On (Mostly) Comfortable Inter-Generational Living

My grandmother makes a really great roommate.

(Most moves to Manhattan involve some compromise–a shower in the kitchen, six flights of crooked stairs, a broker whose fee surpasses most annual middle class salaries; mine, is sharing my grandmother’s midtown apartment.)

There are many ways–besides the whole, brilliantly fortunate lack of rent thing– in which this goes well. We share politics, and pottymouth. (If I took a shot each time she described Republicans as “fucking fuckers,” I’d be always drunk.) We shop together, and even share clothes. (As I write this, I’m wearing a hooded sweatshirt of hers. The other night I had on one of her long-sleeve shirts and a scarf. Okay, by “share clothes” I suppose I mean I wear hers…told you she was a great roommate!) We go to the gym, sometimes together. We have dinner and see movies. It’s like living with a girlfriend who always treats.

Of course–this being a blog, nominally, about dating–I can’t resist telling you that the most precious aspect of living together may be her singular insights into my love life. In fact, Susie–what I call her–is often more open to talking about dating than my parents, who, bless their non-confrontational hearts, have a habit of responding to my romantic reports with the kind of bracing expression most Democrats reserve for presidential debates.

Some samples:

  • Over dinner at an apartment on Lexington, when one date texted–to my utter horror–a photo of his cat: “Back in my day, men didn’t even like cats or dogs!”
  • In line at Home Depot, when told one guy was on the heavier side: “That’s okay, we can put him on a diet.”
  • Various places, numerous times: “Who cares if he lives in Philadelphia/is twenty-four/hasn’t heard of NPR. Is he tall?”  (This, despite her infamous remark from several years’ past: “I hope you didn’t just dismiss him because he’s short. Some short men are terrific.”)
  • On occasion, most recently while walking down 59th, a choice Dorothy Parker quote: “Remember, Liz, ‘Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses!’”

Some old-fashioned principles notwithstanding, Susie has always been remarkably open-minded: back when I was a starry-eyed nineteen-year old in love with a man who was thirty-five, she lent us her apartment while out of town.

All to say, for the most part, I manage her role in my love life, as with my life generally, with good humor and a large degree of comfort.

(Mostly; I’m too old not to answer honestly when the answer to “What are you up to tonight?” is, “Going on a date,” but am pretty sure the age does not exist at which I can comfortably respond to, “Where did you sleep last night?” with the (rarely, honest) answer, “With a man who’s not my boyfriend.” Compromise.)

Anyhow. The main reason I moved was convenience–Susie’s apartment is much more centrally located. But certainly, the psychological trauma of living with my parents weighed in.

There’s a way in which it can be easier to lean on the people around us with whom we have looser ties. In the same way that it’s sometimes less stressful to call up an old friend with whom you were never that close (you don’t have to catch them up on every hookup, every trip, every emotional turn), living with Susie–versus those blessed parents–is some relief.

It’s not that she isn’t interested in my life–we check in regularly, update one another on meetings and dog walks and nights out. But those updates are a choice, a convenience (if I didn’t live here, they wouldn’t happen)–not loaded with the obligation and the frantically urgent dynamics that charge parental relationships.

As I muddle through this murky, transitional, those pressures were too much.

Living with a grandparent may sound like a compromise. But it’s also a privilege. And, often, totally fun.

 

 

On Dog Owning, Interracial Dating, and (Who Cares?) What Other People Think

So, sometimes my dog goes ballistic.

And the thing, the only thing, that I can do, when she does, is exactly nothing.

This is what I mean by going ballistic: it means that she, suddenly, usually at the end of a long walk or run, grabs hold of her leash, bares her teeth, shakes her head violently back and forth, growls, and jumps/leaps every which way. It means, also, that she wants to play tug of war. Which means, too, that any effort to pull on said leash is counterproductive.

These episodes, unpleasant for everyone, except, of course, Bonita, who has the time of her life, tend to take place on the narrow, cement, stroller-clogged sidewalks of Park Slope–territory that B is still learning to distinguish from her vast, dirt-topped, wildly open New Mexican backyard.

But the particular way in which they are unpleasant for me (besides, today, the black and blue on my left thigh, a casualty of Saturday’s morning jog) is what I want to talk about.

