Living the High Life in Purgatory (Part 1)

Back when America didn’t know it’s entire financial institution was a house of straw built on a pile of quicksand, I lived in a sleepy little town about a mile inland from San Diego County’s Moonlight Beach. I owned a nice home with my husband and made lots of money working as a big talker.

It was the early ‘90s so unbeknownst to us Wall Street and the banking industry were busy perfecting their little derivative magic trick—the one where the big reveal would be the eventual meltdown of both the financial and housing markets some 18 years later. But at the time the illusion made us believe prosperity was attainable even to the dumbest of chumps, and that poverty was about as fashionable as a beauty queen with B.O. and bucked teeth. As a result big businesses (thought they) had more money than they knew what to do with, and I quickly figured out that they liked to spend it on entertainers disguised as technical consultants.

Armed with a math degree and the ability to speak cleverly in front of large crowds without wetting my pants, I morphed into a technical trainer and keynote speaker for high-profile clients such as Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Adobe. Even though I knew my stuff when it came to pontificating on the wonders of bits, bytes, baud, and BIOS, there was no denying these folks got quite a show when I worked the room.

Releasing My Inner Smart-mouth

However, it was a sanitized version of how I saw the world, so to accommodate my quirky sense of humor I also regularly performed stand-up in clubs all around the country. But because the guys who invented YouTube and Twitter were still in diapers, I actually had to leave my house in order to find an audience, so I traveled a lot on business and usually went first class. Back then airlines doled out free first-class upgrades to frequent flyers the way they now hand out those cheap, stale peanuts—sparingly, but they’d give them up if you asked.

Even though I wasn’t well-known outside of Southern California (okay, fine, I wasn’t even that well-known within Southern California) the club owners in these obscure little towns would always let me get up onstage because I was an L.A. comic for whom they didn’t have to pay travel expenses. I’d do my two sets, get paid, and then leave. Once in a while they’d invite me back, but only if I happened to be passing through again. I guess I was good enough for a return engagement, but not good enough to spring for gas money.

Yes, by golly, life was really, really good back then. One. Big. Lucrative. Party. And even though I rarely went to bed before 2:00 a.m., I still always looked well-rested because I slept till noon everyday. Plus, I laughed for a living and got all the free drinks I wanted. It was the kind of perk you just couldn’t find working in a bank.

Dancing in Purgatory

This totally delusional impression of reality went on for several years, until finally one day I turned to my husband and said, “Honey, do you think we’re missing something here? I feel a little like I’m dancing in Purgatory, but can’t get to the next level.” I paused to make sure he was listening, and then hit him with, “Do you think we should have some kids?

I could tell by his Cabernet spit take and the sour look on his face that he wasn’t too keen on that idea.

We always knew we wanted to have kids someday, and even though we’d been married for seven years by this time, we just weren’t sure when that day would come.

But I was getting close.

Park City, Utah
My backyard in Park City

So to take my mind off Diaper Genies and breast pumps my husband suggested we buy a house in Park City, Utah, and split our time between Southern California and that incredible Wasatch powder. We did (because why the heck not?), and to my surprise we became so enamored with shoveling snow (hey, we were beach people, what did we know?) that we eventually sold our house in Encinitas and cashed out of California all together. I’m not sure what we were thinking, but at the time it somehow made sense. I still traveled, and did comedy, but now my husband suddenly had enough free time to get chummy with all the local ski lift operators and study up on how to get around Utah’s funky liquor laws.

We were having so much fun traveling, skiing, laughing, partying, making money, and buying tons of stuff we didn’t need that any thought of ever having children suddenly drained out of my head faster than vodka pouring from a Martini shaker.

That’s when I got pregnant.

Say What?

Cue the needle scratch across a record; the screeching of brakes; the sound of glass shattering; a saxophone blowing “wah, wah, wahhhh.” Actually, it wasn’t a total surprise. We’d been half-heartedly, sort of, kind of, but not really, trying to have a baby for about a year. But every month the stick refused to turn blue. So to protect myself from further disappointment I just gave up and assumed my womb was as barren as Park City’s Jupiter Bowl in the middle of January.

Which, by the way, really irritated me on a whole other level (my barren womb, that is, not Park City’s Jupiter Bowl) given that NOW (at this late point in my life) I find out I wasted all that money all those years on birth control? Not to mention the panic I endured any time I happened to be late. All that stress, and now you’re telling me I can’t even get pregnant? That does it, I thought at the time. I’m buying a water-ski boat and calling it good.

But we never got around to that ski boat because finally the stick did turn blue.

And so did my husband’s face after I told him we were having a baby.

Photo of Stacy Dymalski courtesy of Amy Chin. Thanks, Amy!