From the Archive: Stable for Now & Uncle Bill

From the Archive: Stable for Now & Uncle Bill

*I keep dreaming about my father, which is a gift, but a challenging one, as I miss him, and wake in a state of longing and sadness, as well as joy for having had him in my life. Like so much of human experience ~ it’s complicated. Father’s Day is almost upon us, and it seems right to finish this archival trip – which ends in just a few weeks, and only a handful – less – of journal entries on that date, or before? We’ll see. Thanks for reading.

April 29, 2010 Stable For Now

Yes, my dad is stable for now and so too can I be although I find myself constantly anxious awaiting the next crisis. I am also directing a bunch of teens (a gaggle of teens, a worry of teens, a triumph of teens, a nightmare of teens??) in Carousel for which there is still so much to do, I feel myself in desperate need of the weekend. That, thank goodness, is almost upon us, and one of the wonderful, marvelous, amazing teens has taken over my a.m. breakfast and dog walking duties for me at my dad’s, so that I can rest and rest and rest in the morning. I know things are bad when I have three weeks of New Yorkers waiting to be read, among other things I like to do/read when I have the time. And my house is filthy, although I did vacuum and change my sheets before leaving for the Berkshires last week. And I’m up to date on my laundry. Sigh!

My older sister will be here Saturday, my father informed me this a.m.; good. Perhaps I will call in and take the entire day for myself, after working in the a.m., that is. The weather is predicted to be gorgeous all weekend and I am looooonnnging to get digging weeds, biking around, and doing some guilt-free lounging on my patio with those same NYers and several books I have been waiting to crack. Let me at’em! Yes, I have a costume plot to work out and yes, I have a set plot to work out, and yes, I could mop the floors with all of the windows open. I could. We shall see. I have soup (French onion) to make as well. And props to work on – argh, this low-rent theatre nonsense is for the birds…this is my last show with the wee ones though, and so I bravely soldier on.

Yesterday I received a speeding ticket (horror of horrors) for driving 74 in a 55; the Trooper stopped two of us at once and the other guy was doing 78 in a 55. Har! I was late to work, had to go somewhere before actually getting there in a work-related vein (free books for kids in Delhi) and had made a longer than absolutely necessary stop at my dads prior to leaving because I have a compulsive need to stop by. I know I am not using my best judgement right now and I also know that – honesty compels me to confess – I speed all the time. Still, I will plea not-guilty and try for a reduction…why not? Life is good and TG tomorrow is Friday.

May 4, 2010 Uncle Bill

Yesterday my Uncle Bill died. I had a good weep for him, and of course today he has been much on my mind. My dad’s eldest brother, William George Mueller, Jr. had a very unique voice and looked, these last twenty years especially, so much like my beloved grandfather I both loved and, missing my gramps, hated seeing him. He was an educator, a farmer who went into teaching, and ended up as Principal at a local school whose merging with another tiny rural school, my alma mater, my dad’s and his, he helped move forward. He then left the Catskills for the Hudson Valley where he served as Principal (superintendent? I’ll have to check that out) in the Hudson Valley for many years.

He was born July 7th, although I don’t know what year and was married on that day as well. My dad thinks he would’ve been 87 or 88 this coming July and he died the way we all should, safely, peacefully, after playing half a round of golf. He was driving home with a friend and pulled over saying he didn’t feel well, and was gone. Not bad.

My cousin JoAnn thinks he planned his death; he had not golfed in over twenty years but yesterday and the day before that he hit the course in hot, humid weather. In the same way in 1980 my grandfather chopped wood in intense heat and humidity, dying as Bill did, from a heart attack following the exertion. I am so thankful my uncle was able to visit my dad last month. It was the first thing my father said to me when we spoke, how glad he was he had seen him this last time. At the time my dad said his brother looked awful, frail and purple around the mouth, and it was all I could do not to say, “hello, have you looked in the mirror lately, buddy?” in a classic pot calling the kettle black scenario. My dad looked up to his older brother quite a bit. I don’t know how this will affect him; we shall, as in all things, have to wait and see.
Rest in peace, Uncle Bill, rest in peace.

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. 

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 

From the Archive: Thumper

*I wrote this piece in or around 2007, and could write forever on the subject of body, weight, diets and all that jazz – in fact, I think I have, with this being just one iteration of that endless seemingly saga…thanks for reading. 

