Tag Archives: Family

On Pet Names and (Not) Taking Things Slowly

Note: Folks, it is not lost on me that, while my “lessons from 2010” included the decisive conclusion that I cannot write about relationships while in them, it is January and I am already doing just that. Go figure. By way of explanation, I’ll share that D (the new guy) made the (entirely voluntary) decision to stop reading–which renders mostly moot the motivations behind said conclusion. Also, it’s 2011. Times change 🙂

As may have come across in my last post, in this current, very new relationship I haven’t exactly heeded that lesson I’ve repeatedly learned (and keep, repeatedly, learning) not to move too fast.

No one was quicker to make this observation than my mom–who, like all good concerned mothers, can always be relied upon to internalize whatever caution I don’t.

“It sounds like it’s too late for me to say this,” she intoned,” but I’m going to say it anyway: try and take things slowly.”

I did my best to patiently receive her advice, refraining from any commentary about how she might keep such anxieties to herself while, perhaps, making some effort to share in my enthusiasm.

Instead, I offered a small plea of self-defense.

“The thing is, Mom,” I told her, “if I’m not excited now, I’m not ever gonna get excited.”

Gamely, she laughed. Both of us know this may well be the case. But, true or not, such facts don’t change my impressive track record of rushing into things with an open heart that, sooner than later, gets crushed.

For knowing this history–for having, wittingly if often with great discomfort, read about it online–I must forgive my mother’s skepticism.

As for everyone else, I’m not sure how to go about extricating myself from the foxhole I share with the boy who cried wolf. All I can ask is that you humor me whilst I assure you that this time is different.

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On Frazier and Baldessari and Stories of New York

Before leaving New York I caught an exhibit at the Met that, I’m afraid, closed today: a collection of works by the seminal Los Angeles artist John Baldessari. I love his work because it’s conceptual while also being playful—clever and thought-provoking but not at all pretentious.

One of the ideas he plays with is the complex, and sometimes arbitrary way we make meaning. He puts together found, seemingly unconnected images and inserts barriers between them. One piece juxtaposes a stylized photo of a woman with a nosebleed, and a picture of pelicans. Another takes four plain black and white photos with captions and arranges them in every possible permutation.

Adjacent to one of the photos is this quote, from the artist : “As soon as you put together two things you have a story.”

I loved that. And it seemed a perfect coda to end my time in New York.

Allow me, in my usual circuitous fashion, to explain.

For the most part, my experience with the city on this trip tended toward the negative.

First there was the whole stolen wallet thing. Then the twenty minutes it took me to walk two blocks of midtown logjam following my nausea-tinged bus ride. There was the response from one well-meaning employee to my alarm at paying $6.75 for a child-sized popcorn (“It’s freshly popped.”) And that of the horribly sour moviegoer who I asked whether anyone occupied the adjacent seat holding his coat (turning, in slow-motion, to look at me as though I’d interrupted his private meditation with a high-volume shriek).

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When a Woman “Finally” Gets Married

Like any good, compulsive iPhone owner, I sometimes check my email during my morning run. You know, Cee-lo and Kanye and various NPR podcasts can only hold a girl’s attention for so long. Even while jogging. Even while jogging with a highly excitable mutt who has been known to throw said girl on her back via enthusiasm for a passing terrier. But I digress.

The problem is that the place where I run–a trail around the campus golf course–doesn’t have very good network reception. And so when, one morning this week, I looked at my email and saw a message from my father, I could only see two things: one, that the subject was “news alert.” And two, that he’d sent it to me along with all of my immediate family members–brothers, mom, sisters-in-law.

I have a grandmother who is about to turn a hundred. I have a sister-in-law who recently pulled out her back and a niece who has had a chronic fever for the past three weeks. Also, I’m Jewish. In other words, I spent the  next five minutes, until the full content of the message finally downloaded, in a state of panic.

Then, I saw what it said: “We just heard over the weekend,” my dad wrote,”that Ilene and Allen got engaged.”

