Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy Rachel Day!

Today is the birthday of the woman who taught me to be brave.

That’s not to say she’s not FEARFUL. No, Rachel Elizabeth’s fears include, but are certainly not limited to:

-          Alopecia
-          Old ladies with long hair
-          Black dogs with red eyes
-          Scallops
-          Snakes
-          Angelina Jolie
-          Infertility
-          The Slide at Blizzard Beach
-          ChaCha the Celebrity
-          Skeletal models (because she believes they come to life when no one is looking. “If no one is looking…what does it matter?” I guess she’s got a slight prejudice against their unknown intentions. Maybe she thinks they want our skin. I haven’t really probed too deeply on this one).

And so on. I believe 75% of Rachel’s soul is constantly doing an interpretive, yogi dance to James Taylor’s “Shower the People” in an incense-filled room while 25% of her crouches like a tiny gargoyle, perched on some high lookout yelling things like “Jesus, Rachel! Watch the carpet! You’ll roll your ankle! Who put that carpet there, anyway? Lotta creeps in this world, I tell ya!”

She’s this perfect blend of her parents: all the diagnostic intellect, sharp wit and humanist pragmatism of brilliant Dr. Schur and the grace, agility, flexibility and spiritual intuition of dancer Jody (whom I whole-heartedly believe is a time-space synesthete. No joke). Most people can see life and dissect it but can’t feel it and vice versa. Rachel has had the dizzying, empowering sensation of both since birth.
This makes fear an inevitable side effect of living. She can’t neatly compartmentalize because she FEELS it. She can’t emotionally binge because she intellectually understands all the facets and complexities comprising a monumental “big picture”.  From what I've seen, this means Rachel sees no choice but to face her fears. Head on. For as long as it takes, even when it's messy and uncomfortable. If it is only in fully facing that which we fear that we encounter true bravery, it should come as no surprise that Rachel is not only brave, she’s the best at bravery. She doesn't even know she's doing it. She masters it covertly. Strong but flexible, calculating but free-spirited. Unlike most of us, who find a way to solve feelings OR facts and then to cope without full resolution, a fear faced is a fear debased for Rachel. She operates on a level most people can’t wrap their brains or hearts around. 

Somehow, without all of the evidence intact, I sensed this innately four and a half years ago.  I’m sitting in an eerily silent police station. My phone is vibrating continuously.  I can’t feel it because every inch of me is quaking and tensing spastically because I can’t face this. I can’t comprehend it, can’t dissect it and I am flogging myself because I can’t feel it. By the end of the hour, I had over sixty inbound phone calls but in that moment, I walked outside and made my first phone call to Rachel.

It was cowardly. She didn’t ask for it. She didn’t deserve it. We didn’t have a decade of friendship lending itself to the requirement of support. I had thousands of people I knew would want to be there and inexplicably, selfishly, my heart recognized her as the bravest person I knew and flung itself, chose her to be family whether she liked it or not. As I stumbled through shock and sputtered that someone had killed my mom and brother, I knew she felt what I couldn’t immediately. She cried. Then I cried. Finally. The shaking stopped and I sobbed with her. I had a brief break of daylight in the darkest day of my life because Rachel was crying with me and because she loved me. She was crying FOR me because she could see and feel what I was facing. I think subconsciously, it was my hope that I could rebuild with someone like her on my side. I was strong, I was optimistic but not inherently brave. She could teach me that.

And she has.  For six years, she’s shown courage over and over again by taking my hand and making me her family.  Every day she shows me the best, the worst and the funniest things about this world and all the hidden layers of meaning. She shows me nobody's brave without being afraid and saying "I'm scared. Now what?" Most importantly, she’s showed me that people aren’t born brave: it is an art form to be mastered like dance.

She taught me how to focus on small, repeatable, measurable goals like workouts, hot yoga, B vitamins, diet, the search for the perfect tea/dress silhouette and self-care.

She pushed me to stretch myself by finding new adventures, whether it was a small, unheard of yogurt shop in Georgetown or shifting my entire career goals in pursuit of fulfillment. Even a change in hair color is the sort of small stretch that can spark a whole life makeover. Just stretch and see what you can suddenly reach.

She taught me to check in with my spiritual, physical and emotional body. She shows me all the time that we contain the answers within ourselves. She knows that when we don’t check in and barrel forward, we’re setting ourselves up for injury. She’s not afraid to look at me and say “It’s okay not to be happy right now”. That self-awareness and acceptance is a liberating gift.

Dancers know how to make the best of what they truly are. They know how to BE where they are and maximize their strengths. You can’t be a tall dancer if you’re short and Rachel has taught me to ask “Well, why would you WANT to? That means you’re great at…” Some people wish they were sopranos, tiny and brunette even if that sounds dreadfully boring to me. Embrace it, love it and see what others see. On that note…

She knows there’s enough room for everyone’s form, strengths and spirit. She builds up everyone around her because she genuinely sees their gifts as necessary to build a better connected, stronger and beautiful world. She’s the least jealous person I have ever encountered and simultaneously the most humble. If you’re not close to Rachel, it’s enough to make you want to throw things at her.

