Beach Cookout

Lulubelle smirked. There was nothing special about this. It was just some weird barbecue.

“Have a hot-dog, honey.”

“You know I don’t like hot-dogs, potato salad, watermelon, or any of this stuff.”

“It’s a cookout at the beach, babe, not a five-star restaurant.”


He knew something was wrong. Lulubelle had been somewhat lacking in enthusiasm for, uh, anything, for a month or more. He thought it was just a woman’s thing, but maybe she just didn’t like him anymore, and it had nothing to do with a beach picnic. “I hate love,” he thought.

“I’m not staying over,” he said when they reached her apartment.

“Why not?” Lulubelle looked at him bewildered. “I thought…”

“No. Not this time. I have some stuff to do and, you know, sometimes a guy needs time to himself.”

“You want to break up! I knew it! Look, I’m sorry I didn’t like the food at the picnic or your friends, or pretty much anything, but I don’t… That’s not fair!”

“Lulubelle, if you don’t like anything, then…” he stopped before he said too much. “I’ll call you later.” He leaned over and kissed her softly.

Lulubelle lugged her beach bag up the stairs to her one-bedroom apartment and unlocked the door. “You’re too picky,” her mother’s voice echoed in her head, “and too critical. Just because everyone doesn’t do things the way you do doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Sometimes you need to relax and enjoy something different. If you don’t learn how, you’re going to live in a very small world.” She was 7 at the time and had walked home from a friend’s birthday party because she didn’t want to eat yellow cake.

“Have I done that again?” She set down her bag.

She went into the shower to wash off the salt, sand, sweat, and disappointment. As the hot water streamed down her head and shoulders (clever product placement) the phone rang.

“Damn,” she thought, turning off the faucet, stepping out of the shower and grabbing a towel.

The phone rang. Why did she always leave it on the desk instead of bringing it with her into the bathroom? She hurried on wet feet — careful not to slip — and reached for the phone. “Unknown Caller.”


Just got home from the supermarket and I am tussling with vanity and reality. And I want to punch a self-important little gay kid in the face and say, “Dude, when you’re 66 you see how it is for you, you little faggot!” I know he’s gay because — besides the obvious — he’s wearing a very conspicuous rainbow ring and speaks with the kind of lithp one might pick up from TV or movies as part and parcel of the identity. I have nothing against gay anybody — one of my most beloved boyfriends also happened to be gay — and a person’s gender preference is none of my fucking business (and vice versa) BUT we’re talking major advertising.

OK everyone’s shocked but here’s what happened.

I pull into a lane to check out my groceries. I’m behind an extremely obese man about my age in a motorized cart with his groceries in front of him as one who uses such a cart is likely to do. He’s fine. He’s typical. He’s got on a blue and white gingham shirt, red suspenders and a c’boy hat.

“Are you with him?” asks the child wearing the store badge, the rainbow ring, a Roger Waters moustache and is clearly a checker.

“WHAT?” I ask a question that means many many things beyond “I didn’t hear you.”

“Are you with this gentleman? Because if you aren’t, I’ll check you out on lane 5.”

“Cool,” I say and follow him to where he can do his job briskly and as he was trained including annoying the shit out of the people behind me by explaining to me my receipt (because I’ve never seen one before?) “If you give me a review you’ll get extra fuel points.”

You don’t want my review, child. You do not want what I would say.

I would like to meet ONE woman who EMBRACES being old, who loves gray hair and a body that responds to neither diet nor exercise, who thinks walking with a limp is the be-all and end-all of human experience. Who KNOWS that no matter WHAT she does, she is never going to look all that good. She might look fine. She might look “attractive for her age” or “that color is great on you” but (with rare exceptions) she’s never going to be pretty (except for her age). My Aunt Martha, for example, was a 9 — maybe even a 10 — for 80. Except, maybe, for the chin hairs.

How in hell would I be with a grotesquely obese old man? And why did I feel insulted by the kid’s assumption? And why didn’t he just say, “I can help you on number 5. ‘Hubby’ would’ve come along had that been the case.

And what about hubby? How did he get there? Broken back? Farming acccident? War wound? What right did I have to be insulted by the kid’s assumption? That’s the part that bothers me most. Yes, the kid had poor social skills, but I’m a superficial bitch.

With whom WOULD I be if I were with someone? That’s a moot question. I wouldn’t be with anyone. I’m not and it’s (pretty much) by choice. Mr. Right probably DID come along but I’ve never been Ms. Right. Too emotionally warped. And am I so superficial that I am insulted that this little twerp would think someone as spellbindingly lovely as I would be with a fat old guy wearing red suspenders shopping from a motorized wheelchair? Yes. I am that superficial. Exactly that superficial.

