Month: April 2017

He’s 25. I’m 53. What Could Go Wrong?

“Make my day go from good to great and tell me you don’t mind that I’m 25, not 45.” Oh, this old trick. Present yourself as a Gen-Xer when you’re really a millennial. I understand of course; my age, in the universe of dating apps, is a moving target. I have the slightest amount of empathy. Slight enough to answer him back at 1:30am instead of falling asleep. Like middle-aged humans do. “You’re closer in age to my daughter than you are to me.” Dating-wise, the formula I’m fond of applying is half my age plus seven. I’m 53. Even with my Bumble age — 46 — this 25-year-old doesn’t make the cut. Unless I make an exception. We’re playing the same game, after all. The liberal age gap. He generously adds 20 years to his age, I’m mindfully lowering mine and we’re both hoping that somewhere along this sliding scale we’ll each get what we want. “I find you very sexy. I don’t care about your age or mine. I want to get to …

Baby Shower 2.0: Celebrating My Transgender Son’s New Identity

The blue jellybeans were assembled in pint-sized mason jars on my kitchen table. My husband was about to head to the store to pick up the balloon bouquet while I put finishing touches on the decorations. The kids and I had made a batch of homemade chocolate ice cream, and the giant, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie was frosted in blue with our son’s new name: Max Grayson. “It’s A Boy!” read the banner across the wall and on the sign in the front yard. We were thrilled to welcome so many excited guests to our home for “Baby Shower 2.0.” We had already thrown our child a baby shower back in 2008, back when we named him Mary Grace and thought he was our daughter. Our son is nine years old now and has been telling us he is a boy since he was two. Once we were able to finally recognize that he was transgender — a process that was neither fast nor easy — and then took the steps necessary to officially …

The Magic of the Bitch and Swap

Long ago in the 1990s, when I was a freelance magazine writer, I never had enough of anything — money, love, other people, and of course, clothing. I worked alone in my West Village apartment and most of my reporting was done by telephone. I rigorously scheduled social engagements at night, from dates to drinks with a friend, or a book party or reading or a real party or a fake PR party at a handbag store. If I didn’t speak to a real person face to face at least once a day, I felt myself fading from the human race. It was a time of living between no money, some money and family-begged money. I was actually fairly successful as a writer, but felt like an abject, obvious failure. I was consumed with fear that I would never meet a man whom I could marry and who would marry me. The latter was the bigger fear. It was a terribly lonely and scary stretch of years, despite the many, many parties. It was good, …

I’ve Pivoted My Career So Much, I’m Pirouetting

In August 2014, I lost my freelancing job as the Director of Content at Grey, a global, 100-year-old advertising agency, often referenced in Mad Men. (It’s where Duck Phillips landed after being dumped by Sterling Cooper.) Because Grey slashed my short-lived position, a frequent mini-tragedy at ad agencies, I was searching for a new full-time gig. I became obsessed with joining one of the bright, shiny digital media start-ups in New York City, partly out of fear that if I didn’t work at a hot, tech-based company, I would soon become a dinosaur. I had studied journalism, and traditional media were on life support. As a Gen-Xer, I felt that my professional currency was quickly fading and I needed to switch gears so I could sparkle…or, at the very least, find a job. I interviewed at a small hybrid PR/social media agency where a dozen under-30-somethings sat shoulder-to-shoulder on ergonomic chairs, huddled around an eco-friendly, reclaimed oak table. Macs lit up the room as an Irish Setter meandered down the narrow aisles, looking to be …

Why I Changed My Son’s Last Name to Mine

When I married David Adelson, I never seriously considered changing my name to Adelson any more than I ever seriously considered changing my name to Duchovny, or Gosling. Caveat: For a little while, maybe because I was super-stoked to be married — and super-confident that 20 years of professional feminism made my creds otherwise clear — I tacked “Adelson” on after Harris in non-professional settings. But “Lynn Harris Adelson” didn’t stick. I STILL LOVED MY HUSBAND, but after the thank-you notes were sent, it started to grate. I’d been a journalist and author forever — and though it was EXTREMELY IRRITATING to be constantly confused with the late bestselling author E. Lynn Harris, whose books best-sold way more than mine — I was not about to touch my byline. Plus, feminism! “Harris” wasn’t going anywhere. Then came our daughter, Bess. We considered “Bess Harris” for about five minutes, two and a half of which were spent thinking, “That’s a lot of S’s,” and two and a half of which were spent noting that both names …

I Tried to Break Up With My Therapist. It Didn’t Go Well.

