writing

True Mom Confessions

I have an essay, a confessay, if you will, in the book True Mom Confessions coming in early April. It started as a website created by my friend Romi and grew from there. It’s nice to sometimes have an anonymous place to put your innermost secrets that you can’t tell anyone in real life.

I’m pretty proud of my contribution to this book. I think this essay is one of the best things I’ve ever written.

Eavesdropper #2

“Let’s do the whole cocktail thing, shall we? Hello! I’m Drake. I’m 36. I’m a scientist and I build things that don’t exist and won’t exist for years. I actually work in the future.” Drake thrust his hand forward in an attempt to look confident. It was at the precise moment his hand accidentally jabbed her breast and he looked more perverse than confident, or worse, clumsy, that he wished he could rewind about seven seconds and have a do-over.

She was taken aback for a tick or two, but recovered nicely. “I’m Cynthia. Cindy. Whichever.”

Her detachment to what someone might call her spoke volumes to Drake. After all, Drake was a name he had given himself after pouring through books and online forums and author’s names. He had carefully considered Chance and Chase and Shane before deciding on Drake. And for someone named William but forever called Willy, the name Drake made him feel instantly strong and in control. Like a man should feel.

Cindy continued, “I’m 28. I have two kids under six. I love being a mother and during…” But, Drake had stopped listening. A mother? Of two kids? Under six? Um, sorry to be so judgmental, but no. Just, no. She probably took two years off to drive around the country like a hippie and then went to only half a year of community college before getting knocked up and stuck at home with babies. Her dreams and aspirations probably include someday knitting an entire outfit from blue yarn and decorating the older kid’s room in a jungle theme. Plus the guy, (or guys!), had obviously left her. What’s up with that? What else was wrong with her?

No, not a good match at all, he was positive. And as Cindy continued to talk, his eyes wandered to the two chairs on the right to see the lady coming to his station next. She looked cute. Pretty, even. And she seemed nice. Just look at the way she gazed at the guy across from her. Like she was really interested and really getting whatever he was saying. And she wore glasses. He couldn’t wait to meet her and hoped, prayed, crossed his fingers, that she would be interested in science or at least be really smart. He needed someone almost as smart as him to be with for the rest of his life.

Drake checked the timer on the table between them. Thirty seconds left. He looked Cindy in the face and realized she had asked him a question. “Oh. Sorry. What was that?” It was a shame she wasn’t smarter. She was one of the prettiest women here. “I just wondered what you were doing at work at the moment. In the future, I mean.” Cindy smiled. “I’m currently working on significantly raising the temperature by forcing deuterium gas under pressure into an evacuated cell containing a sample of palladium dispersed in zirconium oxide, which causes the deuterium to be absorbed by the palladium sample, resulting in a denser deuterium, with deuterium nuclei that are close enough together to fuse! My last test resulted in a temperature increase for almost 50 hours.”

Ding! The timers went off, resounding and echoing around the room, chattering in his ears. He stared at Cindy, unable to speak. He had been so wrong!

Cindy, taking his silence for disinterest, grabbed her purse from her lap and stood up. “Well, nice meeting you, Drake. Good luck with….whatever you’re doing.” And as Drake watched her, mute, she walked to the next station on his left and started talking to a man in an Armani suit. A man named Peirce. A man with manicured hands and shined shoes and undoubtedly a large stock portfolio. A man that was everything Drake wished he himself was. (Peirce? PEIRCE? Why hadn’t he thought of Peirce?)

His attention was suddenly pulled to the woman in front of him. She giggled and brushed her long bangs out of her eyes with her cherry-colored acrylic nails. From this close distance he could see that her glasses were for show. A part of her outfit. “I’m Bitsy.” she giggled. “I’m starting an internet business. I make these really, really adorable doggy sweaters. Everyone loves them and my Aunt Cherise says I’m gunna make a ton of money.”

