Tag Archives: marriage

“You’d Better Come on, in My Kitchen, Babe: It Going to Be Rainin’ Outdoors.”

The women would gather around at mid-afternoon.

All throughout the last weeks of every autumn, they took turns visiting each other’s kitchens.  The ones that arrived to my grandma’s house were the victims of a village-wide fame of being the best cooks, for kilometers around.  Grandma was somewhat of a matriarch herself who flaunted her expertise like the first Soviet Martha Stewart.

The women’s morning duties would have been long completed:  Their cows and sheep were milked and herded out to the fields and placed under the supervision of the blond and freckled Don Juan, Vanechka.  The children were washed, the men — fed and guided out of the front gates.  The adolescent rascals, visiting their grandparents for the summer, who turned increasing brown day by day, would find salvation from the heat by the river bank.  The old women, with poor appetites, were given a glass of fresh milk, still foaming with the temperature of a cow’s body, and a slice of warm bread.  They then flocked the benches — like birds on a telephone line — for hours; and with their nearly toothless gums, they chewed sunflower seeds and gossiped.  (You could always tell their most favored bench by the layers of black hulls surrounding its wooden legs, like seashells.)

When the front gate of the house began squeaking, I put down my book and listened up.  I’d never really been much use to the matriarch of the house:  My housework was obviously not up to her standards.  So, it was better to stay out of her way all together.

“Doesn’t your mother teach you anything?!” the old woman bickered and breathed down my neck while I clutched a soapy dishrag or the handle of a bucket with filthy, brown water with which I had just scrubbed the floors of the hallway and the storage room.  “Gimme that!  I’ll show you how.”

But I wasn’t really in the mood for lectures.  Holding back my tears with a single raised eyebrow, I would march off into the furthest removed room of the house:  The front veranda with giant windows and a single cot.

“Well, would you look at her?!” the old woman nagged behind my back.  “Can’t even say a word to her!”

As soon as the veranda door was sealed shut with a metal hook, I would anticipate visiting the never seen landscapes of snowy Saint Petersburg in the novels of Dostoyevsky; or the wild forestry occupied by the courageous cossacks of Sholokhov.  There was no room for the nature worshiping lyrics of Yesenin, or the gentle romance of Alexander Blok.  No way, man!  Fueled by the unjust opposition of my father’s people to my motha’s clan, I fancied myself belonging to the oppressed.  I was certainly en route to a rebellion:  An untimely outraged young female revolutionary worthy of being commemorated next to the poster of Lenin!

In the days of motha’s absence, after a number of such confrontations with the relentless matriarch, I would eventually would move myself out of the house entirely.  And by the time my motha ventured back to her in-laws, she’d find me living in the veranda, by myself, with a plastic white rabbit being my only confidant.

Most summers, she would return toward the end of our stay.  Smelling of expensive European perfumes and the thrill of the city life, she, like me, was not allowed to participate in the housework.  But then, if she arrived on time for these gatherings of the townswomen, her pride would force her to march out into the kitchen — in a scandalously low cut housedress — and to help out.

First, the heads of white and purple cabbage would be brought up from the cellar underneath the kitchen.  The wooden barrels would be washed and left to dry out in the sun.  After the final headcount, grandma would begin distributing the duties:  Some women would be assigned to shred the crispy leaves, while others chopped, crushed and ground additional ingredients.  The hefty redhead with mittens on her manly hands would sterilize the two- and three-liter glass jars over a steaming bath.  The only single girl was given the task of matching lids and making labels:  Nothing that could damage her perfect and yet youthful skin, untouched by any man.

If motha insisted on joining the kitchen mayhem, she would be given a sack of onion heads to peal; and she would weep in front of other women, openly, while improvising some melodramatic monologue that caused the group to laugh hysterically.

My grandma rarely joined in.  Instead, she took her only daughter down to the cellar and supervised the organization of the storage space.

Eventually, lead by my rambunctious motha, the women would begin to talk about sex.  While pushing, crushing, mauling the transformed cabbage into jars, and buckets, and basins, and barrels, the women’s bodies flushed with burgundy red.  Their arms and breasts vibrated.  And they, while sweaty and flushed, with locks of hair sticking to their foreheads, would succumb to fits of laughter, as each confessed the habits of their husbands and ridiculed the strange and hardly satisfactory practices in their marriage beds.

“The second you call your man ‘a baby’, you gotta breastfeed the fucker,” my motha carried on with her routine.  The women hollered.  My grandma, scandalized, hid out in the cellar.  And I would climb up onto my hiding spot, above the stove, and memorize the scent of garlic and women’s sex, of which no Soviet male poet had yet told me.

“She Works Hard for the Money! So Hard for It, Honey!”

“I am… um… parent.  Every-thing changes.”

She stands at about my height.  I rarely see much difference between me and other women, though:  And unless they’re tall enough to grace the covers of beauty magazines — or the streets of Manhattan — I consider them pretty much my height.

Although born on the coast of Mexico, her skin bears the same caramel color as mine.  Her face, I can tell, used to be very pretty, even doll-like.  Her formerly black hair is snow streaked with gray highlights; and it is gathered in the back of her head into a thick ponytail of luscious curls.  Rich women would kill for thick hair like that!

I catch myself wondering how much she would have aged — had her life not been so hard.

I bet there is an encyclopedia of domestic tricks up this woman’s sleeve:  Washing her hair with egg yolks, making masks out of avocado and honey, moisturizing her heels with Bengay.  I’ve seen my own motha invent a few of those.  We are immigrants:  We get crafty, in survival.  For life is relentless:  It takes a toll on all of us all, but it’s most unforgiving — to us, women.

“I come herre… twenty fah-yv jears,” she formulates her words slowly.  “I am… um… sixteen jears.”

“Me too!” I say, and I begin nodding and smiling aggressively:  Just anything to make her feel understood.  “I was sixteen too!”

I want to tell her to switch to her native language, because I am pretty sure I get the gist of her already.  Despite the difference between our birth coasts, we seem to speak of the same tales.

