How I learned to Proudly Pee “like a man” in Nature
She awakes to the pale grey fog off the coast. It is Sunday and there is light but no sunshine yet. She has to pee. She has become an expert at doing this from her car and moving around from place to place, not staying too long in any one parking spot or pull out off the road. She never leaves a trace of litter, not like some of the others she sees who pull along the roadside. She often picks up their garbage for them, especially in the Presidio where she is very fond of one spot she stays. She protects it. She cares about the land and she wouldn’t be doing this if she didn’t feel forced to have to do this.
She is parked at a 45 degree angle off the road. When she opens the rear door of her car, it is a shield to cars coming from the opposite side, and the rear of her car blocks the cars that come up from behind, on the same side of the road. If she turns around, back towards the sea and grabs one hand on the ceiling handle and holds the backseat with the other hand, she can scoot only her bare bottom out and down off the seat, hanging just low enough to pee outside the car. Her feet remain straight out in front of her, like a gymnast doing rings. She reads the words on her shoes to make it go faster, “Converse All Stars”… or she reads through the Alphabet in her mind, visually, picturing the letters… A, B, C, D, E, F, G… and sings along(in her mind) until she is done. Then she uses a 99% all natural wipe she has already pulled out of the package and cleans her self. She disposes of it in a mason jar that is in the cup holder of the same door where she has just peed. When she gets to a gas station or coffee shop later on, she will empty the trash from the jar. She relieves herself like this whenever she has to, but won’t do it if she sees anyone around at all.
A couple times in the past year, she has seen someone coming (another car, a runner or someone walking their dogs) and she pulled her body into the car so fast she dripped on the car and had to clean it up… but basically, she finds this is the easiest way for a woman with female anatomy to pee from a car without leaving the car, and she is proud she figured this out and can be more independent “like a man” who just gets out of the car and goes and pees on any tree in any place any time they want with no one giving them any stares or trouble for it. This has bothered her all her life; how hard it is for a woman to pee with out getting her shoes splattered on, or when squatting, spraying pee on one leg. Female anatomy makes it so difficult to pee squatting or standing, not just because of the shape of our anatomy or how the liquid is delivered, but because if we squat, we are using muscles that must tighten and then it is harder to relax those muscles, which are required to pee. It’s insanely difficult, and men just don’t get this at all.
“I think one of them is called “Go Girl”… She remembers a woman’s voice once in the restroom telling her that there are now two or three different items you can buy at stores where they sell camping equipment that are especially made to help women pee in the great outdoors, but she is proud she has figured something out that works for her to do this with nothing else but her car. It is discreet and she leaves no trace. She has only pooped this way once when it was an absolute emergency because she was having a stomach thing… She couldn’t hold it any longer and she had to go right that minute, so she carefully scooped up the result with the cardboard from her tea box, and tossed it into the deep, tall grasses where no one would walk. She hoped she never had to do this again, but she was happy she was able to leave no trace, and also happy she knew where all the restrooms were she could use, up and down the coast, from Sonoma to Monterey.
This is one of her favorite places to sleep because she has a view of the Pacific Ocean and awakes to watch the seals resting on the reefs. Today, there are 29 seals in a variety of colors. There is even an orange one. A small grey seal just lost it’s grip climbing onto the dark reddish green seaweed covered rocks and rolled down long-wise, like a barrel down or children rolling down a hillside. “Splash”. The entire seal landed in the water horizontally at once. It climbs back up in another location. All of the others are resting and mostly still in their spots. They are many different colors and shapes…
•Pale grey, almost white
•dark grey like an elephant
•pale tan, khaki
•white with dark grey spots
She has observed the seals here many times before. She remembers the first time she discovered them here and how incredible that was to sit here with them and just observe them quietly. The tide is coming in fast here and they are losing their rocks quickly to the rolling sea. They will have to move soon, or swim and fish. It’s 8:53 am. She wanted to take her sons to see Bethany Hamilton’s surfing film in theaters this weekend, but it has been difficult to be with her sons lately.
They are seventeen now, and the one who works as a lifeguard is annoyed with her not having a job or a home yet, just like his father acts towards her. He has taken on this same, bitter and cranky attitude that Mom is just annoying unless she has money to buy him food at the Good Earth. They were going to go to the beach one day this week, but when she arrived at 9am, his brother was creating music from the garage, and she desperately needed a shower and to fill out forms for a job she was considering. She used up the morning at their home taking care of herself and the boys had decided to bike to Subway and buy themselves sandwiches. When they returned, they only were going to have about 3 hours to do something together because the lifeguard had to work at 5pm. She convinced him to call and try to find a sub for his shift, but after calling three people and his boss, who really stated that she expected him to be there, it didn’t work out. They couldn’t go surfing. This was just going to be a different kind of afternoon.
