Toddler Jokes

Kids are so pure. My three year old is either making hilarious toddler jokes on purpose, or he’s being the sweetest, cutest, most sincere little true-to-himself guy ever that I can’t help but laugh (on the inside, I stifle my laughter so as to avoid stifling his self-expression). Here is a conversation we had on our little walk today:

Kid: Hi Momma!

Me: Hi babe.

Kid: Mom, your face is over there.

Me (haha he’s so cute): Oh really??

Kid: Momma… move it.

What!? I thought and burst into laughter. I mean, I was walking alongside the child so my face was at a very appropriate distance to his when this went down. He’s 3 and clearly has a very limited capacity for communication so he could have meant something entirely different and (likely) completely innocent, but I took it as a sick burn, kiddo! I could have gotten mad, or I could have let this rudimentary attempt at conversation hurt my feelings. Those choices are always there. Instead I chose to laugh.

I said, “Good joke, baby,” and my boy looked at me in confusion for a moment before registering what I meant and breaking out into a smile so big his left cheek dimpled.

We walked a bit more, kicking dirt and looking at ants, before I said, “Hey baby! I like your red shirt.” He looked down at his belly and confusion registered on his face again.

“Oh!” he said in earnest, “Momma, I don’t have a red shirt on, dis is a bluuuue shirt.” So freaking cute.

“Juuuust kidding!” I said, and tickled his side. He looked at my smile then grinned and clapped his hands, letting out a big toddler joy-shriek.

“Good joke, Momma, good job,” he cheered, then he bent down to pick up an extra long stick.

That’s the kind of life we lead.

Later, at home, he asked for a cup of milk with lunch, which I provided, and which was almost immediately upended on the tile floor.

“Oops! Hey mom, you spilled the milk!” He said, then giggled uncontrollably.

Since he was the one who spilled the milk, and since he did so rather deftly, I had to take a deep breath at that one. What the H kid?? And then without even waiting for a response from me, that funny boy said, “Ha ha just kinning, good joke Kellan, I’m gonna go get a towel. Oh wait, Momma, can you help me reach the towels?”

Not kidding. My three year old just casually tossed milk on the floor as the set up for his joke. Then he congratulated himself on his joke’s hilarity. Again, I could have gotten mad, and it would have been within reason for me to be irritated AF since he wasted milk, but honestly comedy is a big deal in our house, and I was just proud. So I laughed and helped him get a paper towel. Then, I explained the importance of not wasting food and watched with horrified glee as that silly boy laughed then licked the floor.

Oh man. My kid is hilarious, and this is gonna be fun.

I Don’t Mind If You Don’t

The last time I was pregnant I wrote and directed and acted in a short film! I felt like the queen of the world; I was creating a life, I was creating art, it was all easy for me, and I could do A N Y T H I N G. I’m already of that opinion about myself yet I still always do something to embarrass myself, so I really should have been on high alert and seen this next bit coming.

On day one of shooting I wore an adorable little striped dress and felt very maternal. My character was a mom-to-be as well, so I was vibing hard with her essence. I wanted to feel lithe and free but the 100 degree weather was a real hindrance. So, I did what any normal pregnant lady would do: I took off my underwear.

No one will notice, I thought. Plus, I was wearing foundation garments underneath my dress to help prevent any wardrobe malfunctions on camera. Everything was covered.

Then, the sound guy asked if I was ready to be mic’d. Sure thing sounds great! I insisted, but when the sound guy took a knee and began grabbing at my upper thigh to place a microphone, I became suddenly shy.

“Uhh, ha ha, what are you doing?” I asked.

“Oh, placing the mic. I thought we’d put it on your thigh since that’s the flowiest part of your dress,” he said.

“Oh, I was thinking we could put it up around my bra area,” I said, closing my legs.

“Hmm, the bra may conceal it, but it’s a pretty hefty battery pack and your hair doesn’t cover your back or anything…” He was clearly trying to work out how in the world he was going to hide this battery pack.

“It’s just that it’s hot out, and I’m… you know… a pregnant lady… extra body girth… usually equals extra crotch sweat, ha ha.”

Yep I said it. As soon as I did his face contorted into a weird half-grimace, half-sniff, and I immediately regretted everything. In an effort to help alleviate the palpable tension, I began talking and didn’t let up for awhile.

“I mean not right now! Ha ha, sorry that’s probably gross. I didn’t mean I have sweaty crotch now. Or that I will have a sweaty crotch today as an inevitability. I just mean, like, there’s more of a likelihood that I’ll get sweaty because I have this big belly. And because it’s hot. You know? I mean, like, I’ll at least chafe. I probably would anyway on a day like today, you know? Like, everything will rub together and get sticky. Is that really gonna work for the mic pack do you think..?”

