Sunday, December 12, 2010

New "Like Sisters" column in C Magazine



JELL-O, old pal!

BY DENISE STEWART

Recently, I overheard one woman ask a friend to help her recruit volunteers for the list of duties at her daughter’s swim club.

“You need to make this a Google document.”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“I’ll help you.”

They sat on the same side of the table and the one friend who was good with e-mail and documents helped the one who was not. It was lovely. Indeed, it’s beautiful when you know what you need, and you know when you’re needed. When I was young, I knew Lisa was the best girl to go biking with. She wouldn’t be afraid of the bumpy trail that ran behind the school. On life’s buffet, Lisa is the granola, crumbled up and full of stuff that’s good for you. She’s over by the frozen yogurt machine.

Permit me to put your friends on the buffet and group them—just as you might put all the desserts on the card table off to one side, so that when it’s time for dessert, your guests won’t miss the full array of choices from chocolate chips to coconut cake. Get yourself a clean plate and dig into your intuitive hunger for a variety of friends.

Talents: These people have skills and expertise. You find their abilities uncommonly attractive. You mean it when you find yourself saying, “You’re amazing!” Not only do these friends have a little booth at the farmer’s market to showcase gourmet cupcakes, they also have major UVA donors in their cell phone. If “cool” was an elective in high school, these people would place out. It’s O.K. to ask their advice or their help. Let them dream with you about your next big idea because they can go there. They dream, too. They don’t invite you to concerts; they invite you to their concerts. They tend to have a strong sense of self, and they’re, you know, doing “their thing.” It’s inspirational. They are the salsa with the real roasted corn and the fresh cilantro and garlic and the homemade tortilla chips. So hip, so tasty!

Tenderness: You will cry with this person even when you think you’re not a crier. This is your crockpot maca-roni and cheese. This is not the back-slapping, marathon-running lady-warrior (no offense, roasted turkey). You can be vulnerable—totally—with this person. She’s got sticking power. I called my mac-n-cheese when my brother died. I was wailing, and her tenderness with me extended far back into the years. Because she had also grown up with my brother, I had nothing to explain.

Time: Oh, blessed are the companions who will go on long walks with you. Do you remember who watched Beaches with you? This is your friend who will go all over the mall with you to find an outfit or a costume or for no particular reason at all. Time will fly with this person, but it’s O.K., and it’s easy, and you’ll make easy plans for next week with this, your cherry yum yum. Yes, she’s a throwback to church potlucks, and she’s going to be a great old lady, and she’ll have time to spend with you then, too.

Truth: Wasn’t that an insightful question? No one has asked you that before. Beware—your truth crusader is going to give you “the look” when you speak aloud the delusions you’ve been playing on your mental iPod. She’ll let you trash someone, but she won’t let you go on and on. She might even say something like, “Open your eyes!” What a gift she is. She’s your plate of pickles, a little vinegar for proper digestion. Pickles are not for everyone, but then, the truth isn’t either, is it? You’ll find yourself calling her when you need a proper judge or critic or compass.

Is it possible that you’ve got friends that are talented, tender, available and honest, all rolled into one delicious flavor? Of course. However, having an assortment of dishes gives you sweet and savory, great opportunities for connection and strength, humor and wisdom. That’s your network, your tapestry, your phone tree, your posse, your Sunday dinner. Call it what you will, but keep it strong and updated, fresh and tasty, and never forget what you signed up to bring!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

From Advice Column..."Like Sisters" Toxic Friendships

Please check out (click here) the new issue of C Mag, the fashion/style quarterly from the Cville Weekly.

NEW! Fall 2010: Like Sisters

Are you in a toxic friendship?

BY DENISE STEWART

When I was in the second grade, the guidance counselor came around to our classroom and taught us the difference between “Warm Fuzzies” and “Cold Pricklies.” She held up pictures. They existed. They had eyeballs. She talked like they were things people gave you. Things like a feeling. Feelings exchanged back and forth like gifts, like toys. Toys that could make you cry. We were to understand that there was not only a temperature to relationships, but also a texture. Good friends left you with heat in your cheeks. Heat and softness beside you, like a Smurf right out of the oven. During the counselor’s talks, Rhonda Miller used to sit behind me, sucking her thumb with her right hand and twisting my hair with her left. I loved it. She gave me warm fuzzies. Thirty years later, I think “cold prickly” is a simple but accurate way to talk about the ice of a toxic friendship, and about the sting. The cartoon drawing of the Cold Prickly looked just like you think—a big, dry brown burr with sharp hooks—just like what falls from the tree and pays you back for running around barefoot. In the interest of making more merry about friendship, more light from the dark, I asked myself some questions:

1. Have you ever been a toxic friend?
Yes, I have spread gossip, judged, offered too much advice, lied about my whereabouts, coveted someone else’s partner/house/job/figure, misplaced or abused things I borrowed and competed.

2. Anything else?
Oh, yes, I’ve been over-sensitive, insensitive, too proud, needy and selfish.


3. Do you have any friends left?
Yes, tons.

4. What’s your secret to keeping friends?
Self-awareness and apologies. Nothing’s wrong with being wrong unless you
don’t have the moral fortitude to make it right. Nothing’s wrong with not keeping
a friend—moving on. Some people come along in your life to teach you about yourself. They prepare you for the next, bigger friendship.

5. Sometimes the success of my friends makes me question everything in my life and it throws me into a Level One Funk. I just want to be happy for her. Why does this happen?
Because sometimes the wave forgets that it is water and sometimes you forget that you are love. One wave wants to compete with the other wave, but it’s all the same water. Give yourself a break. It’s not always easy to take someone else’s good luck/good work/good notice and quickly, like a flash, turn it into shiny, happy, carrot-colored motivation
for you to aspire to and be inspired by. Come on. You’re at least as complicated as the weather. Feel it and then move on to some sunnier thoughts.

6.What’s the danger in never saying anything about what’s really bothering you?
Getting stuck in what you think she thinks, and even worse, what you think she thinks about what you think. Wow. If you’re getting tangled in projecting and guessing, it’s time to ask questions. Friendship is more like a thing with eyeballs and less like a trophy. It wants oxygen and water, and it doesn’t want to be collected. It hates to hear, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It loves to hear, “You look frustrated. What’s going on?”

7. My friends get upset with me because I’m busy all the time. Why don’t they understand that when I’m not available, I’m just not available?
I know, you’re slammed with work. Me, too. I’m super-busy. 2010 is my 20th anniversary of being busy. Isn’t that cool? Cool like a Cold Prickly, my friend. Even when you’re really busy, and it’s really the truth, sometimes it’s you getting isolated from friends, and I bet you do have an hour. Remember that how you respond is like a thing you give to her, and she’ll have to determine the temperature and texture.

8. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Always. Invest in the Warm Fuzzies. Little love offerings are more than bumper sticker ideas. Who gives off heat and softness? Call her tonight. Who could use a card from you, a little bit of your ridiculous humor? Go to a concert with a friend and know that the touch of her arm beside yours is like the old days when you used to sit cross-legged on the floor at storytime and there was time for twisting hair and lessons about feelings.

Denise Stewart is a local writer, actor and business lady who loves her screenwriting group and drinks with twists.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Secret Lives of Little Girls, Part 5: The Tribe


Denise, age 3, in Pottstown, PA with Freckles

An excerpt from my 10th grade English essay "Problems in South Africa" on CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY:

"Perhaps at the root of all the problems in South Africa is the total destruction of the tribe. In order to be successful in this world, everyone must have a base at which morals, family bonds, pride in history and background, and a sense of stability exist. Without these, a person has no guidance, no roots, and no future. To live is not just to survive, like so many natives in South Africa found themselves doing, but to truly feel that you have a place in this world. For all natives, this place was once in a tribe, that is, before it was ripped out from under them. Throughout history, people have always been weakened when they were by themselves..."

