Father’s Day For Single Black Moms: Going Too Far?

June 23, 2011

On the heels of my Father’s Day post discussing why I, as a single mom, do not want Father’s Day greetings, we get the news that Hallmark Cards is marketing a Father’s Day card specifically aimed at single black mothers.

This is problematic for any number of reasons. But even if you agree with the practice of single mothers celebrating Father’s Day, why target black single moms? Is this stereotyping? Smart marketing? Or an uneasy mix of both?

I Am Not the Father

June 19, 2011

Lately, it’s become fashionable to wish single mothers Happy Father’s Day.

Miss me with that.

I am a single mother raising two kids alone. I do it by necessity, since my kids’ father has chosen, for the most part, to be absent from their lives since our divorce.

I also do it a little bit by choice. Some women in my shoes would have initiated a search for Mr. Stepdad a long time ago. Marrying a man for the sole purpose of providing my kids with a replacement father does not interest me in the least.

Being a single mother does not also make me a single father. Or some type of mother-father hybrid. I am a woman, and I can only approach parenting from a woman’s perspective. I grew up with my father and mother, but my mother was the more dominant influence in our home. For better or worse, I adopted her style of parenting even when I was married.

The notion that a woman raising children by herself is acting as both mother and father is misguided and harmful. It does a disservice to all of the fathers – including the single fathers – who are also working hard, every day, to raise their children. We single mothers enjoy the appreciation, but on Father’s Day, fathers, not mothers, deserve all the love.

My kids do benefit from positive male influences. Unfortunately, their father isn’t one. I don’t live near my family, so my children don’t have uncles and older male cousins who take the place of their absent father in providing this influence. They do have teachers. coaches, their friends’ fathers, and my significant other.

None of them can take the place of a loving, caring father, but my ex-husband is not a loving, caring father. They wouldn’t have a nuturing dad in their lives even if their dad were still around. A psychotherapist told me recently, if the absent parent does substantial damage to the child when he or she is present, it is better for that parent to remain absent. My children are not better off without a father, but they are better off without a father who is still so hurt from his own childhood that he inflicts pain upon his own children almost without knowing.

I am not a hero. I am not “holding it down.” I’m doing what I have to do. I take care of my children because I’m supposed to.

I take care of my kids because I love them and I need them and they need me. I do it alone because their father is unwilling and unable to participate. That doesn’t mean I fill both roles.

I am a mother. That’s more than enough.

So while I appreciate the acknowledgment of single mothers on Father’s Day, don’t wish me a Happy Father’s Day. I am a lot of things to my kids, but a father is most certainly not one of them.

One Last Shot

June 12, 2011

Louisa Thomas’s elegant synopsis in the Paris Review of the 2011 French Open final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, got me thinking about sports and age.

I’m a big Rafael Nadal fan, and was happy he won. It was, for the most part, an exciting match. But I also love Federer’s game. It has been hard to watch him these last few years as he has fallen from invincibility. Federer still has plenty of beautiful tennis left, and still has what it takes to beat most of the guys on tour. Against Nadal, though, he can’t quite get it done. You can sense his frustration as mentally, he knows what to do, but his body refuses to fully cooperate.

The 2011 NBA Finals have featured the team everyone expected to be there – the Miami Heat – and a team not many expected to see in the finals – the Dallas Mavericks. Both are teams of seasoned veterans. LeBron James famously left Cleveland this year to join Dwyane Wade in Miami for the purpose of winning another NBA Championship for the Heat.

In contrast, the Mavericks feature a bunch of guys who are nearing their “sell by” dates, including Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic, alongside the brilliant Dirk Nowitzki. Although Miami is down in the series 3-2, there are those who still believe Miami will achieve its goal by pushing the series to a Game 7 and then winning it all.

For my part, just as I did watching Federer-Nadal, I’m pulling for the old guys. You get the sense that this is Kidd’s and Nowitzki’s last best hope for an NBA Championship ring. Nowitzki is playing with a level of heart and soul that some, after his previous championship losses, claimed he didn’t have. After all those cringe-worthy shots Kidd took in New Jersey, he has finally developed a reliable open jumper. Both Kidd and Nowitzki have sealed their NBA legacies with their playoff performances this year. But you don’t get the sense that either one has another championship run left in him.

