What I Did Not Do On My Summer Vacation

It is, somehow, autumn again, that season of sharp pencils, cozy sweaters, and mornings punctuated by the noise of a certain screechy bird that makes me achingly lonely. The quiet endings and erotic leaves of fall once made it my favorite time of year, but as I get older I find myself drawn to spring, abounding with fluffy baby animals, bright green shoots pushing up through the dirt, and honeyed light.

I am getting sentimental in my Demeter years.

I had a long list of books I meant to read, most of which I did not. In particular I did not read Jennifer Weiner’s new novel, Who Do You Love, because the story of a man and a woman who meet as children and keep losing and finding each other through the years hits me in a place I’d rather not be touched, generous and warmhearted as I’m sure it is. I also didn’t read Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights because while your books, Mr. Rushdie, are also very good, reading the book description on Amazon tuckered me right out.

We had custom closets built in our bedroom and they make me so happy. All I’ve ever wanted is to live at Shutters on the Beach, and so late at night I put everything away in its own little cubby, light a scented candle, and pretend the sound of traffic on the BQE is the ocean.

Seabirds honk, right?

Jonathan and I spent a week at Kripalu, eating vegetarian food and farting our way through yoga class. I bought a fancy yoga mat and flip flops that have separators between all the toes. I also bought a book about Tantra, which I meant to read but didn’t.

All three of us, Jonathan, Emmy and me, spent a week in Phoenicia, NY, which is Brooklyn with more trees and a very long drive to get coffee. We attended the bar mitzvah of a dear friend’s charming son, in Woodstock, at a temple where the Rabbi accompanied herself on guitar and they hand you a maraca at the door. This is the kind of Judaism I can get with.

I listened to many, many, many podcasts.

I quit one job and started another. It was a good move, made for the right reasons. In the past, leaving a job always felt like a breakup, but this was more of a graduation. I’m an MRY alumna for life.

We have begun the process of getting Emerson into middle school, which is as terrible as everyone says it is. I recall my college application process as being significantly less stressful than this, but then again, I chose a college by evaluating which campus had the best sunset and was the shortest driving distance to my boyfriend.

I ended up transferring after a year and the boyfriend and I broke up, but there are worse ways to make a decision, I think. Those were some knock out sunsets.

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Curiosity and the…Cat

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a working mother in possession of even a single hour alone in her own home will inevitably look upon some heretofore unremarkable object and think to herself, “Huh. I wonder if I could masturbate with that?”

Such were my circumstances on a recent Thursday morning, when I found myself blissfully showering in an empty house, all on my own but for the company of my Clarisonic. A Clarisonic, if you’re unfamiliar, is a cleansing brush that oscillates at a sonic frequency that produces over 300 movements per second. It’s a power washer for your face, essentially. It is also a waterproof, handheld device that vibrates at a truly admirable rate.

“Why not?” I thought, and proceeded to have a perfectly lovely interlude with the business end of my Mia 1.

Hello lover.

Hello lover.

By now, in my mid-40s, you might think I’d learned a few things. Such as, if one is beginning an adventure with the thought, “Why not?” one might pause for a moment to go ahead and answer that question PRIOR to skipping gaily forward. Perhaps one might think, “Self, despite its pleasing shape and cheerful vibration, this device is designed, literally DESIGNED, to remove deep-seated impurities from the skin. It’s for DEEP CLEANING the skin ON YOUR FACE which is exposed all the time. Do we really think this sonically oscillating brush head is something we should jam against our usually sheltered flower?” And further, to paraphrase the poet — Chris Rock — just because one CAN masturbate with a thing, does not mean one OUGHT to.

But la-di-da, I have always been a devil-may-care, pay-the-piper-later, adventuresome sort of girl. “Why not?” is my raison d’être.

Sisters, look upon me and learn, for I have dirty danced with sonic technology and come home to tell the tale.

First came the stinging, a sensation very much like rug burn, only decidedly more painful and in a place where you’d really have to work to get contact with a rug. It grew worse as the day progressed, and by the next morning the situation had escalated.

Significantly.

S'up.

S’up?