You see, yesterday, while acquiring said bruise as my leg collided with B’s open mouth, a lot of people were walking by. People who, unlike me and many of you, don’t know that B is a serious contender for The Sweetest Dog In Brooklyn; who don’t know that the only risk she poses to small children is that of licking them to death.

So, in their ignorance, some of them, they got alarmed. Alarmed enough to grab their kids’ hands, look at me as though I were the second coming of the Unabomber or James Dolan, and cross the street.

Intellectually, I understand: they don’t know the dog, they don’t know me; B looks vaguely like a pitbull, which scares people, and in these moments, she also looks possessed by some sort of wild, unspotted cheetah in pursuit of meat, which, I imagine, may also unsettle.

But emotionally, this response crushes me. Crushes me so much that, instead of doing what little I can to manage the momentarily insane beast, I find myself calling out to the passersby in desperate attempt to protect B’s (and, really, my) reputation.

She just wants to play!” I screamed yesterday, my leg still throbbing from its’ recent run-in with her teeth. “She’s a really sweet dog!” “It’s okay, she’s not going to hurt your kids!”

Needless to say, said passers-by were unmoved. They kept their distance, clutched their children, and continued on their way to the coffee shop or farmers market or park–thinking, still, that I am a Terrible, Out of Control Mess of a Person With a Terrible, Out of Control Mess of a Dog.

Meanwhile, I stood on 7th Avenue, fighting back tears. Which brings me, kind of, to my point: why?

As my relatives reminded me tonight over gentrified dumplings and shrimp toast, there are some straight-forward explanations: for one, no one likes to attract this kind of attention; for another, I am a typically neurotic dog-owner who, like any parent, wants everyone to think that my pet/child is God’s Gift to Brooklyn/Humanity. Such scenes detract.

But there was another, more basic element to my distress: the simple fact of caring what people thought. And, why should I? Why should I care so much what these people, these complete strangers who I will doubtfully see again and upon whom I routinely subject my own unfair judgements, ridiculing their insipid parenting and poor taste in frozen yogurt, think of me?

I’ve had this conversation before. The first time I dated a man of color, I felt self-conscious about it. I told my brother Jon that I worried how black women might react–with such an unbalanced ratio of educated black men to educated black women, wouldn’t they feel resentful? Wouldn’t they judge me?

He responded, first, by reminding me that most white dudes are dating Asian girls, anyhow–to which I had to grin and nod. And then, he said: “Why should you care what people think?”

I paused. I told him it was a good question. And, one I could only answer by reinforcing the fact that I, and all of us, do: “Why do we care how we look or what we wear?” I said. “Aren’t we all constantly preoccupied with what other people think?”

Some of us, clearly, are more concerned with perception than others. And most of us, hopefully, get to a point where we realize we can’t control how we’re seen, no matter our dress or hair or the way we treat our wayward animals, and give less energy to the concern.

I often wonder if writers, or even all creative types, are more insecure: focused, as we must, to some extent, be, on how our most personal passions are received in the world.

To some extent, we should be: some concern with perception is necessary, one of those things, like judgement itself, that society relies on to get by–you know, without everyone getting pickpocketed and wearing sleepwear all the time. A little concern is important, but too much can harm.

It’s one of those preoccupations–like, for me, my body and desperate yearning for intimacy–that I know is toxic. And that, still, I have to constantly, daily, struggle against. So, I try.

I’m pretty sure that next time Bonita has a temper tantrum on the sidewalk I’ll care some about the freaked out pedestrians that pass; but, hopefully, I’ll be able to remind myself that I shouldn’t. Managing my dog’s mental state, and my own, is enough work–there’s only so much thought I can give to strangers’.

 

 

 

The End of the Twenties: An Ode

During one of the multiple family dinners out that I demanded during my extended visit home for Thanksgiving, one of my sisters-in-law, D, made an enthusiastic announcement: that, soon, she is going to turn thirty.

I’m not being smug with the word “enthusiastic.” It’s an accurate description of her tone: she said it with excitement, enthusiasm, eagerness. (Alll sorts of positive adjectives that begin with the letter E!)

