All posts filed under: Life Lessons

In Defense of Parrotheads — Really, There Is a Defense

Oh, haters. You just love to hate on my boy Jimmy Buffett. Do you think he’s too pedestrian? Too conformist? Too old? Too old school? Too silly? I can’t seem to figure it out. Perhaps you’ve only heard the ubiquitous party anthems “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. They’re simple, harmless songs. Sure, they can get annoying — but anything can, if you hear it too much. Buffett has penned tons of those types of tunes— songs like “One Particular Harbor” and “Boat Drinks”. It’s all good fun. And those of us who dig him? We really love this shit. We like being transported to a place where sand in your shoes and waves crashing on the beach removes us from the mundane. I have to credit my brother-in-law for introducing me to Buffett when I was 18.  Just beginning college, I was struggling with my mother’s imminent death, and Buffett took the edge off by giving me an escape. Ed took me to concerts and I found a way to connect, laugh and smile. And get to …

Start Me Up: My Very First Stones Concert Was a Rite of Passage

My Dad did a killer Mick Jagger imitation in which he put his hands on his hips, stuck out his tush and made fish lips. I had a patch with big, fat Rolling Stones lips on the back of my jeans, stitched on the right ass pocket. We all laughed when my Dad once brought a seat warmer to one of their stadium gigs. When Some Girls came out, I got special permission from my parents to stay up late and watch them on SNL. As you can see, this love for the Rolling Stones was a family affair. In 1981, when the tour for Tattoo You was announced, I was finally old enough to go see them in person. The question was with who, and how. They’d only scheduled one date in Florida. Orlando was too far away for me to go with friends unchaperoned. My older brother and sister had left the house, and over the years I had watched them go to concert after concert, to see whatever groups came to South …

I’m Married, But Don’t Call Me Mrs.

I was absolutely terrified and not sure at all that I wanted to step out of the car and into the church. I was all of 24 years old and about to marry a man whom I loved deeply and who I wanted to share my life with. Have children with. But wife? Wife. WIFE. I felt not unprepared or ambivalent but rather, resistant and fairly resentful of both the word and the reality of “wife.” Or at least the reality I envisioned. I went into marriage with a fair amount of pre- (or rather, ill-) conceived notions of what a marriage “should be,” what it meant to be a wife and how my life and world would change. Part religion, part society, part too many hours spent reading and watching overly romanticized, conventionally and poorly written beach novels and Lifetime For Women television specials. And part me and my own family baggage and mythology. My mom married my dad at 18 after being sweethearts (what a term!) since they were about 12. My mom …

What Lurks Behind the Word ‘Wife’?

My young son recently asked me why some words are “bad.” He’s at the age where saying an illicit word brings a certain measure of delight and thrill due to the reaction of others, namely me, his Mom. He lets a naughty word slip, I admonish him, and we do it all over again. My daughter has a workaround. “I may think those words, Mom, but I just don’t say them aloud.” So when he asked me: “What makes a word bad, Mom?” I had to think about it. We, the users of language, assign meaning to words. If a society agrees on a meaning, it sticks. But language is a living thing. It changes. The meanings of words that have been around for thousands of years often transform, over time, into different meanings. So while I’ve been busy correcting his language for polite company, I’ve also been thinking about my own “bad” words. I surprised myself with the revelation that there has always been something about the word “wife” that bothered me deep down. …

Why New York City Is the Best City for Crying

New York, they say, is cruel. It’ll chew you up and spit you out. Quite often, “they” are dead on. Says the city: Sorry, you can’t have this apartment. Or that one. And don’t even THINK about that one there. The dating pool? That’s not for you, girl. That’s Chelsea. You jump in over HERE, right between the Ashley Madison guys and the Amish gentlemen violently allergic to cheese and shellfish. No, no, no, normcore. You’re too old, honey. You’re lucky, though. I’m sure you really like that cool job you have. You’re so happy I bet you won’t even see it coming when they downsize. Remember: Layoffs happen just before the holidays. Remember when it happens, we told you so. Sometimes it feels like this place really has it in for us. The other thing they say about New York? The people won’t bat an eye if they see something situationally askew. Naked man eating a banana in the Village? That’s not news. Giant bear bounding out of a Central Park West building? Meh. …

