All posts filed under: Love+

Fall in love, shrug off that bad date, walk the dog, be a friend

I Wanted to Say Thanks; I Ended Up Saying Sorry

When I decided to mark my 50th birthday year by writing thank-you letters to people who had helped, inspired, and shaped me in my life, the last thing on my mind was forgiveness. But writing those thank-you letters turned out to be harder, deeper, and more meaningful than I’d ever hoped, in large part because it drove home the ways in which gratitude and forgiveness are twinned in human nature. By challenging myself to acknowledge all the ways in which I had been helped over the years, I necessarily faced facts: there were situations in which I hadn’t always conducted myself in a way that made me deserving of the help. And in situations where I’d clung to historical slights by a family member or close friend, writing a letter documenting all the ways those people had supported me over the years made me blush with embarrassment over my hard work and determination to maintain ancient disappointments. Making amends as I went, whether in the text of the letters I wrote or simply by promising …

Am I Bullied by the Past? Or Just by My Memories?

In the very early days of Facebook, back when people “poked” each other, I received two friend requests, both from women I’d originally met in Grade 8. Both sent me chatty messages, congratulating me on the arrival of my new baby, commiserating about the trials of integrating newborns into the emotional lives of their toddler siblings, and updating me on their whereabouts, relationships and careers over the previous 20 years. The irony of their sweet messages wasn’t lost on me. In the eighth grade, I’d been the new kid, parachuted across the country from my tiny, all-girls, private-school class in Vancouver, British Columbia, to a public junior high in suburban Toronto. I was awkward, friendless, and scared, all of which was likely noted by the group of girls I half-fell in with. I spent that year in a state of watchfulness, arriving at school each morning wary about how my status in the group might have shifted overnight.  Toward the end of the year, an anonymous, handwritten note appeared in my art folder. The letter, …

The 5th Grade Mehndi Mishap

In the early 1990s, most people didn’t know what henna was, let alone the variation of the word “mehndi.” You see, Gwen Stefani had not happened at that time, and mainstream audiences hadn’t quite accepted that South Asia was “the land of colors and magic” just yet. During that time, my family lived in a town called Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. I say that as if the town does not exist anymore, but it does, and we still have extended family who love living there.  The Mechanicsburg of the early ‘90s was different than it is now. There weren’t many minorities. In fact, in my entire elementary school there was one African American kid. He was the adopted son of our wonderful and white Principal, Ms. Ingram. The other minorities in school consisted of: me, my younger sister, and an Asian girl named Chloe whom I tried, and failed, to befriend. She was cooler than me back then because the early ‘90s was also not the age of the smart-girl dominance. Despite the lack of diversity, Mechancisburg …

Heather Barmore at Pride Festival

I’m Proud That I Never Had to “Come Out” to My Parents

There is a photo of my friend Hannah taken during the Pride parade in Philadelphia. Her arms are raised to the heavens, the sunlight landing perfectly on her face. Her eyes are closed but she is joyous in a white tee emblazoned with the rainbow colors of Pride. She exudes the freedom of expression that all Gay Pride events represent: gathering, inclusivity, community, and ever present hugging, as we each send well-wishes of ‘HAPPY PRIDE!’. Our community and our allies are exuberant, happy to dress up, to be free. It’s the freedom of loving and being loved.   I posted the rest of my Pride photos to social media for thousands to see, glad that I could revel in a day of such happiness and solidarity. Apparently, there is a thin line of pride between affirming your identity and announcing to your moderately conservative family that you have the right to be happy loving who you want to love. But still, why ruin the illusion? Compartmentalize. Compartmentalize. Compartmentalize.  *** When I was 16 years old, I …

Learning the Truth About My Real Father

Growing up, I never knew my name. I mean, I had a name but I never knew it because I was called “Piggy” since I was born. Story goes, when my mom gave me a bottle, I curled my hands and feet like pig’s hooves around it. How fucking adorable. Just call me bacon why don’t you?! We lived in Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, & Prospect Heights, Brooklyn in the late 60s and early 70s. You could say my mom was a rolling stone and wherever she lay her hat was her home. By the age of 25 she had seven kids by six different daddies. Yeah, I know. My mom was rolling more than her hat back in the day. No judgment! My Dad must have loved my mom because by the time they met, she’d already had three kids by three different men. He still wanted to be with her. I love my Dad for his persistence in getting with my mom but looking back, they broke up mainly because my mother continued …

