She had tried to throw away such an ardent rule; the one that worked against her. The one that says within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone you will asses their character, that it is a pinnacle moment of defining the person as a whole. I mean, especially since it was applying to her directly it shouldn’t have counted. Had she not caught his eye and been so taken aback by him, she may not have had that passionate glint; the pained one, the hiccup of the heart, triggered by simply seeing him. Admittedly she had felt like such a dolt. She had just left the coffee cart full piping hot cup in hand and they locked eyes. It was exactly once second later, she dumped her entire soy latte on the cafeteria floor. It was much later he said the exasperated look on her face was impossibly cute and he loved the way she wiped the floor, took matters into her own hands on impulse, this was no time for a latte perhaps so she left the cafeteria empty handed and rushed to class. This said many things to him that he would later learn should have warned him.
At the gawky age of 11 when I was obsessed with purple and my dog Hildegaard…oh and Daddy, the substitute one, I learned what gratitude felt like. That first real feeling of having, and then NOT having was it -I figured. In the turn of a day things could change and that was enough. The realization was as big as that first dip in the lake in summer, I felt that childish renewal; the feeling of what really matters.
The line was small at the food bank. It was “small” given that it should have been much bigger given it was day one of the first round of big Boeing layoffs. By small I mean, it was 15 or so deep; fifteen or so meaning- fifteen people waiting to fill an empty paper bag with groceries so they could eat that week. There were days I had driven by the one In Pioneer Square and seen that line winding around the block; so today I didn’t mind the wait, because it somehow felt different than that line, more right than wrong.
Pink was never my favorite color- that was purple. But this pink slip of paper in my Daddy’s hand made him joke a little less and seemed to take the bounce out of his step. The bounce was usually there, up until my brother left one day when I was 18 and he never came home. Usually Daddy beamed at me I flashed my Snoopy smile back. When we did errands and he bought me waffle Stompers at Sears and Potato cakes at Arby’s, It made me feel more special than one of those pink loving girls at her first ballet recital. Pink slips don’t break us were his unspoken words. It seemed this pink ticket made time stop, so we could all observe reality together. Only it seemed to imbue the challenge of trying not to come apart too. I wondered why they hadn’t given out blue slips instead.
Still the paper in one hand and mine in the other didn’t take away from the love. I secretly liked that Daddy’s hands were calloused and rough with the edges of his trim nails stained black. He was manly and chaffed and Still faintly smelled of the container of hand stuff he got at McClendon’s regularly. It was magic the way it would wipe away the grease, magic stuff in a round shallow container that said “Goo.” Still his rough mechanic hands felt snug and warm against mine and I never wanted to know what my real fathers hands were like, Daddy made sure I’d never care. That day though is fresh still-I can see the sidewalk. I can see us step out of the old noisy VW red van. It was the day I tasted gratitude, it tasted like generic peanut butter with a black and white label and make Skippy forever taste like caviar.
That was the day gratitude would feel like honesty and forever smell like Old Spice. That day made me revel in small joys. I felt the day’s lesson when our new couch was delivered and they took away the old dog hair infested, tweedy, checkered fabric relic. A whole family simply awestruck with gladness- our joyous butts sitting for hours on progress. How could we feel so luxuriously spoiled, and how could this new couch take on opulence and be someone else’s normal? How lovely it is to have reminders that make us acknowledge, in all the day’s imperfections, the night still falls and the stars still shine. My 11 year old soul, dressed in purple, still knows that if I press hard and play honest, I will never have to taste another hunk of crumbly, salty, cheddar cheese we called “government cheese.” And by press hard I mean relive the day I learned gratitude.
I didn’t March today despite the thousands in Seattle that did. I am a writer not a marcher. I still feel heartfelt when I envision my teenage daughter going forth into this world as her curves develop along with her sense of confidence. A luminescent quality radiates from her; she turns heads, “your daughter is beautiful” I hear. In many ways this makes me bite my lip in worry, devoid of words- the RIGHT words anyway.
I read many books by Betty Friedan, poems of Dorothy Parker, I read Our Bodies, Our Selves, I knew the phrase the Beauty Myth and I recall thinking beauty was a blessing and a curse. Thank god I was a boyish looking child or it could have lasted longer.