I made an A+/52 on this paper. Mrs. Williamson loved the content, but she was a grammar Nazi, and I had a few run-ons that killed that part of the grade. I have always loved everything I've ever read by African writers. I haven't loved what happened to my tribe, how my tribe has not flourished in this world, and how I have struggled myself. As hard as I try, my darkest moments are about feeling incredibly alone, and my biggest fears are about being sick and never wanting to disappoint anyone. Death, depression, anger, and illness dominated the major events of my childhood, and have certainly continued as themes within my family. But there are many stories to tell, and there was a life that I lived that was about survival and joy and love and laughing.

This series about my childhood is my modern tribal dance.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Warm Fuzzies & Cold Pricklies



“Our friendships hurry to short and poor conclusions because we have made them a texture of wine and dreams, instead of the tough fiber of the human heart.”
--from “Friendship” by Emerson

When I was in the second grade, Mrs. Mault, the guidance counselor came around to our classroom and taught us the difference between “Warm Fuzzies” and “Cold Pricklies.” She held up pictures. They existed. They had eyeballs. She talked like they were things people gave you. Things like a feeling. Feelings exchanged back and forth like gifts, like toys. Toys that could you make you cry. We were to understand that there was not only a temperature to relationships, but also a texture. Good friends left you with heat in your cheeks. Heat and softness beside you, like a Smurf right out of the oven. During her talks, Rhonda Miller used to sit behind me, sucking her thumb with her right hand and twisting my hair with her left. I loved it. She gave me warm fuzzies. Thirty years later, I think “cold prickly” is a simple but accurate way to talk about the ice of a toxic friendship, and about the sting. The cartoon drawing of the Cold Prickly looked just like you think – a big, dry brown burr with sharp hooks – just like what falls from the tree and pays you back for running around barefoot. In the interest of making more merry about friendship, more light from the dark, I asked myself some questions:

1. Have you ever been a toxic friend?

Yes, I have spread gossip, judged, offered too much advice, lied about my whereabouts, coveted someone else’s partner/house/job/figure, misplaced or abused things I borrowed and competed.

2. Anything else?

Oh, yes, I’ve been over-sensitive, in-sensitive, too proud, needy and selfish.

3. Do you have any friends left?
Yes, tons.

4. What’s your secret to keeping friends?
Self-awareness and apologies. Nothing’s wrong with being wrong unless you don’t have the moral fortitude to make it right. Nothing’s wrong with not keeping a friend -- moving on. Some people come along in your life to teach you about yourself. They prepare you for the next, bigger friendship.

5. Sometimes the success of my friends makes me question everything in my life and it throws me into a Level One Funk. I just want to be happy for her. Why does this happen?
Because sometimes the wave forgets that it is water and sometimes you forget that you are love. One wave wants to compete with the other wave, but it’s all the same water. Give yourself a break. It’s not always easy to take someone else’s good luck/good work/good notice and quickly, like a flash, turn it into shiny, happy, carrot-colored motivation for you to aspire to and be inspired by. Come on. You’re at least as complicated as the weather. Feel it and then move on to some sunnier thoughts.

6. What’s the danger in never saying anything about what’s really bothering you?
Getting stuck in what you think she thinks, and even worse, what you think she thinks about what you think. Wow. If you’re getting tangled in projecting and guessing, it’s time to ask questions. Friendship is more like a thing with eyeballs and less like a trophy. It wants oxygen and water, and it doesn’t want to be collected. It hates to hear, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It loves to hear, “You look frustrated. What’s going on?”

7. My friends get upset with me because I’m busy all the time. Why don’t they understand that when I’m not available, I’m just not available?
I know, you’re slammed with work. Me, too. I’m super-busy. 2010 is my 20th anniversary of being busy. Isn’t that cool? Cool like a cold prickly, my friend. Even when you’re really busy, and it’s really the truth, sometimes it’s you getting isolated from friends, and I bet you do have an hour. Remember that how you respond is like a thing you give to her, and she’ll have to determine the temperature and texture.

8. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Always. Invest in the warm fuzzies. Little love offerings are more than bumper sticker ideas. Who gives off heat and softness? Call her tonight. Who could use a card from you, a little bit of your ridiculous humor? Go to a concert with a friend and know that the touch of her arm beside yours is like the old days when you used to sit cross-legged on the floor at storytime and there was time for twisting hair and lessons about feelings.

The Secret Lives of Little Girls, Part 4: The House



1. where I shaved my legs for the first time.
2. where my mom grew zucchini, tomatoes, squash, watermelon, rhubarb and green beans.
3. where my mom parked her Pontiac Catalina.
4. where the previous resident killed himself.
5. where my trundle bed would pull out -- when she visited, my grandmother would sleep on it with her arms folded across her chest.
6. where my grandmother taught me to pray with a rosary.
7. where the Siamese cat used to sit at night and cry like a baby.
8. where I took Reader's Digest magazine stickers and licked them and stuck them all over my closets.
9. where the cat walked through all the pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving Eve.
10. where my mom painted clouds on the ceiling.
11. where my sister kept her 2 pairs of high heels that I would sneak in and try on.
12. where Mom kept her hundreds of Harlequin novels (that's embarrassing)
13. where my mom slept and stacked up books and magazines on the other side of the bed.
14. where I read all of Nancy Drew and Spiderman.
15. where I found the previous resident's fake leg.
16. where we played cards with my grandparents when my mom was in the hospital.
17. where my mom talked on the phone and the yellow cord would stretch all the way across the kitchen.
18. where I hid when the older ones started picking on me.
19. where we all stood and listened the morning we found out that John Lennon died.
20. where we kept my father's album of all the pictures he took in Korea.
21. where the Christmas tree went.
22. where I set up my bank teller operations.
23. where all games of Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, Trouble, Parcheesi, Risk, Frogger and Dungeons and Dragons were played.
24. where I played with a Ouija board for the first and last time.
25. where I watched Mommie Dearest every time I could catch it on HBO.
26. where Jeff played with matches and burned up his blinds.
27. where we waited for Santa.
28. where my mom's friend, Judy, spent most of her time.
29. where the previous resident would shoot his gun into the ceiling to scare his wife and it left bullet holes.
30. where the previous resident's wife killed herself by overdosing on pills.
31. where the pot plants grew.
32. where my mom made a Japanese-style garden and where I found my cat, Tiger, dead.
33. where we spent most of the summer.
34. where my brother and his friend set an old abandoned van on fire.
35. where we hid the key.
36. where we played basketball and tether ball.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Madeline Gets Married

Madeline Gets Married
by Denise Laughlin Stewart
Originally produced by Offstage Theatre at Miller's Restaurant in Charlottesville, VA in February, 2003, and had a staged reading by ETC, the Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga in March, 2009. This is a companion piece to "Madeline Takes a Cat" previously published on this blog.



Characters:
Flash Cadillac: 25, a DJ
Tonya, 25, a local bride-to-be
Carson, 22, a rich, UVa bride-to-be
Madeline: 30, a reluctant bride-to-be
Jack: Madeline’s fiancé
Caller #1
Caller #2

Setting: a bar on a Friday night
At rise, FLASH CADILLAC is seen at a small table. He is attaching a banner with his radio’s call letters and slogan. There is a microphone and notes on the table. He also sets up three seats or stools next to his table. MADELINE and JACK enter.