So let’s hope 2011 is the year of the legends in basketball and tennis. LeBron and D. Wade will have many more opportunities. For Kidd and Nowitzki, this probably is it.

In tennis, although Federer lost to Nadal at the French, Wimbledon is right around the corner. The Williams Sisters, who have been plagued by injuries and out of tennis since last year, are due to return to the tour for Wimbledon. They, too, are no longer young phenoms. One hopes at least one of the Williams Sisters can recapture a bit of tennis magic and close out the year with a victory in at least one major. It would be great if the clock rolled back at Wimbledon this year, with Federer and one of the Williams Sisters raising the championship trophy yet again.

We fans don’t want our legends to age and leave the sport, but we accept that it happens, just as it happens for all of us. It is painful to watch the greats weaken and get slower, because it reminds us of our own aging process. We pull for the legends to fight back against age just as we fight with our own faulty memories, our aches and pains, our slower reflexes. We fantasize that every great player, no matter what sport, will leave like Pete Sampras did – retiring after winning his last US Open title in 2002.

But even when the legends don’t pull off a Sampras, it’s still great to see them out there, still competing, still giving it their all.

Kids and Money

June 5, 2011

A few years ago, while visiting the home of a friend, I noticed a book on her kitchen counter about raising kids without a sense of entitlement.

It made sense to me that this friend would have such a book. She and her husband, both professionals, are doing well financially. I didn’t think to copy down the name of the book, because I didn’t think I’d ever find myself in their situation. I was still suffering the financial constraints of the newly divorced. “My kids know we operate on a budget,” I said to myself – and by budget, I meant we generally were living paycheck to paycheck. It never dawned on me that my kids would see our situation as anything other than a struggle.

Fast forward five years. My oldest child, my 14-year-old daughter, is now a teen. Like many teens, her tastes exceed my budget. She wants to wear designer jeans. Shopping is a hobby or a fun pastime. She also loves good food (no Mickey Ds for this kid), concerts and Broadway shows.

Nothing wrong with any of that. I raised her to have good taste. Still, there are practical limits to how much of this I can fund.

I tried giving her an allowance, but the concept of saving eluded her. She would spend her allowance and then ask (demand) more for “hanging out.” Paying for chores didn’t make sense – washing dishes and doing the laundry are obligations to be shared by the members of the household, not something one does for remuneration.

I told my daughter to start babysitting for extra money. She did, a few times, but never actively pursued it. When I told her to start tutoring younger kids or find something else to earn some pocket money, she cried and said, “I don’t know how to do anything!”

I sat down with her and went over the household budget with her to the nearest dollar, showing her how my bi-monthly paychecks are spent. She nodded, wide-eyed, but the effect wore off the next time she wanted something and I refused to give it to her.

I can’t do the money battles anymore. Her raging sense of entitlement and utter lack of responsibility and accountability infuriate me. Lecturing doesn’t work. So to teach her some valuable lessons about money, I’ve decided to enroll her in World of Money, a one-week summer program for kids 9-17. World of Money introduces basic financial concepts to kids and helps them begin to understand what spending, saving and investing really mean.

In one week, my daughter will learn as much as possible about banks, interest, the stock and other financial markets, the role of the U.S. Treasury, budgets, and other basic money concepts.

I hope the program has a lasting impact on her. It’s important for all children to learn about how money REALLY works, but I think it is especially important for black children to be exposed to this information. Our kids don’t see us often enough engaged in the acts of saving, investing, budgeting and paying bills. And while I recognize the importance of leading by example, those at-home lessons need a boost from someone who isn’t Mom saying “no” all the the time.

While I may not have the means of my friend’s family, I am fortunate to have moved beyond living paycheck, to taking one or two significant family vacations per year. My kids’ sense of entitlement is out of control, and I need to reign it in this summer. I am going to ask my friend for the name of the book she bought for her family years ago, but I am also open to other suggestions. If any of you readers have thoughts or recommendations about how to teach children, especially teenagers, some valuable and worthwhile lessons about money, please share.