This surprised some of those seated around the (awkwardly oversized) table where we were busy devouring mediocre plates of Italian food at a new place in Park Slope–my parents and two present brothers.

“Really?” They marveled. “You sound so unfazed!”

The two younger women, though–my other sister-in-law, F, and me–both nodded in (eager) agreement as D, gesturing wildly above her spinach-covered pizza, explained herself.

“I’m so done with my twenties!” she crowed. “They have been awful!”

F, now forty, is actually the only person to ever warn me about this–years ago, taking a jog around Prospect Park: “No one ever tells you,” she said, “but your twenties are actually really hard. You don’t know what you’re doing with your life, everything is complicated, ugh, it’s terrible. My thirties have been much better.”

This seems contrary to just about all of cultural lore. Growing up, the only thing I thought sexier than the teenagers on Beverly Hills 90210 were the twentysomethings on The Real World: being in your twenties seemed to be about being beautiful and glamorous, working minimally and drinking maximally, walking around big cities with a fashionable haircut, leather boots and the distinct stride of a person who is absolutely satisfied.

Now that I’m on the far, northern side of those years, I know just how much the reality differs from that fabulous image. Being in your twenties means figuring yourself out. Endlessly. Working a lot of the time. Getting increasingly bad hangovers. Still struggling on a daily basis to look presentable. Not knowing anything about your future, and realizing that as years pass you know even less.

Sure: I feel more confident, and certainly more certain about my passions than I did in college. But that’s pretty much where it ends.

After dinner that night, I snuggled with my seven year old niece as she fell asleep. (Sorry, this is too adorable for me to keep to myself: my niece requires two adults to put her to sleep, one to read stories and then one to spoon with her as she sucks the thumb of her left hand and reaches around with her right to tug on your earlobe. Not kidding.)

So yeah, that alone could have made me cry. But what really sparked it, I think, basically, was that I’m in my twenties.

Someone who I’ve talked to in recent days, I can’t remember who (it could have been my mother, but it also could have been the cute guy from Oklahoma I sat next to on the plane yesterday–you know me, I’m an equal opportunity sharer), tried to convince me that this point in my life is really so exciting! “There’s so much possibility!” Mom/plane guy assured.

I get that. I get that I’m still young, that I’m extremely privileged in many ways, that I’m lucky to have at least one project demanding a serious amount of focus and mental space. (You know, that book thing I said I wouldn’t talk about.) But I am also just exhausted from so many years of being uncertain about so much. That elusive troika: where I’m gonna be, what I’m gonna be doing (books don’t pay the gas bill, much less rent), and who I’m gonna be with.

Spooning with my niece in her bedroom the other night, I glanced around her room and marveled at the gorgeous stillness of her life: wooden horses, porcelain cats, stuffed pandas; peaceful cuddling with the nearest available earlobe. I don’t wish that I was still seven: free will is kind of nice. But I do long for a time when I will stop feeling so angsty, so searchy, so preoccupied with what’s next. For a time when I’ll find it easier to just sit still.

I doubt turning thirty will make all that, magically, stop. But might as well keep hope alive: I’ve got two years left, and I kind of like the idea that I won’t be terribly sad when they’re done.

On Jonathan Franzen, and Growing Up

I have mixed feelings about Jonathan Franzen.

For the most part, I adore his writing: I devoured “Freedom” in roughly the time it takes to finish the Sunday crossword. I similarly enjoyed “The Corrections,” and many of his essays in “How to Be Alone”–which may be one of my favorite book titles, ever. I find his craft  instructive, his characters’ compelling, his sentences crisp and funny.

But there’s something about him.

M and I recently argued about whether his notoroious Oprah snub qualifies as clever or dumb: I argued the latter. (In 2001, after Oprah selected “The Corrections” for her Book Club, he at first accepted and then expressed his reservations so frankly and so publicly that she had no choice but to rescind the invitation.)

“Why,” I said, “does anyone write anything besides to get as many people as possible to read it?”

(Okay, maybe there are a few other reasons. And snubbing Oprah may or may not have gained Franzen more readers than he lost. Details.)

Regardless of whether it was savvy, though, the Oprah move does come across as the behavior of someone who takes themselves, and their work, very seriously.

