The Perm

CHAPTER ONE

“Mom, I wanna get a perm.”

“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.”

“Jesus.”

CHAPTER TWO

“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.”

CHAPTER THREE

“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.”

CHAPTER FOUR

“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.”

“You’re insane.”

“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.”

CHAPTER FIVE

“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.”

CHAPTER SIX

“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.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

“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.”

“Okay.”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.”

“Cheers.”

Photo c/o Hair Romance

Slay

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.

Art by Lou Benesch

Do You Remember?

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.”

Photo by Mario De Biasi, Milan 1961

Fall Flowers

Scrolling through my Spotify playlists to find that song.
That song that makes me feel so good.
So good that when I walk along Queen Street with the sun shining and my fake Raybans on, I feel unstoppable.
There, found it. Press play.

Now I am beautiful.
I am emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy.
The kind of woman who drinks Matcha tea, organic wine and eats only eggs from the really happy hens, not the sad ones in cages.
Effortlessly chic.
I am fulfilled.
I use crystal rituals in my weekend self-care routines.
I am in a relationship that is both deep and nourishing, yet light and joyful.

Let me play this song again, just one more time.
I don’t want to let go of this version of myself quite yet.
I love her.
I looooove her.
Okay, it’s on repeat. All is good. I’m still her.

I smile at strangers walking past me, admire Halloween decorations and wave at a little toddler wearing sparkly shoes.
Being her means my roots are always touched up, never grey.
I practice yoga and tantric sex, giving my complexion that gorgeous, glow-y from within look.
I don’t just live, I thrive.

Oh no, someone is calling me, interrupting my time with her.
It’s my husband.
I answer.

“Can you pick up some snacks, you know like chips and stuff? The guys are coming over tonight to watch the game.”

“Sure, no problem,” I say lightly trying not to lose her.

I pop into our local grocer, waving at the checkout guy.
I’m still her, for a little longer.
I grab chips and pretzels and all the usual crap that my husband likes eating while watching sports.
Then I grab myself a bouquet of mixed fall flowers, that’s what she would do.
She would buy herself flowers every week, never leaving them to die and rot in the vase.
I spot a container of overpriced pre-cut fruit pieces – her favorite.

I replay the song again.
I feel so good being her.
She loves dark chocolate with sea salt, so I toss a couple of bars into my basket.
In the refrigerator, next to the Kombucha, is a new drink I’ve never seen before.
It’s called Goddess Juice, a turmeric based elixir that you take as a daily shot for:
“Enhancing your inner functioning, wellbeing and spirit,” the label says.
Oh this is exactly what she would like, she would totally buy this.

I pause my music so I can chat with the checkout guy.

“You watching the game tonight? I’ve got a good feeling about this one, I think the Leafs are gonna win.”

“My husband is. He just bought himself a special beer fridge for the new season.”

“Sweet.”

I pay, then continue walking home.
I’m now balancing two paper bags plus my purse, it’s too much and I’ve got several blocks to go.
Even though I’m still playing the song I feel her disappearing.

“Why can’t he buy his own snacks? What am I, his mother?”

As the irritation grows I feel her slipping further and further away. She’s wearing oatmeal-colored cashmere loungewear and she doesn’t like my energy right now.

I walk the final block to our tiny row house; I’m sweating. It’s fall but somehow I’m sweating.
I turn the key and my husband meets me at the door:

“Thanks babe, you’re fucking amazing,” he says as he takes the two bags and kisses my forehead.

He’s talking to me about I don’t know what, not even noticing the Goddess Juice, which is something he would usually make fun of. I hide the juice at the bottom of the fridge and fill a vase with water.

“I have a good feeling about the Leafs tonight, I think they’re gonna win,” I say while arranging my flowers.

“Ah babe, that’s what I like to hear. Go Leafs!” he yells, emptying bags of chips into bowls.

I pour myself a glass of red wine and take a sip, followed by a bite of dark chocolate with sea salt – it’s exactly what she would do. And My God it’s delicious.

https://janneford.com

Spiritual Fixer

“I’m broken.”
“You are not broken.”
“But I am.”

“You might feel broken, but you are not broken. Do you hear me? You are not.”
“Okay.”

“Feeling broken is your psyche’s way of waving a giant red flag, it’s telling you to make changes immediately. Feeling broken is a warning sign and you must – you must – take it seriously.”

“I understand. Except that because I feel broken I also feel exhausted, unable to do anything.”

