Monthly Archives: August 2011

teen mom

I can’t look away.*

It started as kind of masochistic voyeurism:  they can, and they did, and they didn’t even want to.

But then I started thinking about what this show is saying.

All of the girls are white.  This, despite the fact that in this country non-Hispanic white teenagers are among the least likely to get pregnant.  With one exception, all of them live in the South or the Midwest:  Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee, South Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. That’s a strong statement about the kinds of teen mothers the audience is supposed to care about.

They have very different socioeconomic situations and very different prospects.  All of them, though, have extremely unstable home situations.  They are in and out of their parents’ houses, their boyfriends are in and out of their houses and their lives, and there is a disturbing amount of uncertainty about where the mothers and babies will be sleeping.

Even the girls with the most family support (Farrah, Chelsea, Maci) are living on the margins of the middle class, sliding downward in security and stability from where their parents are, moving around constantly and struggling to keep up.  Their lives revolve around child care or the lack of it — scene after scene shows a girl trying to study, whether for her GED or for her college courses, while also being the primary caregiver for her child.  If Chelsea can’t finish her GED, or Farrah can’t finish culinary school, or Maci drops out of college, they and their children will remain dependent on their families, and Aubree, Sophia, and Bentley will face fewer opportunities as they grow up.  A single mother working a minimum-wage unskilled job won’t be able to do for her daughter what Chelsea’s dad is doing for her.  Why do we have to make it so hard?  Why not provide accommodations for child care in high schools and colleges just like we do for disabilities?

The girls with less family support (Amber and Caitlynn in particular) are in an even worse situation.  Amber and Gary’s relationship is clearly abusive, but they’re locked into it in part because Amber (who doesn’t have her GED) can’t support herself financially while also caring for Leah. It’s the classic catch-22 that leads to the Welfare Queen myth:  if she works, she won’t be able to afford adequate childcare, and anything that happens to her child while in substandard care will be on her conscience forever; but on the other hand, if she stays home to care for her baby she is dependent on someone else for financial support, an “unproductive” person who is wasting taxpayers’ money.  And either way, what happens to the child?  Who makes sure that baby eats and sleeps on time, goes to the doctor, and grows up to become a member of society who doesn’t feel totally alienated from the culture that abandoned her mother rather than provide realistic options for her to finish high school?

The entire show is like a constant billboard for some kind of federally funded childcare program.  How much would it change all of these girls’ lives if there was a way for them to get some help?  Real, during-the-day, day-in, day-out help.

And then there’s Caitlynn.  Caitlynn chose adoption for her baby — she took her child out of what she saw as an impossible situation, and it’s heartbreaking to watch her deal not only with her own grief, but with her family’s lack of support for her decision and her loneliness in the face of the open adoption agreement.  From her perspective, the adoptive parents (about whom she never has anything but nice things to say) have all of the power.  She is not allowed to know Carly’s last name or where she lives.  She receives pictures and updates when the adoptive parents choose to give them, and you can see how hungry she is for news about Carly all the time.  This is something that she’s not going to be able to put behind her; it’s a portrait of adoption from the perspective of a grieving birth mother, and I wonder if the absence she feels is anything like the absence I feel, the grief for the children I can’t create. Watching this show has really brought up some strong feelings for me about adoption, which I think I’ll have to take some time to work out fully.

Which brings me to the fact that after the voyeurism, after the political implications, I am so invested in these girls’ lives.  I want to mother them — not just the babies, but the moms too.  I want to tell Chelsea that Adam is bad, bad news.  I want to tell Maci to get her head on straight and stop changing her mind about where she wants to live.  I want to get Amber into counseling immediately for her obvious depression and anger issues.  And Jenelle … Jenelle … she is a mess.  All of them are messes, really, but no more than I was at that age.  Jenelle, though, is at another level.  She is virtually homeless most of the time, she has amazingly bad judgment when it comes to men (but then, whose judgment is good at 18?), she is in trouble with the law, she has lost custody of her child, and I am just on season 1.

*Why yes, it is playing in the background as I type this.  Why do you ask?


we’re moving!

Extra points if you know our destination from the title of my last post.

My husband is leaving tomorrow and I have been trying to help him get ready.  He is of course preparing for teaching, but we’re also having to think about what things he will need to bring with him right away to get set up in a new apartment or house.

I think it’s going to be tough on him at first, particularly since he won’t have a car and I will have all the furniture.  We are going to try hard to avoid making major purchases, but he’s going to have to sleep somewhere, and I’m worried about how he’ll get around.  He’s confident he can find a place to live that’s near to where he’ll be working, but we don’t know how the town is laid out at all so I just don’t know how feasible it is to be without a car.  My friend is going to help him out for a while, but my husband is not someone who is comfortable asking for help and I can just picture him living on granola bars or something because he can’t get to the grocery store.

I have announced at work that I am leaving; my last day is October 14.  It feels so wonderful to know that I won’t have to do this job forever.  Cliche or no, it feels like a weight has been lifted off my chest.  I also had to call the search committee at the job I interviewed for to tell them I’m withdrawing from consideration.  That was a hard call to make.