Something to Cry About (Even If It’s Over a Honeybun)

Keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about. Whatever. I cried anyway. I was that kid. I was that teenager. I am that adult. I tend to cry. I cry when I’m microwaving an Entenmann’s glazed honey bun — it reminds me of high school, of my grandmother being young and mean, of thinking I knew my mom well when I didn’t, of distrusting my stepfather who I now trust with my life, and of my sister who I still shared a room with, and who knew every tiny thing about me. She doesn’t know every tiny thing about me now. I eat my honey bun standing up in front of the microwave, slicing it with the side of the fork. Tongue all sugar-burnt, and calories flourishing, I cry. I wipe my face. I take my ass to the gym. “Every once in a while, everyone needs a ‘good cry’.” But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that crying for me is as regular as smiling. I don’t reserve tears. Reserve them …

The Last Time I Cried

I am a crier. I can’t sing the national anthem without getting that familiar knot in my throat. I’m not particularly patriotic, but I have to forcefully squash down my tears by thinking about something actually sad like an old dog dying. Seriously. I know that sounds crazy, like I should be crying about the dog not the dang flag, but it’s all those people standing together, the vibrations of humans in harmony, that gets me every. single. time. Of course there are the more depressing reasons I cry — a fight with a friend, the loss of someone close, the loss of many, seemingly far away. Thinking about the various times we weep, I’ve been curious about the mix of reasons for it — the momentary tear, the ugly cry, the long, sobbing jags. So over the course of a day, I asked some of our contributors and colleagues: when was the last time you cried? The answers are multifarious and give a glimpse into the big moments, strange triggers and little everyday things that move …

On Being the Friend Who Doesn’t Like Friends

I am the introvert. The recluse. The one recently described by friends and family as a “hermit.” “Maybe you should leave the house?” said a friend gently. I could sense the concern, even over her text message. “I just have so much to do,” I lie. I do this a lot — the lying. And here I am now telling you all of my secrets in case you, too, have a friend that requires a bit of prodding. For the record, I’m not exactly terrified of people, though I had to chuckle when I read this quote via blogger Luvvie Ajayi: “I was a people person until I met people”. I just don’t particularly like leaving my house and interacting with the outside world. I pride myself on being able to go entire weekends without speaking to another human being. Enthusiastically, I eventually tell others about my 72 hours without actual conversation: “And then I went for a run — ALONE. And I did some writing —ALONE. The only person I spoke to was the …

Saying Goodbye To Creepy Baby

As a teenager, I quickly learned that in my household there wasn’t a lot money “just laying around” (unless you happened to find a $20 bill just laying on the ground). Unfortunately, a scarcity of cash was in direct odds with my innate love of new things that, to this day, is the reason my alcove is usually filled with packages. But this isn’t an anecdote about the emotional highs and lows of online shopping. Childhood trips to the mall were pretty much off the table (no funds = no fun), trips to Marshalls were on an as-needed basis only. But thrift stores were like a Supermarket Sweep gold mine, minus the heavy turkeys, cat litter and ticking timer. Nothing was off limits, and quantity was key. A life-long love of 25-cent vinyl and old-man golf pants (to think  — I wasted my thinnest years in plaid grandpa bottoms) and ironic tees began, as did a steady collection of lunch boxes, Avon figurines and ‘70s macramé basement castoffs, as well as beer signs that would …

A Gemsbok Named Velvet Or Why I Love Taxidermy

It may sound strange — perhaps even stranger than strange — to have a five-foot tall piece of taxidermy in a 500 square foot apartment. Well, I guess I’m stranger than strange. I’m not a big fan of vintage. I don’t like popping tags. Smelling like mothballs and failed deodorant is not my idea of fashion or fun. Yard sales? Meh. Someone else’s crap is generally going to be my crap as well. I will not dumpster dive. You tend to get what you pay for. But based on my love of taxidermy, I guess you could say that I have an affinity for things that used to be something else, which is, I suppose, the same as the adoption and renovation of found items. [pullquote]There she was, right between the piglet and the jackalope. Glorious, glorious Velvet. She was exactly what I wanted.[/pullquote] To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than majestic animals — especially mammals. So why wouldn’t I want to have one as part of my home’s design, assuming the creature is not endangered …

