Night of the Meatloaf
May 16, 2008
Last night, I sat alone in a corner booth of a fast-food burrito joint, with black mascara streaks all over my face.
It was awesome, as you can probably imagine.
Jason sent me an email in the afternoon to tell me there was a work happy hour he had to go to, but he wouldn't be too late.
I sent him an email reminding him that, in typical end-of-the-week fashion, we had no food in the house, so could he pick something up before he came home? Burritos from Chipotle would be good, I suggested.
Mmmm, Chipotle, I thought, after hitting send. Chipotle would be very, VERY good.
And so I waited. I fed Noah his dinner, lamented the lack of ANYTHING ELSE EDIBLE in the house, at least anything edible that wouldn't 1) turn my stomach or 2) spoil my appetite for the sure-to-be delicious burrito that would arrive any second now, and then I spent an hour engaged in a completely pointless and circular argument with Noah about exactly what potty-related business was worthy of an M&M, and no, you don't get one for just sitting there, and stared at the clock.
God, I was hungry.
At 8 pm Jason came home. That would be...late, in my mind. I struggled to hoist myself off the bathroom floor and almost blacked out. My blood sugar was crashing through the floor but thank God there was something to eat in this damn place now.
When I got downstairs, Jason was putting groceries away. He'd gone grocery shopping. There was no Chipotle. I asked him what he'd gotten for dinner and he gestured towards the packages of raw meat on the counter. Raw meat that would all need to be cooked.
And never mind the fact that I am eating almost exclusively vegetarian these days, because meat -- the look, texture, taste of all of it, including fish and poultry -- makes my still-delicate stomach flip-flop. I will eat it, usually when we go to some food event that Jason signs us up for, but these nights invariably end with me dry-heaving in a restaurant bathroom. If I am not expressly in the mood for it, I might as well be choking down grubs on Survivor.
Last night, something about the sight of all that raw meat just made me lose. My. Mind.
"IT'S EIGHT O'CLOCK!" I railed. "EIGHT! AND NOW I'M SUPPOSED TO COOK? I TOLD YOU TO BRING SOMETHING HOME! YOU TOLD ME YOU WOULDN'T BE LATE! I'M ABOUT TO PASS OUT AND YOU BRING HOME MEATLOAF MIX? THAT TAKES OVER AN HOUR!"
I stormed around the kitchen, coursing with hunger and hormones. Jason shrugged and told me to uh, get over it, he didn't pick up Chipotle, too fucking bad. Here, have some pita chips, or some cheese. I reminded him that dairy has also been particularly unkind to my digestive tract as well. As for the pita chips, well...I just didn't want any damn pita chips.
"What is your PROBLEM today?" he asked, referring to an email I'd sent him earlier about something completely unrelated, in which I declared that he was Officially Driving Me Crazy About <Unrelated Topic>, Oh My God.
It was your typical male-female fight. He saw the literal issue at hand, which was not a big deal. He went to the grocery store, so just pick something else and eat it.
I saw hours-long abandonment and a refusal to listen to me or take my pregnant needs seriously, even if to him they sound trivial. No matter how many times I've told him about the meat thing and the food cravings thing and the food aversions thing, I still get the sense that he thinks I'm just trying to be difficult. And gee, you know what? I'd like to go to happy hour with adults some time too! But I don't! Because that would inconvenience YOUUUUU and make you leave work early and WE ALL KNOW how much more important YOUR JOB is and I paced and stewed and composed eloquent tirades in my head about why this is about SO MUCH MORE than burritos and going grocery shopping when it's already late and not calling to find out if there was something I needed or wanted at the store and I never ask him for more than a glass of water while he's already up...but instead of saying any of these things I grabbed my car keys and diaper bag and told him I needed to get out of the house for a little bit, just like every hysterical pregnant lady in every movie who grabs her purse and announces she's going home to her mother.
What can I say? I was really, REALLY hungry.
I got in the car and started driving. Within a few minutes I was crying, even though I didn't know why. Well, I did. Narrowing it down to a single reason was what I couldn't do.
I have no idea if this is true for other stay-at-home-moms or women who altered their careers after having children, but even the most innocuous, run-of-the-mill argument can sometimes really drive home the power disparity of our household, and how financially dependent I am on Jason, how the majority of my contributions don't get assigned an hourly rate, and how this has changed our relationship and my opinion of myself in ways I didn't expect.
