All posts filed under: Stories

Grown-Ass Lady Storytelling ™️

Embarking on My Own Year of Yes

I’ll allow Shonda Rhimes to take credit for inventing the year of yes (YOY). This TV titan did make it famous, but let the record show that I invented the concept before Rhimes’ book with the same name became an instant bestseller.  In 2014, I could be found lounging on a tan leather couch in my comfort zone. I had a cool gig as the executive editor of Juicy, a celeb life, hair and beauty magazine, which I co-founded with my soul friend Paula. At Juicy, the riskiest thing I did was subject my skin, hair and nails to all the free goodies beauty brands tossed at us by the boatload. Picture me as an eager test dummy for every BB Cream for mocha skin, matte red lipstick and neon nail lacquer ever invented. I interviewed celebrities, twirled on red carpets and on the rare occasion, appeared on reality TV.  And while all of this was crazy, sexy, cool in that TLC kinda way, I never forgot that one of my purposes in life was …

The Greatest Risk of All? Choosing Me

I’m an avowed risk-taker.  In fact, I had a business card for a while that bragged about this. I tucked the word “instigator” on there, between “editor” and “writer.” In my career I launched four magazines in a row, and lived to tell – though I can’t say the same for the magazines. I wrote a really raw book about my divorce in which I cried constantly and told the truth about my failures. I joined websites solely for the purpose of finding people to have sex, not relationships. I offend people with my confidence and bluntness and brio – but I don’t mean to.  I like to stir pots and poke bees’ nests and ask inappropriate questions and hold people’s gazes too long. So I got this idea in my head that I was fearless. Turns out that was a lie. I’m a total scaredy-cat. This I have learned in the past ten years, ten years of being unemployed, underemployed and just plain overlooked. In my career, I had enjoyed decades of unwavering success, …

TueNight Live: Photos from RISK

All photos by Neil Kramer For some people, standing up and sharing a personal story feels risky — luckily for the record crowd (almost 120 of you!) at our most recent TueNight event, this was not the case, as 5 women stood up and shared stories of risks taken in their own lives. And we got to hear the good, the bad, the embarrassing, and the lovely. Margit welcomed the crowd to the event, held at the women’s career development and collaboration hub, Luminary. Here she is with Robin Gelfenbein, one of the night’s readers, who offered up a super-special second, bonus story at the end of the night (in which weiners featured prominently — we mean hot dogs!). The event’s speakers shared stories of their own personal risks, involving family (of course), career, identity, taking on new challenges, and sexxxxxxy time… gone wrong. Read those stories here, here, and here, or watch the videos of their performances on our Facebook page. There was fun, laughter, snacks, wine, Hint Water (thanks for sponsoring!), new connections …

The Risk Issue

We each have a list of things we’ll risk, and a list of things we — hell no — will not. Like, I’ll risk talking to a stranger on the subway, risk changing jobs or risk standing on stage to share my thoughts and feelings (Haayy TueNight Live!) But I would never risk skydiving — honestly, I feel like I’m taking a risk every time I get into ANY moving vehicle. Bodily risks are not my thing.  I am not too keen on risking strange meats. I might risk taking a hit of that joint, even though the voice of my mother yelling, “IT COULD BE LACED WITH SOMETHING!” still plays on a backchannel in my brain.  At midlife, we hold many more calculations in our head, experiences to pull from, to decide if the risk is worth it. We can better gauge where the line is, and the categories where we’ll tempt fate, and where we’ll hold our cards. I feel a little less risky as I’ve grown older; I’ve found myself looking for safety …

