Just don’t 

There has always been fashion designed to slow women down, trip them up. Heavy bustles and hoop skirts. Binding of the feet in China, cloaking of the entire body among some followers of Islam. Whatever the stated intent — beautification, modesty — the result turns us into decor at best, captives at worst. I’ve been noticing a trend toward restrictive garments that say “don’t” in some way. A partial list:

Mules: don’t run

Kitten heels: don’t even walk

Pointy toe stillettos: don’t mind that these are, practically speaking, bunion-producing machines.

Off the shoulder tops: don’t raise your arms

Bustiers: don’t dance, better yet don’t move

Clutch purse: don’t do anything that requires two hands

Mini skirt: don’t sit

Pencil skirt: don’t eat

Body suit, jump suit: don’t even think about going to the bathroom


I’m not a feminist but…

A thoughtful essay in the New York Times takes to task women — specifically Megyn Kelly, in Lindy West’s piece —  who identify as non-feminists. Why? To seem nice and non-threatening? To be perceived as approachable, as not having needs? Whatever the reason the “but…” at the end of the avowal negates it. Writes West: you are partipating in feminism simply by benefitting from the women’s movement of the past. You vote, you have a bank account, you can own property and divorce your husband. All of this was won by proto-feminists (by any other name); all of this protected by today’s feminists. “Sorry but you’re a feminist,” she concludes. “We are here for you when you are ready.”

aging Uncategorized

Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven

This from the heart-breaking poem called “Washing the Elephant.”

And here’s the heart-breaking part:

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven,” instead of “being one with God will make your mother and father pointless.
Lily sent this to me after a weekend in Florida, visiting not one but two in-laws in not one but two Memory Care facilities in not one but two cities, not one but two hours away from each other.
In many ways, mother-in-law Mary is already gone. She who rests her forehead on the tabletop as we converse with her, falling asleep, startling awake, drifting off again to who knows where. Come to think of it, we didn’t even think about taking a photo of us together.
On the other side of the state, father-in-law Al is all too aware of his decline. He is failing, before our very eyes, but so slowly, that it comes as a hard surprise when whole functions disappear: walking, conversation, self-feeding. He wants to tell us a “cute story,” but its meaning evaporates after a set-up that involves a company, its sales force, a trip to another city.
Perhaps to compensate, we took many, many photos of him. As if to keep him with us? His last few words with me were so lovely: “You classed up this whole operation,” he said of me about my role in the di Costanzo family.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 3.43.10 PM

So here’s to “the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines and frown lines on the face” And here’s to the rest of the poem:

Washing the Elephant

Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash
the elephant, begging the body to do it
with soap and water, a ladder, hands,
in tree-shade big enough for the vast savannahs
of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,
the cratered full moon’s light fueling
the windy spooling memory of elephant?
What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize
your parents in heaven,” instead of
“Being one with God will make your mother and father
pointless.” That was back when I was young enough
to love them absolutely though still fear for their place
in heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full
of something resembling street water after rain.
Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,
to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies
about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them
as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkercheif of coins
to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,
Land O’Lakes, and two Camels.
If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.
Of the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading
through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants
made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tuunnel
and down 34th Street to the Garden.
So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking
after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined
for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken
It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,
the few real loves-of-your-life and how much of the rest—
the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,
unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things
like Popsicles unthinkingly.
And though dailiness may have no place
for the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines
and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder
to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life
will appear in a dream, arriving
with the weight and certitude of an elephant,
and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash
the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories
that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.

10 things to love about winter

  1. At Home Coziness

During the mois noirs, I feel no compunction to “get aside and enjoy the beautiful day.” And it’s absolutely fine when days spent indoors turn into …

  1. Early nights

I get into bed by 9 most weeknights and am perfectly OK with that. It’s dark outside and has been for hours. It’s warmer in bed and, right now, the Australian Open is played at weird Aussie hours.

  1. The Australian Open
  1. The color burgundy

And I’d throw into the sartorial pile: velvet, suede and (fake) fur.

  1. Pink mornings

Of varying hues. Just now, at 8 a.m., we are a pale pink with a little orange and cranberry along the horizon.

Greenwich Harbor, from the train window
  1. Days getting longer

This as opposed to the slow shaving off of daylight as summer slips away, darkness coming a minute earlier every evening.

  1. Fires in the fireplace

And wood smoke against a dark sky. And the smell of it in the air.