It was hot in Marin. A perfectly sunny and gorgeous July day, so she started to drive them West, intending to go to Bolinas, but when her son couldn’t get a sub for his shift, she stopped near Samuel P. Taylor and took them to the creek instead. Driving through the redwoods in Summer was still as stunning as ever there. It was breathtakingly beautiful, even from a car. A tunnel of tall red trees, lush deep greens and dappled light and shadows cast to the lavender road. Green, red, yellow and blue sky peeking through the tall tunnel of pure natural wonder.
Gunnar, I love you, she writes.
“I burst out in laughter today, thinking of you dancing around in one red sock and it helped. I am at the lowest point in my life so far. I really miss you.
I took my teens to the creek where we used to go when they were younger. Then, they beamed with joy at falling into water, splashed, the sensory aspect of being outside in nature. Seeing fish, picking up sticks, building dams…
Today, it was like watching cranky old men try to get motivated to paddle and simultaneously beating each other up, throwing rocks or memes at each other- internet speak I don’t always understand. But they eventually soothed, surrendered to the water and even at seventeen, they both fell asleep on the car ride home.
Watching your sons become seventeen and knowing they have to work, go to college, intern or “become something more” than just a Summer Camp kid is really hard. It’s not fun for Mom to watch them lose their love of simple joys. Mom is poor. She’s alone and can’t afford to live anywhere…
Mom strategizes what she can return to pay bills. She is still angry at their father for not paying any form of true living support, especially when he’s seen her beaten down by the current job and housing market. She’s now 51 and the tech industry women and men she meets only want to hire people their own age, basically, their friends. She thinks about how many other women can not leave horrible situations or can not find work despite the fact they are completely qualified and have been doing this work for 30 years.
She is not free if she is poor. She sometimes feels more trapped than ever. How is she going to resolve this? She wants to show her sons she can pull out of this hell…
The laws regarding women in her situation completely suck. She was never married to their father, so there is no way to ask for alimony legally. The custody chart allows for a measly $200. a week for child support. The attorneys she paid couldn’t help her at all. It was a waste of her time and money, yet she had to go through it. So many years of pain. She is angry but it doesn’t seem to help. It’s been absolutely impossible for her to do anything but scrape by financially over the past three years.
Why me? What did I do to deserve this?
She writes to her ex husband on Twitter, knowing he won’t answer or probably will never see what she is writing. She doesn’t care who sees this.
“Gunnar, Do you still look the same? I would give anything to see you smile again. Catch you laughing at yourself when you think of a brilliant idea… Hope you are well.”
”I hope you are out windsurfing or learning how to Kite Surf or maybe in Oquossoc with Mooses, nieces and nephews. I wonder if the Grape has kids and if they are smart spitfires like she was? I miss the Grape. Beta-Brand… The most colorful one.”
“Being homeless and jobless is really, really hard. Do not be mean to the people you see on the street. You have no idea how quickly a vital and brilliant human can become a victim of abuse and the trauma of loss.”
“I’m reading “Little Fires Everywhere” and it’s ridiculous how much of this book I have actually lived… Seen wealth from both sides and Izzy’s relationship with her Mom was similar to mine. My life is a wild and scary novel and I’m living a page turner, can’t put it down moment.”
“If I rode my bike today, this never would have happened. Instead, you’d have probably seen a happy photo of me, on Twitter, #onmyride because cycling makes you tremendously happy and improves mood no matter what… but I did not ride my bike today. For the first time in probably three years, or close to it. Why? Trying to find housing, jobs, internship for my son…ventured into nature and water instead. It was beautiful but not enough. I need daily aerobic exercise to not lose my mind.”
She stops tweeting…
She sleeps in her car in the redwoods that night and gets up and bikes to Mill Valley. She passes several group rides of cyclists and thinks how she will do that again someday, but now, she must find work and make enough money to survive. She drinks her jasmine tea and charges her phone, buys a Clif Bar at Peets for later, yogurt and blueberries at the local market, then bikes to the Corte Madera Apple Store to return a cord she took by accident.
Yesterday, she’d attended an Apple session with a Brazilian musician from Sonoma who helped her mock up an app idea in Keynote to teach 6–8 year olds painting using the color wheel. She knows how to do this because she learned this in 2017 in her UX Design class, but she wants new input and thinks the class will help her move forward. It does give her ideas on how to teach concepts to kids for her class next week. Aldo does a great job helping her think through her idea and she wishes she could find someone to program it with her, but she can’t afford to pay them right now. She thinks of contacting the RAD Women Who Code group to see if they can help her.
