The mom bra

Not a mom braMy husband holds out his marred hands. The new blisters from raking the lawn are offset from his hockey calluses and he invites me to look them over with a bit of pride. These are marks made by care taking and he loves to take care…if not of his hands.

Sharing the slant of morning sunlight from our East-facing window I look away from his palms into my bra drawer. I am faced with the same choice every morning; the soft comfort of plain cotton versus the scratchy, sexy lace. After years of feeling like I am choosing between the slippers and stilettos of breast fashion I visited a high-end lingerie store. There the brusque woman had manipulated my chest, squeezing and plumping, lifting and tightening, clucking and re-adjusting.

She deemed me a 40G which I joked sounded more like an apartment number than a bra size. Maybe she had heard that one before but she didn’t smile. I explained that I was looking for a hybrid. Something that gave me lift and shape but didn’t make me want to rip it off in a bathroom stall by 11:30 am. Expertise and exorbitant prices had not changed a thing. The new lace boob prison scratched open sores into my side as I shifted against the underwire. By the evening I was pulling the pointy parts away from ribcage with my thumbs as I sipped wine with a friend. Instead of the enjoying the wine all I could do was whine about the wire.

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]She deemed me a 40G which I joked sounded more like an apartment number than a bra size. @annawritesstuff[/Tweet]

So here I was, my husband examining his hands and me the neatly folded fabric bras.

Remembering his pride in his pain I asked him if he ever made choices that hurt him for vanity.

“Just pulling out that one long eyebrow hair” he answered. Together we listed his self inflicted aches and pains. His ski boots were tight, his arms ached as he carried our sleeping boys to bed, sometimes he burned his hand going after an escaping bit of stir fry from the wok, but in general his irritations were for love of sport or family, not in response to any societal expectation of beauty. “In fact”, he added, face thoughtful, “I think I pull the eyebrow hair to keep my conversations running smoothly. I notice people distracted by it when we are talking. They look from my eyes to my brows and we lose the train of thought of our talk.”

For the most part I resist general societal ideas of beauty, particularly when they cause me discomfort. I wear clogs and let my eyebrows take their natural shape. I consider the newly forming lines in my face the patina of a life of laughter and thought, and never try to cover them with makeup or erase them with Botox. Somehow my breasts didn’t get such leeway from me.

I remember the days of nursing, when they were magically elastic stretching away from me like silly putty as my sons craned their heads toward sights and sounds outside of my embrace. My breasts retained that stretch, forever marking the time that they were a time of sustenance. Why would I try to reverse those sign? Why don’t I take care of them with comfy cotton and let them tell the story of how they took care of my boys.

I pulled the softest bra from the batch and began to fasten it around my back. “I love this one” my husband told me, and reached out with his callused hands to help.

A version of this post was originally published on Ravishly.


The single question to ask to keep your marriage strong

The post on marriage was originally published on the Good Men Project.

I was a kiss ass in school. Anything less than an A left me lingering at the elbow of the teacher wondering what I could do better. I wasn’t a sporty sort, so my version of a trophy came in the form of triplicate tri-fold carried with pride to present to my parents. Whether you loved your reports cards or loathed them, whether being coached catalyzed you or made you cringe I bet most of that regular feedback ended with your diploma.

Couple with sunglassesMaybe it shouldn’t have.

Some of us use scientific principles of recording and reporting to effect change in our daily life. We keep budgets and count calories, we track our runs and share them on social media. Karl Pearson tells us that ”that which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]When did we feel like a team this week?[/Tweet]

Yet, few people apply these methods to our marriages.

Quantifying something as organic as a relationship is not in our regular repertoire. Recent research suggests that it should be. No less of a relationship resource than the Wall Street Journal confirms the benefit  marriages performance reviews.