My Daughter Inspired Me to Take My Biggest Risk

One evening, several years ago, I was walking with my friend, Michelle, in Greenwich Village, shivering. It was late spring and I was chilly. But, that’s not why my teeth were rattling and my hands were shaking. I reached for Michelle’s arm to steady myself as we got closer to our destination. My grade school daughter wasn’t the slightest bit afraid of the risk I was about to take. “B”, as I’ll call her, was nine years old when she said to me, with zero apprehension, “Mom. I really like Demi Lovato.” “Hmm,” I said. “Well, that’s good. She’s cool.” But the look on my B’s face led me to a follow up; “Wait. Do you like her or like-her-like-her?” No hesitation, she said, “Like-like.” My B soon proclaimed herself to me as bisexual and since then, has proudly represented in her life as such. Now, I’m 48 years old. That Greenwich Village walk with my friend Michelle was to enter my first lesbian bar. And that was only four years ago. How was it …

I Kept My Mother’s Secrets for Decades — Then Told Them All

On a morning like most, I sit beside Mama at the dining room table, eating my bowl of Sugar Frosted Flakes and watching her work. She’s on the telephone, its receiver in the crook of her neck as she records her customer’s three-digit bets in a spiral notebook, repeating each one. The crystal chandelier blazes above. “Five-four-two for a quarter. Six-nine-three straight for fifty cents. Is this both races, Miss Queenie? Detroit and Pontiac? Okay. Three-eight-eight straight for a quarter. Uh-huh. Four-seven-five straight for fifty cents. One-ten boxed for a dollar.” Mama writes the numbers 110, draws a box around them, hesitates. “You know, I got customers been playing one-ten all week. Yeah, it’s a fancy number. Oh did you? What’d you dream? He was a hunchback? Is that what The Red Devil dream book say it play for? Now that I didn’t know. I know theater plays for one ten. Well, I can take it for a dollar, but since it’s a fancy, I can’t take it for more than that. You understand. What …

Her Voice Will Always Be Here: Remembering My Friend Nancy

I scrolled through old text messages to find bits of audio. Here was my friend Nancy Falkow McBride speaking to me direct from Ireland, from her hospital bed. That low, slightly raspy, South Jersey accent — not at all what she sounded like when she sang. Which is how I first met her, her voice. I listened. She was right here. Still. Nancy preferred to talk her text messages, which, to me, was all the better: I could get a living, breathing sample of my friend so many thousands of miles away.  Sometimes I’d listen to her messages in the moment and we’d message back and forth. Sometimes she’d send them at 8am her time — 3am EST — and I’d listen to them later, when my day began.  Once, she left me a blessing of sorts. “My wish for you,” she paused, with a hint of a giggle in her voice, “is that your book comes out, and that it gets made into a movie. And then you’ll put your pal Nancy Falkow on …

I Sent My Anxieties Downriver — On a Grapefruit

A scene from the sacred Loy Krathong ceremony in Thailand A hand reached out of the darkness to give me the pomelo. The hand belonged to my 12-year-old son; the pomelo, a Southeast Asian grapefruit, was mine. On this night, alongside an urban creek with the sounds of rush-hour traffic rumbling in the distance, that pomelo was about to become something magical. I tried to act casual — as casual as is possible for a 51-year-old woman standing in the dusk holding an outsized fruit stuffed with four carnations, a small candle and a scrap of paper. I don’t know whether it’s legal in America to float a flaming piece of citrus fruit down a creek. But I wasn’t going to ask. I had one shot at this, and it mattered. I couldn’t wait a whole year for this opportunity to come again.  A man peered at us through the moonlight from a public bench, watching as we approached the rocky edge of Pine Creek. I pulled a book of matches from my pocket and …

I Said Goodbye to Bad Romance

By Heather M. Graham I walked into my last relationship certain that I just wasn’t good at being with another person. Every relationship I’d had since I had 17 concluded with an unhappy ending. One boyfriend declared that he couldn’t see himself married to me (after having moved in with me), and another was spooning me when he told me he’d gotten another girl pregnant — and her name was Heather, too. But this new thing seemed to have a chance. He was an old friend who’d already seen the unpretty sides of me and he was still in. He reassured me that I’d be OK, and that made me feel safe enough to try. And I was OK. This relationship proved to be different than the ones that came before. There wasn’t a dark and desperate side to it that drove my belief that I was inescapably broken and fundamentally unlovable. It was the exact opposite. It’d only taken me 25 years to get there. * * * * My first love was beautiful, …

