The other day, I was standing gloriously alone in my kitchen. No one else was home. Just me and the cat who I still refuse to call Clawdia. I call her “Girly Girl” because it’s the first thing that comes out of my mouth when I see her.
It’s weird. I know. Cats are weird too, so it’s kinda poetic.
So I stood alone in my kitchen, and I had in front of me 4 perfect cupcakes. Purchased for my 4 not so perfect kids. They really looked good. I opened the box. And they really smelled good. And I’ve eaten these cupcakes before, so I knew they would really taste good.
But, like a smart 39 year old mother of four who practices moderation in all aspects of her life, I closed the lid, walked away, and caught up on Orange Is the New Black before I had to pick up the boys from school.
I ate one of the cupcakes.
Just half of it at first.
And, damn, that shit was good.
So. Very. Good.
Then, I thought, I’ll just put this half back, and I’ll just try this other cupcake because I bought these cupcakes for the boys, but I sorta bought this one for me.
And, mother of pearl, that next cupcake was So. Very. Very. Very. Good.
It was so good that I didn’t even stop halfway through. I actually looked at the cat and said, “Holy shit, this is insanely good. It’s a shame you can’t eat cupcakes, Girly Girl.”
And she looked away because she always looks away.
Or because I had icing on my nose.
So, then I looked at the first half-eaten cupcake, and I thought, I ate slightly more than half of that, and one of those kids is going to have a hissy when there is less than half a cupcake to eat, so I may as well just eat the rest of that one too. Then I’ll tell the boys I bought 2 cupcakes for the 4 of them to split, and won’t we all just sing Kumbaya over that.
And that was a good plan. So that’s what I did. And everyone was happy. Not Kumbaya happy, but happy.
Everyone was happy but me.
Because 2 cupcakes.
If someone else in the house had swallowed 2 cupcakes in quick succession, there would have been 20 minutes of mania, his metabolism would have run at its typical Usain Bolt speed, and then he’d chill out and we’d sing Kumbaya.
But my husband didn’t double-fist the cupcakes.
I thought and thought and thought about the cupcakes. Not because they were delicious. Because I’m a lot of things, but I’m not the girl who stands at her counter and eats 1 cupcake after another while she sympathizes with a cat she calls Girly Girl.
I thought, This is how it starts.
This is the beginning of a road I don’t want to go down.
A road that starts with two cupcakes…
…and it ends with Bob Harper.
And if there’s one thing on this earth more delicious than cupcakes, it’s Bob Harper.
So I thought about meeting Bob, and what our conversation would sound like.
Bob and I would be alone. With like 6 or 7 cameras, but mostly alone. We’d be outside the gym because Jillian would have just screamed at me to “GET OUT OF MY GYM!” And I’d be crying. Because why does she have to scream like that? Isn’t it humiliating enough that I have to be in spandex on the scale every week? Truly, Jillian, why?!
But Bob wouldn’t scream at me. He would wrap his sexy tattooed arm around me and say, “Girlfriend, tell me what’s going on.”
And I’d say, “Bob, it all started with the cupcakes.”
And he’d say, “Let’s talk about the cupcakes.”
And I’d lay my head on his shoulder, and that would send the camera people into a tizzy, and they would snap and gesticulate and mouth “cut that shit out!” and eventually I’d listen to them because my nose would start running, and if I’m leaving a trail of bodily fluids on Bob Harper, it’s not going to be snot.
I’d clear my throat and do my best not to glance at his creepy mustache. But it’s so thick and bushy I’d almost have to squint very hard so that I wouldn’t see it.
I’d look into his concerned blue eyes, and I’d say…
“Bob, I ate 2 cupcakes because…
I was hungry. And I had PMS. Also, They were from The Brunettes Bookshop Bakery. And, Bob, They. Taste. So. Good.”
And he’d nod and say, “OK. Those are the easy reasons. Why else did you eat the cupcakes?”
And I’d say, “I felt sorry for myself that week, Bob. I had hurt my back, and yoga didn’t help. And it hurt too much to run.”
And Bob would ask, “How did you hurt your back?”
And I’d say, “I tried to bring sexy back at my kids’ Homecoming by pairing heeled boots with my skinny jeans. Pony rides, hay rides, lemon sticks, and heeled boots…makes sense, doesn’t it?
And he’d say, “It makes perfect sense. Although I’d have gone with a flannel shirt and leather skinnies.”
And I’d say, “But I can’t rock the leather skinnies like you can, Bob.”
And he’d say, “Please tell me they were ankle booties.”
