Monthly Archives: September 2009

i am your future

I was running errands today, with Ben. We were giving Paul a break, while getting in some Mama-Ben time. I put us in our Acute Invasion T-shirts and off we went to visit Mid-City

Somewhat outdated photo of Ben & I in our Threadless T-shirts. He is much bigger now, and I am slightly smaller

We went to Whole Foods first, where I purchased many fine meats. I do all our animal protein shopping at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, because they contain the least amounts of unnecessary crap. Also, perhaps it is the quality of the feed, or the quality of the animal’s life, but we also find the food in question – especially the chicken – to be genuinely more delicious. But because it is called “Whole Paycheck” for a reason, I wait for the “Butcher Buys”, buy extra, and freeze it. I actually have a Reynolds Handi-Vac for exactly this kind of purpose. And yes, I will do things like buy a half-salmon to get it for $7.99 a pound, have it chopped into salmon steaks identical to the ones selling for $9.99 a pound, and then freeze them against a day when I need fish for dinner. I also plan my menus weekly, clip coupons, and shop at Costco. I am resurrecting the art of Kitchen Economics.

Anyways. Point is, we went to Whole Foods, and we bought meat – but that took a while because I had to wait for an actual butcher to cut and wrap it up. By the time we were done, I knew I was running out of Ben’s Patience Minutes, but I was hoping I could buy more with the animal crackers I was feeding him. Then we went to Target, because we had coupons for Huggies. Which were also on sale. But by the time we got to the cashier, Ben was tired of shopping. He did not want to be in his stroller ONE MORE MINUTE, and dammit, he wanted UP. (I had steadily been ignoring his requests for “Up?” for five minutes already) So I released him from his stroller, and then proceeded to check out, while talking both to the cashier and Ben. It sounded like this:

“Ben, stay close to Mama. You can only stay down if you stay close to Mama. Oh, I have a reusable bag – can I use this and not the plastic ones? Here, Ben, have an animal cracker. Yes, sir, that is my shampoo, as well as the diapers. Benjamin, no, do not eat the cracker off the floor. Here’s a fresh one. Wait, I have coupons! Benjamin, stay close to Mama! Here’s my Visa card. Benjamin, hold my hand please. No, I’ll take those, the diapers can go in the stroller. Benjamin, you must hold my hand! Thank you.”

The girl behind me in line was there with her boyfriend, and she had this look of smug pity on her face. Pity because I was clearly trying to balance paying for diapers with my toddler, and it was a juggling act. But she was smug because she wasn’t a harried mother trying to run errands with a baby. She hadn’t let herself turn into that yet, and she probably thought that, if she did turn into a toddler’s mommy, she’d be a less messy stereotype than I am.

I wanted to tell her, I am your future. Two years ago, I thought I was all sassy, too. I thought shopping at Target was a sort of slumming it – a rare visit to a chain associated with the suburbs, a trip to a store that belongs in middle America. I, of course, was not the sort of person who would normally shop at Target, because I was a alt-type twentysomething living in Hipsterville, Los Angeles. Now, I shop at Target on a regular basis, because that is where I can get the things I need in the one stop that I have time for.

I wanted to say, it happened to me. It will happen to you. Someday you will be trying to check out of a store with your toddler, whom you have let out of his stroller, and you can only hope that your child is as well behaved as mine.

(Actually, Ben did me proud today – he DID stay close to Mama, he DID hold my hand as we walked out, and continued to hold it all the way back to the car. He was like a real tiny boy, not just a toddler. I’m SO proud.)

To all the girls out there who have yet to get married and have babies, to all the girls who think, “I’m never going to be THAT mom,” who think that they won’t drive a minivan or shop at Costco or seek out grocery bargains, or try to negotiate with a toddler while shopping for his supplies…IT IS COMING FOR YOU TOO. It may all be cliched, and it may all be horribly suburban sounding (and I don’t even have a house in the suburbs to show for it), but IT IS COMING FOR YOU. You, too, will find your second job to be The Domestic Sphere.

