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Life In Paris

 

800px-Lesdeuxmagots

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.

 

 

 

On Housewifery

 

Figure 1. Probably the only tub I'd happily scrub.

Figure 1. Probably the only tub I’d happily scrub. But he’d have to stay in it while I was doing so, mind.

 

I am not a good cook. I am not a good housekeeper. I don’t decorate well. I don’t care if things are dirty.

I have house-pride but not enough to actually act on it.

I like good food but I find recipes onerous and don’t understand basic science necessary for improvisational cooking.

I don’t really cook; I heat things up and put them on plates. I can bake things. Kinda. Mostly when I bake things, it’s because I’m premenstrual and want some sugar, though. It’s not about feeding others. Not really.

But every so often, I feel this intense need to do home-keeping jobs. I feel like the neglect I’ve had for my husband and daughter in favor of my fake people means that I don’t love them and I feel this deep pull to care for them, when they are not around, by folding their laundry and ironing their dress shirts and going to the grocery store and wiping out the sinks.

I want to have dinner on the table when my husband gets home.  I want to have the sofa arranged with folded throw blankets and appropriately spaced pillows. I want to light a candle that smells good. I want to have my family marvel at how I scrubbed – with my hands and a spray bottle of bleach – our bathroom tile.

This kind of work is how I want to say that I love them. Tell them how much their comfort and care means to me. How much I want this space we share to be easy to move through. And pretty. And clean. And have everything they might need.

This is hard, lately, because our house is still is remodeling disaster. We live out of two rooms, smashed together precariously with all our stuff in weird locations, hanging from nails, haphazard in piles and baskets and bins.

This is hard, because I want to teach my daughter how to run a home system. How to fold and iron and sort. How to measure out detergent. How to make grocery lists and plan for packed lunches and find good spots for all of the things we use regularly or need to keep track of: scissors, tape, fingernail clippers, bills, pencil sharpeners, magazines, tin foil, twist-ties. When I do it all by myself, when she’s not around, there is no chance of showing her how this is done.

This is hard, too, because I know that I’m not just showing them love. I’m rinsing and sorting and sweeping my way through the problems of my fake people as well. I’m showing them love, too.

We all have to live in this house of mine, somehow. SIGH.

 

 

We Have Become Those People

Figure 1: Me and the mister.

Figure 1: Me and the mister.

 

Those people who always have too much shit going on!

A couple days after the launch thingy for Sex & Violence, I woke up feeling like I was dying. Like, in so much pain I wished for death. It turned out I needed to go to the hospital and have my gallbladder removed, because it was inflamed and rioting and full of stones the size of grapefruit.

Well, not really, but all bad medical stories involve things ‘the size of grapefruit.’

So that sucked. And now I’m hobbling around a bit and feeling sheepish because a) I hate the word ‘gallbladder’ so bad b) what an Old Lady Problem to have:  “Back in 2013, when I had my gallbladder removed…”

In two days, the roof gets torn off and we get a new one. We’ve got scads of people coming to help us (more of Adrian’s brothers, more professionals, more friends). I teach a class at the Loft Teen Writers Conference next week. My dog needs to hit the vet and everyone needs their teeth cleaned, now that the mister has a new job with health and dental insurance.

(Adrian is pretty much the most bitchin husband ever, yall. BITCHIN. He used to drive a Trans Am, I’ll have you know.)

Also, I have a bunch of other deadlines for blog posts and some other writing junk that I must attend to, a syllabus to make, etc. Blog posts about Sex & Violence, like this one and this one, have been really fun to write, but they are another out-of-the-ordinary job I’m not used to doing. And I worry about those posts so much! I want to make them worth the blogger/reviewer’s time and effort. I mean, people have book blogs and review sites and they read tons of books and write lengthy, thoughtful reviews but they do not get paid. They do it because they love reading! It’s really astonishing and beautiful. And this needs to be respected.

Then I have to make Matilda’s Halloween costume (which she’s changed concepts for at least six times now) and somehow decorate the yard for Halloween, as our block is pretty all-out about Halloween celebrations. Then, one second after Halloween, I need to fly to Las Vegas for the Vegas Valley Book Festival, which I’ve attended twice now, but this year I’m on an actual panel, which is cool. Mostly I just want to chill in Las Vegas with my homegirls Melinda and Kari, however. Being with my friends in a place that is warm/sunny in the dread month of November has become a tradition I look forward to quite a bit.

Also, it’s not until December, but I’m a dork about prepping for things, so I have these two Loft classes I need to prepare for, as well.

Now I’ve become one of those “I AM SO BUSY EVERYONE BOW DOWN TO MY BUSY SLEEPLESSNESS” barfy people. Sorry. I hope that stops soon myself.

Figure 1. Church this, man.

Figure 2. Church THIS, man.

 

My father expects me to attend some weird thing at his church this weekend. But I’m not going, because a) it involves church b) he was a prick at my launch event. I think it’s weird that the thing that would upset me the most about my launch event wouldn’t be my nerves about public readings or my dislike of going to parties where there are lots of people but the man who sired me. I guess it just goes to show that parental disapproval knows no bounds. The man’s not getting invited to anything in the future where I read stuff I wrote, I’m telling you that. Since he made it clear long ago that he’ll never read Sex & Violence, I’m not quite sure why he bothered to attend in the first place.