Missing the Carefree Life in Beachtown, Florida

For five years, just after college, I lived in a super-small beach town. My initial intention was to join my friend Beth for a few weeks in Destin, Florida, then head off to Atlanta to start my “adult” life. But the “sand got in my shoes,” as they say, and I decided to stay in Destin for a little while. In retrospect, it was a good call. No, actually, a great one. I got a job with the local newspaper — a twice-weekly that still laid out the pages with X-Acto knives and wax. No website here. I started on the lowest rung, as the government beat reporter for the neighboring burgh, Walton County covering fire district meetings and mosquito control division meetings. Scintillating! The most important task was attending the county commission meetings in the seat, DeFuniak Springs. My favorite county commission debate involved a man who lived on a dirt road (not uncommon) and was unhappy with the rate of acceleration on his sandy street. To drive home his point, he pulled the hood off an …

Gimme Shelter: A Mom Confesses Her Gun Obsession

“Dear Families, Today we had a soft lockdown in the building at approximately 12:40 p.m.…” is how the message from my daughter’s school principal started. I had been mindlessly thumbing through emails on my phone as I climbed the steps from the subway, but now I froze. I sucked in my breath and looked at the ground. I told myself that nothing bad had happened. I knew my daughter had to be okay. Parents aren’t notified of school shootings by email. But until the pounding in my ears stopped, I couldn’t take my eyes from the cement steps and bring them back up to the device in my hand. [pullquote]The problem with trying to be a rational parent in today’s America is that screens and images everywhere deliver improbable, terrible, often true stories directly to your fear center.[/pullquote] This is the first year our school has instituted “lockdown procedures,” and we parents got a brief rundown of the process last September. When the alarm sounds, my daughter’s teacher locks the door, turns off the lights, …

Trigger Happy: The Positive Side of This Powerful Word

The first time I noticed a “trigger warning” it was about a year ago, at the top of a blog post containing a first-person account of the author’s rape. These days, these warnings are ubiquitous on stories about everything from eating disorders to abused animals. Some colleges are even considering putting “trigger warnings” on books and classes containing potentially traumatic content. But are all triggers, by definition, necessarily bad? After all, a trigger is just an image, sound, word, or reminder that brings us back to something in our history. The scent of suntan lotion will never not remind me of Wildwood, NJ. The opening chords of “Clampdown” bring me back to an age when music had the power to make my heart surge (in a good way). Triggers happen before we can think —they skip our brain and go directly to our emotional center. And that response is just as likely to be happy as it is sad or traumatic. I first started thinking about triggers when I began taking the occasional copywriting gig with …

How I Teach in a Climate of School Shootings

Every time a campus shooting has happened in the 13 years since I became a college counselor and professor in Washington D.C., I tell myself that it’s not something that only happens at colleges, and that these things can happen anywhere. I have repeated this mantra so many times now that I’m starting not to believe it. It turns out it’s not that comforting to remind myself that I could really go to work at any job and die unexpectedly, and that the odds of this happening on my particular campus are still pretty low, as frail a grasp on statistics as I have. [pullquote]After the Virginia Tech mass murder, I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t nothing.[/pullquote] Humans cope in strange ways. When the college campus shooting happened at Seattle Pacific University a few weeks ago, I saw a tweet from an educator who said that she’d be wearing a bulletproof vest to her campus when school starts again in the fall. At first I assumed she was kidding. Then I …

I Can’t Kill Critters: Why I’m Non-Negotiable on Guns

One morning last fall, I got in my car and turned the ignition key. Typically at this point the electronic memory system kicks in and the seat and mirrors adjust to my personal settings. But not on that day. Instead, a dashboard light flashed, alerting me that the air bags weren’t functioning. But the car was drive-able so I took it to the dealer for a look. The diagnosis: Squirrels had chewed through the computer wires. The price tag for the repair: $1,500. It’s moments like this that cause my husband to ramp up his periodic desire to buy a rifle. No, he doesn’t want to shoot the car dealer, he wants to off the squirrels (and moles and rabbits and possums and deer) who have tormented us in so many ways during the 20-plus years we have owned our house. These critters treat our garden as their personal buffet, digging up veggies as fast as we plant them. Others munch the tops off tulips and nibble our trees down to naked twigs. One industrious …

