I Won’t Grow Up!

Several months back, I listened to a podcast about creature comforts. You know, the tattered, well-loved scraps of cloth or worn, matted fur of a stuffed animal we’ve adored since our childhood.

I have a few: a white crocheted blanket with pastel-colored trim, a stuffed golden retriever named Mutsy, and a glow pet in the form of a unicorn. The first two I’ve had practically my entire life. There have been a handful of others that have run in and out of circulation over the years, but these are the three items I curl into, wrap myself up in, and nuzzle as I drift off to sleep each night.

I also happen to be 34 years old.

The woman narrating the first segment of the podcast on NPR’s Hidden Brain episode, “Creature Comforts”, battles criticism from her mother about wanting her blankey with her each night, although she is a 40-year-old married woman with a kid.

I had never really thought about it, since I’m not yet forty or married, nor do I have children, but if I’m not willing to part with my creature comforts now, will I ever be? Is it so wrong if I don’t?

As a child, it is societally the norm to have a blankey or favorite stuffed animal that goes everywhere with us. As a teenager, we might get crap from our friends about it, but often, our room still holds pieces of nostalgia from our youth. In college, it might even be considered mildly adorable if your favorite childhood comfort accompanies you to a new environment.

As an adult, well, my past boyfriends have made comments.

My ex fiancé never forced me to leave bedtime for just the two of us, but I would sometimes wake up to the sound and silhouette of my stuffed dog whizzing past my head because he ended up in J’s territory.

Another one of my boyfriends, albeit extremely fond of my adorable nature, would roll his eyes as he tucked me in with my entourage of sleep aids and read me bedtime stories to help me fall asleep.

My current boyfriend has not made any comments thus far, but I do wonder what he really thinks about sharing the bed with me and my motley array of plush and yarn.

The woman narrating the NPR podcast discloses that she happens to be lucky, since her husband finds it endearing that she still sleeps with her blankey. How when she’s not around, he actually will snuggle it because it reminds him of her.

Is there something wrong with holding onto our old blankeys? Why must we wean ourselves off of something that makes some of us so incredibly happy and comforted when we go to bed?

The world is a scary place, and, in my opinion, with the current events and state of affairs with our new presidency, is becoming more frightening and fragile by the minute.

When I am curled under my comforter with the glow of my night-light moon, waxing or waning in the corner (yes, I have a Moon In My Room, advertised for children… I also have Mars), I feel ageless and safe. I am eternally the child that is afraid of things and is assuaged when the pressures of the world don’t exist for a few hours in the dark with my favorite stuffed dog resting under my cheek.

I might also be the only adult, who at a Yankee Gift Swap, was excited to get the gag gift: a glow in the dark, plush unicorn. I actually squealed.

These facts do not make me less of an adult. I am a well-adjusted, secure, and independent woman who happens to love blankets and stuffed animals.

We may change shape and gain responsibilities as we get older, but we still need to feel loved and nurtured. Those things never subside. I can even argue that with the surmounting level of responsibility as an adult and dose of reality comes an even greater need to surround ourselves with things that bring us relief and comfort.

Will my future children someday ask me why I sleep with a stuffed animal just like they do? Sure, maybe. And I’ll tell them because hugging things rocks and it’s never wrong to want to love something.

Sweet 16

I remember being sixteen years old, tightly stuffed into a friend’s basement in Worcester, MA, feeling higher and happier than a child chasing a trail of pearlescent bubbles.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999.

I was there with my sister, mutual friends, and the boy with whom I was completely infatuated from the first moment I saw him that summer. I wore black vinyl pants and remember my crush saying to me on the ride to Worcester, “I can see myself in your pants. No, really. It’s not a pickup line. I can see myself in your pants.”

He braided me an aluminum foil bracelet as we stood by ourselves in the kitchen, tucked away in a corner, where we rubbed noses and giggled about how Eskimos and gnomes kiss.

I remember hanging out in one of my friend’s van outside listening to DMX and Dr Dre. I vaguely recall our friends’ band playing that evening in the tiny basement. I also remember eating peanuts while chewing gum, and realizing as my gum dissolved and slid down my throat, that that’s why people use peanut butter to get gum out of girls’ hair. Epiphany. I was hopped up on illegal substances and the world was my oyster.

As the ball was on its descent into the year Y-2-K, we all joked about how the internet would shut down, chaos would ensue, and the beginning of the end would follow thereafter.

