#Reverb15 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2015.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Daily Life | Show us a day or a week of your life! Include pictures!

Friday, April 17: Strand came over for dinner.

Our lives have chanced so much over the years! I have known Strand since she was freshman in college and I had just moved to New York. I had shown up on Staten Island to be a sorority advisor, and was wholly unprepared for what Staten Island was.

I had landed at the ferry terminal in my herringbone trousers, and my preppy cashmere half-zip with a popped collar underneath, topped with the red coat I wore back in those days. And I walked into a too-hot room full of girls in shorts with their rear ends hanging out of them with PINK written on the butt, and their big hair piled up on top of their heads, tied with giant bows, and with names like Toni Ann, and last names that were so unpronounceably Italian, this WASP had no idea where to even begin.

I was a long way from Westwood. My own sorority house had been a quaint turn-of-the-last century Spanish hacienda nestled into a hillside between Bel Air and Beverly Hills. Staten Island was a long way from Hilgard Avenue. And at the time, I was fresh out of Georgetown, but Grymes Hill wasn’t really…the Hilltop.

This isn’t a knock to Staten Island – I was the one who was out of place; I was the interloper. And Strand had moved to the NYC area just a few years before and so we became friends – even though we were in a very different dynamic of power: Advisor and Advisee.

I will not lie: Those years as a sorority advisor were not easy. It was a fun an adventure as you can imagine, but it was also as challenging as could be. I made lifelong friends with my advisor sisters, and with other officers as I moved up the ranks and started working with more sorority chapters, but being in the service of college women is a lifestyle not for the faint of heart!

And so eventually, I had to move on. My life changed, and I took a job where I had to travel a lot, and I got divorced, and it was just…time. And the girls who were freshmen when I had started were long graduated.

Strand and I had always had a special bond – she was kind to me when I needed it the most. I am so grateful for her friendship, and her compassion, her heart, her thoughtfulness. I’ve climbed Mount Whitney with her; I’ve run a marathon with her and watched her cross her first 26.2 finish. I’ve also scolded her for having alcohol in her room and smoking on the floor.

I love sharing this season of our lives where we’re both going to be brides; and we live on the same block; and our dogs love to give each other a hard time.

I’ve loved growing up with this girl.

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#Reverb15 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2015.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Daily Life | Show us a day or a week of your life! Include pictures!

Tuesday, April 14: While I am normally not one to go out two school nights in a row, my friend Jean was launching her book Icebox Cakes at Baked in Tribeca, and there were promises of booze and cake. I will admit that the cake and wine helped motivate me to go below 59th Street on a school night.

(At some point in the last six years, I became One of Those People who snorts and sniffs when I have to leave the Upper East Side, acting like I have been banished to Outer Mongolia rather than having been invited to a party south of Canal.)

I arrived maybe 15 minutes into the event to a packed house. Jean and her ginger mane looked amazing (I’m told her hair smelled amazing too, but I decided to stick with convention and not ask to sniff the hostess’s hair), and all of the treats were delicious. It was also a fun crowd – which I discovered when I randomly started talking to strangers, since I had come alone.

I stopped by the table set up at the front of the shop to talk to Jean; made her sign my book. I had also really (reallllly) wanted to get a picture with her mom, who is pretty much a celebrity (a fact you know if you follow Jean on social media), but I didn’t want to be That Girl who turned up at the party to guzzle the Prosecco, eat the cakes, and start getting weird with people not personally known to her.

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To be honest, the place was so packed, I’m not really sure anyone would’ve noticed me being That Girl, but I decided against it nonetheless. I just flashed Jean’s mom a couple of creepy, winning smiles like I was about to ask her about her personal relationship with Jesus, and headed back uptown.

Sometimes, I miss being A Writer. Sometimes I miss the culture and community and all the people I used to know. Sometimes, I wonder if — when I decided to be In The Trenches with the work I do now — I had known what I would be giving up, I would have made a different choice.

But this is what I’m doing now. And that is Okay.

And hey, I’ve got friends who have parties with wine and free cake!


#Reverb15 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2015.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Daily Life | Show us a day or a week of your life! Include pictures!

Monday, April 13: A month or so ago, I bumped into my ex-boyfriend in Paris. This might be remarkable for some of you – for me, this was wonderful, but unremarkable, because I have finally accepted that I am simply the sort of woman who bumps into people in unexpected places. I am therefore not the kind of woman who could ever expect to work as a spy or carry on an extramarital affair.

Matt and I were high school sweethearts, and I’ve written about him, and us, before. We were weird kids, and artists, and good at supporting each other’s creative endeavours – especially for being teenagers.  He grew up to be an actor and singer and composer – exactly as he had intended.  And I grew up to be a lawyer and a financial services executive – maybe not as planned, but still not a bad gig.

