I’m a Canadian-American writer who currently resides in Toronto ~ but My God do I miss the sunshine of Southern California! In 2014 I was diagnosed with Peritoneal Mesothelioma & I continue to deal with complications related to it. Cake for breakfast makes everything better & vintage fashion is my joy.
I once dated a guy who was a gigolo. Of course I didn’t realize he was a gigolo when I first met him. I just thought he was a friendly dude in my apartment building. One evening he knocked on my door and there he was holding a plate of homemade spaghetti – smooth move. He was very funny and used to sing Tom Jones songs until I was crying with laughter.
I also dated a guy whose house was full of cockroaches. I had never seen a cockroach before, therefore seeing a bazillion of them when I turned on the kitchen light in the middle of the night was terrifying. It felt like I was in an 1980’s horror movie – with fabulous hair, makeup and clothing by moi of course.
There was the boyfriend who literally passed me over to another man, like they were farmers and I was prized cattle. We had broken up and he knew the other guy really liked me, so he said something like: “She’s yours now, take care of her.”
Let’s not forget the “give your girlfriend cocaine on her twenty-first birthday boyfriend,” because of course as young women that’s exactly the gift we dream about getting. Not jewelry, but hard drugs.
Oh and the boyfriend who had a thing for long finger nails! That was a problem for me because I was and still am a nail biter. But thankfully the drugstore lady introduced me to “Lee’s Press-On Nails.” I’m forever grateful to her for helping me keep my man happy.
There are more men and more stories, but for now this is it. Just a little fun list to jazz up your Wednesday.
“Why aren’t you out there having sex? You’ve been single for almost three months.”
“I hate casual sex, it’s horrifying.”
“What? Casual sex is the best! It’s like trying on shoes to find out what type of heel you like – stiletto, square, platform…”
“Nice analogy. But no. Letting a man inside my body – like hi, come and put your penis in my vagina – without knowing anything about him is terrifying.”
“It’s liberating. Not knowing them and just experiencing pleasure is freeing.”
“Three years ago I had a one night stand with a beautiful man. As I was going down on him, he started talking about how his mother still buys his underwear. I almost got up and left the house, except that we were in my house. So for the rest of the night, as we were having sex, all I could think about was his mother buying him underwear at Target.”
“Nooooooo! That did NOT happen. You just made that up.”
“I wish to GOD that I made that up. But it’s 100% true. You can stop laughing anytime now.”
“You have ruined Target for me.”
“Or what if I sleep with someone then find out afterwards they don’t believe in global warming? Or that they own like ten semi-automatic rifles?”
“Ha! That’s why you sneak out early, it’s a skill you can master, trust me.”
“Once I accidentally slept with a high school student. I’m not even sure it was legal. I felt so gross.”
“Dying. I’m dead. What happened?!”
“I thought I was having a weekend fling with a cute college guy – Jackson. He was 22 years old and I was 32 at the time, so it felt kind of naughty and fabulous. Sunday morning he woke up early to buy us coffee and croissants – sweet. Except that he forgot his phone on the bedside table and it wouldn’t stop ringing – it was his mother. But I mean lots of people chat with their parents on the weekend right? Then I started hearing pings from incoming texts and because I’m a horrible person I read them. They were all from his mother:
Jackson, where the hell are you?! You’re seventeen years old, you can’t just NOT come home at night. Your father and I are worried sick. Please text us so that we know you’re not lying in a ditch Also, you have to finish your American History paper Love you, Mom
“That kid had major moves. Kinda gotta respect a teenager with that much swagger.”
“True. But you see my point right? I’m not cut out for casual sex.”
“Ya, I get it now. I guess you just have to wait around until you meet another “Mr. Almost Kind Of But Not Really Mr. Right,” then you can have sex again.”
“Exactly. In the meantime, let’s go shoe shopping.”
“I miss living on the west coast. Would you ever consider moving with me?”
