how we spend our 4th of July

Ears of corn, cold crispy cherries, a bowl of macerated berries. A cake decorated like the US flag. Shriveled hotdogs. Picnics. Somehow sand always enters the picture, even if you haven’t been to the beach. Bunting. A red bandanna around the neck of a pug or a golden retriever. Pinwheels. And lots of cold white wine. It’s such a clean holiday. Catalog neat. A fixed set of expectations and norms mingling with the whimsy of summer. Jersey tomatoes, fresh salted cheese, a chiffonade of basil from someone who gardens. Pitcher drinks. Half-days at work, where you wonder why you had to show for the first half at all. From last year’s Fourth of July entry:

It was my resolution, and come July 4th each year, I remember it. I celebrate it. And when the fireworks sound from afar, and I begin to grinch out on them, unsure what the whole appeal is, I’ll remind myself that I should be proud. Proud that I cut myself off, forced myself to sever the bad ties and took steps toward my own independence. Even though I’m married with children now, a mother with her own two dependents, I like to remember and honor the strides I took to get here.  And for me those steps required me to walk away, not toward, someone. I like this idea, that the 4th of July should serve as a reminder not just of our country and those who fought and continue to fight for it, but should keep us in check, questioning our resolutions and reminding us where we want to go to feel our most free.

I’m proud of what I’ve gone through to get here. And when I say "here" I don’t mean married or mommy, I mean away from my sandbagging behaviors. I’m proud that I have the courage to live out loud, in the face of people who’ll always look to tear me down for doing just that. And I sincerely hope in sharing how I got here it will encourage others to live their most free lives, free of the fear of what others might think.

It’s as true today as it was last year. It’s one of the best things about keeping a record of your life: you have the ability to chart your progress, to check in and keep yourself honest. In the coming year, I hope to learn what the hell balance is because I’m finding it’s really just an act. I love my time with my children, studying their bodies, knowing the turn of each curve, the shape of each toe, the exact expression of their bellybuttons. I also love what I do for a living. I love creating things that touch people, that possibly make people laugh, or even cry, but mostly make them think. The bottom line is this: when I think of my identity, who I really am, do I think "mother" or do I think "writer" first? I guess it depends on the day, or the minute. Sometimes I feel like a failure at both, other times, I feel like I should be bronzed. Okay, not really. I know the key is to wear all of our identities loosely, that we shouldn’t just see ourselves as our career, our relationship, or our family tree. We’re more than any of those things, and if one descriptor goes away, however sad and seemingly defeating, there’s a lot more to us. Figuring out how many balls to juggle is my challenge right now. Because unlike what I’ve been told, I cannot have it all.

I recognize that in the past it was all about turning away instead of toward someone, but now I’m with someone. In the coming year, I want to make strides to change, so there’s less yelling in this house, fewer power struggles, and much more harmony. It’s a chance to create my own fireworks and light, and I’m not letting it pass me by.

Fourth of July posts of my past:

July 4th, 2005: I felt like I had to kiss her back or else I’d be seen as a horrible kisser. I mean, I’d rather go down in history as bisexual before I was thought of as a bad kisser. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re making out with an avocado.

July 4th, 2004 PHOTOS: Where I emancipated one too many a man from their bedposts



  1. Before I read this post, I was counting the days until Indenpendence Day, now I am counting the minutes!
    To me Independence Day isn't only celebrating our country, but its about feeling independent and free personally.
    Free of long sleeve shirts and coats. Free from hearty winter meals and counting calories. Free of to-do lists and hot showers that dry my skin out.
    We have two months of hot sun, hot sand, hot outfits and hot kisses – I think we should all be living out loud more than we usually do to get the best out of the next two months that we can!

  2. My family has always done the same kind of thing with Passover instead of the 4th, where you can interpret it to whatever your own "slavery" and "liberation" are. Hope you and your family have a good one!

  3. That's a good thing to think about. I've always heard that expectations are premature disappointments, so I've learned to not to put so much weight into what I "think" things should be. That's the biggest power struggle of them all!

    Did you and hubs ever get around to seeing someone that can help?

    FROM SK: No, but now that I'm back (only for a week before heading back to LA, and then to SF)… I think it's best to begin once I return back to "normal"… whatever that is.

  4. "wear your identities loosely" I love that Steph. Really, it's what sets you apart as a writer.

