Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘love’ Category

What Mom Taught Me About Love

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No one can say that us kids had an easy time of it when my parents were married. They were bitter enemies sniping at each other across trenches filled with their children. Daily we were hit with shrapnel. But we tried to love each other – each in our own way – distorted, ugly, and always with a bitter wariness.

One of the days that I felt the most loving towards Mom was an Autumn afternoon in Mobile. My parents had been divorced for three years, and we were living in a rental complex of townhomes. The townhomes were okay – close to most of what we needed, Mom had the only car. A Ford Pinto station wagon that surprisingly never exploded. The three of us kids rode the bus to school and hitched rides to what we needed. In a pinch, we could call a cab. Mom had set that up for emergencies.

That warm afternoon, I walked back from high school. The front yards in the complex were green, and some of the renters had planted pansies around their doors. The splotches of color drew my gaze until the put-putting sound of the pinto came into earshot.

I looked up to see my mother in the car with her boyfriend, a man from New Orleans that I had not liked, not been especially kind about, or really paid any attention to apart from the brushed-off idea that maybe, yuck, my mother was having sex with him. I was seventeen, and the thought of my 43-year-old mother doing it was disgusting.

Through the windshield, I saw them. He was driving, but his other hand was draped across her shoulders. His hand brushed her hair. She smiled at him and took a bite from the orangey paper of a MacDonald’s hamburger in her hand. The car ambled at a sedate pace down the road. I watched them, starting to dredge up the dislike I had for the man. But I couldn’t do it. Something in me grew up, Mom hadn’t smiled in a long time. She was smiling up at him, and he was smiling back. They were happy.

Something clicked for me that day. I wanted Mom to be in love and happy like that as much as possible. She had been miserable most of her life. There was enough adult in me that I could wish her love’s happiness.

I wish I could say that I was graceful and good-natured about the relationship after that incident. No. I was still a narcissistically and empathically challenged teenager who wanted things her way, but gradually something loosened. My younger siblings did not see things my way, and she ended the relationship. A year before she died, she told me that he was the love of her life.

Now when I see people smiling, happy, in love, I want to clap. Hoorah. You did it. Great job.

This Valentine’s day, let’s celebrate each other’s relationships.

Share your heart.

(Image by http://www.morguefile.com)

What We Learn

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My mother taught me to put a baseball bat by the bed, every night.

“Security,” she said.

I developed a good swing and love the sound of wood connecting.

“Safe.”

