On Chris Rock’s Monologue: Thinking About It




Lefty’s wife, Rosy–8




We have an Oscar tradition. Each year when the ballots come out, everyone in the family marks one up with his or her preferences. It is typical that Eric or Lefty wins this thrilling family contest. They read about the movies, they study up on the predictions and they make more educated guesses than the rest of us, who watch trailers if we have time. In a side note, I read Room by Emma Donaghue when it was released in 2010, and the story of Jack and Ma resides under my skin, as if it were implanted there when I read the book.

As part of our Oscar ritual, we also watch the program. When Lefty (25 year old son) and Isky (23 year old daughter) were still home, they stayed up and watched it with Peanut and me. It is only in the most recent years, that Sheldon stays awake although he doesn’t watch the program but steals in and out of the room to check the scores.

Sunday evening, it is just Peanut and me in the living room with the occasional check-in from smiley-faced Sheldon who Playstations the night away in the other room. I am in the big chair with a bowl of popcorn sprinkled with salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast while Peanut reclines on the couch with the six Oscar ballots in her lap. We are both jammied up and drink from cold glass bottles of Perrier water.

We are ready.


I’m not going to critique the show except to say that it’s crazy-ass long. Like I had to pee ten times long. Like I had to shave my legs before it was over long. Why does it have to be so damned long?

And why didn’t Lady Gaga sing earlier? Can anyone say highlight of the show? Heartfelt and commanding. She made all the stars cry and wipe their beautiful eyes. Who can’t get behind survivors of violence and rape holding hands on stage with Gaga, introduced by my favorite VP Joe Biden? Honestly, it feels good to shine a light into the dark corners where sexual violence exists. On network TV to boot.

I’m loathe to critique the Oscars  because I’m wary of sounding stupid by having opinions about things I know nothing about. This does, however, render me a little wishy-washy, and unfortunately, this is something I have vowed to work on. Yes, back to that pesky vulnerability stuff. If I want to live an authentic and brave life (and I think I do, dammit), I have to learn to be vulnerable. I have to put myself out there, to fall down. Thanks a lot, Brené Brown. Grrr.

So, what about Chris Rock’s monologue? Oh God, I can’t believe I’m leaping in.


It’s Sunday evening. I’m sitting in my very comfortable chair–it’s not new; in fact, it’s a bit older than Peanut, and there’s a nice ass-shaped indention that I sink into to watch the show. I’m comfy in the squishy and worn corner of this familiar seat.

I’ve read all about the controversy–this is the second year in a row that no black performers were nominated for an award. I know about Jada Pinkett’s boycott. I know that there is quite a bit of push back against Jada. I know that many black performers are going to attend the event anyway.

I too am outraged. I don’t think that is too strong a word, either. I am outraged that there are no black actors or actresses nominated for awards, but I still want to watch the damned show. It’s a family tradition, after all.

Does that make me a bad person? I don’t really think so. You see, the Oscars don’t mean that much to me. It’s an event, for God’s sake, where swag bags (not affiliated with the Academy, of course) contain a weird assortment of gifts like a trip to Israel, personalized M&Ms, and a vibrator. I am so far removed from the lives of the people who receive these awards, that it isn’t quite real. I’m not even a connoisseur of good movies (About Last Night is in my top 10). And I’m certainly not a critic; when Peanut asked me just exactly what cinematography was, I had to look it up.

So I’m with Chris as he begins his opening monologue. Yeah! He’s skewering the Academy and Hollywood for their racism, right on!  I love the montage bit and then the Kevin Hart stuff, but I start to feel a little funny when he asks,

Now the thing is, Why are we protesting? The big question: Why this Oscars? Why this Oscars, you know?

and wonders

It’s the 88th Academy Awards. It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. O.K.?

And now I’m uncomfortable, squirming in my warm corner when he continues

You gotta figure that it happened in the 50s, in the 60s — you know, in the 60s, one of those years Sidney didn’t put out a movie. I’m sure there were no black nominees some of those years. Say ‘62 or ‘63, and black people did not protest.

Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time, you know? We had real things to protest; you know, we’re too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.

You know, when your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short.

Raping, lynching, and grandmothers swinging from trees–now I’m queasy. I don’t know how to feel. I keep trying to talk to Peanut about it. She, for the record, seems to think it’s all quite appropriate. I can’t put words to why it disturbs me so.

I say, “I don’t know, Peanut. It seems like the show is patting itself on the back by making fun of folks for caring about something so silly as an award.”

I say, “I don’t know, Peanut. I can’t explain it right. It seems condescending.”

I say, “I don’t know, Peanut. The joke seems off.”

I can’t quite get at what I feel.

A gazillion hours later, when the show is finally over, and Peanut and Sheldon have long gone to bed. After I’ve washed the popcorn bowl and rinsed the Perrier bottles. After I’ve scrubbed my face and applied moisturizer and turned all the lights off and made sure the doors were locked and checked the damn mousetrap and chatted with Eric for a few minutes about who won our family contest, I lie in bed thinking about that damned monologue and why this lingering discomfort plagues me. I mean, he’s Chris Rock. He is a black guy. Who am I to even have an opinion, right? I mean if he wants to shine a light on the hypocrisy of black folks while he’s skewering white folks, who am I to complain? And still it bugs me.

But there is a teeny tiny little seed of something that I continue to pick at long after I should be asleep, and slowly it sprouts. What if Chris Rock wasn’t skewering everyone? What if he wasn’t “nailing both sides” by suggesting that the Oscar controversy was all hullabaloo and thus making white folks a wee bit more comfortable? What if his monologue was more subversive than that? What if he put words to all the hateful, ugly things we’ve been saying to ourselves in our comfort-seeking brains?

It’s easier if we refuse to see or are willfully ignorant to the reality of police brutality, crumbling schools, lack of resources and opportunity, and, yes, discrimination in the workplace–even if it is Hollywood–than to acknowledge that racism is alive and well in the good ole US of A.

I bet Chris Rock wasn’t even jabbing Jada Pinkett but rather me, all of us, for thinking that you can’t speak truth to power if you have power. For thinking that just because things are better (and there are those who would argue this point), it’s petty to illuminate injustice.

I bet Chris Rock brought up lynching and rape and grandmothers swinging in trees because I (and maybe you) need to be reminded again and again and again that these things happened and that they continue to happen in a host of other guises.

It’s after 1 AM. Of course, I can’t pretend to know what Chris Rock intended with his monologue. Hell, I might have it all wrong. But it made me think, and I will wake up thinking.

That can’t be bad.

On Time and Preschool

I spend a good three days to two weeks dreading any activity that promises to take me away from the safe hub of my home for more than two or three hours. And while agoraphobia is not one of my many mental illnesses, I am rather attached to the old hearth. A few months ago, I agreed to sub for the preschool aide at the school where Sheldon–my 14 year old–attends and where my sister is principal. I have no problem agreeing to something months in advance, and if I forget to write it on my calendar, and I always do, it’s as if I never agreed to begin with.

My sister, the principal, is a pretty smart cookie, so she waited to remind me of my upcoming sub duties until they were a week away, limiting the amount of time I could spend dreading. Even so, I didn’t waste a single moment, and still after a week of mild-level angst–checking the weather forecasts hourly in the hopes of a snow day, analyzing my shallow cough for possible worsening, my shoulders for that achy feeling that signals a fever, monitoring my own children’s health in case I would be needed for their care–Tuesday came uneventfully, and I was on my way to the preschool classroom.

I love preschoolers, I do, so it makes no sense for me to dread spending time with them. The thing is, I suppose, that I have a rather small comfort zone, and when I start breaching its borders, the committee chimes in. What if you aren’t good at this? What if you make a mistake? What if they smell your fear? Wouldn’t you rather stay home and write your life story, make lunch for Peanut (who is 17, for God’s sake), be there to greet UPS when your Sephora order comes in, read your new book?

