Surrender the Pink

Surrender the Pink

You know how sometimes you have a little extra time on your hands? Or maybe you just drive by something you’ve driven by a million times before, but suddenly you’re like, “What the fuck??”

Back in early October, I had one of those moments.

See, there are these pink vans peppered about my fair city, advertising a topless maid business. I’ve driven by them for years, rolling my eyes. Once my boys were old enough to read, they asked a lot of questions about them. From the backseat of our minivan I’d hear, “Mom, what is a hot topless maid?” “How come they’re hot?” “Is that why they take their shirts off?” “Is $99 a lot of money for a topless maid?” 

We had some interesting conversations about sex, politics, and jerks in those tender years. The looks on their shining faces gave me hope. They instinctively understood that the whole enterprise was a little whacked.

As years passed, I’ll admit, we all got used to them. The vans were like roadkill– only disturbing if we stopped to notice, and mostly we didn’t. (It’s kind of scary, the things we can stop noticing, which is maybe how free societies crumble, not to be dramatic or anything.)

Then for whatever reason, one night back in October, I saw one, parked in front of a crappy strip mall not far from my house, and I heard a voice saying, “This is bullshit.”

I stopped the car and left a nasty note on the windshield telling the owner exactly what I thought, signing it “A mother who is your worst nightmare!” Shout out to the random guy who snapped this pic:

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The note stayed untouched for a few days, and I realized that no one was tending to these vans at all, and that whatever message I left would only ever be seen by the people passing by.

So what did I want to say?

Well, here’s what I didn’t want to say:

I didn’t want to blame the women working for this man. I didn’t even want to call into question his right to have this business. It’s a free country (sort of) and this is apparently all legal and legit.

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Time out– just so you know what page I’m on. To me, there’s a difference between nude dancers, and maids who are paid to clean naked. There just is. The number plastered on the side, 1-800-SO-DIRTY, says it all. It’s the power play there that makes this disturbing. While that kind of thing might be fun and a-ok between real life lovers, when money (power) is in the picture, let’s be real.

Oh, and also, the guy with the money (power) in this scenario is a total stranger to the woman. I ask you- What could possibly go wrong???

Even though I am no fan at all of this guy or his business, my goal was just to get him to stop taking up our public parking spots with his offensive advertising, and to start a conversation about the message these vans send. He gets a voice, so I do to, was my thinking.

Free country.

Over the next few months, I had my say:

At one point, photos of the signs were posted on another neighborhood’s Next Door page, and the response was encouraging. That was when I realized that it wasn’t just my friends who were giving their thumbs up. Lots of people responded that they also resented the presence of these vans in their neighborhood.

Then this happened:

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It totally wasn’t me, I swear. Neither was the bent license plate, windshield wipers, or the note on the windshield reading, “Sugar in the gas tank, asshole— more to come!”

This van was gone the next day. The. Next. Day. Gals, it’s possible that our good manners are slowing us down. Just sayin.’

As for me, I played nice.

I made online complaints to parking enforcement, emailed and called my LA City Council member, called local law enforcement, and the Department of Transportation to register complaints. Legally, vehicles can not be parked on public streets for longer than three days, without being moved. Even though every person I spoke to agreed that the vans should go, no one was optimistic.

It seemed like nothing short of spray paint and elbow grease was going to work.

Then, last week, I drove by the spot where one of my vans has sat for months, and saw this:

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Gone. Just like that.

I couldn’t believe it.

I’d become so used to feeling like nothing I do matters, that I was nearly knocked off my feet at this tiny ray of hope. I was on top of the world and utterly proud of myself, for about a whole minute.

After all, the truth is that there is no way of knowing whether my actions had anything to do with the van disappearing. There is no doubt that it took several people registering complaints, and the passage of many weeks before that one van disappeared. When some of my friends congratulated me, I was honest when I said I didn’t think I could claim any credit.

But y’all – it felt SO good to think I had had something to do with it.

Like a lot of women socialized to reign it in, I didn’t like sounding too big for my britches. I didn’t want to sound like I thought getting a van towed meant anything in the grand scheme of community action.

There are people living on the streets, after all.

The thing is, when I feel I can’t make a difference, I stay home. I look away. I hush my mouth. What if calling really did help? What if, very secretly, I let myself believe that I can be heard?

I think it’s worth fanning that flame.

I love imagining the conversations that might be happening in cars driving by those vans. “Mom, what’s misogyny?” is a pretty awesome opener, don’t you think? Fan that flame, sister!

At home, my husband had made the same calls to the city I made, and was feeling his own glow of satisfaction. Ever the buzzkill, I reminded him that that particular block is still pretty shitty, managing to add “but at least now, it’s a little less shitty.”

For now, that feels like a call I can answer. I can just try to make things a little less shitty.

In the words of my anonymous pink spray painting comrade,

“More to come.”

