Friday, March 23, 2007

A Simple Rearrangement of Words

I've recently noticed that when I'm at work and I need to make a decision or go to my boss for approval on something, I always couch it in a question:

"Do you think I should do _____?"

Why do I do that? Because I don't want to be too pushy. Because I'm afraid of being wrong and that she'll hold it against me. Because I'm afraid she'll say no.

Because it's just what I've always done.

And then it hit me: Why am I asking a question? I know exactly what I'd like to do. By asking questions instead of telling people what I'm thinking, I'm forcing them into some kind of odd guessing game with me--a game they don't even know they're involved in. A game in which I'm hoping they will be able to magically divine the answer I want.

So yesterday, I tried something different. I walked into my boss's office. I sat in the chair in front of her desk with my papers and my pen. I made my case, and instead of ending it with "Do you think I should do ________", I ended with:

"I would like to do _______. I think it's the best step and the quickest way to resolve this."

She said yes. Immediately. I've never gotten an answer out of her that quickly before.

How easy was that? If you want something, just ask for it--what a concept!

And it only took me 30 years to learn it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Upon Being Snubbed at a Book Party

Me: Am I a bad person because I didn't say goodbye to her?

spiceboy: Do you really want to be the mayor of a village of idiots?

Me: No.

spiceboy: Well, okay then.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I just completed an exercise in which I wrote a letter to my current self from my 94 year old granny self. I have to be honest; I didn't think the exercise was going to work. But it did work--in a big way. It was neat to sit down with myself like that, and I have Elizabeth to thank for it. If you're in New York and you're interested in writing, you should go talk to her, and take a class with her (Elizabeth, not my 94 year old Granny self) because she's awesome.

I wasn't surprised by some of the things my 94 year old self had to say to me, and I was greatly surprised by others.

She said: Things, my dear, are both more and less complicated than you imagine them to be.

She told me to be grateful.

She told me to always, always strive to tell the truth.

She told me to take care of other women, because we're not going to get anywhere if we're not taking care of one another.

And then she told me that I should really learn how to roast a chicken.

Happy Saturday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

For spiceboy: A Million Mondays

It's warmer today.

I bought some roses from the shop on the corner because that's what one does when the sun is shining like this. The roses are brilliant pink and whitest white; like our wedding invitations.

All of the fruit stands are selling blueberries and strawberries now. When you come home, perhaps we will make a pie--the blueberry one from my favorite cookbook.

The dog is learning to sit and stay. She looks up at me from the corner of 60th and First, her tail thumping the sidewalk, and the other people in their rumpled work clothes look down at her and smile while waiting for the light to change.

Tonight: A glass of petit bourgeois. To eat: Black cod. I picked out the bones like you said--not to worry.

As I waited for the fish to cook, I leaned down and looked out the window and for a second, the air smelled like Bangkok.

If you were here, I would have called you over, had you lean close to the window and sniff. You would humor me and say that it, indeed, smelled like Bangkok, and I'd bury my face in your neck, wrap my arms around your waist and be thrilled at the prospect of the lazy doings of a milllion Mondays just like this one.

If you were here, I would hop into bed and you would lean over and kiss my forehead, my lips. "Tuck me in," I might say, and you would tuck the blankets in around my legs, my waist, and you would whisper culla culla culla, the way my dad used to whisper to me, the way my grandmother used to whisper to him, the way we'll whisper to our own kids someday.

If you were here, I would drift off to sleep with the lights on, as always, and I would probably stir as you climbed into bed very late, and I might even speak to you, but I wouldn't remember a bit of it upon waking tomorrow morning.

If you were here, you would have to remind me that the conversation happened at all.

I miss you. Come home soon.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Question For Joan Didion

I've spent part of my day re-reading and pondering one of my favorite essays by Joan Didion, Goodbye To All That. It is an essay about living in New York, about falling in love with New York, about growing so tired of New York that you can't even stand the thought of leaving your apartment.

The thing is: Joan left New York, but she came back eventually. I wish I could ask her what it was that brought her back, what happened to make the city tolerable again. I want to ask her so that I can understand if I can truly live here, make my marriage work here, make babies here, make my life here.

In the beginning of the essay , Joan writes about the love and infatuation that non-New Yorkers have with New York: ...New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of "living" there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not "live" at Xanadu.

