How Do You Spend a Lonely Life?


Someone who breathes from the diaphragm.
Compassionate. Balanced.
With a strong inner ear.

Must love reading
The sun as it shines through the windows,
Stretching, dancing, laughing, telling stories,
Making breakfast.

Someone who feels music with their whole body.
Who wants to grow things,
and decompose things,
and grow things again.

Someone who puts their hand on my lower back as we cross the street,
and their arm around my shoulders when I am cold,
and their fingers through my hair before we fall asleep.

Someone who is strong in ways that I am not.
Who stands on all four corners of their feet
Someone who listens for understanding.
Who weathers a storm.
Someone who chooses me.

I’ve been single for nine years. It hasn’t felt like a choice, but looking back, it probably was. They say in numerology that energies move in nine-year cycles. Last year, was a 9 year (2 + 0 + 1 + 6 = 9), which represents the end of a cycle. This year is a 1 year (2 + 0 + 1+ 7 = 10, then 1 + 0 reduces to 1), which is the year of starting over. The year of my last break-up was 2008 (2 +8 = 10 = 1), also a 1 year.

I’m not big into numerology; I just found that interesting. Normally, we think of the beginning and ending of a thing—a relationship, an event—but this hasn’t been so much a thing as the lack of a thing. While I’ve watched many friends start and grow their families, I’ve spent the last nine-year cycle in a relationship with myself. As with any relationship, I’ve learned a lot about the other person.

For example, I’ve learned that, left to my own devices, I can eat an alarming number of chips. (After all, chips are my favorite food.) I also will watch a wide variety of shows on the old Netflix, sometimes following whims that I’m sure another person would find annoying.

That’s the beauty of being alone; no one to argue with. Not that I ever have been much of an arguer. All my relationships have been very polite, which is probably another reason I don’t mind some solitude. As a people pleaser, I often will give up my own wishes to avoid confrontation, or because I just don’t care enough to fight about it, and all that compromise leaves me feeling drained.

When I’m alone, I can feel whatever I need to feel, process it however I need to, recharge, hide out. I can put myself back together in peace, without the pressure of anyone else’s gaze. I’ve often thought you must have to be brave to be a parent—to know that your children always are watching you and learning even the things you don’t intend to teach.

I asked my friend DeAnna what it’s like to have her children and husband always around. I think I said something like, “You must feel like you have no place all your own.” Her reply had never occurred to me. She said, “Well they can’t get in your mind, Cara.”

DeAnna’s such a cool mom. She really treats her kids like whole people. For example, as she lists the children’s activities in her holiday letter, she says things like “he seemed to enjoy it,” or “she appeared to have a good time.” Even while her children are young, she doesn’t presume to know what their inner lives are like. She also knows that if she’s not happy, her kids are not going to be happy so she continues to pursue her own passions. It doesn’t hurt that she has a supportive husband who seems to take his role as a father equally seriously.

These are the kinds of things I think about as I try out some new farro-kale salad recipe for dinner and end up watching a show called The Fantastical World of Hormones.

The first couple years after my break-up, I really didn’t think I would be single much longer. I held onto the hopeful notion that my new life, my new self was just around the corner. But as the years have gone on, I’ve grown less hopeful, and I’ve had to grapple with the idea that I might not ever be married, or have children. That’s been a tough one to swallow. I’ve had to ask the question: What is my life worth if I am single? Does it still have value, even without a husband or kids?

What Do You Do With Eternity?

According to fan sites, Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) spends 12,403 days, or about 34 years, living the same day over and over again in the movie Groundhog Day. He goes through stages of disbelief, anger, fear, ecstasy, hopelessness. He indulges every sin without consequences. But even with total freedom and power to do whatever he wants, Phil grows bored. He gets depressed. He tries to kill himself. Yet every day he wakes up stuck in the same place, at the same time, like a needle stuck in a groove on a record.

Eventually, after trying every self-serving thing he can imagine, Phil gets the radical idea to turn his time to helping others. At the same time, he starts to pursue his own passions, a little bit every day. Time begins to have meaning and purpose. He learns to love others, to be loved by them, and to feel the pleasure of mastery. He becomes a musician, a sculptor, a doctor, an intellectual. And that is when he really falls in love with another person, and when she really falls in love with him.

