The Manqué (podcast) Episode 13: Be Your Own Mommy Blogger

Monica Benevides Avatar

It’s 2020 and reading a book is an accomplishment. Monica talks about two books she’s read and is reading (Less and Where the Crawdads Sing), and makes a defense for being one’s own mommy blogger. Mary will be back next week, cheers!

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Monica (00:05):

Hey everyone, welcome back to The Manqué. I’m your hostess. Monica Bush, not joined by Mary Stathis this week, but uh, in the interest of making my obligatory weekly promise, she will be back next week. God willing. Now this isn’t a book club episode per se, but I did want to start out and say that since we last spoke, I have read two books. Well no that’s not true. I have read one and a half books, but it feels like I’ve read two books and this feels very momentous to me for several reasons. Among them being that I against my better judgment, set myself a Goodreads reading goal that is absolutely 100% not attainable for my, for my current lifestyle. But you know, when I was updating my good reason formation at the beginning of the year, because you know, before I even thought about setting a goal, I had already set a goal and that goal was that I am going to read more.

Monica (01:14):

I love reading, I love books and for some reason, you know, as you have heard me say, it has been so difficult to keep up with this hobby that I actually care so very much about. And I just have to laugh to myself because I literally spent six years in higher education pursuing reading and reading adjacent fields of study. I mean, who does that? And then just gets out on the other side and just stops. What does that mean? And now before the naysayers jump in here and say, Oh, it means that maybe you don’t actually like reading that much. No, that’s not true because I’ve read four or five books since the turn of the new year and I swear to God that the quality of my life has improved. And you know, maybe it’s also the other things that I’m doing for sure.

Monica (02:09):

You know? Yeah. Meditation, whatever, taking CBD again, whatever. Sure. Yeah, that’s making a difference. I guess. I’m kidding by the way, but seriously, like making the concerted decision that I’m making a concerted effort and it ended a deliberate decision to come home and not default to sitting in front of my television. Look, there’s nothing wrong with that, but not doing that. I feel like my brain is functioning at a better, I don’t know, not speed, but I feel like my mind is more organized and I also just feel like I’m a little bit more just intellectually stimulated. And now maybe this is just obvious, but you know, when I started talking last year about how difficult it is to finish books anymore, especially in the last couple of years since I’ve been out of grad school, I got a lot of people responding to me saying that they felt exactly the same way and it was just like it became a frustrating and even like just demoralizing process to pick up a book and even, you know, with the best of intentions, tell yourself, Oh, you know, I’m going to get through this and then get halfway through and just not think that you have you stopped thinking that you have the intellectual power to sit down after a full day at work and then commenced to just engage with your mind and engage with words on the written page after.

Monica (03:37):

If you’re like me, which you probably are just staring at words on a screen all day. It’s like you need a break, your eyes need a break. You just want to like stream and fall into the, the, the comforting stream is just spacing out watching Netflix. But you know, when I was reading Little Women last December before the movie came out, I just, it brought me back, you know, it brought me back to being 10 11 years old and reading that book for the first time all the way through and identifying with Joe. And it reminded me frankly how much I love writing and how much I love reading and how, you know, despite the fact that my career is literally based around writing and presumably the people that read the things that I write, I hope I was just demonstrating absolutely no passion in my personal life with regard to either of these things.

Monica (04:37):

So I said, you know what Monica, you, when you were in high school and you were applying to colleges, you were so scared that you were going to get to college and you were not going to know anything about books. And by that I mean classic literature. And so why just being the nerd that I was and being so obsessed with getting into college as I was for several reasons, among them being that I just like knew that I needed to get into college and succeed if I was going to escape this, just like cycle of poverty and bullshit. Um, I knew I needed to catch up. I knew I needed to go into college, not just being an English major, but being someone who knew something about literature and I just sort of started haphazard leaf piecing together my own syllabus. I just would like think of classic novels that I had heard of and be like, okay, I need to read that, I need to read that, I need to read that.

