Dad’s are a daughter’s training ground

Dad’s are their daughter’s training ground for dealing with the world of men. So it was with my Dad, and already is with Rog and our daughter Porsche. It happens like this: Dad is hard. Daughter is born. Dad makes daughter cry. Dad apologizes. Rinse repeat (many times). Daughter admires Dad. Dad shows girls how to handle men. Dad and Daughter have a special bond. Daughter goes on to be attracted to a man like her dad.  Daughter gets what she wants in the end. (Ok, so I made that last part up. It’s still a journey in progress).

We have a video tape of the birth with Porsche. Out she comes, healthy and crying, when Rog said hello. I turned my head to see him extend his mammoth-sized paw to her little hand, white from mucous and red with blood. Four little fingers wrapped around his one large forefinger, and she quieted immediately. The doctor, a wonderful, non-practicing Jewish man, stopped stitching me up, and said, “that’s a miracle,” then said, “did you catch that on film?” (ever the practical man was he).

That’s been a symbol of their relationship for the last five years. A unique relationship that defies words or description.

My own kind of unique bond with dad is seen in pictures.

Take my buck-tooth self at left. This was when I was eight. I loved coming from behind, playing with his hair, teasing him and snuggling. In a crowd of six kids and three horse-sized mastiffs, attention-getting was impossible. From-behind assaults worked better.

The next pic was when I was in my early thirties, visiting Arizona, hanging by the river during Thanksgiving vacation. Decades has apparently changed nothing. I loved being near him (dad) and once again draped my arm around him and give him a few, heart-attack inspiring bear hugs. Note we are both fatter-of-face and bigger of hair. Hidden under dad’s stylish hat is the Onassis-size shades he started sporting in the Jackie-O days. While my mom left her pillbox hat in the storage closet, dad defies fashion trends.

The last photo was taken this summer. My dad, surrounded by his humongous Onassis glasses san dark lids, has the same look of ‘why me’ that he’s had in the others, but clearly has given up trying to fight the photo-taking moments I’ve made him endure over the years. I still tease him, but now it’s about his hair–we are both impressed and amazed he still has quite a bit, AND the fact that it’s not completely grey.

When a family member sent me the two earlier shots in the last month, I was amazed I had this same picture-taking routine. Always from behind, invariably wrapping my small arms around his big-ol’ body as it, clammering for his attention, giving him my adoration with a sassy smooch on the cheap.

I always expect dad to remain dad. Strong, vigorous, boisterous, immovable, athletic, with a perfect memory and ability to eat prodigious amounts of onions-laden tomatoes, an entire jar of capers spread atop with a quarter smoked salmon for breakfast or midnight snack. The Dad who goes to church to relax (e.g. sleep) because it’s the one place on Earth he is free from fellow seventy-something industrialists who call, fax, email, text or show up, ready to “do a deal.” He sings off key, can fly a plane, snow ski like a pro, and is still so unabashedly, unpolitically correct, even Rog can no nothing but guffaw outloud and look both directions when my dad letser-fly about each and every off-limit, taboo topic.

Only Dad would set up his latest business venture by one of the most famous brothel’s in the country, his defensive, yet legendary mantra “wait to you hear the deal I got!” immediately invoked as a limousine full of ‘guest stars,’ pulls up.  My Dad, the lovable, former Canadian turned long-time American, who, like the local cougars, used to be afraid of my pitbull Penelope, and now just sees her as a mush. Together, they wrestle, cuddle, and generally speaking enable one another as one sifts through the fridge and the other sniffs approval (I’m not always sure who performs what duties).

That’s Dad. Of course, I’m going to throw my arms around his big, burly self and give a squeeze. Others may be intimidated, even a bit put off by his demeanor. Us daughter’s know different. I think that the big, gruff guys are the softest around. Having dad as a male-training ground was perfect, just as Rog.

The necessary note

A good friend of mine up and disappeared one day, cut off all communication without warning. Nothing precipitated this event; no fights, disagreements, bad hair days. It was out of the blue. Sure, he owed me some money, but it was a small amount. It couldn’t be the reason he went dark.

