Category Archives: positive thinking


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Hello friends!

I hope you are enjoying this festive holiday season the way God intended, by drinking too much and watching terrible television:

The goyim had “Peter Pan Live!”; now the Jews get their turn at a televised hot mess with the two-part Lifetime Original miniseries “The Red Tent,” based on the Anita Diamant’s book of the same title, and starring Brody’s wife from “Homeland” as Rachel and Jorah Mormont from “Game of Thrones” as patriarch Jacob. Chaverim, it does not disappoint. Every element of this production is best taken with a grain—or even a pillar—of salt.

Besides writing snarky reviews of Lifetime movies, here is a glimpse at what I’ve been up to lately:

  • Joyland Magazine has published the beginning of my novel THE SEX LIVES OF OTHER PEOPLE on its website. The excerpt is titled “You Said ‘Always'” and can be read in its entirety here. Meanwhile I have collapsed from in excitement in this other corner over here.
  • Don’t you think supermarkets should set up “Serial” aisles so that we can have a place to gather and exchange theories about the podcast phenomenon? Until that happens, there’s always my weekly recaps for New York Magazine’s Vulture blog.
  • Speaking of “Serial” — and “Transparent,” “Broad City,” “Obvious Child” and many other high quality pop cultural properties — I declared 2014 the year of Jewish women at Flavorwire.
  • The most recent episode of NPR’s game show “Ask Me Another” featured a game that I wrote for them. Someday perhaps I will ascend to the level of Puzzle Guru and be able to break boards with my hands.

Encompassing late-career epics and ambitious debuts, they consider the after-effects of everything from apocalypse to adultery, and reckon with religion and war using dreams, magic, science fiction, and occasionally nothing but the power of prose. Sometimes, in the grand tradition of The Wizard of Oz, they take us no further than the Midwest, America’s own backyard, to teach us about ourselves: our desires, our secrets, and our fascination with what makes an enduring story.

I’m still an editor at the Billfold, where you can find me on a daily basis asking the tough questions like “How Much Do You Spend on Tattoos” and thinking deep thoughts about boots. We’re having our live event at Housing Works in NYC at the end of January! More specific info TK.

Other delightful things:

  • Happy Release Day, Tara Leigh!
  • My It’s The Real cousins hanging out with Annie
  • Last night Lara bit me on the leg and then spent five minutes crying while I hugged her and told her it would be okay. #parenthood
  • You all! You’re running marathons and selling books and getting pregnant on purpose. Please keep sharing your good news. The regular news is so appalling we need all the local cheer we can get.

For more, follow me on Twitter @shorterstory. Many thanks for paying attention! Wherever you are, may it only rain when you’re sleeping and may your rent never go up.

Month 9 from Outer Space

My pregnancy is going fine. Anytime anyone asks, that’s what I tell them, and it’s the truth — comparatively, I’ve gotten off easy and I feel grateful. Yes, I was nauseous but not too drastically or for too long. Yes, I gained weight but my body didn’t morph into an entirely other formless, unrecognizable being, comme ca: 

Largely I’ve been able to continue living my life with an acceptable level of inconveniences. I have been able to travel, I have been able to work. Of course, the inconveniences started to feel a bit like they’ve been piling on as I got closer to full term, including:

  • More uninvited interactions with strangers — in elevators, on the subway, at the coop.
  • Less breath for climbing stairs, let alone the gym. At this point, walking from my door to the door of the gym is all the exercise I can handle.
  • More waking up at dawn to feed the ravenous, insatiable creature that is [in] my belly.
  • More crying triggered by sudden, terrifying realizations, like that I don’t know how to change a diaper.
  • Less attention, time, money, and brain power available for anything besides Planning for Squee.


Once I blew by the milestone of Full Term (i.e., MORE THAN nine months pregnant), the pace of the piling on began to accelerate. One of my ankles decided to swell. Just one — but it had been my favorite! For a day or two, I looked like a pirate with a peg leg.

The swelling went down, and then the waddling started. For every step I take forward, I also move side-to-side, calling to mind a very poor imitation of Marilyn Monroe. (“Like Jell-O on springs!”) My boss, fondly, started calling me “Fatso.” It was definitely time to (maternity) leave.

Today, on my second day of baby-free maternity leave, I got my hair chopped off. (“Jo, your one beauty!”) Once I waddled all the way home, I realized I’d been wearing my dress backwards. Then I hoisted myself off the couch and had my third breakfast of the morning. This is just the way of things: the way pre-motherhood breaks you down, like the Marine Corps, so that you can be built back up again without your old, no-longer-useful standards of dignity. After all, soon you’ll be handling someone else’s poop on a daily basis; you have to get used to a certain amount of humiliation.

Squee, aren’t you eager to join the non-stop embarrassing hilarity that is the outside world? How can my womb compare? Come join the party, little one. We’re all waiting for you.

So Prepared. So Very Prepared.

Let’s Panic About Babies!

So far, my main preparation for birth has been playing lots of word games in the hopes of keeping “baby brain” at bay & reading Bad Mommy memoirs like Are You My Mother? and the chilling Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? to get some ideas about what not to do.