Big Moments in My Big-Breasted History

Growing up in Florida in the ‘70s, everywhere I looked, boobs and bikinis. As my family was always at the pool or the beach, I just thought that bikinis were what most women wore, all the time. Laugh-In was on television, and seeing Goldie Hawn smiling and giggling in a red two-piece reinforced this. I was a tomboy and could have cared less what I wore. I did notice that boys, however, got away with wearing swim trunks (for reasons which eluded me). It all seemed so unfair. Of course karmically that meant that I would be blessed with that which I did not want: big boobs. My First I started to develop on the early side, and resisted bras for as long as I could. Finally, when I was about 10 years old, my mom trundled me off in the car to J.C. Penney in pursuit of the dreaded “training bra.” Mom took me first to Ladies’ Intimates to ask where to find bras for girls. A brassy-looking saleslady arranging merchandise in the corner yelled out …

Our Sad and Funny Last Night Together

We’ve all had a relationship that should have been over long before it actually was — the kind that had been running on fumes or suddenly became fueled by anger rather than love. That describes the last months of my last serious relationship before I met my husband. Despite the fact that there had been great attraction and affection for the four-plus years that we were together, my then-boyfriend and I eventually both knew it should end, but neither knew how to pull the plug. So the plug pulled itself. On our last night together, we attended the wedding of a mutual friend at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. It was a fancy affair, with endless champagne and other mind-altering substances flowing freely. I suspect we were both trying to push our unhappy reality out of our heads as we partied for hours and then stumbled upstairs to the room we’d booked. It was a long, long night. He felt awful and I felt worse. The next morning, I literally crawled to the …

Could I Remain Friends with My Ex?

For my entire adult life, breakups have been horrible, often occasioned by infidelity and replete with things said that can’t be taken back. Merely mentioning the names of some of my exes often triggers a level of revulsion usually reserved for serial killers. And I’ve never remained friends with my exes. I have plenty of friends. Why pretend to still be civil to someone who hurt me? Ending my marriage was no different. Although cheating was not the cause of our separation, there was too much bad blood between us for my ex and I to maintain even a semblance of friendship. We tried co-parenting, but ultimately, it has been easier to go it alone than to try to force a co-parenting relationship on my ex, or — more importantly — on my kids. When I finally started dating again, five years after my divorce, my first serious post-divorce boyfriend seemed to be the complete package. My boyfriend was kind, considerate, and intelligent. When he wasn’t talking about black history, politics, or sports, he would …

How My Father Became the Mother I Didn’t Have

Father’s Day (and Mother’s Day). Ugh. For those of who have lost parents and aren’t parents, these days can really suck. And while we should be celebrating what we once had (assuming we had something wonderful), it’s hard not to wallow in their absence, and what we will never have again. I sometimes wish I believed in heaven or the afterlife or reincarnation. Seems like it would make things a lot more palatable, though probably not any easier. They’re still gone. Mom got sick when I was about 11 — I have very few memories of my life before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through chemo, hair loss, remissions and the returns of the beast, I was always afraid I’d lose my mom, but never really accepted that it would happen. There was a lot of sadness and dread and anger in my formative years, which resulted in life-long fear of abandonment, as well as depression and codependence. Add to that a father who wasn’t really around. He was busy starting his own small business, …

