It isn’t fair my eyebrows never grew back right after I plucked them to look like Carol Lombard in middle school.  And it’s shitty I’m bad at math.  Moses thinks it’s unfortunate I hate dim sum, and I think it’s sad our cat has fleas.  It’s also not fair I’m critical, and I usually think people are at least a little bit “out-to-get-me” and my mother once told me it “never occurred” to her I was very pretty.  I wish I didn’t grind my teeth when I sleep, or drink red wine or use the expression “I feel like.”  And I’d like it if I saw more of my father and didn’t hold grudges or wonder if there really is a God, and if so why he didn’t feel compelled to make me really good at something like public speaking or song writing or again, math.  Something useful to pay bills and make people ruefully smile and shake their heads and say “oh, that Jamie.  You know her and (insert anything here and it could be a lie).”

I sometimes wish I’d never left New York and it depresses me I wasn’t around to babysit Eloise when she was six or seven, but mostly it bugs me I didn’t realize it would bother me so much if I left her in the first place.  I’d also like it if green bean casserole with the fried onions out of a can weren’t so midwestern and passe, because I really like it.  And it’s crummy I always think I’d be a different person if I were some where else and that the other places seem better than the one I’m in.  I also wish reading self-help books fixed things, and that Dexter would start again or that I lived inside Harry Potter.  I’d like to have Mary Richards apartment on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I’d like to have thinner legs and not be long-waisted but long-legged.  

I’d like to have this essay sound a little more Milne and a little less Lohan.  But on that note, I wish Erica Cunningham hadn’t made fun of my jean skirt in Montessori and that I played piano better and didn’t have to sing that stupid song from The Sound of Music to read notes.  I wish I were either tall like other Jamie or small like Joan Didion, but being in between sort of stinks.

I hate that I have bad allergies and flower smells make my legs itch, and that I spend a lot of time just…thinking about nonsense.  And I wish I still matched all my socks and ran as often as I used to.  But mostly I wish today wasn’t such a lousy day.  

Sometimes, I think some days are so bad, even my mother would tell me I have carte blanche to belly ache, but she’s awfully busy, my mother. 


Apparently Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” was released in 1992, which means I was 10 when I watched the video with my mother.  I don’t remember much anticipation, except my mom spent a lot of time lamenting Jackson’s obvious body dysmorphia.  The viewing was no exception to every single thing I’ve ever watched with my mother—we talked on and off, all the way through it.  The only quiet stretch was the middle of the video, when the guitar and music peter out and leave way to Jackson, on his knees in a wet ally way screaming.  Loudly.  He proceeds to get up and do a dance-y fit, breaking car windshields with a crow bar as the sky rumbles overhead, reflecting his anger.

I didn’t get the throw to racism and how mad it made him.  I was ten, and frankly, he didn’t look black enough at that point to be bothered by it much.  But I did pick up on the hate, the quiet and deepness of the anger.  Like most people, I sat, stunned and uncomfortable, watching my mother shake her head and cover her mouth.  She probably said it was “powerful” or something like that, because that’s what you say.  Like when Langston Hughes starts his happy go luck be-boppy-rhymes that end so rough and ragged you can hardly believe the little letters gave way to form such nasty things. 

Home alone, between sweeping and moping and imagining up a new cookie recipe, I started thinking about The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.  I originally crossed it as a movie on TCM when I was twelve or thirteen and finally read the book a few years ago during a gloomy season in San Francisco.  

At the first viewing I’m sure I liked the bright colors (it was made in 1969), and the over all “look.”  I also recognized Maggie Smith as Granny Wendy and Mrs. Medlock from The Secret Garden.  Presently a gray-headed lady, it was a start to see her with red curls and thick eyeliner.  The notion that, in a mere thirty years, she had gone from pretty, slightly middled-aged beauty to prim grandmother.  It was perhaps one of the first times I ever thought about thirty years in both respects—as an eternity (longer than I’ve been alive even now), or as no time at all (it isn’t really).

However, what hooked me and locked this film and story as one of my favorites of all time is the heated confrontation at the very end.  Sandy, Miss Brodie’s prized pupil, but never the “sexy” one, admits she’s long since turned on her mentor.  Amazingly, Miss Brodie’s heated and dramatic response seems to come more from having pegged Sandy wrong, personality-classification-wise, rather than simply being wrong to have trusted her.