“Uhhhhhh…” came the response.

Since I was the director this was technically my call. But, as a director part of my job was to hire people who knew more about their respective departments than I did so that I could focus on the picture and the story. This guy was trying to do his job to the best of his ability, and since I was the director, I didn’t want to waste any more time on where to place my mic pack. I made the swift decision to go for it.

“You know what, forget it. It’s fine. That’s obviously the best place for the mic pack or you wouldn’t have tried to put it there. Let’s just do it.”

Relief washed over his face. “Ha, ok cool,” he said as he knelt back down and grabbed for my leg once more.

“I’M ACTUALLY NOT WEARING UNDERWEAR BUT I DON’T MIND IF YOU DON’T!” My reflexive scream froze him mid-reach. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t move at all, he didn’t avert his eyes or change his mind. He just S T O P P E D.

So I stopped. Because what the hell do I do now??

I took a deep breath to relieve some of the humiliation, then said, “You know what, let me go change undergarments.”

“OK, great,” was all he said as he dropped his hand and leaned out of my way to allow me to move.

I went to my room and found the largest pair of underwear in my possession, panty lines be damned. I hoisted them up over my haunches, said a few affirmations into the mirror to bolster my confidence, then made my reappearance on set. Finally, I was mic’d and the day continued without another hiccup. But I do often think about the poor sound guy who knelt a foot away from my naked, 8-months-pregnant crotch that day, and I wonder whether or not he ever would have known if I had just kept my mouth shut.

I Peed Myself (Life Happens For You)

Tony Robbins says everything in life happens for you not to you, and he is so right because I just peed my pants at Planet Fitness.

Sometimes I don’t want to do anything. Today is one of those days. I brought my three year old to the gym daycare to play, then plopped myself in the lobby to clack clack away on my laptop. I’m trying to get some work done! But today is one of those days when I don’t want to do A N Y T H I N G, so my mind is clouded and I have no words.

I’d like to order a plate of DO NOTHING.

I did, however, have an urge to urinate. I stupidly forgot my blog topics notebook at home so I have no writing prompts on hand, and the gym internet keeps going out, and my iPhone hotspot keeps going out, but dammit brain, work, so that I can get up to pee! I held it for as long as I could, mostly because I didn’t want to pack up all my materials and hoist my 6-months pregnant body off of the comfy couch to waddle on over to the public restroom, but after an hour of sitting and zero typing, I relented.

As soon as I started walking I knew my situation was dire. I clenched and hurried my steps, but my bouncing belly put pressure on my bladder with each little movement. Oh jeez, Oh jeez, I thought.

I got to the restroom at last. I leaned my body into the normally heavy, sluggish door to force an opening large enough to slip through. I hugged the wall to my left and just kind of rolled my body towards the toilets, but was forced to stop short. A woman had just finished washing her hands and didn’t see me coming. She was now standing nose-to-nose with me.

Oh, ah, haha, we both said, then I stepped to my right and she stepped to her left and we did it again. Ahhhhhhhhh, my body screamed.

Finally, she moved her ass, and I lunged for the first open stall, which was straight up covered in pee. Good God.

I squeezed my inner thighs and shuffled myself to the next cleanish stall. I locked myself in, shimmied out of (and hung) my gym backpack, then began to tug at my shorts, forgetting entirely that they were MATERNITY SHORTS.

Shiiiiiiit, I thought, as I hoisted my shirt up and grabbed the belly band. I ripped it down just as my full bladder released, utterly soaking my shorts and the toilet seat beneath me.

So that’s how it happens, I thought, my sense of humor ever in tact.

I grabbed some toilet paper – single ply, of course – and mopped myself up as best as possible. I cleaned the toilet seat because I’m not a heathen, then I exited the stall. Luckily for me there were no other bathroom patrons at that time, so I had the trusty hand dryer all to myself. I positioned the dryer head as near my butt crack as it would go, bent forward, and smashed that on button.

I walked to the daycare area holding my backpack to hide my crotch. I signed my kid out and raced him to the car, “for fun.” Once safely inside, I cackled with cry-laughter because OH MY GOD, I peed my pants today.

Et voila! A blog post.

Proof that life happens for you, guys.

Gym Anxiety

I had been working out at home during nap time, which was fine but didn’t leave me a lot of time to work on anything else. I decided one night that I wanted to go to the gym during kiddo’s waking hours to give myself a little extra room in my day. I woke up determined to make it happen. I warned the three-year-old that we’d be leaving soon. I loaded up my bag with snacks and bribes and water bottles for two. I strapped my pregnant self into a sports bra and laced up my running shoes, and I ushered my first born into the car under protest.

