Initiated

I started this blog thinking it would be about finding beauty in the physical, but it’s becoming something quite different altogether. And rediscovering music is becoming a huge theme. In my marriage, I had little say over the music that was played. At one point, we listened to mostly the same stuff. We loved going to concerts together, or walking down to the CD store in Little Italy to get a disc. We’d smoke a j and then listen to the entire album, while the most exciting part of our city wafted in through the windows. Music was something we bonded over, absorbing culture and curating our identities. We were shapeshifters, trying on new sounds, new feels.

I have an unapologetic love of pop music, which is not really what we listened to when we were together. But I recall a road trip where one of us made a CD called Pop Conversion (it must have been me), to convert him into a pop music lover. He was one as a child, but he became more cynical the older he got. In hindsight, it was the first hint of what was to come.

He listened to an alt-country band that I decided to hate and then actually came to hate. He played music that spoke to him, but it was increasingly isolating. Music was just one of the things we weren’t sharing with each other anymore, for whatever reason, and music became an emblem of the increasingly large crevasse that was splitting us apart.

But now, I have all this autonomy in my life. And while it comes at the price of a new loneliness, the songs are becoming my friends and lovers again, much like when I was a teen girl.


Currently, I have a few obsessions. One is listening to Broken Social Scene’s album “Hug of Thunder” daily. OBSESSED! It’s just filling this breezy gap in my soul right now and I want to fall into it, wrap it around me, like a duvet that’s just come out of the dryer. Check out the song “Gonna Get Better” right now. Their new vocalist, Ariel Engle, just kills me dead. I’ll wait.

Future’s not what it used to be
We still got to go there

So basically, I’m not sure if I’m ready for this dating stuff. The game has changed in 20 years. Or maybe it hasn’t but the technology that facilitates it has and now dating has become commoditized. It’s so easy to “shop” for humans. I don’t know who said it, but the person who likened it to a buffet where you don’t want to fill up on something you liked a lot, just in case there’s something better further down the table, was bang on. Most humans haven’t been taught an etiquette around dating in the new way, though one would assume common courtesy and sense would prevail. (You’d be wrong.) I think the old Christian rule works here, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” Or, in plainer, more atheist terms: imagine what it would feel like to hear, see or experience what you’re about to dish out and be nice.

Future’s not what it used to be
You are all whispers, all whispers
Just a whisper
If you can
Got to go there
Future’s not what it used to be
But we still gotta

So when a real life human reached out to me recently, when he held my hand and kissed me and made me feel desirable again—unsolicited, but welcome—I got rather smitten, rather fast. I knew him, he knew me. He would make the perfect Friend with Benefits. So I let myself imagine it, let myself get carried away. Became obsessed with the idea of him kissing me, of him being the one to pop my second cherry (I’ve been celibate for all of 2017). Became obsessed with idea of going to “cute places and artsy things”, going on bike rides, sending flirty texts. Somehow, in my mind, this person was not going to be my boyfriend. He was going to be my friend like he always was, but now we would kiss and go places together.

Except he never really texted, never made an attempt at a second meeting. Oh sure, he’d be enthusiastic after I would message him, but there were subtle tells. “How’s the hottest thing on the east side of the city doing tonight?” (DUDE—there are no boundaries to my hotness.) And also, the intention was to be charming, but something made me suspect that there was a hottest thing on the west side of the city too.

I was under no assumption that he wasn’t dating other people. But I wondered how that could be true considering the intensity that drove him to come onto me. He’d been thinking about being with me for a long time, and I naively assumed that the reason for that was about more than just sex. I felt I had nothing to lose, so I would wait a few days and then message to see if he wanted to see me. But suddenly, the tone of the texts changed. The pursuit seemed to be cooling off. What did I do wrong?

Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse, oh
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse
No they can’t get worse
Things are gonna get better

The thing is, it’s rarely about you, girl. It’s often about timing and says more about the other person. When we let anyone into the warehouse, we have to know that there’s a chance that this person may corrupt the ideas we are storing in there, may hurt us. And we have to be OK with it. But since I’m still recovering from a major blow to the heart, I don’t know if I’m ready to be THAT vulnerable again.


Anyway, I went camping and got back and hadn’t heard from him. Messaged days later with a “Friyay!” and asked for good luck with a bunch of job interviews and got an immediate response. But still. no. invite. Still using busy-ness at work as an excuse for not being in touch. I had given him my kid-free dates the week before and in a flirty text exchange he had said, “Oh, I’ll make time.” A shit-ton of emojis were sent. I was confused.