I like to think that I’ve spent my last nine years in a similar process. While I haven’t achieved much mastery, I have put in a lot of effort to get to know myself. And I’ve stripped away a lot of layers, dealt with a lot of pain, uncovered a lot of hidden wounds, grudges, arrogance. One thing’s for sure: when you’re alone with yourself, you find out how imperfect you really are.

It’s like the mirror of truth at the Southern Oracle in The Neverending Story. Atreyu is told that when he looks in the mirror he will see his true self. Even great warriors have fallen at the realization—kind men discover they are cruel; brave men find that they are cowards. When I am alone, I have no one else to blame, or deflect my anger to. There are no scapegoats. Just me. If there are dirty dishes in the sink, it’s because I left them there.

I have chosen to stay single because I haven’t felt the right way about anyone, and they haven’t felt the right way about me. It’s not that no one has been worthy; I just haven’t been in the right headspace for dating and also, the older I get, the fewer people I am attracted to. (Maybe it has something to do with hormones. I should watch that documentary again.)

When I was young, I was constantly, deeply, hopelessly in love. The object of my love changed periodically, but the feeling always was there, that obsessive, possessive need to be wanted by another person. I thrived on romance like a drug.

Over the last three years, I’ve pretty much stopped dating all together. Again, it’s not that there haven’t been worthy candidates, or that I haven’t tried at all, but it doesn’t feel the same. I can’t play the games anymore. I want something deeper than drama, something more consequential than sex, something more balanced and sustainable. I want a whole relationship with another whole person.

I don’t know what the next nine years look like, or whether I ever will get married or be a mom of any kind, but I can tell you one thing: If I am still single nine years from now, I’m going to be a hell of a guitar player and a much better cook.


Happy Birthday to Me

So it’s my birthday. Again.

As my friend DeAnna said somewhat accusingly in my birthday message, “I feel like your birthday has come very fast; I don’t know why — other people have also had birthdays — but I feel like the time between this birthday and your last birthday seems like less than a year.”

I hear you, DeAnna, how do we slow down this crazy train?

DeAnna is constantly surprising me with her perspective. She’s one of the few people I know who brazenly and totally bravely thinks for herself. She questions things I would never think to question (like has it been less than a year since my last birthday?). Everyone needs a friend like DeAnna.

You know, I thought 40 was the big birthday, but I think it’s 41. I mean, my birthday is a pretty big deal, as evidenced by this post on my Facebook wall from my friend Jenn:


Jenn is going to remember my damn birthday. I tell you what.

When I turned 40 last year, I just wanted to be alone. I took a solo trip to Connecticut. I slept in a greenhouse. They called this “glamping,” that’s “glamorous camping” to you and me. On my actual birthday I kayaked. I am not comfortable with any kind of deep water, so even on a dead calm river, I found it challenging. The whole concept of steering with the oar seemed counterintuitive.


I did make it upstream to a spot where you had to duck to get under this bridge and then on the other side you were in like a mossy green fairyland. On the return trip, floating through the narrow opening, I thought of it as a rebirth. Onward to the next phase of my life.


This year, Lani and Chris came to visit from San Francisco. It had been a long time since they had been in Colorado together.  We decided to take an overnight trip to an AirBnB in Salida with amazing views and a hot tub.

The whole time leading up to it, I was all about the hot tub. I could not wait to sit under the stars in the damn hot tub. But when we got there I had a respiratory infection and it was frigid cold outside – in the 20s and 30s. Definitely not get-wet-and-be-outside weather. I was grumpy and disappointed, and not that fun to be around. I pouted and went to bed, which apparently I still do, even at 41 years old.

From our deck, you could see a string of 14ers, which the owner, Drew, rattled off the names of when we arrived. Drew built the house himself using strawbale construction. He has chickens and turkeys, and a huge sow named Tammy. Drew gets the vegetable scraps from some of the downtown restaurants, and the waste barley from the brewery to feed her. (Tammy wouldn’t pose for a picture, but just imagine the biggest pig you have ever seen.)