Because I am almost as much of a data geek as a Wall Street Journal writer, I wanted to try to track the ups and downs of our marriage. Because my husband accepts my inner nerd he threw his number 2 pencil into the ring with mine. I started by printing the progress report attached to the WSJ article. The multi part sheet didn’t seem broad enough to measure all areas of our relationship so I flipped over my page to add on open ended questions. I love an essay. I wanted to create a space for individual ratings so we could benefit from Pearson’s law. I created an emoticon rating system tied to numerical values. I love a graph.


As I reached for a second sheet of paper with a cramped hand, I glanced across the table at my husband. He had the tip of his tongue between his teeth, showing me the care and concentration he was taking with his task. He had written a single line. It read:

When did we feel like a team this week?

Suddenly my graphs and essays seemed superfluous. I pushed my paper aside and leaned towards him. His single sentence reminded me that making the individual grade was not our goal. I was finally part of a team sport. We had found a way to measure our relationship that was more natural than a strict quantification, but just as useful for us.

Whether you follow a strict format of measuring and reporting like Pearson, or develop a single touchpoint, any time you spend working at your partnership will bring positive change.

His simple question led us into a complicated conversation. We talked about our parenting, our physical relationship and the times we felt lonely. He reminded me of the power of my touch and I thanked him for the act of bringing me iced water each night in bed.

We realized that since Steve moved his office home we had stopped kissing each other goodbye as we headed to opposite ends of the house for work. That was something we could easily change. Finally we finished our assessment. Except we hadn’t. As we moved from the table to the couch he draped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in for a kiss. “Now.” He said. “Right now is when we most felt like a team this week.”

– See more at:

Dressing down dressing up

I don’t like to dress up. Heels, makeup, spanx, a bra with underwire. All disasters. Add to those things a few vodkas and I am a dripping, stumbling, bathroom avoiding, chest clawing mess. Like I normally am but more so. As much as I don’t like to dress up it is trumped by my loathing of “dressing up.” As in costumes, theme parties, role play. I know people love it. I am not like those people.

A friend invited Steve and I to a 70’s themed fundraiser. We said yes. That is where the trouble began.

Steve and I have date afternoons on Fridays and a few weeks ago we went to a kick ass vintage shop. I bought a mumu. It was more comfortable than yoga clothes. I was planning to rock this party. I added gold heels, a gold and plastic belt and hoop earrings. All vintage. All perfectly poised to take my mumu from day to night.

Fast forward to party afternoon.

I started by shaving. Remember, it is March. I generally take November to March off from that particular maintenance activity. Needless to say I was exhausted by the time I exited the shower. Then I USED THE HAIRDRYER. This item is older than my mumu. Once a year when I plug it in it groans to life as if rising from a decade long slumber. Once again it decided to blow hot air so I went to work. Oddly my elbow seemed to bed backwards and the brush ended up flat side against my hair. Useless. Somehow my hair ended up dry with ends flipped up a la Carol Brady. This was the very action that I battled for all of elementary school. Today, for one day of my life the flip was welcome.

Playing dress up
Who won that fight?

Leo and Steve went to target to pick out my makeup. My instructions were vague and the cosmetic area is large. Stuff came home. So I put it on my face. Liquid eyeliner all the better to get into my eyeballs. Four shades of shade. Endless combinations. I worked my magic and stepped back. My left eye looked as if I had just stepped out of the ring after a half round with Rhonda Rousey. My right eye looked naked. Thus began the classic add too much to the right then match with the left then the right then the left. Even for the seventies it was too much.

Mumu time. At this point I thought all vanity had left me. But donned in the mumu I realized that wasn’t true. So I went back to my dress. The only dress. I added the vintage bling and called it good. On went the original shoes. Within four steps I had turned an ankle by step 9 I was on the floor. Using two hands to walk down the stairs one foot meeting the next like a toddler I decided that the gold shoes needed to go back in the closet with the mumu.

I made it downstairs in my single pair of shoes. I am feeling ready.

Leo comes in from the park and looks at Steve and I. “Wow!” he says. “You look different…look at your eye highlighter? And what is wrong with your skin?”

Exactly. Exactly.

