Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Eggs Over. Not Easy.

Published in More Magazine & Huffington Post

Eggs Over. Not Easy.
by Marianne Curan

"More" Magazine: A woman chronicles how her thoughts and feelings about having children has changed through the years.

I was never one of those women who turned 30 and became a heat-seeking missile of Motherhood. It wasn’t like I was hitting the snooze button on the oh-so-tired biological clock clichĂ©. I wasn’t even sure I had one.

I was married a couple of years by 30 and wanted kids, but knew it was too soon — for me. I was still young and was having fun being a carefree grown up and enjoying my career. I was content I had plenty of time — until my marriage (or what I now call “The Episode”) went off the rails like an Amtrak on the way to Grandma’s. Now in my early 30s, I found myself sampling therapists, trying on new boyfriends, and waiting for life to bloom again, and it did.

By 36, I was in a great new relationship, had a great new job, and was ready to start a family. There was one glitch, however. My boyfriend had three grown children and wanted a baby as much as he wanted — well, a baby.

Yet, I still thought I had time — until I got a wake-up call from my gynecologist. “So, Doctor-So-Handsome-It’s-A-Shame-You’re-Married-and-We’re-Not,” how much time do the ‘ol eggs have before they’re fried?” I said with a wink, enjoying my third-grade play on words.

“I’d say five good years,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“Five?!” I squawked, clamping my knees shut. “And, just good ones? Not even great?”

I looked past him to photos of all the babies he’d delivered — taunting me with their drooling, toothless grins; their chubby, dimpled fists clutching stuffed Pooh Bears and Sponge Bobs; their “I’m a Turkey Baster Twin” bibs spattered with perfect pools of organic strained peas.

Instead of imagining myself blowing raspberries on their tiny baby bellies, I tried to distract myself with visions of these cherubs as seething, hormonal teenagers slamming their bedroom door in my face, hiding plates of congealed nachos under piles of their weeks old dirty underwear, rap music blaring from my car as it comes squealing up the driveway with an empty tank of gas and a fender dangling— three days shy of turning in the lease. I envisioned my image burned in effigy hanging from a basketball hoop — dangling like a Suburban Saddam Hussein. And then, let’s talk about the bills. Twenty-two years (if you get off that early) of watching your hard earned money sucked into the earth by someone you can’t guarantee will visit you in the home someday. Who needs that shit?

This negative imagery was working until I looked back up at Dr. Bad News Bearer and launched right back into my baby fantasy. He was going to have to leave his perfect wife and children immediately. I would leave my boyfriend immediately, and we’d run off to some deserted island and try to populate immediately. After all, he’s the one who told me I only had five good years.

“Marianne,” he said, snapping me back from our beachfront hideaway. “That doesn’t mean you only have five years. Women are having babies well into their forties.”

“Yeah, I know!” I desperately responded.  “Jane Seymour had twins at like 50. And didn’t some woman in Norway have her first baby at 68 — or maybe it was 63. Okay, maybe I read that one while I was waiting in line at the grocery store.”  
He gently guided me to sit up. “What I mean is, you have about five good years to get pregnant naturally, without fertility treatments or complications, and you’ll have much less chance of having a child with ‘issues,’” he said.

“Oh, issues!” I chuckled. “Like what? A cowlick? Peanut allergies?  Stroller Envy?  C’mon, Doc!  Nothin’ a good Nanny can’t handle!”

“No, Marianne. I’m talking about serious health issues.”

“Ooohhhh.  Wow. Gotcha, Doc.” It was awkward for a minute, not quite the romantic ending I had planned. I shook the sand out of my imaginary sandals and nodded. He handed me my birth-control prescription and said, “Take care.” After he left, I cried a little, blew my nose on my tissue gown and got dressed. Then I did what any woman would do in my situation. I got a puppy.

I was now on the brink of 40 and back in the dating game. My five good years were running out. Tick tock. Tick. Tock. Oh, how I hate that friggin’ clock.