He and his partner were in Paris for a meeting, and to support one of their Ugandan students who had won a modeling competition. I was in Paris for a half-marathon and attend a conference at the invitation of a group I do a lot of work with.

How different our lives were! From each other; from the past; from whence we came.

We grew up in a former onion-and-spinach farming town just outside Los Angeles, on the edge of the Mojave Desert – a planned community that has grown exponentially since we both left.

Matt and I grew up in a place that valued sameness. That’s not a knock on the place or the people who live(d) there. It’s simply to observe that the very essence of a planned community is to cultivate similarity. People buy houses in those types of places precisely because they want to live where stuff matches, and they like the predictability of shopping centers and big box stores. That’s not a bad thing, and I can’t really judge that instinct, except to say that I’m not sure I’d pay any sort of premium for the privilege of adhering to draconian CC&Rs dictating the three shades of taupe my eaves can be painted – OR ELSE.

But when you grow up in a place that’s not just treating you like you’re a teenager, but also like you’re weird, sometimes you move on to adult life questioning: Am I weird? Are these feelings normal? Is it okay to feel X or Y? And you lose touch with how to cope with Big Feelings or Confusing Stuff because you feel a constant pressure to stuff down every out-of-the-mainstream instinct and feeling.

Or maybe you never learn it in the first place.

That’s the back story.

But all of this back story aside, I bumped into Matt and his partner Griffin in Paris because they’d posted a picture of themselves at Charles de Gaulle Airport on Facebook, and we wound up having the chance to spend the better part of a day together.

At some point during that afternoon, Matt and Griff suggested I should help them raise money for a concert they were helping to host for the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s 15th Anniversary Celebration in April.

It’s a WASP’s wet dream! Matt said.

Well, in that case… I laughed.

So after an afternoon of walking around Paris and eating Speculoos ice cream and talking, I agreed to be on the benefit’s host committee, and a week later, Matt sent me the details.

On a Monday in April, I headed up to the Apollo Theatre to meet a few friends at the benefit, and to see Matt and Griffin perform songs from their show Witness Uganda. The show itself will open off-Broadway later this year.

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It’s wonderful, and weird, and wild, and strange to have shared that relationship with Matt, and to watch this chapter unfold for all of us. And I’d be lying if I said it’s not sometimes hard – figuring out what role to play, and how much to say, and how to feel in This Part Now.

Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb where every house looks the same might prepare you for how to pick the ideal shade of greige to paint your garage door, or how to pick the perfect shrubbery for your front garden, or even how to be on a benefit committee, but it certainly does not prepare you for Paris, or Broadway.

Years ago, my former spouse and I went to a marriage counsellor. The counsellor’s name was Andre. Andre was our second of three marriage counsellors, and we’d had to switch from the first one because she was that lovely kind of barmy where she refused to bill our insurance, and refused to talk about anything other than her dead son. Which, while interesting, wasn’t very helpful to our foundering marriage.

So somehow, after extensive internet searching, I’d come upon Andre, and we went to meet him at the appointed time. But when we arrived at his “office,” we discovered that it wasn’t really an office at all — more like his “apartment.” Indeed, there was no waiting room; no guest area. We had to wait out in the hallway of the West Village apartment building before the previous patient exited his flat. And when we went in, we discovered his home was stuffed to bursting with junk, and sofas, and I think even a piano. And cats. Several cats. Though I can’t recall now whether my ex was allergic or not.

The cats were the big, surly kind of cats that you find in big cities — where they’ve been kept indoors too long by fretful owners and so they develop insistent, mewling voices. And as we got down to the messy business of marriage therapy, the beasts roamed the apartment like they were wandering the Savannah, tracking catbox crumbs and furballs behind them.

What I am saying is that these were not the retiring, soothing kind of animals one might expect a therapist to keep. These cats were a menace.

So Andre started talking, waving his arms, at which point I realized his shirt was see-through. And he was telling us about some other clients he’d had who had come in to resolve past relationship trauma. THE PROBLEM IS, YOU HAVE TRAUMA, Andre told us. At some stage in his other clients’ relationship, they’d gotten pregnant and decided not to keep the baby. But they’d gotten married; had other children; couldn’t figure out why their relationship was so mired in conflict.

YOU KNOW WHY THEY HAD SO MUCH CONFLICT, he bellowed, IT’S BECAUSE THEY KILLED THEIR BABY.