People say it’s hard to date in New York. (I once went out with a guy who looked like Gargamel from the Smurfs, so I know how tough it is.) But I think it’s much harder to find a good therapist. It’s early 2001. I’ve been living in New York City for a few months to do a seven-month comedy intensive program after moving from San Francisco. In addition to working full-time for my west coast office, I’m going to school every night during the week and doing homework, shows and other catch-ups on the weekend. The pace of Manhattan and my jam-packed schedule begin to take a toll on me, and in no time, I start to have panic attacks. So I do what any other overwhelmed person does: I tackle one more thing. I look for a therapist. On paper, Linda is great. She’s five minutes from work, she’s in my plan and she’s only $5 a visit. Score! In person, it’s another story. When I first enter her windowless office, I notice …

My Struggle With God Ended on a Plane

It was my best friend, Melinda, who introduced God and me. I was four. She was eight and lived in my grandparent’s trailer park with her mom, dad, several rabbits and a dog that scared me. To say that I worshipped her is to put it mildly. She knew everything, and, if I were lucky, she would teach it all to me. When Melinda fell in love with Shaun Cassidy, I was determined to fall harder, even though I still thought boys were sweaty and full of cooties. When she picked out cowl neck sweaters and velour V-necks from the Sears catalogue, I begged my mom for the identical style and color. And in the summer of 1977, when Melinda signed up for Bible Camp, I tagged along without hesitation. Before school started up again that fall, we were both saved. Jesus was our new crush, and we competed to be his biggest fan. We never swore, never took the Lord’s name in vain, always respected the Sabbath by going to Sunday school and always, …

April Issue: Ready, Set, SWAP!

Oh MY we have a jam-packed issue this week, friends. Because this week, we’re all about swaps — trades, pivots, shifts and changes big and small. And by the time you get to be a woman of certain age, well, you’ve probably swapped a bunch, by choice or otherwise. This week, we’re swapping careers, our age, our clothes, our shrink, our kids’ names and we have a beautiful piece about more of a transition: a mother shares the story of her child’s new name — and gender — on a brand new birth certificate. We’re sending out our issue early today so you can snag yourself a ticket and see most of these stories LIVE at TueNight Live. We’re also planning to have a real, live swap meet. I’m bringing three of my own items to trade — think Kajagoogoo, Shephard Fairey and colorforms. Curious? Come with your own swaps and find out. If you’re not in NYC and can’t make it, we’ll be Facebook Live-ing right here. And in other Facebook news, we’ve started …

25 Years Later, Adventures with My Husband Are Just Getting Started

“What’s the Australian equivalent of Ibuprofin?” I asked my husband, handing him Band-Aids out of a medicine chest in a hut in the middle of the Tasmanian wilderness. “Is it paracetamol?” I said, flipping through various tiny white medicine packets stored in a Dixie cup. My husband winced and limped back to a bench to tend to his blistered feet. He’d been pretending they weren’t bothering him, but four days and almost 40 miles into our traverse of Tasmania’s Overland Track, his feet weren’t playing along. “Hey, your legs are still bleeding from the leeches,” he said, pointing to the rivulets that traced their way down my left calf. We’d learned that leeches secrete a chemical to prevent your blood from clotting while they fill up. You can’t feel them latch onto you and it doesn’t hurt to have them there, but once they fill up and drop off it, it takes ages for the bleeding to stop. “I know,” I said, dapping at the blood with a tissue. “Those little Tasmanian bastards.” It was the …