9 Books for a Better World

Let’s face it: The ’10s have been quite the shitshow of a decade. Given the sad state of our democracy, extrajudicial police killings, and the reinvigoration of fascism and white supremacy, never before have I wished so hard for peace on Earth and goodwill toward humanity. So, as a firm believer in the transformative power of a good book, I invite you to roar your way through the ’20s, starting with these deep, daring, delicious reads.  1. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman Did you know that at the beginning of the twentieth century, young Black women in New York and Philly sparked a radical cultural movement defined by free love, queer relations, and alternative forms of cohabitation, intimacy, and kinship bonds? Neither did I, until I read this aching, gorgeous, brilliant book. Hartman spins painstaking research into gold that reads like fiction. It is at once scholarly and literary, imaginative and the hardest truths. $28.95, wwnorton.com 2. Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani PerryAt a time when Black children’s lives are …

Useful and chic? Yes! 7 Great Gifts to Give

To my mind, the point of gifting is to give another person something that becomes indispensable to them, or very nearly so. To that end, I like finding attractive, well-designed versions of useful, everyday things, because that way the items in question will actually be loved and used, instead of re-gifted or put away in a drawer somewhere—which is always the fear.  1. Emile Henry Salt Pig First of all, you just have to love something called a salt pig, and I like how it looks kind of retro and space-age. It’s also a super-handy and easily accessible way to store salt, and when you’re done cooking, it looks great on your dining room table. Also, it comes in a ton of good colors, but I’m partial to this poppy red, which is what I have in my kitchen. $40, Bed, Bath & Beyond 2. Brass clips Your gift-ee can use these cool brass clips as she would an ordinary paperclip, or as a bookmark. I think the shapes are really cheery and fun. $18, …

The 5th Grade Mehndi Mishap

In the early 1990s, most people didn’t know what henna was, let alone the variation of the word “mehndi.” You see, Gwen Stefani had not happened at that time, and mainstream audiences hadn’t quite accepted that South Asia was “the land of colors and magic” just yet. During that time, my family lived in a town called Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. I say that as if the town does not exist anymore, but it does, and we still have extended family who love living there.  The Mechanicsburg of the early ‘90s was different than it is now. There weren’t many minorities. In fact, in my entire elementary school there was one African American kid. He was the adopted son of our wonderful and white Principal, Ms. Ingram. The other minorities in school consisted of: me, my younger sister, and an Asian girl named Chloe whom I tried, and failed, to befriend. She was cooler than me back then because the early ‘90s was also not the age of the smart-girl dominance. Despite the lack of diversity, Mechancisburg …

American Accent: Passing — and not Passing — as a Latina

(Carla and her parents. Photo courtesy of the author.) One of my favorite childhood memories is of me sitting with my mother on her bed, recording ourselves reading articles to one another. She would look at me and slowly say, acutely aware of her Argentine accent, “I am prac-tis-sing my ello-cue-shon en Eng-lish,” and I would fall into a peal of giggles. I didn’t know my mother thought she needed to change her accent until that moment. I don’t know that I was even aware she had an accent until I was around that age. To me, my mother’s accent was just my mother’s voice.  My family moved to New York City from Buenos Aires on the winter solstice of 1975. It was one of the two coldest winters of the century; my father and mother were 26 and 25. I was 16 months old and my twin brothers just 4 months.  I imagine my parents shivering in their light wool coats and thin leather gloves meant for a mild Argentininean winter as we were …

Maid in the U.S.A.: The Invisible Helpers

My mother was raised in a wealthy household in Guyana. Somewhere in my files, there is a clipping from the Guyana Chronicle, a photo of a pretty girl in a hoop skirt, performing on the piano for Princess Margaret. Her father, Mayor of Georgetown, watches proudly. That girl is my mother. She went on to earn her degrees in music performance at a London conservatory, where she met a handsome British army officer from Barbados. My parents moved around Europe and then to a newly independent Barbados where the marriage swiftly disintegrated. One day she snatched up her children and brought them to Boston, forbidding us any contact with our dear father. In Boston, my mother, who performed on television in Barbados, disappeared into the crowd of invisible Black immigrants. When she met a Jamaican lady who cleaned houses for rich people, she became part of an underground network, scrubbing floors and doing laundry for a pittance.  One Saturday, I accompanied her when she worked in a large house on a leafy street in Brookline. …

