Cats and their owners are on a private, exclusive loop of affection. Thus cats have become symbolic of a community eschewed and a hyper-engagement with oneself. They represent the profound danger of growing so independent in New York that it's not merely that you don't need anyone - it's that you don't know how to need anyone.
Like most citizens of popular and international urban centres, I don't take advantage of the cultural opportunities. Perhaps this comes from growing up in suburbia. Home is where you eat, sleep, read, watch television and ignore your parents. It is not where you go to the ballet and then attend a heated panel discussion about it afterwards.
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I was taught that candles are like house cats - domesticated versions of something wild and dangerous. There's no way to know how much of that killer instinct lurks in the darkness. I used to think the house-burning paranoia was the result of some upper-middle-class fear regarding the potential destruction of a half-million-dollar Westchester house the size of a matchbox. But then I realized the fear stemmed from something far less complex: we're not used to fire. Candles are a staple of the Judaic existence and, like many suburban residents before us, we're pretty bad Jews.
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In my lame pescetarian defense, it's very hard to be a girl and say you won't eat something. Refuse one plate of bacon-wrapped pork rinds and you're anorexic. Accept them and you're on the Atkins. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and you're bulimic. Best to keep perfectly still and bring an IV of fluids with you to dinner.
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I never asked my mother where babies came from but I remember clearly the day she volunteered the information... my mother called me to set the table for dinner. She sat me down in the kitchen, and under the classic caveat of 'loving each other very, very much, ' explained that when a man and a woman hug tightly, the man plants a seed in the woman. The seed grows into a baby. Then she sent me to the pantry to get placemats. As a direct result of this conversation, I wouldn't hug my father for two months.
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I was stunned. I pulled the phone away and looked quizzically at the hole-punched speaker. Aside from the blood obligation to be my sister's maid of honor, it had never occured to me that I would get asked to be in anyone's wedding. I thought we had reached an understanding, the institution of marriage and I. Weddings are the like the triathlon of female friendship: the Shower, the Bachelorette Party, and the Main Event. It's the Iron Woman and most people never make it through. They fall off their bikes or choke on ocean water. I figured if I valued my life, I'd stay away from weddings and they'd stay away from me.
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The children were overwhelmingly morbid. Not a single adult asked me where butterflies go when they die, but this question was more popular than pixie sticks with the under-four-foot set. I cursed parents for not preparing their children. When I was five, my mother and sister sat me up on the kitchen counter and explained the facts of life: the Easter Bunny didn't exist, Elijah was God's invisible friend, with any luck Nana would die soon, and if I ever saw a unicorn, I should kill it or catch it for cash. I turned out okay.
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The nursery rhyme ends when a spider comes along and frightens Miss Muffet straight off her tuffet. I have wondered about what kind of lesson this is for a young girl. If you're eating your curds and whey and a spider comes along, I don't think there's anything wrong with picking up a newspaper, smashing it, and going back to your breakfast.
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On occasion, it occurs to adults that they are allowed to do all the things that being a child prevented them from doing. But those desires change when you're not looking. There was a time when your favorite color transferred from purple to blue to whatever shade it is when you realize having a favorite color is a trite personality crutch, an unstable cultivation of quirk and a possible cry for help. You just don't notice the time of your own metamorphosis. Until you do. Every once in a while time dissolves and you remember what you liked as a kid. You jump on your hotel bed, order dessert first, decide to put every piece of jewelry you own on your body and leave the house. Why? Because you can. Because you're the boss. Because... Ooooh. Shiny.
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At the end of each year, I sit on the floor and go page by page through the old calendar, inking annual events into the new one, all the while watching my year in 'dinner withs' skate by. When I'm done, I save the old calendar in the box of the new one and put it with the others on a shelf.
When I was nine years old, I wrote a short story called 'How to Build a Snowman,' from which no practical snowperson-crafting techniques could be gleaned. The story was an assignment for class and it featured a series of careful but meaningless instructions. Of course, the building of the snowman was a red herring.
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Because, ten-year-olds of the world, you shouldn't believe what your teachers tell you about the beauty and specialness and uniqueness of you. Or, believe it, little snowflake, but know it won't make a bit of difference until after puberty. It's Newton's lost law: anything that makes you unique later will get your chocolate milk stolen and your eye blackened as a kid. Won't it, Sebastian? Oh, yes, it will, my little Mandarin Chinese-learning, Poe-reciting, high-top-wearing friend. God bless you, wherever you are.
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When it seems impossible that a deep connection with another person could just go away instead of changing form. It seems impossible that you will one day look up and say the words "I used to date someone who lived in that building," referring to a three-year relationship. As simple as if it was a pizza place that is now a dry cleaner's. It happens. Keep walking.
For the average person, taken to their sick bed, it takes a serious bout of pneumonia or a full body cast to completely forget the life they had prior to falling off the rollercoaster. I, however, will do this over a paper cut on my thumb, obsessing of said cut and being generally consumed by it.
For me, titles are either a natural two-second experience or stressful enough to give you an ulcer. If they don't pop out perfect on the first try, they can be really hard to repair. Or, worse, if the author thinks they pop out perfect, but the publishing house does not agree, it's difficult to shift gears. And then? Then you go insane.
I thought of a high school report I did on the Belgian artist Rene Magritte and a quote I once read from him, something about his favorite walk being the one he took around his own bedroom. He said that he never understood the need for people to travel because all the poetry and perspective you're ever going to get you already posses. Anais Nin had the same idea. We see the world as we are. So if it's the same brain we bring with us every time we open our eyes, what's the difference if we're looking at an island cove or a pocket watch?
