Today I am a woman

Isn’t that like a Bat Mitvah thing or something? I never was BM’d; we had moved from the midwest to sunny San Diego at that point and all I cared about was getting my tan and beautiful salty skinned surfer boys. (I haven’t changed much or grown up, apparently.) My captain absentee-husband did his mitvah (good deed) today.

Before he left on this latest assignment, we were having a chat about the way I wash dishes. He has a completely insane method. Oh, I need to back up and explain that we don’t have a dishwasher. Well, there’s a dishwasher in the place that one should go; it was installed in 1968 when they built this house. It hasn’t worked in the two decades since I moved in. No, really. We’ve had several discussions about replacing it, and it just never happened. Even with the captain’s predecessor, BioDad. It simply never happened. I’m not sure why; it’s deep I’m sure, and extremely profound, or maybe the more that people told me how I can’t possibly live without a dishwasher caused me to be incredibly perverse and refuse to get one. Anyway. The funny thing is that we upgraded and got a new oven, cooktop, and refrigerator, and never got a dishwasher. Now it stands for something. It represents my contrary personality. Whatev. I am kind of attached to my not usable dishwasher where I store bags and sometimes Halloween candy that I hid from my son (to save for myself) and I forgot about for a couple years. Maybe it’s a symbolic representation of my nonfunctioning ovaries–like a placeholder for something that was at one time functioning and flowing and… Oh, geez. That just came out of nowhere. Stream of consciousness shit. It’s hard to stay focused after a glass or two of wine. So…here’s an example of another one of our conversations that are extremely strange when you pull them out of the context of regular marital interactions. Don’t forget our interpersonal communications are heightened by the very fact that we aren’t together 7/24/365. We have disagreed about the best way to wash dishes for the twenty-plus years we’ve been together. He thinks HIS way is more efficient because it uses less water and because he used to work at a restauarant when he was in high school and because he’s a captain. Those are his stupid reasons.  Step one: He takes all of the dirty dishes out of the sink, laying them on the tile counter. Step two: He fills one of the sinks with hot soapy water.  Step three: He washes the dishes and places them into the other sink. Step five: He rinses with hot water and places into drainer. MY way is my mom’s way. I keep the water running for the entire procedure and wash each dish, pot, glass individually and then rinse with hot water and put into the drainer. I know it sounds like his way is better, but I don’t like the dirty dishes piling up on the counter. That really bugs me. I don’t care if his way is better or not. I wouldn’t admit it in a million years.

This is all leading to something, trust me.

He was sitting at the counter that separates the kitchen from the family room and was watching me do it my way. I’m sure he was itching to make a snotty ass comment for the 568th time, but this time I felt it coming, I felt the vibe of the bossy pants captain rearing its head to spew some crap I did.not.want.to.hear. I am not a very good delegator but I am a GREAT micromanager.  I do everything myself. MY WAY. (More on that in another post. ) I looked over at him and said, “Don’t even start. I know what you were going to say.” He just laughed at me and said “You think you’re pretty good at reading my mind, don’t you?” I replied, “Well, after all this time, you have a limited repetoire and rotate the same few things on a fairly regular basis, so it’s not brain science here.” Him, “Well, you’re wrong this time”  I ignored him and went back to wasting a week’s worth of water. His computer sits on the counter and out of the corner of my eye I noticed he was scribbling something on a piece of scratch paper. “Why don’t we ever have any paper around here?” My thoughts were elsewhere as I was suddenly sad, remembering our darling cat, Bandit, who would drink from a dripping faucet and loved to watch me wash dishes. I do miss that girl.

He shoved the scrap of paper toward me. “What’s that? Your Home Depot list?” Him, “Just read it.” In case you can’t read it, it says, Do you want an early Xmas and Bday present? My birthday’s in May, so for a second I didn’t get it and then I whispered, “Do you really mean it?” Him, “Yes, it’s about time you had a very special present. Plus, you are never gonna give up bugging me about it, so yes, go ahead and get yourself that purse you’ve been wanting.”

I kept the document for legal reasons just in case he changed his mind and I could sue him for breach of promise. That’s the lawyer’s daughter talking.