My ex and I sat in cowed silence. As if on cue, one of the cats began to hork and gag. Another cat, nonplussed, climbed up on the sofa behind my ex’s head and settled in for the show. And the barfy cat bolted across the room to the kitchen, where he hopped on the counter and unleashed his demon within. Out came a long snake of hair and Meow Mix, unfurling from his throat like a serpent’s tongue.

Without missing a beat, Andre continued on his rant and leapt up to clean the cat vomit. As he turned to wipe up the mess, I could see the tiny beads of his man-nipples twinkling through his shirt at me.

THAT’S WHY YOU NEED TO LEARN TO COMMUNICATE, he shouted over the din of the cat’s retching.

Andre began to talk about Imago Therapy and how it was the foundation of couples’ therapy, but…he’d lost me. He spent the rest of the session chasing the cat around, scooping up puddles of barf.  And all I could hear ringing in my ears for hours afterward was the sound of a cat retching and the word: Imago.

That was our only session with him. Our marriage was over less than a year later.

There’s a lot they don’t prepare you for in marriage counselling, even if your experience is not a vomit-laden horrorshow. They don’t prepare you for the 22 year-olds at the sailing club who your husband will turn up with at home on a rainy night when the parties get cancelled. Or the times he’d show up at home without his wedding band. Or any of that…other stuff.

Those therapists — they don’t tell you to stop feeling like you deserved to be treated like that, long after the marriage failed and your former spouse whispered to everyone that the failure was your fault. Because you were thin and blonde and kind of a jock, and he was kind of a geek, and so whatever happened must’ve been your fault because the optics were a bit conventionally lopsided.

But the weirdest thing about that era had to be Andre. I hadn’t anticipated that I would ever hear about Andre again after I left his office that day. But years later, when I was on my own, I came to learn that one of the girls who slept with Cheating Bill had been a long-time client of Andre’s. It was mentioned to me in passing, like it was nothing; like the specter of the man in the see-through shirt in the funhouse full of cat barf who’d been the canary in the coal mine of my ending first marriage wouldn’t rattle me.

You should read “Getting the Love That You Want,” someone said to me, after the era of Cheating Bill, It’s by Harville Hendrix. It’s about Imago Therapy.

No thanks, I said, Just…no thanks.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Ah-Ha Moment| Ah ha moment: Did you have an “ah ha” moment this year?  Was it a big one?  Or just a small enlightenment?

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There was one Friday evening in July when my friend JRA and her husband and I sat by the Hudson, and ate lobster rolls, and watched the sun set over the Palisades.

It was the Friday before my ex-husband got remarried, but I didn’t know it when we’d made our plans to meet.  It was also the Friday before my hip surgery.  So a lot was on the line that weekend.

But in those small moments, on a docked barge, eating seafood and drinking wine, and gossiping and talking about nonsense, my life felt like mine again.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Work| What sort of work did you do in 2014?  Was it new to you?  Did you take on new responsibilities?  Change jobs?  Or take on a new task at home?

You may or may not be wondering what happened to Frederic in the midst of all of this Major Life Change.

Years ago, when we still worked in the MetLife building, as the world was ending around us, there was one day when Frederic looked at me very sadly and said, Promise me we’ll always be friends. And I was so taken aback by it that I’d made the promise, even though in my heart I was saying, Yeah, right, buddy. If our respective marriages fail and we don’t wind up together, I’d probably rather see you rot in hell rather than be your FRIEND.
And in truth, for a long time, I very much wanted him to rot.
We’d had this Big Love. And nobody gives you instructions for what you do with a Big Love that doesn’t end with rice in your hair, and a baby in a carriage, and one of those wood-paneled station wagons like everyone’s Cool Mom in the ’80s (am I dating myself here?).
So Freddy got married to an ex-colleague of ours and moved to the ‘burbs, and I stayed on the Upper East Side, and we each had to grow up in our respective ways once Everything Changed.
It took me a long time not to be mad about that.  Because sometimes, it felt like everyone else was moving forward and I was Staying The Same.
It took us a long time to be…Friends.
This was partly because he had called me out of the blue one Friday about three years ago to tell me he was marrying someone we both knew, and the following day, I got hit by a car. Within 72 hours, I had found out my then-boyfriend was sleeping with another friend’s sister, and my entire life unraveled into a shame-spiral of public humiliation, and I’d had to slink back to California where I sat slack-jawed at SFO, my arm in a sling, too bewildered to explain what was happening even to another friend who’d seen me at my worst.
So I blamed Everything Bad on Frederic. Because he was easy to blame, and because he wasn’t there. He didn’t have anything to do with anything. Technically, he didn’t even  DO anything to me, except go on with his life, which he had already been doing for the better part of a year at that stage.
Then, one day, after months of not-speaking, I was in London, and the night before, I’d just been caught in the riots in Notting Hill, and I was overcome with the urge to email Frederic.
That evening we exchanged a few messages like nothing had happened, and then he said, “BTW, I guess we’re speaking again.”
And so we were.
And so we have been.
Some people in my life have said, “You never should’ve scratched that old scab.”
But the reality is, you don’t stop loving someone just because it didn’t work out between you. As I’ve gotten to know Freddy as his friend, I’ve realised, too, that it was never going to work out for us.  We had something special, but the sharp edges of our personalities are such that it would always be barbs and jabs. For one, he is fastidiously neat, and I leave wet towels on the bed. He wears cargo pants at the weekend, and in my view, that’s a sartorial death wish (I have young kids! he whined when I called him out on it, I’m not going to carry a diaper bag).
(Buy a nice messenger bag and burn the cargo pants, I told him. Or just take a cyanide pill right now, I said under my breath.)
And so this year, when the opportunity for us to work together professionally arose, I seized it.  We got to be…normal friends; normal colleagues.  We got to sit in meetings; tell old jokes; talk on the phone; and, be the grown-up version of ourselves that we had become.
I have learned over the years is that Big Loves are very, very big. And if they are real, your heart doesn’t shrink when they change shape or size — you just have to choose to work at them, and with them, in whatever form they shift into.  And it’s good to be friends with Frederic now. It’s a choice — it’s a natural choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not work.
I like who and what our relationship has grown into. Is it a little crazy — this friendship; this relationship; this work that we do? Sure. But sometimes things worth having are the result of a solid history, and a little bit of crazy, and a lot of hard work.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