“California? Fuck no. America is a hell hole, or have you not been reading the news for the last seven years?”
“Just because there’s lots of bad stuff going on doesn’t make it a hell hole.”
“I could literally show you like a hundred articles right now to prove my point.”
“News flash: not everything is about winning an argument or proving a point. Jeez Louise you’re not even a lawyer.”
“You know what your problem is?”
“No I don’t, but I’m dying to find out.”
“You romanticize everything. Things are complicated, dangerous even, you need to be able to look at life through a clear, rational lens. There is no room for being a romantic.”
“But is there room for being a New Romantic? Like Spandau Ballet?”
“I’m being serious.”
“No, you’re being irritating. Who are you to go off on what you perceive to be my problem? Did God quit and put you in charge?”
“You know I don’t believe in God, religion is the opium of the people.”
“Ya, ya, Karl Marx – what are you, a first year philosophy student?Anyway, if we’re gonna argue, I would argue that now more than ever there’s a need for Romanticism. The world is desperate for it. The universe is asking us to look at each other through softer, sepia-toned lenses and to not be so binary. To come together, recite poetry, eat cake and drink wine. It wants to hear us roar with laughter and moan in ecstasy. The world isn’t interested in your clear rational lens right now, it’s desperate to be softly petted like you would pet your beloved dog. It’s hurting – the world is fucking hurting. It needs love and tenderness to help it get back on track.”
“That’s the biggest load of Instagram-y horse shit that I’ve ever heard. It actually scares me that you think like that. When we first met I thought you were an intelligent woman, even a bit of a nerd. But now it’s like you’re a sage burning, crystal wearing, astrology-believer. What happened to you?”
“I’ve actually always been this way, you just chose not to see it. And a person can be smart and burn sage, the two are not mutually exclusive.”
“But they are mutually exclusive. A smart person would never believe that burning a few leaves would clear out negative energy, because that same smart person would never believe in the idea of negative energy.”
“Just okay. Like we have four more hours in this car together so I’m gonna peace out of this conversation and put some music on.”
“I’ve got a new playlist that I made last week, it’s really good.”
“Stop trying to control everything, let yourself fall apart. Just let it all go.”
“Great advice. Where’d you get it, Instagram?”
“Yes it’s from Instagram, but it’s from a psychologist not like an influencer.”
“Love getting my mental health guidance from Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe I’ll film my breakdown, make a reel and post it. Should I add Harry Styles’ music to keep it upbeat and trending?”
“You have a bad attitude. Clearly you’re not happy, yet you’re holding on for dear life to everything and everyone that doesn’t work for you. I hate watching you do this, it’s like watching a car crash over and over again.”
“Nice. Really nice. Thanks for the support.”
“I am being supportive, but I’m not going to sugarcoat things, that’s not being a true friend. I’m telling you like it is.”
“Fine. But I mean I can’t just fall apart completely, I would be a mess.”
“Umm, news flash – you’re a mess now girl. Falling apart is going to help you not be a mess. Or, you can keep doing what you’re doing and be miserable and also drive your friends and family crazy.”
“Thanks for the added pressure. I didn’t realize I was such a burden to everyone.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. You’re not a burden, but it’s hard on your loved ones to watch you not take action. We kind of want to push you over the cliff, symbolically of course.”
“Of course. I mean I get it, I’m driving myself crazy too. Every morning I look in the mirror and it’s like welcome to the shit show, day number 289.”
“What ever happened to your therapist?”
“She retired to Boca Raton. And the therapist who took over her practice is obsesssed with spirit animals, she said their guidance is the ultimate wisdom.”
“That sounds cool. So what’s your spirit animal?”
“I don’t have one – that’s the problem. Apparently the spirit animal chooses you, but they haven’t yet, so I feel like a total loser.”
“You’re not a loser. Your spirit animal just can’t get through to you because you’re in a tangled web of emotions. They’re waiting for you to untangle yourself – just a little – then they’ll reveal themselves.”
