Month: July 2015

How I Caught My Cheating Fiance and Changed My Life Forever

Please don’t feel heartbroken for me when I tell you my breakup story. I assure you, I am happy. I assure you, I know with certainty that it was best that we broke up. It happened 20 years ago. My heart has long since healed. One other thing I feel like I should preface with: The bad boyfriend is an elected politician in a major U.S. city. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call him Mr. X. There was a lot at stake for me 20 years ago when we dated, when I knew that he would eventually run for office and I felt confident that he would win. I knew how persuasive he could be. And I was already feeling like the lifestyle of a politician’s wife would be too much. But his charm was overwhelming and made me doubt myself and my own instincts over and over again. But the fact remained, I was already dreading being the wife. I didn’t want to have to smile through every event while the press scoured …

One Engagement Ring, Three Divorces

Two months salary. A girl’s best friend. A gift that lasts a lifetime. Our family diamond has been called many things, but it will no longer be called an engagement ring. I’m heading to the jeweler’s to pick up the shard of stone that’s been passed down in my family for three generations, sowing havoc and heartache wherever it landed. Humans have always attributed enormous power to rings. Think of popes, kings, seniors and Lords of — no one ever kissed an earring or bowed to a bracelet. And so, I’m having this ring deconsecrated. It is ready for a new incarnation as a sparkly bauble, no longer a promise of eternal love. After three failed tries, our diamond will be reincarnated as a harmless charm. The diamond was originally purchased by my father, hastily, in 1964. Not long after he thrust it at my mother, I was born in a manner that had the aunts and uncles counting on their fingers and nodding knowingly.  But despite its rocky start, the marriage endured for 14 …

A List of 42 Things in My 40s That I am #SoOver

  When you reach this wonderful 40+ phase of life, there are people, customs and articles of clothing that you’ve decided, finally and firmly that, you know what? I am SO over that. I can’t and won’t stomach it any longer — and I don’t need to. These things might seem innocuous to other people, or even delightful to others, but you’ve decided you’ve had enough and you’re finito. And you don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. Let me caveat this first by saying that of course I’m SO OVER hatred, injustice, racism, sexism, homophobia and world hunger more than anything on this list. But this is not that list. It’s hot. I‘m cranky. Allow me to flex my inner curmudgeon. I am so over… Any summer festival where indoor plumbing isn’t readily available. My under-the-bed bin of “someday” clothes. Marie Kondo, much love. People who don’t let you leave before they enter. Manners! And while we’re on manners — impatient restaurants. Kombucha on tap at coffee shops. Going out on the weekends. Hello, …

Dumped But Not Demolished

It goes without saying: No one wants to be the dumpee in a breakup. So it’s no secret that some of us are very proactive about dumpee-proofing our dating lives. I won’t say that I’ve been running a 24/7 patrol for dumpee prevention and preemption, but I do like to boast that I’m “dumpee-free since ’93!” Now, that’s dumpee-free with a slight technicality — I haven’t been on the receiving end of a bona fide breakup since I was 17. And by “bona fide breakup” I mean this: The ending of a romantic relationship that has been firmly established. And by “firmly established” I mean this: The guy and I have titles. It doesn’t matter what the title is — maybe he calls me his “girlfriend” and I call him “my man” — but there is some kind of designation that says, “We are officially with each other and no one else.” Another crucial component: We both adhere to our shared identity as a couple. So not only do I say that we’re a couple and he says …

Me & Jo: When a Friendship Breaks Apart

We met when we were in our late 20s, acting in a play together. On breaks from rehearsal, Jo used to scoop me up in a fireman’s carry and walk me around the room, yelling, “WHY, GOD! WHY DID YOU TAKE HER!?” while I went limp and pretended to be dead. The first time I hung out at Jo’s apartment was around Christmas, where we bonded over our insane love for the holiday while basking in the glow of her tree. Our friendship deepened and I felt free enough to bring up a small incident that had bothered me, something reasonable Jo had said, but at the wrong place and the wrong time. There was something about Jo’s being that made me feel that it was safe to be honest with her about it, and she listened receptively to what I had to say. A new level of trust bloomed in me in that moment: trust in her and trust in myself. It was a giant gift, and I heard from a mutual friend that …