Monica (05:34):

And I did that, you know, during the school year a little bit. And I did that during the summers and you know, and I didn’t, you know, I accomplished a bit. I’ve, I’ve read some books that, you know, were never actually taught to me, but, which are reference points, you know, whether in academia or in, you know, like popular culture and I, I dunno, I felt enriched and I was proud of that, you know, and I am still proud of that. And you know, there’s, you know, despite the, the leftist in me, um, there is still a part of me that was just raised in this waspy pick yourself up by your bootstraps culture that can’t help but be proud of myself when I work really hard and accomplish something. And I felt like I really accomplished something there. I, I committed to devoting so many hours to reading and I don’t know how many books I read.

Monica (06:24):

I, you know, and it’s like, if someone asks you what your favorite movie is and suddenly you can’t remember ever having read, read a movie, you know how you do that with movies? You read them. Um, you just forget that you’ve ever seen a movie in your entire life and you’re like, Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never watched a movie. Or like if someone asks you the same question about what music you listen to, so I’m not going to list sit here and like list every book I read in high school. But when I’m trying to say is that I was so passionate about being someone who didn’t just go to school and get an English major and then like just never use it. Like I really wanted to be entrenched in that field of study. So I did my best to embed myself, I suppose in that realm of academia.

Monica (07:12):

Anyways, I’ve been thinking about that person and I’ve been thinking, where did she go? You know, like what happened to her. I think about this and other areas of my life too, but you know, obviously all I can ever do these days is discuss the pros and cons of nostalgia for some reason. And that’s what we’ve been doing here at Monquet a lot. And maybe it’s because we’re all approaching the age of 30 and I can’t help but admire myself for having had that passion. And I’m like, you know, I promised myself that I was not going to be someone who just went to college and just studied classes and then didn’t use any of that knowledge. I wanted to follow my passions, I wanted to do things that I really cared about and then I was enthusiastic about. And so one of those things was reading.

Monica (08:02):

You know, I love to tell the story about how when I was in early high school or late middle school, I was such a reader that one time to punish me. My parents grounded me from books. And so I guess what I’m trying to say is nothing novel by any means, but I just think it’s worth recognizing that we sometimes let our hobbies and interests just sort of lapse. And it’s not that we don’t care about them, it’s not that I’m not an active reader and writer. If I go through a period of time where I have to do other things and I just get emotionally bogged down or distracted or you know, maybe I just don’t feel like doing the things that I, certain things anyways that I enjoy. For a certain period of time. I don’t know guys, I just want to say that if you feel guilt about not pursuing that you love.

Monica (08:56):

And by that I mean literally that could be anything. Maybe you haven’t made cookies in a while or maybe you haven’t taken photos in awhile or maybe you haven’t read a good book in a few months. That doesn’t mean that you’re out of the game. So anyways, the book, the first book that I read was actually one that I shamed myself for buying for Nathan and never reading. Um, like last year, um, that was the book less that won the Pulitzer for fiction and that is a book by Andrew Sean Greer and it follows and older writer who is middle aged and he wants to avoid the wedding of his, I guess ex boyfriend, but he like doesn’t really even want to call him a boyfriend. He sort of just completely in denial about how important the relationship was to him. And so what he does is he accepts all of these like very like C list B, list it, literary events around the world and just like takes off for a few months and goes and travels and just whatever, you know, like just tries to avoid things.

Monica (10:03):

And it’s, it’s sort of, it was very like eat, pray, lovey except fiction and about a man. Um, but I find it just so endearing and it had a happy ending and it was so nice to just read a book that has a happy ending. You know, one of the things that I think made me so fatigued from reading was the MFA, which I’m sorry, this is not an, I hate the MFA podcast, but you know what, this is my podcast and these are my thoughts and I’m just sharing them. But I get so tired of having to always read like literature with a capital L, you know, like the literary fiction and literary nonfiction has its time and its place. But sometimes, and I mean for, for heck sake, this book actually won the Pulitzer. So, I mean like do it that which you will, but it’s so nice to sometimes just read a story that’s nice and it’s entertaining and perhaps it’s endearing and you relate to it and maybe it feels, makes me feel good.

