Friday, September 20, 2013

My Internal Monologue is SAG.

I’m sorry if you can see me shaking because I’m holding the paper. I mean, not BECAUSE I’m holding the paper, but that just lets you see it better. And I’m probably visibly sweating. I tried to wear something to hide that, but I know it’s there. Bursting through clinical strength Dove antiperspirant bullshit - sorry. I shouldn’t start off this way. Talking about shaking and sweat. I know. That is a horrible way to introduce myself. I asked my husband about this piece and whether it was gutsy enough. He’s known me too long, I think. He wasn’t sure, because he’s seen every side of me, poor guy. And I was telling him that I’m presenting the insecure contents of my head. Cause I’m usually all, “Blah blah dead parents messed up childhood, but whatever who didn’t, I’m cool, it’s fine.” And you hear this and it’s like, “oh my God, she’s a mess.” So I’m sorry if this sounds more like that than something cool and moving. Ugh. My gut’s hanging out, too, because...childbirth and cookies. Wine. I’m so sorry.

Hands up, who wants to hear THAT bullshit for the next nine minutes? (throws hands down)

And yet...I listen to it all day long. Once it leaves my head and comes out of my mouth, this is what it sounds like. Apologies. Apologies for everything I think I’m doing wrong, which is anything I happen to be doing at that moment. Apologies to inanimate objects I knock into. Apologies and second guessing myself about rudimentary shit. Like breathing in before breathing out. Maybe I should try it the other way around? It is exhausting, this whole process, and I feel badly for the listeners. However, what everyone else has to hear is only half the story. The apologizing that comes out is a direct result of the mass amount of abuse going on inside my head. That sounds different. And it’s constant.

Like the sound of songbirds in the summertime, only it’s the sound of mean, horrible words in a constant assault; blowing through my mind like jasmine to the Isley Brothers. If jasmine is “oh my God, you’re so ugly and a failure as a parent and this lipstick makes you look like a hooker clown how do you stand yourself” and the Isley Brothers are me and I’m trying to walk out the door to go to work without crying. Oh, and I’m also trying to not show my one and a half year old daughter that self hatred is totally just part of being a woman. It isn’t.

Here’s the rational thing I know: If anyone said half the shit to me that I say to myself, I would never stop punching them in the crotch. Ever. My arm would tire, I’d switch sides and never. Stop. Punching. Their crotch. Their babies would be born looking like my fist. But apparently, if I say it to myself, all bets are off. Whee! Hooker clown failure comments all around!

I got a piece of advice from a casting director seminar years ago: he took his negative voice and made it a person. He asked this person to wait in the lobby while he went in to audition, and promised it that as soon as he came out, it was free to tell him how horrible he was.

A good friend of mine took this advice almost immediately and, being a consistently working and auditioning actor because she has a better agent and is more talented than me and I’m sorry I’m even using this example oh my God I’m doing it again, that shit WORKED for her. Bitch booked a tv pilot for Fox because she convinced Bernice, the name she gave to her negative thought monster, to stay home when she went for auditions.

I told my therapist about the constant ticker of negative narrative and the personification idea. She suggested we name mine after a really obnoxious celebrity. Before I could question this tactic, she added, “Like Jennifer Tilly.” I never had a problem with or a love for Jennifer Tilly before, but I figured criticizing the choice of spokesperson for my self flagellation was too much to figure out. I went with it. My negative inner voice is Jennifer Tilly.

So while I apologize outwardly, understand that an actress who lends her voice to Family Guy is narrating my vehement self hatred.

“This is going on way too long and it took you forever to get to this part. I’m the funny part. And everyone has an inner voice. Nice topic. Also, this monologuey thing you do is a lame excuse for actual writing and you shouldn’t really be here with these people. Why are you even here? I’m looking at everyone’s faces and they’re wondering what the fuck you’re doing here.”

My God. Jennifer Tilly is an insufferable cunt.

My husband pointed out recently that, when I’m very sleepy, I’m uncharacteristically decisive. He brought our infant daughter into bed one night when she was crying, and I was very adamant that none of us would get sleep this way, no matter how cuddly she is and holy shit is she cuddly. By contrast, in my waking hours, I look to him to make sure I should feed her. “Right? I should give her food, right? Cause she needs that? Yeah?”

