My new signature cocktail: Shame & Sammy Kershaw

It’s 2 AM and I am silently crying in my bed room. I’ve already turned the TV off so that I can hear if my 11 year old dog is shitting in the bathroom. She has explosive diarrhea and I’ve locked her in the bathroom because apparently my limit for cleaning watery shit out of carpet is 3 times in one day.

Why are my hands shaking? Why is it, my efforts to sleep are derailed every time I think of my husband’s Instagram name appearing as someone who liked a photo of another girl’s ass–every photo of her ass that she has posted this year. When I met this girl in person, she tackled my husband in a festival crowd with a hug and a scream. She had yoda ears sticking out of her green dreadlocks and jeweled stickers on her face. She was fully clothed in warm attire, albeit, it was raining and still daytime. I suffered a flood of emotions: 1. what a cutie. 2. what a bitch. 3. what is going on here?

She introduces her self to me [I’m refraining from naming her] then scurries off, most likely with a furry tail peaking out of her jacket so I ask Josh about her. He says, “You know, she’s one of those wooks.” I don’t know. He describes wooks to me, in a somewhat flippant manner. Now, I’m on the lookout.

We are at the Festival of the Red. A small local music festival in our home town. Josh played with his sister the night before, but tonight we are just spectators. We watch other wooks and notice one has a light up cape. Josh asks her if she has a light up cape, and she says it’s her friends but she’s sure he could borrow it. So, she brings Josh her friend’s light up cape. Josh accepts the cape like he intends to borrow if for exactly the amount of time it will take to decide if he wants his own.

It’s dawn now, and the light up cape is fun and twinkly. Josh is twirling and giddy. I however, am having so much difficulty not staring at her. She is essentially in a stringy bikini that laces up and down her arms and legs. She is heavily tattooed and has an adorable faint vitiligo all over her body. I am aroused and jealous, but am chatting with her about seeing Valerie June in the same cape just a few weeks prior. She tells me to message her on Instagram to remind her to look up Valerie June. I do this.

Later that night, Josh and I watch light light batons on fire and toss them in the dark. The flames dance across her practically naked body. She has a friend doing the same with a hula hoop, equally cute and scantily dressed but I don’t care. Josh and I are both taking videos of the same girl. I can’t help but feel off about it all. Like I am stealing something inappropriate because he is too.

Then I see her instagram post. The one of her ass tied up provocatively in hemp. It’s boldness makes my heart jitter. It’s sex appeal is too much for me while I’m probably sitting in line at a drive through (I don’t remember). Then, I notice that my husband has openly and publicly liked it. His Instagram handle is right next to the juicy red heart icon. Now my heart rate is amped and filling my body to my fingertips. The kind of full body heart-racing when you think your car might crash on an icy road.

I’m not typically a jealous person. I know my husband is attractive and charismatic and kind. I normally hold the position of willingly sharing him with his fans, even when they are overly flirtatious females. But I disclose all my fears to a friend, and she reminds me, my husband is also a doofus who never knows quite where the line is, even though she and I would trust him absolutely.

So why am I crying at 2 AM when I should be asleep. I really want to sleep. I want to escape from this train wreck of thoughts but here I am, purchasing a ticket, taking the ride.

I’ve wondered what kind of person I’d be when my husband left last week to be gone for a month on a band tour of the western United States. Tonight, I’m wondering if I should walk out to my car and get my cigarettes, and take the bottle of bourbon from the kitchen and let these miserable thoughts have at least the company of vices, if I cannot have the company of a friend. A larger part of me, doesn’t want to be that kind of person, but isn’t sleep more of an escape than sitting with the sadness?