My sense about this was affirmed when I heard a Fresh Air interview with Franzen, re-aired recently for “Freedom”‘s paperback release. When Terry Gross asks him why so many of his characters are depressive, he explains that his readers–readers of serious fiction–are complicated, sometimes depressive people, too. (Also, that depressed characters are funnier.) I mean, come on. Whether he wants to admit it or not, his books are highly readable. And again: as a writer, there’s just something off about judging your potential audience.

But now that I’ve gotten my Franzen-feelings out of the way, I can tell you what he also says in that interview that struck me as really, really smart.

He talks about what it means to be an adult. This is something I think about a lot–especially lately, in the wake of what feels to be a more-significant-then-before birthday.

In his Fresh Air “Corrections” interview, Franzen talked about the fact that so long as our parents are alive (and well), it can be easy to dodge a full acceptance of adulthood. And in this one, he describes that, for him, it wasn’t until his fifties that he really stopped walking around every day feeling like he was about twenty-three.

“I feel, actually, about fifty-one,” he says, “and it’s shocking.

I think I came to the realization a while ago that one may not ever truly feel their age. So there’s some hope in Franzen’s admission. But what I find most interesting is the way that he framed what it means to be an adult: to be a child, he explains, is to have everything be possible. To be an adult means to accept that those possibilities have shrunk–accepting our identities as narrower. As finite. As limited.

And when you think of it in those terms, it’s no wonder so many of us are so loathe to accept our “adult” status. We’ve been told our whole lives that everything is possible. How, and when, are we to resign ourselves that it isn’t?

The other night, after a concert in Santa Fe, I got into a bit of a friendly argument with an aquaintance who insisted that thirty is middle-aged. (He’s twenty-nine.)

“How can you possibly say that?” I scolded.

I pushed him to admit the absurdity of his position. But he wouldn’t.

“I just feel really old,” he said. And when I made him explain why, his response paralleled Franzen’s definition: “There’s just a lot of stuff I feel like I’m too old to do.”

But when I demanded specifics, his best response was: “play professional sports?”

I mean, yeah: I used to take comfort in the fact that even the youngest of the champion Olympic figure skaters was older than me. And it was slightly traumatic when, by the late 90s, they no longer were.

But not that traumatic: I never really thought I’d be a Gold Medal skater. (Well, I did: until I got to the part of the lessons where they expected me to do jumps, when I was about eight. That illusion shattered pretty quick.)

There are a lot of illusions, though, to which I still hold dear: that I’ll be a successful writer.(Whatever that means.)  That I’ll find an ideal mate, have a happy, uncomplicated family where money and love and success are all, blissfully, taken for granted. That my parents and siblings and close friends will be around as long as I need them: you know, forever.

Basic and universal ideals, in other words, that are as unrealistic as they are common. Not that I won’t find some measure of those things, like most of us: but I won’t find them in the clean, simple way they exist in my imagination.

And I know that. But I don’t really know that: I still walk around most days, feeling about twenty-two, thinking I’ll find them.

And you know what? Until life forces me to learn otherwise–for Franzen, it was the death of his close friend, David Foster Wallace–I’m pretty okay with that.

I know innocence doesn’t last forever, but I’ll keep it so long as I can.

 

 

Some Surprises, and Some Thanks

A couple of weeks ago, something peculiar happened to me.

It was the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hoshanah, and my family gathered, as they do, at my parents’ home in Brooklyn. (Actually, it was a few days before the holiday: my family’s manner of observing Judaism might be dubbed Eating When Convenient.)

I called home, as I always do, roughly between the main course and dessert–my father, as he’d told me the day before, had made a chocolate truffle cake with whipped cream (dyed green, at his three granddaughters’ collective command), and two fruit crostatas.

They passed around the receiver until I had spoken with everyone–or, everyone besides Grandma Edith, who, at 101, has a hard enough time hearing me over the phone without fifteen Tannens chattering close by.

I walked Bonita around the neighborhood as I talked: catching up on who’s in couples counseling and who’s getting along; how my dissertation is coming and when certain brothers might finally visit me in New Mexico; who’s going where for Christmas and whether anyone has room for which of Dad’s desserts.