First published on CocoaMamas.com

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Memoir

May 24, 2011

All my life, people have told me I should write a book.

My first short stories were potboilers about cheating dogs and doggie love triangles. No, really. My first short story, at 8, was about a trio of German Shepherds named King, Queenie & Jackie, with Queenie and Jackie vying for King’s affections. This is what happens when a chubby girl with an overactive imagination combines her love of the family pet with stories overheard from gossipy neighbors. 

In college, my Anecdotal Writing professor told me I had book material and even offered to work with me to shape it into a memoir. I thought he was crazy. Those were just some stories about my crazy family. But everyone’s got a crazy family. Why would anyone want to read about mine?

Besides, no one was writing “memoir” back then. It was called “autobiography” and only famous people wrote them.

When I began blogging about parenting and started my own self- titled blog, people said, “I enjoy your writing. So where’s the book?”

So after 20+ years of hearing, “you should write a book,” I decided, “You know? They’re right!”

And I had all these great stories about my family and kids and ex-boyfriends already written. All I’d have to do is flesh out the family life, add a bit about the awful marriage, end on a happy note with newfound love, and I’d be done.

Then people started opting out of my life story.

The first was my sister. She had been one of the most vocal proponents of “you should write a book” until I wrote a post that mentioned, in passing, something about her. Some moment where our experiences crossed.

“Don’t write about my life,” was the terse private message I received after that post.

I didn’t write about her life. I wrote about my life. Except…I do have five siblings. Three brothers and two sisters. Writing about my childhood will be a bit challenging if I don’t get to mention at least something about being the youngest of six.

I don’t have to tell you about the paths their lives have taken. Those are not my stories to tell.

But if I’m telling a story about riding the Bob-Lo Boat to Bob-Lo Island as a child, it’ll be hard to tell that story without mentioning who I was on the boat with. Perhaps I should only mention the stories where my sister looks really smart and I’m just the dumb little sister. That might work.

Next was…well, I can’t tell you that. I’m not supposed to mention anything about my current r___________. What’s a r___________? I can’t tell you, but this video may give you a clue:

But I can’t talk about it. Not on my blog. Not in my memoir. So much for ending on a happy note.

So it seems the only relationships I can discuss in the book are the failed ones: the marriage and the high – or low – lights of those that preceded it.

And I’ve got some great failed relationship stories.

A friend suggested I avoid complaints from the subjects of those great stories by saying each one of them had a small penis.

I was thinking the opposite. I should give them all large penises. Maybe if I Super Size all my exes, they’ll be so flattered they won’t complain about whatever else it is I might have to say about them.

But I guess I’ll have to allude to the happy ending by way of lessons learned.

Which may not be such a bad thing. A lot can happen between writing and publication. And perhaps it’s best not to write about anyone until they’ve been a part of my life for a minimum of ten years.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, trying to figure out how to tell the story of my life in isolation. Wish me luck.

Dating Pet Peeves

April 18, 2011

Following up on my “Guy Pet Peeves” post, my beautiful online pal Saida Latigue (@MochaMama42 on Twitter), had a few pet peeves of her own to share. I thought it best for Saida to express herself in a separate post. Without further ado, here are some of Saida’s dating pet peeves.

 1. A self-proclaimed gentleman has respect for my time.

You’re a man and you want to be treated and respected as such. If I am supposed to meet you at 10:00 am, calling at 10:40 am “to see if I’m on the way” is silly. If I’m meeting you somewhere crowded and popular, and I haven’t called to say I won’t arrive at the agreed-upon time to meet, shouldn’t you make yourself visible in the crowd and call at 10:15 at the latest to inquire about my ETA if you don’t see me or haven’t heard from me?

My time is valuable and I actually arrived at 9:55 am. You have no respect for me or my time, so …. NEXT!

2. Being a man means you pursue me.

You say you’d really like to get to know me better. However, to communicate with me, you text my phone intermittently. You email vague one line questions, and when I ask for an in-depth explanation, you don’t respond. You think of “conversation” as attempting to engage me in “relationship style” banter on mutual friend’s threads on Facebook.

I am no longer in grade school. I can infer you’re interested in me, but if it comes across as such a half-hearted attempt to get to know me, it’s a turn off, big time.         

