Friday, May 6, 2016

When Aliens Knead You by Kelsey Lueptow

Painting by Arna Baartz


The things that you hear after having a baby are always about looks. So after more than the inherited weight of pregnancy melts away, ribs poking your elbows, you will be called beautiful! and uh-may-zing! You will smile. You will not say that your depletion was due to bare cupboards save the WIC supplements. When asked how you lost “the weight,” like it’s an uninvited houseguest or an infestation, you will say yoga instead of describing what it feels like waiting on student loans and child support, ignoring your hunger while scrubbing the abandonment issues off your shoelaces. Never mind that your face is pale and your fingers shake and you get dizzy—a lot. Never mind.

In line at the DMV is the first place you do not recognize yourself. Borrowed jeans the only thing that will stay up. A little fuzz behind your eyelids, you’re not sure if this is what you really look like or not. Needle straight thighs. Straight lines. The four walls of a new ID for a new job (where the secretary tells you that you do not look like you just had a baby) frame your face. Frame your angles. You take your glasses off for the glare. You look beautiful. At Mother’s Day brunch with your family the waiter is an elementary school classmate who says he did not recognize you and you are meant to take this as a compliment. Amid all the ways you are hurting, the truth is you take this as a compliment. You hold it in your cheeks while adjusting your son’s fedora. While saying thank you. While trying not to look like you haven’t eaten in weeks in front of your parents. They might worry. You look beautiful. You fix his fedora.

At the grocery store for the first time in six weeks, you read your oversized WIC vouchers like scripture. For June 2011:

VOID IF ALTERED – VOID IF VENDOR DOES NOT HAVE A VALID IOWA WIC CONTRACT

ONLY WIC APPROVED FOODS MAY BE PURCHASED – NO SUBSTITUTIONS ALLOWED

97-97 Family ID: 372XXX Name: Kelsey N. Lueptow
4 Can(s) 14-16 oz. Beans, Refried or Black
2 Gallons of Milk – Unflavored Only
The Humiliating Eyerolls From 16 Year Old Bag Boys
1 Lbs. Vegetables, Frozen and/or Fresh
The Flush From Somewhere Below Your Neck, Below The Dip Of The Baby Carrier Into The Cart, Below Your Fingernails, Behind Your Eye Sockets, Beneath The Grinding Of Your Organs In Protest. No Substitutions.
3 Can(s) 10-12 oz. Juice (Frozen), Approved Brands
36 oz. Cereal or Less, Approved Brands
9 Can(s) Formula, Similac Sensitive

It takes you over an hour to assemble the cart. You aim for accuracy, for a small line with a kind smile. You have trouble reading people these days. You have trouble reading. Your first trip to a bar postpartum, your son will be a howling silence during his father's weekend—something you are pretending you can cope with. And strange women will approach you and lift their shirts and tell you that you are so lucky you don’t look like this. You are so lucky you don’t have stretch marks, like an alien kneaded your stomach gently when you were most malleable, a metaphysical massage with surreal implications. Co-workers will ask you behind the restaurant between their Marlboro green puffs to lift your shirt. And you will oblige them, the women, the co-waitresses, and they will say: huh.



-Kelsey Lueptow, a piece from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy.


Kelsey N. Lueptow has a Masters in creative writing and pedagogy from Northern Michigan University and is pursuing a Masters in literature at Marquette University. She has contributed to Everyday Feminism and Diary of a First Time Mom. She has published pieces in Red Paint Hill, Pidgeonholes, The Wisconsin Calendar of Poets 2015, and East Coast Literary Review, among other beautiful journals. These essays are part of her creative writing thesis, which threads researched academic essays, creative nonfiction essays, and poetry about the politics of motherhood in a braided form.

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