  5. I have been reading your blog for nearly two years and never has a post resonated with me so much that I had the need to post a comment. I have been divorced for nearly a year and am currently treading down the road of independence with a 4-year old holding on to my hip. It's quite a journey and I never thought to look at the 4th of July as a celebration of my own (or our own, as the case may be) independence.

    Thank you for always providing me with such thought provoking posts. You truly are a treasure Stephanie Klein and I am so glad I stumbled upon your life!!!

  6. I read "When you least expect it" a few times hoping that I would find some way to not have to say this: If you don't have a therapist's name already, call your ob-gyn and see if you, or the two of you can get an appointment this week. Every couple has had a bad fight (where you say mean shit to one another) and usually I can sense that there is a back story that puts things in context, but not here.

    I say this, haven't just started to read "Moose", so maybe I am being extra-sensitive. It's great, by the way.

  7. You do look gorgeous in your 2004 photos, but you're even more beautiful now. You have a certain peacefulness about you now.

  8. i'll admit it – I am jealous of your book deals and great clothes. But when i read a passage like the one you posted about you and Phil, I realized just how unimportant those things are when the important things are a terrible mess. I have no idea why you stomach this relationship – pun intended. Get help.

  9. you slapped him in the face – you deserved that fat comment. Even if a slap in the butt hurt you – that sometimes happens to me. If I were to slap my husband in the face I'd be setting a precedent for unwanted behavior in the future. And trust me, I'm no coward but I don't cross that line, ever.
    Slapping your husband in the face is the equivalent of him calling you fat. I thought you understood boundaries – and getting physical is one you should not cross. Especially face-slapping. That's left for cheaters or abusers. And Phil is anything but an abuser.

  10. I wouldn't normally comment on someone's personal life (especially someone I don't know), but I do think that counseling is a great idea. Not because, as the above commenter said, things are a "terrible mess." Every couple goes through weird little moments or phases, and if they don't, then I really have to question how strong or good the relationship is to begin with. I'm just a big believer in having an impartial third party assess the situation and make realistic, sound suggestions.

    Also, to the same above commenter, why would you make a petty joke at the same time as breathlessly judging someone else's life? That takes away from the seriousness or supposed good intentions of your comment, don't you think?

  11. Dear God. No wonder you left comments off that next post. Slapping on the ass might be one thing, but two wrongs don't make a right. Retaliating by slapping someone – your HUSBAND – in the face is just wrong.

    FROM SK: There's a reason comments were turned off. Please respect that.

  12. I'm sorry about what happened between you and Phil. No matter who said what, or who's more wrong, these strange moments of sudden aggression where we are triggered and become emotionally incontinent can feel completely blindsiding. I know that in my life with both of us working from home at creative jobs, a one year-old, no babysitter, and no time, petty resentments can get stored up, pushed aside with the best intentions of "not sweating the small stuff" and then WHAM: all of the sudden, some flip comment about not enough sex, or being too tired, or whatever can push a big red button marked CHILDHOOD SHIT/CHILDHOOD COPING MECHANISMS that's hidden in one of our minds, and things get nasty. In our version, he gets sarcastic and condescending, and I get expository, building an exhaustive argument. Name-calling and hitting may not be our style (or not so far, anyway), but the feelings that come up are just as painful, alienating, and terrifying if you love each other, because they make you taste the possibility of loss – loss of your beloved's esteem and the feeling you get from them when you're unified, at your best.

    In any case, I commiserate, and I don't think you should be in any way ashamed of what happened. You can choose to take it as a sign for both of you to re-strategize how to function better as a couple. We've just started couples counseling (not because we're "in trouble" but because we want things to be better) and I've come to understand that we have both developed defenses and ways of functioning that worked well for us as individuals but not as a couple. So the point of the therapy is to facilitate finding ways of functioning, of getting our needs met, and communicating grievances in a way that is not triggering, so that we can hear each other instead of close off. It's not easy, but it does feel great to know that we're both willing to prioritize this process for the good of our marriage and for our general happiness. It just really helps to have a trusted third party present to make us more accountable, to lend structure to what's said.

    So I just wanted to stress that couples counseling isn't always about seeking help because things are just so bad that you can't stand it anymore, or that you can't cope on our own. It can be about using an outside resource to lovingly, carefully, and mindfully take better care of your relationship. For us, it's especially important to have this outside space away from where we work, live, and parent. I imagine that this might be the same for you.

