“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.

“the only sea i saw / was the seesaw sea / with you riding on it. / lie down, lie easy.”*

back in may, i was in vegas with one of my best friends, as well her husband and another couple who they both knew but who i had met only a day before. the five of us were standing in the taxi line outside encore, and the little bitch of a queue had snaked around the ropes about five times, as the club had just closed and everyone was buzzed and grumpy and horny and ready to go home. for some reason (please don’t ask me, because i don’t know why), i had decided earlier that day to start counting random things i saw in the voice of, who else, the count from sesame street.

thecount

for example:

one, two, three drunk idiots!

ah, ah, ah, ah.

one old lady blowing her retirement on slots!

ah, ah, ah, ah.

 

it was at the time (as well as in my head at this moment) hilarious.

in vegas at around three a.m., if not earlier, in any given venue that serves alcohol, girls not accustomed to wearing sky-high heels are drunk, their feet are swollen, and their formerly sexy-looking platforms have ended up as spiky stumps in their hands. so while we were waiting in line, i started counting girls sans heels. . . .

one, two, three shoeless sluts! ah, ah, ah, ah.

now, i don’t like the word slut, not really, but it worked for the joke and anyone who knows me would have been aware that i was having a little harmless fun. but my best friend’s friend, the female half of the couple i had essentially just met, nodded toward the girl in front of us (shoeless!) and then looked at my friend and whispered, “wait, she knows that girl right there isn’t wearing—”

and my friend simply replied, “yeah . . . kaitlin doesn’t really . . . yeah.”

so i’ve now established that i have no filter. and apparently a severe lack of tact.

at least in person.

because usually i keep it pretty pg for my posts, aside from a few fucks here and there. but today i’ve decided that i don’t fucking feel like keeping it pg!

(and, for the record, that girl in line was sucking face with a large-muscled, overly tanned dude and was so intoxicated, she hardly could have associated her lack of shoes with my barefoot transylvanian muppet parody.)

i have a friend who recently broke up with her boyfriend of insert long, long time that makes most people gasp, and who has been going on a bit of a rampage since. drinking, blackouts, a sprinkle of what she deems promiscuity thrown in there, losing important things like licenses . . . you know, all sorts of responsible shit.

i have become her go-to for advice and reassurance (and i’m more than happy to be, of course), because i went through a similar shitstorm post-breakup, and she knows this because she had the unfortunate role of being my friend during this time. i made lots of “interesting” decisions that caused most people in my life both to worry about me and/or think i was kind of an asshole with no morals.

recently this friend told me that she feels like a whore, getting drunk and hooking up with guys, and as this was via text, i wrote back:

why?!

dual punctuation is acceptable in text messaging but pretty much nowhere else. the end.

she said that she gave some guy (who she has seen several times, mind you) a blow job.

ever basking in my slutty glory, i wrote back: that’s it?

then she pinged me some self-hating comments and finally, i’m just not that type of girl.

i wondered, then, what this means: that type of girl.

because to many, you’re either a saint or a sinner. and if you’re a woman, you have sex with no one, one person, or a few people—or you have sex with a lot of people. an in-between exists, but it’s not generally cited when it comes to making sweeping generalizations and stereotypes.

if you’re finding this hard to believe, then i literally can’t even with you right now.

so i’d call myself the s and w words back in the day too, when i went from loyal lover to bed-hopper, and sometimes my response to doing something i deemed too hasty and not well-thought-out was to drink some vodka and eat peanut butter and cry about what a piece of filth i’d let myself become. sometimes i’d just eat ten clif bars, or however many it took until i felt like throwing up.

if i binge, i nearly always binge on clif bars, and any type of clif bar will do. i do not know why.

men are generally taught it’s cool, and expected, to bed binders full of women, and during coitus rehashing, a male will go stifler on his friend in a ceremony of congrats. i don’t necessarily agree with the idea of sex as a prize or a triumph, but i do think that sex, and having it, is a good thing. for both sexes.

i have female friends who’ve never had an orgasm, be it via masturbation or via someone else. and it’s not because they don’t want one, but because they can’t relax or they’re self-conscious. or they don’t know how. they have sex because they’re drunk or lonely or sad or because, at this point, after however many, why the hell not? i’m for why the hell not? as long as it’s safe and fun. if both those factors don’t exist, however, it all just makes me sad.

i don’t think i have to say that i don’t have any male friends with this problem.

and it is a problem.

so after my friend bashed herself as a sexual transgressor, i sent her this text:

you are used to being the girl with one guy, and that’s it. and that is fine. this new way is also fine, though. you should be able to act on impulses and do what you want as long as you’re being safe. it’s okay to have sex or near sex. men do it all the time. give yourself permission.

the whole point of this moment in your life, being single, is to figure out what you really want, and unless you talk to and date and hook up with guys, you might not discover what else is out there. there’s more than you think. whore it up a bit, though i don’t think of it like that at all.

i had originally written four exceptionally long-winded diatribe-like paragraphs about sex after i’d retyped the text message above, but after reading them over i was boring even myself, which is always a bad sign. so now i’m going to close (that’s a euphemism for sex) with five paragraphs that are still long, but i hope not long-winded, yawn-worthy, or pedantic.

my friends have told me, since about middle school, that i think like a guy. i used to believe this was a bad thing, that i was wrong to be so forward about sex and my sexual habits. now i’m inclined to believe otherwise. it’s been said that women actually want sex more than men do; we’re just too repressed and programmed to shun it for pleasure’s sake to realize or embrace it.

or maybe we’re worried that some girl speaking in puppet language will judge more than just our shoelessness.

i want, outside of jokes meant to entertain, for us to stop calling ourselves sluts and whores, and to stop feeling guilty for wanting sex and having it. after all, as betty friedan said, “no woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.”

so, friends, go have sex. i just did, and it was tops.

