How I Met My Spouse

Nine years ago, tonight, I went to a lounge called Napoleon with my friend Laura, seeking a regular fun night.

It’d been a long, cold winter in which I’d stayed holed up in my apartment, being angry at a guy I’d dated for a couple of months over the summer. He’d been a big enough jerk for my anger to last a full six months. But one Tuesday, I woke up and felt fine about it all. The weirdest sense of peace and contentment took me over.

I’d decided to give up alcohol for Lent because the friend who usually bought my drinks had done so, leaving me no choice. (What was I going to do? Buy my own drinks?) So, when I went out with Laura that Friday night, I drank Coke while she indulged in a Champagne cocktail.

But, I thought, at least my eyebrows looked great. I’d left work earlier that afternoon to get them threaded for the first time, and they looked quite sleek, if also a little puffy.

Having a great time in the basement lounge (upstairs was a really nice French restaurant) as music thudded, I noticed a group of kids who’d gone to Georgetown had all come in together, as if the “freshman herd” concept had extended into post-grad life. There was a Black guy in their midst. He looked familiar because there’s only so many Black people at Georgetown at one time, but I’d never actually talked to him. I’d seen him in the cafeteria with guys who played soccer, but he didn’t come to the parties I went to, so we wouldn’t have had the chance to meet.

I told Laura that he looked familiar, and she said I should go talk to him. I refused, saying I wasn’t going to approach some random man in a lounge. She slapped my arm and said I was being ridiculous. As he came closer to where we were, she gave me a line, “You look familiar, did you go to Georgetown?”

When he came close enough, and there was a break in the songs, I delivered the line. He said yes, he did go to Georgetown. We introduced ourselves over the loud music and danced.

After a while, he asked if I wanted some water. Before I could say, “Sure,” he added, “I meant, a drink?”

I shook my head. “Water’s fine,” I said. “I gave up alcohol for Lent.”

He giggled.

“I mean, I know it’s hard, but you’nt have to laugh in my face,” I half-joked.

“No, I meant—I gave up alcohol Lent, too,” he said.

I wondered if he was BSing—of course you’d tell a woman you’ve met in a bar that you’d given up alcohol for Lent just to save $8 to $14 on a drink. But he was for real.

We sat with the water and talked for a while. It got late, so Laura went home, and after a bit, his friends did, too, leaving us alone together. So, naturally, we kept talking: about our families, about Georgetown, about studying abroad and how the world is both wonderful and racist regardless of where you go.

I had to go to work at my part-time job early the next day, so around 2am, I put on my hat and coat, and he followed me out of the lounge. Outside, he asked for my phone number. I hesitated, not wanting to give my number to someone I’d met in a bar, but something said it would be okay, so I did.

“Could you spell your name for me?” He asked.

When I asked the same of him, I realized neither one of us had heard what the other had said when we introduced ourselves.

“Rustin,” he said. “Like Justin, with an R.”

“Got it,” I said.

We hugged, and I hailed a cab, and went home. I didn’t really think about him again until he called me that Sunday evening, asking to go out the following Friday, Good Friday.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Nine years later, I still don’t regret leaving work early to get my eyebrows threaded, or giving up alcohol for Lent that year. All things worked together for my good. Best 9 years of my life!

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I Was Hit by a Car Last Week

Last Monday, I was hit by a car.

On my way to return some books to the library, I was crossing the street, with the light in my favor (the little white man with the countdown), in the crosswalk. A man turned left more quickly than he should have and, though I contend that he saw me, careened right into my left knee. The force knocked me down, and I landed on my hands and knees.

My first thought was, “My jeans better not be torn.” (They weren’t, but my knees hurt from being scraped across denim that hit pavement pretty hard.)

And then I realized that had happened: I had been following the rules, doing what I was supposed to, when someone hurt me.

I picked myself up and began screaming, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? DID YOU NOT SEE THAT I HAD THE LIGHT? WHAT WERE YOU DOING?”

