity leave that gives you enough time with your Cherubs but not long enough to start have an postpartum existential crisis a la ‘Maybe I should make and sell hats. It seems pretty straightforward, NOT’. I am not at all saying that French women have it easy (far from it), I am just trying to put things into perspective; in the US or at least in the state of New York childcare is privately funded until kids are 5 (or 4 if you are lucky enough to get a public school pre-K spot). I calculated that the median full-time childcare for G,P and L in Manhattan would round up to about $70,000 a year. I should probably have given this person this figure but then again, it would be like trying to justify my choices and why should I do this?

In fact, the person I am truly angry at is myself. For not walking the talk. You see, in my previous life, I have advocated for making visible the contributions of women at home by translating them in economic outputs to inform public policies. I barked that society and governments should stop thinking that women (and men who take care of their home) are sources of unlimited free and altruistic labor who just pick up the shit when public spending is cut or when the cost of private child care or elder care spirals out of control. Yes, I used to say all this type of stuff before concluding that doing this would among other things at the very least improve women’s self-worth.

I realize now that it was all very easy to say when I was an educated childless income earner living the life in London. I do still hold this type of discourse during dinner conversations with friends (who after 5 minutes of my monologue must be wondering whether or not I have my periods) or when boosting another mama’s confidence when she feels fucking awful about not ‘contributing financially’.

But the truth is, the longer I am staying out of a paid job, the flakier my position is becoming. I laud stay-at-home moms but how cannot I be more proud of being one? I should. I really should. I don’t know. I feel like a two-faced b***h. Sometimes.

I don’t think ‘I am a stay-at-home mom’ are words that ever came out of my mouth while that is exactly what I was for a good 2 years and half. Maybe I should join a stay-at-home mom Anonymous group.

I am slowly getting OK about all this though. That’s why I can talk about it now. Guilt free. I made my peace, it’s OK for me to refuse to answer to ‘either or’ questions: ‘stay at home mom’, ‘working mom’, ‘part time mom’, ‘full-time bitch’. Whatever, we all have work to do, don’t we? I always sucked big time at Multiple Choice Testing anyway.
#soonenoughproudmama #powerofwomen

Mood of the day: Blah

I had a working session today with a Fashion entrepreneur/Fashion designer. I love meeting with creative people because they are often extremely good looking and being near them is like eating La Duree macarons while listening to Bach. They have an air about them, an halo: is it the fitted cashmere coat, the biweekly facials or the lighting of the places where we meet? Who knows but I often find myself longing after their freshly pressed silk blouses (90% of what I own has never been ironed) or the neat stitching of their cuffs: all evidence of wealth, savvy shopping or at the very least general good taste.

I am enchanted and inspired; their glow touches my face. When I get home, I want to eat Quinoa, I promise I shall remove my make up every day before going to bed to have better skin, and I am adamant about tidying up the book case in my living room which generally looks like trash compactor units piled on top of each other. I am so random, I know. But after 1 hour, I realize that I am truly starving because I had only a faro soup (which really was a broth with some spinach leaves and few faro grains) in a 5 hours meeting when really I wanted to order the burger. I thus end up sandwiching some cheese in between 2 home made cookies baked by Thor…That’s when I know the spell has been broken. Oh well.

Anyway, when I meet with fashion people I tend to be overly self-conscious about what I wear because I know that their professional eye and brain will notice and know everything about my outfit: how many times they saw me with the same pair of boots, what fabric my jacket is made of, which brand it is, etc. It gets worse when these people are women because I am a woman who loves to dress to impress women rather than men. I get stage fright. I thus decided today to play the ‘comfort’ card. If you cannot look nice, look like you are comfortable. People will always envy that 🙂

In the end the whole outfit was kind of meh: partly comfortable, kind of ‘unfinished’, a tad too safe..So bland that even an attempt of a Bowie inspired hair do failed to spice it up. I guess you can’t always get it right.

Cardigan from Joie, Gap body black dress, golden brooch found in a crazy Antiques barn in Barryville (I pinned it on simple canvas tote bag), a golden belt, a faux fur russian hat which ended up not working out (either the hat got smaller -unlikely – or my head got bigger -worrisome) and Celine boots.