How I Cope When My Exes Are Everywhere

You know that feeling. Your heart starts to pump wildly and you can feel it booming at hi-fi levels in your ears. Like a corset, anxiety pulls your lungs together so tightly you can barely breathe. Your body goes into flight or fight mode and you either find yourself running for the hills or remaining frozen in your extreme discomfort. You’ve just caught site of an ex. And not just any ex, but one you loved hard and deep. The ending was bad. The parting had been brutal. And just a couple of weeks ago, I had this experience. My husband Andy and I were in the Dominican Republic, staying at an all-inclusive resort for a wedding. Shortly after we arrived, I sat in the breezy open lobby overlooking the ocean, waiting for Andy to return with beach towels — and it happened. I spied an ex on the other side of the room. My face felt hot, and it wasn’t due to the Caribbean sun. Instantly — and pretty much instinctively — I swung …

Margit’s Note: I Break With Thee

As kids, my sister, brother and I used to listen to Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy album nonstop. (Thank you, Columbia Record and Tape Club.) One of our favorite quotes was his Wild and Crazy Guy Czechoslovakian character from SNL who described breaking up with his girlfriend thusly: “You just walk up to the girl and say, ‘I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee’ …and then you throw dog poop on her shoes.” We’d fall onto the floor in hysterics. Poop humor never fails. But to this day, when I hear the phrase “break-up“ I think of that sketch every single time. (Those were some formative latchkey years). And, for a minute, I think, if only it were so easy. So final. So stinky. More often, there’s ambivalence and avoidance and anything but a definitive doo-doo drop. You wait and mull and consider whether you’re making a colossal mistake. Or you wonder if there’s something better or simply different out there. But you’re safe here. You’ve been safe for …

Indie 80s: A Celebration of Small Moving Pictures

I saw my first indie film when I was nine years old. Clutching my homemade lunch in one hand and my movie ticket in the other, I entered the dark theater at 8:30 a.m. that morning, the bright glare of sunlight still dazzling my eyes. I don’t remember what theater it was, only that it was between the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum (where my dad was a curator) and the office where my 18-year-old sister was working for the summer in 1964. She’d dropped me off, and I settled in to watch The Beatles cavort in A Hard Day’s Night. Five times. Me, the empty theater and the Fab Four. A Hard Day’s Night wasn’t a big studio movie but a small, special gem of a picture made with love and affection for its topic. The theater was the only place near our home in Maryland, 40 miles away, that the indie “mockumentary” was playing. And my parents and sister didn’t think twice about leaving me there all alone, completely unsupervised, from morning till night. It …

My Chat With a Sex Columnist, 21 Years Later

Anka Radakovich was an ‘80s and ‘90s “it” girl. As a sex columnist for Details magazine and the first ever sex columnist in media, she made her mark traipsing through New York documenting wild and wacky sex and dating proclivities — her own and others. As a wide-eyed 20-something, I interviewed Anka in 1994 for the Philadelphia City Paper after she released her book The Wild Girls Club: Tales From Below the Belt. Now a certified sexologist, Anka just released her third book in paperback, The Wild Girls Club, Part 2, Tales From New York To Hollywood. I figured 21 years later, we had a lot to catch up on. Margit: When you were writing for Details, I followed your byline like crazy — you were the super hip club girl sexpert that was cooler than I’d ever be. Anka: Those were exciting times. Working at Details was a dream job! It was a time when everyone read magazines, and Details was the hot magazine. There really had not been a hip style magazine for …

My Personal Hair-Metal Hell

There are only two bands on Earth that I truly hate. Despite having run the gauntlet of indie record store employee, college radio music director and Senior Music Editor of college radio weekly CMJ between 1988 and 2002, I only really have it in for two bands. First, the Doors. We’ll leave that one for another time. Second, and the target of my most virulent, Technicolor ire, is Mötley Crüe. Put simply, Mötley Crüe took some of the greatest influences in rock – the seed of glam that bloomed into the New York Dolls, the pull-no-punches riffs of countless fierce ‘70s bands like AC/DC and Cheap Trick, the parent-spooking studs and black leather of punk – and amalgamated them into the biggest pile of party-hardy excrement to hit the charts ever. Do I seem bitter? That’s because I was in high school at the apex/nadir of hair metal: 1986-1990. By the time I was 14, I was already a deeply invested music nerd, scouring liner note lists of “thank yous” to find new bands, leaning …

