Once I loved a boy

He was cute and kind and funny. I fell for him fast.

Once I loved a boy. He was young like me, clueless like me. He had a way with words, this boy. Back then, before I knew forever was temporary, I didn’t know things like those don’t last forever. I didn’t know to shield my heart.

I loved a boy and he loved me. There were rain songs and secret stories. And adventures, lots of them.duckpond

Once I loved a boy and he loved me. We had a good time, him and me. It was not my first love, nor my biggest, but it was my deepest.

It went on for some time, then one day the boy went away. He had his reasons. He left without much explanation, with a quiet unsmiling goodbye. He left me grasping at the retreating tendrils of forever, my heart gaping.

Once I loved a boy and he left without kissing me goodbye.

It took me forever to get over him.

One thing I learned from this boy: The only cure for love is to love again. And again. Again.

Be careful with scissors

2173-300x199-BlackbarbershearsHave I ever mentioned Matt, my hair stylist? He’s been cutting my hair for almost ten years. Aside from working magic with scissors, he’s intuitive. We have these great conversations that always go deeper, like there’s a trapdoor under his styling chair and he can just push a button and flip me down into his own personal underworld. He’s into reiki and healing stones, self-improvement and energy drinks. Sometimes he’s a little out there, but every single time I get out of his chair, I leave feeling more like myself on the outside and the inside.

Matt’s salon closed in January. He promised to get in touch when he found a new salon, but in the meantime, I decided to try out this cute little place near the coffee shop where I write. It’s got bookcases and art on the walls, and it’s adorable. I was psyched.

But everything went wrong: The stylist ran late, really late. She had bedraggled brown, shoulder-length hair and she wore an outfit that should have sent me running. She hesitated to start cutting my hair, then got carried away and cut it too short. She mumbled incoherent cutting rules to herself as she worked, Swedish chef–fashion. She took cell phone calls while I was in her chair. I left feeling glad to get away.

My haircut wasn’t truly horrible, but when I looked in the mirror I could see the new stylist’s unkempt hair sort of superimposed over mine like a hologram. It’s freaky, but it’s almost as if she spilled some of herself out onto my hair.

Fast forward three weeks. Time has worked wonders. I can look in the mirror without seeing her and I can almost pull my hair back into a ponytail again. And it turns out that Matt found a new space just down the street. But I’m still wondering whether this happens in all of our relationships. Do we hijack each other and glom on our own preferences, just to further our own interests? Or do we adopt each other’s traits without even realizing it? And if so, what happens to our true selves in the process?

Can you tell I’m still reeling from a shocking citique?

I have a friend who’s hot

I have a friend who’s hot. I’ve thought so for so long that I can no longer recall what initially attracted me to her. I’ve thought so for so long that I can no longer recall whether I liked her just as a friend first (I did), if her physicality became sexy to me because of how she acts (it did), or if I thought she was irresistibly beautiful (she is) and our friendship grew from there (maybe it did).

I have a friend who’s hot. We’ve known each other for more than 20 years. We became friends in high school. She was the one who painted not just her face but her entire (beautiful, sexy) body for football games. She was the one who dragged me along to the grocery store to buy flowers for a guy she liked. She was the one who was always up for a party. She was the one who tried to get me to sneak a beer with some cute guys when we were 17. She was the one who was always ready for an adventure.

Now listen up, this is important. This friend of mine? She’s smart. Intimidatingly smart. If there’s one thing that’s hotter to me than her body, it’s her mind. I have to work hard to keep up with her intellectually, and I never get tired of it. I always feel just a little less smart than her, and somehow my brain interprets that to mean that I’m just a little less sexy too. I know, it’s not a contest. But if it was, she would win.

That’s cool with me. I have a friend who’s hot, and she makes me work harder than I usually do. She makes me want to be just like her, even if I never quite get there. I have a friend who’s hot, and she makes me want to be just a little imperfect so she can always be hotter than me.

Coffee with a friend

I had coffee with a friend this weekend. Not so unusual, except that this was a very old friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. To be honest, it was only the second time we’d ever been alone together.

We’ve known each other for close to two decades. He reads my blog. Mostly I hate it when people talk to me in real life about things they read here, but with him, it was okay.

We talked about things we want. We talked about what it feels like to go crazy. We talked a little bit about marriage, but mostly what we talked about wasn’t important.

Sometimes you have coffee with an old friend and afterwards the old friend feels new again.

There was this one time

There’s this guy I know. I’m not going to give you too many details. Suffice it to say, you probably don’t know him.