JACK
I mean it.

MADELINE
I’m not going to get drunk.

JACK
Get drunk! Get plowed! Do whatever they tell you. Drink something obscene– it’ll be fun!

MADELINE
But–

JACK
(silencing her)
Ssshhzzzz– your friends WANT to do this for you.

MADELINE
I’ve never even BEEN to a bachelorette party–and I’m not licking anything off of anybody–oh, Jack, please, please don’t make me do this!

JACK
Have you ever seen me really, really happy?

MADELINE
I think so.


JACK
Well, if you march up those stairs and go to your bachelorette party and have fun and get drunk and stupid with your friends, I will be TEN times happier than I’ve EVER been.

MADELINE
You’re not even going to be here and–

JACK
I’ll know. I’ll feel from miles away your glee and your lightness of being. Now go do dirty deeds with your dirty girlfriends.

MADELINE
This is stupid.

JACK
Traditions are supposed to be stupid. Remember, we’re just filling up time until we die.
MADELINE
Enough. Okay.
(She waves him away)
I’m going to call you.

JACK
Don’t call me. Get drunk. Well, if you’re drunk, you can call me because that’ll be really funny. Oh– and I got you this–
(JACK pulls out a lei of condoms and puts it around her neck)

MADELINE
No, Jack, please –

JACK
Come on – it’s a “Lei of Condoms.” Ultimatebacheloretteparty.com. You would not believe what they had.

MADELINE
What are you going to do?

JACK
Barracks Road, baby! Bed, Bath and Beyond – there’s a stainless steel, very expensive trash can that I’m adding to our register AND AND AND – Michael’s – my mother called – they have those floating candles for the reception for almost nothing.



MADELINE
You’re sick.

JACK
(leaving)
I love you.

MADELINE nods. JACK disappears. MADELINE watches the beginning of Flash’s monologue, looks up and then heads with trepidation up the stairs.

FLASH
(getting settled, checking his watch, doing a little vocal warm-up)
Unique New York, Unique New York, Unique New York. Annnnnd weee’re ononononon—
(he puts on headphones, but keeps one ear open)
Charlottesville! It’s Friday night and I’m Flash Cadillac and this is WPIG – broadcasting LIVE from Rapture/Orbit! It’s our First Annual YOU’RE NOT READY SHOW! We’ve got brides-to-be and we’ve got questions that BURN. Hey, guys we’ve got the HBIC, the hottest booties in C-ville falling off the map before your very ears. This is it! After tonight they’re as good as gone, YOU BLEW IT – but this is their last chance to be girls gone wild before they turn into tomorrow’s desperate housewives, and we’re bringing them to you – LIVE. Before we meet our Bachelorettes, let’s take a moment to thank our local sponsors. Many thanks to the Hooch and the Itchy Wahoo for their dual-sponsorship of our little reality show, and for those of you who say Charlottesville doesn’t need two weekly mags to tell you what cuisine is served at the Baja Bean we say “up yours with a rubber boot” and “Don’t be such a crotchety bastard – Jefferson would’ve wanted it this way.”
Now, let’s meet the ladies who are competing tonight for a 10-day cruise to the Caribbean – where “poop deck” will really mean something to you. No, just kidding folks, I’m sure THIS cruise WON’T be full of hundreds of people vomiting – I better quit while I still have a job.


FLASH signals to someone on the upper level that he’s ready for the first bride. TONYA, dressed in a low-rider jeans, high heels, and a t-shirt that has written on is “SUCK FOR A BUCK” and has little lifesavers stuck all over it. She’s also wearing a head piece made of toilet paper on her head and coming halfway down her back. TONYA is drunk. She pulls a card from her bag a rates a man from the audience as a “10 – Perfect Hottie”.

FLASH
Bachelorette #1 is here. She’s a foxy little mama, who loves to go to the mall for her nail tips, who’s glammed-up for tonight’s event. Her name is Tonya and she’s from Ruckersville. She knows Highway 29 like the back of her hand…and she has a baby from a previous relationship – uh…wow…well, if that scares you guys, you are NOT READY….but she IS ready to take that chance again, saying please, no more drama in my life. Welcome — Miss Tonya! Tonya, by God, is that toilet paper in your hair?

TONYA
It’s my practice tiara – for good luck.

FLASH
Good luck. Let’s get our next bachelorette down here. BACHELORETTE #2? Get down here, girl– Our next bride-to-be is a UVA student, a Wahoo wa, a Rugby Road Rat – she’s NOT GAY, but she’s a brainiac who surely scored over 1400 on her SAT but who’s losing cells by the minute – and she’s graduating this year – aren’t we proud of our grads? Come on, the poor thang’s jumping from the frying pan to the fire, so ya’ll, help me welcome the surely-insane....CARSON!

FLASH gets the entire crowd to cheer for CARSON, who comes down the stairs wearing a white strapless cocktail dress (or tacky white prom dress) with a plastic but elegant veil in her hair. She’s also wearing high heels with a plastic ball and chain around her ankle. She’s also carrying a little bag. She’s hyper and gets the crowd to cheer for her even louder as she struts and uses her arms to get them to “raise the roof”.

FLASH
Okay, listeners. We’ve got a live-one here. I mean, do they know how to raise ‘em over at UVA or what? Carson, you come over here and settle down you little nymph.

CARSON
(offering something to an audience member from a little tin)
Spermies?

FLASH
Spermies?

CARSON
They’re mints. Would you like a Spermie? A mint shaped like a sperm.

An audience member takes a Spermie. CARSON quickly takes out a piece of paper, squeals and marks something off her list.

CARSON
(consulting her list)
Flash, what’s the weirdest thing you have in your pocket?

FLASH
I’ll do the interviewing here, thank you very much.



CARSON
I’ve been like, collecting advice tonight, Flash. My sorority sisters up there told me to go around and like, ask married couples what advice they could give me. What advice can you give me?

FLASH
I’m afraid I’m not married. But please, read us one of those quotes.

CARSON
Let’s see...“If your husband gets so drunk that he wets the bed, throw away the sheets and buy new ones.”

FLASH
Jesus Christ! Let’s get our last bachelorette down here. Our final bride-to-be finds herself walking down the aisle as the sun is setting on her life. Yes, folks, our girl is THIRTY YEARS OLD, a grand old dame, old enough to know better, but still stupid enough to care about her ovaries and what her mother thinks. She didn’t wanna be all by herself, so she managed to snag herself a little muffin, a love machine of her very own, a man among men – a.k.a. somebody to take out the trash on Sunday nights – help us welcome MADELINE!

MADELINE comes down the stairs carrying a six-foot blow-up penis. Someone has taken a black marker and has drawn a face on the penis. There are also some autographs and quotes such as “Better you than me!” and “Run!” She looks mortified. FLASH is speechless.

TONYA
That is so cool. I saw you with that earlier.

CARSON
That is so hilarious, but I would, like, die.

FLASH
Cover your children’s ears because I have to tell you that our last bride-to-be is carrying a–.

MADELINE
It’s a penis.

FLASH
Watch your mouth, lady – this is a family show – SO, who’s your FRIEND?

Madeline is silent.

FLASH
Come on, Madeline, you’re killing me here – what shall we call your FRIEND?

MADELINE
(nervous, blurting out)
Archibald!