 

*dylan thomas (the last line of that poem, by the way, is “let me shipwreck in your thighs.” oh, baby.)

“i have to see a thing a thousand times before i see it once.”*

i was telling someone the other day that somehow i’m always surprised to find mistakes, sometimes egregious mistakes, in a book i’ve been working on when i read it a second time. if i could go through a book a third—or even a fourth—time, this would be ideal, but given that it takes already thirty hours (if not longer) to copyedit a three-hundred-page book, this isn’t realistic. it’s especially difficult to spot errors on the first read if the book is enjoyable because i can get caught up in the story. lucky, and unlucky, for me, i am usually assigned good reading.

but when you read something a second time, and those errors seem to spring up as if out of nowhere, you start to 1. hate yourself—

how did i miss that?—

and 2. hate the book—

well, if you had paid any attention to yourself, any attention at all, i wouldn’t have had to find that error in the first place. you stupid, stupid book.

you’re thinking (and my mom actually said, “aw!” at the above as i read this post to her), the book didn’t do anything! it was the—

now you know why i can’t say that word. though i hope to be one myself, i notice the same kinds of errors in my writing, even after i’ve read it ten times. i can be a stupid, stupid book often.

as i was wondering why the hell i didn’t add a period to the end of a punctuation-less sentence—i had clearly fallen asleep for a second—i remembered that i’d brought a specific book to north carolina, my current location, to reread.

in my personal life, i never reread books (with the exceptions of shiloh and the outsiders, both of which i’ve read so many times, the binding has disintegrated). but this book is one i read two years ago, soon after i’d broken up with my ex-boyfriend. like any starry-eyed girl, i saw myself in the main character, who is essentially given two paths: stick with her stable life, the one with the stable intellectual man and comfy flat in england, or choose the less distinguished man, a traveling drunk, a player of both women and snooker, though a professional of only the latter.

while i’ve loved many, many books, this author’s writing is one for which i would do a series of inhumane things to emulate. any writer who uses a word on nearly every page that i either have to look up or work hard to define in context is both my hero and sworn enemy. i’ve been chided by friends when i’ve used a lesser-known, more obscure word in favor of its go-to synonym, even though i do this simply because i like language, and i like playing with it, and one word is always a better choice than another. it just is.

and maybe in some cases the best, and simultaneously easy, way is to pick the dumbass substitute and not its distinguished cousin. because sometimes it’s far better to say fuck and not dress it up. sometimes fuck is what you need and only fuck will get your point across.

so far, the book (the post-birthday world by lionel shriver) is just as well crafted as i remembered, and a few parts, which i’d obviously forgotten, have pulled at the strings again, though i can’t imagine they’re pulling in the same way they did the first time. it’s funny that i am rereading this in the outer banks, a place i haven’t been to since i was nineteen, and which had been, up until that point, where my parents and i went nearly every summer. days that used to be packed with hours of sun-filled beach, aquarium visits, and lots of family togetherness have been replaced with an hour of beach time, freelance work, and general lounging/writing/reading, my dad going off to play tennis or do a jigsaw puzzle with my uncle, and my mom and aunt going to thrift stores.

(the contention of the freelance work, by the way, has not gone unscathed, and seemingly no one can imagine why i’d be doing work on what is supposed to be a vacation. the facts are: i up and quit my job less than a year ago and can’t afford not to work, and i genuinely like working, and when i’m not, i tend to get jittery and crazy, and only more work or a workout will calm me.)

i started thinking—upon my second reading of the sci-fi young adult novel i’m copyediting, revisiting birthday, and failing to re-create the summers of my childhood—just how important it is to reread, or reevaluate or reassess, everything. no one thinks twice about reassessing his or her property value, but, and i’m included in this mix, few people reread relationships of any kind, be they romantic, platonic, business, or familial.

ah, the errors you find on a second read.

it’s always sort of assumed, if you’re in a relationship with someone (any of the four above makes up a relationship), you’re together and that’s it, and it’s only when you have a fight or a falling out that you sit there, a screwed-up pursed-lip look on your face, and wonder where things went wrong. how two people could go from tight-knit to nothing in an hour or a few weeks or years of impassive drifting.

why didn’t i see the signs? is usually the question we pain ourselves with. of course, it’s difficult to step back from a relationship in the middle (or maybe it’s closer to the end than you think) and prod it. the danger is that we will find something wrong.

it’s like when old people don’t want to go to the doctor because they’re afraid the doctor will “find something.” fucking old people! go to the doctor!

anyway.

