Creative nonfiction up now at District Lit

It’s more than half a year since I started writing the bimonthly creative nonfiction column, “My Time, Your Place” on District Lit.

If you have the chance today, please check out my latest entry “Second-Person Point of View.” (If you were a Choose Your Own Adventure enthusiast, you might especially enjoy it.)

 

Forever 16

Last night, I had a dream I was at a school dance. Midway through the dream, a slow song came on — a Peabo Bryson / Gloria Estefan number, I’m sure — and the boy for whom I had a painful, obsessive crush all through high school asked me to slow dance. Not only that, but midway through the slow dance, the boy — for he was still a boy in the dream — looked me in the eyes and kissed me on the lips for all to see.

In that moment, I felt as if I had arrived. My entire body seemed to melt with relief.

I’m worthy of attention. I’m deserving of a slow dance. I’m attractive enough for a kiss on the lips from the cutest boy, in front of everyone.

When I awoke, however, the relief fluttered away. At first, I thought the dream was funny. How is it that 20+ years later I am still dreaming of “the cutest boy” and still yearning for his notice?

But then, I took the message a little more seriously. I understood that I am still desperate to be chosen. And this is…a little sad.

Does the need for validation from “the cutest boy in school” ever dissipate? Will there ever be a time I will feel seen for the who I am and the what I create? What will that self-reliant being seen-ness require of me?

Last week, I spent three days chaperoning my 13-year-old’s class trip to Jerusalem. It was a rare opportunity to see him and his classmates in action, outside the classroom, inside the system of coed adolescence. I tried to pinpoint the girl in the group that was once me.

How hard did I work to be seen then? What did I do to show others I was worthy of their attention? When did I scoot back to avoid being noticed? (Did I ever?) What display of myself was I afraid of exposing back then?

I realized that not much has changed. As then, I care less about my looks and my clothes than I do about deep meaningful connections with other human beings who share similar interests and a sense of humor. But that need for connection comes at a price. You cannot connect alone, just because you want to, just because you feel something, just because you think now is the time. Connection requires mutuality, shared admiration or affection. It requires action…choice. And, yet, it also demands a certain letting go of control.

There will always be times when the connection doesn’t happen; if, for instance, the desire for it is one-sided. And, perhaps this is a lesson that one keeps on learning, long after high school, well into life. On and on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This house is not haunted

My latest column is up on District Lit today. It’s not about real estate, nor about ghosts, but about the lies I tell myself about the idea of home.  Check it out.

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Make It Easy on Yourself

My husband: “Seriously, Jen. This Facebook post about your thesis defense must be your most popular post ever. People keep liking it.”

Me: “It makes up for the nine birthday wishes I got this year.”

My husband: “No, really. I think it’s because of what you wrote about me.”

Me: “What? Because I was publicly nice to you? That thing about love and support?”

My husband: “Yes. That. Exactly.”

Me: “I don’t think so. People just like milestones. And baby pictures. And cats.”

*   *   *

I love Facebook birthdays. Seriously, the last eight birthdays since I joined Facebook have made up for the 30+ birthdays prior.

My birthday is in August. Worse: the end of August. No one remembers your birthday when they are boogey boarding and eating funnel cake by the Jersey shore.

This year, as most years, I pretended to not be excited about my upcoming Facebook birthday. I also pretended to not be upset at 12 noon on August 19 when I had only received birthday greetings on my wall from my mother and my old friend, Sondra, with whom I share a private birthday challenge. (For decades now, we’ve competed to be the first to wish each other a happy birthday.)

Checking my watch as we set out for our family vacation to the Israeli desert, I silently pacified my ego by blaming the time difference between Israel and the U.S. However, later that evening, only a handful of greetings on “the wall,” I realized the annual sea of flattery and acknowledgment was not coming.

I would, I guess, need to feel satisfied by the real-time, in-person love of the people in my company: my husband, my three kids, and friends we were travelling with. That was new.

susan d note fb

*   *   *

When I turned 18, the week before we all left for college, my girlfriends bought me a book about sex and a package of Today sponges as a birthday present. A how-to guide with illustrated positions, that book might have been the most thoughtful birthday present I ever got from friends. I saved it for many years. It was lost somewhere between Elizabeth, NJ and the port of Haifa.

I wonder if writing today about this memory of the birthday sex book  is why I dreamed last night about a college boyfriend I haven’t seen in decades, and why I remembered this morning he said to me once, “Enough with the hand job. I can do that myself.”

*   *   *

The good thing about your Facebook friends forgetting your birthday is the idea that once something is on the internet, it might have a chance at one day being forgotten. That we don’t have to worry so much about naked photos of our children on instagram or that time we wrote a blog post about the color and consistency of our poop.

*   *   *

There’s a line in my thesis I love. In fact, it might be one of the most important statements in my entire thesis (a lyric essay memoir).

Despite my fears of saying what I really think, I am almost certain the people who have loved me over the years of my life love me because of the words I’ve spoken out loud, not because of the words I’ve kept to myself. 

This almost-belief is what allows me to sleep the nights I’m worried about the words I’ve written: on the blog, in old letters on frayed pages of spiral-bound notebook paper, or in emails during the late nineties. It makes me think I will one day be forgiven by anyone I’ve ever hurt. It gives me the confidence to continue sharing my internal truths, even when I’m so frightened by the consequences of admitting to them.

*   *   *

Truth: I suffered the absence of my Facebook birthday this year. I really did. And I will likely suffer next year, so DON’T FORGET!

I don’t like that about myself. I don’t like how much I want your attention, how much I want you to remember me…and fondly. I don’t like that I still struggle with loving myself enough so that I don’t need to be loved by you.

But I’m getting there.

Maybe this is why so many people liked my “thesis defense post.” They subconsciously know I’m getting there.

 I’m getting there.