Monica (10:59):

And you, you close a book and you’re like, wow, maybe you know, things in my life will work out and maybe the relationships in my life will work out and maybe not everything has to be like a seven layer trudge through all of the bad things that happen in the world and all over the horrible relationships that we encounter and that we deal with in all of our struggles. Because I have to tell you that I deal enough with that in my daily regular life. And sometimes when I pick up a book at 7:00 PM on a Tuesday, I just want to be intimately connected with fictional characters whose troubles don’t feel entirely insurmountable. Does that make sense? I think that that’s a fair ask. And I think that, you know, there are a lot of people who work in, uh, in and around publishing and in and around literature and criticism.

Monica (11:49):

And you know, like book media, entertainment media really like at large, who really don’t appreciate the fact that some art is really just intended to be entertaining. So I read that book and it was a delight and I won’t get into it because I know that this is not a book club book, but I do want to say that on Sunday this week I picked up where the crawdad sing by Delia Owens and I’m like the last person in the world to read this book. Uh, according to the New York times, it was like the bestselling adult fiction novel of 2019. And obviously you’ve seen it all over Instagram. Everyone in their mother has seriously read this book and I’d had no idea what it was about. And I actually did something this weekend, which was like, you know, groundbreaking. I went to a bookstore to find a book to read.

Monica (12:39):

And I don’t mean that because people don’t go to bookstores. I’m not that kind of person. But what I mean is like how rarely do you walk into a bookstore and you’re like, you know what? I want to read a book tonight. I’m going to go get a book, I’m going to get a book and I’m going to read it instead of, you know, just happening to go in there to look for something specific or you know, going to the bookstore because it’s a lazy afternoon and you want to kill some time and look around. Like it felt so intentional and I was so overwhelmed to like go in and peruse the tables full of books on display and like I walked around the fiction section and I was just like, the possibilities here are endless right now. It was like, honestly it was so rejuvenating to just be like I am going to buy something and I am going to read it today.

Monica (13:24):

I’m not going to throw it on my bookshelf and like ignore it for six months and then feel bad and then write a post on Monquet about it. I’m going to go home and I’m going to read a book and I wanted to read something that was like relatively new because I’m, you know, much like my teenage self who was trying to catch up on old literature. I’m trying to make a concerted effort to stay a little more present. And, and by that I mean reading more and this is not a good example because everyone has, every one has read this book. But you know what I mean, like at a little less like only having read like Sally Rooney, you know, or JIA Tolentino who I love deeply. Their writing is excellent and it’s so great, but you know, it’s like, it’s easy to read the book that literally everyone is talking about.

Monica (14:05):

But it’s another thing to just sort of like, you know, peruse the, the new, the new book table and you know, just kind of stay abreast of what’s going on. Um, so anyways, long winded introduction to what ultimately is just like a two second comment to say that I bought this book and I sat down on Sunday and I read half of it and I honestly had to rip myself away from it because I had other things to do for work and for you lovely people. And I am just so looking forward to after I finished recording this, like eating dinner and going to bed and just reading this book until I fall asleep. And that reminds me so deeply of why I even decided major in English in the first place. When I was in like middle school, I was like, I’m going to go to college and I’m going to study books and I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Monica (14:58):

I, although I am a teacher now a little bit on the side. Oh wow. Wow. Catch me undercutting what I do for my own career development and income. Um, but I didn’t want to, like I didn’t go into it being like I want to be an English teacher. I went into it being like I want to write and I’m really good at writing and I love to read and I’m really good at writing about reading. And so it like is just the natural field of study for me. And so I did and I did well and that, but that passion that drove me there, that came back to me as I just laid on my couch for like five hours reading a book and I just, that is the kind of thing that I am after. You know, that is like the kind of good feeling that kind of, it’s like it makes, it increases my sense of self worth.

