Don’t Judge a Woman by Her Assless Chaps*

I wrote this post at six a.m. on August 19.

A debate surrounds the famous linguistic study that Eskimos have far more names for snow than non-tundra-surrounded cultures, but true or not, it’s hard to deny that an onlooker can tell a lot about a culture by the words it uses for what they love—and, of course, for what they hate.

I have a friend in Vegas, about whom, if you didn’t know her, you’d make assumptions regarding her life style and behavior. She has a lot of tattoos and several piercings, and a good word to describe her clothing is sparse. (Though, to be fair, given how I personally like to dress plus how fucking hot it is in Vegas, I’m given to dressing sparsely too.) My friend is a stripper, but she also has an art degree and paints murals for corporations and draws dogs and cats (including my long-gone kitty, Ollie) in her spare time as she works on building her career as a painter and an illustrator. She is, in two words, a complex human.

But anyway, per her recent Facebook status, she was on a plane back to Vegas when she got into a fight with a mother who was “talking smack” to her daughter about my friend’s dress and purple lipstick. I’m not sure what exactly was said, but my hunch is that it was something to the effect of:

Now, little Dandelion Eliza, that is what you don’t wear if you want to be a lady.

I don’t really know what parents are naming their children these days, but I thought Dandelion Eliza had a nice ring to it, especially for the day when that child goes to EDC wearing only dandelion pasties on her nipples.

This is baby me, back when I looked like a male version of Little Orphan Annie and didn’t know what stilettos were.

The words that exist to call women nasty nouns (slut, hussy, etc.) are about equal in number—if you’re in the thesaurus section of the bookstore—to the nasty nouns for men (Casanova, womanizer, etc.). The difference, to me at least, is in the connotations of (aka our gut reactions to) these words. And aside from whoremaster and lecher to describe “slutty” men, the male nasty-nouns-that-aren’t are . . . actually sort of pleasant-sounding. Casanova? Romeo? Gallant? Amorist?

A lot better than bimbo, chippy, wench, and tramp, and, of course, the ever-popular fancy woman. That one, as I suspected, first came into use just shy of the Victorian era, when everyone was trying to be superproper when they spoke about their whores—and also because they were too stifled creatively to come up with slore.

This is me now—on my best behavior.
Hi, Mom!

Words aside, when I read my friend’s status update, I felt . . . wronged. I’ve often sat on planes, wearing a short dress and heels, heavy black cat-eyed liner around my lashes, and had some woman pointed me out to her daughter as the kind of woman she shouldn’t grow up to be, simply based on how I was dressed, I would be furious. I’d want to say that if she doesn’t want her daughter to be an educated, well-traveled business owner with tons of friends, a great boyfriend, and a kick-ass relationship with her parents, she’s the meanest mother I’ve ever met.

Men might sometimes slobber over us, figuratively and literally, and shout out such compliments as “Nice tits!” but other women, not men, are women’s biggest enemies.

I wrote a blog last summer about why women shouldn’t be afraid to be sexy, or to want sex, and why women name-calling other women has to stop. Here I am again, not because I’m out of ideas but because I’m impassioned, talking about the same subject, albeit from a different angle.

Believe it or not, although I am in an open relationship, and my boyfriend and I don’t plan to get married, we both want children. At (almost) thirty-two—ack!—I have many friends who are either pregnant or who already have a child or children, and so lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ll approach certain topics when I have my own kiddos, including the topic of this blog.

My

My “office” a few weeks ago, plus the sun hitting at a nice angle (Runyon Canyon).

If it were true that our professions and attitudes always rubbed off on our children, Jessica Simpson and Katy Perry (both daughters of ministers) would be nuns, so I’m neither deathly afraid of nor pushing for my unborn children, the children of pickup artists, among other talents (remember: complex humans), becoming Casanovas and harlots.

I also can’t imagine ever, ever pointing out someone like my friend and telling my daughter that the tattooed lady on the plane is the wrong kind of woman to be. But I’m not a mother, and one thing I never like to do is pretend to know how I’ll act in a situation in which I’ve not yet been.

Vegas, as usual, just being fucking weird.

Vegas, as usual, just being totally fucking weird.

But what I hope, then, is this: I hope when I have children, be they boys or girls or someone in between, my guy and I are good role models for how to act as plain old people in general, regardless of gender. I hope we stress confidence, strength of character, bravery, independence, drive, and open-mindedness, and encourage both passion and compassion, empathy, creativity, adventurousness, and innovation.

I’m also okay with encouraging purple lipstick.

But . . . shit. That sounds like a lot of work! Good thing I have an excellent work ethic—even if you wouldn’t think so by my outfits.

