Celebrities, Romantic Life Lessons

Matthew Perry’s Book and Pumpkin Pie

What other way to celebrate the beginning of recovery than a book about addiction? After an eleven-hour sleep, I emerged from the shallow end of my pool of phlegm. Last night’s nadir–a wet coughing fit mixed with choking on an Altoid–became a distant memory. Since I missed Thanksgiving, I walked over to Westside Market and got myself a giant slice of pumpkin pie and whipped cream. I’ve never been so attractive.

So began a perfect day and reading experience. In our friend Matthew Perry’s book, I’m learning about his battle with opioids and alcohol, beginning with the tale of how his colon exploded. It sounds funny, but really, when you’ve dealt with addiction for that long, an exploding colon becomes one of those milestones where the body warns that you’re about to visit the Pearly Gates of Hotel California. If you go back to drugs after this, it’s been nice knowing you. Many of us who’ve watched Friends since the 90s have been worried about Matthew Perry for quite a while. We know what happens in Less Than Zero.

Perry’s memoir is an engrossing read. And I may be wildly wrong, but it reads as if Matthew Perry wrote this himself. Ghostwriters are gems. I wouldn’t mind ghostwriting as it is a skill that offers a voice to those who can’t/won’t/shouldn’t write. So many valuable works out there wouldn’t exist if not for ghostwriters. But I do give an extra gold star if there’s no ghostwriter for a celebrity memoir (hello, Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents). Kudos if the ghostwriter perfectly mimics the celebrity’s voice (Brandi Glanville’s Drinking & Dating). With Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, there isn’t the practiced, beautiful flow of most “high level” memoirs. Here, I’m finding repetition, choppiness, stylistic choices not everyone makes, which reads like someone reliving the experience while writing. An interesting part of memoir reading is one’s change of profession, from ordinary person to brilliant armchair psychologist of a stranger.

Surely, the crux of this memoir, addiction itself, will be its neon warning to users. The accidents, medical emergencies, radical behavior changes, and life on a larger scale–both in the chemical joys and horror shows. From the shame of stealing meds from strangers’ houses to your body breaking down, there is no advantage whatsoever to addiction. I always see it as the last thing you need if you’re on a deserted island. No one can help you. In any situation, especially a real crisis, you can’t really rely on yourself. And yet, how terrible to be sober while saying the below line of dialogue. Forgive the humor. Like Chandler, I use it as a defense mechanism.

Since 9/11 and even the blackout of 2003, I’ve thought about what I would do if I had to leave with just the clothes on my back. What if I only had myself and whatever I was wearing and I had to hunker down for a few days or weeks? I keep a packet of tranquilizers wherever I go to get me through just such an event. With a prolonged crisis, this would never be enough. I would suffer a little, not as much as I imagine. An addict would truly go through withdrawal, which seems especially scary, but perhaps less awful than continuing using. In 2001, my only bad habit was smoking and Altoid consumption, both of which weren’t so bad.

Over time, I’m not sure I’d do so well on the deserted island since I’ve added to my dependencies since my thirties–though I don’t smoke anymore. Maybe due to denial or just laziness, I keep pushing off thoughts about the catastrophe that has me running off this isle and bearing life without my long-time, seemingly normal Rx cocktail. I’m nowhere in the vicinity of exploding colon phase. More like pernicious worrying about one day having an exploding colon–or that I’d even need to run at top speed out of Manhattan because of a plane going into a building. The better idea would be to address issues in a gentle way before the body says enough. This is when I remember that the book I’m reading is not my story, but someone else’s.

Why do these books appear in my orbit at the exact right time?

Ps. Turns out I’m right about MP writing this himself.

Celebrities, Romantic Life Lessons

Bachelor in Paradise Finale!

I’d like to think that I’m above reality shows but the above is my guilty pleasure each year. The Bachelor/Bachelorette has become unwatchable in recent years. In fact, I stopped investing in shows where everyone fights over little things, like who said what to whom (I’m looking at you, Real Housewives). BIP does some of that and, let’s face it, true love is unlikely to happen on this show, but the escapism is lovely. And you get to know these characters as they deal with the heat, close confines, competition, and constant booze infusion.