How to Lose at Wife-Carrying, and Win at Marriage

Author and journalist Jo Piazza had no idea what to do when she got engaged. She was terrified of taking on the role of someone’s wife. To figure it out, she traveled to 20 countries on five continents for her new memoir, How to Be Married: What I Learned From Real Women on Five Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage. Told in honest prose with astute reporting, the book is a survival guide for the first year of marriage. The following is an adapted excerpt from the book. Most dating advice given to newlyweds is horrible. Maybe not horrible, but at least not terrifically helpful. It’s like the people writing the advice wrote sitcoms in the ‘80s where the laugh track covered the sadness and every problem was fixed in 28 minutes, including commercials. There’s a lot of “don’t forget to have a date night,” and “never go to bed angry,” and “say ‘I love you’ at least once a day.” In other words, there’s a lot of bullshit. In the …

A Pragmatist’s Guide to Adventurous Living 

When people ask how a nice Mormon girl from a small, conservative college town ended up in New York City, I tell them it was by way of the Western Sahara, a desert wedding and a white camel. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was trained for a life of adventure. Conceived in a well-traveled uterus (my parents had spent a grueling 12 months traveling the globe the year prior), I had been to 32 countries and visited every one of the United States except Alaska by the time I was 12. I celebrated my third birthday crying over a lost sweater on a Norwegian fjord. My fourth, waiting patiently in our VW camper for my father to be released from a Mexican jail. My fifth, eating couscous from the henna-ed hands of bejeweled women at a Berber wedding in Morocco and begging my parents to let me bring home a very sweet, very tiny white camel. And the year I turned 18, I furtively exchanged blue jeans for Soviet bezdelushki behind …

How I Officially Became a Middle-Aged Badass in the Finnish Arctic

Last summer, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a roundtrip holiday junket to the Finnish Arctic region in hopes that I’d write about the region’s beauty, sustainability and why it should be a top travel destination for millennials who are increasingly seeking meaning and purpose when they travel.  But as a woman in midlife, a decidedly non-millennial, I found meaning, purpose and a little bit of a super-hero skill in the deep-freeze. I was offered two, week-long options. The first was to take the trip during the summer solstice in August, featuring hiking, biking and outdoor trekking. The second was a visit during the darkest and coldest time of the Finnish winter, January. Given that I’d be traveling solo and am middle-aged, I initially leaned towards the safe and more “typical” sounding summer holiday. But, after reflection, I thought, “Hell, Susan, why not go the challenging route? Get out of your comfort zone and be a badass for once.” So winter darkness was the selection I made, and my trip would include skiing, …

Oh Ottawa: Reflecting on a Canadian Life Left Behind

If Belle from Beauty and the Beast were 40 today, would she still be living happily ever after or would she have second thoughts about leaving her provincial life? Would she still identify with that life at all? Growing up in Ottawa, Canada, I suppose in some ways I was a modern-day Belle leading the proverbial provincial life*. The grass is green, and there’s lots of it – in the summer months at any rate. With the federal government headquartered in the nation’s capital, the job market is robust and typically weathers market downturns well. There’s access to good schools and, of course, universal healthcare. At home, we indulged in many popular American imports. Our family tuned in to ALF and laughed at Steve Urkel’s silly jokes, my dad received a hero’s homecoming when he signed up for a Jumbo Video membership (Canada’s answer to Blockbuster) and surprised us with a copy of the newly-released Batman movie, and in the 10th grade I became completely obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera when a touring …

Margit’s Note: Choose Your Own Adventure

I turn 50 in June. I’m supposed to be lying to you about that, but nah. How old am I? I’m this many. Five Zero. I’ve earned my stripes. How does one celebrate half a century? I’ve been to a few fabulous 50 birthdays recently (remember, when you turn 50, many of your friends do too) — karaoke in a dive bar; 100 people sweating it out in a studio apartment, witnessing a friend (via Facebook) leap into the sky. My husband reminds me that I partied a little too hard and puked at my 40th. I’d rather not do that this year. For this milestone, I think I’d prefer a few mini trips with close friends. I’m not the sort to heave myself out of an airplane or do a soul-seeking trek to Tibet — I’m a little major-adventure averse. I’m not even keen about driving a car, thanks to a decade-plus of living car-less-ly in NYC. But taking a long weekend to a new spot with one or two really close pals? That seems like a …

