talking

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The kind you never, ever meant to do on an airplane at 6 in the morning. When it’s too early to be alive, and there is not enough coffee in the world, not even if they turned on all the coffee-making machines and constructed a complicated funnel that poured it all into your face. When you’re nervous about where you’re going. When you notice that your seatmate kind of looks like the pretty version of Keira Knightley. Only cooler, and probably sleepier. But you’d never say so because what kind of animal talks to her seatmate on a flight? But then she says something offhand under her breath about the flight attendant and makes you laugh. And you say something in return, and she laughs. And somehow, you don’t stop. The kind of talking that carries you through a two-hour flight and sleep giddiness. Her fiancé and your quiet hopes. Jobs and careers and life choices and the kinds of hearts it takes to make specific decisions. And you exchange contact info when you both head off to your respective layovers and you remember talking about the wonder of this digital world that is so ridiculous and awful and keeps everyone in touch and you’re glad for it.

The kind when you’ve known each other for years. So many years. All the years, and through all the worst of it, of both of you. You know each other’s most horrible hopes and very worst dreams and evilest deeds. You have seen each other at your ugliests. And yet. The kind of talking that never changes but is always exactly right and comfortable. You say the right things to each other, and it’s always a gift. He’s got a beer and a shot and you should have a Manhattan but instead it’s a glass of wine with your lunch and you’re talking about the vagaries of life and the absurdities you always talk about and you are aware that this is when you are your most relaxed, when you have to talk. You are so much better at writing than talking. But this talking is as comfortable as talking to yourself, only funnier.

The kind of talking you do in a room full of people you graduated with, the instructors who taught you how to write and about what kind of writer you wanted to be. Who kicked your ass and saw how bad you could fail. Who are proud of you because you did okay in the end. To the writers in the room who are on every single point of that spectrum, to both sides of you. Talking about fear and success and ability and hope and possibility and change. Talking about this book you made and how it’s in the world. Talking about how strange it is. Talking about how proud you are. Making that admission, because you can in a room full of writers. That is what you can talk about.

Talking when you’ve known each other for years but only recently, only recently realized that you should have really known each other, really for years. Too much time not noticing that you had so much in common and why aren’t you friends? Why not yet? Because there is so much to talk about. There are all the things to say. There is not enough time to say them, ever, even over the oysters you’ve been craving since oysters crawled up on land and became frogs or whatever. Oysters and writing and how exhausting it is. More oysters and the complexities of relationships. Navigating love and navigating friendship. Tangling and untangling the threads that lead you through the maze but not to the maw of the minotaur, you hope. But the problem is you always worry that there’s a minotaur, and you always worry that the thread could—can, will, might, whatever the fuck you can’t think about it now—break and it is a wonder that sometimes you can go on hoping and keep creeping ahead.

The kind of talking in a car that smells like fried onion ring chips and garlic potato chips and pork rinds and all the other awfulnesses you’ve swept off the shelf with one arm to carry along with you on a long drive up (down? You always forget which way) to the next place where you have to do more talking—about yourself, about the book you wrote, and why you wrote it but you’re trying not to think about that. The kind of talking you do with someone who so important to you but has been so far away for too long—have you ever lived in the same city? Have you ever had more than a handful of hours together? But every time it’s like there wasn’t all those miles though there is a moment of pressure as you push through the funny and the glib and you fall into the real part of your friendship, the true part that makes it so important and real. And you talk about things that range along that scale, from butt jokes to the construction of consciousness, from friendship and fear to the kinds of words you backspace because that’s how much respect you have for them. It’s like a Kinsey scale you’re playing, only the nakedness is all emotional and it is the kind of talking that feels good. Invigorating. The kind of talking that makes you remember who you are and even more importantly who you hope to be. Of who this person in your life is, and how long you hope to keep them.