I want a dollar for every leg lift I have ever done, because then I would never have to work again. I want a dollar for every day I skipped a meal, or two, two meals. I want a dollar for every day in my twenties that I ate a pound of apples for breakfast, and nothing else until dinner, which was a salad. I want a dollar for every time I ate a muffin for breakfast in my thirties, and nothing else all day, again, until dinner, which was a salad. I want a dollar for every time I ate soup for dinner, or saladsalad, salad, and nothing else. I want a dollar for every can of tuna in fucking water I’ve eaten on lettuce leaves (Julia Child says use the tuna in oil for a reason, people: it adds flavor – remember flavor?). I want a fucking dollar for every time I criticized my female body because my Goddess I’d be so rich, especially if I added all the times I apologized for my imperfect female body, out loud and silently, especially silently, to others and most of all to myself. I want a dollar for all the diets I have been on, and all the schemes and plans and bullshit I put myself through to be what I could not be, which was as thin as my older sister. That she was anorexic during my middle school years, that she was bulimic during my high school and college years, and I was not, as well as clueless about how she stayed so fucking thiiiiiiiiiiiiin, doesn’t make a damned bit of difference; it fucked with my head. I want my money and I want it now. 

No one – no one – knew about anorexia and bulimia then, not outside a few psychiatrists, therapists, doctors or medical types; I sure as hell didn’t, when I was 10 or 14 or 19. Karen Carpenter was still alive; she didn’t die until 1983 when I was 24 years old, and my older sister 27 and finally, finally coming to the end of her active eating disorders, before her third and final pregnancy, but – to me, for me – the damage was done. The distortion. The crippling comparison and mis-interpretation of everything my body, the temple of my soul, was and meant to me, and to others, oh yes, to others. Temple of my soul? Bahahahahahahahaha. 

Wikipedia defines Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), thusly: it is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one’s own body part or appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix their dysmorphic part on their person. Do I think I have BDD? No, not in the sharply clinical sense, but then I don’t think I have any disorders. On the other hand, I have always thought my body was bigger than it is and was; this misapprehension on my part has become more apparent with every year that passes, and with the gift of perspective, the gift of aging, and its close twin – if you’re lucky – of wisdom. I look at photos of the years I starved and deprived myself to meet a fantasy goal I could never attain, years when I was, by any real measure, in great physical shape, and see that I was fit, maybe even thin or at least lean, and always, always active and healthy. 

But I didn’t see it, I didn’t believe it. In my mind, I was huge. Huge. Thunder thighs, massive round head with chubby cheeks and a gut that went on for days. In my own mind, I was huge. This fills me with sorrow. What was I thinking? Why was I thinking it? Why couldn’t I see what was right in front of me, and why did I care so much about something as superficial as ‘thinness’? Jesus H. Fucking Christ. Of all the things to obsess over – and I get it, given the crazy-ass characters I lived with as a child, and our fucked up culture – what a stupid fucking thing to be obsessed with, feeding right into the ka-billion-dollar industry of supplements, and diets and food plans, and forever after un-used exercise equipment and on and on and on represents. Bullshit. It’s all bullshit.   

I wish I had a dollar for every diet my mother was on, for every doctor she consulted about her weight, for every time I heard her complain about her weight, followed by another bowl of ice cream (or two), another bout of despair, of castigating herself, of bemoaning her fate, moans that she assuaged with hot fudge sauce, caramel sauce, scoops of fresh ice cream from the ice cream soda fountain in our dining room, a relic of the drug store my dad owned, along with an endless supply of cheap crackers and cookies and candy bars. Endless. Our fridge, or the deep compartment in the soda fountain, contained blocks of pale white American cheese as long as my ten-year-old arm, purchased direct from the dairy-man, Mr. White, who once upon a time used to deliver glass bottles of milk door-to-door, but now instead delivered to supermarkets and the few small groceries left in our area. Buying direct from him because he liked my parents (was he a former student of my mom?), we were able to get tubs of ice cream, 5 gallons each of vanilla and mint or plain chocolate chip, which mustn’t be left to spoil, for that was waste and waste was a sin. But, also, another message was ‘do not eat your mother’s food’, as she sat waiting for my dad to come home for work, guarding the kitchen from her perch at the end of the yellow Formica topped table, do not go overboard with the ice cream, do not eat two or God forbid four slices off the block of cheese at a time, after school or after playing outside, because doing so made her angry, sloppily and thoughtlessly wasting food like that, by eating it. I know, it makes no sense, right? Right. One summer she bought a bushel of cauliflower from the farm down the road, cauliflower she deep fried and froze in gallon bags she stuck in our basement freezer, but then she refused to let me have any, no one else dared ask, and my older, favored sister was surviving on carrot and celery sticks, iceberg lettuce leaves, hard-boiled eggs, and air. So asking her to ask was also out. We had to save it, and save it we did, until it was ruined, freezer-burned, and had to be tossed out, but at least I didn’t eat my mom’s special fucking fried cauliflower. Thank goodness. Thank God. Thanks be to God. Be grateful for what you do have, she always said. She had a point, but wasn’t the fried cauliflower something we all had? These were the kinds of questions I asked my mother that made her palms itch, itching to slap me, which she did, although she preferred to use the back of her restless, meaty hand.  

