Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maybe Ed Hardy Wasn’t So Bad After All

Last Thursday night, after a long day at the office, I made my way to the airport and grabbed a Los Angeles bound flight. A close friend from college was in the midst of a crisis. And though work was in overdrive and I had plenty of holiday-related tasks to tend to, off I went for a quick 3-day visit.

Los Angeles has always felt like a foreign land to me. My sense of direction is off and I’m repeatedly distracted by the curious way people present themselves. More importantly, I feel like an outsider in LA. I can strut through Bergdorf’s on 5th Avenue like I own the place. But at the bustling Barney’s just off Rodeo, I cower in the corner by a display of expensive French fragrances and hide from the masses.

“That guy looks like such a tool,” I mumbled as I picked at the cheese plate and nodded toward the DJ spinning music.

We were seated in the bar of a West Hollywood restaurant and the scene was defined by fur vests, tight leather pants and Louboutin stilettos. Even the men had a specific look, relying on untucked button-down shirts with textures and patterns not found on the east coast. It was like Rachel Zoe had styled the entire city. Literally.

“Who?” my friend asked.

Having been in LA for over a decade, she was completely immune to her surroundings. The guy ten feet to our right, a guy who was donning a tilted newsboy cap indoors while two chrome wallet-chains dangled off the hip of his skinny jeans, was just another zebra in her animal kingdom.

Over the course of my visit, my cloak of east coast sarcasm eventually melted away. I stopped scoffing at the population responsible for making Ed Hardy a household name. By the end of day two, I no longer flinched at the $100,000+ cars dominating the roadways. Suddenly I was eating fermented probiotic vegetables and purchasing crystals to cleanse my chakra.

“People are curiously friendly out here,” I said as we left a Beverly Hills boutique.

“You’re just used to the east coast where making eye contact with strangers is considered rude.”

It was refreshing to have a stranger invite me to pet her pedicured pooch, an offer triggered by my quiet cooing. It was nice knowing shopkeepers were genuinely pleased to help you, even if you didn’t make a purchase. And it almost seemed normal to invite a solo diner to pull his table next to ours at brunch on Sunday.

“I don’t want to intrude,” he said with a wave of his hand. “You two seem to be having plenty of fun without me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” my friend and I said as we each grabbed a corner of his table and dragged it in our direction.

Later Sunday evening, I sat down on the floor of my friend’s condo and started packing my belongings. I refolded unworn shirts, tucked small items within my sneakers, and carefully shielded my tan leather jacket from the dirty soles of my black leather pumps.

“I wish you were staying,” my friend said as she sat down on the nearby sofa, a half-empty bottle of Kombucha in her right hand.

I stood up, pressed down on the top of my suitcase and zipped it closed. The quiet hum of Tibetan monk chants echoed through the condo. On the end-table I noticed the rose quartz and pyrite crystals I had bought the previous evening, crystals my friend had blessed on her altar. I set my suitcase to the side, sat down next to her on the sofa and leaned back into the pillows.

“You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this but me too.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I’m Norma Fucking Rae: Sticking It to the Man

I’ve known since July that I needed to find a new job. That my boss withheld my monthly commissions for the first half of the year was one hint. Him suggesting I go on COBRA immediately if I was potentially considering a relocation to Atlanta was another. Ignoring the fact that his COBRA proposal was both preposterous and illegal, the overall tone of the office has also become somber and sad. But I plugged away because sometimes the devil plays nice and oftentimes it is easier to stay put than to make a change. But in the last few days, additional inequity has surfaced.

“I just learned that, though I have been here the longest and have the highest level of education of any of my coworkers, including my boss, I got the lowest year-end bonus.”

“I’m not surprised,” Leslie said.

And to be honest, I wasn’t either. Somehow, it made perfect sense that someone with no college degree got a bonus 250% higher than mine and the guy who has only been here six years and can’t find his way out of a paper bag got a bonus 500% higher than mine. Yes, it would make sense that the only employee who is actually bringing in new clients and thus making the boss more money would be rewarded the least. Realizing there is no reasoning with a corrupt man, I finally started job hunting.

Friday night, drained from the events of the week, I got on the road for a quick weekend in DC. Somewhere in Delaware my mother rang.