Image Source: Creative Commons

While Writing a Book About Self Worth, I Had to Learn How to Practice It

Earlier this summer, after learning a writing teacher I wanted to study with in Cape Cod wasn’t available, I asked my literary coach and yoga instructor, Lisa Weinert, to help me put together a personalized writing retreat that I could enjoy at home in New York City. Instead of escaping to spend time writing in some remote bucolic place, I’d find peace in the chaos of Manhattan. I spend a lot of time focusing on fleeing where I live in order to get in touch with — or to reclaim — another part of myself. And although I love a good island or mountain vacation, all too many times I’ve come home and the sense of peace I enjoyed evaporates as I try to shove my suitcases onto the closing doors of the subway after a long flight home.  It was ironic. I spent so much time dreaming about visiting other places, but here I was, planning more time in the thick August heat of New York City while everyone else was dreaming of the …

Following the Black Line: How I Found Peace in the Pool

I was a competitive swimmer in my early teens. My coach, Paul, always had me swim backstroke even though I wanted to swim breaststroke. I was faster in breaststroke. It didn’t make the water slosh over my face, gagging me, and causing me to vomit after every race. But, I raced backstroke in every meet because coach asked me. Regardless, I was a swimmer and I loved the water. I didn’t love throwing up at swim practice or after a meet, but I did love how I felt underwater.  The water was fresh and cool and so crisp and clear. I was strong in the water, in control. At the same time, I was nearly invisible with a cap and goggles, nearly unrecognizable as I swam under the radar. Stealthy. In charge of me. It was when I felt the most confident, the most myself. I don’t remember exactly why I stopped. But I stopped when I was 15 years old. Athlete or not, I probably succumbed to adolescent worries of body image and getting …

A Porch of One’s Own: The Perils and Pleasures of Building My Happy Place

For 20 years I dreamed of a place where I could just “be” at my house: feel the breeze, watch the trees, hear the birds, avoid the bugs. In my mind, this place would be shady (I’m allergic to the sun) and serene. I just wanted a quiet spot where I might read a good book, with a simple table where I might eat a tuna sandwich.  But each time I brought up the subject of constructing such an oasis with my husband, there was a more pressing project that bumped it down the line.  Sometimes, the house needed painting, or the barn burned down, or the pond had to be dredged. Granted, these were all valid and important, but they certainly weren’t transformative for me.  Then, a year or so ago, we had some room in my construction schedule. It was my turn, and we decided to build a screened-in porch. I’d already stopped working full time, and had generally deferred to my husband’s vision as far as expenditures went. But, going into the …

ESPN the Magazine Shutters

Block & Tackle: My Role in Redefining Sports Journalism

At a fancy Manhattan restaurant, over a very mid-90’s seared tuna salad, I make an impassioned pitch to be the creative director of a sports magazine. I tell the editor-in-chief, Gary Hoenig, that his startup needs a new visual presence and that I am the man for the job.  Gary has an overwhelming aura — a true New Yorker and a bear of a man. I’ve been drawn to his warmth, intelligence, and egalitarian approach since we started discussing my potential role at a new publication called ESPN The Magazine. The idea of working with an editor who wants to bring a little wit and self-deprecation to the world of sports is appealing. And it somehow feels like I’ve known him my whole life. Gary asks for another baguette (this was pre-Atkins), and I am suddenly desperate for him to take me to a Knicks game and buy me a hot dog.  But wait. Sports? I’ve spent five years designing Metropolis, an architecture and design publication whose latest cover featured a modern $95 toilet brush. Designing …