Decisiveness and action are the results of Jennifer Tilly being a heavy sleeper. Before I reach full consciousness, I am very certain of myself because the doubt takes up more energy than I have. There’s something to that, right? I should grab onto the idea that the vacillation sucks the energy right out of me? Yet, when I’m fully awake, my actions have a questionable echo: “Sure, you can let your baby play with your electric toothbrush...if you want to kill your baby.” No logic. Doesn’t fucking matter. The diffidence accelerates until I’m actually telling myself I shouldn't change the baby’s diaper because “she’s enjoying a story right now. And what kind of mother would ruin that? One that wants to kill her baby, I guess. You should change her, though. Don’t be an idiot.”

There is an upswing: This affords me the opportunity to say things like, “Shut the fuck up, Jennifer Tilly” and even lets my husband say things like, “Jennifer Tilly is not invited out with us this weekend.” I actually had to kick her out of bed once, ‘cause she was about to mess with me about my postpartum body while I was trying to have sex and you don’t DO that, you crazy bitch.

In giving my negative bullshit talk a persona, it makes it somehow a bit separate from me. Not in the “I don’t think my invisible friend wants you sitting on her lap right now,” way, but more of a chance for me to see what I do to myself at a slight distance. Turns out, I’m a huge fucking bully.

I critique the fuck out of my body shape when I see it in the mirror. At the gym. While I am in the middle of trying to work on that very goddamned thing. As though I can move my body around like it’s hair and it’ll stay if I just push my ass up enough. “Here’s what you would look like with normal thighs,” says Jennifer Tilly, squeezing my legs like a concertina. She’s just the worst.

I sit in crowds on the train or an event, taking stock of everyone there. Then Jennifer Tilly pops up with helpful reminders like, “I bet none of these people pee when they cough” or “Do you think any of them can look at you and just know that you tweezed a long white hair off your nipple earlier today?”

Sometimes, I now realize, I am fooled into a false sense of self confidence. I should be able to see it coming because it’s just too much. It goes past self love and delves into arrogance. That’s only so the fall is farther when she yanks out the rug.

“Man. You are so much smarter than everyone in this office,” she sighs. “It’s like, creative to them is American Idol and you’re way beyond them. You’re really talented.”

And just as a small smile creeps in, letting in the compliment, I hear “and yet here you are working with them because you are a failure and will rot in an office wearing stirrup pants and chains on your glasses. You cow.”

The craziest part about this process is that the stronger a voice I give Jennifer Tilly, the less I hear her. Believing that I am a good person will encourage me to do good things, whereas convincing myself I’m a sack of shit will result in shitsack behavior. Telling her she’s wrong is just telling my insecurities they have no place in my joy. Telling her to back the fuck up while I eat this ice cream lets me enjoy the damn ice cream. Pushing her out of the mirror or store window with my reflection allows me to focus on something good like my hair instead of something I can’t change in that moment like being really behind on new music. Playing with my daughter and going with my gut about what she wants and doing that stupid dance that makes her laugh is a lot better than wondering if I should maybe get new knees for Christmas and if I’m just failing her in new and exciting ways.

The voice is still there. She’s still loud. She still blathers on and I mute her with therapy, self love...and medication. Like, low level Zoloft. Not lithium. Calm down. But I have louder things - my daughter’s amazing laughter, my husband’s voice, a really good red lipstick after I’ve had my moustache threaded so it isn’t magnified with a red underline. Compliments on my form from gay gym instructors. Singing, writing, reading, watching. Whatever it is, if it makes me happy I’m turning it up lately, and that makes a huge difference. That woman’s voice is horrible. And I’m not even a little bit sorry.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Camera Phone?

In talking to my sister about technology and its inevitable rise, I used the term, "camera phone." I immediately realized that this was ridiculous, and stated that fact.

There is no such thing as a camera phone. It's just a phone. We were floored when the iPhone came out and had the internet on it displayed JUST LIKE A COMPUTER. Remember that? Other miracles soon followed.

"You guys, it's a music player AND a phone. Wow! But does it have a camera?"

"Of course it does. Whaddya think this is, 2008?"

My sister countered that we're doomed.