  1. A pot of chili on the stove

Go ahead, crumble in some cornbread.

  1. A bowl of oatmeal
  1. A glass of red wine

You knew that was coming. A ruby in the glass, the rasp of tannin on your tongue, followed by its slow swirling heat through your veins. You will be mine tonight, you scarlet vixen you.

Bottoms up
the complaint department Uncategorized

The Least Wonderful Time of the Year

Dark mornings, the sun not rising until I’m on the train. Afternoons never mustering real heat or light, dimming by four, dark again by 5. Wind slicing through the streets of lower Manhattan. Snow, rain, ice. Maybe it’s because of a cold coming on; maybe it’s the cleanse and I’m actually a boring person without wine. But I’ve felt little inspiration to think, let alone write. Oh January, you’re the worst.

Good Intentions Uncategorized

New Year’s Resolutions For Me This Time 2017

It’s only fair that I share my list, now that I’ve posted my mostly annual New Year’s Resolutions For Others.

  1. Choose Kindness. Because it is always a choice.


  1. Judge less.
  2. Write more.
  3. There is beauty everywhere. Find it.
  4. Read poetry. It pretty much explains everything.
  5. Keep working on these things.
  6. Lest this start to sound like a Pinterest board waiting to happen: Stop drinking so much wine, you wino.
  7. Also: would it kill me to learn Spanish?
family Uncategorized

To me, you are perfect


The perfect Valentine’s Day card for Miss Lil.

2016 elections politics Uncategorized

well now this is galling

Hillary blamed for her husband’s affairs — as a co-conspirator, an apologist or, worse, the root cause of his philandering?

I’m writing this even while at a loss for words about how wrong this is. Fortunately, Michelle Goldberg, at Slate, is more coherent: “Hillary was a betrayed woman who nevertheless fought to salvage a marriage and political project she believed in. Perhaps she shouldn’t have. But the Times editorial casts her as an icy schemer stage-managing her hapless husband’s misdeeds. It turns her from The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick into House of Cards’ Claire Underwood, from victim to villainess,” writes Goldberg.

You have been warned: I’m going to write more on this when I can find the courage to read Trump’s take on it.

articles of faith parenting Uncategorized

A Mother’s Prayer

There’s a secular kind of prayer I make when I fear something in my life is about to be lost. It goes like this: Please, please, please, please.

On an everyday basis, that thing is my phone and I am asking the Maker (of Apple Products) to reveal it to me as not lost after all. Please, please, please, please, I think. And there it is: my phone, tossed heedlessly into my bag, hidden in the black recesses among sundry other black things. I feel a little spangle of relief; it’s a company-issued phone, and I simply can’t tell the tech-support guy I lost another one. On most occasions, I remember to send up a thank you to the Maker that goes something like this: “You have saved me so much inconvenience (not to mention groveling) on this day, and for that I am grateful.”

As a mother of two “children” now in their 20s, I’ve had far too many occasions to send up that prayer to another Maker …

Read all about it >


Dear Kids

My mother gave me a stack of letters she saved from the time I was studying in France. Because any act within a family is layered with unspoken meaning or meanings this one made me think:

  • Of her mother, whom I called Grandma Howard and she called Mother. Grandma Howard was briskly unsentimental and the opposite of a hoarder. If you handed her a birthday card she would read it quickly, say “that’s nice,” and shove it into wastepaper basket.
  • At the end of her life there was very simply nothing left. Cabinets were empty, a closet was hung with her single blue synthetic quilted robe, and the possessions we thought we would divide among us amounted to a punch bowl and a couple of chenille bedspreads.
  • I think it helped her leave this earth. She was so very unencumbered.
  • Is my mother contemplating her own leaving?
  • My other grandmother was a hoarder but that’s another story. The Brothers of the Rose Cross pamphlet is from her.

Back to the letters. My tone surprised me: so confident, so logical, so bossy. Dear Kids, I would start each one, in writing cramped onto thin aerograms, then I would tell my stories and give instructions as to what I needed: money, information, favors done.

I think of myself as tentative, with overwrought thinking about matters I wish I could sail through in a manner that looks confident, logical and even bossy. But during this time in my life I’ve been thinking about how I present as opposed to how I “really” am and wondering which one is real. More overwrought still is the writing in my journal: in turns, depressive, dreamy, indecisive, self-doubting.

So, kids, which one is the real story of my life?