But then again, maybe not:

I keep flaunting my American education in order to impress employers with gigs at a higher rate.  She — cleans houses for a living.  I tend to get hired to work the phones and to organize the lives of others that have gotten cluttered with too many demands.  She — creates order in other people’s homes, with her no longer soft, but womanly hands.  Besides the existences of my bosses, I am responsible primarily for myself.  She — has three kids to take care of, and a boyish husband.

“You?  No marr-rried?” she asks me.

The importance of family defines happiness in her culture; so, I get slightly embarrassed for a moment.  Despite the difference between our birth coasts, I so very much want us to be alike.  Is it this woman’s approval that I’m striving for; or just her empathy?

In one breath, I deliver:  “NoIamnotmarried.”

“In a couple more years, you’ll be middle-aged,” a man has declared the other day.

This woman’s arms are cradling a tiny dog; and in the folds of her stomach, he easily goes to sleep.  Her figure belongs to a mother:  She is fuller, curvier than my boyish frame.  Her hands are more sure and seemingly more knowing than mine.

“Is good you no married so soon,” she says.  She must’ve picked up on my embarrassment.  “Life more hard.  I am… um… parent.  Every-thing more hard.”

I ask her about her kids:  She nods and smiles when describing each of the three:  a two-year old baby-girl and a little boy.  Her oldest daughter wants to be a nurse.  When she speaks of her husband, she averts her eyes; and despite the slow manner of her chosen worlds, she quickly switches the topic to his job.

“Is good…” she concludes.  “Warehouse.  Down.  Town.  Is good!”

The little dog shifts on her stomach and extends his fluffy paws toward me. I take them and rub the un-callused pillows on the bottom.  She laughs and teases the bangs above his eyes; and when her hand brushes against mine, I notice that her skin is tougher than the one I’m rubbing in between my fingers.

“You…  work?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I say and begin listing my gigs.  This is the first time I doubt she understands me.  To my own ears, I begin sounding busy, and slightly fussy.  So, I stop.

I interrupt my list.  “Everybody works here,” I conclude; and the woman begins nodding and smiling aggressively.  She is getting the gist of me.

I study her eyes:  She stands at my level, and most definitely — at my height!  But then she leaves for work; and I reluctantly begin mine.  It’s life — at work; and in its working, it is especially unforgiving to us, women.

“She Never Stumbles — She’s Got No Place To Fall. She’s Nobody’s Child. The Law Can’t Touch Her At All.”

It is truly fucking amazing, but for the very first time in my life, being single does not seem like a social ineptness — a disease of which I am a carrier.

So, as I stand in front of an overwhelmed ticket cashier at my fancy local movie theater, I no longer feel awkwardly apologetic when I say:

“One — for Crazy, Stupid, Love, please.”

The chubby, stressed-out girl in an ill-fitted penguin-like uniform looks up at me.  It’s the weekend, but I had just come from a day of hard work.  My hair is pulled back.  I’m exhausted, not in a self-pitying way of someone burdened by survival; but in a relaxed, proud manner of someone making her own way in the world.

“Was that:  One?” she repeats.

I thought I spoke clearly.  I usually do, with strangers, subjecting only my beloveds to my habit of speaking in code.

“Yes,” I say, and I smile as kindly as my tired, non-pretty face allows.

The girl purses her lips and flips her computer screen toward me:

“Where would you like to sit?” she says.

I don’t really know how it happens in the lives of other young girls, but in my own adolescence, I’ve never been taught how to get myself successfully paired up.  There is nothing my father wanted more, of course, than for me to get married and settle down, always in close proximity to his house.  He somehow hoped I would figure it out on my own and — magically! — end up with a decent guy (which by Russian definition meant someone who could hold his liquor and was good at fishing).  I would end up with someone my father could trust enough to pass me into his care.

At the same time though, he never talked to me about dating.  It made him uncomfortable — this idea of my inching my way toward the problems of adulthood, day after day.  And the sequence of my father’s glottal sounds while he sat on the edge of my bed one night and tried to talk to me about sex would make Bill Murray want to take notes:  It was so uncomfortably funny.

“Um, P?” I had to interrupt him, because I wanted to remember my father as a hero, NOT as a man incapable of uttering the word “sex” while blushing like a teenager.  “It’s past midnight and I’ve got an English final in the morning.”

I was in tenth grade.

Not kidding.  Dad — or “P”, as I called him, lovingly, in my habit of speaking in code — had always been delusional about my sexual development.  I wasn’t even sure he knew I had gotten my period four years prior.  Most of the time, we just talked about my studies.  Because all my life, I had been an exemplary student, earning my way into the best private school in our city; and my education — was the biggest of my own concerns anyway.

“You just gotta be careful…” he mumbled that night, and once he got up, he would fumble with the seam of his thermal shirt and blink rapidly to avoid my stare.  “That’s all I’m saying.”

“I am, P.  Good night,” and I smiled at him as kindly as my tired face would allow.

And that was it.  That was the only time P chose to suffer through that topic.  Not even after my parents’ divorce would either of them invest any time in explaining the complexity of human relationships to me:  the work that it took to be successfully paired up, and the amount of self-awareness; the amount of commitment.

Whatever I learned about dating I would learn from my contemporaries.  Boys would be the main topic in the cafeteria of my college, to which I had arrived on a full scholarship.  Again, in my 20s, education would remain the biggest of my concerns.  By the end of our studies, many of my classmates would be engaged, or married; or moving back home where they were awaited by their families and boyfriends.  I, however, was en route to graduate school, hustling my way to earn more scholarships.

In our rendezvous to the City, we would occasionally meet up — my college contemporaries and I — and they would purse their lips at my awkwardly apologetic answer:

“Yes.  I’m still (insert a shrug) — single.”

In my dating life, I would feel clumsy and uncertain.  By the example of my contemporaries, before each date, I would dress myself up into what seemed to be a better, prettier version of me:  And during the date itself, I would often gain a headache.  Because by the end of it, I couldn’t keep track of all the omissions and alterations I would manufacture.  And when I wouldn’t hear from my dates for weeks, I would throw myself back into my studies.

