singles (not the cameron crowe film).

My parents are divorced and estranged, so I grew up with my mom’s family. And her family tree is filled with even more divorce and hard feelings. It was hard to cultivate holiday traditions when relatives could disappear or be replaced from one year to another. My mother and I tended to change residences at least once a year, so every holiday was different from the previous. My sense of order and routine came from school. Because while I also bounced from school to school, I found that it was always the same, although sometimes the kids and teachers had different names. Even the holiday activities were always the same. Decorating shoe boxes for valentines in February. Cutting out shamrocks in March. Turkeys made of hand tracings and snowflakes cut from squares of white paper. This list always included the classic “I Am Thankful for _______” essay. It was always nice–perhaps even inspiring–to remind myself that I was thankful for my mom, grandma, various pets, and the Smurfs.

Even as an adult, I think it’s great to occasionally remind one’s self of all of one’s blessings. This exercise should extend beyond Thanksgiving. But lately, I often find myself having to remind myself of all of reasons I should be happy. Once this list was only recited at times of emergency or during particularly intense bouts of existential despair. But now I have to review it before I fall asleep. My career is on fire. On the train to work. My friends are amazing. When Facebook informs me that yet another friend has gotten married or pregnant. I live in a beautiful exciting city. When I feel lonely. Sandy is growing. Ugly. I’m healthy. Fat. My hair is great. Have you seen my wardrobe? And so on.

I SHOULD be so fucking stoked all the time. Because my life IS fabulous and productive. Moving to LA really has allowed me to make my dreams come true. I’m about to start a dream job next week. The latest issue of Sandy was off the proverbial hizzy. I have fun adventures every week. I make a decent amount of money. And I really am surrounded by talented, hardworking people.

So what’s my problem? Is it the chronic ennui of the privileged? Maybe. Yes. No. I’m not really sure.

I’m fucking lonely. And it makes me really, REALLY sad.
Continue reading

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internet emoting: my grandparents and me.

This weekend my grandfather died. 

He had struggled with advanced dementia and rapidly declining health for years.   I think all of us had become so accustomed to his frail confusion that we thought he would live on indefinitely.  But a week ago, he was sent home from the hospital with kidney failure and a hospice nurse.  My mom called to prepare me. “Do you want to come home?  This is it and it could be very soon.”  I briefly despised her for her dark outlook.  Meanwhile my grandmother—clearly cut from the same cloth as me—still believed that he would recover.  She sat next to him, feeding him soup and pudding for days.  She discussed vacations they could take in the spring.  Gifts they ought to buy for the grandchildren for Christmas.  She could see improvement, she told everyone.  I believed her, too.  Because I wanted to believe her.

On Saturday morning, the hospice nurse declared the end was near.  She implored my grandma to allow her to administer morphine, because my grandfather was in terrible pain.  She could not be convinced.   Morphine would mean that he would be less coherent.  And wasn’t he getting better, after all?  Morphine would mean that defeat was being accepted.  Defeat could not be accepted.  And therefore, there would be no morphine.

My mom—who has always been jealous of my ability to charm someone into anything (a skill she swears I’ve inherited from my father)— was unable to reason with her.  So she called my uncle.  And somehow, my Uncle George, a real badass and all around tough guy, was able to calmly and kindly convince my grandmother to accept the reality of the situation.  An hour later, moments after my uncle promised to take care of my grandmother, my grandfather died. 

My grandfather, Lester, was really my step-grandfather.  My grandma, Sandy, had scandalized her entire middle class 70s neighborhood by divorcing my philandering biological grandfather (actually a pretty cool dude in his own right).  She married Les a few months before I was born.   They were the quintessential grandparents.  They took twice yearly cruises, bringing back flower-bedecked dolls and gleaming conch shells for their favorite (and only) granddaughter.   During the years I was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy and radiation, I was able to barter painful medical procedures for fabulous gifts and prizes from my grandparents. Whenever a particularly frightening test was scheduled, my mom handed me the phone to call my grandma.  Smurfette dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, and trips to the National Aquarium:  these were the rewards I received for allowing needles and scalding chemicals.    Continue reading

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facts: the other part.

So delayed because I’ve been so busy editing the next issue of Sandy…Read part one here.

I jumped off the train at the next stop, practically running to the bookstore to buy a copy of The World Almanac.  My research had to begin instantly.  At home, giddy with excitement, I began my to-do list:

 

–buy drugs.

–learn more about Canada.

–get rid of furniture and other worldly belongings.

–give notice on apartment.

–give notice at work.

–find home for cat.

–buy plane ticket to Toronto (for authenticity).

–have going away party.

