The morning began with a dead car battery. I turned on the ignition and it was the saddest, dying robot sound and then nothing. I tried again and swore under my breath, louder in my head. Even though I know just the minimum about cars, whatever I gleaned from Too Fast Too Furious 2: Tokyo Drift and the movie Cars, that sound was the definite flaccidly flying white flag. Mike was at work and my mom was in the backseat, trying to comfort my crying baby. So I called up the neighborhood auto shop, where I had taken my car before and the owner said that he would loan me a portable jump-starter. When I stammered that I didn’t know how to use it, he answered, “I’ll show you! It’s easy!”
I was kind of hoping he would shelve everything he was doing and rescue me, but not only was that unrealistic since he was trying to run his business and all, but also: how effing anti-feminist, Mona. A slap in the face to all the Feminine Mystique-carrying soul sisters. I mean, it’s the stereotypical damsel in distress plus car troubles plus plaintive wail in the street plus mother saying oh why don’t you just ask all your neighbors plus mother also doling out useless advice plus mother telling me I need to cover my stomach because it’s “coming out.” Stereotypical! Transparent!
Because time was essential and the baby was crying, which at times feels like a steel boot on my back–I must do something–I trekked over to the auto shop. The owner brought out the portable jumper and he said, “It’s easy. Put the positive to the positive, negative to the negative. Here you go!” I brought it back to my car, lifted up the hood and summoned every memory of people at the side of the road in the same predicament and how the clamps were positioned and how it must have all worked. And somehow it did work. After the initial twitter-broadcasted panic, my car came back to life, unfettered and free. I did it! (Almost) by myself! I. AM. WOMAN!!!
With my car running in the background, I made out with myself right then and there, not only for being so handy with cars, but for being so fine. Have you seen me in my tattered University of Washington sweatshirt? Rawr! I have your XXX right here, in my pants. Seriously, that’s what the tag says: XXXL.
I had to drive my car for a while to let the alternator charge up the battery, or whatever the autoshop owner told me. And this magical auto-labyrinth led us to IKEA where my mother, baby and I decided to have lunch. Of course, my mother took this opportunity to ask the young lady behind the counter if the salmon filet had dairy because her daughter cannot have any dairy! Then she proceeded to make the international sign for breasts: the up and over the chest air gesture, then she mumbled something about how it interferes with the breastmilk.
I was dying for the girl. She couldn’t have been older than 18 and didn’t need to have her innocence shattered like that. I imagine that when she goes home and washes off the smell of Swedish meatballs and ligonberry sauce, forgets the countless customers mispronouncing entrees because they’re not in English, she will look in the mirror at her still perfect, still in tact body, the way her breasts still sway with girlish buoyancy. Later that night she will call up some friends and they will meet at a Red Robin’s. Their talk will be about the bombastic bottomless steak fries, what movie they will catch later, how ridiculously expensive Spanx are.
There will be no talk of babies and playdates because they don’t exist yet. It will be many years before the girl finds herself looking in the mirror, this time as a new mom examining how her post-baby body has mutated that chest, soft sags of skin hanging from her belly.
She will recall that day at IKEA when that a frazzled, frizzy-haired woman rocked a tiny baby in a stroller while her mother trumpeted breastfeeding woes and then she will look down at her own chest, raw from the searing trauma of a newborn’s suckling and she will catch her own eyes in the reflection and mutter to no one, “Well, ain’t this some bullshit.”