Yes, in the wake of my Clarisonic indulgence, my secret garden had swollen to a primeval forest. It had swollen past the point of pants, sitting, or clarity of thought.

I did the only rational thing, and I called my best friend, Lisa.

“I’ve made a terrible mistake,” I said, and confessed my folly. She stopped laughing at me long enough to burst into a parody of My Sharona, thusly:

Oh there you were, there you were
in the shower, hon
Watching that motor run, CLAR-I-SONIC

Never gonna stop, give it up
Such a dirty mind, always get it up
For the touch of the vi-bra-ting kind
My my my i yi woo!
My my my my CLAR-I-SONIC

I mean, with friends like these.

I spent the weekend alternating between warm compresses, perching on an ice pack, and suffering my husband’s amused sympathy.

Eventually the swelling subsided, to be replaced by the itching. This was a hellish itching, spawned by Satan himself in an fiery underground bunker where punishment is born. I withstood it as long as I could, then finally broke down and made an appointment to see my gynecologist.

Of course, I am not the first person to turn up at the doctor with a story of self-pleasuring gone awry. But like so many things, it’s only funny if it’s NOT YOU explaining how your Clarisonic talked fancy to you and now that the baboon swelling has subsided you itch in a way that is Biblical. To her credit, my doctor was understanding and matter-of-fact. She examined me carefully and pronounced me healed but suffering from bacterial vaginosis. The cure? Five days of a cream to be applied nightly, and a gentle suggestion not to do it again.

For the record, Clarisonic has not called, texted, or emailed me since this all went down. It’s also unfriended me on Facebook.

Bastard.

In which I am anally probed by a chiropractor and fitted for a truss, also, some thoughts on love

I was diagnosed with scoliosis during a routine visit to my pediatrician when I was around 12 years old, and immediately burst into hysterical tears. I had just finished reading Deenie, Judy Blume’s novel about a beautiful girl with a twisty spine, and I was certain I’d be in a full body brace before sunset. In fact, my curvature is relatively minor, and required nothing more than monitoring until I’d finished growing. I look perfectly normal in clothes, but I am imbalanced — one hip is a little higher than the other, my waist is a little more concave on one side — and as a result I have overworked muscles in my right shoulder and left lower back, and corresponding weak muscles in my left shoulder and right lower back. I’m a bit of a Picasso, but none of it was a problem until I was 18, when I slipped on some ice, fell on concrete, and did something terrible to my crooked musculature that made it painful to sit, stand, lie down, and walk. Those being all the options, I was in big trouble, and was saved by a local chiropractor, who crunched me back into my version of alignment and got me back on my feet.

Since then, I have struggled with back pain, sometimes just a little stiff and twingy, other times in spasm so terrible I was essentially immobile for days, alternating heat and ice, abusing anti-inflammatory drugs, and crawling to the bathroom because I couldn’t stand. In my 30s, I found a chiropractor who truly helped me, with an extraordinarily expensive weekly regimen of electrical stim, massage, chiropractic adjustments, abdominal exercises, weight lifting and stretching. After years of this, she retired, and because I felt so well, and it had been so long since I’d had an episode, I figured myself cured and never bothered to find another doctor.

I am so dumb, sometimes.

The past few months have been a strange time, demanding and emotionally draining, with work eating up much of my life, a great deal of travel, and an unusual level of stress to do with family dynamics and the unexpected death of an old friend of a friend, a man my age. I’ve been letting some things slip, important things, like my morning run, daily meditation, dinner with my family, going to the movies, reading for pleasure, and time to pursue my own creative work. I’ve been letting life slip, is the thing. 

So of course, my back went out on Monday.

It was just like the bad old days, the immediate seizure of all the muscles in my lower back, my left hip pulled up, my torso pushed to the side, what I think of as my Elephant Man posture, the searing, blinding, nauseating pain, the inability to look down, to bend, the fear that this time I’ve done it, this time it won’t get better, this time the brace, the surgery, the pain that won’t stop, the never dancing again or horsing around with my daughter. This time I’m really broken.