He wasn’t dead. I checked on that with friends close to his home. He hadn’t left the country. He was seen driving in and out of his garage, and his coworkers verified he was at the office. My calls were left unreturned. Emails went in to the oblivion. I have long had this vision that some software start-up is collecting unanswered emails, and will in some way figure out to monetize the contents, either through some nice identify theft software, blackmail, or a really good gadget we all seem to want, like cowboy-themed Christmas lights.

In any case, I went through a cycle of mourning my mother calls the emotional pinwheel. This friend, who is older, portlier, and male, had been my friend for seven years. We’d worked at two companies together, sat on the same board of a non-profit, and even visited each other during holidays. We email or talked several times a week about all types of stuff. It was reasonable then, that I was at first worried to the point of sickness. Upon learning his routine hadn’t altered, I entered the confused/denial state.

“Was it me? What did I do?” This phase was short. A few days. I hadn’t done anything, and he was the one that owed me money.

This commenced the anger state and lasted a solid six months. According to the world of shrinks, anger is a second emotion to hurt. And since hurt is harder to manage that anger, anger lasts longer. (I think anger is a lot more fun actually. Get the scream out vs the tears, but then maybe it’s a Swede thing).

Then begat worry again, then disgust, then apathy. The entire cycle, a solid 2 years. It ceased being in the forefront of my mind. And since he lives on the east coast, and I on the west, I wasn’t going to stage an intervention.

At the very end, I was reading a talk on forgiveness, and of course, it hit me hard. I’d gotten over it, but not forgiven the guy. I had to be bigger than that. I knew he was good and kind, and really didn’t seem the type to ditch a friend. BUT, on the off chance I had done something, I wanted him to know it was unintentional. Thus, I pulled out my stationary (printed after my marriage to Rog, but before he’d freak on the cost of custom cards), and wrote in a note.

In so many words, it said the above….hope you are well…the family is well…if I did something of offend, I’m sorry. I hope we can regain what we had etc etc.

What do you bet, a week later, I had a long email in response. He was incredibly kind, gracious and apologetic. What he told me broke my heart…The gist was that his teenage son killed himself in a terribly sad way. He left a suicide note that broke my friend (and his wife’s) hearts. Because of the stress on the family, the man lost his business, his live savings having been poured in to the venture. The ripple effect had continued, the house was foreclosed upon, and he, his four children and wife, moved in to a rental. In the grand scheme of things, maintaining friendships–even telling anyone outside his immediate family–was  not a priority.

A few things happened to me when I read his letter. I felt incredibly ashamed of my feelings towards him. An image of his son, who’d I seen at a recent sporting event, came to mind. He was the kindest of the children, sensitive to his mother and wonderful with my young daughter. Now that I considered my own reactions, I’d given him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time, it wasn’t indefinite. At some point, my concern went inward, on myself, and my feelings (how could he do this to me? After all we’ve been through, me me me…etc). While Rog and mom told me this was natural and just, it didn’t lessen the self-hateration that I then endured (see how I made it about me again?).

More recently, this happened with another male friend. He went dark and left me and a lot of business associates in the lurch (took money and didn’t do the work) etc. Instead of blaming him or engaging in bad-mouthing, I counseled our mutual acquaintances to have patience and understanding, providing reminders that “this is not the person we know, or the behavior we’ve seen for seven years.” It worked. It helped him keep a job in one instance, and a few friendships. The tragedy in this case is that he’s now too ashamed to renew the relationships he tread on, even though we are all here, ready to welcome him back with open arms.

These experiences, now over five years ago, have helped me be a lot more understanding when someone-anyone–in my circle of friends or work associates goes dark. I don’t know their life, their situation, their problems, challenges. I’m certainly not the first or last person to consider if the world is shutting down. It was an incredible life lesson I wish I’d had in my twenties, and not my mid-thirties. It would have saved me a lot of wasted emotional cycles.

A woman, far more attuned than I, recently sent me a note of thanks for a mini-seminar I gave on a Saturday morning. It wasn’t something I longed to do–the topic was on motivation–and the group was small, only 11 women. The title of my presentation was “Stepping it up,” focusing on not simply achieving, but doing that little bit more than makes all the difference. The group was mostly silent, no questions, no comments afterwards. I left deflated, thinking I’d wasted my time, and theirs.