Monica (15:54):

I don’t know how else to describe it. To sit down and to read and to like engage with something that I love that is time consuming, that requires, you know, like some level of like active, productive brain activity. It just makes me feel good. But you know, I’m really rambling here but you know, that’s fine. That’s what we do here and I’m just gonna try so hard to stop apologizing for when I go on tangents. But it’s hard, you know, work in progress. What I did want to talk about, however is the fact that my half birthday is coming up next week. It’s going to be on Tuesday. I am going to be 27 and a half, which is weird to say. I don’t feel like I’ve aged past the age of 17. This is the pets interrupting podcast, don’t you forget. But anyway, so that made me think about, um, when I was in high school, when I was a junior in high school, I have another friend who I love very dearly and her birthday is really close to mine and you know, like we were kind of like in peak, like a silly teen mode around this time, you know, [inaudible] we sort of cracked the formula that if we were just like very goofy and just like really just followed our silly impulses to like say things and like just be kind of weird around people that, you know, people kinda like that.

Monica (17:17):

And maybe that sounds shallow, but I mean, what else are you doing in high school besides trying to get people to like you? If you were doing something else, I commend you, but that’s not my experience. And that wasn’t my experience of anyone else. I knew basically the to do list everyday was get people to like me and get into college. And you know, I think I accomplished both of those things by the end. But anyways, so I don’t know who, whose idea it was. I don’t remember. But at some point, you know, someone, one of us said, let’s throw ourselves a half birthday party. And I have to say that like, it’s very embarrassing in hindsight to think about the fact that I think I probably was calling it like an unbirthday party because I think that that happens in Alice in Wonderland. And I thought that like the Mad Hatter was cool.

Monica (18:04):

No, I promise you I was not like a hot topic aesthetic, Mad Hatter person, but I just like, like the silliness of like crazy tea party, crazy hats. Like that was kind of like my mental mood board and it honestly, it still is, but I just try to hide it a little better than I used to. Um, so I don’t know who suggested it, but we were like, you know what? Let’s do it sometime.. We were like, let’s have a half birthday party and reader, listener, we did, we held it at her house. Our third friend in our little trio of girls helped plan it and someone made a cake and I think the cake said happy retirement because like that was like the level of like just like giggling this and like weirdness that we were exuding. I wore like a weird outfit.

Monica (18:52):

We took a bunch of photos, we had a bunch of people came over. I remember there was a bonfire. We played a manhunt in the woods at the end of the culdesac and we just had a great time. It wasn’t like a gift situation or anything like that. We just wanted our friends to come and have a good time and like, I don’t think there was alcohol or anything like we were just like being wholesomely goofy and I love that. I love that we did that. And honestly, every year come March 3rd I start to think about half birthday parties. And how I really wished that I had thrown myself one again this year. Like I really wish I was throwing myself a half birthday party this year, but I am not. I am too busy. Things are crazy. There’s not enough time to throw a party and I have to be real with you that I am a little still fatigued from the holidays and the holidays were two months ago.

Monica (19:43):

Um, but what that did make me think about is how like, although I’m not throwing myself, I have birthday party this year, I have not stopped being extra like at all. And I was thinking about that and I was thinking, you know, that is something I really like about myself. Not that I am flamboyant or too much. I try not to be too much. You know, I think I’ve dialed it down to a tolerable decibel and tell my decimal. I don’t even mean my voice. I just mean like personality, decimal because let’s be real. Like personalities have decibels, they have, they have a sound, they can be quite loud. And, but what the way that it manifests now is in like I keep, I’m an adult. Okay. And let me tell you that like for example, Valentine’s day just happened. Nathan doesn’t really care about Valentine’s day and that’s fine.

Monica (20:38):

Like I don’t like expect anything of it. I do expect that we will like spend the night together and have a nice dinner and that’s what we do. But I can’t get past how much I love the corny aspects of it. And by that I mean like I always do some sort of like the Matic breakfast. Like this year I didn’t have time to make anything because I’m, I was teaching the night before but I like brought home like heart-shaped Dunkin donuts, donuts and like that to me is like the best. Like who doesn’t love like a corny kitschy how the day snack meal, breakfast. Like I don’t eat donuts for breakfast. They make me sick if I eat them for breakfast, I love them as breakfast dessert, which is something that isn’t as ubiquitous as it should be. You should always have dessert after like especially like a brunch situation.