    On another note, I read Moose in two sittings, two only because I forced myself to save some for later. I wasn't an overweight child – I actually suffered from anorexia to the point that I retarded puberty and didn't get my period til I was fifteen. But I still felt that Moose was relevant to me as a woman who has had body issues and always will, as the daughter of a mother who didn't model good self-esteem, and especially as the mother of a daughter for whom I would gladly give my right arm to grow up differently. I was moved, angered, and entertained, and I thought the writing was so seamless, which I think shows a lot of progress on a technical level from SUAD. I feel proud of you for writing it.

    All the best in all that you do,

  13. I have no comment on your post. I think out of many of your post that was a real "Throat Clearing". I just thought maybe you could use a minute of sisterhood leviety. I had a Birthday
    Party yesterday evening for my Guy. I was in the kitchen chopping some garnish for another appetizer plate laughing with a few of my friends. My guy comes in and gives me a squeeze and says loud enough that my friends here, "Hey Kojack
    where did you stash the Abita beer" Now, I am the first to use humor to deal with my Cancer situation. Seriously. But it wasn't a accident that my best Guy Friend leaned over and moved the large knife out of my reach. I was so embarrassed
    that he pointed out what I am most self conscious about in front of people that I could barely speak to him for the rest of the night. He is really the sweetest guy in the world. Men are just some times the most Dense and Apalling of Creatures.
    Crap just seems to fly out of their mouths. Keep your chin
    up Girly, you rock.

  14. Stephanie, I realize you don't want the previous entry commented on here, but I must reply to the other Lola's comment.

    I disagree with you Lola. I can't believe that you believe Stephanie deserved "to be called fat." Wow. Just wow.

  15. I just think it's pretty hilarious how Stephanie intentionally turned off the comments to her post, and yet some very stubborn and persistent readers found a way to comment anyway. Geez. Makes me wonder how much of a comment is actually directed toward Stephanie, and how much of it is just hoarding attention.

    My comment included, of course.

    Passive reading is apparently a lost art.

    (Though, I'm sure Wendy's comment was quite insightful and constructive.)

  16. I'm sorry, but if you post this stuff publicly, you can't just turn off comments and expect people to "respect that." You chose a public forum, you can't pick and choose the public's reactions.

    And now, if you purposefully turned off comments, that shows you know there was something seriously wrong with that last post. Again, sorry, but there are lines that should be drawn between what is made public about a couple's life and you've crossed it. I don't think it's fair that Phil has no choice about whether or not his family, his coworkers, his boss, etc can read stuff like this about him & his life.

    I find it disturbing that you seem to feel you've done nothing wrong in that little argument. You just don't slap someone in the face. You just don't. As for him slapping you in the ass, it could have been playful but a little too hard, or maybe you just weren't in the mood for it at the time but other times it was ok. Or maybe it's never ok to you. And ok, you can say that's wrong. But it does NOT make it right that you hit back. We all have our hot buttons, yours if obviously the fat/size thing, but our individual issues do not give us carte blanche to attack other people at will.

  17. laugh!
    ya know i was wondering if you'd post that one and I love that you did. Heheh. Thanks for the giggle.

  18. Julie,
    Are those boobies? Or are they eyes?
    Sorry, for some reason, I found that really funny.
    Man, I need a life.

  19. 'Kay, so my sister who I have hooked on your blog and your books and who in turn has hooked a great deal of Jackson Hole
    Wyoming into your sphere was saying that you obviously need to do a piece on to slap or not to slap. That is totally a aside.

    Everybody is focusing on Ole Phil given you what'Fer in the form of a pop and you giving him a smack back. Hey has it dawned on anyone that you were giving as good as you got? I seriously doubt you gave him a full Vegas Knuckle, Jesus. In your post I saw the pain stem from your words. I want to be the "It Girl" of my Guy's life, when a comment is made about weight or talent or motherhood skills, or for example lack 'O hair, it makes one sad. As if we were somehow lacking or not enough.
    It wasn't the slap I read SK, it was the harmless teasing that wasn't so harmless. Like I said. Men= Gomers.
    Yes that is as in… Gomer Pile, My sister said that your slap was preemptive for the dumb comment he made.

  20. ok. i had a comment about that post about you and Phil, and I came over here to make it, and then I saw that you'd rather people keep their (I'm assuming critical) comments to themselves. But since you've indulged a couple of other people with their $ .02, I will say this: I think it took a lot of courage to post what you did – the whole slap encounter – right out there. And for the record, I don't think you both have a "terrible relationship" or whatever some other people are posting.