FLASH
Welcome, Archibald, now I don’t feel so outnumbered. So callers, get your fingers ready to dial and redial! YOU’RE going to get to do the eliminating. YOU listen to their answers and YOU call in to say who’s NOT READY to walk down that aisle. Who knows? You might save a life tonight, sugar bear. This is Flash Cadillac broadcasting live tonight from Rapture – where the fear factor is really, really real, just ask Brad and Jen. PART ONE: The Question. Tonya, what’s your biggest fear about getting married?

TONYA
That I will try to make my husband my savior and forsake Jesus Christ.

FLASH
Carson?

CARSON
I was JUST talking to my fiancé, Carson, about this–

FLASH
(confused)
Your fiance’s name is Carson, too?

CARSON
Isn’t it just, like, wild? BOTH of our mothers named us their maiden names...Carson.

FLASH
It’s, like, fate.

CARSON
Exactly.

FLASH
So, Carson, what scares the – daylights out of you when you think about marrying Carson?

CARSON
Flash, fear of perfection. It’s all been so perfect so far. I mean, everything is right on time. I wanted early decision to Uva – got it. I wanted to go abroad for study AND finish on time– did it. I wanted to meet someone who was at least 3 inches taller than me AND associated through his fraternity to my sorority – found him. We have SO many friends in common which is EXACTLY what I wanted. And his mom and my mom wear, like, the same shoes, it’s like, sick, and his dad and my dad are going to like, get season tickets near each other, and I know that we are going to have like, perfect children after I start grad school and, well, can this be right? What if it, like, blows up in my face – you know, to punish me, like, UNMERCIFULLY, for, you know, for like, the balance of the universe?

FLASH
What in the hell–


TONYA
Jinxed. You think you’re going to be jinxed. My cousin got jinxed.


FLASH
AUDIENCE – I hope you’re listening and getting ready to tell one of these ladies, as hard as it may be to hear that they’re NOT READY. Listen to these worries. This is a beautiful country. Now, Madeline, you’ve been so quiet, you and Mr. Johnson over there. Tell us, WHAT are you afraid of?

MADELINE
I don’t know about this – my friends signed me up for this contest. I didn’t –

FLASH
I’m starting to think WFART sent you over here to wreck my show. Now, just play the game, Madeline. What’s the problem? The callers out there want to hear if you’re ready or if you’re not. Now, WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

MADELINE
Privacy, money, boredom, giving up my dreams, in-laws, retirement accounts, poker nights, snoring, calling to check-in, staying home all weekend, babies, monotony, fear of fidelity, possible divorce, and the constant consulting and checking and asking and apologizing–

FLASH
Whoa.

CARSON
I don’t think she’s ready.

FLASH
That, my friendly callers, is up to YOU. So, the seventh caller gets to give one unlucky bride-to-be the news.

FLASH looks to his unseen tech person to get the signal for the right caller.

FLASH
And here we go. Caller Seven, you’re on the air! What do you want to tell us?

CALLER #1
(a very serious man)
Hiya Flash. This is Theresa from New York.


FLASH
Incredible! You’re picking us up in New York? Are you listening on-line?



CALLER #1
No, I’m FROM New York. I’m calling from Lake Monticello. My husband just retired and we relocated down here.

FLASH
Gotcha. Who’s not ready, Theresa?

CALLER #1
Carson. No doubt about it.

CARSON
What? No way. No way.

MADELINE
Oh no.

FLASH
(to the caller)
Tell us why.

CALLER #1
I don’t know what’s going on down here. This is NOT the way we do it where I’m from. Where I’m from, if you’re a GIRL, you get a GIRL’S NAME – Kathryn, Rose, Cynthia, Helen. Down here I hear them called Madison, Rhyne, Brown, Thompson. What kind of crap is that? And BOYS don’t have it any easier! I can’t find a William or a Henry in the birth announcements to save my life. It’s a PHENOMENA. I read names like Parker Turner, Baker Thomas. What’s first, what’s last? Where does the comma go? I won’t be surprised if I read tomorrow about twins names Window and Door! My own grandchild did this to me. She named her child Kane. Kane! “Because that was your maiden name, Grandma.” I know what my maiden name. Wait a jiffy second, I told her. The ONLY Cain I know is in the Bible. So, Carson, I’m doing you a favor. YOU’RE NOT READY. Now, go out there and find a Paul or a Mark. Goodnight, Flash. Is that your real name?

FLASH
(Seriously)
Our caller has spoken.

TONYA
(waving to Carson)
I’ll tell her what my mama tells all the Yankees at Walmart, “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go back where you came from.”

CARSON takes her cell phone out of her bag and gets up from her seat and heads upstairs, talking to herself and anyone who will listen.




CARSON
(calling a friend)
I’m coming back up there. I got kicked off. You guys won’t believe it! Why didn’t you, like, come downstairs? I’ve never lost anything in my life. I need more time on this list-

FLASH
PART TWO: The Confession.
Ladies, consider what you’re about to say very carefully, because it’s finally down to just the two of you and the winner of this round is going to win a 10-day Carribean cruise. Tell our listeners and the fine patrons of Rapture/Orbit your biggest secret. Madeline, why don’t you go first?

MADELINE
A secret? Okay...uh, I’ve never used the bathroom in front of my fiancé.

FLASH
Madeline’s shy. Isn’t that cute? Come on, let’s have a group sigh from our live audience here for little bashful Madeline. One, two, three–

The audience sighs a big “Ahh” for her.

FLASH
You gotta do better than that. Give us something we can feel, if you don’t mind. Try again. Are you a brideZILLA?

MADELINE
No. Not at all. Really – I don’t feel like a bride at all. I know I’m supposed to be a wreck, but I’m not running around, stressing out, being a “bridezilla.” My fiancé, Jack, he’s made all the decisions. He’s kept our budget and called the photographer and the church and the minister and the caterer. He’s done it all. I’ve just gone along. I mean, I was in the room when we picked out the flowers, but mostly I just nodded or smiled. I didn’t know what flowers I wanted. What are you supposed to ask for? Uh, pretty flowers, that’s what I want, right? My mother picked out my dress and my jewelry. People ask me, “What are your colors?” and I say, “Oh, it’s a surprise.” Yeah, it’s a surprise to me! I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about! The dress is white. That’s my color! Is that what they’re talking about?

FLASH
Tonya?

TONYA
(sobbing, then bursting)
I’M IN LOVE WITH MY BOSS AND I’M PREGNANT WITH HIS BABY!

FLASH
Caller #7, let me hear from you.

TONYA
Dwayne, I’m so sorry! Please forgive me! Dwayne!


FLASH
Caller #7, you’re on the air!

CALLER #2
(a redneck)
Tonya Michelle, you little slut.

FLASH
Sounds like your news is all over town. Yes, we boast a huge listenership, Charlottesville, and this is just proof–

CALLER #2
Tonya Michelle, I knew it. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. This is the last straw. You ought to be ashamed. Is this why you signed up for this show? To trash talk your way to the Carribean? I ought to slap you into next week. I never should’ve let you become a dental hygienist –

TONYA
Mama?

CALLER #2
YOU’RE NOT READY TO GET MARRIED TONYA MICHELLE! Everyone warned me. All dental hygienists are sluts! They warned me. BUT NO, I believed you when you told me you wanted to go and learn a SKILL. All those nights when you told poor Dwayne you were filling up bleaching trays –

FLASH
(seriously)
Our caller has spoken.

TONYA
Oh heavens! What have I done?
(Running upstairs)
Belinda! Heather! Monica! Sharon! I confessed! I confessed!

MADELINE
Hurray?

FLASH
Yes, Madeline, you win! You’re ready to get married.

MADELINE
(quietly)
Only by default.