How to Date Your Crazy

I should have known we wouldn’t work out when I messaged him one of my favorite quotes from Alain de Botton. It’s from the On Being podcast “The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships.” In it de Botton says the question we should really be asking on first dates is: “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this?” “I don’t get it,” he replied via WhatsApp. “How do you ask about crazy?” Of course he didn’t listen to the podcast to find out. I let it pass. He was sweet. He was cute. He was smart. He had his career together. I took this to mean he had his emotional life together too — all of it nicely bundled in a cultivated gift wrap and tied up with the sexy bow of an Australian accent.  We matched on Tinder two days before he moved from New York to Colorado, and when we couldn’t work out a meeting before he left, I figured he’d disappear. But he didn’t. A month after we connected, he flew …

In Defense of Over-Holidaying

My husband grew up Jewish, and when we started dating, it fell to me to introduce him to Christmas as full-fledged participant, rather than exasperated outside witness. He couldn’t have chosen a better person to adopt Christmas with. With my cookie-making, casserole-baking, community-volunteering tendencies, I’ve been in bootcamp for Christmas mentorship my whole life. But even I was unprepared for how much more fun—how defiantly extra—Christmas could be with someone who’d never had it. On a frosty morning in December, my brand-new Christmas Jew and I were the first customers at the neighborhood tree stand. We struggled back to our studio apartment with a tree no less than five feet in diameter, coated it in lights and tinsel, and spent the day sitting on the couch, staring at it. We were just getting started. Reader, we roasted a Christmas goose. Have you ever tried roasting a goose? Don’t. We ate roasted chestnuts, also disgusting. We went to the Messiah, and my Jewish boyfriend stood up and bellowed “Haaaale-lujah!” with the best of them. We adopted Operation Santa kids, ice skated …

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Why I’m Throwing My Own Damn Retirement Party

At 38, and soon to be 39, I am nowhere close to receiving social security checks or living off a cushy pension or a seven-figure Roth IRA. But financial security hasn’t stopped me from declaring my retirement at the end of 2016. That’s right. I said retirement. This is retirement in the tradition of the thirty-something-year-old NBA basketball player who retires from the hustle of the game. (Except I’m neither as rich nor as famous as Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan.) I have been writing professionally for 15 years, and most of that time I’ve been a freelancer. That means that I’ve been floating from assignment to assignment without an employer to call my own. But this year, I am retiring from that writer-for-hire life. I have not made a lot of money, I have not made an indelible mark (whatever that means) and I have not achieved all that I’d hoped to accomplish in my professional writing life. Having written my way to mediocre success, I am choosing now to say to myself, “Good …

Silly Things People Have Said to Me When I Tell Them I’m Not Having Kids

There will be no children in my future. Ever. Yes, I am married. Yes, my husband knows that I do not want children. Yes, we both realize we’re extremely fortunate to be able to elect to live childfree. He doesn’t want kids either. It’s part of the reason I married him. (That, and he has excellent hair.) He married me knowing that and also because I always clean the litter box. I probably brought up the topic of kids on the second date — it would have been a deal breaker. My husband would make the world’s greatest father. But that alone isn’t reason enough for me to become the mother I’ve never wanted to be, to take on a crushing financial burden or to add more to my already too-full plate. I love my friends’ children. Because I don’t have to take care of them. Their cuteness is there to fulfill my need to see cute things. I don’t expect them to behave for me, and they don’t expect 18 years of dinner from …

The Mazel Tov Slap: The Jewish Tradition You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

When I told my mother I got my period for the very first time, she slapped me across the face and shouted, “Mazel Tov!” It wasn’t a punishment slap — more like the way you’d slap a person who fainted, or something out of the Marx Brothers — and it didn’t feel violent. I don’t remember the moment in great detail, and I don’t remember it as something terrible that happened to me. I mostly remember knowing that it was part of long-standing tradition from shtetl times, passed down from Jewish mother to Jewish daughter, the purpose (supposedly) being to bring the color back to your face (because it’s all draining out through your vagina now!). It’s possible I even knew it was coming, that it was something we discussed in advance — probably with all of my female relatives! — as I eagerly awaited the big day. And yes, I so desperately wanted my period, because at 14, it felt like ALL OF MY FRIENDS had theirs, and I was on the outside of this magical …

