Category Archives: birfday

Growing Up

How do you know when you’ve crossed the fuzzy line between prolonged-adolescence and adulthood? When you pay your own rent? Do your own taxes? When you lose a job, get another job, lose THAT job too, and keep going? When you surrender your wisdom teeth to a terrifying hobo dentist?

When all the adult men in your family are dead?

When you publish writing for money? When you can loan out money? When you begin to think of a womb as a space that, conceivably, could be filled, instead of negative — and I do mean negative — space?

When you realize that you’ve been married for four years, and four years is a presidential term, is an undergraduate education, is high school, is a LONG TIME? And you vote not to switch horses in midstream? Four more years! Four more years!

When you think about buying an apartment in a neighborhood that lacks all white-people amenities you’re used to being surrounded by (cupcakes, coffee shops, boutiques, indie bookstores, Trader Joe’s) because if you’re going to push a stroller anywhere it may as well be in this modern-day Sesame Street: past small cafes filled with families, and through a park overrun with kids, and along sidewalks where old men at tables play dominoes and bridge?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially while watching the Hogwarts kids we’ve been following for a decade finally leave the school (after getting to defend AND destroy it, which feels like an excellent metaphor to me), while reading this mind-blowing Cheryl Strayed essay, “The Love of My Life,” while bracing myself to turn 29. As you know, American women do not age beyond 29 until they hit menopause, and then they resume aging*, however grouchily, so this is quite a milestone.  (*Exception: All “Real Housewives” everywhere.)

Am I an adult? Dr. Worthless told me I was in 2007:

The original prescription for adulthood

He also gave me prescriptions for real drugs. The transactions were simple: I gave him my $40 co-pay; he gave me a scrip. “What separates you from a drug dealer?” I asked him once. “Ha ha ha!” he said. “Ha ha! But seriously, drug dealers don’t care about your health.”

Now I have a new doctor I largely trust, one who keeps me chemically in order. I also see another guy who does therapy through body work. It’s fascinating. The therapist, who I call Obi Wan for his demeanor and dress, presses on a particular muscle and associations push to the surface. Getting up off the table after an hour, I feel like Frankenstein’s monster, hyper-aware of every limb and how each connects.

And I have a new job at my job. Believe it or not, I am the “Manager of Institutional Development,” meaning I do research into various foundations and them write them earnestly to make the case that my foundation deserves their cash. That is an adult title, and my office gave it to me rather than telling me to take myself out along with the trash. (True story!) That’s progress.

Except growing up isn’t progress once you’re past 21, right? Isn’t that what we learn from the horrifying posters for The Change-Up? Babes make you happy while babies make you miserable. Commitment corrodes our free-loving souls.

Thanks Hollywood

Or is that only true for men?


Maybe you never actively identify as an adult until one day there are enough kids around — or twenty-somethings, but they look like kids — treating you as one. Maybe that’s how it happens. Or maybe it’s when random men stop asking when you’re going to graduate from college. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Lovin the Leos

Apparently I love Leos. I just can’t get enough! Roughly sixteen of my closest friends were ejected into this world between late July and late August, along with my mother, my little brother, and of course the one to whom I pledged my troth (in August, natch).

Having been hatched on July 19th, I narrowly missed being a Leo myself, for which I can only thank the vagaries of fate, cuz have you noticed what strong and often clashing personalities you Leos tend to have? I’ll take my Cancer oversensitivity any day.

On behalf of Leos and their special days, I have gone bowling, at which I played two games without breaking 50 either time. I did manage to drop the ball twice though while trying to aim! I have gone eating, I have gone drinking (without drinking), I have tried to go to Jon Stewart. Though I reserved the tickets eight months ago, that plan worked about as well as the bowling, thanks to circumstances beyond my control; I missed a banner episode, too. Oh well. I have traveled and I have stayed put. I have exhausted myself trying to think of semi-original things to write on Facebook walls.

But birthdays go round every year. Why does this August seem so intense? Usually there isn’t news, at least not beyond Hey Look, Cute Kitten! stories, or anything worth seeing in the theater. This year, we’ve had to contend with heroics from mayors, idiocy from former mayors (Death Panels!!), Democrats actually having to respond to “Death Panels”, the Middle East cracking down on women, pirates, clunkers, and lots of revelations of the obvious: Bernie Madoff was short where it counted; the Bush administration politicized national security.

Julie and Julia, District 9, and Ponyo are all out now, competing for my attention. Coming soon, to make matters worse: Inglourious Basterds! WTF, August? Will you let me breathe and process the fact that my dad is not getting better and my book is not getting published and —

Actually, you know what, maybe I’m okay with not having time to think. More birthday cake for everyone!

