The Ayelet Decade

I distinctly remember the first time I told another woman that I liked Ayelet Waldman.

We were both “older” students at San Jose State, taking a night class in early 20th century literature.  I barely knew the woman and mentioned I’d found a book that I’d ended up loving on Ayelet’s website — a site I checked regularly for it’s brief, honest reviews —  and the woman went absolutely batshit: Oh my god, not Ayelet Waldman.  I hate that woman!  She’s a disgrace!

This rant came shortly after Ayelet had published her smart and thoughtful essay about loving her husband more than her children, and then appeared on Oprah.  I remember reading the essay.  I remember watching the Oprah episode, live.

I knew she’d be bullied by the masses.  I remember how scared Ayelet looked in the Oprah intro (which Oprah, frankly, did nothing to alleviate) and, at the same time, how very strong she held her body, how brave and powerful she seemed in the face of so much criticism.  Her grace as the hour went on and on.

And, no coincidence, that’s about the time I started writing bolder essays and memoir.  I know that watching Ayelet navigate the aftermath of her essay made me a better writer, a braver writer; watching her taught me that being afraid of the reaction is not only okay, it’s preferred.  That fear is one of the best reasons to write an essay at all.

So I thank you, Ayelet Waldman.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

ayelet-waldman-bad-mother-250 ayelet-waldman-love-and-treasure-2501

 

 

Commitments

51nBWagGhXLBecause I’ll be in the region soon, I’m about to start reading this 30 yr old Michener saga.

Yes, I’ve got a giant stack of fancy new releases, mostly literary fiction and mostly recommended by the who’s who, but it’s still the long days of summer and I have time to dig into 600 pages of historical fiction for no other reason than this:  I feel like it.

I met with a fellow writer this week and we were talking about commitment.  As in, how committed are we, am I, to writing.  He’d recently attended a writing conference where an elderly, well-known physician/writer was asked, How were you so accomplished in both professions?

His answer:  I did nothing else.

I’ve been thinking about this conversation.  How committed am I, what with rescuing dogs and going to visit my kids and spending time with friends and going for daily walks and/or hikes and looking for a farmhouse and writing essays that have nothing to do with my memoir and going to concerts with my husband and having dinner with our neighbors on the patio and, as if that’s not enough, I’m about to head out on a one-in-a-lifetime trip in Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about it.  And honestly all I can come up with is that I am committed to my writing and finishing this memoir, but I also need to be living my life in order to do it.  Life is too short.  It just is.  And — at least right now — I’m not willing to do nothing else.

So I’ll be going to see my kids and I’ll have a beer with our very own Lyra.  And then I’m going to get ready for my next adventure by reading some Michener.  I was looking back at the reviews of POLAND and found this review from the NYT from September 1983.  While no one seems to think the story is perfect — what story is? — Michener was known for his exhaustive research and his ability to weave page-turning fiction through thousands of years of history.

And right now, that sounds just about perfect.

 

 

 

 

A Glutton?

glutton |ˈglətn|
noun

An excessively greedy eater.
• a person who is excessively fond of or always eager for something: a glutton for adventure.

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Me and baby JoJo, on an adventure in Gualala, CA.

The thing that struck me most about yesterday’s post and response is not, as one might imagine, the numerous angry emails I received privately about writing the post at all.  Emails that ranged from, “You’re so worried about food issues, and you’re making it worse!” and “Apples are healthy!” and my personal favorite, “I’m bored with you and your food talk.”

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No.  The thing that struck me most is that not a single person commented on the first scene:  the woman who has not eaten a carb in 18 YEARS.

Let’s think about that for a second.

18.  Years.

Do you realize how long that is?  I haven’t even been married 18 years.  In 18 years, a woman may have birthed and raised a child until he/she goes to college.  18 years could be someone’s lifetime.  What have I ever done, religiously, for 18 years?

I know this woman.  She’s not “not eating” carbs because she is gluten-intolerant, nor is she allergic to yeast, nor does she have a serious health issue, nor is she obsessed with being healthier.  She is a beautiful (and I mean shockingly beautiful) and successful executive (and I mean at the high-point-nowhere-else-is-higher point of her game) who is allergic to society’s view of who she is when Size 4 and pencil skirts and high heels are not in play.

When I was doing my research for the essay, I discovered this stat:  45 to 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight, compared to only 5 to 22 percent of top female CEOs.  When I shared this stat with an executive friend, her first comment was, “Wow, that’s surprising.  I thought the female number would be closer to zero.”

No margin for error.

No margin for living.

18 years, people.

This Week In Food

French-fries-deliciouseWhen I was working on the dog essay, it seemed everyone had a dog story.  Now that I’ve finished the food essay, it’s all about the food.  These are the things that make me believe absolutely in the power of thought, that we both manifest and attract, what weighs on us.