But time is creeping up on me. I’m 8-and-a-half months along now; I look like a beach ball with limbs and feel like I’m lugging a five-and-a-half pound octopus around with me everywhere I go. Squee is a very active presence who seems to have way more feet than is possible. Especially when I’m lying down, it can feel like a toy store has exploded in my midsection — something’s vibrating, something’s whooshing side to side, something’s jutting out in a repetitive fashion, all at once. If this child, when it emerges, is as inexhaustible as it seems, there’s going to be trouble.

The problem with following Jewish superstitions about not having showers or setting up a nursery before there is a real live infant on the scene is that it can leave you feeling a bit out of control. (Or, as someone astutely put it, “So … Jews believe in being unprepared?” For babies, yes. For medical school, no.) To help remedy the situation, a friend suggested that I start putting together a baby registry even if I’m not buying anything off of it yet. I could still do the research now rather than later, and, when ready, only need to press “Add to Cart.” It seemed like a great plan — and then it spun out quicker than a Geo in the rain. There are so many damn different kinds of everything, and it’s overwhelming to add one thing to the list and have Amazon immediately suggest three more.

After I closed the site and collected myself, it seemed like this might be a good time to ask the Internets for advice. Just, you know, general, helpful tips. If you have any experience with newborns, or with life on the other side of the threshold I am soon to cross, I’d appreciate your sharing some pearls of wisdom — ideally less of the “OMG Youll never sleep again!!1!” variety, and more like “I really wish I’d known [X].” Even if [X] is, for whatever reason, quantum physics.

Thanks, friends!

Nota Bene

This week’s New Yorker is brought to you by:

– Paul

– Stephen

– Nicholas

– Adam

– Ben

– Alex

– Dan

– Peter


– Anthony.

Oh, and Patricia–writing about men’s clothes.

It’s not that I object to a male-only New Yorker. I just wish it were a “Masculinity Issue” or something rather than the status quo.

I Hate the Future

While browsing through old journals for the mem-wa, I came across this curt poem I wrote four years ago, when I had just been laid off from Job #2:

I Hate the Future

I hate the future

dark car
on a dark street

Something bright may sit
behind the tinted windows

All i see
is the barreling forward
the peaceful air it displaces

Four years later, employed again (Job #5!), housed again (Apartment #4!) and married, I am elated to discover, some things never change.


The events of the past couple weeks have been dragging me down bit by bit, especially as we near the end of my favorite season:

I am scanning the horizon for mermaids or bright spots, anything that might cheer me up:

  • The New Yorker Festival. I’m on Year 5 in the city and I’ve never managed to get to one of these events. Will this be the year?
  • Unigo launches tomorrow, 9/9! This is it, folks, the real deal, the website I’ve been helping conjure out of the ether for the past eight months: The next medium-sized thing. Tell your friends.
  • “America’s Next Top Model”

Honestly, I can’t think of other specifics. There has to be something to look forward to! Please, Send Help.

ETA: Gawker mocks my pain and friends email me reassurance. Already I feel somewhat better. Thanks, pals and blogs!

angry about things?

Someone pointed out that most of my entries are written on the topic of My Being Outraged About Something. That’s horrible! I don’t mean to be doing that. Most of the time I’m a very positive person. Right now, for example. I’m at my secret internet full-time job (not to be confused with the secret internet part-time job I held briefly last spring) and I like it! I really like it! The people are — well, they’re around me right now so I won’t say much about them, but they’re all my age, which makes “work” feel more like “summer camp.”

We get our first paycheck today, in fact, I believe. That’s pretty good for a week in which we’ve spent one day being oriented by playing name games; one day touring NYC campuses undercover (that really took me back); and three days now at a computer lab doing things that actually require thinking and creativity.

Also, I just saw Juno, this year’s Little Miss Sunshine the same way No Country for Old Men is this year’s the Departed. It was the best thing I’d seen in a long time, possibly since Pan’s Labyrinth. It was as funny as Knocked Up but didn’t make me feel dirty afterwards because it didn’t seem to be saying that men and women are fundamentally different and can never get along, never never never, but they have to get & stay married anyway, just because.

Atonement–you know, the literary movie about War and Love and Betrayal and Big Ideas–was respectably good, especially in its first act, but it didn’t move me nearly as much as the story of the adorable, snarky, midwestern 16 year old and her adorable, sweet sorta boyfriend. Mostly, and this is key: I believed it.

Oh, and Malcolm Gladwell! He wrote what I hope will be the definitive word on race and IQ. (God knows at least I’m not interested in reading more on the subject.) Basically, he reminds us that an IQ test is not like a blood test: you don’t get objective results because one must TAKE an IQ test. Since it’s active, the individual can’t be separated from the results. Which is to say, someone who wasn’t groomed to be sit down quietly and concentrate on a paper-and-pencil test is virtually bound to do less well than someone who was. Also, Gladwell has a way of making statistics legible without condescending to his readers. I appreciate that.

See? I like stuff! In fact, I like everything, except Ditchens and Howd.