Something would change of course, with time.  Somewhere during the pursuit of my dreams, I would begin to sit in my skin a bit more comfortably.  There would be a slew of reckless relationships and even a failed marriage; but I would begin to learn about dating, by trial and error.  And the one thing that eventually became obvious was this:

I was NOT like most of my contemporaries.  I was someone paving her own way in the world since a very young age, via her education.  I was also an immigrant who had to work twice as hard as her contemporaries in order to be their equal.  So, there was no way I could use someone else’s skills and opinions in order to pair myself up, successfully.

Because I am no longer willing to mold myself into a better, prettier version of me, I am beginning to find that the version of me already in existence — is pretty fucking amazing.  And that very version, however tired or un-pretty, I now carry into my dates; and I surprise myself that the men I choose seem to be more comfortable with me as well.  They are more confident, more fun.

And then I move on, to more adventures and dreams, in the pursuit of which I don’t really need to be paired up — UNLESS successfully.

“Um, miss?” the penguin-girl appears even more stressed out since meeting me.  “Where would you like to sit?  We’re almost sold out, but since you’re single…”

I smile.  I choose the best seat in the house, buy myself a single latte and wandering through the lobby’s bookshop, in a relaxed, proud manner of someone who can afford herself these tiny privileges, in life.

I am someone — making her own way in the world.  And I’m pretty fucking amazing!

“Let It Be, Let It Be. Whisper Words of Wisdom: Let It Be.”

When you forgive — you love.

I stumbled across that, somewhere in my reading.

Because I want to be a writer, you see.  So, I read.  A lot.

Sometimes I read for inspiration, other times — to put myself to sleep.  But mostly, I read out of my habit for empathy.  Secretly, I cradle my hope that someone else, equally or more insane than me, has once felt my agonies and thrills before.  And perhaps, that someone has been able to find the words for it all.  But then again, maybe I just want to get myself disappointed, frustrated enough to start looking for the words on my own.

“Lemme do that!” I would think, and I leave the book by someone else unfinished, on my dresser; then, I start weaving my own stories.

It’s a trip, I tell you:  Reading.  Which is why I size up my books carefully before committing to them, with my time and my empathy; and with all of my expectations:  I need to make sure they are exactly what I need at that moment in life.

Kind of like:  Love.

Except that in love, I continue to commit that same mistake and I wait for the story to fit me perfectly, at that time in life.  It doesn’t.  Ever.  Because a love story always involves another person and I am never too careful in sizing him up.

With books, I eventually forget about my initial expectations, and I get on with the journey they offer — if the adventure is worth my wandering, of course.  But in love, I seem to forget about my side of the story — and I lose myself in his.  So, the empathy gets lopsided and it limps around like a polio survivor; never remembering where exactly I had started losing track of myself.  Until the eventual departure by one of the parties returns me to my memories — of love.

When you forgive — you love.

I stumbled across that in my memory, yesterday, as I stretched in between my naps on a sandy sheet at the beach, next to a man guilty of loving me better than he loves himself, with his lopsided empathy.  Every time I looked over, he seemed to be asleep.  And right past the curvature of his upper back, I could see a family of tourists doing their slightly quirky things underneath a colorful umbrella.

The woman looked lovely, but not really my type:  She was a blonde, model-esque, calm and seemingly obedient.  The little boy looked like her, with her pretty features minimized to fit his Little Prince face.  He sat by himself, quietly imitating the things he imagined in the sand; and, like his mother, he never fussed for attention.

The older child — a 7-year old girl, in a straw hat — resembled her father:

He was tall, dark, Mediterranean, but not at all intimidating in his physicality.  As a matter of fact, his body belonged to someone with an athletic youth that eventually gave room to the contentment of a well-fed, well-routined family life.  By the way he lounged in his beach chair, I could tell he had plenty of theories on homemaking and childbearing; and that those theories — were the main means of his participation.  Still, he wrapped up the picture of a complete union, so I changed my mind and dismissed him with a kind thought.  Then, I resumed studying the little girl.

She was tall, Mediterranean; dressed in a blue-and-white, sailor striped dress. Lost in her stories, she wandered around her family’s resting ground until the wind would knock off her straw hat and send her running after it.  On her balletic legs, the child would skip for a bit, then  resume walking, very lady-like.  The wind would pick up again and roll the hat for a few more meters, and again, the girl would begin skipping.

I could tell she was either humming or talking to herself.  She’d catch up to the hat, put it on, start walking toward her family’s resting ground while humming, weaving her stories; until the wind would send her skipping again, after the hat two sizes too big for her, in the first place.

I looked at the man next to me:  He seemed to be asleep.

“When you forgive — you love,” I stumbled across that in my memory, felt my legs get heavy with sleep, snuggled against the man guilty of loving me better than he loves himself — and drifted off into yet another nap.

When I woke up, the Little Prince had gotten a hold of his sister’s hat and tried wandering off on his wobbly legs, in search of his own stories.  But the instructions from the father’s chair, put an end to that adventure quite quickly; so the boy returned to resurrecting the things he imagined — in the sand.  In the mean time, the little girl was already skipping through waves, on her balletic legs, but still talking or humming to herself, while weaving her own stories.

There is a forgiveness that must happen, with time, toward the insanities of our families, in order to continue living with them.  That I had known for a while; and past the forgiveness, I’ve benefited with more stories.

Then, there is the forgiveness of those who have failed to love us, with or without their lopsided empathies.  Still, it must be done in order to arrive to new loves, to new empathies, and again — to new stories.

But the forgiveness of ourselves — for the sake of weaving a better story out of our own lives — that seems to be a much harder task.  And it takes time.  It takes a light open-mindedness of a child continuously running after her straw hat, seemingly never learning the lesson because the adventure itself — is worth the wandering.

And when the lesson is learned — forgiveness equals love — the story-weaving gets lighter.  And so does the loving.

“‘Cause, I Built A Home. For You. For Me.”

Beautiful.

Beautiful beach.  Beautiful bodies.  Very beautiful boys, tall and lean — lovely, really.  And those gorgeous behinds of the girls — who are also beautiful — passing along the tide.

It’s lovely, really, to not be so blind to life.