Once at the gym, I led my son to the childcare room, essentially a giant playroom full of toys, but when I tried to leave he whimpered for hugs and comfort and begged me not to go. I squatted down and pointed out the fun dump trucks and dolls and blocks littering the room. That did the trick. He accepted one last side hug then ran off to crash, bang, boom some stuff together, and I made my way to the cardio room.

I could see the entrance as I traversed the lobby, but instead of making a right and heading up the half flight of stairs to the cardio room, I took a left and parked my squishy butt on the lobby couch and pulled out my phone. I told myself I was simply connecting to wifi in preparation for my workout. I needed to stream some music. I needed to stretch a little and this comfy couch provided the perfect pillowy platform to really get deep into my hip muscles.

I crossed my ankle over my knee like the number 4 and adjusted my seat to allow my growing belly to drop into the space I’d created between my legs. I leaned forward and sighed, making a real show of it in case anyone was looking and wondering why I was sitting on the couch instead of working out. I rummaged through my bag as I stretched and found my headphones, sighing something like oh good there they are for any onlookers. I took a deep breath and lifted my head: no one in the lobby but the front desk girl, who was engrossed in her own phone. No one cared what I was doing. I could sit on this couch for the full hour and a half I’d budgeted for gym time.

I snapped my head to the right to shoo the thought out of my head and took a peak at the cardio room. I saw several open treadmills and stationary bikes, plus plenty of ellipticals and stair-steppers already in use. The room also had weight machines, which seemed funny to me, because it was called the cardio room. From my vantage, it didn’t seem too busy, but it wasn’t completely empty, and I didn’t want to go. I wished someone would give me a hug and talk me through how much fun I would have playing with all those toys.

For a moment I envisioned getting up out of my seat and walking the 30 paces to enter the cardio room. Oh my God, what if the toe of my shoe clipped the edge of the first step as I reached those stairs, what if I fell and hit my head, or my belly? Or if that didn’t happen, what if I stood up and walked only to drop my water bottle, spilling it’s entire 50 oz onto the lobby floor? What if that happened just as a throng of people rushed out of the cardio room to make it back to work on time, and they fell, and I inconvenienced them all? What if someone who fell was really, really injured and sued me? What if I made it into the cardio room but I looked like a complete idiot walking on the treadmill because I am out of shape and pregnant and slow? What if I tried to use a machine but couldn’t figure out the buttons and had to move on to something else? How embarrassing!

“Do you have a question or anything?” asked the front desk girl, snapping me back to reality.

“Huh? Oh, no. I’m just…” I began.

“Oh, are you waiting for someone?” she asked.

“Um… yeah…. Yeah, I am.” I lied, “But she hasn’t text me back so I was thinking of just going in.”

“Oh, OK. Well, I can let them know where you are if you wanted to get started.” she offered. How kind.

“OK great, sure. Her name is Amanda.” I picked the most common name I could think of as I stood.

“Cool. Will you be in the cardio room or the weight room?” I didn’t even know there was a weight room.

“Treadmills,” I replied. She smiled and nodded, so I smiled too and turned to meet my fate. I walked through the lobby and up the stairs unscathed and entered the cardio room. I made my way to the row of treadmills, found a convenient spot for my bag, and started my warm up. I looked around for “Amanda” as I walked, and when I did, I saw another pregnant lady doing a slow and gentle work out.

Oh good, I thought, I’m not alone. I rubbed my belly and took a deep breath to release my anxiety.

I made it. Sure, I tortured myself a little to get here, but I made it.

I Hugged My Neighbor

I am so awkward sometimes it hurts.

My husband, John, and I moved into our current neighborhood a few years back. It seemed amazing when we first arrived – lots of young families and the parents all seemed to be about our age or slightly older, and they all hung out with one another often! Amazing. We had only been living there for a few months when we were invited to our first neighborhood potluck BBQ.

Nervous but excited, we dressed in our summertime best and arrived a respectable 15 minutes late, to give things enough time to get going. We knocked but no one answered. Not hearing any party noise and not knowing what else to do, I tried the handle and poked my head inside the door to see a jam-packed crowd of neighbors.

I shut the door looking spooked, prompting my husband to ask, “Was no one in there?”

“Oh no,” I said. “The opposite.” I hoped he would sense my please don’t make me do this tone. He did not.

“Sweet,” he said, and walked into the party with our then two-year-old.

Great. Now I had no choice. With a sigh I entered.