Love letter to New York #1: West Chelsea

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have never shined away from professing my love of this city. This series just makes it official 🙂

After a rather traumatic return from the twins’ first dental visits, and two hours of non stop tantrums today I was…Well, let’s say that even a glass of red wine could not take the edge away. But as I lay in my bed and everyone around me is snoring, I remember that when things get tough, it always helps to think about someone you love.

Tonight I am thinking about our walk through West Chelsea last Saturday where beauty and ins/aspiration elevated me. Art galleries and design showrooms cannot stop mushrooming in this area. We lived right in the heart of this hood…that is until G & P started to crawl and our 650sft apartment by the Highline thus became a bonafide nursery.

I love the warehouses, the cobble streets, the brick walls, how street art coexist with expensive sculptures or furniture…and I love imagining what the hidden lofts in these old buildings could look like. What do people hang on their walls when they have so much beauty at the bottom of their stairs? Do they sleep in silk sheets on the floor with just a gigantic glass chandelier floating above them or some shit like this?

Anyway, I got glued by the windows of Beyond 7, a retail store for a designer showroom. Dummies were decorated with hundreds of brooches, pearls, ornaments, you name it. Insanely quirky, insanely stunning. I managed to snatch a couple of shots but a real visit to this place is now on my ‘to do in New York before I die’ list.

A gallery owner then invited us 5, our 2 dirty strollers, our scrappy outfits and dirty faces (runny noses have lately become our middle names) to come inside and check out paintings by French Artist Laina Hadengue including a beautiful Frida Khalo inspired piece. I am grateful that this sophisticated lady showed us around so that our kids could see Art. And I am grateful about how she gently smiled when they eventually begged to go to the park. Unbeknownst to her, she made DH and I feel like humans again, humans who can appreciate air light brush strokes or ingenious collages. Without any prejudice.

5 minutes later, our 3 kids literally spent 2 hours throwing blocks of ice into the Hudson River while P had to pee against a tree and wipe her bum against her dad’s trousers 🙂 Days like these make me feel complete; that’s what I need to think of as I am nursing my left wrist that P scratched earlier today (it actually really hurts!) and as L is waking up just now to interrupt my middle of the night blogging/therapy…







Pet peeves

My week has been an odd mix of work related meetings, a boozy dinner with my hot mama girlfriends (which I am still struggling to recover from), a delightful visit from a friend whom I last saw at my wedding 10 years ago and the sad realization that I have become the latest war hatchet between my sons. Their daily fights have been pretty much as described below:

G: she is my mama
L is scratching G’s face.
G: go away she is mine !
L is strangling me to prove that I am his property
G: Stop!!! And whacks L’s head out
Me? In my head, I am singing the opening verse of that Whitney Houston song that says:
‘I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside’ bla blabla

Weird week, one minute I was all pumped up by my girlfriends (after 2 bottles of red wine) and very ready to conquer the world or at least Corporate America and the next minute, I am stomping my feet on my bathroom floor almost crying and thinking of cutting out my belly fat. I have been on a healthier diet for 10 days but actually gained 5lbs! It’s probably all the binge eating during the President’s Day week end. 4 toddler play dates in 3 days explain the amount of comfort food. (Note: as I am writing this ranting post on my iPhone with my left hand, my right hand is stuffing my mouth with Lao Larb gai. Redlipstickmama style).

I also haven’t written all week and I missed it a lot. It has really become my safe haven. However, today the only thing that I want to talk about is the stuff that has been getting under my skin lately. Nothing death threatening or serious, just stuff that bothered me and that for some reason still bothers me when I think of it. I am being very childish about them and often rant on my own, in my own head so I thought it might be a sane thing to share these and get it over with. Here’s my top 4 pet peeves (this week). I tried to go for a more ‘Top something’ number like my ‘Top 5′ but I could not find a fifth one; my life must be way nicer than I thought. Anyway, here’s the list:

– parents who dress their babies and tots with College Tshirts (Harvard, Yale, Princeton of course…). I mean, of course you should be proud of attending such prestigious institutions but actually labeling your child like this? It really bothers me. I mean, C’mon the poor thing still poops in diapers and probably thinks that their mobile is actually an entire fucking solar system. What if the kid is a drop out, will they look at the onesie and think:’yeah I did my old folks proud’? It actually got worse. The other day I saw a tot wearing a tee shirt saying ‘Palo Alto’…Seriously.