I have a 15-month-old daughter. I am terrified. My ability to keep up with technology is only going to weaken, and everything I now know will be outdated in about five minutes. I won't understand any of the acronyms she'll spout off in second grade, because I don't understand half of them now. By the time she's a teenager, I'll be muttering in a corner about words being beautiful things and wishing they'd come back. I'll try to update my blog, but I won't have downloaded the newest version of the OS for my Google Enema, which is old technology anyway.

By the time she gets her hands on any kind of phone, it will be a chip IN her hand. And I'ma be all, "I went to school before the internet!" and she'll put me in a home.

It's cool, though. All the people there will understand my plight.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Talk Shows and Talking Shows

I don't watch a lot of tv. I don't mean that in the I'm-Better-Than-You way. I mean that I don't watch a lot of tv in real time. I Netflix/Hulu/Amazon everything because cable is expensive and babies aren't. Plus, I think I maxed out on every episode of SVU/Criminal Minds/NCIS in existence while struggling through depression a few years back, and there's only so much Food Network I can take before I start getting angry that I'm not wealthy with a sick kitchen and perfect makeup. So now that the only tv we are at the mercy of comes in basic channel form, I don't flip through very often. I have one hour of watching between putting the Bird to bed and going to bed myself, and that watching hour is usually accompanied by ice cream or wine or both in my face. I don't have any hands free to flip channels.

Sunday night, my husband was watching basketball, and I realized that I was missing the Tonys. Once the game was over before it was over (4th quarter and the Spurs just kind of said, "fuck it, let's try again tomorrow"), we decided to flip. Of course, the one channel we don't have with the digital antenna is CBS, so no Tony greatness for me. I'll have to YouTube/Netflix/Hulu/Amazon it. So be it.

What I did find, aside from awesomely bad episodes of the Bionic Woman (nananananananaaaaaa), was a stupid talk show I only see in cabs.*

*I have a cab problem. I'm much better lately because...poor...but trust that I have to work to not throw up my arm in the JAPpiest of JAP moves a JAP ever JAPped. I don't know where I get this from. I'm broke as hayall, and only my dad was Jewish and it was my mother who described camping as, "A Howard Johnson's if we have to." And WE were poor. I digress.

Talk Stoop is a brief show where some lady interviews a lot of very famous people on a stoop in New York. This, in and of itself, is fine. It's a three minute whatever while you get from point A to point B in your taxi ( know...a couple of times if you take that taxi to work BUT WHO DOES THAT, RIGHT? shit.), but here it was taking up actual tv time. It was on. I watched it. Woody Harrelson was talking about a play he wrote and is producing in New York. The interviewer, looking her quirky best with her dogs sleeping nearby and her Chucks in the shot with her sundress, proceeded to ask why he used unknown actors and what he has "against famous people." Gross.

Later, she gives him a present for his birthday right after describing him as "the guy who talks about hemp all the time" and he opens the bag to discover a terrarium. Ok. Sure. Whatever talk show hosts give famous people on steps in New York while cameras roll on their birthdays. I don't know these things. He asks how he takes care of it, and she guesses watering it. And then pours coffee cup water into the narrow glass vase. My sister makes terrariums - kick ass Star Wars ones to boot - so I winced when this happened.

See, none of this matters, and I truly don't care. But after a long weekend of singing, playing, walking with a baby, hurting (my body is falling right the fuck apart, in case you're keeping tabs), giggling, baby loving, working, and breathing (in AND out...exhausting), I want to unwind. I was shoving unspeakably bad food into my face because lazy and didn't change the channel. So instead of unwinding watching the Tonys and getting choked up and proud of Chicago's storefront scene, I watched a perky woman present a celebrity with a gift and take a big dump in it, essentially.

Did I also mention that my weekend included having my stomach fat pinched by someone I hadn't seen in a while when I dared to leave the house without SPANX? It did.

Also, why is there no GrubHub for wine delivery?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Year One, Which Passed In Two Weeks.

As usual, I am unprepared.

We were going to bake your cake, and we haven't shopped for the ingredients. We were going to have a party, but decided to wait until the end of May when it's warm and everyone can be at the beach. We have to get you on a plane next week, and we're still running errands. I was going to write to you regularly so that you knew how I felt during the first year of your life; but I was working and writing a zombie play, wedding toasts, and seven minute pieces you got to watch instead.

