Another Mistake I Made, Bigly!

Another Mistake I Made, Bigly!

Because I always seek to serve and educated others (well, sometimes), let’s go into another mistake – actually a series of mistakes – that I made from which you too can learn! While I cannot of course keep anyone from making the necessary errors they will and even should make in life, lessons everyone has to encounter to learn and grow and be better, do better, why not try? There are, I believe, certain universal truths women can share with one another about men, women, life, and sex, and all the rest of that jazz. Per my previous example in this space, do not pity fuck, ever; let whoever he is go down on his knees and beg, weep and beat his man chest, the answer is still no. Now, think about how useful it would be if we all shared various good to know truths with one another, heading off at least a few mistakes and missteps better left un-stepped. Personally, I believe it would be very useful. Very.

And, by the by, young women are as entitled as young men to be young, and foolish, to make mistakes, be unlikeable and unlovable, to take risks, and not be tainted or judged for it. And, young women – all women, and girls – should be safe to make mistakes, to be young and dumb, without paying the highest price for same, as well as safe in general, in this and all worlds. By the by.

This second mistake I share with you appeared in the form of a former football player at a big public university in Michigan, a man built like a brick shit house. I described him that way to a friend of mine, who thereafter referred to him as the Brick House, breaking into the disco hit every time I saw her; she still occasionally does this, so at least I get a laugh out of it even all these years later – and can you believe it, that song has its own Wiki page. Gosh. Now, I have to admit that I am not, generally speaking, attracted to thick-necked football types, but let’s put aside gross generalizations unfair to the many very intelligent and mad hot players of the concussion happy game and get to it. Brick House had left football and Michigan long behind him by the time we met; I was in my early twenties, he was in his mid-thirties. He was a poet; he was a poet, he had a master’s degree in poetry! He was also an actor; we met in acting class. At first, I found him really unattractive, quite unattractive. Not for me. Vital lesson one, ladies: please trust your initial instincts when it comes to men and a gut lack of sexual attraction – because let’s be honest, we can talk ourselves into fucking almost anyone, and that can be a very dangerous thing. And by we, of course I mean me. Mistaaaaake.

So, there I was, in class with this Brick Shit House (so unattractive) but, hmm, he did have a speaking voice that was compellingly deep and gravely. Miss Thing over here is drawn to men with voices; nice hands are compelling too, but back to Mr. Brick House. He was clearly smart, very much so, and I can be caught, surprised and a little overly pleased, thrilled almost, by having my (clearly idiotic) prejudices being upended, as in ‘Oh my, he’s not an over-muscled dolt, he’s a smart hottie with thighs the size of tree trunks! Yuuuummm.’ Our acting teacher, previously mentioned in this space, thought we would be perfect for one another and pushed me at him, which I resented (embarrassing!) but, I had to admit an interest had been sparked, even as his push was another red flag I shoulda, coulda, woulda paid attention to as that guy thinking we’d be a good pair was not just a red flag, it was a literal sea of them. Mistaaaaaaake.

We began flirting with one another, and went out to the movies. We talked, a lot, on the phone, and as the older and wiser man he was, and I was perfectly willing to believe he had to be (N.B.: age is just an arbitrary, mostly meaningless number, people), I allowed him to set the tone of our relationship, which he did by asserting that yes, he was older and wiser, and yes, he’d been here before, numerous times, thus he wanted to get to know me (!!!) before anything sexual happened between us (!!!). He wanted us to get to know each-other. Awwwwwwww. That’s so nice. That’s so unusual! That’s so special. I was touched, genuinely taken aback and pleased as punch. Oh, but, by the way, he was dying to jump my bones. Dying. Awwwwwwww. How sweet! How sexy! What a turn on – and, huh, a relief!!!! Mistaaaaaaaaake.

Of course, he was – like a Brick Shit House – full of shit. Ladies, vital lesson two, pay attention: if a single, available, presents as straight man does not want to fuck your brains out, putting off sex out of respect for you, until you know one another better, or for some other reason including religion, he is lying through his teeth or has something serious and seriously bad to hide. He is a liar. Deceiver. Fibber. Falsifier. Prevaricator. Fabricator. Teller of untruths. Bullshit artist. If a fellow does this he is either married, about to be married, lives with his girlfriend/fiancée/wife, is in the closet, has a seriously bad STD, is a religious wing-nut best avoided, or – well, let me continue and I will share option number whatever, as that very nuanced reason applies here.

(Look, I’m not saying it can’t happen, a man wanting to get to know you before sex, I’m just saying the odds are stacked against you, and against what he’s saying being true. And don’t let any dude set the pace of your relationship, no matter the context. Why? Because I said so. Okay, okay because the best, healthiest relationships are equitable partnerships, constantly negotiating terms, yet as human beans we tend to go on as we begin, so begin with parity, duckies.)

About a month into our no-sex relationship, we auditioned for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by that same encouraging us to couple acting teacher. After the audition, we ran off to our respective and separate jobs and homes, but later that night, Brick House called me in an uproar because he was sure I would get a lead role, I was so much more talented than he, I was also younger, sooo good looking, I would go on to stardom, I would cheat on and eventually leave him, and he was a total loser. Awwwwwwwww. Staaahp! So not true, you silly! I comforted him, best I could, and then he surprised me by saying, I think we should have sex. What?! What?! Now? But, I thought we were going to wait, in fact you said let’s wait ‘til July, and that’s only a month away, less! He responded by saying that the July thing was an arbitrary date, completely meaningless, and that he wanted to have sex. Um, okay, but, um, Brick House, what about us getting to know one another? That was a line, Mahhhhhj. A line. A line. A line?!?!