The note I received told me she was going through a divorce, her husband leaving her and the children after 22 years together. It was just the message she needed at such a horrid time in her life. I could not have been more surprised. She was the model mom, half of a picture-perfect duo that I’d envied as the entire family attended events in a way I never would with my own immediate family. How little did I know.

The power of the little note is great. And it doesn’t have to be on anything but a piece of scratch paper. I’m convinced that human nature demands attention. Demands love and harbors the desire to be loved. Sending a note to someone that has fallen out of touch or out of favor or needs forgiveness. Try it. Good karma means it will come around.

Bursting bubbles, and other things friends do

As Husbands Go: A NovelYesterday afternoon, I had thirty minutes to lounge in my claw foot bathtub, throw in lavender bath salts and crack open the first book I’d purchased since the summer. As Husband’s Go, by bestselling author, Susan Isaacs. The reason for this acquisition was specific–I was told to read a first person tale, told by a forty-something woman. That’s how I blog and what I am. Why? I asked the provider of this advice.

“Because you suck at writing fiction,” said she who shall NEVER be named. “Stop writing anything but first person. If you could bottle your voice, and put it in a book, it’ll sell millions.” Note how she put a nice bit of flattery and motivation after the ‘constructive’ criticism?

(now a note on friends an honesty. This is a slide scale. Acquintances will lie (you look great when you know you have a black eye from accidentally hitting yourself. I’ve done this, and I knew instantly who was my friend and who was lying), social friends will at least try to be diplomatic (uh, you have green piece of lettuce stuck in your tooth) and true friends (those pants really do make your butt look fat).

With this harsh but honest phrase, I went to the bookstore, spent two hours shopping around for a book that ‘fit my style’ and picked up Isaac’s latest.

A page in to the novel, I stopped, reached behind me to the magazine stack and selected the Fine Cooking magazine with the three-layer chocolate cake on the cover. Ten minutes later, I’m back to the novel, finished the first chapter, then set it down again. On and on it went, each agonizing page an experience in studying for a term paper on a Saturday night, when only misfits and C-students are still in the library. Except in my case, I was naked, in the tub, the water turning from hot to murky warm.

Isaacs’ writing is fun to read in short spurts, like this blog, I suppose. When injected with a bit of sass, conventional wisdom and local inside-jokes, the piece isn’t overbearing. Yet in her latest, I missed out on most of the references. I’m not from Long Island. Never been there. I’m not in the crowd to even understand a reference to fur from the inside of a goat’s gut, and therefore can’t appreciate the fact it’s the most expensive, illegal material on the market today. I’m not Jewish or from New York, and while nearly every person in my entertainment/literary circle happen to be both, none resemble the neurotic, socially wicked individuals portrayed. Last but not least, I’m past the point of reading books that titillated me when I was a hormonally-crazed teen. A great benefit of being married is I can actually go to the bedroom, shut the door and have my way with my husband. It provides me enjoyment that reading about on a squished page of pulp simply can’t. Thus, it came as no surprise I was literally skimming the book by chapter three, and now, I’m nearing chapter seven, waiting for the punchline.

The more I thought about Her advice, the more depressed I became. By eight, Rog told me to go to bed.

“I can’t take it anymore,” he said. “This happens to you twice a year, and it’s too much for me to handle.” Like how he made it about himself? The only thing I could do was send off 17 chpts of my YA time/travel romance novel  to the producer for review and sleep away my disappointment.

This morning, life was better. I realized the angst of writing a blog in the first person is like a chapter-with highs and lows, laughter and maybe tears. To replicate that in each chapter of a book doesn’t work because the story arch has to be much higher and stretched out. Were I to write chapter by chapter novellas, the reader would be on a continual roller coaster, exhausted and throwing up at the end.

The reflection gave me an epiphany for a new subject of a new book. It was instantaneous. No sooner had I put the last period on chapter 2, I’d sent it off to She and another early reader.  After this experience, I had a moment of appreciation for the value of honest feedback.