27 again

Two grand things came out of turning twenty-seven, aside from getting to celebrate for a full weekend. I now own the full set of DVDs of the Wire, and part of my identity moved cross-country to West LA.

Owning the Wire means I can not only open my eyes wide and earnestly preach its virtues to folks, but I can also push boxes of proof into their hands. This brings me great joy. Left up to themselves maybe people would follow my advice to shining towers of pop cultural brilliance, or maybe they would wander unguided into thickets of bad taste, from which they eventually emerge whining about how there’s nothing good on television.

And I can re-watch it, either with the folks to whom I’m preaching or by myself just because. Though an exciting prospect, this marathon will have to wait. I’ve been dosing myself with intense art lately: reading literature about war and its aftermath (City of God, City of Thieves, Away, A Canticle for Leibowitz), watching shows about violence and what happens when you cleave to a morality system of your own making (Sopranos, Weeds). Too often, my dreams have been disturbing, even horrifying. Last night it was all rape and pillage, rape and pillage, with random murder on the side.

It seemed wise to put myself on a diet of family friendly fare, like the Gilmore Girls, until my subconscious adjusts.

Meanwhile, to help with the distraction, I have an iPhone with a super new West LA phone number! If you didn’t enjoy Pt 1, below, you definitely won’t enjoy the second installment, so I’ll skip it. In short, after much haggling and some help from my brother, I have the most exciting new toy I’ve ever had. I hope 27 makes me worthy of it.

iphone saga: the beginning


Adam: Ester, I would like to buy you an iphone for your birthday. … Hello? Are you there? What’s that sound?
Ester: Me jumping for joy while simultaneously descending into neurosis.


Ester: Am I cool enough? Am I important enough? Will people laugh at me?
Rebecca #1: I though self-deprecation went out in the 90s.
Ester: Not for me.


Adam: You’re getting an iphone — just accept it. It’s a phone, not an existential crisis. Ok? Good.


Ester: Hi, I’m here to get an iphone.
Genius: Okily dokily! … Hm. This says you need to give us $500, which we would hold for a year.
Ester: This is like some sort of ransom?
Genius: Yes.
Ester: And at whose chest can I point this Gun of Desperation, which contains a magazine full of Trustworthy Looks and Sensible Explanations?
Genius: That would be AT&T’s. Store’s right around the corner.


Ester: Hi, I’m here to understand why I can’t get an iphone.
AT&T Lady: Hm. This says that there are stray cats that have better credit than you do. And felons. And street urchins.
Ester: That’s impossible.
AT&T Lady: Sea urchins, even.
Ester: Three months ago, I qualified for a mortgage!
AT&T Lady: Thank you, have a nice day.
Rebecca #2: Come on, honey. Let’s go resuscitate you and then get you some food.


: Hi, I’m calling to understand why sea urchins have better credit than I do.
Bombay: Thank you. May I have your date of birth?
Ester: July 19th.
Bombay: Oh! And how was your birthday?
Ester: Like sex without coming. The iphone was supposed to be the big present, you see, but I couldn’t get one because there’s some problem with my credit.
Bombay: I see. To help you, I will need $15 every month for the rest of your life.
Ester: Here you go.
Bombay: Thank you. Here is your actual credit score.

Ester: Oh! But that isn’t bad at all. It’s lower than it was 3 months ago.
Bombay: That’s because AT&T checked it twice: each time knocked it down a bit.
Ester: How thoughtful of them.
Bombay: Be of good cheer! Your score is lower than that of my very efficient and capable twelve year old daughter, but it is higher than that of Bernie Madoff.
Ester: Good enough for me. Thank you.
Bombay: Thank you. And may the lord in his goodness and mercy grant you your orgasm/iphone.
Ester: Amen.

To be continued …

What is ester?

On the happiest day of the year, according to Google, “ester is” …

  • mainly used in food and cosmetics
  • $162910
  • just too sweet!
  • a beautiful name.
  • derived from the German Essig-Äther (literally: vinegar)
  • widely used in leather and daily chemicals
  • stable
  • a thirty-three-year-old married woman with four children
  • tasty!
  • in your extended network
  • used in making soap
  • generally immediately available in most volumes.
  • much more business like, organized, and efficient. While Tati would amble in around 8:30, 9:00 or 10:00 am, Ester is here at 7:00 sharp.
  • filled with various moving companies. Before choosing a moving company in Ester, you need to take several precautions.
  • a giant of a human being, head and shoulders above most others (7’0″, 325 lbs.). She usually has a friendly grin on her face.
  • giving a helping hand to her husband
  • a fan of: Music. Susan Boyle
  • true commic Genius.
  • Ester is a Hedonist: She does as she chooses when she chooses. She is unfettered by notions of sin and shame and is unconcerned with what others may think
  • neither an anarchist nor a polygamist and that she is in good mental and physical health.
  • pure joy!
  • a very nice looking girl that combines femmininity with evenly fairly developed muscles.

