Batteries Not Included

Jeanne Alongi essays

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Several years ago, I suddenly, unexpectedly discovered I was to be a single mother. My husband didn’t want to be married any more. Not to me anyway.

It seemed in those early days, the only path forward was to visualize what I wanted my young daughter to see. And what I wanted her to see was a woman who continued to put one foot in front of the other, who didn’t give up on herself, who made a wonderful life even without the man who she had thought she would love for the rest of it. I’m not going to lie—it was pretty ugly in those early years—I mean days. No I don’t—I mean years.

You know that scene in Terms of Endearment when Debra Winger is looking haggard and undone, dragging her cute, fake-messy movie kids through the grocery story after finding out her husband is having an affair and she doesn’t have enough money to pay for the groceries and the shit just keeps piling on? That’s me in this story. Except instead of that ironically alluring wasting that seems to happen to starlets in times of distress, I’ve ballooned like, well—a balloon. And I’ve chopped my hair into a peculiar looking pixie cut (Yes, let’s call it a pixie cut but we all know no pixie would be caught dead looking like this) and instead of charmingly disheveled, it is frizzy and a weird, washed out, sad, not quite grey color. And instead of at the grocery store, I’m at Costco trying to buy underwear for my 3-year-old and me. Because nothing says I’m as hot as my husband’s girlfriend as panties from Costco.

Our conversation goes like this:

“Momma–what are you doing?”

“Trying to find my size Sweet.”

“Is that your size?”


“Is that your size?”


“Is that your size?”


“Momma–your panties are HUGE!”

Sigh….The pilates instructor with the next cart over giggles and waggles her eyebrows at me.

Now we’re in the office supplies section looking for batteries. I’ve read somewhere or my therapist said or my friend Jennifer who knows everything there is to know about sex and divorce said or my gay best friends who really are the best self-esteem cheerleaders there are when your heart’s been broken by a straight man said, anyway somehow the universe has suggested to me that if I don’t nurture my libido, and I mean now, I will never get out of this deep dark abyss. 

So I’m buying batteries. At Costco. You can’t really buy subtle amounts of batteries at Costco.

“Momma–what are you doing?

Momma–what are you doing?

Momma–what are you doing?”

My face is bright red as I toss the batteries into the cart and avoid the eye of the guy checking out printer cartridges.  Yeah—My panties are huge and I need several hundred batteries. So????

I see the multicolored tower of construction paper just ahead, the one she asks for every time we’re here.  The one I always say NO WAY to. And I throw it in the cart. Like the Debra Winger’s checkout line candy bar.

“Oh Momma—thank you so much!”

Sigh… I let her think I had planned all along to give her this glorious gift and that it isn’t a shame offering to cover for my failings that have resulted in huge panties and a battery addition.

That sweet girl is 10 now and we’ve both come a long way. She’s seen me finish my doctorate, start a business, make friends with her dad and step mom, love her half sister, build a family that includes and honors all the pieces of her family. And here I am dating again—just as she is entering puberty. 

She has questions—

How do you choose a date?

Where do you meet new friends?

Do you have a crush on anyone?

How do you know if someone has a crush on you?

I want to answer her questions. I want to teach her to stand on her own and meet potential partners as equals. I want her to see that compatibility is dynamic and fluid and that she deserves to be fully appreciated: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. I want her to know for certain that she doesn’t need a partner to have a life that is rich and full. I want her to love her body and what it can do. I want her to be able to love freely and deeply without losing herself. I want to model all of this for her. 

Sigh…And I want to buy fewer batteries…


About the Author

Jeanne Alongi

Jeanne Alongi has been, among other things, a florist’s assistant, a pizza delivery driver, an emergency medical technician, a bank teller, and a writer of terrible poetry. She has a habit of not following the recipe; spends most of July glued to the Tour de France; and is developing decent campfire lighting skills. She lives in Sacramento with her 10 year old daughter and her 10 year old dog.

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