My husband hadn’t gotten far; he was standing just inside the front door surveying the scene. I stepped forward to stand beside him and smiled and head-nodded to the strangers before us, who were apparently our neighbors.

“Have you seen any of these people before?!” I whispered.

“No, not even,” said John. Well, at least I wasn’t alone, I thought. We could get our plates and find a corner together, then politely slip out unnoticed among all the people.

Just then, John took two year old Kellan by the hand and led him to the kids’ playroom, effectively ditching me.

Great! Now I had no choice.

Then, some random dude approached me – standing all alone in the doorway, looking like an ass – and drunkenly asked what dish I had brought, peaking at the tin foil-wrapped platter in my hand.

“Bacon wrapped cream cheese jalapeños,” I replied with a slight smile.

“Ooooh,” he said, rubbing his belly. “Too spicy for me!” Then he turned on his heels and I was alone again.

Awkwardly, I made my way to the buffet table and moved some stuff to make room for my dish. I took my precious time unwrapping the foil before carefully folding it up in my hands. There, that was like 3 minutes, I thought.

I looked around but saw no one familiar. Then I spotted her! My very pregnant, sometimes friendly neighbor! I smiled and waved, and she raised her eyebrows in acknowledgment of me then turned back to her conversation. Ok. That’s worse. I turned back to the food.

At least the spread looked good. I grabbed a plate and began selecting the tastiest-looking morsels of bbq chicken wings, pasta salad, corn on the cob, and my favorite, baked beans. I took my time. I loaded up. I wasn’t even that hungry, but at least I looked busy. When my plate was pretty full and it was clear I had spent too much time with the food, I lowered my eyes (to avoid having to look at anyone) and turned to my left – just as a man about 8 inches away spun around to face me. I looked up and recognized a familiar face. And then the face smiled! Finally!

“Hiiii!” I exclaimed, grinning ear-to-ear with relief. I threw my arms in the air and pulled my male neighbor in for a big hug. When he chuckled and patted me mid-back I became suddenly aware that my breasts were smashed against the chest of a man I barely knew, whose pregnant wife only kind of liked me sometimes, in the middle of a party filled with every neighbor within a two mile radius, most of whom had no idea who I was but definitely knew who I was hugging. WTF had I done?

I pulled away hastily, and when I did, I upended my entire, mounded plate and watched as saucy baked beans tumbled to the floor and splatted on neighbor man’s sandaled foot.

“OhmigawdI’msosorry!” I exclaimed. He chuckled again and shook the beans off.

“Oops, let’s get that cleaned up!” bellowed the party’s hostess, coming to the rescue with a damp dish towel and plenty of pep.

Where the eff have you been, I thought. “Thank you so much,” I said, and then, “Sorry again.”

“No worries at all,” said male neighbor, clearly aware I hated myself.

I looked down at my plate, still mostly intact but missing beans, and thought for a second about going back to the buffet table.

“Really sad about those beans, huh?” teased male neighbor.

“HAHAHA YEAH, RIGHT?!” I screamed, too enthusiastically. Then, in an almost-whisper, “I think I’ll go find John…”

I turned and made abrupt eye contact with very pregnant, sometimes friendly neighbor lady (wife of male neighbor/hug victim), who raised her eyebrows again, only this time she was not acknowledging my presence so much as staring death daggers at me in hatred. I averted my eyes and ducked into the kids’ play area, where I tagged out on adulting, sending my non-embarrassing husband into the party to make friends for us while I hid.


I’m mom to a spirited, opinionated three year old and I love every moment of life with him, even when he is throwing himself on the ground in a screaming tantrum because of something neither of us understands in the moment.

Not a tantrum, just a cutie

My kiddo and I were at the local community center, and he was stalling heading to the kids’ play class, as usual. I was running late for my class, so was short of patience. When he asked to look at the pool with a sly grin, I gently reminded him we needed to hustle to class. When he insisted on looking at the pool and began to head in that direction, I sternly and firmly told him “No, we are going to class.”

He lost his ever-loving mind right there in the concrete lobby, his screams of torture reverberating off the walls.

Oh my GOD, I was so embarrassed. I got down on his level as he stomped his feet and worked up some tears. I swallowed my surprising anger.

“Babe, let’s take a deep breath, please.” I remembered to ask please, which meant I was not yet seeing red. Good sign.

“No, no, NOOO! I want to look at the POOL!” he bellowed.

Deep breath, Shawna. “I understand you want to look at the pool, babe. First, we need to breathe deep. Can you do this?” I inhaled deep then let out a noisy exhale. Like the wonderful, smart boy he is, he mimicked my breathing.