rereading the same manuscript in a three-week time period, i’ve spotted errors and inconsistencies. and not only those, i’ve spotted chunks i didn’t appreciate the first go-round, lovely phrases or great dialogue i glazed over. and, as i’m rereading birthday, the visceral reactions are plenty, but i doubt that i two years ago received the same emotions and gained the same lessons i am now. the writing may be the same, but i am not.

sometimes, in life as in books, you can get caught up, so caught up in the story that this whirlwind of emotion and passion takes precedence over the events and details themselves and what they truly are, and what they mean, positive or negative. but as humans, once something sets in our minds, it’s hard to imagine it another way. the job that no longer fulfills us. the marriage that isn’t working. the friendship that had begun to fail from nearly the get-go. it was all so good at first—when did it take a wrong turn?

and then sometimes you realize you’ve managed to grow something beautiful in what started as a pile of shit.

when you’ve had a chance to be away from someone or something, you have time to reflect on him, her, or it. i, for one, can’t reflect if i’m not alone. i liken it to being lost yet continuing to stand in the middle of a crowded intersection, rather than pulling yourself into whatever starbucks is closest and reassessing the situation. once you do, you might reread it as positive. or maybe negative. or maybe you simply conclude that you need to keep an eye on it. that you need not forget to reassess.

the greatest danger is to take anything at face value, and purport that value for years—even with things we can’t change. i’m sure, were someone to find a glaring mistake in the post-birthday world, that the publisher would fix it. largely, though, the work will stay unchanged; it is only the reader, therefore, who changes, and thus, the reader’s assessments, emotions, and conclusions associated with the work. the same principle should be applied to relationships . . . to anything, really. we can never expect a thing to remain constant, especially when we are constantly growing.

to grow together is wonderful, and possible (i hope); but to grow apart is not unlikely. and we can avoid the pitfall of surprise at a failed anything if we continuously look at what’s in front of us for what it truly is at that time, and not at any other.

two years ago i rooted for the snooker player. the womanizer. the bad boy. today, despite knowing the ending, and however foolish it makes me, i find myself still hoping for the same.

 

*thomas wolfe in you can’t go home again

in defense of pickup artists

my boyfriend first told me, in june 2013, that while yes, in a general sense he was a motivational speaker and life coach, his job title actually had another, more specific name:

professional pickup artist

while i’d heard of the term, having heard about it was the extent of my “knowledge.” my ideas of what a pickup artist was came from:

  • the show on vh1 aptly named the pickup artist, which, ironically, my ex-boyfriend and i watched together
  • having heard the term pickup line, which conjured thoughts of one of my male friend’s favorites: how much does a polar bear weigh? enough to break the ice. hi, i’m . . .
  • the book the game by neil strauss, of whose existence and bible-esque cover i vaguely remembered from college

and that was it. so when my boyfriend asked if i knew what it meant to be a professional pickup artist, something i now simply refer to as a pua, both in print and in person, i said, verbatim:

you lie to women and manipulate them into sleeping with you.

so then we talked into the night about his job, about us, and about men and women and society in general. the next day at work i googled this:

how to date a professional pickup artist

shockingly, few relevant results surfaced, and of those, even fewer (semi) positive results popped up. the two non-overt-pua-bashing sites were articles highlighting two well-known puas who had gotten married (one of these couples has since divorced after four years of marriage), and one of the headlines read something to the effect of:

is this girl crazy?

this question has been put in the second person, phrased in a variety of creative ways, and posed to me multiple times since last summer by my family, my friends, coworkers, strangers . . . yeah, okay, let’s just say everyone.

shit, i’ve even directed it at myself a few times, though i haven’t done so recently—until this weekend.

if you’ve seen the news, you probably know that a guy named elliot rodger murdered six people in santa barbara, california. you’ve probably also seen the association made between him and the pua community, particularly that he was on a site called “pua hate,” which is devoted to actively despising the pua industry, believing that it preys upon vulnerable, desperate men. its members do not, however, necessarily hate on the pua philosophy and lifestyle. as a woman, and in particular as a woman who has a serious romantic relationship with a professional pickup artist (no laughing, please—i’m going to be moving across the country to be with him), i felt as if i had to say something about the comments and beliefs that label pua’s as misogynistic, hateful toward women, interested in only sex, etc., etc.

i consider myself to be of above-average intelligence. i also consider myself to be successful, likable, attractive, and worldly. i don’t think i’m a masochist. i don’t think i’m naive or malleable. i wouldn’t define myself as pro-feminist or antifeminist. i would say i’m nontraditional, being that: i’m an atheist, i probably won’t get married, and i don’t work a nine-to-five. but i’m not living in a commune for alternative lifestyles, i don’t sell my lack of religious beliefs door-to-door, and i’m not into whips. or chains. or hot pokers (if that’s a thing; i’m sure it is). taking all this into account, i’d like to think that if something were truly evil or wrong—though both words are defined according to those who define them—i wouldn’t be dating, or in love with, someone whose career centers around a truly evil, wrong thing.

do i like all aspects of pickup? no. do i think that some men take a kernel of pua ideology and blow it out of proportion? of course. do i think people everywhere do this with everything? communism, violent video games, the bible, the second amendment . . . yes. do i think because some unhinged college student with low self-esteem took what he wanted from pickup and used it to blame women for his unhappiness, that pickup, in general, is evil and wrong?