Going forward, I’d love to see more LGBTQIA+ contestants, more diversity in general. Over the years, there have been some baby steps in terms of change, which at least makes it watchable.

And now I’m at the point where two of my favorites run off together. I knew Jacob and Jill were a good pair from Day 2 or was it 3? They are so joyfully benign!

Maybe they are splitting up as I write this. At least we can find out the truth about Rodney and Eliza. So much drama here! I feel as if I’m reliving my twenties, just without cigarettes and aerobics.

Romantic Life Lessons

Secrets: Reveal or Bury Them?

A former co-worker once gave me a tiny notebook as a gift. I loved it because the paper was thick and the leather-bound notebook had a tie, as in, “Think before you open this.” Obviously, this person knew me. I feel at home in a stationery store and will buy new Post-its even though I have every size at my disposal. All paper is welcome.

With this notebook, I wondered what I could possibly put in such a small space. Maybe a book of quotes? No, I have one of those. A tiny diary for when I travel? That just wouldn’t fly. If I did take it with me on airplanes, all I’d be writing was, “OMG, WE’RE GOING DOWN! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

I put the notebook aside for a while until the fateful day when inspiration hit me. After untying the leather tie, I flipped to the first page and wrote a secret, something I wouldn’t want to share. Uncensored Patience, who mostly lives underground. How pleasant to unleash on this little pad. Once I put it away, I forgot about the tiny notebook until the next time I cleaned my bookshelf. Every now and then, I think this could wind up being a version of Cruel Intentions (YA Dangerous Liaisons).

The danger of putting down thoughts makes the writing even more tantalizing. So, year after year, I’ve pulled out this notebook and put down thoughts I never want anyone to know. Those feelings, thoughts, observations have to go somewhere, if not to a shrink, diary, friend, spouse. Eventually, I will destroy the notebook since why would I want to save the evidence? It’s not as if I’d want to publicize these random, private thoughts anyway.

I swear I don’t have a secret child living in Texas, and I did not commit murder or hurt anyone too badly. But everyone has things they don’t want others to know. I’m always intrigued by how people keep or reveal private information.

On another note, there are some fun books with the word “secret” in them. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Husband’s Secret by Liana Moriarty

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

I won’t put that other book here, you know the one. Happy Sunday before Thanksgiving!

Romantic Life Lessons

Saturday Chills

Today I surrender to the glorious storytelling of Kristan Higgins in her recent book Out of the Clear Blue Sky. When I first read the blurb, I thought not for me. But I’m often swayed by her stories and took the leap. Thank goodness! Not only do I root for the good guy, but I also have sympathy for the bad guy. And her seamless moving back and forth between 1st and 3rd person—how does she do that? I am trying not to read it too fast.

I’m grateful for writers and friends who suggest good things to read and watch. Sam and I are in the middle of Exorcist III and I’m waiting for the jump scare a coworker warned me was coming. George C. Scott is a national treasure.

Romantic Life Lessons, Whining

Rejecting the Tradition of Misery on Thanksgiving

Like Chandler Bing, I learned my parents were splitting up on Thanksgiving. Over decades, I made a big deal of this and convinced myself to be miserable every year, no matter how many hours my hosts worked to create a festive occasion. It didn’t matter that my parents were much happier apart, that I had other opportunities I might never have had if they’d stayed together. It didn’t matter that I completely ignored other reasons why Thanksgiving is, oh, dicey. My loathing was one-dimensional.

Letting go of personal history tends to happen much later, but better that than not at all. What a burden to be miserable on an anniversary of something that happened a long time ago. Something you don’t think about all that much anymore.

To be honest, I really don’t hate Thanksgiving. There are the pumpkin products. What’s not to like about at least two days off from work? If you’re not traveling, you might be the luckiest person on earth. Rolls with butter on them. Such a massive pooling of foodstuffs for consumption with loved ones. The preparation may be frightening, but not for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have a black thumb in the kitchen. People invite me to their homes and they feed me. There are leftovers and stories for eons. It takes too much energy to hate things that are delicious and good.

