Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy birthday

Thursday marks one year since adoption day.

The children’s eyes gleamed from their new acquisition; ours surreptitiously rolled.

One year in a bowl, no name, no companion, fed twice a day except when we forget or go on vacation. 

Happy birthday, indeed.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

To the gentleman courting my wife

I bet she told you

I ignore her,

we have nothing in common,

I forgot her birthday,

we’re only married for the kids,

we sleep in different beds,

I’m fucking my secretary.

      I bet she never told you about the last guy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Musings on Fifty Shades of Grey

I'm not sure what this says about the people I hang out with, but I could not stop hearing about Fifty Shades of Grey. My hanging-out-and-drinking-wine girlfriends wanted to know what I thought about the movie casting, and were shocked to hear that I had neither read the book nor seen the movie trailer. My book club friends (read: more hanging-out-and-drinking-wine girlfriends) dropped references to the Red Room of Pain in everyday conversation, then insisted that I read the book just so I would know what everyone was talking about. And my more, let's call them "sex-positive" friends wanted to talk about how unrealistic the characters and the book were in so many ways. So finally I found myself with nothing to read one day, and I borrowed the ebook from my public library.

In the first few chapters, some details about the two main characters emerge. Ana is a 21-year-old recent college graduate. She has never been kissed, never held hands, and never masturbated. She also has never used email. Christian is a 27-year-old self-made billionaire. He has done all of these things, but he has never had vanilla sex. Christian has a BDSM fetish, and domination is the only way he knows how to relate to women intimately.

The book's plot is simple: Ana and Christian meet and are immediately attracted to one another. Ana wants a romantic relationship, and Christian wants to dominate the shit out of her. They both like each other so much that they try to compromise. Ana and Christian have lots of mildly kinky sex, during which Ana orgasms nearly every time Christian touches her. Christian tries to give Ana more of the relationship she wants, but he still feels the need to control her, and she must eventually decide whether or not she can participate in his lifestyle.

The central conflict is a real one for kinky people looking for relationships. How do you tell potential love interests that kink is an important part of your life, and what do you do when the object of your affection has difficulty with your lifestyle? Once any sort of connection is forged, the situation becomes a difficult one for the vanilla half of the potential couple as well. This plot conflict provides some minimal amount of substance to the book so that women don't feel like they're just reading porn.

As ridiculous as the character profiles are, they set up a situation that is at once dirty and romantic. The strong man gets to teach the young virgin (who even wears pigtails!) about sex, while the tantalizing virgin is able to stir up romantic feelings in the man that he's never felt before.

It's not surprising that women with little exposure to kink or erotica would find this book appealing. It's just too bad that it's so poorly written. Had I read some book reviews first, I would have expected the abysmal writing style. But I didn't, so the woefully inadequate writing took me by surprise. The author, E. L. James, has so few tools in her toolbox, that she returns time and time again to the same ridiculous details, gimmicks, and turns of phrase. I didn't find it particularly interesting the first time I read that Christian has long fingers, so I certainly didn't need to read it in nearly every chapter.

Or take the way the author provides descriptions, as in these quotes:

It’s a huge twenty-one story office building, all curved glass and steel…
…he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair, and burning dark eyes.
Grey is followed into the suite by a man in his mid-thirties, all buzz cut and stubble…
She's all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels...
These descriptions are all repetition and banality. Add in a few comma splices and laughable diction, and it's clear that an editor had no place in the production of this book.

Had there been an editor, perhaps he or she would have suggested that Ana cease referring to her genitals as "down there." And maybe Ana could also quit telling us about her inner goddess, the lascivious element of her personality, which partakes in its own activities such as the following:

…my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.
My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently.
My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.
My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.
Eventually I did watch the movie trailer and decided that the movie will probably be better than the book because it will spare us these goofy and distracting comments. Will I watch the movie? Probably not. The bottom line is that there are better options out there for both drama and porn.

It's a sad commentary on the state of our country's reading habits and its attitude toward sex that Fifty Shades became so popular. Maybe if we read a little more, we'd be selective enough to choose books that use the English language more skillfully. Maybe if we were more open about sexuality, women wouldn't react like starving puppies when finally offered a socially acceptable form of erotica.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go start the second book. I need to find out what happens.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Role Model

Jeannie plays Candy Crush.

Dad drinks too much.

Mom works her way through every puzzle in Games magazine.

Joey’s looking for his dream girl online. Too short, swipe left. Weird nose, swipe left.

