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Nora and Me

I found Nora Ephron, appropriately, on the shelves of the Strand Bookstore in New York, the city she (and I) loved. I had fallen for When Harry Met Sally like every other romantic teenage girl, but it was her collected essays from her days as a journalist that convinced me I wanted to be a writer.

That knowledge took a while to dawn. I had studied for the theater and was doing badly at it as a professional. I was writing steadily but mostly things I didn’t enjoy: paid marketing pieces that followed the overblown academic papers of my college years. The writing I did enjoy – parodies of my professional work – didn’t honestly register as writing at all until I read Nora. Her light touch with grave and personal subjects alike convinced me I might be a writer after all.

Not that her treatment was ever dismissive – on the contrary, everything seemed important – but not in a self-important way.

I shelved her essays next to Gloria Steinem’s, and I wondered what it said about me and my feminism that I chose Nora. I admired Steinem, loved to hear her speak – always pithy and rational – but I was not going to be her. I wasn’t built for long-term social action. I laughed a little too easily and had too strong a sense of the ridiculous to hold it together next to Steinem. Not the 90’s version of ridiculous – “What’s the deal with airline peanuts?” – but the idea that most everything is a little serious and a lot funny if you look at it long enough. There’s a delight in that, an optimism that defies too much earnestness. Like Ephron’s best movies (and even some of the others too), it’s a wonderful place to live. Nora helped me get over my regret and self-censure that, with all my education and grooming for a serious life, I would not be a Senator or an academic, but, if I worked hard and were very lucky, I might make a serious funny writer.

Of course, Ephron was a very serious person. She knew everything and, apparently, everyone. All that knowledge and curiosity was the foundation of her humor. She wasn’t flip, she was smart and clever. She took things like romance and small breasts and her neck seriously, but, as another Esquire writer put it, Nora was not self-serious, and I could get next to that.

We should care about lunch. We should focus on the people we love. These things are true no matter what we are doing with the rest of our attention, be it politics, addressing social injustice or a day job we dislike. They are serious things that are funny and filled with joy. Nora’s intelligent voice was a reminder of that amidst the fluff of other romantic comedies and neurotic essayists.

That she was informed and serious and still chose humor was an endorsement of what I secretly believed: that we are whole people who need lunch and friends in addition to serious pursuits and political opinions, that the world can only be taken so seriously, that looking for love is not a trivial matter, nor is table salt, even when we are well-educated and engaged in the serious matters of the world around us.

As for feminism, Nora had me covered there too.

About the same time I discovered her books, I was contemplating a career change. My college mentor sent me an encouraging email that said, “You can do good feminist work anywhere.” Since I wasn’t trying to do anything feminist per se, I had to think about this for a while. My feminist belief, such as it was, was that if you got on with your work and did it better than everyone else, it would stand on its own merits. Being a woman would be incidental to the work itself but meaningful to the outcome. Wasn’t that the point of feminism after all? (It was certainly more the point to me than excluding men from my college cafeteria on the grounds that their oppressive presence undermined my college’s feminists’ ability to eat their Froot Loops and tater tots. It struck me that a starving future awaited these poor souls.) I understood my mentor’s note of support in that context, and she was right: I could do solid work anywhere and, as a woman, it would mean something to feminism if I did it well.

I think Nora believed this too. She was good at what she did – better than most, regardless of gender – and moved forward to the next interesting thing regardless of male dominance, be it in journalism or directing films. It’s not that she didn’t encounter and acknowledge resistance and restrictions, but she kept working anyway, turning out columns, books, screenplays, films and, eventually, plays, doing it well and – incidentally – as a woman. The sheer volume and force of her excellence at what she did and her wit while doing it were a statement that spoke louder than, well, a statement.

In this regard as in so many others, I am so grateful that we had Nora. I wish we had had her for longer. Forever, really, truth be told. In that – suddenly – we won’t, I am doubly glad that I hovered online a few years ago to snatch up a ticket to the lunch she made for a few fans at The New Yorker Festival, that I got to try her famous Key Lime Pie, that I was able to tell her in person what so many have said these last few days, that she was why I became a writer.