*And no, my friend was not wearing assless chaps on a plane. But how fun, right?

why making friends as an adult is totes difficult

i wrote this post in the early morning of january 9.

i have to preface this post by saying that i didn’t allow myself to sit down and start properly writing it (properly, because i’d taken notes on my phone already) until i’d cleaned my room. my bed contained

  • clothes
  • books
  • a manuscript
  • my computer
  • vitamins
  • jewelry
  • a power cord
  • mail
  • and a few red pencils

and my floor was more of the same. i couldn’t sleep—i wonder why—and it was as if all that shit were cluttering both my room and my brain. i feel better now, but my bed has also become habitable, so i’m torn between writing and sleeping.

writing is winning, luckily.

my first reaction when i’m upset about something is to run away. i used to be a let’s-talk-this-shit-out, confrontational type, but now that i’m less volatile and more “zen” (in quotes because i actually kind of hate when people describe themselves as such), i retreat. or, at least, i fantasize about it and just delete my facebook account instead. i always come back, though, mainly because without the link to facebook, i can’t continue to cultivate my tinder habit. but anyway, budget, time, and an overall sense of rationality usually cull my urge to book a flight to ecuador.

i_love_you_man_l

from the movie “i love you, man”

yesterday, after having spent five days in a row at my boyfriend’s apartment, it was time for me to return to the place i actually live, a place where in the fridge i had only feta cheese and almond milk and, at that time, my worldly possessions had erupted all over my room. my boyfriend is traveling for work this weekend, leaving me to my own devices for the next four and a half days. while seven days ago i thought of this weekend as a time to catch up on writing, be social, and be productive, yesterday afternoon i had a slight panic attack that aside from a few loose plans, i didn’t have much to do this weekend in terms of actually interacting with other people. though it was more than that; because what i was truly upset about was the fact that other than my boyfriend, there was no one within a thirty-mile radius who i could call and talk to about the fact that in the three months i’ve lived here, i haven’t really made any friends.

okay, so i have, like, two who are my homegrown friends and not friends of my boyfriend. and i did call him, and it didn’t really go well. which is what usually happens when you expect someone else, especially your boyfriend, to put a bandage on your problems for you.

so i considered driving to orange county to see my best friend. i looked at flights to places in the west (la, san diego, denver, santa fe, seattle, san francisco, and reno) and checked out driving distances and times and hostels for places like the grand canyon, phoenix, and flagstaff. i googled “good weekend trips from las vegas” and “good places for writers in the southwest” (i was really stretching with that one), and i even looked into going to mount charleston in nevada, which is only thirty miles away. anywhere, really, seemed better than here.

i ended up making no decisions and trying to go to bed five hours before i normally do, which resulted in my waking up at my normal go-to-sleep time, maniacally cleaning my room, and writing this post.

the last thing i ever want to identify myself as one of these awful things, but at four a.m. i googled “how to make friends as an adult.” because i was thinking maybe this isn’t a problem only i am having. when i saw that writers at publications from buzzfeed to the new york times had addressed the subject, a small part of me wanted to kick and scream and say, see! it’s not just me! but mostly, i just wanted some fucking solutions that didn’t involve a meetup group that makes you and twenty other people paint the same goddamn thing, like a lamp or a snowman.

students-group-atlanta-art-classes

i don’t know these women, but they’re really happy about just having painted the ugliest high heels on record.

 

i’m not going to apologize for hating on those painting classes.

plenty of people enjoy them.

i am just not one of those people.

 

 

“when you are self-employed” is probably a search term i should have added, because unfortunately, one common suggestion was make friends at the office. it’s okay to mix business and pleasure! my “office” is wherever i want, and that includes my bed, the kitchen table and counter, a coffee shop twenty minutes away (to say las vegas has no coffee shop culture would be an understatement), my boyfriend’s apartment, and recently, the poker rooms at various casinos. surprisingly, casino staff lets a small girl (adult?) with a laptop full of children’s book manuscripts hang out there due to the small chance she’s helping her boyfriend count cards.

even if you didn’t recently move across the country to a city filled with crazy people, apparently, according to my web research, it’s straight up difficult to make friends when you’re older. our standards are higher (because “someone to party with” isn’t our only requirement once we’re no longer in college); our time is more limited because of jobs, kids, and other obligations; and the means for making friends as an adult are really fucking awkward.

my suggested meetup groups. the harry potter one is tempting.

i won’t feel bad about shitting on those painting classes, but i do feel bad about shitting on meetup. i want to like meetup. i want it to work (and to be fair, one of my two friends is someone i met through the app, but only because he took the initiative to message me outside of a writers group we’d both joined), but there is something inherently creepy and forced about it. i don’t want to be in a book club with 567 members. i don’t want to try salsa dancing. i don’t want to learn krav maga or needlepoint with a bunch of strangers. i want a group that’s called “let’s sit around and have wine or coffee and talk about shit!” and i don’t want to find it on the internet. i just want it to happen.

it’s possible that my veruca salt approach and unwillingness to be a joiner are not helping me out here. the truth is, i’m very social. i have a lot of amazing friends scattered around. i like talking to people, and i often end up making friends or connections with complete strangers in random places. my friend from australia, who now lives in the united states, remarked the other day that she had trouble making her own friends as well when she moved, but that she and i became lifelong friends in a foreign country in about a day. so we’re clearly capable. it’s just better when the art of friend-making happens naturally and not like some bizarre playdate you set yourself up on.

