Category Archives: nostalgia

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.

A Dirty but Important Question

Internets! Help me out. I’ve sold another essay (yay) to some very nice folks and, in the editing process, a question was raised:

To what does “second base” refer?

In my essay, I reflect on an encounter in summer camp where my boyfriend continually tried and failed to get me excited about him. I should never have dated him; I wasn’t attracted to him, and I couldn’t make myself pretend. This meant our relationship had an antebellum quality: we held hands, we took walks, he kissed me and I allowed it. It was all very proper and chaste.

Sure, we were 13. But this was a guy whose exploits with his previous girlfriend were legendary. In fact, I think he rather fancied himself a Barney (in the “How I Met Your Mother” sense, not the “Flintstones” sense).

On the last day of camp, he made a desperate move. While his mother waited outside in the minivan, he brought me back into his empty bunk, looked into my eyes, and told me that he loved me.

I knew what he meant. I was a pretty savvy — and somewhat cynical — middle-schooler. His “I love you” was a grand gesture, one that was meant to sweep me off my feet and, most importantly, out of my shirt.

Thinking fast, I ran through my options. (What would Scarlet O’Hara do?) I couldn’t lie and say I loved him too. All the same, I couldn’t be honest and confess I didn’t love him, that I didn’t even like him. Not on the last day of camp!

His was, indeed, a very clever gambit. As I saw it, I had one course of action, and I followed it: I cried. Thus I was spared from having to give any answer and from having to engage in any hanky-panky.

Ah, the love lives of teenagers. Very well. In the essay, I refer to boob-related hanky-panky as “second base.” My editor flagged that. Her husband, she said, recalled a different definition of the term. This stupid t-shirt seems to agree with me. Wikipedia has opinions, of course, but my editor specifically asked me to survey my friends, who are more reliable.

Friends, what say you? 2nd base = boobs? Or something else altogether?

portrait of the teenager the artist used to be

One of the many dangers of Facebook is that someone from your past will scan in pictures from your past, the dark, shadowy, awkward, pale, bespectacled parts, the parts where you wore your brother’s t-shirts and tended to stare at people. These pictures will appear for the world to see, including your newlywed, who will take one look and say, sounding almost impressed, “Wow! You look as bad as you possibly could!”

He lacks imagination. I could have boils, or bugs crawling on me. My skin could be peeling off along with leprous chunks of my nose. My hair could stick straight up high enough to be measured in inches like Marge Simpson’s, the way it did from 2nd grade through 4th when my mom finally let me grow it long.

But the fact remains that the boy next to me looks about 4 years old and drugged, and I look like the 40 year old who drugged him. What is amazing, though, is that, when this picture was taken, one of us was already getting sexual attention from the opposite sex, serious adult-like attention, attention which occurred in the safety and comfort of a Jerry’s Subs and Pizza bathroom. Prizes for anyone who guesses which of us that was!

fallacy time!

Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post tries to be evenhanded in the initial paragraphs of this op-ed before coming clean on what she really thinks of Justice Thomas. A noble enough effort, I guess, but why waste space on this silliness?

Thomas v. Hill is one of those questions destined to remain disputed — Did Al Gore actually win the presidency? Was the intelligence manipulated to mislead us into Iraq? The conundrum of Thomas-Hill is the continuing forcefulness of their conflicting assertions about what happened when he was a Reagan administration official and she a young lawyer working for him.

If Thomas did what Hill claims, how to understand his undimmed anger, his absolute denials, his willingness to pick the scab anew? If he didn’t, how to understand her motive for lying — and her summoning such unlikely details as pubic hairs on Coke cans?

This is your Gordian knot, Ms. Marcus? Allow me.

a) No.
b) Yes.
c) I refer you to Dotty P.:

If they whisper false of you
Never trouble to deny
If the words they say be true
Weep and storm and swear they lie.

This reminds of this one time in high school that an annoying boy, SM, spread a rumor about me. It wasn’t terribly malicious, I guess, but it seemed at the time like the worst thing that could be said, and what really killed me, what really made this unforgettable, was that it was TRUE. & there was no way he could have known!

I went rather nuts, wailing to the heavens, and the gods avenged me, in a way: a couple years later, a popular friend of mine, C., discovered that SM wanted into his clique. C. demanded, as the price of entry, that SM apologize to me for the humiliation and find some way to make it up to me. This put me in the rather awkward position of having to tell SM it was all forgiven; however, the humbling of SM did come accompanied by a mix tape he made for me which introduced me to Ben Folds Five, Bob Dylan, and Simon and Garfunkel. My affinity for his music endured, though the friendship we tried to strike up was pretty much DOA.

Through the grapevine (you know, Facebook), I found out that SM, hairline receding fast, got married within about a week of me. C., who I haven’t spoken to in months, is featured prominently in the pictures. I guess life will only get stranger as it goes on.