Okay so actually, there were two peculiar things about that evening. For one, for the first time in thirty-one years of marriage to my father, my mother actually allowed other people to contribute to the meal. (Nothing too substantive, of course: had she only served the four dishes she’d prepared herself it would have been more than enough; traditionally, though, we eat not only when convenient, but–traditional Jews that we are–to excess.)

The other, more (finally, sorry) relevant peculiar thing about that night was this: that I felt, before, during and ater that call, something I haven’t felt in a while. And I felt it pretty acutely. Reader, I felt homesick.

It’s not that I haven’t always been close with my family. But, like many people my age who I know, for the past ten years I haven’t lived near any of them. I’m accustomed to being far away: on special occasions, on birthdays, on various High Holy Days. Since I started going to sleepaway camp for two months as an eight year old, I’ve felt comfortable leaving home for long stretches of time. (I did, for the record, and due to some mysterious sadistic impulse, write my parents daily letters telling them how miserable I was at camp; I wasn’t, and, after causing no small sum in therapy for all of us, I got over it.)

So why, now, should I feel these sudden pangs of homesickness? I’m not unhappy here: I have good friends and a cuddly animal and, perhaps more than ever, some measure of focus and confidence in my work. But I’m guessing it has something to do with this: that lately, I’ve found clarity on something else, too–that when my work here is done, I want to be closer to home.

Don’t get too excited. I’m still not sure where I’ll end up. But I do know, now, that the Southwest is too far. There are many compelling reasons to want to stay here: the weather, the people, the cheap cost of living. Mostly, the weather.

But, as I said to an acquaintance recently, I’m tired of having to take two planes to get home. (To which she replied, “Wherever you just referred to as home, that’s clearly where you need to go.” Again, still up for discussion.)

But basically, what I’ve realized is that I’m really fucking fortunate.

The weekend after D and I broke up, I flew to New York to be with family. During my layover on the way back, standing by the magazines in one of Dallas Fort-Worth’s 750 outposts of Hudson News, I returned a phone call from a colleague.

“How was your trip?” she asked. “Are you feeling better?”

“Yes,” I told her. “My family is awesome.”

“Wow,” she replied. “You know, you’re very lucky.”

Like most people, I take a lot for granted. And for a long time I’ve failed to appreciate exactly how lucky I am to have a family that I love so much.

I mean, we’re not perfect: we’ve got our dramas and our moody characters and, of course, our secrets. But when I need support, they’ve got lots to give.

And that’s true wherever I am: sometimes I even find it easier to talk to my mother, for example, over the phone. My sister in law and I gchat on most days.

But it’s not the same as having them close by: to eat dinner, to sit in the park, to bitch and babysit and, sometimes, dye whipped cream.

So, if and when I can, I feel obligated to take advantage of that: of how fucking fortunate I truly am.

 

Those Elusive Life Skills…and My Always Omniscient Mother

A few days before leaving for my recent trip home–this one for the primary purpose of spending time with my father, sister-in-law and niece, at the beach–I talked to my mother on the phone.

I ambled around my dirt-topped backyard as we spent twenty minutes or so catching up, and then told her I needed to go get dinner.

“Okay,” she said. “What time is your flight on Sunday?” And then: “Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit!”

I’m certain she could hear the sound of my eyes rolling through the phone.

“What?” I retorted. “Do you really think I’m twelve years old? Jesus, mother. How do you think I survive in the world?”

Let’s just hold onto that question for a moment as I ask you to imagine the way I felt when, sitting at my gate in the Albuquerque Sunport that Sunday morning, I ticked through the contents of my suitcase and realized that I had, indeed, forgotten to pack my swimsuit.

I’d like to think it a testament to the strength of our present relationship that my first thought (after: “Wow. Really???” and “Good lord, Elizabeth, are you fucking kidding me!?”) was to tell my mother: I was eager to share with her the laugh.

(And it is perhaps testament to the frequency of this sort of exchange between us that when I did get ahold of her and asked “Guess what I forgot?!” she laughed and said “It’s okay, we have plenty of cell phone chargers!”)