And I’d be ashamed and say, “Sadly, the boots that hurt my back were soooooo 2 seasons ago.”
And he’d make a face like he’d just caught a whiff of something nasty, and say, “Ewwww. Let’s change the subject, why else did you eat the cupcakes?”
And I’d say, “Because, when I was standing at the stove with one hand massaging my aching back and the other sauteing onions for dinner, I asked my husband to set the table for dinner. And do you know where he went, Bob? He climbed up on the roof of the house!”
And he’d look confused and ask, “Was he cleaning the gutters?”
And I’d raise my eyebrows and say, “One would think that, Bob. But, no. He was dressed as a witch.”
And he’d look puzzled and ask, “Why?”
And I’d say, “Because it was close to Halloween.”
And he’d ask, “And?”
And I’d say, “And he had the camera set up, and he yelled down from the roof to our oldest son, ‘don’t touch anything! Just press the button to take a picture!’”
And again Bob would ask, “Why?”
And I’d say, “Because that’s what he does, Bob!”
And Bob’s eyes would glaze over, and he’d murmur, “Oh, I love a man who likes to dress up.”
And I’d say, “Focus, Bob. Focus. I just wanted him to set the table for dinner.”
And he’d ask, “When you met him, was he the type to set the table for dinner?”
And I’d say, “No, Bob, he was the type to do naked stair dives down the fraternity house steps. You’re glazing over again, Bob. Focus.”
And he’d say, “Girlfriend, people don’t change. The guy who does naked stair dives…and that sounds super hot…doesn’t become the guy who sets the table for dinner just because you married him.”
And I’d say, “You’re right. He becomes the man who dresses up as a witch and stands on roof of your house at the exact moment the light is right because he woke up thinking this would be a cool picture.”
And he’d ask, “Well? Was it a good picture?”
And I’d say, “It was a great picture.”
He’d add, “And I bet it was a funny story too. And isn’t that what you do? Tell funny stories?”
And I’d say, “I tell stories, Bob. Yes. They happen to be funny because I married a man who dresses up like a witch and stands on the roof because he thinks it might make a good picture.”
And he’d say, “He’s giving you good material, girlfriend.”
And I’d say, “That’s one way to look at it, Bob.”
Bob would grow serious again, and ask, “Why else did you eat the cupcakes?”
And I’d take a deep breath and answer, “I ate the cupcakes because I am 3…OK 4…months late writing thank you cards to two different families who were brave and generous enough to open their homes to my family this summer. And I’m beside myself that I haven’t gotten my act together before this, because I don’t want either of them to think that we didn’t appreciate every single second of their hospitality. And, in this crazy age when my home phone only rings when a solicitor calls or when one of my kids is sitting in the principal’s office, a handwritten thank you note takes so little effort but carries so much impact.
And speaking of thank you notes, I still owe thank you notes to friends who cooked for me when I was navigating Target on a motorized cart last May after I rolled my ankle on the jump rope my husband ordered for us but was actually designed for The Incredible Hulk.
And he’d say “What?”
And I’d say, “Don’t ask, Bob. Just watch the video. I ate the cupcakes because I still owe thank you notes to friends who cooked for me when the boys and I had the plague right before Christmas last year when my husband thought we were faking.
I ate the cupcakes because every time I get out of my car at school, I see someone and immediately realize I never replied to her email/text/phone call. I had every intention, but it just…poof…never happened.
When I stop to think about all the friends I haven’t replied to, I feel sad because I miss Ave. When the Verb was still a baby and I was nursing around the clock, I was forced to sit down. And I would use that time to catch up with her via text. And she made every day happier for me. And I miss that friendship.
I ate the cupcakes because the six of us have missed more parties than I can count because the evite still remains unanswered…sometimes unopened…in my email.
I ate the cupcakes because every time I think I’ll have time to write, somebody gets sick, has a field trip, has a day off, or asks that I attend a meeting. Or all of the above.
Because every time someone gets sick, has a field trip, has a day off, or asks that I attend a meeting, I can’t get dinner together.
And then we eat too much pizza.
And occasionally, and don’t fucking judge me, Bob, I take the kids to McDonald’s.”
And he’d shoot me a venomous look.
And I’d say, “Don’t look at me like that, Bob. I need your support right now. And when I occasionally…and it’s rare, Bob, OK, it’s rare…take them to McDonald’s, the Verb blows my cover by marching into kindergarten and dictating a story about being a scarecrow who gets chicken nuggets from McDonald’s.