We shopped at a great thrift store in Salida the next day called Ruby Blues. This actually was the impetus for the whole trip; when Mom and I were in Salida over Christmas, I just knew that Lani and Chris would love this store. The owners are a husband-and-wife team. Their selection is authentic vintage and very reasonably priced — like varsity letter jackets, and jean jumpsuits, riding pants and 70s sweaters. A lot of amazing pieces. I’m going to go down there just to go record shopping. I want every record in the store.

Chris found a 1940s reversible military jacket with fur trim that basically had never been worn before. One side is green and the other side is white. When wearing the white side, he looks like he is in Siberia in a James Bond movie.


He also got these 1970s sparkly motorcycle helmets.


I got a pair of clogs. For some reason, they have a robust selection of Dansko clogs at this place.

We had lunch at the Mexican restaurant in town, then stopped at a roadside Gem and Rock Store outside Buena Vista. Lani has a thing for rocks.

Lani was a pretty miserable baby. She had constant earaches. She only wanted to be held by Mom. She cried like crazy.

When Lani was about one-and-a-half my mom was pouring boiling water into a pitcher when it burst in her hands. Lani had been on the floor, possibly even clutching my mom’s leg. She was burned all over her little body.

My earliest memory from my childhood is walking down the hospital hallway and the nurse saying, “Now remember, you can’t touch your sister, or she’ll bleed.”

I must have been about three. It was dark in the hospital room, with only a few dim lights on. When they opened the door, Lani was standing up in the crib holding the bars. She had gauze around her head and this huge smile on her face. She was happier than she’d ever been.

We were pretty shy and quiet kids. Our parents were introverts. So imagine our surprise when Lani was about five and she picked up her stuffed bear and began to speak for him in a deep, growling voice. None of us would have believed such a big voice could come out of such a little kid.

Dad asked the bear what his name was.

The bear replied, “G.B.”

Dad: What does G.B. stand for?

G.B.: Gray Black. (G.B. was a gray bear, with black eyes.)

G.B. started watching the Broncos games with us, yelling at the TV screen, high-fiving Dad. Occasionally, Dad would pick G.B. up and throw him in the air, prompting G.B. to growl, “Stop it, Gery!”

One day Dad asked G.B. who his hero was.

G.B.: [thinks for a minute] Kirk Blueberry.

Dad: Oh, yeah, what is Kirk Blueberry famous for?

G.B.: He found 10,000 rocks.

Lani loved nature from the beginning. To me, a rock is a rock. But when we were in that rock store on the side of the road outside Buena Vista last weekend, it was clear that Lani has a very special talent for seeing beauty in normal, regular things. She chatted up the geologist proprietor, asking meaningful questions, picking the best things out of the case. Lani didn’t go to school for this, but she just enjoys it; she likes what she likes, not what anyone else likes, not what she is told to like. She and Chris have this sixth sense for cool stuff. I just see a rock.

Everything shifted for me when we got to the hot springs. It was a cloudless day, gorgeous fall colors, just a bit of chill in the air. After being sick and crabby, floating in the hot springs with the sun on my face was rejuvenating. We finished out the weekend with a nice gathering at Dad’s house where we ate cake and ice cream, and did a mini birthday celebration surrounded by extended family.

On my actual birthday Mom brought me the most beautiful lunch. Salmon with garlic and dill; quinoa; an amazing salad with romaine from her garden, feta cheese, strawberries, blackberries and pecans in a blush wine vinaigrette. She even made me a cheesecake. She went off-recipe and replaced the heavy cream and whipping cream with yogurt and cream cheese. Like she does.

She helped me repot my herbs and bring them inside for the winter. And she made me the most hilarious and awesome present. Over the weekend, I had been admiring the drawings in this old cookbook she had. We especially liked this one of the cowgirl and the vegetables.


So my mom copied the drawing and made these kitchen magnets. She really is the best mom.


All in all, I’m optimistic about 41. I received many sweet, genuinely thoughtful and heartfelt birthday wishes. I have many people to love, so many people who love me. It’s a ridiculous abundance of friendship. I am grateful to have known and shared my heart with so many. It really is the best gift.