 

After months, no…years of comfortable boredom I felt downright electrified.  Finally, a project I could feel passionate about!  I spent the evening reading my almanac in a hot bath until long after my skin had turned pruney.

The next day I hinted to the office gossip that a good opportunity came up last night.  And this was particularly good because I had been wanting some sort of big change.

I sent a text to a good friend that said Do we know anyone that lives in Toronto because I’m interviewing for a job there?

I gave my notice at work the next week.  I’m going to be writing for an up-and-coming music magazine.  I can’t give many details yet. I wrote a letter to my landlord, requesting to end my lease early.  I’ve received a  ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity. I researched the process for obtaining a Canadian work visa (employer sponsorship was key) and average salaries for writers in the Toronto metro area (surprisingly in-line with my current job).  I’m not going to be rich there, but I’ll get by just fine.  I was prepared to answer every question.  Occasionally I would feign ignorance, like when my downstairs neighbor (aka my drug source) asked me about how the socialized health care worked.  I’m not so sure about that but I hope it doesn’t involve long lines.  And here’s hoping it covers those cheek implants I’ve always wanted.  It was best to not appear to be too knowledgable.  Because that would raise eyebrows.

Everything was moving right along.  I congratulated myself on my brilliant planning and organization.

But I was feeling strange things. Continue reading

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facts: part one.

This story was originally conceived a few years ago, while driving my then-boyfriend to the Olympic Peninsula.  He was about to move to Canada for six months to work on a film.  We had spend the last month packing up his belongings, preparing his house for tenants, and attending a seemingly endless lineup of going-away parties in his honor.
“What if you’re not moving to Montreal at all, and it’s all just a front for a big secret plan to commit suicide,” I joked.  He did not appreciate this but I thought it was hilarious.  For the rest of the trip, whenever there was a moment of silence that didn’t involve making out, I went back to this idea.  I’ve been thinking about it since…And oh, he really did go to Canada for work and of course, he’s been back home in the States for years now, alive and well.

P.S. I’m breaking this story into two parts because it’s long and I like to pretend that someone out there is enjoying the suspense!

Rule number one for successful lying is getting your facts straight.  I mean, really know your subject matter.  You’ve got to create a whole backstory and it’s got to built on a foundation on hard data.  Go to the library.  Do some hardcore googling.  Make some flashcards and practice if your memory is a bit soft.  Stuff your head with names and statistics until your brain has no choice but to accept the lie as the truth.  If you believe it, then so will everyone you tell.

Rule number two is simple:  make that shit believable.  If you don’t feel like going to a co-worker’s party, don’t say that you were in a car accident.  Because that’s going to require some evidence.  Unless you feel like wearing one of those hilarious whiplash neck braces for  a few weeks and taking a sledgehammer to your bumper, this is not a believable lie.  And of course you can’t say that your grandma had a stroke because that’s just tempting fate.  Keep it simple.  Food poisoning is always good.   A broken sink and a the ensuing emergency visit from the plumber might work, but just remember that you’re only going to be able to use that excuse once.

Lest you think less of me, I have to tell you that I’m actually a terribly honest person.  As a child, only lying was the only crime that qualified for my mother’s version of capital punishment–a spanking in the kitchen with a metal spatula, Time and time again I watched my brother cry and wail for clemency as he white-knuckled the metal trim around the sink, his grass-stained pants around his ankles.  He concocted the most ridiculous lies, from thieves sneaking into the house to empty the lunch money jar (while his closet was littered with candy bar wrappers) to accidentally being given the “wrong” report card (although his name was clearly typed across the top in all-caps).  I was scared straight.  My ass was far too delicate to face my mother’s wrath.

No, I think that lying is only acceptable in two situations:  extreme emergencies and protecting the feelings of others.  I had a boyfriend in my twenties who lied and lied and lied.  He was a savant of fabrication.  He would be snuggled up in bed next to me, drinking a morning beer while he told his boss on the other end of the phone that he couldn’t come to work because his mother was bravely battling breast cancer.  He could convincingly cry on demand.  By the time he hung up, all of his co-workers would be working on a quilt to send his mother in the hospice.  And setting up prayer circles and breast cancer awareness fundraisers. Did it hurt, I would ask when he finally hung up.  When they installed your silver tongue?  Meanwhile his mother was sunning herself on a beach in Cabo or having that month’s dose of Botox injected into her smooth forehead, healthy as the proverbial horse. Continue reading

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20 stories about 1 person: the last part.

Start here if this is all new to you.

19.

My new phone did not recognize the 773 number and I couldn’t imagine who could be calling me from Chicago.  In fact, I couldn’t imagine who was calling me in the first place since my phone generally didn’t ring for weeks at a time.