I heard it starting at 16, “you are very pretty.” from total strangers. I just looked astonished and ran away. I didn’t realize I had an important platform from which to shatter myths? In middle age on occasion I do get flirtatiously chatted up at grocery stores by a fish monger, the butcher, by some young New Jersey transplant in a t-shirt with rolled up sleeves, a gold chain around his neck- the Graduate comes to mind. My mom experienced it, and well-some of us are magnets. But for me, the flattery stops if the cute stops. If touching starts, my quills shoot venom.
My dream is to write the perfect screenplay that recreates the lures, the confusion the grey areas we get snared in that truly explore if Feminism helps or hinders us? We constantly consume messages contradictory messages. Those that create films and music and publicly consume art should be aware that the impressionable youth of the next generation are soaking up your message, make it a good one.
Biology and socialization are key and the messages playfully duke it out in tug-of war -back and forth. We can call certain men predatory, Anthony Wiener, Harvey Wienstein, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Woody Allen, or we can call them products of society’s passivity and prize; fame. Certain women get confused, lacking self respect or simply young and naive having weak role models? But the media should start calling out it’s participation in overt over-sexualizing of American Culture. Turn on Dancing with the Stars or any hip hop song or sitcom if this confuses you, you’ll spot it. God forbid our young people esteem to have sex lives like on Game of Thrones, good luck with that.
It’s time. This ain’t 1950. We are changing. We are asking to see more of your black dress statements. To hear your public admissions of abuse, in memoirs, in movies, in government, no matter who your famous daddies are- you deserve to be heard! It’s time we shed the skewed visions our moms mistakenly filtered down. We HAVE evolved and culture changes. Pretty first and smart second is 50’s mentality. Flattery only goes so far. It’s time to teach conservative mother’s and fathers to live the new message and really hear the new demand. Not just parents of daughters but parents of boys! We need more marches, more bills in government, more spoken requests at work; daily -however impolite it feels, communicate that sexual harassment and the tolerance for it are over.
I was taught if they hit on you-it’s a compliment. I was told to “go to college and marry a rich man.” Boy did that get my hackles up. My mother was told only her brother could go to college. Her generation was practiced. If they hit on you- you just batted your eyes. No one ever spoke of women being objectified! But today- If it feels wrong, it is. The blank slate you entered into as an infant entitles you to two things- dignity and self respect. If they drop their pants in front of you, don’t assume you must make them amorous; or you caused it somehow, -IF they drop their pants in front of you, they have seriously unpredictable creepy predatory tendencies and should be reported. Tell three people, at least write a letter to your local Dear Abby. The quiet suffering is just a path to alcohol abuse, regret and bottled up truth. There is nothing modern about living a lie, we grow from truths, we learn from mistakes.
We have evolved. There is more good than bad. There is progress to make. We should cultivate and inspire our modern icons of change, Sasha and Malia and Chelsea, Oprah, Melania- March the road of change, can you imagine the message if she leaves the white house and decides to be a woman with a wake up call; instead of a trophy wife? It’s time we can be gymnasts and models and TV Anchors and Actresses and admins and not be sexually harassed or subject to bias for our choice to wear leotards or walk runways.
Young women have a very real challenge, the new dream of equality starting at the White House. Obliterating the message the very image of Melania Trump personifies; that money is worth more than dignity. That we are second to men and can not be president. Our young adolescence voices need to press harder to be more courageous blot out Hollywood’s misconception: status is NOT more important than your self respect. Beauty is NOT Pain, Money is not a super power with exclusionary rules that grant rights to victimize women or men for that matter. FOR GOD SAKE, women bleed once a month in preparation for motherhood and still go to work, to make less on the dollar than men, men who go to work with all their iron stores in check, make more money and shed no blood at all? This is why we March!
I was 28 at the time, I worked in Marketing. I was called into my boss’s office. Correction, I walked into Bruce Cleaveland’s office. I had no cause for alarm, We always got along, we both liked the band Cake, we loved sales, he spoke adoringly of his kid Henry, I listened. This one day hit me unexpectedly, from a man I thought I admired. “well Lisa, he said, you’re a hard worker, we think it’s time to promote you, he said smiling” ‘My face swelled with pride, I wanted desperately to be a career woman, “well then, I told him, now is as good a time as any to tell you, I’m gonna be having a baby, I’m expecting,” I said frankly nodding and looking him in the eyes, (I was currently the 50th person at this software company -it later went public). In the next few weeks I realized my “mistake.” His response to my exciting news was “oh, well then……that changes things in regards to promoting you.” I looked perplexed, my mouth still. My response quite possibly cost me my career-my mouth just naturally spoke these words: “you DO realize what you’ve just said is actually illegal?” I told him, devoid of emotion. Things got difficult from there on out-I was pushed out. I chose motherhood over career after that.
