How to Party With an Infant by Kaui Hart HemmingsHow to Party With an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

How to Party With an Infant

byKaui Hart Hemmings

Hardcover | August 9, 2016

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The new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Descendants—a hilarious and charming story about a quirky single mom in San Francisco who tiptoes through the minefields of the “Mommy Wars” and manages to find friendship and love.

When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else.

Fast forward two years, Mele’s daughter is a toddler, and Bobby and his fiancée want Ellie to be the flower girl at their wedding. Mele, who also has agreed to attend the nuptials, knows she can’t continue obsessing about Bobby and his cheese making, Napa-residing, fiancée. She needs something to do. So she answers a questionnaire provided by the San Francisco Mommy Club in elaborate and shocking detail and decides to enter their cookbook writing contest. Even though she joined the group out of desperation, Mele has found her people: Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and Henry (a stay-at-home dad). As the wedding date approaches, Mele uses her friends’ stories to inspire recipes and find comfort, both.

How to Party with an Infant is a hilarious and poignant novel from Kaui Hart Hemmings, who has an uncanny ability to make disastrous romances and tragic circumstances not only relatable and funny, but unforgettable.
Title:How to Party With an InfantFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9 X 6 X 1.1 inPublished:August 9, 2016Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501100793

ISBN - 13:9781501100796

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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Read from the Book