Okay so here’s where I truly fucked up. Women! Do not do this! This ‘line’ thing should be a deal-breaker! Because, instead of being angered by the lie, the line, the manipulation, I instead went to confusion, to compassion – for him, already established in the conversation, poor sweetie, even though he’d gone on to say it was a deliberate ploy to plump up the sexual attraction, one he’d used before. You have? Most of all, I went to a place of being stunned and even more idiotically compliant, because– after all – he was older and wiser, a man with whom I had begun to seriously fall in love, and his deceitful ploy had succeeded in ramping up the frisky, big time. June is busting out all over!! I was horny as all get out. So, while there was no way I was getting in a cab that night after the day we’d both had, I agreed to meet him the next day, as we had previously planned, but hoo-fucking-ray for sex. Yay. To my credit, I did think, I hoped, maybe a good night’s sleep would make him reconsider; maybe he hadn’t been lying, playing me, exactly, more that he was speaking from his insecure place in this post-audition moment, the poor sweetie, maybe he really did want to continue to get to know me better. Because ding, ding, ding what I’d begun to fall in love with beyond the voice and the hands and the tree trunk thighs was the feeling of being respected, of being valued, and of being treated less like a possession, a trophy, a piece of ass or prey, and more like a human-fucking-being. I also thought that having sex with him when he had just admitted he was depressed was bad idea, right?

Ah, yes, Brick House’s depression. I was having a hard time getting out of bed myself at that point in my life, but his black moods were on a whole other level, it seemed. This was yet another red flag in that sea of red flags I blissfully overlooked, rationalized, and undervalued as I got to know him during those weeks; I even thought, egotistically, naively, that I could fix that, maybe? Yeah, sure (I couldn’t, you can’t, get out now). He had shared with me that his father and grandfather had known Ernest Hemingway and his dad, back home in Michigan (how cool is that!? So cool); they’d gone hunting together in the upper peninsula, the setting for many of Hemingway’s stories, classic stories I loved. And, the tale Brick House shared went on, his dad, Brick House Sr., and his grandfather, Brick House the 1st, had committed suicide, like Hemingway and his father, which was another point of connection he was – celebrating? Noting. Pointing out. He even owned, he kept, the gun with which his dad and grandfather had killed themselves. I know I said something like, ‘You have the gun?!!’ but, I was twenty-four and dumb and inexperienced as a box of rocks. And in love. Or lust. Whatever. Blind to the waving Texas-sized red flag flying in my baby-face, programmed to think anything, anyone was fixable with enough love and TLC from a willing, nurturing female such as myself. Mistaaaaaake.

The morning after he came clean about his ‘line’, we found out we’d both been cast in small roles in Twelfth Night, and when we spoke on the phone, I did make an argument for waiting, still, because it was clear to me that he was not feeling good about himself and his prospects in general. But, I also really, really wanted to have sex. Oh my. Ladies, if you have an engine like mine (100 horses, galloping), it is vital you take many deep breaths, and do not plunge headlong into bed with men who are not what they represent themselves as being. Now, of course it’s important to believe in people, and to open one’s heart, but – FFS – keep those horses in the barn until you’ve sussed out what’s really going on if at all possible, and please, please, please take this opportunity to learn from my mistake! The internet, which didn’t exist at the time, is a great help. Look him up; scroll baby, scroll. Insta. Fakebook. Tweeter. My Space. Reddit. Linked-In. Search. Review. Protect thyself!!

So, hey, we did it. We tried to do it. Y’see, Brick House was unable to maintain a hard-on, and I had so little experience with sex at that point, I wasn’t sure what to do, if anything, especially as he was off down the road of anger and distress at a 90mph clip. Also, to put it bluntly, his penis was tiny. Tiny. Think five-year-old’s pinky finger. I’d never experienced that, and my first response after a silent, ‘wait – what is that? is that it?’, was to go to the place of whatever, it’s okay, right, if you love someone? Maybe? Sure. No biggie (Ouch). But, hey, hands, tongue, skin on skin, whatever the specifics, it’s sex and it’s all good. I certainly wasn’t going to say anything about it. Nooooooooo. No. He’d already established he was capable of aggression, and potentially of violence, another red flag I totally ignored, when he’d punched me on the shoulder after I tapped his playfully with my fist. Tap. Boom. Ow. Ouch. Owwww. What was that? In my face: don’t hit me, don’t you ever hit me. Ooook. On St. Mark’s Place. I will never forget it, but at the time, I let it go as intense and weird but, okay he must’ve suffered physical violence, the poor sweetie!


After the non-sex sex, and no discussion, he turned his back on me, and eventually fell asleep. I was left wide awake trying to figure out what had just happened, and what I was going to do or say, if anything, about it. I finally fell asleep too, turning my back on him, opening my eyes several hours later to find Brick House was already awake and in the mood to try again, evidenced by the presence of a teeny pinky finger poking me in the region of my bodacious bum cheeks, as well as the smile on Brick House’s face when I turned my head to look at him. Okay, I’m in!! I guess?

Again, a total failure. He could not stay hard, after which he said, you know why this happened, don’t you? No, no I don’t. I really don’t (I really didn’t). It’s because you, Mahhhj, have marriage written all over you, that’s why. What?!! I do? And I actually looked down at my body to see what, if anything, was written there, and repeated, I do? I don’t think so, Brick House, I don’t think I do. Do I? He insisted, you have marriage and children and crippling convention written all over you. The pressure is so intense, I can’t deal with it. I can’t perform. This is on you.

A conversation ensued that I will sum up as he accused and blamed, I defended and tried to comfort, saying it didn’t matter, and then he finally came clean: historically he was unable to get it and keep it up with any woman over the age of eighteen or nineteen. The partner he’d moved to NYC with, a relationship he’d spoken about as having been important and lengthy, but failed, had been with a former student of his in Michigan – a former high school student he met when she was fourteen and he was thirty – who was attending NYU. She’d broken up with him during her Sophomore year, and here we were, a couple of years later.

His shame was so great, as was my ignorance, we barely ever spoke intimately again; I’m not even sure I tried to talk to him about it because I felt so clueless, so naïve. I didn’t know how to help. But he’d also made it clear he didn’t want my help, my support, my pity, or, finally, me. He said it that morning in bed: I was too old for him. Too old? I’m too old? He said he’d thought he’d give it, me, ‘a try’ because I was that attractive, but – I was too old for him. At twenty-four. We got through Twelfth Night by avoiding one another as much as possible. I felt sorry for him, a lot, but I was also finally angry, angry at him for blaming me for his issues, for not being up front about stuff, for manipulating me, for taking steroids (another confession after our failed attempts at sex) in the false hope that massive muscles would compensate for a lack of penile inches. And I was angry at him for rejecting me, for not trusting me to love him regardless, angry too for his being as intelligent as he was and as stupid. Well, we were both that, intelligent and stupid. He moved to California for his acting career (running away, I thought) shortly after Twelfth Night closed, and we casually stayed in touch via snail mail for a year after that. The Brick House made it out of his thirties and beyond alive, which is good, because whatever his flaws, I cared about him, and he was in a lot of pain. I found him on Facebook recently, while writing this, but I haven’t and won’t reach out, ever: not a mistake.