Inexperienced, I was. True to myself-I was. Naive, I was. Too outspoken, maybe. The secret welled in me and festered like a lost love for years. I recall having to press someone in my next career to convince me why we really needed to print false sales numbers? Again, my ethics were in question. Really!? Mom never said it would be like this! She just said again and again “you really need lipstick.” I remind her of that one still. Luckily for me karma granted me the pedestal of my writing inspiration, I stayed home with this boy whom I had much to teach-foregoing a career. So I was lucky? Young ladies, I would not do it again, I would keep the door open and make noise and keep working at least part time.
Where do we start? We start by not working at Hooters, not stripping to pay for law school, not disconnecting from our mom’s who don’t get it- but repeating our message until they do. We ask for a break room to pump while nursing -not the restroom; making them see working mothers as an asset. Demanding change for the next generation of women. Let me remind you like a recent issue of Time Magazine did that not that long ago women died in childbirth, let us not let part of us still die in motherhood?
I waited after the boy was born, why would I do THAT again? 4 years later, I swaddled a girl in pink tulip prints in that hospital room. I vowed to write that book from home. To blaze an important undervalued path-the path of motherhood. I would erase the icky parts of adolescence for her? There would be no secrets, no one would masturbate in front of her at age 15 and not be arrested as had happened to me. No boss would slobber over her while she worked at her desk, biting her, talking down to her. She would speak up, unlike me. I would discourage the overly sexy pedestal many women find themselves wanting to climb atop. I’d watch Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at least 5 times with her so she heard the message again and again.
We need Marches, but we need letters and laws and powerful voices doing the hard work at state and federal levels. The image of power cannot just stop with a march through the streets.
(For Laurie and Heather and of course Jon Hamm)
Every occasion in America is a drinking holiday. I don’t drink, six years now. So my response; “I’ll pass thank you. ” That is all I say. I do attend the party, yes. Often if you don’t drink, and they know, well you don’t get an invite- so first, don’t take it personally.
The other parties, unless I feel it’s a bad idea; PMS or my dog pooped in my shoe that day, or Grandma died, what have you- sometimes you just skip it. Office Happy Hours, birthdays, baptisims, so many occasions sometimes I pretend to toast at the wedding, but I don’t drink it-I use water. Yes there are a lot of Champagne occasions in American Culture, my Sicilian and Irish make my thirst especially great for wine or beer; cocktails meh, who cares but, I can do it so….SO can you.
How do you know? Oh trust me anyone who has a problem with alcohol- they know. They just have to stop denying that they know; meet face with the bottle. In fact, they knew long ago, and yes I suspected it long ago myself, at like 21.
How do you even enjoy a party, a holiday, a wedding? HOW!!!!
There is still music? Maybe dancing, there is the old fashioned art of the conversation? Observe like a reporter just drink in the occasion not the booze, that is how. If it isn’t fun sober, well then you leave!
What if you are tempted, ya know -to drink they ask. We just think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that woman who yells in conversation when she drinks and makes an ass of herself, or picture the YOU you aspire to be and go there. The final image, the Bugs Bunny episode where he drinks poison and freaks out.
If a party atmosphere is like stale bread-and you KNOW cause you are tuned in completely; you get to bow out. Cause not drinking is all about doing what is good for you, not others, yeah true. It demands Always having an exit plan. “I have to go feed my neighbor’s Schnauzer while she is Bali.” Or I am harvesting a new crop of crossed Daisy Poinsettia’s and they thrive when I sing to them-I gotta go.”
Quite frankly and we get to be frank now cause after all, we are sober, the cold nips at me too and begs for that vision of holiday cheer ,the hot toddy or the Mexican hot cocoa with schnapps but repeat this if you wane in your worth “should I drink something that makes me want to be here, or should I just leave?”