And then that story makes it onto the wall of the building where all the parents walk their kids into school, so they can all read about how I poison my kids and their scarecrows with McDonald’s.”
And Bob would shrug and says, ““Well, that serves you right.”
And then I would shoot him a nasty look. But he’s so cute that I couldn’t be angry at him for long.
I’d take a deep breath and say, “I ate the cupcakes because every time I go to a meeting at school, they talk less about the test scores and more about raising our children to be resilient, and it all makes sense to me.
But I have to remember to let the kids solve their own problems more than I already do.
Because every time all four of the kids are on the trampoline together, my sweet Interrogator bursts into the house choking back tears.
And more often than not, I run outside to his aid.
Because he is my heart, Bob.
But I’m not teaching him resilience when I wag my finger and tell his brothers they will rue the day they made him cry.”
By now, Bob will have forgiven my McDonald’s indiscretion, so he’d put his arm around me and say, “You’re teaching them love and kindness. There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re still so young. The resilience will come.”
I’d take another breath and say, “I ate the cupcakes because whenever I login to Facebook and see that all of my writing friends are writing, it makes me feel panicked, and all I can think is, what about lean in?? Lean the fuck in, sisters, how about some fucking solidarity? Can’t we all be prolific at the same time?”
And Bob would say, “You’ve lost me. What do you mean?”
And I’d say, “I mean, I’m sitting in the fucking parking lot at Costco for the 3rd time in 2 weeks, Bob, and I want to write! But I can’t, Bob! I CAN’T WRITE! Because they keep eating, Bob. All the people in my house keep eating. And not the cupcakes. I’ve got the cupcakes covered. They eat all the other things. All the time they eat, eat, eat. So all the times I want to write, I’m spending food shopping.”
And he’d say, “Bethany, take care of your family first, and write when you feel inspired. And be happy for your friends when they carve time out to write. Writers need to write. It’s what they do.”
And I’d say, “That makes sense, Bob.”
And I’d say, “I ate the cupcakes because things are constantly falling through the cracks. Small things. But things. Every day I’m saying, ‘Shoot, I forgot,’. And I feel like I cannot get ahead of it. I cannot get organized. And I’m trying to be organized. But I’m double-fisting cupcakes, Bob. And I just know that all of the organized people in my life are going to be sending out their Christmas cards today and I’ll feel like they’re being organized AT me, Bob. Like I’m struggling to learn the steps to the Bunny Hop, and I’ll open up the mailbox, and BAM! They’re going all Michael Jackson’s Thriller on my ass!
And I know it’s not personal, Bob. It’s organized people being organized. Getting shit done and crossing it off the list. But I’m in a 2 cupcake kinda place right now, so it makes me feel like I’m failing. It makes me feel like I’m behind. Like I cannot get my shit together. And I hate that feeling, Bob.”
And he’d say, “That sounds like a lot of reasons to eat two cupcakes.”
And I’d say, “Hang on, Bob, I’m not finished yet. No one has ever accused me of being succinct.
I ate the cupcakes because here comes Christmas, and how the donkey hell are we going to pay for that?”
And he’d say, “Well, you’re the one who had 4 kids.”
And I’d say, “I know that, Bob. I married the guy who did naked stair dives down the fraternity house steps. We didn’t exactly think it through.
I ate the cupcakes because this is the year we sit down with the Kenyan and explain that the gifts that accompany Christmas are not exactly the handiwork of elves who work for a jolly man in a red suit…and with that simple explanation, we will extinguish some of the greatest mystery and magic of his childhood, and he will grow up just the tiniest bit in that moment. And it will happen right before our eyes. And he is perfect in all of his belief and innocence just the way he is, and I dread that I’ll be responsible for delivering the news that will lessen the wonder in his blue eyes.”
And then I’ll really be crying. The ugly cry. Because believe me when I say the Kenyan is one of the brightest lights in my life.
I’ll wipe my swollen, tear-streaked face on my Biggest Loser tee shirt, and say, “I ate the cupcakes because it’s another year of hanging stockings that don’t have airline tickets to Arizona in them. Because, as much as we’d love to see Little Sister over spring break, it costs 2 mortgage payments to fly the 6 of us back and forth across the country that particular week. And we aren’t in a position to do that.
I ate the cupcakes because 12 year olds suck. We just got out of diapers in my house! Everyone can swim! They all sleep through the night, and just when I think it’s going to be all the awesome stuff parenting is supposed to be, I have a 12 year old in the house. And most of the time it just sucks!