Monica (21:27):

You ever like had a pile of, you know, like eggs and like a bloody Mary and then been like, Oh, now I’m going to have a piece of chocolate cake because trust me, that is something that is lacking in brunch culture. But anyways, the point was it was just fun. It was like nice to like do something stupid that costs like what is it? I don’t even know how much I half dozen donuts cost. I thought it was a coffee order that I was getting. I don’t know. What is it, like $4 $5 $6 I have no idea. Um, but I just like to see him laugh and like make me feel festive on this like stupid Friday, which by the way I ended up like violently ill the next day because I had like some sort of like flu situation that I thought was a cold and then I just like was miserable.

Monica (22:10):

But you know what? You know what I remember though, I remember eating these like really bland but so pretty like pink frosted donuts. Anyways, I love doing that stuff. I like wish that I could like decorate the kitchen for Valentine’s day. You know what I mean? And like I am just that person. I like silly traditions. We threw a Halloween party last year and I loved it. I love hosting. I love like getting a bunch of like tacky decorations and like hovering my house and having people come over and just like celebrating and what I really hate. What I really hate. Like I am literally like it is my job to understand both sides of things and like people who disagree but I can not, I can not comprehend people who hate holidays. I understand that they can be stressful. I understand that you might have a bad memory attached to them.

Monica (23:05):

You know what? That is like a valid legitimate reason. I’m not talking about people who have like legitimate reasons for like being stressed or not enjoying the holidays because like let’s be real. Like Christmas is like not fun. It’s Christmas Eve because it’s the buildup to the holiday that makes like in that situation in the holiday worth having, I get it. Like you know what Christmas day is like, just like less and less cathartic. The older that I get regardless, people who just for no good reason other than just being like so contrarian and cool and edgy like love to post and like Facebook there they’re like 300 words status or like even worse. They’re like one sentence status about like why people who are celebrating whatever holiday at hand are just foolish there. They’re so silly. There’s a stupid, they can’t even tell that the hallmark companies are just tricking them.

Monica (23:59):

You are bamboozled. You sheep, you, you mindless, mindless sheep who can’t think for themselves. You’re so gross. Why don’t you just have no joy in your life like I do? Those people make me want to like scratch my nails down a chalkboard just to feel anything other than the abject misery that they are attempting to project on everybody they know for no good reason. I hate those people. Well, I’m sorry, the like raised as a Christian in me doesn’t want to say I hate those people but I hate what they’re saying. Okay. I can get an ounce of joy out of this world. And if that joy comes by way of conversation hearts or a really dubiously executed out event calendar, you should be allowed to just have that joy without having people jumped down your throat or condescend to you as if you are less intellectual because you enjoy something that is marketed to the masses or participated in by the masses.

Monica (25:15):

But I also think that you can be like extra and in celebratory outside of the realm of actual holidays too. And that’s what I was thinking about with my half birthday party because you know what, like it is like it was this dumb thing that we did for sure. Like I’m not going to pretend that it was like some salon where we like got around and we like talked about Madame Bovary. I mean, no, we were teenagers. We were just like silly suburban teenagers and at this point in South Carolina and we just wanted to have fun. And I know that no one’s attacking me for this, but it just makes me consider how quick we are to put people down for just wanting to, you know, celebrate themselves. And so I was thinking about this and I was like, you know, what we really need to do is we need to be our own mommy bloggers.

Monica (26:06):

And by that I mean, I don’t know. I’ve been like obsessed with mommy bloggers for a few years now. And I know that’s obviously not unique because look at how successful that industry is, but is there’s this fascinating thing that happens where they just, you know, they celebrate like every tiny moment in their child’s life. Like it’s like this is my like fourth child, fifth step, third donut, second Christmas. And it’s like, okay, I don’t think that that’s a milestone, but I’m glad it makes you happy and your pictures are, have a really nice aesthetic. So I’m going to keep following you anyways even, I don’t actually care about perhaps the significance that this photo marks for you. Uh, but I’m glad that we’re both getting something out of this, but you know what? Like, why can’t we be like that for ourselves? And I mean, I guess no one is saying you can’t, but there’s all, there are all of these Moore’s, you know, especially on social media about like not being too self-congratulatory.

