Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Etiquette Question

Someone you love opens the door looking different. Is it the hair? The makeup? The get-up?
Minutes tick by and you are stuck. What is it?
You say, you look good, what's different?
Oh, Nothing. I've gained weight. I've lost weight. I cut my hair. I painted my eyebrowd differently. It's a different color. No. No. No. But it helps you define what is different. Something around the eyes. Yes.
Denial. Complete denial.
But then you get it. She's been cut and stitched and re-shaped. She is looking constantly surprised, and very very interested in what you are saying. All the time. Now you know, but she denies. What do you say? What do you say?

My Brilliant Brother

My brother is probably the most brilliant person I know--besides my husband. He is truly gifted. My mother expected great things of him--for him to solve broken economic models and invent perpetual motion machines. I am sure it was a lot of pressure. But in the end, he is just one cool dude.
He has traveled the world, and renounced America as his home. His soul is happier in other places. For now he is in Singapore, with his wife and his two beautiful daughters. My neices!
He works for an Australian bank and makes mega-million dollar finance deals with foreign governments for infrastructure projects. It is impressive and I am not sure I understand more than the sketchiest details. But he has worked long, and very very hard to get where he is now. He has given his company most of his life force.
On Thanksgiving day his company had a round of lay-offs. Although, unlike American banks, his company is not losing money, but rather making less of a profit, they laid off employees across the company, including 25% of his office. He lost two members of his team in the morning, and worked on, feeling slightly ill from some sickness he was fighting off. At 4:30 he was called in and given THE letter. He was out.
He had done the biggest deal of his career a month before. He was due for a huge bonus and a promotion. And I know he worked harder than most people there.
I feel rage. They cannot lay off my brilliant brother.
Now he has two weeks to evacuate the country, and fight for a piece of the bonus that he is owed (did they fire him just to get his bonus? I try not to think that) He is being strong, incredibly strong, as is his wife. He says he is relieved.
But what kind of a world do we live in where talents like his are not appreciated?
But I also wonder: Are we meant to be shaken up at 40?
It is such a turning point. No matter where you are it makes you stop and take stock. I left my job two months before my 40th birthday. Jonathan turned his career around. Ian will turn 40 in a month.
Maybe it is a gift to him. To give him his life back for the second half. To lead him to a job, a career that will make him happy AND really satisfy his soul. I hope.


I did it! And now I am back!
I wrote a novel in a month and though I haven't had the courage to read through it yet, it does feel like a mighty accomplishment. I am now a member of a secret society of speed novelists. We meet next Saturday at the Grove for drinks, pages of novel in hand--if we dare to read them.
But here is what it taught me above all else: even when you think you have no time, you can still write a novel. You can write in the morning, you can write in the evening. You can write instead of watching television and you can write instead of going on social outings you didn't really want to go on anyway. If you concentrate, and put your mind to it, you can do it. Tomorrow I will post my jacket blurb, or novel summary. But for today I will just excerpt from my Winner Certificate:

Through storm and sun, you traversed the noveling seas. Pitted against a merciless deadline and battling hordes of distractions, you persevered. Your dedication to the high-velocity literary arts is remarkable. Your victory shall be recorded for all time in the annals of the Office of Letters and Light, where it will serve as a beacon to writers hoping to someday follow your triumphant path. You did it, novelist. We couldn't be prouder!

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Novel, My Life

One of the coolest things about NANOWRIMO is getting emails of encouragement and tips from famous authors. In Week Three we--all 200,000 of us -- got an email from Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black. She is one of my favorite authors, and I consider White Oleander one of the most beautiful books about Los Angeles ever written. She evoked the Los Angeles I know, as a reporter and a person. She captures the mood and poetry and pain of every part of this city her character moves through.
She told us to push our characters over a cliff. She said their characters are formed, the story is laid out, now it is time to literally, write them into a horrible situation they must struggle with, act in, get out of. She said (I am paraphrasing slightly here) that in real life we often fail to act, and sit stuck in the same situation for days, months, years. But it is action that makes stories, novels and for interesting copy. So tonight I will kill off one of my characters. That was one revelation.
But the other was that it is time to act in real life. Life is hard, the economy is crashing, Hollywood is slowed to a standstill. Jonathan and I could sit and watch our world disappear, trying to hold onto what we wish were still true, or we could act, and be characters in our own story, in a story we will never ever forget. It is time to push ourselves over a cliff. To act. To write our own stories. To live the most interesting life possible.
I don't want anyone to die.
But I think we are getting ready for a dramatic change.