How to meet your Ex-Lover at the Coffee Shop after a 15-year Lapse

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  • Don’t cry. No one wants to see you cry again. You cried enough – a river, an ocean. Nowadays, the hostess seats you behind plants and screens in most of the restaurants in town. They remember. The relationship lasted only six months and although you thought he was your soul mate, he married someone else. With fake boobs. Real hair. Don’t judge him by judging her, or at least, not where anyone else can hear. DO NOT CALL EVERY FRIEND, GOING OVER EVERY LITTLE DETAIL UNTIL THEY STOP TALKING TO YOU FOR A YEAR LIKE BACK THEN.
  • Don’t drink your coffee. Using both hands, put your coffee on another table. I know you met in this coffee shop but it’s for the best. If you try to drink your coffee, your hands will shake, spilling it down yourself. If you put it on your table, you’re sure to knock it over. Big embarrassment, big mistake. Save yourself the grief. There was grief enough in the relationship with all its messiness and financial consequences. YOU’VE JUST STOPPED JUMPING EVERY TIME THE DOOR OPENS, THINKING YOU’LL POSSIBLY GET A GLIMPSE OF HIM WITH ANY OF HIS GIRLFRIENDS OR HIS WIFE – ALL BLONDE, EXCEPT YOU, AND THIN, EXCEPT YOU. NO, YOU DON’T NEED TO SEE A CARDIOLOGIST.
  • Don’t ignore him. That never worked when you were together. It won’t work now. Be civil and say hello. Everyone in the coffee shop is watching and this is your moment to shine (and possibly shake his and most people’s perception of you as a crazy psycho bitch). YOU ACTED BATSHIT CRAZY FOR SOME TIME – THE LAURA-ASHLEY-GIRLY PHASE FOLLOWED BY THE I’M-NOT-BATHING SHINDIG CULMINATING IN THE BURYING-A-SHOE RITUAL.
  • Don’t flirt. He knows all your moves. YOU EVEN TURNED UP AT HIS ‘EST-IN-THE-21ST-CENTURY’ CULT GRADUATION, ELBOWING A YOUNG WOMAN OUT OF THE WAY SO THE FIRST THING HE SAW UPON ENLIGHTENMENT WAS YOU, MORE NAKED THAN DRESSED HOLDING A WILTED DAISY. He’s moved on. You haven’t but that’s not his problem. And now you look like a cry-baby skank. You may not be able to avoid him but you can avoid the label of incompetent homewrecker!
  • Don’t ask him if he’s ill or lost weight or heaven forbid, both. Embrace your delusions and chalk it up to him missing your burnt cheese toast. A staple of your time together. He’s just grown older. Like you. Don’t look in the mirror behind the barista. So not the time to do the fearless, personal inventory or book a facelift. DO NOT LOOK TOO CLOSELY AT HIS FACE – HE COULD ALWAYS GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING, TALK YOU INTO BELIEVING ANYTHING – WHEN YOU LOOKED AT HIS FACE.
  • Don’t, please don’t, tell him about the shrine you dedicated to him, complete with a pair of his unwashed boxers and a crusty plate. Or how you haven’t cleaned his footprint off the wall since the crazy sex haze one Sunday afternoon fifteen summers ago. THE SUNDAY AFTERNOON WHEN IT FELT LIKE EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO WORK OUT. THEN THE SUCKER PUNCH A WEEK LATER WHEN THE WAITRESS TOLD YOU ABOUT THE LATE-NIGHT CANOODLING WITH THE BLONDE. He’ll think you haven’t had good sex since he left you, and hopefully, that’s not true. Remember, you sold that house and the footprint is someone else’s problem.
  • Don’t touch your hair. Too late now to do anything with it and it will look like you’re flirting (see #4). He’s seen you through good and bad hair days. He didn’t break up with you because of your hair. He broke up with you because he wanted to sleep with someone else. And he did as soon as you were out of the picture. You know this because you snuck over to his house one night after the break-up, hid in the hydrangeas, and eavesdropped for three hours. THEN DIDN’T LEAVE YOUR HOUSE FOR A MONTH. Don’t make an appointment with your hairdresser. Now is not the time to experiment with that asymmetrical cut that will be hell to grow out.
  • Don’t engage him in any personal conversation. Especially do not tell him about reading the book, ‘Women who love too much’ or its companion, ‘Men who can’t love.’ Do not tell him about the decade of therapy and how you’re only now able to see men with black labs without needing medication. Do not show him your medication. CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATE AND IF IT’S STILL VALID, TAKE A XANAX. Ask about his dog who has most likely died by now. Really dig deep, commiserate so he feels as shitty as you do. Hide your glee.
  • Don’t tell him that you need closure. That’s what all the therapy was for – if either of you HAD BEEN THE LEAST BIT ADULT, you wouldn’t be on a payment plan with your therapist AND YOU WOULD HAVE AVOIDED WEEKS OF SCREAMING, RESULTING IN THAT PAINFUL SURGERY FOR LARYNGEAL POLYPS. Do make an appointment with your new therapist. Tell her you’re driving to her office right now and will sit in her waiting room until she can see you.
  • Don’t rush out for alcohol. No one likes a sloppy drunk and you’ve worn out your friends with this particular coping skill. Anyway, it’s 8:15 on a Tuesday morning. Update your Uber app and wait until 5 pm. Then go somewhere dark where you can cry into your chardonnay. Buy a good first glass then switch to the house wine. Do not drink and text. Do not peruse his Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn accounts. STALKING IS FROWNED UPON – THE NICE POLICEMAN TOLD YOU SO.

YOU LOVED HIM. HE MOVED ON. YOU WERE DEVASTATED. GET ON WITH IT. Read ‘Relationships for Dummies.’ Get fitted for a new diaphragm. Get a professional wax job. Start fresh or fresher down there. Stock up on condoms. Put clean sheets on the bed and towels in the bathroom. Put on your big girl panties and sign up for a dating app. GO TO A DIFFERENT GODDAMN COFFEE SHOP.

 

Insusurration (a 53-word love story)

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He read Mark Strand poems into my phone. Masculine firmness mouthing each word. Susurrus of certain phrases.

Listening, couplets tangled my hair. Stanzas vibrated my limbs. Entire poems enfolded my body.

A season of love in metred details.

In the Autumn, the elegy, and words peeled away, leaving me stunned in the silence.

Fear as the Dark Mother of Moving

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Yes, I am moving to Texas – the land of big hair and blue eyeshadow. I know, I know. But it’s my fear after spending ten of my formative years in Alabama feeling under made-up and under poufy-haired.

I keep thinking about fear, fear of moving, fear of my friends forgetting me, fear of loneliness from a general incompetence in making new friends, fear of the heat in Texas, fear that I am throwing out something important. The list goes on and on.

