In Praise of Getting Back Together with the Dude Who Dumped You

Is the second time around just shoving your hand in a blender?

New York City, March 1, 2015

★★★★ The snow was, at first and for a moment, nothing more than an extra gray on the grayness. On close inspection, it manifested itself against the dark neighboring balcony railing as a very few little flakes moving nowhere particular. Then behind those there was something like a driving mist, innumerable tiny flakes moving sharply northward, and soon not so tiny. By early afternoon the flakes were big and dropping straight down, laying a solid new coat on everything, March arriving fluffy and white. The three-year-old swabbed it up with a mitten, down to bare sidewalk, and had to be quickly stopped from eating what he’d gathered. Then he went sprinting off through the white in his lately hand-me-down boots, with the spider pattern in unlicensed Spider-Man colors. The toe of a hard old snowbank tripped him and he bounced up unfazed. He mountaineered along the ridge of old ice, stooped at a corner to try to make snowballs of the unsticky fluff. The wind was coming east on the cross street and he ran into it, squinting his eyes and sticking his tongue down and out. In the forecourt he went down on all fours to plow a path, and the snow quickly filled it in behind him. “It looks like Luke Skywalker is on the planet Hoth,” he said, mounting the low wall to knock accumulation out of the leaves of the shrubbery. Flakes landed on the smartphone screen and melted and scattered the pixel colors, like tiny costume-jewelry gemstones. As four approached, it was impossible to tell exactly where the curb was on the jaywalk with the seven-year-old across Amsterdam. The older boy was less ostentatious about catching the snowflakes as he went, but catch them he did: They were big enough to taste, he said, but they only tasted like water. There was ice in them now, flicking the exposed skin on the face. Outside the McDonald’s, a small dog on a leash lunged and barked at a snowblower.

A Part of Myself

hairpin_0226I was eighteen and pregnant.

I remember reading only a few weeks before that day that women often know when they are. Which makes sense. I kind of knew, already. A week in, there was a phantom consciousness, a pulling rod of unearthly heaviness, like a tingly sensation at the base of my uterus. My cells were dancing, a flurry of aches, thudding with an immutable dullness full of pain. I felt bloated—more than usual—and there was a gnawing, an impenetrable nagging of fingers, strangling me inside out.

You know how kids are always captivated by things? I was always captivated by children, by motherhood, by that ball of existence lodged inside a woman’s body for nine months. I would always ask my mom how much it hurt when she had me, or what she craved to eat—how long was labor, Mom? I wanted to be ready.

I had not had my period. Overwhelmed by everything, on a whim, or even a dare with myself, I bought a pregnancy test. I was shaking as I put it in my pockets.

I did the test at my best friend’s place. He was half awake when I told him that I thought I might be pregnant. I took the test in his bathroom, laughing at the charade of it all. Suddenly, in his company—I was all bravado, the weak girl playing the part of “I’ve got it all figured out.” I peed into a cup, left the stick in there, and waited for it to turn any other color but pink. I wasn’t a girl who got pregnant. I was smart. I was responsible. I was appropriate. I was going to be a lawyer one day.

I always thought I’d be pregnant when I had a man to look after me. A real man with a job. We’d have a house together. We’d have bookshelves that reached the ceiling, and carpets from Afghanistan, a record player that played smooth jazz as we did the New York Times crossword together, cocooned, inseparable, drinking hot apple cider from a shared mug. I always thought I’d be pregnant when I was happy.

I was drifting off when I saw it. As I dreamt of swing sets a sinking feeling devoured me. A desperate unparalleled fever sickened through the crutches of my identity. I did not want this baby.

I came from a good family.
I came from a good family.
I came from a good family.

You know how when you’re lying awake late at night and you can’t fall asleep no matter how hard you try because you are troubled by the bad choices you’ve made and the terrible things you’ve done and the knowledge that now there’s no way out of the prison you’ve put yourself into and you start to fantasize about how your life would be better if you could somehow go back and do all the things differently from the way you did them when you didn’t know any better but the more you think about it the more you realize that each decision you’ve made was predicated on an earlier, equally poor decision going as far back as you can remember and you start to understand that the only way anything could ever be okay for you and the everyone you’ve hurt—which is everyone you know—is if you were never born at all and so you shut your eyes and imagine a world in which you never existed and you see that it is good and you pull further out in your mind’s eye to view a vast unfathomable galaxy filled with stars and flares and spirals all shining on without you, finally you come to a state of brief but perfect, merciful rest? I don’t know what it looks like in your head but this is pretty much how I picture it.#

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A Guide to Maybe, Someday Buying a Home

housesWhen I jumped into the always lucrative field of journalism in my mid-20s, I made a pact with myself that I’d get my financial act together at age 30.

Well, I swear I blinked and next thing I know, the milestone birthday was upon me. Over the past few months I’ve drastically reduced my rent by moving into a less trendy neighborhood and getting a roommate for the first time in years. I’ve also bumped up my 401(k) contributions, and figured it’s time to consider, what would be involved in one day buying my own place.

The process of buying a home can seem overwhelming to those of us who haven’t gone through it before. So as any good millennial would do, I decided the first place to start my investigation would be with some good, old-fashioned crowdsourcing. I asked more than a dozen friends who’ve made the plunge in the past couple years about where to get started.

