What I'm Reading

Stardust by Joseph Kanon
Coming out in the fall, the next novel by the author of The Good German. It's so good I kinda want to lick the pages.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Where Do You Live?

You all know how to figure out your porn star names, right? Combine the name of your first pet with the street you grew up on. That would make me Goldie Bernon, which you have to admit is a GREAT porn star name. (I wasn’t allowed to have real pets, so after a while I stopped even naming the goldfish. They were just all Goldie.)

And there are a million games out there where you can use your real name to figure out different nicknames. You can get your Gangsta name. Mine is Purple-Headed Monkey Smuggla, but you can call me Purp for short. If you want a silly name, Captain Underpants can give you one. There, I’m Buttercup Bubble Fanny. I’ve always loved that one. And when the Ya-Ya movie came out and Polly, Diosa, and I went to see it together, smuggling in alcohol, we even got to figure out our own Ya-Ya names. I’m Princess Road Rage. (No comments, please, from anyone who’s ever driven with me…)

Plus there are the million nicknames my friends have for me, or any of my sisters’ names, all of which I’ll respond to. (Someone saw me at the mall last weekend with my mom and thought I was Celeste. She’s aged remarkably well, but seriously?? Did you think she just magically stopped aging sixteen years ago???)

So with all these made-up ways to identify myself, you’d think I’d be happy. And I was, for a while. But then those AT&T ads popped up, the ones that show people calling all the places they do business or their loved ones are, and making up a name for where they live, based on those places. And suddenly the made-up names weren’t enough. I wanted a made-up place too, dammit. So I got to thinking (way more than is normal, given the task at hand) and came up with the perfect one for me.

I love in New York, my family is in Rhode Island, and my best friends are in Massachusetts and San Diego. So I need a phone that works where I live, a place I call New Rhosachusiego. Thanks, AT&T. While I have no intention of switching to your network, I sure am enjoying your ad campaign.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hold the Frankincense

It's official. My mother is not going to be the Messiah's grandmother. Phew.

Okay, maybe I should explain. See, this may be an overshare, but a few months ago, I just stopped getting my period. Entirely. No period. My friends told me I should go to the doctor, but I said, "Nah. It's probably just a fluke. It'll come next month." Then October came, and not so much. No period.

Now, there was a time in my life that 2 missed periods in a row would have sent me crying, big, gulping sobs, into the nearest drugstore to buy a stick I could pee on. But this is not one of those times. And as Polly says, "Miracle no happen."

So I made an appointment to see my doctor to find out what was going on. And when I told my mother about it, I said, "I may be pregnant. But if I am, they're going to be talking about it in church for centuries. Just think! You could be the Messiah's Memere! Wouldn't that be cool??"

Mom: "No." She's a great lady, my mother, but she doesn't always appreciate my sense of humor.

So it turns out everything is fine, and occasionally a woman who's been on the pill for a while will just stop getting her period. And it's totally normal. No baby. No period. Kind of the best of both worlds, no?

My mom's next question, because yes, Virginia, she really is that naive, was "What were you put on the pill for in the first place?" There is a time and a place for honesty. This was not that time. And generally speaking, anywhere my mother is is not that place. She knows about the blog. I've shown it to her. I've read entries to her. But she doesn't read it, because she prefers her impressions of my life to come filtered and modified into a version rated M for Mom. So I did the only kind thing I could under the circumstances. I lied. I think she would have wanted it that way.

p.s. There was a moment when I was seriously tempted to answer that question with "Hope springs eternal." But I had a feeling that was another one of those jokes she just wouldn't appreciate...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I'm leaving tomorrow for Thanksgiving in Rhode Island, and I am so... freaking... excited. I haven't seen my parents since Labor Day, and for this mommy's girl, that is WAY too long. Yes, I've got my annual fall case of the "miss my moms." And this weekend will be chock full of Mrs. Bookgirl. In addition to the holiday on Thursday, we're spending the day together on Friday for our annual Christmas shopping day. When I was in college and didn't have a car, my mom started taking me shopping the day after Thanksgiving so I could do all my shopping, and she could see what I liked. And even though she's not a big fan of the tradition, I just flat-out refuse to let it go. As one of a pack of kids, one on one mom time is rare. I'm not giving up a guaranteed mommy day without a fight. I did offer her an out this year. "I know you don't love shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I want to go, but if you really don't want to, I guess I can find someone else to come with me." Shocking that she agreed to come, isn't it? He he he. I learned guilt at the knee of the master. I'll bet she never realized I'd turn it back on her some day. Saturday the girls (and dad) are going into Providence to walk around and go out to eat for mom's birthday. (She's turning 73, but don't tell her I told you.) So I'll get a nice, full dose of mommy time. That should be more than enough to tide me over until Christmas.