no.

this is not meant to be a glowing defense of pickup artists, and i will never—and i won’t do this with anything, actually—give it my full stamp of approval. i’m too doubtful, and curious, of a person to ever believe wholeheartedly in something. even my relationship—and i love my boyfriend, pua and all, as he says, “more than anyone has ever loved another person. ever.”

my boyfriend isn’t just some guy who practices pickup. he teaches it. his first mentor was the guy on the vh1 show. he appears in the game. he isn’t a random chode, to use pus terminology, who posts on pickup forums, skews the information he’s given, expects women to lift up their skirts for him, and pouts when they don’t. my boyfriend has a degree in mechanical engineering. he’s phenomenal at soccer, he does yoga, and aside from sometimes forgetting to eat, he has the best, most disciplined diet of anyone i know. he’s well read. he’s ambitious. hardworking. determined. loyal to a fault to those in his camp, including me. he takes care of me. he reads my writing and encourages it, and asks me to correct his grammar. he even pays me to write for him. we are in a long-distance relationship, but we talk every day. he tells me i’m beautiful and sexy and smart, none of which are lines. but he almost always thinks he’s right. he can’t multitask. he’s forgetful. we agree on most things, but some of our ideologies, both meaningful and trivial, don’t always line up. he misses more flights than anyone i know. sometimes i think he is wasteful with money. i think he is overworked to the point of exhaustion. i think he needs friends who aren’t pua’s. i wonder how he somehow thinks he’s perfect but also thinks that he constantly needs to improve. he puts two spaces between sentences and doesn’t understand that words like the and to should be lowercase in headlines. getting him to even consider taking time off is a painful struggle.

would i trade him in for someone else? nope.

i’ve watched many times since september, as he takes men out to bars and clubs in various cities, men who are successful and kind but shy and awkward, and helps them to talk to women, gain confidence, and improve themselves as people in general, not simply with respect to women. and i’ve had the pleasure of not just watching my boyfriend coach, but assisting him in doing the same, albeit on a smaller level. to get a thank-you from these men, these (shock!) pickup artists, none of whom have resembled that santa barbara gunman in terms of character or creed, at the end of a long weekend, feels pretty good. i’m happy to help them, because this big positive well outweighs any negatives.

in fact, i believe that my life is far better because of pickup.

i also don’t believe that six people are dead because of it.

“if peeing your pants is cool, consider me miles davis.”*

kaitlin dork

this is me at age nine. also, the file name for this photo is “kaitlin dork.”

when i was a kid, i had a serious obsession with being “cool.” i don’t think i even really knew exactly what it meant to be cool, but i at least knew that whatever it was, i was not it. so i did things like buy adidas sambas and umbro shorts (even though i neither played nor liked soccer) because everyone was wearing that crap, i begged my parents for contact lenses, and i brushed out all the curls in my hair (i had/still have a theory that people with straight hair are automatically cooler than people with curly hair). i also wore baggy shirts because i thought having boobs was pretty much the most horrible thing on earth—little did i know that without boobs, the earth would implode—and i acted clownish in class, because, well, that seemed to be the cool thing to do. raising your hand a lot and acting interested was uncool. it was kind of like when lindsay lohan’s character in mean girls starts to fail her math tests on purpose so she doesn’t look like a math dork and so she can get tutored by aaron samuels. aaron. samuels.

anyway, i spent a lot of time analyzing what made cool kids cool (or so i thought) and copying the cool things they did, said, and wore, and doing things like drawing weird shit on my binders with wite-out because that’s what the cool kids did. none of these things made me cool in the slightest. then, strangely enough, someone “cool” (in quotes not because she wasn’t, but because the concept of coolness is sort of ridiculous) became my best friend. i didn’t quite know how i duped her into it—and somehow, eighteen years later, she’s still putting up with me—but around her i felt good about myself, i started to think my boobs were a superpower, and i began to forget about all that “cool” stuff. seventh grade came, as did the spice girls, skater pants, retro seventies attire, and steve madden shoes, and i pooled babysitting money to combine all that late-nineties garbage and make some interesting fashion choices. i stopped having crushes on the same three guys everyone else liked, and developed feelings for the guy who sat in front of me in science class. none of it was on purpose—it all just sort of happened—and i didn’t exactly become cool, but the level to which i gave a shit about being cool began to wane somewhat. since 1996, i think i’ve worked on this without realizing it, though at thirty, while i mostly think little of what others think of me, i am still not quite able to think nothing of it.

my boyfriend has mastered not giving a shit, and sometimes i am amazed, and also uncomfortable, at just how much he doesn’t care. this past weekend, i met his mother and sister for the first time, and we all agreed that we liked his hair shorter, à la six months to a year ago. when he came into the kitchen and i informed him that we collectively decided we preferred his old hairstyle, he shrugged, grabbed a piece of leftover steak out of the fridge, and began eating the cold meat with his hands, only a piece of saran wrap separating him from his food. he is also able to stand what i would consider awkwardly close to a group of people without talking to them or caring if they think he’s standing there like a weirdo, to hear one of his students interact with the group. i, on the other hand, feel jittery and anxious, saying, “what if they think it’s strange that we’re just standing here and not talking or introducing ourselves? should we move farther away? should we talk to them?”