I’ve only got an hour here — a small break I’ve permitted myself smack in the middle of my day.  I have chosen this life of malleable schedule; and it demands much more responsibility than showing up at one place, every day, at eight.  But then again, that other life seems so brutal.  That other life of others:  I’ve tried it.  I can do better.

An hour.  That’s all I’ve got.  I’ve imposed a halt onto my day and taken a detour to the beach.  I’m going to make up for it later, I think; and I wish I could be more romantic about it:  more romantic than crawling out of my skin with my chronic impatience at time.  Just how much longer is it going to take until I achieve the life that’s unlike the life others?  A life of my own:  How long does it take to mold?

In this part of the beach, mostly populated by locals, it is always so quiet — and so beautiful.  It’s lovely, really.  But I do wish I could be more romantic about it:  I wish I would catch myself thinking about the opposite shore where I just happened to be born several decades ago — and that must be why I keep coming by here.  To recharge.  To reconnect.  To think of home, as others often do — in their own life of others.  But I have left that shore — that’s the truth — on purpose, several decades ago.  It wasn’t working.  I tried it.  I could do better.

Still, I raise myself up onto my elbows and squint at the line where the dark blue of the water meets the dusty white of the sky:  Nope.  I can’t really see home from here.  Home — is just gonna have to be wherever I am.

But still:  It is so lovely, really.  And it’s lovely — to not be so blind to life.

I watch a threesome of youth things fling a frisbee to each other, near the tide.  One of the boys is stocky.  He’s the funny type.  I can tell by the way he makes the other two double over with laughter, even though I can never hear the ending to his jokes.  The other boy is tall and lean.  He’s lovely, really.  Whenever he leaps to catch that thing in midair, he reminds me of a dog.  I wish could be more romantic about it.  I wish I could catch myself thinking about a lovely boy of my near past.  But that’s all done now.  The thinking, the rethinking — the endless groveling for reasons, clarifications; hastily gathered apologies, crumbs of hope for a reunion, or for some sort redemption, at least — that’s all done now.

I watch the boy launch the frisbee with a mere bend and release of his wrist.  Vaguely, I begin recalling all the ones I have treated with kindness, in my life.  Thankfully, the ones that got the lesser of me I can count on only two fingers.  Because less than — wasn’t really working.  I tried it though.  I can do better.

And then, there is the girl of the threesome.  I think she is very young, hiding her torso underneath a long-sleeved surfing top.  She giggles too, a lot and often completely unprovoked.  But it’s the ruffle that circumvents her hips along the bikini bottom that tells me she’s still got so much life ahead of her, and way too much youth.

Out of the three, she is the least equipped for the game.  When she dashes to catch a throw, she never takes off on time and she always misses.  And when the frisbee lands, she runs to it, while laughing; bends over to pick it up, then starts slapping it against the bottom of her right butt cheek, shaking off the sand and making the rest of her body vibrate with suggestion.  I think I can overhear her apologies:

“Sorry,” she giggles, vibrating with laughter and the bounce she has started against her gorgeous behind.  “I suck!”

But the boys are mesmerized.  They don’t mind the stupid game, or that it slows down every time it’s her turn to throw.  The tall, lean lovely attempts to coach her a little.  But whom is he kidding?  She is not interested.  Soon enough, she pulls out of the game completely and runs over to the camp of their towels.  The beautiful boys do a couple of more throws, but the game is no longer fun.  They follow her: Their girl.

Lovely.  Really.  It’s lovely — to not be so blind to life.

And I’ve only got half an hour left.  I shoo away the fragmented thoughts of my next obligations.  It’s my life — it’s not the life of others — in which even the breaks have to be disciplined.

I think I doze off.  The smell of coconut and perfume brings me back up onto my elbows:  Three meters down a family of four is stretching out a cotton sheet, bleached out to perfection.  It’s gigantic, waving up in the air like a sail of a boat bringing home a beloved vagabond.  The two sons are on one end of it:  They are tall, lean — lovely, really.  The father is giving out commands from the opposite end, but whom is kidding:  He cannot stop from twisting his neck sideways toward a lean and handsome woman, applying sunblock all over her youthful body.

“Hence, the coconut,” I think; and I watch her bend over and slide her thin wrists along each leg, methodically.

This is the life of others.  Not my life.  And I find myself feeling romantic about it.

The family positions itself onto the white sheet:  The handsome woman chooses her place first.  The boys immediately flock her, in their unspoken adoration; but they cannot stay down for long.  Soon enough, they take off for the tide, with so much youth ahead of them.  The father inches over toward his lovely wife:  His girl.

This is the life of others.  And it’s quite lovely, really.

Okay.  Five more minutes.  I give myself — five more minutes.  They can’t delay me too much.  I squint toward the horizon where the two gigantic matters meet, but not where my home is.

My home — is just gonna have to be wherever I am.  And wherever I am — is quite lovely, really.


“Hey, Baby! Hey, Baby! Hey!”

My reading was interrupted by a shriek of a boy balancing on his mother’s lap like a midsize chimpanzee.  He could’ve been five, had he inherited his father’s stocky stature.  But even if he were an overgrown 3-year-old, judging by the size of him, he was already in dire need of outgrowing this habit for women’s laps.

Seemingly, something had crawled up his ass a long time ago, possibly, at birth; because he could not bear to sit on it, still, as the slightly intimidating, but definitely imposing walls of my gynecologist’s waiting room were suggesting.  His mother — a hefty brunette with a teased hairdo and a stomach that protruded forward (was she slouching or pregnant?) — was hiding her face behind a fashion magazine.  For a moment, in another attempt inspired by his ADD, the little creature entertained a sport of imitating her:  With his curled fingers, he picked up the closest publication — Parents — and started flipping its already tattered pages with an unusual aggression, in front of his face.

I had seen this before:  this violence to which many children are prone.  I would study their small tensed-up faces and clenched fists, so full of destruction, and I would wonder what was brining it on:  Was it the result of poor parenting or a messy gene pool?  Or was it their preview to the understandable, but never just human anxiety?

