To All the Women I’ve Never Had a Chance to Know

For all the inventions that might have made my life better, brighter, or easier but were never made because a woman never got the chance, this is my lament.

For all the female comedians I never got to laugh at, all the women authors I’ve never had the chance to read, who were never taught in school, whose voices were deemed too this or not enough that, for all the art I’ve never had the chance to stand in front of in awe, this is a song of mourning.

For Phillis Wheatley, Sybil Ludington, Rosalind Franklin. For Claudette Colvin, Katherine Johnson and all the women whose accomplishments I never learned in history class, in science class, in English class, whose names have been buried in the footnotes, this is my keen.

For all the women never given a chance. For all the women I never got the chance to know or study or emulate, all the women I’ve never been able to look to for inspiration because their names have been written in invisible ink upon someone else’s pages.

Imagine a world full of women of talent and passion, except you don’t need to imagine it. It already exists. What you need to imagine instead is what the world could have been if all those Judiths* had been allowed to write and paint and sculpt, to invent and choreograph and map, to calculate, to design, to innovate.

How much have I missed because women have been silenced, in classrooms and boardrooms, on stages and art galleries, in small stand up comedy backrooms and in publishing slush piles?

The art held up as imperative, the music and philosophy and books and comedy and film and journalism held up to me as important, all of that has been pushed through a filter of masculine approval.

Even the stories we do have of women are not theirs alone, they are the stories which appealed to the men who allowed them through the sieve. The stories men chose to hang on bare, white walls, to publish or produce, to grant life to.51afb6757fefc.image

They are stories which somehow resonated not with other women, but with men.

How many corsets could we have avoided, or slips or girdles, how many extra inches of stiletto if women had been designing the clothes we wear rather than men designing for a figure which almost never exists, and yet we kill ourselves to achieve regardless?

What is it like to walk through life in sensible shoes and comfortable clothing, never doubting that what you dream about can be achieved?

The newsmakers and tastemakers and dressmakers.

How many women have been told they’re just not funny….or they just don’t get the joke?
How many women have been told what they write is not interesting to men, or not up to par, not serious enough, good but not Infinite Jest good?
How many women have been told their art is not what the buyer is looking for, not good enough for museums, too hostile, too angry, too pretty, not important enough? How much of it is never even looked at in the first place?
How many female directors never got the chance to see their vision on celluloid or artists on canvas, or inventors granted a patent?
How many, how many, how many?

And how many times have women believed them?

This is for all the women who have climbed the mountain, backward and in heels, only to pushed off the precipice. This is for all the women who have lain, unknown and unnamed, under the avalanche of deeds and firsts, of accomplishments unnoticed, of boulders of could have but never have beens.

We have been there all along, scratching our way to the surface, clawing our ragged way back up the sides.

It is time to rise out of the footnotes, to take your place on the page, on the stage, in the spotlight where you’ve belonged all along.


*Judith was the fictitious sister of Shakespeare in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Woolf used the character to illustrate that a woman with the talents of Shakespeare would have been denied the same opportunities as her brother, her talent left to wither and die.



We Can Be Mourners, Just for One Day

bowieI never shared a table with David Bowie. I never shared a bed with him, or a caress, a smile or a conversation, or even a ride on an uptown train. I did not know him. And yet his death touches me. Not in the personal way of a dying parent or a close friend. Not in the hive mind buzz of the passage of a historical figure. But in the way of an icon.

David Bowie, icon, is not a part of my personal story, but he is part of so, so many others. He is a word or a sentence in the story of a young boy who identified with his gender-bending fashion, long before gender fluidity was the noun du jour. He is a nut or a bolt in the frame that holds up a young girl looking for the courage of self-expression. He is a chapter in the story of a man who realized he didn’t need to define himself by any one thing. He is a thread in the fabric of a young woman who gave herself permission for reinvent herself time and time again.

That is what icons do. They bind us to each other in a time and place, in a mood or a song, in a moment of realization or a breath of recognition. It is the gift and the burden of an icon. The pieces of themselves they throw out into the world like confetti get tangled up and entwined with our own. They get woven into our own dreams and personas, into our personal histories. It happens with books and movies, with places and with people, but every now and again it happens with people we’ve never met, someone we have no personal connection too: someone whose shadow looms large enough to eclipse our lives, even if it is just for a moment. Just for one day.