the idea of social pressure is a topic he talks about a lot, and it’s something human beings respond to because they’re essentially programmed to have a response. back in the day when we lived in tiny villages, doing something socially unacceptable would get your ass kicked out in a snap, and that meant you’d not only be shunned by your entire village, but you’d be cut off from shelter, food, water, sex, and community. aka you were dead. so now, even though for most of us this isn’t a life-or-death possibility, we perceive acting outside the norm as a lot worse than it is and believe its consequences to be much more dire. only problem is that while eavesdropping on a conversation might be a little odd, the worst thing that could happen is that the alpha of the group tells you to take a picture or get the fuck out of there, and then you leave. no one took away your nourishment or your nookie. life went on. all’s well.

my problem is that i am what’s known as illogical. i understand the reasons behind various circumstances and situations, yet my visceral gut reaction is to overlook them and go with emotions instead. and that’s pretty much the reason i haven’t blogged since february 5 and why i’ve made zero progress on my book in the last two weeks. i not only allowed what someone said to get to me—i let it consume me.

this person, who is a close friend, told me that my blogs lack emotion, are self-righteous and self-absorbed and phony, and put a vibe out there that i believe that my life and how i live it are paramount, and anyone not following a similar lifestyle is wrong. the thing about those cool kids back in the day was that they didn’t care if anyone thought they were cool. and that’s why they were. and if someone challenged them, the insult or whatever it was rolled off their backs. they were confident, confident in themselves and that whatever was said about them either wasn’t true or didn’t matter, really. i am leaps more confident than i used to be, but what this friend said to me made me wonder if all those things were true. it made me question if other people believed those things too. and if to prove this person right, i stopped writing. i stopped wanting to put myself out there in any way for fear of appearing selfish or holier-than-thou. due to both weather and depression, i didn’t leave my house, lived in my sweatpants and uggs, and probably broke my record for how many days in a row i didn’t wash my hair or put my contact lenses in. i also cried a lot and deactivated my facebook account and ate nothing but clif bars and didn’t talk to anyone except the two people living down the hall, these two beings called mom and dad. even they were probably a bit scared of me, as i resembled a swamp creature more so than i resembled their daughter.

then, last weekend, i was out at a grungy alphabet city bar with a friend and a few of his friends. we were all getting to know one another, and that process usually leads to the invariable question of “what do you do for a living?” and i responded with the truth, of course, which is that i’m a freelancer and i am self-employed. i get the same follow-up questions to this answer all the time, and i got them that night. they include but are not limited to: “what kind of work do you do?” “how do you motivate yourself?” and the best one, “what made you decide to do it?” again, i was honest, and to the last question i answered that i love books and wanted to get back to really working on them in depth; i was tired of living in hoboken and being in new york every day; i was sick of meetings and e-mail and working in an office; and i wanted to be able to travel and work on my writing, something that never got enough attention when i worked at my old job in the city. i didn’t say anything else, but one of the guys i was talking to said:

“wow, way to make us all feel like assholes.”

and i thought to myself, okay, i was asked a question and i answered it honestly, and i don’t remember making a comment about the company i was keeping or anyone else, for that matter.

unfortunately, i did exactly what i shouldn’t have done, and that was to defend myself. i didn’t get worked up about it, but still i insisted that it was a choice that i made on my own, and though it’s fantastic in many ways (flexibility in hours and environment, freedom from “the grind” and commuting and office work), there are a lot of things about it that are far from glamorous, and are actually a little scary. i didn’t go into a lot of details, but i did mention that it’s not all sleeping late and fun, and many of my worries include never knowing if i’ll have enough work, being anxious about the former, dealing with getting paid late, buying my own shitty, bare-bones health insurance (which i usually end up paying for late), having to motivate myself constantly not only to work, but to network, and being away from my social circle, which includes my old coworkers. i wasn’t so much complaining about these things as stating facts, one because i knew what i was getting into when i made the decision, but two because while freelancing is the best decision for me, at least for now, it’s not without its flaws.

i also don’t think, and never have thought, that it’s for everyone. in fact, if everyone became freelancers, our world would fall apart faster than if women suddenly stopped having breasts. the world needs lawyers and teachers and doctors and insurance agents and landscapers and actors and salespeople (and of course pickups artists), but we also need storytellers and writers, those who talk about their lives not because they think they are special or unique but because they think their experiences aren’t. because they think that they’re giving a voice to groups and groups of people who share common goals and experiences, sorrows and joys, however mundane. most human experiences are. but that doesn’t mean they don’t make for good stories.

i’ll probably never completely stop caring about what other people think, especially people about whom i inherently care a lot, and i’ll probably always have the urge to defend myself. logically, i didn’t say anything to that guy in the bar about his life. i didn’t make him feel like an asshole, because no one aside from yourself can make you feel anything. if he was unhappy with his life, he was anyway, and feeling like an asshole had nothing to do with me, someone he just met and hardly knows. i’ll be honest: i’m pretty content with my life as it is now, but i’m not going to pretend it’s all cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudel. i doubt myself, i feel depressed—sometimes very much so—but one of my methods for fighting doubts and sadness is writing. so the worst thing i can do is to let what other people think affect me so negatively that i can’t, and don’t want to, use one of my most important tools for overcoming my fears and worries. i also shouldn’t let it stop me from showering. that’s kind of unfortunate for everyone.