A colleague said I should ask him for a casual date on Saturday night. But when I did, I got a fuzzy response. Not quite a no and not quite a yes, a “maybe if I don’t do this other thing.” Looking back, I quickly fell into my old pattern from my marriage and convinced myself that this was par for the course, that I just have to be patient. His original message from that first night was loud and clear in my mind—he wanted me. And he wouldn’t mislead a friend, would he?

And don’t let them speak for you
And don’t let them speak for you
I can’t hear you
Tell me what you got to say
I can’t hear you

I had a glorious Saturday, but in the background was the humming of the desire to hear from him, to know whether I would see him. I’d shaved and changed my sheets and gotten myself into a horny tizzy. I went to yoga and felt better, but I was done mid-afternoon and realized I would not be getting a confirmation. So I decided to spend the rest of the day not speaking. I read for two hours in the bath and then read for two hours in the yard. I did not post on social media, but I checked my phone compulsively, only to be repeatedly let down by no message.

I finally finished Eat, Pray, Love and was better for it. In the final chapters, during the Love phase in Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert realizes that while she’s been celibate for over a year (and in that time gotten right with herself and learned to commune with God), she needed a drought buster. It was time for a rainmaker. Sex is an important part of the human experience. Pleasure is not something to feel shameful about. I heard it, loud and clear.

But what to do? I needed to get out of my head, so I messaged a friend and we went to a nearby bar to bitch. I have no problem filling my time and I know the most incredible women, but hanging out with all these beautiful ladies was not going to get me laid. It’s time! I need to explore myself through my body for a bit. I’m tired of talking.

Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse, oh
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse
No they can’t get worse
Things are gonna get better

I came home, tipsy and bitter. I could see he’d liked some things I’d posted on social media. I could see that little green motherfucking dot in FB Messenger that denotes when someone is online. He was there and saying nothing. So I called him on it.

I said I was new to this so apologies for the confusion. That I was going to back away slowly, because clearly I’d gotten the signal wrong. Reply? “No worries. Sorry that I’ve been so busy lately… yadda yadda…” But me drunky, so I replied too, with a playful scolding. “All good. Don’t expect much, just a considerate note so that I’m not waiting around wondering. We’re cool.” I got a “huge apologies” series of sentences. I turned off my phone and went to sleep.

Things are gonna get worse
Things will get better


What in actual fuck? We’re cool? Why did I say that? Because I didn’t want to come off as clingy or desperate? Because I didn’t want to mess up our friendship? Here’s the thing: It wasn’t cool. Any of it. It wasn’t the least bit considerate or polite. I just spent two decades dealing with poor communication. Why the fuck would I want to get dicked around like that again?

Except I woke up in the middle of the night, horny AF. And in the quiet of a house with no children, lying there on cool clean sheets, I asked myself what I needed and what I wanted. I just wanted to get the having sex with someone over with, at least as the consolation prize. And he was the one who put the thought in my head. And he seemed like the closest path to ticking that item off my divorce to-do list.

So I thought, “Why not just ask for what you want?” Well that was new.

I woke up the next morning and did exactly that, using Liz Gilbert words to ask for my drought to be over. And he came over right away and made it rain. Three times for me, twice for him.

It was hot. I had not had that kind of experience in the bedroom for a LOOOOONG time. But it was immediately apparent to me how inexperienced I am. For starters, you quickly realize you need some things around your bed, namely music, lighting, condoms, a trash can for the condom, etc. I lit a candle and chose a random playlist. I was as ready as I was going to be. But also, nervous, awkward. Holy fuck, I invited a man over for sex!

Well I can’t be the most of you
The temperature, once arose
I don’t know what you like
It’s gotta be
A photograph
You cannot believe a mouth
Who knows what they wanted
You cannot believe
Who knows what they want

The playlist was too romantic, too earnest for a booty call. The candle wasn’t the right smell. The trash can was in the bathroom. But I was good, this I know. Not my best, not even close, but good. There was a distance. A weirdness. A lack of honesty somewhere. I just wanted to know where I stood, but I dared not ask. Weeks before, when I’d asked if this was “a thing,” he had replied that it was totally a thing! And then he’d defined what kind of “thing” it would be. Clear. But everything since then was unclear. It was like it wasn’t the same person in my bed.