1000 Words| There’s the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words.  Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2014, or give us 1,000 words about a pivotal moment in 2014.

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(Via Filmclub)

Last week, I was in London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and back to London.  This hideous tour of the British Isles and the Continent required multiple 3.00am wake-up calls; many short-hop flights; innumerable waits at passport control; and more back-and-forth through Paddington Station than I care to even think about. It was not an unpleasant trip, but it did leave me with the desire to punch every single person who whines at me about how glamourous my life of international travel and fancy hotels is.

Because it is not. It is, however, different than your life. Maybe.

On the flight back to New York, I noticed that British Airways was offering Beaches as a film selection. And I had jetlag induced amnesia and somehow forgot for a moment that I was a lawyer, and my best friend was an actress, and we had met when we were 11 years old.

Beaches is kind-of a special film, as cheesy as it is, because there aren’t a lot of films out there that elevate female friendships to the level of the sacred. The late ’80s were the era for that: Beaches; Steel Magnolias; etc.  I guess nowadays, Bridesmaids is what passes for that kind of film, and while it’s not a bad movie, I don’t think it has the same…je ne sais quois.

Seeing each other through marriages and divorces and major/chronic illnesses, and life and birth and death on the silver screen is…One Thing.

Shitting in the middle of the street is a totally different…Thing, I think.

Anyway.

I have lots of very close, excellent girlfriends. But my best friend is like my sister. We have Always Been Together. We have Stuck it Out.

For instance, back in 2009, when things were very, very dark, I called her up and I told her to drive to Carmel Valley, California, where I was working with a client. And I gave her a list of things to bring, which included peanut butter, and bread, and gallon jugs of water. She sort-of comprehended that I was going to force her to climb Half Dome with me, but I’m not sure she completely understood what that meant.

So we drove from the coast through the evening and into the wee hours to Yosemite Valley; through a fire; through me getting a speeding ticket and screaming my frustration out at the Park Ranger who pulled me over. We were all nerves, and latent anger, and frustration, and smouldering embers back then.

And at the break of dawn that September morning five years ago, we climbed Half Dome.

We made it to the summit, but it took her years to forgive me.

It was so wonderful, then, when Paul proposed in Yosemite, with Half Dome in the background, because it wasn’t just important to me, and to my family, but it honoured all of the parts of my heart, and the people who had gotten me up the mountain.

Which all led me to being incredibly jetlagged, on a NY-bound plane on Sunday night, after a series of European short-hops, where I was doing the incredibly stupid thing of watching Beaches.

I guess the truth is that it wasn’t a pivotal moment, per se. But have you ever had one of those flashing moments when you remember: This is who I am? My life has been so topsy-turvy this year. So unsettling and so unsettled. And watching that sob-fest of a film reminded me that This is home. I have a best friend with curly blonde hair, who smells like sea and salt and sunscreen, and who sings songs with a low and brave voice, and who knows me by the name I call myself, and who, on more than one occasion, has saved my life.

Sometimes the big moments are hiding in the very small ones. Sometimes they are obvious, and sometimes, they are hiding in 25 year old motion pictures.