It’s easy to focus on what’s lacking. Like, I’m not married, and I don’t have kids, I don’t have pets, I don’t own a house, I’m out of shape, I’m exhausted and unmotivated, my ankle still hurts after breaking it three months ago. I’m sick, blah, blah, blah. It’s easy to let my mind ramble on, cataloging all my faults and failures, but there comes a point (age 41, maybe?) when all that toxic noise just gets really boring.

As I was floating in the hot springs, trying out various arrangements for the sad limp pool noodles — Under the knees? The ankles? Propped under the neck? — I overheard two ladies discussing the movie “Age of Adaline” (currently available to watch on Amazon).


I’d seen the promo for it, but frankly, Blake Lively bugs me. She’s headed down that Gwyneth Paltrow road of self-righteous clean-living that just lacks any sort of spark of life. Where is the authentic woman behind the complexion and the ever-calm-and-collected smoky voice? Where’s the blood? Where’s the heart? Where’s the soul?

But as the ladies discussed the plot, I became intrigued. In 1930s America, Adaline (Blake Lively) is a young widow with a daughter when she accidentally slides off the road and her car ends up in a freezing lake. Adaline dies submerged in her vehicle in the icy water. But, it just so happens that within minutes of her death, the lake is struck by an electrical charge, which restarts her heart. She is alive. She climbs out of the lake, and from that day forward, her body doesn’t age another day. Adaline remains 29 years old forever. Even as her daughter grows up and becomes an old woman, Adaline still looks exactly the same. In order to avoid being kidnapped by the government or some crazy scientists, she changes her identity every 10 years. She has no life of her own. No one except her daughter knows the truth. Over the years, Adeline falls in love, at least twice.

(Spoiler alert) the movie unfolds as she meets a relentless young rich dude named Ellis (actual dialogue: “Like the island?” Ugh). Despite her reservations, Adaline, now going by the name Jenny, “falls” into bed with Ellis the way it always happens in romantic comedies: They drink a bunch and then ravage each other like horny virgins. These movies make you believe that the only way to “fall in love” with someone is to get totally hammered and have sex on the first date. Because that works out so well in real life.

Of course, Ellis is inexplicably drawn to Adaline’s aloof demeanor and distant gazes. He absolutely will not take no for an answer. Again, this only happens in movies. If a real dude were this persistent, you would be like hey stalker, no means no, brah.

Adaline agrees to go with Ellis to his parents’ 40th wedding anniversary celebration. But (plot twist!) it turns out that Ellis’s dad, played by Harrison Ford, also fell madly in love with Adeline in the 1960s, and planned to propose to her on the day that she ditched him to change her identity. One of the main reasons to watch this movie is to see the flashback scenes where the actor who plays the young Harrison Ford does like a crossover impression of Indiana Jones and Han Solo.

Eventually, Harrison Ford figures out that Jenny actually is Adaline. He begs her not to hurt his son the way she hurt him, but Adeline just can’t conceive of a life where she gets to be loved and to love another honestly.

As I watched Blake Lively’s shiny blonde hair flowing behind her as she ran through a forest, the point of the movie hit me. It’s about running away from life, making excuses, giving in to doubts, letting whatever the obstacle is – money, health, social awkwardness, fear, anger, shame, eternal youth, whatever – letting that thing stop you from even trying.

When Ellis discovers that Adaline has left, he asks his father what happened. What made her leave? Why’d she do it?

Ellis: Dad! Tell me what she said!

Harrison Ford character: She said she’s not capable…

Ellis: Of what?

Harrison Ford character: Of change.

Over the past few months, I’ve slowly opened up to the idea that my future could look different from my past. I don’t have to run. I don’t have to listen to the mindless critical chatter. I don’t have to settle. I don’t have to lock my heart away, and I don’t have to deny myself the life I deserve as penance for my perceived faults and failures.