“Are you okay?” my mom asked.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

“Dad told me everything.”

“Oh, that. I’m fine.”

“PJ, you really should just screw him. You’re a smart, resourceful woman and he is clearly threatened by you. ”

It was perhaps the first time my mother ever genuinely built me up. This after years of being told my hair looks better straight, that I shouldn’t eat dessert, and that I should spend more time on the treadmill. It took someone else throwing the punches for my mom to truly mother me.

“I’ll be fine. I have a nice chunk of change on hand if things implode. But my goal is to keep my head down until I have a new opportunity lined up. Then I’ll tell him to fuck himself.”

“And Dad and I can help if you get stuck.”

It’s always nice to know you have a soft place to land. Leslie has outright said I can come live with her indefinitely. And my friend Samantha just moved into a gorgeous two-bedroom condo in Beverly Hills and offered the same. In a time dominated by economic turmoil and troubling unemployment numbers, it’s comforting to know I have the support of friends and family if things go haywire.

I got home from DC Sunday night and Monday morning I mustered the energy and courage to show up to work. The mere thought of being there for much longer left my shoulders tense and my head throbbing. Tuesday morning, I did it all over again. Except this time I considered bringing along a sippy cup of vodka to ease the pain. Then, just shy of noon, I received an email from a tech company I had applied to. The regional hiring manager had seen my resume and now wants to interview me.

Realistically speaking, I know that this is just the first hurdle of many. Even if I make it to the end of the interviewing process with an offer, it may not be an offer I am comfortable accepting. I am fully capable of being realistic and reasonable at a time when one can easily get distracted by excitement. So after one quick squeal and a samba shimmy in my chair, I closed the email and went back to work. Because if I’m really going to stick it to the man, I have to keep my plan to myself.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Keeping It Real

For the last few years, there has been some uproar about the way magazines and advertisers digitally alter photographs. The argument is that it presents a false sense of beauty that both girls and women can’t achieve. Jezebel, a pop-culture website, every so often posts a photoshop-of-horrors, the picture depicting a missing arm or a knee so small it couldn’t technically balance the weight of a pea. And sometimes they show a photo before and after it has been doctored.

I’m always amazed at the flaws you can see in the before picture. There are blemishes and scars along with crows feet and uneven skin tone. And it isn’t that I expect otherwise. It’s reasonable that Angelina Jolie has darkness under her eyes and Kim Kardashian’s thighs are dimpled with cellulite. You just never see it. This would explain why I’ve come to accept the portrayed perfection as real.

December marks the boom of another illusory presentation to the public: romance. From now through February, films like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually will play on a loop. He is aloof and she is flawed. But in the end he always gets the girl. Shit, even Buddy the goddam elf gets the girl. This time of year, that happy ending usually makes me cry.

For the most part, I don’t go through life feeling lonely. I have a group of close friends who can entertain me for hours on end. And I admittedly relish my alone time when I can disappear with a good book or go up and down every aisle at DSW without apology. But as the days shorten, as the temperatures dip, a hint of loneliness can sometimes bubble to the surface.

“Do you ever feel alone?” I asked my coworker as we picked at our Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

“Of course.” She answered without pause.

“Last night I cried myself to sleep,” I said as I reached for my diet lemonade. “And admitting that makes me feel so utterly pathetic.”

“You wouldn’t be human if you never felt lonely.”

I’m not sure she knew how much I needed to hear those words. It helped me swallow down the lump that was forming in my throat. It helped me stop beating myself up for once foolishly dubbing Alaska ‘Big’. And it helped me see that this perfect world where Mark Darcy returns to Bridget is nothing more than a digitally enhanced presentation of two made-up characters on a sound stage in Hollywood.

When I got back to my desk, I realized there are probably many people who, like me, fall into that trap of believing the falsehoods more than the truths. If I didn’t have cellulite, of course Alaska would have flown me to Paris and, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, admitted his mistakes and pleaded with me to marry him. And yes, in this scenario I am back-lit and a fan beyond the frame gently blows my tresses. But just because everything I see isn’t real doesn’t mean I’ll give up on a romantic ending. Reach for the stars and you just might touch them. But wear good concealer. Because it helps to feel pretty. And that minor tweak results in a far more beautiful image than anything created with Photoshop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

I’m thankful for the guy at the gym who wipes down the machines. No matter how much I or anyone else attempts to remove our splattered filth, he does it much better. Twice I’ve tried to relay my appreciation but he always just looks at me like I’m crazy. Though considering I sweat so much my shorts look like I’ve peed myself, I can understand his blank expression.