“I hope so. I’m exhausted. I am so so tired of feeling like this. It’s like having a new variant of Covid – ‘Emotional Mess Covid, variant #32X’.”
“HA! At least you still have your sense of humor. And don’t forget: I love you fiercely, I believe in you and you’vegot this kid.”
“Thanks sweetie. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Absolutely not. You have curly hair. Perms are not for curly-haired girls.”
“But I want ringlets like Lisa Bonet.”
“Lisa is a beautiful young woman and you’re a beautiful young woman. Embrace what you have.”
“But you get perms.”
“Exactly. I get perms because I have straight hair, that’s who perms are for.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Life’s not fair. Embrace that concept too.”
“What if I use my own money?”
“You’re welcome to fry your hair on your own dime, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Okay. I’m calling your salon to see if they can squeeze me in today.”
“Mom, can you come pick me up? I’m finished at the salon.”
“Okay, I’ll be there in ten minutes. Are you okay? Your voice sounds weird.”
“I look like Mr. Vanderhosen’s poodle.”
“Oh sweetie I’m sure it’s not that bad. We’ll figure out some styling options. See you soon.”
“Oh wow, it is pretty bad. Yikes. At least it’s big though – you wanted big, right?”
“I wanted big and ringlets! Not big and frizz! You’re gonna have to homeschool me because I’m not leaving the house until this perm is out of my hair. What if I wash it like twenty times? Would that get the chemicals out? Stop laughing mom, it’s not funny!”
“Should we get Dairy Queen? I feel like this is a Dairy Queen moment.”
“This is a cigarette moment mom.”
“Well I’m a liberal mother, but I’m not giving you a cigarette just because you don’t like your hair. You’ll have to steal one from me like a regular teenager. Do you want a hot fudge sundae?”
“Sure, a hot fudge sundae and maybe a large hat.”
“What if we use gel, like a lot of gel, and slick the whole thing back into a low braid like Sade wears? You already have big hoop earrings – you’ll look beautiful. We’ll stop by the drugstore on our way home and pick up some supplies.”
“There’s not enough gel in the universe to slick this hair back. You better brush up on your algebra skills because homeschooling starts Monday.”
“Darling I hate to break it to you but there is no way in hell that I’m homeschooling you, that’s for granola moms – which I’m not. Call Jenny, she’ll know how to help.”
“What about boarding school? Can you and Dad afford boarding school? Just ship me off somewhere. I don’t want Mark to see me like this.”
“Who’s Mark? Haven’t heard a wink about him. I thought you liked Todd.”
“I found out Todd is in the Young Republicans, so he’s out. I told him I only date Democrats or Independents. Mark just moved here from New York – like Manhattan New York. He’s super cool. But if he sees me like this he’ll never ask me out.”
“Why don’t you start a trend? A big perm frizz-head trend.”
“Not funny mom.”
“I’m serious. How do you think trends get started? With one brave and fashion-forward person. Do it. It can be like a social experiment, maybe you can get extra credit for it in school if you write a paper.”
“Oh I’m loving this idea sweetie. I’ll help you with it. The key is to act like you meant to get your hair done like this. Commit to it 100%. Strut those hallways like you’re Cindy or Naomi—
“Stop it mom.”
“Love, open the door. You’ve been in there for a long time. I don’t have a good feeling about this. I think you might be making a bad situation worse. What’s that sound? Is that your father’s electric razor?”
“Mom, chill. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“Oh. My. God.”
“Do you like it? I think it’s cool, very New Wave. I shaved off the left side with dad’s razor and then I chopped off like seven inches from the right side – it’s an asymmetrical bob.”
“I can see that. Well done love, it’s very…asymmetrical.”
“Dave, don’t say anything about Jess’s hair.”
“Why, what happened?”
“Hi Dad. I used your electric razor, hope you don’t mind.”
“Wow. Um…very cool Jess. Very London UK.”