Nakey Nakey Boys

I love them!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Lungs

I have bronchitis and a cough so bad it scares strangers. I finally went to the doctor. He said basically I have asthma brought on by filthy air, and all the particulates floating around from the fire. It looks clean, but it is making me sick. He said, yes, I do have bronchitis on top of that, but more of my problem is my body's reactions to the air. Horrifying! So today I treated myself to a deeevine massage with Seva Simran Siri Khaur, my pre-natal yoga guru. She is a sikh who worked at Gurmukh's Golden Bridge when I was pregnant with Theo. I would walk into her class after a day at the paper and just weep as she she told us how lucky we were to be pregnant, how beautiful, what a blessed state it was. She would say we were like Goddesses and tell us to celebrate that baby within. The contrast with my daily corporate environment, where I had to conceal my pregnancy as long as possible, act as absolutely normal as possible (I feel totally normal, aggressive and ON...can somebody please tell me what this GIANT bump under my clothes is? It is really annoying and I have a deadline...) I used to cry there, just silent tears of relief that in this dark room after work someone was telling me that having a baby was a magical and a wonderful thing.
Anyway, I loved her for that, and she will be forever special in my heart. She is part of my long list of mother figures I collect, who are full of nurturing maternal energy and love. So I ran to her today for one of her massages. It was glorious and she coated me with narayan oil that opens up your pores and nostrils and all of you. She said that lungs and weak lungs correspond to sadness. It is how you hold sadness in your body. She asked if I had always had weak lungs. Yes. Since I was 17 and I got walking pneumonia for three months and competed through the whole swim season of my senior year, hacking and weak, but still winning, and determined to win. Since then I have gotten bronchitis virtually every year. She said that means I probably have carried that sadness in me since then. Fascinating.
Anyway, there is a yogic way to rid myself of my sadness and my weak lungs, she said. Drink a glass of warm milk mixed with eight jalapeno peppers ground up in the blender. Coat your lips with honey so you don't burn yourself and drink it down. She said people who have done it swear it cures them of bronchitis forever.
I swear, I am not a wack-job. But I think I might try it. It will be my scorched earth policy for my lungs, and my sadness.
It's time to get angry. Not sad.
(Seva encouraged me to just go for stable.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Joseph Cornell

I was introduced to this artist by my art teacher. I love his work!!!! I love his tiny boxes.
I love the tiny pictures, the magic of them, and the perfect worlds he creates. He was a mild-mannered madman who lived with his mother. But to me his work is enchanting!


Theo came home yesterday and told us that he had a banana eating contest at school. All the boys brought bananas for snack and they were all eating as fast as they could. Omeed, Theo's friend, said you were finished if you got all the banana in your mouth. Theo said you had to swallow. The girls all voted with Theo: you had to swallow to win. Then they started eating. All the girls were shouting: Theo Theo Theo. Theo swallowed. Omeed stuffed a banana in his mouth. They couldn't decide on the rules and no one won. But how bizaare that the sexes divide out like this in kindergarten. Why weren't there any girls in the banana eating contest? Why were they just cheering?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Summary of my 41st Year

Because my life is often reduced to lists these days, here is a list of the events of my 41st year that mattered to me. Maybe it was a book I read, something I saw, a sight or sound or song that moved me, or beauty that touched my soul. Maybe it was something sad, or something delicous. But here is my list--in no particular order.

We saw a lunar eclipse from the top of the parking lot at the Grove. The world went dark, the moon disappeared, and no one paid attention, it seemed, except a few random families on top of a corporate parking lot in the middle of Los Angeles. Magic.