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Door Dreaming

Door Dreaming

‘Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.” —- Virginia Woolf

Wednesday of last week: I wake early, make coffee, and settle in on the couch in our sunny front room to meditate for a few minutes, go over the day’s schedule, and squeeze in a bit of writing before the house wakes up at 7:00.

It’s easy to get distracted by the morning sounds of garbage trucks and leaf blowers in our neighborhood, but I’m learning to say, “this too” when aversion bubbles up. It works ok.

Then I hear my husband come in and pour his coffee.

Damnit, already?

This too.

That’s kinda bitchy of me.

This too.

I say a quick amen, on the off chance there’s anybody out there, take a breath, and open my laptop. I have an idea and want to get it out before it loses that shimmer of urgency. This doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, but I’ve been going through such a dry spell that any idea is reason to fall down and kiss the ground.

So I get right to it. Tappity-tap-tap-tap go the keys.

Enter, Chris, who settles across the room from me and smiles. “Morning, baby.”

I want to hurl my laptop at him.

I feel a self-righteous anger way waaaayy out of proportion to the situation. Clearly, we must divorce.

This too.

“Were you writing?” He asks.

“Yes,” I answer, already softening because he thought to ask. Being asked feels like being seen, and that feels like love to me.

“Oh, sorry. I’ll go in the other room,” he says, in a way that tells me he is completely fine with it.

“No, that’s ok, you don’t have to go,” I call after him, guilty.

What a bitch I am. He just wanted to say good morning, and moments alone together don’t happen all that often. Looking down at the screen, I’ve lost hold of the thread and wonder why it even matters. Let’s be honest, this thing I take so seriously is really just a hobby, bringing in no money, taking focus and energy away from the people I love.

I’m reminded of a quote from Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.”

Apologize later and let it pass, I think.

This too.

I’ve just started typing when I hear my youngest son’s door open. His hair is sticking up every which way as he shuffles in and, still warm from sleep, sits next to me. His head rests in my lap and I shift my computer to the arm of the couch.

“Good morning. You’re up early,” I say.

It’s impossible to be mad. He is twelve, and every one of these minutes is precious. I want to keep writing, but I also want to be in this moment with my boy, who won’t be a boy much longer.

I can do both, I decide. Tappity-tap…tap…

It kind of works.

In a way.

But then he’s up and in the kitchen. (Insert Foley effects for: getting the bowl, the spoon, pouring the cereal, the milk, stubbing toe, dropping the spoon, etc.) My lap is empty. The day has begun.

We need more doors, I think.

That is when, as if on cue, our dog Jackson gallops in and makes a flying leap onto my couch next to me. I nudge him away and he settles next to me to lick the cushions until time for his walk. I make a mental note that he is cute but a little gross, and to wash the slipcovers. Trying to find my train of thought again, I hear Jackson on my left, making a noise.

This too.

My brow is furrowed. I type.

The sound persists but so do I until, finally, I turn and find the most lavish display of dog barf I have ever seen. It is everywhere.

This too?

Thus ends the time allotted for writing that day.

Reader, if you think I sound like a privileged housewife, whining about how she gets no respect, well, I’m sure there’s some truth to that. But the need for solitude is basic and profound.

I notice how my fourteen year old has taken up the habit of staying up well past the time the rest of us have gone to sleep. He uses the time to watch old t.v. episodes of Mission Impossible, draw, create, and raid the pantry for snacks. For those few hours, this is his place. I understand how great that feels, and I am happy he’s found that pocket of time for solitude. It’s important.

But the fact is, both of my sons have a room with a door. We have a knock first policy, so they maintain privacy. My husband has an office and, while I know he’d prefer to spend less time there, it does provide solitude when needed.

It has a door.

Several weeks ago, I created this setup in my closet. I wanted to finish a piece I was working on and it actually did the trick. IMG_0655But it also made me want to sob into my pillow. Still, I’m trying to figure out if I can make this a working space. It will require getting rid of most of my clothes, which may be a decent trade, at this point.

Am I privileged? Yes. Obviously.

I have a home and a support system for which I am always wholeheartedly grateful. But the struggle is real for women, especially mothers, who want to want to be creative in the way that requires solitude. We are socialized to believe that it is wrong to ask for it.

“There’s a season for everything,” friends have told me. Roughly translated this means: “You can’t have that now, maybe later.”

Maybe. Unless something or someone else requires your time. And there will always be something else.

Last night I had a dream. Actually, it wasn’t really a dream, exactly. I heard a voice. Creepy, I know.

“Maggie!” was all it said, but it sounded angry and was scary enough that my eyes flew open the second I heard it. It wasn’t my husband, who laughed this morning when I told him about it.

The voice meant business. It was pissed.

My babies were all asleep. The house wasn’t on fire. So what could be so urgent that needed my attention?

What, indeed.

I’m really curious– do you have creative projects that require time and space alone? Have you carved out a corner, a niche, or have you found a door you can close? Maybe you haven’t but you want it so badly that you are screaming on the inside, ashamed of what that must look or sound like on the outside.

Well, I see you.

No shame here, my friends. No shame here.

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