“That’s because you’ve given all your power away, you didn’t mean to, but you did. And that’s left you feeling tired: no power = no energy. I understand my dear sweet thing. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: you have a hidden reserve of power. Think of it like a backup generator. And in emergencies – like now – you need to switch that generator ON to power you up.”

“Well I don’t know, that sounds a little nuts. A backup generator to magically give me energy so that I can make changes in my life?”

“What’s nuts is that you’re allowing the life to be choked out of you.”

“Well…”

“Either you believe me and tap into that backup generator to energize yourself, or I’ll move on to help someone else. I’m not getting any younger.”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to take up all your time, I’m not even sure who I’m talking to. Are you God?”

“God? No. If there’s a God he’s been on one long-assed vacation – I mean just look at the mess this world is in! Think of me more like a Fixer, A Spiritual Fixer.”

“That sounds like the name of a Netflix Series that I would watch.”

“Good, then maybe you’ll listen to me and use your backup generator and get your damn life turned around so you can stop feeling broken.”

“Okay, okay, I’ve got it. I believe you. I’m turning the generator on. Next time you see me I will have taken back all my power, I promise you.”

“Glad to hear it. Now I’ve got a busy schedule today, it seems there are a lot of people feeling broken in your neighborhood, so I’m off.”

“Thank you so much, I appreciate your help.”

“I’ll email you my invoice.”

“Wait, you charge for your services?”

“Well of course I charge for my services, why wouldn’t I? A girl’s gotta eat – and buy shoes! I’ll check in on you in two weeks, there’s no charge for the follow-up appointment.”

“Okay. I’ll see you then, bye.”

“Bye sweetness. And remember: you’ve got this, you really do.”

Artwork by Lucia Dami

The Fuchsia House

I’m lonely without you, though you are sitting right next to me. Decades spent together but I can’t remember how your lips taste.

I don’t know when this happened or how or why, but like cancer the loneliness has spread and there’s no cure in sight.

We sit side by side watching television. Or streaming. I guess we are technically watching streaming on television? What does that even mean? I don’t understand any of it.

Our one child, grown and long moved out of the house. All pets dead, their paw prints lining our hallway; it’s just us now. We’re like two old mannequins in an ancient storefront, dressed in out of date fashion, sitting on a vintage but not in a cool way sofa.

I want to go back, back to that old movie theatre we used to frequent with its stale popcorn and Bogart double features. Back to our lovemaking, which left our bedroom looking like it had been ransacked by a rock n’ roll group. Back to our eating canned tomato soup and grilled cheese for a year straight so that we could save up enough money for a down payment on our first home.

You ask me if I want a glass of sherry. I hate sherry and always have, but I say:

“Sure, thanks.”

Just like I don’t remember what your lips taste like, you don’t remember what I like to drink.

I sink into the corner of the couch and drink the sherry. A blanket covers my lap. It’s an ugly hand knit blanket that a close friend made for me. I’m unable to part with gifts from loved ones, no matter how ugly or useless they are. I have a whole closet full of such gifts. That one time, when you went a little nuts with spring cleaning and wanted to give everything away to The Salvation Army, I said:

“No. I’m keeping all my friend and family gifts.”

You called me a hoarder, which was mean. But sometimes you’re mean, it’s one of your character flaws. I’m used to it though. I pay the meanness no attention, shrugging it off like a cardigan – taking away its power. They’re just words, I can handle words.

You pass me a shortbread cookie. Since when do we eat shortbread cookies and drink sherry? What are we like 85 yrs old suddenly? Jesus H. Christ.

“No thanks,” I say to the cookie.

I want to go back to Paris with you and eat pastries that look like art. And sit outside at cafes and people watch, kicking each other under the table when someone truly fabulous walks by:

“Did you see that woman? She looks like Catherine Deneuve. Stunning.”

“Did you read Sarah’s email?” I ask.

“She’s coming home for the long weekend next month. She’s bringing her new girlfriend, Jemima.”

“What happened to Chrissy?”

“They broke up. But Jemima sounds like a better match for her, I have a good feeling about this one.”

“Good. I hope your feeling is right. It’s time for her to settle down, we’re not getting any younger,” he said annoyed.

“I hate sherry,” I said.

“You hate sherry? Since when?”

“Since forever. I’m getting a glass of red wine.”

He sighed, annoyed again. Annoyed was his new go-to default mood.