– finding crap in my shoes. When I leave my apartment (and my kids behind), there’s something resembling a breeze of fresh air that seems to be going through my entire body. I am so giddy to get time on my own and then bang my toes touch something unorthodox and I go absolutely nuts. I really do because I have to remove my foot, often clean my sock, and start an in-depth search for what is now bloody delaying my freedom! I have previously found: lip balms, grapes, chocolate chip cookies, banana, wooden toys, baby socks, a baby boot, used facial tissues and my absolute favorite, DH’s underwear.

– dog owners who don’t pick up their dogs’ poop because it has snowed. What is wrong with people? Snow is NOT magic powder making shit disappear, transforming Harlem into Lapland and turning my organic butcher into freaking Santa Claus (his tenderloin is still pricey). Poop is everywhere. So here I am taking my kids out after the snow storm and they are understandably frantic after being stuck inside for so long. They run towards pristine hills of fresh snow until they actually choke from my pulling them away by their hoods just before they dive into a pile of poop. Them being dirty is one thing but L actually eats and licks snow and ice from the street behind my back. Ewww.

– L grabbing my boobs. It has never been cute for me but now it is infuriating. It is non stop, night and day, 100 hundred times a day. He tries and tries to get his hands into my bra and I really refrain hard from screaming:‘these are my boobs! I let you borrow them for a while when you needed food but it is OVER now’. He is getting bolder too…More recently, he has been caught several times trying to get his foot into my panties. I have a very strong sense of ‘my body is mine’ and this little boy is pushing me right now. I caught myself looking at him sideways this week wondering if I should really worry about him but then, I saw him licking cookie crumbs off the floor and concluded that he probably had not yet understood that he was not a little puppy and that my name was not Lassie.

Anything that really annoys you these days?

Some pics from White Central Park and me rolling down a slope (and hurting my neck…a little)









The big D

We have reached the tipping point with our kids. The three of them have always been full of energy and attitude. And for a while, I must admit, DH and I had got some pride (or at the very least very hearty laughs) out from the borderline psychopathic stuff they come up with. For example:

– Two weeks ago, it was pitch dark outside in the woods while we stayed at our friends’ house in Vermont and P. stood in the middle of the night facing the the double door windows in silence. I kept calling her and she would not turn back to face me. It was unnerving, worse than the whole ‘Josh, Josh’ scenes in the Blair Witch Project. I started to to freak out big time (I believe in ghosts, there you go, I am really out in every way now on this blog) so she eventually slowly turned around with a death stare and showed her teeth a la Shining’s Jack Nicholson. I almost peed in my pants from both fear and laughter.

– At this week’s music class, the teacher did a ‘let’s imagine animals’ version of the ‘Old MacDonald had a farm song’ and asked each child to describe animals, what they’re like and what noises they make etc. When most kids came up with straight answers: ‘pink pig’, ‘grey cat’, ‘rabbit with short ears’, G’s answer (while showing his teeth jaws): ‘a big Papa Lion who eats a pig…’
P-S-Y-C-H-O. And here I was half grinning and half wondering whether I should lock my bedroom door at night time.

– At the last birthday party we attended, after L exited the party and slammed the door to lock all of us inside, one of the guests told me: ‘I assume he is one of yours too, the dudes with an attitude…’ The same guest had previously been shocked by a P shushing me down by saying: ‘shushhh Mom! If you keep talking I am not going to be very, very, very happy’ and a G running after people pretending to be a maniac crocodile.

So yeah up to now, we have been fairly lenient with the three of them because they have spunk and are funny. Except that recently their spunk has turned into insolence, aggressiveness and pure disregard for any rules. And it is no longer funny, even with a twisted dark sense of humor. G especially started to spit in our faces, bite like a stray dog, kick like a Tekken character and throw wooden toys, food, diapers, sound system speakers, shoes, etc. on the floor on a lucky day or on his siblings’ heads on an inspired day. I am getting very concerned by this primal behavior, especially after I caught him chewing a chicken bone under the dining table. Granted I myself eat cartilages and chew bones (I am Lao, it is what some of us just do hahaha) but NEVER under a table. C’mon now.