Pregnancy, Menopause and Learning the Ukelele — Not Necessarily in That Order

At 36, I decided I was ready to get pregnant. I had quit drinking two and a half years earlier, and had just met someone new — an AA-approved boyfriend who was financially stable, mostly trustworthy, and as tired as I was of being a destructive, melodramatic alcoholic. He also had a wonderful Irish accent. Most of my life I had been late to the game. I took the SATs without preparation, applied to college weeks before the semester was set to begin, schemed my way into a study abroad in Amsterdam at the last minute*, took a job with AOL after the merger with Time-Warner (thus not benefitting from any of that stock-splitting that made nearly everyone in the DC suburbs filthy rich). Having a child in my late 30s would fit my pattern. Besides, it’s what I wanted. I was 36, but I always looked young. I often joked that all the alcohol I drank in my life pickled me. At that point, my situation was as good as it was going to …

What is an Orgy Dome? This Midlife Couple Finds Out

Burning Man is a festival — really a temporary city — that appears for one week every summer in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada, and then disappears. Started in 1986, it’s a lot of things — at the very least a hugely wild art and community gathering, a place where exchanging money and commercialism of any sort are prohibited. Participants (70,000 last year!) live in tents and trailers amid fierce dust storms, ride around on bikes, and admire ginormous sculptures on the playa. Clothing is optional, electronic music blares all night long, and drugs and alcohol are plentiful (if kept hidden from the police, who are there to keep everyone safe). Imagine Mad Max meets Alice in Wonderland, and you’ve pretty much got it covered. Of course, these ingredients lead to some wild adventures… On the third or fourth day, biking around in the hot desert, we passed the famous “Orgy Dome,” a place we’d both heard about, but never discussed. We stood, we stared, we felt uncomfortable, and then we rode on. But …

Flashing Back to the Playboy Mansion, Paris & Prague in Search of a Better Body Image

Cannabis lube and three orgasms in one night. Yep. That’s what my middle-aged, present day, post-divorce sex life looks like… sometimes. While some friends are complaining about atrophied vaginas, my legs are open for business and I’m letting hot suitors visit my grand canal. My curves are being adored and admired and I feel sexually, like the song “Free Bird.” It certainly has not always been this way. Long before my hot romps of late with the Joes, Peters, Pedros, Fabios and Juan Miguels, I would look in the mirror and dissect myself. I didn’t trust or love my body as much as Louise Hay wanted me to. My screenwriting professors always told us to use FLASHBACKS sparingly, but I decided it was time. I wanted to see a time-line of my body image psyche. Flashback, 1980s. I’m a 17-year-old virgin spending the summer in L.A on a film internship. My roommate is a Malibu bombshell who is very “in” with the “LA fast track.” She’s about to attend Hugh Hefner’s Midsummer Night’s Bash and …

How The Flash Inspired My Perimenopausal Alter Ego

8:15PM on a Tuesday Family bonding time. We’re all huddled in my bed watching The Flash on Netflix, a bowl of popcorn propped precariously between my younger son and husband’s thighs. I’m wrapped in a fuzzy sweater under the duvet even though it’s May. In three hours, I will look like Heat Miser doing a striptease when my hot flash hits, but right now I’m shivering and pissing off my older son by using him as a human heating pad for my ice-cold feet. And I want to punch Barry Allen. Barry, AKA metahuman speedster extraordinaire The Flash, is such a whiny bitch. He needs to face the evil Reverse Flash in some bad acid trip called the Flashpoint or all his friends and what’s left of his family will die. But. He’s. Too. Hot. Barry’s friends are science-ing in a panic to literally chill Barry the fuck out and create a new superhero suit that can withstand the burden of saving the world. Meanwhile, I get eyerolls when I ask my kids for a …

artwork by Jenny Laden 2018

Unmasked: The Day I Visited Dad in the AIDS Ward

artwork by Jenny Laden 2018 In the hospital lobby they looked at me funny when I told them I was visiting the 3rd floor. I took off my headphones, turned off the Pixies on my CD player, wrapped the cord around it and shoved it into my backpack. In the hallway, the tv’s were showing interviews with Magic Johnson, who’d just told the world he was HIV positive, and Anita Hill, who’d just told a bunch of politicians about how shitty her male boss was and instead of dismissing him, they put him on the Supreme Court. This was my first,  “I’m visiting my super sick parent in the hospital regardless of the fact that I’m only a teenager” hospital visit. They don’t have special passes for visitors like me. Nobody seemed to notice I’m not even voting age.   “I’m here to see my dad, Richard Laden, Room 323.” I said. The woman there didn’t look at me, but acknowledged I was there with a quiet “mmhmm,” and handed me something blue. A mask. Like …