I’m not alone in my shallow desire for an outrageously expensive accessory, and I’m not just talking Desperate Housewives. Zillions of females are obsessed with Chanel and I proudly share that compulsive preoccupation. I feel that owning a Chanel is a rite of passage, a declaration of womanhood. I’ve arrived. This might not mean a lot to a lot of my sisters, but to those who can relate, you know how I feel. When I first started my period, I was twelve, and my mom took me out to lunch and a bit of shopping to celebrate this next important step in a young woman’s life. This is another one of those milestones to me. It’s not that my life has been entirely without adversity, but I do like to look on the bright side and expect the best to happen more often than the worst. I am a firm believer in projecting a positive attitude.

And I positively had to have that handbag.

I’m also not very subtle, so my hints to the captain were more like overt hammer-like smacks on the head. I’d email him pix of Chanel handbags, and once dragged him to South Coast Plaza to visit the Chanel store so he could get a better sense of what the attraction is. He appreciates quality and after looking at one closely he had to agree that it was extremely well made. I made several Supreme Court-worthy arguments regarding the many different ways his marital happiness was intricately entwined with my having a Chanel, and conversely, how unhappy his life could be if I never got one.

But he really took me by surprise. I have to say I got a bit teary-eyed at his loving generosity. He never ceases to amaze me.

I love the anticipation of wanting something, but enough was enough. It was time to make my dream happen. It was love at first sight. My first Chanel. Now I am a woman. Somebody’s gonna get REALLY thanked when he gets home. Oh yeah. In a very special way. Ya know what I’m sayin’? May I introduce the Grand Shopper Tote? Totes gorg, huh?

 

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“…we sail tonight for Singapore, don’t fall asleep while you’re ashore” Tom Waits

This is my deja vu–my first blog re-do–obviously my life is a deja vu redo Groundhog Day repeat. The captain was gone again, I was alone for a very long time…I’ve learned to use tags since then–maybe THIS time it’ll get read!

My First Blog Post

“…We sail tonight for Singapore, don’t fall asleep while you’re ashore” Tom Waits
http://youtu.be/F21znmhNdr4

Day 60: Alone again! It’s 8:00 p.m. on a Sunday evening and I just completed a copy editing assignment for a brilliant young neuroscientist. Since my first pink lock and key diary at the age of eight, I’ve filled notebooks and journals with my thoughts and observations, and even minored in creative writing in college, but the hardest thing in the world for me to do is to let go of my own words. (I’m a word hoarder. Hah!)

Update: Now I’m a word spewer–since I started blogging, I can’t STOP writing.

Although I easily re-write and proof and edit the work of others (and love to do it), my own words seem to be trapped somewhere; I am never quite satisfied with the finished product; I always feel that one more re-write is always needed—just one more, and then another and another–and I am determined to overcome this obstacle by blogging about my life as a wife of a Merchant Mariner.

To other MM wives, I’d love to share our experiences, problems, frustrations, and solutions. There are thousands of us around the world—let’s create a community and help one another. What do we all do when our guys are gone? In what ways do our lives change when they are away on assignment and when they are home? How do we cope with the work-related absence of a spouse, whether it is due to the military, MM, or any other career that involves a lot of travelling? Are you sad? Maybe relieved sometimes, if you were to be completely honest?

Update: Still hoping to create the community of Merchant Mariner Wives. I’ve met a handful and they’re wesome, but there has to be more! Come out and play! 

Here’s a mini-version of my back story:

I’m a (was a) stay-at-home mom; when my son left for college, I stayed home. Don’t you think that’s funny? I do. That’s my standard joke/response when I’m asked what I “do”.

Some people think it’s funny, some people think I’m obnoxious. Story of my life.

I’ve been married to a Merchant Mariner tugboat captain for about eighteen nineteen years. For the first fourteen years or so, our life was pretty ordinary and except for a few assignments that took him away for a week or so, his schedule kept him working in local ports.

In 2009, he changed companies and became the kind of mariner who goes out to sea for extended periods of time and travels to the four corners of the globe. When I tell people that my husband is a MM, most either think he is a “Marine Marine” or they don’t know what a Merchant Mariner is or what they do. My guy’s an academy graduate (he won’t let me say which one ‘cos he’s paranoid that someone will figure out who he is) and has been working in the industry since graduation.

What exactly is a Merchant Mariner?

What do they do?

For those of you who don’t know, the United States has a fleet of  Merchant Marine vessels,  ships which are owned and registered in the US and fly under our flag, but are separate from the military. (We are proud supporters of American-flagged vessels.) For example, car ships carry cars (obvs!), container ships hold cargo of TVs, bananas, soda ash, or even sand and gravel.