Then, I felt a little ridiculous. (Actually, I felt a little angry too: immediately upon returning home I typed a ‘reply-all’ asking that everyone refrain from sending emails with such ominous subject lines in future; two of my siblings quickly seconded the request.)

But back to the message. Ilene, you see, is my paternal cousin. She is about to turn fifty. She is a very successful, very well-paid corporate lawyer with a condo on the Upper East Side. This is her first marriage.

The “news” my father sent wasn’t exactly breaking. My mother had, rather breathlessly, delivered the information via phone the night before.

The thing is that no one in my family is particularly close with Ilene. None of us are that close to the entire side of the family, I should say: they’re lovely people, but they’re a bit, well, different. You know, they have bigger hair and bigger belt buckles and the political persuasion that such things often imply. Even when I lived in the same city, I’m sure I went years without seeing her–or, certainly, any of her Florida-residing relatives.

The news, then, was not so significant because of our relationship. It was so significant because of the particulars. Specifically, the fact that, at almost-fifty, no one expected her to tie the knot.

Most notably, Grandma Edith–the one who is a hundred.

“Did you hear about Ilene?” she asked when I called to check in on her this morning. (You’ll have to imagine my vocal impression here: full-on Brooklyn, Yiddish accent applies. “Here” is more like “heah.”)

“Yes,” I said, patiently. “I heard.”

“Could you believe it?” she asked. “It’s about time. She’s no spring chicken, you know.”

I will chalk up the fact that she repeated that last phrase, or some version of it (“she isn’t exactly young“) about half a dozen times throughout our ten-minute conversation to age: I’m of the opinion that, if nothing else, surviving a century earns you the right to say whatever the hell you want.

But what about my parents? As I alluded above, they’re pretty progressive types. If my father had his way New York City would be its’ own country and all Fox news anchors would be lined up and shot. They’re supposed to be liberated, feminist, enlightened.

So why were they so brazenly glib with the news that this “old maid” was finally getting hitched?

I don’t really want to call my parents sexist–they’re not. (They are, also, wonderfully tolerant and well-humored, relatively private people who put up admirably with an aggressively oversharing daughter–for which I am ever-grateful.) That is, they’re not sexist any more than the rest of us are. And the reaction to Ilene’s announcement reminds me that “the rest of us” still have a ways to go.

Talk about news that isn’t quite breaking, but it still unsettles to realize that, even in our post-“Sex and the City,” women-getting-more-educated-than-men era, the notion that a woman is only worth her marriage persists. To be a single man is a choice; to be a single woman is pathetic.

I’m glad my cousin is getting married. But not because there’s anything significant about a ring or a ceremony. I’m glad because Allen seems like a really good, honest guy who has a good chance of making her happy. Which, no matter how old or successful we are, is all any of us can hope for.

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On Me and New York and What’s Meant To Be

Just about the first two questions I received upon arriving in New York City on Friday—where I went this weekend for my brother’s not-really-at-all-impulsive wedding (sorry, J)–were these:

From my best friend R, who I called in the cab from LaGuardia: “Welcome home! Oh sorry—is it strange for me to call New York ‘home’?””

From my mother, who I met near her East 92nd street office for a pre-wedding blowdry as we powered down Lexington during rush hour: “Oh! Are you having culture shock? Do you always have culture shock when you come back here, still?”

I am inclined to say I had no clue how to answer either of these questions—but, in fact, my real-time response to each one was a fairly assured ‘no.’

As in: no, it’s not strange at all to refer to New York as “home.” I was born here, it’s where virtually my entire family still lives and where my parents still occupy the house in which I grew up.

And: no, while I regularly tell of a consistently violent cultural jolt each time I visit the city, even when it was only from DC (Aaaah! Everyone’s more stylish than I am! And skinnier! And walking with even more speed and apparent urgency!), it seems that nine years of fairly regular ins-and-outs has numbed the shock.

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Love and Sex and Parents: Some Notes

My parents, as I’ve mentioned, read my blog. Also, as I’ve probably also mentioned, I talk to my parents. A good amount. We talk about our daily routines. The latest subway delays. The latest in family gossip. What meals we’ve eaten and cooked. We talk about the weather.