Anyway, the time for discipline with a big D has come. We have used in the past diverse strategies to discipline them or, should I say american style, reinforce positive behavior but these tricks are no longer working. Time out became a joke; they started to take the piss and time each other out on a regular basis as a game. We threatened to throw away their toys but now they happily do it themselves as to say: ‘We are not materialistic brats, we don’t give a shit’ as if…We tried the rewarding system with good points and stickers but they (and us parents too) got over it. So what was left? Empty hysterical and colorful threats delivered at the top of our lungs such as ‘Je te jure si tu n’arretes pas, je t’arrache les cheveux jusqu’a ce que tu ressembles a un bonze’ (I swear if you don’t stop, I will pull your hair until you look like a monk) or ‘Si tu continues a me frapper, je me casse pour toujours dans une ile deserte’ (‘If you keep hitting me, I am walking the hell out of the door for ever to live on a desert island).

We thus started something bold and painful to discipline our kids: discipline ourselves. So that’s how this house is going to be run from now on.

– No more ‘1,2,3, 3 and half..ok I’ll count until 5 and if you don’t stop I will not give you milk (my kids’ Achilles’ heel) before bedtime! OK, then this time you can have it but next time, beware’. It is now 1,2,3 no milk even if you turn blue, scream for murder, kick my breasts or tell me that you love me.

– No more ‘let’s get the bouncy castle out, kiddos’ at any occasion. I mean, we bought something to help us through this tough winter and they love it so much that it could have become our most prized bargaining chip but what did we do? We fucking ruined it by setting it out without being asked to because DH and I are moronic retarded pre-schoolers! Now they will have to earn the BC.

– No more screen time. No, we can’t do this. It is like suicide bombing myself.

– No more… Actually we have nothing else. Any ideas? We are desperate.

Kids messing around

Mood of the day: vintage

There is ice and iced water everywhere in Harlem. On Wednesday, DH came back 5 minutes after leaving the house and said: ‘I cannot take L to the day care, it’s like a freaking ice rink out there’. So I had to do a work video conference call with Europe while L was smashing everything in the background and I had to throw breakfast food to L & P while they were watching TV. At this point, it is not multi-tasking. It is insanity.

Yesterday I had to push L’s stroller over mountains of icy snow; the poor chap felt like riding a Winterland roller coaster. Some people were looking at me ready to call Child Protection Services and I was like:‘I am SO going over this block of ice, I am. Watch me’. I am so sick of the snow, I am so OVER it. 

Today to cheer me up, I took out from my ‘magic’ box, aka my accessories drawer, 2 things I love to complement a GAP little black dress and my MK rainboots:

– a feather ornament I made with 2 shoulder pads cut out from a 192os flapper dress and an old sparkling brooch. The pads used to belong this woman whose grandmother was a tap dancer and I got them for $10 via Ebay. Just love the idea of having the spirit of a dancer watching over me 🙂 I bet she kicked ass too.

– a golden thin stretch belt with a lion’s head as a clasp found in a stall at an Harlem flee market for $20. Snow: I am ROARING at you roaaaaaarrrrrrrrr






Sara Goldfarb: [about her pills] Purple in the morning, blue in the afternoon, orange in the evening.
There’s my three meals, Mr. Smartypants. And green at night. Just like that.
One, two, three, four.

Requiem for a dream (2000)

[Preliminary note: this post contains themes much heavier than my usual stuff such as drugs, alcohol, gambling shit]

We just got back from a 5-day trip to Vermont and yesterday at 8pm was the first time in the last week or so that I have found myself on my own, truly. Nothing frivolous, it was just me on my way to grocery shopping. But just as I was going to exit my building, I sat down in the cold lobby and felt …bummed out. I was feeling down and had been feeling this way for a couple of days. Because Philip Seymour Hoffman died.

I feel stupid and crazy just saying it out loud. And if I am being perfectly honest, it is just not that he died that makes me sad. It is not just because I will no longer have the joy of watching his immense talent. It is just not because, in a completely silly way, I felt connected to him, having seen him many times with his young son by his side cheering ‘in unison with me’ the ups and downs of our team, the Knicks. Every time his debonair face was shown by the Madison Square Garden production crew, I would squeal like a mad fan. I was also always surprised by how the Garden’s crowd, who usually cheered comedians like Chris Rock and simply ignored non-TV peeps, would actually give a very warm welcome to this character actor. I guess it is what real talent does: it breaks barriers. So, as I was saying, I was not only sad because he died but also because of how he died: an alleged overdose. His death is yet another proof that addiction often wins out.