I told the committee that I just finished  Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes, and by God, I was going to dance it out with a bunch of little ones, so the committee could just shut up. (Read this book, please!)

Let me tell you something about the pre-k set–they are cool cats. They are both present and flinging themselves headlong into the future. They are not separate from or ashamed of their bodies. They sneeze and fart and when snot seeps from their noses they wipe it away with their shirt sleeves. They pick their boogers and their butts with equal abandon, to hell with good choices!  They say what they are thinking:

Ms. Bridgett, are you a boy or a girl?

I’m a girl.

So why that short hair, then?


Ms. Bridgett, how old are you?

I’m 49 years old.

Oh, Ms. Bridgett, you are old. (This was said with so much awe and admiration that I actually felt pretty damned good about my advanced age.)

Preschoolers like to run windmilling their flexible little arms. They pitch so far forward that they nearly kiss the concrete, and sometimes they do, but more often than not their legs somehow catch up to their bodies and they are off again.

Preschoolers like to be held. They reach their little hands straight up towards your chest and there is nothing you can do, nothing you want to do more than to lift up that little body and hold it close. They say things like, Hold you, please, and your wee heart grows ten sizes.

And they weep. Oh God, they weep uncontrollably. They weep if someone swipes their seat. They weep when their friends knock over their magnetic tiles. They weep when they have to wait one minute to go to the bathroom. They weep and weep and weep and they don’t care if weeping is unacceptable or too dramatic for the situation at hand. They rub their little fists into their weepy little eyes and wail like their toes have been cut off. Oh to weep that way, at the first hint of sorrow or disappointment, to shriek and let the whole world in on your unhappiness.

Thursday was my last day in the preschool classroom, and when I went home that afternoon, I knew I would miss their little voices. I would miss rubbing their little backs while they tried to nap. I would miss the tattling and the running and phonercizing with Dr. Jean  which is way way better than aerobics.


When my daughter, Peanut, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, three years ago, I was forced to accept that I had no control over anything. All those years, raising kids, I thought I could keep them safe. I wanted to crawl back into my children’s childhoods through a hidden portal in the closet wall. Not to do things differently. I knew I would probably do everything the same way. I just wanted to forget that I didn’t have forever.

You see, I was uncomfortable with this new knowledge that every moment counted. I liked it better when the future seemed immense and long, when I could spend hours worrying about new shoes and diarrhea and Howard Dean’s campaign shattering howl on national TV.   But there is no portal to crawl through. There is only today, and that long future I once saw is very likely shorter than the time I have left behind.

It’s a sobering thought. And sometimes it grabs me in the gut and twists me around until I too could weep, and I do. But I’m pretty sure this is how it’s supposed to be. At 20 or 30, I could have been paralyzed by this knowledge. I needed the future to unfurl ahead of me farther than I could see. And now in middle age (yes, middle age because I plan to live to at least 100), this knowledge is appropriate. It will help me to make good choices–like spending as much time as I can with the coolest cats.





Happy Anniversary, Baby!

This week, Eric and I celebrated our 26th anniversary. I’ve been married to this guy over half my life. And believe you me, this has been no small feat. No one, except me maybe, thought we’d make to to the one year mark.


Our love affair has romance written all over it.

We met December 1, 1989 at the water treatment plant where Eric worked the second shift. The whole world was covered in ice and snow. I was buzzed on Miller Lite (I could drink a bunch of them back then) and smoking Virginia Slims Menthol 120s. They were some long cigarettes. I loved the way the smoldering ash looked as I talked with my hands, and you could still smoke inside–everywhere.

I remember what he had on–Osh Kosh painter pants, a red Calvin Klein sweatshirt–the sort with three buttons at the neck, and blue deck shoes. He was as thin as anyone I knew. I can still see him as if it were yesterday, but I have no idea what I wore although I suspect it was a fashionable ensemble of tight Calvin Klein jeans, high top tennis shoes, and a long sweater that covered my ass and a good part of my thighs. It was the 80s, after all.