3. A man is decisive and knows what he wants.

I decide to meet for drinks with someone I’ve dated in the past. As a single divorcee, sometimes I just want to spend time with a member of the opposite sex. The conversation is easy and out of curiosity, we ask each other why we’re not in a serious relationship at this time. I completely understand the “people are in your life for a reason or a season” rationale; however, when you share with me that you felt DUPED in your last relationship because the woman you were dating said she didn’t want marriage or a serious relationship and that was why you were in a relationship with  her — only to find out a YEAR later, she shares she would like to “take the relationship to another level” of  commitment and monogamy…and you join a dating website ( in retaliation) and only choose potential dates by photo — those are RED FLAGS that you haven’t yet figured out what you are doing. STILL. Sad, particularly when I have known you going on six years.          

4. GROW A SET.

Get some CAJONES about yourself. Be a man about it, do your thing as a man and be one, because I’m definitely very much a woman and don’t want to be the man. Period.

Phew! Saida laid it out there, didn’t she?  Do you agree or disagree? The floor is yours.

When Did You Know Your Marriage Was Over?

April 17, 2011

The Huffington Post recently ran a series entitled, “The Moment I Knew,” where women discussed the moment they knew their marriages were over and it was time to file for divorce.

The stories were universally depressing, of the “I knew it was time to end my marriage when he wouldn’t even come visit me in the hospital after my open heart surgery” ilk.

As I read “The Moment I Knew” stories, I wanted to ask each contributor: “Are you sure you didn’t know before then?” and “If you realized it earlier, why didn’t you act on it?”

I asked those questions because those are the questions I asked myself when I finally decided to file for divorce.

Common wisdom holds that marriage is hard work. This is true. Staying married requires a commitment to being together, a commitment that transcends any and all issues that may arise during the marriage.

Staying together no matter what issue may arise, is very serious business indeed.

But when it is ok to give up? When is it futile to fight and try and work hard to stay together? When is it necessary to cut one’s losses and move on?

Some, of course, would say never. That it’s never OK to give up on your marriage; never OK to back out; never OK to say, enough is enough, this thing is dead and rotting and it’s time for us to move on with our separate lives. That level of commitment is fine if both parties share it equally.

But if your commitment isn’t equal, and you feel like your fight is futile, then it may be time to reassess.

In my case, the moment I knew I had to get divorced came, like so many of the Huffington Post contributors, after a dramatic and tragic series of events. In sum, my ex-husband kicked in the front door after I’d locked him out during a particularly nasty argument. The sound of my daughter’s scream when he kicked open that metal door still reverberates in my ear. I called the police, which further enraged him. I retained a divorce lawyer the next day.

But really, I knew before that moment. I knew on my wedding day that it wasn’t going to work. I knew for certain on my wedding night, after the party was over and the guests were gone and we could go back to being uncivilized to each other.

I was nine months pregnant with my son on my wedding day, one week from delivering our second child. I’d insisted on getting married because I couldn’t stomach the thought of having another child out of wedlock. But I knew the whole time that he was the wrong man to marry. I’d known that during the five years we lived together before the marriage.

I knew I shouldn’t have married him when he punched me in the head in the hospital while I was in labor with our first child. I knew I shouldn’t have married him when he would leave me and our newborn daughter alone every weekend while he took my car to Philadelphia to get high. Even after he got clean, I knew nothing had materially changed.

But I was stuck with this image of myself as the type of woman who was not a “baby mama.” My internal compass told me the life I was living was inauthentic and immoral, even though correcting it meant marrying someone I believed to be a misogynistic bully. I was embarrassed to be a pregnant, unmarried black woman, facing the real and imagined stares of my partners at my conservative law firm. Despite my Harvard Law School degree and my post-law school accomplishments, I felt like just another ghetto stereotype.

So I went to a Christie’s auction, bought myself a three-carat diamond and platinum Harry Winston engagement ring and planned a small wedding. At our divorce trial, my ex told the judge I “forced” him to get married. The judge was having none of it. He was a grown man – I didn’t force him to do anything. If I forced anyone to get married, it was me. And the nearly three years we were married before we both – simultaneously, as it ironically turned out – filed for divorce just confirmed what I’d known all along.