“That’s what I was going for! Like on that fashion television show where they interview cool kids in Paris, London and New York – that was my inspiration.”
“Well, you totally nailed it. Was that the doorbell? I’ll get it. Are we expecting anyone?”
“No, Jenny is away for the weekend. Maybe it’s our creepy neighbour.”
“Jess, you’ve got a visitor.”
“Be right there.”
“So Mark, you go to school with Jess? You have a NY accent, did you just move here?”
“Ya. My dad got transferred. Kind of feel like I’m living in a twilight zone episode in this town, it’s so different. But your daughter is super cool sir.”
“I agree, she is super cool.”
“Mark?! Hi! Oh my god what a surprise, come on in. It’s okay Dad, I’ve got it from here.”
“Your hair looks rad Jess.”
“Really? Thanks. The hairdresser ruined it so I had fix it myself. It’s not too much is it?”
“No. It’s very downtown cool, very Soho. Hey, I brought you a couple copies of The Village Voice, you seemed really interested in NY.”
“Wow, thanks! Can I get you something to eat or drink?”
“I’ll take a coffee with sugar if you have it.”
“How about a coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream? It’s so good.”
“Cool. Your parents let you drink?”
“No they don’t, but they won’t notice.”
“You’re funny. Can I help you?”
“Grab that box of cookies, they go really well with coffee and follow me upstairs.”
“I gotta warn you, my room is a total freaking disaster right now.”
“No problem. I don’t trust people who have really clean rooms, they’re like psychopaths.”
“Totally. Let’s open the windows, then we can smoke.”
“Jesus, Bailey’s in coffee is fucking good.”
“My grandma introduced me to it, she’s the best. Whenever she takes care of me, like when my parents go away, she lets me have wine with dinner. How are you liking Brownsville? It must seem kinda lame compared to Manhattan.”
“Ya, at first I totally freaked out. I mean you need fake id to drink, the record stores sell almost no Punk, there’s no decent Chinese food…”
“I can hook you up with a fake id. I know this guy Jeremy who makes them, he charges ten bucks.”
“Oh right on man, thanks Jess. By the way, you’re not dating that Todd guy are you?”
“Todd The Republican? Oh my God no. I mean he supports Reagan for fucks sake.”
“Oh good. Cause I was wondering…do you wanna see a movie next weekend? Hitchcock’s The Birds is playing at The Revival Cinema.”
“Ya, I would love to. I’ve never seen a Hitchcock film, which I know is totally lame. But if we’re going to a movie together I need to ask you an important question.”
“Do you eat popcorn before or during the movie?”
“Before, like during the previews. I’m not a complete asshole. I can’t stand when people are making loud crunching noises during the movie. Drives me fucking batshit.”
“Oh thank God. Okay then, we’re definitely on for next weekend. Cheers.”
To get to the good stuff – love, creative flow and thriving – we have to live in the weeds for awhile. Sometimes we have to live in the weeds for a really long time and we’re not talking Instagram-pretty weeds displayed in a vintage mason jar.
We have to live in the ugly, prickly, yucky weeds and it ain’t fun. But, then we get a few beautiful days, or months, or even just moments and it makes it all worth it. It’s like having six days of grey skies and then the sun comes out.
The messy is exhausting but also liberating, because when you’re really in the depths of the messy, knee-deep in the weeds, you kind of have nothing to lose.
Think of the messiness like your tripped-out, Burning Man alter ego who gives you permission to just say “Fuck It.” Spinning around on their 1970’s lowrider bicycle, your Burning Man alter ego yells out random bits of advice:
“Ask for what you need, ask for what you want. If they can’t give it to you, then just Peace Out and Keep It Moving.” “Dude, fall in love with yourself!” “Take up more space. Why are you letting all these clowns crowd you out?!”
And actually your Burning Man alter ego is pretty damn wise. They’re like having your own personal psychedelic therapist living on your shoulder. Best listen up. They’ll get you out of the weeds and into the sunshine in no time.
