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Ezine Originals: 
Real Life

Do I tip this guy or not, wondered Evvie as the young man with dark, slicked-back hair took her concert ticket. For the past week, she'd been waited on by such young men: courteous, attentive, tolerant of her highschool French. They'd brought her glasses of wine on her Boston-to-Paris flight, served her coffee at outdoor cafes, sold her diet Cokes at four dollars a can. One young man - a vendor in the tiny Haagen Dazs near her hotel - had the grace to remember her after she'd showed up for a third afternoon in a row for a cooling glacè...

Bag Lady
Freed of identity
Freed of democracy
Stoned by disease...

Big Daddy
Two things have gotten me into trouble all my life - being told I can't do something and speaking out in righteous indignation. The first got me into my former career, thanks to Harry Morse. I dated that moron briefly during my freshman year of college. Imagine the unmitigated gall, telling me I wasn't smart enough to be an engineer. I showed him. I graduated third in the engineering class. The feminist movement was just getting rolling and working in a profession dominated by men... (more )

The Big Fish
Seniority is rampant in New York City. I'm a senior myself, sixty years old, to be exact, recently moved to Manhattan. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of seniority you gain when you stay put. When you...

Breast Lump
I sit on my deck making my dinner by peeling the foil off of Hershey's Kisses thinking two thoughts. The first thought is that someday, I'll write the Hershey's people to thank them for pulling me through so many crises. The second thought is that it isn't cancer yet. It's still just a lump....

Little Suit counts couples, a mental reflex from her perch in a single-seat on the driver's side of the shiny imported bus. A pair with identical elephant pants and silver chin plugs, very retro, very edgy. Another two with Gucci shades - rip-offs, of course. Gal pals in iceberg lettuce uniforms. Bland but crisp. Much ado...

I knew it was "humiliation time" again as I walked into the girls' locker room and instantly smelled the strong odor of chlorine. My nose began to twitch and I rubbed it with the back of my wrist; my watch caught the base of my nostrils and felt cold....

Choose Your Own Adventure
I stood slightly nauseous as my aunt asked, "So what are you going to do when you graduate?" Me? Graduate? I feel like I just got used to college! I'm not ready to be an adult, trade in my Eastpak for a briefcase, and read the New York Times on the 5:45 train every morning. Thoughts of investing in a good gray suit and sitting for eight hours in...

Conquering AIDS One Mile at a Time
I can't count the number of moments before the ride when I thought I must be crazy to spend four days cycling through North Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia. It was the year I turned 35 and I was eager to hit my mid-30 point having done something spectacular. After hearing a co-worker recount his experience in the event...

Deprogramming in progress - please hold
My name is Sennie. I am 34 years old. It's 4:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. I have decided that from this day forth I will do only the things that make me happy...

"My name is Vera Simmons and I'm a co-dependent."

The woman speaks in a whisper so that no one will hear her. She is standing hunched over as if she would like to disappear into herself. She has graying brown hair and nondescript eyes behind thick plastic glasses, $25.99, at Wal-Mart. She has dark circles beneath her eyes; her skin looks sallow and ill-kept. She wears a clean but tattered sweater, the moss green does not suit her, it is a hand-me-down from her mother. Her shoes are large and orthopedic; she needs them for the errands she runs from morning to night. She is thirty-two but looks at least thirty-six. She has never said "no" a day in her life. She is not a woman that I like...

Driving to Nowhere
The gas station attendant looked at Eleanor suspiciously when she asked for the key to the restroom. Stupid hippy, his eyes said, I know what your kind does in our bathroom. Reluctantly, he handed it over to her, a lone key on a key chain with a tacky metallic zebra. "Okay," he said, looking at the Pepsi clock on the wall, "Five minutes only. We got other customers. And remember, I've got the other key." He patted a key ring attached to his jeans and grinned menacingly...

Sipping hot tea, gazing across the empty beach towards where the night rests upon the ocean, a woman sits on the wooden steps that lead from the beach to the cottage. She has wrapped her cotton nightgown tight around her knees and legs. Her thin feet are bare, the toenails cut blunt and left unpolished. Her long black hair twisted up in a barrette sets off the inky depths of her eyes--bright as an animal's. She wears no make-up and, except for the silver bracelet that seems somehow misplaced on her, no jewelry. Radiating an air of stark candor, she's a woman whom you'd expect to smell like herself, her breath moist with a warm salty aftertaste...

Empowering Women to Rescue Zambia from AIDS
Chilufia Mwaba is a beautiful and resolute Zambian in her late twenties. Her short hairstyle highlights a lively, sensually featured face. Her plain outfits unveil nonchalantly but generously the polished dark skin of her d╗collet╗. She sits smiling at us with poise from her desk at the Society for Family Health's headquarters, a modest building situated...

