What I Did While You Were Busy Breeding

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When you turn 30, an odd thing starts to happen. You start noticing the things others chose that you did not. Sometime in our mid 20’s, the ponies start to separate and some folks travel the tried and true path while others seek to forge their own way, riding the coat tails of their passions to the very end.

As Frank Zappa so eloquently puts it:

If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.

Whether you decide to climb the corporate ladder, have babies, travel or launch your own business, do it because you want to. It’s your life. Here’s what I did with mine.

  1. I traveled. I wandered through castle ruins in Wales, rode a horse after one too many beers in Tennessee. I missed trains, got stranded at bus stops, got lost in Rome. I fell in love in London, got stoned at a commune in Copenhagen, looked for witches in Salem, camped with elks in Colorado and experienced the stench of death in New Orleans.
  2. I played roller derby in three different states. Learned to ride a horse, a motorcycle, a plane by myself. I raised a dog.
  3. I had chickens living in my apartment kitchen. Got tattoos. Shaved my head. Traded shoes with drag queens. Wrote a sex advice column.
  4. I moved to Vermont. I moved to Philly. I lived in a sergeants mess in England.  I slept in the back of a car in Brooklyn. I owned a horse, a Ford, a Honda. I helped a sheep give birth on a cold night in New England.
  5. A boy made a movie about me. I worked at a bar where “lingerie lunch” was a thing, a book store, a dry cleaners. I was a hostess.
  6. I wrote a lot. I lost my job and so I launched my own business. I paid my way through Europe with my words.
  7. I dated. I dated a lot. I meditated. I ran. I lost God. I wondered if little girls could be raised by wolves.
  8. I suffered. I witnessed a friend get raped, another take his own life with a rope. I was a bridesmaid. I was a bartender. I was in a burlesque performance – once.
  9. I wanted to publish a book. I practiced yoga. I ate fire.
  10. I found God. Stroked a pet wolf in Portsmouth. Napped in a castle in Cardiff.
  11. Thought about grad school. Thought about marriage. Contemplated babies. Dismissed them all.
  12. Dedicated my hours to my art. Locked myself away for months at a time and honed my skill. I wrote. I wrote. I wrote.

Why We Ride

1462840_10151685737181910_101161043_nThis is part of an article I wrote that will be featured in Topwick this fall.

At precisely this moment someone, somewhere, is getting ready to ride. The motorcycle waits expectantly in the cool, dark garage. The leather-clad rider approaches, the helmet obscuring the world as it is pulled on, the chin strap buckled. The key slipped into the ignition, a leg swung over the seat, the rider thrusts the bike forward with his thighs. Now the 550 pounds of chrome, fuel and plastic rests in a fragile balance between the rider’s legs.

The starter button, pressed with the right thumb, makes the engine begin to trill. A twist of the throttle makes the bike bleat, then gulp, then roar. A fire is now contained inches away from fragile flesh. A pull of the left-hand clutch, then a neat press down with the left foot sends the bike into first gear. And thus begins the dance of man and machine.

The first motorcycle ever made resembles a torturing device. The German device, built in 1885 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, was a wood-frame set upon two iron-tired wooden wheels. A single-cylinder gas engine acted as the power-plant.

Since then, motorcycles have been a staple in the American cultural landscape. In Europe, they have always been seen as a sensible mode of transportation. Here in the U.S., bikes have been a symbol of rebellion, freedom and anarchy. During the 1960’s and 70’s, motorcycle sales ballooned, in part due to the ethos of the time and a new era of experimentation. Then, between 1982 and 1991, annual sales freefell from 525,000 to 178,000.

Now, men from all walks of life are gobbling up motorcycles. From Harleys and Hondas to Suzuki’s and Triumphs, bike sales are at an all-time high. Partly spurred on by popular shows such as Sons of Anarchy and movies like The Motorcycle Diaries, documenting the cross-country trip of a prodigal son in South America, motorcycles are a trendy toy to have in your garage.

