Rachel’s Favorite Art

For Rachel Yavinsky, the winner of my giveaway contest. May you enjoy a life of sexy kisses

Cassatt, 1978: Has any painting captured ennui as perfectly as Cassatt’s “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair”? This painting might as well be titled “Quarantine 2020” or “Virtual School.” While my children prefer Minecraft pajamas to frilly white dresses and fancy leather shoes for their daily scoffing, I assure you the facial expression defies time and history.

Hayez, “The Kiss,” 1859: I dare you to think of a sexier painting in all of art history. This is what a kiss should be. Dark, passionate, and just the slightest bit creepy, with mysterious shadows lurking in the background. It’s basically a painting of my morning farewells with my husband. But instead of feathers in his hair, he wears oatmeal, instead of being draped in satin, I’m covered in spit up, and that lurker in the background – those are my children, diverting my attention from what would otherwise, I’m convinced, be “il bacio” to rival this one. Though note to self: must get hubby a pair of those pointy medieval elf shoes.

Matisse, “Mother and Child,” 1950: I like to imagine that when I embrace my children they too are thinking to themselves, like the boy above must be, “where has mommy gone? She is just so darn skinny.”

The Flawed Female

It seems pretty cutting edge to be able to put something into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. But in fact, the invention of the IUD dates way, WAY back. Like 2,000 years back when nomads needed a way to keep their female camels from getting pregnant during long journeys across the desert. Apparently camels just couldn’t keep their hands – hooves – off each other. Enter the 1st IUDs. These nomads would stick small rocks up inside a camel’s uterus and these randy creatures could have all the hot, thirsty desert sex they wanted. Yum…

The 1st time I got an IUD was not one of my most pleasant experiences. I’m not camel, after all. My OBGYN insisted that the birth of my son would have stretched my cervix enough to make the placement of the device absolutely painless. So I schlepped my 3-month-old along to the appointment figuring he could sleep next to me in his carseat. Fast forward to me nearly passing out from pain I had only ever experienced 90 days prior. A screaming newborn whom I was unable to comfort as I was spread eagle on the table, feet in stirrups, and being urged by many frazzled nurses to sip my apple juice. Little did I know my son was actually all the birth control I would need…

One of my favorite academic articles of all time is by feminist anthropologist named Emily Martin. In “The Egg and the Sperm” she points out the sexist ways in which we conceive of reproduction. There’s no reason, she tells us, that the egg needs to be thought of as passively penetrated by the strong and fearless sperm. In fact, she explains, the egg is actually aggressive and uses the power of its stickiness to pull the sperm its way and eventually capture these smaller, weaker cells…

Our flawed outlook on reproduction is not surprising based on our history of reproductive science. Before the 18th c, experts believed that there was really just one sex. That women’s sex organs simply underdeveloped and inverted male genitalia. In essence, women were simply less perfect men. Typical.

Masters

GIVEAWAY!!! Head over to my Instagram account @imworriedmytherapisthatesme for your chance to win your very own entry (like the one above) with your 2 favorite pieces of art!

I am lucky to be able to visit my favorite painting of all time any time I want (at least that was the case pre-kids and pre-pandemic). This perfect portrait is housed at the National Gallery. I could stare and stare at this woman and never get bored. I feel a profound connection to her, and not simply because she is identical to my college roommate. What is she thinking about? Does she wish her lady’s maid had steamed out the creases in her veil? Is she missing her eyebrows? (FUN FACT: plucking out one’s eyebrows and hairline in 15th c Europe was à la mode for a certain class of women.) Her lips are so pouty, but she’s not sad. She just doesn’t give a f*** — this is simply her resting b**** face. And there is something so calming about that to me…

There’s nothing like a Wayne Thiebaud painting to make you feel simultaneously famished and profoundly insecure about your own artistic ineptitude. Has there ever been a painting style that so matches its subject? The thick, controlled paint just like butter cream frosting; it’s a visual onomatopoeia! And those shadows! GASP!…

What can one say about the greatest of the greats? Why can an ill old man cut paper in ways that make the heart sing beyond any paint put to canvas by healthy young artists? And how is this bulbous, blue, twisted woman so much sexier than I will ever be?