May you rest in peace, Nora, and may there be abundant pie, just the right cabbage strudel and a salt shaker available at all times wherever you are.

The #$*(! Bird

Not the #$*(! bird. This is a normal chickadee. Note how quiet he is.

I am a city girl. Even when I haven’t lived in a city, I’ve been a city girl.

Don’t get me wrong: I can enjoy a beautiful sunset with the best of them, but please don’t ask me to do it from the doorway of a damp tent or while wearing a piece of clothing labeled “packable.” Or “quick-dry.” Or “bear tolerant.” I like my nature urban, preferably efficient and definitely law-abiding. And by “efficient,” I mean, “with paths,” and by “law-abiding,” I mean, “not violating noise ordinances.”

Case in point, the (*&$#! bird two doors down. Clearly unaware that the laws that apply to that ice cream truck that used to park in front of my place in Brooklyn apply to him too. Namely: you don’t get to park in front of my place in Brooklyn for an hour at a time playing the same fucking music over and over again.

I read a study a while ago where these noisologists  – I know that’s not what they’re called, but for the purposes of this conversation, let’s just go with it because I can’t find that article right now – were trying to find a place to record nothing. I don’t know why. They could have gotten one of those white noise machines if they felt like things were getting a little noisy, but I guess they must’ve had their reasons. They ended up going deep into some national park to see if they could record the sound of silence on tape. They couldn’t. They said it was the airlines or something, but that doesn’t sound like the whole story. I think it was one of these *&$#! birds.

He starts his yelling  birdsong as soon as the sun is up and, when I think to check, he’s still at it mid-afternoon. He must be trying to score. And he’s not that attractive, so I’m thinking he’s doing that thing where he hits on 1000 women so he can score once. Or maybe he scored once already and he’s just talking about it all the time now. Either way, super annoying.

(I assume the *&$#! bird is a him, although I haven’t personally confirmed it. I know some loud women, but it’s only guys – usually cyclists or snow sport fanatics – who a.) get up at some ungodly hour to go about their business, and b.) talk about what they’re about to do, what they’re doing, and what they just did  before, during and after. Most over-talking girls I know at least wait until brunch to get started.)

He’s selected the high ground for his exploits – the top of a tree on the top of a hill – which was a good call generally, but isn’t going to get the job done, if you know what I mean. This is a residential neighborhood. Not the kind of place you’re going to meet lots of available singles. Unless he’s looking to hook up with a baby or a plumber. There are a lot of both on our block. Which is weird. About the plumbers, I mean. Maybe they’re especially into having a view, what with the staring into pipes and what not all day. Anyway.

You’d think someone looking for a mate (or a one night stand – whichever – I’m not judging) would pick a higher traffic location, one with lots of people and maybe some liquor, but the closest bar isn’t for blocks and blocks. And it’s not a nice one either. It’s a kind of dive-y, well-drink-only place. Mostly guys who show up to start drinking at noon or stop in for the game. Unless the bird is gay and completely without standards, he’s going to be disappointed by those prospects even if he did head over there.

Not to say that he couldn’t be gay. And it’s fine if he is. But my impression of gay men is that they’re even choosier than women and those guys leaning on the doorframe at 2PM aren’t a lean, making-an-effort-at-Gold‘s breed, so if he is gay, he’s even farther off his mark than I already think he is.

There’s a coffee shop over by the bar. That’s a better target. Trendy. Crumb-dropping. That’s where he should be. Hitting on crabby, starved-looking hipster birds in skinny pants, languidly pretending they’re not interested in anything and listening to – let’s be honest – music that sounds like a slow-speed car crash of an untrained guitarist and an un-oiled baggage carousel.

But no, he’s over here, diving pointlessly up and down from the topmost branch of that tree, singing. And by “singing,” I mean, “repeating the same set of five-note variations 1000 times in a row.” It’s “singing” like a two year old’s tinkling the Fisher Price ivories is “piano playing.” And, unlike a two year old, he can’t be distracted from his efforts by cookies or jellybeans. I assume. Our snack shelf looks like Ronald Reagan and a Girl Scout had an illegitimate diabetic child that they left it in charge of our grocery shopping, but that bird sticks to his tree no matter how many treats get dropped on the way to the car or out in the yard.