The Merchant Marine supplements the military in times of war, transporting goods and equipment to areas where it is needed. The people who crew Merchant Marine vessels are known as Merchant Marines.

Perhaps you remember hearing about the Maersk Alabama, a container ship seized by pirates a few years ago? Tom Hanks stars as the captain in the soon-to-be released film of the Navy Seals’ rescue of the ship and her crew. People who work on tugboats are called Merchant Mariners.

My guy is a Tug and Tow Master, although he has decades of experience on yachts, passenger vessels, and just about every type of boat, EXcluding fishing. No Deadliest Catch stories here!

Tugboats pull (or push) barges all over the world, assist all types of ships in and out of their berths, and work in marine construction and the oil industry. It is really more complex that than, with a rich history and great anecdotes, but I am only the wife of, and my perspective is a different one.

Update: I made my captain audition for the Tom Hanks pirate film–even was sent sides (that’s a script to those of you who are NOT in the know like I am), but he didn’t get the part. He really should have. They cast a professional actor, which is  not what the casting director said they planned to do. Darn!

Back to my story…this lifestyle has been quite an adjustment. When he’s home, he’s a 24/7 at-home husband, just like being retired, with an adjustment period of compromise and diplomacy. I have to remember someone else lives here and sleeps here and he has THINGS THAT HE PUTS EVERYWHERE.

When he’s away at sea, I become a sort of “grass widow”, and have learned to structure my time alone to stay occupied while waiting for my best friend to come home.

We modern merchant marine wives are really no different than wives of a few hundred years ago whose husbands went out to sea.   We might have email access and satellite telephones, and are able to stay in touch more frequently than the occasional letter posted from faraway ports, but we are essentially on our own for a great deal of time.

We have to be comfortable with being completely independent and solve problems and fix broken washing machines and cars and take out the trash and mow the lawn by ourselves, unless we have kids still living at home on whom we can foist these chores.

My confession du jour? I fully rely on retail therapy to help me cope. That doesn’t mean I actually PURCHASE a lot and spend a lot of money, rather, I am an accomplished fashionista BROWSER, (which should be an Olympic sport, as far as I’m concerned.) I have endurance and I possess stamina. I’m a hunter AND a gatherer. A shot of wheatgrass and I’m good to go for hours in my quest for a treasure, a good deal, or something I just have to have, and can’t live without; the next get. You know that Shopaholic film? I’ve seen it about a dozen times; it’s like a training film for me!  A day or so after my MM leaves, I fortify myself with a protein drink, a double shot of wheatgrass, and lay out my itinerary with quasi-military precision. I first make the rounds of my local stores; TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, Target, Homegoods, just like a warm-up in my boot camp class, and then move on to H&M, Anthropologie, White Market/Black House. After that, I venture further away to the Nordstrom Outlet, DSW (yes!!!), and then our local mall for Bloomies, Nieman Marcus, and the boutiques-Tory Burch, Hermes, and the holy grail at South Coast Plaza in the OC…Chanel…Chanel…Chanel. I want/need a Chanel 2.55, the original black quilted bag with the chain strap. I am saving for a pilgrimage to Paris to pay homage to Coco at the original location. I. can’t. wait.

Update: I just can’t do it to y’all again, I know I’m probs on your last nerve with the whole Chanel thing, but it was cool for ME to tell myself, “Hey girl, your dream DID come true! Way to go to think it, believe it, and it will happen!”

Today, I was on the hunt for another blazer; blazers are super trendy and forever a classic fashion staple,  but it has to be the right blazer in the right color and cut. I ended up at a local consignment shop and while I didn’t find the desired blazer, I discovered the treasure of a Tory Burch sweater with gorgeous logo buttons. I found a similar style for around $250, and I got it for $40. It’s in perfect condition and looks like it’s never been worn. The pic doesn’t do it justice; it’s a rich cocoa brown, and totes adorbs.

Well, it’s back to editing for me and building my Etsy store where I can sell all the ropework jewelry and beachy décor we create. I hope you’ve enjoyed this first glimpse into my world.

Update: STILL working on that Etsy store! I can’t get all the pix just perfect. Almost done tho, hopefully so I won’t miss the holiday season!