Don’t do it, ladies. Let these errors in judgement of mine, my credulity in the face of ‘mature’ male certainty, my dismissing his having punched my arm, accepting his insistence on putting off sex, etc., etc., be your cautionary tale. Whether it’s sex or religion or your body, don’t give your knowledge of yourself away to anyone, however ostensibly wise they might be. Be a skeptic, your own advocate, and private investigator. I lived it, and learned from it, and now, thanks to the interweb, so can you! There’s a wonderful memoir called Pure, by Linda Kay Klein, which is particularly powerful regarding the harm evangelical religion – total male certainty and total male bullshit – does to women (and men) with its emphasis on virginity, and women’s bodies being tainted with all manner of temptations for girls and women to suppress because men can’t help themselves. Whatever. Be skeptical in the face of wisdom, certainty, and maturity, which is very likely to be bullshit dressed in the robes of what we – our collective culture – think of as inherently respectable and credible, i.e. white men who have advanced degrees and deep voices.

They say when someone tells you who they are, believe them. Well, okay, but also, please, question whatever it is they do tell you, because it might not be the whole truth, and nothing but. And, trust your gut, because if he doesn’t do it for you on first sight, that might indicate a little something (pun intended). Men and boys are uniquely vulnerable in a culture that prizes size (penis, truck, car, wallet, house, influence, etc.) over substance, and yet this is the system we have, one that men have built, one that feminism seeks to fix, to cure, and reconfigure. I might be a size queen, but then again, I might not – preferring, always, substance over size, because in the long run it really isn’t the meat, it’s the emotion, it’s the human being you are in bed with, because sex lasts for – how long? ten minutes? five? twenty? thirty? – but a great conversation laden with laughs, and a relationship based on love, humor, and acceptance, now that’s a keeper, and can last a long, long time.

The Greatest Dress, Ever!

The Greatest Dress, Ever!

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” ~ Wm. Shakespeare, King Lear

My mother once bought me the greatest dress, ever. I was thirteen. This dress was epic, so epic I even wore it once. Once, and only once – because she demanded that I do so, after complaining time and again that it was hanging in my closet unloved and unworn, a sign (one of many) that I was an ungrateful child. And yes, she regularly quoted that bit of Lear at me, as living with me, to her point of view, was indeed sharper than a serpent’s tooth. So, I did it, I wore the fucking dress – to shut her up, if for no other reason; I finally put on the greatest dress ever. I had tried it on, initially, when she bought it, even though merely eyeballing it told me right away no, and no, and no, no, no, no. I wore it to church, look Queen Lear, under a puffy winter coat I absolutely refused to take off, which worked out okay for me as the cavernous Catholic Church in Margaretville was never heated adequately, and, quite frankly, fuck my mother and her fucking truly horrible piece of shit dress.

Fine. I will admit it was a truly lovely tartan, primarily royal blue and black, shot through with red, orange and green, made from an okay, not great material combo of 70%-30% rayon to cotton. It had a blindingly white Peter Pan collar turned sideways that came to the base of my neck – much too tight a collar, in fact, that had long tails where it met at my right collarbone, one draping down the front of the dress, and one dashingly designed to toss over my back. Matching two and a half inch cuffs, also in white-white-white, ended the long, to the wrist, very tight (too tight) sleeves. A matching tartan belt came with, to cinch the waist, a belt that was less than an inch wide, and about seven feet in length. The dress, depending on whether I moved in it or not (I will explain) came to about three inches below my knees. But, it didn’t ever really come to that length, not because of the belt, precisely, or my burgeoning adolescent curves, but rather because, from the too tight neck to the hem, it was tightly pleated. Ever see a dog in one of those prevention collars, conical plastic bell-like structures? The dress was like that, sort of, only turned around, widest part of the cone facing my feet, and it was pleated. And tartan. It fell from the neck, just below sideways Peter Pan, in narrow pleats, pleats, that sans the belt made me look like an odd Scottish circus tent. If I used the belt and moved – as in walking, the top half would slowly yet inexorably begin to grow, rise, and billow out, giving me an ever-expanding puffy bust, similar to that of my dad’s cousin Harriet, the one who smoked a pipe and could balance a dessert plate on her truly magnificent boobage, which was puffy yet also solid AF. If I didn’t wear the belt, and moved, the bottom billowed out in a way that was equally unflattering, embarrassing, and tent-like, a tent that was not tethered to the ground; perhaps I should’ve added fishing line weights to the hem? That would’ve been nice.

The dress was an abomination, and seemed to typify my mother’s desire to turn me into an entirely undesirable freak, a joke, a punch line, a virginal, Scottish circus tent or trained, grateful serpent. She had and regularly expressed very strong ideas about the professions that were appropriate for women, of which there were three: teaching, nursing, and nun (nun-ing?), which begs the questions, do nuns get paid, and is nun-ing actually a profession? Isn’t it a rather calling, and in case you were wondering, I felt zero call, or instead a call to holler ‘no fucking way, Jose’ with regard to becoming any of those extremely limited options. That dress did have something in common with nuns’ habits, as with the exception of moving or the billowing hemline, it covered me from my neck to below the knee, including my arms to the wrist. My two sisters actually did become, respectively, and respectably, a teacher (my older sister) and a nurse (my younger). Isn’t that fabulous?! As for me – still waiting for that danged call!