He was attentive and had clearly read the map to the secret treasure a few times. But something was way different than that first night of just making out. The romance was gone. This was emptier. Not completely, but enough that knowing what I know now, I can confirm my initial uncertainty. I asked for honesty, asked him to tell me what he wanted, but he held back, that was clear. I asked, “Why is it so hard for people to just be honest and upfront with each other?”

“I dunno. Fear?” he responded.

When the playlist got unbearable (I mean, I LOVE “Marry Me John” by St. Vincent, but it’s not a sex song), I asked him what music he’d like to hear and he deferred to me. I asked him about dating and he said there was no one really. He spoke of one relationship that fizzled due to fundamental differences in communication styles. Mm-hmm.

Then, when it was all over, while he was getting dressed, he said, “If you’re going to have more men down here, you may want to rethink your playlist. That was too intense.” Uh… thanks for the tip?
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse, oh
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse
No they can’t get worse
Things are gonna get better


I got weird too. I reflexively answered the phone when my ex called, because I panicked that they were headed to the house. Bad idea. Sometimes I am so comfortable being me that I miss social cues or common sense. I over communicate, over share. I’m not sure which style is worse.

Mid-week, me drunky again. So I message him on FB, “So, Sunday was fun… Can we do that again or just a one-off?” He immediately logs off. I woke up the next morning and could see he’d read it (stupid social media). Still no response. So I meditated. I danced to Bahamas while doing my hair. I rode my bike in the rain. This is what Taylor Swift might refer to as shaking it off.

Later that afternoon, a shite response.

“Good question! I had a really whirlwind couple of dates with a new lady the last few weeks and I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but it may be going serious. Can we hit pause for now and let me see how that plays out?

Your head in my heart
Your head in my heart
Head in my heart
Head in my heart
Head, heart
Head, heart

I am a bud. Just one of the guys. Who happens to be a hot woman with a fine ass. When I was younger, boys would lay with me, and want to hang out so I could make them laugh, but the girls who were OK to make themselves smaller were preferable to my loud, brash, open self. My ex treats me the same way. He flirts, makes it clear he’d like to sleep with me, but he doesn’t want to do the rest of the work to be with me. Here I am, in the same boat I was in my early 20s. Good enough to lie with, but not a lady enough to pursue romantically. Fuck it.

When I reflect upon it, I don’t actually believe that statement to be true. In fact, I deeply believe that the right person for me IS out there. And before I find him, I think that a pretty good person—a mensch who wants to be an occasional +1 and my lover—is out there for me, too.

I thought I’d be angrier about the note. I thought I’d feel more hurt and embarrassed. What I’m most surprised by is the incredible gratitude I feel for the lesson I learned. Mama waits for no man. Mama’s destiny is not defined by any one person. I am not a pair of ankle boots that are not quite a fit for your summer wardrobe and need storing until the fall.

This is the game now, and I’m not ready to spend my time playing it just yet. There are words to be written, and a warehouse space that I’m enjoying sprucing up. And small people who love me so much and that I worry I’m not doing a good enough job of being a mother for. I can fill my days easily. And this week, shark week, that’s enough to fill my bucket.

All the world’s waiting for you

I’m trying to channel my inner Wonder Woman today. Trying to be like Gal Gadot, innocent to the obvious and just doing what I’ve been trained to do, to slay on auto pilot. Today is a big day. Or maybe it’s not.

Part one of today that has my stomach churning and me listening to guided meditation is a BIG job interview. For a job that will likely punish me if I get it. But first I have to go in and defeat the second tier bad guys before I can fight the ultimate giant villain.

I am a woman in tech. I may as well be Vulcan. Many of my potential peers in this group (all men) lack empathetic leadership skills (not all of them, mind you). They are driven by robotic success. Breaking this up with my loud, my honest, my lay it all on the table, is appealing to me. I’m also highly intoxicated by the idea that we should embrace new platforms like AR/VR/MR to tell stories. I want to be there when we get the chance to explore this.

The team needs a mom. I know that a lot of feminist business books say not to do this, but frankly, I think some teams need this. When there is too much male energy, it’s often easy to forget to celebrate small victories. Anyway, I don’t want to go into it further, but I do need to SLAY today. I need to convince them that they need me. So that’s the first dragon.