My Wide Open Mistakes as a Dude Ranch Cook

Ever heard the Dixie Chicks song “Wide Open Spaces“? It goes like this: “Many precede and many will follow A young girl’s dream no longer hollow It takes the shape of a place out west But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed” Sounds inspiring, right? I blame that song for one of the bigger flubs in my life. But, hey, at least it’s a good story now. I was 28 and working as the features editor for a small-town, twice-a-week newspaper in Florida. It was a job I truly loved, but I was living below the poverty level. I supplemented my income by working both retail at Casual Corner and as a cocktail waitress for a cheesy, late-night club called Thunderbirds (seriously). Exhausted working from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m., I felt stagnant and thought some fresh, mountain air might do me good. In my younger days I did a good deal of horseback riding — and was a budding chef — so when I found a job as a cook on …

The Beauty We Forgot to Pass Down to Our Daughters

While I didn’t always notice it — especially during my ridiculously self-centered teenage years — my mother was quite a striking woman. Mom was what some call “Black Irish,” — dark, wavy hair, brown eyes and a slightly olive complexion. She was medium height — maybe 5’7″? — with beautiful hands, gorgeous “gams” and slender fingers. She carried herself in a way that was almost lyrical. And that smile. You knew she liked you, if not loved you, when you saw that lovely smile. It made you feel good all over. That was what we saw. But then there was what she saw. I remember the phrases she’d utter for each stage of her life: As a child she was: Too skinny… embarrassingly skinny. Tiny boobs. Shapeless legs. Hip bones sticking out. As an adult she was: too heavy. Too heavy to even want to shop for clothes. (She was a size 14 at her largest, I think — what most call “normal” now.) Mom criticized her body constantly in front of me. I’m too big …

Broken Cinderella: Is Imperfection the Key to True Beauty?

  I’m sure most people have experienced grade school “Show and Tell,” when you bring something special to class and talk about it. For this activity, my Cinderella figurine was a no-brainer. She was gorgeous and I cherished her in all her porcelain magnificence. Six inches tall, she arrived in a satin-lined lavender box on my eighth birthday, along with a delicate wristwatch, designed for a young girl’s delicate wrist. It had a pale pink leather strap, white face, silver numerals…at that moment in my eyes, the House of Chanel had nothing on the world of Disney watches. On the appointed “Show and Tell” day, I strapped on the watch and packed Cinderella in her hinged case for the walk to school. I held her gingerly, nodding with gravitas to the crossing guard who knew, I was sure, that I was carrying something spectacular. As I walked, I anticipated unveiling this creature before my classmates and hearing them ooh and aah as I did each time I spied her in the regal perch she’d assumed …

TueNight Honored by the Webby Awards!

Guys — we are jumping out of our chairs. We’re but six months old — ok, that’s like 45 in internet years (which is perfect) — and we’ve just been cited by the Webby Awards as an “Honoree.” See the news here. We couldn’t be more excited. The team — Kat Borosky, Susan Linney, Adrianna Dufay and myself — work so incredibly hard and scrappy every week to deliver something fresh, delightful and honest. This makes every 2 a.m. Tuesday scramble seem worth it, to know that people like what we’re doing. You really like us! Thanks too to our phenomenal contributors whose words light up these pages and who share their shiny faces on that “hard-working left rail” (as we call it). We all know we have a long way to go and we’re excited about that path — and for YOU to join us on our journey. Keep telling us what you like, what’s meh, what you want more of and KEEP READING! We appreciate your support. XO Margit and The TueNight Crew

Why I’m Proud of My Not-So-Tidy Life

Sometimes I forget to return a phone call or pay the cable bill or pick up my prescription…for three days in a row. There are nights when I find myself surprised at 10 PM that I’m still in my gym clothes from my morning workout. (How did that happen?) On certain mornings, there’s no milk in the fridge or TP in the bathroom or gas in the car. The dog smells. Then there are days when life feels completely arranged and in order: no creases, no spills, no surprises. And depending on my frame of mind on those days, that sense of tidiness can be either comforting or stifling. That’s because we all want to feel like we’ve got ourselves together, whatever that means. But we also want to feel spontaneous and not completely predictable, a combination that’s typically untidy. To me, tidy is a term that engenders both admiration and contempt, which is perhaps why I’m having trouble wearing it. When I try it on as a self-descriptor, the word fits me like a …