We were surrounded by 25,000 dolphins. We went to the Channel Islands with my old, dear friend Athena, her husband Amir and her son Julian. We cruised out to Santa Cruz and suddenly the ocean was filled with dolphins as far as we could see. It was the world before man,before we destroyed it and killed it and made the oceans sick. This is what California was like. The whole ocean was choppy with thousands and thousands of dolphins cutting across our bow and behind our stern, leaping and jumping and playing.

My friend died. I got to be with her for her last 48 hours. I got to hold her and cry with her and take care of her and love her and look in her eyes and watch her go in and out and read to her and help her go to the next world, while I held her hand. It was my blessing.

I scattered her ashes. I spoke her name. I told her stories. I sat in a tiny cottage with my boys, my husband, Lauren, Jim and Sandy, her sister, and we ate simple pasta, got warm in front of the fire, and told our favorite, sweeetest memories of our friend. It was better than anything else.

I hiked half the Dipsea trail. Alone. I walked from Stinson to Muir woods. I hiked through enchanted forests, and up giant moss covered stairs and along ridges that looked out over hundreds of miles of fog. I descended into giant redwoods and sat and ate chocolate.

I climbed a tree bridge in a giant wood, and felt alive.

I reported the stories of 30 women, wrote a book proposal, and sent it out to two agents.

I finished my year as Canyon School President. We were quiet, not perfect. But we restored an era of good feeling, and gently led the school back to a sweeter, more transparent, more hopeful place.

We started a Charter School, and it really opened. It is spectacular and makes me feel plugged into the world, the community, and the world in a way that I don't know that anything else has in my adult life.

I have a new niece.

Obama is our president. I feel hope.

I took a collage class. I did one project about reflections: how your past reflects up from the depths and makes you who you are, and I am doing a second of a woman in a box. She is made up of cast-offs from the kitchen. Her message to me: As happy as I am, I still feel like a woman in a box.

I rode one spectacular, perfect wave in Malibu.

I read a trio of books that changed me: Ian Buruma's book on Theo Van Gogh, Persepolis, the graphic novel of coming of age in Iran under various repressive regimes, and Hirsi Ali's amazing autobiography, Submission, about what it is like to be a Muslim woman, and what muslim immigrants mean for the future of Europe.

I went to my reunion and felt at ease about my choice of college. I felt a love for this place that was still, beautiful, and taught me to feel orgasmic about reading Heidigger. I saw the chairs where I sat in the library and got intellectually turned on and I felt grateful, more grateful than I would have been for better parties, better connections, or more men. Wellesley taught me to be a woman. I am proud.

I took my boy to chess and swimming lessons, and now he can do both.

Jonathan and I went on the best hike we ever had on Cold Springs Trail in Santa Barbara. Three hours after we left it burned to the ground. But I got to hike it one last time. I have a perfect memory to hold onto.

My husband is happier. He is kinder, gentler, and trying to do small, sweet things. I am grateful.

My boys became even more beautiful and fun.

I listen to my a capella CD from the Wellesley Tupelos over and over and over again. I explain the songs to Theo and sing them at the top of my lungs in the car as I drive around Los Angeles. I love it.

Oh yeah...and Benji was hospitalized for two days after he drank a bottle of tylenol and i almost had a nervous breakdown and our marriage struggled, but he is ok. and we are, too.

And we panned for gold on the Little Ranch, and spent time with our dear friends the Marko-Tanners and jumped in swimming holes and ate blueberry ice cream made by Jill. Yum.

I read Isabelle Allenda's memoir and loved it, and The Road, and The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Miss Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun Lien Bynum and lots and lots of books on Buddhism.