Shortly after this dress debacle, my older sister went off to college; she had graduated from high school a year early, and her absence ushered in a very tense period at home. First of all, my mother missed her terribly and was worried sick (her precious, precious baby, in a city, in another state, in unknown territoryProvidence, R.I.!!). Secondly, because I was no substitute, rather a punishment, given that I was ungrateful, difficult, and wholly incapable of carrying on an adult conversation (gossip) over coffee (never tried it, have never had it) after school or on weekends when my dad was at work when mom liked to sit at the kitchen table and drink copious cups of java. Thirdly, because my sister’s out-of-state private art college education was expensive (RISD), including bills for art supplies that arrived monthly, bills that could not be questioned, ever, and my parents were spending their life savings to that point in support of this absolutely essential experience for my older sister. After all, she was going to be the next, American born, Picasso, a fantasy my mother indulged without regard to her eldest child’s actual temperament or personality. My dad locked himself in his den every time one of those art supply bills came in (I peeked, more than once, and was surprised to find that porcini mushrooms and silver bangle bracelets were considered art supplies) after which he would call my sister while I listened from the living room (pretending to read) while she – Picassette! – cajoled and charmed him out of the black depression and financial anxiety that otherwise ruled during his all too few hours at home from work. Good times.

Anyhoo, given I had rejected her dress, that beautiful, tasteful dress, the first one she’d bought me and me alone in forever, hand-me-downs from the great artist on high being the rule, my mother went full-in on refusing to buy me any clothes. I knew my dad was freaking out over costs, so there was no way I felt I could approach him, even if such a thing were conceivable in the first place, which it was not. But, at least my dad’s clothes, his outside stuff mostly, I could occasionally grab, because he kept everything forever, never shopped, and some of it didn’t fit him anymore. Plus, he was cool about my borrowing his clothes, even if it bemused him as to why I would want to do so. If he’d asked, pockets, dad, pockets, plus, you knowall this unsaid, that person, your wife, and y’know. You know, right?! Without my saying it, he knew, telling me to be nice to your mother, be nice. Yes, okay. Sure. Almost forty years later, as he was dying, he would apologize to me for not doing more to protect me from my mother. Good times.

Eventually I used pinking shears to cut the tartan tent dress into squares, which I burned in the burn barrel up above the wood shed. At least, that’s what I think I did. It might be a fantasy of mine, made up at the time, while the dress languished (my little sister didn’t even bother trying it on, it was that awful) unloved, and unworn, in the head-banging closet at the top of the back stairs.

That is the story of the greatest dress ever. One day I hope to recreate its awfulness – because even now, it seems impossible to me that anyone – anyone – would consider that a fully pleated dress, pleated from the neck to the knees, with an off-center Peter Pan collar was in anyway attractive. It might’ve worked, it might have, on a completely skinny, flat chested, no hips eleven-year-old boy or girl who could tie that strip of tartan belt around their waist twice. It didn’t even have pockets, forchrissake!

How We Grew: Vietnam

How We Grew: Vietnam

The Vietnam War was part of the background of my early childhood. Every day the local-ish radio station, WGY in Albany, N.Y. (only ninety miles away!), announced the war dead, and U.S. troop deaths were, without fail, miniscule compared to the number of Viet Cong dead. They were weirdly specific, as well, for example – two-hundred and eighty-nine American dead, three-thousand and seventy-eight Viet Cong. The daily numbers confused and perplexed me, and I asked my teacher at the time, Mrs. Roney, how it was we weren’t winning the war when these numbers told such a different, and unbalanced, story? Surely, we had to be winning? She explained that the Chinese Communists were sending hordes of fighters over the border between China and Vietnam, endless hordes of fighting men (she may have referred to them as little yellow men), to support vile, evil communism. Huh. Okay. Maybe? I imagined actual streams of men running south across the border – but even China couldn’t have an endless supply of young men to fight old men’s wars, could they? 

Photos of the war, and of the My Lai massacre in particular, were on the cover of and inside almost every magazine that came into our home, and the children in the pictures were my peers. That little girl, naked, running, mouth agape, surrounded by carnage: she was my age. How as it possible that we – we, the collective good people of the United States – would allow this to happen, allow the murder, the gassing – or whatever Napalm was, the bombing of families, whoever and wherever they were? How did this happen? What were we fighting about, again? I did a report on Ho Chi Minh for 5th grade Social Studies. I didn’t really see much difference between him and some of our founding fathers, seeking freedom and independence for his people (he also wrote poetry, and spoke five languages), and because my teacher that year was a hippie, he approved, giving me an ‘A’. We weren’t taught the war in school as it was on-going, history in the making; we were merely child witnesses, watching from afar. I do remember being grateful my male classmates, my friends, would not face the draft, conscription ending in 1973 when we were just entering high school, although the war didn’t end until 1975. And while there were returning Vietnam Vets in my community, I didn’t personally know any, or wasn’t aware if I did, until one very angry Veteran started teaching us – and scaring us – in ’73. He’d been a sharpshooter, and four years later he would sexually assault me about a week after I graduated and turned eighteen. 

I now know that the numbers of the dead, ours and the Vietnamese, were faked, deflated and inflated respectively in turn by successive Presidential administrations, administrations who lied to the American people for political gain, for reasons of propaganda, vanity, ego, and arrogance. I watched on TV, our one channel, as Hanoi fell, Vietnamese people clinging to helicopters and boats desperate to escape; I saw pictures and read about ‘The Boat People’, and atrocities committed in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and elsewhere. The world was complicated, I was a kid – not even born when the military complications of Vietnam began. All I wanted to do when the war ended was survive high school and my adolescence, get out and away, while dreaming dreams about a life I wasn’t sure I wanted to lead, because I didn’t know who I was and where I wanted to be, other than not where I was. 

Cecile Pin’s debut novel, Wandering Souls, which I read and loved recently, along with Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer and his follow-up novel,The Committed, all examine aspects of the events surrounding the Vietnam War from the perspective of those Vietnamese who lived through and – mostly – survived it. In all four novels, the authors primarily focus on those who emigrated from Vietnam to America, France, or the U.K. It felt necessary and important for me to read these books, because I was ignorant about the lives of the Vietnamese, in the U.S. and elsewhere, including Vietnam, along with the multi-generational impact of the actions of the U.S. and its allies – our allies. Yet – when Ms. Pin writes about the boat people and their painful, circuitous journey, I knew, I’d seen, I remembered the place of lift off, the scenes witnessed or read about as a child, and it felt good to know what happened, even if just to one family, although the novel is broader than that implies, and very powerful. 