There’s A Special Place in Hell For Women Who “Hate” Other Women

A friend of mine recently linked to an article and added an emphatic notation of “Yes!” The article was called “Recline, Don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I Hate Sheryl Sandberg)” and I have to be honest with you — I haven’t been this disappointed in some time. As women, we struggle every day to find our paths, to find a route that will lead us to success while still allowing us to still be present in our own lives. That path is often littered with land mines, debris and many other enormous and exhausting obstacles. That’s why taking time out of your day to publicly “hate” a person for doing something — ANYTHING — to help other women who are navigating the murky waters of work/life balance is so audacious, so counterproductive, and frankly, so very petty. Rosa Brooks’ “problem” with Sandberg is that after reading Lean In, she felt she needed to do more in the workplace, so she increased her responsibilities, worked longer hours and ultimately sacrificed her personal life to get ahead in …

11 Things My Husband Taught Me About Sharing

It took me almost two years to say “we” instead of “I” after I got married. It wasn’t that I didn’t think of myself as part of a couple; it was that I’d been single for so long, living blissfully in bachelorette apartments and eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, listening to whatever music I fancied, going out whenever I pleased, and decorating with a personal flair that took no one else’s tastes into consideration. I had no concept of “share.” Worse, I’d been an only child. I’d had no siblings vying for scarce resources. My parents only had to clothe, feed and educate one ankle biter. That is, until I was 13, and my brother came along, much to my horror. I found that the full-on attention and cooing I’d been accustomed to my entire life was now diluted by an interloper. Still, I was about to enter high school, and the arrival of this caboose meant that I would have a certain amount of independence, and diminished scrutiny that most teenagers would …

Before “Bollywood” There Was a Movie Genre That Felt All My Own

When I was growing up, Bollywood didn’t exist. At least, that phrase had not yet been officially coined as the moniker for India’s multi-billion dollar movie industry. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any “Bollywood” movies to watch. Living in Geneva, Switzerland during the 1980s, we watched Hindi movies, as they were known at the time, on a VCR. It wasn’t easy to find the films, of course, and we’d often have to wait for weeks until someone got hold of a latest release. Then, that family would host a weekend viewing at their home where, over sweet, milky tea and hot, savory snacks, a bunch of us would sit together for three hours (the average length of a movie) and lose ourselves in a world far, far away. It was a world that our parents had left behind, but one that we kids longed to belong to; a place that we wanted, more than anything else, to claim as our own. But aside from our once-every-two-years visit to India, we only felt real familiarity …

Why I Can’t Watch Natalie Portman in The Professional Anymore

I swore this would never happen, but I think I’ve turned into a prude. The other night, my husband turned on the TV and the movie The Professional was on. We both jumped up. “Oh, yeah, this is a great movie. Let’s watch this!” About three minutes later, I stood up and said, “I can’t watch this anymore. I hate this. I hate watching Natalie Portman.” He asked me why and I went off on a minor rant, sounding like some sort of next-generation Tipper Gore. “I’m looking at this girl in ways that aren’t about the story line. The camera is lingering on her. There’s something creepy going on here.” He nodded amiably, shrugged and changed the channel. But this little outrage continued firing up, smoldering… I’ve been thinking about why I had such an unusually knee-jerk reaction. I LIKED that movie. When I first saw it in the late 90s — just having graduated with an MFA in Theater — I wanted to be Natalie Portman; I was jealous of her getting such …

Lost in Celluloid: One Critic’s Brief Cinematic Odyssey

When I was eight, my parents took me to a film in the Catskills on the behest of my cousins from New York. We were all together for a camping trip, and my cousin, Big Tony, at the time the chief of police of the Bronx, really wanted to see this particular movie. Naturally, it turned out to be wildly inappropriate for a child of my age. There were shootings, menacing doings around shipyards at night, harsh language, and one scene that put me over the edge involving our hero, bound to a chair, and an evil woman injecting him with drugs. I stuck it out (even then, a film critic’s instinct to stay to the bitter conclusion of a screening), but was miserable and freaked-out and went to bed that night crying and deeply unsettled. For years, I tried to solve the mystery of just what that film had been. I only distinctly remembered two elements: Some scene involving a shipyard and our hero skulking out of the bay of a massive boat under …