*billy madison

“i’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. i’m going to tell it the way i remember it.”*

i started this blog last night, and by started i mean that i wrote what kind of storyteller are you? at the top of an otherwise blank word document and then went to sleep. i think i was hoping that while i dreamed, a tale would manifest itself and inspiration would pelt me like an ice storm on a foul winter’s day in new jersey. it sort of did, because when i woke up and took a stroll on facebook, my former company had posted something about it being national storytelling week. it began on february 1, apparently, and i am going to guess that in the shuffle of freelancing four books in a week, working on my story and ghostwriting someone else’s, i was too busy copyediting and proofreading and writing stories to realize i was supposed to be celebrating them. so yay, stories, and all that.

a story is nothing without words, so in honor of the sum and its parts, i’m going to attempt to use the past three days’ worth of words of the day (merriam-webster sends me an e-mail with a new word daily) in this blog. usually i try to memorize and use the word i’m sent on the day of its delivery, but i’ve been really bad about completing this self-appointed task, so this is my punishment. therefore, when you read and suddenly start to think, why the fuck is she talking like that? you’ll realize, ah, she’s using one of those “words of the day.”

there was a guy in my eighth-grade english class who used to do just this sort of thing, except that he committed the same four or five words to memory and then used them all the time, in an abnormally loud voice, as a joke. the words were savvy, myriad, and a few others, and he tried to incorporate them into a sentence every time he was called on, even if the words made no sense in context. it was actually really funny, and although our teacher was probably growing tired of the gag by the end of the year, we all found our peer to be quite simpatico.

without my knowledge, i was in the perfect place last night to bask in the refulgence of national storytelling week. i went to my first toastmasters meeting in the cafeteria of riverview medical center, and if you don’t know (and i didn’t, until last week), toastmasters is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals improve their speaking, communication, and leadership skills. there’s a timekeeper, then someone who counts the number of ahs, ums uhs, likes, you knows, and all those other shitty filler words we all use, and even a grammarian, who picks apart speeches for, well, what else—grammar. i am already envisioning 1). becoming her minion or 2). stealing her job. there’s no right or wrong answer when asked why you’ve decided to join toastmasters, and you don’t have to be in any particular industry to attend a meeting or become a member. i checked it out for a variety of reasons, and i’ll be going back in two weeks.

a few people were scheduled to give speeches to work on various skills, to make them more soigné, if you please, and while we all wrote down our thoughts on tiny perforated slips of paper, one person in particular was assigned to each speaker to serve as an evaluator, i.e. someone who thoroughly critiques and gives feedback post-speech (mid-speech would be kind of cruel). toward the end of the meeting, each evaluator does his or her own five-minute set, essentially, about his or her assigned speech-giver’s speech.

my favorite speech of the night, unequivocally (not a word of the day; i just like this one), was given by an evaluator, a woman who, i believe, isn’t much older than i am and seems to be italian, used emphatic hand gestures, and kept speaking even when the timekeeper raised the red piece of paper indicating that she’d reached the five-minute mark. a few people made jokes about her long-windedness, though i had been more captivated by her speech, “too long” or not, than by any of the others, and i have to believe that everyone else had been too.

when she evaluated her speaker’s speech, she first pointed out the things she liked. the speaker had been comfortable taking the floor, his voice had been loud and clear, and he hadn’t appeared to be nervous. she admitted, however, that to be honest, she didn’t know the speaker and, if she had to give her opinion about him as a person based solely on his speech, she wouldn’t like him very much. she went on to say that his message wasn’t clear; it should be made clear at the beginning, then woven into the story, and then—clap—hammered home at the end. she essentially called his phrasing clichéd (that’s my word, not hers) and at one point she said, “that’s not how people really talk when they’re telling a story. they don’t say, she squeezed my hand and there were tears streaming down her face.”

there are two types of storytellers, she said. there’s the bedtime storyteller. the one who sounds like he or she is reading to a child from a picture book. the words are printed and there for the reciting, the story is theatrical and rehearsed. the listener is conscious of the fact that a story is being told. the story itself is technically sound, topically interesting even, flawless on paper. i’ve read books like this. ones that try so hard, they make spectacles of themselves. they use words like soigné in utter seriousness. i picture these writers sitting in hipster coffee shops on purpose, begging for inspiration, a pocket thesaurus on hand that they consult for every other word.

“gross,” she said.

no, no! backspace, backspace, backspace. let’s dress up that natural dialogue with alliteration and superfluous adverbs!