FLASH
A 10-day cruise to the Carribean with your man. Yes, just call you angel in the morning, angel. Grab your sunscreen.
(pause)
But wait, our soon-to-be-newlywed seems less than excited. Don’t you want to go on the cruise?

MADELINE
No! It’s just – I burn. That’s all. And sarongs. I don’t do sarongs.

FLASH
It’s not nice to lie. Not to those who have kept you here. Not to your fans. Just tell us the truth.

MADELINE
Maybe my friends should come down–

FLASH
You’ve already said that you don’t feel like a bride, that you don’t even care about your flowers and your colors. I mean, audience, have we been duped? She’s got ice in her shoes, OBVIOUSLY. Or maybe it’s more like Tonya’s story – a dentist in the wings–

MADELINE
No! I care about my flowers. I mean, yes, yes, I want flowers. Yes I do.

FLASH
How many people are coming to your wedding?

MADELINE
Um–

FLASH
Doesn’t the bride know how many people are coming to the wedding?

MADELINE
A lot of people are coming. A lot of people have said yes.

FLASH
Do you even know how many people have been invited? Do you even know WHO’S been invited?

MADELINE
Family....friends...co-workers...there IS a list–

FLASH
And does – what’s your fiance’s name?

MADELINE
Jack.



FLASH
Good job. Where’s Jack tonight? At his BACHELOR party?

MADELINE
No.

FLASH
Does Jack know how un-brideish you feel?

MADELINE
Things have been very hectic–

FLASH
But this is the real deal, right? He’s the one, right? Let’s call him. Don’t you think you should tell him how–

MADELINE
What? What? THAT I’M NOT READY EITHER? I’M NOT READY TO GET MARRIED?
DON’T CALL HIM BECAUSE HE’S AT BED, BATH, AND BEYOND
...SHOPPING FOR TRASH CANS
...BECAUSE WE’RE GETTING MARRIED!
(turning around)
Jack!

JACK
You’re on the radio! You’ve been saying all this stuff, live, on the radio!

FLASH
(quietly, into his microphone)
WPIG. Charlottesville. Reality Radio. We’re live, folks!

JACK
(astonished, heartbroken)
You don’t want to get married?

MADELINE
We were just answering questions...what we’re scared about...you know–

JACK
You “just nodded and smiled at the florists”? I didn’t know that. I didn’t see that.

FLASH
Madeline, it’s time to answer the question. Do you or don’t you want to get married?

CARSON comes running down the stairs.





CARSON
(to JACK, with her hand behind her back)
Can I give you a blow job?

She pulls a “Blow Job” shot of a from behind her back. JACK, confused, takes it.

CARSON
(Checking another thing off her list)
Yes!

JACK
Madeline, just tell me right now where I stand. I just want to know where I stand. WHERE DO I STAND?

TONYA comes running down the stairs.

TONYA
My friends told me that you’re freaking out. Believe me, honey, I know exactly what you’re going through. God will forgive you and he will carry you through this troubled time. Just tell the truth. That’s what I did and my buzz came right back.

TONYA exits upstairs.
CARSON
(to Madeline, pointing at Tonya)
I just want you to know that, like, SHE has never been on a cruise and if you’re, like, not going to use it, she would SO enjoy going on a cruise! She had, like, her heart set on it.

JACK
Don’t you love me?

MADELINE
STOP. EVERYBODY STOP! I can’t handle this. All this pressure. This is a lot easier for everybody else, I think. It’s so hard, you know. It’s so hard to know what to do. There’s this person and two years feels like forever and we live together and we have this life. And MY neighbor, she’s got this great picture of her husband and he looks just like Cary Grant and you can tell that she always loved him and that she didn’t mind taking care of him while he was dying. And I was walking to work one day and it was icy and there was this woman and she was shoveling the walk and there was her husband by the corner by the garage, and he just had to watch because he was so old and he couldn’t help, but he didn’t want her to be alone. And if you don’t get married, YOU DON’T GET THAT! You don’t! And that’s it!
(turning to JACK)
And I picture you old and crippled and wheezing, and I don’t want anyone to take care of you but me, even if you turn into an old bastard. And YES, I’m very worried about all that’s going to happen because I may be 30, but I’m still a child, and being married means growing up. I don’t care about the wedding, but I’m very curious about the marriage.
(pause)
That’s where you stand.



JACK
I can live with that.

CARSON
(while dialing)
That was like, amazing.

MADELINE kisses JACK.

CARSON
Carson! This is Carson! What are you doing, sweetie? Let me tell you, you are rushing me on this marriage plan. I need to wait until I’m 24. I just can’t get all my stuff done, you know? And I don’t think I’m going to be really, you know, like grown up, until, like, later, when I’m 24. You know?

MADELINE
Let’s go home.

JACK
And what about Archibald?

MADELINE
(Remembering, embarrassed)
Oh, I’m sorry. I was on the spot.

JACK
Jeez, is nothing sacred anymore?

MADELINE
Yeah, a few things.


MADELINE gives Archibald to a woman in the audience. MADELINE and JACK leave.

FLASH
Well, WPIG listeners – THIS has been reality radio, and this is Flash Cadillac signing off from Rapture/Orbit and our first YOU’RE NOT READY! SHOW. Now, as the lights go down in the Cville, let me ask you folks at home – WHERE DO YOU STAND? ARE YOU READY OR NOT?
THE END

Friday, June 4, 2010

C-Ville: ADVICE - NEW! May 2010: Like Sisters

Hi there! So my new advice column came out this week in C mag: Check it out, if you please:

C-Ville: ADVICE - NEW! May 2010: Like Sisters

Stacks of Rocks


Horseshoe Bend Trail, Mt. Baker National Park, May 2010



While on retreat/vacation/get this girl out of town on Mount Baker in Washington State, my sister and I took a little hike. By the Nooksack River, we came upon a collection of cairns. Cairns are stacks of rocks that mark trails for hikers, but this collection was huge! A tall stack here, a little stack there, one close to the river and one big rock covered with tiny little stacks. Who made these stacks? Could they really have been made over time by various travelers, bringing up rocks from the bottom of the mountain to replace the ones washed down through the year? Did a bunch of little kids do this in one afternoon under the guidance of their hippie dad? Most importantly, what did it mean for me? Without cell phone service, with boots, with time on my hands and a cute hat, I had to wonder. I always wonder. I write journals that are full of my wondering and worrying. Could a stack of rocks have the power to straighten me out, put me or keep me on the right path? Could a week away into the high hills with good wine and coffee but no alarm clock or corn syrup have the power to set my brain free?

My thought in the first minutes while checking in was that this was the most perfect setting for a murder mystery. All elements were in place. You will recognize those elements but I'm saving them for the book I'm going to start/write/still be thinking about on my next retreat.

My thought after passing a group of outdoorsy-types on their way to put-in or take-out their kayak was, "I could never marry a kayaker." "I'd worry too much."

My thought after a couple days of this (reading, sleeping, talking, swimming, walking, walking, river-watching, talking, laughing, crying) was, "I would like to own a general store in a quiet ski town, but I would need a bigger dog."

My thought on day three is that when you retreat from the world, you are stuck with yourself. Luckily, I had my sister to also be stuck with and we rocked the gas fireplace and some Charlie Wilson's War. Oh, and there was a little mouse, and he made us both shriek, but he ate the cheese I lured him out with, and he was cute, so I wasn't disappointed.

That there wasn't a murder the WHOLE week, now that was disappointing.

My thought after day four was that applying Vitamin E oil directly to my face was turning back the clock.