since last night i’ve done a few things. i inquired about getting put on a co-ed softball team, even though i’m half scared i don’t remember how to throw a ball; signed up for a site i found on the huffington post online called girlfriendcircles (i know, i gagged too); and joined a young professionals toastmasters group. i’m also considering going to a bar or a library solo, because those seem like normal places to meet people, and i can practice meeting them by shouting and whispering. it’ll really expand my vocal range and put me out of my comfort zone, both of which will help at my toastmasters meetings. or i can just combine the two and bring a book to a bar. nothing says, “be my friend!” like a young adult novel and some vodka.

is that weird?

alg-scotch-book-jpg

this is scotch. but you get the idea.

girlfriendcircles asked me to pick one of the following and only one of the following adjectives (annoying) to describe myself: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, or phlegmatic. while the main entry in merriam-webster’s for melancholy is “a gloomy mood or condition,” “quietly serious thoughtfulness” was also listed (and i’m definitely not sanguine, choleric, or phlegmatic). i’m going to take this weekend to quietly and seriously have some thoughts—

 

i’ve decided to stay in, and not run away from, las vegas—

about what it means for me to have a life here and who might fit into said life. while i still can’t stop myself from calling new jersey the h word, i live in las vegas now, and it’s about time i start considering this glittery insane asylum, and its residents, my home.

“because wherever i sat [ . . . ] i would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”*

this post was begun at four a.m. and finished at six a.m. this morning. i just now woke up in a delirious stupor in order to post it. i will now go back to sleep.

it’s four a.m. in my household, so naturally, all three members of my hippie artist family, and that’s includes me, are awake and prowling around the house and doing random shit. my mom is probably plowing through her fifth library book of the week, and my dad is most likely falling asleep perusing a passage in silas marner or the great gatsby that he’s already read two dozen times. i haven’t shaken my vegas routine, which is go-to-bed-at-six-and-wake-up-at-two-in-the-afternoon, and to have gone from stumbling out into the sunlight from a strip club this past monday morning at a time when my friends on the east coast were commuting to work to, screech, having shopping-cart battles with suburban milfs in trader joe’s this afternoon was some sort of jedi mind fuck, and i wish i could say that this weird restless before-dawn itch were a rare occurrence, but it’s not. i also wish i hadn’t just eaten three bowls of corn chex, a cereal i don’t even like.

the other day, when i told someone i was a writer, this person, a stranger, asked, “so, do you have some crazy weird schedule where you’re up all night and shit?” (the prose wasn’t so eloquent, but i’m fine to let the lack of articulateness go because the conversation took place in a crowded club at two a.m., and big, complicated words are hard to shout over edm. even schedule was a bit of a stretch.)

i answered, “yeah. pretty much.” sometimes we creative folk are predictable. dr. alice weaver flaherty calls my current affliction “the midnight disease,” aka hypergraphia, an intense desire to write, when a person becomes almost manic, compelled to express him- or herself on anything available, even a slip of toilet paper. i simply got out of bed and retrieved my laptop from the kitchen; nonetheless, the compulsion steamrolled all else.

which brings me to the actual purpose of this blog. i’ve wanted to write this post for a few days now, but i didn’t know how to start it. apparently, all i needed to do was drink coffee at eight p.m., sleep-deprive myself, copyedit 150 pages of a middle-grade novel, have a sort of weepy i-miss-you skype chat with my boyfriend (who’s in australia), and eat breakfast cereal that resembles and tastes like miniature cardboard potholders. oh, and research something for a family friend in exchange for her having altered several articles of my clothing (because when you’re an artist, you often pay people like your seamstress and accountant in favors instead of cash—it’s simple: you have none).

help-me-im-poor

 

 

 

 

anyway, a friend of mine, who, come to think of it, i haven’t talked to in a while (hallo!, as they say in the uk), posted a few words on facebook re: robin williams the other day, and i thought they were spot-on (i hope he doesn’t mind i’ve retyped a snippet of them here):

depression is often part of what makes comedians comedians (most of them, anyway). many artists are ticking time bombs. any of them could go at any moment. that’s the other shoe. the art is what keeps the demons away, but sometimes it’s not enough.

tons of people suffer from depression, but artists in particular, whether they be musicians or painters or comics, tend to lean toward the melancholy side of things. it’s been said that low self-esteem and pessimism often fuel success because sufferers of depression work extra, unearthly hard to put themselves in positions in which they are surrounded by so much good and bounty that the sadness melts enough as to be ignored. the mask of laughter or creative self-deprecation through art has helped many a performer battle, but never conquer, depression. i’ve had friends remark to me that they could never imagine that deep down i’m sad, because my exterior is making jokes and smiling and telling stories or running miles and miles. only someone who has the disease truly understands that these actions are vital shields against, instead, staring into the mirror and whispering to your reflection that you’re worthless. or worse.

monstermy mom told me that my great-grandmother once put her head in the oven to “prove a point” to my great-grandfather. ah, genes.