Heather Barmore at Pride Festival

I’m Proud That I Never Had to “Come Out” to My Parents

There is a photo of my friend Hannah taken during the Pride parade in Philadelphia. Her arms are raised to the heavens, the sunlight landing perfectly on her face. Her eyes are closed but she is joyous in a white tee emblazoned with the rainbow colors of Pride. She exudes the freedom of expression that all Gay Pride events represent: gathering, inclusivity, community, and ever present hugging, as we each send well-wishes of ‘HAPPY PRIDE!’. Our community and our allies are exuberant, happy to dress up, to be free. It’s the freedom of loving and being loved.   I posted the rest of my Pride photos to social media for thousands to see, glad that I could revel in a day of such happiness and solidarity. Apparently, there is a thin line of pride between affirming your identity and announcing to your moderately conservative family that you have the right to be happy loving who you want to love. But still, why ruin the illusion? Compartmentalize. Compartmentalize. Compartmentalize.  *** When I was 16 years old, I …

Comfy shoes for summer

9 Summer Shoes That Will Keep Your Feet in a State of Happy

Happy feet, it has been said, are the secret to a happy life. Or maybe I just said that. Anyway, as someone with a myriad of foot ailments, I am ALWAYS in search of the next, better, comfy — and not cringingly ugly — shoe.  The kind that keep your heels on a bed of squishy softness, the kind that don’t crunch your toes into a triangular point, the kind that air our tootsies and display our fabulous orange pedi, the kind you can walk in for more than 10 minutes, the kind with enough of a toe box to fit hammertoes and bunions. (Did we say we’re a site for women over 40? We know from toe box) Two of TueNight’s most popular posts are this 2015 one on comfy summer shoes and, go figure, this 2017 one on comfy summer shoes, so clearly we should be a comfy shoes site. Instead, here is our basic update for Summer 2019. This time we asked TueNighters, friends and a few fashionistas about their fave hot weather soles. They …

How to Date Your Crazy

I should have known we wouldn’t work out when I messaged him one of my favorite quotes from Alain de Botton. It’s from the On Being podcast “The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships.” In it de Botton says the question we should really be asking on first dates is: “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this?” “I don’t get it,” he replied via WhatsApp. “How do you ask about crazy?” Of course he didn’t listen to the podcast to find out. I let it pass. He was sweet. He was cute. He was smart. He had his career together. I took this to mean he had his emotional life together too — all of it nicely bundled in a cultivated gift wrap and tied up with the sexy bow of an Australian accent.  We matched on Tinder two days before he moved from New York to Colorado, and when we couldn’t work out a meeting before he left, I figured he’d disappear. But he didn’t. A month after we connected, he flew …

I Wish I Could Forget My Memory Lapses

My friends and I have started to lose our memories. Not in a drastic, “Where do I live again?” type of way. Or even in a milder, “Ohhh, my bra goes on the inside of my shirt” type of way. We’ve just started to have a few memory  — lapses. Like when I was telling my friend Jane a story about an old job of mine, and it was making her laugh until I said, “So I asked my boss John… shit, what was his last name again?” and then we had to suffer through a two-minute lull while I looked up at the ceiling and she looked down at her fingernails before I finally huffed, “GAWD, never mind.” Jane didn’t care about this interruption, but I did because trying to remember that guy’s name totally wrecked the flow of my anecdote. And it’d been a good anecdote up until that point. Maybe one of my best. But what I’ve come to realize is that these pauses that happen when women of a certain age try to recall …

In Defense of Over-Holidaying

My husband grew up Jewish, and when we started dating, it fell to me to introduce him to Christmas as full-fledged participant, rather than exasperated outside witness. He couldn’t have chosen a better person to adopt Christmas with. With my cookie-making, casserole-baking, community-volunteering tendencies, I’ve been in bootcamp for Christmas mentorship my whole life. But even I was unprepared for how much more fun—how defiantly extra—Christmas could be with someone who’d never had it. On a frosty morning in December, my brand-new Christmas Jew and I were the first customers at the neighborhood tree stand. We struggled back to our studio apartment with a tree no less than five feet in diameter, coated it in lights and tinsel, and spent the day sitting on the couch, staring at it. We were just getting started. Reader, we roasted a Christmas goose. Have you ever tried roasting a goose? Don’t. We ate roasted chestnuts, also disgusting. We went to the Messiah, and my Jewish boyfriend stood up and bellowed “Haaaale-lujah!” with the best of them. We adopted Operation Santa kids, ice skated …