The kind where you know each other so well, and so strangely, and so strangely well–but not at all. Where you are texts and phone calls, but not people yet to each other, with head and hair and heartbeats and facial expressions and a smile that stops you short just for a split second because you didn’t know that’s what it looked like and now you are so glad to know. Where there is so much that is familiar, like a song you heard once but only once and only a long time ago but you know you liked it. You know it has stuck with you for a reason. And it’s coming back to you while you talk and you realize that you are talking and this is different and strange until it isn’t any more, and it’s just talking about everything, some of it important and some of it not and you’ve walked three miles through the city without noticing and that’s the kind of thing that happens when you know someone, and now you do, or you’re starting to and it is a happiness. That kind of talking.

The kind of talking where you’re panicked. Where you’re in the spotlight and being called upon to be poised, smart, articulate. And do it on television. But you have to be poised, smart, and articulate off the cuff, on the television, about something incredibly personal to you. Something that scares you a little bit when you think about it, makes you feel vulnerable even though by now, my god, aren’t you over that yet? Even if you aren’t totally confident and secure you should be able to fake it, am I right? So you fake it. The kind of talking where you smile and you keep smiling and your mouth moves but you’re not sure you’re saying the right thing but you keep talking because it is sink or swim, honey. That’s just the way it is. That’s the way it always is, really, and you feel like you’ve learned a valuable lesson when you collapse afterwards, just glad you lived through all the talking.

And then, the kind of silence where you realize you haven’t spoken to anyone all day, not out loud. You can’t ever stop talking with your fingers—your brain is wired directly to your hands and ha if that’ll ever change. Where it is a relief to be quiet, for a little while. A silent spot where you realize you’ve always been terrified of talking, out loud, to people. Strangers and not and semi-strangers. And that you’ve lived through that too. That the more you do something, the better you get at it. That it’s also really nice to be quiet for awhile.

may fly

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This is something I forget sometimes: I have a lot of love in my life.

Like, a lot. I am lucky to be liked, loved, cared for, considered carefully and well by a significant number of people. I am important. I mean something to their lives and to their hearts. Sometimes, more often than I know, usually when I don’t realize, I am in their thoughts. Sometimes when they go to the grocery store or they’re driving or on the subway or sitting on the couch making noises at their beautiful baby, they think about me the same way I think about them. My heart is full of them, and their hearts have room for me too.

I am an incredibly lucky woman.

I forget that, sometimes. And that is selfish. To think you are invisible? To think that you don’t matter? It is unfair. All those kilowatts of heart-power going wasted? It could power a small city, the love you have in your life. I promise you.

It’s taken me so many years to figure this out. So many! Too many! Really a ridiculous number of years. My god, I am the worst learner in the world. I never remember anything for more than the space of approximately five minutes. I am a May fly. So I have to keep relearning, over and over, and it is painful every time, the cycle. I can forget in the instant of a bad day, or it can be ground out of me over the course of a long week and then I have to figure out all over again why I feel wretched, why that wretched feeling is a lie, why I am utterly crazy, why I need to stop doing this, for the love of god.

Some day it’s going to stick, I swear.

Right now, right now I remember because I have palpable reminders that I am loved. Every time I go to the fridge there are the cards, the beautiful families of my beautiful friends—mo pie and the cute brigade (a jug band), Trixie and Penny and the geese who bite, Magnus the littlest tattoo artist. There’s the desktop photo I try to remember to look at every couple of hours, my little bright-faced nephew tucked into the arms of his dad, one of my favorite people on earth.

There’s the leatherwork pencil case on my desk, stamped with my name and perfect for a writer, from A. The utterly gorgeous, painstakingly hand-painted matroyshka dolls from Karen that made me burst into sobs the moment I unwrapped them. Each one is perfect. Each one is the work of hours and thought. Each one is utterly humbling.

I forget that being overcome with sincerity is no bad thing. I forget that I am loved as much as I love.

online hating

vdayIt was only a month after the end of my relationship, but I said yes when the dude asked me out. Maybe because I was astonished—people DO that? It’s a thing that happens? A real thing? Where one person asks the other if they’d like to have an awkward meal together and then you both eat painfully slowly and save up bits of awful conversation to call up a friend and yell about as soon as you go your own ways? Weird.