By this point, the little creature had entirely given into his, and the glossy pages of Parents were failing to hold up against his violence.  The other pretty women in the waiting room, in unaffordable flocks and midsummer tans, had to have attempted to charm him prior to my arrival; because by this point, they were pretending to be undisturbed by the sounds of tearing pages and the grunts of the little man causing them.  And they continued to remain unaffected when his next ADD-inspired urge made him fling the dainty pamphlets across the room, one by one, their skinny bodies flailing through the air like the feathers of hunted down birds.

Finally, after the horrified receptionist mumbled an inaudible, passive-aggressive complaint, the boy’s mother lowered her reading material.

“Joh-nathan!  Stoop it!” she said, with an accent of an unclear origin, entirely undisturbed by her son’s behavior.   At all times, she was determined to have access to one of two emotions:  annoyance or boredom.

“Stoop it!” she repeated.

But by then, “Joh-nathan” was entirely under the influence:

“Nnnah!” he responded; and with a masterful eye contact with his mother, he picked up the next issue of Parents and sent it across the waiting room.  The mother rolled her eyes (annoyance?), and reached for her giant purse.  The multicolored bag was parked between her protruding stomach and the destructive creature on her lap; and the woman began rummaging inside.

At this point I was no longer pretending to read, but studying the interaction: Mother versus Firstborn.  As pretty, shiny objects emerged from the giant bag, “Joh-nathan” continued to curl his fingers to grab, to clasp, to tear out — for surely, they had to exist primarily for his entertainment.  After applying an unnecessary layer of carrot-colored lipgloss from the tube immediately wrestled out by her son’s hand, the woman returned to shifting things inside the bag, with her lower lip rolled-out (boredom?).

“Joh-nathan” carried on with his terrorisms.  Armed with his mother’s tube of lipgloss, he crawled off her lap, ungracefully; then, scanned the room until stopping on my judgmental gaze from underneath the yellow floor lamp.  “Joh-nathan” wobbled toward me, then stopped.

“Not cute, for your age!” I thought, and made sure my thought was clearly translated onto my face.

“Joh-nathan” took a few more steps.  Audibly, I slammed my book closed.  It was a stand-off.  A stare down.  And no way, no how was this little bugger going to beat me!

Luckily for him, the little man’s ADD got the best of him, and after surveying me and the yellow floor lamp, he plopped down onto his ass.  (“Not cute, for your age!”)  He crawled past my feet, and past the lamp, toward the corner outlet.  Quicker than his mother’s bored mouth could spit out another “Stoop it!”, I blocked the child’s hand with my own, from yanking the plug.

“Dangerous,” I said.

“Joh-nathan” studied my face for a moment then rolled out his own lip into an imitation of his mom’s.  Either due to my relentless frown or his shock at the introduction of “no” into his short life, the little man’s head split into two hemispheres, at the mouth; and he screamed out so loudly, that every pretty woman in the waiting room had to wet herself.  (We had all been holding it, by this point, until our turn to relieve ourselves into a plastic cup.)

The mother gave me a glare, rolled her eyes, but said nothing.  The little man was carried off; and while blubbering into the woman’s chest, he pointed his curled finger in my direction.  Soon enough, “Joh-nathan” was back to balancing on his mother’s lap and smearing his wet face on her chest.  Both of them would shoot me a couple of intimidating looks, but I was back to being unimpressed, like all the other pretty women in the waiting room — so tired, by now.

I would ignore the loud thud of the boy’s fist against his mother’s breasts, followed by yet another:  “Stoop it!”

I would pretend to devour my pages when the terrorizing chimpanzee lifted the poor woman’s shirt:

“Baby?” he said in a baby voice.  Not cute!  Not cute, for his age.

“Yes:  baby,” the mother responded and pouted (annoyance?), confirming that she was indeed pregnant, and not just subject to poor posture.

“Joh-nathan’s” next slap came right onto the belly inside which his baby sibling was using up the mother’s resources and attention:

“BABY!”

If only the little man could murder his competition before the sibling had a chance to be born.  The woman didn’t as much as block the next blow.  Or the one after that.

Suddenly, I realized:  Her resignation was fully justified.

Most likely, she had once asked for a simple dream.  But it had cost her — the surrender of her youth and beauty, of her joy; and the burden of being in over her head.  And now she was waiting for that same disappointed dream to finally run its course, as if it were just another tantrum of her ADD-inflicted firstborn.

And while her son, her new little man, continued to abuse her body — sticking his head under the front of her shirt as if aiming to crawl back inside womb; then rummaging through her bra in search of a nipple — she sat back, pouting.  Not cute.  Not cute, for her age.

“Weren’t You the One Who Said That: You Don’t Want Me, Anymore?”

Yes, and.  That’s the main rule of improv:  Yes, and.

My badass bro taught me that.  When you are going at it with a fellow player on stage, no matter how stripped or idiotic you feel, you don’t get to back out and say, “No!”  In improv, you “yes and” that shit until you run out of options, until you’re done; exhausted.  Until you reach the dead end:  Yes, and!

Yes!  

And?

And chances are:  If you “yes and” for long enough, you can go at it forever.

My badass bro told me that a long, long time ago, when my pathetic white ass met him in Hollyweird, after my break-up back in New York.  So beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions:  how to weep and how to breathe.  Because I had just left a man:  Surprise, motherfucking surprise!  And it seemed, I could barely chalk myself up to the camp of the living.

When it comes to my men, I’ll love ‘em till death do us part:  I’ll “yes and” that shit until I run out of options.  I’ll adore, cradle, nurture, and mother them; breastfeed them if I must.  I’ll cook and clean for them, spoon-feed them with jello in bed or sponge-bathe their asses when they’re at their lowest (and I won’t even tell another living soul afterward).  Willingly, I’ll rebuild my men, from their bad choices, bad women, bad mothers; and give ‘em a brand new set of balls for Christmas.  Yes, and:  I’ll doll myself up for their fantasies or for their office parties alike, just so that there is no mortal in the world to questions their talents — or their endowments — in my bedroom.  Yes, and:  I’ll strut next to them, like the most expensive escort in town, and make them feel good enough to have a chance at Angelina Jolie herself, after we’re done.  And, yes, and:  I’ll give them the best sex stories of their lifetimes.