My mom was morbidly obese for much of my life, and hers. At 5’3” tall, she weighed, on average, between a ‘light’ (to her and to us, so conscious of her weight as we, her children, her daughters, all were) 180 to a very unhappy 270 pounds. She tried Weight-Watchers, she ‘prayed down the weight’ with God at the Catholic Church, she did a week long fast at the Omega Institute with a cousin’s wife who was even bigger than she was, and the cousin’s mother-in-law, my aunt Sally, a woman who was not obese, just chunky and furious, filled to the gills, simply stuffed with rage, due to her philandering husband, my mom’s brother Norm, a first-class creep who undermined her confidence with every conquest he made, and he made a lot. My mother tried eating celery and carrot sticks for dinner, drinking vinegar and cutting off the fat on every piece of meat she made for her roast beast loving husband, but nothing worked, and nothing ever would, not really. There was one period that she did really well, was healthier, dropping a load of her excess pounds in her sixties. This seeming miracle happened because she invested in one on one work, meeting weekly with a Nutri-system coach, getting the help she actually needed, which more than anything was to be heard, to be understood, to be supported. But she gave that up after less than a year, saying it was an extravagance she could not justify, driving 40 miles in all weather, spending that kind of money on gas alone, even though she had the money (or rather, my dad did), the energy crisis was long over for fuck’s sake, but then there was the cost of the consultation time, and the food, not worth it, even though it helped her, and was one of the few times she did something just for herself, spent money and time on herself. Oh mom. 

I wish I had another dollar for all the diets my friends have been on, for all ways when we’re dining together that I see their eyes calculate how many pieces of bread and butter they’re ‘allowed’, and the other crazy-ass shit they’ve done to meet their own bullshit body expectations. I wish I had a dollar for all the times their bodies, and mine, have been commented on, spoken about, by men on the street, in the gym, in life, period – as if their bodies and my body, their weight and my weight, were public property, or at least open for public discussion by men. I wish I had a dollar for every goddamned time some mother-fucking man, old, young, middle-aged, and fat or thin and everything in-between, has told me how much he liked this part of me or that part of me or how he’d like to do this or that to me, including what clothes he wanted me to wear and I am not, let me be clear, simply talking about my various lovers, I am talking about strangers, or bare acquaintances. Oh, what I could do with the money from all of these things! Open a rape-crisis center. Buy me a bushel of cauliflower. Donate to the Ms. Foundation. Fund Planned Parenthood forever. Brother fuckers.  

I want a fucking dollar for every single fucking time some respectable married man has hit on me from the time I was 14 and started working in my dad’s store on weekends and in the summer, to now, to this day over 40 years later, all while keeping their respectable married man reputations intact, just trying it on, trying me on, as if I were a pair of fucking pants, just testing me, to see if I’d go for it. Fuckers.  