It probably goes without saying, but this incident is worse to me than people saying daft/mean things in reviews. At least bad reviews are something you can prepare for, ask your friends advice about. Never heard of any writing books that have chapters titled “What To Do When Your Family Members Are Pricks At Public Events.”

I can say all this because a) he doesn’t like much I do, anyway, b) he never reads my blog. Or goes online. He just leaves me disgruntled voicemail messages about how I never call him. Huh. Big mystery as to why, right?

While taking my afternoon pain med and lounging in bed, I had a rare phone conversation with my friend Meagan. I said I was looking forward to things becoming boring again. But I think this year, we are in for a whole lot of interesting. And while I like that, it kind of makes me nostalgic for simpler times, when we had walls and a roof and a sofa I could park my ass on with my fearful dog and just read the latest issue of Men’s Health without feeling like I was leaving something undone.

 

Figure 3. Pablo, when he was just a young pup. That used to be my office couch, which is super important to know, I realize.

Figure 3. Pablo, when he was just a young pup. That used to be my office couch, which is super important to know, I realize.

 

Mainly, however, I am struck with the larger concern, which is what snack foods to procure/prepare by this Sunday, October 13, at 8 pm Central Standard Time, when Season 4 of The Walking Dead premieres on AMC, thus launching me deeper into Daryl Dixon’s grimy pockets. My Reedus Virus: it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. So, I’ll be live-tweeting that shit so hard, yall. CANNOT WAIT.

 

Thirteen Ways of Looking At My Father

Figure 1: My father. He is not a fashion plate. Nor vain. He’s much handsomer than this picture can show. And he does have lots of opinions about you and everything else, just FYI

1. Does not believe in dinosaurs. Even though his wife studied archeology & anthropology.

2. Cannot wink his left eye and when given a right-sighted rifle during his military service, he couldn’t hit any targets. He’s also technically a deserter from the Syrian Army, not that anyone cares anymore.

3. Has perfectly straight teeth, with no cavities.

4. Has a weird hippie first name that actually means ‘free’ because his father suffered from some awful skin ailment while my grandmother was pregnant with my dad and my grandfather vowed if God would heal/deliver him from this illness, he would honor his 3rd son with a name acknowledging his ‘freedom from suffering.’ Armenians make a lot of vows to God and also discuss suffering a lot, just FYI

5. Hates hospitals because in the camp where he grew up, if you went to the hospital, you died.

6. Used to smoke Old Golds until my sister was born. Was a very sloppy smoker, according to my mother. Burned holes in all his shirts and ties, the car upholstery, etc.

7. Is the youngest of four children.

8. Is an expert in power generation. He designs generators for things like the Patriot Missile. Or Navy submarines & destroyers. Or for use in Bolivian tin mines. Super cuddly stuff.

9. Has astigmatism and nearsightedness. He looks weird without glasses. I used to flick him in his glasses when I was a teenager & he’d get super mad: “Don’t! That gets a dirt on them!”

10. Used to speak Arabic & Turkish; only has about a 4th grade knowledge of written Armenian. He also messes up his plurals and pronoun genders constantly; Armenian doesn’t truck with those concepts like English does.

11. Came to the United States in 1964. Attended college in South Dakota. Survived weekends away from the cafeteria meal plan by buying a loaf of bread and two cans of Campbells soup. He was a table tennis champion in college, too.

12. Rode his 3-speed bicycle to work for many years. Then a 98 Olds which only had one working signal & no brakes. Finally when he got promoted, he decided to stop looking like such a loser and get a new car. He bought a Chrysler New Yorker from our nextdoor neighbor, with power-everything and a leather interior. He & the neighbor sealed the deal with a handshake & a glass of whiskey.

13. Has no middle name. Armenians don’t do middle names, sorry

Family Time Off

What I look like today. Except I’m not wearing a fortune teller’s tablecloth for a shirt.

Our day so far:

1. We woke up post 8:00 am which was highly luxurious and excellent.

2. Adrian and I were lying in bed talking when Matilda hollered “How do you spell ‘periwinkle’?”

3. Ate breakfast together (eggs, toast, sausage, tea).

4. Matilda staged film version of The Lalaloopsy Horror Story.

5. Adrian, Matilda and I all weighed our heads to see who’s the smartest i.e. who has the heaviest brain.

6. I took a shower and blew out my Kip Winger hair.

7. Matilda and I made a plan to go do girl’s things, then abandoned it.

8. Asked Adrian ten times if I looked cute (this happens every day).

9. Adrian read articles about the fiscal cliff.

10. Adrian and I plucked each other’s eyebrows while Matilda watched in delight/disgust.

11. Adrian took a nap on sofa, then blamed the English Breakfast tea for being all pussy compared to coffee.

12. Cleaned the kitchen to make homemade bath bombs.

13. Pablo lost his mind during filming of The Lalaloopsy Horror Story (involved speeding remote control cars and giant dolls crashing from great heights).

And it’s only 3:37 pm CST. Imagine if we really applied ourselves!