Tag Archives: New Mexico

On How Women are Like Wine, And My Urgent Greed for Female Wisdom

If, three and a half weeks after getting unexpectedly dumped, you have to go somewhere–let me suggest that a weeklong writers’ conference is not the worst place to wind up.

Not because you will likely feel inspired and write your heart out, though, probably, you will–and that matters.

And not because it will probably take you out of town, to someplace remote and green-ish and, most importantly, out of the element-in-which-your-heart-was-broken–though that, too, matters quite a bit.

More important than all these things is this: that, in all likelihood, you will find yourself surrounded by a large number of middle-aged women.

I’m aware, this demographic is not without its’ accompanying pitfalls.

Probably, you will encounter numerous questions in regard to decaffeinated beverages and the persistently problematic temperature of this or that room. You will hear a lot about lost husbands and multiple cancer struggles and feel as though you have experienced exactly nothing. You will see multiple pairs of unfortunately bejeweled flip-flops.

But you are about to turn twenty-eight: a birthday that feels much more significant (read: traumatic) than the last, and contemplating not whether but when you are supposed to start panicking because you would like to have children not long after thirty and have absolutely no idea where you will be raising them or with whom, to say nothing of what they will be called.

And it is important for you to stop considering panic and to remember that women–all of us–improve with age.

(Note: This may be true of men too, but let’s face it: they’re starting with less.)

On multiple occasions over the past few days, I have turned to the (older) woman next to me and felt the strong urge to ask her to adopt me as her daughter.

This is not at all to suggest any inadequacy on my the part of my mother: whose beauty and brilliance I appreciate now more than ever.

But in those moments when the opening of your hips (yoga) collides with the breaking of your heart (D), making you question the significance of just about everything–including manhood, literature and sex–you need all the wisdom you can get.

I feel greedy in my pursuit of elder female knowledge, like an aggressive shopper at the Union Square DSW during clearance: I want all the product I can cram  in the little time I’ve got. I want it in abundance. I want it immediately. And I want it in bright colors and interesting fabrics. (Just go with it.)

It’s not that the advice they’ve given me has been extraordinarily insightful. It’s that their delivery is so assured. As women get older, we grow into ourselves: we grow more and more comfortable with who we are and how we look, the things we can and cannot do.

And I kept hearing the same version of a story: single for twenty or thirty years. Four marriages. Heartbreak and loss. And then: happiness. It was only when they had truly grown into themselves, achieved their ultimate in confidence and strength, they said, that they were able to find an equal.

And so I stare at these women, awed by their poise and elegance, their agility with liquid eyeliner and strength in downward dog, and I try to tell myself that it wouldn’t be so bad: that if I wound up having to wait until I match their confidence and grace before I find a partner who is truly worthy, it wouldn’t be so terrible.

It’s hard to accept that you might not find the fantasy: that you might not follow the path you (and everyone else) always imagined. But you simply can’t predict how your life will play out.

And, sadly (for me), for all the generous wisdom and insight these older women provide, neither can they.

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Dating-While-Blogging Hazard #8,232

The other day I got a Facebook message, a very sweet Facebook message, from one of D’s friends whom I’d recently met. Said friend told me, as she put it, what she would write if she and I were to pass notes between Geometry and Study Hall.

She signed off by assuring me that D also leaves the toilet seat down at her house–thereby assuring me that he does in fact posses one certifiable flaw (for the record, he’s improving), and that she has been reading my blog.

This is a wrinkle of the whole dating-blog-meets-real-relationship event that I did not anticipate. Namely, that I would become Facebook friends with friends of D’s, that they would find my blog, and that they would then know things about him–and his oversharing girlfriend–that he might feel uncomfortable with them knowing.

Now, as this anecdote illustrates, I don’t think I have yet revealed, nor do I intend to reveal anything about D that those around him don’t already know. But still. It’s awkward.

“Oh, shit!” I said to my NY S (who, blissfully, visited me this weekend) when I saw the end of that message. “D’s friends are reading the blog!”

“Yeah,” she replied, in the same tone of voice she always uses when I gripe to her about the various complications I’ve imposed upon myself by blogging about my personal life. And then she said what she always says: “You’re gonna have to figure that one out.”

(I feel obliged to point out that S is generally a font of extreme helpfulness and compassion, and is absolutely supportive of my writing; she just happens to have a slightly skeptical stance when it comes to her best friend exposing herself so recklessly on the internet, for which I cannot blame her.)