No, I’m pretty sure I said yes because I don’t think I had ever been on a real first date, complete with real what-do-I-wear anxiety and a serious, considered decision about whether or not to shave my legs. And because I had just broken up with someone and felt wretched, wrecked, lonely, alone, uncharming and possibly alone forever and you can’t tell me different you don’t understand how I am more sad than anyone else on earth okay?

He was not my type, and I was so clearly not ready to date, with the dark under my eyes and the churning in my gut but I said yes anyway because I wanted to spend some time inside the idea that someone wanted me and wanted to spend time with me. I wanted drinks and food and a conversation. I wanted him to make me laugh.

He did. We were supposed to just have a drink and then go eat but we sat at the bar and we talked for two hours, maybe, and there were no lulls and it was one of those conversations that just go, straight-ahead and full-on and breathless and hilarious. He thought I was hilarious; we talked about Star Wars and—I don’t even remember. He had been in Brazil, maybe? He liked books or music. One of those. Possibly filmmaking.

He kept laughing at my jokes, anyway, and maybe that’s why when we stood up and he leaned down to kiss me, even though he wasn’t what I wanted to or who I wanted and this was nothing I had any business doing, I let him. I kissed him back, in the middle of the bar, and people slipped around us and I thought, what the hell am I doing?

But he kissed me and then he kissed me again it was nice to be kissed and his hands tightened around my waist and I thought, he wants me. So I let him kiss me in the middle of the bar like an asshole. I’ve always wanted to punch those douchebags in the kidneys, the ones who have Special Moments in the most egregiously awkward and visible place in the whole room, as if they have specially staked out the place and put down tape so they could make their marks for the most epic romance drama moment of all times. No one punched me in the kidneys but they ought to have.

We ate dinner slowly and closed down the place and when we left the restaurant it was misting and he started kissing me again. Oh romance! Oh drama! Oh, lack of kidney punching. What good are disapproving bystanders if they only stand by while they disapprove?

In the gentle rain and the soft glow of the Romance Streetlights we drifted down the sidewalk, tucked ourselves to the overhang of the building. I honest to god didn’t remember the last time I had made out with someone. I like making out. I think everyone should make out, all the time. All over the place. Everywhere, like bunnies if bunnies made out instead of reproduced madly. But it still wasn’t what I wanted so I kept my eyes closed and then I realized he was saying, “why don’t we go back to my car?” and then I realized that dating sucks because really dude? Yes, please lets go back to your car so I can what, clean out your glove compartment? I can do that. That’s not a euphemism. Get your hands off my ass.

I didn’t go back to his car, and later he texted me a few times and then he drifted away and it wrecked me. It wrecked me completely because—no, I didn’t want him. I just didn’t want to have fucked up, I guess. I didn’t want to have gone on a date and then have it end like some terrible romantic comedy where I sit in bed and eat a pint of Strawberry Lonely Chunks (call me, Ben and Jerry’s) with a spoon and cry on my unmade bed to my best girlfriend. I am not that girl. It is unpleasant to get even a little bit close to feeling like that girl.

Dating sucks. It has not gotten very much better. I didn’t go out with anyone until months later, and then I tried online dating. An extreme sports guy who kept his hat on during dinner and did all the talking; the blank-stare, acting-deaf guy who couldn’t seem to hear what I was saying and didn’t care, but spent a lot of time scanning my body up and down—and who, when I said automatically, “Talk to you soon!” as we were saying good bye, replied “You want to HANG OUT?” with an ears-ringing sting of incredulity.

The Bro with the baseball cap and the inability to make small talk—the guy who had texted me on February 14 and said he’d kiss me on the lips next year because I’d be his valentine then, and then got in a fight with me about women in sports. The beautiful guy who seemed perfect in really a ridiculous number of ways, who I saw a few times, who I had started to develop a crush on, who disappeared entirely. Who never explained exactly what happened. The guy who liked me so much, who I ought to have felt the same about but didn’t. I guess I was his disappearing act.