I’m thankful for the families at the Ronald McDonald House. Being single, it’s easy to get lost in a selfish existence. Sleeping in the middle of the bed and answering to no one are my norm. But the woman I drove home last night from Children’s Hospital, the woman who excitedly told me about her three-week-old baby’s progress and sadly expressed concern for the two families that had lost their children, she puts life in perspective.

I’m thankful for clients who treat me like family. Whether it’s forwarding a photograph of the owner’s daughter with Taylor Swift or inviting me to the employee appreciation luncheon, they go out of their way to show their gratitude. And if that wasn’t good enough, clients often greet me with a hug. Since I now work for someone who struggles to admit I bring any professional value to the table, it’s helpful to repeatedly be told otherwise, and by the people who matter most.

I’m thankful for the woman at the yarn shop who hung in there while I held steadfast to a specific yarn for a specific project that didn’t technically exist (chunky wool socks Olivia and Anders can wear as slippers). She poured through patterns and thoughtfully suggested yarns. She was never deterred when I scrunched my nose and shook my head no. And when I plopped down on the floor to check out some skeins, she didn’t flinch. Though she did laugh when I stood up, thanked her for her help and announced I was going to pass and instead head next door for a cookie.

I’m thankful for friends like Kristen, Joe and Barry, people who can make me laugh no matter the time or the place. I’m thankful for Martha, Leslie and Erika, friends who have talked me through some dark moments and cheered me on at the brightest of times. I’m thankful for Paula and Beth, two writers who inspire me to tell a story and tell it well. I’m thankful for Sean and Pazzy, two guys who without realizing it, have helped me see myself in ways I should but often do not. I hope I give back the same if not more than I receive from all of them.

I’m thankful for my family. For Olivia and Anders who help me see the world in a way no adult ever could. For Leslie who puts me first, guides me when I stray off course, makes me laugh to the point of tears, and cooks insanely delicious Thanksgiving stuffing. And for my parents. Though my father can be absent and my mother far too present, they both have managed to rally around me through the good and the bad.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ur So Not 4 Me

Last week I re-upped with eHarmony. It isn’t my only outlet for flirting with the opposite sex. Since I get hit on weekly at the gym, there’s always that venue. And I go out socially a few times a week, attending concerts and gallivanting around town with a noticeably pretty crowd. No, really, not to brag but my friends know how to bring it in the looks department. My parents probably pay them to include me. Anyway, I like to think of online dating as merely stacking the odds in my favor.

The first few days back on eHarmony, I was the belle of the ball. Every hour I was receiving notices, either a generic icebreaker complimenting my smile or a full-blown request to start communicating. In terms of elevating my sense of self, the first week of online dating is pretty much equal to six months on my shrink’s couch.

I try to be open when it comes to online dating. Sure, he looks a little like Dr. Huxtable but he does the Sunday crossword and appreciates fine wine. While living in Harrisburg qualifies as a personality flaw, maybe he ended up there for valid reasons. Of course, when BD Wong’s stunt double pinged me to start talking, I almost threw my computer across the room. People, I couldn’t make this shit up. I swear, this guy is like a herpes sore.

Anyway, I’m now on day sixteen of online dating and the novelty is slowly wearing off. Now that the shiny new glow has dulled considerably, I find myself drawing some conclusions. Walk with me.

(1) One or two grammatical errors I can live with. We’re human, after all. But not knowing the difference between their/there/they’re and you’re/your and it’s/its is a problem. Especially if your chosen profession is teaching. Also, try to avoid spelling in a way that requires me to read your sentence aloud so as to sound out the words. If ur 2 lazy 2 type, ur prob lazy n bed.

(2) There is a general guideline in writing: show don’t tell. Saying you are funny doesn’t make you funny any more than me claiming I am skinny makes me thin.