The Case of the Bad Panties

In 1992, I was 23 and the girl who had sex on the first date, if not before.Not coincidentally, I was also drinking too much and dating a lot of low-wattage losers. After a few drinks, I found myself far more interested in what my date was like with his clothes off. To get him to shut up, my underpants came down. But this strategy was getting me nowhere. I was beginning to suspect that it might be better to date people who didn’t bore me into having sex. It was around this time I was asked out by someone I actually liked, a person in whom I potentially could invest time and energy. He was a gentle, shy creature, the type who might be scared off by my willingness to — well, by my willingness. How to keep myself from jumping him pre-appetizer? The beauty of my solution lay in its simplicity: I would wear a pair of panties too embarrassing to reveal to him. The panties in question were a pair of threadbare, …

My Search for the “Oh Yes!” When Sex Was a No-No

Sexual education in my conservative, southern, Christian upbringing was strictly on a need-to-know basis: I needed to know what I should avoid. An entire sexual revolution swirled around me, giving not thought at all to my existence, yet it was I, I, who madly sought it. My curriculum was carefully curated so that I might be informed, but still avoid the rising tide of desire. Too much information would no doubt trigger the awakening of the wanton sexual temptress hell bent on besmirching my family name with gonorrhea and out-of-wedlock children that ignorance had allowed to lay dormant. I dubbed my sexual curiosity my white whale — an obsession that consumed every waking moment I spent away from the Bible or Knight Rider, sure to lead to my undoing. I had to use context clues for everything else. I asked my parents where babies came from when I was six. They gave me a splendidly clinical “a-man’s-sperm-meets-a-woman’s-egg” spiel. “How? They rub stomachs or something? Does he feed it to her?” It wasn’t until a year …

Fvmbe Humor: Honoring My Ancestors with Belly Laughs

In my culture — the Mvskoke (Creek) tribe — humor is a constant. There’s even a certain genre of humor which one of our scholars, Craig Womack, termed “fvmbe humor.” (In Creek, “v” is pronounced like a “u.”) “Fvmbe” means “stink,” and “fvmbe humor” often has to do with the body, though it’s not crass. It is difficult to translate, but we’ve kept the word despite the government’s many attempts to take away our language and culture. Laughing at certain things is almost a marker of belonging. But another marker of belonging is knowing when not to laugh, when not to let suppressed giggles burst out at the wrong time. Especially, in church. My family attends a Mvskoke Baptist church. As is custom in our tribe’s churches, the church house is in the center, and it is surrounded by family “camphouses” — small houses which are usually just a dining room, kitchen, and seating area. Some have a bedroom because some people stay at church from Saturday evening to Sunday night. All of us stay …

My Husband’s Manic Break Left Me Running for My Life

Nine years ago a battalion of police cars and a whole lot of crazy portended the end of my 16-year marriage, and I — someone who’d gone from living in my mother’s house to living with my husband at just 19 years old — was now completely on my own with two young children in Westchester in a crumbling house I couldn’t afford. To say that I was scared would be like saying this first year with Trump was just a little bit rocky. I was panicked. Low-key panicked in that way that vibrates off of you, no matter how cool you’re trying to play it. And I was trying to play it cool, at least for my kids. At 8 and 11, their whole world had been upended and they were struggling to comprehend why and come to terms with it all. They needed me to act like it was all going to be okay, and while I faked the funk for them every day, I needed everyone else in my life to tell …

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On Going to a Better Place: What I’ve Learned from My Brother’s Death

Originally published in the Loss Issue, 2016 I have a picture of my younger brother when he was four days old. I’m sitting on my parents’ black and white geometric-patterned bedspread, cradling him. It’s one of my favorite photographs. I’m the oldest, followed by my sister, 13 months later. Almost a decade passed before my parents had another baby. Bryce’s birth was momentous. He was charming from the first day, with a wide, impish grin. As time went by, my mother would say, Bryce is going to do great things: He has the brains, the work ethic, the brawn. When Bryce was thirteen, he started drinking. In our family, drinking wasn’t just about experimentation. No one in my family drank. At fourteen, when the cops called to say he had broken into our neighbor’s house on the hunt for cash to buy booze and drugs, my mother called me at college, desperate and knowing there was a real problem. What had begun as acting out for Bryce had become a salve for anxiety and depression. When my …

