Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘book’ Category

Back Pain, Sex Books, and Responsibility

blog54         I did something bad, really painful to my back yesterday in yoga class. The muscles in my lower back seized tight like I had been digging graves or planting bulbs, you pick, for a few days. By 5 pm, I could barely sit at my desk, but walking helped, so I enlisted a friend, and we walked around Barnes & Noble bookstore for a good hour.

Giggling, I walked around the store, limping the gauntlet of back pain, circling literary fiction, then teen picks, over to poetry, and past the enormous display of 50 Shades of Mediocre Writing, More Mediocrity, and finally, The End of Mediocrity (until the author does some actual research into consensual sexuality versus stalking and rape). My friend was standing in the sex section.

You know.

The section of the bookstore that we want to peruse. But are frightened or plain embarrassed to be seen having interest, prurient interest in a topic that has been part of the NC legislature’s tussle over the last year.

Grow up folks; even the pearl-wearing and the seersucker-suited government is talking about sexual issues.

My friend looked pretty comfortable. We picked out books by their cover to be disappointed with the lack of pictures and the downright clinical tone of the books. When did sex become so dull? Well, I am living in NC, and it is a national chain of bookstores.

It wasn’t always that way. Ten years ago I took a similar jaunt to B&N to pick up some books for clients (counseling knows no shame thankfully). It was the middle of an afternoon in the middle of the week. I walked over to the shelves marked SEXUALITY, pulled a few books, tucked my skirt under me, and sat down with the books on the floor.

Within a ten minutes, a few people had walked by, walked by again, and then walked up to me.

“What you looking at?” asked a man.

“Books,” I said.

“Books about what?”

“Books about sex.”

“Oh.”

A few people skittered away. Fast feet and heads down. A few souls stayed.

“What do you think about this book?”

They sat down on the floor blocking the aisle. We started comparing covers. Yes, the cover of a book is crucial. (I like the hot pink and yellow book titled, ‘Hot Sex: How to do it.’)

In thirty minutes, we were a circle of people, different genders, different ages, different skin colors. And we were having a thoughtful conversation about what we look for in a sex book. Pictures, some humor, explicit information and directions, more humor, and permission to explore this important part of our lives.

“It’s great Barnes & Nobel has employees like you,” a woman said.

“Yeah, I’ve never felt so comfortable talking about sex.”

“Um, I don’t work here,” I said.

“Well, you should.”

“Who are you then?”

“Just a reader like you. Interested in sex.”

We unashamedly laughed, giggled, and snorted. Under the bright lights of the bookstore, we talked about the meaning of sex in our lives, how we wanted books that reflected that interest and employees that were knowledgeable and unafraid.

So what has happened in the last ten years? How did we end up with HB2? Why are we mute as our reproductive rights are being legislated away and programs are being defunded? We do not blink an eye as art, in its different forms, is rigidly censored. Art, the conscience of the culture, meant to confuse and inform and disturb us but we settle for sofa art – some image asking nothing of us.

ms-d1lz8z

I think we are fucked, and not in a good way. What are you going to do about this?

To Bean or Not to Bean

sambuca

Life has been surreal – stranger than any fiction I could write. And if you have been keeping up with the FB posts – you know I can write some strange shit.

Like killing off my main character over and over again, diverting a river to hide a dead body (weird but true), maiming someone and having them stumble to the Nile to be dismembered by crocodiles (mild to moderate maiming so they can walk after a fashion), falling in love over a string of red beads (carnelian – I would like a love-inspiring necklace), giving birth (no experience, nada, not even watched it on YouTube), ancient Egyptian love-making practices (very little pornography available – had to make them up except for one often repeated line, “Come to me from behind”), and the importance of animal dung in making a poultice (historically accurate but very eeooogh).

I have researched herbal poisons in ancient Egypt (beware people with large rings), marital rights under the Visigoths (surprisingly good for women), bad cop-good cop techniques (may come in useful), animals of the Alps (don’t go hiking by yourself and avoid lizards spraying toxins like from “Jurassic Park”), flowers loved by men (back to the poisons), sexual hallucinations (got to get me some of these), witch hunts in the Dark Ages (just say NO to the Dark Ages), stoning versus burning (neither thank you very much), and the physical attributes of an ancient Egyptian (dark skinned, small, overweight with pot belly and bad teeth not anything near “The Ten Commandments”).