The guy with the black straw fedora, who chewed gum during dinner and snapped his fingers at the waitress. The guy who said all the right things but never bothered to make a move. The way too young guys who made me feel too old. The guy who said he was 5’9 but was actually some kind of elf. With whom I ended up in bed, unfortunately, because I am nothing if not the world’s greatest decision maker. Nothing was supposed to happen—he was just staying over. And nothing particularly happened, especially after he put his fingers where fingers DO NOT GO on a FIRST DATE. Especially unexpectedly and in the dark, for fuck’s sake. We texted briefly and then I realized I kind of hated him and his ass face.

I do not like dating. I hate online dating—which sucks because I thought it would be ideal. I like shopping online! I like writing! Online dating should be awesome! It is not awesome. I did not even get to make out with anyone really and I need to ask the universe where the fuck is the fairness in that? I get some kissy face and then boom fingers where there oughtn’t be any. I meet them and know them just a little bit, and they know me just a little bit or not at all, and it always ends up sadness.

That doesn’t seem right. Connection should be lovely, and important, and transformational. It shouldn’t make you go home and throw things around and stomp up the stairs and swear you’re never talking to anyone ever again.

I keep forgetting to deactivate my profile, and I keep getting messages that make me sorrow for the human race. From guys who see I’ve logged onto the site to look at them and without messaging them back. Who are angry that I’m ignoring them. Who, if I’m going to be really honest with you, I sometimes want to die in a fire. Okay, always. Always dead, always in a fire.

Right now, right now what I want to do is step back. I want to let things happen. I want things to happen, and I want to have hope, instead of anxiety, and happiness instead of worry that I’m doing things right, and know and be known instead of hoping having a drink together now means maybe someday we will totally have love babies. I want to believe and I’m going to say yes to things for the right reasons, and only to things that don’t suck, and figure that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. Because I am, in the end, probably not actually more sad than anyone else ever on earth.

unexpected things

I keep coming across new, heretofore unimagined reasons why breaking up sucks. There’s the usual—heartbreak, misery, loneliness, all the wailing wreaks havoc with your complexion, suddenly it’s left to you at 3 a.m. to go beat housebreakers to a pulp with the toilet plunger. Those are the classic ones.

The ones I didn’t expect, they keep piling up—it is deeply disappointing to not have anyone around when you really deserve a double high-five and a fist bump. Your success suddenly doesn’t feel nearly as successful when it’s not capped off with celebratory hand gestures, you know? And then there are the totally honest, hold-nothing back frank evaluations of your butt in those jeans. You know your butt is awesome in those jeans—and he’s always agreed as is right and good. But sometimes you are—no, not weak. Not vain. Not lame. You are just in the mood for a little validation, and by god, there is nothing wrong with that.

(And by god, you are way too old to post a picture of your ass to Facebook and quite frankly you’re not sure who you are anymore, that that idea even occurred to you, and so you must suffer in uncertain silence.)

The gallons of milk you keep buying go bad, because who can drink a gallon of milk by herself in a week? You keep checking to see if the toilet seat is up, wasting precious seconds of your life because of course it isn’t any more. You forget exciting new puns you have made up in your head because there’s no one to turn to and make suffer with them. Etc.

Today, today it’s the tree in the basement. We bought a tree last year—an artificial noble fir, pre-light, huge. He is tall; he wanted a tree that towered over him. It was an expensive tree, and for some reason it came with a CD that combined installation instructions and odd selections of holiday music. We set the thing up in the corner, and we plugged it in, and we realized how very naked it was. Instead of buying vast buckets of holiday balls (holiday balls!) we decided to institute a tradition: the ugliest ornament. We’d each select the most horrible ornament possible, and exchange them as loving gifts. I won last year, with my melting-demon-spawn from the deepest pits of the most sadistic hells (I think it was supposed to be a jolly snowman).

We added dinosaurs and Star Wars ornaments and tinsel and it was our first real Christmas in the house we bought together and a beautiful tree, but now it is folded up in the basement and he is gone and I guess you can’t really call it a tradition if it only happened once.