This is all true. Also, please note the following:

“The odor of the ester is more easily detected when the ester is mixed in some water. Never try to. directly smell the ester while it is still hot.”

Whatever happened to the eye of the beholder?

I remember enough from working in textbooks to say with 92.6% certainly that this Natalie Angier piece about mirrors will be anthologized up the wazzoo. It’s got everything! References to popular Greek myths, a sprinkling of statistics, some fluff, some science, all in two highly-readable pages. My beef with Angier’s latest attempt at channeling Malcolm Gladwell? This graph:

In a report titled “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Enhancement in Self-Recognition,” which appears online in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Nicholas Epley and Erin Whitchurch described experiments in which people were asked to identify pictures of themselves amid a lineup of distracter faces. Participants identified their personal portraits significantly quicker when their faces were computer enhanced to be 20 percent more attractive.

20% more attractive, Natalie? Wow! You mean there’s an objective standard to these things?

The fact that people conceive of themselves as better looking than they are is fascinating. But the idea that readers will take it for granted that there is a concrete way to look 20% more attractive — fewer wrinkles? smaller nose? fuller lips? — makes me want to walk into walls.

Luckily I’ve been in too good a mood lately to let an ideological disagreement get me down. Birfday Saturday was all Food-Show-Food-Show, with friends along for the loopy ride. Show #1, the Dark Knight, was great, as I’m sure you’ve heard: too long — two movies buckled together, really, and played consecutively — but seriously well-directed. Still, my favorite parts all had to do with Heath Ledger. [SPOILERS AHEAD!] He has the most compelling performance and the funniest lines, and he gets to mock one of my least favorite cinematic/psychological conventions, the idea that all crazy adults had a pivotal moment in childhood that made them the way they are. It was my father, the Joker says, and you feel for him, you really think he means it. Then, later, equally seriously, It was my wife. He tries to tell a third story when Batman, who, of everyone, understands him best, cuts him off.

Watching the Joker, I found myself thinking about the line from the New Yorker’s recent piece on Obama: “Who sent you?” But just like that article ends up shrugging and admitting no one sent Obama (there wasn’t much dirt on him to dig up, it turns out) it’s not nearly so simple in the Joker’s case either. He is chaos, manic, like Twain’s Mysterious Stranger. Whether that’s intended to be a commentary on terrorism or God or the weather — whatever we Americans can’t control — is up in the air. But regardless, it works. Throughout the movie, I was scared enough that my hands were shaking. [Okay, spoilers finished. Those were pretty minor/pathetic spoilers too, but I’m trying to be sensitive.]

Show #2 was the very meta, very enjoyable [title of show], which just opened on Broadway. (It moved after running at the Vineyard for a while.) Much like Passing Strange, which Mr. Ben and I saw recently, it’s a smart, self-aware musical targeted at young people. Apparently, in the case of the latter, the strategy didn’t quite work out, which is really too bad. I’m glad we got to support it a little bit and I hope [title of show] has better luck.

Near misses

1) The just-escaped-from-Jurassic-Park-sized spider on the bathroom faucet. Mr. Ben, kill it!

2) Spider #1’s cousin, Spider #2, which was like Spider #1 only on HGH, on the living room curtain. Mr. Ben, kill it! I don’t care if you’re still in a towel. Are you crazy? This thing could eat me *and* my breakfast of Trader Joe’s yogurt and Kellogg’s 19s while you locate your pants. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease. Thank you.

3) The bird that shat two inches to the right of my lunch and three inches away from my lap, managing, miraculously, to hit nothing except table. Mr. Ben, kill it! Er, just kidding: vegetarian. Also, Mr. Ben is at work, and he probably doesn’t have a bow and arrow.

Birfday tomorrow! In honor of which I have enjoyed much delicious food all week, including an Eat Like Ester sundae bar at my office this afternoon consisting of lo-sugar soy ice cream, fresh fruit, & granola. My coworker, Chipper McCheerful, consulted my mother, who suggested that he “put candles in a banana and pour sugar-free chocolate syrup over it!”

CMcC also contacted my brother who’s studying for the bar and thus couldn’t contribute. But he replied anyway: “I will not forget your kindness to my family, when I am emperor.”

Marrying Mr. Ben apparently entitles me to birfday recognition from his family as well as mine. (This is Reason #32 to tie the knot. Reason #28 is the kitchen gadgets. Reason #12 is that you can leave the lights on when you do it because you no longer need to hide from God.) I walked home from the fancy-pants, totally yummy celebratory dinner last night with an huge potted orchid and a gift card to Anthropologie. Once birfday week is over, I am going to be waddling around town in some very high-end clothes. Look out, world!