Oh my sweetness. My lovely young girl. There were so many times that I wasn’t there for you. I was supposed to be your spirit guide, watching over you and keeping you safe, but I failed.
Remember when that boyfriend commented on your “cute stomach?” It wasn’t a compliment. You had just had sex with him in his parents’ house on their carpeted staircase – which by the way is really uncomfortable, it’s not like it is in the movies. Afterwards you were sitting in front of the fireplace, naked and drinking coffee. Your stomach was flat as a pancake, not that that should matter. The point was he wanted to make you feel bad. He liked really skinny girls. His last girlfriend had been anorexic. She suffered from one of the scariest, most difficult to treat mental illnesses and he idealized her frail body.
So there you sat, twenty years old, vulnerable, doing your sparklething, but secretly feeling like shit. Probably smoking a cigarette because he was a smoker. Probably getting some gross infection from the shag rug on that damn carpeted staircase.
I want to embrace that small body of yours with the big 80’s long curly hair. I want to dress you quickly in whatever you were wearing – probably a black, slightly goth-y dress with an oversized menswear coat. I want to hurry you out into a waiting cab and whisper in your ear: “My darling, you are magic. This young man is broken, though it’s not his fault, but don’t let his broken pieces wound you. Don’t let his jagged edges make you bleed.”
I’m here for you now. Better late than never, right? Think of me like your own private Amazonian Goddess: ready and able to take down anyone who tries to harm you. You’re protected. So go do what your heart desires and don’t worry ~ everything will be alright.
You know how balloons sometimes look over-inflated? Like they might burst at any moment? That’s you.
When you explode, will your anger come blasting out like a dragon spewing fire? That’s what I imagine. Not sure what I’ll do, dragons are hard to slay.
I’ve never experienced having to walk on eggshells and I don’t like how they feel. You might think egg shells wouldn’t hurt, but you would be wrong; my feet are scraped raw.
Don’t know how we got here, but it’s not a destination that I ever wanted to visit. I would like to leave immediately. Can we hop on a plane? Maybe if we go someplace tropical your anger will melt away.
Surely the universe or God wants better for us. Then again I’m not sure I believe in God. I pray every night, but that might just be a leftover habit from two excruciating years of Catholic school.
Living in anger’s house is exhausting. I have never been this tired. But, my spirit is slowly re-awakening. It’s as if my spirit went for a spa weekend and came back feeling renewed – remembering how to sparkle again.
And guess what? I just found out that sparkle can slay dragons.
Remember in high school when we used to buy weed at the health food store? Our dealer worked there. He would pass us the drugs at the check-out counter as we paid for apples and yogurt-covered raisins.
So many memories of you and I. Always together as a team. Often up to no good, but maintaining excellent grades so that our parents stayed off our backs.
And always secretly in love with each other.
Sure we were part of a larger clique, but we were inseparable. Rolling our eyes at each other as Jenny and Steve made out in the hallway. Trying to make each other laugh in math class so that our teacher Mr. Halloway finally separated us. You had that thing where you flared your nostrils and it got me every time. Even if you were across the room, if I looked up and saw you flaring your nostrils I would burst out laughing.
Remember Halloween 1984? We dressed up as Sony and Cher and won best costume duo at the dance. That was the same year that Erica passed out in the coat room.
“She could choke on her vomit, she drank like five screwdrivers, let’s stay with her” you said, so we smoked cigarettes watching over her until she woke up.
Where were the teachers? The parents? I literally don’t remember anyone really in charge back then. Good God.
We occasionally dated people, but it was just for show. We weren’t actually interested in anyone but each other.
Remember that private school guy I dated for a few months? He was a fencer. You used to make fun of his fencing uniform and it was ridiculous. You dated that pretty Australian girl for awhile, the one who smelled like cherry lip gloss. I made fun of your mouth because it was always shiny after she kissed you.