When an icon dies is it any wonder those threads and fibers woven in with our own stories hum in mournful recognition? Is it any wonder they sing out, in one last hymn of good-bye?

In mourning the death of an icon you are mourning a tie that binds you not only to them, but to the person you used to be, the one you are, the one you are about to become. The knot that held you firmly in that time and place unravels. Not enough to send you spinning off into space; but enough to make you pause. Just enough to fall to Earth.





Little Ditty about Jack and Diane

tastee freezI hope Jack and Diane rang in the New Year by sucking on chili dogs out behind the Tastee Freez.

I, on the other hand, celebrated by belting out the solid gold hits of my youth with friends.

I should add that I can’t sing. Let me clarify: I can’t sing well. But I”m loud. And enthusiastic. And apparently the am I making a fool out of myself? switch is now permanently set to the I don’t give a fuck settingEven if it means enduring the eye-rolling of a couple of mortified teenagers who were witness to the whole thing; especially then.

Oh, all you Jackies. All you Dianes. I keep trying to tell you how boring grown-up life can be sometimes, but you refuse to listen. You just keep draping yourselves in a cloak of teenage stubbornness already thread worn from being passed down from generation to generation.

Right now you’re still the Dianes from the song; debutantes in backseats, sitting there on Jackie’s lap, his hand between your knees. The thrill of living’s still right there, palpable in the thrum of a heartbeat or the whisper of a breath along your neck.

The thrill of living. I’m not that old. I remember the way those thrills trilled up my spine and exploded like tiny supernovas in my chest.

We used to sit on a crumbling concrete curb by the small, grassy circle at the end of the Dianeneighborhood and listen to Jack and Diane. A gaggle of neighborhood kids and a boom-box, a scratchy cassette tape spitting out tinny top-forty fare. I was never really a Diane, not the Diane of the song certainly, it took me until my late twenties to find my Jackie.

I also didn’t have the guts to sing out loud back then. Or play air-guitar. Or dance on a chair. Yet I seem to be doing more and more of that lately. Strange days indeed.

Quite simply put, I don’t give a rat’s ass anymore. Just like all those inspirational quotes that clog up my social media feed advise me to, I sing like no one is listening. I dance like no one’s watching. And I seem to be singing and dancing far more than I ever thought I would at this stage of the game. This is the glorious gift my 40s have bestowed upon me.

This was going to be a quirky little miss sunshine piece about my hope for those embarrassed Dianes, that I wished someday they found a group of friends to sing Sweet Caroline with; friends that recognize the art of enjoying themselves elevates itself above being or seeming cool. But as these pieces often do, it morphed into something else: the stunningly simple realization that life doesn’t stop as you get older.

The thrill of living? It’s not gone. A lot of times it’s hidden under mountains of paperwork and never-ending lists of chores. But it’s not gone.

Hold on to sixteen as long as you can. Do I wish I could have held on to the ass I had when I was sixteen? What do you think? Sometimes I think about the heart plummet of a first kiss, the backseats of all those cars. Sure, hold on to sixteen as long as you can–sixteen was good.

But 45 is pretty damn good too.

At sixteen you can’t think beyond the thump of your heart in your ears. You can’t see beyond the next moment, the next kiss, the next breath. But at 45 you can. You can see far enough to understand they’re not limitless. They’re not endless. You start to feel them again. Maybe not as intensely as the first ones, but with the intensity of never knowing when they’re going to be your last.

A little ditty about Jack and Diane. Jackie’s never gonna be a football star. And Diane probably got knocked up in the backseat of Jackie’s car. He’s probably selling life insurance now, spent too much time down by the Tastee Freez and is now pre-diabetic. Maybe Diane never lost all the baby weight. Maybe they went their separate ways when those changes came around real soon made them women and men…

Life goes on, but the thrill of living? The thrill of living is far from gone. I’d say it’s just getting started again.

So hold on to 16, sure. But hold on to 45 too. And 60. Wherever you are.

jack and diane 2All you sweet Dianes out there cringing while your parents and their friends bang their heads to Bohemian Rhapsody or shake their hips to Grease Lightning—it may look goofy to you, it may be embarrassing, because right now you probably can’t imagine anything more mortifying than exposing any of your own inadequacies, real or imagined, to the world. But the thrill of living? The real thrill of living is getting past all of that and learning to enjoy life. To flip your switch permanently to I don’t give a fuck setting.