The media and the advertisers will tell you that aging is about loss — the loss of beauty, of health, of optimism, of potential — like if you haven’t made your career and had your family by 35, if you haven’t maintained a perfect physique and resisted all addictions, if you haven’t found inner peace and eliminated negativity, if you haven’t accomplished something, become somebody, achieved your dreams, healed your family, saved the world, then you might as well just completely give up.

But it’s a lie.

The reason prior generations valued youth so much is that everyone expected to be dead by 50. Life was hard. People were dying all the damn time. You got married at like 12 and had 10 babies by 40. You probably wished you were dead. You worked on a farm or in a factory or a mine where nobody cared if you didn’t feel like going to work that day. Nobody cared if there was a blizzard or an ice storm or a dust bowl. You didn’t have choices. Youth was valued because you didn’t expect to be young for very long. You had to grow up fast, and the decisions you made as you launched into adulthood had serious, lasting repercussions. Marrying the wrong man or choosing the wrong job could put you in the hospital, or in jail, or in the grave. We have so many choices now. We have so much more to work with than any generation before us. Including time.

So, here’s to 41. Here’s to change. Here’s to choices. Here’s to anything can happen. Here’s to another year. (And I’ll try to make it a full year this time, DeAnna.)


Nashville, Tennessee, USA


For the past six months, I have been on sabbatical. Which is a fancy way of saying I haven’t been doing shit. I quit my job in January and started traveling—up the West coast, then to Chicago, then back to Colorado.

But unless I can find a way to monetize watching episode after episode of Bones on Netflix, it’s pretty clear that Snoop Doggie Dogg is going to need to get a jobby job. For my last hurrah, I attended the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. Since I was going to be in the area anyway (and I can watch Bones anywhere with WiFi), I extended my trip to check out Nashville and Memphis.

After Bonnaroo (Bonnaroooooooo!) I hopped a bus to the downtown Nashville hostel. Then I hopped off the bus and puked on the side of the road. Then I caught another bus, checked in to the hostel, and puked some more. Then I laid in bed for two days, shivering, feverish and fairly certain that I had contracted SARS or a virulent strain of bird flu from camping with all those glow-sticked, hula-hooping trustafarians. Thanks a lot, hippies!

But then I got better, and I set out to explore Nashville.

The first thing I discovered is that Nashville is just like Austin, in that it has a downtown full of theme bars and cover bands, where all the tourists go.

And then it has the  East Side where you will find all the bike shops, food trucks, and semi-ironic dance parties.

The East Side is just a quick 30-minute walk from downtown, and I was feeling pretty cocky for about the first 25 minutes because even in the Tennessee sun, I was barely breaking a sweat. I thought all those summertime bike rides in Austin had permanently acclimated me to the heat. I was like, c’mon wimps! This isn’t HOT. The minute I stopped walking, I was instantly sopping wet and tying my shirt around my waist junior-high style to cover the probable ass-crack-sweat marks coming through my pants. (I then dubbed this a “sweatkini”).

In the midst of my sweat-shaming, I happened upon this awesome shop and chatted with the owner, Greg Sturgeon. Greg gets discarded wood and found objects and turns them into new furniture. And he sells knives. So, if you’re ever in East Nashville and you a) need a new table, or b) need to cut someone/thing, Greg’s your guy.

Of course, the main attractions in Nashtown are the historical music sites. Like the Country Music Hall of Fame:

And the Ryman Auditorium, where they filmed The Grand Ole Opry:

And the new Johnny Cash Museum:

Here, you are reminded that, in addition to his brilliant music career, Johnny made appearances on some shitty, shit-tay film and television shows, i.e., the show Renegade starring Lorenzo Lamas.IMG_2708Finally, Nashville is home to the Hatch Show Print shop, which has made iconic music posters for everyone from Duke Ellington and James Brown to Merle Haggard and WIlco.

Next up: MEMPHIS! In the meantime, let me remind you of this song, which was in my head pretty much the whole time I was in Tennessee (Tennessee)… YOU’RE WELCOME.