I want a dollar for every page of every book I read as a middle-schooler while ignoring or trying to ignore the sound of my older sister thumping and whapping her thighs against the floor of our porch, right below my bedroom, thump, thump, thump, whapp, whapp, whapp, as she attempted to whack and whap and thump away the non-existent fat on her anorexic thighs. I don’t remember when it began, the obsession my big sister had with her weight, perhaps it was always there, but I remember well the day she asked me to get on the scale, after which she compared her weight, 72, to mine, 77. She was three years older than I was, and she told me then that her goal weight was 70. I was in 4th grade, or 5th. I remember the conversation and the numbers on the scale in our upstairs bathroom better than I do my exact age, the black and white dial, stark against the ugly orange 70s carpet. And I remember suddenly becoming aware in that moment with her in that sun-filled room, that weight was a thing, a concept not tied to the doctor’s office, or the nurse’s office in school, where height and weight and eyes and ears were checked annually, just figures in a notebook that meant about as much as our ages, right? Of course, they, the numbers, meant something to someone, which is why they wrote them down, but that was outside us, outside ourselves. The adults needed to know, because we should be, perhaps, at a certain level of learning or muscle mass, but that was all. I knew that my friend Debbie H. was shorter and skinnier than the rest of us in our grade, and always had been, but then she was part Syrian (so exotic!), so maybe that explained it? Debbie wanted to be taller, and not so scrawny, but you understood that, that was within the realm of what was easily understood, even at 8 or 9 years old. But after my sister pointed out my weight to me, things began to change, and I began to notice myself, notice others, as a direct reflection of what I felt was my older sister’s exacting and eagle eye laid upon me, weighing me up, an eye of particular brightness and power which, over time, became my own. She thought I was fat, and needed to be careful or I’d end up like our mother. I didn’t feel fat, but I was heavier than she was, and bigger, bigger in energy, in space taken up, and for the first time of many, many times going forward, I felt self-conscious in a way I hadn’t before.     

There is a thing that happens, to women, to girls, when they get to a certain age, when we get our periods, and the body we knew, and knew well, is no longer the same. This another marker of self-consciousness, a time when expectations and awareness of otherness increases by leaps and bounds, when the culture’s eye, the dominant default white male eye, takes over, and it becomes less about health, much less, than it becomes about desirability, about who has ‘what it takes’. Perhaps this has changed, perhaps it’s different now, forty-plus years after I went through it myself, but I’m not sure, I don’t think so; it may have changed but not as much as I would wish it to. Sitting on Main Street in my hometown with a 20-year-old female friend of mine, a man, much closer to my age by far, starts frisking around her in a way I know all too well, ignoring me, which frisking makes us both laugh after he walks away. He has a sausage dog, and the juxtaposition of the dog, its tail wagging, long body low to the ground right next to his master’s top-heavy chunkiness, his stomach so obviously sucked in, his shoulders up around his ears to compensate, is funny. His body reminds me of my long-deceased aunt, the one with the philandering husband, my scummy Uncle Norm. The truth is, this man is not attractive to either of us, although we don’t comment on it, to one another or out loud, as he is simply not attractive or desirable to us because he is such an obvious goddamn fool.

I wish I had a dollar for every single time I refused to look at myself in the mirror, or that I looked and saw nothing to like in the glass. I wish I had a dollar for every single hair I plucked or shaved away. I wish I could get a refund of every facial I paid for over the years, every cream, every special lotion/spray/mask/foundation/infusion/vitamin/supplement blah blah blah I bought with money I generally didn’t have but scraped together for the ‘good of the cause’, which was to make myself better for my own eyes, because it is there I am caught, and torn, and un-pretty.

My sister healed from her disorders, but she is still a size zero. My sister stopped purging to save on her grocery bills, to save her teeth and her marriage. She stopped thumping her thighs on our porch and other porches, she stopped blocking up the toilets in our house and in her apartment, and in all the places where the vomit brigade does their work. She is still thin as a rake, and as different from me in temperament and energy as she ever was, and that’s ok. I can spend time with her, I can even eat in her presence without finding myself so big the weight of it, of me, shames me. I can exist in the world of her thinness and whatever that is and was to her, and be okay. 

My body is my own, and it has never betrayed me, though I have betrayed my body time and again, and others have betrayed me by using it, by taking advantage of my vulnerability – my cousin, the one who raped me when I was 8, most of all, most damagingly. I know now this was the act of a weeny ratfuck, a piece of shit – but more than that it was the act of an opportunist, a mother fucking coward who took advantage of a child who loved and trusted him, simply to get off. What the fuck is that about? It’s about power, I know this, but still, we are so hard on women, and on women’s bodies. We are so hard on ourselves for not being whatever the fuck the going standard for bodies is. We are so hard. We take out so much shit on the playing field that is not a fucking playing field and never should have been, the realm of girls’ and women’s bodies. And we are so poor, so poor. I wish I had a dollar for every single time I lost and betrayed my body by not being okay with it, and myself.    