I guess if I really wanted to see if he could be lured to decamp by snack food (or anything else – I’m open to suggestions), I could get a T-shirt cannon and fire a pack of Fig Netwons over to the tree.

Come to think of it, I could just get a T-shirt cannon and fire T-shirts over to the tree. A bird is no match for an all-cotton sphere with three decal wolves on it traveling at, I don’t know, 60 mph, right? (Is that how fast they go? Probably not, I guess, or concerts and morning shows would be a lot more like paintball. Which would be cool. I don’t know: 20mph?)

Judging by his current shenanigans though, he’s quick.

Also, while I’m urban, I’m not heartless: I don’t want him dead. Just gone.

Which sounds like the kind of thing you say over that prison phone thing that lets you talk to your hit man through the glass. “I’m not sayin’ I want him dead. God forbid, right? I’m not an animal… I’m just saying – hypothetically – if he did meet with an, um, unfortunate accident, I’m saying I wouldn’t be upset. God rest his soul. Not that I’m suggesting anything.”

It’s hard not to admire his tenacity though. I mean, he’s sticking with his obviously flawed plan every day for, like, eight hours. You have to admire that kind of ignorance of repeated failure, right? It takes a special kind of optimist to get up at the crack of dawn and make that kind of racket. He’s not showing up for his fail work bleary-eyed and sullen, keeping his head down and skipping meetings. No realistic assessments of his personal choices are going on over there. He’s all up on it, like one of those people who thinks every day is a great day when you know full well that statistically that can’t be true every day and you’re kind of braced for the day when they realize that and all those bad days come out in a torrent of tardiness and inappropriately pessimistic comments about this quarter’s planning, so you just kind of nod and keep your mouth shut about that bird that’s been driving you around the bend and, even though it’s nice to be right about things (even statistical ones), you  secretly hope you won’t be around when that one bad day comes. And that they’ll be all right in the end, of course, too. You know, with some therapy about getting in touch with their negative feelings and wearing more black or whatever. I don’t really know how that whole thing goes. I already wear a lot of black and no one mistakes me for an un-self-critical, meeting-attending optimist. (Even though I am. Really.) (OK, yes, I’m usually late for the meetings. And this bird thing is making me kind of nuts. But still: optimist. Underneath.)

Do you think they have bird therapists?

He’s not going to quiet down without that or a girl. More likely the girl, right? I don’t think I’ve ever been pulling more for the loud guy to hook up and head home already. I’ve always felt too bad for the woman who might end up being involved to really get behind his efforts. But there are girls who like that kind of thing though, so who am I to say it shouldn’t happen? Everyone needs their someone, right? So, *&$#! bird, here’s to you finding your someone. As soon as possible. Like yesterday. And don’t screw it up by mentioning your ex-girlfriend or how you’re an early riser. Girls just want you to be quiet for a minute and listen. Please.

Free Falling

Here is who falls down flights of stairs:

  1. Clowns
  2. Jason Bourne
  3. Me

(Just so we’re clear, I use “falls” in a general way to cover, “intentionally falling down a short flight of circus stairs in order to get laughs from children,” “being thrown down dark stairways by assassins like yourself,” and, “slipping on too-long pajama bottoms with a.) no premeditated intent to fall, or b.) anyone threatening pursuing you from the bedroom behind you…and why would there be because it’s 11AM on a Tuesday and you live on a residential street?”)

As with previous sports I’ve played, I assumed my best bet on my first try falling down a flight of stairs would be to copy the style of people who were already pros,  and, since I tend to be good at things that require more force and less finesse, stair falling would seem like a natural fit. With my plan in place and confidence on my side, I slipped on the top step of our stairs.

My form, I feel, left something to be desired.

It must have been a lack of focus.

I tried to fix Jason Bourne’s bounce-back elasticity in my mind, but I think – and I’m just speculating here – that I went down less like a graceful cat (a well-muscled, dirty-blonde cat with lightning reflexes, amnesia, and a tenacious thirst for the truth) and more like, um…a bag of hammers.