So long, Seattle: EMP museum + Fremont

I went to the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum yesterday. It’s right under the Space Needle:

space needle

The EMP has a variety of hands-on, interactive exhibits about the history and anatomy of music. Their current shows also include in-depth looks at (who else?) Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix:

What you might not expect is that the EMP also currently has a Masters of Sci-Fi exhibit:

And a horror exhibit:

And an exhibit on the history of the leather jacket:

I had visit some of the important Seattle landmarks of my youth (a.k.a., filming locations from Cameron Crowe movies):

On my way back from Gas Works Park, I happened upon the Fremont Brewing Co., where a slew of Seattleites was soaking up the sun on the patio.


I had the Merlot Sister, which was quite excellent.

fremont brewing

Next up, goat farming!

Game shows touch our lives

I used to love game shows. My favorites included Press Your Luck, which was a huge game of Simon infested with these assholes:

Then there was Family Feud (aka, Richard Dawson Sexual Assault Hour); Pyramid; Password; Win, Lose, or Draw; The Price is Right

There is something very American about game shows. They appeal to our sense of justice and equality—anyone can play, anyone can win. It’s not about where you come from, what you look like, or your personality. At their best, these shows reward perseverance and focused concentration. Housewives become winners. Nerds become gods.

Jeopardy! is one of the most enduring shows of my lifetime. Probably because the questions are hard enough to be interesting, and Alex Trebek is strangely charismatic.  What other show could have introduced us to the awesome supernerdery of Ken Jennings?

The show has become embedded in the American culture. We all know the Jeopardy! thinking music. We all know that you have to answer in the form of a question. We’ve all seen the spoofs, from SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy with a spot-on Will Ferrell, to Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Lost on Jeopardy! (baby)”.

But my favorite satire of the show is in the 1999 movie She’s All That. In case you don’t watch 90s teen movies, this is a Cinderella story about a beautiful “ugly” girl who takes off her glasses and (spoiler alert!) almost becomes prom queen. Her dad, played by Kevin Pollak, gives hilariously wrong answers to Jeopardy! questions and totally steals the scene. You hear Trebek in the background, but don’t see the tv screen. Part of the fun is the way that movie dad (Pollak) answers every question with complete certainty:

Trebek: Thomas Welch invented this drink in 1869 as an alternative to wine.
Movie dad: What is non-alcoholic wine.

Trebek: The youngest of the Marx Bros., he retired from the act following 1933’s Duck Soup.
Movie dad: Who is Lame-o.

Trebek: This city’s French Quarter encompasses about 70 blocks.
Movie dad: What is Paris, France.

Trebek: Along with Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, his face appears on South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.
Movie dad: Who is President Rushmore.

Trebek: This 1961 Elia Kazan film marked Warren Beatty’s screen debut.
Movie dad: What is Shampoo.

Trebek: In 1987, a copy of the Old Testament attributed to this printer sold for 5.3 million dollars.
Movie dad: Who is Hewlett-Packard.

Shit, that movie is hilarious. We should all go watch it right now. It’s on Netflix streaming.

Lady Midlife Crisis (Strong enough for a man. Made for a woman.)

I accidentally went shopping today. Well, I meant to go grocery shopping, but the fancypants HEB is surrounded by boutiques, just like impulse items at the register—the gum and trashy magazines of stripmalls.

Suddenly, I’m thinking, “Why, yes, I do need some expensive paper” and “I should probably just look at the sale dresses” and “Holy shit, there’s an Origins here? TWO free samples with a purchase of $55 or more!? Yes, please.”

Actually, I made that last one up. I mean, they really had a sign that said that, but I am a total cheapskate when it comes to beauty products. I am more of an N.Y.C. section of Walgreens kinda girl. If any one item costs more than $10, I’m splurging.

Intellectually, I know that this is one area where I should not skimp. Aside from the cocktail of chemicals in most brand-name makeup, they still rub mascara in rabbits’ eyes and shit, don’t they?

(Just writing that makes me never want to give those fuckers one more cent.)

Which brings me to my point: I don’t want cheap things anymore. I want sturdy, well-built things. I want to grow herbs in little pots. I want to go to dinner parties. I want to eat, pray, and love.