(3) Photographs are meant to make you look good, not bad. To that end:
  • Unless you are a pro-athlete, leave the team garb in the closet.
  • I don’t want to see your hairless, ripped, greasy chest.
  • I don’t want to see your hairless, ripped, greasy chest posed in front of a Camaro/BMW/Porsche.
  • Photographs shot from 100 feet away tell me nothing.
  • Photographs shot from 100 feet away that depict acid wash jeans tell me everything.
  • For the love of Pete, please find a way to take a picture that does not involve a bathroom, a mirror and a pose of you holding your phone out to snap the shot. I can only conclude this means you have no friends, or no friends willing to help you get laid.
  • I take no issue with you being a dad. My problem is you posting pictures of your children. It makes me feel pervy. I mean, this has to be how pedophiles get their fix, right?
(4) If you’re a commercial pilot, I will automatically assume you’re a whore. Blame the trampy pilots who came before you.

(5) If you’re current or former military and include a photograph in uniform, I might act like a whore. Blame Top Gun.

Now excuse me so I can back to flirting with the curiously cute IT guy from Sioux Falls, Dakota. Yes, Dakota. Color me a city-slicker snob but differentiating North from South is like arguing ecru is different from ivory. At least that is how I feel for now. But that could change. Between his nerdy specs and quirky sense of humor, I could...

(insert pause to google the town)

...learn to appreciate a land-locked state that boasts hosting the largest Christian festival in the country. Or, like, I could at least try.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Filed Under: First World Problems

Three years ago I signed on the dotted line for Gretel, my Audi A4. I admittedly had some hesitations. My father was a loyal Audi driver for decades. That there was always one window that was stuck either in the up or down position didn’t bother him. Heck, he even saw them through that sudden acceleration debacle. But the elegant lines of the new A4, the quick pep of the turbo engine, were enough for me to overlook the issues that have plagued the brand.

“If I drive faster than 40mph with the sunroof open, the noise is deafening,” I told the service person when I stopped in for Gretel’s first check-up.

“Oh, that’s normal.”

“No, no it isn’t.”

“You see, the window seals are super tight, which is a really good thing, but it creates an air suction issue. All you need to do is lower the rear windows.”

“Right, that’s not normal,” I said as I took my keys and scowled.

A few months later, I was informed there was a recall on the wind-deflector. It seemed the original version had accidentally been designed in a way that caused blood to spurt from the driver’s ears.

“My oil light came on,” I told the service rep when I dropped Gretel off to have the sunroof fixed.

“That’s normal.”

“The car has less than 2000 miles on it.”

“Right, you see, it’s a high performance engine. It will burn through some oil during the the first few thousand miles.”

“Uh huh. But the car doesn’t have a dipstick.”

“Do you have someone who can help you? All you need to do is add a little oil, then turn the car on and see if the warning light goes off. If it doesn’t just add a little more oil. Eventually it will be topped off.” He spoke as if this was a reasonable solution.

“This is so not normal.”

“Well, you can also just stop by here. No appointment needed. We’ll top it off for you.”

And that’s what I’ve done. Every 1500 miles, I’ve stopped at my Audi dealership to have them top off the oil. No one grumbles. They even offer coffee. It’s as if they are happy to see me, when I know they really aren’t.

A few weeks ago I took Gretel in for her state inspection. Out of curiosity, I asked if the oil consumption issue had ever been resolved. With her lease ending in three months, now was the time to evaluate buying her.

“And please do not tell me it’s normal, because it isn’t.”

“No, you’re right. And they have a new test. Drain the current oil, add new oil, run the new oil for 650 miles, drain new oil and then test it to see how it reads. It might just be a computer hiccup.”

“Let’s do it.”

I took Gretel home, ran 650 miles on her and brought her back to the dealership for the test.

“She needs new pistons,” the service rep said when he rang me at the office. “It’ll take a week. Because we have to remove the engine.”

My heart sank. That last sentence was the final nail in Gretel’s coffin. She has just been too much of a headache and the poor pup only has 24,000 on her. “So I’ll see you in a week?” I asked with a sigh.

“Yeah, unfortunately, no. I’m doing four piston changes a week. The earliest I can get you in is November 28th.”

“Four a week?”