All of it is in a box downstairs, and it’s December 1st, the only acceptable day to begin decorating for Christmas, and somehow I cannot get off this couch to go down there and pull it out and look at it all. I spent—I spent a lot of money on Amazon just now instead. A white tree, and a bucket of hot pink ornaments and a disco star for the top. Nostalgia-free and history-less and memory-unhampered. Slightly insane. But I wanted a double high-five after placing my order.

I don’t know what to do with the tree in the basement. I’ll offer it to my ex, maybe. Donate it to a shelter. Let it sit there like Ms. Havisham in the dark. Let it stay because I loved that Christmas and that tree and everything about our first real Christmas together and that won’t change. Unless I discover the satanic snowman is no longer in the box but is instead somewhere in the walls, slowly making his way upstairs to steal my breath and crush my heart in his pulpy, misshapen hands on Christmas Eve.

here’s to all the pretty words


I don’t remember the year or the date, and I’m not entirely certain of the month, but I remember this: I was about 200 pounds when I met E. That was the first time I had ever weighed that little—it was the first time I was anywhere near what all those charts call a normal weight. Me and Oprah, we were the same weight! I was delighted by the idea.

And I was starting to accept the idea of being a normal weight, and a normal girl, and person who fit in the world, quite literally: in chairs and bus seats and roller coaster rides and clown cars, through turnstiles and down narrow aisles on the plane, on the way to Chicago, where I’d meet him.

It was still an uncomfortable feeling. A strangeness. Not just that I wasn’t over-the-moon thrilled, which clearly I ought to have been, ungrateful girl, but because it felt like the world had transformed just for me into something beautiful and reachable. I didn’t know what to do with that idea—I was the one who was supposed to have changed. To have emerged from my cocoon of fat with a set of instructions and directions, and then go charging off into the sunset, off to do whatever normal people who weren’t afraid of the world were supposed to do next.

When E and I met and he smiled at me, I thought, “Oh. Oh, this is what I’ve been missing all these years.”

It was a sense of power, a sense of agency, a sense of understanding that I could affect someone physically, emotionally. That I could move someone, and be moved so thoroughly in return. That someone would look at me and want to touch me—that was astonishing. My god, was it a miracle. Everyone I had dated before—never had I been really deep-down convinced that they wanted me. I had never been completely sure that it could be true until he kissed me. And it was something that changed my life.

It wasn’t the only turning point, the single emotional touchstone, the catalyst that changed everything for all time amen. Those had been happening for awhile, a series of tiny spark-bright epiphanies about myself and my place in the world—physically, emotionally. But it’s the one I remember most clearly, the one that burns the brightest. Because it was the first time I accepted that other people would look at me, and they would see me, and that didn’t have to be a terrible, raw-rubbed feeling. It didn’t have to be a moment of panic and hoping they’d like me despite my size or my shape. I didn’t have to hide because it had just never stopped hurting when I saw someone clearly, unmistakably dismiss me after a glance. Not just romantically, not only sexually. But as a person, wiped away.

We dated. We fell in love. I moved to Utah, and fell in love with Utah too. And years passed and we were happy, I think. I became more myself, when I was with him. But somehow, I fell back asleep. We both fell asleep. We forgot to be in the world, and we forgot how to be together. We loved each other but—oh, clichés, you are so useful—sometimes it turns out that’s really not enough.

So one Saturday morning we woke up and instead of going and getting pancakes, we had a long, quiet conversation, and we agreed. And it was the hardest decision we had ever made. He kissed me goodbye, and we were done.

Now, now I’m back to figuring out how I fit in the world and where I want to go and be. He helped change the whole of my life. He brought me so much closer to being the person I think I want to be. I hope I did the same for him, because that would be rude, otherwise. Because that’s what I want for him.