It’s brooding and a fuzzy upper lip and irritation at my existence that radiates from every pore of his hormonal body.
It’s stealing glances at him and my breath catching because I see glimpses of the man he’s growing into.
It’s listening to him and losing my shit because WHAT IS WITH THIS ATTITUDE?
It’s wanting to fast forward through this stage with him while simultaneously wanting to slam on the brakes because the next time he is nice to me, I’ll know he is being nice to cover up the fact that…like a typical fucking jackass teenager…he just snap chatted a picture of his naked torso to a girl I haven’t met.”
And Bob will ask, “What’s snap chat?”
And I’ll say, “Here, let’s have a tutorial. You take a naked picture of yourself, then you snap chat it to me, and it disappears in 10 seconds. And I would NEVER take a screen shot to look at every single day for the rest of my life, so don’t even sweat that. Never. I promise. Never.”
And he’ll say, “I practice yoga naked, so I’ll do it then.”
And I’ll say, “That’s perfect, Bob. Just perfect.”
And he’ll say, “Focus, Bethany.”
And I’ll say, “I ate the cupcakes because every time I walk into the dentist with my youngest son, they ask, ‘how did your son lose his tooth at such a young age?’ And I shrug, smile, and answer, ‘I don’t know. He’s the youngest of 4 boys.’ And that’s the truth, but they always continue to look at me like that’s not an answer. And I’m like, ‘We have a trampoline. And 4 boys. They are all boys. And they bounce. And they wrestle. Boys!’
And I feel judged. And I know they’re in the business of teeth, and my son is missing a tooth. But I’m his Mom. And I am in the business of putting my body, my dreams, my heart, my spirit, my entire existence into providing love, consistency, and a safe place for him and his brothers. And I don’t fucking know what happened to his tooth! I have 4 boys! And a trampoline! And 4 fucking boys! It’s yet another thing that slipped through the cracks, Bob. And, really, I just want the crowd at the dentist to say, ‘Damn, he looks cute without that front tooth.’ Is that too much to ask, Bob?”
And Bob would say, “I saw his picture, and I think he looks adorable without that front tooth.”
And I’d say, “Thank you, Bob. I knew I could count on you. I ate the cupcakes because my family just got kicked in the gut with a life-changing diagnosis, and not the kind that changes anyone’s life for the better. The kind where everyone cries. And expectations are shifted. And dreams are shattered.
I ate the cupcakes because I wrote some stuff. And so far nobody wants it. And I feel vulnerable. And what if maybe nobody ever wants it? That makes me feel gross and icky and uncomfortable. And like Michael Schaefer still doesn’t know I exist even though I loved him from afar for every. single. day. of grade school.”
And Bob would look at me, and say, “Just because Michael Schaefer didn’t acknowledge you doesn’t mean you’re not worth acknowledging. And just because nobody wants what you wrote yet doesn’t mean no one will ever want it. There’s a teaching opportunity here.”
And I’d say, “I know, Bob. Resilience. Re-mutha-fucking-silience. But it doesn’t sting any less.”
And I’d put my head on his shoulder again because he is basically not even gay at this point, and it feels like we are practically a couple.
And he’d whisper into my hair, “So, what are you going to do?”
And that’s when I’d seal the deal with my yoga talk. Because I know Bob loves yoga as much as he loves tattoos. And I love yoga almost as much as I love Bob.
I’d say, “You know, Bob, I was practicing yoga the other day, and my instructor said something that stuck with me. She said, ‘criticism is just noise.’”
And Bob would lift his leg and lay it over mine, and he’d say, “I love that.”
And I’d say, “I love it too. I’m criticizing myself, Bob. It’s too much noise. Too frequently.
I feel overwhelmed, Bob. And I’m allowing it to get in the way of all that’s good in my life.
I have a house that’s full. Full of life. And all the good and the bad that comes with it.
I have too much good in my life and I am too many things to too many people to allow all this noise.
So no more cupcakes for me, Bob.
I want to sing Kumbaya.”
And Bob would say, “Bethany, I’ve never said this to a woman, but I’d put my crotch-less leather chaps on for you any day of the week. And twice on Sundays, cowgirl.”
And I’d say, “Oh, Bob, I’d love to yoga you so hard that creepy mustache of yours falls right the fuck off.
But I’m in love with the witch standing on my roof.
Don’t look so sad.
If you’re ever in Philadelphia, let’s take a yoga class together.
And we can do all the partner handstands your heart desires.”
So I feel much better after my talk with Bob.
Even if it was just in my head.
All that. Because of two cupcakes.