The Movie That Changed My Perspective on Race Forever

In July 1989, my friend Gregory and I went to the movies. This was not an unusual event. As childhood friends growing up in Queens, we often went to our local movie houses. Cinema, for us, was about fantasy. The movies transported us to other worlds, other times, to exotic countries, to outer space, to rousing adventures with a Fedora-wearing Indiana Jones, and to cutesy romantic comedies where good-looking couples rode horse and buggy carriages through Central Park. When “Do The Right Thing” was released in July 1989, it made quite a splash in the media. This powerful independent film, written, directed, and starring Spike Lee, a young black filmmaker from NYU, was a no-holds-barred story about race.   The film’s opening title sequence, in which Rosie Perez danced to Public Enemy’s defiant “Fight the Power,” immediately signaled the director’s intention not to sugarcoat his anger and frustration over the state of race relations in the city. Although the film was marketed as comedic, some theater owners were afraid of showing it, thinking the realism of …

The Rise and Fall of the “Indie” Artist

I came to college radio in the ’90s, when “alternative” was earning itself a capital “A” among marketing types and when bands that existed for as long as a 7-inch were snagging major-label deals. This was also the period of slackers and Slacker, when corporate rock continued to suck and when Coca-Cola’s attempt to tell Gen Xers that they’d created a soda that was totally OK was met with derisive eye-rolls. The palpable tension between the creation of culture and its ever-quicker path toward commodification was probably best    exhibited in my world by the extended argument — written in Sharpie and a variety of pens — that covered the inlay of Built to Spill’s 1997 album Perfect From Now On. The trio’s major-label debut was a marvelous album full of sprawling songs and gorgeous textures, with singer-guitarist Doug Martsch tossing off explosive solos and meditative drones featuring lyrics about finding eternity’s true size and standing up to the demands of the metaphysical world. Perfect remains a fairly astounding piece of work, a shining example …

The Bravest Woman I’ve Ever Known

There have been many fierce, independent women in my life. Women who have stepped far outside of their comfort zones to chart new paths or tread into unfamiliar territory. But the woman who has inspired me the most to explore, to dare, and to navigate is my great-aunt Adriana. Her erratic presence in my life, seemingly flying in and out with the wind, opened my eyes to exotic worlds beyond the small southern town where I grew up. Many years earlier, she had had the same effect on my father, who would “drag” his family on archeological digs and to more ruins than I can count. Our nomadic tendencies were a bit of an anomaly in our town, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly appreciated this gypsy lifestyle. It was my family that introduced me to the gift of travel and my great-aunt who helped me realize the importance of breaking bread with other cultures around the world. As a young woman, Adriana would take the same route home from …

Out of Time: How My Teenager Fell in Love With R.E.M.

My son doesn’t remember the first time an R.E.M song soothed him, but I tell him the story often, much to his chagrin. He was not even a month old, screaming his lungs out, defying sleep as only an infant can. My younger brother Philip, about 25 at the time, grabbed him from me. The song “Electrolite” was playing and Philip rocked my rapidly quieting son in rhythm, singing along softly, “Don’t be scared…you are alive.” Not a typical lullaby, by any stretch. But I’d always been a big music lover and in particular, a lover of R.E.M. Since 1982, R.E.M. had a song for whatever mood I was in, milestones I celebrated, or challenges I faced. In early 1997, R.E.M.’s album, New Adventures In Hi Fi was just a few months older than my son, and it eased and guided me through shifting postpartum emotions that were amplified by exhaustion. That night, as my son wondrously nodded off, I saw music settle him as it had so often settled me. It was one of …

Margit’s Note: Fight the Power

Jim Jarmusch’s quirky, black and white Stranger Than Paradise. David Lynch’s bizarre (Dennis Hopper!) Blue Velvet. Robert Townsend’s hilarious skewering of the movie industry, Hollywood Shuffle. Offbeat and entirely unique, indie movies of the ‘80s were the films that fueled my early passion for cinema. The same could be said for the indie music of the ‘80s — the bands on small, independent labels that filled up our mixed tapes. We’d emblazon them with “death to corporate rock” stickers — this was when indie actually meant independently produced, instead of just being a moniker for a genre of sound or style. That independent sensibility defined our 20s and allowed us to feel like we could be and do anything, too. Starting this week, the Brooklyn Academy of Music is launching a series featuring some of the amazing films of the ‘80s era, dubbing it “the neglected decade” of cinema. I’m not quite sure I know anyone my age who neglected that era, though; for most of us these were the movies that inspired our creative lives. …