Everything You Need
There's this big lie out there. That we can do anything. And everything we need to do it is at the Home Warehouse...( more)

False Face
Mom disappeared behind the furnace down in the basement. I heard a scraping noise and she emerged, dragging a box filled with Halloween costumes she'd made for my older sisters. We pawed through them, looking for something I could wear to the third grade party. I didn't want to wear the red union suit with a limp devil's tail sewn onto the back, nor the tattered black witch's dress, nor the "little Dutch girl" false face that smelled like old Band- Aids... ( more)

The First Vacation After
For the first month or two, people were kind, inviting me out to dinner and the like. But then they went back to their own lives. I never minded being alone, even when Peter was alive. But Selma, my best friend, couldn't stand it. "You've moped enough," she said...

Fort Knox
Oh, God. I've just arrived in Manhattan alone and I can't unlock the door to my new apartment.

This is how I imagined my first minutes in New York. But it doesn't happen that way, because when I change trains in Chicago, from the California Zephyr to the Lakeshore, I sit beside a friendly young Australian woman traveling in the United States. From Seattle to Chicago she hasn't been able to reach the Manhattan telephone number she was given, and so I invite her to put her sleeping bag in my empty apartment once we get there. She accepts, and I have my first guest. A guest who is good with keys...

Someone on my team catches the ball, so I start jogging down court, my eyes fixed on the spot where I'm supposed to be: under the basket. I'm almost there when the ball slams into the side of my head and ricochets out of bounds. I smell the pain - it smells like a hospital - and I hear the mean blare of the buzzer. Subs in, me out. I start jogging for the bench before I hear my name...

I don't want to boast,
But when the moon shone bright over the hayfields
I stripped to my bare nothings
And cast my two broad buttocks toward the sky
And laughed at the sheer delicious moment
Of unbridled freedom ...

Front Page News About Women in Pants
When I was growing up in the early 1900s, all women had long hair and no women wore pants. Soon after I sacrificed my long gold curls for freedom for women while I was a freshman at Florida State College for Women, the boy I had been seeing in Gainesville wrote to me that he did not intend to have dates with a woman with short hair. I was not sorry to be rid of him....

When my husband said he wanted to build a boat, I said, "Fine. Okay. Let's do it."
So we did.....

Going Up
My 3-inch heels clanked obnoxiously on the marbled floors. I was late, my blouse untucking, my breath short, my face flushed, and my bags slipped off my shoulder. A hand reached between the closing elevator doors. "Thank you SO much," I gushed. "I'm SO late."...

Goodbye Travail... on leaving my dream job in France
Today is my very last day of working at the vineyard. For months, my stomach has been in knots. Today I feel as if I am walking on clouds. I have the carefree feeling that belongs to one who is leaving a company and could care less. My underlying attitude is "What can she do, fire me?"...

You are the dust I have brushed from my feminine, capable fingers
The unwanted pounds I have shed...

The House for Unwed Fathers
My cousins call it the house for unwed fathers. It's not really a house though, just a big apartment. And, while all the guys living there are old fathers, not all are unwed. Unconventional would be a better word for them.

In this house live the artist, the athlete, the poet, the plumber, the trucker, and the burger flipper. The artist and the plumber are actually one and the same, and my dad Nick, who drives a truck for a living, is among these five graying men...

Just Jillin'
Last summer, my daughter and I moved to a dry town in Arkansas, and while I was trying to adjust to the hellish weather and the inability to buy a beer, I longed for some relief in bed. I was living in the Bible Belt, surrounded by strangers who invited my daughter and me to their churches, but I knew that I wouldn't be seeking pleasure...

Keeping the Spirit Alive: What is Left of You After the Divorce War Dust Settles?
There are no time-outs on a battlefield, with divorce or any other war.
Divorce wars don't end after the judge declares the divorce final. They just begin. In some instances, the battles continue into the next generation, especially if there are several children and financial entanglements.
Women have to realize early that...

The Lesbian Theory
"If you're not dating someone, people might think you're a lesbian," my mother proclaimed... ( more)

Life After Work
I've been throwing dirty dishes into the sink, a little too hard, not quite hard enough to break them but almost wishing for the release of shattering glass. Of course I don't want to break my dishes, I'm just tired of washing them all the time. Somehow my transition to stay-at-home mom is missing a June Cleaver component that would keep me cheerful through the end of the day. Maybe pearls would help...

The Little Moron and the Manhole Cover
Like the Little Moron of the '40s and '50s who wanted to make a splash on Broadway, I've come to Manhattan. How can I be so ambitious at age sixty? I don't know. It comes naturally. Say I'm a sixty-year-old moron who wants to make a splash, or at least a ripple. I want attention, justification, epiphany, redemption. I want my books published....