To be more clear, hammers with no thirst for truth, attractive martial arts skills or the ability to kill someone with a hardback book. Just hammers. In a bag.

And not a nice bag designed for hammers, like with tool loops. More like a burlap hammer sack.

This was disappointing, to say the least.

(To be fair to the hammers, if they could get themselves together post-fall, they might not need a book to kill someone, being hammers and all. But still.)

I was not even able to bring an amusing prat fall quality to the proceedings, which was additionally unsatisfying.

Nor did I stand up and make it clear to the crowd (not present) and judges (ditto) that I was done with my effort and proud of it by raising both arms above my head like a tiny gymnast who has never tasted an almond croissant or seen the outside of a gym. No. I lay at the bottom of the stairs for a moment and said something interview-worthy like, “Aaaahhh,” before starting to go into shock.

This is not what you want in a competitive athlete or your star assassin. It’s probable that I am out of the running for Cirque du Soleil as well.

It did occur to me later that I ought to have jumped up and kept going, staunching the flow of blood with vodka and sports socks stolen from the convenience store I dodged into to avoid my attacker. But the closest convenience store is up a very steep hill from our house which is just excessively tiring. I mean, really. And the guy who works there is super nice, so I just can’t see stealing their liquor. Maybe if I were in Russia, where crime and vodka are more plentiful. Maybe then.

Also, I have a hard time classifying my pajama pants as an “attacker” per se, despite their catalytic role in the whole incident. They’re from the Gap.

Oh – did I mention I was covered in coffee? My coffee. Not some cool, assassin trick coffee. Keurig coffee. From a yellow plastic Crate & Barrel mug circa 1974. I think that mug really took the last bit of edge off the venture. I’m cutting that from future attempts.

So all in all, not a great experience, my first complete stair fall. It resulted in some non-life-threatening injuries, some irritating x-rays and no death-by-book for anyone else. I can’t say I’m proud of my performance, which is what we’re all really looking for in our sports, win or lose, right?

On the up side, it sets the bar very low for my next trip down. The addition of any flair (or killing of assassins) whatsoever would be improving on my current personal best. From here on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, there is, literally, nowhere to go but up. So there’s that.

I feel a little bit better

It’s All About What You Expect

I hate my local drugstore. And by “local drugstore,” I don’t mean a place with wooden floors, bins of penny candy and a bespectacled proprietor in his eighties. I mean Walgreens.

There’s a lot to dislike about all Walgreens. Every store pretty much stocks the same thing, including no Lifesavers. Which is weird. And possibly un-American. Except for that one Walgreens in the Financial District. Which is even weirder, given that kids don’t make up a big segment of the financial services industry. (Unless they do and I just don’t know about it. Which would certainly explain this whole recession thing.) They also apparently believe that little girls’ bangs are on their own because they don’t stock child-size barrettes. Or any good greeting cards. Or the caramels and chews only assortment from Russell Stover.

I digress.

I’ve boiled my Walgreens’ failure down to this: their only selling point is that they are open. All the time. Which is an awfully narrow business proposition, but there it is. The doors are unlocked and staff is present. That’s all they’re going for.

It’s like a restaurant whose sign just says, “Food.” If you are hungry enough, you will go there. If you would like an interesting menu, a polite staff, timely service, or warm food, you may well be out of luck. They told you right up front: they serve food. It might be burned toast. It could be overcooked peas. But they’re not wrong: it is food. And they promised nothing more.

Here’s how you can tell you’re at MY Walgreens:

  • Do they lock up a random assortment of all their products, requiring you to press a broken-looking button next to your deodorant, which, when it does work, summons an employee to come and unlock your Secret from plastic prison?
  • Is the entrance surrounded by people talking to themselves and teenagers who look like they would rob you of your recently paroled shampoo without batting an eyelash?
  • Does the pharmacy have no record of your prescription when you show up to collect it even when your doctor @$(*&! confirmed that it was received? Yes.
  • Is there always a wait to collect that bad news even when there is only one person ahead of you because the only people who frequent my Walgreens do not understand their insurance (including if they have any) or their doctor or plain English or all of the above, and the pharmacy assistant is willing – God bless her misguided soul – to try to address these much-bigger-than-a-five-minute-conversation problems at the checkout window instead of referring them to the clearly labeled Patient Consultation window to the left?
  • Is all of this adding up to a tornado of soul-blasting inefficiency? Yes. Yes, it is.