“Yup.” You could hear the exhaustion in his voice. In my head I imagined tussled hair and large bags under his eyes, somewhat how I appeared during finals at Smith. Except finals ended after ten days.

After work I went up to the dealership to fetch Gretel. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I rang my parents to deliver the news.

“But you’re still going to buy her out, right?” my dad asked.

“They have to remove her engine.”


“I cannot believe I’m going to say this but put mom on the phone. For once she just might be the reasonable one.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

You Know You've Moved On When

After not speaking with Alaska for almost four months, we ended up on the phone. I told him I almost interviewed for a job in DC. He told me he was possibly pulling out of an upcoming marathon. We both agreed the new Feist album was too brilliant to describe with words.

"I miss your breasts," he then said, his voice soft like a caress.

"You miss my breath?" I asked.

"No, your breasts."

"Oh, because I thought you said 'breath' and for the life of me I just couldn't understand how that was a trait anyone could miss."


"Right, thanks. But, man, you'd have to be one fucked up person to miss someone's breath."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Connecting the Dots

Pivotal moments of my writing life are linked to three specific people. Ex pushed me to dust off the pen and start this blog. Alaska urged me to stretch myself, thereby landing me in graduate school. And this charming, nameless guy who was nothing more than a bundle of lies inspired a short story that ultimately developed into my novel. Sure, I would have evolved as a writer without these three people. But I find comfort in seeing them as integral to my destiny.

I struggle more to explain the path of my love life. Recent relationships played out like a tired record, the needle catching on a scratch and repeating the same refrain over and over. In the moment, I am always certain I have erased bad habits. Or I seek a silver lining to justify the grief littering my past. Sure, Ex told me that a five pound weight gain rendered me unattractive. But if it hadn’t been for him, I would have never met Alaska. Except, that just turned out to be the same mess in a different pile. I guess sometimes the explanation you discover doesn’t always reveal what you want to see.

A few weeks ago, I returned from Denver and in my head I started connecting the dots. Maybe hibernating for the last few years, maybe refusing to let go of Alaska, was necessary for me to land here. Everything in life is timing and perhaps everything that filled my time up until now was necessary for me to be ready for what lay in front of me. I couldn't help but enjoy this explanation, reasoning that justifies the past in search of a brilliant future.

But then I got home and nothing had changed. I still curled up on my sofa on Monday nights with a remote in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. On Tuesdays I worked out with my trainer and on Sundays I went to the grocery store. But there’s no meaning to these acts. Buying aged Reggiano Paremsan has in no way contributed to my destiny. Nor has taking out the recycling, playing Scrabble online or watching endless hours of Andy Cohen produced television.

I’m not exactly sure what will come next. I don’t know when I will finally finish my novel, though I did recently complete one chapter and begin another. Where I reside and how I make a living are equally uncertain. Worse yet, I truly have no idea where my heart will take me.

In two years, I’ll look back fondly on this time and be able to piece it all together. I was destined to land a specific job, to move to another city. My novel wasn’t meant to be finished because I wasn’t ready to say what needed to be written. And no matter how strongly I thought otherwise, I still wasn’t ready to fall in love with the right person. Or maybe I was. Maybe two years from now, as I rest my head on his chest, I will smile at how wise I was, how far I had come.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


In just a few weeks I will be able to loosely knot a scarf around my neck and dip my chin into the folds of the fabric. I’m ready for crisp fall evenings, the night air tainted with the smell of wood burning fireplaces. And I excitedly await that moment where, upon exhaling, my warm breath hovers like a fog before drifting away in the evening sky.

Then comes winter, a time of shorter days and longer nights. Snow crunches beneath your feet as you traverse pathways yet to be shoveled. Mugs of whipped hot chocolate are no longer an indulgence but an excusable method of warming your body from the inside out. And only a Grinch could grumble at the way ice wraps around branches and glistens in the morning sunlight.

It isn’t that I dislike spring and summer. I love seeing the bulbs push through the earth and blossom into a cluster of delicate petals pivoting with the arc of the sun. The sound of crickets lulls me to sleep like a soft symphony. Warm weather means sand sifting between your toes, cups of watermelon water ice at four o’clock in the afternoon, and driving with all of the windows down.