Applying to colleges we made sure to apply to the same ones, or at least colleges in the same area. In the end you chose Columbia and I chose NYU and on the weekends we would meet up and go dancing at that crazy club. It was in a church. What was it called? Limelight! It was called Limelight. We saw kids shooting up heroin there and it scared me, so you grabbed my hand and flared your nostrils to make me laugh.
And then there was that night: tripping on mushrooms in Central Park. It was right after December exams and we were making snow angels and giggling at the stars which looked like psychedelic planets to us.
“I’ve been in love with you since the ninth grade, when you walked into home room wearing those pointy black buckled boots. You were so cool. So smart and funny. Way out of my league. But I swore that one day I would marry you.”
“Whaaaat?” I yelled, throwing snow on you.
“I’ve been in love with YOU since I saw you in home room. You were wearing skinny black cords and a Clash t-shirt and I thought you were the most beautiful boy I had ever seen.”
You grabbed my face with your mittens, the mittens your grandmother knit you every winter and you kissed me. We kissed and we kissed and we kissed and oh my god it felt so good to kiss you; I’d been waiting for years.
“I know we’re baked, but damn Lizzie I want to marry you. Will you marry me?”
“Oh my God our parents will freak out!” I said between kisses.
“But, yes, I’ll marry you,” I said smiling.
A few days later we were standing in Manhattan’s City Clerk’s Office. You wearing a secondhand black suit, white shirt, skinny tie and your Chuck Taylors. Me wearing a 1960’s black lace dress, rhinestone earrings and black heels borrowed from my wealthy roommate. We bought our rings from a street vendor named Tate who made jewelry from discarded wire.
You remembered to bring your Nikon and we payed the security guard to take photos of us. God we were beautiful. Young and beautiful and so in love.
Who gets married in their Junior year of college? No one. So we kept it a secret.
We moved into that tiny east village apartment, the one near Avenue A. Our first night in our new home was Chinese take out from Lily’s around the corner. We ate with chopsticks, sitting on the beautiful Persian carpet that I had scored on garbage night. I eventually decorated our whole apartment with furniture I found on garbage night, mostly from the upper east side. I would take the subway home with all kinds of treasures: 1930’s standing lamps, ornate gold mirrors, mid-century artwork…People threw out good stuff back then.
Making love on that tiny futon up in the loft until we were exhausted and starving. You would climb down the rickety ladder to fetch us a snack and we’d fall asleep listening to “Pictures of You” by The Cure.
“Mom, let me take over for you. You’re exhausted. Go home and get some rest. I’ll stay here with dad.”
“Thanks love,” I say, taking my daughter’s hand.
“I’m going to read him my new poems. I’m pretty sure he can hear me, I think it soothes him.”
“Oh good, he loves your writing. And of course he can hear you, your father is still in there, we just need to give him time to wake up. Tatiana is the nighttime nurse, they have the sweetest southern accent.”
“Okay. Make sure to eat something when you get home. I bought you groceries and a nice bottle of red.”
“Oh what a nice treat, thank you Lily-Rose.”
Bending down to kiss your freckled forehead, I whisper in your ear:
“Beautiful man, wake up from your sleep. I need you. Lily-Rose needs you. Our love story is not finished yet, we have many chapters to go still.”
Why didn’t you protect me?
I’m your spirit
You’re nothing without me, like a balloon with no air
I can’t believe you betrayed me like this
Your only job as a human was to protect me, to keep me alive and vibrant
Maybe I should feel sorry for you, show more compassion, try to understand why you let this happen
But I’m too angry
I gave you so many good years
So much Radiance. Laughter. Beauty. Sparkle. Enthusiasm. Joy. Abundance.
And this is how you repay me?
You watched as he broke me into pieces
You didn’t fight for me
You gave up
So don’t you dare assume that I’m going to get right back up and start twirling and tossing my damn glitter baton high up in the air for you
Show me that you remember how breathtaking I am
Show me that you cherish me and will protect me forever
And then maybe, maybe I will come back and light up your life again