But why do we ride? What is the appeal of being exposed to the elements, of being inches away from death? Riding is a pastime defined by duplicities. Take the numbers, for instance: seven million riders against 225 million who don’t ride. Or the peculiar paradox of the faster you go the more control over the motorcycle you have. And the intricate tightrope you walk between fear and exhilaration; between life and death.

The road is constantly throwing tragedy toward the rider: oil spills, gravel, snow, water, daydreaming drivers, chasing dogs. Remember, riders are mortal. Beneath the leathers is tender skin. But it’s the deep affection for riding another mile, and then another, and then one more, that keeps a rider going.

Writing as writing. Writing as rioting. Writing as righting. On the best days, all three.

Growing up with Tourette’s

lonely-girlThis is a piece I wrote for the PA-Tourette Syndrome Alliance about growing up with this syndrome.

Growing up with Tourette’s was like growing up with a scarlet letter stapled to my chest. It was a stigma I wore like a badge that everyone saw but didn’t understand, including my own mother. Back in the early 90’s, Tourette’s was still a mystery to health professionals; a complex neurological enigma that even I couldn’t unravel.

I started getting tics when I was about eight years old. They started subtly, with just the occasional nose twitch or gulp. By the time I was 11, my symptoms had blossomed into a full-fledged monster that I couldn’t tame, no matter how many attempts I made to control it.

I always saw my Tourette’s as a physical thing. It was something that had taken up residency in my body, even though it was unwelcomed. To me, the syndrome was a puppeteer, contorting my face into gruesome poses and making animalistic sounds come from my mouth that were completely foreign to other little girls.

I was finally diagnosed when I was 11. I remember the trips to the doctor’s office well and the many attempts they made to medicate the monster out of me. Back then, professionals were still trying to figure out the best remedies for controlling tics and I viewed myself as a guinea pig for their experiments. Many times, the medicine would help, but the side effects were overwhelming. For a child going through puberty, the extreme physical and mental toll the different medications took on me, in addition to my own maturing body, made my adolescence an extremely difficult time in my life.

One type of prescription made me gain over 100 pounds in under a year. Another kind made me always want to sleep. I was so sick from all of the meds that my parents had to pull me out of school. I underwent extensive testing to see if the medication had negatively impacted my brain and heart. In one test, the doctors put electrodes around my head to monitor brain activity. EKGs and blood work were a routine for me. The abnormal side effects of the medication became my norm.

I blame Tourette’s for destroying my childhood the way abused kids blame their parents. It robbed me of innocence and happiness at an early age and taught me that people can be cruel to those they view as different. My peers avoided me, saw my scarlet letter embroidered on my chest and treated me like a pariah. They would mimic my tics in class, giggle at me in the hallways and move away from me if I sat next to them at lunch. I was an untouchable. I would sit with my Tourette’s in my room late at night, asking it why it had chosen to occupy my body; why it had chosen to destroy my life.

The Tourette’s instilled a fear of abandonment in me early on that I’m still dealing with today. As a teenager, I clung to people the way barnacles cling to rocks. I never wanted my friends to leave me. I could not face rejection. The fear turned into hatred that I took out on my body. My body was the enemy that had caused me so much pain. When I was a junior and senior in high school, I was hospitalized many times for suicide attempts and cutting. Nobody understood why I hurt myself. They didn’t get that I was trying to cut myself out of myself, to remove myself from the skin and the flesh that I had come to loathe.

When I was 16, my English teacher gave us an assignment to write our own autobiographies. The last chapter was where we hoped to see ourselves in 15 years. The only words I wrote in that chapter were, “I wish I will be happy.”

I am 30 years old now. I do what I love for a living. I have an amazing apartment in the city, loving and supportive friends, an adorable dog and a doting boyfriend. I have made peace with my body. My tics are few and far between now and I haven’t been on medication for my Tourette’s for more than 10 years. It’s still there, however. It will raise its ugly head when I’m nervous, or when I am alone and let my guard down. It will come back late in the night and remind me that who I was and who I am now is the same person.