So, I went for a walk last night around Five Points late in the evening when the scraggly trees blend with the night sky. Total patches of the earth are black and vision-proof. I kept wandering the streets, shuffling my way along pavements occasionally stubbing a toe or tripping, bouncing off tree branches, feeling the spiders from said branches land in my hair, and working my way into a panic attack.

Like most Scots, when I’m worried, I walk and walk for a while, late at night, regulating my breath so the fear coalesces, snaking back into the dark edges to lay in waiting for the next time that it can grab me.

I can’t remember ever being freaked out about walking at night. I’ve walked this area for almost 20 years. I’ve survived the night of Dropping Spiders (one April evening I found three had dropped down crowning me with 24 legs – still makes me shiver). I have listened to the trains go past with the chug-a-lug sound, never changing in these two decades, and wondered about where I was going in life. I’ve sat on the swings in the park, surrounded by the toys of happily innocent kids and speculated if the wisdom gained is worth the innocence lost. In the dark, I have admitted my failures, where I’ve been mean or thoughtless, ignored then stared in the face my aging with the creeping vista of finitude, death. I’ve cursed and cried, laughed and said “I love you” where no one can hear me.

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I’ve met Kali, the dark mother, twice in one weekend walking these streets. During yoga teacher training, I walked my beagle-dachshund mix, PooPet, at 11:30 one Friday night. My doggie loved the darks holes, where the light had disappeared with the dipping sun and would scamper into places that looked fit for Moray Eels or Jack the Ripper. Nothing stopped her thirty pounds of courageous canine, but that night, we tromped along, meandering an uneven sidewalk when a silhouette stepped into the road. In a long robe, features obliterated, with a croak she whispered, “Don’t be afraid.” I remember opening my eyes wide, struggling to remain upright as PooPet jerked the chain to run behind my legs. When I gained my balance, the street was dark, leaves slithered in the breeze, and we were alone in the darkness. I didn’t think too much of it beyond, “Holy moly, we have weird ass people in this neighborhood.” But then the next night, walking the dog, another woman stepped into the light in the middle of the road. Even backlit I could tell that she was not the same woman. She lifted her arms toward the trees, and PooPet let out a bark that morphed into a whimper. The air stopped moving. I couldn’t breathe. Now I was seriously freaked out. PooPet was still, and for a moment, I could feel my blood move through my body, like I was being watered from the inside.

This Kali was formal, “There is no need to be frightened.” I think I said, “Uh, yeah, Okay.” At that point I was scared as fuck, running down that road to the safety of my townhouse. It didn’t stop me from returning to the training class the next day, but I was really, really, very alert between yoga poses.

Maybe that’s the way this is supposed to be. I am aware, actually frightened, that things could go wrong in a big way. But. I’m still going to move to Texas. My friends, come along for the ride but hold on. This will shake us up! Anyone up for a walk?

Om Kali Ma

 

Trumpatized – Canada Is Not The Answer

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I have been finding snatches of time in the day to cry since the election. A friend called it being Trumpatized. A great term combining Trump and traumatized, the cause of the trauma and the condition it is triggering. My reaction, disbelief and grief and anger over the election, has to find little crevasses in the day. Last Wednesday, I cried through Kathleen’s yoga class. I am pretty sure I was not alone. I cry between sessions and in sessions with some of my clients as they tell how they have been triggered back to memories of traumatic events from their past.

Right or wrong, whether you voted for him or not, Trump has reawakened many people’s past memories, snakes of violence jerked out of hibernation., and caused people to wonder about the moral development of the country. I can’t answer these questions.

I can give you some ideas for comfort through this time –

  • Get enough sleep – not too much and not too little. Your neurotransmitter level will thank you.
  • Eat warm and easy-to-digest foods – carbohydrates are helpful, soups, stews, chilis, tea.
  • Stay away from too much caffeine – it will further agitate you.
  • Keep your alcohol level to a minimum – flashbacks and memories seep in when guards are down and alcohol lowers the brain’s guardrails.
  • Be active – it will help you keep things in balance, regulate your nervous system, and get you out of your house (where I am likely to brood …)
  • Dress warm – it will calm your body so it doesn’t feel under siege.
  • Respect other people’s property – march and protest but this is not a time to riot nor recreate Kristallnacht.
  • Cry, find places and people who can accept your response.
  • If you can’t get out of bed or still feel numb, see a therapist. It’s okay to get some help.
  • Try not to re-Trumpatize yourself with on-going news shows and articles.
  • Turn off your blue screens one hour before bedtime to give your brain a chance to settle down. This decreases the frequency of nightmares and allows for more restful sleep.

(Holiday meals are not the time to bring up your differences. Everyone has someone dear to them who voted in a way opposite to you. Don’t spoil this time.)