Experience has taught me that the only thing to do when this happens is to keep moving. Stand instead of sit. Walk instead of stand. Crawl if I have to. Movement is the key. To give in to the pain, to the spasm, to the crazy-making swirl of fear, is worse than useless. When life clamps down, you move. So I double dosed on Tylenol and Motrin, counted out exactly how many I could take over the next 24 hours without poisoning myself, had Jonathan help me dress, and went to work. 

My crooked posture and obvious distress were met with compassion and care, because I work with people who are as kind as they are talented. I was given the names of many doctors — sports medicine, orthopedists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors (this is New York City, after all, everyone’s got a specialist for everything). And so it was that I found myself on Wednesday afternoon in the beautiful office of a chiropractor who is named for an Egyptian goddess, has been interviewed by O magazine, and uses a technique called Directional Non Force, which is extremely gentle and nothing like the twisting, cracking, popping chiropractic care I’ve had in the past.

I mean honestly, she had me at Oprah. 

She is lovely, this doctor, warm and kind, with a healing touch and a deep wisdom about the body. She talked to me, examined me, and worked on me extensively. She detailed my curvature to me, identifying L5 as the vertebrae to blame for my troubles, and then she told me that my coccyx was out of alignment, and she thought adjusting it would help me feel much better.

Funny thing about having your coccyx adjusted. It’s an internal procedure. And she didn’t even want to cuddle afterwards.

And then, because the afternoon had not been horizon expanding enough, she fitted me for a support belt. It’s a wide, multi-Velcroed garment that wraps around one’s hips and waist, providing support to newly aligned tailbones and exhausted muscles. It is my Deenie nightmare come true.

And so home I went, where I explained my day to Jonathan, and showed him my truss. Then I took a large dose of Oxycontin (they should put this stuff in the water, I swear), and went to bed.

The next day I was feeling better, but on doctor’s orders needed to wear my belt anyway, to help preserve my adjustment and not send my muscles back into spasm. After trying to get it placed properly on my own, and failing, I finally asked Jonathan for help. 

I think often about what it is to love another person, the comforts of it, the surprise of being charmed anew after years of familiarity, the chasm of rage you fall into sometimes. And to be sure, love is silk stockings and French bras and nursing a sick child, it’s dirty texts and harsh words, buying groceries and who is going to empty the dishwasher. And if you are lucky, love is a partner who will rub your aching, crooked ass with anti-inflammatory gel, and then wrap you in a truss while talking dirty to you about how you’re a sexy nurse and he’s going to straighten you out, you saucy little minx. 

The moral of this story, I guess, is that sometimes all we need is anal from a chiropractor and a truss to remember what’s truly important in life.

Where’s Waldo?

Waldo-image_approved

Look, I’m going to tell you a story about tampons, all right?

I got my period today — hooray! And I mean that genuinely. I have always been glad to see my period. Back in my youth because it meant I wasn’t pregnant, and more recently because it means I am not in menopause. Circle of life!

And so it was with the satisfaction of a job well done right on schedule yet again that I went to the office drawer where I keep my tampons only to find that I had failed to restock last month. Not a tampon to be found. Luckily, I work with many women, and when I inquired about borrowing a tampon I was directed to the drawer of a lovely young woman who we’ll call L, who is tall and slim and possessed of a flowing mane of brunette hair so pretty it makes me want to learn how to do french braids, a skill I never mastered despite 7 years of day camp and three at sleep-away camp.

Her tampons were tiny and adorable, each packaged in its own pink envelope. They were the collapsible sort, where you have to pull the plunger out to deliver the tampon to its destination. I did so, and went about my business.

A few hours later I needed to use the bathroom, so I borrowed another tampon from L. And here is where our story takes a turn for the mysterious. I could not find the current tampon. Could not find it. And I looked. Trust me, I looked. Finally I decided to just insert another, to see if I could find the missing tampon with a new tampon. I think I was hoping they’d act like magnets, and the new one would pull the old one out? I don’t know, you guys, I panicked. I prepped the new tampon by pulling out the plunger and tried to insert it, but now this one wouldn’t go in. It’s not that there was anything blocking the way, it was more that I couldn’t seem to get my lady bits to grasp and hold the tampon in place.