None of that happened, of course, but when the countdown reached zero, I grabbed the boy and kissed him so sweetly. It was my first New Year’s kiss and I was on ecstasy.

Very early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I went back to the boy’s house and he laboriously peeled the black vinyl pants off my sweaty body. I lay in the boy’s bed, while he tried to do sexy things to me and I was coming down. I was tired, and it just wasn’t working. Frustrated and selfish, he broke up with me; I was mostly naked in his bed and trapped at his home without a ride.

Later that morning, forgetting what he had done only hours earlier, he in naive slumber, curled his arm tightly around my waist and pulled me in to snuggle. I just lay there and cried silently.

Happy New Year.

That boy became the man with whom I reunited seven years later and almost married.

Now, sixteen years after that emotional bumper car ride, I am sitting here in my favorite, thread-bare bathrobe in my cozy apartment. I am thinking about how many dull years have passed. How many of them I spent being a normal, young adult with a relatively stable existence. How many of them I spent with that same boy, and how many I have spent without him since we split. How so many of those years since we broke up were anything but stable or dull. How grateful I am to be where I am sitting today.

One thing that has always been consistent in all of my teen and adult years is my struggle with love. Oh, I find love, I just can’t keep love. The last three New Year’s Eves have been spent with friends, doling out hugs and cheek pecks at the ball drop.

Four years ago, I experienced something akin to my sixteenth year. I told the new guy I was dating since J and I broke up that I loved him for the first time. On New Year’s Day. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t trying to be romantic by choosing a special day; it had just been six months together and fifteen years total since I had known him, and it came out of my mouth as we lay in my bed after drinking several mimosas and fondling each other. He reacted poorly. Understatement. His reaction was the worst reaction anyone could possibly have to being told they are loved by their girlfriend.

First, he laughed nervously. Really hard. Then, he pulled me in for a hug and swayed us back and forth for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time. It felt like three decades. We both silently shared a cigarette on my porch, and then, abruptly, he told me he had to go.

My New Year’s track record is excellent.

This year I feel good, though. I’ve been taking a lot of time to focus on organizing my life and my home. I have been writing a lot. I don’t really go out or drink very often at all and am in bed by 10 or 11 each night. I cherish my girl cat and lavish in all this extra time I have to be near her because I am not out getting messed up. I am yet again reconnecting with me, my favorite person to hang out with.

I cannot predict how the year will progress nor do I really want to. There are a couple of projects in the works that will keep me focused on my hobby and love for writing and editing, and I am finally loving my body and taking care of her needs.

Coming from the girl who always has put others before her, I am no longer content to be that person who lies there, quietly stifling her tears, while men abandon her right as a human to have her own fears, feelings, and thoughts.

And while I may be romancing someone currently who makes me swoon, blush, or feel dizzy, he is not the center of my world–he is just a very lovely and enticing piece of it. I like my life and I damn well should. It is mine after all. No one else’s. I live it for me and those who come into it, like my friends, family, or this romance, are all just enhancements and embellishments to the steadily polished bowl I’ve been working on for nearly thirty-three years.

I used to repeat the mantra, “I am happy; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am wise.”

I think as I move into this new year of 2016, I am going to focus on the simple sweetness.

There’s a calm radiating throughout my being, because I’ve been chasing the metaphorical dragon for years and am finally ready to be me. To be the girl renewed from years of bad relationships and abuse; to be the girl strengthened against giving herself to men just to feel wanted; to be the woman who is comfortable in her new shape but still yearns to feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit. But mostly, to be Amanda, the person I know most intimately.

Amanda loves to read. She loves cleaning. Her home is an homage to the things she cherishes most: her cats, her friends, and music. She is nostalgic and loves to read her old journals (and then immediately shred them upon completion). She is sappy and enjoys eating popcorn by herself while watching comedy romances. She puts herself to sleep each night by petting her cat and listening to science documentaries. She writes in a gratitude journal. She requires time to herself every day to feel whole. She loves writing and making music more than she loves most things, and she gives her heart freely and generously to the people who mean the most to her. She does this not because she has to, not out of guilt, fear, or obligation, but because when Amanda feels like Amanda, she is a resonating channel of love.

From what I know of Amanda, she is sweet. She is kind, caring, and sweet. She’s snarky, sarcastic, whiny, and selfish, too, but no one likes a perfectly polished bowl, now, do they?

May I only hope that 2016 simply holds that presence of free love, if nothing else. It might just be the sweetest sixteen I’ve had yet.