Do You Know Who I Am!? Perils of a First-Time Fashion Week Assistant

Photo: Stocksy I was a 20-year old recent math graduate with enviable job offers and a potentially lucrative career in banking already on my horizon. But… something was missing. For one, I never actually wanted to work in finance. I wanted to be creative but no one would ever let me. Ever since my school teachers discovered at the tender age of eleven that I had a talent for math and sciences, I’d been nudged, cajoled and downright shoved (the shoving part by my parents) in that unwanted direction. Now I felt backed into a corner. Most people rebel in their teens but I’d been raised by strict Ghanaian parents in London. As an immigrant, I was well aware of the sacrifices they’d made to give me a good education and I didn’t dare start pushing back against authority until I was prepared to leave home.. Then one day, I was walking down the street, deep in thought when I caught a glimpse of the really swanky west London office building that always had the …

And Still I Rise: Answering the Midnight Muse

3:27 a.m. That’s what time she woke me up this morning. Two days ago, she woke me up at 3:49 a.m. Today? Tomorrow? Who knows. I’m talking about the writing muse — that seductive voice that whispers in my ear when an idea strikes me, and I’m compelled to jot it down, explore it. My Muse comes in many forms: a memory, a feeling, a longing, a joke  As a non-fiction writer working on a memoir, I welcome my muse. I need her.  I love her. Just not at 3 a.m. in the morning. At first I would fight her. Wait it out. Lie in bed, unable to go back to sleep but refusing to move. Or I’d turn on the television; its bluish glare illuminating my darkened bedroom. Now I know better. Now I give in. Now I know that nothing will satisfy the early morning mystery except my writing. So I’m prepared. Before I go to bed I make sure I know where my laptop is. Or my legal pad and pen. Or my journal. …

I’m Canadian, And I Think It Might Be Time To Go Home

When you travel by rail between New York and Ontario, there’s a bridge over the Niagara River where the train, briefly, lies in mid-air between Canada and the U.S, the mist from Niagara Falls drifting toward the train windows, tantalizingly out of sight. On one side of the river, the Stars and Stripes flutters in the wind, on the other, Canada’s red maple leaf. It’s an odd feeling, every time, to hang suspended between my two nations, my two identities. They’re so close, but – especially now – so very far apart politically. Now that Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office, I wonder, daily, why, with a perfectly good, safe country to return to, I haven’t moved back home. A place where the nation’s best universities cost less than $10,000 a year, sometimes much less. Where single-payer government-run healthcare keeps millions of people healthy, whatever their age or employment status. Unlike many immigrants – who arrive fleeing weak economies, religious persecution, political strife, even war – I chose to leave Canada for the United …

We Asked 15 Women of All Ages: What Does Turning “50” Mean?

Fifty is an age and a cultural milestone, marking half a century lived and decades yet to unfold. Here, 15 women who have reached the half-century mark — and those who have years to go — share their thoughts about what this middle age marker means to them. Elisa Camahort Page, 52 Chief Community Officer, She Knows Media @ElisaC “50 means less than I would have thought. It certainly explains the grey streak and the sudden utter understanding about why Nora Ephron complained about her neck. It probably explains fewer fucks to give and more willingness to forgive. But when I’m driving in my car with the radio blasting or giggling about some stupid double entendre that a 12-year-old boy would find amusing or digging in to my eleventy-billionth fruitless internet argument, I’m not sure 50 means much at all. We always learn, and we never learn. I think that’s what being human means.” Meredith Walker, 47 Founder, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, AmySmartGirls.com @meredeetch “I do not think much about eventually turning 50. I am PRO-Aging. I …