“Good, baby. Let’s do one more.” I showed him how. He mimicked. We were done with screams and we were both calmer. Good sign! “OK, why don’t you use your words and explain what you want?” I suggested.

“Mama, I wanted to… I think we should… I want…. I want….” he started to get frustrated again at not having the words.

“Deep breath, baby, you want to do what?”

He took another deep breath. “I wanted to see the pool water because the pool is in there and has splashes.”

One main objective I have in parenting my child is to demonstrate to him respect for others, which includes respect for him. I am keenly aware that the interactions we have on daily basis are laying the foundation of the type of adult my son will grow up to be. I want my son to respect and be respected, to know that everyone matters, that other people’s wants and needs are important. The words my son used to explain his needs didn’t make much sense – because he’s three – but his urgency was clear. He wanted to look at the pool, and it was important to him that I respect that.

“Honey, I understand you want to look at the pool. Mama needs to hurry and get to class because I’m running late. So, let’s look at the pool for one minute, and then we need to go. What do you think?”

“Yeah!” came the cheerful reply, and I watched excitement ping all through his tiny body as he took my hand. Success!

We humans categorize things (people, events) to help us process our feelings. Call it human nature. It’s easier to throw up your hands and call your child a damn threenager to anyone who will listen than it is to control your embarrassment and anger enough to engage & teach them to understand what they are feeling. Much easier. I’ve been there. But when I see a toddler tantrum, I see a little person trying to navigate a big world. Why do they get called terrible when they have a grumpy morning? As if that tiny child is unable to control their huge emotions on purpose. A child’s developmental stage is impermanent. They’re learning, and when they’ve figured enough out, they’ll begin to react differently.

I am not a victim of my child’s development. In fact, I signed up to help him with it. Yes, there are H A R D days, but it is my job to remember that it’s one day, not all the days, and when the hard doesn’t seem to quit I am still not a victim – it is still my job to make sure I reach out for support when I need it. I am the adult in the situation, with the fully formed brain and the ability to take a breath and count to five before I respond. My son is not wrong or bad or difficult because he throws a tantrum. He’s learning. So, my kid is allowed to have bad days without being called a threenager.

Not Nice People Exist

On a recent evening, my three year old decided for the first time ever that he would like to go chat with a few of the neighborhood kids we know. We were on a little walk and he spotted the kids grouped and playing. We said hello from afar as usual when he turned to me and said, “Hold on mama, I want to play, I’ll be right back.” With that he dashed over to the girls, giant stuffed Pooh bear in hand.

As soon as he got to where the girls were playing I watched with frustration as one particularly spirited six-year-old put her hands on her hips and screamed, “You can’t play with us!

I immediately began speed walking towards those damn kids. Luckily, I was far enough away that I was able to take a few breaths, but I was mad. As I walked I witnessed another, kinder little girl speak to my son and hand him a toy. From his body language I surmised that he felt included enough.

“You having fun babe?” I asked my son when I reached him.

“Yeah!” He cheerfully replied, seemingly none the wiser.

“Good!” I said, and then I looked straight at the six-year-old with as neutral an expression as I could muster. She stared back at me in defiance, or curiosity, but when I raised my eyebrows pointedly she took a quick little breath and looked away.

My kiddo soon grew bored and asked that we move on. It was about dinner time anyway. We headed home where I took the time to reflect on my behavior.

Did I just silently mad dog a little kid?

No! I assured myself. I looked at her body language to assess whether she felt any remorse for being a jerk.

But what was with the eyebrow raise?

Well her reaction clearly indicated that she felt guilty.

Or did the weird adult neighbor lady staring at her scare her?


Ok yes, six-year-olds are supposed to be socially aware enough to know what actions may hurt someone else’s feelings, but thirty-five-year-olds are D E F I N I T E L Y supposed to be socially aware enough to know what might scare the crap out of a small child and they should hopefully have the ability to control their emotional reaction to a child’s bad behavior. What’s more is that, had I been close enough to the action, I likely would have said something in real-time, and I may have robbed my child of some crucial socialization.

This neighbor child may have been having a bad day, or she could be grappling with issues in her home life or at school that she isn’t yet able to process, or she maybe just wanted to feel a sense of control. Whatever it was that made her scream at a 3 year-old had nothing to do with my son. That is the lesson here. Mean people exist, a sad fact of life. Selfish people, harsh people, entitled people exist. In fact, we have tons of those kinds of people. How sad for them. Their behavior has nothing to do with my worthiness, nor my son’s. And I certainly don’t want my fear that someone will be mean to him or might exclude him from play to translate to how he feels about the situation.

“Hey bubba, is [six-year-old] nice or not too nice?” I asked him.