I screamed at the top of my lungs from the deepest depth of my belly. It was like I was screaming at everyone who had ever hurt me. I was shaking from adrenaline, but also because I was screaming so loud that I was surprising myself.

And then I was breathless.

The driver—an older Black man—apologized a bunch of times, and I ultimately accepted his apology. I knew I didn’t have any broken bones or anything other than the scrapes on my knees, so I wouldn’t need to drag him through legal or financial mud, even though an old lady stood on the sidewalk yelling at me, “You weren’t supposed to get up! You’re supposed to stay down until the police come!” There was no need to stop traffic on an extremely busy road during evening rush hour because of scrapes on my knees.

When I got home, I went straight to the bathroom and cleaned up my wounds. As I applied Neosporin and band-aids, I thought about the fact that I’d screamed at someone at the top of my lungs in the middle of a busy road during rush hour. I’ve never really screamed at anyone before, not even my husband.

When I went to therapy later that week, my therapist asked how it felt to do it.

“It felt great,” I said. “It was like I’d finally farted after holding it in for a really long time.”

He was mystified at the fact that it took being stricken by an SUV to get me to express anger. I tend to keep it bottled up, for fear of losing control.

“Be angry and do not sin,” the scripture goes. I never really saw how it was possible to do the first and not do the second, so I figured I’d stay away from the emotion altogether. Of course, that’s not what God has wanted me to do. And now I’m finding healthy ways of expressing anger when I feel it that don’t involve screaming like a madwoman in the middle of the street.

So, though I wish it hadn’t happened and pray that it will never happen again, I needed to be hit by a car to allow myself to feel another emotion I’ve been afraid of. I guess I can call it one more step in becoming a fully adult human and a more mature follower of Christ.

 

Woman with a Plan: AWP 2018 Recap

After being on the fence about it for a while, I took the plunge and went to my second AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference.

I had a great time at my first one, but was so overwhelmed by all of the panels and people and things and stuff that I had a headache for four days straight, and spent the Sunday after in sweatpants on the couch, watching golf for hours, in recovery.

This time, I felt a lot more prepared:

  • I carefully chose 2-3 panels for each time slot.
  • I decided to give a panel no more than 30 minutes if I felt it was going in an energy-sucking direction (15-20 is better, actually; gives you time to process what the panelists are talking about after they’ve done introductions).
  • I went in with concrete goals: talk to 5 literary magazines I’d researched to see what the editors are looking for these days, and to meet the people I’d met online in real life
  • I decided to only buy books by authors I knew, or books I was really excited about, or books by authors who seemed to write the kind of stuff I liked (I got suckered into a lot of books I didn’t like last year; hence, these parameters).

As a result, I had an amazing time!

I went to 16 panels, and of those, I left two, and I established within 15 minutes or sooner that they were going to be energy-suckers. (I don’t mean to insult the panelists when I say this. “Energy-sucking” means that I feel literally drained by the talk, either because of how the presenters talk [monotony] or because they only talk in vague/general terms.) So, 14 were great, and a large subsection of those were ludicrously helpful or encouraging.

I spoke with the 5 lit mags I’d intended, and then I allowed myself to be intrigued by some others. I stuck with buying cheaper back issues, so I could get a feel for what they like without breaking the bank on new issues or subscribing altogether. But, if I knew I would like it, I happily subscribed and felt no guilt.

I met so many people I met online! I even met up with about half of one of my online classes at the instructor’s panel!

And there was even a mini VONA reunion!

That was the most exciting part about this year’s AWP—no longer feeling like an outsider. Actually knowing people—even if we were just meeting because we’d only seen each other on Facebook or Twitter—made such a big difference. I don’t say this to discourage newbies from coming (and I’ll likely make it a goal to meet new people there next year), but it made it less intimidating. If you can say with some certainty that you know at least 5 people of the 12,000, it’s surprising how much easier it is to breathe.