Why do I tell you this? A few reasons. One, it is my mother’s birthday today and I suspect that she’ll appreciate the nod to her all-knowing-ness–as she usually, quietly, does. Two, it’s mildly amusing, and when things happen to me that are mildly amusing I sometimes (you know, about weekly) like to share them. Three, to ask this question: how in god’s name do I survive in the world?

It’s been ten years, now, since I moved out of my parents house and went to college in a state few people I knew had been to. (Or, could remember: “Where are you again?” they’d ask. “Missouri?”) Since then–save a perfectly lovely three weeks at my parents house between stints in DC and New Mexico when I worked on grad school applications and took off my pajamas, maybe, twice–I’ve been living on my own.

I’ve lived alone. I’ve lived with roommates. I am the primary (though, thankfully, not the sole) caretaker to an energetic pitbull mix. In a year, hopefully, I will have a graduate degree.

But still: I struggle with the basics of life. (Seriously: it’s possible that I haven’t been to the dentist since the Clinton administration.)

Last week in New York I had coffee with a friend and former roommate from college: she recently finished her grad program and has spent a few months unemployed. Those months have been filled with the kind of life stuff–bills, IRS issues, doctors appointments–that are a constant challenge to balance with work.

“I don’t understand how anyone who has a job gets this stuff done!” she sighed to me over iced teas at a Park Slope coffee shop.

It reminded me of a conversation I once had with my brother R.

“What have you been up to?” I asked him.

“You know, the usual, life things,” he replied. There was a pause. “All that stuff that you put off and don’t deal with, that you do everything else but? Like bills and appointments? That’s the stuff I do every day.”

“Oh,” I said. “Right.”

Which is all to say that there are people, my brother apparently among them, for whom basic responsibilities are a manageable burden. And then there are people, people like me and A, for whom they are a persistent struggle.

But, baby steps: in NY, I borrowed bathing suits from my best friend and sister-in-law. Yesterday, I made an appointment to have my teeth cleaned in September. The pit mix is sometimes crabby and not the most reliably obedient, but she’s got a pretty good life.

I’m not always sure how I survive in the world, but–with the help of good friends, occasional handy dudes, and an always all-knowing mother–I do. And, I suppose, I will.

Happy birthday Mom.

How to Mend a Broken Heart: The Real Time Version

The day before before D broke up with me, I found myself reading this post on my friend Sarah’s blog–titled “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

(Sometimes, by the way, my womanly instincts are so trustworthy it scares me.)

Sarah is very smart and articulate, and she has lots of very smart and articulate readers who comment–making that post a true trove of wisdom and insight that I dare not rival.

However, I happen to have a broken–or at least severely ripped–heart at the moment. (Sorry to break this news–I’m as shocked as you.)

And already, I am thick into the realm of post-breakup copage. Not to suggest that I’m managing this with any superior sort of intelligence or grace, but, as of yet, I haven’t completely crumbled.

Here, my friends, is a loose list of what I’ve been doing–and what, perhaps, I might suggest for anyone whose heart is similarly, unexpectedly, broken:

(Note: Like most lists, this one is incomplete. I reserve the right to update it in future posts periodically–one thing I know about breakups is that they take more than three days to get over.)

1. Crying in public. Last week, my sister-in-law sent me a link to this essay , from the New York Times website, about the unique urban experience of public tears: both having and witnessing. She sent it to me because the writing is great, which it is. But the writer focuses on the fascination that public crying provokes–not the interaction or support. But when a hot young thing (female, but still) approached me, all red-eyed and wet-faced, in the yoga changing room (pre-class, before such signs could be taken for sweat), bearing a hug and kind words, I felt a sweet taste of much-needed comfort and warmth. Recommend. (Note: this incident did not, obviously, occur in New York–but it did happen to involve two New Yorkers. Discuss.)

2. Crying in private. You will not make friends, and you may scare your (quite easily spooked) mutt, but you must do it. A lot. She will get over it, and so, eventually, will you.