And I feel bad about it — and that’s weird, too, because how many times was I NOT asked to dance in bars because I wear glasses and, though pretty, nothing flashy or glamorous? I can tell you. I was NEVER asked to dance back in the “what’s your sign” days.  As a friend said of me once, to a guy she wanted me to meet, “You won’t notice her when she walks into the room, but after 20 minutes, you won’t see anyone else. Martha is THAT interesting.”

Maybe the guy in the wheelchair is interesting, too. I don’t know.

Allergic to Life

“I don’t want to go. I’m allergic.”

“Allergic to what?”

“You know.”

“You mean everything you don’t want to do? That’s what you’re allergic to, Jasmine.”

“Why are you so mean?”

“I’m not mean. I just wish you were interested in something.”

“OK, well, I’m allergic to stuff I’m not interested in.”

“What ARE you interested in?”

“I don’t know. All week I have to work and then on the weekend, I don’t know.”

“You don’t want to do anything. Are you allergic to your JOB?”

“Oh, Roger. Leave me alone.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Roger got up off the bed and left the bedroom. The next thing Jasmine heard was the front door slamming.

Jasmine picked up her phone and pushed the button leading to Roger’s phone. She heard it ring in the front yard, but Roger didn’t answer.


Ha  ha ha HA HA ha  ha HA HA HA HA… OH my. Sorry, the word “control” makes me laugh. It’s not honest laughter, or belly laugh laughter, it’s rueful laughter.

Humans have evolved innumerable ways of attempting (and sometimes effecting) control.

Passive/Aggressive: Just don’t respond to or deal with what your partner has expressed. Or, better, agree. Agreeing is good. Some examples:

a) She calls you when she gets home from her job (as you asked her to). She’s a teacher, so she gets home earlyish. “Hi Honey. What time do you think you’ll be home for dinner?”

“Around 6.” (Fact is, you’re not COMING home for dinner, but if you tell her the truth, she’ll just want to know why, etc. etc.) Ultimately, of course, this kind of thing leads to the erosion of trust between the couple and divorce.

b) I’m reading the minutes of the faculty meeting for my department. “Whoa,” I think, “they’re getting rid of the classes I teach! They’re sending them to another college next year! That might be OK. Well soon, someone will talk to us about it.”

A year later, I’m reading the minutes of the faculty meeting (I was not expected to attend — or wanted — as I was a lecturer, not a tenured faculty member) and I see they have SENT the classes to another college as of the coming fall. Wow, any minute the boss will talk to us (me and the other teachers). Never happened. I contact the union. “We’ll look into it,” they said and never responded about having “looked into it” until it was all a fait accompli. Why? To keep control over what they wanted to do and the agenda that propelled them, it was best not to have any contact at all with the people who would be directly affected by the change, best not to tell them, give them options or protect them through the end of their contracts. This led to a lot of people being suddenly and unfairly out of work.

Scapegoating: This is one kind of control my mother practiced on me. “You look at me like that one more time and you’re not going anywhere.” I look at her in puzzlement. I don’t know what my face is doing. “All right, that’s it. You’ve wrecked this Saturday for everybody. No no one’s going anywhere.”

In reality, SHE didn’t want to go anywhere or maybe my dad wasn’t up to it. I don’t know what the reality was, only that wherever it is we were going, we weren’t and it was my fault that the entire day had been ruined. I think (maybe, if there’s anything rational to this) 1) I’m nearsighted and did not have my glasses on, 2) I probably squinted at my mother and it just hit her last nerve.

I have no idea now and I had no idea then. BUT this type of interaction led to some pretty awful fights once I was old enough to fight back, fights that involved saying things to her like, “You’re not the boss of me!” and “I hate you,” countered by “You’re not my daughter!”

Gaslighting: There’s control through gas-lighting which is the creation of a false reality and then practicing any of the other control techniques on the person unwittingly trapped there. The Evil X was a MASTER at that. Driving home from town. “When are we getting the satellite hooked up so I can watch the Chargers this fall?” (He asks, knowing full well that ISN’T going to happen)

“Who said we’re doing that?”

“You did. Several times. In fact, you promised.”

“No. We can’t afford it.” (He’s not contributing anything to the “common” good; the “we” is being kind. His way of NOT paying rent or anything else was simply NOT paying rent or anything else.)