But I don’t want to read that book. I tried, but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe because I don’t have a buttload of money and all the time in the world. If I did, I would have been reading that thing like the fucking bible. I saw the movie. James Franco looked a little bloaty. Javier Bardem? Rawr. And who should play the protagonist? Why, Julia Roberts, of course.

Which reminds me of this exchange that took place once among my BFFs:

S: “I don’t like anything Benjamin Bratt has been in.”

H: “You mean like Julia Roberts?”

You probably had to have been an avid reader of People magazine in 2001 to get that joke. You would have to know that Benjamin Bratt and Julia Roberts were a couple for a while. And that there was once a guy who was kinda famous named Benjamin Bratt.

You might further remember that Julia Roberts was kind of a whore. She married Lyle Lovett and almost married Keifer Sutherland, whom she left for his friend, Jason “hottest guy to ever have a mullet” Patric.

(Not in this picture, where they appear to have gone to the same stylist.)

The point is, I think I’m growing up. Just as Julia finally settled down with a cameraman, stopped playing trashy sluts with hearts of gold and started playing plain old rich white ladies (with hearts of gold), I am entering a new phase of my life.

That’s right. I’m getting my groove back.

Just hopefully not with a gay dude.

Nora Ephron, a eulogy

In 1989, I was 14 years old and I didn’t know what kind of woman I was going to be yet. It felt like a crapshoot. Would I be the kind who gets married and has kids right away, like my parents did? Would I be a career woman like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, wearing business suits and white tennis shoes, living in New Jersey, and listening to a lot of Carly Simon?

I really had no idea. And no one was telling me, either, which was both a blessing and a curse. My parents had divorced a few years earlier, and they were still very young. My mom was 34 and my dad was 36. (The same age I am now. Let me just trip out on that for a minute…)

They had barely grown up themselves. How were they supposed to guide their daughter into adulthood? They were just glad I didn’t join a cult or get pregnant.

That was the year that When Harry Met Sally came out. I don’t recall exactly when or where I first saw it, but I would guesstimate that as of June 27, 2012, approximately 2200 hours, I have viewed it more than 50 times.


First off, I thought that Billy Crystal was the funniest man alive. And I wanted a sassy best friend like Carrie Fisher who whored around with married men. I wanted to get dumped and watch Casablanca. And I wanted Meg Ryan’s hair.

But when I see it now, I notice other things. I appreciate that both Harry and Sally are mourning a loss—not only of a relationship, but the loss of who they thought they were. At one point, Sally says that she doesn’t miss the real Joe as much as the “idea of Joe.” To which Harry replies, “maybe I only miss the idea of Helen” …pause… “nope, I pretty much miss the whole Helen.”

Though their circumstances are similar, they respond in opposite ways. Sally tries to think her way out of it. Harry sleeps with every woman in New York. That they fall in love seems to surprise them both. But they accidentally stumble upon one of the secrets of happy relationships: embracing each other’s flaws . By the end of the movie, we know Harry really means it when he says he loves that it takes her an hour to order a sandwich. He loves her, not in spite of her imperfections, but because of them.

Sally: All this time I’ve been saying that he didn’t want to get married. But the truth is, he didn’t want to marry me. He didn’t love me.

Harry: If you could take him back right now, would you?

Sally: … No… but why didn’t he want to marry me? What’s the matter with me?

Harry: Nothing.

Sally: I’m difficult.

Harry: Challenging.

Sally: I’m too structured. I’m completely closed off.

Harry: But in a good way.

Sally: No, no, no. I drove him away… And I’m gonna be 40.

Harry: When?

Sally: Someday.

Harry: In eight years.

Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there like this big dead end… And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had babies when he was 73.

Harry: Yeah, but he was too old to pick ’em up.

Two years ago, I saw Nora Ephron speak. She was so inspiring. She talked about being a young female reporter in New York in the 60s, and about becoming a screenwriter and director. She talked about her failed marriage, and about her body, about aging, about Hollywood. I thought about trying to find her after the talk to tell her how much I love her writing, but I didn’t do it. So now seems as good a time as any.

Dear Nora Ephron: Thank you for giving me permission to be difficult. And for showing me what kind of woman I want to be.