While at the store, she also learns there is a class in Garage Band that her son could take on Sunday in which you remix a song by Madonna called “Crave”. She signs her son up and hopes he will go. She can’t force him to go, but she really hopes he will do it. All Summer long he has evaded her efforts to help him find something to do. He sat in on three college classes at the College of Marin, from Spanish to Advanced Chemistry. Unfortunately, he could not sign up for any of these classes in time because he was involved in a one week DJ camp in San Francisco(which she WAS successful in getting him to attend). Now that the camp has ended, he has nothing left to do for the Summer, while his brother has had a Summer job for two years now. She tried to help him take on an internship and that fell through too. She was really hoping he would make it to this class to remix Madonna, but he skipped it. She has basically given up on trying to help him, and hopes his father will figure out what he will be doing for the rest of the Summer.
Most nights this week, she has curled up under her covers and read “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng, with a tiny bike light or her head lamp. (Spoiler alert… skip this and the next paragraph if you don’t want to know about this book)…She is up to the part where Bebe has contacted the news and she is trying to get her baby back from the McCulloughs. Two pages have just described the many times she has had horrible miscarriages, each one worst than the last… the most awful, at 5 months where they offered to let her hold the dead fetus. It’s excruciating to read, and the concept of this pain for a woman is beyond horrifying and I feel the anger she has as she gets more and more angry at each pregnant woman she sees. Yes, this all makes sense, but Bebe is alone and her real baby is her own family. Her only connection to any living being beyond her work. She only has $611. In her bank account. It all makes sense why the McCulloughs want to keep the baby and also why Bebe wants her infant back. What will happen…? So far, it doesn’t look good.
This book is a page turner because we have learned so much about this wealthy community that Mia and Pearl have become a part of because Mia is a single mom and artist, and Pearl is a smart and beautiful student. She is a good listener and the boys like her. Izzy is drawn to Mia who is a photographer and understands Izzy’s frustrations with the rules of life. These two have become immersed in the life of this family they are renting from and they are suddenly connected with local issues, including the new battle between Bebe and the McCulloughs.
I have been writing my story as myself and all the things that have really happened to me and my sons. My characters have been real people where I have worked or from my past. It makes it harder for people you know to love when you reveal secrets and painful truths about your own family and community and your life really is going poorly. Novelists write about other people and make up their characters, meanwhile, they may be happily married and at home with their own kids, thriving… or they are married and have no kids, but a dog or a few cats. They have it easy. They are not living through the horrors of their real life traumas writing their non-fiction book.
This is why I stopped watching Big Little Lies after a couple episodes because I couldn’t bring myself to imagine Reese Witherspoon and celebrity actresses actually in the real life situations that were happening. The reality is that there are so many women in trouble in domestic abuse situations RIGHT NOW… they are real people in horror stories, and this was a novel, a drama made into a tv series that became so popular but I felt it wasn’t doing anything to actually help me. It propelled Reese and these actors further into stardom while the true lives of people affected by domestic abuse actually continue to drag on in horrible realities. Seeing this now from living in my car as I write this is even worse. I would like to meet Reese Witherspoon and Oprah someday, but I feel like they could never understand what I have really been through. What other women who are stuck in horrible situations and want to be able to love their children every day but they can’t… and then their children are basically forced to live with the person who has the money even if that is the person who most caused the frightening behavior in the home. I lost a lot of time with my sons, from ages 14 to 17(2016–2019).
Back to Sunday, watching the seals…
By 10am, the tide has risen and all the seals are gone. There is a faint line of baby blue sky peeking through where the grey has parted. A fishing boat sits off the coast, close enough that if they or she had binoculars, they each could see the other up close. She can’t pee now, she thinks.
Two men with fishing rods and a pale white bucket have come and gone. Another man walking a gray pitbull has passed back-and-forth along the trail. The cars on route one are more frequent now and the sun is starting to warm the foggy day, rays occasionally reaching out through the fog. There will be sunshine on this Sunday with vivid colors… green stalks of Queen Anne’s Lace, yellow dots of roadside wild flowers. Pelicans and seagulls. How she wishes she could bring her sons here to spend the day at the beach away from their screens and not have them fight. How she wishes she could take them to see the Bethany Hamilton film “Unstoppable” that she had planned to take them to see this weekend. If only she had more time and money to be with them, she could teach them to be kinder, gentler and more loving men. Not angry and toxic and controlling like their father.
The painting class in San Francisco she is teaching tomorrow is going to be interesting. She looks forward to meeting school-aged kids and learning all about the things they love and teaching them how to see and paint life in true color. She will teach them the color wheel and share books of paintings and talk about techniques and texture and abstraction and she looks forward to seeing what the kids come up with. She isn’t sure this part time job will be anything more than just a Summer job, but she hopes it is meaningful to her and she can be a great teacher to the kids. She is living life one day at a time, and she has just barely survived from April 23rd to July14 with no income at all. She can’t believe she is living like this, but she believes it will get better somehow.