Most importantly, she knows when to celebrate and how to do it RIGHT. “There’s this great place…” usually starts most of my best afternoons when she’s in town. She cultivates and collects the really great stuff. It’s a weird sense of accomplishment if I lead her to something worth passing on. Like “Ha HA! It passed the Rachel Test!” Regardless of my contribution, it’s always these little meandering walks with her that spark the catalyst for all my moves in the right direction. I don’t know how she always does it but it’s foolproof.

There’s still a lot of fear for me to face in this world. Every time my stomach turns over on itself, every time my heart feels the jolt of too much perspective or my soul is beleaguered by vague uncertainty, I pick up the phone and call Rachel. I mysteriously find myself on facebook, excited when there’s a green dot next to her name. I know she’ll tell me it’s okay to feel it and remind me how to face it. Maybe she’ll casually throw me the tools I need and somehow make it seem like I’m doing HER a favor (it’s a magical gift she possesses).

So here’s to Rachel Schur: the bravest lady I know and the one most worth celebrating. I love you sky big. Every time I look around at my blessings, the life I’ve built and how far I’ve come, I see the little sparkle of your touch reflected back at me. Make no mistake, I am constantly grateful and truly blessed to have you in my life. No hashtags, just the truth. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Liquor Store Revelation

I’m standing in the liquor store, scanning the scotches, disappointed by the limited selection. I wanted something smokey, peaty, maybe even a little salty. What’s with the veritable cornucopia of Dewars? Do people even drink that stuff without soda? I’m craning my neck, scanning and absent-mindedly bemoaning the absence of Peat Monster when the male, middle aged attendant approaches me.

“Do you need help?”

“Hi Hi Hi! No, I’m fine, thank you, I’m just looking for…well…actually…yes. I’m looking for Laphroaig or something like it. Something super smokey/peaty”.

I’m suddenly aware that I was twirling my hair when I was scanning. I’m also suddenly aware that I’m speaking in a voice that sounds like a slightly Southern Disney Princess just after an exposition scene surrounded by birds.

The attendant dismissively tells me that they have a bottle that isn’t very peaty that he thinks I’d like better. I have to do a double take because it looks like a gigantic bottle of the newest Britney Spears fragrance. I…asked for….scotch? What is this?! I’m baffled. This man heard my request and blatantly overlooked it to find me the girliest scotch in the store. I open my mouth to give him a piece of mind and what comes out is:

“Oh, no, I’m sorry. It’s just, my husband definitely asked for super peaty/smokey. I should probably just stick with Laphroaig”.

MY HUSBAND ASKED FOR PEATY/SMOKEY??? Matthew James Montana didn’t even DRINK scotch until we started dating! I helped develop his preference! For all I know, he may actually love a crisp, clean MaCallan and here I am shoving Laphroaig down his throat all because I’m the conductor of the scotch train!

So I like scotch! What’s wrong with that? I’m a married woman. A fully grown married woman who just spent the better part of Sunday thanking God for NFL Redzone and telling her husband to stop putting his faith in Stevan Ridley.  (Just…face facts, Matthew. He and David Wilson are exactly who we thought they were: and man does not win by Marshawn Lynch alone. But I digress).

And yet…here I stand. Bambi eyes glistening, pawning the scotch off on what this man now assumes is my super-creepy, 45 year old, pedophilic professor of sociology husband who sits by our non-functioning Manhattan fire place and stares into our, ironically, coveted exposed-brick walls, silently bemoaning the blown interview at Columbia that could have changed his fate, pausing briefly for condescending responses to his wife/former student who is slowly realizing that the authority that once so attracted her to him was a hollow game. (What? IT’S WHAT HIS EYES SAID!)

NO ME! NOT IN MY HOUSE! I’m a woman. A STRONG woman. I like to picture my spirit animal as a bearsharktopus with phoenix like capabilities that can shape-shift into an elegant, hot swan that just wants everyone to be happy with the light within.

So, this. But also beautiful.... WITH FIRE!

So why on earth do I feel the need to cover up for this stranger? I’ll tell you why.

As the man helping me climbs the ladder, he looks at me quizzically and casually mentions that he hopes I brought my ID. 

Glass shatter.

I really hate being told I look young. Don’t cushion me with your hollow, “you’ll love it someday”’s because it’s frankly insensitive and condescending to tell anyone how they will eventually feel. I watched my mom slam doors in solicitors’ faces when they asked to speak to her mom as she casually said, “I own this house. Bye”.   I’ve spent years trying to figure out how somehow everyone magically settles on the age of twelve when you want to say someone looks young.  It’s demoralizing because what I hear is: you don’t look like a sexual being as a grown woman.  

It used to destroy me. It’s continually frustrating that professionally, I’m limited to characters a decade younger than me. A DECADE. I can’t even play myself in a movie because it wouldn’t read.