No quick warming concoction in a glass, catching the light, it’s cherry bobbing just so in the delicate birth of fine crystal that is martini ware is worth it. Yes-it is unarguably sexy to sip; but is it worth sleeping with THAT guy or not being able to to find your car the next day or having your mouth form the words “l NEVER would have but I was SO drunk.” Even with that sugared rim, tomorrow you will not feel so sparkly. When the thought comes to me, when I think of my wine research expertise and forget the ugly, I un-hunch my shoulders and I pause to listen to my heart beating and my blood coursing and I honor what is real for me. Another tray, another waiter….I’ll pass thank you, I say again with more confidence.
I hear it asked every year. I hear it asked all year. It’s even asked without words. Your faces say it all, like a bad deodorant commercial, “what is your secret?” I hear the silent pleading as the tray passes by my nose at the Artic Room, or the Cloud Room, Top of the Towers, backstage; wherever there is swanky, cuush, gently worn velvet furniture and a marble table with bowl of fruit next to it that begs to be painted.
Don Draper does motivate me too. In my daydream, as he saunters over from the blazing oversized fireplace and says, “what are you doing later? “ Or “mine is organic Gingerale with lime and spritzer, what’s yours?” “No bitters I say and NO non-alcoholic beer “–yes we laugh simultaneously, they are off the table, we nod. Then someone visibly slurring clomps with the grace of an Irish setter over to us “ HOUUW , how do we do it? I look at her “We have arrived at the mystery of faith” I tell her. HUH? She says. “faith is being content with the mystery.” Have you heard that this week, I have heard that quote three times this week. I turn to Don, “Who said that anyway? “
SO in review how does one stomach being an alcoholic at Christmas time? We practice acceptance of others impressions, we accept that our vision of us has to be better than theirs. We let go of the haunting scarlet letter A that goes along with it. We practice the word – in front of the mirror while smiling. At first we welcome the bountiful tears. Hi, I am (Insert Name) or Lisa, or Steve or Roman, and we say it aloud “I am an alcoholic. But dear god, that is just the agreement. The agreement not to fight ourselves and the horrors and first deaths and last loves. Then we inspect it like courtroom attorneys layer upon layer, detail upon detail, upside down, kitty corner, aerial view, from the eyes of others, we inspect it like a corpse in an autopsy and we find one good thing. It is just a beverage after all?
Thanksgiving. Here’s a proper nod to what Thanksgiving in modern times has evolved to and the one you envision.
For some, perhaps it’s the oppression of Indian’s you take from this Holiday, or the oppression of apronned women sweating over a roasted Turkey basted like clockwork. I prefer to take from it an unlikely joining of two visitors sharing the same table, the proverbial breaking bread or nibbling the corn they themselves grew, an introduction of strange new tastes, maybe a sour berry that pairs so nicely with an especially wild untamed poultry whose brain seems to be absent from it’s feathery head. Maybe the food is the reason you make the drive or the flight? Maybe this day is just the yearly epiphany that wine is not enough, that there must be more?
The culinary comforts of the tummy won’t quell what is lacking from any holiday. One still must medicate to dine with certain family members and perhaps this year it’s time to change, upgrade to Prozac? For many homes It should be put out with the spread beside the salt and pepper- as abundant as the mashed potatoes, or corn pudding or the Tofurkey gracing your best table cloth. It’s here like it or not, it’s that late Thursday in November where you pause to give thanks.
For fun, let’s run through my favorite descriptions of the offerings at your feast, these I have actually heard: “sweet potato balls” “a good Kalua Pork, ” bourbon pecan pie, or for my Sicilian favorite Italian Mix Giardiniria- Who knew cauliflower could be this good? Lest we not forget the happenings the tradition. A walk after dinner, watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the 40th time, and always a a game of cribbage minus the chain smoking grandpas this year. A lively table is pure bonus. Ours was classic, arguments as plentiful as gravy-“thanks Dad” or the first dinners to the new family’s house and that dumbstruck look on my face when I realize, no they indeed don’t have gravy?!
Gravy or not……it is the day to honor all the abundance we take for granted. Let us not blindly disregard who is not here, maybe a tear even followed by another piece of pie but nod to that fact that we are indeed very much here. Alive, grateful? Some healthy some not. Don’t just honor the thanks there is the Giving. it takes the focus off of you for once. Giving. Say it with me. Giving is human and people need practice.