I’ll do all that, for my men; but there ain’t no fucking way in the world they — get to leave me.  Fuck you, my loves:  I — leave you!  That’s just how it goes.  Between the two of us, I’m the one yanked out of a gypsy’s womb:  So, I get to leave.  I get to go.

Yes?

And, so:  A long, long time ago, I had left a man.

It was his idea at first:  Something wasn’t working, he said.  He “couldn’t do it anymore”.  I cried, I wept.  I lost weight and sleep.  I broke shit, tried to repair it.  I even found enough room in that crammed-in basement apartment of ours to pace and wonder, “Why, why, why?!”  And then, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, it hit me:

I would never find the reasons!  Because in every break-up, each party has his or her own grief, and that grief is never identical.  And neither are the fucking reasons.

And, yes, and:  I could!  I could’ve stayed behind, back in the Bronx, and turned gray while resorting, reliving the dead affair:  Where did it go wrong?  Who dropped the ball first?  When did it break?  And my fave of all time:  How could it all be prevented?  But:  I don’t do that.  I am not the type to get petty while dividing mutual property, or mutual guilt.  I don’t destroy my men, and I never take shots at their dignity.  I don’t leave them in ruins for the next broad, even if she is — Angelina Jolie herself.

But also — (yes and!) — I don’t grovel for closure.  I may cry, I may weep.  I may lose weight and sleep.  But then:  I leave!  I go.  I walk away, while you — you stay behind and pick-up the pieces.

And so, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, I said:

“Oh, yes.  And I’m leaving.”

I  had asked him out to dinner, in between my waitressing gig on the Upper West Side and my fantasy life up in Harlem, where the mere sight of a woman’s ass was enough to get me off on the idea of all the future possibilities.  He showed up with flowers:  Lilies.  As the night carried on, I watched their giant buds open completely in that summer’s heat, then begin to wilt.  And like everything in New York, at that time of the year — from sweat glands to subway sewers to perfume shops — they began to smell aggressively, nearly nauseating.

Yes and:  I continued to break it down.

“I’m going to California.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

I was vague.  I didn’t feel like I owed him a calendar date, or a reason.  Or an explanation.  Because in the end, I knew — we both knew — it was he who broke the main rule of improv:  He said, “No”.  He gave up.  He dropped the ball.

Yet, still, “Why?” he asked, pleading with his wilting face to be etched onto the back of my eyelids for my later nightmares, in Hollyweird.

I don’t remember answering.  Because so beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions:  how to weep and how to breathe.  So, I breathed.  I inhaled it all:  The smell of the cologne I’d given him, along with a new set of balls that last Christmas.   The sour charcoal smell from the fajita plate, sizzling under the chin of the solitary male diner behind us.  The schizophrenic aromas of the city, from sweat glands to subway sewers, to women’s asses.  And the aggressive, nearly nauseating smell of lilies on our table, completely open in that summer heat and quickly wilting.

And chances were:  I could’ve “yes-and-ed” that shit forever, no matter how stripped or idiotic I felt.  But we were done, at a dead end.  Exhausted.  And all I preferred to remember was how to breathe — the ultimate act of “yes-and-ing” to all the other future possibilities.

Boys Will Be Boys. Thank Goodness!

Boys, boys, boys.  Men and gentlemen.  Players.  Soldiers.  There are so many of you in the world — and thank goodness for that!

You beautiful creatures that are born as our sons, then grow into our men; but then again, despite of our occasional complaints, so many of you remain our children — even as our husbands and lovers — and so many of us would NOT have it any other way!  Because when you stumble out of our beds early in the morning, scratching your bodies — youthfully supple or gracefully aging — when you clumsily rummage through our cupboards, then reach for your favorite cereal (which we’ve memorized long before learning your Social Security Number, or your mother’s birthday); when you pout, whist still barely awake and unaware of your age — you make us, women, wonder about the little boys you used to be; and in that moment, you are indeed — our sons.

And there is no higher praise to your manhood — and all the abilities, endowments, talents and skills that come with it — than when a woman chooses you to father her own child.  Because somewhere along loving you, we begin to daydream about watching that same sleepy face reappear in the cribs of our firstborns (and that pout!  oh, that pout!).  And when it is time for our children to start stumbling out of their beds, we will weep at their resemblance — to you.  It’s ALL dedicated to you! 

Because we too wonder about your teaching our sons how to throw a ball or a punch; how to shave (or whatever else you, boys, do behind those closed bathroom doors:  we love you, but we don’t really want to know); and how to choose the right socks or the right girl.  And we too desire for our daughters to worship you more than they seemingly do us; to adore you enough to look for you in their choices of men who, of course, will never be up to your standards.  (Because it’s always different with daughters:  They turn our men into pussycats.)  

You stubbly creatures of the opposite sex:  How you can break a woman’s heart with a mere aloofness or a deficit of attention; but then to build her back up with a single curious gaze that so many of you still don’t know how to execute without being unnoticed.  Please don’t ever stop giving us compliments, even if — and especially if — they won’t get you anywhere!  Don’t censor your praise of our hair, or eyes, or earrings — compliments that make you sound like an admirer of beauty, even if you haven’t figured out its source.  You often have no idea why a certain woman makes you turn your head (while hundreds of others can pass you by unnoticed).  And even if your compliment doesn’t earn you our time or phone number, please know:  It is never taken for granted.

The rougher men who have suffered through difficult lives and mean jobs:  You still have the ability to inspire a woman’s fantasy about being lifted with those capable arms of yours.  Some of us fall in love with women:  their grace and softness, and the way they manage to always smell so sweetly.  But for those of us who still adore the other gender:  It’s your physical ability — your capability to always be stronger than us, to stand taller, to be more ready — that makes us worship you until heartbreaks.  And when you do those things we needn’t know how to do (change a tire, fix a sink; negotiate with a mechanic or a cabbie; catch a fish or play the stock market), you make us feel safer.  And for that rare, fleeting sensation in life — we are forever grateful.  (A little secret though, boys:  Some of us have learned how to do those things, but we’d rather watch you take over.  Thanks.)