In the dining room I poured myself a large glass of wine and stared at a painting that Sarah had made for us when she was eight years old. It was the three of us standing in front of a fuchsia-painted house with eight multi-colored cats at our feet. I had spent a fortune getting it professionally framed and honestly it looked like something that could hang in MOMA.

Back on the sofa we continued watching whatever it was we were watching. It was one of those shows where the female detectives all had shiny blow-outs and perfect manicures.

“I think I will take a cookie if there are any left,” I said.

He passed me one.

“That guy is bad news. He’s up to something,” he said, slurping his sherry.

I nodded knowingly:

“You’re totally right.”

It turned out that shortbread cookies and red wine went beautifully together – who knew?

“Should we go back to Paris this fall? We haven’t been since before we had Sarah,” I asked.

“I’m not getting on a plane, it’s still not safe with covid.”

“I really want us to go back while we’re still healthy enough to get around.”

“Go alone then, just don’t bring back covid.”

“You want me to go to Paris alone?”

“If you want to go just go. I’m not going to stop you.”

No wonder she couldn’t remember what his lips tasted like. Her husband wanted her to go to the most romantic city in the world alone. Lovely. Fucking lovely.

“I don’t trust Detective Monaghan, I think he’s corrupt.”

She ate the final bite of her cookie and took a sip of wine.

This was her life now: Detective Monaghan and his partner, the shiny-haired detective. And sherry. And shortbread. This was her life?

It was both comical and sad. No wonder she felt fucking lonely – he was completely checked out. She could probably go to Paris and he wouldn’t even notice she was gone.

Maybe Sarah would go with her? They could have a fun mother -daughter adventure. Except that Sarah was busy living her life. A delicious life full of fucking and discovering herself and finishing her PhD.

Maybe she should go back to school. She could get her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management, or, just study something completely different like Italian or astronomy. She wrapped the ugly blanket around her, took her wine and walked towards her office.

“Do you want me to pause it?” he asked as she walked away

“No, don’t bother. I’m not coming back.”

At her computer she started looking up different university classes, but soon found herself on the United Airlines’ website. They had a seat sale to Europe, a really good seat sale, like they were practically giving away the seats. Work-wise this was the perfect time for her to travel, it was quiet and she had tons of vacation days saved up.

One of the seat sales included hotel accommodation. The hotel was located near the Louvre which was right near the most amazing patisserie called “Tartine, Toi et Moi.”

She sent a formal email to her boss requesting time off due to a family emergency. Then she purchased her ticket, bumping herself up to first class because WHY THE HELL NOT?

Wrapped in the ugly blanket and holding her half-empty wine glass, she went back to the living room.

“You missed a really good ending. It was a surprise ending, totally not what I expected.”

“I leave for Paris in two weeks. I’ll be gone for ten days.”

“What?”

Photo: Jane Fonda, 1961, Cafe de Flore

Just Breathe

“I can’t breathe.”

“You’re breathing.”

“No, I’m not. Call 911.”

“You’re having a panic attack.”

“I know I’m having a panic attack, don’t you think I know I’m having a panic attack?”

“Well if you know you’re having a panic attack then you know that it’ll be over soon.”

“That’s not helpful. Being rational is useless during a panic attack.

“You’re right, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I can’t stop shaking and my teeth are chattering.”

Marissa took three Xanax.

“Jesus! Don’t gobble those up they’re not candies!”

“Don’t yell at me! I can’t breathe. And these pills are only .5 milligrams each – one pill does nothing.”

Mark sighed.

“I have to change out of my nightgown, when the paramedics arrive I need to be properly dressed.”

“The paramedics are not coming, you’re breathing. You’re going to be fine. Come here.”

Mark grabbed Marissa and held her from behind, wrapping his arms across her chest.

“You’re choking me.”

He lowered his arms.

“Ok that feels better, thanks. But my teeth are chattering, I’m scared.”

“Open your mouth wide.”

“Why?”

“If you open your mouth wide your teeth won’t be able to chatter.”

“Oh good idea, thanks,” said Marissa.

With her mouth open and Mark holding her, Marissa moved her body slowly side to side. The repetitive motion helped to soothe her.

“I’m getting aroused.”

“What?!” cried Marissa.

“You’re moving back and forth against my crotch, what did you expect?”

“Oh My God – sorry!”

They both started laughing.

“I can’t laugh, it’ll make the attack worse.”