Coincidentally, last night’s PBS episode featured a segment about Asian Am. & Pacific Islanders, regarding their often violent and deadly interactions with the police in the U.S. In the segment, I learned there were approximately one million Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians and Hmong who emigrated to the U.S. as a result of the Vietnam War, a significant amount, worth noting here, I thought. 

The Sympathizer is hilarious, raucous, and shocking; I could not put it down, and like its follow-up The Committed and Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Wandering Souls there are specific, reality-based incidents of what war is, what happens in conflict zones, that are stomach churning, and heart-breaking. One of my several daily meditation mantras is ‘may the whole world know peace and healing’, which I repeat throughout the day, ‘may the whole world know peace and healing, may the whole world know peace and healing’. Often, I add, ‘which world includes me, thank you very much’, because I need reminding, and it calms my heart, and helps to unravel my grudges and anger, and my fear – fear that peace is impossible to achieve, as long as men seek power, and are incapable of giving a shit about the lives of others, including, often, their own citizens, from whom they supposedly derive that power. What’s that saying, ‘how can we have world peace when people can’t even get along with their neighbors?’ Seems about right to me, and, happily, I have a great neighbor, one I am committed to – if not loving, at least liking – tolerating, and consistently treating with kindness and decency, always.

JFK said, ‘World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.’ Sadly, there are more conflicts going on right now, around this blue and green and brown and white planet, than I or anyone else can comprehend. It’s daunting, and so I try to create peace in my tiny corner, not always successfully, but, I try. 

George Carlin, whom I admire and love so much, said in one of his stand-up specials, “The planet is going anywhere. We are.” We are. Unless, unless, unless – we can pull together. Fingers and toes and everything else crossed.      

From the Archive: Kripalu & Date Night

*this archive journal of my dad’s last weeks and months is coming to a close, is getting down to days left in his life and the most intense period of caregiving, caregiving that began a decade prior. I wish every caregiver or parent of young children in this country and world were getting the support they needed, but we in the US with our “bootstraps” libertarian streak cannot seem to get it together to support caregivers, and families, or those who have a hard time getting out of poverty. I’m glad we’ve got a (knock wood) deal on raising the debt ceiling, but the GQPs demands re: work requirements for SNAP only serves to get people out of applying for assistance, and where I live – rural America – 70% of those using SNAP (food stamps) are the disabled or children, with another 15% the elderly poor, and the rest – the group they’re going after – are people who work but make less than could possibly cover the cost of housing, food and transportation in a county the size of Rhode Island, where we have almost no public transportation, and that for senior citizens only…don’t get me started. 

April 25, 2010 Kripalu and more…

Back from 2 days at Kripalu which is a yoga retreat and training center in Stockbridge, Mass. The area, which I cannot believe I have never visited as the drive was so easy and so gorgeous, is absolutely stunning. New England charm meets the Berkshires in the spring and I must go back for more. I loved that I could take a road out of my Catskill Mountains (Route 23) all the way across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge through Columbia County, New York into the Berkshires and Mass., ending only in Great Barrington. From there another country road (how I love them) a very short way to Stockbridge, which is a long-time center for the arts (Tanglewood and Shakespeare & Co. among others) as well as new age getaways (Kripalu, Omega and, less new age but all spa, Canyon Ranch). 
Kripalu was once a Jesuit Monastery and the views from the rooms are spectacular, looking out over the mountains and a lake whose name I never found out, bad tourist that I am, although I was there to retreat, not tour. I met my best friend from college there and gabbed like mad as planned despite my little illness, which is almost cured. What is it about talking to an old friend – and laughing uproariously (she is hilairee– us!!) that is so deeply satisfying and restorative? Who cares; I am just very thankful. 
Today I had a two-hour massage (life is tough) with a “master” masseur – Ericka. I am a big fan of massage, and this was a good one, and just what I needed. I returned refreshed and ready for whatever is coming. My dad is struggling, and his legs continue to swell. I told him tonight I am relying on him to tell me when he can no longer be alone at night in the house. I told him that I want to be with him when he dies. He said that’s no fun, watching someone die. I said I thought it would be an honor and I just want to be of service to him (and yes, I was crying, in case you were wondering). We’ll see. I love this man, my dad. We’ll see. 
And before I forget only about ten minutes after I left Kripalu as I was doing my usual “which house would I love to live in/tour the inside of/renovate” game, I looked to my right at a farm and there, walking very calmly up the driveway with a grouping of cows watching, was a big old black bear. In daylight, around 1:30p.m. and I think I only saw it because the cows were oddly not focussed on the grass; what the hell are they looking at – what the hell is – holy cow, a bear!! – all in five seconds. Very cool.

April 27, 2010

I refer to an actual, non-movie, date night. I have not seen the Tina Fey (genius) and Steve Carrell (luckiest man in Hollywood, imo) version and probably won’t unless I get a strong recommendation from a friend I trust once it’s available on Netflix, that is…back to the real story here: date night at my house is Mondays and so on Tuesdays you will, generally, find me rested and relaxed. Ah, the multiple benefits and pleasures of spending time with a main squeeze, even one who is far, far from ideal. Last night, although we spoke at length about my dad and his situation, was the first in many nights during which I have not spent at least ten minutes crying. This is good as my body – my tear ducts – need a rest. 
I remember being in the hospital as a kid and crying because I felt terrible physically, on top of which I was lonely, sad and a little lost. I was perhaps 6 or 7. Crying, the nurse said, would only keep my temperature up, which would extend my stay. Now you don’t want that, do you? We watch as the camera slowly turns back to the little girl, me, who is still crying, only more quietly. Idiot (not me, the nurse, who undoubtedly meant well, although I wonder if that was the day I decided one thing I was never going to be was a nurse…). My point is that crying, as I have been of late – deep and long, is exhausting and my temperature does go up. I needed a break, a break that I did not succeed in getting this past weekend although yes, the Berks and my BFF were a tonic to the soul. And I am almost well, almost myself, almost cough and stuffy nose free. Oh joy, oh rapture! Soon, too, the temps will get and stay over 45 and I will be able to put away all this pesky outerwear. 
Date night last eve included some very yummy gin, Wet?, distilled by who knows who, but it has a lovely tint to its flavoring. My FWB and I went over his presentation for this weekend which, 15 minutes long, no more, no less, will get him the votes needed to win Marketer of the Year. Am I feigning my enthusiasm? Perhaps. Definitely. Still, life is good. Every time I felt as though we were getting bogged down in the sadness of my dad’s failing health last night, I said tell me about the future, tell me about your kids (he has seven, that’s right, seven). Now that’s a lot of future, dontcha think? Ya, ya. Holy shit, it’s snowing out. 