I take a last look at the two black eyes in the mirror and notice that my hair has turned itself under into a decidedly un seventies bob.

At least Steve looks good.

Dressing up for the 70's

I have more to say about Vaginas

Today I have the debut guest post on the site Making Midlife Matter writing about women’s desires to erase the laugh lines of life from their faces with a ubiquitous injection.

making midlife matter logo
Excellent new Website edited by incredibly talented women. Elena’s personal blog is

My article is a lightly edited version of an anti-Botox post I wrote in the fall. The day I published the original on my blog (Don’t read it, read the one on the new site…fewer typos for me and more traffic for them…) I met a friend for lunch. She is not a regular reader (I KNOW and I STILL eat with her…but I don’t buy her lunch) I asked her what she thought about plastic surgery and she floored me with this one. “I am thinking about having my lips done. My vaginal lips.”

Four responses crowded my brain at once

  1. What. The. Fuck.
  2.  By the time they are down there no one cares what it looks like anyways.
  3. Other than Georgia O’Keefe I don’t know many people that consider vaginas to be as beautiful as flowers.
  4.  I can’t wait to get this on my blog. (Maybe I should buy her lunch.)

I spat out something like “Fuck my ugly vagina blog down there.” It was her time to be confused. After a few calming sips of herbal tea I was ready to try again. I went with my most uplifting rebuttal:

By the time he (in her case) is down there he isn’t thinking about what your vagina LOOKS like. He is pot committed. I mean, he is already all in. What IS it with the poker. He is ready to poke-her. Oh god the tea isn’t working. I decided to cash in my chips and stopped screeching my outrage.

She is calm as she responds. “The surgery has a 90% success rate.”

I am less calm. “Ninety percent??? What could the other 10% feel like.”

I needed more than a few sips of tea as I contemplated these women, propped on pillows, swollen in pain, watching Downtown Abbey and slamming tequila shooters. These were the 90% success women. The other 10% were mangled, numb, or unable to come. Probably all three. Even tequila and the dowager countess would be at a loss with their loss.

waxed legs and high heelsFinally I calmed down enough to talk about the upside of plastic surgery. If someone is fixated on a particular part of themselves that can be “cured” by a simple surgery why not pay for that confidence. We do a version of this when we wax our legs and put on heels.

Nefriti with makeup
Nefriti probably would have had all four lips done if it was an option in 1320 BCE.

Make up has been around for over 6,000 years. A little injection, insertion, snip or tuck is simply progress. Or so the argument goes. I don’t even brush my hair so it comes as no surprise that I am arguing the extreme case for comfort over cosmetics.

A few weeks later at a “Ladies Mexican Fiesta” fundraiser for our public school I bring up the topic to a handful of women in the kitchen. I told you tequila would figure into this.

One sane woman walked out. The rest of us, various shades of blonde, debated the lip surgery. One or two never got past the idea that we were talking about lips that live beneath our nose despite my repeated cries of “VAGINAL lips.” More party goers seemed open to the idea than I would have guessed. I trod the five house home in my clogs and wondered what the ravages of time and hopefully other ravages have done to us.

What it comes down to down there is that the middle aged vagina shows it’s story the way the middle aged face does. Kids and love and lust have all left their mark. Why would we erase that?

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]the middle aged vagina shows it’s story the way the middle aged face does.[/Tweet]


Sex Drive…and sex park.

Pulling into the parking space this morning I felt like a teenage boy losing his virginity. I went in and it was too far to the left. On try two I was too far to the right. In and out I went, off rhythm and crooked. Finally I pulled all the way out to start again. This time it worked. Flipping my back pack onto my shoulder and my hair off of my face I met the eye of a woman parked perfectly across from me. I gave a sheepish shrug hoping for a bit of camaraderie, but instead her eyes were wide and cold. She wanted no part of the mess that is my parking.

This reminded me of a piece that I wrote for The Good Men Project this fall.

Small black car
If this were my car I could maybe park it.