Our hamster, Peanut, runs. At least Peanut’s getting exercise.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I love you(r hair)

In the town where my husband grew up and his parents still live, everyone has straight hair. No, that's not true. Everyone who's anyone has straight hair. If you have curly or frizzy or unruly hair, you're either late for your hair appointment, or you're just not that important.

The first few times my mother-in-law suggested I go with her to get my hair blown out, I declined. It just seemed like a strange thing to do, and I didn't want her taking responsibility for my grooming. When she kept asking (prodding, nagging, insisting) over the years, my husband convinced me to go along with it. "It makes her happy to do something for you," he said. So I would get in the car with my mother-in-law and drive to the beauty parlor. I'd let her hairdresser trim and straighten my hair, and she would pay the bill, as though I were her teenage daughter. I would say thank you, and then I'd spend the rest of the weekend fitting in without any curly locks to reveal my ultimate unworthiness.

A few years ago, I found a hairdresser at home who I really like. I started having her color my hair regularly, and I happened to start wearing it straight more too. My mother-in-law stopped inviting me to the salon during our visits. She'd check out my head, nod approvingly, and leave on her own for her biweekly coiffing.

I could laugh it off if it had stopped there. If "hair checks" were just about making sure I met her standard of beauty, I could let it go. Then my son started getting hair checks.

My son -- my wonderful, unique, brilliant, and creative son -- has severe ADHD. He's depressed. He has low self-esteem. He also has long, wild hair that he loves. And my mother-in-law started giving him hair checks. She took to dragging him for a haircut every time she saw him. She'd visit us at our home and take him for a haircut. We'd visit her at her home, and she'd take him for a haircut. Finally, during our visit this weekend, we'd had enough. We told her no haircut. He likes his hair. We like his hair. And we like him. No haircut.

We may as well have said he's not allowed to eat. We may as well have dropped him off at the play area in the mall and picked him up eight hours later. My sister-in-law was so disgusted with us, she stormed out. My mother-in-law said we're ruining his self-esteem by not encouraging proper grooming. From what I hear, there was a big family confrontation about us when we were already in the car, well on our way home.

First thing this morning, we had an appointment with our son's therapist. She said what she always says to him when we walk in: "I love your hair."


Sunday, July 6, 2014


“I’ll be back before midnight,” you say.

A year ago, I would have checked my mental tally: My turn to go out.

Somewhere along the line, I gave up my need to own you. Instead, I help you pick out a shirt.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How I bought my Aventador

Neste agreed: $400,000.

Farid’s eyes bugged out. He glanced at the Waterhouse in the alarmed case, thinking I was being robbed.

He never knew it was fake. Didn’t know until much too late about his smack, slipped to Neste later that day.

Image: The Mermaid, John William Waterhouse

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Fluorescent Light Fixtures Fluorescent Light Fixtures

“You used me,” he said.

The fluorescent lights hummed as they flickered above her.

She didn’t know what to say. Yes, she used him. What made her think he would like it? Maybe it was because she wanted to be used herself.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Conversations with Affability and Decorum

“Ask questions.”

“Don’t talk about money.”

“Be down to earth.”

“Place your napkin on your lap.”

“Show interest.”

“Don’t argue politics.”

“Display personality.”

“Skirts should cover your knees.”

“Speak warmly."

“Use proper titles.”

“Appear comfortable.”

“Sit straight.”

“Make eye contact.”

“Don’t stare.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The seventh day

Smudging colors, blending edges, she examines light and shading. Here a face takes shape. There a flower, a tree.

Over the hum of the ventilator, she hears the click of the door. Hey sugar. You need your rest. The lights go out.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Airport Gate

At the airport, Gate B4.