Monica (27:05):

And I’m not talking, I lost some personal news, but you know, like people are like, Oh, Instagram’s a highlight reel. And I’m like, yeah, well who cares? Who cares if it’s highlight reel? I don’t know. Like I contradict myself a lot and you know, I, well I have been known to use the hashtag hashtag make Instagram casual again because I also believe in that. But I just feel like we really need to be free to celebrate little things and like, I don’t know, like I’m planning a wedding right now and one of my regrets is that we didn’t have an engagement party. And then when it became clear that we weren’t going to have time to have an engagement party, I started to feel bad for even wanting one, even though that’s like very much ingrained into wedding planning culture at this point. And it’s like a normal thing.

Monica (27:53):

And I was like, Oh well who am I to think that I should be able to have a wedding party? And then like also a bachelorette and then a wedding. And I don’t know why I think this way and maybe it’s because I was just raised like in a very waspy culture where like we are taught that we are nothing close to the center of the universe and we should never try to position herself as such. Or maybe it’s social media shaming and maybe it’s just like insecurities and maybe it’s all of those things, but you know what, it’s, it was really just that I, we didn’t have time and like I start constructing this narrative in my head about how like I actually didn’t deserve it and I was too much to ask if people, and why would I talk to myself like that, you know, like I deserve no, stay with me.

Monica (28:43):

I deserve to want to celebrate milestones in my own life. And so does everybody else. And everybody should be free to do that. And look, I don’t know. I, I’m sure right now that you are nodding your head along with me to some point. And if you’re not then we probably just don’t see eye to eye and we probably won’t. But you know, I really see the value in what is I guess best termed as [inaudible] and man, you know like life is hard and we just deserve to be excited and to like find things to be excited about. And you know, I was thinking about like, you know, I do this in my daily life too and part of it is me just trying to stave off just depression and especially seasonal depression. But like I’m always trying to dress things up and you know, I’m trying to like keep pretty candles and pretty smelling candles and you know, like pretty flowers around my house and I do these things because I want to feel like I’m in a perpetual like state of celebration and maybe that’s going to numb me to the feelings of like ecstasy and joy.

Monica (29:46):

But you know, I don’t know, maybe it’s the serotonin levels of mine that had been at an all time high because it’s been unseasonably warm up in new England for February, but I’m just feeling very optimistic lately and I’m also just feeling like I very much deserve to, you know, just earnestly celebrate like the significant occasion that is waking up every day and just living my life.

Monica (30:16):

I don’t know. I hope that this made sense to you and I hope that you can take this with you on your day or wherever you’re going or whatever you’re doing because I’m just here to say that like if you want to do something and you’re like, this is going to bring me joy. Like I want to have this party or like I want to Mark this occasion and it’s not going to hurt anybody else and it’s not going to inconvenience other people and I might actually bring other people joy. I think you should be able to do that. I think that you should buy the conversation hearts. I think that you should celebrate the fact that you worked out five days in a row for the last four weeks straight. I think that you should celebrate the fact that you know, you actually took your nail Polish off and didn’t just let it chip away until your nails were just like the identical to like a six year old who’s got her nails painted in October and just like let it fade away until the new year.

Monica (31:13):

You know, like if you’re doing something and you’re proud of yourself, like you should celebrate it. That doesn’t mean you have to spam your Instagram feed, but like whatever, like if people don’t like it, they can unfollow you. But you know what? I just feel like we don’t give ourselves enough credit for our everyday accomplishments. And I think that that bleeds into how we actually celebrate actual holidays and actual accomplishments and actual milestones. And I’m just done with that. You know, I’m just done with it. I know that 2020 is two months in, but it still feels fresh to me and I’m just done with it. You know, let’s just live our lives.

Monica (31:52):

Well, I’ve said my piece for the week. What I will say is, could you please like, follow rates, subscribe, review, all of our social media, the podcast, et cetera, et cetera. We’ve got some exciting things coming down the pipeline at Manqué. I mean that sincerely. We are doing our best to bring you fresh content like every single day. Um, and we would love to hear from you and we would love to have you along for the ride. And as always, you know, we’re everywhere under M A N Q U E magazine on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook. Uh, this is been another episode of the monkey. And, uh, I’m out.

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