Sunday, June 21, 2009

Diff'rent Strokes

Well, it's been a full year already since I released my book, The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir, and began this blog.  Whew! Time sure does fly. 


One year ago I was just getting ready for my annual trip home to the Jersey shore where I first announced, to many friends and family members, the news about my book – how exciting.  And now, a year later, let's take a look at where I am.


Support for what I call OTGA (Ones That Got Away) started off strong – reviews were great, people were laughing and loving it.  I was thrilled.  Who wouldn't be?  But then, unfortunately, I hit a little bump in the road.  I shared the announcement of my book's release with a woman I know from church.  You may already be thinking that wasn't the wisest decision – especially if you've read my tale, but we're pretty friendly and I thought I prefaced it correctly: I'm only sharing this with you because I'm proud of my accomplishment; I'm not expecting you to buy it; it's probably not your cup of tea – especially since things like Sex and the City don't appeal to you.  "I'm very candid," I warned as she expressed her interest in it.  Well, she bought the book – she and a couple of others as it turned out.  Gulp!


So, six months pass and not a word.  Hmph?  Well, okay, I suppose the rule of thumb is 'if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.'  But, really – nothing?  Not a word?  Not one single word?  This is a funny book – if I do say so myself – how could you not have one word to say? 


I've said this before, but it's true so it bears repeating.  There's a reason the saying 'if I knew then what I know now' exists.  Another true – and apropos – saying is 'be careful what you wish for.'


After six months of wondering, I found out what she thought.  She was appalled… horrified… disgusted.  Well, that was a far cry from what I was used to hearing: clever… witty… hysterical.  I'll tell you what, I like clever, witty and hysterical a whole lot more than appalled, horrified and disgusted.  After apologizing for offending her, I couldn't help but remind her, "judge not lest ye be judged," to which she plainly responded, saying she was not judging me – although it was clear that she was. Now, it may be true that she wasn't judging me on my transgressions, but she just couldn't get beyond "why, as a Christian woman, I would write such a book."  Before reminding her that my book was a 'dating memoir' and not a book about my Christianity, I half-heartedly defended myself saying, "For entertainment."  You know, the OTGA is supposed to be a light, fun read that women – of all varieties – could relate to.


One of the things that surprised her most was how open – and detailed – I was.  I had warned her about that.  I don't know.  I must have a distorted sense of what's private – and should remain private.  I have no idea, really, why I'm this way.


I think back to my mid-teen years, specifically to my first gynecological appointment – talk about horrifying.  Lying recumbent with my feet up in the air (we've all been there), I could barely breathe as they inserted that cold, stainless steel device (you know the one I'm talking about – looks like a juicer made by Oster).  Trying to just get through the experience, I focused on my breathing (shallow) and continued to answer the doctor's get-her-mind-off-of-what's-going-on casual questions.


Gyno:   So, what grade are you in?

…pop open the Oster device like an umbrella

Me:      I'm a… junior.


Gyno:   Do you like school?

            …insert fingers

Me:      It's... okay…


Gyno:   Anything special going on at school?

            …pushing and probing

Me:      I just… auditioned for… Grease


Gyno:   How'd that go?

            …finger up the poop-shoot

Me:      (Gasp! Ohmigod, what the… break out in full body sweat)


Gyno:   Did you get a part?

            …remove finger

Me:      What? Oh… I was cast as Patty Simcox.  (Did I just poop?)


After my exam I told my mom what had happened.  "Yes, they do that sometimes," she said.  Boy, a little heads-up would've been nice.  When I told my sister this story, before I even got to the part that my mother knew what went on in there and didn't tell me, Linda said, "Oh, I know – I hate that part!"  What?!?  Why wouldn't either of these women – the two closest to me in my life – warn me about something like that? Because it's private? Bullshit – this stuff needs to be shared.