We do not talk about my blog.

Occasionally (and with diminishing frequency–though, to be fair, my posts have diminished in frequency, too), my mother will comment that she found something “funny” or “cute.” Also occasionally, my father will leave a cryptic comment using the pseudonym of one of their chocolate labradors’ names.

But besides that, the subject of my writing–or, more broadly, my dating life–does not really come up.

Now, I don’t blame my parents for this. No one wants to think their parents or children have sex at all, much less know the particulars.

And yet, I, and perhaps one, would think they’d have gotten used to it. It’s been about eight months since I’ve been writing this thing. Longer since I began publishing essays about love and sex. I would think, by now, they would have grown accustomed to the enterprise: that my dramatic openness with the virtual world about my romantic life would have–at least, a little bit–expanded the openness I can have with them on the subject.

It has not.

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What I May, or May Not, Want

Even on the internet, people.

Even on the internet: the place where single people go to be sensible, calculated, methodical in their romantic pursuits–I have gone to behave just as irrationally, impulsively and–dare I say–foolishly as is my bane in real life.

Or have I?

Truth be told I’m still rather squeamish about the whole project, and hesitate to write anything. Also, when one shares something with a person, and said person responds with shock and dismissal that borders on disgust, one might hesitate to share said thing with hundreds on the internet.

Fortunately for me, I need not listen to your dismayed responses the way I had to my sister-in-law’s the other day over the phone.

And in the end, I can’t very well announce to you all that I’m going to start dating online and not follow up with some sort of report.

So: within days of posting a profile, I have begun trading messages with a handful of men. One, a 24-year old fresh from a serious relationship. Another, a 40-year old with a ten-year old son. And another in his mid-thirties who is father to three children.

(Insert sister-in-law’s disapproval here.)

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Sharing a Bed

One difference between dogs and people–or at least, well-adjusted people who have social skills–is that dogs have absolutely no qualms about staring at you.

They stare at you when they’re alarmed because you’re banging a bag of ice against the kitchen floor. They stare at you when they’re perplexed because you’re suddenly carrying toys they like to play with out of the house and putting them in the trunk of your Volkswagon. And they stare at you when they really, really don’t want you to put that dress on and leave the house because they still don’t fully trust that you’ll ever come home despite the fact that every time you’ve ever left before, you have.

And yes: they stare at you when they would much prefer to be sleeping in your bed, thanks.

And so, it’s official: Bonita and I are sleeping together.

I resisted.

First the nice and very reasonable-seeming people at Animal Humane told me it was a bad idea because she wouldn’t respect my authority. Then my mother told me it was a bad idea because I don’t sleep.

“You have insomnia, remember?” she said over the phone. “The last thing you need is something else to keep you awake.”

I’m terrible at making decisions, so when others make them for me–sometimes I accept. I placed Bonita on the chair beside my bed to spend the night.

“That looks small,” my father observed when I sent photos of her all curled up. “Does she need a bed?”

“If you want to spoil her like you spoil your other grandchildren…” was my reply. I aborted my own doggie bed search and kept her on the chair until the L.L. Bean box arrived containing her monogrammed, loden-colored gift.

Of course, by then she had adjusted to the chair–and every time I put her on it she stared at me, ears perked and head tilted, the way you might if I asked you, for no evident reason, to stand on a coffee table.

I thought taking her with me to Taos would be the perfect opportunity to get her accustomed. I packed her new bed with us and placed it at the foot of mine in our pet-friendly Sagebrush Inn hotel room. Instead she sprawled herself up on the crumpled pile of fallen blankets right beside it. She looked at me. By the second night, we were spooning.

And sure enough, our first night back in Albuquerque, she tried her luck at hopping up with me. And, whaddya know, I didn’t have the heart to turn her down. (That stare–I’m telling you.)

Frankly, I didn’t particularly want to either. I’ve been sleeping fine, actually, and quite enjoying the presence of something warm, soft and breathing in bed beside me.

I like companionship. Isn’t that why I got a dog?

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