It was at the precise moment when she asked if he liked karaoke night at the bowling alley and told him she had a glow-in-the-dark bowling ball with the phrase ‘Here’s a bit-O-Bitsy‘ on it that he wished he could rewind about two minutes and have a do-over.

Editor’s note – This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone you know is purely coincidental and kind of cool.

Eavesdropper #1

I gave up on climbing the corporate ladder with hard work. I just want to get laid now. I’m ready to sleep my way to the top.” he said, leaning back in the red velvet covered, 18th century replica Wing Back and crossing his legs, slowly, foot dangling and wagging ever so slightly.

She looked across the table at him, amazed at his obvious swagger, and thinking she would never say such a thing. Especially so loud and in public. It seemed like a statement best whispered. In the dark. Maybe in a closet and to no one.

“I’ve stumped you, have I?” He chuckled and made a movement to grab his Pal Malls from his jacket pocket, realizing a little too late that they weren’t there. He had quit, again, two days ago after promising his girlfriend to ‘participate in saving his own life.’ He then clicked open his briefcase and found the emergency pack he had tucked in the bottom. Only three left. Lighting up, he coolly looked her up and down. Exhaling a smooth white ribbon he said, “Listen. I’m not going to climb across the table and jump you right here. I just want you to know the option is there. You have something I want and I’m willing to pay you for it.”

The air made its way slowly through a small O her lips had made. A tiny, quiet whistle escaped and mingled with his smoke. Embarrassed, her cheeks and neck warmed and she looked down at her hands folded neatly in her lap. She smoothed the wrinkles in her skirt across her knees and wiped off some of the sweat accumulating in her palms under his scrutiny.

She remembered the time she had driven in the silver convertible with the love of her life to the top of the lookout. Trees covering them overhead, leaves making their dancing way to the damp earth and a breeze blowing, at one point so hard she lost her scarf. The one with the tiny blue flowers and made from fancy silk. The one her love had given her. She had cried out and grabbed for it, just a little too late, but he had laughed and kissed her and told her not to worry, he would get her a new one. It had been almost 8 years now since he’d left her. She hated cancer.

Clearing his throat, he said, “I just notice you’re always alone. I’ve never seen you with anyone the entire time I’ve been with the firm.” Leaning forward and looking at her, just inches from her, he reached out one hand, slowly, carefully, and set it next to hers on the table, just grazing a finger.

She left her hand where it was and contemplated the tingle she felt shoot up her arm. Then she thought about her scarf with the tiny blue flowers. She smiled at him, meeting his eyes and putting on her piercing look. The look she’d practiced for years in the mirror. The look she used with problem clients in her office and with colleagues intent on taking more than they gave. The look she would never, ever use on her daughter. “I thank you for your kind proposition.” she offered, “And I’d love to pick up the tab for our drinks.” She said nothing else and made no move forward or back.

He felt confused after a few minutes had passed, uncomfortable, and leaned back a bit, removing his hand and straightening up in his chair. “Thanks.” He raised his eyebrows almost imperceptibly, but she saw it. She noted the unsure look in his eyes and smiled a bit bigger, showing a few more teeth.

Editor’s note – This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone you know is purely coincidental and kind of cool.

On Writing

I don’t have it all figured out. Far from it. I’ve been on the sending end of about a zillion queries that were carefully thought out and written. Of the handful of responses I’ve received back, only a fraction of those turn into real money so I’m no expert on how to make a living with your writing. I’m only making it because I’ve got a partner that has a steady income from a real job. My handful of articles, interviews and book essays don’t exactly pay the rent. But once you do start making money, how do you be smart about your business?

I occasionally get asked how a person can get published and really my only advice is quantity. i.e. the more queries you send out, the more chances there are that someone will pick up your idea and want you to run with it. And following directions. That is a big one. If they ask for three writing samples, send three, not two. If they want a resume in Word, send it in Word, not something else they can’t open and read.