I believe this episode could be at the foundation of my open candor.  Many of us have similar experiences throughout our lives.  Why must we go it alone?  Isn't there comfort, safety and community found in sharing?  If something happens to you and a friend says, "Oh, me, too," doesn't that make it better somehow?  Whether it's made less sad (commiserate over a broken heart) or more funny (swapping an adult poop in the pants story, for example) – it's better.  It's better because it's shared and, to me, it's the details that make it fun. 


My mom often said that I told her things that "no mother should hear."  My mom is a retired nurse so she knows a lot about, say… anatomy.  Who better to talk to about varying penis shapes and sizes?  Right now some of you may be thinking, "shapes?" while others already get it – because, like me, you've been there.  See, the fun is in the details.  We're all part of a larger collective called the sisterhood – we should embrace that and be not afraid to share.


I actually thought in the overall scheme of things, my story was pretty tame.  After all, I am a monogamous person – just one at a time, please.  I go for only one gender: male – no crazy mixing-it-up for me.  And, I use just the one hole – call me old-fashioned, I know.  Yet, am I proud of everything in my book? Of course not – I've made mistakes.  We all have.  I wrote to Barbara Walters recently on this very topic – as a fellow member of the Hester Prynne Club for Girls of Questionable Morals, I thought she could relate. 


As I mentioned to Susan from church, the OTGA is a story about my dating experiences (and, yes, even Christian women have them) and I think there are many women out there who can relate to this material. 


So I put myself out there – completely.  'Brave' and 'courageous' were the words my editor used.  I didn't really see it that way at first – I just thought I was being honest – but I get it now.  The fact is, whether I shared my story or not, it's still my story – it's still who I am.


I think the following quotes are not only applicable, but poignant:


"Weakness is a greater enemy to virtue than vice"

 - Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld


"The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."

 - Oscar Wilde


"The eye – it cannot choose but see;

  We cannot bid the ear be still;

  Our bodies feel, where'er they be –

  Against or with our will."

 - William Wordsworth


And my favorite one of all…


"It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not."

 - Andre Gide


My book has its audience, for sure.  Granted, it's probably not found among a typical group of church ladies, and that's okay.  My audience is more likely found among a coffee klatch of Cosmo-girls.  You know what they say… different strokes for different folks!


And speaking of different folks, I'd love to hear about some of your stories.  If interested in sharing, please visit and click on the 'contact me' link.  Drop me a line with your best blind-date-gone-wrong story.  I will send a complimentary copy of The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir to the person with the best/funniest story.  Please realize, though, that I may use some of your material in future posts – so change names if you must (for story only – not contact info, of course.)


Looking forward to hearing from you…

 - M

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Fighting Irish

When I was a kid we had thirteen channels to choose from on TV.  Well, that's not really true.  The numbers, 1 -13, were, in fact, on the knob – did you catch that? knob – but I suppose we really only had about five channels from which to make our viewing selections: there were the three major networks, of course, then WPIX out of New York and PBS.  I'm wondering, now, what the other numbers were for – the future, I suppose.  Did anyone back then have any idea of what was really in store for us?  It's good that everything is digital now – you know, cable boxes and remote controls – if not, could you imagine the size of a knob that would hold 900+ numbers? Yeesh!


I went to Mexico recently with my brother and his family.  The kids watched TV – beamed in by satellite – the majority of the time it took us to get there.  Oh, sigh… No guessing games, no memory games, no counting license plates, no reading billboards.  To be fair, the only license plates you really see on that trip are AZ plates; here in the Valley you could count license plates all day long – so many recent transplants, part-timers (don't feel comfortable calling them snowbirds in June) and general vacationers – but on the road to Rocky Point… AZ tags mostly, almost exclusively.  And billboards?  Well, if you've ever driven through Ajo or the very lovely Lukeville (a runner-up in the 'Land that God Forgot' contest), you would know that mildly entertaining, conversation sparking billboards are only a road warrior's pipe dream and nothing more – not a one to be found. Truly, those folks on 95 are not fully appreciating the 60 or so miles on either side of the famed 'South of the Border' roadside rest-stop and travel attraction extraordinaire.  Ah, once again, I've digressed. 