From the Archive: My Abortions

*The photo above was taken by me @ The Women’s March in D.C. in 2017. This essay was originally written in 2011, and has been updated to include the following, post-Dobbs, introduction. And, to reframe – I’ll write more about this at another time – men are 100% responsible for all unwanted pregnancies; Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and his memoir’s claim that he slept with 20,000 women during his NBA career comes to mind. Insert eye-roll here_______. 

I had two abortions at Planned Parenthood in New York City in my mid-twenties. After the first, I still thought I could be a virgin when I got married, which is the kind of cognitive dissonance and compartmentalization women, primarily Evangelical and conservative Catholic women, practice when they get abortions while maintaining their ‘pro-life’ stance as in ‘I need this procedure, other women don’t, and/or aren’t deserving of the same medical care, and respect for their autonomy’. I was raised Catholic by a mother who stressed that my value as a woman was in maintaining virginity until marriage, but there was a problem with that, and with me. I had been sexually abused as a toddler, and was raped at eight by a cousin. How could I be a virgin, and ‘unspoiled’, given those facts? I would, as I did after abortion number one, simply pretend it away, push it down, live in shame and denial, while considering suicide daily, as I had since grade school. I was also sexually assaulted by two trusted high school teachers, men who to this day have the respect of many in my community, men who – when they assaulted me – were married with children, one of whom went to my mother’s – and my childhood – church. It’s hardly surprising that I flailed and failed in my twenties, failed at saying ‘no’, or ‘do you have a condom’, at taking birth control pills (why would I, after all, I wasn’t actually having sex; in my mixed-up mind, that was that other girl, the ruined one) and most of all I failed taking care of myself in any way shape or form. My periods were also very irregular. In many, most ways I tried to ignore my body, and all of its functions; I’m not sure I believed it belonged to me, not really. It belonged to the Church, it belonged to my family, to my mother, my culture, and all those men who’d taken, or tried to take, a bite of me. Morning sickness both times I was pregnant was twenty-four- hour sickness, and when I left Planned Parenthood after both my first and second abortion, I literally skipped down the street, thrilled the nausea was finally gone, and that I had my body back. My Body. Finally, finally after that second procedure I realized that if I didn’t take care of me, of my body, of my Self, no one else would. It still took years – decades – for real healing to take place, but when any one – any institution or government, Judge or priest, person or pundit – tries to tell me or any other woman or girl what we can or can’t do with our bodies, I feel anger in my bone marrow, in my blood, in all the healed and healing places that belonged and belong only to me, and no one else. Abortion is health care, and the Dobbs decision, however they parse it, relegates women and girls in this country to second class citizen status. And, if you don’t agree, you’re a misogynist: fuck you. Remember, 1 out of 4 women in the United States has had an abortion, a statistic I’ll bet is an underrepresentation, and if you think you don’t know one, well you’re wrong, some woman in your life is not telling you her full story – but regardless, now you do know one of those 1 in 4: me