How to Party With an Infant COOKING A BOOK The afternoon holds the beautiful promise that it will soon be over. A rusty gold light falls through the clouds, the cold air has an even sharper edge, and white halogen headlights from cars on Fell and Oak make the little playground light up like a stage. Mele Bart eats cashews from a Dora cup and watches her daughter play on the purple slides. Ellie, a wonderful mistake, is two and a half years old. Amazing. Mele remembers bringing her home from the hospital, her little head not yet fitting in the support cushion of the car seat. Mele kept looking back in disbelief. Two days prior she had left her apartment without a baby and now she was returning with one. There were times in those first weeks, when Ellie cried and cried, her face always shaking to the right, that Mele wanted to throw her out the window. She would cry alongside her baby, wondering what was to become of her life as a single mom, the love of her life having knocked her up, then run back to the love of his life. But now, when she looks at her daughter, she wonders what was even good about life before her. What did she have? What did she do with all that time? Movies, brunch, writing short stories. Cooking for women who had dinner parties for women they didn’t seem to like very much. Still, that doesn’t make her less angry at her lying-sack-of-skin ex-boyfriend. Ellie is talking to herself on the tire swing—she is quite bossy in her make-believe. In Mele’s prior life she’d never be doing this: sitting at a playground and filling out a questionnaire for the San Francisco Mother’s Club Cookbook Competition. She would never have predicted even joining a mother’s club in the first place, but after just a few months of being with her baby all the time, she’d known she had to find some life beyond their apartment walls, for her sake and her infant’s. She smiles to herself, remembering those early days, when she was one of those friendless parents—the ones that smile too eagerly at other moms and apologize if their babies sneeze. The ones who use lame pickup lines like “I like your burp cloth” or “How do you like your Britax Roundabout?” Mele would hit up all the hot spots—Gymboree, Day One, Music Together, playgrounds, parks, and museums—hoping to meet someone. She’d see other mothers in groups, laughing on polka-dot throw mats and think: Where do I find them? And how do I act once I do? She imagined approaching a table of mothers with her lunch tray and asking if she could sit. She imagined the mothers telling her she had to chug a six-pack, spin around twenty times, then change a diaper in one minute flat. She kept at it—flirting, mixing and mingling, hoping to meet parents she clicked with or who at least didn’t bug the shit out of her. She remembers pushing her Peg Perego up to a cool-looking mom, about to strike up a conversation. She was proud of her baby, proud of her stroller. She could fit this mama mold. It really eliminated a lot of bullshit in her life, frankly. The mom looked at them and said, “Your stroller brake’s not on,” then turned back to her friend, and Mele went from mother to twenty-eight-year-old single slut in an instant. When Ellie was six months old Mele gave in and joined SFMC, the San Francisco Mother’s Club, which promised to find her a playgroup that would be a perfect match. She would go ahead and pay dues for friendship. Though at first she was totally mismatched—she was like Goldilocks, trying out moms—some were too DIY, others too do-nothing-yourselves, total outsourcers. There were the design moms who looked like they walked out of Dwell and always seemed to have three names, like Gabrielle Muir Blake. They had husbands who all looked alike—glasses, tight black T-shirts, like something assembled: IKEA men. There were Pac Heights moms—the kind of women who don’t seem to see you—they were like Range Rovers coming down a sidewalk, expecting everyone to scatter like pigeons. There were the article moms—who have read every book and essay on parenting and look at you like you’re certifiable if you’re feeding your baby with a plastic spoon instead of from your mouth to boost her immune system (like the premastication article suggested). But finally, she has found her fit: Annie, Georgia, Barrett, and Henry. She loves the way they talk—the clip and rhythm of it. An afternoon with them can make her feel warm and invincible. She knows they aren’t that original. Like the blues, parents all over the place use the same words, same chords, but it’s so great to be able to synchronize with people postchildren. It’s a joy, a relief, and really, a key component to happiness. How serendipitous that at three thirty in the afternoon they all did the same thing: migrated here, to the Panhandle park. They eventually worked up the courage to talk to one another and move past the banal chitchat. Soon they found themselves laughing, shit-talking, texting, even talking on the phone! They became an unofficial playgroup, then later (this was Barrett’s idea) an official SFMC playgroup, thereby able to receive the benefits: SFMC Online Forum, meetings with lecturers (free wine), and discounts at the Gap and the San Francisco Zoo. Now she catches other parents looking at them with longing and sometimes has the perverse desire to tell them their stroller brakes aren’t on. She isn’t completely happy, after all. Mele looks over a few of her answers on the questionnaire, every now and then glancing up at Ellie—her adorable, pink floral baby doll dress over thick brown tights, a brown velvet coat. Children can wear period costumes from every era. Mele has gotten a little carried away with the questionnaire, but figures she can pare it down later. She can