My family celebrates Thanksgiving at my cousin Lisa's house. One year her son decided we all needed to announce what we were thankful for, and yet another family tradition was born. We're a mushy bunch, so the girls have always been thankful for all the basics--family, each other. The men, well, they're a different story. That first year Mike, Lisa's husband, was thankful that Woonsocket had gotten a home repair superstore. His brother-in-law was thankful that Detroit was covering the spread. As time went on, though, even they got into the spirit. The year that Mike beat his terminal cancer diagnosis and was there with us at Thanksgiving, well, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. And he had a lot more than Lowes to be thankful for.

Since you're my online family, I thought I'd share my Thankful list with you all this year.
1. You, naturally. I've been looking for a creative outlet for years. Knitting, jewelry design, drawing, you name it. But nothing has made me as happy as writing this blog has. And the fact that you guys actually come back to hear what I have to say, that you give me your time and attention, that you respond and weigh in. Well, it's humbling. From the bottom of my heart, thanks.

2. My family. Even my rotten nephew David, who last Thanksgiving said he was thankful for his mother, his grandmother, and his girlfriend. Do you hear my name in there? No? Me neither.

3. That my problems aren't real problems. Before Polly was a mom, she was a full-time writer with no day job AND a cleaning lady (you can take a minute to be jealous, she would want it that way). When she would call me to complain about something, she would always preface it with "I know my problems aren't real problems." And I try to remember that sentiment. Sure, we all have things we bitch and whine about. But I'm healthy, I'm happy, I have a job to go to, a place to live, food to eat, people to love. No one I love is deathly ill or in grave danger. My problems are not real problems.

4. Ella. 'Nuff said.

5. My new suede purse (I can't include a picture because my cell phone battery is low, but I'll try to add one later), and my leopard-print shoes. Yes, it's shallow. But I'm thankful for them. I really am.

Hope you all have a fabulous holiday. And if you want to chime in with your own thankful lists, I'd love to hear them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shoe Slut

I've been looking all over for the perfect pair of close-toed black shoes. I was wearing my sandals up until 2 weeks ago, and it was time to transition.

There was a long list of requirements to qualify a pair of shoes as The Shoes. They had to be cute, and versatile enough to go with pants or casual skirts. I wanted a chunky heel, so I can walk down the street without having to do the subway grate avoidance dance to not get my heel caught. They need to be comfortable enough that I can stand on my feet all night. I love a Mary Jane-style shoe, so I was looking for something with a strap or buckle on top. Everything I tried on was too expensive or uncomfortable, or too high a heel. So imagine my excitement when I found these. They were EXACTLY what I wanted. You know where I found them? In my office, underneath my desk. I bought them last winter and left them there over the summer.

I think I might officially have a problem.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Prettiest Girl in the World

Hanging out with girlfriends recently, the talk turned, as it always does, to body image. I complain about my weight. A friend who weighs 80 pounds less than I do refers to herself as a “fat bastard.” Another friend cringes every time she sees herself in a picture. It’s a rare woman who’s completely happy with how she looks, who looks at herself in a mirror without noticing the faults first.

I remember being at an aerobics class with my sister when I was in junior high and telling her that I would give anything to look like the instructor—thin and conventionally pretty. Michelle reminded me that I was most likely both far smarter and a much better person than her, but at that age none of that mattered. I would have gladly traded in my genius IQ for a size 6 body and a face that wasn’t perfectly round. It’s a damn good thing God doesn’t answer all our adolescent prayers, because you all would be reading someone else’s blog right now, and I’d be admiring myself in a mirror somewhere.

While I’ve long since lost the willingness to give up what I am to look different, I’m not going to lie. I never outgrew the longing to experience, just for a little while, what it’s like to be pretty. To see my looks open doors, to feel what’s it like when you turn heads. Remember the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbra Streisand? She plays a plain-looking woman whose mother and sister are both gorgeous, while she has to come to terms with never being the pretty one. I saw it in the theater with my niece, who is the pretty one, and I cried for five hours afterward. It hit a little too close to home.