And deliberated over a bunch of How-Tos/DIY techniques; how to distinguishes Black Henbane from other poisons (always smell what you eat and drink), how to fool someone into thinking they had sex with you (lots of info here), how to cross a mountain during the Dark Ages (you don’t), how wolves hunt (in packs – don’t look them in the eyes), and which is the fastest way to bleed out – puncture bite to the femoral or brachial artery (femoral – easiest to get to – keep people away from your inner thighs).

Whoa those are some strange lists.

I am hoping Saturday was the apex of my own kind of strange. It may have to do with going back on painkillers (no, not the opiate but the inhibitory neurotransmitter type). On the meds, I imagine my brain to have the consistency of not-quite-set Jell-O. For example, if you put your hand in the black box of my mind, you could pull out one of the finely detailed topics listed above but not how to make rice. Been making rice, or more correctly unintentional rice balls, for decades.

Three nights ago, I was boiling rice in a bag – a friend suggested this easy fix. All of a sudden I knew, just knew, we needed some Sambuca to celebrate Saturday night. At least my brain did not call for adding Henbane to the recipe or to go watch a crocodile eat my surgeon, anesthesiologist, and/or wound care specialist.

So off to the ABC store, which had moved throwing me into a directional tizzy, to stand before an enormous overly lit ballroom filled with really pretty colors. Sparkling. I got a tad overwhelmed, looked down at my feet to discover, I am standing in a liquor store in my fuzzy slippers. I checked my hair. It had that just napped feeling. Sticking out all over and somewhat matted. Thank goodness all my parts were covered.

“Do you want black or white Sambuca?” I asked my friend.

“Ugh. I’ve only had the white. Black would go nice with your pink slippers … ”

“Did we turn off the rice?”

“Hope so.”

“Okay dokey. We need to get home.” I made an executive decision and grabbed the black Sambuca. Usually I go for the known but on meds I am adventurous!

Back at my house, the rice was soggy in the bag. We got it boiling. Dinner was good. The after-dinner Sambuca proved to be a dilemma.

“One coffee bean?” I asked.

“Three, I think, or seven,” my friend said.

“Gimme that iPad. We’re going with three. Health, happiness, and prosperity. Two out of three?” We looked at my errant foot then added two coffee beans to the liqueur.

“Should we set it on fire?” I asked.

“No I’m sure your foot will get better!”

“Silly Bean. The Sambuca.”

“Let’s ignite it then put it out before we drink it.”

“Or singe our nose hairs … “

“And eyebrows,” he said.

We enjoyed the Sambuca as I explained the next decision point for my almost-completed first draft of the ANCIENT EGYPT book (write on painkillers, edit when off).

“Should she die by fire or by stoning?” I asked.

“Both sound painful.”

“I have the research on how the body dies either way. You know, the timeline for cooking versus crushing. It’s kind of gross,” I said.

“No I don’t know. You did use the Private Browsing setting, didn’t you?”

Oops. Hopefully, my searches have not flagged me for a trip to the police station, with the FBI, CIA or Poison Control. Enough stange/surreal. Maybe I should lower my dosage. Please bail me out of jail if I call you. I’ll make you some rice in those handy-dandy little bags.

Un-Cursing Myself

29ill

I said aloud, “I am cursed.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Since Thanksgiving things have sucketh mightily as my family says,” I said after a lousy run of luck over the holidays.

My book came out at a weird time before the holidays. It’s not a typical holiday read (a collection of short stories and/or workbook about breasts – yep people will be delighted to have that under their Christmas tree and/or Hanukah bush). Somehow I think even the pagans will have a difficult time justifying it as a Winter Solstice gift. Definitely not a hostess gift.

For a year, I have been limping through my yoga classes, teaching duties, counseling appointments, and onto stage to read my scribblings. I have a Morton’s neuroma, ganglion growth between the toes, necessitating some combination of painful shots, foot binding reminiscent of the Inquisition, and eventual surgery with an awesome recuperation in an attractive surgical boot.

Then there was the massive brouhaha with the heating/air conditioning/duct work/zoning/dampers replacement. I have heat and more than likely a fractured or chipped ulna. For over a month, I have griped about pain in my arm and numbness in my fingers to the point I can’t hold a cup. Probably happened moving carpet from the attic, down through the hole in the closet, down from the second to the first floor, then out the door across the parking lot to the dumpster.