Addiction pisses me off, uneases me and pains me. It pisses me off when DH stops listening to me while playing Angry Freaking Bird or Candy crush snubs me. It uneases me when some of my loved ones take prescription drugs unsupervised to ‘take the edge off’. And it pains me because deep inside I am terrified that I was born to be an addict.

I always felt blessed that I never touched hard drugs when I was presented with it. I mean, I am still dabbling with a smoking addiction for Heaven’s sake. Indeed, in the last 14 years I relapsed twice for a couple of years each time. People are bewildered by the fact that I can go through 7 or 8 years without one fag, just to fuck it up one evening after a little too much alcohol and a little too much fun. It’s always the same story: a flickering lighter, a few inhalations and the self conviction that ‘it’s no big deal, I have kicked this one before’. The sad truth is that I have never kicked out the dependency but rather let it sleep…every now and then.

In College, I saw cocaine, ecstasy, acid, a lot of shit passing through. I always refused to try any of it, claiming that my anal retentive persona could never let myself go entirely anyway so what was the point? But truth to be told, a part of me was scared shitless about what addiction to this crap could do to me. I could not even handle booze. I once woke up in an unknown apartment, age 20, covered in my own puke after 1 year of what I now know was college binge drinking but was back then called ‘having fun’. I woke up, I stole a T-shirt, and threw my top in a street trash can and walked home, my brain about to explode, and bawling my eyes out. I almost fucking killed myself in my own puke. What the fuck? Unbelievable. And for what? NEVER again. As I watched people walking to work and looking suspiciously at my disheveled self, I remember thinking: ‘I should really know better’.

Indeed, I have seen my mom, a reformed pathological gambler, feeling invincible while being possessed by the thrill of losing or gaining it all. And it looked very ugly. I have seen an intelligent woman incapable of making any (let alone the right) decision for herself or her family. Her feverish eyes and mad giggling when touching a stack of cards have scarred me to life. And I was (and probably still am) convinced that addiction, that feverish look and mad giggling, was/is in my DNA, in waiting to be unleashed. It is paranoia probably but maybe not.

Casinos for example freak the hell out of me. When people hear laughter, the clinking of cocktail glasses, the whispers and sighs after  the roulette stops, I hear my parents screaming at each other about the mortgage not being paid, the chatter of women cooking non stop in our kitchen to feed the gamblers, drunks dancing on music from a badly tuned sound system and the muffled cheesy ballads from the headphones my sis was always wearing to cover the noise. However, despite all this, the few times I have been dealt some cards or given some coins for slot machines I become absolutely frantic. I can feel the surge in my veins. I just want more of everything.

That is why I try to stay the hell away from temptations. Full stop. And I feel I am OK, I am on top of this. But when stories about some guy who died relapsing after decades of being clean emerge, it fucks me up big time. And I get scared about addiction in general. And I am also so angry. Especially when that dude was one of the greatest. In his Time obituary Aaron Sorkin, a recovering drug addict, wrote about PSH: I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant that our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean’. 

I hope so.

R.I.P Philip Seymour Hoffman – Photo Credit: Victoria Will/Invision/AP.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

The (little) girl next door

‘Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading
But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like
Wouldn’t you
What it feels like for a girl’

Since I started redlipstickmama, there is something I managed to do rather well: not censuring myself. And this for many reasons:
– freedom of thought helps my writing. I spent the last 10 years of my career getting my words edited with a red pencil, or with CAPS or worst with shrewd cutting out of entire paragraphs. And although it was very often deserved (tendency to ramble is second nature to me), it always crippled me a little.
– commitment to authenticity is key to my own sanity and to the enjoyment (I hope) of my 300 or so readers (note: I look like I am bragging but considering 2/3 are friends and family…)

Anyway, there is one subject that I have started to write about and kept deleting over and over again: my own daughter. It all started innocently enough. I was looking at my Facebook page insights and noticed how my blog posts about my boy G. are usually quite popular. I then realized with sheer horror that I to date have written at least 2 blog posts about him and 0 about my daughter, P.

