Category Archives: southlands

To Bear or Not To Bear?

When I get too many writing rejections in a row, I often return to one particular despairing thought: “Maybe I should just give up and have kids.”


Perhaps not EIGHT of them and perhaps not all at once. But I could have kids! Then I’d be too tired to think about writing, and agents, and publishing, and whether Katie Roiphe would hate me if she knew me (Team Chabon/Waldman!), and should I be heartened or threatened by the success of Sarah Vowell, who is who I want to be when I grow up (also: Margaret Atwood), and is 28 young or old, really, when it comes down to it?

Everyone has ideas for me. One agent suggested I turn my first novel into a Young Adult book because kids, unlike adults, wouldn’t be turned off by magic realism. Another agent suggested I write essays because fiction doesn’t sell. A third agent said essays don’t sell, and have I considered turning memoir into fiction? So round and round we go.

Unless I give up! In which case, I could live here, in Barbie’s Southern Dream House, complete with arbor:

Wouldn't you visit to sit in that arbor?

Or here! Look at that kitchen:

Mmmmm kitchen ...

I could get involved in local politics or something, and garden, and raise the kids with one hand while I read with the other. (Do the kids deserve better? No! Entitled brats. Unless they’re Tina Fey’s kids, in which case, duh, yes, of course. I will be extra-nice to Tina Fey’s kids. They will get to eat sugar and meat while my own offspring will be raised on veggie burgers out of the box which they’ll be lucky if I bother to thaw.)

Or I could redouble my efforts. Grit my teeth and get the IUD I am scheduled to get on April 9th, which I expect to be about as traumatic as that time I got my wisdom teeth out but not quite as bad as Scientologist home-birth. If I succeed in not passing out from the pain, I could go shooting, and then come home and write more of whatever I am moved to write, whether it be YA, fiction, or memoir, and keep on hoping.


PS — If you have any stories about getting an IUD that do not involve you going all swoony and unconscious, please share!

Kalamazoo and tigger too

birdy brain
Originally uploaded by charrow.

JJ, as depicted here in a piece of Charrow art, was one of our hosts for the past few days as Mr. Ben and I sojourned in the Southlands. These strange foreign lands, as it turned out, didn’t feel as strange or foreign as I expected. In fact, Atlanta reminded me strongly of Seattle, only with more traffic and way less charm. People in Seattle also get bonus points for friendliness compared to their Southern counterparts, unless you count the bum in Asheville, NC, who, trying his hardest to make us feel at home, called after us, “Happy Hannukah!”

JJ was an excellent sport over the weekend in Asheville, where we were up to our chins in Judaica with Mr. Ben’s family the entire time: she nibbled matzoh for breakfast without complaint and sat through both seders. Even when Mr. Ben’s mom’s SPP (straight person partner) Harry played Hebrew songs on his new harmonica with more exuberance than skill, JJ didn’t flinch. A righteous woman, who can find her? Her worth is above rubies.

I realized during the service that these seders consist of lots of lying to God, and not just the standard “You’re so merciful and gracious!” stuff. Just for example, there’s a long prayer where the chorus goes, “It would have been enough!” — i.e., if God had rescued us from Egypt but not parted the sea so we could get through, it would have been enough. The song continues, mentioning how the Lord brought us to the land of Israel and vanquished our enemies and built us the temple. But of course, if God had done one or even some of those things and not the rest, it wouldn’t have been enough, not by a long shot. We wouldn’t be here to tell the tale year after year.

Later, there’s a true whopper set a beautiful, ghostly melody. It goes like this, roughly:
I have been young
And I have grown old
Yet never have I seen a good man starve

I mean, please. We teach this stuff to children?

After the second seder Sunday night, without waiting for the dough to rise, we packed up the Honda and sped past Bob Jones University and Clemson U., the South blurring into fast food chains and churches in the dark outside my window. Charrow and JJ’s Little Five Points apartment is beautiful, all old wood and bright colors and windows everywhere. Mr. Ben’s mom’s house was the same way, charming and well-lit. (Not that I can complain about real estate, but we do pay the same for our place as my MIL spends on hers, only hers includes several bedrooms, a backyard, a stained-glass pantry, and more nooks and crannies than an English muffin.)

I hadn’t seen Charrow since she guest-starred as Maid of Honor in the production that was my wedding nine months ago. That is much too long. She and JJ will be moving up here in the fall and the fall cannot come fast enough.