It's not just TV, either.  Things are just different now.  Again, from my childhood, I remember a little radio that we kept in our kitchen – tuned, always, to WABC.  Was it still only AM?  I can't remember.  I do remember FM broadcasting being a new thing at one time, though, so maybe… 


Today, my niece and nephew carry Ipods, those dainty, little devices the size of a large domino, which can store 10,000 or so of your favorite songs.  Have I mentioned they're both under 10?  Honestly, these kids know more songs from the 70s than even I do.  Back then, when these songs were newly gracing the airwaves, I was busy decorating my bicycle (yes, I had a very cool banana seat) with musical eighth note decals distributed by 7-11 for WABC (I suppose, now, in retrospect, that it must have been in honor of the FM launch) and riding all over the neighborhood. 


While I enjoyed WABC's free stickers, my sister enjoyed the music the station actually played – singing constantly into her pseudo-microphone (aka, hairbrush) – so she knows all the tunes; and thanks to modern day gadgets like Rock Band, so do my niece and nephew.  I'll tell you what; the three of them together could probably do just as good a rendition of "My Sharona" as The Knack themselves – I am not kidding.


Now, I'm not sure this is what he meant, but Bob Dylan was certainly right when he croaked, the times they are a changin'.  But you know, even though some things do change, some things will always remain constant – like childish bickering and fighting, for example. 


When you're young, it seems sibling infighting is a fundamental part of the natural process one must go through on the road to maturity.  I often try and mediate when Liv and G go at it – after all, I have a lot of experience in this department.


My brother and I had, on several occasions, been sent to our separate rooms – like boxers to their respective corners – for extended cooling off periods of time. 


We'd been on road trips where the backseat was delineated in half, by a pillow that, out of nowhere, was gripped, grabbed and slammed down by, really, what must have been an elastic arm, from our father, who, while behind the wheel, threatened to, "drive right off the goddamned road, so help him… if we didn't stop fighting, shut our mouths and settle down."  I can remember how my brother and I would glance at each other – without really moving our heads – out of the corners of our eyes, giving each other the look that said, "Wow, what's up with him?"  See, kids just don't get it.


Maybe it was our Irish descent that had us fighting all the time – I don't know.  Do all siblings fight?  I didn't fight with my sister; we're four years apart though – maybe that has something to do with it.  My niece and nephew fight, just as surely as my brother and I did.  It's kind of funny now, but Tim and I don't really remember actually fighting all that much; but we do remember getting in trouble for it quite a bit so… 


I remember this one time, in particular; it's a classic.  'Deer in the headlights' would hardly describe the look on my face when I was caught by my father, who had come home from work early one day, to find me, post-fight, smearing a banana down my brother's locked bedroom door (I don't know why).  He was nearly apoplectic when asking me if I lost my mind; and since it was a rhetorical question, he didn't wait for me to respond before reminding me – in his loudest voice – that that was his house, his door and… his goddamn banana!  (Sidenote: I do not have any entitlement issues today.  Thanks, Dad). 


This was a different father from the road trip father (remember, I have two) and yet, a very similar reaction – what's up with that?  I guess it was us – me and my brother – we're the common denominator.  We fought right up until the time he went away to college.  I like to think that college matured him.  He was always the antagonizing instigator, after all; but, of course, that's just what I say.   


When Liv and Griffin go at it, fighting over what to watch on TV – or whatever, declaring their disdain for one another, I always remind them that one day they may find themselves packing up their lives, like I did, and moving 2400 miles across the country just to be near the other.  As their disgusted facial expressions shout, "Oh, please," I just smile back and ask, "So, who wants to play the Grocery Game?" and without waiting for a response, I say, "I'll start.  I went to the store and bought apples…" 


Keeping them engaged, and making memories. 


Erin Go Bragh!

 - M