We were introduced by a mutual friend who thought Eric might have a little weed, and he did. He kindly rolled us a small joint and promised to hook up with us later. I’ve never been much of a pot smoker. Truth be told, the pot was an excuse for the introduction, and it worked.

Eric showed up at my friend’s house at 11:30. He whisked a cheap bottle of vodka out from under the front seat of his blue Honda Accord–oh the magic–and he and I proceeded to drink ourselves silly on my friend’s couch. My memory of this lovely first date is understandably a little blurry, but I do remember this. He left around 4:00 AM. I walked him out to the car. He slipped on the ice, fell into his car, and with admirable flourish, pulled me close, kissed me hard, and said, “Don’t forget about me.”

A little over two months later, we were married.

It would be easier to explain or understand if I could say it was a whirlwind romance with trips to Paris and loads of money, if I believed in fate and love at first sight, but I don’t. The truth is a whole lot simpler. We were two flailing people, and we made some kick-ass snow angels that winter.

Later, we would create a story of inevitability based on some glittering sparks we glued together. A few months before I met Eric, I went on a date with a fellow named Jeff. Before the date, Jeff, who knew Eric, went to Eric’s house and said to him, “I’m going out with Bridgett tonight,” as if that was something.

Eric said, “Who the fuck is Bridgett?”

And once, when Eric was 28, in the hospital, and still passed out from having his tonsils removed, he sleepily mumbled to his then-wife,  “Brigitte, please get me my skates.”

When he woke up his wife asked him, “Who the fuck is Brigitte?”

“You are Bridgett,” he says to me. “No, I am Brigitte,” I answer.

In February, we crossed state lines into Kentucky where we were married at The Executive Inn in Owensboro. My parents were there and so were my friend and her husband. The ceremony was held in my parents’ room because of the murphy bed and the way it folded into the wall creating just enough space for a lovely wedding.

A drunken justice of the peace, whose car broke down on the way to the Inn and called for a ride, presided over our nuptials. He slurred through the entire 5 minute service. “Eeeeeerick, do you take Brid-i-get to be your wife?” he asked. Eric said yes, while the rest of us tried not to laugh. “Brid-i-get, do you take Eeeeeerick to be your husband?” by this time we were all laughing, but again, I said yes, and it was a done deal. We were married.

After a lovely dinner in the Executive Dining Room where we spotted the country music star Janie Fricke eating supper, Eric and I retired to our room to watch Buster Douglas surprise everyone by beating Mike Tyson out of his heavy weight title. It was all downhill for Tyson after that fight, but our marriage had begun.


Here’s the thing. We weren’t supposed to make it. But I knew we would. I am as stubborn as a bull ox (that’s what my dad says, anyway), and no one thought we should get married, so I was determined to show them.

It’s a love story, yes, but it’s not crazy with passion and romance and sultry nights and days spent in bed with roses scattered all over the room. It’s a story of two people who helped each other grow up amidst the chaos of kids, dogs, a bunch of different rodents, basketball games, low-brow television, mental illness, diabetes, sports injuries, and a healthy amount of vomit swirled in.

We both like to talk, and thank God, we like to talk to each other. If I didn’t like to talk to Eric, it never would have worked. He’s smart, and I’m smart and we agree on Hillary and God–the other stuff we let go. We have four great kids and two great grandkids. Each year we stumble through the turmoil that is married life and celebrate with a sigh and a glass of Pinot Noir for me and a beer for him. We can afford much better beer and wine these days.

There were years, YEARS, when I looked at the guy snoring next to me and thought–oh hell, what the fuck did I do? I’m sure he thought the same thing, and for the record, I snore once in a while, but it’s not nearly as loud. In 26 years, we never stopped talking. Talking–who would’ve thought?