Even today, one of my very favorite things to say in the mirror with steely eyes and clenched teeth are “Jenny will NOT be Teddy’s lover and I will not BE YOUR SPY.”  Brush hair from eyes: “Do you think your PROVIDENCE?” (I looked it up with I was thirteen) “That you can ORDAIN LOVE?”  

When Miss Brodie asks questions, Sandy has all the perfectly sharp, eloquent answers that seem to evade me in real life.  ”Why must you always strike aptitudes?” She screams.  ”You really are a ridiculous woman.”

And so, looking back, I try to pin point what, exactly, must have spoken to me most, and what continues to.  Naturally I fancied myself more a Sandy than a Miss Brodie.  I’ll never be most popular or pretty one and ‘ll always do a rather creepy amount of thinking and say the wrong thing.  Sandy also sort of “wins,” and I’m sure I wanted to back then, too.  I’d like to right now, if possible.

And then there’s the aspect of what else was present during those years.  Perhaps it had little to do with me and more with the mother of a friend who, I realize now, is an awful lot like Miss Brodie—ultimately harmless, but certainly powerful in turning the heads and interests of thirteen year-old girls.  If Hitler had gathered an army of little girls, he’d have needed to be Jean Brodie.  And, my thought is, looking back, even twelve year-old me could see through it, just a bit.  Miss Brodie caught my intrigue because there really was someone a little rotten in Denmark, and I was testing the notions of “ridiculous women” and what that entailed.

Now, as a 28 year-old, I find Sandy’s self-knowledge and lack of doubt astounding to the point of making her as make believe as she really is.  I’ve certainly come across my share of “ridiculous” women, but none I was so unwavering of their soul assessment that I would feel at liberty to destroy their lives.  I doubt myself too much.  I would instead assume I was having a bad day or not doing a good enough job of seeing them the way their mother or children might.

But, so we also see with Miss Brodie, left screeching and without dignity in her once-classroom as Sandy politely walks away, shoulders squared, jaw set.  A lame animal, her humanity, absent for much of the story, comes back and it’s hard to NOT feel sorry for her.  Sandy might be able to walk away, but I never could.  So perhaps I should instead say I choose the real moral of it all to be NOT to become the ridiculous woman.  Even if a sweet-faced group of 13 year-olds treat you like a god, remember where you came from.

When a person is in a relationship, it’s easy to resent the constant and ho-hum existence you’ve worked so hard to maintain. 

A (our) Love Story—In Three Parts:

Good Morning.

We lie in bed and look at each other.  Finally one of us ventures to say a suggestion for the shape of our day.  “Breakfast out?”  (Me).  This is countered by him “don’t we have food?”  Of course we have food.  Sometimes I just want to eat breakfast out.  Breakfast out, in fact, is my favorite meal of the day to have out.  I like the clean table, the fresh flowers, and hot coffee.  The nice mimosa and assorted jams—things I never keep in my fridge because it’s too hard to keep multiple jars of jam at home.  It feels irresponsible.  If you prefer raspberry, buy it.  It’s unfair to buy both raspberry AND apricot, just because sometimes you like to have a little apricot on your toast.

I digress.  On it goes.  It is established we have food.  Now it is my turn to act pouty and irritable because he doesn’t’ want to go out and I do.  And he expects me to cook the breakfast in that I didn’t want in the first place.

Clad in underwear and a tee shirt I pour orange juice for myself and put nuts and berries on yogurt.  He removes Tupperware with rice and beans and turns the wok on high heat.  I can see it smoking, knowing that soon it will blacken and burn anything he thoughtless drops in.

“The pan is too hot.”  I tell him, turning it down.  And so it begins.

“Will you help me?” he asks, but it’s not a question, it’s a necessity.  If the alternative is having him start a grease fire in our home, then yes, I guess I’ll have to. 

Help turns into to me doing it for him, dropping ingredients one after the other in, while he occasionally doubles back with a few—soy sauce, sesame oil.  Even though it is his concoction, he looks at me benignly as we sit down to eat and says, “You should have put in more soy.”