3. Eating fatty meats, and acting a little ridiculous. Hours after the incident, my two roommates and dear girlfriends, S and N, took me out for a plate of Korean BBQ. This has long been something of a tradition for S and me: whenever one of us feels any sort of vulnerable, we go out and stuff ourselves with grilled meat. It helps. Afterwards, S demanded to buy a round of “nasty” shots, and pair it with some “nasty” television. Not having a tv (or, really, the ability to produce said libation) we proceeded to the nearest bar, where we sabotaged our collective chances with the adorable bartender in order to demand that he turn on The Bachelorette. Despite the objections of the less attractive, less accommodating bar patrons, he complied. And thus, my romantic difficulties began to pale.

4. Sweating. Somehow, I managed to lose a boyfriend and a working car in the same week. Meaning, each morning, I have spent 90 minutes in severe heat, contorting my body into unreasonable and uncomfortable positions and, immediately afterwards, used same body to haul myself (along with my vintage-Schwinn-that-weights-almost-as-much-as-me), in slightly less severe heat, up the most obnoxious hill in Albuquerque. There’s nothing quite like anger to help pound those pedals.

5. Speaking of which, feeling angry. Ask anyone who’s been hurt (aka, anyone): the pain is easier to bear when there’s someone to blame. I adore D, and this isn’t his blog so I won’t get into the details of his decision (at least, not now), but I will say this: the man made a stupid choice. He had something good (me) that he could’ve held onto (at least for a while), and he let it go. For this, and only this, I feel furious. That, also, helps.

6. Drinking a lot of lattes, and, generally, doing exactly what I feel like. Normally, I get my “treat” drink, an Iced Decaf Soy Latte, approximately once a month. Now, I’m having at least two daily. I’ve worn the same shorts for three days. I haven’t washed my hair. Yesterday, I thought nothing of spending $7 for beer at a baseball game. Tomorrow, I’m going to buy myself an extremely overpriced sports bra. Hey, getting dumped is awesome!

7. Acting a little bit reckless. This was among the many pearls of wisdom that S has provided in the past few days. Immediately post-breakup, I felt the compelling urge to contact an ex. (Well,  more of a friend than an ex these days, but still: he’s someone with strong sway on my emotional state.) I wrote a text. I didn’t send it. “S is going to tell me not to,” I told N, as we took a walk around the neighborhood before S got home. But, walking to dinner, when I asked her, she didn’t. “I think this is a time when you can act a little bit reckless,” she said. “It’s kind of what you have to do.” Thrilled to receive her permission, I sent. He called. I felt better.

8. Talking to people who love me a lot, a lot. Especially those with goofy senses of humor.  My brother J was clearly very fond of D, but when I told him of the breakup, this is what he said: “Good riddance! I never liked that guy anyhow. I mean, he was from Texas. And so skinny!”

9. Thinking about why I’m really sad. Another of S’s gems was this: “Often, after a breakup, the loss we feel isn’t the relationship so much as the expectations we had for it.” So true. And if I’m really honest with myself, I’m more sad about losing the relationship than I am about losing D. And that says something. Something that leads, lastly, to this:

10. Telling myself things I need to hear. For example: D is a great guy. And I’m sure he could have made me happy. But I’m also sure that someone else can–and will–make me happier.

On Feeling Like A Fraud, And Our East Coast Adventure!

During the New York stop of D’s and my nine-day, four-city Extreme East Coast Adventure, we landed for a couple of nights at my brother,  sister-in-law and niece’s Park Slope brownstone.

The day before, D had met a few of my numerous New York relatives—mother, one grandmother, one brother—but not yet F, my sister-in-law. (I feel obliged to note that, for her, this title seems distinctly weak: I have known F since she was seventeen and I was five: throughout my childhood she took to regularly supervising my backyard birthday parties—from kimonos to tie-dyes, bless her then-teenage heart.)

And that afternoon–considering F’s lifetime of childcare, it was the least I could do–D and I picked up S, my seven-year-old niece, from elementary school–and, by way of a chaotic playground on 7th Avenue and a slightly calmer stop for Italian Icies on 5th (rainbow for the kid, lemon for us), brought her home.

A little while later, D was downstairs starting a load of laundry when F walked in the house, home from an afternoon pedicure up the block.

She looked down to see S and I sprawled on the hardwood living room floor with sharpies and construction paper, books and scissors, glue sticks and stickers–but no D.

“Where is he!?” she stage-whispered, still only partway through the door.

