If you’re wondering, “Am I ready to have kids?”, my quiz on that very question is up on The Bold Italic today.
It is tongue-in-cheek and very San Francisco-centric, but, as have been hearing back from folks who have taken it, also creepily accurate!
As a follow-up piece, I made this cute list about How to Spot a San Francisco Kid, culled from responses to the question: “How do you know you’re raising a San Franciscan?” That post is up on the Bold Italic today as well!
It’s a good day for humor about raising children in San Francisco, the city where there are more dogs than kids, but provides a ton of vibrant opportunities for those of us who are daring enough to bring up babies here anyway.
Thanks for reading!
My first feature article on The Bold Italic, Your Curiosity About My Bi-Racial Child Isn’t Cute, went live yesterday, and it got a huge response. I was pretty nervous about it, since the piece is about strangers’ ignorant responses to my interracial family, and here I was, putting our personal experiences out into the world for further ignorance to be thrown our way. But I wrote the piece with the knowledge that not everyone would understand it, and that is the reason I needed to write it. I edited it countless times, with help from my fellow Wayward Writers in the Lit Kitchen, as well as my gifted editor from The Bold Italic, and when I was sure that what I had to say was clear and true, I let it go.
I had one simple rule: don’t read the comments on the site. My favorite article that has ever been published on The Bold Italic is I’m Not Your Black Friend by Crystal Sykes, but I learned from reading the comments on that piece that some folks are just itching for a place to absolve themselves of racial guilt, and they will do so as a response to your personal story, with no compunction at all about it.
So, while I have gotten a lot of feedback from strangers and friends alike, I am doing a good job of isolating myself from the more random reactions. I read this quote in an interview with Kathleen Hanna last year, and it has stayed with me as a reminder not to give people who don’t know me the right to tell me who I am:
“Beyoncé isn’t Beyoncé because she reads comments on the internet. Beyoncé is in Ibiza, wearing a stomach necklace, walking hand in hand with her hot boyfriend. She’s going on the yacht and having a mimosa. She’s not reading shitty comments about herself on the internet, and we shouldn’t either. I just think, Would Beyoncé be reading this? No, she would just delete it, or somebody would delete it for her. What I really need to do is close the computer and then talk back to that voice and say,Fuck you. I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m Beyoncé. I’m going to Ibiza with Jay-Z now, fuck off. Being criticized is part of the job, but seeking it out isn’t. That’s our piece to let go.”
I mean, obviously, I’m not so self-aggrandizing to think that I’m Beyoncé, but it’s important to have icons of self-confidence to draw upon in times of vulnerability, to help you not lose yourself in the midst of it. So yeah, “Just be Beyoncé” is a helpful mantra for me sometimes.
The other mantra I’m fond of using as a writer who publishes work out in the wild world of sites with unmediated comments is, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” This is also really helpful advice as a parent.
Overall, I have received lovely responses to my piece, and I am feeling relieved by that, and grateful for the outpouring of people who have said, “I really resonated with this,” “I learned a lot from reading this,” or simply “I’m proud of you for writing this.” My conversations about race are already deepening, just by opening the door to the discussion.
I also appreciated the more ambivalent responses, from the people who have said, “I’m really bad at talking about race. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m scared.” I deeply respect that admission, and think it is a step in the right direction in the dialogue about race in this culture. A common misconception is that you need to be an expert in order to say something about race. If that were the case, none of us would ever speak up, and we wouldn’t grow.
So, I’m going to keep writing about race, and talking about it, even when I feel awkward, put on the spot, vulnerable or just plain angry. I’ve had some practice, and I’m getting better, slowly but surely. Here are just a few of the other pieces that I’ve written about race, which have helped me hone my voice and clarify the conversations I need to be a part of:
On Thirty Threadbare Mercies, March 2012: Talking to Your Kids About Race
On MUTHA Magazine, August 2013: That Hair
On Cinapse, July 2013: Fruitvale Station Review
Like many children of the 80’s & 90’s who had two full-time working parents, the television was sometimes my babysitter. We didn’t have cable, so pickings were slim, but my G-ma had it, and when we’d go to visit her on Sundays, I wanted my MTV, knaaamean?
My true love was reading, so I never thought much of my television watching, and certainly did not picture myself making any kind of living from it one day. But here I am, decades later, recapping and reviewing TV shows professionally.
As a person who didn’t own a television for a good part of her adulthood, and only lets her daughter watch it when she’s sick or on weekend mornings, I’m not making a case for constant ingestion of media. However, I find the trend of people thinking deeply about what messages are sent through the TV shows our culture is obsessed with and writing about them meaningful. Plus I’m having a good time with it, engaging with what I’m watching in a new way.