Marissa adjusted her body so that she was moving back and forth along Mark’s thigh instead.

“FYI: I won’t have the energy to do anything about your arousal. After my panic attacks I’m always completely drained.”

“I didn’t expect you to, I’m not a complete ogre.”

“I’m freezing.”

“You’re actually not cold, it’s just your psyche fucking with you.”

“Alright. I’m going to pace around the kitchen for awhile. The movement calms me.”

“Okay but where’s your cell phone? I don’t want you calling the paramedics.”

“I won’t,” said Marissa with her mouth wide open.

“Remember that Yakity Yak clattering teeth toy? Do they still sell those? I want one.”

“I’ll look online now,” said Mark, sitting down with his laptop.

Marissa continued pacing back and forth while wringing her hands like they’d just been stung by bees.

“This is a good look, isn’t it? I’ve never felt more unattractive in my life.”

“You’re beautiful. Even when you’re panic-attacking you’re breathtakingly beautiful.”

“That’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me. Did you find the Yakity Yak teeth?”

“I did, I’m ordering them now.”

“Thanks. I think the drugs are kicking in, I feel like I can breathe again.”

“Yakity Yak Yay!” cried Mark.

Careless Whispers

“Don’t be so careless with your life.”

“Excuse me?” Jen said, looking around for the person attached to the voice. But there was no one. The closest human was the chatty fella with the Corgi and he was at the bottom of the hill playing tug-o-war.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night, clearly I’m hallucinating.

“You’re not hallucinating,” said the voice.

“Listen, whomever you are. You’re being very judge-y, just zip it,” whispered Jen, irritated.

“I have a right to judge you, I’m God, judging is part of my job description.”

“First of all, I don’t believe in God, so you don’t exist. Second of all, I’m not careless with my life. Not that it’s any of your damn business.”

“But you are careless. You act like you have all the time in the world. You live with no sense of urgency, each day just another day. The passivity with which you breeze through life is infuriating.”

“Oh My God, leave me alone God. Why are you hounding me? I’m just trying to relax in the park on a nice day. Go away.”

Putting in her ear buds Jen chose a Spotify playlist:
1980’s Alternative.

Depeche Mode played as Jen stared up at the tree.

“We interrupt your regular programming with a message from God:”

Sighing, Jen lay down on the grass.

“Jen, you’re stuck. You need an action plan. You need to make some big changes in your life and instead you’re loafing around like sourdough.”

Jen laughed.

“That’s funny. But listen God, I’m fine – really. You can stop obsessing about me. While it’s true that my life could use a Glow-Up, I think you have bigger fish to fry. Don’t you watch your own news? Like Russia invading Ukraine. Like the pandemic. Like fast fashion killing our planet. Like your crazy people overturning Roe vs Wade.”

“Those are not my people. I’m Pro-Choice.”

“You are?”

“Of course I am. Now listen, I happen to know that you are unhappy in both your job and relationship and that you’re not taking good care of your health. This is your freaking life Jen, how can you be passive with your own life?”

“I’m not passive I’m depressed, there’s a difference.”

“So tell your Doctor and get on anti-depressants.”

“I’m already on an anti-depressant.”

“Yikes.”

“What do you mean yikes?” asked Jen feeling insulted.

“I just thought you would have more pep in your step if you were on an anti-depressant.”

“It’s not like you take a pill and then turn into Doris Day, it’s not that simple.”

“Sorry, I didn’t know. I thought it worked like that.”

“Well it doesn’t. And before you say I should see a therapist, I already do.”

Jen took a sip from her water bottle.

Eighties alternative music played for the next few minutes and Jen started to relax.

“Think of me like a Life Coach,” said God, who was suddenly back.

“Life coaches are ridiculous. They’re like not even a real thing. It’s not like Harvard offers a PhD program in Life Coaching.”

God ignored her snark.

“Regardless, I’m here to help you.”

“Fine, fine. Help me. Do your God thing.” Jen said resignedly. She didn’t have the courage to argue with a God who didn’t even really exist.

Closing her eyes, Jen said:

“I’m just going to take a little cat nap.”

“Okay, I’ll go visit that cute Corgi at the bottom of the hill.”

“Mabel, the Corgi’s name is Mabel, I just remembered,” said Jen

“OMG. What a cute dog name,” said God.

JLo Glow

“You know when you cut open an orange only to realize it’s one of those dried out ones with no flavour?”