Living Alone
I used to have a husband and three children. They are all gone now. First he left, and I didn't know what to do. No one in my family had ever gotten a divorce. A neighbor suggested I have a glass of wine to calm down in the evening. I was three thousand miles away from my natural family, and the unthinkable had happened. My husband had found someone else. The children were 8 months, 18 months, and 8 years old...

Living Bridget Jones:
The Rise and Fall of the Ten-Point Plan
When a glowing and expectant mother turns to Bridget Jones at a dinner party and asks, "Why is it, Bridget, that there are so many single women in their thirties now? Why is that?!" the plight of the thirty-something single, professional woman is perfectly epitomized. Perhaps we don't look like Renee Zellweger or work with the likes of Hugh Grant, but the popularity of Bridget Jones' Diary is a testament...( more)

Mean Streak
my hands appeared smaller today,
could've been the florescent light of the graffiti-mean-streaked bathroom on the third floor, coulda just been.
in there i like to narrow my eyes at the girl in the glass - the one who wears too much make-up sometimes, sometimes not enough.
i do a little tap dance on those dirty tiles
breaking backs right and left.
the dangers of the bathroom stall creep in on mama's lips
don't sit down...
( more)

My Life as a Body
In fifth and sixth grades we passed around spiral notebooks called "Slam Books." On each notebook page there was a category - like "cutest couple" or "smartest boy." Nearly everyone made their own notebook, and filling the pages with names from our classes took a lot of time, in class and on the playground. A quiet, generally good kid, I sometimes saw my own name on the "nicest girl" page... ( more)

Office Days
All day I worked on the run
in a room without windows

I used to work the cocktail shift at Vivaldi, an upscale cafeteria-style eatery in the Financial District of San Francisco. The shift started at five thirty and went till two a.m., when we closed, but of course I couldn't leave at two, because I had to cash out and tip the bartender, wipe all the tables and empty ashtrays. That was after a full day of...

Packing Light
As I was finishing my master's degree in London, I had the idea that I should try another country instead of rushing back to the United States like all my classmates seemed to be doing. "I just can't wait to go shopping at Target," one girl used to say as graduation approached. People like her spent their days in London...

The small rise
in my belly
flattened into fever
and a hospital bed...

Pictures: Worth More Than Words
In a matter of months I will be exiting my twenties and weaving the rest of my story as a 30+ year old. I have a photo album project sitting under my coffee table right now that gives a brief summary of my journey thus far. I finally have the photos in chronological order and I'm labeling each one.
It's not the dates or places I remember easily. As I glance through...

Picture Day
It's picture day at Walmart, and my neighbor, Beth, and I are going to get pictures taken of our babies. I am planning to send one to Jack's parents to show them the grandchild they have never acknowledged. Melanie is crying with hunger, and the phone is chirping at me. Instead of ignoring the phone, as I should...(more)

Pissing Like a Man
"I can't," I say to my husband, Mike, as he offers me a beer across the campfire.
"Why not? The kids are asleep for the night. Have another beer, relax."
"It's not that," I say as I squirm in my folding chair. "I have to pee."
Mike points to the woods surrounding our campsite. "Pick a tree, any tree. The woods are your toilet."
"I can't," I repeat.
"Well, I can," my husband says. He nonchalantly rises, puts his beer down, walks into the woods, and relieves himself.

It is late June, and unusually hot and humid for this time of year in central New Jersey. Our roaring campfire only adds unnecessarily to the heat. My cheeks feel red and flushed. I'm crave liquid refreshment. Foolishly determined to avoid the need to urinate, I remain parched.

After a six-year hiatus from camping, my husband and I had decided to be spontaneous and take the kids, 5-year-old Olivia, and 2-year-old Jared, on their first ever outdoor adventure. We hadn't been camping since before I first became pregnant. But camping trips used to be part of an annual summer ritual for us. We'd blow off steam, escape into the woods, and get in touch with nature.

It is to my great embarrassment that I admit that I'm not quite as "in touch with nature" as I wanted to think. I'm a grown woman, mother of two, who enjoyed camping for more than a decade, and yet I have never urinated in the woods...

The Place Where I Live
Cockroaches come out in the dark of night when no one is watching. They scurry about your countertop and hide again in the day and you may not even know that they are there. So you answer the ad in the classifieds for the one-bedroom apartment available immediately utilities included $900 a month. You marvel at your luck because...

Q & A
The day I graduate from college, I will make my smooth transition into international super-stardom. Failing that, I will join a nomadic band of hunter-gatherers. It's good to have a back-up plan. It's also good to have a stack of one-liners stockpiled to use against...(more)

Shared Living Space
A New Old Way for the New Older Woman

By the time I was 55, I had been married twice and involved in a several significant relationships. My children were grown and off on their personal journeys. I lived alone and sometimes was lonely, but I had no desire to ever marry again or share a home with a lover. I worked, supported myself adequately, and owned a comfortable place to live. Finances weren't tight right then but had been in the past, and, as I got older, I knew they could be tight again. My situation was such that I could have muddled on for some time, living alone, worrying a little about money and personal safety, and over scheduling myself so that I wouldn't feel lonely too often...