All of this female dissatisfaction is heartbreaking, and it terrifies me for my nieces. All those perfect little girls, with their round cheeks and smooth skin and chubby bellies, are some day going to see themselves with unkind eyes. They’re going to compare themselves with models and actresses and with their friends who are more thin or more pretty or more something, and feel they don’t measure up. They’re going to devalue themselves and demand less than they deserve from others, and it’s easy to meet a woman’s requirements when she sets the bar that low.

And that, my friends, is where we come in. Because can’t we make a difference? If we start now, can’t we teach them what they’re worth? Those little girls are clay, waiting to be molded. So why can’t we mold them not in our own images, but in the images we want them to have? My friend Kerri knows this woman, G. I first met her years ago, and although G was on the heavy side, she seemed to suffer from none of those crippling insecurities the rest of us were writhing under. I asked Kerri about it once, and she explained that it was simple. G’s family, the whole time she was growing up, had reminded her constantly that she was beautiful, she was fabulous, she could do anything she wanted to. And hearing it over and over, she believed it.

What if it’s that simple? I mean sure, it’s not a proven solution, but it could be part of it. Maybe if we’re positive about ourselves instead of talking about our faults, if we focus on what we like about ourselves instead of what we don’t, and if we remind them every chance we get how fabulous they are, we can raise our daughters and nieces to be different than we were. To love themselves, to love their bodies, to not get caught up in those same destructive cycles we did.

As soon as my goddaughter was old enough to listen to me and pay attention to what I was saying, I made up The Ella Song. “There once was a girl named Ella, and she was the prettiest girl in the world. There once was a girl named Ella, and she had the prettiest nose in the world.” One by one I go through her body parts—eyes, ears, mouth, arms, belly, legs, touching each of them, telling her how pretty they are, how pretty she is. I’ll hold her close when I sing to her, and she’ll stare into my eyes the whole time, moving her head back and forth to my singing. Just recently, she started directing me. “You forgot dis one,” she’ll say, and hand me her arm. Or I’ll tell her how pretty her left hand is, and she’ll hand me the right one and say “Dis one too.” Sarah told me after Ella and I are together, she’ll hear her playing, singing the song to herself.

I’m not na├»ve enough to think a silly made-up song will somehow save her from heartbreak, or keep her from teenage angst. But when’s the last time you saw a girl suffering from too much self-esteem? Yeah, me neither.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Let the Good Times Begin

Today's the day!! Liz and Diosa are coming to New York to stay with me for the weekend. (There so better be a blog from each of them on this next week, or they're dead meat.) Polly was invited too, in a sort of backhanded "You can come if you really want to, but I'd rather you didn't" way. It's not that I don't want to see her. I ALWAYS want to see her. But if she's finally going to come visit me after 10 years, I want it to be when I haven't already run out of vacation time. And I want to be able to tailor it completely around what I know she'll love. This is the "Liz's first trip to New York" trip, so this one's planned around her. (And yes, Polly, I know you've technically seen me in New York, but slotting in a few hours with me in between other activities does not count as visiting me. I want quality time, dammit.)

I love playing tour guide. And I've been told I'm good at it, which of course makes me like it even more. I've worked up a whole itinerary--activities, restaurants, the whole deal. I hope those girls weren't expecting a laid-back, relaxing weekend...

Although Diosa and I have been friends since the first grade, this is the first time we meet Liz. So of course the obvious choice was to invite her to stay on my couch. Duh. My "personal safety" friends (the ones who worry about things like this) are of course completely freaked out. But I'm just excited. Even Polly, normally one of my PS worriers, thinks it's a great idea. Evidently Liz and I are the same type. And that type doesn't tend to be a threat.

Liz and I kept joking when we were first planning the trip that it would be great, as long as neither of us was secretly an axe murderer. I had a brief fantasy of borrowing my dad's chainsaw and leaving it conspicously out in my living room for her arrival, but that felt like way too much work to go through for a prank. Once I rejected the idea I told Liz about it, and she said she'd laugh her ass off. And then check into a hotel.

Of course, if I never blog again, then you'll know that Liz's whole "happy-go-lucky mother of two" online persona was just an act. I hope you'll miss me.

p.s. The Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree went up today, the red cups arrived at Starbucks yesterday, and this morning I had my first Eggnog Latte. So I couldn't resist. Christmas music season began this morning in my office. How much do my coworkers hate me?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Quick Hits

A few schizophrenic and totally unrelated thoughts...