“Ya,”

“That’s what I feel like. All my juicy-juice goodness has dried up. I hate being middle-age,” Donna said.

Becky sighed:

“You’ve always been like this. Remember your 25th birthday? You had a meltdown and claimed your life was over and that you had nothing to show for it.”

They laughed.

“Ok, but back to my orange analogy. I could get fillers or Botox, but really I’m looking for ways to get my inside juicy self back.”

“Why don’t you go on a wellness retreat and have an affair.”

“Umm, because I’m married. That’s the worse advice ever, you’re nuts.”

“Affairs at wellness retreats don’t count – just like Vegas, but with green juice. Plus, I read that affairs can actually rejuvenate women better than Juverderm.”

“Very funny. I’ll never have an affair and not because I’m a perfect upstanding citizen. But because I have terrible taste in men. I would end up sleeping with someone completely deranged: the kind of guy who drives a mini-van even though he doesn’t have a family.”

“Oh those guys are creepy. And what about the guys who keep freezers in their garage? Never trust a man with a freezer in his garage.”

“Totally.”

“It’s true that you used to have bad taste in men, but then you married Jack and he’s a decent guy – you could have done a lot worse. Remember Melissa James from college? She just found out her husband has a whole other family. Can you believe that?”

“How do people have the time and energy to keep secret families? Jack and I can barely handle one teenager and two cats. Honestly, I don’t think either of us could pull off an affair, we’re too tired. Even before the pandemic we were burned out. Now it’s a miracle if we’re able to stay up late enough to watch an episode of The Crown.”

“That’s sad,” Becky said laughing.

Donna continued,

“I just watched JLo’s Instagram reels and she is the juiciest fifty-two year old. She literally glows from within. She has this light, happy, sparkly vibe. I bought her entire skincare collection.”

Becky started laughing harder:

“Stop it, I’m gonna pee my pants.”

Donna stretched out on their blanket:

“I forgot to put on sunscreen today,” she said, surveying the park.

“Oh who cares – so you get a few more age spots. If you get enough age spots they’ll blend together and you’ll looked nicely tanned,” Becky said.

“I’m so glad you find me amusing.”

Becky passed a peach scented gum drop to Donna.

“Is this candy or an edible?”

“It’s an artisanal CBD edible. You should see the packaging – so chic. I read about them in Vogue.”

Donna popped it in her mouth.

“Delicious, thanks.”

“Okay, now back to your problem: You need to start putting yourself first. You still make breakfast every morning for your husband and teenage son – like a freaking 1950’s housewife.”

“It’s just this little ritual we have, it’s sweet.”

“It’s not sweet, it’s pathetic. Take that morning time and spend it doing something you like. You love reading those alphabet thrillers. So start your mornings with coffee and a book, the guys will survive without bacon and waffles.”

“I don’t know, it’s like this family bonding time—”

“Is it really though? Aren’t they both usually on their phones?”

“Well, kind of, but—”

“I think that you not feeling your juiciest is partly because you let people take advantage of you, including those who love you. Start making yourself a priority or you’ll become resentful. And nothing ages a woman more than resentment.”

“Wow, you’re fired up this morning. I feel like I have a bitchy life coach. Ok I’m doing it. Starting tomorrow the boys are on their own for breakfast.”

They lay in silence for awhile, enjoying the sunshine and light breeze.

“And a yearly girls trip. We should start doing a yearly girls trip. No partners, no kids, no pets.”

“Jack wouldn’t like that, he doesn’t like me travelling without him.”

“Too bad. You deserve a yearly getaway without any mothering or wife-y duties, that’s not a big ask. You’ve really given away a lot of your power, it’s upsetting. If you want JLo’s juicy vibe you’re gonna have to reclaim your damn power – that’s her secret, not her skincare line.”

A few minutes passed and Donna kicked off her Birkenstocks.

“You’re right, I have given away a lot of my power and it’s a sickening feeling. But because I’ve given away so much of it, it sort of feels impossible to get it back. Like I don’t have enough power to get my power back, if that makes sense.”

“It makes total sense. But I know you can do it. And unless you want to feel like a dried out piece of orange for the rest of your life, you have to do it.”

Becky reached out for Donna’s hand:

“I hope I’m not being too harsh, I just love you so much.”

“I love you too babe. And isn’t my hand soft? It’s JLo’s body moisturizer.”