I will paste it here in case you don’t want to click the link.

In my family my mom drove. This was a necessary evil. Each time she saw a potential hazard she slammed on the brakes jolting the three of us forward and testing the functionality of the seat belt. She was also constantly worried we had missed a turn. This was before the era of GPS so there was lots of opportunity for confusion.


Despite the mental and physical exhaustion caused by my mother behind the wheel it was better than the alternative. My father was not a rule follower even when it meant breaking the law and risking the lives of his family. It was his way or the highway…particularly on the highway. My dad decided that it was easier to drive a car when you centered the hood of the car the dashed yellow line that ran between lanes. As a result we were a giant, deadly Pacman driving down the Mass Pike, gobbling dashed lines like packman pellets. The blare of horns was constant, just like my mother’s white knuckles.


In 2010 the Institute of Advanced Motorists found that in heterosexual couples men were four times as likely to drive as women. Amanda Marcotte writes in Slate magazine that men consider it emasculating when women take the wheel. I don’t know what my father thought…but I thought it might well extend my life span from 10 minutes to 70 years.


In our family Steve drives. In the early days of our relationship we would defer to each other. We acted as if driving were the desired position and riding was somehow “less than.” So I would “let” him drive and he would thank me and offer a favor later to show his gratitude. It worked quite well for me. As the years went on we just accepted that he would drive. On days that I had been out and about alone I would walk to the drivers side by rote even when we were headed out together. He would always seem pleased. So I would drive us. The kids would express surprise that I was driving while Dada was in the car and I just told them honestly that I didn’t like to drive very much, and Dada did.


I worried a bit that we were perpetuating a commonly held stereotype about gender roles. This concern didn’t prevent me from staying on the passenger side. I would tell them about my childhood where my mother drove all the time and figure they might chalk it up as personal preference not a societal expectation.


Over the years my driving skills dimmed as my night vision got worse and I had less and less practice. Now I am worried about perpetuating another myth…that women are worse drivers than men. Neither Steve nor I have gotten into an accident with another car in the years we have been together. We have had a few dings and dents… I seem to have a vendetta against trash cans near the driveway. I insist they are purposefully placed in my blind-spot. Steve has a particular curb on the way home from hockey that he has driven over three times. He describes it as jagged and jutting, and entirely uncurb-like. We are tied at zero serious accidents.


According to the National Highway Safety administration men cause 6.1 million accidents a year while women are responsible for 4.4 million, perhaps because (according to the Federal Highway Administration ) they drive 40% more than women. A 2014 report from the Insurance Institute of Highway safety takes into account the above numbers to conclude:


“That means men drive about 30 percent more miles than women. Yet, they’re implicated in slightly less than 30 percent of car accidents. Men do cause more accidents, but they are actually less at-risk than women, by a small margin.” This still leaves things a bit murky for me, which allows us to continue this entertaining debate.


There is one area that leaves no room for debate. I am the worst at parking. Not just the worst in my family, but possibly the worst in the world. I can easily spot my car in a lot because it hangs so far out past the other vehicles. After observing this a few dozen times I made a correction and began to pull into spots so far that the parking blocks became one with my front bumper. So I stopped pulling in as far. Which resulted in me hanging out the back again. A study from Ruhr University in Germany indicates that I follow the rule when it comes to parking. Sixty Five men and women were asked to park an Audi A6 pulling forward into an empty parking spot. They found that women took 20% longer than men to position the car, which in the end was less centered in the bay than the cars driven by men.


Recently Steve popped into the coffee shop where I was working for what I thought was a quick hello. When he reached for my car keys I asked him where he was headed. “Just to move the car” he told me. “You are taking up four slots.” I had arrived to an empty parking lot at 8am. Now around lunchtime patrons were headed to the sushi spot next door. The problem with staying between the yellow lines might just be genetic. With no other cars in my way I had pulled forward enough to center the cross hatch of the 4 parking spaces under the belly of the beast. My father would have loved my parking job.