Joe sent me this article which you may have already read, but just in case, I’m linking it here. Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money covers everything I could think of to tell someone starting out. Scalzi is decidedly on the high end of what a writer makes at over $160K last year but having paid his dues for many years before raking in the dough makes him someone with advice you should be listening to. Section 4, Your income is half of what you think it is, covers what might be the best information in the post along with sections 5 and 6 relating to credit cards and debt.

Just remember that credit cards are not your friends; their entire purpose, from the point of view of the bank that gives them to you, is to make you a consistent and eternal source of income, forever and ever, amen. If you want to be in economic thrall to a bank until the very moment you die, that’s your business, but it’s a pretty dumb way to go about things. Especially if you’re a writer, who doesn’t necessarily have a solid month-to-month income anyway.

I recommend that all writers read this post at least once. Then print out the good parts and write them on cards around the house. Like “You are likely to be surprised at how many things it turns out you don’t really need if you have to wait to get them, and can actually see the mass o’ cash you’re laying out for ‘em. And that’s all to the good for you.” and “Be willing and ready to write anything — but make sure that you’re making the attempt to make more than three cents a word off it. Because I will tell you this: If you only value your work to that amount, that’s the amount you’re going to find yourself getting paid. Over and over again.

Slice Of Americana

The summer I was fifteen was the summer I wasn’t sure if I had a steady boyfriend or not. Teen communication being what it was, his ‘Well, have a good weekend. And summer. I’ll see you around.’ had left me problem solving our togetherness. Sure, I wanted to still be going out with him. He was two years older than me. What was not to like? But if I wasn’t, the summer might be more fun. I decided to just play it by ear.

One afternoon, I took my jean-squared blanket backed with flannel out onto the front lawn. Normally, if I was actually tanning, I would have laid out in the backyard on top of the flat, tarred carport cover. But, not today. I wasn’t actually trying to tan. I was trying to be seen.

I heard that my (still?)(ex?)boyfriend was driving around town, dragging main with some friends. I figured being on the front lawn drinking a 42 ounce Dr. Pepper with lemon and tons of ice, with tanning lotion all over every exposed part of my body, casually painting my toenails or reading a book would look completely normal and it gave me a great vantage point with which to watch for his car coming and going on my block.

I had the orange extension cord coming from under the ivy, which was long, full and very green early in the summer, before the hot end of July hit and made it turn slightly brown. On my boombox was the Top 40 countdown and Boys of Summer came on. I kid you not. It was the part of the show where they play what was hot last year or the year before that. And Don Henley’s voice, with the guitar echoing came out of my speakers right as my boyfriend’s car came around the corner and stopped in front of my house.

He was with a couple of his friends. All so very, very cool. He yelled a hello. I yelled a hello back. His friend punched him in the arm and then he yelled, ‘See you around!’ and they took off. I was underwhelmed. Seriously, after all the effort of getting everything outside and after trying on every item in my closet, picking the plaid shirt with the tiny red lines that I could tie at the waist to show just enough belly and finding the jean skirt that was just short enough to almost give my parents a heart attack but they would allow me to own and popping every zit on my forehead and then covering it up with foundation and applying 5 coats of mascara and heavy eyeliner on my inner lids and searching everywhere in the bathroom drawers for the banana clip that matched my shirt and two hours getting my bangs just right, it wasn’t much of a payback.

I sat there, legs stretched out, fresh pale pink polish named ‘Cotton Candy’ on my toes, musing how unfortunate my life was at the moment when a car stopped in front of the house. A boy from Australia got out, came over and asked me for directions to Denny’s Wigwam. He was cute. Very cute. But more than that, he had an accent. Holy crap, an accent from AUSTRALIA. Only the very best place in the entire world that I wanted to visit more than anything.

I told him how to get there and he thanked me. He started to pull away and then unrolled the window, leaned his head out and said, ‘You’re just about the cutest visual a guy could ask for on a summer afternoon. You’d make a great postcard.’ And then he smiled and drove away. Something about the way he said the word ‘visual’ kind of cracked my heart a little and it made all the effort worthwhile.