Suddenly I’m obsessed with any human under three feet tall, especially ones wearing light-up sneakers, who are game for a round of peek-a-boo with a stranger (i.e. me ) in the frozen food aisle at Ralph’s and who can’t pronounce their “r’s” (like my niece who used to say her favorite color was “pupple.”) 

I would find myself stalking toddlers at Target, tears streaming down my face as I’d wail, “Oh. My. God.Your baby is soooo cute!” Most mothers just put the stroller in fifth gear, whizzing past me to the safety of the checkout. But, occasionally one would scream for security as I ducked into a sale rack.

Even I found my behavior strange. Yes, I wanted kids. But I was never obsessed with them before. I always thought, “Sure, when they’re clean and in a good mood, they’re adorable. But when they smell like poop and their caterwauling can be heard above the din of The Cheesecake Factory then they’re a pain in the ass.” I had always cringed at the thought of going to “Mommy & Me Class.” I fully expected when I had a child it would be “The Nanny & You Class.”

I knew I could never choose the sperm bank route. Nor could I see myself whisking an orphan out of a dung hut in Africa. I wanted a kid with my DNA — and specifically the smart genes that gave my family all its doctors, lawyers and MBAs — and not the random gene I got called the “acting bug.” (There should be some vaccination for that.) I wanted a kid who looks like me, but wouldn’t need braces, a shrink and a nose job.  Is that too much to ask?

And, I wanted it to happen the old fashioned way. Fall in love. Get married. Then, when we we’re both ready — have a baby.

Bob and I fell madly in love on our first date.  But, (and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?) he had a child, and a son — The Holy Grail for a sports fanatic. He was done.

So, I stayed, for my last two “good” years, falling deeper in love yet deeper into frustration as each stroller passed me by. When I did leave, I knew I’d done the right thing for me.

God, it sucked.

Screw therapy. This time I went to a psychic. “I see a tall, dark, handsome man,” she said.  Well, that was a no brainer — I’m five ten in heels — I don’t date short guys. I wasn’t impressed.

Then months later, just as she’d predicted, Bob came back into my life. He wanted to get married, but he still didn’t want more children. I called up Madame for a refund. “Sweetheart, I never promised you that. I did not see it in the cards.” 

And to think I was going to invite her to my wedding.  

Bob and I have been married for eight years and have an adorable baby boy, now 7, named Dunkleman — a 95-pound Labrador Retriever. Obviously dogs don’t completely replace having your own child but they do have their advantages. You can’t crate a toddler for a couple of hours while you shop a shoe sale at Bloomingdales.

I actually do have real kids — my stepson and nieces and nephews, whom I all adore. But, as often as they fulfill my maternal instincts, I still feel like I’ll never be chosen for the dodge ball game.

So, here I am at 50, contemplating getting another puppy and wondering if I’ll ever be more than an unfinished jigsaw puzzle.

But aren’t we all in some way unfinished? Are any of us ever really done? Perhaps one day, sooner than later, I’ll celebrate that what I have is enough and that having my own child won’t necessarily “complete me.” I want to feel that anything beyond enjoying my given life and nurturing other’s people’s lives, with or without children, is an unexpected treat.

In the meantime, I’m gonna get myself a pair of light-up sneakers, play peek-a-boo with my dogs and find something to color “pupple.”      


Your Crime Don't Pay My Rent

Your Crime Don’t Pay My Rent

Things like this only happen to other people. 

By “things” I mean crimes.  

I’m obsessed with crime—shows, that is, like CSI, NCIS, Law & Order SVU, etc. (any show with an acronym apparently.) I’m also hooked on Discovery’s crime shows like “Dark Minds”, “Cold Blood” and “Deadly Women” (which put all together strangely sounds like me during my divorce.)  

And, by “other people,” I mean the victims of those crimes, strangers from someone else’s family and someone else’s town.

You often see them in the news, all smiles in a photo from better times. There’s the shirtless guy on a boat, holding up a Bud Lite and a flounder. There’s the hippie couple in bell bottoms and Birkenstocks. There are the pimply teenagers in pastel prom attire. 