Extracurriculars

When my son was little, all my best mom friends only had daughters his age. And the great thing about preschool-aged children is you get to tell them who their friends are, based on the parents that YOU prefer to spend time with. And so it followed that while other 4-year-old boys were being schlepped to soccer, my son was being introduced to the wonderful world of ballet. Look – I have him the choice, but he’s a smart fellow and standing out in the hot sun on a baseball diamond waiting for his teammates to run around the bases was just not as enticing as skipping around to Disney songs, playing dress up with his besties. So he was the lone boy in a sea of glitter and hearts and rainbows. Sometimes he wore a superman cape since his friends got to dress up for class. And when he returned home he would happily resume whatever train track he’d been building or truck book he’d been reading. Sometimes with sparkly nail polish, because, why not? When he no longer wanted to do ballet, he told me, and we moved on to a new activity. It was THAT simple. Today he’s obsessed with Minecraft and Legos, and his self-selected friends are all boys. But he is still happy to hang out with his oldest girl-friends, who are like sisters, and who I heard him defend to a little boy the other day. “There are lots of fun girls,” he said, “just like there are lots of fun boys.”…

I only took piano for a hot second when I was a kid. I remember enjoying the lessons – I did them at my teacher’s house. She was ancient, had lots of cats, and her home smelled like flowers. But one day I showed up for my lesson but no one answered the door. I knocked and knocked until finally a neighbor came out and said, “didn’t you hear the old lady died?” And then I saw Turnip, one of the cats, wandering around the porch. I went home and never resumed piano again.

Recycling

We need to talk about straws. Look, climate change is a real, existential crisis. But do you know what is NOT going to save the polar bears and stop the rate of global warming? The horrible soggy straws I now have to pretend to enjoy my coffee with. I like to sip on my coffee throughout the day to keep the caffeine ecstasy at that perfect level – awake, but not shaky – for as long as possible. But if you don’t finish your drink in one inhale and you’re using a paper straw, you might as well just throw the drink out now. Remember when you were 2 and you learned the hard way that paper airplanes don’t belong in the bath with you? Well, apparently this is not a lesson universally experienced by those in positions of straw design/policy. Starbucks’ decision to create cold-drink sippy cups comes closer to a sustainable drink-option. But really. We can safely land a rover on Mars but can’t come up with a straw that is both environmentally friendly AND that does not disintegrate upon touching your lips? REALLY?!…

You know what could actually save some endangered animals? If we Americans caught up with other parts of the world and made bidets the universal standard of cleanliness. Seriously – once you experience that refreshing squirt, you’ll realize that wiping just doesn’t cut it. And think how many trees we would save – especially if other children use the absurd amount of T.P. my kids seems to…

PARENT HACK: My very wise and unfrazzled friend taught me to use all those paintings/drawings that your kids make that you really just want to throw away as wrapping paper. It looks cool and you can let grandparents believe the art was made specifically for their birthday…

I cannot make eye contact with our neighbors or the men who come each week to gather our recycling. I am too ashamed by the sheer number of boxes we (and by we I mean my husband) have to drag to the curb for pick up each week. And this is WITH my sacrifice to have my Amazon packages come in fewer boxes, 1 whole day later.

Children of the 21st Century

I have 3 kids, which means there is rarely a night I’m not up with at least one of them some time during the night. Last night my 6-yr-old was in bed with us (and by us, I might as well mean me since my husband has no idea of any nighttime struggles). No matter how many times I pushed my son off me towards the center of the bed, I would wake up 5 min later with a hand in my face. So after this beating I endured in the night, I wasn’t totally functioning this morning. And it took until around 10 AM for me to remember my night-shopping. Did I really buy 40 rolls of washi tape at 2 AM? My emails confirmed this to be true. What could I have been dreaming about that led me to actively seek out this tape? And from multiple shops? And WTF would I do with 40 rolls of washi tape? Luckily my sleep-shopping self was one step ahead of my awake self as I discovered I also purchased a very useful washi-tape-dispenser. What a blessing that exhaustion and stress manifest themselves in these surprising gifts from me to me!…