The biggest delights of the conference were running into my first fiction professor, Jennifer Fink, who taught me what literary fiction was back in fall 2005, when I was still a heavy chicklit reader and teeny-bopper romance writer. Basically, she helped me to see my talent for storytelling, not just telling a story. I also met a woman who I’m pretty sure I interviewed for a position at my old job; she’s since also left the industry, written a novel, and is in an MFA program. I asked during her panel how she was coping with the lack of concreteness in writing and with the prospect of making way less money, and I was so touched by her honesty: “I’m not sure I’m coping well with either,” she said, laughing. I felt seen and understood, and Lord, if that’s not the point of art in the first place.

She gave a galley of her book (which seems really interesting), and I added it to the pile of other treasures I’d collected: novels by Percival Everett (one of my favorites ever), Simeon Marsalis (as a former Jazz at Lincoln Center patron, I had to!), and stacks of literary magazines I targeted because they publish Black women who I want to write like, like Danielle Evans and ZZ Packer.

So, I accomplished all of my goals, and didn’t feel remotely as overwhelmed. My spouse and I scheduled travel to Miami for vacation that Monday instead of that Sunday because I assumed I’d be as lifeless as last year, but I felt totally fine, so we got an extra day to explore Tampa. Tampa’s not the most thrilling town, but while I was talking to my spouse as we walked around after brunch, I got the words for an essay that’d be germinating in my soul for months.

That’s what AWP is all about: inspiring you to keep writing, even when you feel so far over your head, you’re barely standing. But at least you know with certainty that you are not alone.

Everything Happens for a Reason

I hate the saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I question its veracity, and even if it is true, it’s still annoying.

I didn’t blog last Tuesday because I was crazy busy, trying to get through some work for a writing class I’m in, submit some other work, and resume revising my memoir. It was also the same day that Rustin asked if I wanted to tag along on his business trip to NYC the next day. He’d been working sleeplessly for days, so I figured it’d be nice for us to at least sleep in the same bed while he (and I) was still busy with work in NYC. So, I went.

I was hugely productive on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and even got to see a few friends. (I’m leery of asking my NYC friends to hang out on short notice, so I didn’t see a lot of folks. When I lived in NY, I made plans weeks in advance, so I assume short notice invitations cause people just as much anxiety as they caused me. So if I didn’t see you, please don’t be offended—I love and miss you, I promise!) I’d planned to spend Friday evening reading Priestdaddy on the train back to DC, then to do a whole mess of domestic and community things on Saturday.

But the Nor’easter made other plans.

Amtrak cancelled trains between Boston and DC late Friday. Rustin’s assistant called him and said she’d arranged for a car to pick us up and drive us back to DC—hallelujah for big law perks!

So, at around 5:30pm, we hit the road. There was the usual traffic getting out of the city and into NJ, but we’d expected that. Everything ran smoothly through the rest of NJ and through Delaware. We entered Maryland, and things started to get hairy.

The GPS said that 95 was backed up for miles and suggested an alternate route, starting at the next exit. Well, it took an hour to get the 2 miles to the next exit. At that point, we realized that 95 was closed.

Rustin, being from Maryland, said that we should try I-40, which is about 10 miles away from 95, but could help us go around the traffic. We followed the GPS onto the back country roads in the dark of night. I peered out at the shadows of houses, and I couldn’t help but think of a Twitter post I’d read earlier with a picture of a century-old dollhouse captioned, “Based on my professional opinion, there are approximately 12 to 37 ghosts in this house.”

We passed a house with a sinister blue light shining into the front yard. Next to it, a car parked, and a man in a hoodie got out and started to walk down the street.

We continued following the GPS’ voice, dodging branches that had snapped off trees and fallen into the road. More creepy houses. More ghosts. And then the blue light again.

The stupid GPS had taken us in a circle around this creepy backwoods!

Rustin navigated us back to the main road. On our way, we passed the guy in the hoodie again. He was one of the workers picking up branches—a creepy guy making our journey safe.

When we finally arrived at the mouth of I-40, the road was a parking lot. We squeezed through traffic and made our way to a gas station down the street, where we learned that the bridge there had been closed. There were no roads to the rest of Maryland, much less to DC.

So, we turned around.