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Some of the writers I admire who seem very, very funny and very emotional to me can develop a closeness with the reader without giving too much of themselves away. Lorrie Moore comes to mind, as does David Sedaris. When they write, the reader thinks that they're being trusted as a friend.
It seemed more and more like something out of a children's book - the butterfly that followed the little girl all the way home to her fifth-floor walk-up. How above-the-law children's books are. Hansel and Gretel (littering, breaking and entering), Rumpelstiltskin (forced labor), Snow White (conspiracy to commit murder), Rapunzel (breach of contract).
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A pet store is a celebration of dogs' existence and an explosion of options. About cats, a pet store seems to say, 'Here, we couldn't think of anything else.' Cats are the Hanukkah of the animal world in this way. They are feted quietly and happily by a minority, but there's only so much hoopla applicable to them.
I do want to get married. It's a nice idea. Though I think husbands are like tattoos--you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into a tattoo parlor on some idle Sunday and saying, 'I feel like I should have one of these suckers by now. I'll take a thorny rose and a "MOM" anchor, please. No, not that one--the big one.
I called my mother immediately to inform her that she was a bad parent. "I can't believe you let us watch this. We ate dinner in front of this." "Everyone watched Twin Peaks," was her response. "So, if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it, too?" "Don't be silly," she laughed, "of course I would, honey. There'd be no one left on the planet. It would be a very lonely place.
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I have nothing against Canada. I think that Canadians might know the secret to all existence, but to us it just comes off as timid and kind and too nice, and it strikes us as lacking edge. Unless you are hijacking someone and going on a reality show with your eight kids and wearing a velour pink pantsuit, then you have no edge to us.
They say it's not the snoring itself but those anxiety-packed moments in between snorts. It's the waiting for the nasal passages of the person lying beside you to strike again. And strike it always does. In the dark, almost against your will, you produce that special glare reserved for people who cannot control their own behaviour.
I can say with a solid degree of authority that I am a selfish person. I spontaneously forget the names of more people than not, unless I want to make out with them. I will take the last square of toilet paper off the roll without thinking twice. I tip taxi drivers so poorly I'm amazed none of them have run over my foot while speeding off.
I think the goal with any writing, but especially narrative nonfiction, is to put the blockade of putting your thoughts in this unnatural medium of print and then trying to reach through that and actually convey what's going on, what you think, and make people laugh and recognize themselves while doing it. Definitely the laughing thing.
You feel like telling him you're not single in the way that he thinks you're single. After all, you have yourself. I think a lot of humor is about distracting yourself. Pretend you're not trying to make it funny. Because for some reason the effort to be funny smells like sulphur in our culture.
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Every day of my adult life, I have worn at least one piece of jewelry from my maternal grandmother's collection, all of which were manufactured by famed Danish silversmith Georg Jensen. To the naked eye, I am either a Jensen loyalist or a grandmother loyalist. Really I am just a Pretty Things loyalist.
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Ah, the power of two. There's nothing quite like it. Especially when it comes to paying utility bills, parenting, cooking elaborate meals, purchasing a grown-up bed, jumping rope and lifting heavy machinery. The world favours pairs. Who wants to waste the wood building an ark for singletons?
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He also tried to block the doorway when she left him. My mother ducked under his arm, ran to her car, and drove away. I remember thinking that this was somehow romantic, as it pinpointed the actual memory of my mother's departure, something you don't see a lot of in television. Real people don't slam doors without opening them five minutes later because it's raining and they forgot their umbrella. They don't stop dead in their tracks because they realize they're in love with their best friend.They don't say, "I'm leaving you, Jack," and fade to a paper towel commercial.
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If I go into a sandwich shop or anywhere that features 'Today's specials' on a chalkboard more than 10 feet away, I have to ask for a printed menu. I smile at people I don't know on the street and ignore those I do. When at home, I often find myself grabbing my 'back-up' glasses to search for the better-loved pair I have left on top of my dresser.
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Ladies. Large masses of girls are often prone to this salutation. I hate being mollified with this unsolicited "ladies" business. I know we're all women. I am conscious of my breasts. Do I have to be conscious of yours as well? Do men do this? Do they go, "Men: Meet for ribs in the shed after the game. Keg beer, raw eggs, and death metal only." I would imagine not.
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I used to think that nails-down-a-chalkboard was the worst sound in the world. Then I moved on to people-eating-cereal-on-the-phone. But only this week did I stumble across the rightful winner: it's the sound of a baggage carousel coming to a grinding halt, having reunited every passenger on your flight with their luggage, except for you.
In New York and L.A., there is sort of that silent competition to be on the cutting edge of something. You end up having a conversation with how the world receives your work, especially if you are writing narrative, not fiction. Sometimes it is an awkward conversation. It's like group therapy.
You just don't notice the time of your own metamorphosis. Until you do. Every once in a while time dissolves and you remember what you liked as a kid. You jump on your hotel bed, order dessert first, decide to put every piece of jewelry you own on your body and leave the house. Why? Because you can. Because you're the boss. Because... Ooooh. Shiny.
My personality, when tasked with creating meals, goes something like this: Is there a way we can make this more difficult? Because let's do that. I don't mean to complicate things. It's just - why buy pre-packaged potato salad when you can spend your morning boiling potatoes and flipping out because there's no dill in the house?
I wanted to be an archaeologist. But in school you have to take a tremendous amount of statistics for that, and I am not good at statistics. So I hit a real wall with archaeology. It's probably like wanting to be an architect - you think it's all fun and games, and then you have to get out a calculator and you're done.
The Queen of Crafts herself, Martha Stewart, and I have the same birthday. I prefer to think it's the glue-gun wielding, perfect-tart-producing Martha and not the copper pan-throwing, jail-going Martha. But I suppose if I am going to share a calendar square with some of Martha, I have to share it with all of Martha.