Of course, it doesn’t bother me that his friends are reading: in the past year-plus I’ve happily adjusted to the fact of my readers including people who teach me, people who I teach, various ex-boyfriends, and my maternal grandmother. I’m over it.

But D didn’t sign up for this kind of exposure. I thought his decision not to read himself (one that he has, I’ve confirmed, been adhering to) would solve the problem: so long as he’s not reading what I write, our relationship could exist outside the realm of my online musings.

And so far it has. Mostly.

“Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you,” he said to me at a coffee shop yesterday, looking up from his novel with a giant grin. “A few of my friends have asked me about your blog!”

“Oh god,” I said. Again.

“Yeah, it’s funny,” he went on. “They’ve like, asked me if I know about it!”

“Yeah,” I said. “Funny.” And then, flush with guilt, (I had gone and “friended” these people! what had I been thinking!?): “I can avoid being ‘friends’ with people you know on Facebook. I’m really sorry.”

“Oh no,” he replied, not missing a beat. “I don’t care! It’s just funny!”

“Really? You don’t mind your friends reading my blog?”

“Not at all. Why would I mind?”

I could have answered this question in earnest: could have suggested that it might make them uncomfortable, that at some point someone might tell him something they’ve read that he didn’t want to know, that the whole enterprise seemed, to me, like risky business.

But I didn’t. Instead, I took a breath, looked at him lovingly (no, we haven’t said it yet, those of you folowing at home), and did what I ‘ve always done upon encountering states of panic about possible effects of blogging: resolved not to worry about it until I have to.

Or, you know, until I blog about it.

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Team Tannen Forever

The first time I got sick from alcohol, at fifteen, I was with all three of my older brothers–at a Christmas party that my oldest brother M’s best friend held annually at his Tribeca loft.

It wasn’t their fault. Each time I finished off a Heineken, said best friend would swing by and replace it; before anyone could have seen or stopped it, I found myself in the bathroom with M holding my hair back and showing me how to use my fingers to make myself throw up. (A skill that, not too many but a few times since, I have been very, very grateful for.)

Putting me to bed that night, my brother J’s then girlfriend made the well-intentioned but misguided move of placing my trash can next to the bed. The parents were furious with all of my brothers for months.

If you’ve ever been a sibling, you can understand that, as the baby girl, I will always be the baby girl: at fifteen, at twenty-seven, at forty. There is a way in which, in my family’s eyes, I will never be as accountable as my older brothers.

A fact that, I’m sure, was in the back of J’s mind when he took me, today, to get matching tattoos: my first, his a small complement to the collection that already fills both his arm sleeves.

So here’s the story:

Up until last Friday, I’d always told people that I “didn’t understand” tattoos.

“I just don’t get it,” I’d say. “I can’t imagine any image that I’d know I’d want on my body forever.”

And then, a day before he and his wife D arrived in New Mexico after driving six days in a rented minivan to get here, J sent me a text: “Tiny matching tattoos in NM?!”

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On Keeping Up Friendships, Far and Farther Apart

A few months ago D, one of my closest friends from Washington, told me that he was moving to Boston: he’d gotten a new job, one that he was incredibly excited about and perfectly matched the professional criteria he’d spent years looking for.

Part of me was thrilled for him: D had been desperate to leave his then-position for a long time. But another part of me felt disappointed–genuinely sad to hear that he would be leaving DC.

Aside from being incredibly selfish, this reaction does not make much rational sense. I don’t live in Washington. In fact, I live several thousand miles and two time zones away, in New Mexico. Whether he’s in DC or Boston shouldn’t affect me at all; If D had told me he was moving to Sarasota or Bhutan it would not have meant that much more in terms of how often I’ll see him.

But. But the reason it made me a bit melancholy is that, even though I spent most of my time in Washington whining about it–the transience, the smallness, the salmon-colored whale pants–ever since I left the city I’ve loved going back.

I appreciate now things that were lost on me when I lived there: the walkability, the music scene, the free and fantastic museums.

Most of all–and forgive me the sentimentality I am about to indulge–I appreciate the family of friends that I, eventually, made there.

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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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Changing My Luck

Yesterday I heard from a former writing professor: the one who I worked with all of last year, and the one who likes to tell me that he sees himself in me because–according to him–both of us are narcissistic and because–according to life–both of us are incapable of sustaining a man for longer than three weeks.

Both of us, it turns out, are also poor correspondents. So it was a pleasant, if abrupt, surprise when his name appeared in my gchat yesterday morning.

“How are you? How’s the MFA? How are those other creatures S and D?”