‘What kind of crazy-ass skinny girl tampons are these???’ I wondered. ‘Have I reached the stage of life where my vagina is rejecting the cheekily packaged tampons of the youth market? Or worse, is the tampon rejecting me??? Does this have something to do with my not watching Broad City? Does the tampon know I have no idea who Jason Derulo or 2 Chainz are and I only know that one Lorde song and I think I’m pronouncing Lorde wrong? Has the tampon guessed that I truly want a pair of clogs, that my running playlist is filled with hits from the 90s, that sleep has become my new favorite thing? Stop judging me tampon!’

I was rescued by my friend P, who hooked me up with an old school Tampax Super, the kind with the pokey cardboard applicator. And it turns out the cute tampon hadn’t found me lacking, I just hadn’t pulled the plunger all the way out — it’s supposed to click into place before you use it. The tampon hadn’t rejected me. We just had a miscommunication. As for the lost one, it had never been there in the first place. Due to plunger failure, I’d been tampon-less all along.

I imagine there’s a deeper meaning here (heh), about aging and self-acceptance and the passage of time. Or maybe technology. But mostly, I thought this whole thing was funny as hell, and I am once again sort of surprised and amused to realize that I am old as fuck…for the club, not the Earth.

 

 

 

Books & Letters

For years, I have been talking about writing a book. Talking about it and thinking about it, and wondering if I could, and what it should be about, and if anyone would read it, and if people would be mad at me if I did. I’ve made several starts at this, taking classes and trying to publish stories, blogging (very) occasionally, reading out now and then. But I’ve never managed to get any traction on it, to make a commitment (which, if we’re being honest, is kind of a theme with me anyway). And the reason is, writing is  hard. IT IS FUCKING HARD. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s boring, and awful, and you hate yourself and all the words. Sometimes it’s OK. Sometimes it’s like a door inside of you opens and a thousand unicorns come flying out on a double rainbow that tastes like dark chocolate and smells like lilacs. But mostly it’s really, really  hard. This is not news to anyone who has tried to write, or has listened to anyone complain about writing.

But hey! I’m doing it. I’m writing a book. I made a commitment. I hired a book coach. I have pages due on deadlines, and I wrote an extensive outline, and character bios, and parts of it are actually written, which is sort of remarkable, that I can open a Word document on my computer and see the beginnings of this book that I’ve been carrying around inside my head for so long.

That’s not what this is really about though.

My book is not a memoir, not by a long shot, but it’s fair to say that it’s influenced by some things that happened to me once, a long time ago. And I’ve been struggling with that, with where the line is between what happened, what I think happened, and what I wish had happened. And then there’s the matter of how to write about it at all, because I still am worried that people will be mad at me, that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings, or tell a secret, or expose a lie.

Then again, I keep telling myself, it’s my story too. I get to tell it. Damnit.

Even that’s not really the point.

The point is this. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 9. There are gaps, to be sure, times when I didn’t write because I lost interest or got distracted, or fell in love (I almost never wrote about my happiness, but the breakups I recorded in obsessive detail). And there are other, sadder stretches, where terrible circumstances kept me silent. But mostly, I have been keeping a journal for 34 years. This story I’ve been writing for myself arcs across 24 books — plain notebooks, beautiful diaries with artful covers and creamy pages, moleskines. Many of these journals were gifts from people who knew me well and cared about me, and those books are inscribed with notes from them, on the inside covers. I carefully dated and numbered each journal, and jotted down poems and lines from songs on the first few pages, as inspiration or to set the tone. W.H. Auden’s Leap Before You Look was a favorite for years, this passage in particular:

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

Sounds about right.

My old journals — everything that pre-dates Emerson, her sunny sweetness and my uncomplicated, ferocious love for her — have been stored away in a large tote bag in the back of my closet for years. Now and then I’d glance at them, with curiosity, and a little fear. I was pretty sure I knew what was in there, and most of it was nothing I wanted to re-visit, nothing I needed to go back to.

Except.

Except that writing is hard. And it hurts. And it requires a kind of courage I didn’t really expect. And somewhere between what I think happened and what I wanted to happen and what I thought happened, I actually wrote down what was happening. At least as I understood it. At least how it felt at the time.