Jack and Diane must have figured that out by now, just like I have. They’d be near fifty now. Surely they’ve learned that when life hands you a new year and a group of friends to sing with, let it rock. Let it roll. Hell, you can even let the Bible Belt save your soul if you must. I don’t have time to judge, I’m too busy playing air guitar.





Life in the Middle Ages

honey-kennedy-nina-leen-la-barbe-a-papa-03Much like gaining weight, middle age seems to have snuck up on me. Sure, somewhere in the back of my mind I knew all those nights spent in front of the television with bowls of salty snacks would eventually come between me and the button of my jeans (sorry, Brooke, there is something between me and my Calvins….it’s called a muffin top). I knew it the same way I knew all those birthday candles would eventually add up. But it is slow and nefarious, this getting older business. Sometimes it catches you by surprise.

All those small steps don’t seem so bad. A little wobble here, a little paunch there. A chin hair here, an enlarging of your Kindle font there. But then one day you realize it’s not a question of getting your jeans buttoned or even getting them past your knees but more not remembering when you just gave up and bought a bigger size. Or like when you find yourself sitting in the front seat of the car merrily singing along to Margaritaville.


I’ve never been a parrot head or whatever bird Jimmy Buffett fans are named after. To me Margaritaville has always embodied the kind of generic, store brand complacency I ran away from as a youth. Singing about wasting away and claiming there’s a woman to blame? It has always been the epitome of older than your years middle age music to me. So when I found myself enthusiastically singing along about lost shakers of salt with my husband on a road trip recently, it was the mental equivalent of trying to get my jeans up over my squishy thighs and realizing they weren’t going anywhere.

But I know….it’s my own damn fault.

Oldies stations that play 80s music, soft rock which includes the metal bands of your youth, the length of Van Halentime it takes to scroll down to 197X. Ticking a different demographic bracket. Being okay with a little squish, a little soft around the middle–literally and figuratively. They’re all signs of life in the middle ages. But there are more. Oh so many more.

I amble down the aisles, meander around the malls and the styles that fill the racks and stock the shelves? I’ve owned those styles already in some other decade. I’ve owned them and donated them to the Salvation Army. It’s hard to get excited by clothes you’ve already worn and deemed out of fashion once upon a time.

Here’s another sign: a groupon to your favorite rock band. That’s right, folks. The hair bands of your high school days, the ones your parents begged you to turn down, they’re touring again and you can get a groupon deal to go and see them. Yes, David Lee Roth, I’m looking at you. When you can get a deep dish discount to see the premium bands of your youth, you may as well jump. Jump! Who knows, maybe Eddie Van Halen’s standing there, his back against the record machine wondering when the hell he got so old.

When the idea of staying up all night makes you physically ill, you know you’ve hit middle age. When you can’t start watching a movie after 8:30 pm because you’re not sure you’ll make it up to see the ending, and you’re ok with it? You’re probably middle-aged.

Apples-602x451If your teeth hurt watching kids gobble up cones of cotton candy bigger than their heads and guzzle orange soda, all those things you lived for as a kid–Fun Dips for crying out loud--you’re probably middle-aged.

If you remember a time when peanut butter wasn’t a weapon of mass destruction, but just a sandwich filling you’re probably middle-aged. If there are dance clubs that play the music you cut your teeth on and they’re billed as retro? It’s a good sign you’re middle-aged.

If you start talking bout my generation, starting statements with “in my day” or waxing on, waxing off about how much better things used to be, you’re probably middle-aged.

If you think the current crop of kids is the end of the world as we know it? You’re probably middle-aged. Video killed the radio star, but if you’re pretty sure YouTube killed the video star? Welcome to the middle ages, my friend.

Can’t find your lost shaker of salt? Don’t worry, most of us are having trouble remembering where we put stuff lately.

lost shaker of salt

Perhaps Jimmy Buffett is really singing about life after 45. Maybe Margaritaville is really a retirement community bursting with paunchy men in Hawaiian prints and women in culottes and big hair. Think about it. Flip-flops and blender drinks. Baggy, elasticized clothes without buttons. Not remembering where you put the salt.

Damn. It doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it used to.