It was not my proudest moment – but also not all surprising – when one of my youngest’s 1st sentences was “Alexa, play Elmo!” It took Alexa some time to realize what “Wessa pay Ewmo” meant, but now she’s an expert at my toddler’s specific accent…

I’m not sure if this is more troubling than the time my family as eating at an ice cream store in San Diego when my then-2-yr-old said loudly to the shop, “Alexa play Frozen,” as if she was omnipresent and he possessed the power to control the airwaves anywhere he went. I suppose he was not completely off about this…

There are many people who are rightly concerned about the infringement of our privacy these days. And it is unnerving to be chatting with your friends about some product one minute, only to open up Instagram to see it being advertised to you the next. But I must admit, I absolutely LOVE all my targeted ads! How else would I know that I needed a tribal-print cape/blanket? And where would I get tiny upholstered furniture if Instagram wasn’t always 1 step ahead of me, knowing my needs before I do?

Parenting Perks

Sure, I haven’t used the bathroom alone in 6 years. I’ve had to jump off the pot mid-use, pants around my ankles to break up a fight or save a child from certain death more times than I can count. But you know what else hasn’t happened for the last 6 years of potty-going? I haven’t experienced the panic of realizing halfway through that my husband “forgot” to change the empty TP roll. Constant toilet company means there is always someone there to run and fetch me a fresh roll. And in a day full of parenting struggles, this isn’t nothing…

Since becoming a mother, I have also been blessed with the delightful experience of pet ownership. And no – we don’t have a dog or a cat. It’s hard enough keeping the humans under my roof fed and somewhat clean. But I am the proud mama to ants, worms, snails, and aqua dragons. Forget the fact that I have a slight phobia of ants and that my family promised I wouldn’t have any interaction with these insects. When you get a call from your hubby at work explaining that he had received notification that the vile of ants had been delivered, and could I please follow the directions to get them into the terrarium because they’d freeze outside if we waited for him to get home from work, you jump to it. Because I’m even more terrified of my children than I am of those ants. And when your kids promise to be the ones who will spray the worm dirt to keep them alive, you realize that means one more chore for you to nag them about, and you end up keeping the worms alive yourself because a.) there is less chance of a mess if you do it and b.) even though the kids show absolutely no interest in said worms, you know that should they mysteriously disappear, there will be hell to pay…

And once you become a parent you no longer need worry about carefully curating your walls and décor, because all surfaces will be covered by the dozens of masterpieces your kids produce and so lovingly urge you to display. Unfortunately, you will have to worry about your kids discovering their masterpieces in the trash when they begrudgingly go to throw out their wrappers.

The Historian in Me

I was halfway through my dissertation in early American women’s history before I was derailed by the birth of my 1st, and then my 2nd baby. Suddenly the biopolitics of 18th c American no longer seemed as pressing to me. But there’s still a historian somewhere deep down in my with lots of completely random, useless knowledge about the past…

For instance, did you know breast pumps were as necessary and irksome to women 400 years ago as they are to us moms today? This is an example of a glass breast pump circa 1800. The flange was placed over the nipple, and a tube extended upwards so that the milk-expressor could suck until her engorged breasts were as deflated as she desired…

FUN FACT: In 17th c France there is evidence that puppies were sometimes used as makeshift breast pumps. Hey – a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do…

You know your old-fashioned heater that only seems to have one temp: HOT? There’s an actual historical reason for this nuisance. During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, many experts (rightly) believed that the virus was less likely to spread in well-ventilated places. So heaters were designed that could get hot enough to warm a room, even with the windows open. So your annoying, noisy radiator is actually a pandemic-fighting invention!…

One of the most popular (and titillating) medical pamphlets from the 17th c on offered advice and info on the mysterious workings of pregnancy and reproduction. For hundreds of years it was common to blame birth deformities and abnormalities on the hysterical, evil, and uncontrollable emotions and thoughts of the pregnant mother. If she lusted after forbidden fruit, her baby could be born a monster. The sight of a hairy animal could imprint itself onto the anatomy of her unborn child. This science is not all surprising given men’s age-old attempt to control women and “encourage” proper behavior. My pregnancies prove these postulations to be illegitimate, however, since if they were, my kids would have come out as giant oreos.