A teenage boy, pointing to a picture book:
Air flows around the wing, and the air pressure keeps the plane in the air. See? The pilot knows how to fly the plane. It's very safe.
A woman, on the phone:
I took him to the store. I told him, "I'll buy you anything you want. I'll buy you everything in the store if you'll get on the plane." He picked out all this stuff, and I said, "Now you have to get on the plane," and he put it all back! He put it all back! What else can I do?
Teenage boy:
So are you going to get on the plane? Mommy and I need you to get on the plane.
The small voice of a young boy:
No, I'm scared.
You have to get on the plane. Where else are you going to go?
Young boy:
I'm gonna see Daddy. You said he's at the airport.
Oh, Jesus!
Teenage boy:
Daddy's at the other airport, in Baltimore. You have to take the plane there. Mommy and I really need you to get on the plane so you can go see Daddy.
If you don't get on the plane, I'm going to call the police. I'm going to call the police, and they're going to take you to jail.
Young boy:
I'm not going! I'm not getting on the plane.
Fine. Then you'll go to jail. Do you want to go to jail?
Young boy:
What do you think? It's a black hole up there? Nothing's going to happen. Get on the plane!
Teenage boy:
I'm going to get him some water. I'll be right back.
The teenage boy got up. He walked away from the gate toward a shop in the middle of the terminal. The woman took her young son by the arm and led him to the gate agent. She spoke quietly to the gate agent, then turned toward the shop, leaving the boy by the agent's side. When she caught up to her older son, her step quickened. He looked over his shoulder at his brother, torn, but continued with his mother. She never looked back; she just kept walking.



Nah, the ear din't hurt. That's all cart-lage.

The finger hurt. Lady who did it was a gouger. Ya need a gouger for hands or it fades. Like this one, see? But that finger ain't gonna fade.

Ankle's the worst. All bony.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014



Until the day I die, I'll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes.

Our regiment had arrived on a Thursday morning to liberate the camp. We knew it would be bad, but we had no way to comprehend the reality of all we would see.

Davidson and I were sent to a medical complex on the west side of the camp with instructions to bring back any possible war criminals. Snaking through the corridors from office to office, we found them all deserted. The officers and doctors had all fled when the siren sounded. In one office, a painting behind a large oak desk caught my attention. A regal looking man stared down from the painting -- "Oswolt" was the name written at the top of the canvas. Oswolt looked concerned, and I followed his gaze through the door of the office and into the open door of the examination room across the hall.

I saw the doll first, lying face up on the floor, her glassy eyes staring at the ceiling. Next to her, a dangling arm, small enough that I could have circled it with my finger and thumb. It could have belonged to my little sister, Nancy, except that Nancy was in school in Ohio, and the owner of the doll was dead on a metal table.

Approaching the table, I could see that the girl had been injected with something. The side of her neck bulged blue and bulbous. Some blood had dried under her nose, and what might have been a trickle of vomit clung to the corner of her mouth. I wanted to bring her out of the camp, to at least give her a proper burial, but just as I was about to say something, a voice addressed us from Davidson's radio. We were to return to the main gate immediately.

I picked up the doll, expecting her eyes to close as she moved. They stared straight ahead, and when I laid her down on the table, two sets of eyes were frozen in time. I could just never get that out my mind.

Image: Portrait of Oswolt Krel by Albrect Dürer

Monday, May 19, 2014


An old tweed jacket
Laptop bag, textbooks, red pen
Hunched over a desk

Slow, slow, quick quick, slow
Black dress, black shoes, and red rose
The arch of her back

Friday comes. For fifty-two hours, the laptop is closed, but always nearby.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Waiter Gene

My friend Karen likes to talk about the waiter gene. Whenever we go out to eat, she'll pass out her judgment: "She's got the waiter gene!" when our server visits our table just the right number of times and speaks with just the right combination of friendliness and politeness. Or, shaking her head, "He doesn't have the waiter gene," when our server doesn't know how to handle a request for no tomatoes.

It's not a novel concept, really, that some people seem better suited for certain jobs than others. I've worked in retail before, and I was awkward. Standing at the counter surveying the customers among merchandise I had no real connection to, I was sure that whatever came out of my mouth would reveal me as an impostor who had no business pretending to know which greeting card would be most suitable for a combination retirement and divorce party. My coworkers, meanwhile, were right at home among the trinkets, as though they really did have it in their genes.

And yet this idea there are things we'll just never do well is in stark contrast with what we learn as children -- that we can be and do anything. Apparently anyone can grow up to be president, but if you want to be a decent waiter, you'd better hit the genetic lottery.

There's truth to both points of view, of course. We all have natural strengths as well as skills we'll have to work hard at if we want to succeed. That's not to say that hard work will always lead to success. I stopped believing that a long time ago. But we owe it to ourselves not to draw too small a circle around the accomplishments we think are in our reach. Certainly I could have learned to sell greeting cards like nobody's business. I could have stuck around long enough to move with ease through the aisles, straightening glass figurines without tripping on the displays. I didn't choose that path, but I could have. Maybe I'd own the store today.