  21. Whatever. In relationships of equals these quasi-playful quasi-serious encounters happen. And sometimes misfire. It's not pathological, and it's not the end of the world–just a quotidien drama. Perfect fodder for a blog, which is about quotidien drama! Only a pathological person would pathologize the slap-tickle interaction.

  22. I agree with the ones that said that if she didn't want people commenting on a post she shouldn't have made it public in the first place.
    I know that Stephanie is all about "this is my blog/ journal", yet it is still public and she will get comments on a certain topic whether she likes them or not.
    I don't think that the fat comment made was neccesary or deserving for the slap on the face, it is disrespectful of her to slap her husband in the face.

  23. I honestly don't get it. We all have fat/size issues. Compared to you..I look like a whale…yet I'd never slap my husband for JOKINGLY pointing it out (though the slap to me is irrelevant…fact you slept in another room is more important to me). You ain't fat and Phil knows it. And you should know by now that even IF you were fat..he'd still love you.

    For someone who's been great at telling people that looks isn't everything and that we should love ourselves for who we are (unless I've missed the point – I haven't read Moose yet, maybe that's why)..that post..was a disappointment.

    I feel sorry for him and feel there's bigger problems in life than being called fat (or actually have someone imply that you are fat). So *unless* you feel Phil isn't the ONE ..that you indeed have problems and your relationship is a mess..get over it.

  24. I'm sorry but i just think Phil is incredibly mean. Comments like he made are hurtful. To say something like that, so deliberately, he seems so angry. I also have to finally say that Phil always looks SO unhappy and pissed off in his pictures you post. He always looks like he's being bothered. I've never read that opinion but I've always thought it. Also, because I'm probably going to be slammed anyway, I think it's kinda immature of you to post pictures of you and your past men. That is a slap in the face, imho.

  25. 'In complete harmony, when asked for the top three qualities that make a phenomenal lover, we all sang out, “Aggressiveness.” '

    Stephanie it seems your real life behavior often contradicts your written persona. In your recent posts you and your friends heroically voice your desire for aggressiveness from your lovers yet in response to Phil’s slap on your butt you become overly violent and slap him in the face. You claim that Phil used words he knew would be hurtful (which he took back immediately lest you over interpret) yet in Straight up and Dirty you expose what (you) consider shortcoming of your exes (the ones you broke up with) to the entire world with no regard to their feelings. Are there two Stephanies?

  26. ttT, those pictures have been on the site since the beginning.. they were there before Stephanie even met Phil.. Goodness.

  27. Lola–I hope you shrivel up and die. Congratulations, you're one of the biggest idiots I've ever seen online! And an asshole, too. Please don't ever get a job in relationship counseling.

  28. I hate to jump on the bangwagon here about the other post, but these comments are irritating.

    I don't believe that we're all entitled to comment on Stephanie's life because she posted something on her blog. I equate this type of venting to that you would do with your girlfriends. If she were in a public place with friends, telling this story and you overheard it, would you feel free to lean over and comment?

  29. Um… Natasha, this is SO not like venting with your girlfriends. She promotes herself like mad, so that everyone will come here and read and give her attention. So we do. *I* do, it's like a car crash, can't look, but can't turn away. But it's public domain now, baby.

    And yes, if she were in a public space with friends, telling this story – and had spent hours first promoting herself and handing out flyers and telling everyone within earshot that she's got A STORY TO TELL, I'd listen and comment.

    Being a "celebrity" is a bitch, yeah?

  30. I see that there are a lot of comments here on a post I didn't read yet. I just wanted to comment on this post. I don't always agree with your view on things, but this time we're completely on the same page. I recently discovered that life's easier when you accept that you cannot be perfect at everything at once. This really used to worry me a lot, I felt like I was failing at everything, my job, my relationship, cleaning, cooking, friends, the whole deal. But the only thing you can do is your best, and not worry too much. You can still be all you want to be, but you have to set priorities, and that's the difficult part. I hope you'll become more comfortable with all these new roles/identities, I'm sure it will work out for you, you have a loving family behind you.

  31. Hi — this is a little off topic — what sort of a camera do you use? Your photos are gorgeous — and the Hamptons ones are really lovely.

    Off to find a farm stand…

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