So last Sunday, I pulled out the bag, and I started reading. I began in 1983, my freshman year of high school. I’ve read through, so far, to 1999, the year after my first husband left me and I was hell bent on recreating my entire lost 20s in a single year (with near disastrous results). It has been a bizarre fling through time, and incredibly surprising. It’s sort of like reading someone else’s story, and I’m alternately charmed by this girl, her bravado and depth of feeling, and utterly horrified by her selfishness, the way she’s dominated by fear and longing, so completely unable to understand, much less ask for, the things she so desperately wants and needs.

Still, I’m happy to see her again. Happy to see the old friends and loves that wave to me from the pages. Happy to remember these things, even the really terrible ones, because I know how these stories turn out. They turn out with me safely snuggled in bed in Brooklyn, Emerson napping next to me, Jonathan in the living room reading about some battle. That’s where all those journals lead. They lead straight home.

And there’s another thing too.

When I was a freshman in college, I was enamored of a certain professor. He was the kind of professor that a girl like me was made to fall for — bearded and brilliant, tall and lean, outdoorsy and rebellious. He taught in the English department (of course he did), and we had long, meandering conversations about The Book of Job, and the problem of suffering, about the hero’s journey and ancient goddess religions, about the Greeks and the Romans, and the power of words, and The Word. I’d show up at his office door in the afternoons, long after office hours were over (no appointment necessary for me), and curl up in his guest chair. After a few weeks he started bringing me a thermos of hot tea, sweet with honey, and I’d sip from it while we talked.

He never touched me. I wanted him to, and was petrified that he would. I had a boyfriend I loved, for one thing. And this professor, with his hard hands and easy grace, his intense thoughtfulness, was a man. Not a boy I could figure things out with, or a friend I’d known for years, or someone who was mostly like me. He was a wild, unexplored wilderness. I was utterly mad for him.

I ended up transferring schools after my freshman year, and here I will confess, all these years on, that he invited me for tea at his house the day I left school for the last time, and there was an invitation in the air, a moment to be seized, and I let it go. He did kiss me though, a single kiss that stands out, still, as one of the most delicious moments of my  life. And then I got in my car and drove away as fast as I could.

We wrote for a long time after that. Postcards, and letters that he would type on an actual typewriter and then doodle and draw on. I kept those letters for years, in an old tin box, and then at some point I misplaced them. I know this because in 1998 I went looking for him, ready, finally, for him, and discovered he had died, two years before. In a haze of grief I went looking for the letters and couldn’t find them.

Until one night last week, when I pulled out a journal from 1989. It was bulky, with a packet of paper tucked inside, wrapped with a rubber band to hold it together. I flipped it open, expecting to find a sheaf of poems or pages ripped from another notebook, and instead, there he was. All his letters, typed on his wonky typewriter, inked with his slanted handwriting, tied in blue ribbon. I unfolded the pages with careful, shaking hands. He was as present and visceral as he had ever been, his voice and his thoughts, his wisdom and his playful, questioning flirting, his vision of me at 19 as someone worth knowing, someone extraordinary.

When I think about that afternoon, when he invited me for tea and so much more than tea, it is always with regret. Regret that I let the moment pass us by, and also that it was simply the wrong place, the wrong time. Regret that I went looking for him too late. This is how it goes sometimes. And it makes me sad, in a wistful way, the way missed opportunities always do. The way losing what you never had always hurts; that particular, confusing ache of something that was over before it started. But I can still hold him in my hands, this part of him he gave me, in words, in doodles and ideas.

And that is something worth having, regardless of how it all turned out, or didn’t, in the end.

Why I Think Smash Is A Tragedy

Image

People want to talk to me about the TV show Smash all the time. Without preamble, they’ll excitedly tell me they saw one of the actors in the park, or confess they lurked while a scene was being shot on their street, or start singing one of the songs at me. It’s a fair assumption to make, that I know and love this show, given my obsessive love of all things musical theatre.

But I can’t watch it.

It’s not that I don’t want to, or that it’s not interesting. It’s a TV show about making a musical, for God’s sake. Throw in an iced coffee and a chocolate croissant and it’s the intersection of everything I love in this world.