Childbirth Is No Place for a Fever — or Fear

“Are you feeling ok?” my ob/gyn asks me. I’ve been in labor for 26 hours with my first child. My water has broken in dramatic fashion and I’m preparing myself to start pushing. “Am I feeling OK?” I ask myself. “What does ‘OK’ even mean in this context?” I am tired in every sense of the word. But I guess I feel OK. She keeps asking, though, and I don’t understand why. “You have a fever of 103.5. Are you sure you’re OK?” I emerge from my epidural haze and finally register what she is saying. I arrived at this hospital fever-free. I had had a normal pregnancy. Actually, it wasn’t normal — it was very easy. No vomiting, minimal nausea. The labor has taken a long time, but that’s not unusual. Now all of a sudden my temperature is rising and alarming everyone around me. This moment in 2009 is the very peak of the swine flu pandemic; by the time it run its course, it will claim nearly 15,000 lives around the world. …

Before We Ever Met, He Tattooed My Name on His Hip

When he got my name tattooed on his hip, we hadn’t met yet. He was 50. I had just turned 30. He had a big job in the city at a law firm, lived on Long Island, and wore tailored suits to work. I assumed he was rich. He sounded rich. I was working as a telephone dominatrix from my ramshackle apartment deep in Jersey City and had just filed for bankruptcy. His voice was measured, wise. I liked him more than the others and more than I was supposed to. My voice on the phone, was confident, lulling — often just a whisper. It was one of my trademarks and how I controlled them. I was good at it. The other women on the line thought the guys would spend more money on you if you yelled at them. They were mostly wrong. One of my best clients, a shy music professor from England who had six pet rats, left me five stars and this comment on my site one time: “I’d sell my …

Choosing Calm Over Chaos Made Me Less of an Asshole Mom

For a long time, I couldn’t relate to mother-daughter relationship drama stories. I was way too preoccupied with an operatic level of paternal drama for that. My father’s attentions, and the absence thereof, consumed my childhood. I was too busy being adored, smacked, screamed at, and gaslighted by my dad to have any emotional space left to hate my mom. My own daughter, Amira, was born 11 days after my 30th birthday. Four and a half years later, my son Lev was born. I did the stay-at-home-mom thing for 10 years, throughout my 30s. My job performance was fair. In the “pro” column: I think I gave my kids pretty good advice about how to stand down bullies. “If someone teases you,” I said, “squint real hard, look totally grossed out and say: ‘Ewww…! What’s that green stuff coming out of your nose?!?’” They both say it never came to that, but I know they knew what I was getting at: Don’t dignify shitty behavior. You’re bigger than that. My temper, however, was at the …

Life Blindsided Me And Then I Learned to See.

One Sunday afternoon about fifteen years ago, I wandered into a panel discussion at The Brooklyn Public Library just as Carmen Boullousa, the Mexican poet and novelist, was being asked a question. “How do you write?” the questioner asked. Carmen Boullousa threw her hands up in the air and slammed them down the table in front of her. “You don’t know what you’re doing!” she burst forth, with a shout and a laugh. “You start off blinded, and you work until you begin to see.” I was 37 or 38 at the time, with a husband and two young daughters doing whatever they were doing in our Prospect Heights brownstone a few blocks away. And for as long as I could remember, I’d been trying to connect life’s dots with a modicum of elegance and a minimum of fuss. Determined to press on, to be a trooper, to feign competence, to not give passport, ever, to a willingness to be blinded. Carmen Boullousa was talking about writing but I sensed her advice might help me …

That Last Day I Ever Trusted My Father

I trusted my father to always do the right thing because he constantly barked at my sister and me about how hard he was working for us to have a good home, go to good schools, go to college, etc. My father was the first Black man ever hired at Western Electric in their managerial program. He did a lot of good, helping other Black folks get jobs, being the President of the NAACP chapter, and integrating the Kiwanis and Lions civic organizations. In hindsight, though, there were signs I shouldn’t have trusted him as much as I did. He was of the generation of men who did not cry and were not affectionate with their family. From the time I was four years old, I knew that he and my mother didn’t have a very loving relationship. When I was five, I remember being awakened by a huge fight they had one night. They were yelling at each other, and she grabbed a giant glass ashtray and tried to smash him in his head …