Rainb-OCD

I rarely wear makeup, but nothing sends my heart soaring like the perfect, ombré lines of beauty products at Sephora. I get a similar sensation of hope here as I get at the Container Store; an overwhelming sense of confidence, peace, promise. Like nothing – not money, not the 3 tiny monsters I share a home with – will keep me from achieving my life-long pursuit of organization. If I, too, had eyeshadows in all the colors of the rainbow, I would wake up 5 min earlier to beautify myself. And clearly my lack of inner peace is a result of outward clutter (and a lack of age-defying creams and serums). Which is why, despite my typical au-natural look, I have drawers filled with makeup – and all the baskets, dividers and containers I would need to Sephorize my vanity. Unfortunately this can-do feeling usually fades on the drive home from the store. And I am left with nothing but guilt and the need to purchase more containers to hold those that will never see those perfect rainbows of lipsticks and nail polish…

I had a friend whose favorite pastime was switching just 2 items in these color-coded Sephora displays. It was just 2 tiny products, but it dismantled the entire system…

When my 6-yr-old asked me if the internet was just cookies and cakes being frosted, I knew I had a problem. But acceptance is the 1st step to recovery, so here goes: I spend inappropriate amounts of time watching those FB videos of buttercream being smoothed and shaped into petals, steady hands making perfect lines of glaze on cookies, and cupcakes receiving their perfect poofs of frosting. And obviously I watch these videos on mute because a.) I don’t want my kids to know just how often this is what I’m doing instead of reading to them and b.) does anyone watch FB videos with sound?…

I recently finished the Home Edit Netflix series and was overcome with the certainty that my home, too, could look like Reese Witherspoon’s. I then spent a furious afternoon rearranging all our books in rainbow order as they suggest. Their reasoning was very persuasive – and once I had that scary pile of books in the middle of the living room, there was no turning back. It has now been a few months living with the rainbow. And it does look glorious. But I cannot find a single book.

Snow Daze

Last night as I lay in bed bartering with the powers that be about the weather, it dawned on me that one of the biggest changes that accompanies motherhood is one’s attitude toward snow days. Gone are the days when days off from school means sleeping in, down time and hot chocolate. Snow days become their own little hell on earth. Even though school is canceled, you nanny can’t make it, and no Postmates are available to deliver your $45 coffee, somehow your husband can still get to work through the elements in his run-down 2008 Honda Civic (will he be able to get home? Now that’s a different question). And your kids don’t understand that sleet is not the same as snow, and are at the door by the crack of dawn ready to play outside in the winter wonderland of mud, ice, and brown slosh. And that hot chocolate and cozy fire you have such fond childhood memories of, they don’t just appear with the weather. Snow-day fun takes ceaseless adult curation. And heaven forbid you’ve run out of marshmallows! The tantrums that ensue tell you all you need to know about the snow day memories you are failing to pass on to your children…

We need to talk about mittens (and don’t get me started on gloves!). WTF is wrong with kids’ mittens? Or is it my children’s hands that are disfigured? I have never, not once, been able to get their little hands covered without a great deal of effort (and often screaming and tears). Their thumbs are just too floppy. Or maybe it’s the sticky layer of God-knows-what that always covers their hands. Or perhaps mitten-makers have to get their s**t together and figure out the technology we need to allow the greatest amount of easy thumb slippage. I mean, come on! We can get men on the moon but we can’t figure out how to fit my kids’ tiny fingers into little knit pockets? And where do all the lost mittens go? Why can we never find them when we need them? And why have I already had to order 2 dozen this season?…

I can’t decide what’s worse: the hours it takes to get 3 kids under 6 bundled up to go outside for a few min. before they are whining at the door to come in, or the hours spent playing monopoly with one hand while blocking the destructive forces of the toddler with the other.