“that’s positively putrid,” she expounded.

but then there are the storytellers in whose words you lose yourself. if someone taps you on the shoulder in the middle of the story, you act as if you’re being attacked with a tire iron. you fall into rabbit holes, stumble through wardrobes, and pass out, drugged in a field of poppies. you can actually taste an everlasting gobstopper and you think frobscottle and butterbeer are real. you cry when sirius black and dumbledore die, and you cry even more when you find out that snape was a double agent all along because he loved, loved, loved harry’s mother.

when i was a kid, instead of reading to me from a picture book, my dad made up stories ad-lib about lightning bugs who fall in love, frogs who escape swamps and frolic around new york city with a little curly-haired girl named kaitlin, bears called pookies who live in trees, and talking pigs who have adventures around the world and who also, crazily enough, let that same kaitlin girl drive their car at the age of five. instead of a human imaginary friend (or no imaginary friends for those of you who had “real” companions, those of the fleshy variety), my friendship circle consisted of insects, amphibians, and both fuzzy and furless mammals.

in improv comedy, you’re given a word or a topic to say yes to. one of the biggest mistakes you can make in this type of comedy is not to accept the premise (or “reality” of the scene) or to try to be funny.

if someone says, “hey, you can’t come into my store wearing no pants!” you don’t say, “but i am wearing pants. can’t you see my blue jeans?”

you say, “yes, i can. i’m a member of the sanspants denomination of nudism and today is our sabbath.”

and the other person doesn’t respond, “there’s no such thing as sanspants.” he or she says, “oh, you guys again. you’re worse than jehovah’s witnesses.”

and so on.

one of my good friends, who is a comedian and a truly great storyteller, once told me that when he reads my writing, he feels as though he’s sitting next to me and we’re just talking. so i hope that in my book, when i’m drunk, you’re drunk. when i’m alone, you’re alone. when i’m inspired, you’re inspired. and when i’m in love, and i am, so much so, you’re in love too. but if you tell me i’m a bedtime storyteller, i’ll say “yes, and” and accept it. right after i feed your hand to a crocodile and drop a house on your sister. and your little dog, too.

*charles dickens in great expectations

“love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”*

my friend’s polish grandmother, as relayed to us, my group of college buddies, once famously said in her eastern european drawl: “monogamy: it’s not for everybody.”

and then, of course, there’s vince vaughan’s best man character in old school who shakes his head and mutters to the groom, will ferrell, on the altar: “you get one vagina for the rest of your life. real smart, frank. way to work it through.”

oh, boy. so i’m about to talk about monogamy or, more specifically, nonmonogamy (my dad suggested coining a whole new word, nonogamy, but i find this annoying to pronounce and therefore i vetoed it). if i thought my post on telling women to bring porn on first dates was bad, this might be worse. or maybe not.

i’ve been avoiding talking about this topic—even though i’ve been interested and intrigued by it for some time—not so much because i have a very definite opinion and i wish to share it and i’m worried about the backlash, but because i’m not even really sure which way i swing. cue the sexual orientation jokes.

today i was jumping rope on my deck. pre-jumping, i had cued up a handful of songs to last through about twenty minutes of exercise, songs that included such classics as “back that ass up” and “put your ass into it,” mostly for the gluteal motivation. i did add a few recently downloaded tunes (“timber” being one of them, which i’m ashamed to admit to having downloaded at all but am admitting to because i think it’s okay to listen to shitty music if it makes you go faster at whatever you’re doing). cue the sex jokes.

so “back that ass up” had me going at a decent pace, but the newer songs pumped me up more if only for the reason that they’re new. i’m not as familiar with what’s coming next. plus our bodies like new stuff. if you do the same strength-training exercises every week for a year, eventually your muscles say, “this again?” and yawn, stop responding, and stop growing. new clothes are fun too. but wash a shirt once and it’s officially yours, no longer has the department-store-fresh scent, and is bor-ing. new, fun. old, blah. me, tarzan. you, jane.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 11.06.12 PM

a disgustingly rich mutt and his harem of hb’s

i once saw a commercial in which a dog wins the lottery (i know, right? they let dogs play the lottery? i was thinking the same thing), and at the end of the advertisement, the canine, some mutt, is sitting on the backseat of a limo, surrounded by three little white poodles with pink and purple bows in their fluff. you can watch it here if you like. they’re dogs, i know this, but those poodles look happy. they’re with some rich mongrel in the back of a limousine and each one is fine with not being his one and only. and of course the lottery-winning dog is thrilled; he has three bitches to pleasure him. despite my belief that monogamy isn’t the most natural thing, is there really a need to rub it in everyone’s face that men like sex and like it with multiple women and that, if able to buy sex or partners (not directly, but indirectly), they would? we figured that one out ages ago. and, by the way, that dog, on a human attractiveness scale of one to ten, would rate about a four. and previous to his winnings, he was jobless and living in a shack in the backyard, paying some fat dude rent. yet there he is, the object of affection of three hb’s (hot bitches) because now he has, and can offer, a “lifestyle.”

i stole (meaning i asked nicely if i could borrow and then horde for months) a book of my friend’s entitled the myth of monogamy. this was back in late summer, and i’m just now tackling this subject. (side note: my friend also recommended this book, sex at dawn.) anyway, myth was written by a doctor of psychology and a psychiatrist who, ironically enough, are married. there’s a really cute photo of the two of them snuggling on the back cover. kind of makes ya sick, it’s so sweet. anyway, “when it comes to mammals,” they write, “monogamy has long been known as a rarity. out of 4,000 mammal species, no more than a few dozen form reliable pair-bonds.”

then there’s talk of a few things of which i’ve already heard and one that made my brain explode:

  • “males in general—have a lower threshold for sexual excitation and a greater fondness for sexual variety, or, to look at it more negatively, a penchant for equating monogamy with monotony.” so y’all get bored easily, is that correct?
  • “if a female mammal makes a bad choice and is inseminated by an inferior male . . . she pays a substantial toll in risk as well as in lost time and energy. . . . a male mammal who makes himself available for one of many sexual dalliances has invested comparatively little.” typical.
  • there is such a thing as “sperm competition.” apparently, sperm from multiple men can compete for one egg. um. this one, i’ll admit, i didn’t know was even possible. female mammals can, essentially, load up on the sperm of multiple males if they were to engage in coitus a number of instances in a short time span. women can hope that they acquire the sperm containing the best genes. may the strongest swimmer win?
  • “what limits the reproductive success of any given male would appear to be his access to females, rather than inherent limitations of his reproductive anatomy.” in nine months of pregnancy, women can’t get more pregnant. men, on the other hand, can still, uh, go a-sperming.
  • “the potential reproductive benefit of having one or more additional sexual partners is high (if any of these ‘girlfriends’ get pregnant). . . .” so the more partners for a male, the more potential for offspring, the passing along of traits, and continuing the lineage.

okay, that’s enough biology. there are so many variations on relationships (and i mean all relationships here: heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise). an alpha female who shares her partner with other females who purely satisfy sexual desires. or vice versa. men or women who are bisexual and have an agreement with their partners that they can either go outside the relationship solo with a same-sex partner or they can share the experience (aka a threesome. or some-other-number-some). then there are swingers. or the couples who give their partners hall passes to sleep with celebrities or some pre-agreed-upon dream screw. couples who engage in activities even my gutter brain can’t think up. then the people who just cheat/have affairs, the partner none the wiser, remaining monogamous. and finally couples who, for a lifetime, both remain monogamous.

some folks have notions about how things were “back in the day,” when chivalry ruled and the family unit was very clear. you married young, you had kids early, you lived in a house in the ’burbs, and everything was tidy. this was, though, a façade in many ways. infidelity still occurred, of course. i know for a fact that it occurred in my family long, long ago, and no, i’m not willing to say any more than that. i think it’s silly, however, to look back and think of “long, long ago” as a more simple time, and therefore simplify the relationships that existed within it. human nature isn’t so easily changed.

i will say, though, that is much harder now. we look hotter, longer. i’m not trying to be egotistical. . . . okay, yes i am, but i don’t think that i look like i’m thirty. compared to women sixty years ago, i exercise more, i have a better diet, i am more easily able to support myself financially, i haven’t popped out two or more children—let alone one—and i continue to surround myself with a lot of single, successful, smart, attractive people (that’s the reason i’m friends with you all) in an urban, vibrant environment. everywhere i look there’s stimulation. it’s a far cry from being in a house away from the city, couples and families everywhere you look, encouraging a different sort of lifestyle. neither lifestyle is wrong. but it’s a lot harder to stay loyal when temptation is perpetually in your face.

i once beat myself up for months or, let’s be honest, years, for having cheated on someone. like most of my friends, i grew up in a social environment in which a family consisted of a mother, father, and children. or in my case, child. you mated for life. it wasn’t until i went to college, and even more so in recent years, that i have seen the entire gamut of relationships, and i’ve realized just how many of the relationships i thought were solid were littered, or are still littered, with problems. i continue to feel bad about having cheated years and years ago. then, however, i was the under the impression that i was weird for having done it. that i was unusual for not liking only the person i was with at the time. that there was something wrong with me for not being able to cull sexual thoughts about anyone else. for wanting to see what it was like even just to hold hands with or kiss another person or more. should i have acted on those thoughts? maybe not. but was i wrong to have them at all? i don’t believe so.

in summation, i’m really just looking for the best sperm out there. this post was my way of holding auditions. if you find me abhorrent, your seed is not welcome here. if all this makes me cuddly and adorable, you can print your name on the next available line. the sign-up sheet will be hanging above the mailbox adjacent to my front door. i suggest coming between ten and two. high-traffic time is during a.m. and p.m. rush hour. please bring your own pen. and a one-page cv. and a clif bar.

i’m laughing. i don’t know about anyone else.

one of my friends said recently, about the no-strings thing he has going on:

“right now i’m enjoying having a relationship with someone who doesn’t expect monogamy and neither do i. the hard part is i find it . . . lacking. i miss the monogamy.”

would he miss the no-strings aspect if he were in a monogamous relationship? probably. but i’m assuming that lottery dog has a favorite poodle (i’m betting on the one with the purple bows—the other two have pink bows and are clearly inferior). we may all seek variety, excitement, newness. there is a wonderful and special something, though, about building a life with one person, a person whose food order you know by heart, a person who sets you up for the perfect “that’s what she said,” and a person whose vision of what life should be looks a lot like yours. all this as you gaze ahead at this life instead of at each other, as the famous literary headline of this post suggests. and i think you can have this whether you are monogamous or nonogamous (i’ve decided to give this term a whirl). it’s about what works for you both—what makes you both happy, the definition of which is different—well, fancy that!—for each couple.

barash and lipton write:

“to be sure, human beings can be monogamous . . . but make no mistake: it is unusual—and difficult.”

*antoine de saint-exupéry