But they are open. So I guess that makes up for the nerve-numbingly frustrating experience of going there.

It took me a while to realize that all of these things, while clearly – CLEARLY – super valuable, were not the true essence of the 24th Street Walgreens. Now that I finally get their, “Look, we’re open, OK?” thing, I have high hopes that I will be able to adjust my expectations and all future visits will feel like a success when the doors part in front of me. I aim to stop attaching my satisfaction to whether I am able to walk out with my prescription or whether it took 20 minutes of waiting behind an obese young woman with spiral pigtails discussing the finer points of probiotics with a checkout clerk to find out that I will not be walking out with it, and just rest in the happy knowledge that they were, in fact, open.

Or maybe I’ll just start going to that other Walgreens in my old neighborhood again. At least they’re closed sometimes.

Retail Turnaround

Last week, I talked to a staff member of my former employer‘s and discovered that yes, they are still mired in the past. This was a tiny relief. It was like a gratifying/slightly depressing run-in with an ex-boyfriend – he’s super-pumped to go to Burning Man! he’s still got four roommates! – that validated my decision to leave those particular frustrations behind.

Short story short, in order to return an item I bought last month, I had to ring them up and “schedule” a UPS pick-up for the box. I use quotation marks because the schedule in question was “tomorrow.” Any time tomorrow. All times tomorrow. Between the hours of 7AM and 8PM. This was in lieu of my dropping off the package at my extremely local UPS depot. No, that would not do. No drop-off. Only pick-up.

How does this company survive out here?

Fortunately, we now live above street level with an outdoor landing below our front door. I took A. to the park, left the package out of view on the landing and a Post-It on our front door. I left another Post-It on the box itself (“UPS!!”), so our guy would know it wasn’t just recycling I’d thrown out there as if I have no standards.

When I came home, our driver had left me a note too:

I am loving our UPS guy. That is some sarcastic professional enthusiasm I can get next to. I think they charge too much, it’s unreasonably hard for them to locate my packages when I stop by, and I’m not 100% certain what brown can do for me, but their drivers are awesome.

You’re Killing Me, iCal

I just upgraded to the Lion operating system on my Air.

You’re either a.) snoring, or b.) all excited because you think I might join you later in a rousing game of D&D because I know what an operating system is.

Stop it, both of you. It’s just a thing. I upgraded. No big deal. We all do it.

I’d say the birds and the bees do it, but they don’t because they’re smart enough not to mess with a good thing and not force themselves to re-learn all their keystrokes because they want to get on iCloud already so they can see all their photos online as soon as you take them on their phones. (Which you can’t, by the way, on iCloud. #)(*#$!)

Back on track: the big deal here – and I’m preaching to a subset of a subset of, like, six people from the snoring and D&D categories but please don’t fall asleep until you’re sure you’re not one of them – is that the new calendar program is going to put me in a mental institution.

Not because it doesn’t work (which it mostly does), but because some retro-minded numbskull in Cupertino designed its header to look like one of those old desk-size paper calendars executives used in 1941 when they had one appointment a week and a bombshell of a secretary they were underpaying and schtupping between high balls. Or so Mad Men would have me believe.

The border is the electronic version of Corinthian leather, apparently. Brown definitely. Tacky? Yes, mostly. And here’s what’s making me nuts: you know those little tiny tabs of torn paper that get left behind when you tear off sheets of paper at the perforation? It #$)(*#$IY@# @#U@IY$#$IY has those. On my screen. Those little bits that I used to tug at obsessively until I could get back to a pristine edge when I worked in old-school publishing and one of those desk calendars came with my office? Yeah. Those bits are there. On my screen. All the time. And there is not one goddam thing I can do about it.