Those smooth players who choose to move through their lives as gentlemen:  How ever do you know where to buy a suit and when to tailor a jacket?  Who’s taught you how to be decisive about our first date’s destination and time; and how to settle the tab without making a fuss?  When do you make up your mind on whether or not you will ever wear cologne or the style of your underwear?

Your stubborn choice of your own higher standards — your substance — will continue to turn us on until the end of civilization.  Don’t ever stop getting our doors and chairs; lifting us over puddles or carrying us out of fires.  Continue to show up on time, to come through with your word (a man’s word!); to tolerate our emotions and to guard your own.  Insist on asking for our opinion on those pastel-colored Banana Republic shirts, but remain authentic to your taste (and always devoted to your collar stays!).  Know the best dry cleaners in town but don’t mind us if your dress shirt — is the only thing we want to wear while fixing you a sandwich.  Do send us flowers and hand-written notes.  Do make the first call, but allow us to keep the illusion that we — have the last word.  And the sooner you let us have the remote control, the sooner you can take us to bed.  (But you may also proceed on the couch.  Or the floor.)

And when you do undress us, fumbling with our buttons, or bra hooks, or garter belts — all too dainty for your rough, manly hands — continue to study us as if we were a work of art (perhaps, while unawarely pouting).  Or your dream car.  Or your dream girl. 

Oh, to the modest smile of Paul Newman and the intelligent squint of Robert Redford; to the swagger of George Clooney and the slight indifference of Clark Gable; to the promising ability of Steve McQueen and the effortless power of Bill Clinton; to the mastery of Obama’s self-deprecation and the reserved grace of Eastwood; to Denzel’s esteem and Jay-Z’s universal rule:  To you — we sing our odes and griefs!  To you — we give our youth and dedicate our sex.  Because no matter how many times you break our hearts, it is YOUR love that we continue to seek; and it is ONLY that love — that makes us better women.  And thank goodness for that!

(But don’t you worry:  We will always return that last favor, no matter how late in life:)

I Pack and Deliver — Like UPS Trucks

“Ring-a-ding, ding.”

“Allo?”

“Hello?  Hi, gorgeous.”

“Who —  eez theze?

“Motha?  It’s me!”

“Oh!  Wha-ha-ha, ha-ha!” she laughs in that way that only my motha can; and when she does, I am willing to lose my own composure and start echoing that roaring, tear-jerking laughter of hers.  (I swear, sometimes I can hear the voices of all the women that came before her, chiming-in from the previous century, and from beyond… wherever they’ve gone.)

“Who else calls you ‘gorgeous’, silly?” — I confront.

“Eh.  People.”

Okay.  I do lose my shit here.

I’ve called the woman last night after a very valid question posed to me by one of my girls:  Why are we so horny?  My girl is one of those fearless broads who is constantly decked out in designer clothes, killer heels; who drives big, expensive cars and motorcycles while channeling her own version of Danika Patrick; and who has a few dangerous hobbies and worldly curiosities in tow — all of which she accomplishes with her own money, by the way.  (Sure, there are times when she allows her power player to pick-up the tab; but it is never out of need or manipulation, but a mere humoring of his gender.  It’s just a lil’ dance she does.)  And to wrap up that phenomenal package is the woman’s wild sexuality and the body equipped to keep up with it.

Terms “fearful” or “unsure” would never be applied to either one of us; but when together, out on the town:  Watch out!  Trouble — in heels.  She and I try not to go out hunting together too much unless in the company of other, slightly more co-dependent women who can distract us from baiting the men of our interest.  But even if we don’t step out for the purpose of bringing men home, no doubt there are plenty of phone numbers collected.  (What happens when we do need a man?  Hmm.  I can’t tell you, kittens ‘n’ babies; because we both prefer to hunt alone.  Besides:  We don’t kiss ‘n’ tell.)

These days, with plenty of aspirations and self-employment gigs to juggle, I tend to have very little time for entertainment by any man’s company.  Because you see, recently, I’ve had to embrace the fact that most employers and I — just don’t jive well.  (True, quite a few of my bosses have been distant relatives of the very Devil; but most people I know have the ability to suck it up somehow.  Apparently:  I don’t suck up.)  So, here I am:  hustling a career of a freelancer with few more stable independent contractor agreements on the side (as “stable” as those get).  Add to that not one, but three careers in the making — and I myself am starting to feel like a distant relative of the very Shiva.

A busy broad I am, that’s true, with very little leftover time for a single girl’s dating life.  Very little time — or patience.  The way I see it, nowadays, my man — better be fun.  I have to be stoked about dating him; because if it’s a drag at all — “Do svidanya, darling!”  I’m earning plenty of wrinkles due to my lack of sleep and perfecting my hustler image already.  So, to have any additional worries caused by the man I’m seeing seems utterly unnecessary, wasteful — and, forgive me, just outright wrong.

However, my vagina — begs to differ.  By the feel of it, I am thinking I’m reaching the very peak of my sexuality; because unlike most women I know (except for my personal Danika Patrick), sex crosses my mind on a daily basis.

So, what IS a single girl to do?  I’ve tried sleeping with friends:  Always a loaded idea.  I’ve entertained requesting a regular service from an ex:  A horrendous, never-again idea!  And yes, of course, I’ve attempted the whole casual sex experiment.  That’s the better idea of ‘em all; but then, someone’s ego gets involved — and we’re back to the bad idea.

The worst part of that third option (and this, I suspect, is the part that most of you, kittens ‘n’ babies, won’t like hearing) — is that being a sexually liberated woman often results in confronting a gender-related double standard.  I don’t think you need me to break this one down for you, but if I openly admit to a man that I am mostly interested in (and have time for) sex, he won’t say, “Nyet!” — but his opinion of me will drop a coupla notches.  So, what I’m confronted with these days is a concept of Casual Dating:  I do this whole dating dance for a lil’ bit (just like my Danika) until jumping under the sheets no longer seems rushed or slutty.  And when someone can’t handle it any longer — I go.