The question I asked myself when I first spoke to my divorce lawyer, throughout the divorce and nearly every day of the seven years since then isn’t “When did I know?” but “Why did I do that to myself and why didn’t I know I deserved so much more?”

First posted on MarriedMySugarDaddy.com

Single Mommy Blues

April 16, 2011

It seems we mothers spend a lot of time – and ink – talking about how hard it is to be a mother.

Numerous books, parenting blogs and websites are devoted to the topic. On playgrounds and playdates, mothers huddle together and talk about how incredibly difficult this motherhood game really is.

And yet the voices of some of us mothers mostly remain unheard.

The point of this post is not to compare notes to see which moms have it worst. Mothering is hard. It’s hard whether you’re single or married, whether you’re successfully co-parenting with a cooperative ex, or doing it all by yourself, whether you have the help of a village or only the help you are able to pay for.

But I want to talk about the special hardships faced by single mothers who are doing it alone. Really alone. Without the help of a reliable spouse, co-parent, or a network of friends or family members who pitch in whenever possible.

For several years after my divorce, I sacrificed having a personal life for the sake of my kids. Weekends were consumed by soccer, gymnastics, baseball, softball, tennis, golf, ice skating – you name an activity, we probably tried it. Dating? Hah! I wasn’t ready. Focusing on the kids was a great way to avoid thinking about how badly I’d flubbed the whole “picking the right partner” thing.

I didn’t become SuperMom because I wanted to. I did it because I lacked an alternative. I live in New York City. My family is in Michigan. My ex-husband was – and is -absent and uninvolved.

I had the help I was willing to pay for. I paid full-time rates for part-time babysitters to ensure I had someone to pick the kids up from school and care for them on half-days and school holidays. The extra expense killed my budget, but my work schedule was too demanding to enable me to rely on afterschool programs.

Recently, I tried co-parenting with my ex-husband, an experiment that now seems short-lived. His last overnight visit with the kids was New Year’s weekend. He is too unreliable to keep a regular visiting schedule, and I don’t have the energy to deal with the litany of excuses.

Although single parenting would be tough even if I worked at home, my demanding executive job makes the juggling even more difficult. Plus, in addition to my day job, I do speaking enagements and lectures. I write, for this blog and others, on my own time.

I even finally started dating again.

The writing, the dating, the lecturing, and some occasional exercise are things I do for myself. But they take away from the time I spend with my kids. I can no longer devote every weekend to their activities. And I feel incredibly guilty about it.

For example: my son is a natural baseball talent. Yet I don’t have time to take him to a baseball coach to work on his skills. I don’t have time – or a good enough pitching/throwing arm – to take him to the park and help him work on his catching, fielding and hitting. I haven’t found time to have him try out for a travel team – and even if he did, I’m not sure I would be able to haul him around from game to game.

His father, who played baseball in high school, takes no interest in his son’s baseball development. I get angry about this sometimes, and then I realize being angry is futile.

Well-meaning friends tell me to stop beating up on myself. They tell me to focus on the fact that, all by myself, I have raised smart, independent thinkers who are thriving in some of New York City’s most competitive schools.

I do acknowledge my blessings. But still, I’m tired. So please forgive me for indulging in a bit of whining.

Mothering is hard for all mothers. It is especially hard for us single women who are parenting completely by ourselves. And because we’re so used to doing everything all by ourselves, we don’t ask for help easily. Or always know how to accept it graciously, without constantly thanking the person who agreed to step in for us. Or apologizing for being burdensome.

So if you know a single mom who parents by herself, maybe you can offer her a little help. If your kids are friends, maybe you can offer to pick her kid up from school and host a playdate at your house. Or you can invite her kid to a weekend playdate or sleepover. Let her be the last parent to pick up her child from the birthday party. Because whether she says it or not, she values every single moment she gets to spend by herself. But she may not feel she has the right to ask for that time.

And try not to get too annoyed when she keeps saying “thank you.”

First published on CocoaMamas.com

Guy Pet Peeves

April 12, 2011

This topic needs no introduction.* Let’s dive right in.