My first Thanksgiving with Sam’s family in Florida is one I’ll never forget. It was my first time meeting some of Sam’s family members. Also, Florida was a mysterious place far removed from my New England/Mid-Atlantic roots. There is sun down there. You can see the sky without buildings blocking your view. The one hitch, we had to fly down to Florida and I was deathly afraid of getting on those aluminum tubes. Being in love means going places even when you’re scared. It took me days to get ready emotionally, even with medication. Oh, and my mother and stepfather were coming to meet Sam’s family. No anxiety there.

On the day of the trip, my stomach felt kinda funny. I pushed it aside. The Great Diviner in the Sky would never do that to me, make me sick as I go down for big Thanksgiving celebration with his family and my family, and did I mention low-grade terror about trying to have a baby at 42? I was fine, dammit.

When we landed, I experienced the usual terra firma euphoria and hunger. I ate whatever I could find. Steak! So far, I was killing this nerve-wracking Thanksgiving thing with new expanded family. And my mom, she was having fun in Florida. Oh the places we’d been together. I loved that she didn’t have to cook and could just party over three days. Everyone got along great. The next day, I had thick pancakes, a Starbucks sandwich, walked with Mom around town, marveling at the ducks in a pond, and then, oh no.

I was walking back to the hotel when I felt that dread of knowing I would be sitting in a dark room by myself for a day or two being sick. Time stopped, perspective shifted. People brought me ginger ale and crackers, medicine. No one shamed me for being sicker than I’d been in a while. I was so embarrassed before realizing that my healthy family was probably having a blast. That made all the difference, actually.

By the time Thanksgiving came, I felt a little better physically and utterly revived by the people around me. That was ten years ago and while still not 100% sold on this holiday (see U.S. history), I am so looking forward to being with my family, however it happens.

Here’s a picture of me on Thanksgiving 2012, kind of sick, but so grateful for the person next to me.

Celebrities, Romantic Life Lessons

What I’m Watching

My friend and I have been obsessed with The Vow (I just typed The Cow, haha!). We’re both horrified and intrigued by how such a malignant putz–the headband during volleyball dead giveaway–felt emboldened enough to lure intelligent and some maybe not-so intelligent people into his cult. After the most recent episode, I thought maybe my life’s purpose could be to rescue people from such assholes, but how do I know I won’t get brainwashed myself? I guess I would need training.

Bachelor in Paradise is a much happier place. The drinks are flowing, adorable crabs sidle next to you, and, unlike Hotel California, you can always leave! My favorite part of this show is Wells, who is the love child of Mike Brady and Gopher from The Love Boat. For anyone crying in their tequilas, he has the best advice, jokes, and refills. He’s Paradise’s Dad!

What I’ve learned from BIP is absolutely nothing. Well, that alcohol poisoning is real, and so is the brilliance of fake fainting to get out people turning on you. It’s like high school all over again. Every end of summer, I look forward to a couple months of twenty-thirty-somethings acting like they’ll find true love in this beachy Petri dish. Will paradise last? Maybe not, but I’m rooting hard for Brandon and Serene. Kindness and respect are a lovely aphrodisiac for these two.

I guess I shouldn’t type here that I have dipped into Dahmer. Maybe I’ve gone through 6 episodes. Also The Exorcist II, which is trash. What was Richard Burton thinking? Being in that movie would make me want to be wasted, too.

Romantic Life Lessons

Singing Her Softly

A year before my parents split up, my mother and I lived together in my childhood home in Upstate New York. Mom was working on her dissertation–or doing something PhD-ish–and I did my kid thing, mostly hunting for candy, making a mess. We squabbled a good deal because I’m sure I was a pain in the ass and she had mountains of work.

What I do remember with fondness about that year is that Mom and I shared our love of certain female artists. She introduced me to Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Roberta Flack. We rasped with Janis, spelled it out with Aretha, and followed Roberta on a heartbreaking journey. Whenever “Killing Me Softly” played, I thought Roberta Flack was singing about literally being murdered, like stabbed, by this guy who was also humiliating her in public. It took a while for me to understand what she meant. But Mom and I sang the song compulsively because how could you not? Flack’s bold, silvery vocals brought us out of dark despair and into the joy of her beautiful song.