Critical commentary is brutal to take, but harder, I think, to give. The giver cares enough to say something, at times, risking the very friendship in the process. The receiver has to consider the input with a layer of trust and love and acceptance or the entire communication comes across as nothing more than shallow criticism.
I can count the people who give it to me straight on one hand. My husband, my mother (though she’s a LOT more subtle about it, and doesn’t go there unless I ask her straight out), a cousin, a friend who lives locally, and She who shall not be named. In fact, “She’d” be a great character in a book, but I can’t do that either. It would ‘out’ her, I’d lose the friendship, and then where would I be? When I called to tell her thank her for both the damage and creativity she’d inspired, I also thanked her for her honesty.

I told She about the impact her words had on my thinking process, and we both laughed.

“That’s what friends do,” she said. Honest feedback and advice is also how friends are lost, I replied. Though I’m big enough to listen and discern an agenda versus what’s the best for me. In this case, She had both an agenda (she likes my blog and would like to read more war stories), but she also wants me to finally get something out that gets read by the masses (I think she’s hussling for a chauffeur job myself).

“The only difference between you and Rog is that his commentary has lot more F-words than you.” She didn’t think that was a compliment.

“I give you so many more good ideas about writing than he does!” she retorted indignantly.

There it is. The honesty continues, because she was right. As always.

Preventing cancer

It was nearly four pm on a Wednesday afternoon when the doctor found ‘ripples’ along the inner side of my armpits. I was in for a regular checkup and told him of the pain I’d been feeling on both sides of my breasts.

“I’ve been doing a lot of lat presses,” I said, convinced I’d torn a muscle.

He felt on both sides, commenting I was skinny for my height which was bad. That day however, it was good, he went on say, because he could feel a lot of ‘nubs’ that he suspected were inflamed glands. His faced registered no emotion as he felt the inner part of my hips. “Checking more glands,” he said. “See this? They are raised.”

It meant nothing to me. I was thirty-two. In the best shape of my life. In fact, my world was perfect. A great career, a good marriage. We’d recently adopted a dog, a sure sign life had transitioned in to a grounded world of normalicy.

“I’d like you to see a specialist since I’m not sure about these nubs.” Whatever. Sure. I didn’t even look at the card he gave me and went on my way.

A week later, the pain was a bit more intense, and Rog suggested I follow the doctors orders. I looked at the card.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. It should have scared me, but it didn’t. I’d never known anyone with breast cancer, let alone had it myself. Beside, breast cancer is here, there and everywhere. I couldn’t go into the grocery story, the mini-mart or turn on the TV without seeing pink ribbons and being asked for a donation.

I made an appointment with the doctor listed on the card, and didn’t notice the receptionist moved up the date when she learned it was a doctor referral.

Two days later, I was lying on my back, a woman’s warm hands gently probing the lymph nodes under my arms and near my hip line. As she pressed her fingers on my skin, she began asking me questions.

“How much do you smoke?”

“I don’t. Never have.”

Her eyes met mine.

“Never?” as though I were lying.

Well, yes, once. I told her about the time I was eight, and my cousin was spending the summer with us. “I got in to her backpack, hid under the pool table where no one would find me, lit a cigarette and tried one inhale,” I said, a wash of twenty-two year old guilt flooding over me. I’d never told anyone. (sorry mom!)

“What about drinking?”

That I had done, I confessed, but not much. I never have liked the taste of wine or beer, the smell of latter reminding me of bottled farts (though I left out that little tidbit).

“Are you a coffee drinker?”

“Smells great but tastes like mud.” That, at least, got her laughing.

“You shouldn’t be allowed in the state of Washington.”

She ordered up x-rays, and while we waited, she asked me about our family history, specifically, relatives with breast cancer, or any type of cancer.

“Not one. No cancer of any kind.”

We were tall, blond, Swedes blessed with a long shelf life. Not a single heart attack, cancer, or other disease my mom or dad could recall. In fact, the only problem seemed to be a tremendous capacity to eat butter, pure, unadulterated heavy cream and potatoes in quantities our Russian friends envied.

When the x-rays returned, she put them up on the screen for review. She gestured for me to get dressed, then we both sat down again.