“Huh?” I looked up, reluctant to distract from my intense focus on the startingly Herculean task S had just charged me with: drawing a cat.

“The boyfriend! I haven’t seen him and I don’t believe he exists!”

Continue reading

Post Mother’s Day Ode #2 to My Most Lovable Mom

Newsflash: contrary to what one sometimes thinks when single, being in a relationship does not make all one’s problems go away.

Having to move bedrooms? Way easier. Dealing with car problems? Definitely improved. Frequent, fragile mood swings and persistent insecurity about one’s body and talent? Thriving as ever.

One thing, though, that it turns out is a bit easier for me, when I’m attached, is my relationship with my mother.

Now, my mom and I, overall, have a pretty solid relationship. I’d say it’s above average, easily. We talk several times a week. We both have fairly easygoing temperaments. We each think the other is, objectively (yeah, right), pretty darn interesting and lovely and smart.

But as I write in a new essay, featured today on the website Style Substance Soul (like the cross self-promotion at work here? A girl’s gotta do…), it’s not always entirely rosey.

I tend to focus on the ways in which my mother and I alike: you know, on those tics and mannerisms of hers that, because I recognize them in myself, find consistently, irrationally, repulsive: the way we say “hmmm” when other people talk, even when we aren’t listening; the face we make when we look in the mirror. Etc.

But in truth, we are quite different people. As you may have noticed if you are reading this blog, I’m pretty comfortable being open about most things, excessively intimate details of my personal life included. My mother? Not so much.

Continue reading

On Telling Half-Truths, and Meeting Parents

Let’s not kid ourselves. All of us indulge in some form of fantasizing about romantic relationships. Or crushes. Or objects of whatever degree of  affection. Okay maybe I do it more than you. But whatever–I refuse to be alone in this.

I’m not sure what are the most common varieties of romantic daydreams: walking down the aisle or dancing at the wedding? Having big-eyed children or a sun-soaked honeymoon?

I know that one thing I always imagine, when I meet someone, is some sort of scenario in which that person meets my family.

Why do I do this? For most people, subjecting someone they like to their family would seem a variety of punishment, if not torture. The stakes are high, the expectations overwhelming, basically everyone is anxious. I spend enough of my actual life beset with anxiety–why should I need to create it in my imaginary life, too?

But at the same time, my family is extremely important to me. I can’t imagine being with someone for any sort of term who my family didn’t like. Not just like, love. My oldest brother has been dating my now sister-in-law since I was five. The youngest, who just got married, was with his now-wife for seven years. They, along with my third sister-in-law, too, are basically sisters: I may be separated by distance, but we are all close knit.

So the fact that I could easily imagine my parents and brothers embracing D was, and is, no small thing.

When I first brought up the idea of him coming home with me, D was a bit nervous. Meeting the parents is a big deal, he said. I managed to talk him out of this concern, assuring him that my parents are extremely easygoing folk and telling him that the last person they met, I broke up with a few days later.

I’m not sure how comforting that was to hear, but it worked. I’m not sure how honest it was either. I mean, it’s true: I did invite a guy I’d been with for a couple of months to have brunch with my parents when they visited me one weekend in Washington. And it’s true that a few days later, I broke up with him. And it’s also true that a few days after that he showed up at my Logan Circle apartment to perform an elaborate temper tantrum in which he pointed out that I had “just introduced him to my parents!”

Presumably, he got over it. But regardless of its’ veracity, the story is misleading. Because, besides him, the only guy I’ve ever brought home was J, my “long-term-ex.” (Who happened to be the exact number of years older than me–sixteen years–than my oldest brother, making an already awkward situation that much more. In fact, it was probably far more awkward than I ever realized at the time–things being a little fuzzy when you’re nineteen and in love.)

Which is all to say that, despite my manipulative and slightly fraudulent words to D, meeting my parents is kind of a big deal–even if the bar is set relatively low. (“He seemed like a nice companion to pass time with,” my father commented when I told him about breaking if off with the DC guy–don’t ever accuse him of not being generous.)

I want D to meet my parents because I want them to meet him: because Iam serious about our relationship. Because whether he is someone they can get along with matters. Because I can’t imagine being with someone they couldn’t.