pare it way, way down. Or maybe this is what the committee is looking for—honest first responses that jump off the page. Something wild and raw, zany and unplugged. The anti-cookbook cookbook. They are in San Francisco after all—progressive, provocative! Strippers probably breast-feed onstage! But no, things are not that cutting edge. Harvey Milk and Jerry Garcia are dead, moms shop cute boutiques in the Castro, and the mother’s club of San Francisco has its very own political climate. If she is going to impress the committee, then her hobbies will have to include DIY potato stamps and cardboard sewing cards shaped like polar bears and cacti. Who fuckin’ does that! Cookbook contest entrants, that’s who. In any case, the process is therapeutic; cathartic and cleansing, like a juice detox or an enema, and she’s going with it. Maybe everyone should answer interview questions, even if the answers are never to be published or aired. It’s comforting to be able to explain yourself, or to be asked anything at all . . . The San Francisco Mother’s Club Cookbook Competition The annual SFMC Cookbook Competition is on! We are calling all moms who want to share their recipes and feelings on food, friends, and motherhood! From appetizers to desserts to everything in between, any type of cook has an opportunity to win. All San Francisco Mother’s Club parents are eligible to enter. You’ll need to fill out this questionnaire—be thorough!—and provide three recipe examples. We will then narrow down the competition and invite our five unique finalists to cook for some Very Important Moms, our fellow members Rachel Kawashima of Chopsticks Publishing Group and Lyndsey Price, head chef at Boulevard. Ever wanted to publish your own cookbook? Who knows? This could be your big break, Yummy Mummy! We are looking for originality, variety, thoroughness, clarity, overall appeal of the recipes. The winner will win a culinary trip for two to Napa, an oven from Sears, and perhaps a book contract!* Good luck, ladies! Bon appétit! *A book contract is at the sole discretion of an outside party and not an official prize of this contest. SFMC Questionnaire The purpose of this questionnaire is to let the Steering Committee know more about you, your cookbook, and your writing style, so please be as detailed as possible. Through your questionnaire we are hoping to “meet” you and your world. Since the book should include vignettes on motherhood and your playgroup friendships, we will be looking for an original and clear voice. Have fun with it! Whet our palates! Name: Mele Bart Three possible titles for your cookbook: Bread to My Butter Hungry Woman How to Party with an Infant What are your interests, avocations, and hobbies? I love to read and write and take long walks while I listen to music and rehearse answers to a pretend Barbara Walters interview. I should say, I used to like writing, reading, and taking long walks. I used to like my looks, too, keeping them up. Now I rarely look in the mirror. I used to like going to movies, having sex, shopping, but now, as you know, I have a baby. My current interests are crosswords, heavy snacking in front of the television after Ellie goes to bed, thinking of possible Saturday Night Live skits, hunting for the best soda fridges in town, strolling in grocery stores, ogling food at the Embarcadero Farmers’ Market, and making fusion gum (this is where I put a piece of fruit-flavored gum in my mouth, then about a minute later, a mint-flavored gum). I am also interested in television and not in an ironic way. Certain shows on Bravo make me say out loud: “My God, I love America.” Bobby, my ex-boyfriend and father of my child, would only tolerate a reality show about motorcycle mechanics, couldn’t stand when I watched entertainment news. “They just spent fifteen minutes telling us some actress put a quarter into a parking meter,” he’d say. He liked looking at motorcycles and pizza ovens on Craigslist. He’d browse for hours, perhaps shopping for his other life out of the city that I didn’t know about: things for his garage, his house, and alas, for his fiancée, a cheese maker in Petaluma. When he first told me about her I envisioned a country woman milking goats, her jeans pulled up to her nipples, but she isn’t like that at all. She’s finely assembled, chic and classic. She has a perfect ponytail, big teeth, and high cheekbones—that alien look of models. She knows how to sail, make cheese, ride horses, and she’s marrying the man I thought I’d be with for the rest of my life. What do you do for a living? Right now not much. My mom and stepdad help me out. They don’t think people should have babies out of wedlock, yet are total pro-lifers, so it’s a mixed message. They’re also not “kid people,” something I already knew, having been their kid. They live in Hawaii, a place I jammed out of as soon as I got my diploma. I miss the house, of course, my bedroom and its sliding glass door with wood trim. Every morning I would wake to the sound of chattering birds and the looming greenness of the mountain range upon which battles between tribes were fought. On my four-poster bed I’d inhale the scent of tiare through the wooden jalousies, then I’d walk to the kitchen, where a woman named Lehua would be making me breakfast, both of us ashamed and feeling sorry for one another. My stepdad is an overdeveloper on Oahu. He has a Tesla and chest hair. Howard. He purports that his buildings reflect the Hawaiian spirit, but imports everything from Italy and caters to high-end Chinese. If there’s any Hawaiian spirit it’s because the buildings probably sit on ancient burial grounds. My real dad (a kind of Hawaiian spirit) left when I was two, which was fine with my mom because all he