“The predominant demographic for breast cancer are forty year old black women who smoke four packs a day,” she said, facts removing the necessity for diplomacy. “You have every symptom of that demographic.”

She didn’t give me time to react. She began educating me on my situation.

“Your breasts are like a steak rippled with fat,” she said, pointing to the x-ray. “These white dots–they are cancer waiting to turn, for lack of a better word.”

My breasts ceased to be sexual objects at that moment. They were balls infested with white balloons with strings attached.

“They are ticking time bombs. At any moment, one, or all of them, can become malignant.” She ordered up tests and continued.

“Alcohol and caffeine stimulate cancer cells,” she said, as though this was common knowledge. Since I didn’t smoke, she looked first to those two items as the culprit. I told her I adored chocolate. Was that enough to cause cancer, I asked.

She shook her head no. “You’d have to eat vats and vats,” she said.

As we waited for the test results, we talked about other “possible” contributing factors. The environment, pesticides, man-made food (margarine) fats–the list was endless. As the short appointment stretched into hours, my anger grew. Why hadn’t the public been told about the connection between alcohol and caffeine and cancer I asked.

She shrugged. “Those industries are huge supporters of the healthcare industry.”

The only way to be sure would be to have a double mastectomy, she told me, recommending I go home, talk with my husband and we make a decision by the end of the week.

This is where my Swedish, don’t-cry attitude served me well. When Rog came through the door, I told him straight up what I’d learned. He blinked a few times, then we both agreed we’d do what we had to do to live. Period.

When I called mom, she told me to call our swami (aka, our homeopath). He listened to my description of the situation, and though no cancer specialist he, told me to immediately change my way of life.

“It’s easy,” he said, in his middle-eastern drawl. “You are a carcinosen.” (For the homeopathy-ignorant, this is a type of personality). “You hold everything in. You never cry. You work seven days a week, twenty hours a day and have done so since you were eighteen. Of course this was going to happen.” He went on to tell me that it’s a part of my DNA, this whole cancer is inevitable for a person like me.

I wasn’t sure what pissed me off more– hearing I had ticking time bombs in my chest or my freaking swami being so matter-of-fact about it.

“You knew this was going to happen?” I nearly yelled.

“Let’s just say, I am not surprised.” Even the way hef slowly enunciated each word infuriated me.

All I wanted to know was if it could be fixed by some miraculous means.

“Yes. But you have to do what I say starting right now.”

He then told me I had to start taking a remedy, called Carsinosen, every day without fail. He told me it’s normal for people with repressed feelings (check), those who were quiet and sensitive as a child (check), who loved butter and chocolate (check) who were sexually aggressive (um, doublecheck) and so on. He gave me some links to look it up online, and said he’d ship me out a batch the next day.

“You must quit all sugar and chocolate, go completely organic, get rid of every toxic item in your home, and eat greens at least three times a day. Preferably more.” (did I mention I hate greens?)

“But one thing you must do,” he intoned, like Moses coming down from the mountain, “you must, and I mean must, change your lifestyle.”

What? As if his laundry list wasn’t going to accomplish that?

“Reduce your work. Change your career. Change your lifestyle. Get your feelings out. Cry more. Be more sensitive to others. Be compassionate. Don’t hold back doing things you want to do.”

Oh, got it. He wanted me to change my personality. No prob. An easy thing to ask of a controlling, non-emotional Type-A.

“Read up on chemical toxins in your house,” he advise, the parting bit of advice before he went on to his next patient. “Get rid of anything toxic.”

I didn’t waste time directing my anger at him. Rog and I read all about the top-ten toxic chemicals. We had every single item on the list, and sometimes, multiple items. We then looked at the top ten toxic ingredients. The worst and most common offender seemed to be Sodium Lauryl Sulfates. Depending on the list we looked at, it was number one or three. This is a commonly found chemical shown to cause severe changes to the skin, though studies linking them to cancer are still debatable (see link). It was (and is in) everything—toothpastes, shampoos, facial cleansers, body wash, exfoliant, moisturizers, you name it.

I was horrified when it appeared on every (EVERY) single beauty product I owned.

