In previous years, Broke-Ass would go flat-out apeshit during the Christmas season. All that STUFF. So pretty. Broke-Ass wanted all of it. Often, her desires came damn close to manifest destiny. These days, however, “manifest destiny” has a different ring to it–chimes extremely remote to cha-ching. The sound is more like Mary cooing to her little schmushkie in the manger. The silly, lowing animals. Mama and shmushkie and mammal sounds.
Since Broke-Ass washed up on the shores of shit river lo these several years ago, she has thought a lot about Mary. Mary. She was a girl, pregnant, poor, unwed–and, basically, it seems like Joseph was considering dumping her when the angel showed up and advised against it. Riding all that way nine months pregnant for the goddamned census. She must have been exhausted, scared, lonely; she had no mother around, no women to help her, soothe her. She gave birth alone–in a barn. Lord. Then, she swaddled that little schmushkie; the whole world lit up. “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” What a person she was. What a mama.
So, at this time of year in particular, Broke-Ass finds herself thinking a great deal about mothers and children and how actually miraculous the whole thing is: that unalloyed core of strength that those little schmushkies calcine in us. And this year in particular, Broke-Ass is thinking of her friend and fellow mother Masha the Great.
Broke-Ass met Masha the Great back in the mid-1990s, when they were both on the starting team of Time Inc. New Media. Broke-Ass was on the editorial side, Masha the Great on the design. Broke-Ass loved Masha the Great from the start. Because she was Russian, she was not irritatingly cloying or cheerleadery; life was what it was. Masha had no problem telling people that she was “an artist,” which ordinarily would have been the kind of thing to stick on Broke-Ass’ rather considerable craw, but coming from Masha the Great, it was just so obviously and extravagantly the case that Broke-Ass felt tickled by by her frank statement of fact. And Masha the Great had a lot of statements of fact. When you had grown up in St. Petersberg during the 1970s and 80s, there was no point in bullshitting around. Just say it. Masha the Great did. And she was the most incredible fucking designer.
Broke-Ass and Masha were really, really fucking busy back then. They were pumping out HTML code, whipping up Web design and editorial content, launching People, Sports Illustrated, Time, working into the dark early hours in their mid-90s office clothes–those were some heady times, babydolls. The Web was young, they were young, they were working at a giant media conglomerate that was on a balls-out mission to lock down market-share. In sum: Masha the Great and Broke-Ass had the penthouse view of the intersection of the empire arrogance of Time Inc. and the Promethean hubris of Silicon Valley. It was kind of hard to know what you were looking at, but luckily, everyone was drinking a lot and didn’t know about the future yet.
Cut to: years later. Broke-Ass is with her first child, Baby Poodle–then a toddler–and she spots Masha the Great, also with her own toddler of roughly the same vintage. They are psyched to see each other, psyched to behold each others’ shmushkies. They reveal that they are both working from home: Broke-Ass writing for magazines, Masha the Great designing for Web and print. They hang out in the sandpit in a playground. A five-year-old kid snatches away a pail and shovel from Masha the Great’s little lumpkin and kicks sand in his face. Masha the Great looms over the kid, seizes the pail and shovel, and says: “This is how it is going to work. You do this again, and I beat you up.” Broke-Ass falls in love all over again.
But, again, they lose touch. They meet up again seven years later. Masha is now divorced; Broke-Ass is, too. Broke-Ass’ father has just died in a horrendous way; Masha’s is on his way to death. They console each other, but life seems dark. Life, however, gets darker. Over the next two years, they each fall into poverty. They lose touch, not just with each other. With many people.
When Broke-Ass starts writing this blog thing, Masha the Great instantly emerges as a fan and writes grateful messages. This warms Broke-Ass’ timorous little heart. They get together for coffee. Between them, they only have enough for one cup apiece. Broke-Ass is beaten, isolated, has been this way for some time. But so is Masha the Great. Broke-Ass listens to her talk about her life, her gorgeous and smart-as-hell son, the hopelessness of being poor. And it strikes Broke-Ass as absolutely unacceptable.
It is one thing for Broke-Ass to end up as a flame-out loser, but Masha the Great–who practically invented Web design, who is actually an artist, who worked her ягодицы off in Russia to get to this country, take out student loans and study at Pratt? Broke-Ass cannot stand this. Just can’t. Masha the Great should not be living this way.
So, Broke-Ass basically brow-beats Masha the Great into starting a Web design-and-build shop with her. And now, they’re doing it; they have two clients. And Masha the Great is rocking it, of course. Because she is, after all, Masha the Great.
Broke-Ass and Masha the Great are two middle-aged women who have known each other for awhile now and have met up at some pretty major milestones. They are mothers. They are helping each other. Masha the Great in her great Russian accent is always advising Broke-Ass to “jahst breeethe.” Broke-Ass always snaps, “What kind of fucking Russian are you to be spouting out that New Age twaddle?” Masha the Great laughs like a big mama bear and says, “Yoor right–wat ken I teel you?”
Thank God for Masha the Great. Thank God for mothers and the sound of shmuskies, mammals, manifest destiny, and all things tender and mild.