Yesterday I went to therapy to talk through all that’s been going on, which—as always—is a lot. From the minute I emailed her a week ago to say I needed a tune-up, to sitting down on her couch yesterday, my whole world view changed. I went from being sad about my marital breakup, to being excited about everything. It’s like I was trying to turn the TV on and getting frustrated because it wouldn’t and then someone walked over and said, “Oh! You just forgot to plug it in!” Duh!

So the second dragon to slay today is my own fear and anticipation around possibly, maybe having sex with someone new for the first time in two decades. I shaved my legs, put on a sexy new dress and some lacy underpants. He might not be available to go out tonight, and I’ve been burning up with thoughts of kissing for a week. Even if there’s a 10% chance that this could happen, I gotta be prepped. But I need to keep my head cool, to remember that this is just a bit of fun.

This is where I’m at in my journey right now. Learning not to overthink. Learning to not get ahead of myself, to just enjoy the moment. Today is kind of delicious with the possibility of what could be, but I know the lesson I’m supposed to learn is to JUST BE. Easier said than done. I’m not a zen master yet, but I’m training for it.

(If you want to do your head, go read this awesome piece from Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit on what Michael Phelps does to prep to slay. I’d love a similar one on Hilary Clinton, or Beyoncé—what do powerful women do to prepare for a big battle? Where’s my auntie Robin Wright when I need her?)

Send me your good juju please? Kthxbai

 

Don’t be chicken-shit

I rode my bike around tonight, smelling the linden trees and just being grateful that I survived this year. A year ago yesterday, he told me he “wasn’t in love with me anymore.” I thought it was bullshit, just another sign of the issues he’d been struggling with. I own some of that too, of course. I made some regrettable choices in how I behaved, nagging and raging and pivoting until there was nothing but confusion and chaos. But then the marriage counsellor fired us.

After the “how did that make you feel?” (um, like shit? Shall I describe the poo I felt like for you?) she took a breath and said something like, “At this point, I don’t think we should continue. I don’t think I can help you where you are at right now. I would strongly recommend seeking individual therapy to unpack what this means for each of you.”

So I did that. I also started to put myself out front, started to see that the only place I didn’t see myself as awesome was in his presence. I spent time with girlfriends, spent time on my bike, spent time going to yoga, spent time reading. And I did the work. I woke up every day at 6 am and meditated (thanks Andy and Headspace app). I processed my feelings with a therapist. The goal was mental fortitude, I thought, so I could steel myself from these insane verbal assaults. But the outcome was an understanding and acceptance that calling it quits did not make me a bad person or a bad mother.

Six months went by and we went through the motions. And one morning, a proposition was made to keep the marriage going that I couldn’t abide. It just wasn’t me. I cried for two days, while he played “Flamenco” by The Tragically Hip on the guitar.

Does it diminish your
Super-capacity to love?

Yes. The answer was a resounding yes. My marriage was diminishing my super-capacity to love.

I had booked a flight. Four, actually. From Toronto to London. We were meant to go on from there, the four of us, to visit his family elsewhere in Europe. It was six months away, but how could I go? How could I face everyone looking at me like the love fool that I was? They’d all seen it, seen me diminish, seen me become an angry, unhappy version of myself. No, I couldn’t go. And that is how I began the most painful but liberating conversation of my life.

Walk like a matador,
Don’t be chicken-shit
And turn breezes into rivulets
A whisper of an idea emerged, I would travel alone. I never had. Not for more than business. Not beyond flying to see him when he lived in London. London was our place. It could still be. Neutral, like Switzerland. But a jumping off point to other destinations.

Flamenco-sweep the air
And weave the sun
And stamp your feet for everyone

Over one of the most tumultuous weeks of my life, the plan took form. Spain. I would go to España to visit a dear friend, a healer who had been at my daughter’s birth. I would see a flamenco show. I would weave the sun and stamp my feet for everyone.

But this is not a post about that. That would take too long right now and frankly, there’s a very cute book title that is going to be on the cover of that story. No, this is a post about the universe.

Yesterday morning, I was low. I was regretting this break-up. I was thinking that I should not throw away a 20-year project and start over. I was feeling lonely and missing him. I didn’t want to feel that way. I emailed my therapist and told her I needed a tune-up.

My day began to get better! I had lunch with a former colleague and she is so great at filling my bucket. I know she’ll be glad when she gets to read me here, as she’s always been so encouraging of my writing. Then, while standing on a street corner, I got a call from another former colleague. She’d spotted me from inside a cafe and I got to hang with her and her baby for a while. Like Mario jumping on a Power Up, I felt myself getting stronger, feeling happier.

