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Sometimes a picture speaks…
Sep 5th, 2010 by Christina

… a thousand words or so. God bless America, no?

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Wow, Man, It Really IS Complicated
Jan 7th, 2010 by Christina

So I went to a lovely, elegant dinner party on New Year’s Eve, as befits a woman of my age and580229259_549c0ef722 station. But since that kooky script writer often shows up unannounced, a sitcom-esque drama ensued.

Here’s what happened: During the cheese and crackers phase of the evening, a few of us were
chatting about the movie It’s Complicated. We chuckled about a scene where Meryl Streep’s character smokes pot for the first time in 27 years and gets completely, stereotypically wasted. One of the guests at our New Year’s Eve party said maybe it would be fun to smoke pot again sometime. Eyebrows raised among the rest of us, who were no doubt thinking what a devilish, oh-so-naughty and vaguely tempting notion that was.

During dinner, we talked about how challenging it is to be parents of teenagers, to want to tell your kids to just say no, even though every one of us said yes at some point during our youthful years, with varying results, ranging from No regrets to Damn, I wasted my college education because I was stoned all the time.

Then, a few minutes after our age-appropriate midnight champagne toast, a joint landed on the dinner table, again upping eyebrows, along with the ante. Some, but not all, of the guests partook, and the banter got wittier until we noticed that one of the guests was slumped over on the woman sitting next to him. Was he just an affectionate sort, we wondered, or was something wrong?

Something was wrong, because the next thing we knew, he had slid to the floor and 911 was being dialed. Soon there was a fire truck and an ambulance outside and several EMS guys streaming through the front door.

Our passed-out friend came to, but his face was the color of mushroom soup and he was out of it. The EMS guys, who looked all of 19 years old, delivered their stock New Year’s Eve line (“Had a little too much to drink tonight, sir?”) After checking him for signs of stroke or a heart attack, they didn’t come to a conclusion as to what had happened, but it seemed clear to us that he had inhaled on that joint quite vigorously and that after two decades living a cannabis-free life, it had simply knocked him out. Fortunately, he was fine, and the scene did not devolve into an episode of ER.

Then, right after the emergency vehicles pulled away, our hosts’ teenager returned from his New Year’s Eve party! Hopefully he had no idea what the old people been up to.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? The grown-ups trying to hide their pot-smoking from the teenager?

If you experimented with drugs when you were young and are now a parent, how do you walk the line between being honest and not?

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Baby, We Were Born to Run-On
Aug 9th, 2009 by Christina

I was so busted this weekend. october_27_054

I went to a delightful gathering of a few of my writer pals at the Jersey shore, which was great fun. We all seem to agree that the English language is increasingly abused and disrespected, that journalism is the new blacksmithing, and that anyone who thinks it’s ok to use a lower-case I to refer to one’s self probably has a personality disorder–because there is no other satisfactory explanation.

The five of us literary ladies were strolling along the beach, ranting about how hard life has become for we who still respect the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation. (Also, we tried to pretend that we were down at the shore or down by the shore, rather than just down the shore, which is the vexing phrase people on the East Coast use when they visit New Jersey beach towns.)

I chimed in with my horror stories about the many incoherent online-dating profiles I’ve faced, and my friends agreed that poorly-written profiles are unacceptable. (Turns out we’re not the only ones who feel this way. Check it out: Do the Typos in Your Profile Spell Disaster?)

Later, during cocktail hour at Gwen’s house, my four very-married friends wanted to read my one very-unmarried online dating profile. So I brought it up on Gwen’s laptop–which was nestled on the table between the Chex mix and the guacamole– and the girls gathered ‘round.

I fear I shall never forget what happened next.

“You forgot an apostrophe,” said Jen casually.
“Ha ha–nice try, Jen. Good one. You’re funny,” I responded.
“You really did,” she repeated drily.

That’s when I turned into an over-tired four-year-old.

“No WAY! I did not! I did NOT!” I shouted.

“Um, yep–you did. See?”

And that’s when I realized that she was right. The word “let’s” was staring back at me on the screen, naked and un-apostrophized. I felt like a sham.

“I can’t believe I did that! I cannot believe I did that! How could I do that? How? I mean, I am so fanatical about not making those kinds of errors and look–I made one. I made one!”