OK. I have a secret. I am doing national novel writing month. Me and about 200,000 other people the world over. We have all pledged to write 50,000 words in one month--the month of November. The goal is quantity--not quality. You are urged to just write write write--you can revise and edit in December. For November you just crank out the copy. You can meet up with friends, or labor alone in obscurity, hiding your secret project from all you know. At the end of the month you paste your entire manuscript onto the site and they verify whether you reached the goal--and thus can be declared a "winner."
I didn't even dare to tell my husband for the first two weeks. I thought he would be angry at me taking on another project. But I am just waiting now. Waiting for an agent to respond--which means sudden flurries of activity, followed by tense periods of waiting.
I labored late at night or early in the morning, or while Benji napped, or lasagna was cooking. My perceptive, and perpetually snooping husband could feel something was up, but he didn't know what.
When I finally broke my silence at my birthday dinner, when the world was ending, the air smelled of smoke, and we were dining on Il Postinos and fresh burrata at Osteria Mozza, he said:
"Good think I am confident in our marriage. It is enough to drive a husband crazy to see his wife slamming the computer closed whenever he approaches, and spending more and more time alone."
One writer friend encouraged me to think of my novel as an affair. She said that can be very productive.
I am more than half way through. The story is incoherent and out of order. The writing rambly and often repetitive. And yet, by writing this way, amazing things do emerge. You realize which characters matter, and how certain events are linked in ways you never saw. Your subconscious DOES take over and show you incredible things about your life, your mind, the characters in your life, and how you have digested it all--consciously or unconsciously. I cannot reveal my plot here--or I would have to kill you. But trust me. It's good!


I am having trouble breathing. We are poisoning ourselves. I want to take myself and my family somewhere far away. The children stay inside all day to protect them. But you cannot protect yourself from poison air. There is nowhere to go. My chest is closed. My lungs hurt. My sides ache from coughing. What are we doing to ourselves? To our world?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me!

Here is the cake my boys made for me: strawberry surprise. Jonathan gave me the gift of time, and I lay upstairs in my bed, surrounded by books, goddess tarot cards, my journal and my gifts. I lay there doing NOTHING while I listened to Jonathan and the boys rattling around in the kitchen. Then I closed my eyes and just smelled the cooking cake wafting up the stairs. YUMMMMM. The boys ran up occasionally with a spoonful of batter to taste, and a report on the state of the cake. When it was out of the oven, freshly iced, dripping and warm, they came to get me and we all sat in the nook and ate soft, moist, still-warm strawberry cake with giant glasses of cold milk. Heaven!!! We ate half the cake. I was so happy.


Ash is raining down and the air smells like smoke. The smoke is in our hair, in our eyes, in our clothes. Our eyes burn and our lungs hurt. Theo and I can't stop coughing. Most of us have headaches. The air is thick and it looks like the end of the world. Today the sun was blood red like Delhi in the dust, like it will never rise again. It feels apocalyptic.

Friday, November 14, 2008


One of my favorite places in Southern California is burning. I don't know if my favorite trail will be saved. It is the Cold Spring Trail in Santa Barbara. It is up above Montecito, a winding trail through the woods, by swimming holes, water holes, and, in the spring, natural water slides (moss on rock--it rips your panties, but its really fun).
For years, Jonathan and I have gone there for our career day. It is where we go to breathe clean air, clear our heads, smell the dirt and refresh our souls. I have soaked there, picnicked there, and been in hot springs there. Before Jonathan I used to go with Chrs and Michele. It was part of our perfect day in Santa Barbara--when we couldn't stand Ventura for another minute.
We were there yesterday. We did our best hike ever. Higher than we had ever been, past the fire road. We sat on a rock and looked out over the Channel Islands. Then we hiked down and sat with our feet in an icy creek. We finished our hike at 2. Apparently the fire started at 6. I keep scanning the maps, praying that it is only homes that have been destroyed, not my favorite trail, my refuge, my escape, our secret place. I won't know until it is over--but it is called the Cold Springs Fire and it is right smack in the middle of the evacuation area. My heart is sad. In the last two years we lost the reservoir to a mud slide (still closed), Julia Pfeiffer to fire (Big Sur), Griffith Park to fire, and now Cold Springs. It is hard to live here. My favorite places are being burned away. Where will I go?