“You fucking bitch. You lied to me.”

This ultimately led to, “I hate you, I wish you were dead, I don’t love you anymore, get the fuck out of my house.” Should have happened sooner…

Frontal Attack — Verbal or Physical Violence, Relentless Criticism:  Just one example — the Evil X once called me a “controlling bitch” simply because I asked him what he wanted for dinner.  I could write a lot under this topic, but I don’t want to, really. It’s enough to say that if you create an atmosphere in which your partner is afraid of you, you can control them.


I don’t know about people or where the need to control others comes from other than the sense of being out of control combined with being dependent on others for feelings of self-worth. I know some people feel the need for power over others as a way to feel good about themselves. One of the Good Xes said once, “The most dangerous person in the world is an insecure person.” He was right. A person who cannot stand up for him/herself, being self-reliant and able to face the day alone is dangerous.

I learned very early in my life that all we can possibly control is our response to factors that are external to us most of the time and the way we deal with daily life necessities. The cliches like “Make the best of it” or “Put a good face on it” are actually good advice. And…all this probably explains why I live alone. 🙂

Wounds all Heels

Time really does heal wounds, maybe not all, but many.

Long ago I was married to a guy I met in 9th grade. It was a terrible marriage. We were both too young, too broke, too a lot of things for what we’d taken on. His dad — one of the handsomest men I ever met — followed the Calabrese method of wife and child rearing. It was all my husband knew, though he did take it to new levels. Not dissing Italians AT ALL. It’s just that he came from a strongly paternalistic home where the husband physically enforced his role as the master of the family.

I finally extricated myself. That was an interesting process, and another blog post, maybe but probably not.

Years later I had been places. I’d been in China, married a different guy, moved to San Diego, far, far away from the scenes of my first marriage. I was with friends at a lecture at the art museum in Balboa Park. We took seats in the second row. At a certain point, I looked up and saw my ex escorting his wife into the auditorium. They sat almost directly in front of us.

I was stunned and bewildered. My ex seemed only vaguely familiar, though it had only been 10 years since our divorce. I said to my friend, “That’s my first husband.”

She knew some of the stories of the marriage.

“Oh my god,” she said, “What are you going to do?”

“Nothing unless he sees me. That’s over and done with it. In fact, I barely remember it.”

“How can you ‘barely remember’ being married to someone?”

“I don’t know, but I’m glad about it.”

He didn’t see me, so I escaped that moment in the easiest possible way, still perplexed and filled with wonderment that the intervening years and experiences had healed what had once been a gaping wound.

Drama Tic

“You could meet somebody.”

I scream internally. “Now that’s a scary thought,” I tell the mailman.

He laughs.

In one very brief moment I envision all the drama of a relationship. I know some people meet, fall in love, spend their lives with someone who cherishes them and cares for them and vice versa and at the end one of them must contend with life on their own for the first time. It’s bittersweet and romantic and beautiful and I admire it very much.

But it ain’t me, babe.

I don’t know if anything bears out my theory, but I think the home in which we grow up becomes our idea of a “normal” household and family and mine was very dramatic. I never liked the drama. My response was to get out of the way, but the creators of the drama were crafty, would often devise dramatic plots and then wait in ambush for me to return and pounce the moment I walked in the door.

I’ve observed myself as an adult, and I have seen that inside me is a “wait for the shoe to fall” mechanism. I can endure only so much smooth relations before I start feeling anxious that something will happen to disturb the peace. The longer things go well, the more uncomfortable I am. This is true with my friends, not just my significant others. I have managed to recognize it so I no longer create drama to relieve my anxiety and bring the shoe down.

Having seen this in myself I’ve seen it in others. I have a friend who will pick a fight to relieve his frustration with life in general. I now think it’s a pretty common stragedy.

Poem for My Mom

The process of sorting and packing uncovers many surprises. I found this poem (I hardly ever write poetry) I wrote in 1996 when my mom was in the hospital about a month from death. Our relationship was difficult — she was difficult and very messed up, much more than I knew when I wrote this poem. I spent as much time as I could with her in the hospital. Otherwise I was driving or slogging through the snowy and icy streets of Billings, MT, looking for a nursing home where she could live after she was discharged. I loved my mom — but, as with many loves, it was not unalloyed with sadness and even hatred.


Winter light fades,
Short days shorten, then are gone
The last beam of a dogged sun
Bends ’round the pines
And drops.
You press my hand against your lips
And drift into sleep.
The afternoon slips away.
Tulips on the windowsill and get-well cards can’t stop