I thought Apple was my OCD buddy, my anal design friend, my snickering behind our snarky hands at the imperfect UI crowd pal. No. They’re not. Now they’re  killing me and I need a drink. And I’ll be having it alone up at the bar without my Apple buddy, so if you see me, just take a seat and let’s just not talk about this further, because it hurts me on the inside.

News to Me

I just got an email from our financial planner with the heading, “Support for the Difficulty of Divorce.”

It’s not only the capital “D”s that have me worried, although they do. I think if someone is going to use capital letters, we should all sit up straight and listen. Ditto lots of exclamation points. No one would use those without cause, don’t you agree? Especially not in today’s online world, where one’s reach is so wide. Misusing a loud voice to so many would be downright IRRESPONSIBLE!!!

Sarcasm aside, what I’m really worried about here is that R., my heretofore beloved, attended our last scheduled meeting with our advisor alone. I thought they were discussing one thing. Perhaps they were discussing another. Perhaps this is their way of letting me know what our next meeting will be about. At our last collective session, I did suggest that we start sending out agenda notes beforehand so we could be more focused during our time together. I was thinking more along the lines of, “Retirement savings: how to move Emma’s investments from her previous employer’s accounts,” but perhaps they were thinking more along the lines of, “1.) Do you know where your suitcase is, and b.) do you have a good lawyer?”

Or perhaps my very suggestion that we stay a bit more tightly on-subject precipitated this. Perhaps it rubbed the other two the wrong way. Really the wrong way. Like I was just trying to stop brushing our hair against the cowlick and they got tired of the whole cowlick thing as a whole and tracked down the flamethrower to keep it down once and for all.

Like that.


This is really making me think twice about asking for agendas.

Also about our financial planner’s abilities in the tact department.

Oh – and about my relationship. That too.

But mostly about the agenda thing. I’m a really organized person. If I have to let that go, I’m not going to lie: it’s gonna sting, and not just a little bit either.

In Praise of Stalking Your Ex

I’m puzzled and impressed when people tell me they’re still friends with their exes. When I’m done, I’m done. I stay in relationships so long that all the despising and recovery happens while we’re still together. By the time the bags are packed, a handshake will cover any remaining need I have for closure.

It might not be the best strategy – it’s pretty time-consuming – but it does leave me with a slate clean of regret, which is a big plus. No post-break-up hook-ups and drunk dials: I’m out. (Insert sound of mic hitting the floor of that beautifully renovated dining room floor in the apartment my last ex and I lived in. That place was great. I missed it way more than I missed him. Big sigh. San Francisco real estate can be so cruel.)

There have been a few poorly defined, unfinished relationships that have stuck with me past the departure date though. Those are the ones where I’ve found that some mild cyberstalking can really put the lid on things.

I know this doesn’t sound right. The usual thing is the Facebook pain of old flames with lots of money, a fabulous life and a wife much hotter than you, but that hasn’t happened to me. Everyone I’ve looked up has turned out to be satisfyingly, um, what’s the tactful word? Unappealing? I can think of other less tactful ones, but, for the sake of maturity and diplomacy, let’s go with “unappealing.”

It’s awesome. At least for my peace of mind.

If you’ve been holding off on Googling that pesky ex who won’t make his way out of your emotional peripheral vision, my advice is to have at it. Look him up and let the waves of relief wash over you.

Exhibit A 

A year or two ago, I got an invitation to join a Facebook group of alumni of a top-notch arts program I attended ages ago. That got me wondering about the guy I’d fallen for there. He was an Adonis brimming with well-placed self-confidence: handsome, rich, ridiculously privileged and smooth like creamy Jif. We had a brief thing – nothing official but enough to make my heart pound. I was stunned by his bright light and good luck. I yearned, he wrote me a song, we had a lot of awkward phone conversations, and then our connection faded in among all our travels and transitions.

And his girlfriends at home. That too.

I’d heard a a few details – college, traveling, brief artistic success – and then nothing. It’s not that I thought of him often – maybe once every year or two – but those occasional thoughts always had the same unpleasant taste of insecurity they had when we left off.