Yesterday yet another man, a father of four, weighed in on the ‘Abortion Issue’, this time in the conservative op-ed column for the Oneonta Star, a local paper hereabouts in upstate New York. I am completely disinterested in what men have to say on this issue, particularly conservative Republican men who still, in my view, see women as second-class citizens, broody hens or mares, heifers, what you will as long as it’s barefoot or hooved and pregnant, yet it did stir me up, as stupidity on this matter always does. He said, in essence, that ‘abortion is one of our most important issues’; I completely disagree. Abortion has been settled law for thirty plus years and the conservative elements in this country need to get over it. We all, conservative and liberals alike, need to look at what is actually important, issues like generational poverty, gun violence, systemic racism, police reform, immigration, climate change, the income gap between rich and poor, health care, the deficit, and out of control spending by the Pentagon among others.
But before I move on let me address the abortion issue from a woman’s perspective, a woman moreover who has had two abortions and knows a lot – a lot – of other women who had them as well, women who are all too often silent when abortion is spoken of, a bad habit I want to encourage my sisters in this to break. First of all, I don’t think my experience is unique or special, but I do know that for me and for all of the women of whom I speak, abortion was a good thing, a necessary thing, not traumatic or violent in any way shape or form; in fact, in all the cases of which I know, abortion was a great blessing and one that must continue to be available to women and girls today. If I had my way, abortion would be – along with all forms of birth control – free and easily accessible, available and given on demand.
I was raised, as unfortunately too many young people still are, in a household where sex, sexuality and birth control, in any form, were not ever discussed. My mother was a Catholic (I am not) who believed and often pronounced that the only way to enter marriage was as a virgin, that sex before marriage was wrong, bad and sinful. This is one point of view, a dangerous and stupid one, and I hold it responsible in large part for my own idiocy when it came to dealing with my sexuality as a young woman. Prior to college, I had the usual biology and health classes in high school, lessons that reiterated what my mother said, that sex before marriage was bad, wrong and irresponsible. Again, this lesson was – and is – stupid, stupid, stupid. The health teacher I had skimmed through the reproductive issues pages to get to what really mattered to her (she was and is a teetotaler), which were the evils of alcohol. Very stupid.
I went into my early twenties, right after college, as a semi-virgin; I’d had sex but still considered myself sort of, mostly, a virgin. I was, as they say, living in a complete state of denial; I so wanted to live up to my mother’s example, my mother’s ideal, my culture’s ideal. I also had never, at the age of twenty-two, visited a gynecologist or spoken in depth with anyone about sex, birth control or abortion. I was smart, right, so no problem, right? I’d gone to college, graduating with honors; I’d figure it out, right? Figuring it out meant doing nothing, as I felt completely dis-empowered and in conflict when it came to dealing with my body and my sexuality. There is an inherent conflict created when we tell our children what they must do when it is – let’s face it – impossible to do, especially when we also don’t give them the information and means, as I was not given, to behave and act in a responsible manner. To refuse to accept and acknowledge that there is more than one way to be, as in having sex before marriage, as in being sexually active including all that that choice entails, is a huge disservice to our kids.
And so I got pregnant, puking my guts out for weeks on end at all hours of the day and night. I was so in denial I thought I had a bug, a very bad bug that I couldn’t shake. And I could live in denial because I believed that only bad, unlucky, low-class or stupid, trashy girls got knocked up; I wasn’t any of those! I remember calling my parents about this endless ‘bug’ I’d caught and hearing a note in my father’s voice that nudged me toward the truth. He knew, he knew, my smart darling father knew what I’d really caught, which was a serious case of pregnancy. Darling man that he was, he also never said a word when my bug, just as suddenly as it came upon me, went away. Imagine – men especially, imagine – if you can (and you can’t) – puking your guts out for six or eight or ten weeks as I did. Imagine feeling nauseous twenty-four/seven. It’s horrible. Brushing your teeth twenty times a day, gurgling mouth-wash to get the stink of vomit out of your mouth? Fun, fun, fun – not. 

Imagine if you can the fear I felt when I finally figured out that I was pregnant, knowing my work as a waitress, work I did while taking classes and auditioning for shows and commercials, added up to less than a quarter of the kind of income raising a child requires, if that. I had no real relationship with the ‘sperm donor’, a guy I’d met while walking my dog and screwed in the snow under a giant maple on Valentine’s Day in Central Park, a guy who, as it turned out, was married with several children, something he had lied about when we met. And I knew that in my life as it was then, there was no way, no way, that I was ready to have a baby. I had no health insurance, no primary care doc, and how was I going to carry a baby, a stroller too, up the five flights of my walk-up? How was I onto to be able to afford diapers and, everything else, when I was living on 10 bucks a week for groceries for myself? Ready – prepared – willing – happy, all of these were the opposite of what I then was, which was shit-scared, unprepared, and unwilling.
But, but – abortion is wrong. I promised myself I’d never do it. Oops. I confided in no one. I was completely alone with this, completely isolated, and in having an abortion I did the right thing. And I’m really proud of myself for that, for making the right choice for me, for taking care of myself although there was room, still, for a lot of improvement in that area. All children should be wanted, must, ideally, be wanted. I exercised – thank you Roe v. Wade, thank you, so, so much – my choice. After the abortion, nausea free for the first time in over eight long, looooong weeks, I literally skipped, danced, down Second Avenue outside Planned Parenthood. I had my body back, and I was glad.

