My Literally Crazy Italian Grandma

I’m featured on this week’s Tell the Bartender podcast, which was recorded in the middle of a busy workday, on the fly, but turned out much better than I remember feeling like it was going.

Katharine engaged me on the topic of my grandmother, who’s been living with dementia for over a decade now, and what it’s been like for me as her primary caregiver.

 

Check out the podcast here.

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Awkward Things I’ve Said About My Dog to People on the Street, Which Probably Reveal More About Me Than Him

“He’s friendly. Too friendly!”

“He’s more interested in humans.”

Woman in her doorway, to dog: “Hey, cutie. You can visit me any time!”
Me, to woman: “Don’t tell him that. He will take advantage of it.”

Woman whose young son coos and pets my dog, explains, “He loves all dogs.”
Me: “So I’m not special?”
Woman: “You are…”

Me, to my dog while he aggressively sniffs another dog’s crotch: “Get in there, B.”

Man at the pet supply store: “Can I give him a treat?”
Me: “Do you want a stalker?”

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Leaving Mom

“Do you want me to get your vadge?”

My mom, unable to speak, replied with a shrug and a face that said, “Sure, why not?”

We were in the bathroom of her hospital room in Reno, Nevada. She had undergone surgery for throat cancer seven days earlier and was moved from intensive care to gen pop a few days after that. Liberated from catheter and bedpan, we held hands and took slow, careful steps about six feet to the bathroom, rolling along with us her oxygen tank, IV bag and a weird vacuum thing that sucked post-surgery mucous from a tube lodged in the front of her neck.

Her first trip to an actual toilet after she’d been admitted to Saint Mary’s was a stormy affair, and after our long-distance relationship — the most recent years of which we were more or less estranged — after she left my father and me in California when I was six years old, when her ambivalence about motherhood and married life turned into a desperate, drunken escape in the middle of the night…Twenty-five years later, I found myself in the awkward position of wiping her ass.

That could make me sound like a good person: letting go of my lifelong grudge against a delinquent mother to be present in her most vulnerable and disgusting state. But there wasn’t any moral waffling on my part, like “Should I call the nurse instead?”

It was a reflex, a deep-seated caregiving trait that children of alcoholics tend to develop early on, (sometimes before developing their own alcoholism). We become so attuned to the needs of others that we neglect our own until we become human husks with poor health and sporadic anger issues.

So when my mom called me the night before her surgery, crying like a little girl about how scared she was, I didn’t think about saying I would fly out from New York the next day to be with her at the hospital — I just said it — and it felt as natural and satisfying as a yawn, or a stretch, or popping a pimple. When you spend your life feeling useless to your own mother, you tend to come alive when she needs you in a crisis.

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Texting, Nexting and Nope-ing

My Modern Romance, Part 1

I went on a Tinder meta-date Friday, which is when you’re on a Tinder date and the conversation turns to Tinder. Never a good sign, but always an interesting conversation to have with a dude.

“How addicted are you?” he asked.

“I like it.”

“It’s like a game. It’s like Hot or Not.”

“Yeah, but it’s also like real life. It’s like scanning a bar: ‘No. No. Oh, he’s cute.’

We were basically having the same conversation as this New York Mag article. It’s still up for debate whether Tinder is supposed to be a hookup app, like a straight version of Grindr, or just an easy way to date online without the agonizing “About Me,” price of entry. I signed up because I wouldn’t be forced to brand myself as an adventurous spirit who loves red wine and laughter. What’s the point of listing your favorite books when every guy on OkCupid says he likes Vonnegut and Running with Scissors?

But my idea of “casual” might not mesh with someone else’s, so I’m always trying to figure out if me and the attractive person I found on my phone agreed to materialize before each other for wildly different reasons. Based on my Tinder success, I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong. But that’s only part of this story.

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Where’s the Fight? Feminism’s Silent 4th Wave

In late November I went to see The Punk Singer, an amazing documentary about Kathleen Hanna that covers the Riot Grrrl years, Bikini KillLe Tigre and lyme disease. I’ve always loved Kathleen and watching old footage of her screaming and spazzing out on makeshift stages in tiny punk clubs in the 90s was exhilarating; especially for someone who spent a good portion of the 90s screaming along to Hanna’s records in her bedroom, annoying her father watching Jeopardy! in the living room.

I did get a little sad though, and it wasn’t just from the nostalgia. Original fans of Kathleen Hanna, Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland and their delightfully noisy peers are all grown up and presumably working in offices everywhere. We don’t all get to grow up and be wacky artists who say and do whatever we want, suffering only mean internet comments as a consequence.

We’re constantly managing professional images and trying not to scare people out of hiring us by identifying as feminists, (or writing about feminism on our blogs.) I guess that’s why no one can  explain what the 4th wave is exactly, where it’s taking place or if it even exists. When our only mainstream options for feminist dialogue are online rags like Jezebel (sorry, but their $10,000 ransom for Lena Dunham’s Vogue images confirms they have their head in the wrong game) and even the most famous women are afraid to say they’re feminists, things aren’t looking so good for your average American career woman.

Note: Yes, we have Cheryl Sandberg, but I said average.

Note #2: Radical feminism is alive and well in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which probably means the 4th wave is huge and global, but unfortunately, most American women are too far away from those movements to be part of them or have any impact on their lives here in the States.