I enjoy running errands in flip-flops and wearing shirts that expose my freckled shoulders, but too much of a good thing and you stop appreciating what you have. I’m tired of the heat that renders my curling brush and hair blower useless. Splashing around in rainstorms while wearing thin-strapped sandals has lost its charm. Summer is nice but I am ready to slip my hands into a pair of knitted mittens.

And listen, come early March, when Leslie starts telling me about the blooms on her crape murtle, I’ll long for the months where skirts trump slacks. At a certain point, I’ll tire of scraping ice from my windshield. I’ll curse the salt residue clinging to my car and I’ll pray for the day that the scent of honeysuckles tickles my nose. But for now I look forward to curling up on my sofa while snowflakes fall from the sky. A cashmere throw will rest atop my feet and the smell of fresh baked pumpkin bread will fill my home.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

At Least I’m Not Her

The summer before I graduated college, I lived in Atlanta with Leslie. At her suggestion, I secured a position with a family planning program affiliated with Emory University. Then I packed up my car and drove south for the summer.

For the most part, Leslie and I got along really well. It didn’t matter that we were sharing a double bed bedecked with Laura Ashley floral sheets. It didn’t matter that she liked to spend her nights dancing in the VIP section at Tongue and Groove while I preferred strolling the aisles of Barnes & Noble. We always came together for poolside sunbathing on Saturday or a bagel brunch on Sunday.

“Get out of the car!” I instructed as I pulled up to the curb outside of the apartment complex.

“I thought we were going to dinner?” Leslie asked from the passenger seat.

We were. The plan was to head over to Roasters on Lenox Road for some chicken and macaroni and cheese.

“Get out!” This time I was almost yelling.

“Fine,” she said with a huff.

Leslie opened the door and got out. But before slamming it closed, she leaned into the car and said, “You’re acting just like Mom.” Then she flung the door shut and stomped off toward the apartment building.

From childhood, I have resembled my mother. The slight bump on my nose is just like hers. Our faces have the same shape. We also both adore Paris, can eat grated Reggiano Parmesan by the forkfuls, and know every word to any Celine Dion song released before 2000. In other words, it wasn’t shocking that I would act like her. What was shocking, what stung the most when Leslie pointed this out, was that I was like her in the bad ways too. I was emotional, irrational and unreasonable.

To this day, I have no recollection of what I was angry about. No matter how often I revisit that memory, I can’t remember what it was that had me so upset. Which ultimately means it was something stupid and childish. What it means is that Leslie’s accusation was spot on.

“I’m so sorry,” the Southwest representative said as she tapped on her keyboard.

“It isn’t your fault,” I noted, leaning against the counter and looking around the empty terminal.

“No, but you still must be frustrated.”

“Eh, worse things have happened than getting stranded in Denver.”

“I’m still sorry.”

“Unless your name is Irene and you’re a Cat 3 hurricane, you don’t need to apologize.”

The woman looked up. She scrunched her nose and then told me that Tuesday was the best she could do. I’d have to fly to Tampa first, linger there for three hours and then, then I would finally be Philadelphia bound. When she finished, she raised her shoulders toward her ears and waited for the backlash.

“Well, that’s better than Wednesday! Thanks for working your magic.”

She exhaled. Then she smiled and thanked me for being understanding. But on the inside, I knew she was thanking me for not being my mom, a woman who would have complained loudly, wagged her finger and demanded the moon and sun swap positions in the sky. On the inside, I knew the representative was thankful that I had been reasonable and calm. And in that moment, I was thankful too.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Because You Probably Want to Know What Happened

I could tell you that Saturday afternoon we set out for Boulder but changed course when we stumbled upon an airshow. Old World War II planes swooped in a pattern that resembled a winged waltz. Present-day fighter jets quietly approached before disappearing into the clouds, a thunderous boom following in their wake. And as we watched the sky, as we marveled at the planes twisting and turning, he loosely laced his fingers with mine.

I could tell you that at a certain point I lapsed into a pensive state that pulled me away from the moment. My tongue lashed against the back of my bottom teeth. I pressed my spine into the banquette in an attempt to disappear. Though music played loudly through the speakers, conflicting conversations cluttering my head drowned it all out. And there, in the midst of me withdrawing, he gently pulled me back.