“Hey.  Heyyyyy.  It’s Patrick.  A little birdie…or maybe it was big birdie with a PhD…whatever…told me that you moved to New York and now you have a fancy big girl job. Anywho, call me back because I had a dream about you.”

Okay, yes, I had moved back across the country without mentioning it to Patrick.  And somehow along the way, months had slipped by.  There were times I had thought about calling him, to explain how easy it was to be a lonely person in New York City.  One could eat dinner alone, go to the movies alone, and even sit at a bar alone.  And it never aroused any suspicion.  Being alone was such a normal activity here, that no one assumed that your state of solitude was the result of a fatal flaw, like being a junkie or a cheat or an all-around asshole.  No one cared.

And I liked it here, maybe even loved it.  In my limited experience, there were two routes to falling in love.  The first was this written-in-the-stars,  instantaneous attraction. Maybe it would take a few months to admit to yourself and others that you were truly, OMG completely in love, but the feelings were there from that first moment.  You were doomed.  I had felt that way about my husband and Portland.   And Patrick, too, I guess.  The second path was more insidious.  This was love that developed out of repeated exposure.  One might expect to develop some sort of immunity in that situation, but that was rare.  In fact, if I slept with someone more than say, ten times, emotional escape was no longer possible.  I cursed the chemicals that tricked my brain, all part of my sappy co-dependent vagina’s plan to couple me off.  But I was falling into the same brand of love with NYC.  Learning to love it little by little, but constantly planning other, steamier affairs in my head.  LA, Tokyo, London.  I could not be monogamous to this place. Continue reading

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20 stories about 1 person: part five.

I took a short vacation to cheer myself up.  It worked.  Except then all of the air travel of the past month finally caught up with me when my eardrum burst on the descent into LAX.   It was the strangest mixture of pain and relief.  So I’m operating on a mixture of antibiotics, painkillers, and decongestants.  That’s why you only get one story today.  But it’s long!  The final two stories coming tomorrow or Friday. xoxo

 

18.

The voicemail was clear.

Well, I have to say that sending me more than a hundred postcards is a pretty grand gesture.  But honestly, if we’re going to patch this up on any level, the gesture has to be grander.  Let me know when you’ve booked a flight.

I sold a bunch of clothes and books that I mostly didn’t need to pay for another ticket to Chicago.  Of course I wasn’t expecting Patrick to meet me at the airport.  But I couldn’t help but suspect that he made me wait on the stoop a few moments longer after I rang the buzzer.   And his hug was very stiff.  He had prepared slightly for my visit.  There was whiskey.  There was a stack of DVDs to work through.  But it wasn’t the same. Maybe he knew that I hadn’t really sacrificed anything too important to make this trip.

I have to work the next few days so you’re going to have to entertain yourself. Of course he didn’t take any time off of work.  I think you should go down to Wicker Park while you’re here.

I shook my head.  No, no, no.

He was not pleased.  You say that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life being an asshole.  This is part of that…of getting your head into a better place. Continue reading

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20 stories about 1 person: part four.

13.

More and more often, it seemed that I couldn’t truly react to a moment until I had time to really think about it.  I wanted to pause people in mid-situation to say Hey, I’m just going to go back to my office and review the tape of this conversation.  I’ll get back to you after I fully analyze it.

And so I retold the same story to myself over and over again on the six hour flight back to Portland from Chicago, trying to decide what it meant.

We spent most of our time in bed, but we were barely having sex.   I was still wildly attracted to Patrick and of course I wanted to be all over him. But there was just so much to talk about and well, that was what we did. Naturally there were rules.  We never discussed my past life in Chicago, not even the years we had in common.  We never, ever mentioned the H-word husband.  Conversation was limited our lives before we met (but never our childhoods) and the year since I had moved to Portland.  

I realized that we were both secretly aspiring shut-ins.  My suitcase of clothes remained untouched.  We had food and booze delivered.  We must have slept, but I couldn’t remember it.  Passing days without really seeing the sun and the moon  fucked with my entire sense of time and routine.   

Maybe I was getting sensitive from lack of sleep or sunshine.  But it just seemed like all of a sudden he couldn’t stop giving me a hard time.  Making fun of my taste in music (girly and twee), my tattoos (also girly and twee), and my longtime veganism (surprise! also girly and twee).  Even worse, he wouldn’t stop calling me Angie. I hated it, despite his assertion that it was really more of an affectionate pet name.  After laughing all of this off over and over again, I finally hit a breaking point. You know, saying something nice to me wouldn’t be some sort of defeat.  When you really think about it, it would be a victory because you would make me feel good.  And then I would want to be even nicer to you. Continue reading

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