My Tourette’s was both a blessing and a curse. It was my lighthouse and my albatross. It caused me so much pain, but it also taught me empathy and kindness. I am a better woman for what I have been through. I am stronger. It taught me that if I could conquer it, I could overcome anything.

It took me more than half of my life to figure out that my Tourette’s wasn’t me. Yes, it was a part of me, but it did not define me. I hope a teenager with Tourette’s reads this someday, when she is sitting alone at night with her disease. And I hope she realizes that her body is not an enemy, that this syndrome is not a monster. It is a component of her, but not the whole her. She, like I, is a girl with Tourette’s. Tourette’s isn’t the girl.

How Hipsters Killed the Beard

Yah, you're hot, Ricki Hall, but there's nothing masculine about you.

Yah, you’re hot, Ricki Hall, but can you change a tire?

I have, and always will, be pro beard. My current boyfriend has a nice, thick beard and the last three before him also had lush face fur. I love running my fingers through a guy’s beard, watching him drip food all over it when he eats, tugging it during sex and daydreaming of all the little woodland creatures that would nest in it.

But something is happening that is killing my lady boner. More and more men who wear pants so tight they look like grape-smugglers have started growing facial hair. Beards are no longer reserved for duck hunters and lumberjacks. They’ve become an accessory amongst urban gents who think fanny packs are an appropriate fashion choice and cats make fantastic pets.

The beard has turned into the pushup bra of masculinity. Sure, it looks sexy, but what is it proving? You can definitely stand around looking all hunky chewing on a piece of straw and wearing a fedora and a bow-tie, but answer me this: Can you change a fucking tire? Do you know what a Phillips head is? Have you ever shot and butchered an elk in the Alaskan tundra?

Look, I empathize. Two thousands years of evolution and three waves of feminism later, you’re no longer allowed to go around with a clever in your hand killing saber tooth tigers. You’re stuck at your graphic design job all day, with no way to release your primal urges to chase shit, kill shit and fuck shit. How are you supposed to assert your masculinity when you’re designing ads for heavy flow tampons 40 hours a week; when you’re stuffing your face with arugula salad and truffle fries while at brunch with your boho girlfriend (whose, BTW, pants you’re wearing). I see the animal lurking behind your horn-rimmed glasses.

But that gives you no excuse to confuse me and my libido. When I see you around town, riding your little Triumph Bonneville’s or leaning slyly against the shaded wall of a bar smoking, my first thought is to burrow into your facial hair. The next thought is never to procreate.

Because if you did knock me up, you wouldn’t be able to build me a house à la Ryan Gosling. You wouldn’t be able to catch a salmon with your bare hands and peel the skin back, revealing the pink flesh underneath. Your hands are baby soft and don’t smell like motor oil. You don’t know what a carburetor is. Our fetus would probably be gay.

You probably would want to have gentle, kind sex. The type you see in Lifetime movies, the kind Sarah Palin has. You would be afraid to offend me if you flip me over, face down on the bed. You’d probably apologize afterwards.

Because men that treat facial hair as an accessory are not by any means masculine. You boys don’t sprout face fur to protect you from harsh climate conditions. You sprout it as a fashion statement. I mean, seriously, you maintain it. You go to stylists for your beard. You groom it with products. Not mud or dirt, but actual beauty products. Such as Jao’s Beard Scent, as the New York Times describes as being:

a shea-butter-based balm that smells of citrus fruits and evergreens

Seriously? Shea butter and citrus? What ever happened to a crummy bar of Irish Spring and some water?!

Yah, you know 15 recipes where kale is the main ingredients. You own a sweater vest and a fixie. Your Boston Terrier enjoys a healthy vegetarian diet. You know the difference between a macchiato and a cappuccino. Your favorite band is Foals. And you’re probably a super nice guy.