Gone. The entire lot.

As Rog and I literally cleaned house, and invested a fortune in natural products, we read cases where men and women with cancer (early-mid stage) arrested their cancer. This didn’t mean it went away, it just stopped progressing. In each case, a complete life-style change had occurred, and this included dietary habits.

Rog and I went organic, but we also went largely ‘green,’ as in, eating lots and lots of green vegetables. It was hard. I hate salads, kale, broccoli. But life is choices, and my choice was to live, with both breasts. It wasn’t debatable. It was obvious.

At the end of the week, I told my doctor I wanted to wait a month, and see if my actions were going to help ‘arrest’ the pre-cancerous blobs. She shook her head.

“In nearly twenty years, I’ve never seen a case this far a long be arrested,” she said sympathetically, but sternly. She wished me well and told me she’d see me the following week. The second week, the same thing. The sizes had increased.

The third week, she was shocked. No increase. Fourth week, no increase. And so on, every week for three months.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. She’d brought in other doctors to review the results, and I was asked to explain what I’d done to affect this result.

They nodded to one another in silence, as though my comments confirmed their own opinions.

“Most people won’t give up what they love,” said a male physician. “They’d rather die.”

Rather lose a breast or die than give up coffee, or smoking or drinking? Rather risk losing a loved one than replace a few hundred bucks worth of cleaning supplies in the home or passing by the fast food joint on the way home?

“Patients don’t always listen to advice,” he said. “Few want any at all.”

That sounded like a typical type A to me. Seattle is full of ’em. The world is full of –us.

Since that time, ten years ago, I’ve remained in an “arrested” state. The checkups went quarterly, then yearly. At last check, the time bombs were still within,  and can tick at any time. The journey, and it’s impact on our lives was interesting upon reflection, though unfun (is that a word?) at the time.

It wasn’t easy in the beginning; we lost most of our friends with whom we’d go out to dinner or travel on vacation. Rog stopped drinking, his show of solidarity akin to men shaving their heads when their cancer-ridden wife goes through chemo and loses her hair. Our then-set of friends were uncomfortable drinking with, or in front of us. That pretty much wiped out everyone in our social set.

With the loss of our circle of friends was an emptiness. It wasn’t as strong as a death, but we grieved over the years of invested relationships, the people we loved, and those who we believed loved us back. Suddenly, we were in our cancer-induced island of isolation.

Those who didn’t entirely desert us were hopelessly affected, behaving as though I were going to explode if I went inside their home and got whiff of some Windex. Back then, breast cancer, and discussing the subject, wasn’t done as much as it is now. It was said in hushed voices, Rog’s friends asked if they could hug me without hurting me (actually, for a while, my chest did hurt all the time, but this gradually faded). I felt guilty for Rog losing some of his friendships as well, many that went the way of the sand because he’d no longer go out w/his drinking buddies.

We had a few long years relative quiet and loneliness. My swami remained optimistic and unworried.

“You go through phases,” he said, telling me it happened with his own wife. “The friends you had in your twenties and thirties reflected your hard-charging, party lifestyle. You now have different priorities and values. It will take time to find couples who share your values. When you do, they will be friends for life.”

Sure enough, it was about four years until  Rog and I started ‘couple-dating,’ eg, finding new friends and building relationships. This has expanded with other changes–children and community involvement. During that time, more studies have appeared in Newsweek and other magazines, linking various foods/drinks/environmental toxins to cancer. I’ve heard friends remark “everything seems to cause cancer,” as though it simply doesn’t matter anymore (we’re all going to die, so live it up).

It’s been hard keeping my mouth shut as I watch people injest what are basically toxic items into their body, as clueless as I was about the potential result. I don’t thrust my opinions on others, or until this blog posting, share my story with friends or acquaintances. The reason is akin to the doctors’ comment–most people don’t want to hear it. When I’m asked about my healthy habits or skin–I’ll explain that Jennifer Lopez noted drinking reduces collagen in the skin– and it’s better for you. I refrain from launching in to a diatribe about the evils. People can read and make their choices. I’m no more going to judge or try to change a person’s life than I would want another’s unsolicited opinion about my own.