On Living, and Spending the Holidays, Alone

On Living, and Spending the Holidays, Alone

I have lived alone for all of my adult life. Yes, there were times I had roommates, but those times were few and far between, and far lonelier in many ways than actually living alone, as anyone who has had an incompatible roommate or partner can attest. There was one boyfriend who was going to live with me in the mid-eighties, but he confessed he was screwing his ex behind my back forty-eight hours before he was scheduled to move in; he said I didn’t need him the way she did. I said well, you’re not air or water or shelter, Bill. Or food. He said he knew I would eventually cheat on him. Whatever, although he was not the first or last man I was involved with to say that, to make that claim – each one of whom cheated on me as a kind of preemptive strike, I guess was their thinking? I have never cheated on a partner, it’s just not in me to do so, but – all’s fair in love and war, or so I’ve heard.

In my twenties and thirties, I suffered living alone, and being partner-less (though I much prefer the term ‘partner-free’) while all around me people, men and women, were constantly seeking to pair up, were pairing up and getting engaged, getting married, including numerous friends and acquaintances who divorced and paired up again, and so on. During those decades I was not a happy camper generally, but I definitely suffered from deep loneliness, as well as depression, neither directly caused by the other but as two lanes running parallel to one another. I dreaded the holidays spent alone, and dreaded holidays even more spent with my ‘nuclear’ family, where I felt misunderstood, judged, unloved, and more alone than when I was alone. Oh, the joy of getting back to NYC after a Christmas or Thanksgiving spent with my family of origin, especially if I went straight to Studio 54, where I could lose myself and all of my troubles, big or small, in the music, on the dance floor, surrounded by others doing the same. 

Creating my own family was an option, but I didn’t want to parent, felt no need as so many women and men seem to do, to have and raise children. Plus, I was afraid of the parent I might be: too angry, too much pain stored inside waiting to come out like that creature in the film Alien. I was cautious, too much so, perhaps, scared to try, and dated too many assholes, eliminating them as potential co-parents one by one. I also knew single parenting wasn’t for me, believing that children deserve both parents on their side, especially as one parent (me) might be annihilating or nuts like my mother. No thanks. I knew women who married men or partnered with men they didn’t really love, to make children they very much wanted. Some of them stayed with these men regardless of the disconnect, regardless of no or bad sex, or barely concealed contempt. Others divorced and railed against their exes for not understanding they were glorified sperm donors: how dare he demand half, half of my apartment, my money, half of my child’s time. How dare he. 

And men I could’ve created families with were always, always in relationships with other women, even if I became involved with them not knowing this initially, because men lie like dogs all the damned time, and the mess, the mess, the stupidity, the dishonesty, the rationalizations – it was all too much. It probably didn’t help matters that during those decades I had peeping tom after peeping tom, was constantly harassed and flashed on the street, was being stalked, and was – until I was almost forty – thinking about killing myself daily. I remember two men I was involved with running out the door the moment I spoke honestly of my mother, and how much I hated her, hated her, and loved her, and loved her, and hated her. They were probably very wise to run, but it seemed I was being punished for my honesty, and that didn’t inspire a sense of being safe to share anything about the life I had led and was leading. 

I hired therapist after therapist, did drumming circles, and a past life regression, had my tarot cards and astrological chart read, took risks I should not have taken, and prayed for divine intervention I didn’t ever believe would come from a deity I thought was pure bullshit. In my twenties I read about and tried to believe in reincarnation (how wrong can a jillion Hindis, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs be?!), if only out of the hope that I would get another chance, a second, third, and fourth chance, at living a better, happier life – a different life. I participated in sweat lodge and during one I was sure I was going to die, and welcomed it, until I realized I had never lived, or had lived my entire life to that point under a dark cloud, or, more apt, a slab of granite, and that it was up to me – and me alone – to change that. I was thirty-eight, and was only then able to envision a life where I might be happy, truly happy – yet, always, the imaginings were of me on my own, alone. 

Having a sense of humor helps, more than helps: it kept me alive. Surviving is key. I knew women who created from pain, created family, fought for it, and some of them did well, many of them. I could not, perhaps because I am so goddamned stubborn, and my standards are so fucking high, which is another way of saying I built a wall so impenetrable no one could get over it, around it, under it – in. And I struggle, still, to ask for what I need, because for almost forty years I had no needs, other than to survive that day, that hour, that moment of life. Air and water. Shelter, food. And sure, a fella if he wants along on this ride, mostly on my terms, because I know like I know like I know that my independent streak, which is wider and deeper and broader still than any wall ever built, runs me ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time: ‘Oh, give me land, lots of land under sunny skies above, don’t fence me in!’ 

Perhaps if I had allowed myself to love and be loved by that boy from high school, the one who I dreamt of recently, a dream in which we were both old, as we are now, and lay in one another’s arms naked and old and kind to one another, as we never were in life. Who knows. We were both surviving families that were rife with pain and shame in a small town, a place where preserving the public illusion of happy family often felt like all I (I cannot speak for him) had to hold onto. For my part, there was simply no way I would expose him to my family, my mother, by bringing him into the fold, into the house, my lived experience. I regret this. Bessel van der Kolk wrote of the healing power of love while the brain is still developing, as a teenager, in his 2014 work The Body Keeps Score, a book I wish had been written when I needed most to read it, but that’s the way it goes, eh? 

I have friends who live surrounded by family, including a beloved friend who is also in business and vacations annually with her husband’s family. I shudder at the thought of all that, although I acknowledge how well it works – for her. Everyone must find their own way, their own comfort, their own level; we are all like water. Spending holidays alone can be rough unless you love your own company, which I would argue is important every single day, and hour, regardless of holiday status, and – somewhere around forty, I found myself loving it, loving myself, finally, loving and giggling at my stupidities, my quirks and false starts, my life-saving humor, my ass-hole-ery, my fears and tears, my inconsistency, my humanity. 