Our destination is not in a state that mandates insurance coverage for infertility treatments and we haven’t seen the details of the university’s health plan yet, but even so the fact that my husband will be making a good salary puts us in a better position than we are currently, even if I don’t start working right away.  We suspect that we will have to drive a considerable distance to find a clinic (haven’t researched this yet), and I don’t know if we’ll have to start all over again with testing.  Does anyone have any experience with this?  It’s been about a year since we’ve seen my RE and about 8 months since we’ve seen the urologist; if and when we decide to re-technologize our babymaking efforts, will we want to have all of our tests repeated, or will we be able to go from our previous results?  I sort of think we should start again because it’s been so long since some of the tests were done.

I’m feeling really hopeful right now, and I have to say that at least part of that is due to the fact that in less than 2 months I will get up in the morning and NOT go to my office!



country roads, take me home

I don’t even know how to write this post.  It just sounds ridiculous and I can’t think of a way to frame this that fits into the narrative of the last few months.  Deep breaths and bullet points.  That’s what I’m going with.

  • Monday, 9:00 p.m.  I get a Facebook message from an old grad school friend.  She wants my husband to call her.
  • 9:20 p.m.  A faculty member at the university where my friend teaches has quit abruptly.  Classes start next week.  My husband emails a CV.
  • 10:00 p.m.  My husband gets an email from my friend with a job offer.

Holy crap.  We’re moving.  My husband is flying out this weekend to start teaching on Monday; he’s digging out old syllabi (he’s taught these courses before at different institutions) and trying to figure out which books, CDS, and electronic gear he can’t do without for a few weeks.

He’s going to stay with my friend for a few days and look for a place to live.

I’m going to stay behind until probably the middle of October, tie up as many loose ends as I can at my job, do a couple of performances that I’m already committed to, and pack up our stuff.

I don’t really know what I’ll be doing with myself once I join him.  Obviously the job I interviewed for is out: not only is it in a different state, but it’s subject to the plodding timeline of a university search committee.  They’re not expecting to have a decision for another few weeks.  I have called to leave a message with them to ask if there is any news, but no amount of urgency is going to make that move any faster.  It is too bad — it would have been a great opportunity for me, but my husband’s opportunity is a bird in the hand and there’s no way we can pass it up.

I’m kind of shocked at how many people have suggested to us in the last 24 hours that we may want to continue to pursue both opportunities and live apart.  I know there are married couples who do this, but I don’t understand it.  We’re going to have to be apart for about two months to make this move work, and that’s going to be hard enough.  I can’t imagine deciding to live apart on an open-ended basis.  And it doesn’t even really solve anything — we’d just be deferring making a decision about whose career is more important, because eventually one of us would have to move to be near the other.

I am just starting to process all of this; I’ve been composing the job interview update post in my head to update all of you on last week, and then this drops out of the sky!  I guess that’s just life, and you have to go with it.


vagabond shoes

Yesterday we went to a wedding.  It was beautiful and I cried at all of the usual places: during the readings, during the vows, during the toasts, during the first dance and the father-daughter dance (“New York, New York” — hence the title of this post).  I’m apparently incurably sappy.  It gets worse the older I get!

I didn’t know very many people there, but I knew of a lot of them.  The bride, who collaborates a lot with my husband, is a fairly well-known actress and producer in our city, and the guest list was a who’s who of the theatre community.  It was pretty intimidating — and all of the speeches were unusually good.

The bride is 5 months pregnant and she was absolutely radiant.

Just before the ceremony I checked my phone to make sure it wouldn’t ring, and I saw a missed call from my brother.

My sister-in-law had the baby!

unexpected good news (no, not bfp)

Holy shit, ladies.  Ho-ly shit.

Remember that job I applied for?  Well, I didn’t get it.  But about three weeks ago I got an email from someone at that university, inviting me to apply for a second position they had opened.

Of course I scrambled to get my materials together and got the application sent out before I left for Thailand.  I got back last week … and found I’d missed a call from them requesting more materials (several email interview questions which I never received).  I called and emailed, begged and pleaded in the best, most professional way I knew how, and got them to re-send the questions and extend the deadline for me.  I stayed up most of the night completing them and submitted under the wire.

Today I got a call:  they want me to come out and interview.

Next week.

Did I mention, holy shit?

This job would be an AMAZING opportunity.  It’s literally twice as much money as I currently make (albeit in a place with a higher cost of living), it’s work I’m good at with a mission I believe in, and it’s in a state that mandates insurance coverage for IVF.

Holy shit.


My interview is next Wednesday, and I’ve already gone shopping for a long-sleeved blouse I can wear to cover up my tattoo.  Now I need some advice:  how do I handle missing work for this?  Do I say I have an emergency and will need 2 days off next week, or do I just wait till the day of the interview and call in sick from Maryland?  What is least likely to bite me in the ass if I don’t get the job?

Also, interview advice please!  Anything and everything you have to share, I want to know it.  This is an administrative job at a university; email me if you want more specifics, as I don’t want this to be Googlable.

Holy shit.