But lose the beard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Living: Small Space Decorating Tips

I’ve been living in the city for eight years now. Within that time, I’ve learned how to hail cabs without having to show too much thigh, dodge the advances of creepy dudes and decorate a bitchin’ apartment.

Maximizing your small space’s decorating potential isn’t as difficult as you might think. You just need to think outside of the box and have a bit of fun with it. Here are some decorating ideas to get you started.

apartment decor

 

Creating a bookshelf out of wall space allows you to not only add fun touches to an otherwise empty wall, but to utilize every inch of space your pad has to offer. Add a chandelier (you can find affordable ones at yard sales or here) for some instant elegance.

loftLofts are a great way to use vertical space to your advantages. Also, make your furniture work double-time for you. Your kitchen table can act as an office desk and a sofa can become a guest bed.

large3Think about decorating top to bottom instead of left to right. Using an entire wall as a bulletin board is a great way to personalize a room and use every inch of space you’ve got.

succulentsThese little guys add an instant pop of color to any room. Succulents are perfect for small apartments because they can literally be planted anywhere. Plus, they’re super easy to care for, so even if you don’t have a green thumb, your urban garden can thrive.

 

 

 

All of the Dating Advice I Have

89bcd9bb3cb831aaf37a34e29d676dd51.) “Musician” is simply a euphemism for “I will fuck you and then I will copulate with your best friend, cousin, sister and anything else with a pulse and a hole.”

2.) Skateboards are practical methods of transportation for humans under the age of 12. Anybody who uses a skateboard after that age should be avoided, unless they are making big bucks for riding around on a two-by-four attached to four roller-skate wheels.

ie:

Betty, “I have a hot date tonight with Johnny!”

Sally, “That’s wonderful! Where are you two going?”

Betty, “Down the block. We can’t go very far away because he’s picking me up on his skateboard. Isn’t that romantic?”

Sally, “…….”

3. “I’m not ready for a relationship” means I am not ready for a relationship. It does not mean the following:

– I want to take things slow because I respect you and I am a gentleman.

– I am emotionally hurt by your predecessor and fear that you’ll hurt me too. My heart is a big gaping wound and I need to be treated as fragile goods and be nursed back to heath by a caring and devout woman such as yourself.

– If you hang around for like five months and bake me cupcakes and have naked sleepover parties with me, I will suddenly realize how amazing you are and put a ring on it.

4. Stop talking about your dating life in hyperbole. Every dude out there isn’t an asshole set out to break your heart and you’re not going to be alone forever. Shit happens to everyone. This is why dating is as exciting as it is sucky. Chin up, slugger.

5. Having sex does not mean he is your boyfriend. Three weeks of dating doesn’t mean he’s your bf either.

6. Do not, under any circumstances, get drunk and text him, “Do you like me?” Also, do not show up to his place of employment in nothing but a trench coat and garters.

7. Relax. Relax. Relax.

8. Do not rely heavily on dating advice from your female friends or gay male friends or your mother.

9. It is not cute or becoming to get drunk in front of him and then shrilly sing Miley Cyrus and/or throw up in your purse and/or get into a brawl with the grouchy broad wearing leggings with a Lisa Frank-esque pattern of cats and space ships who gave you the stink-eye.

10. Do not listen to Jawbreaker while sitting by yourself on the couch in the dark waiting for him to call you back.

 

Welcome to the Winter of Our Discontent

winter

I think I went a little crazy when I turned 30. I did the typical “Woooo, let’s get drunk and try to take home anything with a pulse and a penis (even that fugly bartender with a nose like a dorsal fin) because I’m sad and lonely and single and things are going to start sagging in the next two years and I still don’t have kids (but do I even want them?) and I’m 30 – did you hear, y’all? I’m 30?!?! LOOK AT MEEE WHILE I TWERK ON THIS TABLE!!! WOOOO YAHHH…Fuck, I think I threw my hip out. Where’s ma drink??”

But other than getting white girl wasted, I really think I lost my mind. I lost my mind in the same way people fall asleep or in love; slowly at first, and then all at once.