This week …

I met a woman who hasn’t eaten a carb in 18 years.  As she scraped the topping off her pizza crust, she described her latest favorite “skinny cocktail.”  A shot of tequila is about 60 calories, so you mix it with a packet of Crystal Light and some diet 7-Up and I swear it tastes just like a margarita.

A woman, and another woman, and another woman said she never ever touches bread.  Bread, it seems, is a common enemy.

I had lunch with a friend at a Mexican restaurant.  While we were looking at the menu she said, I’m starving.  All I’ve had since yesterday afternoon is a cheese stick.  

I could have eaten an entire tray of chicken wings, but I felt self-conscious and stopped at 4.

I heard a woman tell another woman that she’s saving 100 calories a day by drinking her coffee black.  She hates it, it’s so bitter!, but …

I played tennis with 3 women I haven’t seen in awhile.  Before we started and on the changeovers, we mostly talked about what we are eating and what we are not.  One brought a plastic container of cut-up apples.

I heard the words “gluten” and “my Fit Bit”  more than once, every day.

I talked to a lot of men too.  One night I spent a good hour with an ATF agent —- we talked about guns and how he is required to spend 2 hours a week at the shooting range, about the legalization of pot, about his brother the drug addict and how hard that is for him, about how his job is to “make friends” and how none of us civilians can imagine how many idiots are out there.  He never once mentioned food.

Come to think of it, none of the men mentioned food.  I wish this surprised me.

Where I Pretend I’m Real

IMG_0827On my way up to bed, I stop in the dogs’ room and tuck them in.  Lea winds her body into a tight ball, so I lean over and rub her ears and kiss her on the forehead.  She groans.  On the other bed, JoJo leans back and wags her tail, so I crawl in behind her and lay my head on her back until she settles.  Until I settle.  Then I pretend to sneak out, quietly locking the baby gate into place.

I do this every night.

Last night, I said to my husband, How do parents put their little babies and toddlers to bed and leave them alone in there, all night?

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I’m working on a chapter that begins:  Sometimes I pretend I’m a real mother.

I’m in line at a Minnesota grocery store and the exhausted mother in front of me is wrestling with her overstuffed cart and her 3 young children and out of who-knows-where I say,  It’s okay, I understand, I have three at home.

I’m on a plane, flying home to visit my dying mother.  The young mom sitting next to me is traveling alone with a 2 yr old and a crying infant.  I tell her, Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.  When the 2 yr old needs to go potty, she hands me her baby and walks away.  I am overwhelmed with her trust.

I’m with my stepson at the social security office.  He’s 12, and he’s recently received his little blue card with his SS#, but his middle name is misspelled.  I hand the card to the stern woman behind the metal desk and explain what’s happened, that I’m his mother, and that we need to get this fixed.  I hand her his birth certificate with his correct name …. where I am, of course, not listed as the mother.  I wait, terrified that she will ask me for ID, for proof, that she will send us away, that she will announce to the crowded room that I do not exist.

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1908035_10202134199492852_3671483466727642931_nMy birth father’s youngest brother (wow, what a long title) recently sent me a few photos I’ve never seen before.

There’s this one of baby-me in a white dress against white space.

I think of how I tuck my dogs in at night, how I stop, hesitate, before I leave them, and how I click the lock on the baby gate but leave my bedroom door open so I can hear them if they need me.

I look at the photo of this baby and it’s like she’s been plunked down on the rug.  I wonder who she’s looking at, or for, and who left her there.

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49 to 42

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In two weeks, I’ll be 49.

I’m trying not to dread that number while secretly dreading it anyway — hey, I know,  I’m healthy and I’m here and all that — but at the same time I’m also reading this heavy book and writing some not so pleasant scenes, so I’ve got the urge to lighten it up around here.

At least for today.

If you didn’t see last week’s article “In Praise of 42-Year-Old Women,” put me on pause while you link over.  It begins, Let’s face it: There used to be something tragic about even the most beautiful forty-two-year-old woman.

And really, how can you stop reading after an opening like that?

I’m pretty sure my almost-49-year-old, cataract-ridden eyes read it while screaming, but …

t7pt5yb3qommvex5b7iqThankfully, Tom Scocca at Gawker did me one better with his response essay:  “Esquire Writers: We’re Willing To Fuck Early Middle-Aged Ladies.”, which says in part that, Now 42 is awesome. Tom Junod can name several famous women who are 42 who he would be willing to fuck. Right in their 42-year-old vaginas. Cameron Diaz. Sofia Vergara. Leslie Mann. Amy Poehler. He would fuck these women, despite their age, and even share a joke with them, because the 42-year-old woman, she is a person, or at least a person-like idea.

I laughed hysterically.

You know, because I’m not even close to 42 anymore, so I must be hysterical.  I am a woman after all.

 

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