We went back to NYC, arriving at 2:30am, nine hours after our departure, just to have landed at a hotel up the street from the train station.

Rustin and I spent Saturday working, and Sunday morning brunching, before finally getting the train back to DC Sunday afternoon.

I have never been so happy to sleep in my own bed.

So, if everything happens for a reason, I don’t know what we missed, but we were meant to miss it. I didn’t finish reading Priestdaddy on the train, so I had to buy a copy. Maybe that’s what all of this was about: buying a book that became overdue to the library.

Everything happens for a reason.

Love Lessons taught by Black Panther

SPOILER ALERT!!! Don’t read any further if you don’t want a good spoiler!

 

 

Like virtually every other Black person in America, this weekend, I went to see Black Panther. I’d been excited about it for a full nine months – I highly respect Disney and Marvel’s marketing prowess to have kept me in eager anticipation (and active prayer that the world wouldn’t end before) seeing this movie.

Since I don’t want to make commentary that’s already been made so well (like this!!!), I’ll say that my favorite part was during the big battle scene, when W’Kabi, astride his rhino, considers attacking his own love, Okoye. When she turns her spear on him, he asks, “Would you really consider killing me?” She says, “For Wakanda, absolutely.” (I’ve only seen the movie once, so I’m paraphrasing, work with me.) He looks around, sees all of these beautiful Black men fighting these beautiful Black women. And he surrenders to her.

My body temperature skyrocketed, so I had to unzip my hoodie before I exploded in a hotflash. I also fought back tears.

Much of what I have written about my whole life has been about relationships, as I’ve spent almost my whole life wondering why so many turn out so badly. I wanted to know what made them work, and what exactly it was that made things so sour. The answer to all of these questions is, “People.”

People come into relationships with their own baggage, emotional scars passed from previous generations that have never been resolved. And they don’t figure out how to resolve them, either because they don’t want to or because they don’t think that they can be.

As preachy and 90s-self-help-Oprah as it sounds, I found that insecurity is the cause of almost all relationship problems and that self-love helps to resolve lots of them. When I studied healthy relationships, I saw two people who stood tall on their own and taller with the other person. Neither needed validation from the other. Each was secure within him or herself and the other person was just an added bonus to a good life already been lived.

I tried to model my own relationships after this model. In one short-lived affair, it didn’t work out so well because the other person was ragingly insecure. But in the next, it seemed to go well, and it’s been going well for almost 9 years.

That scene in Black Panther showed a man surrendering his insecurities for the woman and the country he loved. He seemed to realize that his ego or pride—the most common costumes for insecurity—wouldn’t actually solve the problem, which was that a despot (even if he did have some good ideas) had taken over their country. If more men could be so bold and focused on the common goal, the world would be a very different and so much better place.

Of course, the same goes for women. I think a lot of our issues are like a hall of mirrors, one bouncing off the other, bouncing off the other, bouncing off the other. If one image stopped, maybe the whole mirror would shatter, and all we would have is reality, with no choice but to love what we saw in front of us, not our expectations.

I Remember Nothing

I’ve gotten my manuscript back from my readers, and they gave me really helpful comments! But one really struck me: a suggestion that I open the story with a key moment that my dad and I shared.

I sat on this for a week, thinking that something would float to my mind.

I sat on it for another week.

And then another.

Long enough for my husband to ask me just the other day, “You’re still writing a book, aren’t you?”

I have been paralyzed by this simple but vital suggestion.

My dad and I lived together for only a few years with respect to my whole life (and his), and most of his time was spent focusing on other things, like his other children or his church. Growing up, I didn’t really think about this; it was just the way things were, so there wasn’t anything to question. Until I got this great question.

I can think of only a couple of really key moments that my father and I had together when I was younger. He taught me how to put on my clothes (“The tag goes in the back”) and how to tie my shoes. He also taught me how to cross the street, and how to steer a car from the passenger’s seat (why that was a necessary skill, I hope to never find out).

He had a few sayings that I found annoying or infuriating depending on how serious I was being at the time.

“What’s up?” Someone would say.