But that wasn’t even the best part of the day. No, the best part of the day was later, when I walked downtown with my friend and we strolled past Denny’s Wigwam about 8 times, asking each other important questions like I wonder if that cute boy is still in town? Why was he here in the first place? Who’s car had he been driving? What was his name? Was he really lost or did he just want to stop and talk to me because I was so cute? I relished every second of that evening, the possibilities that could have happened.

I didn’t run into him again. I’ll never know if he really stopped just to talk to me or if he was so blind that he couldn’t find the biggest landmark on the only main street right in the center of town. But I imagine he’ll always think that every small town American girl sat outside on a summer afternoon, painting her toenails on a blanket on the front lawn listening to Casey Kasem and America’s Top 40.

Unfinished

I’ve started and never finished a ton of posts. They sit here in my drafts, lonely. Some of them look so familiar, I swear I’ve completed them already. I used to see them every time I started a new one, but at some point, not sure when, I stopped seeing them. They don’t exist to my every-day-eye. They are destined to live a sad, lonely and unwritten life. And there are some good ones, too!

I’ll list a few of them, including the contents of the unwritten post, which I suppose are hints as to what I was going to say about the subject. Although, some are just too cryptic for me to figure out.

Mad Lib
remove the words

top 10 my space
oh, sorry. i thought you were just doing myspace
i dont even have a myspace.
well, if you didm youd be in my top 10!

Mother’s Day
Last Mother’s Day (notice that date is 2005. 2 years ago, people.)

Drivers License
http://leahpeah.com/blog/images/drl.jpg

Post # 742
bees out around the car.
we had a pool.

And my favorite:

??
sticks

The Heart Of Rockin'Roll

When I was fifteen my dad sent me to John Birch Society camp. The camp was in Colorado, and a group of people I’d never met before dropped by the house to give me a ride there. They all seemed a little odd but nice, in a granola kind of way. Granola that was extremely patriotic and wore flag shirts. I felt out of place the entire week.

There was a dance almost every night on the deck of the upper level of the main meeting hall. It smelled like trees and fresh and stars and snow, even though there was no snow at that time of year. The DJ, in an effort to not let in any Satan Music, played a lot of Huey Lewis and the News. It was better than the country music they played on the radio back home, so I went with it.

I slept in a cabin with 7 other girls. We all had our own bunks and sleeping bags and trunks that slid under the beds. I didn’t know any of them and most of them knew each other from years before. I was a little on the outside of the group but every time I started feeling sorry for myself I’d think, do I really want to fit in with these people? I’d feel better instantly and then visualize how awesome I’d be when I went home and told all my friends about how cool I was at this camp. In other words, lie.

Every girl in our cabin was full of their own personality quirks. One slightly heavy girl with acne took birth control pills but swore she was still a virgin. I didn’t believe her, but knowing what I know now, I wish I would have pretended to. Another girl, who had super long, dark hair and freckles and carried a Walkman with her everywhere, told lies and told us she told lies. It went something like this:

Her – ‘Hey, you guys. Last summer my parents took us all to Paris and then all around Europe. We ate crepes and frites. Do you even know what crepes and frites are?’
Me – ‘Um, ya, crepes are those thin-‘
Her – ‘Ohmygodyouguys, I lied! I totally lied. We never went to Europe last year.’

or

Her- ‘Once, when I was little, a snake got in our house and they found it in my bed.’
Me – ‘Did it bite you?’
Her – ‘Oh, no. It didn’t bit me. They got it in time. My dad got a gun and shot its head off.’
Some Other Girl – ‘Eww. That is gross. What kind was it?’
Me – ‘Did it make a huge mess and was you-‘
Her – ‘Ohmygodohmygodyouguys, that never happened! I don’t know why I said that. I’ve never even seen a snake!’