so i’m pretty open about the fact that i suffer from depression, and it’s not because hollywood has made it “cool” to see a therapist, the image of a person lying on a chaise longue (not lounge) with hands folded on his or her abdomen immortalized as being hip. never once, each time i had to explain to a new manager at a new job that every other wednesday i’d be gone for an hour for a “doctor’s appointment,” did i feel remotely cool or hip. i actually felt more like a special brand of loser, one who needed someone else’s aid to keep her emotions in repose. my brief surrender to the serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor (ssri) celexa felt like a failure, and deciding to forgo the meds was a feat. discovering that running a long distance could fix my negatively charged brain for a day (just one fucking day!) was akin to winning a pulitzer prize.

i hope someday to know what that feels like in actuality, and i beseech whomever or whatever that my stupid fuzzy imbalanced headspace is plagued with ample midnight-disease nights as to fill an award-winning book.

but with regards to robin williams . . . to depression and to suicide . . . i have friends with whom i’ve argued about depression as a disease. people who love me, who know me so well, yet still say things like, i don’t understand why you can’t just be happy. you have so much going for you. you should be able to get over it. some people have real problems. or: suicide is the most selfish act. don’t people think about those they’d leave behind?

when caught in the throes of a depressive episode, the outside world can cease to exist. there is you, and there is pain. you’ve forgotten your defense mechanisms. you can’t bring yourself to sit down and write or go for a run or call a friend and tell funny stories. you’re nearly crippled, clawing at the carpet as if you have the strength to tear up the entire square footage of your room but not the energy to get up and get a glass of water to calm down. the past words from your friends and family, the “call me anytime” offers, seem empty; you don’t want to bother anyone. then, somehow, the gears can begin to move. you get up. you write three pages and feel better. you recite your favorite poem ten times. you eek out a hi text message to a friend. you think about someone you love finding you like that, and the image makes you shudder, nauseates you. an episode has passed. these are the lucky, triumphant moments. sometimes, though, they don’t come. nothing clicks, the hole widens and deepens, and some people slip.

i wish one of the funniest men to have ever lived weren’t dead. his jokes and impressions were markers of my childhood and the childhoods of most of my friends. (side note: two years ago i wrote a blog in which the headline was from hook, and it was another gem written at four a.m.) but i both understand and, more important, empathize with him, he who fought a monster and lost. all i ask is for those who can’t empathize, to sympathize, and accept depression as the disease it is. only acceptance will give us the power to destroy it.

 

*who else? slyvia plath in the bell jar.

“finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”*

this post was written earlier this morning.

i’m in one of those really fantastic moods in which i don’t feel like talking to anyone. there are about five or six text messages in my in-box that i haven’t even opened, a few from hours ago, and probably by tomorrow i’ll get follow-up messages from those friends asking me if i’m okay. i generally don’t do this sort of thing, so when i do, my friends know that i mean business about my anger, sadness, or whatever it is. it’s midnight on saturday (or, i guess, technically it’s sunday), and at this time last week, i was out on the lower east side, wearing the tightest dress and highest heels i’ve ever worn in my life, and six hours away from going to sleep.

at this moment, i’m in bed at my parents’ house—i’m going to keep calling it that until i get to the point where i stop being in denial that i, too, live here—wearing my ex-boyfriend’s pajama pants, neon-blue socks, and a long-sleeve shirt. oh, and my glasses. i’m truly one of those versatile girls who writes on her match.com profile that she can be “up for a night out on the town or a low-key night staying in.” i’m the perfect woman, you’ve found me, congratulations.

up until a half hour ago, when i decided to take the longest, most scalding shower ever, i had copyedited for twelve hours, interrupted only by pouring and imbibing more coffee or eating some sort of carb. let’s just say i should buy stock in clif bars if the company is publicly traded. (well, turns out it’s not—upholding its values and not selling out or some other garbage—so i guess i can’t use my nonexistent money to buy shares. maybe clif’ll give me a job instead.)

a friend once told me that i remind her of the energizer bunny, and i’ve felt as though, for months and months now, even a year, that i’ve been able to somehow do so much without collapsing. but, as i found out this weekend, even those with seemingly bottomless energy sometimes tap out. in a fight, though, there’s tapping out, leaving the brawl on your own terms, and then there’s getting straight-up knocked out, after which you come to only when your body is ready. on friday night, i took a high kick to the head.

all week i did a slew of idiotic things, from trying to go through the subway turnstile without it even occurring to me that i should swipe my card, chewing a piece of gum i knowingly dropped on the ground in one of the most filthy places in america, and trying to correct the word humorous, which was clearly spelled right, because i was convinced it looked “too british.” i also missed my train stop on wednesday night, which would have made sense had i fallen asleep, except that i was awake. when my dad called to tell me my train had just left red bank, i swore up and down that we’d just left middletown, the previous stop, and i realized i was two stations beyond mine only when we were pulling into long branch. i had zero recollection of the train stopping at my destination or the one past it.

these may seem like silly examples, but they are things i normally do not do, or, at least, i don’t do them all within the same week. i am very tired, and very stressed, the following on my plate for the next two months:

  • 9/30: stop working at simon & schuster (oh, i quit my job on 9/3)
  • 10/1: leave for costa rica (i have my flights booked, nothing else)
  • 10/3: turn thirty
  • 10/12: return from costa rica
  • 11/3: run the nyc marathon (oh right, and before that, train to run those 26.2 miles and raise $3,000 for my charity; if i don’t raise the full amount, i pay the difference)
  • 11/16: leave for las vegas
  • 11/27: fly back to return home the next morning, in time for thanksgiving

meanwhile, during all that, i need to worry about purchasing my own health insurance, getting steady freelance work and building new relationships, obtaining new clients, developing my website, writing my blog posts, working on my novel, getting business cards, networking, trying to figure out how to become a travel writer because that’s simple, missing my former coworkers and the office environment and new york and all my friends in north jersey, and working on not desperately missing my boyfriend, who now lives in las vegas. i’m aware that i sound like a huge crybaby. sorry. most of these things are very cool and exciting, but now mounded, they’ve overwhelmed me.

i’ve become more concerned than usual about money recently, probably because in two weeks i will no longer be getting a steady paycheck, so i’ve taken on a lot of side work. i haven’t said no to anyone, and this act of writing is the most fun i’ve allowed myself to have all week. the amount of work i’ve taken on has left me wrung out and cotton-brained, and on thursday, realizing that i had promised a publishing house i’d return copyediting and proofreading tests to them within a week, i hurriedly completed the tests and sent them back, too worried about seeming flaky to ask for more time (on a self-imposed due date, no less). drunkenly overconfident in my abilities, i assumed that even tired, overworked kaitlin’s skills were superior to most, and i figured, when i saw the e-mail response in outlook, that i had passed the test with flying colors. and why wouldn’t i have? i work for the second-biggest publishing house in the world, and i already freelance for four out of the big six, as they’re known. this last house would have completed the sexfecta (yes, i just made that up).

anyway, i didn’t pass. and when i looked over my tests, my boo-boos circled in purple (for shame, my favorite color!), i couldn’t digest the things i’d missed, including overlooking two of the same word in a row and not noticing that the r in concentration was missing, which is really just downright mean and mocking. there were other egregious issues, and had a freelancer submitted that sort of test to me, i wouldn’t have been impressed. to feel a potential client, and therefore potential projects and income, slip through my fingers was horrible and i felt humiliated, but that wasn’t even the worst part. the worst part, to me, was that i let a due date get to me, that i let the idea of gaining income cause me to forget why i do my job and why i chose this career.

practically every second of my day is consumed with books, whether it’s at my full-time job, while freelancing, or when i’m at home, thinking about my novel or discussing my dad’s manuscripts with him. i’m consumed even when reading for pleasure, which is barely pleasurable anymore because i can’t stop myself from seeing a book through the eyes of a copy editor or proofreader. i’m consumed with tweeting quotes by famous authors. i live and breathe literature; i need it to survive. but, just as i need food to keep kicking, too much of it will make me sick. i’ve been swallowing words whole, without tasting them, seeing them as a means to an end, and in the process, they’ve made me ill.

i gave up going to boston and running a half marathon with my friend this weekend to stay home and work. i would have had to work regardless (this time my deadlines are nonnegotiable and most definitely not self-imposed), but i decided that my jobs deserved more. more attention, more love. the manuscripts i have to work on are authors’ souls set in print and maybe one day some kids’ favorite books. they’re works of art, not a paycheck, not a due date. i wish it hadn’t taken a failed test to make me see this, but unfortunately, that’s what happened. but today, instead of seeing my job, a manuscript, as money in my pocket and mere words on a page, meant to be reined in by my grammatical hands, i tried to read it as a story i picked up because i wanted to read it. then, you know, i just happened to hyphenate words correctly and change mantle to mantel because no author can ever get that shit straight.

“i have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting, and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”

—roald dahl

books-and-heart-jpeg

*cervantes, don quixote

“and the darkest hour is just before dawn. . . .”*

i wrote this post on june 30, after a late night out on saturday, june 29, and while plagued with a fantastic hangover.

i’ve found that we humans do our deep thinking at times and in places that personally suit us best, which of course, makes perfect sense. maybe it’s when having a cup of coffee in the morning, before our day starts. when showering, letting the hot water go cold as we mull over various dilemmas and potential decisions. while driving or commuting. or maybe right before bed. or even while brushing our teeth (my friend, by whom i just ran this post, told me that’s another ideal thinking time). but i think there is one time, and one place, in which no one should be thinking at all, and that’s during the early hours of the morning, when we’re in bed, around three or four a.m. or so. it’s still dark, and it’s too early to get up, but it’s also too late to fall back into a deep sleep. yet despite the fact that this point on the twenty-four-hour daily ride is not ideal for thinking clearly, or rationally, i often find that this is when i’m most awake and the least likely to be capable of banishing any negative thoughts. when i’m up at this hour, nothing can soothe me and no one can reason with me. and mostly, that’s because no one else is awake to let me vent and tell me how unreasonable i am acting.