My question on day five was "Would it better for the murder victim to be a kayaker or the girl that ran the general store?" My sister threw in that it was better if it was someone other people hated, like a real estate developer, or someone who didn't pay employment insurance for their maids.

My concern at the end of day five was that I was wasting time.

My quandary on day six was "What am I going to do without this place? I love it here."

My epiphany at some moment on some hike is that it would be possible for me to start over anywhere -- including at home. Trees and time and rushing water and good company can make you feel this way.

So, with the stacks of rocks off to the right and interstate markers saying to turn left and head south, we stopped retreating and headed back into the world.

I'm keeping my eyes open for stacks of rocks that won't be so obvious, or maybe there have always been stacks of rocks to lead the way; stacks of rocks at every stop sign and in the spaces in-between every phone call.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Mornings

In September 2009, I started working with five other women to write a screenplay together. One person said, "You're writing it TOGETHER?" One person said, "I'm jealous." My husband said, "I could never work that way." I thought, "I will never have time for this." But we are making time. We meet on Tuesday mornings for two hours, and everyone moves all their shit around and they work out how to take time away from work, babysitters are found and we meet in kitchens and coffee shops. We borrow training rooms and living rooms. We laugh alot. We try to keep the extra details to the outskirts, but it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes we talk each other into quitting caffeine or restarting caffeine. We save to a web-based program. We laugh our asses off. We've got all these characters now, and they own us. We've got big plans for it, but "it" is the work, and the work is the thing. I hate it when Chekhov is right.

Madeline Takes a Cat

MADELINE TAKES A CAT
By Denise Laughlin Stewart
Originally produced by Offstage Theatre at Miller's Restaurant in Charlottesville, VA in February, 2001


Characters
Madeline, a woman in her mid-twenties
Jack, her boyfriend, also in his mid-twenties
Woman, a bit older

Setting: A bar at night. MADELINE and JACK sit across from each other at a table. The WOMAN sits at a nearby table.

MADELINE
I think my whole apartment smells like it.

JACK
It’s only been a day.

MADELINE
It’s a small apartment.

JACK
I thought you said no pets.

MADELINE
I know, the smell, the hassle.

JACK
But, I thought, no pets in your apartment.

MADELINE
Personal rule.

JACK
Oh. What made you decide to--

MADELINE
This was a big mistake. I can’t handle a cat.

JACK
I have a backyard.

MADELINE
He doesn’t have to go outside. I bought this box for him to shit in.

JACK
Real cats go outside. Bring him over.

MADELINE
He’ll get confused.

JACK
Leave him at my place.

MADELINE
Then I’d have to be over there all the time.

JACK
(playfully, sexually)
Meow.

MADELINE laughs.

MADELINE
No.

JACK
Madeline takes a cat.
(pause)
I’m thinking of a movie.

MADELINE
A recent release?

JACK
No.

MADELINE
From the ‘90’s?

JACK
No.

MADELINE
The 80’s?

JACK
No.

MADELINE
70’s?

JACK
Yes.

MADELINE
Does it have any decent stars still in movies today?

JACK
Yes.

MADELINE
Have I seen it?

JACK
I don’t know.

MADELINE
Would I want to see it?

JACK
On a Sunday afternoon, after talking to your mother....if it was raining.

MADELINE
Terms of Endearment.

JACK
That’s from the 80’s.

MADELINE
Right. 70’s?

JACK
70’s.

MADELINE
I can’t think.
(to herself)
What was the name of that movie I saw last night?

JACK
I thought you said no movies on weeknights.

MADELINE
It was on cable. I couldn’t sleep.

JACK
Oh.

MADELINE
What if when I go back to my apartment, it smells so bad that I can’t even go in?

JACK
It’s only been a day.

MADELINE
And an evening. I left the windows open.

JACK
I’ll give you a hint.

MADELINE
I don’t want any hints. I’ll get it.

JACK
It’s a drama.

MADELINE
(warningly)
Tell me one more thing and it’s my turn automatically.

JACK
Fine.

MADELINE
(thinking)
Is the main character a man?

JACK
Both.

MADELINE
Yes or no. Say yes or no.

JACK
Yes, I want you to move in with me.

MADELINE
Is it “Tootsie?”

JACK
(incredulously)
“Tootsie” is from like ‘85 or something.

MADELINE
Fine. You said both man and woman so I just started connecting things.

JACK
There is a male lead AND a female lead.
(pause)
-and a child.

MADELINE
SHUT UP!

JACK
Do you know it?

MADELINE
I’m going to pick a movie about a cat when it’s my turn, and you’re not going to guess it.

JACK
Why are you obsessing about this?

MADELINE
I’m not.

JACK
(mocking her)
Ooooh, I’m going to think of a cat movie, ooh, a movie with a big fat cat.

MADELINE
Your choices are too obscure.

JACK
It’s an easy, how-could-you-grow-up-with-me-and-be-my-girlfriend-since-forever-and-not-know-this kind of movie about two people who--

MADELINE
Shh!
(pause)
What exactly is an ear mite?

JACK
One more little hint.

MADELINE
NO. I take on this little cat, this little kitten and as I’m walking away with it, they start talking about ear mites. He’s got little black dottie thingees in there, but they don’t look like BUGS.

JACK
Late 70’s -- divorce.

MADELINE
You make me sick.

JACK
Remember how my dad would sit in his Volkswagen and read the paper whenever they fought?

MADELINE
I don’t remember your family ever having a cat.

JACK
We had that dog once. Brown Sugar. My mother would use a hair dryer on him after his bath.

MADELINE
Dogs smell worse than cats.

JACK
Cats are good. Just don’t use a hair dryer on the poor bastard.

MADELINE
It’s only been a day, and I‘ve rearranged everything.

JACK
Give it a chance.

MADELINE
I’m just trying to go with this. I had a dream about a cat -- the next day, someone
comes directly to ME and wants to know if I want a cat.

She holds her arms up in an exaggerated shrug. He silently agrees. After a moment, he grabs the salt and pepper shakers.

JACK
Let me do a visual here for you.

MADELINE
If it doesn’t work out with the cat, it doesn’t work out with the cat.


JACK makes the salt and pepper shakers walk together across the table happily, then the shakers begin the kiss, then JACK makes a large sigh for each shaker, then the shakers have sex, then he grabs a sugar packet else from the table to be the baby, then the shakers fight, then they abruptly separate, then they tug at the “child”, spilling the sugar. He stops and looks at her.

MADELINE
This is about the movie, isn‘t it?

JACK
Yes.

MADELINE
It’s my turn now.

She takes the shakers away from him.

JACK
Wait.

MADELINE
I said no more hints.

JACK
You weren’t guessing anything!

MADELINE
We were talking about other things, Jack. It doesn’t mean I gave up on the movie.

Silence. They stare at each other.

MADELINE
Is it set in the city or the country?

JACK
Good one. City.

MADELINE
Help me name my cat. I found him curled up in the back of my closet this morning. I thought that was pretty cute.

JACK
Call him HOFFMAN.

MADELINE
It IS “Tootsie!”

JACK
No.

MADELINE
But Dustin Hoffman’s in it?

JACK
Yes.

MADELINE

I don’t know this movie.

JACK
When my mom and dad would fight, he’d march out to that Volkswagen and just sit and read his paper. Even if it was raining. You used to be over all the time so I though you might’ve.....can you guess a title yet?

MADELINE
Not quite.
(pause)
I gotta go to the potty.

JACK
Think: Hoffman, late ‘70’s, domestic strife.