“Chicken butt,” Dad would reply. “Five cent a cup; want some?”

He also taught me a weird rhyme/song that involved a monkey chewing tobacco on a streetcar line, then dying and going to heaven in a row boat.

Other than that, like Dory the blue-tang fish, I don’t really remember a lot in terms of one-on-one interactions with my dad.

I asked my therapist what I could do to try to mine some more things, and he suggested hypnotism. I’m not really sure I’ll undergo that; the idea of releasing control of my mind really freaks me out. Coming up with some great things for my book might not be worth that stress.

It’s been incredibly frustrating—not remembering these really key details that I think could possibly make or break my book—but there doesn’t seem to be much else I can do.

So, for now, I’ll just have to toil with what I have and see how that impacts the story.

How do you remember things that are buried really deeply?

The First Time I Felt Like a Woman

At an Ellevate Network event a couple of years ago, I asked Jean Chatsky, the TODAY Show correspondent and well-known personal finance guru, how to find a good financial advisor. She said, “Get a recommendation from a friend. Never get one from a cold-call.” This was distressing to the young woman standing next to me, as she was a new financial advisor with a big firm and all she did was cold-call.

So, I vowed to stick with Jean’s advice. I asked friends for recommendations, and unfortunately, they didn’t have any. Through Ellevate, I met a great retirement planner who’s been super helpful. But with the move back to DC, we weren’t sure if we should get someone to do in-person meetings with and who would lay out a full shebang financial plan.

A planner had been reaching out to my spouse for years, and because my spouse is extraordinarily nice, he always answered. So, I went against my vow and agreed to meet with the planner.

He was fine. Young, but smart and driven. He spoke to my spouse and me equally, but afterward, I felt awful.

I had this adverse reaction in the pit of my stomach that was purely visceral. I couldn’t articulate what or why I was feeling what I was feeling, just that I didn’t feel right.

We’ve been in our condo for almost 6 months, and we still have several DIY projects outstanding, a fact that has begun to grate on me.

One of them was to install a marble ledge in the shower (I hate plastic shower caddies). We’d bought the pizza-shaped wedge of marble months ago and just hadn’t gotten around to researching how to put it in, so I opened YouTube and determined to take matters into my own hands.

I ordered everything I needed off Amazon—by far, the strangest combination of goods I’ve ever ordered: construction adhesive, caulk, duck tape, a utility knife. I was kinda concerned they would think I was a terrorist, but I figured I could just show them the “How to Install a Shower Shelf” YouTube video and be fine.

We couldn’t use the shower for two days, and it looked insane.

But I did it.

I installed a marble shower shelf, and it is still up, and it looks amazing.

I talked to my therapist about what I felt in my gut after meeting with the planner, hoping he could help me articulate what the devil it was. And, like my therapist almost always does, he did.

“I felt like I didn’t matter,” bubbled up out of me. “I felt like a woman.”

It was like I’d slapped myself across the face.

For years, I’d read that married women felt minimized during certain financial processes, but I’d never felt that way until about a year ago.

When we started house hunting, we had to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Since I wasn’t working full-time, I suggested that we just include my husband’s income and credit, because including mine would make things complicated. But, as a result, only his name was put on the deed. I had to wait months and send a lot of emails to have my name added to the home that I very much owned.

The meeting with the planner reinforced that feeling. There didn’t seem to be any regard for my potential, the fact that I have an MBA and plan to return to MBA-level work. And that hurt. I’m not saying that he should have built a plan around my hypothetical, but I wanted some respect for where I’ve been and where I’m going. I’ve spent 7 years trying to gain acceptance into this industry, and I felt that I couldn’t get it from someone I was looking to hire, much less trying to get a job.

I’m not saying that the planner or the mortgage guy or the title people are bad people at all. They were just doing what was easiest for them, so I can’t really blame them for doing what I myself would do, too.

But I, for the first time in my life, felt like a woman. And I hated every part of it.

Although our outstanding projects were bugging me, it was more important to my subconscious that I feel capable again.

