Author: Melissa Rayworth

Taking Off and Waking Up

I take a lot of long-haul trips, the kind where I’m trapped in the coach seat of a jetliner for a dozen hours or more. So I’ve learned to sleep on planes. Within a half hour of slipping the plastic off my airline-issued blanket, I’m dozing deeply, head nestled against my bright pink travel pillow. I used to fight it. I found the whole experience unsettling. One minute, I’m in New York, closing my eyes on the snowy tarmac of JFK, and the next thing I know I’m surrounded by the desert heat and social restrictions of Abu Dhabi. It’s surreal, emerging as the lights get brighter and the rustling of people and baggage brings the cabin suddenly to life, unsure for a moment where or when I am. The control freak in me took years to accept that I was OK being totally, vulnerably asleep in such a public place, under a blanket that wasn’t mine, with total strangers – and not ones I’d chosen to sleep with – reclining next to me. At …

tuenight censored bangkok melissa rayworth

Life Lessons from Going Balls Deep in Bangkok

I am a hypocrite. A hypocrite holding a ping-pong paddle. On this night, the ping-pong paddle has just hit a ping-pong ball that is coming directly at me, as ping-pong balls do. But it is the ping-pong ball’s provenance that concerns me: It has just been launched from inside the vagina of a visibly bored, thirty-something Thai woman sitting spread-eagle on a dingy stage. For over a year, I have lived in Bangkok as an “expat,” a term I dislike intensely. I am, no escaping it, white privilege embodied. But I have tried to encounter the culture in which I now live on its own terms — terms of respect and deference, with an eye toward understanding the world better and being a worthy representative of my country in a far-off place. Curiosity has gotten the better of me, though. I want to understand the famously forbidden parts of the city I currently call home. And that curiosity has brought me to Patpong, a part of central Bangkok that is perhaps the most scarlet of …

I’m Incredibly Nearsighted but My Hindsight is 20/20

I did it again last week. We reach the moment in my son’s annual physical where the pediatrician checks his vision, and I instinctively held my breath. He’s turning nine, and his brother is now 12, and neither one needs glasses yet. But odds are it’s only a matter of time. My husband was just nine when a pair of glasses first was perched on his nose by a cheerful optometrist. We’re both ridiculously nearsighted. I was turning 10 when I got my glasses, just weeks into the fall semester at a new school where I had no friends yet. I can still picture the school nurse checking my eyes and ears, then handing me a folded slip of paper. “Take this note to your mother,” she said. “Tell her you needed glasses.” “What??” I wanted to scream. “I’m the new kid! I don’t know anybody yet! Now I’m going to be the new kid with glasses!” But I said nothing. She’d already moved on to the next kid in line, and my fate was …

Mommy Hottest: Why I’m Not Sacrificing My Sexy for My Kids

“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” —Victor Hugo “Stacy’s mom has got it going on.” —Fountains of Wayne Last month, my husband came home after a week of work travel. He brought me this incredible dress from a street market in London — a steampunk mashup of leather and lace with a thin brass chain dangling from the neckline that somehow reads as both sweet and sexual. It’s the kind of completely impractical piece of provocative clothing he knows I adore but would never buy for myself. I went into the bathroom, slipped it on, then walked back into our bedroom. His face lit up. “I love it,” he said quietly, looking at me like I was the only person on the planet. Our two boys, who’d been busy opening the souvenirs he’d brought them, stared at me. “Awkward silence,” the 8-year-old stage-whispered. And then this, from the 12-year-old: “Mom,” he said, “you don’t look like you.” Lately, that’s the problem. Society has finally caught up with the fact …

Mom, Interrupted: Let Me Finish My Sentence

“Mom, can the new kid in my class come over sometime and…” Click. “The new kid in MY class from Japan brought in this candy today that tasted like…” Click. “Somebody said there was a bug in the noodles today, and my whole class was, like, screaming…” “Tristan’s mom is having a baby…” “Sweetheart, can you please get my watch fixed before… “ Click. Click. Click. Somehow my entire existence has become a live-action website. Each day hurtles at me at warp speed. But it’s not like it was when I was growing up, when life seemed to unfold in a forward motion not unlike the 1970s TV shows I watched after school. Instead, life in my family today seems as if it’s its own social network of bang-bang status updates – an unyielding series of nested hyperlinks, one after another, mouse click after mouse click after mouse click. They carry me, like a cognitive tidal wave, away from whatever it is that I’m trying to say and think. [pullquote]Perhaps we’re afraid our overscheduled 40-something …

Ditching the “Sorry” When it Comes to Getting Paid

In the board game “Sorry,” two players cannot occupy the same space at the same time. You roll the dice, and if you land on a space where another player is already standing, they’re knocked back to where they started. Their progress is lost, and you’re left apologizing. “Sorry!” you say — with or without sincerity. Sorry, because I took up space that someone was using. Sorry, because I went and put myself out there, rolled the dice, and got somewhere. Sorry, I got in another person’s way. This game made perfect sense to me as a girl, because I was taught to move through the world in pretty much that same way. It was impolite to take up space, even metaphorically, because somebody else might need it. “I’m sorry,” was the all-purpose reply if I drew too much attention, made too much noise or did anything that might possibly annoy anyone. [pullquote]You’re not greedy if you want to be paid well. And you’re not stealing from the women next to you by speaking up.[/pullquote] …

Why Didn’t I Question 28 Years of Birth Control?

For much of freshman year, my fear of getting pregnant waged a battle with my fear of getting caught by my mother with birth control pills in my purse. I was a kid who had always played by the rules. In the Catholic household where I was growing up, secretly taking the Pill was beyond unacceptable. So what if I was living at college, hours away from home? Somehow, some way, I was sure she’d just know. And yet I knew that getting pregnant would be even worse in my parents’ eyes: Not only would God know what I was up to, but the neighbors would find out, too. That sealed it for me. After months of obsessing (and falling for the guy who would eventually become my ex-husband), I finally asked one of my roommates to drive me to her doctor’s office. I took my first Pill on our ride back to our dorm. I felt it catch in my dry, nervous throat. I read every word of medical fine print that came with …

Can a Procrastinating Mom Change Her Procrastinating Son?

Some nights, I’d hear him puttering around in his room. Maybe he’d drop the tennis ball he was tossing up in the air and it would bounce across his bedroom floor. Or I’d realize he was poking around on Spotify, playing a fragment of one pop song, then a fragment of another. He’d only stop when I’d call out: “Are you really finishing your homework?” Silence. Then a highly unconvincing “Yes!” would fill the air. “You’ve got to stop wasting time,” I’d say in my most grown-up voice. “It’s almost bedtime and you’re still doing homework. The only person that hurts is you. You know you won’t want to get up for school tomorrow if you don’t get some sleep tonight. You said an hour ago you were tired. Just get your work done.” Just get your work done. I sounded so sure of myself. If he could have seen me on a hidden camera, he would have discovered that I was wandering around on Facebook, scrolling endlessly, pointlessly, through quippy comments and cat photos, pausing only …