Next to images of her body, he’s also liked a few images of her kid; cute, maybe 3 or 4 year old. But that just reminds me of this conundrum: Josh doesn’t want kids but he won’t get a vasectomy. So maybe he doesn’t want to have kids with me. Maybe this is me admitting, it would take so little convincing for me to change into gears and decide to have a kid. Of course I want to know what kind of human I could create. Who’s eyes they’d get. Who’s hair. Who’s anxiety. I don’t even mind the absolute fact that we would fuck them up in some way. That their friends would inevitably call us weird parents. That it would be a weird kid. It would be my (our) weird kid, right?

When I ask my husband why he won’t get a vasectomy, he tells me it’s in case I change my mind. What makes him think I ever made up my mind? If anything, I just don’t want to have a kid with someone who doesn’t want to have a kid. Do I want to have a kid with someone who wants to have a kid? Yes. The answer is, resoundingly, Yes.

And No. I feel split in equal parts.

Twice now, in maybe the last two weeks, someone has told me how handsome my husband is. In that way that one quietly implies I am the lucky one. And maybe I’m projecting this, but I’m 30 something so I’ve picked up on a lot of the ways people say things without saying them. Plus, I don’t have to be told that I’m not attractive in a Prom Queen, Hollywood Actress, or Super Model way. Even when I try to be attractive–to be feminine–I never feel as though anyone cares or acknowledges the effort. I’m still so far from the baseline.

I often think about times I’ve dressed up, and women in my life didn’t acknowledge my efforts with a flattering description. I think about how my husband compliments me in that silly way he does, in front of people, “Isn’t she soooo pretty?” as a question to the room. And no one responds. I sympathize with their initial reactions: innocent disgust at his blatant public display of his affection for me. But is it more than that? Is it disgust at his blatant public display of his affection for someone like me?

It’s like I can hear their thoughts, “I’m glad you think so, Josh. You must be the only one in the world.” They know they can’t say this, and because they are innately good people, they also can’t lie. They can’t call an ugly duckling, a swan. I’m not a swan and they won’t fool themselves. I’m the ugly duckling that landed her self a swan. And by some ridiculous fate, that swan loves me. Lucky me.

Reader, this is not in my head. Please don’t patronize me. The following is an actual conversation with Josh’s grandmother: I approach the passenger side of her jeep where she is chatting with Josh. She glances at me and does a double take. She tells me she didn’t recognize me. Then she says, “Josh, you’re wife has gotten a lot prettier than she used to be.”

I laugh, completely blindsided. Josh and I wave goodbye amicably and Josh turns around and repeats his grandmother’s words, in that, can you believe she said that? kind of way. I think he apologizes for her, but it’s to no avail. I’m already responding sarcastically, “Well, she aint wrong.” Which I know could be interpreted as “I am prettier than I was” but is actually, “I’ve always been, not-so pretty.”

I acutely tune in when I hear people call someone Beautiful. I go into research mode. What is their body language as they say it? Who is beautiful? What kind of person are they? What is the relationship between the speaker and the one they call beautiful? It is mystical to me. Maybe, I’m not convinced “beauty” exists, like some sort of twisted faith issue. Like, maybe I’d have faith in god if he visited me every once in a while, you know? Same for beauty. Except, I do have faith in beauty. That’s why it hurts when it doesn’t come my way.

I get “pretty” sometimes. “Well, don’t you look pretty.” Sometimes my husband calls me sexy. What naked woman isn’t innately sexy? I never get beautiful. [edit: since writing this blog, I have tried to not only count but screenshot the times that I was called beautiful and it has occurred, sincerely and organically.] I know it sounds petty but we just lie? Can calling someone beautiful not be about the factual nature of it? And I don’t mean call me ‘beautiful on the inside.’ That’s bullshit. If I love you, you’re fucking beautiful to me. I don’t love you because you’re fuckable, or rated attractive in society, or photogenic, or fashionable, or applauded by your friends and family for being beautiful.