DH and I are obsessed about fairness when it comes to raising our kids. DH, because it is one of the things his folks did very well -always giving equivalent time, money, gifts etc. to him and his sisters – and Me, because it is one of the things my folks fucked up big time. It is popular knowledge in my family that one out of us 5 got more financial support, or more praise, or more demands, more criticisms from my mom and my dad. Thank god, it was not always the same kid who got it all. It’s a miracle the 5 of us actually love each other 🙂

Indeed, when I started my blog, one of my goals was to document our family life. I hoped that my kids one day will read all my entries when the time for them comes to forgive me for the obnoxious way I proclaim that ‘I know them better than they know themselves’ or when they start criticizing my style and maybe understand that back then I had no time nor the inclination to comb my hair or  wear anything but sweat pants.  And we all know that old habits die hard, right? I especially hope that they will read the blog when it is time to decide which retirement home they will put us in when we loose our brain and can no longer make any decisions and read this: RESORT, GOLF, DANCE CLUB, FLO-RI-DA.

I felt horribly bad about not having written about P so I was adamant to amend this immediately. But then, I started to do the unthinkable: censoring myself. I kept deleting words wondering: ‘what is she going to feel when she reads this? Will she think I prefer her brothers?’

The truth is that I have very complex emotions when it comes to P. It started way before she was even born. It started way before I was told I was pregnant with twin boy and girl. As far as I can remember I have always been nervous about raising a daughter perhaps because:

  • I have my own up and down and ‘come to a full circle’ relationship with my mom.
  • I often had intense passive aggressive friendships with girls; so much that for a very long time half my family thought I had lesbian affairs
  • I was raised to be competitive with my almost twin sister. I mean, our very own grandparents used to bet on whom would win a Mano a Mano wrestling fight. I was 4. Who does this? I swear Lao people are mental.
  • I felt I already had a daughter in the shape of my 14 year younger sister to whom I already taught what I think every girl should know: not to cry over boys, love other girls, how to pluck their eyebrows and how one should always avoid, unless your name is Rihanna, combining micro skirts and high heels.

Thus since P was born, I cannot for the life of myself understand why I am tougher on her than on her brothers. I cringe when she flirts her way through things, when she bawls her eyes out when G & L barely push her, when she is obsessing about lip balms or constantly demands to wear dresses. She is so precocious that she thinks my girlfriends are her girlfriends. She protests about anything and everything. Maybe I cannot handle how ‘girly’ she is. Or maybe I cannot handle how she basically trashed a whole life conviction that gender neutral upbringing would help girls not to fall into the ‘traps’ societies build for them such as the expectations to be cute, sweet and pretty or to love nursing their baby doll. But here I am with my twin boy and girl doing exactly the same thing to no avail; she is all about sparkles and making adults fall in love with her.

I grew up thinking that I had to be one of the boys to make it. And for now, she makes it clear that the last thing she wants to do is ‘act like a boy’.  The world she is growing into is different, I guess, and hopefully offers more narratives about what a strong woman truly is. I don’t know. While Beyoncé sings ‘girls rule the world’  and Sheryl Sandberg has been officially decreed a billionaire, institutional, social and political deficiencies continue to stymie the potential of girls and women. I am talking about glass ceiling, oversexualization of girls and women bodies, governments’ inability to articulate the value of childcare into sound long-term economic policies, reproductive rights that continuously need to be defended (Spain, I am talking to you and Shame on you!), or how parental leave actually still means ‘maternal leave’.

So yeah, maybe I am tougher because I worry more (that, plus the fact that she will eventually steal all my designer shoes collection). But does me being harder on her is actually telling her that I expect her to fail by being herself? Am I tough because I am sometimes disappointed by the woman I am? It is not fair and P,  I make you this promise: I will try harder to be the woman I wish you would grow into. Also you are already very awesome because you just cracked me up two days ago when you strutted towards me in my UGG boots applying some balm on your lips and firmly demanded: ‘Mom, I want a wrench and a fast car. Can you buy me that?’

You made me remember this kick ass quote from Sarah Silverman: ‘Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake. Not because they can’t, but because it would never have occurred to them that they couldn’t.’

Point taken.



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