i’ll occasionally do some writing during these instances, and while, then, i believe that i’m making valid points and coming to some profound conclusions, when i later read anything i’ve written at that ungodly hour, the words are completely absurd, as if some verbally gifted demon hacked into my brain and spewed some well-written yet bat-shit crazy, half-baked ideas that i had previously thought were positively brilliant. think joyce’s ulysses if it were merely straight-up nonsense and not a nonsensical masterpiece (and, actually, it’s not even really nonsensical; most people just think it is).

there’s a song called “in the wee small hours of the morning,” an old tune that was first recorded by frank sinatra in the 1950s, that i always think of when i find myself unable to sleep, my heart filled with dread. the song is about how you miss the person you love, if they aren’t there or if they don’t love you back or whatever, most desperately during the early morning hours. i was talking to a friend recently about trying to do any real productive thinking at this time and she said that she doesn’t believe our bodies were created to handle thought during those hours. almost as if we’re supposed to be shut down, like a computer. yet sometimes, when a thing is bothering us, we reboot, and all sorts of irrational ideas come barreling through the wall that our sleeping brain was supposed to have been programmed to put up for about six to eight hours. there must be a glitch.

why am i talking about this? i’m not completely sure. maybe i just feel the need to try to understand why we can’t quiet our brains sometimes. why, like a car with cut brakes, our perceptions of things can abruptly lose control and our thought process can work up to a dangerous speed as we can’t help but let it roll downhill into a busy intersection. i am also worried, maybe, that twelve hours from now, i’ll be staring up into the bleak ebony night, wondering if the decisions i’ve decided to make in the next few months are going to be ones i regret or can’t take back. or both. or possibly something worse i haven’t even anticipated. i know i’m being cryptic, but right now i have to be.

months ago, when i still lived in hoboken, i was awake in the middle of the night, and i became inspired to compose a poem (one of the few examples of middle-of-the-night writing i’ve done that i think is actually decent). i’ll get to that soon.

but behind the poem, there’s this. so, for a long time, i was fortunate to have someone i cared about sleeping next to me in bed. it sounds silly, but even when that person was snoozing away, it was nice just knowing that he was there. when i’d wake up at four a.m., upset about something, i could look over, feel safe, and roll back to my spot, where, in about a minute, i’d again be asleep. i wrote the poem below long after that person had vacated my bed, and although, while writing, i was in an apartment with two roommates, i felt as if i were miles away from any other form of life. you can quickly get used to having the comfort of a warm body next to you, and when the other side of the bed is empty and you still take up only “your” half, you wish someone would fill that space. and sometimes, right after that person is gone, you think that anyone can lie there. that anyone can step in and give that comfort you used to have. i have made mistakes with this—because i was lonely or sad or confused—and i mistook anybody for that somebody. and when i was alone, i felt uncontrollably restless and uncomfortable in my body, as if it were merely a vessel meant to keep me trapped, and i wanted so badly to have someone else there. now, having moved past the lonely and sad phase (albeit maybe not the confused one), i can now think of only one person to fill that void, and maybe that’s even worse. because when he isn’t present, there can be no replacements—no second-string quarterbacks, understudies, or stand-ins—so it is during those wee small hours that i do miss him most.

anyway, this is one very convoluted and slapdash post. i’m almost not even sure that i didn’t write it at four a.m. instead of four p.m. . . . though maybe four p.m. when one is hung over and has the sunday blues is about as close as one can get to dawn.

sometimes i try to run through the early morning anxiety, when everyone else is still asleep

nyc skyline at sunrise
sometimes i try to run through the early morning anxiety, when everyone else is still asleep.

here’s the poem.

a collector truck backs up,

beep.

so this is how

a few stragglers wind home from the haunt,

whoo-whoop.

your midnight goes

a streetlight goes out,

zap.

yes, this is how

a few bars from a song in a passing car,

doo-doop.

your midnight goes

a set of tires on a dewy road,

skid.

when you’re all alone

a few rodents scurry to their homes,

scritch-scratch.

in a big, big city.

*from “dedicated to the one i love” by the mamas and the papas

the midnight disease

i wrote this a few nights ago. . . .

i am currently sitting on the couch watching family guy with my roommate and thinking about a conversation i had with a friend the other day regarding the lack of time in my schedule i have for writing. i’ll get to that later. i have about forty-five minutes before i plan to get into bed, and while i am in fact writing at the moment, i’m distracted (probably by peter griffin’s laugh) and somewhat uninspired. but someone clever once said, and i found it cumbersome to attribute this to any particular person: write now. and some other clever gent or lady followed that with: revise later. because often, when you start writing even when you don’t want to, you end up dispensing more words than you’d planned. and sometimes they ain’t half bad.

i have a friend and former coworker who got a book deal almost a year ago (notjealousnotjealousnotjealous) and was ultimately able to leave her day job and become a full-time author. at first glance there may not seem to be much of a difference between the words writer and author, but author has a distinguished air about it. it sports cufflinks and is usually preceded by published or award-winning. writer has worn out its skinny jeans and shamefully follows struggling or wannabe. i’m currently a writer. but i want to be an author.