Doing weekly GIRLS recaps with my co-writer Victor has been a joy. We ask each other questions, feed off of each other’s responses, and basically have a blast with a show that gives us a lot to work with, every week.
This week I debuted as a contributing writer on The Bold Italic with a reality check of the San Francisco-set NBC show About a Boy. I have a wonderful editor at TBI, who pushed me to take a strong opinion, which was a great challenge for me. I adore this website, and I’m really excited to write more for them.
I did not have a problem taking a strong stance on this week’s Two Cents column on Cinapse, since I had an intense hatred for the film we covered, Primer. It’s rare that I ever come down that hard on a piece of someone’s art, but this one really got under my skin with its inaccessibility, and how it felt like a good story poorly told. I’m looking forward to covering Groundhog’s Day next week – it’ll be a palate cleanser for sure.
What are your favorite movie/TV think pieces you’ve read this week? I’m particularly looking for some insight on Season 2 of House of Cards, which I just finished last night. Even though I knew where they were going with the story, I still got chills once they got there.
In the past months I’ve been copywriting up a storm, so I haven’t spent as much time on getting longer pieces published. However, I’ve kept my online writing presence alive by participating in collaborative pieces like the TWO CENTS column on Cinapse, a list of tips about how to be a Hip Mama on Refinery 29, and movie reviews, like the one I wrote about the film HER.
Starting next week, I’ll be recapping/reviewing each episode of HBO’s GIRLS, as a collaborative “He said/She said” piece with my fellow Cinapse writer, Victor. And of course I’m still blogging, and writing in print for GGMG Mag.
I’m grateful for these ways to dip in and stay current, while I figure out the balance of writing as a career with writing as my way of life, and creative wellspring. As 2014 gets underway, I find myself so grateful for writing. I really didn’t let myself write until I was a 30 year old mother, but I’m so glad it was there waiting for me, all along.
Call for Submissions:
One of the publications I write for, Golden Gate Mothers Group Magazine, is changing the format of their popular Daditude column, and I am stepping in as Coordinating Editor of this column. GGMG Mag is a print magazine that goes out to 4,500 mothers in the Bay Area. This is a great opportunity for any father who wants to feature their writing or simply tell their story.
The father who has been writing the Daditude column each month is stepping down, and the staff decided a rotating cast of writers could be a fun way to bring variety to the magazine. This means, I need your words! The column is 700-800 words about fatherhood — simply telling a great story about your kid, or musings on what it means to be a dad in general.
1. Will the name of the column still be Daditude?
Probably not. We’ll be brainstorming a new name in our monthly meetings, so feel free to put in some suggestions. Papa Don’t Preach, perhaps?
2. Do I have to be a father to submit?
You have to be a self-identified father. All permutations of Papa are welcome. Step-dad, adoptive dad, sperm donor dad, godfather, trans-dad, baby daddy, stay-at-home-dad, biological dad — if you connect with the role of father and call it your own, we want to hear from you.
3. Will I be rich? Will I be pretty?
Que Sera Sera, Papi. GGMG Mag is a labor of love, a completely volunteer endeavor from Editor-in-Chief to contributing writer. Much like parenting, the rewards will be many, but none monetary.
We want your photos, pretty or not. Please submit one or two high-res pictures with your piece – fun shots with your child or something that highlights a feature of your piece would be perfect.
4. What should I write about?
Every GGMG Mag issue revolves around a theme, and we’d love to have the new Daditude column follow the monthly theme. Ideas for the future: February’s theme is Love and Sex, March is Money/Budget and April is Nature for City Kids. Since most of our readers are parents of children four and under, musings on parenting a baby or toddler will be particularly resonant for them.
5. When is it due?
Submit or pitch to me as soon as possible. I’d like to at least know who is writing the column and a general idea of what they are writing about a month ahead of the deadline. The deadline for completed pieces is the 1st of the month before, so the February column is due to the editors January 1st.
6. Fame! Am I gonna live forever?
We’ll ask you for a short bio to run with your post. Feel free to include your daddy blog or personal website in the bio, so folks can learn more about you if you so choose. Right now, the magazine is only in print form, but there are plans in the works to put it online in the future, and as we all know, the internet is forever.
If you still have questions, big or small, feel free to send me an email, or just get writing and send me your essay! rheabette (at) gmail (dot) com
My daughter only went back to preschool a few days ago, but Mama has been HUSTLING.
The first two days of this week saw my work on three different sites: one about parenting, one about body image, and the other a film/TV review site. I’m really excited to have my work on such varied and interesting publications, all in the same week!