This winter has been a hard one. Not because I suddenly realized I’m old, but because things are changing and staying the same simultaneously. People are getting married and having kids and moving to the ‘burbs. Some are making drastic life decisions regarding love and education and career. Still others are in the same exact spot they were at when they were 23, 24, 25. They’re combing the bar for chicks, shopping alone in the frozen food aisle at 3am because they’re stoned and too lazy to cook. And their refrain has become, “I’ll change. I’ll change. I’ll change.” even though I know they won’t.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

My dog died so I bought a puppy. It thinks “No” means “Yes, good boy! Continue eating my Jeffrey Campbells! Atta dog! Shit on the floor! Good dog!”

I’ve been vigilantly stalking a girl who is an uglier version of Courtney Love circa the heroin years. A guy I like who used to like me now likes her and it drives me nuts. I’ll sit for hours browsing through her pictures and each bug eyed, bleach blonde, pouty lipped, baby doll dress, ripped stockings, the 90’s are screaming at you to wake the eff up and realize grunge is dead photo makes me hate myself even more.

I can’t stop buying shit from Free People. Every girl needs a $600 crocheted rose print ruffle frock in her closet!

I got a second gym membership because I hated my first gym. I found a fourth shrink because the first one didn’t “get” me, the second one was too handsome and the third one was too paternal.

I apply for five copywriting jobs in different states every day.

Do you fucking get what I’m talking about?

I am 30 and my refrain is “I’ll change. I’ll change. I’ll change.” But I don’t. You can dress it up any way you want, play semantics and call it “stuck” or “lost.”  But the fact of the matter is I’m 30 and nothing has changed.

Advice for Difficult Women

difficultwoman1.) You’ll feel like you want him more than anything in the world that night. More than winning the Pulitzer. More than babies. He’ll have this face that just devastates. And it’ll be December and you’ll be lonely, thinking that nothing will ever grow again. You’re wrong.

The city will look like it’s on its last legs and then spring will come like an explosion.

Don’t use him as a scratching post for your own loneliness. He may be gorgeous, but he won’t understand when you say you disagree with Rilke’s whole essay about love meaning to deny the self and to be consumed by flames. He will teach you that men desire the satisfaction of desire; a woman desires the condition of desiring. Let him go and go home to your dog.

2.) Fairy tales end after 15 pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets, stories on top of stories on top of stories. Just because that guy left you standing outside the bar in the rain in your best dress or that friend decided you were not worth her time, it goes on. It gets better. There’s is always another chapter waiting for you, and then another, and another…

3.) You may be waiting on a train that’s late or suffering from money problems and believe that your whole life is going to fall apart. These are welcomed respites from the heartbreaks and breakdowns. Don’t lose your mind if the dog shits on the floor or you get a run in your stockings. Life is a series of intense beauty and mundane problems. Save the worry and tears for the big stuff.

4.) In every assumption there is contained the possibility for its opposite. If he doesn’t text you for a day, don’t automatically assume he’s not interested. He may be working late or have been hit by a bus.

If he kisses you sweetly, don’t think he’s promising you the world. He may have a wife and kids or a secret collection of decapitated heads in his closet.

Never jump to conclusions right away. Allow the person to show you who they really are, and then judge.

5.) Be less hard on people. They’re not always out to hurt you. This applies especially true to men. Just because you’re thirty and still single and have dated every guy who lives in the Tri-state area doesn’t mean they’re all fuckwits. Have hope and be soft.

6.) Fear of failure, pride, those last 15 pounds you want to lose, all of these things fall away in the face of death. You will die someday. You are already naked. There is no reason to not follow your heart.

7.) Breath slow, eat slow, take the time to take things in. Don’t always be in such as hurry for the next big thing. Enjoy now. Rejoice in what you have NOW. Your  job, your new puppy, your friends, family, that new guy. These are all blessings. But remember the impermanence of your situation. These things will all be gone eventually, so bask in them now.

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Bukowski

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