We knew that every plan, from the birth plan to the apartment setup, was gonna go out the window. We made those plans without being too attached to them, because we figured you'd probably come along and change them all. We embraced that uncertainty as part of the ride. So much so, that we tend to be happily surprised when things like cloth diapers, food prep, and pumping at work actually stuck around this long.

The birth plan was the first to go, because it didn't suit you. You wanted out way faster than all this early labor and rest nonsense would allow - so you skipped it. Let's put Mama on the yoga ball in some Depends until Kathy, our friend and doula, gets there instead. That's more like it. Way funnier.

By filling your amniotic fluid with meconium, you eliminated the possibility of water birth. You knew what you were doing - you wanted Mama to have the epidural she warded off for six and a half hours. In you.

You threw your own plans out the window, though, sweet bird. You breathed that meconium in as you were about to trumpet your arrival with a joyful and powerful wail. So you couldn't breathe at all. I couldn't understand why I wasn't holding you and why I couldn't hear you. Then they wheeled you past me so I could touch your hand for a moment. Then you were gone.

You scared the bejeezus out of your parents. Won't be the last time.

I didn't get to hold you for two days after you were born. That wasn't the plan, either. While doctors and nurses took excellent care of you and made sure you could breathe, we stared at the empty bassinet in the recovery room, remaining positive. Remaining tired. When we finally saw you hooked up to a vent and monitored, we were terrified and hopeful all at once. And tired. Did I mention that? And another feeling - reflective. Your grandmother exited this world being monitored this way, surrounded by people trying to help her breathe. Same machines. Same setup. "Do you know what a blood gas is?" the nurses asked. Your father and I quickly said yes. We hoped this familiarity wasn't a negative sign. Turns out, it wasn't.

Holding you for the first time was one of the most incredible moments of my life. Every emotion flooded me at once and it was all I could do to not swallow you and put you back in my belly to keep you safe. Yeah, I know that's not how it works. I didn't say I DID it.

That moment was all the sweeter for the waiting. All the sweeter because it meant you would make it.

We took you home on May 5, 2012. Since then, you've surprised us over and over. You sleep like your mother - someone who adores sleep. You eat like both of your parents - like someone who adores food. You've grown 12 teeth - 12! - this year. You're making your own schedule. You laugh and smile and clap and splash and wave and walk and sing and you. Like Gilda. Like the Gilda Madeline Pasko you are and will become. Someone amazing, bright, and infectiously happy.

I will never be prepared for you. I don't ever want to be. I like your surprises most of the time. Most. Don't get any ideas.

I love you with all that I am. You and your father have made me the happiest and luckiest woman alive. He spends the days with you, and I am so grateful. Jealous, but grateful. I miss you both all day, and coming home each day is a party. Sometimes a loud party, but it's still one I want to be invited to over and over. I call you and your father my Everythings. Sounds dramatic, sure, but I'll be damned if it isn't true.

Happy birthday to my Little. My Munchkin. My Gilda Bird.

Thank you for you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Undefeated. It Feels Funny.

I returned to Write Club on April 1, and this time squared off against Ian Belknap, Write Club's very own Overlord. I had Funny, he had Serious. He also had the flu, as well as a fantastic piece about Shitso the clown and the perils of not taking Funny for the Serious business that it is. Just know that orphans died. Like crazy.

Meanwhile, I managed to win with Funny despite the absence of my adorable baby or any visible plague. Just tales of using Funny as my main coping mechanism, conversation default...and life saver. For those that couldn't make it, or those that could and would like to see the two paragraphs I cut on the fly in order to come in under seven minutes, I have it all here. Huge shout outs to Merrie Greenfield and Scott Pasko for feedback and edits and listening to my ramblings and helping make them into something for other people to listen to. You are the best looking people ever.

Also, Lisa Buscani, Tim Stafford, Nik Gallik, Kait Ziegler, and Ian Belknap were degoddamnedlightful to watch. The whole evening is super swell to be a part of, and I'll happily throw down words for it any time.

On September 11, 2001 - calm down, everyone, I know what my topic is - on that day, I sat at a diner and pushed my food around my plate, watching old men drink beer at 11am because fuck it. We were all in stunned silence, glued to the tv screen and staying downtown against our better judgement.