Top 5 Ways to Survive Sickness While Traveling

If I could give you advice, it would be to travel as often as you can. Traveling and living in multiple cities has always been a life goal of mine. Some years, chasing that goal entails multi-country tours. Others, it means staying in one place to soak up much of the local atmosphere as I can. From summer internships in Spain, business trips in Latin America, living in France while pregnant, and educational sojourns to Asia, I have learned much about the art and adaptability of travel from my journeys. Such experiential education becomes even more important to apply when you become ill while traveling. I don’t mean the headache or hangover type of ill. I mean the I-want-to-be-in-my-bed-with-my-doctor-and-mother-on-speed-dial type of ill. Now that I’m a parent, it’s even more important for me to be prepared prior to and during travel. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot. Here are my top 5 tips for dealing with illness while on the road.   1.  Ask about special amenities for the sick. Airports sometimes have accelerated immigration for …

Bacterial, Fungal or Viral? That Is the Question

I already had a backache during Donna Shalala’s plenary session at the 11th International AIDS Conference. During my flight to Seattle a few days earlier, I noticed I was particularly uncomfortable. But who isn’t on a transcontinental flight? Over the next week, I grew so ill that I had to lie in the hotel bed all day with the curtains drawn. I couldn’t stand the light of day. I felt like the very air I was breathing was toxic. If I take one more breath, I thought, the poisonous atmosphere might kill me. My back and my neck and my brain all hurt like nothing I had ever felt before. It was even worse than the worse migraine I had ever experienced — and those typically felt like someone was stabbing an ice pick through my forehead and rubbing the back of my eyeballs with a cheese grater. I was present at the conference as a representative of Philadelphia’s needle exchange program, one of the first in the country. More than 10,000 people attended as …

What It’s Really Like to Be a Germophobe

I have a thing with germs. Many things, actually. Like Kim Kardashian’s ass, germs are nearly impossible to avoid if you want to interact with the modern world. Every street corner, coffee cup, toothbrush, dollar bill, door handle, work surface and orifice (whether human or animal) is simply teeming with unseen bacteria, possible parasites and other predatory pathogens. Or even just plain dirt. And you can’t escape it. It’s not that I’m prissy. I just can’t help but sense germs everywhere I go — and try to avoid them. I’m like Monk with boobs. In case you think I’m exaggerating, here, in no particular order, is a collection of my admittedly neurotic germ issues and thoughts: Let’s begin in the bedroom, shall we? Despite my despotic clean-freak neurosis, I know that my bed is hot bed of germ warfare. All beds are, and that’s a fact that will keep you up at night. My number bed-germ rule is this: No handbags on my bed. Ever. Ever-ever. No exceptions. Your bag goes on restaurant floors? Then …

Learning to Love My Bugs

If you asked me which era of the great sweep of human history I would prefer to live in, I would have a two-word answer: Anti. Biotics. You can keep your Renaissance, your Industrial Revolution, your Paleolithic Eden. You can also keep your streptococcal pneumonia, your abscessed incisors and your untreatable UTIs. Give me the modern age. The one with penicillin, toothpaste and Pinterest. I wouldn’t have had a prayer of inventing a steam-powered loom or stalking a saber tooth back in the day anyway. I would have expired horribly at the age of three after having stepped on the shaman’s pointy poop-stirring stick — I KNOW IT. Despite my conviction, though, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the other side of the story. The anti anti-biotic side, if you will. In fact, I’ve come to love my germs. Our story begins six years ago with an unremarkable sinus infection. The holidays were coming, the days were full and my nasal cavities were jammed up with that sticky sweet mucus that we all know no amount of …

Margit’s Note: Going Viral

My niece mashed up the word “hanitizer” when she was just five years old. I doubt she was the first, but her accidental insight was evidence that she’s growing up in a germ-obsessed world — one that includes hand sanitizer in every handbag. As kids, we didn’t think too much about microbes while crafting our mudpies. I probably wash my hands 30 times more a day than I did then, singing “Happy Birthday” twice as I go. The five-second rule, however, still holds strong. Now germs are hotly debated. They are gross and dangerous; really, really good for us; or all of the above. We’re witnessing the rise of mega-bugs. We have a few good reasons not to go in the pool. And we’ve learned how your gut bacteria may even affect your mood. But while we’re not exactly licking the subway floor for added resistance, neither are we living in a head-to-toe body bubble (yes, that was a nod to John Travolta). We live somewhere in between. This week we’re killin’ em on contact: Julie …