Touching with his toes

I am embarassed to say that almost six years after Theo was born, and three and a half years after Benji was born, it is still rare that Jonathan and I get to spend one complete night together, uninterrupted and alone. Every night some small child comes wandering into the bedroom asking for water, help, love, a pacifier, or comforting from a nightmare. Sometimes I am up several times a night, sometimes--when I am using the sleeping chart--i get a rare night of complete sleep and get to wake up with Jonathan beside me. O Glory!
Benji is the cuddler of all cuddlers. Ever since he was a baby he wanted to be held. He would fall asleep in my arms, and then when I gently put him down he would wake up. Zulma devised a way to surround him with pillows so he would feel like there were bodies all around him, and sometimes that worked.
But even now, he inches across the bed, any bed, in search of a warm body to snuggle up against. It is like a primal homing device, very finely tuned in his case. Find warm, safe body--hide in there!
He is so wiggly, that when he comes to me in his sleep I cannot sleep. So now I turn away. And this is the sweetest. If he has to be separated, our heads or shoulders apart, his ear not on my heart, he needs to have the souls of his feet resting on me somewhere. And so I wake up now, with him stretched and taught, reaching his toes down so that he can touch my leg, or my belly, from wherever he is. And when I move, his toes follow me, trying to make contact again. And as soon as he does, he drifts back off, and his body relaxes. I wonder what it means...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Last night Theo was doing his homework. He was coloring in apples for a vowel exercise, and he observed the apples had different bottoms. I said, well, people have different shaped bottoms, too. He said, no, they don't. And I said, yes, they do. For example, your bottom is a very different shape than Benji's. He said, Really? I said, yes, they really are different. Then he said, Mommy, your bottom is shaped like a triangle. Intriguing. And slightly alarming. I said, really? Which way does the triangle go? He refused to elaborate. Later, we went for a walk. I was wearing some form-fitting jeans. He said, See, Mommy, your bottom is shaped like a triangle. Then he said, not really. It's really shaped like an oval.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Jonathan just heard a two friends of ours are separated, and getting divorced. Worse yet, though we have seen them several times in recent months, he was horrified to find they had been living separately since summer. We do not know them well, but admire them a lot. We do not know the details, or even their relationship. We only know that they are two tremendous people with two beautiful girls in elementary school. We know that they both are civic minded and supremely talented and do great things for the world. And there is something haunting about a relationships like this going wrong. She told Jonathan there were no affairs, no violence, no crazy fights. It actually, she said, has gone quite smoothly. And that, for me, is what is most haunting of all. Violence, affairs, endless fighting--that you understand. It has to stop. It is dramatic. It is horrible. But the slow fizzle of a marriage is the saddest thing of all. Perhaps it is saddest because you can see how it happens. Partners are a little sloppy, a little less kind, a little less considerate, a little less loving over time. They do not treasure and savor and take care. And before long a coldness creeps in. Things are comfortable, but not good. And then it grows worse, until this thing becomes your life and you don't even know why you are together anymore. For me, this has always been the greatest fear. Not an affair, or a fight, but a slow, cold death to a great love. But for Jonathan I think this thing, happening to two people he really likes, is devastating. And we do need to take care, great care of our love, and our loved ones. Love is a fragile thing. So incredibly fragile. When it is strong you think it could never be threatened or grow weak. But it can. And it does. Slowly, so you don't even notice until it is gone.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