What’s yours is mine.

Early on in our relationship I decided to buy a computer.  The old Dell I’d purchased in college was buggy and cumbersome, and HE had a little Mac book and swore it was the best.  Thrilled by his willingness to assist me, we set out to some mall in search of an Apple Store. 

It was so easy to spend 2k I felt a little light headed as we walked to the food court.  It was, at that time, my largest purchase ever.  Those clever Apple people, with their “come to you” little credit card scanners and willingness to believe I was a student and throw in an ipod.—it all happened so fast.

And when he volunteered to set up the computer I was, again, thrilled.  Having never been into them or much of anything fast moving, I happily relinquished my grip (though still dutifully paid off the charge by month) and let him tinker.

Now, years later?  The result is this.  It is HIS computer.  He can work it, I cannot.  The screen saver, the passwords, the movies we download, the music we keep—all his.  The only thing easier than buying the computer was inadvertently giving it away.  He let me keep the American Express charge as a souvenir.

You think yours is bad?

He has a headache? I have a migraine.  My back hurts?  His ACHES.  Insomnia?  No way it’s as bad as the sleep deprivation he’s been experiencing.  Or the cactus thorn he found in his hand or the pulled muscle in his thigh. 

We spend hours topping to other, each sincerely believing their ailment is worse.  I suppose it would be easiest to just cuddle one another and try to comfort the other while being comforted in return, but instead we spend our time trying to determine who is the winner and deserves ALL the affection and who is the chump baby that should grow up?

I have always, always, always been afraid of the dark.

I think something is chasing me.  I’m not sure what.

When we would eat dinner with the family across the street, and my mother would make me go home to get ready for bed alone, I would sprint, usually barefoot, across the street and make my hands go “BAM” into the storm door before I pulled it open and ran inside.

I would imagine some one tackling me.  Grabbing my legs.

If I were ever in a scary movie situation, where you “just can’t get away,” I know I would eventually stop running, be too afraid and tired to pull my leg through the window just before it gets cut off.  After awhile, I think I would just ask to be killed quickly.

We took bicycle for two to Los Olivos to go wine tasting.  We’ve lived in Southern California over two years now and it just seemed like something we ought to do.  Access to the two-seater bike was pure luck—a co-worker’s of Moses had bought it to take people with him to lunch while he was at school at UCLA.  

Tandem bikes seem so romantic.  But in reality, I found it nearly impossible to sit behind Moses, seeing nothing, pedaling quickly to keep up his speed.  While I’ve never doubted his abilities as a biker, every reflex I had fought me to panic, to take control, to not trust the blind spot of his back and shoulders before me.

It made me remember learning to ride a bike the first time.  The casual bluntness of the adult teaching you.  ”You’ll fall,” they would say, “but then you’ll get back up.”  I didn’t know who they thought they were dealing with, but I was pretty sure one fall would be enough to last me until I was too old to care about riding a bike.  In third grade the same thing happened with cursing writing.  ”You’ll learn,” my teacher told me, but I knew she was wrong.  But that was fine.  I’d just write in print forever.  My signature didn’t have to look like my mothers.  Print was fine.  And going to France was like that, too.  I cried in frustration during a four hour class period once, and my perfectly French teacher, who never broke into anything but French, no matter what—eventually walked over to me, grabbed my face and said, “don’t worry about it,” to me and patted my back.  ”Eventually you’ll get it.”

Now people say the same thing about child birth.  ”Oh, you get through it,” when I know I’ll probably just split in two.  I never didn’t think I would be able to run the LA Marathon.  It might hurt, and I might go slowly and I might never do it again, but certainly I COULD.  But I was POSITIVE I would never get the uppercase cursive J or be able to write an essay in French.  I wish, with these things, mastering them was setting my mind to it and pushing on.  Instead it’s the blind knowledge I will never get it, but keeping with it to prove the person telling me I’ll be “fine” that they’re wrong—I’ll be the first to fail, to never pick it up, to write like a child forever.

A friend of mine had his wife walk across a field when they got married to “Here Comes the Sun.”  It is one of the sweetest things I can think of.



The Sun.

Little Darling.  It’s been a long.Cold.Lonely.Winter.