Hygge and Kisses: Even the Danes Couldn’t Save My Relationship from Trump

During the last few months, there has been a lot of anger shown toward the Trump Administration, coming from both sides of the political spectrum. Whether it has been a deep frustration with his attacks on the mainstream media and the court system, a true hatred of his immigration and healthcare bills or outright shock at his administration’s too-close relationship with Putin, 80 percent of America seems to have a gripe with the president. I’d like to add another complaint to the list: I blame Donald Trump for ruining my romance this past winter. His election — and the chaos that it has wrought — has caused so much stress and anxiety that, during the first three months of his presidency, it was just too difficult to find love. My relationship with Debbie started out promising. We met at a dinner party a few days before Trump was inaugurated. Our hostess was worried about the night being successful and fun, so she warned her guests that “no one can talk about politics.” After dinner, Debbie …

Taking Care of the Strongest Man I Ever Knew

My father asked me, “How long does it take?” I felt all the sound, light, air — everything — leave the room; only the weight of those words remained. I was standing at the side of his bed, lightly stroking his forehead. Mom was exhausted, slumped in a chair in a dark corner. He was dying and wanted to know when it would be over. He had seen so much life and death on the farm — animal life and death — for 40 years, he knew when death was near and he was ready for it. But for him to ask me… that took me a minute. I was the youngest and a girl. You didn’t reveal this kind of vulnerability to your youngest daughter. Four months earlier, I’d come home for a visit and it had been clear to me: Dad was not going to make it. It was upsetting to see him so much thinner and weaker than just a month ago. It was before the dialysis. Before the hospitalization. That January afternoon, he sat …

18 Seriously Comfortable Shoes for Spring and Summer

My shoe predicament has become even worse. About two springs ago, when I was on the hunt for the bestest, comfiest, maybe even cute-in-a-certain-light pair of shoes, I wrote this piece and was pretty proud of myself for rounding up such stellar soles. Over this past winter, however, I’ve realized that I’ve become so picky and obsessed with cushion and easy-to-wears that I’m down to TWO — count ‘em, just TWO — pairs of shoes: These perfect comfort-and-support sneakers from Asics (The GT-2000 4) and these vaguely chic, utilitarian suede boots from La Canadienne (The Felicia). I toggle back and forth between the pair. I blame some of my choosiness on going through some big physical ordeals this past year or so that made me ONLY do what feels good and right. Anything that rubbed, pinched, pressed or made me hobble around was so far from ok that I would ONLY wear shoes that felt like heaven. Now that it’s springtime and the sun wants to shine on my toes, I need to expand my …

I Got You — Caring for My Wife During Chemo

As my wife sat in the treatment room during chemotherapy, she would sometimes sing to me a song that became a sort of anthem for us. Headphones on, she’d hum and sing, “We ain’t gonna give up on this now, we refuse to turn around. This won’t be easy, no way, no how, but we won’t back down…” The song was ”We Got It” by Ne-Yo from The Wiz, one of those live TV musical events we’d watched together after her surgery back in 2015. In some ways, she was Dorothy and I was some unfortunate combination of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. I would chime in, “And when the night is so cold, dark and lonely, All you got to do is look at me and hear what I say…” And then together we would sing, “We got it! We got it!” “I got you…” I got you. When Margit asked me to share my experience as a “caregiver” during her treatment, I felt a bit uncomfortable. I saw it as …

When I Lost Weight, My Daughter Didn’t Recognize Me

I am watching home videos with my daughter, who is nearly 15 and prone to bouts of nostalgia. She likes to remind herself of a time when life was simpler — when she received toys instead of gift cards for her birthday, when her little brother still idolized her, when her favorite thing about the science museum was the diorama room and she could run freely through the exhibit since no one else’s favorite thing about the science museum is the diorama room. On the television screen, my children’s cheeks are still rosy and full, their smiles silly and unguarded. I love watching their skinny little legs kicking in the pool, their pudgy fingers picking up one goldfish cracker at a time. The only thing I don’t like about these old home movies is seeing myself on camera. The me I see onscreen is quite heavy – 40 pounds heavier than my current weight, to be exact. Because I am short – only 4’9” – a gain or loss of even three pounds is visible …