Happy Thanksgiving, readers. Please savor it. What is it for you? Perhaps it’s being rebellious and ordering take-out. Perhaps it’s changing tradition out with the old in with the spicy! Maybe demanding potluck style and parking your old mother in a chair despite her wish. You are allowed to make it the least laborious day of Winter on the calendar-go on-do it. Channel your version of Thanksgiving, it’s yours. Don’t stand for blah. Make it special, gosh darnit? You want real whipped cream-find the other beater! You want a jello mold, don’t let them judge you. Perhaps like me, you always get assigned everything BUT the main dish? The clearance Turkeys are half the price tomorrow-quit your pouting. Who me? At 40 something I still want the Thanksgiving I recall from my childhood. Rolling around on the carpet bored as ever, but “good” bored. A day of peace where you smell food cooking, hear football game commentary, muffled laughter, an intermittent cheer at the TV…. the contentment of awaiting guests to crack nuts and jokes with….sneaking in to put your finger into the bowl of whipping cream, sneaking off to stare out the window and trace your name in the fresh steam clinging to the November world through that cold glass pane. It’s your Holiday, this year, do it right for once.
It’s different now. It used to be that when our chlorine laden bathing suits dried one last time on the back lawn chairs, we tucked our sunglasses away in our drawers in favor of the gloves. As we rolled up our slip and slide, The final chapter of summer was obvious. Summer’s sun dipped down in the sky a wee bit earlier each night, colder air kicked up the smell of once green leaves. The pavement smelled of the first rain. That’s when a little excitement brewed. It was time for new shoes and new pencils. It was almost the day to check who claims who, what teacher wants you. That’s when you knew you had to do it. You went to the backpack and retrieved the crumpled math dittos and that smooshed sandwhich that resembled anything but peanut butter.
When the school put the teacher listings outside the classrooms people surface. Forgotten friends a little taller packed the playground once again a school of slithering fish, shouldering the way to the front of the window-Did we at least get the fun teacher? Oh well there’s always gym.
There are the years that are just bummer years, down the shoot years, teacher illness perpetual sub, the guy that should have retired and hates kids now. Looking back at my kids school career I can clearly see, the power that kindergarten teachers truly have in deciding your kids fate. There are two paths down the shoot or up the ladder. Why I have yet to open a school for boys perplexes me.
Another year another trip to Target. A fresh pack of crayolas is like new hope. New school means new. New arrangements of the same. New excitement for the ordinary; for new pencils and new shoes. school means cheese sticks and pudding cups, and cramming your feet into stiff shiny shoes ending up with banddaids on your heels. It was time to sharpen a stack of pencils to mentally prepare for math class, hoping the smell of fresh wood would trigger a new happiness for fractions and integers You always felt sheepish about the abundance of erasers you had in your pencil pouch and secretly wondered did that have any bearing on where you were smart or not? If you saw a teacher from your school shopping at the store it was like seeing princess Kate of England. If you saw your friends dad for the first time, it rivaled that equally christmas-like feeling of newness and anticipation, all the fresh worlds you were creating, the budding friendships starting school was like meeting a your new puppy and finding out some days were unpleasant.
By first grade your mom was onto them. She was asking more questions. She learned something. They have them pegged from the first seat on the carpet at story time to the last nose picking they do in the lunch line. I’m convinced she told your dad, their path, the entire 12 years is dictated by the decision of who they were appointed at first grade. Will they be stamped like chocolates on a conveyor belt X down the shoot, their fates predetermined, seconds farmed off to discount stores, or will the be filtered upwards to the fine chocolates, sent up the up the ladder always getting the best teachers? Continue reading
Scientists say it’s turning in circles; Spinning,
quarterly it asks
“do you notice me?”
I pitter-patter, snowflakes, droplets of water,
I disappear and blaze warmth.
“Surely you feel that?”
Today the cloud wrings free
the heaviness of it’s heart,
stand still a moment;
Pause, stay still. Longer even.
The revolution heals.
Peek back for more at the end of summer. I’m busy working on a Novel!
A man rescues four women from the Ferry depot entering Morocco at Tangiers. Four young American women weary from heat and travel and unknowns. Wanting for comforts, cold water an anonymous moment without attention on them. It’s been suggested by a fellow traveler in a Hostel in Spain that we take a quick jaunt across the Strait of Gibraltar. Women are weak when an attractive young man tells them to do something. His name is Mehdi, he picks us up like were three year old’s that have spent 8 hours at Disneyland, but this is not Disneyland and Mehdi is not our Father.