And then she would giggle for awhile, looking completely and utterly weird and the rest of us would just start talking about something else.

But the very most awesome girl there was a redheaded girl with natural curls that I was totally jealous of. She would tell us about fights she got into and then exclaim about how she had that redheaded temper. And she wore a red t shirt one day and told us that something about her complexion made it fine for her to wear red, in fact it looked great on her, when other redheaded people couldn’t.

The very first night, after we brushed teeth and got in bed, we all talked for a bit, said our goodnights. I’ve never been a heavy sleeper and I have a hard time going to sleep in the best of conditions. Sleeping in a new location with a bunch of new people, some of whom were mouth-breathers, wasn’t really conducive for my sleeping well. After about half an hour, everyone had fallen asleep but me. I could hear all their deep, heavy and sometimes slightly snoring rhythms and wished I could doze off.

Suddenly, the redheaded girl started talking. And not just kind of talking quietly, or a little bit of mumbling, either. I’m talking about a full-blown one-sided conversation with someone in her dream at regular talking volume. And it wasn’t even an interesting conversation. Something about going shopping and getting ready for school and getting her chores done before watching television. BORRiiing. Where’s the sex and the intrigue? I’d have at least liked a little mystery if I was going to be kept awake.

Eventually, everyone in the cabin was awake and telling her to shut it. But she wouldn’t wake up. She finally reached the next level of sleep and quit talking and everyone else went back to sleep. But it was the same story every night. There was talk of her being possessed by a demon. One of the girls, who’s father was a preacher, said she’d seen him cast out devils who did this kind of thing. I was impressionable then, and I might have believed her, except talking about grocery lists and riding a bike didn’t really sound that satanic.

Distant Angst, Catherine Connors

catherine_connors

Catherine Connors
AGE: 18
STORY: I was freshly moved away from home, and dating an ‘older’ boy – twenty – who I had met in a theater group. He had just decided to passionately re-embrace his Catholic roots. He didn’t think that I was virtuous-slash-pious enough, and I (still a virgin, though well-closeted as such) was struggling with how to be a grown-up and how to follow my heart and still be “good enough” for this guy, all at once. I was working out my story, what to say to him, and then lost my own thread when it came to making statements about sexuality and sacrifice. I had no idea what I was talking about.

It embarrasses me – deeply – to read this again. But I’m proud to say this: I never slept with this guy, and not because of some misguided idea of pious sacrifice. I’d moved on and forgotten him by that summer.

catherine_connors_pg1
catherine_connors_pg2

TEXT:

I will give you this.

I open myself to you. I tell you exactly what I feel, knowing that in all likelihood you will still just walk away, just so that you will know, and so that I, finally, will have sacrificed my pride for the sake of honesty. And even though you stand there with a knife with which to pierce my heart, I am not afraid, and venture to say that it would be a valuable wound, because it would not be borne of lies or manipulation. It would be a valuable wound.

I love you. I’m not sure why, simply I love you and am glad that I have experienced you. You haven’t tutored me, you haven’t guided me – you did bring some things to light, you triggered long forgotten musings, ideas. You showed me things. I don’t perceive you as stronger than me – I see you as older, more learned, mature. I don’t see you as a mentor, teacher. You are no better than I am.

I love you, and what I want is for us to try.

I know that on my own I can sacrifice sex, turn my back on temptation. Very easy to do. I ask for God’s forgiveness for my past transgressions and I go forward and sin no more. But it becomes twice as valuable if it is not only for myself and God, but also a sacrifice for someone important to me. It is very easy to embrace celibacy when you have no-one to spurn it with – not so easy when you are with someone.

I wonder how many people there are out there who will not have, or give up, sex before marriage.

Come to a live reading in Los Angeles @ L.A. Angst, in Brooklyn @ Cringe or in Seattle @ Salon of Shame! Want to send in your angst? Email me.

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