1. Lurking in the “friend” zone.

Every couple of weeks or so, Twitter rehashes the discussion of the “friend” zone – the place where women put men they have no intention of sleeping with, but whose company and conversation they enjoy enough to hang out with and generally keep around.

I take the word “friendship” very seriously. If I have no intention of ever sleeping with you, and I know you like me, I’ll tell you – bluntly – that the thing you’re hoping for is never going to happen. If I like you, I’ll offer you my friendship.

At that point, you have one of two choices: (a) you can say (to me or to yourself), “Baby, I’ve got enough friends,” and eventually disappear; or (b) you can agree to be my friend, in which case I am expecting you to be a FRIEND, and nothing more.

I am told (b) is unrealistic. And that pisses me off.

When I say to someone, “Let’s be friends,” I mean it. I don’t mean, “Let’s be each other’s emergency ____ in a glass jar.” I don’t mean, “You can be my friend until I break up with X, at which point Imma need some emergency comfort sex.”

But it seems some men don’t quite get this concept. I’ve been burned before by male friends who thought the friend zone was the bench and they’d get to play as soon as one of the starters came hobbling off the court.

Add this to the list of shit for which I am now too old.

If you are in the friend zone, play your position. Or go play for another team.

2. Solving non-existent problems.

Has this ever happened to you? You are talking to a male in your life – whether it’s your significant other, your father, a friend, an uncle, a cousin, or the guy who runs the corner liquor store – about something that has happened to you. In your mind, you are just relaying a story.

All of a sudden, though, here comes all this unwanted and unasked-for advice. You’re telling him why you no longer talk to your childhood best friend, and he interjects,

“You should call her. Friendships are important.”

WTF? Really? Did you not hear what I just said about that bitch? Did you somehow stop listening when I got to the part about how I will never, ever again in life trust that chick, let alone call her? What’s wrong with you?

Guys, stop. Sometimes we just like to talk. When we need your advice, we’ll ask.

3. Baiting and goading.

Baiting and goading is a common sport on Twitter. Guys will take the most outlandish positions – usually it’s some Jabba the Hutt-looking character claiming he won’t even say hello to a woman who weighs more than 130 lbs. – and then sit back and watch women lose their minds.

Paul Carrick Brunson, the self-styled Modern Day Matchmaker, engaged in a classic bit of baiting and goading recently. Referring to his recent article on Essence.com listing ten types of men women tend to overlook when dating, Brunson sparked a spirited debate on Twitter over the merits of the man with poor hygiene, who Brunson referred to as the “caveman.” Brunson wanted to know why women routinely include bad breath and bad hygiene on their list of dealbreakers.

Come on now.

I love Brunson. I’ve even used his services. But I don’t believe Brunson was seriously advocating for men with breath like rotten meat. He was enjoying the spectacle of watching his replies fill up with women asking him if he had lost his damn mind.

Men sometimes like to say things to get a rise out of us. They like to see us react – and overreact. Sometimes it’s good-natured fun, and sometimes it’s pure meanness. Sometimes, it’s both. And while the banter can be mutually enjoyable, after a while, it gets to be irritating.

4. Calling/texting out of the blue.

Let’s say you met a guy six months ago. You exchanged numbers, maybe even texted each other a couple of times. Then nada. Time passes. You meet other people, date other people. The guy is forgotten.

Six months later, your phone rings, or your text icon pops up. And once you figure out who it is, you laugh.

For real, dude? You thought I was still sitting around waiting for you to call?

Anonymous texting ranks right up there with the call/text out of the blue. I can count on one hand the phone numbers I’ve memorized. Yours is not one of them. Identify yourself. And don’t get offended if I say, “Who?”

Those are some of my guy pet peeves. What are yours? Guys, feel free to list your pet peeves about women in the Comments section – if you dare.

*The fact that I can only come up with four guy pet peeves tells you a lot about how generally satisfied I am with men these days.

When Negative Is Positive

April 8, 2011

First of all, the good news: my biopsy results were fine. “Your results were fine, no problems, everything looks ok,” the radiologist told me when I called.

I thought about ending this post there.

But I still have a bandage on my breast. I still have the image of watching a needle poke into some weird thing inside my breast seared into my brain.