Singled Out
"Did you ever hear from that guy we met last time?" my friend Joyce asked as we sped along the highway to a get-together of the Senior Singles.

"No," I mumbled, signaling to a pass a small car poking along. How could I tell her that I'd had four dates with him and fallen deeply in love?...

When I was pregnant, I could have eaten a dozen eggs at once, if someone had indulged my greed, and still been hungry for cave woman food: bear fat, mammoth steaks, clay, great handfuls of loamy black dirt. That hunger is an impenetrable mystery women share. Also, too, is the sickness, the nausea that comes from the boiling, beating potency growing within us, the power that thrusts burnt coppery fumes through our throats, the force that demands so much that we can hardly stand from exhaustion...

Wide open spaces --
wide open wind --
fifteen iced winters,
fifteen vacant years,
I fell down
in the farmhouse,
my father's black
farmhouse & my mother's flat
silence, my father's dull
beatings, my dull blackened skin
alloyed with the cold...

Talk About Envy
Did you know you can ride your bike for a full day along Interstate 80 in western Utah and not find one bush or even a ditch for privacy?...

Tamoxifen Tonight - Flashes and Flashbacks
It's 11:00 P.M. and I wash down a Tamoxifen tablet and begin the determined preparations for sleep. Before breast cancer, before I found the lump, before the surgery, and before these pills meant to starve the tumor, sleep was not an undertaking but an effortless pleasure. Closing my eyes at night, I would deeply and blissfully slumber...

Telephone Companions
Jane's voice has always been the most beautiful thing about her. It's a jewel of a voice, framed by the unpretentious setting of her stooping figure, her lined face. When she was younger and people still fell in love with her, it was her voice rather than her body that they praised. Even her friends agreed that there was something special about her voice, something mesmerizing...
( more)

Staring at the cracks in my ceiling, I start to think that taking up drinking again wouldn't be a bad idea. To try one more time to be good at drinking. Really good. ... (more)

To Match, or not to Match? That is His Question
"This woman is amazing," my significant other comments from his place beside me on the sofa. "Why can't you do this?"...

A 21st Century Woman
It was mid-afternoon on a Wednesday. I was very happy where I was. It was warm. It was safe. There was chocolate. There were Cheese-Doodles. And the covers felt really good over my head.

Then the phone rang.

It was my friend Mark calling to console me. I'd been dumped. By a guy who wasn't nearly good enough for me. By a guy who treated me like shit. Yet there I was weeping as if he were chocolate incarnate. It wasn't pretty...

Up and Coming
Recently I came to a decision that has invited an onslaught of adjectives, chief among them masochistic, foolish, rash, and hasty. I've also been told that I am visionary, prudent, and a savvy investor. Twenty-four, unmarried, and largely unskilled in manual labor, I've decided to buy an old house that needs a lot of work in a neighborhood best referred to, in real estate parlance, as -Up and Coming.Š...(more)

Where the Troubles Lie
Moving is rarely fun. My husband tried to convince me that the new job seven hundred miles away would add an important paragraph to his resume. Uprooted after twenty years, I felt like a tree downed by lightning. The only consolation was the garden that came with the house we found. Planted when the house was young, it looked like an old park thirty years later. Tall pines and stately magnolias were interspersed with azaleas that exploded in lavender and red in the spring. The greatest attraction was a formal garden, complete with brick walks and boxwood enclosures. I envisioned it as a full-fledged herb garden, a dream I had nurtured since cultivating herbs... (more)

Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire?
There's an old expression that if you marry for money, you'll wind up earning every cent of it. Another saying advises that it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one. But the way I see it, the problem is frame of reference. We need to start teaching our daughters to become millionaires on their own...(more)

Why IS it that...I didn't just hire a surrogate?
In this age of convenience, why on earth do most women bother to bear their own children? My theory is that the horrors of childbirth are purposely hidden from us girls until we have already gotten ourselves in that age old "predicament.".....(more)

Woe Be Gone
I have just realized that nobody wants to hear about my life story, sad though I think it might be, nor do they care about how brave I think I am some mornings just for getting out of bed. I discovered this chilling fact after searching diligently for a magazine to print my article. I soon came to realize there isn't a single magazine entitled "Woe 'R Us" much less one dedicated to the pursuit of tales about old chicks with sad pasts...(more)

Working Woman
Working Woman pauses
before her day begins
seated at a small round table in a cafe
coffee cup held half way to her lips
she dreams the door opens wide
as wide as her heart
this day when the
daffodils are so bright
in their yellow jackets
she cannot help but smile...

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