Life In Paris



NOTE: I wrote this a few years ago, when Matilda was younger and before I published any books. Because clearly, publishing books makes you the High Priestess of Regal Glamour.

Whenever I get upset with myself, the hurrying-around doing dull errands, the mess in the house, the slopped-together meals of cereal on the couch, the ugly clothes I wear constantly, I beat myself with a stick I like to call “Life In Paris.”

Let’s apply this concept.

Last week, we went out to eat at Ember’s. My daughter Matilda wanted pancakes and my husband and I were too tired/lazy to make them at home. (Also, she wanted bacon and we had no bacon.) After we ate our crappy meal at Ember’s, which was actually quite delicious, we went home and I put on a pair of clean pajama pants and went to bed in the shirt I wore today.

When I woke up, I put on a bra under my shirt I had slept in and replaced the pajama pants with the jeans I’d wore the previous day. I splashed water on my face and brushed my teeth. Then I hustled Matilda through dressing and breakfast (whole wheat English muffin with rhubarb-strawberry jam and a shot of blueberry juice). Then I dumped her and the rest of the kids on our block at school and burned rubber over to the grocery, wearing no make-up, forgetting the reusable bags, to return milk bottles* and get more milk for my coffee.

Now, what’s wrong with all of that, you say? I’ve had that morning often myself, you think.

Enter the Life In Paris. If I were having my Life in Paris, I would not take my child to Ember’s to eat pancakes. In Paris, we have crepes, which I make with total and complete magnanimity, as I’m a Parisian woman! Just as it’s in my nature to fuck an older, uglier man who is shorter than me, so is making crepes without breaking a sweat.

In Paris, I would not leave the house wearing a shirt that’s been recycled continuously in three different instances. I would not leave the house without styling my hair or wearing make-up.** I would not wear junky, flat-bottomed snow boots and ill-fitting, thrice-worn denim.

Furthermore, in Paris I would not drive to some ugly, all-purpose grocery store where the food is bland and indistinct and the counter man in the meat department has no more expertise in meat than the $7 bucks-an-hour cashier. No, in Paris, I would market at individual shops that offered premium food know-how – fromagerie, patisserie, charcuterie, boulangerie – and after learning about the provenance of my purchases, I would put on my Chanel sunglasses, exit the store and clack down cobblestone streets in heels. My feet would not blister or ache. I would buy fruits from a vendor every day. I would buy my paper from a gnarled old man in a newstand and peruse it while I nibbled on a pan au chocolat. Because there’s no way I would not have coffee at home with a plastic coffee maker.

Non, belles amies! I would be having cafe au lait in a charming bistro before I went to work at my glamourous job at a publishing house. I would be wearing a frilly silk blouse with lots of lovely necklaces. I would have jewelry custom-made that didn’t come from a thrift store. And of course, I wouldn’t be fat. My bra and panties would match. My daughter would toddle off to school on a bus – such lovely public transport! – and I would meet her at home for a lunch of dressed greens and roast duck.

Isn’t Life in Paris is beautiful? Life in Paris doesn’t involve scraping one’s windshield, or picking up dog shit with a shovel in the backyard. Life in Paris features shoes with smart heels, and clothing made of silk and wool. No synthetics allowed in Paris! Life in Paris doesn’t include a trip to the health club to stand on a machine for a requisite 45 minutes to remove flab. In Paris, we flutter over long, picturesque sidewalks, holding our berets to our heads, as we jet to meet our lovers in bistros in the rain! This type of exercise isn’t labeled such. It doesn’t exert, you see. Besides, should your body have the audacity to store adipose, which I don’t believe is actually possible within the 16th arrondissement, such tasteless flab would be run out on a rail by a mob holding stalks of artichokes.

Why I let this stick abuse me so, I don’t know. I went to France on my honeymoon, with a phrasebook and not much else. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I didn’t like France very much at all. We drove from north to south, in a rented car, going down the autoroute at high speeds only to be stalled out by our lack of language skills in small towns. Adrian found the whole place in need of some spackle.

“It’s like they rebuilt everything that got destroyed in World War II,” he said, as we drove through a cloverleaf in some small town with too many vowels and x’s in the name. “But they only rebuilt it once.”

In France, I could mimic my phrasebook and get a response that sounded like someone sucking on marshmallows. About all the French I have left from that puny guidebook has been used in this essay. All of this left me feeling like France is some club I can’t be a member of – is that what life is all about? About letting junior-high notions of exclusivity ruin your day? I can’t help it that I’m provincial and my province doesn’t have lavender fields or couture houses. We have a local foodshed, but only for 5 months of the year. The rest of the time, life here is slogging through snow muck up to one’s ankles or dragging a large plastic garbage bin to the curb at 9:30 at night or picking around superstores with an oversize shopping cart or watching pay-per-view movies versus hoofing it to the art cinema. Anais Nin couldn’t land in my life and grab the reins. There are not enough satin lampshades or casks of wine in the cellar or opportunities to watch burlesque shows.

Maybe I just need a Life In Akron, Ohio stick? Maybe I don’t need a stick at all?


*Back then I used to buy milk in reuseable bottles but our grocery doesn’t carry that brand anymore. Of course it doesn’t.

**I don’t do this anymore. I put on make-up because I’m a vain motherfucking 40-year-old.




November Is Hard To Love


Figure 1. November is a very complicated month full of hand gestures & what not.

Figure 1. November is a very complicated month full of hand gestures & what not.


One. I am very low on sweaters. I need more sweaters.