After work, I had plans with another former colleague, a man whom I have deeply admired and respected for a long time. Ok, and maybe had a bit of a crush on. When we made plans, he’d typed, “It’s a date!” But that’s just a thing people say, right?

As I walked to the restaurant I thought, is this a date? Whoa. But I’ve just spent a decade silencing any sexual spidey sense I have. I’ve just spent a decade not vibing off any male energy. So I went in, sat at the bar, ordered a cocktail and waited for my friend to show up.

Does it exhibit your
Natural tendency to hate

A year after that horrible night, where I was told that the man I thought I was spending the rest of my life with didn’t love me, my life was completely different. And in walked my handsome dear friend. Who proceeded to get very touchy with me. I thought, “Wow, he’s really friendly outside of work!”

It took two drinks before I blurted, “Are you flirting with me?” Yes, apparently, he was. In fact he’s been thinking about kissing me for a long time. And then he did.

Maybe a prostitute
Could teach you
How to take a compliment

We sucked face for HOURS. First base all evening. When was the last time you just made out? I have an answer. May 1998. This kissing was A++ even when my nose got in the way. I was gobsmacked. Was this REALLY happening? Was this young, super smart, well-dressed, lover of life telling me I was beautiful and putting his gorgeous lips over mine, over and over? Nah. Can’t be happening!

He knows me. He’s seen me at peak performance and peak stress. He knows I’m funny and smart and good at my job and he’s not threatened by it. It’s actually a turn on. He’s funny and smart and good at his job, too. He’s a romantic and a logic brain, and quite different from a lot of men I know. And holy shit, dudes! I think he’s super into me! (And no, I’m not ready to share his name, so if you’re texting me to ask, don’t.)

“Is this a THING?” I ask incredulously in between kisses. Because I’ve known him for so long, but NOT like this. I mean I KNOW him, I trust him, but I’ve never touched his skin until this moment. He looks right into my eyes and says, “Yup, it’s a thing. I just want to go to cute places and artsy things with you.” It’s the reason I deleted the dating apps, because all I have room for right now is a companionship built on mutual respect that also scratches some itches, and finding that on a dating app is a huge time suck. But here he was on my couch with an ideal proposition. My friend, who I now think about kissing all day, just happened to drop in at the perfect time.

Whenever we get scared of the new direction we’re taking, the terrifying unknown path that we need to be on to reach our destiny, we want to retreat back to what we know, even if deep down we know it’s not good for us. Last night, the universe said, “Shhh, stay on the new path. I’ve got fun stuff planned for you.”

And as crazy as it sounds, I am just going to surrender to that idea.

Maybe I’ll go to New York,
I’ll drag you there
You said, “no one drags me
Anywhere”

Does it diminish your
Super-capacity to love

For the first time in a long time, no.

Songwriters: Gordon Downie / Johnny Fay / Joseph Paul Langlois / Robert Baker / Robert Gordon Sinclair
Flamenco lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

Stop and smell the peonies

June, the month of glory, where the humble yet majestic peony embosses every Instagram post of every girl who needed something new to signify she’s alive and of this earth. After posting the crocuses (to symbolize the thaw), the tulips and daffodils (oh, here comes spring), and an ever so brief dalliance with the sakura (cherry blossoms), the peony signals the acceptance of spring’s growth and the anticipation of a brief, thigh sweaty summer.

She was a peony once, tight and furled into herself. New. Next to her was a bud, attached at the junction that leads to the root, growing alongide her, together but apart. The sun kissed them, the rain fell hard upon the pair, but they weathered the storms as best they could. It’s not easy being exposed, some buds have stronger stems than others. They kept each other company, laughing at the silliness of alliums around them, and just as they felt lonely in the space they occupied, two tiny ants appeared.

She, without thinking, fed them and in turn, they pollinated her. It was exhausting, but rewarding, giving the these little-legged creatures room and board. They were ceaseless with their demands. But without them, as June waned into July with a great celebration, she would not have become as beautiful as she realized she was that day. She would have remained closed in the bud, failed to bloom fully. They occupied her petals, forcing her to open wider than she could have imagined. Their efforts, their relentless crawling all over her, their quiet naps in her folds, helped her to blossom. They chose her  she needed them to survive

Her best bud, however, refused to open. He wanted to stay outside as long as possible. He did not want anyone to notice him, lest he be cut down too early and taken indoors. He did not mind the epic rains of that June, they cleansed him. He convinced himself he was happiest alone anyway. Oh sure, he enjoyed the ants. They helped him to find calm. But he was completely uncomfortable with how passersby to stop and smell the blossoming flower he was attached to. He despised her social media success, her showy display. He found it confusing that she seemed to get energy from the appreciation, that she enjoyed her minor celebrity status. They were so different, he thought, how could this possibly work?