I love you for being beautiful. Like a storm, when the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls, and you hear it and you feel it coming towards you. Yet, it still jolts your body when it hits, regardless of how ready you thought you were. Beautiful, like freezing my ass off in the modern confines of Air Conditioning, and stepping outside to the freely give summer heat and feeling relief and peace instantly. Beautiful, like receiving a piece of writing from your friend, reading it while your croissant bread is being toasted, before you’ve even had your morning coffee, and crying at the words like they are rolling thunder–and telling your friend so. Beautiful, like making up characters, and worlds, and crying as you write the fiction that is more fact than anything you’ve ever confessed, and maybe one person reads it and agrees with you.

That’s not to say I tell my friends they are beautiful, enough. It’s a jagged word in my throat. Why give it away, when I don’t see it returned to me? I have so few instances of being in the presence of acknowledged beauty, I guess I’m inclined to keep it for myself. When I think about how beautiful my friends are, the thoughts are like patrons waiting to get on a train. I can share a bench with them but they are always going and never coming to stay.

Beautiful is word that needs free-fare travel.

I survive the night sober and wake up the next morning determined to write a new blog post. I should write about my trip to California, or the Indian wedding I attended. Instead I have written myself into a corner where I feel like maybe running away is my only option. Running away is always my escape plan. Then my husband calls. He is in Montana. He tells me he misses me, and wishes I was there. He says this several times. And then he keeps calling it pretty where he is in the mountains.

“So fucking pretty” he says, when he talks about the his view from his airbnb, and the big sky, and the train tracks he can hear a block away. He tells me about how he tried to walk to a vista last night because he was told that was a good place to catch the northern lights. He tells me it was a long walk, he probably should have drove but he wasn’t really sure if he saw anything. Maybe something really faint, but maybe nothing at all.

I tell him about a book I just finished: Wintering. The author goes looking for the northern lights and finds out they are a shy spectacle. Our perception of the northern lights is actually the product enhanced and exaggerated in photographs and videos taken by long exposures which build the faint colors up in layers, producing a neon product. In actuality, in person, the northern lights are not showy. They are not loud or demanding. They do not put it all on display but instead, peak back at you as if behind a thin veil. Shy, skeptical, modest.

I think of Josh Ritter’s song Kathleen when he sings: All the other girls here are stars, you are the northern lights and how he also got it wrong, complimenting Kathleen with a misconception. But it kind of doesn’t matter, does it? His love for Kathleen feels real and authentic and I still want to be the woman people describe with the northern lights, because what is beauty by a faith based misconception?

“So fucking pretty.” Josh says again. Only in this moment, do I think, maybe when Josh calls me pretty, he uses the word like I would use the word beautiful. When he describes the Montana mountains which surround the small town he is seeing for the first time, spotted with glaciers, and inaccessible 10 months out of the year due to weather–maybe when he sees Montana, he thinks of me. How we are both pretty in similar ways. He is lucky enough to see us both for a small window in the height of summer.

Maybe, If all the other girls are beautiful, I am Montana. And maybe only Josh knows how fucking pretty I am.

I can live with that.

And now I’m wondering: Is it better to lie awake and worry about your dogs’ watery shit hitting your carpet? or to just carry on and clean it up when it lands at your feet. I don’t know. Liking a photo is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Montana is much too big, it’s sky so large, they named a festival after it. I’m not trying to invalidate my concerns or my feelings. I guess what I’m trying to do is be vulnerable and honest about how despite having a loving and faithful husband, I still get tripped up sometimes. I still know my self-esteem has a long way to go. I know that even when I have everything I ever wanted (within reason) I’m still scared it can be taken away from me by a wook with yoda ears. Which is silly but human.

At another festival, a friend told me once: “You do realize you’re hot right?” I think I blushed and scoffed, and looked down at my bib-overalls with a “you’re kidding, right?” Instead, she graciously acknowledged that she suspected as much and thought I should know regardless of my deflection.

I never forgot that. I keep that compliment in my pocket and pull it out when I need to kick and scratch my way out of a corner I’ve talked myself into.

And what better way to end on a high note than Sammy Kershaw?


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