I have to tell you, though, these last ten years have been wicked good. Yes, ups and downs, but mostly wicked good. I believe in love, I do. And I love my husband, but I’m sure as hell glad that I like him because 26 years is a long damn time.

On Tattoos and Committees


**Note about folks described in this and subsequent blogs. My husband’s name is Eric, and I’m going to call him Eric in the blog. He married me, and this is his reward. Eric and I have four kids, and I’m going to give them blog names partly because I think it will afford them some semblance of privacy but mostly because I think it’s fun to give them new names. Son #1 is 25-yr-old Lefty. Daughter #1 is Isky. She is 23 and has a 1 year old son I call Wonder and a 5 year old daughter named Joy. Daughter #2 is Peanut, and she is, as of today, 17 (happy birthday, Peanut!). Son #2 is 14-year-old Sheldon.**


Peanut is my daughter. Peanut wants a tattoo for her 17th birthday. She’s got it all planned out–Roman numerals to commemorate the day she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I figure she thinks it will be difficult to say NO to this birthday request; after all, she does poke herself with needles all the time. She rarely pulls the diabetes card, but when she does, she usually gets her way. She’s a smart kid.

The thing is, even though she knows it’s a done deal and I know it’s a done deal, it’s hard to say yes. It’s not the actual ink-on-skin that has my stomach in knots: Peanut already has a tattoo on her foot (like I said, she rarely pulls the diabetes card, but when she does…). No, I’m worried about what people will think because I’m like that.

Here come the shoulds. I should make her wait until she doesn’t need my signature on the tattoo papers. I should remind her how beautiful and unmarred her skin is at this very moment. I should stay home and drink a large glass of pinot noir, but instead I am going to drive 45 miles to a slightly larger town where I will buy my daughter an $80 tattoo for her 17th birthday.


The problem isn’t the tattoo; it’s the committee in my head. They start in the minute I contemplate doing anything different like having a raspberry/yogurt shake instead of an egg for breakfast or allowing my 17-year-old daughter to get a tattoo.

The committee gets a kick out of this. They start in all nasally and coy with a simple little Are you sure this is the right thing? and when I answer honestly that I don’t know, they try another route with What will people think? After many years of arguing with these folks I’m ready for their questions, but they always get me with What’s your dad going to say? I’m going to be honest here; the committee members all sound a lot like my dad. I have a feeling he installed the committee in my head before I could talk. What if she regrets it later? they chide. What if there is a complication because of the diabetes? They warn and scold and wring their tiny little hands.

I tell the committee what I plan to tell my dad when he asks me what the hell I was thinking letting beautiful little Peanut get a tattoo:  Peanut sticks herself with needles every single day, Dad. If she wants a tattoo to commemorate the date she was diagnosed with diabetes, who am I to say NO? I say this as if it’s not my decision. As if I too think it is sort of a bad idea for her to get a tattoo, but the truth is I don’t think it’s a good idea, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It’s just a tattoo. I trust that whether Peanut loves or hates the tattoo, she will also know that it’s just a tattoo.

So we go–Peanut, her two friends, and me–and we wait for an hour on a black faux leather couch in the main room of the tattoo parlor (yes, I know that tattoo parlor is an antiquated term, but I love it for its slightly edgy 80s feel). This is a busy joint. The walls are papered with brightly colored images–dragons and unicorns and hearts and roses– but most of the folks here are waiting for piercings–tongue webs, conches, septums, bridges, daiths and rooks. The little gal at the desk has a tiny silver arrow-thingy in each cheek. Everyone in this place is talking about bars and rings and gauging, plugs and anchors. I wiggle around on the couch, trying to find a comfortable spot. There isn’t one. I have three tattoos, but those piercings, well, I just don’t understand it. Why would people want to put metal bars and discs and arrow-thingies on their faces let alone places I cannot see?