Here’s the kicker – you need to do something. As I see it, we have three options –

  • Do nothing – that will keep you at war with yourself – only so many ostriches tolerated in this world.
  • Work to promote your beliefs – join a group, start a group, volunteer for a group.
  • Accept the results with grace – promote coming together with as calm a presence as you can.

You can do one or some combination of the three. But do something – the first option leads to feeling impotent which leads to violence against yourself and others. (Oh, and please don’t move to Canada.)

The choice is yours.

 

The Pickle Story

picklestoryAN EXCERPT from a short story published in the anthology, Robot Hearts. (A woman performs the Heimlich Maneuver and goes out on a date with the man she saved.)

This month has been hard.  My clients are doing the usual two-week ramp up before the Christmas holidays.  They talk about their parties, hangovers, family brouhahas, and impulsive sexual escapades.  The entire month makes me want to act out with them. So I did.

My holiday escapade began when I made an awkward phone call to the man from synagogue that went something like this:

“Hello.  I’m the woman from Friday night services.”

“Oh, I didn’t think you would call.”

“Well, it was sweet of you to come out to my car and say thank you.”

“It was amazing how far the ruggelah flew.”

“Yes. The rabbi was surprised.”

I tapped my fingers. Reconnected with my eye twitch. Good bloody grief.  I cut to the chase.  “What do you think about dinner?”

“I like dinner,” he said.

“You had suggested we go to dinner.”

“Oh yes, I forgot.”

“What kind of food do you like?” I asked.

“Oh most things.  Hamburgers, meatloaf, chicken soup, ice cream.”

I had a moment – a long moment of wondering, “Is this worth it?” I decided to carry on.

“Do you know Mitch’s Tavern?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well.  I know Mitch and he can make some great chilli and sandwiches but not hamburgers.”

“I don’t like spicy food.”

“What, never mind. When are you thinking?” I said.

“What?”

“Do you have a date, a time in mind?”

“No.  Do you?”

“How about Tuesday?”

“Okay.”

“So we have the date?”

“Good.  I’ll be there,” he said.

“Good.  But what time?”

“After work.”

“Okay, let’s pull this together.  Tuesday at 7 pm at Mitch’s Tavern?”

“How will I know you?”

“I’m the one who saved your life.”

“Oh yeah.  Short, skinny, red hair, but God you were strong.”

“Looking forward to it,” I said.

I was sitting at the bar, talking with Mitch, the owner when a series of clunks echoed up the gloomy staircase.  David clomped his way over. “It’s good to see you getting out,” said Mitch and winked before strolling off.

A cute, college waitress showed us to our booth.  She smiled in first date sympathy as she handed over the menus.

“I’ll give you a few minutes to figure out your order.  What would you like to drink?”

“Knob Creek. A few ice cubes.”

David’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline.

“Budweiser.”

I smiled at him. He did not smile back.

“You’re prettier than I remembered.”

“Thanks.  It must be the lighting.”

We studied our menus like college students cramming that last little factoid before a history exam.

The waitress appeared with my bourbon, two waters, and his beer.  “Mitch said it’s on the house.  What would you like to eat?”

“A Rueben with fries,” I said.

“Ham and cheese.  Hold the pickle.  I don’t eat pickles,” he said.

“I’ll eat your pickle.  No, no wait.  I won’t eat your pickle.  Well not tonight.  Maybe later.  Another time?  NO.  Keep your pickle.  Not that there’s anything wrong with your pickle.  I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine pickle, just not a pickle for me tonight.  No, no pickle for me.  I gave them up.  All that brine has got to bad for the mucous membranes.”  I sputtered, feeling this deep pull in my belly.  A spasm, a fit, a seizure, a visceral understanding of the absurdity of the situation.  I started to laugh.  Really laugh like I hadn’t in a long time.  The waitress and I were rolling, wiping tears out of our eyes.  The table shook with us.  She had to sit down.  I offered her my bourbon.

David locked eyes with me.  His gaze suggested I had disemboweled his dog.  The waitress moved away.  The table was cocooned in a judgmental silence.

Dinner was fast.  We politely shook hands.  David walked away.  I went back to Mitch’s Tavern.  The waitress and I stayed up late drinking bourbon and trading war stories.  We decided to just walk away the next time someone chokes.

Lying face up on my bed sifting through the night’s events, I watched the first apricot rays of dawn dance across the floor.  Rod would have understood the pickle story.  He would have fed me the pickle, spending our last twenty bucks to buy bourbons for the four of us (me, him, the waitress, Mitch).  He would have made crude remarks for years about green vegetables.  The pickle fiasco would have become a little tease, a pickle tickle about the connection between sex and love and laughter, another little curlicue in our goofy love story.

 

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