On Halloween night I was on the E train, and I saw two friends dressed up as an Arab and a Jew. And the costumes were PERFECT. The one had on the red-checked head covering, the white robe, thick black mustache, the shiny, reflective sunglasses. The other was dressed all in black, had the sidelock curls, the black hat with the brim. Just perfect. And I was overtired, and punchy, and couldn't stop laughing. I'd get myself under control, and look at them out of the corner of my eye, and start giggling all over again. I heard someone compliment their costumes, and the Arab responded, totally deadpan, with, "Oh, this is real." Cue additional giggling. I came very close to asking if I could take a picture of them for my blog. But then I remembered this is New York, and we don't do that. They absolutely made my night. Well, them and the teeny Donald Duck in the stroller who was so tired he was head-bobbing.

I called my mom when I got home from Florida to tell her I was back in New York, and she told me she didn't know I was away and had to hear about it from her sister, who heard from my sister.
Me: "I called before I left and told dad all about it. We had a long conversation. Didn't he tell you?
Mom: Long Pause. "No."
Me: "When I call the house to tell you guys something and I get Daddy, do I have to actually specify to him that he needs to tell you?
Mom: "Evidently, yes."
Good job, Dad. The thing about my dad is that his phone behavior is completly dependent on what he was doing, and therefore what you pulled him away from, when you called. Some days I'm dying to talk to my mother and he's feeling chatty. Other days I get a perfunctory half-attention, and then when my mother gets close enough to pass off the phone he cuts me off no matter where I am in my story to say, "Here's your mother," regardless of which one of them I actually called to talk to.

While fall may have officially arrived in September, the weather around these parts only got on board recently. But it's here. Which means that today was the first day totally conducive to all my favorite things about fall: I'm wearing my red boots that zip up the sides, I had a pumpkin space latte this morning at breakfast, I have on a brand-new sweater I bought this weekend, I'm still feeling the afterglow of yesterday's big Pats win, and I got to wear my pink coat, which is my very favorite piece of clothing. It's like a perfect storm of things that make me happy.

Oh, and I got these pictures from Sarah. They sure do have pretty fall decorations at her house. All I've got at mine is a felt pumpkin...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's Our Anniversary

My Beloved New York City,

You know what today is, don't you? Of course you do. It's our anniversary. Ten years ago today, I gave up my old life to move here and be with you. It wasn't easy at first. There were a lot of tears (all mine) and some cruel tricks (those would be yours).

While I knew Woonsocket and I weren't meant to be together forever, giving up my old love for you was still tough. W might have been all wrong for me, but he was comfortable. And you, well, you challenged me. W never left me stranded on a platform because I wasn't aggresive enough to push my way onto a crowded train. He never dumped me off in Harlem because I was reading a book and didn't notice I was on the wrong subway. That trick you played, New York, the one where I was all dressed up and lost one shoe on your subway, and ended up at work in a velvet dress, blazer, and sneakers, with no shoes to change into? Not cool. And that same day, when that cheap black velvet dress dyed my entire body purple? You laughed, I know you did. And that was all just the first month we were together. You're lucky you shaped up, New York, because I'm not sure how long I could have kept going like that.

But let's not rehash the way you hurt me. Let's focus instead on the good times. And in our ten years together, we sure have had some. There was the cocktail party you made it possible for me to attend, with Arthur Miller and Studs Terkel. The one where I had a whole conversation about John Steinbeck, my all-time favorite author, with his son. It took me weeks to be able to talk about that without giggling like a little girl.

There were nights walking your streets, and mornings when it was already light out as I left the club from the night before. That one time, when you threw in the early-morning snow for dramatic effect--I really appreciated that. There were drunken cab rides, going over the 59th Street bridge, looking at the lights below me, while I dangled my feet out of the cab window and giggled on my cell phone. There have been Broadway shows, perfect days walking along your rivers or sitting in your parks, and more opportunity than I ever could have dreamed of finding with another city.

I don't know what I'd do withhout the people you introduced me to. The friends who taught me that the expression "urban family" is more than just an expression. The roommates who were far better spirited about me coming home late at night and getting into bed with them than I had any right to expect. The road trip friends, and the dancing friends, and the party friends, and the playing Scrabble in a coffee shop friends, and the comfort me when I'm sad friends, and the watch football and eat wings together friends.

New York, for a relationship that I first thought was only temporary, we've sure been through a lot together. You taught me and stretched me, and made me grow up in a way I never would have in that cozy cocoon I was in before you. And I'd like to think that even just a little bit, I've made you better too. Or at least a little bit brighter and filled with a little more laughter.

Happy Anniversary, New York. Love you. Mean it.