I got up to go to the bathroom, and spied a comic strip on the wall. Two aliens were congratulating each other on finally eliminating all forms of humor on the planet Earth. Then one farted. They guffawed and one exclaimed, “We’re doomed!”  I laughed. Audibly. It was out of place. But the aliens lost. The terrorists didn’t win. Because we still had funny.  In that moment, I realized we were anything BUT doomed, because we still had funny. Also, I just said “but”.

Not to be super Jewy or anything, I’m gonna talk about my shrink. Once I had a therapist by the name of Honey Rosenfeld. I said Super Jewy, did I not? She once said to me, in an attempt to get me to dig deeper, “We know you’re funny. It’s time to see what else you are.”

Whaaaat a bitch.

Sure, sure fine. I use humor as a knee jerk reaction to difficult situations rather than taking in the full weight of the thing right then and there for fear that it might crush me entirely and I will be rendered incapable of handling the sheer tragedy, the seriousness, of it all and will be reduced to a crumpled, drooling, mass of skin and bone and post baby and post custard donut fat who understands that her life is a complete failure and she is a phony and everyone everyone everyone fucking knows it. Fine. But you know what? Farts. And probably? Poop.

I was raised on Funny, and told to respect it or be forever humiliated at every meal for not getting the banter. My family, by the way, is full of horrible people.

Last weekend, I accidentally said that my middle sister was experiencing 16 feet of snow in Vermont instead of inches. My oldest sister and I laughed and laughed because, ha ha, everyone in Vermont is now dead.

The first time my brother in law met my family, we all sat upstairs, conspiring how to kill my mother’s wretched boyfriend. Perhaps an air bubble in his insulin? Poison? He suggested a pillow over the face, and was instantly welcomed as one of us.

My father picked us up from school with a duck on his shoulder because...he had a duck.

At work, I cursed aloud before I could stop myself. A co-worker asked if I kiss my mother with that mouth. Without so much as a breath, I said, “No, I kiss YOUR mother with that mouth.”

This is how I operate. Under the blissful functionality of Funny. It is my breath and my goddamned life force. Why? Why not just be stoic and solemn and dependable and be taken seriously by people and Why? Because Funny makes the better memory. It’s no less true than Serious, but it’s the spoonful of sugar on the shit sandwich medicine of tragedy. Example: You’re talking to a doctor because things look grim for a loved one. With me? There is the serious side of this, where it looks SO bad that they start handing you pamphlets on how to deal with loss, but grandma isn’t even dead yet. She’s unconscious. This is awful. And real. And you’re sobbing because you’re confused and sad and scared.There is, however, another side of this that is just as real. The doctor you’re talking to is interrupted by his cell phone ringing. The ringtone begins, “Imagine there’s no Heaven.” He then tells you, by way of explanation, that there’s a thing...called a coma. This ALSO happened. This is ALSO awful. But it’s funny. So that’s the memory you keep at the top of the stack from that day.

If finding Funny in the terrible is bad, then I can tell you that we are all complete wastes of skin. Because we all do it.

Listen to the news for a bit. Just listen to how fucking awful the world is for a moment. How SERIOUS shit can get. And after a while? It gets funny. Whether you want it to or not. And you know what? Thank God. We already know how serious the world is. We know the unrelenting austerity of hunger, of war, of violence and grief. After a certain amount of time, that solemnity gives way to the giggles. If it didn’t, we’d never leave our houses. We’d be too overwrought to turn ourselves over in our sleep, let alone face the day. There’s a certain point, right after the NPR newscaster says, “and once the child armies had eaten most of their enemies, they proceeded to beat one another playfully with the limbs” or “he wore a hooded sweatshirt as pants because it was the only thing that would contain his enormous testicle.” (only one of these is true) There’s a certain point right after those soothing yet awful words come out that you just lose your shit laughing. Because it’s awful. So funny.

The tricky part is that Funny does not appear just because you want it to. You can’t just come up to me and say, “Hey, I hear you’re funny. Say something funny.” That will not get you anything funny. I don’t know you, we haven’t talked. There’s no foreplay. But at a funeral, where NO ONE is asking for Funny, it’s like flies on shit. Or...a...dead person.