“Wow,” you’ll say as you read the gory details, “Did you hear about the woman who got murdered by the Domino’s guy? He’s her ex-boyfriend who just got out of prison and he found out she’d been cheating on him with his best friend so he suffocated her with a Wisconsin Six Cheese Deep Dish Pizza.  Mm mmm, six cheese.  Anyway, then he cut her up and delivered her body parts to the new guy with an order of CinnaStix.  Mm mmm, Cinnastix.” 

Things like this only to happen to other people.

I’ll never forget seeing a photo of a suburban Maryland townhouse gift wrapped in yellow police tape. It was in a town not far from where I grew up.  Not only was a crime committed there, it was, according to authorities, “particularly heinous.” (Insert Law & Order “dun dun” sound  here.) 

Oh, and by the way, the house belongs to my sister. 

Lisa had rented her home to a woman who rivaled Aunt Bee for down to earth Mom and apple pie goodness. (Google “The Andy Griffith Show” if that reference escapes you.) Lisa ignored dozens of calls from potential renters when “Bee” arrived in person oozing charm and grace. She introduced her teenage son-- let’s call him “Opie”-- who was shy and polite. Hook. “Bee” was a soft spoken, single Mom--a recent widow whose husband had died in a tragic Christmas Eve fire. Line.  She had a good job and a check ready for the first and last months’ rent. Sinker. Bee was in. 

Little did Lisa know that Aunt Bee had a darker side--like Martha Stewart off her meds when a soufflĂ© flops darker. A few months after moving in Opie stabbed his Mom’s boyfriend to death in the master bedroom. Then Bee helped him clean up the mess and they dragged the body  into nearby woods and set him on fire. Hours later a passing cop saw smoke and found the body. 

If only these numnuts had watched more crime shows they might have had a better plan. There’s always the standard taking his wallet and watch to fake a robbery trick (although most robberies happen on subways or in liquor stores, not in the woods.) Or, bury him in the basement since basements already have a “weird smell” and most people use them to store things they don’t need anyway.  Or better yet, dump him in a more remote location--like New Jersey. 

The trial revealed that Aunt Bee was a serial con artist with a prison record. (Note to wannabe landlords: Background Check.) She was suspected of starting the fire that killed the last of her 4 husbands.  She’d embezzled a nursing home and a seminary then went on a crime spree eluding police in three states when she faked a suicide.  By the time of the murder, she was embezzling the company where she now worked and, to cover her tracks, was slowly poisoning the woman teaching her the computer system.

After Bee and Opie were arrested, another son surfaced.  Let’s call him “Goober.”  The “Goob” was caught breaking into my sister’s house in broad daylight. He confessed that he planned to steal his Mom’s stuff and sell it. Guess he figured “Mom won’t need a wide screen TV in the joint.” Well, neither would he.

The evidence against the Maryland Mansons included the smoldering remains of Bee’s boyfriend, bleach spots all over the house where she and Opie tried to clean up the blood, the  murder weapon-- a kitchen knife--still in the dishwasher and an open box of rat poison under the sink. Aunt Bee’s Mayberry jig was up.

She pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder to spare her older son a 30 year sentence—which brings tears of maternal love to my eyes. Her younger son ended up in “juvie” watching a much smaller television.

I can’t wait to see their crimes reenacted on Discovery’s “Nightmare Next Door.” They were much too stupid to end up on “Almost Got Away with It.”

Not to be outdone by Lisa, my husband and I took our turn at being landlords. 

Last year we decided to rent our getaway cabin in a mountain town outside of our Los Angeles home. We hired the real estate duo of “Sue and Lou” (all thumbs up on a bus stop bench ad ) who “with 30 years’ experience”  were confident they’d find us the perfect tenant. And they did.

Let’s call him “Paulie Walnuts.” Walnuts was a single, amicably divorced screenwriter who wanted a quiet haven out of the Hollywood city life. Hook.  His mother was sick with cancer and he planned to move her from Texas to peacefully live out her last days with him.  Line.  He had no cats, dogs, birds, kids or anything else that could ruin the carpets. Sinker.  Walnuts was in.