Expectations – and convention – being what they are (an oppressive force that is very hard to overcome), it isn’t necessarily easy to live alone, to live single and child-free, yet all paths – every one – have rocks and twists and turns, compromises, rationalizations, swamps, bogs, periods of loss and despair. Anyone who tells you their marriage is perfect is lying, and – in my experience – most likely of all the couples you know to be on the direct route to divorce, and soon, although stasis, fear of change, are as powerful as convention. Anyone who tells you raising kids is or was a breeze is also lying. I have found that, for me, living alone is a great gift, and it means I have to do the work of reaching out and making plans possibly more than others do – and, I know too, now that I’m in my seventh decade (holy fuck, how did that happen?) that if I have a bunch of social engagements in a twenty-four hour span, and by bunch I mean two, I must have a day, or more, of recovery. Must. Yes, introversion and introverts are real, and I’m one of ‘em. 

Deep breaths. Gratitude, and curiosity about what’s next. All these are important while the vast mass of peeps celebrate whatever TF holiday it is. Because no one, no one person, has a perfect, trouble-free life, and loving what you have right now- whatever that is – is a muscle, a skill that needs work. For me, for me, for me. I try, I truly try to undertake to do that work joyfully, to do the hard work. Whatever I do, I also try not to suffer over my occasional suffering, the familiar scar and pain of loneliness; I observe it, acknowledging the sometime throbbing scar, and let it go. And so, while others parade and grill, I write, and then write some more, and read, and call friends, maybe, and dig in the dirt, and attempt stillness for a least five minutes, and walk – repeatedly – my miniature pony-sized dog.  

The First Time: O.P.

Posting this again, original poster and post (O.P.), urging you to write for the project, or spread the good word and get your friends to do so in your stead… with my deepest gratitude. 

The First Time – A letter, brief (?) tale, and request to a few of my dearest female friends and acquaintances, and theirs!

Everyone remembers their first time, right? Loving, traumatic, quick, painful, joyous, funny, violent, drunken, stone cold sober, silly, too young, too old, overdue, in a truck, a car, a field, a motel room, the marriage bed ~ all of this and more makes up a slice of our, women’s, first experiences of sex. If you’re experience was anything even remotely like mine, growing up in rural America during the 60s and 70s, ‘the bases’ were attained slowly or quickly over time, and there was constant discussion regarding who had ‘done it’ or not, beginning – as I recall – in middle school. And, by the time I’d ‘done it’, at the ripe old age of 19, I’d certainly visited first, second and third base and also fought off not one but two of my ancient seeming, gross, married with children male teachers, so maybe it was time to hit a home run. And, for the record, I hate sports metaphors, but until we feminist language, here we are – playing fucking baseball, and given one of those two men was my former high school softball coach…but I digress. 

So, there I was on Nantucket Island, chambermaiding at a bed and breakfast, sharing a sloped, cramped attic room with my best friend from college, my twentieth birthday looming on the horizon (I could not, not, not still be a virgin at twenty!!), when along comes sweet, horny, handsome Raoul, which was his actual nickname. We’d met near the end of my 1st semester sophomore year at Syracuse University, and the attraction between us was powerful, but – and it was a big but – he was leaving for law school in California in 5 weeks, cramming in as much partying and academic wrap up as was humanly possible, with no time left over to court a skittish nineteen-year-old. But, big surprise to me, he kept in touch. His letters, as I recall, were long and funny, full of looping curvy words written in thick blue or black ink on page after page of white paper. Raoul was lonely in California, was having trouble settling in, making friends. He visited over Christmas, driving to the Catskills from northern New Jersey for a night. What a champ! Dinner with my family?! Jesus Effing Christ he was brave. He tried to get me into bed that night, but I was so terrified of ‘doing it’ – of my mother, and the roof of our house blowing off if I were to do something so transgressive (thanks Catholic purity culture, which gives evangelical purity culture a damn good run for its fucked-up money) – I shook, literally shook with fear, and it didn’t happen.    

Fast forward to a warm June, on gorgeous Nantucket Island, and a house literally full of available beds for romping and humping, and here he – my hero(?) – is! We finally – I finally – did it. But not in one of the many rooms available, nope. We did it in that cramped, sloped ceilinged attic room, in my twin bed with – at my insistence – my best friend in the other twin bed, pretending to be asleep. More on that later.


It was great. I absolutely loved it. I still do. Sex. Yummy. So much fun. Best thing you can do with your clothes on or off, in my opinion, with someone, or alone. Where-ever the fuck you want to do it, with whomever you can convince to do it, within reason! Consent is everything. Everything. And please for-fucks-sake don’t be fucking animals or anyone under 18 unless you are also 18 or less, again, within reason. But I digress. Sex. So much fun. Co-ed wrestling, more fucking sports metaphors, was my new favorite sport – with a lovely big bang along the way, if your sparring partner knows what-the-fuck he is doing or if, though not always, like some lucky females, you’re just naturally orgasmic. 

So, of course, the very next day glowing with triumph (the girl who lived!) I called the boy I actually loved back in the Catskills, to tell him I had had sex, finally, that it was so much fun, and that all I wanted to do now was to have sex with him, and that I loved him, whatever I had said, and lied about, months before, but his wicked step-mother picked up, bit my head off as per usual, saying he wasn’t home (liar!), and I hung up the phone never to try again. And, yes, I was actually going to tell this sweet young man I had already injured that I’d had sex with another man, that it was so much funso great, which would have gone over like a lead balloon, right, so she did me a favor even if she was a total, nasty, cock-blocking bitch who’d hated me for a decade by then for who knows what reason other than women, women my mother’s age, including my mother – although not all of ‘em! – seemed to hate me in general. But I digress. 