He began to pull away, to stay tighter within himself and reveal nothing but his pain and distaste for her. After a particularly windy storm, she began to feel the weight of it all, began to feel herself drooping, dropping petals. The time spent trying to make herself smaller and to contain her beauty, dull her fragrance, make herself invisible—so as not to make him leave her—became unsustainable. She knew what she had to do to survive. The season was almost over for her, but she still had a shot. She woke up one day, conscious of the need for a bud to love her for who she was, to appreciate her awesomeness, to be co-pilot on her quest for life’s beauty. Someone to hold her up and support her during the torrential spring rains that flooded basements and created lakes in parking lots. But first, she knew she had to learn to stand on her own.

She said her goodbyes and cut herself down, liberating herself. It was painful as fuck, but eventually she graced a dining room table, the centrepiece for family conversations, present in the moments that mattered. She knows she is wilting and that the ants will soon abandon her, in search of toast crumbs hiding on the unswept kitchen floor. But for now, her pollen is enough to sustain them, and their company enough to sustain her.

Title track

I’ve been listening to a heap of R.E.M. since The End of The Great Love (a.k.a. the breakup of my 19-year relationship—NOT an album title you didn’t know about). I don’t know why Michael Stipe is so comforting, but he is and has been for many people. I wish he’d release another album, one for the truly heartbroken, where words and melodies could heal all the hurts of the past. But alas, that’s a tall order, and one might argue that the band released—over umpteen albums—a cannon that included many tunes which would qualify as filling the aforementioned desire.

The title of this blog comes from one R.E.M. track, “E-Bow the Letter” from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, mid-career for the band, just before they signed “its then record-breaking five-album contract with Warner Bros. Records.”  According to Wikipedia, the song became the lowest charting lead single for the band, reaching only number 49 on the Billboard music charts. Americans didn’t love it, but it did well in Canada and the U.K. For many of us moody chicks, what makes E-bow ultimate gold is the little bit where Patti Smith comes in. Because Patti, she’s seen some things. While Michael exudes sensitivity and the pain of growing up gay in the conservative south, Patti’s voice is whiskey and cigarettes, and beautiful arsty men converging with and then injuring her poet soul, causing her to grow a layer of protective fur and rise up like a she-wolf, howling at an August moon.

The song has always raised critical questions. What is an e-bow? Again, Wikipedia to the rescue (thank you Wiki volunteers!): “The song’s title refers to the EBow, an electromagnetic field-generating device that induces sustained vibration in an electric guitar string (creating a violin-like effect), and to a “letter never sent” by Michael Stipe.” Still a bit confusing, but OK!

Why is Michael Stipe “dreaming of Maria Callas, whoever she is”— that is the question we need to answer here, to tie this thread together. Maria was a Greek-American opera singer. And a great beauty with a big fucking honker. This is important to me. We are too limited in our view of what’s beautiful. I need a hook, a theme, to jump off of when writing. I need a muse. Maria Callas, you’re it.

I am at a point in my life, nearing 43—which I hope is not quite the half-way point—where I feel like what bit of beauty I have (and never had the sense or gratitude to appreciate in my younger days) is slipping away. South, to be exact. Towards R.E.M.’s Georgia maybe, where I’ve never been. Sliding down like a soft serve cone on a hot day. Soft, shapeless, worn, with an unflattering middle. I AM the unflattering middle. Or so I feel.

But in this investigation of muses, I learn that Maria Callas didn’t want the show to be over when the fat lady belted out the final high-note, so she lost a ton of weight—get this—mid-career. It is believed that this contributed to vocal decline and ended her career early. (Unlike robust Aretha Franklin, who could belt out “Nessun Dorma” in her 70s.) Then I think of Jennifer Grey (star of Dirty Dancing, pictured in the header image above), who famously had to have her atypical nose corrected, making her just another pretty face and taking away any character she once exuded, ruining her acting career.