Today, I’m downright lazy compared to my pre-cancerous life. I only work late hours, not vampire hours (into the wee-morning), though I still hear rumblings of complaints from certain family members I’m doing too much. Rog and I have even eat red meat and non-organic stuff, and in times of true desperation, will stop at a drive-through. I do have chocolate-within reason, and truly pay for it when I then have to get back on-the-wagon. Those are the exceptions though, and not the rule.

Can cancer be prevented? I’m not sure. But it can be arrested, for I’m living proof. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, for as long as I can, to live as long as I can.

Bromancing the stone

A month ago, I was sitting in the living room, computer on my lap, typing away, when I hear Rog call out from the office.
“Bro! What are we having for dinner tonight?”
I continue typing. Didn’t even look up. He was on the phone I figured, making plans with a friend for dinner.
“Frost! I’m talking to you!” (Gitano/Blade)…(FYI, one of Rog’s pet names for me is Frost-aka. The Devil. Isn’t that sweet?)
I look up.
“My name is not Bro,” I remind him.
“You’re a bro,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.
Rog has continued calling me Bro. Forget honey, sweetheart, or even the shout out  of a “yo babe!” That at least qualifies me as a girl of some sort. But no. it’s Bro.
And hence became the nightmare that is my new name. Since then, I’ve noticed Bro is now not just a name, it’s a title. In fact, it’s a category of person in and of itself, defining a special status that bonds the receiver and the namer in some sort of ‘bro-ness’ that heretofore, has not been properly catalogued.
To be clear, I am NOT a bro. I lack the equipment. I lack the hair. In the 70’s, wasn’t a ‘bro’ a black man? Now, we have all the ghetto-smurff whities liked my husband trying to be cool, bro-in it up as if Maple Valley is the ‘hood. (just writing that felt wrong).
Our fighter-pilot friend Kevin texts Rog in rapid-fire shots, the same way he flies his F-16. The thumb-finger romance comes and gos, in fits and starts, like an on-again, off-again flirtation.
Kevin’s wife Lori will notice and text me, saying the “bromance” has started up again. We laugh. We shake our heads. Us girls text this day in out, 24X7 and men don’t think a thing of it. But when men text, it’s a bromance.
Above and beyond my gender-bending title and Rog bromancing his stone, the whole-bro thing has gone maintream. Late last night I was perusing a friend’s FaceBook page, trolling through an endless stream of birthday well-wishes. It went like this:
“Congrats, bro.”
“Thanks, bro.”
“Bro, Happy firtday.”
“Back atcha bro.”
On and on and on. Sometimes it was peppered with inputs from a girl.
“You made it to the big one, bro,” wrote she. Now, even girls are calling men bros. Is that normal, or is my head so far in these misty, dark grey clouds I haven’t noticed this is names aren’t used anymore, and I’m the dated one here?
Once upon a time, bros was an abbreviation for brothers. As in, a literal brother. Then we had the bro, which inferred a tight relationship akin to a brother, no doubt ushered in, and made popular by the seventies and African Americans, who made the phrase sound cool. “You’re my bro,” was a compliment. 
It was also cool in the same way us girls talk about being chicks, my sista or homegirls (as much as 40+ yr old woman can say that without laughing), but if a man calls me a chick, I don’t really dig on it. But when my own husband calls me a Bro, I start to have an identity complex. I’m not black, nor do I stand a chance of becoming black in this lifetime.
Now, I’ve got my husband yapping about his “homies,” his “bros.” It’s embarrassing. Then he goes on to tell I’m both. Um. I’m neither. We live in the same home, but I’m his white wife, lacking in both relation and the right color.
I suggest we lighten up a bit on the informality of it all. Go back to calling someone by their given, legal name.
“Thanks for the birthday wishes, Mark,” or “Mark, thx for the birthday shout out.” Either work. I could even stand my husband to throw in a “Honey, what are we having for dinner,” or “Sarah, want to go out to dinner?” In the meantime, he’ll be making his own dinner, cuz I ain’t lifting ghetto-smurff homey bod off the couch for no one until I get called by the right name.  
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