My Wu-Tang name is Dynamic Swami. (A Swami is a Hindu male religious teacher.) Charley’s is Midnight Assassin. Dakota’s is Vulgar Specialist. Leave it to apps to form our identities.
Just kidding. It can take a whole lifetime- and some therapy- to have a sense of your own identity and feel comfortable in your own skin. Some people radiate self-awareness and self-love from an early age. Others think they are swelling with confidence (the average 20-something man? women with protected blogs about Pinterest recipes and trips to Europe?) and believe they are as perfect as their moms promised, until they don’t. Then they end up taking out their inner self-loathing on everything and everyone around them (passive friends, colleagues and partners).
Watching my other half shrink behind fear and make excuses for turning down good opportunities (a line cook position at the nicest restaurant in town) or projecting his own self hatred is hard to swallow. Also playing a mom role when I’m already a mom. Maybe if we had a consistent trade system like equal partners, where one throws a tantrum one day and the other the next as we serve as each other’s counselor, but we don’t. I’m the primary Freud.
I play Purity Ring and John Coltrane on my record player and feed Dakota an apple, sweet potato, pineapple, and oat purée. (Baby food has, since I was a baby, evolved exponentially from straight prunes and bananas.) Dakota’s laying back in her crib hitting hanging stars with her toes. She looks like an actress sunbathing in the Bel-Air. I’m hunched over a mug that says “smash the patriarchy” and picking lint out of my toes. Charley shuffles in.
“Are you working today?”
“I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU.” He dismisses the El Monte Sagrado job. The kitchen and hot female chef intimidated him. He sulks. I leave with the yellowjacket jogging stroller.
Smoke Lavender kush. Put on the red lipstick Megan Fox wears. The Farmers Market is in the plaza. I bring Freyja and she mingles with other dogs- a white furry mutt, a German Shepard, a hound dog, a terrier.
“Oh what kind of dog is that?”
“A mini aussie.”
“She looks like a little bear. What a beautiful family.”
The old Scone Lady, Nancy, doesn’t recognize me until I say “cat” then she tells me all about Osiris, the cat I gave her and her husband Frank in March. “OH he’s such a CLEVER dog… I mean cat. But he’s like a dog. He prowls the earthship like a hunter. … He unravels yarn and hides under the covers. He absolutely loves sinks but spends most of his time in the greenhouse.” They renamed him Ozzy and then Poncho, after their last cat. It was easier to remember.
I buy Cajun sausage, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and mesclun mix. It’s Saturday and the streets are buzzing with tourists and children and dogs. When I walk home I’m stopped by the middle-aged professorial neighbor from Berkeley who says my dog Duke stole his slipper and replaced it with a bone. But he doesn’t mind, he found his slipper across the street. The neighbor scratches his chin like he’s just read a passage of Kafka.
Charley is home. I thoughtfully water the mini greenhouse then ask him to pack his stuff and leave. I can’t do this anymore. He starts to pack. But maybe he should stay for our anniversary in a couple days and then leave? Maybe. His brother’s girlfriend of six years left a couple days ago. We have to space these separations out so mom-in-law doesn’t freak. She’s very sensitive, like a woodland fairy.
Walk in the Mesa, pick sage, and try not to think about judemental comments from people schooled on The Feminine Mystique, The Baby Book or the Bible. This isn’t a storybook romance. This isn’t a storybook human rights campaign. This isn’t the garden of Eden. People fuck up. People grow. Words express pictures of memories of moments. They shed emotions and prepare us through inner monologues to record stories we’re building for our self-identities. We are coming into ourselves. Focus on you, Dr. Phil, and shut the fuck up. I am Dynamic Swami. I am strong.