did was fish and smoke pot. She needed essentials like a BMW and white leather pants. She was twenty-one and over the slumming-it stage. He called me on some birthdays—my eighth, tenth, and thirteenth. Since age six I have only seen him twice. He’s like a whale that way. Our conversations were very abbreviated, for me because I didn’t know what to say; for him because he spoke pidgin English. I recall very little (though there is little to recall): Him: What grade you in now? Me: Third. Cut to two years later. Him: Did you get da kine jean jacket I sent? Me: Yes. But it’s a size five. It’s like a crop top. We can’t show our midriffs in school, and I wouldn’t want to anyway. Three years later. Him: What grade you stay? Me: Seventh. Him: Shoots. I’ll send you some Yellowman CDs. You like ’em. Me: Can I visit? Him: Nah. Me: Why not? Him: Uh . . . we remodeling, das why. End scene. That’s it. I’m done with those chapters. Ellie is my family. I think of my mom and stepdad as sponsors. I will wear their clothes, advertising from a distance that they’re a decent company. I used to work for a place called Wheelbarrows, where I’d make and deliver meals to people who could afford not to cook. I was also a menu consultant. Now Ellie is my job and I still have my recipe blog, which pays fairly well with sponsors like Tyson chicken, Epicurious, Whine and Dine, and If you read the directions in the posted recipes you’ll notice I’ll slip in little anecdotes about my day, my interactions with other moms and the things I’ve overheard. For example, yesterday at SF Gymnastics I overheard a conversation where mothers were offering advice to a mom whose baby was so cute everyone wanted to touch her and she needed ways to politely say no. One mother offered this advice: “People who touch babies are creepy. Everyone wanted to touch Janey, especially when she was neutropenic and had no white cells. This made her look like an ivory doll and strangers just pawed at her. Tell them to back off, or to touch her toes.” Another said this: “It’s because there are no children here. They’re like Birkin bags. I’d just avoid crowded public places and neighborhoods like the Mission with high immigrant populations.” The last mom contributed this: “My daughter gets touched all the time. It’s what happens when they’re pretty. The other day this bum-like person kept trying to remove her hand socks and smell her! And she’s an old people magnet. I keep antibacterial wipes ready and wipe her hands immediately after contact with anyone. Even the nonelderly.” You can find this exchange under “Ancho Chili Steaks.” I could add that to my list of hobbies: overhearing. I listen to everything. It’s something to do when you’re at playgrounds or kid classes. I’ve heard some crazy things, said in the most earnest way. People really care about stuff! My intention with these asides isn’t to be a mean girl, soaking in the candid chitchat then turning around and enlarging it for the sake of entertainment and enhanced self-worth . . . but sometimes that ends up happening. People like it though. I get comments like “Those women make me want to shoot myself” or “When people ask to touch my baby I just say, ‘She bites!’ Jesus Christ.” Or I get total misinterpretations. Take this mother at an SFMC meeting who happened to read my blog post on sake-steamed halibut and separation anxiety. “Thank God someone’s talking about babies sucking the life right out of you,” she said. “Um,” I said. “That’s not really . . . I was just writing about fish and soba—” “Your life is gone. Just gone,” she said, looking off into the distance; then she rubbed her hands together and said, “You are so bad!” People like it when other people are bad. It lets them off the hook. But I’m not bad. I’m just listening and looking around. I hope, when Ellie starts school, I can find a way to put this to use. While my parents won’t let us go hungry, I want to do something with my life—I want to raise Ellie well and I want her to have a mom who does more than raise her. I went to grad school to be a writer, and I guess I still want now what I wanted then: to write about my woes, yet use structures and plots and characters that make them your woes as well. I want to reveal something true. I want you to turn the page. What inspired you to work on an SFMC cookbook? What will make it different from other cookbooks? When I heard about the competition, I thought, How lame, and then: How lame if someone else won and got a book contract out of this! And so I thought I’d give it a go and try to come up with an original angle. It happened that the very day I decided to embark upon this culinary journey my ex, Bobby Morton, was coming over to see Ellie (for the first time in two weeks) and so I thought I’d go ahead and freshen up a little. I’d clean the apartment, blow out my hair, put on some lipstick, and, um, go out and wax my privates. I had never done this before. Within one minute of meeting my waxer I was on a bed, naked from the waist down, and her hand was on my parts. She had a thick head of hair and red lips and smelled like a scratch-and-sniff sticker. I was trying to think of something to say, but all that came to mind was “So, have you seen any good ones lately?” She took me seriously and told me who she knows, who she waxes—I guess there wasn’t client-waxer privilege. She was telling me what was “in” these days, which made me think of women requesting long layers or a bob, but I didn’t really hear what she was saying because she poured the burning wax onto my skin, and holy fuckface, all thoughts disappeared. She placed a strip on my (God I hate this word) labia and pulled—rip!