I write this, and share it with you because I wonder if any of my friends were brought up, as I certainly was not, to think about sex positively? To love, really and truly, love their bodies? To celebrate their curves and planes, their hairy legs, or clean shaven ‘pins’, their impending or current cycles of menstruation (‘you know this doesn’t make you a woman’, my mother said, when I got mine), and the power and profundity of menopause, as well as the hot flashes, which – for many of my friends – continue for years and years? I wonder if any of my friends or friends of friends, were raised to be curious, in a good way, about sex, or cautious on a logical, sensible sliding scale, curious too about their own sexuality? And I wonder if my friends and theirs were able to examine ubiquitous images and representations of female sexuality, and if, additionally, anyone was able to see female sexuality as partly or wholly positive, or at least not as negative or necessarily, inherently manipulative, vulnerable, weak? In my family, female sexuality was the unspoken white elephant in the room, a virgin elephant who was also, somehow, required to be eminently desirable, sexy without being sexual, gorgeous without being too gorgeous or threatening, a sexy-nice-not-too-sexy girl objectified into unattainably attainable by marriage alone status. I’m exhausted just by writing that, my own experience in this area was so fucked up, and complicated. My father openly admired women’s bodies, loved them, and he loved, loved, loved porn, but – he was married to a morbidly obese woman who clearly hated her own body, hated it. They, don’tcha know, were both virgins when they married at twenty-seven. And, the story went on, their wedding night was glorious! Amazing! Perfect! As was their marriage, only – well, there’s always more to the story, ain’t there? Among numerous other crazy-ass role models and complicating factors.

Tell me. Tell me, if you will. Tell me what happened, to you. How it happened. Where. When. Write it out and send it to me; write about your first time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s meant to be ‘Post Secret’ ( but for women only, for the purpose of telling our stories in a safe, 100% anonymous (or not) space for eventual publication, yes, publication – initially on line, via wordpress – to demystify, clarify and expose what women and girls actually experience via anonymous (or not) true tales of how, where, and when we experienced our first time. From our perspective, sans romance novel bullshit, and with a truckload, boatload, stadium full of compassion for the vast messy panoply of what women and girls’ actual lived experiences are, and were, and very probably always will be.  

Because. Ignorance is not bliss. I know this. So, think about it. Or, toss this in the garbage those who are receiving by snail mail, ignore it, fuhgeddaboudit, or – pass it along to a friend who you think might want to participate, or delete it, burn it, forget it, leave it in a drawer or unopened email for years and then respond, or not. Up to you. Your choice; consent and willing participation are essential. Send me whatever you write and however you choose to write it via snail mail to PO Box 331, New Kingston, N.Y 12459, or better yet for transmission and reprinting purposes, via email at, and I will treat your tale of joy, woe, or some combination of the above with the respect and generosity you deserve. When and where and with whom did you have sex for the first time. Or the first time with loving intent? Or the first time sober? How was it? Did you enjoy it, or was your own enjoyment not a part of the equation? Was it great, embarrassing, hilarious, ridiculous, awful, terrible, or none of the above? What else – context, family, culture, religion, history – made it as impactful, or not, as it was?   


The truth is, I asked my best friend to stay in the room while Raoul and I ‘did it’ in the summer of 1979 on that gorgeous island in the Atlantic Ocean, an island that was as far as I had ever been from my family in my entire life, because I thought I was going to die. Not that I could tell her that, explain myself, not at the time, and not for many, many years to come. I thought I was going to die because I wasn’t a virgin at all, even if I had to believe I was, because my mother and my church told me I had no value unless I was a virgin up to the moment I was ‘deflowered’ by a man, the man: my eventual husband. And, if you’re not one of my friends, but rather a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend reading this, I still ain’t married to that flower-picking, plucking, inherently heroic and entirely mythical creature. Oops.   

My actual ‘first time’ was as an eight-year-old child, when my cousin – who was sixteen – had sex on me and at me; he raped me, in a field on the farm where my dad and his concurrently, and he and I sequentially, grew up. Endless View farm. A part of me, a former version of myself, died that day because he, my cousin, chose to kill me, to kill my child self, kill my trust, murder my faith in family and in love, by forcing his fucking selfish fucking desires on me. I kept and buried that secret for decades, only – I couldn’t quite keep the corpse of that little dead girl underground. It was she who shook with literal fear the night Raoul visited over Christmas break; it was she who lied and told the boy I loved I didn’t love him; it was she who put herself in danger time and time again for years thereafter hoping to die for real, big time death, or to somehow breakthrough, back to life in full. She remains with me today, and it is for her and the thousands of girls and women like her, living and dead, including my poor fucked up mother, that I initiate this project, this experiment, this attempt at leveling the playing field of fucking, of sex, of fuckery, and of love, and love, and love, which field has been, for most of history, limited to, dominated and defined by, narrated, mythologized, had its lines drawn by, and ruled – – by men. 

Perhaps you have a similar story. Perhaps your first time was magical, amazing, glorious like it was for my virginal mom and dad*, and in the telling, and living, that is enviable, and worth letting your daughters and granddaughters and anyone out there in this increasingly connected world who is wondering how it – the first time, or any time for that matter – can be. Perhaps your first time is best captured by poetry, Haiku, or limerick, a text chain, a short song, a fable, a novel, or a quick confession on the back of a postcard – just be aware that I will be editing for length, and clarity, while doing my utmost to respect every nuance, word and syllable of your lived experiences. Women and girls, including trans-women and non-binary folks, are all invited, are all intrinsically a part in and of this experiment, this quest of mine, including our lesbian sisters, mothers and daughters, because we know that men’s gazes, and dicks, aren’t so important they define all sexual experiences by virtue of being present, even if they’re omnipresent in our lives because – well, because the patriarchy.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for considering participating. I believe there is immense power in story, and story-telling, in sharing our tales, and I hope you will take part. Deadline? I send this out at the beginning of 2023. If you’re interested in participating, see if you can get your contribution back to me at PO Box 331 New Kingston, NY 12459 or by January 2024 or – if it gets to you late – June of 2024! With my thanks. Or, burn this, and forget about it, also with my best wishes and good cheer. 


* My dad was not a virgin when he married my mom; he visited several prostitutes in NYC before being shipped overseas to France during the Korean War. I found this out when I was in my mid-forties, when I put my increasingly demented mother in a nursing home, and my dad came clean. 


If you decide want to share your name, your age – or any other information that you deem pertinent – as a part of this experiment, that also works for me, in fact it adds to what I hope will be the collective power of the project. If you don’t mind sharing via email, do so – as well as send along any questions – to but those who wish to submit anonymously should do so via snail mail. And if you want to tell me, literally tell me your story, while I listen and listen, and make notes, email me and we’ll work it out. Thank you.   

– Moj