10 Foods to Comfort You (Pizza and Booze, Not So Much)

Here’s the truth: we are all emotional eaters. Emotions show up in the body, and your very wise body is asking for help to get calm. Here’s a quick list of ways you can support your body in feeling strong and calm again. 1. Water: Stay hydrated. Your brain works better and your nervous system is more calm when you’re hydrated. 2. Chamomile Tea: It’s calming for muscle spasms and the entire nervous system. Drink all day and before bed. 3. Sweet Potatoes: The sweet, dense flavor and texture are calming for upset stomach without the blood-sugar destroying effects of refined sweeteners. Roast up a dozen and store the extra in the fridge. Use leftovers for sweet potato pudding (recipe). 4. Coconut Butter: Like peanut butter, but from coconuts. Sweet, high in healthy fats that are soothing and satiating for the stomach, coconut butter and oil are helpful for thyroid and overall hormone production. 5. Kale, Bok Choy, Collards (ok, any leafy greens): Leafy greens are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Also …

Margit’s Note: Cozy Up

Slide into the soft pants, wrap up in a blanket, put the kettle on, turn on some grooves and let’s find some comfort. The Danes have it right in their Hygge practice — which is now, for obvious reasons, all the rage. In these times when we feel uneasy about our world, we look for ways to soothe our bodies, soul and surroundings. Yet comfort isn’t just about the tactile — the hot bath or the warm hug — but your environs, your state of mind, your security, your sense of peace with yourself. “The most common form of despair is not being who you are,” said Kierkegaard. To find comfort is also to relax into our truest state — to find home. Music is my ultimate comfort drug. It envelopes me, moves me off my seat, soothes and is an instant mood changer. Scratch that; it’s better than any drug. While writing this, I’m listening to one of my most easy-breezy Spotify playlists. It has a West Coast soul vibe: “Strawberry Letter 23” by …

When My 4-Year-Old Punched Another Kid, I Became That Mom

So. My kid punched a kid. Let’s just start there. It happened at preschool, on an unassuming, every-day kind of a day. But at pick-up, the teacher slid next to me on the sectioned colored rug and delicately started in, “…so, your son was a little off today…” What’s that? She then unveiled my son’s litany of attacks that day: a shove, a push to the cement and the whopper finale of three sucker punches to the ribs of his classmate. Oh. Oh, God… When she asked him why he did it, he stared blankly into space and said, “For no reason”. Quick backstory on my kid: He’s a hyper dude — but not a violent one. His body goes before his brain, and sometimes it’s a struggle to calm him or focus him or get him to put on his shoes (putonyourshoeswillyoujustputonyourshoesyourshoesrightthere…), but he is usually a keep-his-hands-to-himself kind of a kid. Until today. The teacher excused herself to talk to the parents picking up their wounded children. “So, Jasper was pushed…Markus was shoved…Michael was punched …

How I Went From Aspiring Joker to Joker’s Wild Champion

My sophomore year of college, I took a leave of absence from NYU Film/TV after my sophomore year and set out for LA with dreams of becoming the next Freddie Prinze (minus the suicide). One of my best friends from high school and I had made a pact: We’d find an empty office on the Universal lot, set up shop like Steven Spielberg and take Hollywood by storm. I was the advance team and flew out via PEOPLExpress (one way just $99) to couch surf with an ex and her sister in Orange County until I could find a place. My arrival coincided with the reign of The Night Stalker Killer, and, as it turned out, my ex’s sister’s place was this latest Satanist’s favorite stalking grounds. The very first night, after the girls went out clubbing (leaving me alone clutching a broomstick), I was shocked awake at 3 a.m. by the phone ringing. On the other end, the most menacing (although not-particularly inventive) obscene caller told me how much he’d like to make me …

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How Do I Feel About A Midlife Crisis? Whatever.