There’s this guy I know, but I don’t know him that well. I’ve known him awhile now, but he’s always been at the fringes. He’s a guy, which is problematic for me. He’s a guy, so I don’t know him that well. This is not a statement about him, only about me and how I’ve always relegated guys to the fringes.

There’s this guy I know. He’s always interested me. Because he’s a guy, I’ve never given him much mental space. Since he’s a guy, I’ve mostly ignored him.

I’ve mostly ignored him for several reasons: One, guys scare me. That’s a long-established fact. Two, I’m married. My definition of marriage has long excluded giving mental space to men other than my husband. I’ve never bothered making friends with guys. Three, he’s married too, off-limits in my world. So I’ve mostly ignored him.

There’s this guy I know. I’ve observed from afar that he is good looking, hot even. I’ve observed that he is funny and friendly. Very friendly. I’ve observed that he is a great husband, a great dad. I’ve observed all this without comment, without action. I’ve just noticed it.

Years ago, there was an incident. This was a long time ago, before this guy became a dad, long before I became a mom, before I was even married, even before I began to actively relegate interesting people to the fringes. I’m not going to give you too many details.

There was a large celebration. Something horrible happened to me and I was crying, in public. This was a celebration, so all of my friends were there. My real friends, the ones I don’t ignore, don’t relegate. All my friends saw what happened, they saw me crying. They stood there, shocked, unmoving. All of them just stared at me, except for this guy I know. This guy I know, he didn’t say anything, but he did hug me.

There was this one time that this guy I know hugged me. I didn’t know him that well; I still don’t.

Sometimes a lot of knowing happens in one hug.

There’s this guy I know.

Do you feel love?

Love isn’t

Small cool hands on your back
Arms wrapped around you from behind


A smile on a train
That weightless promise of running

Sometimes it’s

A blank canvas
The strength of a line
The liquid grain in a wooden board


The reflection of sun on metal
Water pouring through your fingers
Friends in strange places

But more often it’s

The pavement’s thud
A check written to your name
A candy bar at the gas station at 2 a.m.


The word no
Dark secrets shared
The truth eked out in screams

I find mine where

Rope meets my flesh
Rocks lie in my belly

Everyone has a pit of fear

I’ll hold the rope
You jump in and pull
Tug it through
It’ll turn inside out

Sun in the dark

That’s love




I like black

Black brought us together twice. The first time I was four years old. Your mom brought you over. We went outside to play, our moms had coffee inside. I slung my new pink purse with the cherries on it over my shoulder. Tucked inside I had my art book and my crayons.

So we went outside to play. I led the way up the hill, that hill that seemed so large back then but that was really rather small. We climbed it and sat down next to each other at the top. I opened my purse and pulled out my art book.

“Can I see it?” you asked.

“Okay,” I said and handed it to you.

You flipped through my drawings as I pulled out my crayons and lined them up on the grass. Your eyes roamed over my pages, taking in my imaginary friends, my master plans for a motor home, my silly four-year-old dreams.

“They’re all black,” you said, confused.

“Black is my favorite color,” I told you, putting the crayons in rainbow order because they were not all black. I like to choose.

You laughed.

The laugh cut through me and I hated you. I reached for you and yanked a handful of your sweet, shaggy, golden hair.

You cried.

Your mom saw everything through the window and blamed me. But she was wrong. You deserved it. I gave you my secret and you tried to destroy it.

Years later you reminded me. “Black was your favorite color,” you laughed.

Yes, I know it was. It always has been.

The day before you asked me to marry you, you hid my engagement ring in a drawer. I looked. Damn my intuition.

The next night you wanted to walk on the beach. I knew what you wanted. I stalled, lurked in the bathroom, and bided my time. I don’t know why. When we reached the gloomy beach just after sunset, you got down on one knee and slipped the ring on my finger. You didn’t even have to ask. We lingered awhile until we couldn’t see each other anymore, the black night sky dropping heavy on us and the black water crashing on the sand. The scene was straight out of my art book.

It’s funny, black brought us together and black sealed the deal. You always knew what you were getting, even as you laughed about it. So I think that you like black too.

I dated a guy in a band once

The guy was young and awkward about his shaggy good looks. He was cool and funny and he loved his guitar. The guy wrote sad songs and he liked being in a band almost as much as he liked having a girlfriend.

I was young and shy and I should have gotten up on stage with him to sing his sad songs. I could have shaken a tambourine and snuck sips of beer. I might have flirted with his weirdo band mates. I should have had more fun than I did, sitting quietly on my barstool playing the good girl, wishing I was at the library studying instead.