We are eventually called in. And Peanut sits still while a man with the gigantic rose on his neck evenhandedly inks a date on her arm. At first she looks beautiful and serene and then pained. Her little face scrunches up and her eyes get all watery, and every once in a while, she breathes in deep as if she’s been pierced by something very sharp. Her mouth takes the shape of a perfect “O” every time she gasps in surprise.

From across the room, I quit watching. I can’t do it. The pasta I had for dinner moils in my stomach. I look down at my hands and then down at the dirty floor and then I count the empty beverage containers on the counters. Peanut’s friends don’t know it, but I have handed off this watching part to them. I am thinking about Walgreen’s next door and how I’m going to get some double-sided tape to finish Sheldon’s science fair project along with some water because I am fucking thirsty and some Aquaphor because that is what Roseneck will tell us this tattoo needs for at least four days.

The whole thing takes about 20 minutes, and then we are off.

And guess what I do all the way home? I work on a little committee installation project of my own. Why would anyone want a ring in her septum? I just don’t get it. And those arrow-thingies coming out of that woman’s cheeks. What is that?

Peanut is mesmerized by her tattoo. She turns her arm this way and that. Her eyes spark in the dark car. She turns the music up and and all three girls’ phones flash as they take selfies and send snapchats to other friends. We are in the same car and worlds apart, but I know through all the static they hear me. And it occurs to me that I don’t want to be someone’s committee.

So I shut the hell up.





Let’s begin, again.

Most days I walk with a friend. Because we do not live in the same town, we text each other when we set out in the morning. “Let’s begin.” I might type. To which she replies, “Again.”

“Let’s begin, again” is what I say to myself as I sit down to write this first post. I have started about 421 blogs in the past five years, so why in the Sam Hell would I give this another shot?

On New Year’s Day I did something I never do–I made a couple of resolutions: to read only books written by women (shoot me fellas), to hand copy one poem written by a woman every day, to cut back on sugar, to drink less wine and more tea (I really need to start this one).

I turn 49 today, and I’m adding one more “to do” to my list–blogging.  I’ve been thinking about it for a while–obviously as I have started 421 blogs in the past; however, this time I am in it for the long haul or a year. I am taking this wonderful Brené Brown class over at courage works.com and I’m determined to get good at this vulnerability gig–and writing a small thing at least three times a week and shoving it out into the world seems like a good way to begin, again.

So here goes.

Funny story–the name of this blog is The 49th Year because I turn 49 today. What a great name, right. So great that I bought the domain and the added privacy protection in the unlikely event that reading this blog might turn someone into a stalker. I am going for it this time–writing, vulnerability, blog–in real time, in my real 49th year.

So last night, I lie down next to my gently snoring husband, and read a few pages from The Witches: Salem, 1692  before turning off the light. And the minute I close my eyes, my stomach starts roiling, like there’s a hand deep in my core pulling all my organs into a sweaty fist-sized ball.

Why all the angst?

Because I’m starting a blog, and I’ll have to post it on FB because there is no vulnerability involved if I don’t ask people to read the damned thing, and suddenly, in the dark of night, it occurs to me that this is the worst idea ever! In fact, it’s appalling, and I think the whole thing may have given me a flu-like illness. My mouth is all watery and I’m coughing little hiccupy coughs and my hips ache, and I know I’ll never sleep now unless I leap out of bed and take half a Xanax, pronto.

So I get the Xanax and pee because I never get out of bed without peeing, and I’m once again lying next to the same husband whose snoring is slightly less gentle to my fevered ears, when I realize that I’m turning 49. And if I’m turning 49, that means I have already lived my 49th year. People are going to laugh, and sneer, and joke around about how I turned one the day I was born. The whole thing is ruined before it ever begins.


And maybe because my husband stops snoring and silence pierces the frenzy of self doubt, I am able to hear her–the me who isn’t afraid, the crone me. And she’s laughing and then I’m laughing because

No one is going to give a shit what I name my blog.


Ruined might be a pretty good place to begin.