One morning in the subway, a woman offers her seat. I politely refuse: she looks more exhausted than I am. She insists; I accept.
She introduces herself. Kate. We start chit-chatting. She looks slightly tense, but she has a friendly face, with a lipstick that’s way too red. She has a six month-old and a two year-old, so she says she knows exactly what kind of trouble I’m about to get into. She looks like she really needs to talk.
She is 42 years old, partner in a law firm. Capital market. I was a lawyer too. That makes us two common features. Two kids, lawyer. Kate is startled.
As most women in New York, Kate took six weeks off for each of her kids. She explains with a tense pride that since then, she has organised every aspect of her life. For example, a nanny comes in every day to prepare the dinner and set the table. Meanwhile, Kate gets to enjoy some time with her kids. She says “enjoy” like my parents said “go do your homework”.
She juggles between flights and business trips. She was in Chicago two days ago, she is about to take off again. She mentions her husband at this moment, shrugs. He is there for the kids while she’s away.
In the evening, when she comes back home, Kate gets to “enjoy” some time with her kids while the nanny is working in the background. Then she puts her babies to bed, and resumes working. She is sleeping on two hour-chunks, the baby still wakes up a lot. And no, she answers to my silent question, she won’t let him cry to sleep. It’s not even possible, Kate she is still breastfeeding. My face plunges into a visible “….????” She nods: everything is fine, she pumps in the office, and she freezes her milk before and during the business trips. Well, of course, she has to admit she is a bit sleep-deprived. And the eldest kid is a bit jealous (I understand “a nuisance”, but I think Kate wouldn’t put it that way).
In the morning, after her disastrous nights, Kate wakes up, puts on too much red lipstick, and goes back to work.
Obviously, Kate belongs to the category of women I should envy, not feel bad for. But she embodies so well the women I have gotten to know here, suffocating themselves through “do’s” and “dont’s” regarding babies and work, and control, that despite the ten years and probably hundreds of thousands of dollars between us, I feel like tapping her on the shoulder and telling her that it’s OK, you’re OK, just have one glass of wine, or maybe twenty, think about yourself for one second and don’t worry, you fucking rock.
We have arrived at Kate’s station. She puts her bag on her shoulder, puts her armour back on, and galops on the staircase.
– a first and slightly traumatising appointment
– a second appointment which had disturbingly revealed that the foetus didn’t have a spine (because obviously, if the spine couldn’t be seen properly at the ultrasound, it’s because it didn’t exist (in fact, the foetus just wasn’t positioned properly (but as I now know that appointments at my hospital have a lot in common with Wolfgang Petersen movies (in short: the opposite of subtle), I usually remain pretty calm (the idea being mostly for the hospital to cover its ass in the unlikely case of a real issue (FYI, the additional ultrasound and blood test both revealed an immaculate and perfect spine)))
here are accurate minutes of my third appointment. 17 seconds, 4 sentences:
– you have to drink more
– you gained too much weight
– you should now sleep on the left side, otherwise it’s going to hurt the baby
– you can put your clothes back on, I don’t need to examine you
I SAW BRAD PITT AT A PREMIERE OH MY GOOOOD HE IS SO HANDSOME AND HE LOOKS SO NICE OMG OMG OMG I AM STUCK WRITING IN CAPITAL LETTERS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE
So Halloween is really REALLY great. The outfits are beyond extraordinary. I don’t know how long it takes to sew them (or even think about them), but next year there is no way I am not in the parade.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can ever be as creative as new-yorkers.
1/ I would never have thought about dressing up as mozzarella with all my friends (with filaments of cheese between us). Or if I had, I would never have thought to run a 5k-race dressed like this.
2/ I would never have thought about turning the constraints into a huge creative advantage. Like transform a stroller into Star War’s death star.
3/ best thing ever, animals dressed as other animals (I saw a dog that looked very convincing as a frog).
As nothing is perfect, the feminist in me still suffered: 95% of the little girls are dressed as princesses. Sub top 2: 1/ the unbearable Elsa from Frozen, seen at least 12 times, and Snow White (cost-effective since this is probably the same outfit mommy had, and granny etc since 1937).
Now I have to start sewing Charlotte’s outfit as a french frie cornet for next year (I really saw a burger family, baby as french fries, pregnant mummy as burger and daddy as waiter).
Roselyn is the lady who helps the children cross the street.
She is constantly smiling, in sickness and in health, in cold weather, in hot weather. With a smile so big that her dimples look like they are going to blow up. With a smile that makes you want to eat chocolate cake and have hot tea and tell your grand-parents you love them.
She says “good morning my love” to my little girl, with honey in her voice. And my little girl, who never hugs anyone, runs and hug her.
She is 56 and she looks about 15 years younger. She has five kids, four grandkids and a whole crew of kids from the neighbourhood who tell her about their new outfit or old problems.
Her job is hard. But she looks so happy that I find myself suddenly wanting her job.
1. Friends of your friends might not be your friends. Here is the relavant advice I just received from a friend of a friends – he has a good job at UN and I tell him I want to apply. “Well they have a careers search engine, it is called inspira”. Thanks mate.
2. Your own friends might not be your friends after all. When they hear I am depressed, instead of sending huge packages of French sardines and chocolate, they write emails like: airbnb-is-so-freaking-expensive-can-I-come-in May-and-spend-3-weeks-on-your-couch.