Photo: Jlobeauty.com

Candy Roses

Dancing in her garden is the tattered lace lady. Every night it’s the same thing. Always dancing, always wearing an old torn lace dress.

Her neighbour leaves a note complaining that her garden is too unruly, that it’s nothing but weeds.

“Not true,” says Michelle, the tattered lace lady the next day.
“If only you would accept my invitation to come over for wine and raspberry biscuits, then I could tell you all about my flowers.”

“No I can’t, but thank you.”

“You have an open invitation all summer, knock on the back gate anytime.”

The next evening, sitting by her side window, the neighbour watches the lady through binoculars. She’s wearing a long black lace dress, tiered like a cake, the bottom tier completely unravelling.

Has she never heard of a seamstress?

This time she’s dancing with two other ladies. Their feet are bare, their hair long and their faces happy-looking. It’s past eleven o’clock, well it’s three minutes pass eleven o’clock and the music is too loud:
But Every Time It Rains
You’re Here in My Head
Like The Sun Coming Out
Oh I Just Know Something Good Is Going to Happen

The neighbour decides that enough is enough. I mean how is she supposed to sleep with all this noise and mayhem? Not that she’s sleeping yet, but she could be, she could be trying to sleep – and that’s the point. She checks her face in the hall mirror, smooths her hair, then marches out.

Knocking on Michelle’s rainbow-painted gate, she’s ready to confront her.

The gate opens:
“Oh look, it’s you! How wonderful that it’s you! Join us at our Blood Moon Party! Come, take my hand.”

“Blood Moon party, is that some sort of witchcraft thing? I’m a Presbyterian so…”

“No, no, don’t worry. It’s just that Blood Moons are very special. They only happen twice a year. So we celebrate with pink champagne, berries and red velvet cake.”

They walk together under the rose-filled pathway to her yard. The coral flowers smelling like candies, begging to be plucked from their vines and eaten.

“Ladies, meet my lovely neighbour Pamela.”

“Welcome Pamela! I’m Jess and this is Christina, may I pour you a glass of champagne?”

“Oh well, I’m not much of a drinker, but I suppose one glass is alright, thank you.”

“May The Goddess of all Moons – The Blood Moon – know we are eternally grateful for her beauty, power and gifts.”

The four women raise their crystal glasses to Michelle’s toast.
The champagne is delicious, the bubbles dancing a little salsa on the tip of Pamela’s tongue.

“Shall we sit and eat cake and berries?” Michelle asks, leading them all to a table covered in – of course – tattered ivory lace.

“You love lace don’t you?” asks Pamela

Laughing, Michelle answers:

“I do, I do. In fact I’m going to a flea market next weekend in search of more lace. Do you want to come with me?”

Old stuff on tables. Dead people’s stuff. Was it at least washed, or did it smell? And really, how much tattered lace can one woman have? Maybe Michelle suffered from some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder.

“I would love to go, I’ve never been to a flea market before.”

Holy Hell, what am I doing? Well, it’ll be like an experiment. I’ll study the flea market people like I study birds.

The ladies start eating cake with berries. Large forkfuls of cake, crumbs falling out of their mouths which they quickly scoop up with their tongues.

Pamela begins with a proper dainty bite, but the cake and berries taste so good that soon she’s eating big pieces, cream cheese frosting painting her lips.

“What sort of gifts does The Blood Moon give?” asks Pamela, curious.

“Well, often you will feel deep shifts in your inner life, you might even get a sudden illumination,” answers Michelle, tying her long hair up in a messy bun.

Sounds very witchcraft-y. But oh well, this cake is so good and the flowers smell like candies and the ladies are so friendly…

“To our guest Pamela: may The Blood Moon bestow upon you a powerful life-changing revelation.”

“To Pamela!” the ladies toast.

Pamela smiles, hiding the fact that she would have preferred a less dramatic toast. This one has her worried that The Blood Moon may bestow upon her something a little too intense.

As the ladies chat, Pamela gazes around the garden and realizes that it’s the most beautiful garden she’s ever seen. She’s embarrassed that she complained about it. Sure, it’s tall and wild, but it’s dazzling.

Thinking about the flea market, Pamela decides she’ll look for vintage crystal glasses. Then she’ll buy herself a bottle of this scrumptious pink champagne and celebrate whatever The Blood Moon reveals to her. She’s up for anything.
I mean not anything anything, but anything.

Artwork: “Vision of Gaia” by Ninquelen on Deviant Art