“Good!” I wrote back, initially enthusiastic. And then: “You know, same as ever.”

“Oh,” he replied. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

As we all know, the medium of online chatting is such that you can never be exactly sure how someone might have said something were they to speak it out loud. I’d like to think that he would have uttered this line, then, with a strong dose of sarcasm. But, knowing this man as I do, I can imagine that–while we surely would have laughed to leaven the moment–had we been face-to-face, his tone would have been more-or-less sincere.

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What Do You Do When…

So: what do you do when fall comes, you’re enrolled in a creative writing program, you write a blog, and you have absolutely no inspiration to write?

In short, you inhabit a constant state of guilt and panic about the things you aren’t writing. (Especially the magnificent silence you produce in response to a massive New York Times Magazine feature addressing exactly your subject matter and on which seemingly everyone on the internet has at least 140 characters to say.)

You allow yourself to focus on various other tasks that more readily demand attention, like planning classes and making attendance spreadsheets and doing your own reading multiple times because you were too distracted the first few contemplating bad essay ideas and thinking about how unproductive you are. You try and reassure yourself that you aren’t the only person in the world who is deadline-driven, and attempt to ignore the comment made by one of your professors that usually, people who say they write best on deadline, only write on deadline.

You read a nonfiction essay in which the narrator equates the discipline of running marathons with that of his writing practice, only to realize that his logic is flawed. You go to the gym.

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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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Give the Guy a Chance?

Since the theme of this week seems to be difficult questions, a couple more items to mull over:

1) Which is a more precious commodity: a guy who reliably and inexpensively takes car of your car, or a good date?

and, related:

2) What should be the bar for going out with someone?

The other day I was telling my friend A–actually he’s a D, but way back I got flustered by my preponderance of male D’s so I started calling him A, and then forgot, which is clearly confusing and ineffective. Can we just call him D for now? Anyway, I was telling him about a guy I had agreed to go out with, in a fashion that apparently came across as less than enthusiastic: he was cute, I said. A little bit nerdy. Smart. Nice lips. Kinda pompous.

“Wow,” he remarked. “So you’re dismissing him before you even go out with him?”

“No!” I retorted. “I mean, I wouldn’t be going out with him if I didn’t think I might like him.”

D continued fixing his skeptical glare toward me: “Sure,” he said.

The thing is that I usually know immediately when I like someone. And I feel they usually know immediately too. And then we both get all excited and carried away and by now we all now where that leads: a little place called, approximately, and often miserably, nowhere.

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Bonita and Me: An Update

Bon Bon attempting to cuddle while I blog

I know, it’s been a while: besides the new pup (on whom I have decided to henceforth blame every form of tardiness in my life) it has been simply too hot to blog.

Too hot to do anything besides drink Diet Cokes in the daytime and beers in the nighttime and fantasize about nonexistent bodies of water to the hum of an insufficient ceiling fan and the drone of a rather inept swamp cooler. Welcome to summer in New Mexico.

Anyhow, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with baited breath beside your own (hopefully more efficient) cooling device for an update on the progress of mine and Bonita’s relationship.

And I must say it feels only appropriate to declare–after less than a week of knowing one another–that I am quite confident she is my perfect match.

I don’t mean that in the sense that we’re meant for each other, or that we’re soulmates–I don’t believe in that even when it comes to canines. But as far as her capacities as a lover are concerned, she is essentially my equal.

All she wants, after all, is to give and receive love. There would seem to be no one, person or dog–save the occasional hyper-agressive German Shephard around the corner–on whom she is not absolutely desperate to jump up and smooch.

Okay, so I’d like to think I’m a bit more discriminating.

But seriously, she is about as friendly a dog as I’ve ever encountered. And while she does like to follow me from room to room, from bathroom to couch, even in the middle of a nap, she would do the same for you if you happened to be nearby and breathing. (The other day at the dog park, she nearly went home with another woman.)

Okay, so I’d like to think I’m a bit more faithful.

She also, though, takes after me in stubbornness. Just try getting her to eat her breakfast when she’s still got to pee, or roll over off her back without at least a small session of belly scratching.

And yes, hopefully, I need be told fewer times to get out of a car’s front seat or, as the case may also be, someone else’s bed.

Having already been chided for attempting analysis of our budding companionship, I will resist the temptation to venture further comparison.

But I simply had to share how heavenly it is to find myself in the suddenly constant company of a being whose thirst for love and affection just about matches mine.

Even if said being is one who, every once in a while, eats a flip-flop.

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