I am very sad to learn that Roberta Flack has ALS and can no longer sing. This disease is such an unfair bastard. Hopefully, she is surrounded by everything and everyone she loves forevermore. As I go through her music right now, I’m remembering her classics, one right after the other. We are so lucky she exists and has given us so many gifts.

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

What Should You Do Once You’re Finished Your Book?

You’ve written this amazing novel. Your first one, maybe second, but it’s a good one. Over months and years, you have been rocking that prose and seeing your name on the bestseller lists. Oh, the revenge and joy you’ll feel when it arrives into readers’ hands. Your ex will want you back. Those thirty pounds you gained from writing 23 chapters are melting away already! Black sheep? You’ve totally nudged your sibling into second place. The mean girls of your high school will clamor for your attention. Can you taste the success? Absolutely and you deserve it.

What do you do first? Where does one even begin?

Getting your book out there is an awkward process at best, unless you are married to the owner of a publishing company. Even then, the process is tumultuous because you are forced to deal with deadlines, numbers, contract clauses, marketing, agents, editors, everyone’s opinion of your blood, sweat, and tears.

First things first. Before you submit your work, let’s evaluate your your writing personality:

Are you prone to wanting to make the process as anonymous as possible, sending off your work and quietly waiting for the news, never telling people what you’ve done, like it’s a crime? It’s true that no one really takes writers seriously, unless you’re able to buy a mansion with your royalties. This introversion can work, but you have to just keep going, keep sending your work out, and never let the rejection get you down.

Are you a writing Type A and go to every conference, pitch session, and ravage LinkedIn for “editor” acquaintances you’ve never met and write to them asking them to read your book? Just typing this, I’m in awe of you already because I’m more the wilting flower. Good for you! (Please don’t write me, just kidding sort of)

At the very least, have you casually talked to friends who know people in publishing and asked them to arrange an introduction, you know, casually?

Or are you more of a lurker who stays in the background of Type A writers, gleaning from their experiences but not feeling comfortable even trying to publish the seven novels you’ve written?

I can only speak for myself in offering a few nuggets of advice. Twenty-six years ago, I was just entering the field of publishing and had *no* experience. None! I didn’t know what editing symbols were, my friends weren’t editors, but I did have a friend of a friend who knew someone at Simon & Schuster and that person gave me great advice. Then I met a freelance developmental editor through my brother, and she gave me a lot of insight into her work. It went on from there, and decades later, I’m doing okay.

With publishing your book, there’s a similar hill to climb. The first thing you need to do when you’re done is ask around. Ask and research. Even though you’re a writer who does introverted, hermit-like, and quiet things, seek out articles about how to publish. Look at the books you like and note who publishes them. Ask your friends if they know anyone in publishing. Keep notes of this and flesh them out. Make yourself do one dreaded task to honor the book you’ve written.

The more you do, the closer you are to achieving your publishing goals.

But there are some things you probably should not do:

Try not to cold call an editor you don’t know and ask them to read your book. Or better yet, ask them to go to a link to see your work. Each editor has guidelines for submissions and those should be respected. The volume of books editors read is astounding. Most of the time, and by most I mean 99% of the time, we have to read after hours because of everything else we do during the day. Making us work harder to read something we likely won’t buy is futile.

Don’t keep sending revised versions of a book after receiving a rejection letter. Or even responding to the rejection letter. The key is to keep writing. Focusing on the outcome of your book usually prolongs the pain. The writing itself is the joy. If you are attached at the hip to one book over years, that is a red flag for editors.

Don’t be too afraid to ask for advice. It’s what editors are supposed to provide. I get a lot of requests and I never mind this. If I don’t answer right away, it’s because I’m swamped, but you can ask again (after a month or two). My first bit of advice is to do research on where you would send your book and then what the writing guidelines are. Finding a publisher or publishing yourself can be every bit as strenuous as writing the actual book. You have to deal with personalities, not all of whom are welcoming.

Definitely do not send your manuscript to publishers without knowing anything about their guidelines. This will result in an automatic rejection. The editor won’t see your unique sparkling gem of a fantasy novel and publish it in their historical romance line.