I am past the point of being a non-New Yorker, but I wouldn't call myself a New Yorker, either. I'm more of a New York stowaway, biding my time and wondering if I'll ever get caught and sent back to where I came from.

And while living in this city certainly turns the miraculous to the mundane, wouldn't life, with all its rhythms and starts and stops and frustrations become mundane anyway, no matter where you are living? There are bills that need to be paid and trash that needs to be taken out and taxes that are due and that's true no matter where you live. So isn't the mundane inevitable no matter where you are?

I like to think that's what brought Joan back to New York, which is a self serving thought, as I want so badly to make my home here.

And if I should ever have the occasion to run into Joan on the street, or at Coco Pazzo, at Gristedes, or anywhere (as this is truly one of the most amazing things about New York--you can run into anyone anywhere) I think I would ask her this:

Living in a city like New York might very well turn the miraculous into the mundane, but if we must all suffer through these mundane moments of life, shouldn't we do it in the most miraculous city in the world?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Weighting to Exhale

Yesterday afternoon one of my coworkers told me I have fat ankles. The thing is, when she told me this, she had no idea she was commenting on my ankles.

You see, through a series of strange events, my ankles--and only my ankles--ended up on a book cover. So that's how my coworker wound up commenting on my ankles without actually knowing they were mine.

So. Ankles. It's not as though my ankles are something I think about on a daily, weekly, or even yearly basis unless it's absolutely necessary--like when someone puts them on a book cover. Or when someone who doesn't know they're talking about my ankles starts talking about them in a very negative way right to my face.

I won't lie--the comment stung a little bit. But after that initial moment of ick, I was relieved that she was so frank with me, even if she didn't actually know she was being frank with me about me. She didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. After all, there's a reason I am an editor and not a shoe model.

Or leg model.

Or ankle model.


The truth: After 30 years of inhabiting this body, I don't harbor a whole lot of illusions about it. I love my body; I couldn't always say that, but I can now. And I'm not saying it b/c I recently lost weight or firmed up a previously squishy area, because I haven't. I love this body because it is a good, healthy, sturdy body, and it has given me a good, healthy, sturdy life.

My hips, my thighs, my bra size, (my ankles?) and what the scale says when I step on it--all of the things I measured my self worth against for so long--are less important to me the more I come to terms with me and this person--this woman--I'm growing into.

What's important now is the stuff I'm putting out into the world, and how it comes back around to me in the end.

And whatever this funny little life has in store for me, good or bad, I'm ready to embrace every moment of it.

Fat ankles and all.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Trickiness of March

You wake up and you can hear the birds outside and the weather forecast is warm and the sun is so bright that you can't contain yourself--you bound down the steps in your sneakers and your sweatshirt and leave your hat and scarf and gloves inside, where they belong. You burst out onto the sidewalk and lift your face to the sky and feel the sun's warmth on your cheeks.

"Ahhh," you think.

But in the breeze you can still feel the icy fingers of winter caressing your neck. And you walk toward the corner and step into the shadows while waiting at the red light and suddenly your fingers are quite numb and you wish you had your gloves and when you look to the sky the clouds have passed over the sun and everything that seemed bright with promise a few moments ago is drab and gray.

Should you go back and get your hat and gloves, or trust that the sun will appear again to warm you?

That is the trickiness of March.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What I Dream of on Dreary Friday Mornings

Just after Christmas, spiceboy and I took a trip to Thailand and to Vietnam. It was the first time for both of us, and a totally wonderful and mind-blowing experience.

I don't think I'll ever experience something again in just that way--wide-eyed, frightened, amazed. It was freeing to be so far outside of the everyday world I've gotten used to. It was a relief to be reminded that the life we live everyday isn't the only life that's availble to us, the world that we see everyday isn't the only world we'll ever see.

For me, Bangkok will always be hot air and smells of soap and durian fruit and cries of sawadii-ka! and exhaust and something else the air--sweet and chemcial--like dryer sheets.

The beach at Pranburi, where we had the privelege of spending several days, will always be seawater and pineapples and flowers. And sunrises. Let's not forget the sunrises, which we made sure we watched every morning from the desserted beach, our bare feet buried in the cool sand, squeezing each other's hands in delight, and breathing deeply so we wouldn't forget a single moment.

Happy Friday!