The other night, before bed, Theo spilled his guts. He has trouble admitting when something bothers him. It can take days, or weeks to get it out. He just tries to take care of it all himself. He said he was frustrated. He said at school he sits with four boys and they play a story game. One boy is the judge (self-appointed.) He calls on the others to tell stories and scores them with points. But Theo said Lucas (the self-appointed judge) never calls on him. He was devastated. But he had a plan.
Mommy, I will make a book. You can help me. I will give it to Jennifer (his teacher) and she will read it to the class, and then they will have to listen. I said, you could do that. Or, you could say, I have a really good story. And then you could say something really interesting. He said he tried that, and no one would listen. Then, I said, you could just walk away. But he didn't want to do that. He really really wanted their attention.
So I said he could practice telling stories with me, so that he would get really really good. He told me a really bad story with not plot and a lot of pee (boy humor). I said no, no, no. You have so many stories. I told him a few stories about himself that made him laugh so hard he was bouncing up and down on the bed with delight. He couldn't believe they were true, and they were his. I even told him about the time he vomited on an older boy when he was a baby and made the boy run screaming from the room. (catering to his audience). But my heart hurt a little. I don't want him to try to hard to fit in. I don't want him to want their judgement so badly, even though they have no reason to be judges. I don't want him to be so desperate for approval. It hurts me to think of my brilliant boy, sitting at the table, desperately trying to be heard, and not getting called on by a self-appointed Simon Cowell of a peer. But can I help?
Jonathan--harsh man--says he has to learn. Boys are cruel. I want to help. Does life have to be that cruel? I want to protect him.
I brought it up during the teacher conference. The teacher had no idea, but was concerned because if Theo is distracted or upset, he won't focus as much on his schoolwork.
I said I couldn't believe it. Theo is the son of two storytellers, he loves stories and values them. This was such a bad way to go down. We were running tutorials with him and working on his storytelling ability.
The teacher suggested we come in and talk to the kids about how to tell a story. So we are going to. I can't wait. I was thinking about what they will be able to digest. Beginning Middle End. (yes) Plot. (maybe) Characters (yes) Fiction vs. Non-fiction (yes)
Climax (I think so) Conflict (I hope so).
I hope Theo learns to value his own stories. But most of all, I am glad something good will come out of this. And I hope my boy's heart will be preserved for a little bit longer.

Euphoria, and peace...

On the night of the election I was nervous. Despite every poll saying Barack Obama was up, I still did not believe he could do it. I was scared Americans were too racist, and that McCain was gearing up to fight dirty in Ohio, Florida and every other contested state. The lines to vote on Nov. 4 were staggering. Traffic was a nightmare. Polling stations all over Hollywood had 40 minute to 2 hour waits. And people were waiting. They cared. Whomever they were going to vote for, they were fired up, and I had never, ever seen that before. People knew it was historic. Mothers were photographing their infants sitting in the polling booths, and parents were picking up their kids from school to take them to vote in this historic election.

I turned on the television at 4, as the first returns starting coming in, but there was so little information and so much speculation I couldn't stand it. I turned it off and forced myself to stay off the internet.

I had an art class and Jonathan encouraged me to go. I figured it would keep my mind busy until the real returns came in. But half an hour into the art class another teacher walked in with a paper cup of champagne. He's going to win, she said. He's up to 200. I couldn't believe it. Only three of us had even come to class, and we tried to concentrate on papermaking and printing. But then the call of the television became too powerful. We heard whoops of joy and all the teachers and students ran out into the office to see. The election was called. Obama had won. 125,000 people were crowded into Grant Park in Chicago waiting for Obama to come out and accept. We sat there stunned, amazed. I was crying. The black woman next to me just started sobbing. She ran from the room. I had to go to the bathroom. I could hear her sobbing and sobbing in the stall next to me: in disbelief, joy. I realized I really could not imagine what it would be like as a black person. This woman was a quiet, self-effacing older black woman who is not very expressive and does not say much in class. When she finally emerged from the stall and her eyes were still red, her cheeks, too. All she said was, "I just can't believe it."

I grabbed my art supplies and ran home. We were part of history. I wanted to be with Jonathan and the boys when Obama came out. I heard McCain conceding on the way home. He was gracious, sincere, heartfelt. When his supporters booed Obama he stopped them (unlike during the campaign...) If he had been himself, this man, during the campaign, he might have won. But he wasn't. He wanted to win so badly he lost himself. And right now, people have been so fucked over, so hurt, so lied to and deceived, they needed someone who would talk straight (once his mantra) and not waver.