You can be smart about writing your book, but also make sure you develop your skills in bringing your book to an editor’s desk. Oh, and don’t do that, literally bring your book to an editor’s desk. I’ll be the one running in the other direction…with love, of course.

It does get better.

Romantic Life Lessons, Whining

Voting Day Metadata

6:42 wake up call. Uplifting, thrilling, vote, vote today, vote! Exciting!

Sweaty discomfort, Biotin, Black Cohosh, Silver Centrum, melatonin, sleep, Paul McKenna hypnosis, costly, effing, apps, wellness.

In the shortest line, nice people, American poll workers, heroes, on feet all day, should volunteer, get standing desk, 400$ on Amazon, no free candy at voting place, stickers just as good, not really, mandatory selfie on the sidewalk, in the crosswalk too, jawline sagging, vivid filter, not vivid enough, Botox, everyone’s getting it, even alleged Kylie.

Return to work, remote today, CNN all day, pondering candy, sugar, glucose, diabetes, early death, insulin, control through exercise, app, you can lose weight by sitting all day, $39.99 for three-month meal plan, what body type are you, bestselling has-been with never-before-seen miracle for health.

Print out overdue manuscript, visit Staples for paper, 2 reams for 12$, eat the cost due to laziness of filling out company expense form, green tea, energy, moringa tea, night sweats, all day sweats, Old Navy tank top for 5$, roomy pajama bottoms, super sale, 5$ cash back! Red pens for marking up manuscript, red triggering for students, pink!

Not many emails, social media, deep work, Cal Newport, turn off noise, Calm app, Matthew McConaughey sleep story, why does gin smell so good? Honey, can you get some lemons at Westside? Zabars better, bagels, Lenny’s bagels, cream cheese, sudden trip to corner bagel place, bagels = 5 pieces of bread? Carbs, non keto, maybe you should exercise more instead, hand eczema explodes, Acure oatmeal hand lotion. We’re having lentils tonight, that okay? Sure. Lentils, legume, vegan, heart healthy, gassy, oh well. Uplifting!

It’s a full moon, blood moon, eclipse, witchy, Practical Magic, midnight margaritas, Nicole Kidman, Oscar winner, Keith Urban, city, New York City, pandemic, anything can happen tonight!

Romantic Life Lessons

When Will I Be Great?

This is a question that I know lurks in the mind of most writers. I ask myself this far too often and I never have an answer, except that I can safely say that my Uncle Lenny was truly great.

No one showed up more than he did. As a father to two sons, he helped instill in both of them a strong moral compass and sweet charm. He adored his wife, my Aunt Rachel, and together they were a dynamic team. Perfection doesn’t exist, but I suspect Lenny was very close.

He fixed whatever needed fixing and then watched over other family and friends. People dropped by at all hours to hang out with them. Because ours is/was a large family, he made a lot of sandwiches and ensured cookies and snacks were on the table. I’m still not sure what he put in the sandwiches (probably butter) but they were usually the best I’ve ever tasted.

No matter what you talked about, he listened.

While he worked hard at different jobs, from sales to groundskeeping, Lenny cultivated adorable hobbies, such as carving ducks out of wood, tending to an enormous garden, and driving his Model-A car around town. Aunt Rachel also channeled high levels of creativity with yarn work, spinning, button collecting. No craft was left behind.

Lenny was sweet-tempered, the strong paternal figure who gave good advice and support. Even when he was tired, he once stayed up (dozing) to watch a dreaded rom-com with me. I always wondered what made him so awesome. Part of it might be that he didn’t focus on the negative. Another part was that he just kept trucking and thinking of others.

I’ve been reluctant to post anything about him, mostly because even a year later, it’s still a shock that one day last September, he was just gone. Leave it to Lenny to bring about a packed house in a church on the 20th anniversary of 9/11–during COVID. There was no red or blue state, no pandemic, no xenophobia or racism, and no grudges during the honoring of Lenny’s life.

Everything about him inspired togetherness and the night of his funeral, my cousins and I wound up standing in a circle doing shots of fireball and going through memories of this great man.

When I fall into that negative thinking, punishing myself for the things I haven’t done, I think about my uncle and everything looks bright again.