I could tell you that when he dropped me off, after kissing me goodbye, I walked away without looking back. I curled my hand around the grip of my suitcase and settled my tote on my shoulder. Though it took a moment for the automatic door to start moving, I kept my gaze directed forward because I wasn’t sure I was capable of watching him leave.

There are a lot of things I could tell you about this past weekend. It is amazing how many moments can fill the span of forty-eight hours. Small moments barely worth a glance and more meaningful moments that linger for much longer. But for some reason, for some reason I’d rather keep those moments to myself.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Opposite of Alone

There are some amazing aspects of a single life. I get to sleep in the middle of the bed, scissoring my legs and rolling from side to side without a care in the world. In the morning, when I rush to the bathroom to pee and I leave the door open, it doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter that I let out a little squeaker as I lean over the sink and brush my teeth while making funny faces. But for all of the good, there can be some bad.

Most noticeably, the silence is louder when you are single. Random creaks of the wooden floor and clanging of wind-rattled windows are more jarring. Somehow staying in on a Friday night, sprawled across the sofa like a beached whale while viewing a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress, feels more pathetic than if there were another person confined within the same four walls. It’s at these times that you think you’d give it all up. You’d be happy to pee with the door closed if only you had a warm body to crawl up next to in the middle of the night.

“You haven’t said anything about Alaska all night,” a friend mentioned as we sipped iced coffees and peered into the windows of closed boutiques lining the avenue.

“Oh yeah, no. That’s done. Dead in the water. Finished-finished,” I said as I squinted against the darkness to admire a strapless Lily Pulitzer dress.

“Congrats!” she offered as she tapped her plastic Starbucks cup against mine.

It took me a very long time to get to this place. Stalled out in the abyss of the unknown, I welcomed his suggestions of reuniting and cursed his last minute cancellations, his pulling back excused by his fear he’d hurt me. “How ironic,” I’d always say in response to this claim. “Yeah,” was all he could ever muster. All the while, I remained single while distantly attached to this ghost of a man.

“Better yet, there’s sorta kinda maybe someone else,” I said as we sat down on the worn stone stairs leading up to a bank.

“Ooh, exciting. Do tell.”

A bus pulled up to the curb, idled loudly as passengers stepped off, and then crawled back into the stream of traffic. I glanced up at the starless sky and waited for the quiet of night to return. Then I told her everything.

I told her that it’s actually a friend, a guy I met through blogging. That while I can’t recall how our paths crossed over the wires, we met in person a few years back when he came to Philly for work. It was a friendly get together that included an evening tour of the Philadelphia sites followed by mussels, burgers and beer at Monk’s. Various things kept us from exploring anything further. He was deploying to Afghanistan. I was still attached, albeit by a thread, to Alaska. We’d kept in touch over the years and now, now seemed liked a good time to explore things further.

“I fly out Friday night,” I announced as a man and his Labrador moseyed by.

“Get out! Awesome. I’m really happy for you, Paige.”

“Yeah. Me too. And while I have absolutely no expectations, he makes me laugh. So at the very least, it should be a fun weekend.”

Plus, I thought quietly to myself, it will be nice to curl up next to him and rest my head on his chest, my hand on his stomach. After all this time, it will be nice to feel the opposite of alone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I never set out to become an insurance broker. My father needed part-time assistance and I needed a job. Somewhere along the way, it became a career.

“I don’t know how you do this,” a new client once noted as I walked her through carrier chaos regarding submitted paperwork. “And with a smile,” she added.

“You either laugh or cry. I’d rather laugh,” I said as I pointed to a section she needed to complete.

Insurance sales is far from glamorous. No one, and I mean not a one, grows up aspiring to sell employee benefits. Indian Chief and Policeman are far more appealing. Plus, they both come with better accessories.

“Do you like what you do?” my mom once asked.

“I love where I work and the people I work with, so yeah.”

With my father at the helm, employees were treated like family. His partner always had a more miserly approach, but he was never the point of contact. Well, he wasn’t until January 1st of this year.

“December 31st will be my last day,” my dad announced on December 19th, three days before he left for Florida on a one-way ticket.

I went pale. His partner almost choked.