His rent checks arrived on time and Sue & Lou’s occasional drive by visits showed nothing unusual or out of place.  We had the perfect tenant. So perfect he was incredibly patient with a leaking roof that gave way and doused his computer. We had it patched while he was in Texas selling his ex-house and packing up his sick mother.

Then Walnuts missed a payment. Because of his patience with the leaky roof, and his sick mother, we gave him some time to catch up. Sue & Lou (with their 30 years’ experience) were convinced he was good for it. 

Then he missed another payment. Sue and Lou were nervous, but sure any young man had to be okay if he was taking care of his sick mother.

Then she died and he missed another month.

The true story finally came from the local police.

Walnuts had been arrested for growing a pot farm in our house—which explains those trips to Texas. He was turned in by his weed sitter who he’d pistol whipped and knocked down the stairs for letting a plant die. One plant. A SWAT team nabbed Walnuts, his crop, eight guns-- and a dog which had ruined the carpets. 

When I told my sister my true crime experience she smugly replied, “God, you are so competitive.”  

Some things never change. There will always be more Aunt Bees and Walnuts in this world, and I’ll always be fascinated with their stories. But, I’ll watch them with my fingers crossed hoping these things only happen to other people.

Dun. Dun.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Do Over

I Do Over
by Marianne Curan

I am the only woman in the history of divorce who didn't keep the house. Instead, I took my equity and hired a therapist. She bought a house.

My first marriage, "The Episode," was a typical starter marriage -- like in the 60's when my parents bought a "starter" home. They fell in love with a sweet little house, but in five years outgrew it and moved on to bigger and better things. My first marriage started off sweet, but in five years my husband outgrew it and moved on to younger and blonder things. They now live in our starter home.

About three years into this glorious union I was thinking it was time to start a family. That was until a nagging cramp in my uterus warned me that my now "Huz Was" was mating elsewhere. Turned out, he was -- with two of my best friends who just happen to be sisters. (Feel free to wash your hands, shower, or get a breath mint. I'll wait.) To say that I dodged a sperm bullet is an understatement.

So at 34, I was divorced and despondent. But, as my doting father advised me, "Give it time, sweetie. You'll see. That asshole did you a favor."

Which brings up a point -- Why do your family and friends wait till after your divorce to tell you they thought you were marrying a complete jerk--when that fact was apparent the minute they met him?

My Maid of Honor had no problem telling me she hated the dresses, so why not tell me she hated the groom? I asked who else felt this way and she rattled off most of the bridal party, the priest and my former Mother-In-Law. Apparently "Mom" didn't say anything because having me around made him "tolerable." And, when I asked her why she never told me this before I strolled down the Aisle of Doom, she said, "Because you were so in love."

Yes. I was in love -- with an asshole. Thanks for the heads up.

As my Dad so sagely advised, I gave it time and eventually moved on...ready to try marriage again. I wanted an "I Do Over."

Most of the men I dated were commitment phobic. They were like POW's, limping and battered, who felt one tour of spousal duty was plenty, thank you. (Ironically my first husband was the only man I knew who wanted commitment. He wanted to get married. He wanted to wear the pants in the family. Too bad he couldn't commit to keeping them on.)

My next serious relationship was with a man whose second wife took the house, all his money and most of their personal belongings. So the few things he had left he got monogrammed...the sheets, the towels, his balls. Needless to say he didn't want to get married again.

I now have a new love in my life who was adamant he would never remarry. And who could blame him? His first wife, "The Incident," made Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" look like Taylor Swift in a Disney flick. To quote a line from the horror film, "The Village," "She is the thing of which we do not speak."

Bob and I have been together for over ten years. We are occasionally shaken -- but somehow not stirred -- from our commitment to this thing called love. And, in our case that includes marriage. It's not everyone's choice, but it's ours -- our "I Do Over."