God Save the Queen

I decided to go with a shot of Sid Vicious in the forefront because he will always be my favorite Sex Pistol.

A shot with Sid Vicious in the forefront because he is, after all, my favorite Sex Pistol — especially since I witnessed Johnny Rotten spitting on the crowd at a P.I.L. show. 

Yesterday, after my first girls night out in what seemed like about 150 years, I heard “God Save the Queen” on the ride home. So I did what felt natural: I cranked up the radio, rolled down the window and sang along with the Sex Pistols to one of many anthems from my teenage years, when rebellion reigned supreme. All that was missing was the cigarette dangling from my lip.

Not much compares to the release you get from belting out song lyrics at the top of your lungs while driving alone. No one can hear you or judge your singing ability, so you can be as loud and as passionate as you want. It’s like singing in the shower but with backing vocals. With enough creativity and determination, you can find personal meaning in any song, even when you are a middle-aged mother singing along with punks fed up about England’s fascist regime.

God save the queen…

A mother is a queen of sorts, right? She is the queen of her family, its sun, the center of its universe. She is everything to her children. But by being all to them, does she become nothing to herself? Is it possible to emerge from motherhood without winding up a soulless figurehead?

She ain’t no human being…

In exactly two weeks, my youngest child will be 13. In five years she will graduate from high school and head off to college. I can see that portion of the future clearly and will do everything I possibly can to ensure it happens. But what about the mother she leaves behind? Obviously, there is no turning back once our children are grown, but what propels us forward after they are gone? How do we find new roles for ourselves after nearly 20 years of doing the toughest job imaginable?

There’s no future, no future, no future for you…

I can’t attest to their logic, but somehow these were the questions I found myself pondering while singing along to “God Save the Queen” after a visit to my favorite local tavern with an old friend. Maybe the craft beer I drank was stronger than I realized. Or maybe the existential angst I thought I left behind in my teenage years — along with the Aqua Net and black eyeliner — is resurfacing and I’m having the female version of a midlife crisis. I don’t want a sports car or a trophy husband, however. I want a life of my own, plans and goals that are mine, all mine. I want a redefined sense of purpose. And the only person who can provide those things is me. I’m working on it. But I’m thankful I still have five years to figure it out.

Considering how much better I feel after reconnecting with my friend last night — and doing karaoke on the ride home — I guess I need to get out and spend time with other queens, I mean moms, on a more regular basis. I need to be reminded that I’m not alone, that others share my doubts and fears. Who doesn’t need that once in a while?

Motherhood becomes increasingly lonely as our children get older — or at least it can if we let it. The friendships that form effortlessly during play groups and other activities when our kids are young become harder to find as they grow up and spend more time living their lives without us. But we have to keep looking. We have to keep trying to make new connections, while also nurturing the ones we have and rekindling those we miss. I have let a lot of relationships lapse during my motherhood reign, and it makes me sad. I guess I need to work on the whole being a good friend thing too. Those five years will be gone before I know it.

In any case, Mr. Johnny Rotten, John Lydon, John Rotten Lydon or whatever you are calling yourself these days, I just wanted to let you know that despite what my teenage self may have said, middle-aged me knows there is indeed a future. And while I am far from being a queen in need of saving, I guess what I realized last night is that I could use a little company as I figure mine out — and a lot more singing in the car with the windows down.

And She Told Two Friends …

At the risk of sounding like a total dork (believe me, I know it wouldn’t be the first time), Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my heroes. If I were planning a dinner party of famous people I admire, living or dead, she would be sitting right next to my father or possibly Jimi Hendrix. I am quite certain Mrs. Roosevelt would provide some interesting table talk, and I’m guessing she wouldn’t miss a beat when my dad told an off-color joke. I think they would also be able to relate when it comes to Mrs. Roosevelt’s famous quote: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” My dad didn’t have much use for gossips or busybodies either.

My two heroes (sorry, Jimi) came to mind recently when my husband told me some unfortunate news about an acquaintance of ours. I have no plans to repeat it because it’s not my story to tell. Frankly, knowing it makes me feel sad and a little dirty.

I’ve also learned firsthand that gossiping has a tendency to come back to bite you in the butt. I truly believe that if you spread the word about someone else’s misfortune and take even the remotest pleasure in his or her pain, you had better watch your back afterward. It’s called karma, and it’s a bitch.

My own admittedly lame justification for occasional gossip is that I only talk about mean people who do crappy things because they deserve it. I’m not sure what gives me the right to determine their fate, but that is how I rationalize my bad behavior. In my defense, I don’t shout anyone’s story from the rooftop. It typically goes no further than my husband’s ears because it doesn’t occur to me to tell anyone else.

Mrs. Roosevelt would be happy to know that, unlike me, her potential dinner companion (my dad, not Jimi) never spoke ill of anyone, even the people he disliked. I assume he figured their unpleasantness spoke for itself. Plus, he always had great stories and ideas to share, so there wasn’t much room in the conversation for idle chatter about others.

When it comes right down to it, gossip stems from boredom. And, honestly, if you can find enough time to be bored in the juggling act of work, marriage and parenting, I’d like to know your secret. I promise not to tell.