The girls helped me over to a chair, forced a glass of wine into my fist, and pretended that we all make typos sometimes, that it’s not a big deal, and that of course they know I don’t really think you write “let’s” without the apostrophe. Silly me.

Now I can’t decide if I should fix the mistake in my profile, or leave it there and wait, fairy-tale-style, for my Prince Charming to come along and correct it.

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And you May ask Yourself: How did I Get Here?
Jun 24th, 2009 by Christina

ziplinejpg

Check out this photo. See the teensy-weensy figure with arms outstretched? That was me this morning, flying through space on something called a zip line, on the campus of an all-boys camp in Maine.

What was I doing literally hanging around an all-boys camp? Have I completely lost it and started stalking pimply young lads in the woods? Oh, please.

Here’s the deal: I’ve got a two-week gig running a creative-writing program at Camp Move It, an all-girls arts camp here in Maine; this camp uses some of the facilities at the boys camp down the road, including the zip line. I arrived here a few days before the campers, in order to get the lay of the land and meet the rest of the staff, which consists mostly of lovely young women in their early 20s. (Never have I been so painfully aware of the fact that I am really, truly, not in my 20s anymore. Fortunately there aren’t a lot of mirrors in the great outdoors to help me confirm this.)

So, back to the zipline, which we were all invited to try, aided by a few of the staff at the boys camp. First, a counselor with the very summer-campish nickname “Crazy Dave” put me in a bright blue harness and clipped me to a rope; then I scaled a huge tree and was helped onto a tiny wooden platform that was at least 30 feet off the ground. On the platform was a reassuring English guy whose job it was to talk me off the ledge.

Here is what I learned: It is terrifying to throw yourself off the side of a very tall tree into open space. Terr. I. Fy. Ing. You have to trust that two little strings and a pulley are going to keep you from hitting the ground and busting open like a raw egg. But I did it and it was exhilarating and all day I’ve felt really cool and brave and like maybe I am still 22 years old.

But wait, this blog isn’t supposed to be about random events in my life; it’s about this very specific post-separation period. So watch as I tie it all together: As I was anticipating climbing the tree, I kept thinking: Metaphor alert! Metaphor alert!

Terror. Fear. Wishing you could turn back. A nice guy pushes you off the ledge. You think you will not survive. But you do. You put your faith in the two little strings and the pulley that are holding you up because you have to. You have no choice.

Get it??

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Me, being talked off the ledge.

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Ex-Rings and Other Stuff
May 19th, 2009 by Christina

I’m taking a short break from the dating chronicles (can you stand the suspense?) in order to address a couple of housekeeping matters–those little changes that come with everyday life here in Splitsville that may seem incidental, but are in fact huge, pervasive and defining (see soy milk incident.)

The first of these dilemmas is: how should I refer to R now? We’re not officially divorced yet, so “ex-husband” doesn’t seem legit. Plus, I’ve always bristled at the term “ex,” which strikes me as pejorative. R is technically still my husband, but then again, not so much, so that title doesn’t fly anymore. Identifying him as “the girls’ father” or explaining that “they’re with their dad” works, even though it makes me feel kind of like a farm animal used for breeding purposes.

In her book The Good Divorce, Constance Ahrons, Ph.D., bemoans the fact that in this day and age there is no better word to describe someone with whom you may have had children and/or a long, meaningful relationship. She chooses to drop the hyphen as a way to make the “ex” component less rejecting, but I’m not sure I get the point of that. Isn’t exhusband pronounced exactly like “ex-husband?”

There’s also “wasband,” which is clever, and “hasbeend,” which is trying too hard. For now, I’m just calling him R.

Dilemma number two: What do I with my rings and other marriage memorabilia? At the moment, the rings are safely tucked in the cute gray suede boxes from whence they came (good thing I saved those, huh?).

With divorce so common these days, a cottage industry has even sprung up to deal with the cast-off rings. Some jewelers cut a chunk out of wedding bands to represent the fractured marriage, and I’ve heard of divorce rituals where people smash their rings with a sledgehammer and then have the resulting precious-metal blob fashioned into a new piece of jewelry. I’m too sentimental to go that route–plus, I doubt I could hit such a precise target with a sledgehammer.

It was hard parting with the rings, not only because of what they symbolized, but because I grew attached to them; they were my constant mani-companions. Sometimes they snuggled together on my ring finger and sometimes I let them each have their own hand. We had a history, the three of us.