I’m just as scared as I was five years ago, but here’s the thing: I’m a whole hell of a lot stronger. Slightly smarter. Just as socially awkward and dopey, but with better shoes. I think—I can’t swear to this, but I think I’ll be okay.

unified theory of all the love we actually have in our lives


It was the Valentine’s Day directly after I broke up with my long-term boyfriend, just two months after we had ended it. Actually, he broke up with me. At Christmas. But that summer I had moved all the way to San Francisco to get away from him, so I suppose it was my fault to start with, and—it’s a long story.

Anyway. I was still depressed as hell and wondering what had happened because it was supposed to be my idea and I was all alone and miserable and lonely, walking down Turk street on my way to class. The fountain at the Blood Center had been dyed an unfortunate shade of pink to celebrate the holiday and it was the most terrible thing I had ever seen. I stood at the corner waiting for the light to change, trying not to cry so I didn’t worry the international students standing at corner with me and staring at me and then I had this great idea.

I wasn’t actually alone. I didn’t have a boyfriend—especially not a stupid one—but I had people who loved and adored me. I had amazing friends and an incredible family and I was abundant with, overwhelmed by, smothered in all the love I was lucky to have in my life.

Valentine’s Day didn’t have to be about pressure and romantic love and whining because I didn’t have anyone to buy me flowers and candy like I was some kind of fucking cliché. I loved and I was loved. Love was so much bigger than romance.

I pulled out my phone and I called my grandmother. I said, “I love you, grandma! Happy Valentine’s Day!”

“What?” she said. “Your mother said you don’t have that boyfriend anymore.”

“No, grandma, we broke up,” I said, slowing down as the sidewalk started to get steep.

“I bet you’re sad he broke up with you today,” my grandmother said.

I stopped at the bottom of the stairs leading up to campus. “I don’t care about boyfriends,” I yelled over the sound of the 31 pulling away from the bus stop, about to launch into my Grand Unified Theory of All the Love We Actually Have in Our Lives. The international students, who had all followed me up the sidewalk, also on their way to class, all looked at me with what I imagined was pity.

“You should get another one,” my grandma said, and then she put my mother on the phone.

Eventually I got another one, and I’ve got one right now, and I am very lucky in romantic love. I also still believe in my Grand Unified Theory of All the Love We Actually Have in Our Lives. I am very, very lucky to be loved the way I am. I am lucky in the friends I have and the family I’ve got and the people who let me love them and the people who love me back even when I’m a messed-up pile of junk. You’re very lucky in the people who love you, and the people you get to love too, you know.

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve, you guys, and Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow. I hope it overflows with an abundance of cake and chocolate and cheese and happiness and all kinds of love.

valentine

I can’t keep up with whether it is cool to like Valentine’s Day now because it celebrates the universal spirit of togetherness we must embrace in order to make it through these dark times and to honor our renewed spirit of national hope and optimism, or cool in the spirit of irony and the embracing of dorky things like Care Bears and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, or uncool because it is cliched and commercial and who really needs another pair of edible panties and it is exclusionary of those not in relationships and also cheesy or lame.

My personal stance, my plank in the platform, is that I am very fond of Valentine’s Day. I am a fan of love; I am glad that there is a day that honors love, in all its forms, filial and fornicatory, penetrative and otherwise. I am cheesy, and okay with that, a little (lot) sappy, and okay with that, and I enjoy the people I love and want them to know that they are adored and there’s no need to be okay with that–it is just a true fact.

I don’t need flowers or chocolate (though I enjoy flowers and chocolate) and I don’t require the perfect romantic evening that starts with a candlelight dinner and ends with passionate, gazes-locked, whispered-pledges lovemaking on a bed of velvety rose petals. Though of course I do not judge you if that is how your Valentine’s Day must be conducted otherwise everything is ruined and your sweetheart never really loved you.