 

“Um.  Mom?”

“Da?”

“So, why AM I so horny?”

“Sank yourr grrand-mozer!”

I think what she said had somethin’ to do with her own motha — a descendent of a Belorussian gypsy.  Apparently, this lack of sexual hang-ups is a genetic thing with us (which, according to motha — is also the reason for the troubled marriages and relationships in our fam).

“Well…  Does it get easier with time?”

“Hmm.  Nyet.”  (Thanks for the honesty, motha.)  “But you won’t care as much.” 

One of the better qualities I’ve inherited from the women in our fam (from the previous century and from beyond… wherever they’ve gone) — is the responsibility we take for our own self-esteem.  No man is ever burdened with caring for us, gypsies.  But to find lovers who can accept such independence — along with our wild sexuality — has been tremendously hard, for centuries.  So, we agree to dance with them, for a lil‘ while, until someone can’t keep up.  And when the going gets hard — the gypsies go.  Yet, according to motha, instead of inheriting grudges and carrying them into the next relationship — a dance or a casual date alike — we eventually learn to shrug off our losses and to forgive.

Well then.  That sounds like a plan, gorgeous.

Till Death Do Us Part — or NOT

Learned something new last night, loves…

(Actually, considering the newsworthiness of this week was off the hook, I learned quite a lot, via my Week in Review by Twitter.  Every 140-word op-ed came with a new ache of discomfort and my stubborn choice of silence.  No commentary, thank you.  I’ll take the fifth.  Yep:  Grace was an antsy lil’ thing last night, so I can’t say I was restful.)

Every time I crave a better piece of writing — or am about to lose all hope for the mankind — I reach for Junot Diaz.  Or Zadie Smith.  Or Comrade Nabokov.  But during the last hours of my seventh day:  Esquire it was.  I balanced the pages on my naked skin, watching them mark me with black ink.  (Written on the Body. Forgot about that one.)  Half-way in a out of sleep, I waited for the voices in my head to hush down (fucking Twitter, with its schizophrenia galore!); when out came a term I’ve never heard before:  No Fault Divorce.

Say whaaat?!  How come I never got me one of those?

For a second, I forgot which publication was marring my skin with its biodegradable colors (because as you may have read or heard, my darlings, it’s been a book on the topic of Zen this entire week).  I forced myself back to reality, for moment.  Yep:  still Esquire.  My Bible to Mankind.

“Damn it,” I thought.  “No fucking way I’ll be able to go to sleep now!”

Sure enough, the voices in my head went up a hundred decibels, like a choir of Cleopatra’s eunuchs.  Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda started bouncing in my frontal lobe, like steel bullets inside a pinball machine.  Before being tempted to reach for a shot of NyQuil, I leapt out of bed and went digging for my divorce settlement — a document I make no habit of viewing, ever! — issued by some New York Honorable So-‘n’-So who has never met me, let alone heard my side of the story.  Nope:  In my case, my darlings, my fucking story was retold by some attorney with a Chinese name, hired by my ex-husband, the plaintiff:

“The defendant has waived HER right to answer or respond.” 

(Again:  I took the fifth.)

And considering I was on the opposite coast of the country, that’s one way to put it.

There’s no way the Honorable So-’n’-So could’ve known that I was cradling myself to some state of forgiveness, for a duration of a single climate season, since the tragic separation from a friend.  ‘Cause that’s exactly what my hubs was to me — a friend, first and foremost.  Because I was planning to do this “till death do us part”, not the Honorable So-’n’-So “do us part”; and from my idea of marriage, you better be friends if you want to survive until there is no more sex to keep the two of you together.

But it didn’t work out for us that way.  Shit went wrong.  Things fell apart.  And by mutual at the time admission, we “couldn’t do it anymore”.

Despite suffering from a temporary amnesia toward my former self, I had enough presence of mind to recognize what was best for me, at the moment:  to run.  The same way I had fled from the broken marriage of my parents a decade ago (fucking irony, eh?), I took myself across several time zones; because the temptation for reunions with the hubs (the friend and plaintiff) — out of fear or stubbornness or love — would’ve been too great to resist.

But before I departed, we agreed that it was due to no particular one’s fault.  Instead, it was a hundred of little faults, from both of us.  Endless little fights — about my silly habits and his lovable ones; fights that were thrilling in the beginning, because they lead to moments of clarity — and sex; fights that would eventually look comedic; and we would crack each other up, making the hubs’ single dimple appear on his right cheek while I shook my mane at just how I much I adored that fucking thing.  But neither of us could remember when those fights flipped.  Before we knew it, they became little barnacles of cancer which would then be the eventual end of us.  Those fights belonged to a different category:  No longer little catharses, they became struggles for power; and that power had nothing to do with forgiveness but everything — with being right.

Last night’s Esquire piece said it best:

“Fighting matters to a marriage because what matters most to a marriage is forgiveness, and forgiveness doesn’t come for free.  You have to fight for it.”  

Truth be told, my fellow broken-hearted, I didn’t want to be right.  Most of the time, I didn’t want to have the last word either, because I didn’t even know what that last word would be.  (It’s a foreigner thing, or a writerly thing:  I need time to formulate my words — in order to be poignant, or perfectly understood, or “brilliant”.)  So:  I threw in the towel.  Because I feared losing a friend, first and foremost.  Because I knew that despite the resilience of one’s forgiveness, there indeed exists a point of no return.  (I had seen happen, a decade ago, with my parents.  Fucking irony, eh?)  Because secretly I knew that time and space — and in my case, several timezones of space — would heal.

I left.  Gypsy — out.

By leaving I admitted my fault, my comrades.  I chose to find someone to blame (which is how our fights got cancerous, remember?) — so, I blamed myself.  It was easier that way.  I had to lose enough to learn the one prerequisite to forgiveness — remembering THAT which is worth fighting for, or THAT worth walking away from; yet still, I had to leave enough behind TO forgive.  Which is why the settlement to my divorce had to be called Abandonment — another little fault in a sum of all others.  My price of forgiveness; and my own asking price — for keeping a friend, first and foremost.