Putting up the shower ledge made me feel like I mattered. There was a problem, I acquired the necessary tools, and I solved it. It was as if to say, “See, world? See what I can do when you get out of my way and let me be me? Awesomeness happens.”

I hope the world soon learns to listen to me, remove it’s expectations of me, and watch me make awesomeness happen.

Invincibility

I’ve started working out again after several months’ hiatus due to plantar fasciitis, also known as the worst thing ever.

Exercising was a godsend to me while I was going through work trauma in New York. My trainer, Ralph, became my therapist after my actual therapist moved back to Long Island, just as I was deciding whether to leave my job or not.

Ralph wasn’t put off by my appearance of weakness. Even though I’ve been twiggy my whole life, he gave me heavy weights and told me that I could get through the set. I once did lat pull-downs with 70 pounds, a feat my husband couldn’t do at the time. I sumo-squatted with a 75 pound kettlebell that Ralph had to pull out for me because I couldn’t carry it. I lunged with 55 pounds of kettlebells between my two hands.

I felt invincible. Okay, not quite invincible, but I felt that I could withstand a lot of opposition because, ultimately, that’s what weights are: resistance. Pulling my weight (no pun intended) in the face of resistance made me feel mentally and emotionally stronger while the crap was hitting the fan at work. As my daily life got more and more filled with opposition, I could stand strong.

I got plantar fasciitis last May while playing wiffle ball with my nieces and nephews in-law. My husband’s family is very sports-focused, so, luckily, being a gym rat is an asset on that end. But when my foot struck the trashcan lid/home plate in my old, worn-down sneakers, I knew something had gone amiss.

Walking became properly painful a couple of weeks later. While I was in Philly for VONA and couldn’t leave my room in my old sneakers, I finally tossed them in the dorm refuse bin. I wore flip-flops with soft bottoms because that was the only thing that felt somewhat good.

But they turned out to be horrible for my feet. I didn’t realize this until I went to the doctor about two months after the initial injury. I learned that, sometimes, you’re wrong when you think pain is just going to go away on its own. It’s probably actually getting worse.

So, not really able to walk, I couldn’t work out. I couldn’t squat or lunge properly. I couldn’t even spend five minutes leisurely gliding along a treadmill. So I sat. And sat. And felt useless.

I finally joined a gym again at the beginning of the month, and my membership came with some personal training sessions. My new trainer, Mike, is a lot like Ralph in the way he explains things, but he’s less shy and will sing and dance to every Michael Jackson song that comes on over the gym speakers.

I’ve had only a couple of sessions with him and already I feel my posture reverting to where it was: my shoulders slipping back and down, away from my ears; my chest up; my pelvis tucked. The last thing is an especially weird thing to note, I know, but that’s the thing — all of our body parts are connected, so when one thing is off, the rest feels off. I also get relief from the headaches I’ve been getting recently, which may or may not be related to this.

Now that I’m getting my pieces back where they should be, I’m starting to feel strong again. Maybe my invincibility will return. As I look for a full-time job and finish my memoir, I’ll need it.

How Freddie Prinze, Jr. Made Me a Teenager

Just now, before opening Microsoft Word to write this post, I encountered Freddie Prinze, Jr.’s Twitter feed. He was congratulating Jordan Peele on the latter’s Oscar nomination for “Get Out.” My *instantaneous* reaction? “Freddie Prinze, Jr. is still alive???”

I recently stumbled across a website called Past Ten, where writers talk about something significant that happened, or where they were in life in general, on today’s date ten years ago. I thought, I could easily do a Past Ten, particularly this summer, since summer 2008 was a vaguely interesting point in my life (more on that here, and maybe later).

But then I realized that my Past Ten is only interesting because that’s when my adult life started, specifically in July 2007, when I moved into my apartment on M Street in DC. I started working my first full-time job, as a media relations associate for the journal Science, making very little money, but feeling on top of the world and a little high on responsibility.

I still have some of the clothes I bought 10 years ago. I realized that is because I bought them myself. I think it’s the modus operandi of kids to outgrow their clothing or to just let it go because they didn’t buy it themselves. But once I started a grownup reality, my money was, sartorially, well accounted for.