He thought for a moment and then said, “Not too nice.”

Ok, some acknowledgement. I continued, “Is [other girl who gave him a toy] nice or not too nice?”

Quickly, he said, “Nice.”

“OK,” I said. “Did you have fun playing?” I asked, afraid of the answer.

“Yeah!” He responded, in his usual cheerful way.

I smiled. “Awesome boo!” I said. “If someone is not too nice, you can always ask them to be nicer. You can say, ‘please speak nicely.’

“Please speak nicely,” he parroted.

“Yep. Good job, boo. And if they’re still not nice, you don’t have to pay with them!”

“I don’t!” He said. I smiled again.

“That’s right, babe.”

My fear is not his fear. Lesson learned. Going forward, instead of helicoptering, I’ll keep a watchful eye, an open dialogue, and a safe space at home. And, hopefully, he will always always always keep that cheerful demeanor of his, to help him through interactions with the not nice people of the world.

A Humorous Story About An Actor

This one time in acting class I got paired with a male actor I didn’t know very well to work an assigned scene in which we played boyfriend and girlfriend dealing with an HIV diagnosis. I’ll name this young man Eric.

Eric and I had a great first week; we had effective rehearsals, we both got to know our characters, and we let ourselves play around with each other a little bit to get closer to a familiar girlfriend/boyfriend-like relationship. Here I’ll admit that acting is a little weird because to do a scene well you have to allow yourself to be incredibly, intimately vulnerable with your fellow actors. This builds trust and allows for true relating between characters – but (and it’s a big but) – actors usually want to keep any vulnerabilities within the context of character and scene.

By week two it was clear Eric was not one of those usual actors. Instead, Eric took the opportunity to force intimate, real-life conversations on me, his pretend girlfriend. I found myself talking Eric through drama he was having with his mom (she was mad at his sister for wanting to leave her abusive husband. What!) and reassuring him he would one day find a girl who loved him for him and not for his body (no joke). Often this would happen mid-rehearsal because talking about our lives helped Eric to “improvise” our bond.

Things really began to trend downhill during week three. Because we had a kiss during our scene, Eric liked to try to spring an improvised kiss on me “as the character” 2-3 times each time we ran our piece. Yet, he never liked to improvise fights even though our characters also yelled at and spat at each other in our scene. Convenient.

I knew Eric was bat shit crazy by week four. We had received a dismal review of “you’re making this too precious” and “stick to the text” from our acting coach the week prior, meaning we were being melodramatic (shocker!) and improvising too much. So, at rehearsal, Eric really wanted to improvise to make the scene feel more authentic to the text. Whatever Eric. So we improvised, and during the part where Eric’s character bares his soul and begs his love to stay, Eric dropped his pants and flopped his tiny, limp penis at me, in a completely serious, completely non-sexual attempt to be emotionally raw with me.

As most adults know, penis flopping ought to be a consensual and predetermined activity. I yelped at the horror of Eric’s skinny little trouser snake dancing around in his giant man bush and averted my eyes. Without skipping a beat, Eric pulled his pants up and continued the scene as though he hadn’t just flashed limp noodle dong at me. I yelled “STOP TALKING” and Eric laughed a bit too casually. I told him I wasn’t cool with the penis slinging and ended rehearsal, and Eric thanked me for my honesty and told me how much he appreciated my work ethic and passion as an actor. I threw up in my mouth a little bit and left, then called in sick for our final class performance. And now I get to tell the internet about his small weiner and even smaller mind.

The end.

Where Did All My Friends Go?

L I G H T B U L B ! Friendships don’t exist without boundaries. I’ll explain.

I went to the Chiropractor recently, while I was in the midst of an emotional shit storm. It went like this:

Chiro: Hi Shawna, how are you?

Me (through tears, too cheerfully): Hi! I’m good, I’m good! Sorry, I just got some bad news (indicating my phone), so I’m just kind of (wiggling fingers in front of eyes to indicate tears dropping.) Ahh! Ha ha!

Chiro: Oh. Well okay, but otherwise you’re…

Me (laughing manically): Yeah no, otherwise good! Things are good. All good. I’m sorry I’m all (wiggles fingers)… Ahh, crazy (sniff).

Chiro (averting eyes): OK well…

Me (pulling it together, realizing what the chiro is actually asking): Oh! But yes… ahem, I’m here because I’ve been experiencing some sciatic pain…

I hadn’t actually gotten any bad news. I lied to cover for the fact that I am a grown ass woman crying big tears – that I cannot control – in an inappropriate stetting. Before I got here, I confronted a loved one about what appears to me to be their lack of interest in our relationship. I did this OUT OF THE BLUE and OVER TEXT. It did not go well.