Sometimes we choose not to address our weaknesses when it's not something that's important to us. But what about those things we wish we had accomplished? Those skills and traits we wish we had, but never took the time to develop, instead saying that we were "not cut out for it"? It's easy to say we're no good at something, but it sure doesn't get us anywhere.

I know I have some of those neglected traits, skills, and accomplishments hanging around in the back of my mind. Some of them are big, too big to admit to right now. Some of them are manageable, so I'll start with those. Here's one: I want to be tidy. I don't want to feel like I have to apologize when someone stops by my house on short notice. I want to sit in my home and see order, and have that reflected in my mood. It's not easy for me, but, as silly as it sounds, it's something I want, and I'm going to work on it.

What about you? What goals, big or small, have you let slide because you somehow started to believe that you didn't have it in you?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Space Junkie

Fritos, Twinkies, red Kool-Aid.... Damn! I felt angrier than I should have when I realized I forgot the Swedish Fish. There wasn't enough time to go back to the store. I’d have to do without them this time. I was about to head out to the porch with my armful of snacks when the phone rang. Who makes phone calls anymore? I checked the number on the display – my mother. Grudgingly, I placed each item back on the counter one by one, the phone continuing its whine until I satisfied it.

Mom had nothing to say. I watched the clock as she prattled about Erin’s new baby and the neighbor who wouldn’t keep her dog on a leash.

“Mom, I really gotta go…“ I interjected.

“Okay, honey. I love you. Enjoy the—what is it?”

“It’s a lunar eclipse, Mom. The moon’s going to—“

“Okay, well enjoy the lunar ellipse. Bye, honey!”

I rolled my eyes and put down the phone. I gathered up my things from the counter and shuffled outside, nearly dropping everything while trying to squeeze through the door.

Outside, I settled into my normal spot, the old folding chair where I would spend the next several hours. I wanted to be in the right frame of mind when the eclipse began. My iPod was already outside, so I popped in my ear buds, turned on Until the Ribbon Breaks, and opened a bag of Fritos. I let my mind drift while I devoured my snacks, all the while keeping my eyes comfortably on the sky.

Three fourths of the way through my Kool Aid, darkness began to attack the moon. My chewing slowed as I absorbed it all. I scarcely noticed my neck becoming stiff from the last few hours looking upwards. "2025" was playing for what had to be the fourth time that night. I stared at the moon like it might actually disappear. Time was passing, but I couldn’t tell you how much. An hour, maybe two? Finally, the moon gave birth to its orange-red glow, and my heart rate quickened. I clutched the arms of my chair as awe blanketed me. Brighter and brighter, the glow consumed the moon like a spider devouring its mother, and I reached the dual realization that the music was too fast and I couldn't breathe. Over the blood moon's light, the clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground, then floated away again. With the beat of the music pinning me down and my eyes still frozen on the sky, rolling in the deep, I prayed simultaneously for the celestial event to stop so I could catch my breath and for it to never end. Slowly, the glow overtook the darkness of my peripheral vision.

The next thing I knew, I was waking with a Twinkie sandwiched between my cheek and the porch floor. I had to be at work in forty minutes. It was going to be a long day.

If you are a space junkie, check out the many cool things on Astronasty.
DJ, if you see this, this post is inspired by you and aided by some minor internet stalking, but don't worry -- the guy's not you!
Photo from CNN.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


With horror, I realize it's crawling in me, en route from wrist to elbow, wiry legs scratching my bones, and my shoulder tenses, anticipating invasion, while my chest seizes and my gut hardens as if to fight it off, a futile exercise.

Monday, May 5, 2014


The first time I saw the place, it seemed magical. The unpainted rooms, the gardens not yet planted, the wild yard – a promise of better things to come.

As years pass, it just seems run down, not magical.

The birds remind me.



Tell me if you’re game, and I’ll take you someplace you’ve never been.

Maybe we’ll walk the cliffs by the lighthouse, not caring about the steep drop to the bay as morning turns to afternoon.

Maybe we’ll go to the playground where kids light fires, play on an abandoned excavator, and roll tires down the hill into the pond.

If you’re game, we can visit that club – the one with no sign outside, just two men smoking in lawn chairs – and we’ll climb the steps toward the pulsing beat to find couples entwined on banquettes, watching women in skinny jeans and fuck-me pumps who own the dance floor. Maybe we’ll dance.

If you want to, we can get on a plane, then share a plate of Congri and sip mojitos while we watch the people go by, until our heads swim, no longer afraid to lose control.

All you have to do is tell me.