But in that process, I’ve been extremely lucky to stay, well, me. My minivan is a microvan, my Costco trips include Woolite Dark because I am still a goth, my grocery bargains are in line with my ethical eating standards, and my toddler is learning how to be a Tiny Boy, and not a baby, and negotiating with him is part of his independence. I took all the things I do as a wife and mother, and layered in my own identity. I hung on to that. At times, it may seem like I lost myself in the shuffle, and there are a lot of days where I feel like my identity did get lost in the day to day tasks. But then, I realize, it’s still there, just in different ways. It helps a lot that my husband handles his share of the day to day, and then some, in housework, in childcare, in general Family Tasks. But I’m still hanging on to who I am, despite the addition of Wife and Mother to the roles I fill.

wave goodbye

I have been fortunate enough to see not one, but two of the Nine Inch Nails “Wave Goodbye” shows. I saw the Palladium show, and the Fonda show, both of which were amazing for different reasons. The Palladium show had a complete playing of the downward spiral, which may well be my favorite album ever. The Fonda show was three hours long and included about four cover songs I never thought I’d hear live (“I’m Afraid Of Americans”, Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” and “Dead Souls” and “Get Down, Make Love”), plus a half-dozen guest musicians that brought an added layer of vitality to the performance. The Palladium show had the initial surprise of Gary Numan showing up to play “Metal” and “Cars”, but the Fonda show had him playing “Down in the Park”. Actually, what it comes down to is that the Palladium show had the album that worked best as an album; the Fonda show had level after level of energy built on singles. Having had both shows, I think I can now say goodbye to Nine Inch Nails.

This isn’t easy for me. There are few musicians I love the way I love NIN. I may have been on-again, off-again over the years (I never could get into The Fragile), but when asked my favorite bands, it’s always, always, been Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. Finding out that Trent Reznor is actually ending the band is heartbreaking. Yes, it has been twenty years. Yes, it’s been a great run. Yes, I have seen Nine Inch Nails at least seven times now – counting the tiny show at the Morongo Casino in 2006. But, unlike other bands, I don’t expect Nine Inch Nails to re-form. The mere thought of being as inconsistent as Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins is probably enough to keep Trent Reznor from bringing it back.

My husband was teasing me last night as I put on my eye makeup to go out. “Look at your mommy,” he said to Ben. “She’s primping for her date with your Uncle Ray. Only we all know she’s really primping for Trent.” Really, my husband finds a few old 90s SPIN and Rolling Stone magazines with Trent Reznor on the covers in a storage box in my teenage bedroom, and I will never hear the end of it. I turned around, eyeliner in hand, and informed him (with some indignation) that he should be happy that, at a very impressionable age, I found pale, slender, goth males attractive. If it hadn’t been for that, Paul might well be still be all alone, eating leftovers from Lucky Boy in his bachelor pad in Pasadena, instead of having home cooked meals with his wife and son in his Los Angeles apartment. My husband should be glad that I was so transfixed by the 1997 version of Trent Reznor in the Perfect Drug video, with the romantic long coat and the goatee and the long hair and the absinthe and general Victoriana. Because aside from my teenage crush on Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails brought me into the goth subculture, and there is no question that my marriage is directly related to my love of all things dark. NIN are what I call “gateway goth” – one of the more mainstream bands that can lead to goth culture, and that’s exactly how (combined with the Sandman comics, Depeche Mode, and a love of dress up) I got started.

Now, I know that Trent Reznor now disavows anything to do with the Perfect Drug video, which was far more Romantigoth than anything he would have done on his own. And Trent, much like Andrew Elritch of Sisters of Mercy, doesn’t associate himself with goth culture. But I was still reminded of NIN’s goth roots this week at the two shows I saw. First of all, as Paul puts it, “Gary Numan is just a one-hit New Wave wonder to most of the world – but to goths, he’s a god.” And Numan is credited by Trent Reznor as a major influence. Second, “Dead Souls is the gothiest track ever recorded. Seriously, it’s Nine Inch Nails covering JOY DIVISION and it was on the soundtrack to The Crow. And finally, the shows had more goths than I’ve ever seen before at a NIN show. Most of the previous shows have had a handful, but it’s really been more rock types (especially on the 2005 tour dates with Queens of the Stone Age) This one, it was the old-school fans – people my age and older, married couples, many of them wearing outfits influenced by dark subculture.

So yes, it is time to wave goodbye. And after these shows, I think I can let go of Nine Inch Nails. But no other musical artist – not even Depeche Mode – has meant as much to me. I have never felt again the shock of recognition, tinged with musical admiration, that I have when I listened to the first three NIN albums for the first time. Beyond the emotional meaning, I think The Downward Spiral is simply a brilliant musical work in sheer creativity and craftsmanship. And hearing it performed start to finish last week was amazing. Seeing the three hour set and singing along as the energy levels rose and rose at the Fonda was amazing. I’m immensely grateful that there was a Nine Inch Nails to adore for twenty years. It’s time to wave goodbye.