Our plans involve garlic and DVDs and for me, anyway, general, overall qualities of happiness and contentment, possibly because of the Oreos but maybe because I am a little cheesy and a little sappy and kind of crazy about this guy I’m seeing. But also I will call my mom, and my brother, and my best friend, and also I will tell you guys–Happy Valentine’s Day! Take my love. TAKE IT. You have no choice, for it is yours. But don’t tell me what you do with it.

photo via chicks57

paradise

Because E is ridiculously awesome, but especially so at work, they rewarded him. I am as shocked as you are–an employer recognizing that an employee goes way above and far beyond? An employer who says holy crap, dude, your sense of responsibility and commitment and dedication is magnificent, is inspiring, is beautiful to behold and we do not think that the money that we provide to you in the form of a paycheck is enough to acknowledge the fact of your awesomeness. An employer who says here is a bonus, because you deserve it and are very attractive and have many good qualities. Hooray!

E has been working his ass off doing wonderful things for his little company, and they said thanks with a very large travel voucher. You tell us where you want to go and what you want to spend it on–a hotel, a safari, airfare–and we will make the arrangements for you. It was both incredibly generous and incredibly deserved, and I was so proud of him, when he told me about it. “I am so proud of you!” I shrieked. “Where are we going?” I like to get down to business right away. I am very practical in that way.

Who says I’m taking you? E said. Because he is hilarious. And once I finished beating him with my shoe, we got down to brass tacks. We have a small but significant pile of money. How do we maximize awesomeness and minimize our own expenses? How do we spend this properly and to greatest and happiest effect? We decided that we needed to do something we would be reluctant to splash out on because it seemed too big a luxury or too crazy a trip. So, something international. A big city? A few days in London, a weekend in Paris, a flyover Amsterdam, a couple of minutes in Prague? I started to get excited about the idea of a romantic whirlwind trip to a place with cobblestoned streets and quaint old-timey street vendors selling authentic cuisines in a paper sleeve and maybe some accordion playing and picturesque waifs.

But our pile was not that large a pile, and the bags under my sweetheart’s eyes were large bags, and what he needed was not a weekend of running jumping climbing trees but of lying very still and Just Being. My baby needed a break. His older brother said, there is an amazing place in Cancun, right on the ocean. Seriously–you walk out the door of your little private cabana, and there is the ocean, right there. At your doorstep. And they catch your food fresh every night and prepare it for you and there are only three rooms and you are hidden away and you can snorkel and swim and it is paradise.

Paradise is way out of our budget, dude, we said. No way, his brother said. And he was right. For a week, seven days, we can afford paradise. Actually booking paradise was the trick. Okay, this week! No, sold out. This week? Sold out. This week? Sold out. Okay, fine–pick a week for us. The first available. And so we are going to paradise at the end of February, right when we are the most tired of winter and want it to be over, please. Cancun! The ocean! A week of reading and lying down and eating and drinking and scuba diving and reading and eating and finding other ways to occupy ourselves. E is very excited about the possibility of wrestling sharks.

He needs this vacation badly, and I am so glad to see how excited he gets, when we talk about it. Paradise, for a week. He deserves it.

contingency plans

Do you ever make contingency plans? I mean, completely unnecessary panic-button plans for the very off chance that, say, the earth is hit by a meteor, or the robot apocalypse suddenly boots up, or the revolution has come and you think that you’re going to end up against the wall? I have many well-detailed plans for many very specific scenarios, and I can tell you with a certain amount of confidence that I’m the lady you want to follow in the event of the blackening of the sun and the rise of the zombies.

It’s been a semi-conscious hobby of mine for a long time, to consider escape routes from buildings in case of a raid by rabid wolves or how I would carry us all to freedom should the earth suddenly drop out of the bottom of the Wells Fargo building and we plummet into ahellmouth of some kind. But I realized, recently, that I have kind of morbid contingency plans in place, too. That what I’m always doing at every moment, is bracing myself in case of utter disaster, from the absurd to the ordinary, zombies to the phone call no one wants to get in the middle of the night.