By the way, the person that comes up to me and says, “say something funny” is an asshole. Apparently, Ian Belknap is that guy today for giving me this topic. No one likes that guy.

And just so we don’t go thinking I live under some delusion of frivolity, that the world is just hilarious and cancer is the silliest joke God ever told, let me be clear: Funny does the heavy lifting no one else wants. It saved my life more than once. I had a cab driver once tell me about how he used to beat people and leave them for dead. He kept turning around and pointing for emphasis, and something told me that it wasn’t all past tense. I told him to be careful - I might be packing and would kill him in an instant. He laughed his ass off, and the rest of the ride was quiet. Sure, I had him drop me off a few blocks away form my destination because telling jokes doesn’t make me DUMB, but hey...I’m alive, thank you Funny.

I’m willing to bet that Funny got most everyone here laid at one point in their lives. Let’s be honest, as good looking as all of you are, I’m gonna guess an icebreaker joke helped to drop some pants for you. It wasn’t your stoic demeanor. Trust. When trying to get laid, never go with Serious. You’ll end up with bad poetry. Or a restraining order.

So yes. I know that I am many things other than Funny, thank you Ms. Rosenfeld, but it’s staying at the top of my roster. I’ll be damned if I am going to disassociate myself from the thing that made 9/11 tolerable, acted as a conduit for family communication, saved my goddamned LIFE, and got me laid. What has serious done for you? It probably grounded you for a week, told you about your clogged arteries, shushed you in class, and killed all of your erections. No one has a friend as good as Funny has been to us all. Serious? We all have that friend. But we didn’t bring him tonight. Because fuck that guy. He isn’t funny.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Salty. Plus, a Cute Baby.

On January 7th, I finally weasled my way into competing at Write Club Chicago. By "weasled", I mean "got them to listen and understand that I will make seven minutes worth of compelling performance, promise." I did that, with one second over.

I watched Ian Belknap, Don Hall, Samantha Irby and Daniel Shapiro weave words and hold the audience captive. I held my breath and smiled like an idiot as my friend and opponent, Rachel Claff, presented her hilarious and passionate piece on "Sweet". We both mentioned in our respective pieces that she made my wedding and baby shower cake. do you not mention that? She was brilliant.

It was a great night all around, and I laughed until I cried. My husband and my baby were both there, and that was everything to me. My infant daughter hardly cried at all, and that was victory enough for me. I held her as the words "I'm not gonna stick my dick into a jar of CHUNKY peanut butter" were presented in defense of the topic "Smooth". I'm pretty sure that's model parenting right there. Hey, she also heard Irby's defense of "Rough" and now knows the dangers of Brazilian waxing. See? Parent of the Year.

Ian called my daughter out a few times for being "mind cracklingly adorable" while she sat in the audience on her father's lap. She yelled out after my piece and everyone applauded. If she had a hand in my winning that night, I don't care. She earned it.

She also cried during Don Hall's piece, and we had to take her into the front for a bit. See? She knows what's up.

I had the topic "Salty". It seemed I couldn't help but write about my mother, even though I had other things in mind when I sat down to hammer it out. So today, on the three year anniversary of her death, I reprint it here.


It was 1988, so naturally, my hair was enormous. I slept in rollers, then hot curled, sprayed, fanned, shaped, threw all of my styling tools into the sink in a fit of frustrated young girl rage. I did everything RIGHT.

But it rained anyway. Of course it did. And I didn’t have an umbrella. Of course I didn’t.

I hesitated before walking the short distance from the door to my mother’s car, wondering if Rave Level 4 Hold would be enough to withstand the downpour. My mother turned and saw my concern. In that moment, she offered sage wisdom to put things into perspective.

“Only two things melt in the rain,” she said, “shit and sugar. You’re not either of those, so let’s go.”

My 14 year old mind was blown. Thanks, Mom, for telling me I’m not shit. But also, those are the only two things that melt in the rain? Who conducted this experiment? They left out salt. And...anything else that dissolves in water. Like ice. Or a cake. A cake that, by my mother’s logic, was made of fondant and feces. I had so many questions and zero time to decipher her colloquialisms.

As I have aged, I have discovered salt doesn't dissolve. It transforms when it hits water. It becomes vital fluid.