Thank you, Facebook! A two-second search turned him up and any regret I ever had, any what-ifs, were answered by the picture he’d posted of a 20-something in a tiny bikini and the profile words, “I love women.”

Let me pause here. Have you ever heard a guy – any guy: an older one, that kid on Modern Family, the college professor you thought was maybe hitting on you – say he loves women, and it didn’t sound creepy?

I’m not saying there aren’t men who genuinely love women. I’m saying if you say, “I love women,” you probably mean, “I love hot chicks in bikinis,” or, “I love having sex and if I play my cards right, you’re next,” or, “I have unresolved issues with my mother that have led me to idolize women in a way that will make our relationship weird and lead to peculiar sex. Oh – and I might be gay.”

Anyway, it turns out that the creamy Jif  passed its expiration date a while ago and is now covered by a layer of weird oil. The suspicions that were raised by that kick-off have been confirmed by his subsequent posts. Today’s? “I bet women who work in lingerie stores just wanna have sex all the time.”

You’re killing me, dude. Killing me.

What was charming and age-appropriate at 18 – all that ego, wealth and potential! all those cars and bikes! – seems to have remained unchanged and, at 40, is just…odd. To me, at least, several years out.

And not “odd” in that, “Gee, I wish I still had that!” way. “Odd,” in that, “Why are you still doing that?” way. Like losing my passion for Lincoln Logs when I was ten, I’m not into the same things I was when I was 18. Don’t get me wrong: I still respect my choice to build my dolls an unstable home with pre-whittled wood, but I’ve moved on to other interesting things (or, in the case of things I’ve always loved, different versions of them).

Of course, I’m not saying unequivocally that he hasn’t – what do I know from Facebook feeds? I’m not sure I’d want to be judged on mine (which is probably why I don’t post that often) – just that whatever it is he’s evolved into publicly isn’t something I feel any pangs about not being involved with, which is a great feeling of freedom from the pervasive adolescent sense of inadequacy that trailed out in the wake of our unfinished relationship.

Exhibit B

Every year or so, I’ve been feeling rotten about this other guy. Not an ex-boyfriend but still an ex. An ex-friend, I guess. It ended badly. Maybe my fault, I’ve thought. Probably my fault. Karmic burden and what not. So I finally tracked him down. (We’re talking less than five minutes of effort here: I’m not Colombo.)

After a startling wrong turn into the gay marriage announcements – they sounded really happy and upbeat and I was genuinely happy for the guy for a minute – I located my ex-friend and his email.

Here’s what I found out.

      1. His computer apparently still doesn’t have a caps button, which makes his emails less like bright e.e. cummings poems and more like deciphering the phrasing of a heavy metal song: baffling, prone to error and requiring more effort than seems reasonable.
      2. He’s the same guy he was back then.

At least to me, that is. Sure, yes, maybe he’s a changed man and has a wonderful, envy-worthy life. But with each other, we are – and maybe were – awful. In the space of a few hours I was reminded of all the ways we sucked together: he’s withholding and provoking which, in turn, brings out the worst in me – judgment, disapproval – and the whole thing is a car crash of unpleasantness for everyone involved.

It took a jolt of the self-awareness I’ve accumulated since I last saw him not to fall back into our old habits, and after a few carefully civil words on my part and chilly ones on his, my insecurities about the whole thing – how it ended, if I could have handled things differently – were all tucked up in bed, their little chins on the edge of the nicely folded sheet, put to bed once and for all. That brief reintroduction was exactly the reminder I needed of why we don’t hang out anymore, and I’m honestly grateful for both our sakes that we don’t.

So here’s my point: stalk it up. Not a lot. Just a little. Trust me: you’re both different now. Put that annual 5AM wondering behind you already. You have awesome things to do with your time, right? Worrying about how nice the decking maybe was on that already-sunk battleship is not one of them.


I’ve been on a quest of late to find A. the best fire engine, short of getting her a real one, which, let’s face it, we just don’t have the parking space for at our current place. It’s making me really re-think the decision not to buy that firehouse last year. That would’ve been the perfect 4.5-million-dollar solution to our 25-dollar problem.