I know there are those who say abortion is ‘unnatural’. I say that is bullshit. Nature is humanity using our natural human brains to find solutions to our natural problems and yes, an unwanted pregnancy is a problem. Texas and Louisiana are two famously “family values” anti-choice states of our union who also happen to share the distinction of having the highest rates of mothers and/or fathers who kill their living children. And just because I can I must mention here that Texas also wins in the thrice married category (as in they have the highest percentage of persons who have been married three times) as well as leading in the number of executions vis-à-vis the death penalty. Pro-life indeed. And what is strictly natural about penile implants for ED, or breast implants, gastric by-pass or face lifts? But you can’t get people riled up about those elective procedures, now can you? But women’s sexuality, women making informed choices about when they become mothers, a minimum eighteen-year commitment – sacre bleu! And let’s not even get started on how freaked out too many idiots get about giving our children the information they need and more than that deserve about sex, sexuality and birth control. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Speaking of stupid: there I was one year almost to the day after my first abortion when it happened again. I was puking my guts out 24/7, only this time I knew what was going on almost immediately – within 48 hours – after once again having unprotected sex. How could this happen!? Oh right, I had unprotected sex. What the what? I had been counseled about going on the pill by the very nice people at Planned Parenthood yet stupidly insisted that I would not ‘fall’ again. I would meet Prince Charming or at least I knew, I hoped, that I would meet a man who respected me enough to work with me as my partner on this, who would have a stake in being ‘safe’, in protecting both of us, even in this, circa 1985, vaguely innocent, nascent AIDS era.
As I write this, my former naiveté both pains and amuses me. Men, in my experience, don’t feel particularly responsible for birth control; after all, they don’t get pregnant, they don’t go through morning sickness and they can’t at bottom relate to women’s sexual and reproductive experience in any way, shape or form. Similarly, I can’t relate to the pain of, for example, erectile dysfunction, although I empathize: gosh, that’s gotta suck, not my problem though, and there’s a shitload of meds the expense for which, unlike abortions, almost every single insurance company in these great United States will cover in full. So, sure, I feel for you but I can’t really, truly, feel your pain. How could I? I don’t have a penis and by the way, Mr. Freud, I don’t and never did want one either – although I am almost 100% sure that men, the vast majority, want breasts. This inability to fully know what it means to be a man because I am not one is yet another reason why I wish men, all men, would shut the fuck up about abortion. You cannot relate, you cannot know, boys, so shut up unless you will, without reservation, support abortion, sex education and rational thought on the subject of human sexuality as in a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn from the policies of conservative America.

And so yes, it happened again. I became pregnant for a second time. I was young, arrogant, stupid, naïve and I continued to be in denial about who I was and what I hoped to be, which was still – even, unbelievably, post-abortion numero uno – a young woman who was a virgin when she married. This defies logic, intelligence and reason, but we are unreasonable, insane even, when we cannot be who we are without shame. Ah, now there’s a word: shame. It is shaming to not know how to be who we are, and to be completely ignorant about something as essential as our bodies, our sexuality, ourselves. It is shaming to have false, impossible ideals held up as the only way to be when our own nature calls us to another way. My darling dad was a horny devil, an appreciator of women for his entire life and I am like him, a horny devil who cannot not appreciate a sexy man; I just cannot do it and I love, love, love, love, love sex. That’s a naturally occurring part of who I am. Now my dad was, as per my mom’s pronouncements, also a virgin when they married. Uh, nope. I found this out right after my mother died when talking to him about one of his grandchildren, a wonderful young woman then ‘living in sin’ with her fiancé. Living in sin was my mother’s characterization had she still been alive to say it and say it jokingly but, in that way when our jokes reveal our innermost and truest thoughts and beliefs. So, there you have it, my dad had kept his silence, again, as prior to going overseas with the Army, he’d visited a few ‘ladies of the night’ in NYC and, as he so succinctly put it, ‘Thank God I did, otherwise no one would have known what to do on our wedding night!’
I loved my dad. I wish I had known this when I was twenty, it might have helped me feel less like crap about having sex before marriage. I wish all parents would see that being honest with their kids, educating them realistically about sex, about birth control and their bodies, is the only way to be. I had my second abortion and then avoided men and sex for about three very long, very frustrated as hell years. This was also not a solution for me. I learned how to take care of myself but will forever be grateful that a right, my right, to abortion saved me, saved me from being and becoming a mother at a time when I wasn’t able to yet take care of myself. If you can’t take care of something as basic as birth control, as I couldn’t, please, please, please think twenty times – think a hundred times – before having a child. And let’s empower our young women to be aware of all of their options and teach young men (and old) to realize that the way they treat their partners, girlfriends and wives is a direct reflection of the way they feel about themselves, no matter the gender gap. Respect women and the choices they need to make, boys, because you don’t and can’t understand. And let’s keep abortion legal, safe and accessible to all women, regardless of income. Abortion is good and that’s the truth. 