Two. For all I bitch about clothing, I often end up wearing things I hate. Right now I’m wearing jeans I’d like to SET ON FIRE.

Three. I believe in my husband like some people believe in God.

Four. Every time I talk to high school kids and they tell me the books they are assigned to read, I want to lay down and die.

Five. I bit off all my fingernails. But I haven’t had a cigarette in 36 days.

Six. My kid is super into those banned “Rainbow Loom Bracelets” and if her school tries to ban them, they are gonna get the rough side of my tongue, I tell you.

Seven. I don’t understand why anyone goes to Applebee’s.

Eight. Did you know you can use TokyoMilk Dark lip balm as a hand salve, too? My friend Megan sent me a tin of it and I just LOVE IT. #WinterDryness #Tips

Nine. This is a beautiful essay by Matt De La Pena. His wish, to write books for those who aren’t necessarily groomed as readers, is one I also share.

Ten. I miss my couch. I miss my old bed. I have been leafing through home decor and furniture catalogs, which is FRIGHTENING. What’s next? I make a Pinterest board of bathroom tiles I like? Start wearing Lululemon yoga pants? JFC.

Eleven. I have the best students from The Loft, you guys. Just met with one I’m going to advise through her sophomore year project and she’s just so excellent and funny. And her story concept is so COOL. My students always stun me with their ideas.

Twelve. On Sunday, Laura Ruby and Steve Brezenoff and Andrew Karre and me are going to talk about Sex in YA Literature at the Loft, as part of the Second Story Reading Series. We’ll sign books and eat thematic treats. It’s Sunday, November 17, 2 pm and free/open to the public. Details here.

Thirteen. My plan this weekend is to marathon through Sleepy Hollow. Just you try and stop me.




Lace is very upsetting to me on clothing. Except for undies. If it’s near your nethers, then it’s just itchy, I guess, but who wants an ALL OVER LACE DRESS? Fuck you.

Chiffon can kiss my ass.

I hate anything with a drawstring that’s not a pajama. I don’t need extra visual cues drawn to my guts region, thanks. Plus the little tie fucks with the drape of my t-shirt.

What tribe does all this ‘tribal print’ shit come from?

Sorry, but I won’t be tucking anything into anything else that’s elastic, so that the elastic might show. What, are you huffing fumes or something? That shit’s RIDICULOUS. Only skinny tiny people can do that. And everyone knows elastic is for FAT PEOPLE. Jesus, leave us something, some small sartorial crumb, will you?

‘Body Con’ is a gross descriptor for a gross fit.

(This has nothing to do with clothes but I think model body standards have gotten so crazy that it’s no longer a must for models to be beautiful in the face department. It’s like the industry realizes it’s asking too much to find someone with that little body fat who can actually stand up long enough for a photo shoot, so who cares what the head looks like? Weird. Anyway, I’m a bitch. Bitter, bitter bitch. With nothing to wear. Blah.)

Take your neon and piss off.

I Get Too Many Catalogs

Adrian wants a terry cloth bathrobe for his birthday. No, really. I asked him didn’t he think it would be too bulky? Like, if he wanted to wear pajamas beneath it?  He said that would never happen. He will be wearing skin beneath it. I should buy him a Tony Soprano gold necklace to lay in his chest hair while he hunkers around in this towel-robe, reminding me of Jane Gallagher’s creepy unemployed stepfather in Catcher in the Rye.

I do not like anything described as ‘ribbed.’

The word ‘quilted’ as a descriptor isn’t much better.

I adore toggles. On anything. Even the word ‘toggle’ is lovely.

I’m a fan of shawl collar sweaters, too.

I don’t think I want any man who would deign to wear a velvet jacket. (Probably he wouldn’t want me, either.)

Who wears turtlenecks anymore?  Besides the models in L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer and Land’s End?

Vests do not look nice on me.

I keep seeing dresses that I’d like, only to discover they are transparent lace or chiffon. CHIFFON. Seriously?

Whenever I see polar fleece, I just picture it covered in animal hair.

Bows on things? No thanks. Also? Ruffles, tucks, gathers, flounces and puckers? Pass.

Please, just call it a ‘hooded scarf.’ Not a ‘snood,’ which is probably one of the grossest words out there.

More Clothing I Don’t Want

Oh, hello, Fashion Industry. I’ve been hankering for new duds lately and have been perusing your websites to see if I should bother darkening your door. But I’m sad, Fashion Industry. It appears you have nothing but unflattering garbage for one such as me.

So, I’ll sit this season out. Have fun trying to sell your:

Retro flare TROUSER jeans.

Peasant shirts. NO MORE PEASANT SHIRTS. Especially if they cost $50. Peasants don’t spend $50 on shirts.

Floral chiffon dresses that don’t cover one’s butt.

Anything with a three-quarter length sleeve.

Phony Navajo/Native American ‘prints.’

Swoopy-necked cardigan sweaters lacking closure mechanisms. I don’t want to swan around like Liza Minelli, I just want to stay warm.

Knit scarves and hats.  Especially ones that cost $75 dollars but feature four bucks worth of yarn. Fuck you.

Ankle lace-up boots with wedgie heels. GROSS. And I’m too short. And we have ice in Minnesota. I don’t need to risk my life and look like a slutty Laurie Ingalls simultaneously, thanks.

All of the following:  turtleneck crop tops, high/low hem t-shirts, lace trousers, popcorn-knit sweaters, sweater-short rompers, jeggings, twig jeans, tweed evening shorts and satin palazzos.