You see, my father had been handling everything: payroll, business expenses, property management. He cut all of the checks. When he was gone, I took over. And for the most part, I also managed the office. It was one of my original tasks that I never gave up. So, in between managing a book of business and prospecting new clients, it was my burden to research and order a new network printer along with paper and toner for said printer.

The feel in the office has been different since my father passed the torch. When he is in Philly, he still comes into the office every day and he still cracks jokes, lightening the mood. But there’s a general sense of panic and dread between the rest of us.

“I get the distinct sense I’m fall out from your decision to retire,” I said to my dad one afternoon when we were the only people left in the office.

His left eye twitched a little as I shared the evidence: snippy comments, a reduction in my commission split, and my monthly commission payout being withheld for over six months, something that I quickly learned was not occurring with any of the other employees.

“That is ridiculous. You need to say something,” he urged.

“No point. As you always asked: Would you rather be happy or right? I’d rather be happy.”

A few weeks later, as the dings continued to pile up, I worked harder to turn the other cheek. But today? Today I was yet again reminded that things have changed.

“This week is Diane’s five-year anniversary and Simon’s twenty-eighth birthday. Should we do a combined celebratory lunch?” my dad’s partner asked as he stood by my desk rifling through mail.

“Sure. Hey, this month marks my anniversary too. Thirteen years,” I noted with a little pride.

He chuckled a little. Then he spoke. “Yeah, well, you have technically only been on my payroll since January so that’s your anniversary to me.”

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


For the last two weeks, my mother has been nagging me and Leslie about our childhood possessions littering their home. Part of it had to do with my mom wanting to get the house on the market before the end of July. The other part of it had to do with Leslie being in from Atlanta with the kids. Here, our mom thought, here is an opportunity to get things sorted out once and for all.

“I’ll be up on the third floor,” I said to Leslie who was in the laundry room folding Olivia’s shorts and Anders’ t-shirts.

“Okay. I’ll come up in a little bit to help.”

I didn’t have much stuff left to go through. Sure, my old touring bike with a busted quick-release was leaning against a wall in the garage. And photo albums from my high school summers sat dusty on bookshelves. But otherwise, all that was left was a collection of keepsakes.

One by one, I went through a box of junk. Halfway through a pile of letters, Leslie came upstairs and plopped down on the bed on the far wall.

“No, really, why do I have a bar of soap from the Harbor House? We stayed there when, like, I was eight.” As I pulled the faded box to my nose, embracing the curious urge to smell the past, a dried nub of soap fell from the packaging and landed on my lap.

“You don’t even want to know what I found in my collection of stuff,” Leslie said.

I returned to the letters. Some I read and some I didn’t. Most I tossed but a handful I kept. Like, the letter from a childhood friend who committed suicide in her early twenties? That letter I put in the ‘keep’ pile. Same goes for a letter or two from my dad. I wanted those not for what he said but as a memory of what his handwriting looked like before he got sick.

“Wow,” I said with a chuckle as I started to read a multi-paged letter from our mother.


“Wait.” I exhaled. I paused. Then I returned my gaze to the beginning and started reading aloud.

I stopped after the first page, a page littered with accusations of atrocious grammar and a failure to adequately respect the people reading my correspondences. Sentence after sentence, I was chastised for a poorly written letter that was likely scribbled in ten seconds and used as a meal ticket. None of that mattered. This yellowed paper adorned with my mother’s elegant cursive dripped with disgust and disdain.

I looked up at Leslie. Tears poured from the corners of my eyes, stained my sun-kissed cheeks. I reached for the envelope and searched for the postage date. “I was eleven years old,” I sputtered between gasps for air.

“Don’t cry,” Leslie said as she came up behind me and offered a hug. “I hate seeing you hurt.”

And I hate being hurt. I hate that at thirty-eight, these words still sting like a slap whipping across my face. I hate that as a child I had no ability to challenge such unreasonable ridiculousness. And I hate that to this day, I’m trying to unravel the damage that was done.

“I’ll be okay,” I said as I folded the letter up and tucked it back in the faded envelope.

I closed my eyes and with my lips parted, I struggled to pull in one deep breath. Then another. And another after that, my only goal to calm myself down. Then I set the letter in the ‘keep’ pile and went back to the rest of my things.