I should have been different. I should have been less careful. I should have grabbed my camera and gone to more of his shows. I should have put on a skimpy dress and cheered louder than I did. I definitely should have demanded a quickie in the alley around back.

Once I dated a guy in a band and who played guitar. I should have told him that I loved his music more than I loved him. I should have photographed him, drawn him, painted him so that he could see himself the way I saw him: awesome. I should have let his thing be my thing because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there are two kinds of love. There’s the scared kind, where you say no and hold on too tight. Then there’s the true kind where you say anything is possible. Anything, even the impossible. And you let go.

I dated a guy in a band once, and you’re not going to believe this, but I told him to quit. I told him that the band was not for me. I told him to choose.

I’m telling you, he should have let me go.

Mean girls come from mean grandmas

Hear me out, I have a theory. Girls end up like their moms, right? If your mom is a neat freak, you will probably be one too. You probably still remember the little red dress that your mom slipped on for date nights. Maybe you were unlucky enough to have a crazy mom who didn’t get out of bed in the morning to see you off to school; maybe love feels like making your own PB&J in the dark kitchen on a cold morning.

No, I don’t think so. Girls reject their moms. Somewhere around twelve or thirteen, moms start to gross us out. Even if your mom is beautiful – and perfect – you start to hate her beauty. It’s confusing. Somehow the very existence of your mom feels annihilating. Maybe this goes both ways, maybe the fact of her daughter’s becoming a teenager feels annihilating to the mom as well. Maybe they both reject each other.

In their mutual rejection, mother and daughter reach out, grope for another connection, an alternate link to life. I suspect that fathers often fill this role for the girls, but for me it was my grandma. If you’ve read here awhile, then you know that my Bubbie was mean. She made me rinse with Listerine before I’d even lost all of my baby teeth. She blamed me for my older sister’s mental illnesses, and she regularly withheld her love for me. Still, she had a huge effect on me. I couldn’t help myself from loving her anyway, from seeking her approval and even trying to be like her despite her despicable ways.

My Bubbie was incredibly strong. She knew how to protect herself, which my loving, kind, honest mom never learned. She set her limits and didn’t let anyone cross them. My Bubbie showed me how you can love people who you don’t like. She demonstrated that meanness is just another form of admiration, that it is the recognition of dangerous difference.

I’m not defending my grandma, nor advocating meanness. I’m only noticing two decades into my adulthood how valuable that alliance has been for me. At 36, I am probably more like my mom than my Bubbie, but I learned from the best how to be mean. On a daily basis, I let my mean side temper my loving side. I use it to demand the most from my friends, and I use it to set my kids free from unhealthy expectations.

My Bubbie taught me how to protect myself. What about you? Did your grandma give you a secret super power?

Thanks to this guy for inspiring my title. So, Jack B, is it true for men, too? Do mean guys come from mean grandpas? 

Spoilers suck


I watched a movie with my in-laws this weekend. The movie was Elysium, with Matt Damon. Sci-fi with a tense, emotional plot. Good, but a bit predictable. Overall, you’d like it.

Now, watching with my in-laws is a different story. Geoff’s mom gets pretty emotional during movies. Within the first few minutes, she started up a chorus of “Mmm”s and “Oh”s. By the midway point, she was hiding under a blanket because of the violence. Near the end there was a minor twist that seemed obvious to me, but she clearly didn’t see it coming. “Oh my god!” she screamed when one character was stabbed, as if she had been hurt herself.

It was slightly amusing but distracting to watch with her. I kept thinking back to when I was a kid and my mom used to promise me that nothing on TV was real. “It’s all just pretend,” I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t. I actually felt way more sucked into the movie because of her reaction to it.

Then we had Geoff’s dad, the analyst, who about halfway through the movie announced the sequence of events leading up to the end. No, he’d never seen it before. But he totally called it. He was unaffected by the violence, not emotionally engaged with the plot at all. Cool and clear-headed—you should have seen him.

My in-laws have been married for a long time, 37 years this month. They are a great couple. Before this weekend though, I’ve often thought that they couldn’t be more different. They have different interests, different hobbies, different friends. They have completely different attitudes about most things. Watching the movie with them, it all clicked. They balance each other. One is emotional, the other intellectual. One is rational, the other irrational. Together, they complement each other. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle, and they experience life as a team.

Are all marriages like that? Does each person play a role, filling in for the other’s weaknesses, benefitting from their partner’s strengths? Is that how mine works? Maybe, but it’s more subtle than my in-laws’ relationship. I’d like to think that Geoff and I are a team, but we are also pretty good on our own.

I’m going to give this some more thought. And if you ever watch a movie with me, do not tell me how it ends. I hate that.

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