About a week ago I realized I was hurting pretty badly because I have been feeling this person slipping away for months, or maybe longer. She seemed to be uninterested in hanging out with me no matter how casual and easy I made it, no matter how much I insisted, no matter how many times I ignored how I felt and went along with something she wanted to do. And, from my vantage, she seemed to also be prioritizing spending time with other, newer friends. Ouch!

This is not the first time that I have felt like I don’t matter to someone. I grew up in an environment that demanded I ignore my own feelings and see things from my one parent’s perspective, and by the end of junior high, my other parent wasn’t even in the picture any more. Lesson there: you don’t matter, kid. As I entered adulthood, I began to lose close friends, one after another, and fast. First, it was my friend who got a new job and a new group of friends, and unceremoniously kicked me to the curb (literally, she pushed me out of the front door of a party with said new friends). Then, another friend chose new friends and a new boyfriend and completely stopped talking to me one day, ignoring my calls and texts and emails and stalker behavior until I got the point and gave up. Then a friend pledged a sorority and actually smacked me hard on the top of my head for embarrassing her in front of her new sisters. And now it seems to be happening again.

Something dawned on me after the chiropractor cracked my bones; the common denominator here is ME. What am I doing to push people away?

The answer is two-fold.

First, nothing. Good news! There is nothing that I am doing to force people to make choices for themselves that differ from what I want for myself. They are not me and I am not them. Friends will make choices for their own lives that (shocking, I know) have nothing to do with how they feel about me. However, I am making an egregious error in my reaction to those choices.

No matter what my friends do now, I cling to what once was like some kind of algae-starved sucker fish. I ignore my every instinct to say something about their treatment of me, to decline the half-hearted, obligatory invitations they extend to me, or to face how very different the dynamics of our friendship have become. In essence, I ignore how I feel in an effort to see things from their perspective, and I do it because I’m afraid that I don’t matter. Sounds familiar. I ignore the tension I feel until it all builds into something too hard for me to bear, then I force a confrontation or otherwise demand answers out of desperation, which is what has just happened via text message.

But no more. Maya Angelou once said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” I am breaking this cycle right here. I have a little boy at home and a little girl on the way. There is N O W A Y I N H E L L they are going to learn from my example that we should continue to hang onto people who treat us like we don’t matter because we’re afraid that it’s true. I matter, no matter how anyone treats me, and I’m not a victim. A person’s treatment of me is about them, not me.

So, I’m unpacking the mistreatment of my past.

Growing up, my mother was so afraid she was unworthy of love that she used emotional manipulation to demand that I prove my love for her; this included denying me my own point of view. She did this out of her own fear, not because I didn’t matter. She learned she was unworthy of love much in the same way I learned I didn’t matter. It was just as untrue for her as it is for me.

Friend #1 filled some need for significance she had with her new group of friends. At the party I attended, one of the new friends flirted with me. She saw this happen, became fearful that her significance within her new friend group was threatened, and ousted me. She did this out of her own fear, not because I didn’t matter. She learned she was insignificant at some point just as I learned I didn’t matter. It was just as untrue for her as it is for me.

Friend #2 felt like she was a better person around her new boyfriend and new friends. She had cheated on the boyfriend a few weeks prior, telling him and the new friends that she was with me. She wasn’t, but when the cheating came to light, I was the friend who supported her. She feared she was a bad person and equated being bad with being around me. She cut me out in an attempt to stop being a bad person. She learned she was bad at some point in her life just as I learned I didn’t matter. It was just as untrue for her as it is for me.

Friend #3 was afraid she wasn’t good enough and she wanted really badly to belong. She was excited to have the college experience with her sorority sisters, so she did what she could to fit in. She tried to include me, but I had no intention of trying to impress her sorority, and my behavior was embarrassing for her. She learned she wasn’t good enough somewhere in life just as I had learned I didn’t matter. It was just as untrue for her as it is for me.

I can easily forgive the pain I’ve suffered when I pause like this to consider what someone else was going through. It makes everything less personal. And, given what I have discovered, I can assume that whatever is going on with the friend I feel pulling away now has nothing to do with whether or not I matter and probably everything to do with some feeling they have about their own worthiness, whether they realize it or not. I can easily forgive that, too.

Finally, I can set boundaries around what I’ll tolerate.

I matter. So, a good friend or loved one who consistently neglects to include me in their important life events (ones they once couldn’t have imagined without me), or who acts as if it’s odd that I have an emotional reaction to our sudden lack of closeness, or who uses unkind language, emotional manipulation, or even inappropriate physical contact (like the slapper) in their response to me, isn’t actually a friend any more. I will ask to be included. I will expect my feelings to be important. I will request kind language & treatment. If their behavior continues unchanged, I will move on. That’s that.