Here’s what I learned:

Which will come first: the end of winter, the moment when Jesus sends forth His angels and they gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and do iniquity and cast them into a furnace of fire so that the righteous might shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, or the fixing of the broken escalator in Penn Station? It’s a trick question! They all herald the moment of the Final Judgment, so if any one of them occurs the other two are probably happening simultaneously.#

The Time I Vommed on Jessica Lange

lang People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary tells us more about what it’s like to vomit on a movie star.

Lizzie! So what happened here?

It was my senior year of college (1998), and I was on vacation in Akumal, Mexico, about an hour south of Cancun. For the first week, I was with my family, who had rented a condo there. Then my college roommates came down, and I spent about four more days with them. This is a long way of saying I was traveling alone back home. I speak no Spanish, though wasn’t feeling so hot, so was practicing “I am sick” and “please pull over.” By the time I got to the airport, I was a full-blown disaster. I remember checking my bags and noticing a really good-looking middle-aged couple with their kids as we all went through security. But in that way that you can’t place celebrities, I thought maybe they were friends of my mother’s or something.
 
By this point, I was bolting for the bathroom or trashcan every ten minutes to barf. It was very clear to me that whatever I had, it was nasty. I tend to get sick when I travel, but I was really, really far gone. Since this was Cancun in college, I would also like to note that I was a hundred percent sober.
 
At some point, I decided to call my parents (collect, of course). My Dad was in a meeting, and I couldn’t reach him. My mom was at opening day for the Orioles. I don’t think anyone had cell phones. I remember turning, sweaty and crying, back toward the international passenger waiting area. There were maybe twenty-five feet to the trashcan. I knew I wouldn’t make it. And I heaved and puked all over myself and the floor, in full view of about two hundred people. 


Suddenly I felt a tap on the shoulder, and this very handsome man was wiping the vomit from my face, and offering me a Cipro. “Are you okay?” he asked. I managed a sort of weepy, strangled, “No,” and he took my hand and led me over to his family. At some point my undergrad drama brain realized who he was and squeaked out “You’re a really great playwright.” He looked appalled, but thanked me and continued being nice.
 
He led me to Jessica Lange and their two utterly disgusted kids.

I Am the Foul Byproduct of the Mating of a Professor and a Student

PAPA???

From time to time, The Awl offers its space to everyday citizens with something to say.

In a Chronicle of Higher Education cover story by Laura Kipnis that is just now leaking its way from the academic Internet towards the general interest Internet, the Northwestern film professor savages the growing vogue for victimhood among today’s young people. She writes:

But what do we expect will become of students, successfully cocooned from uncomfortable feelings, once they leave the sanctuary of academe for the boorish badlands of real life? What becomes of students so committed to their own vulnerability, conditioned to imagine they have no agency, and protected from unequal power arrangements in romantic life? I can’t help asking, because there’s a distressing little fact about the discomfort of vulnerability, which is that it’s pretty much a daily experience in the world, and every sentient being has to learn how to somehow negotiate the consequences and fallout, or go through life flummoxed at every turn.

A completely unassailable and terribly accurate statement. It’s all bad news for today’s students. If you’ve ever been harassed on campus and found it terrible, just you wait until you get harassed in the workplace! It’s a real treat! The best part is getting up and going to work every day.

And while universities are currently stuck in a senseless loop of idiotic sexual assault investigation processes, creating tribunals that literally make no sense, well… wait till you meet the NYPD. Enough said.

But harrowingly, Kipnis begins her argument with this:

You have to feel a little sorry these days for professors married to their former students. They used to be respectable citizens—leaders in their fields, department chairs, maybe even a dean or two—and now they’re abusers of power avant la lettre. I suspect you can barely throw a stone on most campuses around the country without hitting a few of these neo-miscreants. Who knows what coercions they deployed back in the day to corral those students into submission; at least that’s the fear evinced by today’s new campus dating policies. And think how their kids must feel! A friend of mine is the offspring of such a coupling—does she look at her father a little differently now, I wonder.

I am one of those children who now lives in the darkness.

Orrin Keepnews, 1923-2015

keepnews“Orrin Keepnews, who as a record company executive and producer helped create some of the most celebrated recordings in jazz over a half-century, died on Sunday at his home in El Cerrito, Calif. He was 91.”
Legend.

Carly Rae Jepsen, "I Really Like You"

According to the seasonal patterns of the broken prediction market known colloquially as the “music industry,” now is the time to make bets on summer songs. The odds are never good, not even for proven quantities, but the potential payoff is huge. It is worth it, in other words, to be so rude as to release an aggressively sunny song at the exact moment the American (Canadian?) public reaches its collective emotional trough. It is far too early for this song to have its maximum effect or to be heard remotely as intended; we will hear it again in a few months, with the sound of the straining AC in the background, and it may make more sense. Or maybe we’ll never hear it again! Either way, now is not the time. Our edgy delirium is, as always, on clearest display in the YouTube comments:

Yes, mash those buttons and fill those word holes, internet. Just a few more weeks. Just a few more weeks.