Marriage—Who Needs It? I Do.

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In the early years of our relationship, when Lars and I were just out of college, we attended two weddings of our peers. The couples were pretty different from us—dating since their teens, religious—and we experienced the occasions like anthropologists observing exotic customs.

Then our mid-twenties arrived and, with them, a torrent of weddings. One after the other, our close friends all started getting married. These occasions allowed us to leave our ordinary lives behind for a weekend, drive to some inn or farm, don fancy clothes, and watch our peers act older and wiser than we felt.

Once Lars and I returned the rental car Sunday night, we’d be back to our cruddy apartment in Queens. Come Monday, I’d be sorting more newsclips for a boss who found me talentless and disappointing. The future did not seem fecund with promise; it felt unknowable and scary. On more than one occasion Lars had found me in our bathtub, sobbing into the water, telling him I’d peaked and was now a waste of space. While I believed in our relationship, I could not imagine declaring to the world my confidence in life ahead. Love was real, and we had plenty of laughs and joys together, but despair conquered all. (read more…)

The Bad Habit I Don’t Want to Break

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When I was young, maybe around 7 years old, my father told me and my brother about the Triangle of Death. It’s the area that spans from the top of one’s mouth up the bridge one’s nose. An infection in this perilous zone can travel straight to the brain and kill you.

How do you get an infection there?

By squeezing pimples. Never, ever do it. (read more…)

But I Want to Be a Prodigy

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The chalkboard outside my local yoga-pilates-zumba studio reads, “‘You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start, to be great.’ – Zig Ziglar.” It irks me every time I pass it. First, I want to erase the extra comma. Second, I hate that a catchy phrase, posted to sell glorified fitness classes (of which I have taken many, in search of flexibility and salvation), resonates and stabs me a little in my soul.

As a child, I wanted to be awesome at everything I did, right away. Inflating my unrealistic expectations was the tremendous ease with which so many early school milestones had come to me. Reading, writing, arithmetic—check, check, check. Watching classmates labor to grasp the same skills enforced a sense of difference and superiority and the belief that I should be able to conquer anything, first try. Teacher talk about hard work and different people having different strengths sounded like pap for the strugglers. (read more…)

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (But Mine Is All Sweaty)

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“Who here’s a freshman?” Several students raised their hands meekly. “Sophomores?” One or two. “Juniors?” No one. The doctor running the show looked at me. “Senior?”

I probably was not the only senior in the history of college to have drunk too much and headed to health services to vomit it all out under professional care, but I was the only one that weekend. After a half-night of fitful sleep in a hospital bed, I found myself among the other patients, stupid freshmen who didn’t know what they were doing, for morning-after counseling. The doctor ran through cue cards about alcoholism. I didn’t have a drinking problem; I had a sweating problem that alcohol alleviated. (read more…)

Adulthood, Chapter 1: I Think I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

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Being underemployed and purposeless is not so much fun anywhere, but in Chicago the city became an agent of my despair. The plains seemed a metaphor for my life: barren and flat, with no variation as far as the eye could see.

It was the fall after I’d finished college, and my boyfriend Lars and I had moved to the Windy City. All senior year I had dreaded graduation, because it marked the day I was flung out to the world without a plan. Once I turned in that last paper, there would be no more assignments to make me count; I could fade into oblivion and it wouldn’t matter. (read more…)