Last spring, I celebrated my 50th birthday. Some might say I’ve finally reached capital-M Midlife, but I’ve always contended that Midlife started back when I turned 39. I mean, I harbor no unrealistic dreams of longevity, based solely on the amount of chemicals I put away in the ‘70s in the form of Tab, Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks. Then again, I’m a Gen-Xer, for whom dry-eyed pragmatism is a generational calling card. And it’s exactly that deeply ingrained bias against bullshit that I think means my cohort and I are going to totally rock middle age. Let me explain. At 46 million members, Gen X is small, wedged between some 80 million Baby Boomers and 78 million Millennials. We have classic middle child syndrome — ignored and overlooked and stuck between two hulking siblings who’ve taken up all the legroom and media attention on our 78-year road trip around the sun. Demographic shorthand for Americans born 1964-ish to 1980-ish says that most of our parents were divorced and distracted, leaving their latchkey offspring to …

The Precarious World of Online Dating After 50

  “You’re cute, do you have a younger sister?” “Hi there, what is your sexual appetite?” “Can I fist you? Women in their 20s and 30s don’t like to be fisted?” “How bout a full-body massage in exchange for a shoulder rub? “No way you’re THAT old” “I have mommy syndrome and would be heaven going down on you” That’s just a random, word-for-word sampling of the text messages I get from my online suitors. No kidding — these are their opening salvos. You’d think men would have matured by this time. In fact, the opposite is true. To be honest, I never would have imagined that I’d be single post-50, without kids and attempting to date in New York City. But, alas, this is my predicament. Independent, financially secure and very, very single. And it’s challenging. I often equate quality single men over the age of 45 to the endangered species list updated nationally by the government. Where are they hiding? Certainly not on the dating apps/sites I have tried over the last two-plus …

I Loved My Dog, But Do I Really Miss Having a Pet?

A couple of years ago, my friend Susie and I were strolling along the Riverside Park promenade with our elderly dogs, Lucy and Daisy. “So,” Susie whispered, as if she were afraid the dogs might overhear, “when Lucy dies, will you get another dog?” After a moment of self-reflection, I whispered back, “I love Lucy. But when she’s gone, I’m done.” “Thank god!” said Susie. “I thought I was the only one.” Apparently, we both felt some degree of shame over our willingness to relinquish our status as dog people. After all, we’d both taken great pleasure in our dogs over the years and showered them with love in kind. So could a true dog lover really turn her back on all the wonderful things dogs bring to our lives? Perhaps she could. [pullquote]Lucy died a year ago, and I miss her every day. But she was also a pain in the neck –nippy, ornery and expensive.[/pullquote] Lucy and Daisy had entered our respective households more than a dozen years earlier when we both had …

Their Father’s Daughters: Four Sisters Come Together to Say Goodbye

I am the eldest of four girls, a number that felt ever-so-slightly obscene. Like, couldn’t we have stopped at three? But no, we couldn’t, because numbers 3 and 4 were identical twins. Prior to their conception, Mom had read an article about how to conceive a boy. She followed it to the letter: eat this; do that; have sex at this time of the month; stand on your head and clap three times, chant a Tibetan prayer, who knows what it said? I never read it. But I have always wondered how many other babies born in 1972 have that article to thank for either their twins or their vaginas. Each sister, in our own time, were supposed to have been named Jeffrey Scott. Instead we were Deborah Elizabeth, Jennifer Robin, Laura Suzanne, and Julie Michelle. We literally used up all the innocuous girl names. When my eldest was born, 21 years ago, my dad rushed into the hospital room to meet his first grandchild. “I don’t believe it!” he said. He ripped open the …

Margit’s Note: One From the Deck

This week, we’re throwing our cards in the air and running a theme that has no theme: WILDCARD. A wild card is, of course, a card that that can be used in any situation. So, whether you’re looking for a tale about love, loss, fights, kids, pets, parents or turning 50, we’ve got you covered in this edition.  It’s a grab-bag of awesome. A virtual variety pack of yarns. Ok, ok… We’ve even made a zany little Spotify Wild Card soundtrack to go along with your stories! Listen in here or here: This Week: Susan McPherson dates online after 50. (Did he really just text that?!) Ericka Kreutz’s kid punched another kid, and it might be her fault Amy Barr doesn’t want another dog…most of the time Deb Copaken shares the loss of her father with her sisters Nancy Davis Kho has a midlife (whatever) crisis And Dave Statman competes on Joker’s Wild — and wins a career. We’re wilding out, Margit