So let me describe the procedure.

I arrived at the Women’s Imaging Center at Weill Cornell Medical Center on time for my 9 am appointment. Outwardly, I was calm. My efforts to think positive thoughts had convinced me that this was some kind of divine comedic error, yet another example of God’s Monty Python-like sense of humor.

Things happened quickly. Within 15 minutes of my arrival, I was lying on my back in a hospital gown on a table in the ultrasound room.

In the two weeks since my mammogram, an odd thing had happened: I was no longer able to feel the lump. I had convinced myself, therefore, that the thing – whatever it was – had disappeared.

I mentioned to the ultrasound tech that I could no longer feel the lump. She nodded and applied the gel to the ultrasound wand, and began moving it around on my breast. I was about to ask her, “What happens if you can’t see it anymore?” when she said,

“Oh! There it is. I definitely see it. And these pictures look exactly like the ones that __________ got last time.”

So much for it disappearing.

And then I got scared.

During my last visit, I had peeked at the ultrasound screen, but none of what I saw made sense. I was reminded of my pregnancy ultrasounds, where I could discern the baby’s head, spine and heartbeat, but not much else.

This time, I saw it clearly.

The it, the thing, the lump that was causing all this trouble appeared on the ultrasound screen as a gelatinous bubble, like the movie The Blob. I had a Blob inside me. Of course, in the movie, the Blob consumed whatever was in its path.

I reminded myself that The Blob was a silly movie about killer Jello. But I couldn’t take my eyes off that screen.

The procedure I had is called an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy. A nurse and a doctor soon joined the ultrasound technician. While the ultrasound technician showed the doctor the pictures she had captured on screen, the nurse cleaned my breast for the procedure.

Everyone – doctors, nurse, ultrasound technician – was great about explaining to me what was happening, in terms that were simple but not dumbed down. I watched the doctor use a long, fine needle to fill my breast with Lidocaine so I wouldn’t feel any pain during the biopsy. I watched her insert a second thicker, hollow needle into my breast. She showed me the needle’s spring mechanism and explained that she would be activating the needle with a loud pop! sound to collect tissue samples, a process that would be repeated 5 times.

To my surprise, the doctor also announced that she would implant a small titanium clip into my breast to mark the location of the mass, since it was so subtle and not easy to detect, for the benefit of future radiologists. I didn’t like the idea of a titanium anything in my breast, but I gave my consent.

And then I turned my attention to the ultrasound screen.

I watched the needle probing and poking the blob. I saw the needle tip penetrate the mass. Even before the doctor gave me the “one-two-three” warning that she was about to activate the spring-loaded mechanism, I held my breath in anticipation.

I didn’t flinch.

“You’re doing great,” I was reassured, over and over again.

Inside, I wasn’t doing so great. I was overwhelmed by the odd and unsettling miracle of watching a needle enter my breast and cut away tiny pieces of some unidentifiable thing inside my breast.

It dawned on me that, no matter who you are in life, at some point, you will wind up in one of these hospital gowns, submitting your body to some procedure or another, hoping to discover that for you, life continues.

I couldn’t conceive of any other result. My children have no one but me. Their father is, um, unreliable. Their grandmother is gone. The family they know is in Michigan, where my children don’t want to be. They barely know their relatives in Philadelphia. And I am no longer as close as I once was to the women who were their godmothers.

The radiologist commended me for being so “good” throughout the procedure. I thought only about not orphaning my children.

My breast was a bit sore after the anesthesia wore off, but physically I was fine. Mentally and emotionally, though, the three-day wait for results was torture. I kept myself busy to keep from dwelling on it, but the bandage on my breast reminded me that, in the words of Madeline’s Miss Clavel, something was “not right.”

And now I know. The negative result is positive. I am relieved.

OK and fine do not, however, mean everything is back to “normal.”

For me, there is a new “normal.”

From now on, I will have a titanium clip in my breast. I will need to be diligent and consistent about getting annual mammograms. The breast biopsy joins the growing list of procedures and surgeries I have had recently, a list that replaces the “none” or “N/A” I used to routinely tick off on medical history questionnaires.

But still – I’m fine.

I’ll take it.