when the above friend told me she was going to be published, i was obviously ecstatic for her, but at the same time i wondered how in the hell she found room in her schedule. so i asked her. i wasn’t sure what i had expected for an answer, but maybe i’d thought she’d say that she wrote frenetically, when she had only small chunks of time . . . on the subway. during lunch. while waiting at the doctor’s office. she may very well have written during these moments, but what she told me was that for her, the secret to writing a novel while having a full-time job was to have no life. no plans with friends. no other hobbies. what’s funny (well, maybe not so much for her . . .) is that she has all three of these things; only she shelved them—for months—until she had fully regurgitated that book from a seedling deep inside herself to a finished novel on her computer. i began to ask myself if i could do—

the same? no way. i admire her tenacity and dedication. but i couldn’t do what she did.

another friend of mine went to college with a girl who has been published within the last year. said girl is a year younger than i am and has written a generally well-received adult book (and i don’t mean erotic—i just mean not for children). she is slated to have a second on the way, and both novels happen to be associated with my publishing house. this girl received her mfa in creative writing from nyu and afterward took a year off to write her first novel.

nope. ain’t nobody round here got time (or money) for that.

monday: slug a young adult novel. copyedit a picture book manuscript. proofread a jacket. get a sample copy. tuesday: repeat. wednesday: repeat. etc. etc. put your red pencil on paper and shake it all about. i love my books. but “it gets to you after a while,” a coworker, who also has aspirations of being published, said. “i keep asking myself when it will be my turn.”

getting back to the conversation i had with my friend who originally started me on this topic . . . he told me that he read somewhere that michael chabon, the brilliant writer behind wonder boys, among some other pretty awesome books, writes sunday through thursday, from ten p.m. to three a.m. this in no way reflects what michael chabon actually does with his free time, but i’m thinking . . . that leaves friday and saturday for bitches (or in my case, bros) and binge-drinking, weekdays for the mundane parts of life like laundry and a day job and looking at youtube videos and live feeds of wild baby animals doing cute things (i’m taking a break now to see how it’s going on pandacam), and then perhaps even time for an after-work drink or dinner you can’t afford with friends before the late-night writing session commences. catching limited z’s is not an ideal side effect, but i’m sure much great writing has been sprinkled with a few doses of delirium and sleep-deprivation. my writing, whether good or bad, has definitely used that concoction more than a few times. and being that it’s now eleven p.m. on a weeknight, i think i’m less hemingway (he generally wrote in the mornings, before it got too hot) and more chabon.

some writers have a room in their house or apartment where they write. others go to a library. or a park. or a café. some write on desktop computers. some have laptops. some have tablets. some still use a pen (or pencil) and paper. some write in the morning. some at night. some in the middle of the night. some can write only a few pages at a time and need to take short breaks. others write thousands of words in a single sitting. some need coffee. some need tea. some need alcohol. some need drugs. all writers write when they’re not writing. while they’re eating. or sleeping. or reading someone else’s writing to learn how to write better. all writers keep a running notepad, old-fashioned or new-fangled or cranial, of random ideas or dialogue or scenes that they know, somehow, someday, will fit into a novel or an article or a poem. to make them authors or poets. writers feel better after they write, even if they’ve left a bit of their souls on a piece of paper. or the touchscreen of an ipad.

or in a pages document on a macbook. which is where i’ve left a bit of mine. the australian open on in the background. a glass of water on the floor next to me. blanket and computer on my lap. my eyelids lowering on their own accord. both clock hands nearing midnight—i obviously didn’t make my previously scheduled bedtime. i’ve realized that i don’t have to figure out how to fit writing in. if i touch my fingers to the keys for a split second, with the intention of typing for only a few minutes, i get what lindsay lohan so articulately called it in mean girls: word vomit. i am compelled and called to write. then up that writing comes. and a few hours later i realize that i just made that time i often think eludes me.

i sent a draft of this post to my dad because i wanted him to convert it to a word document for me. he thought i had meant for him to read it, so he did. usually i like for him to see only the finished product, but i was okay with letting him read what had been a (more) haphazardly devised version of what you are now reading. after he had finished, he told me that the final paragraph (what originally came before this one but is now the one after) is “amazingly brilliant, beautiful . . . if i had written that last paragraph i’d be so proud of myself, i’d shit.” i felt sad to inform him while i hadn’t written it, i sure wish that i had. i guess a consolation is that he at least thought that i could have. but anyway, this is from michael chabon’s wonder boys. i can only hope to someday write prose, at midnight or anytime, half this moving.

“it was in this man’s class that i first began to wonder if people who wrote fiction were not suffering from some kind of disorder—from what i’ve since come to think of, remembering the wild nocturnal rocking of albert vetch, as the midnight disease. the midnight disease is a kind of emotional insomnia; at every conscious moment its victim—even if he or she writes at dawn, or in the middle of the afternoon—feels like a person lying in a sweltering bedroom, with the window thrown open, looking up at a sky filled with stars and airplanes, listening to the narrative of a rattling blind, an ambulance, a fly trapped in a coke bottle, while all around him the neighbors soundly sleep. this is in my opinion why writers—like insomniacs—are so accident-prone, so obsessed with the calculus of bad luck and missed opportunities, so liable to rumination and a concomitant inability to let go of a subject, even when urged repeatedly to do so.”