MADELINE
Let’s do a new one when I get back. Okay?

JACK
Yeah.

MADELINE exits. The WOMAN impatiently raises her hand, like a child at school.

WOMAN
“Kramer vs. Kramer.”

JACK
Thank you.

WOMAN
I thought I was going to have to strangle your friend there.

JACK
She’s usually really good at these....games.

WOMAN
Sitting over here twisting the hairs off my arm.

JACK
Take it easy, now.

WOMAN
When you know an answer and you feel like you can’t say anything, and she kept talking about “Tootsie“ and I was like, “Hello, it‘s not ‘Tootsie’ !”

JACK
I thought she would’ve gotten it by now. She’s preoccupied.

WOMAN
Umm.
(pause)
Great movie.

JACK
Yeah.

WOMAN
What’s your favorite part?

MADELINE returns, sees them talking.

JACK
(pointing)
It’s her turn. She got it.

MADELINE
Got what?

WOMAN
“Kramer vs. Kramer.”

MADELINE
Oh.
(checking out the woman)
I’m hungry.

WOMAN
My mother watched that movie incessantly. After the divorce.

JACK
Mine too.

MADELINE
She did?

JACK
Yep.

MADELINE
I haven’t seen it.

WOMAN
(incredulously)
You haven’t seen it?

MADELINE
Nope.

JACK
Like I said it’s a Sunday afternoon, raining, call your mother type of thing.

WOMAN
My mother calls me incessantly.

JACK
Mine does too.

MADELINE
She does?

WOMAN
Some mothers get nuts after a divorce. NUTS regarding their kids. My mother spoiled me rotten until I was 12, told me about her sex life until I was 18, cried me through college, and now is convinced I’m never going to get married because of my father is
“SUCH an asshole“.

JACK
God, that is exactly right.

MADELINE
Did she call you today?

JACK
Every day, at work and at home.

MADELINE
Now I’M thinking of a movie.

WOMAN
I thought email would help. No. She’s a maniac. Sends me a message, calls me to see if I read it. Tells me to hang up and read it, and then she calls me back to discuss what I thought about what she wrote.

JACK
That’s hilarious.

MADELINE
I’ll give you a hint, nobody’s divorced or crazy.

WOMAN
That doesn’t sound like much fun.

JACK
Don‘t you want to order some food?

WOMAN
I’m starving.

MADELINE
I’m not hungry.

JACK
Yes you are.

MADELINE
I’m thinking of a movie. No, more like a fictional character.

JACK
We should get some appetizers and split them -- the three of us.

MADELINE
We should?

JACK
I just thought--


WOMAN
I should run to the bathroom. Excuse me.

The WOMAN exits to the bathroom. MADELINE begins to make the shakers talk.

MADELINE
You go to the bathroom INCESSANTLY. I butt-in INCESSANTLY. I like your boyfriend. I’ll wait ‘til you go to the bathroom and then I’ll talk INCESSANTLY.

JACK
(staring at the menu)
Fried mushrooms or LOCO Nachos?

MADELINE
Women are so obvious!

JACK
They are?

MADELINE
Don’t you think so?

JACK
She’s by herself. She knew the movie. She overheard us.

MADELINE
I know. She went to the bathroom because she can tell I’m pissed.

JACK
She did?

MADELINE
Yes.

JACK
Why are you pissed?

MADELINE
She was trying to make me feel stupid for not knowing that movie.

JACK
You’re thinking about your cat, Maddy, it’s no big deal that you didn’t remember the movie.

MADELINE
I didn’t forget it. I don’t KNOW that movie. She knows it. You know it. You guys are having this great-to-be-a-divorced-kid conversation and she was trying to make me--

JACK
Let it go.

MADELINE
I don’t know that movie, Jack.

JACK

Not a big deal. It came to my mind; we were playing the game.

MADELINE
OUR game.

JACK silently agrees.

MADELINE
I didn’t know that your mom calls you every day.

JACK
Not a big deal. I don’t bring it up. She’s lonely, she calls.

MADELINE
What does she want to talk about?

JACK
Us.

MADELINE
Really?

JACK
Just wait ‘til I tell her about that damn cat.

MADELINE
Why? What’s--

The WOMAN has returned. She collects her coat, puts some money on her table.

JACK
Taking off?

WOMAN
Yes. I’ve been the single, pleasant, available woman all evening. I’ll tell her that when she calls. Now I get to go home and just be a woman with a cat.

JACK
Madeline just got a cat.

WOMAN
(exiting)
Get drops for the mites. He could go deaf.

MADELINE
Thanks.

JACK
She seems sad.

MADELINE
(uncomfortable, fidgeting)
No she doesn’t. She seems fine.
(pause)
I remember your dad.

JACK
Yeah?

MADELINE
I remember him in the Volkswagen. I was roller skating up to your house one day and you know how your driveway had that dip? Well, I usually did fine, coasting all the way up to the screen door, but I got going really fast with the dip and then the downhill part....and I smacked right into the back of that bug like I was paralyzed or something and I couldn’t make my legs turn. I scared the shit out of your dad. He jumped out. I was holding on to the car, like I had splattered or something. He peeled me off, rolled me into the house, handed me off to your mom.

JACK
I can’t believe you remember all that.

MADELINE
I remember that they didn’t speak. I thought it was weird.

Silence.

JACK
I think we need to--

MADELINE
I do to.

JACK
You always have these rule about, about....

MADELINE
A lotta stupid shit.

JACK silently agrees.

MADELINE
But now that I have Tootsie, you think I might--

JACK
Tootsie?

MADELINE
Our cat.

JACK smiles, starts fidgeting with the shakers. MADELINE puts her hands over his and she makes the shakers kiss.

JACK
I thought you said no kissing in public.

They kiss.



THE END

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Secret Lives of Little Girls, Part 3: Anna Katherine


My mom (left) and her friend, Rose
Cleveland, Ohio
April 1957

Anna Katherine Kane Laughlin (December 8, 1939 -- August 13, 1994) was my mother. She liked Japanese gardens, bowling, and astrology. She seemed happiest in her life when she hung out with her girlfriends. She died of a brain hemorrhage due to complications with alcoholism and diabetes.

My mother didn't like to take me to the grocery store because I would run the cart into her heels. I started hiding in the back-back of the station wagon and then I would pop out when I knew we were close enough to the store that she wouldn't turn around and take me back.

But when we watched "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" together on Saturday nights, I would lay across the end of her bed, and she would scratch my back.

My mother got so irritated when we played "Marco Polo" for more than 10 minutes...."Marco"..."Polo"..."Marco"..."Polo". She would scream for us to stop.

But she never wanted me to get my hair cut. She would brush it and put it into pigtails every morning.

My mother made very regrettable choices, and she would not have been a great choice to write an old-fashioned or a modern-day parenting book.

But I never went to bed without a kiss.

My three best friends from growing up think of my mother often, they tell me. This is moving to me. One of these friends has nightmare-type dreams of my mother where my mother appears to her very sad and angry. I am intrigued, and deep down I am jealous because I have not seen her my dreams.

But I see her in my shoulders and my eyebrows and when I am taking care of my fingernails, my hands look just like hers.

My mother died over 15 years ago. Mother's Day never makes me sad.

But her birthday hits me like a brick every year, even when I plan that it won't.

You know it is the little adjustments that pull you safely out of ruts. I cannot undo neglect and confusion.