Salt water is brine, antiseptic, hydration, the sea. Sugar water, meanwhile, is what the crazy guy keeps asking for at Starbucks. Dissolution is not an option for salt, so it was left out of my mother’s list of things I was not.


She was a 55 year smoker. Her voice was lower than any man’s in this room. She held onto her Brooklyn accent like a prize, and whenever I recall something she said, I imagine she had a cigarette in her hand. Because she did. She was the head of my salty family for a reason. She was a sailor, the rim of a margarita glass, she was a cure for the bland. She literally ate salt for breakfast by crumbling up saltines and pouring milk over them. We called it “cracker cereal.”

If I tell you someone I want to set you up with is so sweet, you’d expect two things: they’re idiots or they’re ugly. Sweet, it would seem, is a consolation prize. “You’re so sweet” is a pandering shitbag of a compliment.

We are all salty. Our blood, sweat, and tears define a person’s ability to live. Also, they have a fantastic horn section.

Saltiness pulses through us. When we cry, or become damp with exhaustion, or we cut our goddamned finger on the slicing blade of the Cuisinart even though there’s a big fucking orange sticker telling you not to do that and now you’ve bled all over everything, goddammit, we are human. We literally cannot live if we are not salty.


When my father took his life in 1987, we moved very quickly from my childhood home. Like, REALLY quickly. I didn’t know at the time that the bank was foreclosing on the house. You could say the bank salted the earth after we were defeated and left, but OTHER people did fine on that land. So...we kinda salted the earth under our own feet wherever we were.

Things had a hard time thriving wherever we lived - a tiny apartment in Melrose Park, my mother’s boyfriend’s house that had a mirrored dance floor no shit. We grew, but we didn’t thrive.  I mean, my HAIR. I worked HARD. Nope. Not gonna happen. You have been deprived of your riches, child, your father left you shame. Flat hair for you. Start over.


I don’t crave chocolate. I have been called a communist and have been accused of not being a real woman because of this fact. It’s not that I don’t like it. I just don’t crave it. Unless you add salt to it. A salted piece of chocolate will make me get up in the middle of the night. Salt makes sweet better.

My eight month old daughter is adorable and sweet. But when she got her first baby doll and went right for the face and started chewing, she somehow got even cuter. I’ve passed the saltiness on.


My husband and I have a very sweet meeting story. I will not bore you with it now. It’s awesome. It really is. But no one wants the sweet part. They want the fun part. The sustenance. The salty goodness. Ok. Here’s that part. We broke up about four years into our now ten year romance. Everyone had advice. Everyone had opinions. It was upsetting.

I did what every girl would do. I called my mother. Once again, salty to the rescue. Sweet had failed me over and over again.

“Fuck em,” she said, “This is about you and him and no one else.” That was the best advice I’ve ever gotten. You could dip it in ranch and make it even better.

The proper response for sweet is opening your mouth, tilting your head, looking foolish and saying, “Awwww.” The proper response to salty is raising one eyebrow, pulling in your chin, looking smarter than everyone else and saying, “mm.”

I have nothing against sweet. Sweet over there made my wedding cake AND my baby shower cake. Everyone likes sweet. It’s so...nice.

On the other hand, french fries. That’s all.


Let me tell you about my salty mother’s dying thought. I don’t know the very last thing she thought of, but I do know what she said to me in what turned out to be her final few hours. Lucidity, as it turns out, comes and goes when you’re about to leave this world. All I knew was that I shouldn’t correct the woman on her hallucinations because it confused her, and I hated hated hated seeing her confused. So I went with it. After asking if I could warn her when nurses were coming so she could put out her imaginary cigarette (she hadn’t smoked in two years. COPD didn’t give a shit), she asked me what number was “up there”. She gestured to the door. I knew immediately she was looking at a deli counter. Do you get that? A deli. She wanted some salty meat when she went, and who could blame her? I walked up to the fake counter and squinted. “92?” I said. “What number are you looking for?” “99,” she said. She died four hours later, as apparently it was a slow moving deli. And I bet dollars to donuts (see?  donuts are only worth a dollar. say dollars to Fritos and the value skyrockets on that bet), she is happily eating pastrami on rye and shoestring potatoes out of the can and licking the salt at the bottom.

Because that’s what heaven is. Where you get to lick the salt at the bottom.