“i don’t want ever to be a man,” he said with passion. “i want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”*

proof that society wants us to act like kids even when we're gray.

proof that society wants us to act like kids even when we’re gray.

to the left is a photo of the cube at astor place, in case you don’t know it. also, today is pearl harbor day. take off your hat, put your hand over your heart, and think about how good you have it, if for only a minute. i just did.

so my idea is still brewing and i’ve already taken a step, though small, toward turning it into a reality. but more to tk on that. (tk, in case you were wondering, is a term we use in publishing that means “to come.” i just looked it up to see if, in fact, it’s used only in publishing, and that’s pretty much accurate—see link. it’s actually somewhat interesting, or maybe it is to just me.)

my friend and i were talking on facebook chat the other day (during work hours? never), and i mentioned to her that a friend of hers, who i met only once but of course immediately friended—that word should really be recognized by microsoft word at this point—popped up in the “people you may know” section on my homepage. i therefore concluded that i was annoying enough to defriend, which is, unfortunately, not shocking to me. my friend then told me that this friend had actually made a second account in an attempt to connect on facebook with only her real friends. i like to think this strategy is similar to when you have to get a new phone because you dropped your old one in a toilet and instead of adding all those random people with just misspelled first names or nicknames (like “the bartender”), you let your “real” friends text or call you and then do the whole “who is this?” shtick before you add their numbers. gotta weed out those weirdos, hey? (“hey” is a substitute for “right?” or “no?” and is something my aussie friend says and I quite like it.)

so here was our conversation, for the most part:

anonymous friend: and i was like just delete people from your original fb

me: true, but then i feel like you make excuses to keep people haha. “hm. their life is kind of a train wreck and fun to watch. but i haven’t talked to them in five years. hm.”

anonymous friend: right. i think a good way is to delete people you don’t feel like writing happy birthday to

me: yes. i always think that

anonymous friend: i have never gotten the balls to do it but that’s prob the system i would use

me: not a bad system

shortly after this highly sophisticated and intelligent conversation took place, another friend sent me a link to this new york times article: what is it about 20-somethings?

beware: this is a long article. it’s good, but it’s long. despite my ability to read young adult manuscripts for hours on end, after about five minutes, i was ready to fall asleep, especially when the author threw a bunch of sociological mud in my face.

anyway, i can’t relate to a lot of the article (i haven’t been financially dependent on my parents for at least a decade and i’ve never moved back home), but the heart of it, the idea that my generation doesn’t seem to want to grow up, applies directly to me and to many of my friends. not all, by any means. i have a number of friends who are not only married, but who have children or even own property, as in a real house with walls. this realization often makes my brain want to explode, especially when these dwellings are owned by people who knew me when i wore a retainer or when i could have wet my pants in public and have had it still be acceptable.

this idea, though, that sociologists are thinking about giving us peter pan folk our own name (as they did way back when they dubbed the younger set the “adolescent” age group) makes me feel like less of a freak and maybe just someone who wants to ensure she really knows what she wants and who she is before she makes any life-altering decisions. that’s not to say that my friends who have made these decisions didn’t think long and hard about them first or that they don’t know what they want/who they are. i wholeheartedly trust that many of them do. but it does scare me that several friends who have been married for a few years or who have been in long-term, serious, monogamous relationships have told me over the last nine months that they aren’t happy and may have made a mistake. i wonder sometimes if they find it easier to talk to me now, because i ended a long-term relationship over the past year, than when i was in one. either way, i’m happy that they feel as though they can confide in me (and here i am airing out their quandaries on the internet, but, hey, i’m not naming names), yet i wonder if they would have shared this information if i were in a different place. no one wants to bring you down when you’re up. at least, i guess, no one who likes you. anyway, mostly, I’m just worried about them. and i feel helpless.

my point, again, is not a very profound one, but it is that the article caused me to feel less abnormal and perhaps even like a responsible almost-adult. i pay my own bills and rent and student loans, feed and dress myself, get my ass out of bed and to work on time, and make (and deal with the repercussions of) my mistakes. and just recently i realized that i’ve had the same jar of peanut butter for two weeks. the same jar. i usually go through one over a five-day time period. i think that showing self-control is a pretty adult quality. moving on . . . until recently, and most likely due to that european adventure i took not long ago—and, no, i haven’t written about it at all yet, so back off!—i never had any debt (save student loans), and while it gives me plenty of anxiety, i’m sort of proud in a sick and twisted way to take ownership of that debt. i also can’t wait to add to it (asia 2013, anyone?). i have the rest of my life to sit behind a desk and pay it back. that being said, i guess my peanut butter feat was short-lived. back to being irrational and irresponsible i go.

bottom line: if sociologists say it’s okay, i’m going to put off classic adulthood for as long as i can and support my grown-up friends however they need me to. onward.

*from peter pan by j. m. barrie