When I tell people, “My right leg and arm are going to be in either a cast or brace of some sort,” they have not exactly been helpful or maybe I’m touchy.
“I can’t drive with my foot in a surgical boot. I have a manual transmission,” I said.
“Wait. It’s your right foot that’s broken?”
“Yes.”
“Well you can’t drive an automatic either.”
“Yeah. Guess you have a point.”
Notice, he didn’t say, “And honey, I would love to drive you around when you need me.” What are friends for – good times it appears.

This morning I had a difficult time getting up. Stuck like a turtle on my back trying to figure out how to use my left arm to roll onto my right side to hoist myself out of bed. The cat watched for a whiie, meowed, sat on my chest for a minute to scamper down my leg knocking my foot against a book. Fat cat. Great, it feels like I have a collapsed lung, broken arm and great shock waves of pain rolled up from my foot into my hip. Tears, lots of them, not such a great way to start the day.

My yoga classes are composed of breathing exercises and standing poses avoiding anything on the ground and my imitation of a turtle stranded on its back.

I could go on with this laundry list of troubles. My shower has a leak that rivals Niagara Falls. My computer is running hot (I need a better porn site). My office is like the Arctic – luckily I hand out blankets as people come in for sessions. My iPod has developed little lines though it and that can’t be good. My Fiat has a poltergeist – the windshield wipers come on whenever. My plans for New Years collapsed along with my engagement. Yick. If I were a horse, I would shout me.

(You might be wondering how I am writing at the moment. One word – oxycodone. When it wears off, I better be at home, in bed, with the remote in my left hand and my foot up).

In my general clumsiness from the foot, arm, and escalating grumpiness, I knocked over a pile of photos. Trying to clump them together with my left hand and right claw, while swearing with pain, I picked up the photo posted here. My second husband took the picture after years of medications, two chemical menopause episodes and an eviscerating surgery a week earlier. I was ecstatic to be home from the hospital. My hair – on my head, eyebrows, eyelashes, everywhere – had fallen out and was beginning to grow in. I had lost twenty pounds. Had absolutely no make-up on. My first husband was telling anyone who would listen that I had died. I was 29.

My friend took the photo.
“You look like Lyle Lovette here,” she said.
“I can live with that,” I said.
“Good bone structure but not your best picture,” she said.
“I didn’t die and that was all I was asking for,” I said in conclusion.
It was a long recovery. Twenty-five years later, I complain about the little, painful, annoying but not lethal, indignities of living. While mechanics, techies, orthopedists, and a pharmacist would be helpful, mostly, I need this picture.

Throughout this new year, I want to remember – with gratitude – I am not cursed.

I Write Therefore I Am … Not

cartoon

A friend called to say, “I had a marketing person check out your website. Is that okay?”
“Sure. I guess,” I said.
“She’ll just poke around and send some recommendations.”
“The website’s already up.”
“Maybe it could be better. It’s free,” she said.
“Okay fine.”

A day passed then came the email. It said, “Well, I guess it is functional. You need to rearrange some things and your photos. We need to talk about your photos.”

My photos?
Immediately I called her. Mild, so mild you could miss them, pleasantries were exchanged.

“Who took the photos?” asked the marketing person.
“Lots of people,” I said.
“You need professional head shots.”
“Really?”
“Of course. What were you thinking putting up those amateurish photographs?”
“I’m a writer not a model,” I said.
“You’re neither with those shots. You squint,” she said.
“The sun was in my eyes.”
“Not in every shot. And you look morose.”

(Uncommon word, now I knew she had literary pretensions.)

“I spend lots of time in front of the computer. Anyway writers have angst, anxiety, addictions,” I said.
“Do you have any of those? It might make you more interesting,” she said.
“Now I need to be Didion or Hemingway. Couldn’t I just be Jennifer Weiner?”
“Think big. Get Botox. And your hair. Grow out your hair.”
“I like my hair short.”
“You look androgynous. And where are the breasts?”
“I have breasts.”
“Yes but you wrote a book about breasts. We need to see them.”
“Do you think I need implants?” I asked.
“Let me do some research.”
“Shouldn’t I be marketing a normal body image and body?”
The phone line went dead.