E called to let me know he was leaving work, that the roads were really bad (because we’ve been stuck right in the middle of a never-ending blizzard of snow, falling right from the sky) and that he was going to be awhile, driving slow and hoping for the best. And as I hung up the phone, I realized that I was already half-way through plans, ideas, considerations, possible outcomes and the smartest courses of action. If he were in an accident and he got stuck, if he were in an accident and he were hurt, if he were in an accident and hurt badly, if he were killed. I realized I was sitting there considering whether I would stay here, in Utah, close to his family, or if I was smarter to move, get away quick and not drive myself crazy with the too-familiar surroundings. Whether I’d pack myself up, or sell everything. Whether I’d just tell my landlord to keep everything, and bolt. And where I would go. Home to my mother? Back to California? Somewhere warm, maybe. Maybe I could move to Florida or Mexico. Maybe I could move to Italy. Maybe I would survive it, if he had an accident. Maybe my life would go on.

I am the kind of person who says things like “don’t borrow trouble!” and “we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it!” and “problems,schmoblems. Let’s have a daiquiri!” I am not the kind of person–I didn’t think I was the kind of person–who worries at things and dreams up problems she doesn’t even have. I am good enough at being anxious about the problems that actually exist and hang out on my lap drinking grape soda (I hate grape soda) and poking me in the eye. I have enough to worry about, trying to distract myself from the things that are real and sad, without piling more things on and watching them teeter.

My first thought, when I realized how, well, weird this was, and possibly dopey, was that I really ought to quit it. But you know, it’s actually kind of nice to think that while my real and concrete problems are not so easily solved, that I’ve got some things taken care of and totally under control, no matter how imaginary they are. You want the apocalypse taken care of? You come see me. I want my personal apocalypses taken care of? I ought to write these ideas down.

apologizing for your body

He reaches up, his fingers curling around my hips as we move, along my waist, up my sides. His fingers close over my breasts, and in the middle of everything, after he has maybe told me that I am beautiful, after he has demonstrated with his hands and his mouth and his lips that everything about my body may very well be everything he has ever wanted in a woman, after he has shown me that all he has wanted these long moments in bed is my body, that all my skin and flesh does is bring him happiness, and satisfaction, in the middle of all this, I want to apologize. I want to say I’m sorry about my breasts. I don’t think they’re good enough–large enough, really–and how can you think they’re good enough?

Sometimes I can shake it off, usually by shaking off his hands in some ingenious way. Leaning down, leaning back, switching positions, distracting him with the parts of my body that might be acceptable. Sometimes, everything stutters to a halt. Everything comes crashing down into this one fatal flaw of mine, this one particular blemish–that having small breasts should be considered a blemish is, in my rational moments, an astonishing thing. They fit my frame, my body size. They suit me. They are perky, adorable. They are perfectly reasonable. They are, in a dark place in my head, not only not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for my boyfriend no matter what he says or how he demonstrates his actual admiration, and I want to say I’m sorry.

I’ve had moments of self-consciousness in bed before. Everyone has, of course–when you want to cover up, hide, have sex with your shirt on and maybe also your pants and a down jacket and a hat pulled down to your chin. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, a terrible feeling, to be so uncomfortable in your own skin that you cannot relax and do not want to be naked, vulnerable, to touch and be touched. It’s a common thing, a perfectly ordinary thing, something that is hard to overcome, but is overcome-able.

But to feel you have to apologize–that is when things get tricky. That is the slippery slope, and that is the short trip down into hell that you need to stop yourself from ever taking. When you apologize, you are saying “I am sorry for the wrong that I did.” When you are apologizing for your body, you’re saying “I am sorry that my body is wrong.” I’m sorry my body does not match the crazy ideal that sits in the back of my head and pokes at me with sticks and tells me that I am not good enough. I am sorry that I do  not meet an imaginary, completely insane standard. I’m sorry that I’m not good enough. Apologizing for your body is accepting the idea that there is a right body, and that you do not have it, and even admitting the possibility that you never will. Apologizing for your body is wrong, because that is, frankly, bullshit. Your body is not wrong.

My breasts are not wrong-sized–they’re the size breasts I have. I have entertained the idea of breast implants, to fix them, to make them correct and proper and right, but the more I think about it, the more the idea seems like a larger, expensive apology. I am not going to apologize any more. You don’t apologize when there’s nothing to apologize for.