I have learned to practice grief and praise, and that is everything. It is easy to remember her laugh and her pain and her thunder. It is easy to think that she loves my life. It's hard to explain why she was the perfect mother for me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Secret Lives of Little Girls, Part Two

Me...circa 1982




Oh little buttercup, this is a post and a series for all the girls who can't remember. You've got your moments, but I can tell from the way you talk that the little details are gone, zippo, forgotten. I wonder about memory and time and why things fade for one person and not for another, why my life and my past are so vivid, why it seems like I've forgotten almost nothing, including all my teachers names, like Mrs. Lowder who taught me typing and Mrs. McCray, my kindergarten teacher, who called me on the day I graduated from college. I remember the first day I walked into her class. I remember how I used to try to run out of first grade and throw up all the time. I remember my mother painting our house when I was three, and what her face looked like the day I left for college. I remember the smell of our house and the noises at night when the bats would fly down by your shoulder late at night in the swimming pool.

There are lots of categories to put the details in...lots of cookie jar sneaking around, lots of dances in Wonder Woman Under-roos, but I broke down some details into categories:

5 Little Nasty Things I Did:
1. Snuck into the elementary school and wrote "Go to Hell" on all the chalkboards
2. Was a mean girl to one girl who just friended me on Facebook
3. "Smoked" crayolas in my mother's station wagon and gunked up her lighter
4. Stomped on a 4th grader's balls
5. Told friends the truth about sex and Santa Claus

5 Places I Hid

1. In the field behind my house until I figured out that it cut through to the park
2. In the woods across the street until someone mysteriously chopped down a tree
3. Under Mom's bed until the kittens started pooping there
4. In the front closet with an old prosthetic leg until I wished I could wear it
5. The shed until I saw a black widow


5 Things I Rejected Because My Brothers Liked Them
1. Monty Python
2. Dungeons and Dragons
3. Electric guitar solos
4. Pot
5. Star Trek

5 Things I Loved
1. Pennies on the bottom of the pool
2. Slumber party choreography
3. One-legged rollerskating
4. Barbies with Real Sex Lives
5. Prank Phone Calls
6. Good Times (the TV show)

5 Things I Wrote in My 10-year old journal
1. "I've almost finished FOREVER by Judy Blume."
2. "I just got a permanent."
3. "All I want for my birthday is Garfield, Garfield, Garfield."
4. "I've gained so much weight it's made me sick."
5. "Right now I'm watching LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS."

5 Best Places to Watch Thunderstorms
1. Mrs. Cooke's carport with her shaky dog, Roscoe
2. The front porch with Nancy Drew and a lawnchair
3. Underwater
4. The back porch with Coke and potato chips
5. My bed with Spiderman

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Secret Lives of Little Girls, Part One: A Shout Out to the Ladies


My bike was yellow with a rainbow seat. I set off in the morning.

Mrs. Green kept an ashtray on the coffee table with coins on it for her kids to take the bus, except all of her kids were grown and off and married. When did you have to pay to ride the school bus? If I got there before Mr. Greene left for work, I could see them french kiss.

Mrs. Stratton, who let me call her "Carol", took me many summer mornings to her beauty shop. I swept up hair, voiced my opinions on colors and perms, ate cheese nips, drank Coke, got hooked on Young and the Restless, and never let her cut my hair. We usually stopped by her mother's house on the way home. We sat and kept her company, sometimes picked up freshly canned beans or tomatoes. Mrs. Stratton really wanted children of her own, especially a little girl.

Mrs. Jennings worked all day. She loved it that I came to tend to Penny, her super-old dog. Off and on I would stop by to pet her and check her for ticks. If there were any, I would grab the vaseline from the utility room and I would smother the tick and then pull him off and take him home (only two doors down) for my brother to burn.

Mrs. Jones was always busy with piano lessons. I would sit on the stairs and wait for her to come out between lessons. She made me bread with butter, and homemade applesauce when I was sick. She taught me how to cross-stitch and refinish furniture.

Mrs. Fuller taught my brother in the second grade. She always let me go to the grocery store with her as long as I tried to call home first. I rode in the front seat.

Mrs. Baker raised golden retrievers on the side and was rumored to overfeed her children, but she always bought anything I was selling from wrapping paper to greeting cards. She struggled with her health.

I could not get to Mrs. Walker because she ran a deli with her huband and her sons loved to jump out and scare me.

Mrs. Rogers scrubbed the face paint off my cheek when I showed up to church to sing in the choir. That's the way it was and Thank God somebody told me. She organized weddings and walked every evening with her daughter.

Mrs. Henderson also had wicked teenage boys, but the first cordless phone, so sometimes I HAD to stop by to call home.

I folded laundry at every house.

Everybody had at least one or two tomato plants.

If they got tired of me and sent me home, they did it nicely.

I wasn't raised by wolves; I was raised by women.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You Know You're Over 35 when...

*You write in your journal: "I don't have time to be listless, tired and fat."

*You realize not only do you have time to be listless, tired and fat, but you also have time to write about it.

*You've discovered that the extra ten pounds is socially helpful (women aren't bitches and men don't give you shit), but you lose them anyway, or you don't because you're not sure which way is better.

*You used to buy the Nutella and share it, and then you bought Nutella and hid it, and then they found it and they accused you of hiding it, and so now you buy two Nutellas and you still eat from the "house" Nutella AND your stashed Nutella.

*Your friend gives you earrings and a new top for your birthday...but she also takes you by the shoulders and says "You're still a young woman!"

*You realize that the only thing you have leverage against anyone is that they might end up on your blog. So you come home from the library thinking, "That librarian better watch her step. How dare she accuse me of putting my coffee cup on that book. I could SO write about her (and ruin her) TODAY!"

*You've learned that when a librarian gives you shit and wants to charge you $49.95 for a book, you just simply ask if there is anyone else you can talk to, but you want to say, "I will cut you."

*You write one entry in your journal for the day and it says, "Sometimes I hate the sound of people eating, most especially the sound of someone trying to get every smear of a bite out of a yogurt cup or someone trying to finish soup in a mug, especially if they are in a hurry or think they are starving."

*You write out all of the words of your text and you use punctuation: i.e.: "patience isn't a virtue, it's what I call the old me" and "say more to me than 'k'".

*You think this in the lingerie store: If I wanted to lay my tits down on twin beds, I would shop at IKEA, not Victoria's Secret. What's with all the stuffing? I'm shopping for a bra FOR my tits, not a bra WITH tits. Big difference.

*You realize that the plan you just made to go away with your girlfriends to the beach is the best plan you've had in a long, long time, but quietly you're a little dismayed that this is what Anne Rivers Siddons has always been writing about...where you and your friends are now and where you're headed. Oh geez....

*You barely have time to pick up the medication for the anxiety and lack of sleep, much less examine why you need medication for anxiety and sleep, but you really think you SHOULD make time to examine this, and thinking this makes you anxious and makes it hard to fall asleep.

*You like sleeping and being less anxious.

*You don't know if it's the salt scrub or the Emergen-C, but your skin is glowing and people comment and you don't know how you'll keep your skin glowing when you spend most of your time worrying that a van is going to plow you down from the back while you are walking the dog.

*You wonder how it can be that it's almost 20 years since you've been in high school, and now suddenly, in the clicking of one year, your Facebook list is almost up to 300 and you're happy to see all their faces, and you think that it's weird that there's nothing about Facebook that freaks you out (but you see why it freaks out other people --it's because people freak out other people) and most of all, you're not amazed at what they look like, but that they're out there, now so easy to contact, and they have children--that's the part you love the most. You think your mother would've enjoyed Facebook, too, sitting quietly at the computer in the evenings, drinking wine, looking at people's pictures, saying hello in the most casual way.