A day passed. Then she called.
“You can get by without implants but you need to show a modest cleavage. Not as much as that one picture where you look sad.”
“My breasts look sad?”
“No but in that photo you look like a tramp with a migraine.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, I’ll get a photo taken with a suggestion of cleavage and a smile,” I said.
“Smile but don’t squint, get some Botox, keep your mouth closed – too many teeth, maybe get them bleached.”
“Did you pimp out models before this?” I asked thinking of my first husband the art director.
“What are you talking about? I’m trying to help you. Publishing has changed. Marketing has changed. You need to do more, be more, put more out there – but not that much. You must present an image of competence,” she said.
“And competence is beauty and cleavage?”
“Sex still sells.”
“Good bloody grief. I’m a writer. I want to look profound, witty, not Bambi the ‘uber happy, trying too hard, D cup, overage model.’”

I sent an email to the friend who started this brouhaha. It said, “I’m a writer dammit. I don’t model. Most days I squint into the computer screen. Some days I even suffer for my art. On those days, I don’t smile. I smile with my mouth open – you can see my teeth. I like my short hair – my femaleness is not dependent on long hair. My breasts sometimes show and sometimes they don’t. Fuck the Botox.
Tell your marketing person to back off or I’ll review her on Angie’s List.”

Who you calling slack?

At 8:16 am today, I plunked down in a seat at the coffee shop. I plunked so hard my butt bounced. My friend snickered while looking a little bleary-eyed.

“So what did you do last night?” he asked.

“I ate candy and watched an episode of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. I was really interested in how the women had cleavage under their chin. Kind of mesmerizing. What did you do?” I admitted with a guilty drop of my gaze.

“I played kickball,” he said.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Somewhat social and minimally athletic.”

“Do you ever feel like a slacker? Like we should be doing more with our lives?”

There was a pause. We looked down at our coffees. Swooping into the coffee shop came the perfectly coiffed overachiever. She chirped, “Hi ya’ll.”

We groaned as she launched into this litany of events from the night before … A “Gee life is wonderfully busy and I get lots of stuff done” Pollyanna attitude that is exhausting listening to and mindboggling to consider doing. By digging my nails into my palms, I managed to stop myself from smacking her. My friend rolled his eyes before devouring the car section of the newspaper. Yes, we are over forty ….

I bet even the patrons in the other room breathed a sigh of relief when she left, probably off to save the world or at least polish her desk. Resolutely, I promised myself I would determine the color of my desktop.

Like a lot of us, I have a paying job or two, a book in the process of being marketed, and various other writing projects. And a house to clean with meals to cook and bills to pay. Some days my desk is a series of unruly piles – MUST be done RIGHT NOW, CAN WAIT until this afternoon, SURELY this can be done by the end of the week, TAKE HOME and finish, and when HELL FREEZES OVER. My computer is covered with sticky notes – do this, call her, him, that group, write them a thank you, little quotes for writing, and songs to download. And I have ants. Lots of them. I like to think we share an office but my clients don’t take this live-and-let-live approach. My fax machine is cranky. Sometimes my computer freezes. I can’t get the scanner to work. But I take out the trash and my office doesn’t smell. Does this make me a slacker?

So this morning, I cleaned off the desk. Who knew it had a lovely mahogany colored top? And found some sticky notes from 2012 to throw away. I vacuumed and rearranged the pillows.

But the thing is, I don’t feel any better. I think it is slightly nice to see my desktop. The question of the ants remains. If I buy an ant farm, do you think they’ll move in? Otherwise, I probably should buy some ant traps.

Basically, I am a Russian peasant fatalist. I am at one with it. I feel no need to be excessively clean or neat (except the bathrooms and kitchen and clean sheets on the bed – must be the Jewish genes). I have other things to do – write, work, write, be with friends, write, find the creative juice that spices my world and write.

In my cranky little heart, I love my disheveled office. It has a comfy sofa to nap on. Lots of throws to cuddle up with when feeling overwhelmed. I have finally figured out how to use most of the functions on my printer. It is my creative world – messy, full of eye candy, my Instant Psychotherapy jar with the petty cash for emergency candy bars and/or wine, a line up of sticky notes like the Tibetan prayer flags, and my bucket of toys. These tidbits do not define me but they reflect the colorful creativity of my writing world.

I am not the Martha Stewart or Gwyneth Paltrow of writing. Don’t judge me because sometimes I’m a slacker.

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