We sat on the sofa in a big pile and watched Obama. He was magnificent. He made his speech not about himself, but about those who voted him in. He made his speech a call to arms, to volunteer, to give, to sacrifice. He is giving people a place to plug in again. His crowd was big, yes, but also so diverse. There were old people, young people, every color of people. There were oceans of black people, YOUNG black people, who I realized mostly appear in our culture in music and sports videos, or in gang propaganda. They were looking up at Obama with so much hope. He has changed things. Just by achieving this.

Our preschool teacher (black) said she couldn't sleep all night, and that her mother was awake all night crying. She was born in Arkansas in 1929 and never thought she would see the day.

I am moved because this is historical. Because it is a victory over racism, and for what is possible. But more than anything I feel like Obama's victory isa victory of hope. It is a deliberate end to meanness, bitterness, cynicism and hatred.That has been the unifying force in the Republican party for the last two elections--to divide through base level prejudices about religion, abortion, gay rights or race. We have returned to a world that will focus on building something positive--or at least trying--rather than living in fear of something negative.

That night I slept more peacefully than I have in months. He won. There is hope. Things will get better. Americans will aim to be something more than entitled assholes in the world. Hallelujah!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Does It Mean?

What does it mean that my second child holds whatever possession is sweetest to him in his arms at night, scared to let it go? Depending on the day he sleeps with favorite teddy bears, a cookie from a party, a stick he found in the park, a pile of books from the library, two light sabres, a twinkling, flashing wand, a cauldron of Halloween Candy, a car or a train. And he remembers. When he wakes up in the morning, if he is not clutching the beloved object he comes running into our room crying for help. So we search the sheets, the comforter and under the bed for his treasure of the day. Is it because he feels like in this crazy household nothing is his unless he is holding onto it and guarding it in his sleep?


We may be heading into a global recession. We may lose everything we have. But last night we had the most perfect dinner--all the sweeter because decadence seems wrong when the world is crashing around you. We had Alaskan King Crab legs dipped in butter and lemon, dripping down our arms and fingers, and drank it with champagne. Heaven!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Gender Confusion

I had just been talking to a mother who is writing a book/memoir about boys who love to wear dresses, but ARE NOT gay, when I talked to my father. He asked what Theo and Benji were going to be for Halloween. I said Theo was going to be a ghost, Benji a witch. Benji chose the witch because one of his favorite books is Room On The Broom, about a witch with ginger hair--just like him! Also, witches are pretty cool. My father was horrified. Hilary! he said. Watch out. That could lead to serious gender confusion! These are very important years. I was so insulted! But also fascinated by his fears. He has not even seen my boy enough to know what his natural predispositions are--whether he likes dolls or balls. But even stranger was this: I know he would not mind if Ruth (his granddaughter) were climbing trees or wearing overalls or pretending to be a race car driver, or dressing up as bob the builder for Halloween. And he himself loves so many things that are "gay" in our culture--including gay men! He loves art, he loves food, he loves music and opera. He loves male choruses and men in uniform. When he meets my friends he is always drawn to the gay men. Now our culture leaves so little room for men. I do not believe that a love of fabric, music, art or food should mean you are gay, or almost gay. But our culture is so scared of homosexuality that we live in a world that any man who is not dressed in khakis and jeans, can speak eloquently about sports and confesses to a love of porn is not a red-blooded American male. And yet, we have no fears in the opposite direction. Girls are encouraged to be more like boys. Tomboys have a special place in our hearts, in our children's fiction. Probably, because historically, for a girl to want to be more like a boy meant to aim for more, to want more, to be bolder, smarter and more full of dreams and moxy. For a boy to want to be like a girl meant to want to be less smart, have less power, to cry and be weak. But that is not the world we live in any more. Little girls know that. A friend's daughter told him (the dad) that she thought being a boy was boring. Girls could be anything; they could be cowboys,astronauts, princesses or mermaids. Boys could only be some things. She got it. Why don't men?
Benji was a witch, with a pointed, black, velvet hat and a sparkly cape. He carried a cauldron and a broom. Beneath his costume he wore a Johnny Cash shirt, blue shorts and little boy sneakers. He was a great witch. And he didn't seem confused about his gender at all.