But it also hacks me to shreds. It makes me sweaty and anxious and teary-eyed. It makes me crave slice after slice of thickly buttered toast, washed down with pudding.

I know, my theater major is showing, but here’s the thing. At the center of Smash, at least the episode I was able to sit through before I ran screaming from it, is the relationship between songwriter Julia and composer Tom, played by Debra Messing and Christian Borle. Julia and Tom are best friends who are also a creative team.

Julia and Tom are everything I had, once. Julia and Tom are everything I lost.

When I was a teenager, I had a friend. A best friend, who we’ll call ES. He was theatrical, smart and funny, with puppy dog eyes and a thick mop of shiny black curls. He was cherubic, mercurial, adorable. He was a straight guy who loved musical comedy as much as I did. It was pure pleasure, he felt like home from the start. We loved all the same things — Shakespeare, black Converse sneakers, Woody Allen’s movies, driving at night, pitching a fit over nothing. All those things that matter so much when you’re young. We spoke the same language. We sought the same talismans.

We grew up together. And in growing up, we first became creative partners, and then lovers, and then a married couple. We were a truly inspired creative team. We were an utter wreck at the rest of it.

Here is the kind of magic we did together: when we were still in high school, we convinced a local town in Westchester, NY to fund a summer theatre program and let us run it. I was the artistic director, he was the executive producer. Over the course of four years we successfully produced big musicals, straight plays in rep, and original children’s theatre — all by the seat of our pants, just making it up as we went along. When we moved to New York after college, we produced a series of shows and cabarets that were pretty good, even in retrospect. We were never happier than when we were working together. When we were working together, you could believe we were actually in love. We could even believe it. But really, what we had was what Julia and Tom have — the abiding affection and trust, the secret language and safety that grows around and between two people who are genuinely, platonically ideal for one another in the pursuit of a common passion.

And oh, how we screwed it up.

Looking back at it now, I think we just didn’t know how to separate the fire we felt when we were working together from the kind of sexual, romantic love we both craved so acutely. It would have been so much easier if one of us had been gay, but there we were, absolutely besotted, married really, through our work, and our dreams of the future. We were going to Broadway, to Hollywood. We were going to have an office overlooking Times Square, with a partner’s desk. Al Hirschfeld would make a sketch of us at that desk, and it would have 5 Ninas in it.

We were partners for 12 years. We were married for 5. I cheated on him first. He was the one who eventually left me. For another woman. With whom he’d been having a prolonged affair. Four days before Thanksgiving.

Like I said, theatrical.

And when he left, I wanted to die. I was so angry, so bereft, so utterly boiled and peeled, all I could do was howl like a wounded creature. Not for the loss of him as a husband, certainly, but for the loss of my friend, my partner, my creative other half. I couldn’t imagine how I’d work without him, even as he was blowing my life to pieces.

Remarkably, it passed.

The last time I saw him, he said to me, “You’ll see. We’ll be like a Woody Allen movie. Years from now, when all of this is in the past, we’ll be friends again. We’ll have lunch. We’ll laugh at each other’s jokes again. Maybe someday we’ll work together again.”

And I said, “You will never see me again. Ever. Say goodbye to me.”

I have been true to my word. He’s tried to friend me on Facebook, and I’ve blocked him and his entire family. He’s emailed, and I’ve deleted them unread. (That’s a lie. I read them. Then I deleted them.) I know it makes me look like a villain, a bitch. But it’s an act of self-protection, not agression. He was an elemental part of my life from the time I was 15, and when he left, I had to obliterate him to have any chance of surviving. He was so large, you see, so tremendous. He took up so much space in my head. For so much of my life, most of the things I believed about myself were the things he told me. I desperately needed space, even if it was my own little corner in hell, just to meet myself. To begin constructing a life that didn’t include him, his voice in my ear, his interests directing mine, his dreams weighing more. I couldn’t do that if we were meeting for lunch once a month.

It’s been a long time now, more than a decade, since that day he proclaimed we’d find our way back to each other and I called him a fool for it. I haven’t changed my mind; I don’t want him in my life. But I think I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can miss him.