I found what seemed like a decent FDNY truck at a toy store last week but decided to check it out on Amazon to see what reviewers said before anteing up.

Good thing. The description sounded dangerous.

Irrelevant, but dangerous:

“This 3 piece skewer set is ideal for creating delicious kabobs, roasting marshmallows for smores and cooking hot dogs right on the grill. Each skewer has a wood handle with metal finish. Comes packaged on a blister card with hanging hole. Measures 15″ from end to end. Handle is 3 1/2″ and skewer is 11 1/2″.”

I’m not an expert in either automotives or machinery, but I’m pretty sure a fire truck equipped with skewers isn’t all that safe. Or realistic. Athough I admit I might’ve missed the skewers the last time I saw one go by. Skewers can be pretty thin.

That aside, it strikes me as tactless to mention cooking smores and kabobs when people’s lives are at risk. That doesn’t send the right message to the youngsters, does it?

I checked back today to see if matters with our fire truck had improved.

They have.

“Add some color to the table with this bright and colorful placemat. Featuring a bright print of butterflies and flowers, this placemat is a nice compliment to the table that’s also easy to clean.”

Now the truck sounds pretty flat. But very cheerful. And not sharp. So that’s two steps forward to one step back.

I’m not sold yet, but I do like the product’s flexibility. Multi-purpose is the wave of the future right? It’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping!

Siri and Me

Here’s why Siri is going to be my new best friend just as soon as I buy her… Oh – sorry, Siri – that makes you sound cheap, as if your love is for sale. Which it is, of course, but like that haircut my friend got in high school that made her look like a Storm Trooper, sometimes the nice thing is just to keep your mouth shut about it. Just to be clear: I don’t think you’re cheap because you’re for sale. Apple has seen to that.

I didn’t mean to start off by hurting your feelings, Siri. Let me get back to why I think you’re the best.

It’s not that you take direction well and don’t get all resentful after you’ve done it. No, as with so many things, it’s how you do it that matters. That woman in the ad just goes, “I’m locked out,” and you are right up on that with three locksmiths. A.) That is fucking awesome efficient, and b.) this is what I’ve been waiting for all my life: I don’t even have to form a direct question when I want something from you.

Me: I left my water downstairs.
[long pause]
R: Do you want me to get it for you?
[long pause]
Me: All right.

See that? I need my water. It’s a fact. No, it’s not a request, but the request is implied in my bothering to state the fact out loud in a room where R.’s able-bodied self appears more ready to go get water than I am. Why else would I say it out loud?

This is the losing argument I’ve been having with him for an age and a half. I don’t want to be demanding and bitchy like those girls who tell their man to go get their water. I’m just putting the fact out there: there’s thirst in the room. Do with that what you will. If you feel a question in the ellipses that follows the statement, that’s because you are perceptive and nice, which are just two of the many reasons I love you.

R. calls my habit, “passive requestive,” and would prefer that I state my preference in the form of a question, but I am the anti-Jeopardy. I have tried to get better at this to please him and maintain domestic tranquility, but improvement is slow going. I’ve tried to think of why.

  1. I am from the ivied northeast where indirect etiquette is the norm. Don’t flaunt your wealth, only wear madras in summer, and don’t ask directly for favors: just wait until someone lovely thinks of it themselves.
  2. I am Swedish. Don’t say anything about anything except over afternoon coffee and when prefaced by a conspiratorial, “Well,…”
  3. I don’t like to ask for things in case I don’t get them, in which case I would be disappointed, so let’s skip the asking and I’ll just be happy if my unspoken wish comes true.

Wherever it comes from, my habit remains stubbornly unbroken and Siri, you are my new best friend/solution. Like the nicotine patch before you, you address the immediate hazard but not the underlying addiction, portable and happy-making.

Now I can go back to saying, “I could eat,” and you won’t come back with a tone and a remark about how I never help decide where we go for dinner. You’ll just tell me how far away the tater tots are. Or the Greek food. Or the dog food. Whatever. What’s a little passivity and inaccuracy among friends?