The Day I Stopped Trusting My Memory

“I don’t have time for this shit,” I grumbled to myself as I searched the apartment for my keys. Moving piles of unopened mail around on the kitchen table, I felt the familiar pit in my stomach begin to grow. “Why didn’t I put the keys on its porcelain dish as usual?” I chastised myself. “And why was this happening so often lately?” Just last week, I went searching for my iPhone and found it in the freezer. In the freezer. Don’t even ask me how I did that because — guess what — I don’t remember. Back in my years before Impending Cronehood, I had a remarkable memory — almost photographic. Dates, names, and intimate details were etched into my brain so clearly that I could recall them vividly, and I was often used as my friend’s journals, to be opened when their own recollections of the past grew hazy. “Hey, Issa, what was the name of that guy I used to date our freshman year in college? You know, the one who was …

Am I Allowed to Be Happy Even If My Kids Are Not?

I was raised to believe that happiness and motherhood were inherently incompatible, if not irreconcilable. I learned from my mother’s example. Mothers did not live to be happy. Mothers lived to be useful. Mothers lived to be productive. I don’t remember my mother ever talking about being happy. I do remember her always working, laboring, being useful to others. My mother’s hands seemed like they never stopped moving. If she wasn’t pulling strings off string beans or picking worms off tomatoes in her garden, she was peeling apples for a pie or peaches for a cobbler. Or, she was sewing us or herself a new outfit, or turning our old outgrown clothes into quilts. Over time, arthritis made sewing too difficult, but she kept cooking and gardening until the day she took her last breath. As infants, my children were born pushy, in that way that is socially acceptable only for babies and cats. My daughter came out stubborn, demanding and unapologetic. My son, on the other hand, used his fat cheeks, bright eyes and …

A Luminous Photograph with a Story to Tell

It’s a photograph no one else but me could have taken. My mother didn’t take it, that’s for sure. She was great in front of the camera, her rightful place, and pretended — feminine wiles, how quaint — not to understand how to depress the shutter button on a point-and-shoot. My ex-husband was a distracted photographer with an artsy eye that didn’t translate to family photos. Twenty-five years later, no, Philip, I don’t remember whose earlobe that is. But Philip didn’t take it. I’ll describe the image. My daughter, Sophia, is three. Her hair is summer blonde and flows. She is wearing a yellow dress that is now packed in a bin marked “Girls,” in the basement of my building. My father, Tom, is 67. He is tanned and grey and rugged, with a big dad head, square and block-sturdy, the kind of dad head you don’t see much anymore, who knows why, something to do with the internet? Craniums diminish to accommodate next level evolution? I don’t know. Anyway, my father with his big …

He’s 25. I’m 53. What Could Go Wrong?

“Make my day go from good to great and tell me you don’t mind that I’m 25, not 45.” Oh, this old trick. Present yourself as a Gen-Xer when you’re really a millennial. I understand of course; my age, in the universe of dating apps, is a moving target. I have the slightest amount of empathy. Slight enough to answer him back at 1:30am instead of falling asleep. Like middle-aged humans do. “You’re closer in age to my daughter than you are to me.” Dating-wise, the formula I’m fond of applying is half my age plus seven. I’m 53. Even with my Bumble age — 46 — this 25-year-old doesn’t make the cut. Unless I make an exception. We’re playing the same game, after all. The liberal age gap. He generously adds 20 years to his age, I’m mindfully lowering mine and we’re both hoping that somewhere along this sliding scale we’ll each get what we want. “I find you very sexy. I don’t care about your age or mine. I want to get to …

Baby Shower 2.0: Celebrating My Transgender Son’s Identity

The blue jellybeans were assembled in pint-sized mason jars on my kitchen table. My husband was about to head to the store to pick up the balloon bouquet while I put finishing touches on the decorations. The kids and I had made a batch of homemade chocolate ice cream, and the giant, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie was frosted in blue with our son’s new name: Max Grayson. “It’s A Boy!” read the banner across the wall and on the sign in the front yard. We were thrilled to welcome so many excited guests to our home for “Baby Shower 2.0.” We had already thrown our child a baby shower back in 2008, back when we named him Mary Grace and thought he was our daughter. Our son is nine years old now and has been telling us he is a boy since he was two. Once we were able to finally recognize that he was transgender — a process that was neither fast nor easy — and then took the steps necessary to officially …