—and holy Whitney Houston I was angry at this woman! I wanted retro bush to be “in” so she’d be shit out of a job! Why do people regularly subject themselves to this? Why was I torturing myself for Bobby? He left me, and even if he hadn’t, he never needed incentive. In fact, to avoid pregnancy I should have gotten myself a reverse Brazilian. What would that be? A Greek? An Armenian? I was in so much pain. I almost told her to stop, but it was too late because then I’d look like I had mange. “Should I keep a strip, make a triangle, or take it all off?” she asked. “Take it all,” I whimpered, not because I’m stoic or anything, but because I don’t get the little landing strip thing. Can you imagine if we shaved our armpits but left a strip of hair? Or shaved our legs but left a hairy triangle? Before I went in, I asked the moms in my playgroup, “Why do people get this done?” “Who knows?” Barrett said. “To feel clean? Gary’s lucky if I bathe. He doesn’t care.” “Maybe it’s like getting a haircut or highlights,” Georgia said. “You’re taking care of yourself. But I guess you can’t really show everyone the results as you would with highlights.” “It’s not like a haircut,” Annie said. “My hairdresser doesn’t tell me to hold my butt cheek while she waxes my asshole. You do it for the guys. They like it for the same reason they like you to swallow. It’s porno. It’s that special thing.” “I don’t know,” Georgia said. “I go to Supercuts.” The waxer took another pull from the top. Tears welled in my eyes. I was writing my will in my head and wondering why I ever agreed to let this stranger touch and hurt me so. Bobby was engaged. It was over. The last time he had seen my vagina a head was coming out of it and I had pooed on the table. I’m sure these images could not be superseded. I began to really tear up then, but of course my “stylist” thought this was in reaction to her yanking out my pubic hair. “You’re doing real good,” she said, even though I wasn’t doing anything, just lying there, my legs in second position. She told me about her last two clients. One yelled “motherfucker” after each tug. One prayed. I could just hear it: “Please, Lord, give me the strength to withstand the pain of hair being pulled off of my privates so that I can go forth into this day with a clean, porno va-jj. Amen. Oh yes, and bless those in Darfur.” Finally, she was done. I took a quick peek and was horrified. It looked like that hairless cat, Mr. Bigglesworth. It looked cold and lonely. I hated it! I hated my privates! I hated Bobby. I didn’t have a witness—no one to commiserate with, no one to love my daughter with. Not having a dad around was such an unfair strike against her. I didn’t want to raise a hitter, a biter, or a child so scarred by abandonment she’d shake on the sidelines while other kids laughed and lobbed balls at one another. And then she’d get older and sleep with everyone and experiment with tons of drugs, like me. On the waxer’s table I thought, How could he bear to be without her? She has a fantastic sense of humor. She can be dramatically sour and fiery, then moments later gooey warm and sweet. She’s like Thai food. She’s my little Eggplant Pad Ma Coeur. I came home and cooked that very dish, feeling good, like a mother, a single, determined, capable mother with a sexy pelvis and a beautiful daughter, and I thought: These feelings equal Eggplant Pad Ma Coeur. And this dish came from a story about vaginal waxing. What else? What are some more of life’s little word problems? Because this—the eggplant was yielding and vibrant—this I could do. This I could solve. This was making a shitty thing into something damn right delicious. I’ve decided to come up with recipes inspired by my friends in my playgroup. My angle: What kinds of culinary creations do they inspire? Barrett, Annie, Georgia, and Henry. I’ll take moments from their everyday lives—moments that define their issues somehow, and come up with the food equivalents. I will make a difficult moment in their lives a little more palatable. What are your contributions to SFMC and our motherhood community? What have you “brought to the table”? I don’t know what you’re talking about . . . *  *  * Mele looks up to find her daughter. Ellie’s still on the slide, climbing to the top. Another mother is telling her boy, “Excuse me, Branson, we go down the slide, we don’t climb up,” but Mele couldn’t give a fuck if Ellie goes up. Who cares? The more rules you have, the more you have to enforce them, and Mele likes the option of sitting on her ass sometimes. The answers felt good to write, and read. She’s surprised by the emotions the process produced: anger, jealousy, but also, a moving appreciation for the life she has. Sometimes you have to trudge through the muck to experience one of the best things in the world: gratitude. She knows this feeling could pass so she holds on to it like it’s a coin, something small and hard and pocketable. She is a single mom. She’s not dead. This is good. Ellie is healthy and happy and almost worn out, and in a few hours Mele will bathe her and feed her and read to her and tell her about the sand crab and tell her she loves her more, and then she’ll sit on the couch and watch The Real Housewives of Wherever. Soon her friends will be here and she’ll begin her new venture. Georgia, Henry, Barrett, and Annie will each have a turn to tell her a story.

Editorial Reviews

"Kaui Hart Hemmings is the master of heartfelt unsentimentality. Her third novel looks unflinchingly at the rewards and pitfalls of single motherdom in a culture obsessed with sanctimonious parenting. By her first Brazilian wax, you’ll be rooting for the unscrupulous heroine to emerge victorious (and bushy!) from the Mommy Wars." —Courtney Maum, author of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You