The wedding ring I can live without, but I love my engagement ring–a simple oval sapphire set on a modern, braided gold band. I’m not sure what the etiquette is, but I plan to wear that ring again, dammit.

Then there’s the intricate cross-stitch sampler my aunt painstakingly wove and presented to us on our wedding day. Predictably, it hung over our marital bed for years. It seems wrong to banish it to the basement, but what other option is there?

And my wedding dress, which has been in R’s parents’ (also known as my former in-laws?) attic for years, creepily stuffed and preserved in a coffin-like box from the cleaners. Would my girls consider wearing it if/when they get married, or is that forever tainted too?

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Where’s the GPS to Help me Navigate my Double Life?
May 11th, 2009 by Christina

Yesterday was Mother’s Day–the first with R in absentia. The girls served me coffee in bed and gave me the perfect gift: a GPS. It’s a gift for them, too, because, hopefully, it means they will never again have to see their geographically-challenged mother become hysterical after missing an exit. (Plus, if I choose the device’s “Ken” voice, it’s a little like having a man in the front seat with me, tee hee.)

When R was still in residence, he made sure I got to sleep late on Mother’s Day and my birthday, a formality the girls chose to dispense with yesterday morning. But thanks to our 50/50 custody arrangement, I know that next weekend I can sleep as late as I want.

It took me a while to adjust to my new double life, where every few days I morphed from harried single mom into … what, exactly? Floozy divorcee? Sexless spinster? The jury was still out.

Those initial weekends sans kids were surreal. I hadn’t spent 48 hours alone in over a decade and there I was, on my own for an entire weekend in our eerily quiet, very, very still house. Without sibling squabbles to moderate, snacks to serve, and playdates to plan, what was I supposed to do to take advantage of this crazy new freedom? Should I run with scissors? Dance naked in the living room? Dance naked while holding scissors? The possibilities were both thrilling and terrifying.

At first, I felt naughty even contemplating doing something just for me, and worried that the Social Services Dept. might show up if word got out that I’d done something self-indulgent like taken a mid-day nap. In the end, here’s what I did during those early kid-less stretches:

  • Discovered the joy of not cooking for days in a row (peanut butter, anyone? It is high in protein, you know.)
  • Threw myself many lavish pity parties, during which I sobbed and wondered over and over and over how it all could have gone so wrong
  • Learned that jigsaw puzzles can be very engrossing, distracting and, in a way, healing (metaphorically putting the pieces back together and all that…)
  • And, yes, danced around the living room. Fully clothed, no scissors.

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Welcome to Splitsville
May 3rd, 2009 by Christina
Me, pre-split and so innocent

Me, pre-split and so innocent

On my sixteenth wedding anniversary, I stood with my left hand submerged in a sink full of soapy water, grimacing as I tried to force my wedding ring over my knuckle and off the finger that had been its longterm residence. The whole experience–the waves of pain, the relief when it was all over, and the tender, wrinkly white circle of finger flesh it revealed–was oddly reminiscent of labor and delivery.

My husband, whom I’ll call R (because it bears no resemblance to any of his initials) had moved out a week before.

The separation itself was unexpected, lengthy, and miserable, and propelled me into a coma of disbelief for months. When I finally came to, I had to wrap my mind around the unwieldy fact that I was single for the first time in almost 20 years. And not just single–a word tinged with desperation–but also a “single mom,” to me an even more pity-inducing moniker. I found this new identity unsettling, to say the least. Devastating, to say the most.

When you’ve spent almost half your life as part of a twosome, losing your spouse is akin to losing a limb. It requires a whole new way of being in both day-to-day and big-picture ways.  There have been a million moments like the one during my first post-separation grocery shop when I found myself staring blankly into my shopping cart. I knew I should put the soy milk back because the soy milk drinker in the house was no longer, um,  in the house–but it seemed so wrong to go home with no soy milk that I actually debated what to do (I put it back). On a grand-scheme-of-things level, I’ve been asking myself questions like “Who am I without this guy?” and “Now what do I do with the rest of my life?”

Let me now confess that I kicked and screamed my way to the blogosphere. But now that I’m here, I see that this phase of my life lends itself particularly well to the form. It’s been 10 months since R moved out, which means I have some wisdom to share, yet the unmarried midlife me is still very much a work-in-progress.

Come along as I discover where life leads me, one post at a time.

Christina

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