First, MUTHA Mag published their latest ASK A MUTHA column, and I hope Michelle Tea keeps asking me to contribute to this column, because it has been super fun each time. My piece, about an epic tantrum my daughter threw in a bakery, is at the end of the column, but read it all – those mamas are funny, validating, and real:
I had a laugh when several of the writers tweeted that their children LOVED the article and wanted their moms to read it out loud while they giggled, and requested to see the pics of themselves crying over and over. Toddler solidarity! They love their right to TANTRUM.
Second, the incredible Maggie Wells is the editrix extraordinaire at Girl Body Pride now, and the pieces she has published lately have been so thought-provoking and well written. So when she asked if I would be willing to give her 700 words from my latest Operation Rad Bod post, I jumped at the chance to be a part of that wonderful website. It’s something I really believe in, so I even sent her a rare make-up-free picture to post, in honor of the body acceptance cause. See the pic, read the piece, and then peruse the site for more inspiration and information:
Finally, the film and TV review site that I contribute to, Cinapse, launched out of Beta last week, with a bunch of fun give-aways that you can still enter. This week they published my review of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, which is a comparison piece between the memoir of the same name, and the first season of the TV series that is currently streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly. It was kind of perfect to write this week, because I’m taking a memoir class online with the Lit Kitchen right now, so diving in to both versions of the same true-life story was just what I needed to do to deepen my understanding of storytelling. If you’re a fan of the show and have been wondering how it stacks up to the book, question no further – I’ve done that work for you:
Thanks for reading!
I’ve been a big fan of Michelle Tea’s for quite a while now, reading her memoirs, following her pieces on xoJane and The Bold Italic, and keeping up with her Lit Star efforts for Sister Spit and Radar. So when I heard from my friend Yelz that she was starting a publication all about mothering called MUTHA, I decided to muster up my courage and contact her about contributing.
She was gracious and open to my ideas for pieces, and last week, my first full one, That Hair, was published. Since the piece is about race, I expected a bit of backlash, as my experience has been that folks have a hard time responding to someone bringing up that multi-layered topic. Also, I’ve not had the best experience writing on sites where there is a vibrant comment section. The trolls come out to play.
However, I guess they were feeling well fed and stayed under their bridge last week, because besides the few stray people who tried to derail the discussion with distractions, the response to my article was astounding. Not only did many people resonate with what I shared, as members of interracial families themselves, but several people that I know personally said that the article helped them see some of their own ignorance and privilege. I was shocked that people were willing to out themselves in that way, and those folks won my deep respect.
The article is a call to more depth in my conversations about race, and to my pleasant surprise, several people in my social circle have brought up the article, and wanted to talk further about it, but also go beyond it to discuss the racial factors of our daily lives.
Since that is exactly what I wanted to have happen as a result of writing the piece, I am feeling really satisfied with the outcome.
Even though it was scary for me to share my truth (my stomach was in knots for several days), this time, it really worked out. I am grateful to Michelle Tea for creating a platform that I could use to share my experience, and for cultivating a community that were open to receiving it. I will definitely keep writing for MUTHA, and I’m going to strive to be as truthful as I can in my pieces. I have seen that it resonates, even when it is raw.
Last year, I did a phone interview with a travel guide writer, as apparently I am a “cool parent” in San Francisco. I’m pretty sure that phrase is an oxy moron, but the man was quite pleasant and I was happy to get the word out about Seesaw, the center for children’s wellness where I was working at the time.
Then I completely forgot about it.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine at dance class (who does AirBnB from her home so has a bunch of SF Travel Guides for her guests) told me she saw me in San Francisco.Travel’s 2013 guide! She handed me the article, which was quite cute, and hilariously written how I actually speak, not how I would ever write. Here’s a photo of the interview for your viewing/reading pleasure:
The revamped website for San Francisco boutique Rare Device launched today, and it features some copywriting from yours truly.
Working with the owner, Giselle, was a creative process, which made the copywriting quite fun. My favorite bit was that she let me ask her some questions for the About Us interview but then write it all myself, shaping it into a piece rather than just recording what she said.
I’m pretty proud of the tagline I came up with for them: “beautiful things to hold in your hands”. Go check out what they have to offer.
Contact me with future copywriting gigs – I’m open for business!
I’m so pleased to be featured on Literary Mama’s After Page One series this month. My piece is about writing amidst the carnival of family life, and you can check it out here. I am trying hard to take my own advice these days, as my daughter is on summer break from school, and I have less time specifically put aside for writing. Since I am doing The Artist’s Way again, it is helping me stay on track with my creative practices, and fight to make space for them. How are you finding time to create?