Healthy relationships don’t exist without boundaries. And I’m not here for unhealthy, babe, because I matter.

My Imagination Is Embarrassing

I am a bit of a dreamer. One of my favorite ways to dream is to imagine in my head how certain scenarios might play out if I were ever to live them. I might confront an ex best friend and demand to know why she did and said the things she did, imagining myself looking casually gorgeous and speaking with an eloquence I don’t normally posses. I would of course give her grace and forgiveness, but I wouldn’t be friends with her again, even if she begged (she did, it was my fantasy). Or, I would sit in a cafe, sipping a latte and typing on my laptop as Kathryn Bigelow or Sofia Coppola walked by (always an amazing female director in my inner world, because she’d want me for the talent dripping plainly from my bones but she’d still allow me to be the sexually magnetic creature that I am because she isn’t threatened by that sort of thing). She would stop in her tracks and apologize as she interrupted my obviously deep thoughts. She would tell me she had been looking for a certain type of lady: mid-30s but seems younger thanks to her joy for life, normal to plus-sized, and the very picture of elegant entrepreneur turned deadly assassin at night, which, she’d say, I happen to embody completely. We’d have a quick, witty conversation and then boom! She’d offer me the lead role in her new blockbuster film franchise.

This penchant of mine for getting deep into all-in-my head role-play is delightful when I’m home alone, or even in an acting class, but when I’m anywhere near other people and the least bit bored, it’s embarrassing AF.

And so, our story begins.

One day long ago, on a very long and boring car trip, I began to fantasize about what might happen if I were to see my ex boyfriend on a night out on the town. I would be with a group of girlfriends, I’d have lost 10 pounds, and, thanks to alcohol, I would be feeling flirty and talkative.

His friend would spot me from across the room. Excited to see someone he knew, the friend would shout out my name. I’d be slow-mo grinding with my friends when I casually looked up, tossing my hair over my shoulder with a sexy “oh hey” look on my face. The friend’s jaw would drop and he’d immediately alert his boi – the ex boyfriend.

Ex boyfriend would look up from his bottle of imported beer. He’d see me having the time of my life, but he would know that I knew he was there. And I’d know that he knew that I knew he was there. Finally, I’d look up and bite my bottom lip. Electricity would magnetize us from across the room. I’d stop what I was doing and he’d stop what he was doing, and then, suddenly, the crowd would begin to part as we took seductive, sauntering steps towards one another. We’d meet in the middle of the dance floor, and I’d let him look me up and down. He’d say, “Wanna go somewhere and talk?” And I’d grab the back of his head and stand on my tip toes to whisper into his ear, “Not yet.”

That’s when I would take a couple of steps back. I’d whip an eye back to my girls on the dance floor then start to circle him, creating space. My girls would get in formation, and then boom! E P I C D A N C E B A T T L E.

Suddenly, a gleeful voice cut in to my fantasy.

“What are you doing?” asked my sister, as she held her immense amusement at bay.

“Hmm?” was the only response I could muster as I came back to boring, car trip reality and the giant fantasy-induced grin faded from my face.

What were you doing?” she repeated, her delight evident.

“Umm…” I began… but I couldn’t very well explain to her the vivid scene I had just experienced: the pulsing of the house beats, the sweating of the bodies, the smell of man coming off of my ex.

“You were swaying and murmuring to yourself!” She burst into boisterous, guffawing laughter. “What were you doing?

“Um…” the jig was up. I had to confess. “I was… I was imagining seeing REDACTED at a club or something.”

My sister fell over in her seat. She laughed and laughed and laughed, and I turned bright red and died a little inside.

“But why… why were… what were you… S W A Y I N G for?” she managed, between laughing fits.

Deep breath Shawna.

“We were having a dance battle.” I whispered.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA,” came the response.

“What are you two giggling about?” asked my mom from the front seat.

“NOTHING!” I yelled, shooting my sister an I-will-kill-you-in-your-sleep look.

“Alright.” Mom said, “Anyone have to pee? We’re stopping.”

“YEP, I HAVE TO PEE,” I screamed too loudly.

“Whoa, OK. I guess Shawna has to pee.” Mom said with a laugh.

“Or she needs to express herself through the lost art of the dance battle,” said my sister shortly before I unbuckled my seat belt and launched myself at her face, claws out and teeth bared, devouring her flesh and crushing her stupid spying-on-me bones with my jaws. That’s it. Now you know. The end.