Money is tight right now. Not "we can't pay the electric bill" tight, but tight. I don't think I can afford to go to Blogher (AGAIN), our savings have never been lower and the list of unavoidable boring expenses looms large in the distance. The deck needs refinishing, the screen door is busted, the car lease is up and preschool deposits are due. A couple months of not watching out for every dollar or properly spacing big expenditures stupidly got us here in the first place; a lack of advertising checks and a huge tax payment have made it hard to climb out of the hole. We'll be fine, of course, but it's uncomfortable. There will be no vacations or anniversary plans or push presents or spoiling of the new baby. Next year looks like it will better. But as for right now, it's not a financial situation either of us enjoy or are really used to.
And it's during times like this that I am painfully aware of how little I contribute to our overall budget, despite feeling tied to the computer for hours a day, deadlines day after day after day, with no sick days or vacation time or retirement account, all so I can watch Noah grow up over the ridge of my laptop screen. But then I did insist on a bi-monthly housecleaning service, which is both an incredible help and an incredible guilt-raiser, especially when one of the cleaners mentioned that she went into labor with her last child while vacuuming a client's house.
Oh, the angst of the modern woman, balance, having it all, the topics of a million self-help books and feminist arguments -- all too much to ponder during a single car ride to the Chipotle down the street.
I knew I was being ridiculous, that I was letting myself blow something small out of proportion just to cover for the zillion other tiny anxieties currently keeping me up at night, along with my pregnant bladder. I felt stupid, so I turned my head away from the other cars at stoplights, just in case anyone was able to see me and my blubbering.
I pulled into one of those expectant mother parking spaces and took a deep breath. See? How nice! This is just what I needed. A guy on a cell phone held the door for me and I ordered my vegetarian burrito with hot salsa and sat down to a leisurely meal.
There was no high chair to juggle, no one demanding bits of my tortilla. The burrito tasted every bit as delicious as I'd hoped, and I sat there for awhile after I finished it, picking stray bits of rice off the foil wrapper and wondering what I could possibly say to Jason when I got back home. Do I just admit that I was acting crazy? Do I just blame pregnancy and be done with it? Do I try to maybe mention that I could use a little bit of extra sensitivity right now? Do I really feel like a night of talking about my pregnant little feeeeeeeelings and that just because everything is magnified times a zillion it doesn't mean I shouldn't ever get taken seriously, even if it really is just a request for a vegetarian burrito that gets answered with prepackaged meatloaf mix?
I thought about killing more time by wandering the aisles of CVS, but decided the evening didn't need to get any more melodramatic or Britney-esque. I got back in the car and that's when realized I'd neglected to check my makeup before and that's probably why I got some weird looks in the restaurant.
I got home around 9:30. I walked in and immediately saw Noah in the living room, wide awake and still dressed. He was watching Cars.
I felt my brain slowly make the switch to FLIP YOUR SHIT again (what, am I REALLY the only one who pays attention to bedtime? must I ALWAYS be the non-fun parent? does no one else here REALIZE what it's like to be trapped all day with a off-his-schedule toddler who is NOT gonna just sleep in tomorrow morning to make up for the lack of sleep?) but NO, I was not to let this night get the better of me again. I wordlessly walked upstairs and filled the bathtub.
I climbed in, along with a three-year-old bath ballistic from LUSH (ever wondered if those things expire? yes. they do, and sigh.) and laid there for awhile in the disappointingly tepid water. (Add hot water heater repairs to the list, and sigh.) I surveyed my fat belly and stretch marks -- I'm getting new ones already, ugly purple ones across my stomach and down my thighs, nothing like the spiderweb of thin white ones -- that I didn't even get until 38 weeks -- from last time. After 10 minutes I drained the water because I didn't want to look at myself anymore.
Around 10 o'clock I heard Jason put Noah to bed. GAH GAH GAH, my head chanted, as I resisted the urge to remind him to brush our child's teeth. I turned on the TV in our bedroom to watch Lost.
Jason finally came in and asked if I was feeling better. I wasn't, but I shrugged and said I guessed so. I was too exhausted to explain any of it. He wouldn't understand. Hell, I barely understood.
He sat down on the bed and gingerly rubbed my leg and told me to get some sleep. I blurted out that I missed Julie, my friend who moved to California back in February, and started to cry. I could tell he was valiantly and desperately trying to find any connection between this and the thing about burritos. He told me to get some sleep again and retreated downstairs.
I tried to sleep, but the burrito gave me terrible heartburn.
It's 2 pm right now. Noah went down early for a nap, and I'm unshowered and still in my pajamas. It has just occurred to me that I forgot to eat lunch. Minutes ago, Jason came home early.
He brought me flowers and chocolate ice cream.