So, the lesson here: learn to love the unflattering middle. Learn to accept and find beauty in the unflattering middle. Be it the middle of your torso, the middle of your face or the middle of your life (for those flat-tummied, tiny-nosed folks out there), you are at the point where you choose whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. Or rather, what you will do to fill the rest of your glass, or how you will enjoy and savour the half that is left. Welcome to my journey through the middle, at times unflattering, but soon to be loved fully.

E-Bow the Letter

Look up, what do you see?
All of you and all of me
Fluorescent and starry
Some of them, they surprise

The bus ride, I went to write this, 4:00 AM
This letter
Fields of poppies, little pearls
All the boys and all the girls sweet-toothed
Each and every one a little scary
I said your name

I wore it like a badge of teenage film stars
Hash bars, cherry mash and tinfoil tiaras
Dreaming of Maria Callas
Whoever she is
This fame thing, I don’t get it
I wrap my hand in plastic to try to look through it
Maybelline eyes and girl-as-boy moves
I can take you far
This star thing, I don’t get it

I’ll take you over, there
I’ll take you over, there
Aluminum, tastes like fear, there
Adrenaline, it pulls us near
I’ll take you over
It tastes like fear, there
I’ll take you over

Will you live to 83?
Will you ever welcome me?
Will you show me something that nobody else has seen?
Smoke it, drink
Here comes the flood
Anything to thin the blood
These corrosives do their magic slowly and sweet
Phone, eat it, drink
Just another chink
Cuts and dents, they catch the light
Aluminum, the weakest link

I don’t want to disappoint you
I’m not here to anoint you
I would lick your feet
But is that the sickest move?
I wear my own crown and sadness and sorrow
And who’d have thought tomorrow could be so strange?
My loss, and here we go again

I’ll take you over, there
I’ll take you over, there
Aluminum, tastes like fear, there
Adrenaline, it pulls us near
I’ll take you over
It tastes like fear, there
I’ll take you over

Look up, what do you see?
All of you and all of me
Fluorescent and starry
Some of them, they surprise

I can’t look it in the eyes
Seconal, spanish fly, absinthe, kerosene
Cherry-flavored neck and collar
I can smell the sorrow on your breath
The sweat, the victory and sorrow
The smell of fear, I got it

I’ll take you over, there
Aluminum, tastes like fear, there
Adrenaline, it pulls us near
I’ll take you over, there
Aluminum, tastes like fear, there
Adrenaline, it pulls us near
I’ll take you over
It tastes like fear, there
It pulls us near
I’ll take you over
I’ll take you over
It tastes like fear, there
It pulls us near
Pulls us near
Tastes like fear
Tastes like fear
Nearer, nearer
Pulls us near
Over, over, over, over
Over, over, over, over
Yeah, look over
I’ll take you there, oh, yeah
I’ll take you there
Oh, over
I’ll take you there
Over, let me
I’ll take you there
I’ll take you there
There, there, there, baby, yeah

Written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Mills, Michael Stipe • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

As plain as the nose on one’s face

When my friends and I watch award shows, it’s with a device in hand, tapping between our What’s App group chat and Twitter. Recently, after seeing a certain small-schnozed actress, I joked to another big nose friend that whenever I see small actress noses, I wonder what it’s like to live like that. To look out at the world and not see your nose take up some of the view. She and I had a giggle and the other two in the thread had no clue what we were talking about. “Really? From every angle?” Yep.

Most girls of my ethnic background get nose jobs in their teens or early 20s. How will they ever find a husband with a nose that big? I remember my uncle telling me that if I saved my money, he would pay for half of the surgery. I thought about it but then spent that money going to Acapulco for spring break and getting raped instead. How validating! If I guy wanted to take advantage of a very drunk me, that meant I was pretty, right?

I kept the nose, somewhat as a fuck you, but every few years I think about trimming it down. Especially after I read that your nose and ears continue to grow until you get old. Holy fuck, this thing is going to get bigger?! As my face slides south? That just seems cruel. Like running over baby rabbits with the lawnmower or something.

Like most big-nosed girls, I’ve learned to be funny. For a long time, that funny was self-deprecating. Make them laugh at me using my own jokes, before they could dictate the narrative. I’m middle-aged now, so my humour has matured, so I don’t do that anymore so much, but there’s a time and a place for it.

Anyway, here I am, trying to get some words down in between work and kids. Hope you come back.