Not too long ago, the Internet went crazy with a rumor that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were involved in real life. It made me nostalgic for the 90s, and while I walked to the subway, my thoughts were full of Hootie and The Blowfish, Pop Up Video, and The Real Live Brady Bunch, a stage show from the Clinton era that was exactly what it sounds like – comics acting out entire episodes of The Brady Bunch, saturated with sexual innuendo and Gen X irony. It suddenly seemed like the best idea ever — EVER! — to produce a Real Live X-Files, somewhere in the East Village or Brooklyn, with the audience waving around tiny flashlights and the actress who plays Scully singing that Bree Sharp song as a finale.

I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, and reached for my cellphone to call ES.

It was pure instinct. Because there was a time when I could call him, and he’d pick up and say “What?” and I’d say “Real Live X-Files!” and he’d say “I love it! Flashlights! And the tickets look like FBI badges!” and I’d say “Bree Sharp song!” And he’d say “Scully sings it! At the end! And the guy who plays Mulder plays guitar! And Skinner and Krycek sing back up! And Flukeman!” And I’d say, “I want to play Scully.” And he’d say “No! You’re too tall! You direct it!” And I’d say “I am not! She’s 5’3″, I’m only 5’5″! I’ll wear flats!” And he’d say “You’ll be a nightmare if you don’t direct it, you’ll just end up complaining and giving whoever we get to direct it so many notes that they’ll quit.” And he’d be right.

There is no one I can talk to like this anymore. There never was, before him. There has never been, since he left.

I started crying, in the street. Because losing that kind of friend isn’t just sad, it isn’t just terrible. It’s fucking Greek tragedy. It’s the end of Hamlet.

I don’t ever want to see him again. But I think it’s a good thing, to be able to miss him. To allow myself to think of him without feeling like I’m about to spontaneously self-immolate, or turn to dust, or freeze and then shatter. To cry a few tears in the street and move on.

I can miss him now, without wanting to die. But I just can’t watch Smash.

Shugg It

Urban Dictionary variously defines “shugging” as: going to the toilet while half asleep (and missing the toilet), furtively masturbating, or searching through a bag of marijuana leaf shake for enough bud to roll a joint.

This post is not about any of those things.

This post is about exercise.

A couple of months ago Jonathan came home with a sledge hammer. Jon’s not really a “knock stuff down with a sledge hammer” kind of guy, and also, we live in a co-op.

Turns out, the sledge was for exercise. He’d found a website for a program called “Shovelglove.” The exercise itself was called “shugging,” and it amounted to swinging around a sledge hammer wrapped in an old sweater for 15 minutes a day while pretending to do things like dig a hole, chop wood, and churn butter.

HAHAHAHAHAHAH! I said. And also, good luck with that.

Eight weeks later he’s got the beginnings of a six pack (it’s a two pack right now), his posture is amazing, he’s got shoulders like a blacksmith, and he’s lost about 15 pounds.

And I have a new sledge hammer.

Big Daddy sledge hammer and Little Mama sledge hammer

It sounds crazy, but it is the dream workout — it takes 15 minutes, it’s free after your initial sledge investment, and you can do it naked if you feel like it (What? The word gymnasium comes from the Ancient Greek  gymnós, which means “naked.”)

And it works! You get the music cranking and start waving your sledge around, and within seconds you are sweaty and trembly and using all kinds of muscles that you forgot you had.

I’ve assembled a 20 minute playlist (15 minutes of sledge work and 5 of stretching on the floor) that includes these songs:

Animal (Glee cast version), I Only Want To Be With You (Bay City Rollers), All The Small Things (Blink-182), Love On Top (Beyonce), Fuck You (Cee Lo Green), The Middle (Jimmy Eat World).

As for the movements, I’ve found that adding a little narrative helps me with my form and endurance, so I have “Digging a hole to plant a tree at my Berkshires country home” (which I do not own), “Churning butter with Ma Ingalls”, “Chopping a hole in the door of the burning building to rescue Emmy from the fire” (excellent motivation to keep going), “Chopping wood on a tree stump with Pa Ingalls”, “Chopping down the big tree”  (this is a side to side motion, as opposed to an over-the-head one), the “Bicep one”, and the “Damn you dinner lady arms”.