Thinking about the past ten years easily leads me to think about the past 20.

Twenty years ago, this time, I was in 7th grade, itching to be an eighth grader because they walked around with an air of authority I hadn’t had since fifth grade, even if they were just going to lose it by going to high school.

But when eighth grade came, I didn’t feel that air of authority. I was the new kid at a new school. That new school was a private Christian academy that was K-12, so only high school seniors dominated, really. So, as if being 12-almost-13 wasn’t awkward enough, I didn’t feel any type of special.

Most of the kids in my class were rich enough to go to the school without a scholarship (unlike me). Not unrelated to that, most of them were white. So, in my eyes, they lived lives like those on sitcoms: Sun-In blonde hair, manicures, brand new Ford Mustangs when they got their licenses, trips to the movies with their friends on Friday nights.

I made friends with some down-to-earth girls in my class, but I didn’t think about going to the mall or movies with them because I was neither rich nor white. So when “She’s All That,” starring Freddie Prinze, Jr., came out at the end of January 1999, I didn’t think about it, I did what I always did with movies I wanted to see: I asked my mother to take me.

We went on a Friday night. Pulling up to the movie theater on a Friday night thrilled me – I felt like a normal teenager, like one from a sitcom. Until I saw everyone hanging out in front of the theater. And then everyone who filled up the auditorium.

I was the only one who had come with my mom.

When Preston describes Taylor to Zack as, “Basically…you, with tits,” I wanted to die.

I wanted to melt in my chair into a puddle on the floor like Alex Mack, and to roll down the stadium seating stairs, outside, and put myself up for adoption, and have another family, and pretend I never went with my mother to see a teen movie.

After it, Mommy and I walked out of the theater, and I saw my friend Nicole, from my old school. A much older boy was hugging her from behind, which accentuated her DD-cup boobs. I wasn’t sure I should say anything, but I did.

“Hey, Nicole!”

“Hey, Vonetta.”

She wasn’t as excited to see me as I was to see her. I stood there for a second, wondering if we were going to say anything else to each other. When Nicole turned her head and the boy began kissing her neck, my stomach wretched in the silence. I turned around and walked toward my mom, who was waiting for me a few paces away.

Mommy and I didn’t talk about the movie or Nicole. We just passed the car ride in silence, listening to the Christian radio station. We both knew something had changed between us, and in me.

When “Never Been Kissed” came out in during spring break that April, Mommy dropped me off at the movies, where I met two of my friends from school. It was the 10:30am matinee, but I was finally a real teenager.

Yet Another Dry Spell

Coming off the holidays is hard for lots of people, but seemed to be a bit harder for me this year. I haven’t written any new material since September, but at least I had my book to toil with. But with it out with my readers, I’ve been twiddling my thumbs for the past month.

I went through a similar stage around this time last year, but I thought it had more to do with the fact that I’d moved from New York back to DC. Moving is the worst, and it takes a lot of me. Sure, I moved again four months ago, but I figured I’d be cured of the subsequent writer’s block by now.

I’m never entirely sure where writer’s block comes from for me. Sometimes it actually is fatigue: going hardcore on the book to get it to my readers sort of wiped me out (think of re-living the first 30 years of your life in a few days. Yeah.). Other times, it’s been boredom (exclusively writing about myself for so long is actually kinda dull because my life is not *that* interesting). Other times, it’s fear, or at least a questioning of why I’m doing this.

I think this bout of writer’s block has been a combination of those three, especially the last one, and especially because I’m looking for a job now. So, I reminded myself of my MO: I have nothing to be afraid of. Especially not writing because it’s not like writing can hurt me. I can delete what I don’t want, in fact.

So, I started a new piece, an essay that’s been blowing around my brain in some form for over six months, exploring giving and why I can’t seem to do it all that well, even when I want to. It’s a start and I’m happy about that. I want to finish some pieces I’ve been dragging my feet on, but I also want to start this year properly, by moving *forward.*