©Marjorie Miller – 2011

From the Archives: The Thing Is & Hospice

*Richard Q. Mueller doing a headstand circa 1970. He might – he just might – have a pipe in his mouth, but from this angle, we can’t be sure…

April 15, 2010 The Thing Is….

My dad really is one of my favorite people on the planet and the thought of not having his irreverent person around to joke with is just so God-awful awful, my heart is breaking. I have got to pull it together. 
Here are some of the things I remember and value (and always will) about him: his humor, his intelligence, his goodness, walking down the street with him when I was a little girl and the feeling that everyone knew him and liked him, how he made people laugh and feel good, and how safe he made me feel, his voice resonating in his chest when I would sit on his lap when I was little, his bursts of song from behind the pharmacy counter (today, in an attempt to ask the “important questions” I asked what were the rest of the words to one that began “in the south of France, where the ladies don’t wear pants” and discovered that they are as follows “all they wear is grass just to cover up their ass” which I think explains why I never heard them in the store all those years ago…), his ability to make any moment funny, his devotion to my mom and to doing what was right, his incredible cheap-a-tude (omg is he cheap!), his appreciation for good looking women (last night at the hospital: “did you see the hips on that one?”, “Not really dad, but I know where you’re coming from, so stop right there, please!”), his love for his kids and grand kids which was without ego although yes I sometimes wished he had taken more credit, more pride in himself and in the fabulous dynasty (I loved calling him the patriarch) he co-created, his modesty, his attachment to coins and stamps and collecting things, his depth and sweetness, the fact that he could stand on his head, and even on his hands on a chair when we were little, little kids and that I knew that he was the best dad of all the dads, ever. And that’s all, but just for now. 
All I want to do is sleep, maybe tonight. Last night was a wash until I called the hospital at 2:30a.m. to ask how he was. Asleep, she said. And so, I went back to bed for the seventeenth time and finally dropped off at about four a.m., waking at six. He told me today to be strong and that “this is life”; I know he’s right and I will try to be strong, but it ain’t easy.

April 17, 2010 Hospice

My dad is home and yesterday was admitted as a patient into Hospice, or, as it is known locally, the Catskill Area Center for Palliative Care. I have always been a fan of hospice care for at least as long as I have understood it, an understanding that dates back to a PBS show Bill Moyers did about it in the 90s. It’s great, and, it’s really great as it exists in the present, not only for the absolutely terminally ill i.e. “you have three weeks to live, yes, you can go into hospice”, it also now admits those whose diagnosis is longer term. 
Although the many services to my dad have yet to begin in full, he was checked out by an RN yesterday who will now visit every week. He will also be getting daily visits from a nurse’s aide named Lisa, a woman I understand to be quite a hottie, something my dad will appreciate very much. A social worker will also be checking in with him weekly and this daughter who loves her dad is feeling much better and much more supported in getting him through this transition, however long it takes. 
I wonder now, in useless hindsight, if I should have stayed with him Wednesday and allowed him to continue to say no to going to the ER. It would have been hard, but courage and strength are what is required now. Well, he is home, rested and resolute. He told me yesterday that everyone else is a lot more upset about him dying than he is, which is true. He misses my mom and his good friends, the closest of whom have been gone many for years, Uncle Hubert, and Seager Fairbairn, among very few others. Quality over quantity, always. His mother lived to be ninety-seven, almost ninety-eight. I adored her, but saw that she too was lonely for those who shared her memories, her peers, her college buddies and beloved siblings who had long pre-deceased her. 
My mom, even in her dementia, gave my dad a reason and purpose in life. She saw him in 1953 and grabbed him. He was (and is) a reserved man, shy although yes, with a large bawdy streak, but essentially private, and not easy to draw out. My mother’s vivacity, intelligence, and energy were the perfect foil for his quieter temperament; their relationship worked in part because he was willing to go along with whatever she wanted 99% of the time. Now I am concerned about him doing the same for me, for my brand-spanking new M.D. niece who loves him, for all of those who love him, and don’t want to lose him, ever. And yet, this is the natural order – and yet, it will happen, probably sooner than later. We have got to let go. And yet, letting go, while trying hard to respect and allow this sweet lovely intelligent man to decide for himself what he wants requires a boat load of grace.

I have a head cold, and grace is easier to come by when I don’t feel like shit. Still, it is possible. I guess.