Oh, what’s that you ask? Do I actually stand in my living room naked waving around a sledge hammer while listening to the Bay City Rollers? No, of course not. I wear a sports bra and underpants. I’m not even Greek.

The Devil’s copywriter

M. Night Shyamalan has a new movie coming out. It’s called Devil. It’s about the Devil hanging out in an elevator. I know this, because the copywriter assigned to craft a compelling synopsis of this film was only able to summon the following:

In the film, a group of people is trapped in an elevator, and one of them is the Devil.

Back before I became a copywriter, I might have mocked this description. But now, my heart goes out to the unsung scribe who probably began this project with a brilliant treatise comparing this film to No Exit. And then the comments came, and the rewrites, and the revisions, and comments on the revisions and the rewrites of the comments and then the client saw it and they had comments on the revised rewrites until finally, alone in the office, the cleaning lady come and gone, sucking the last drops out of a bottle of Jack Daniels, our beleaguered author gave up and dejectedly typed that someone in the elevator is the Devil. (Probably while thinking something along the lines of, “You want it “simpler” you idiots? Here. SUCK. ON. THIS.”)

And that’s what got approved.

Here’s to you, unsung Devil site copywriter. Here’s to you.

I’ll just have dessert, without the cancer

Laura Linney has a new show on Showtime, The Big C, and that is a good thing. Laura Linney is a wonderful actress, and a beautiful woman over the age of 25, and anytime anyone puts her on TV the world gets a little bit better. Also, Gabourey Sidibe is in it, and as far as I can tell no one is raping or force-feeding her character. Hooray for that.

Yet, I am troubled.

This is yet another “woman lets herself go after devastating news” story. In this case, cancer. From the Showtime website:

Cathy Jamison is a reserved, stifled, Minneapolis schoolteacher who receives life changing news and decides, from that moment on, to make drastic, long-overdue adjustments to the way she is living her life. She’s always been conservative and structured – the perfect suburban wife and mother – but Cathy is tired of being ‘the sensible one.’ Now she wants to let her freak flag fly. For the first time in her life, she is going to make choices that suit her needs. Who says you can’t eat dessert as an appetizer? Time is precious, and Cathy is grabbing life by the balls…

Right. Crisis as empowerment. This is a theme in memoirs written by women, and I’m just exhausted by it. This summer, I read a memoir by an actress who chronicled every sweaty, nauseous moment of her husband’s abandonment of her and their children, another by a woman who suffered mightily as she refused to let her husband leave her and their two children, and re-read Eat, Pray, Love, with its foundational nasty divorce and depression.

In all of these books, as in The Big C, the women find inner peace and happiness, let their freak flag fly, and generally throw off the constraints of culture and society to LIVE OUT LOUD with pride and dignity and sing it with me my sisters! But first, they suffer. How they suffer.

Look, I don’t mean to belittle the experiences of these women, nor do I hold myself apart from them, as I have meditated and left offerings for Ganesha and have a shaman in my phonebook. I get it. It’s not the new-age religion that bothers me, or the navel gazing. It’s the suffering. The suffering as beauty, the suffering as transformation. Why must we endure so much pain to finally get to the good part? Why must pain be our guide?

Do I have to have cancer to do a cartwheel?

Must my husband take my house and my money for me to get it together to go on a trip?

Must I first be washed up on the desolate, rocky shores of a monumental personal crisis before I can just freaking have dessert and not feel bad about it?

I’d like to see a show where Laura Linney and Gabby Sidibe are time-traveling PIs. Who get laid a lot. And eat cake. And have a really good time together. And neither of them has OCD or a bad history, they’re just quirky and bad-ass and like to solve mysteries. In space.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we all just let ourselves go WITHOUT the precipitating life crisis? If we didn’t let suffering be our fundamental catalyst?

I’ll start. I’m going to Popeye’s for lunch, where I’m getting the 2-piece special with mashed potatoes and gravy. And a biscuit.

And then I’m going to do a cartwheel.