At some point, though, I must have decided that if you can’t beat em, you gotta join em. When did I develop a Disney Princess routine for strangers? It wasn’t deliberate. Slowly, over time, I rose to meet people’s expectations. I let people lend me an extra hand when I didn’t need it. I was SO MUCH SORRIER than you were that this service at my place of employment was poor. Sure, I was “sassy” but wasn’t that adorable? Listen to the mouth on that “Little Lady”!  It’s like she thinks she’s a grown up!

I undercut myself. I apologize for my lack of experience everywhere I go before I even open my mouth. I assume you will underestimate me and every moment is a game time decision as to whether I want to gleefully stun you. Maybe today I’m too tired and I’ll just let you think I can’t do it.

Not very bearsharktopus of me.

I can’t do it anymore. No, I didn’t have some Oprah moment where I realized I was worth it. It’s simply because I can’t say things like “My husband…” with that gimmick. It’s creepy. When I act that way and say I’m married, the imagined perception is that I’m playing house. It projects an image of a lost little girl onto my character, my marriage and my professional ambitions. That makes me want to vomit. I’ve worked too hard to overcome too many things to be limited by a tiny frame.

Princesses don’t have husbands. Queens do. Duchesses do. Self-possessed, elegant, wise women of power and title do. Where’s THAT movie, Disney? I don’t think that transition is about a man defining my life. I think it stems from this concept that during the age of fairy tales, a young woman of princess age had her beauty and charm as her primary weapon and weakness. Becoming a queen has little to do with marriage and everything to do with owning and coming into your own power. It’s not that marriage magically bestows that, it’s the opposite:

You can’t successfully marry someone unless you’ve come into your own.

I’ve spent almost five years excavating strength through humility to uncover what kind of grown up I am. If I’m not what you expect, I’m happy to expand your horizons.  I just won’t apologize for it anymore. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Slap Bet: How Slapmas turned into Slapgagement (Plus, a video of the proposal!)

It’s November 30th, 2010. The love sac in Rachel and Montana’s apartment has become my nest on Tuesday nights.  Another episode of Glee has come and gone, along with the opportunity to confess I don’t really watch Glee. Brett and I are stragglers as usual and the conversation turns to wedding plans.

I can feel this bubbling undercurrent of anxiety, like acid that just hit simmer. Don’t. Panic. Why would I panic? Nothing’s wrong, right? I’m not planning this wedding because I’m in grad school. That has to take precedence. I mean, it’s just a wedding. A party. Why does the idea of a wedding make me start calculating bus ticket costs? I wonder what Canada is like…Wait, Montana is saying something to me…

“So how are you going to balance children and grad school? You know you’re getting knocked up on that honeymoon, right?”

….Come again for Big Fudge? “….what?” Rage. There’s a tiny Sarah in a circular, padded white room in my head that has stopped pacing and has fixed her animalistic kill gaze on Montana.

“I mean, as soon as you get married, you’re going to start popping out kids. That’s how it works.”

Flames. It’s like that scene where Cady leaps across the table in Mean Girls.

“What do you wanna bet, Montana? WHAT DO YOU WANNA BET I WON’T BE PREGNANT?”

From the corner, enter Brett Sprague, “Slap…bet…slap…bet….slap bet…slap bet…SLAP BET! SLAP! BET!”

I’m in. I’m SO in. Like I can’t control whether or not I get pregnant? Oh, Montana. You’ve made a terrible mistake today, my friend. It will cost you your face.

Brett decrees, “If Sarah Smith is not pregnant by December 1st, Two Thousand and Twelve, I hereby declare she gets to slap Matt Montana five times across the face at any times of her choosing, as spelled out by the laws of How I Met Your Mother”.

My hand juts out. “AGREED!”

Montana is hesitant. He insists he can’t slap a pregnant woman.  A hush falls over the room as we all contemplate comparable prizes. Then, Montana lifts his head. I know that look. It’s what I call his predator look. There’s a gleam that one usually only sees on Discovery, the thrill and fire of competition with just a hint of gleeful malice.

“I get to pick the middle name of the child”.

WOAH’s fill the room. Glances are exchanged. Tensions are high.

Brett says, “So, should Sarah become pregnant by December 1, 2012, Matt Montana gets to pick the middle name of the child”.

I should have thought about it. I should have. I’m a competitive, impulsive person, though, so my hand was shaking Matt’s before I could finish the simple syllable “done”.

Brett cries, “A GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT! HUZZAH!” and my fate is sealed. After some light banter, the name is decided:


Go ahead. Say it out loud. It sounds possessive. Sarah Zboobs Smith.

Woof. I don’t regret this. Let’s jump forward a bit, shall we?

(This is already going to be a long story full of little nuggets that will induce your gag reflex. If you need to fill in the gaps, check out the Happy Birthday, Gime post I wrote back in February. It will catch you up on the development of my friendship with Montana. Good? We clear? Okay).

Sometimes you don’t get married. Sometimes you show up at a Five Guys on the Upper West Side with no ring on your finger to tell your best friend about the horrific weekend you had calling off your wedding. Sometimes, we do that. Sometimes we don’t want to admit it’s a little more complicated than that.  Sometimes he chooses that moment to Kanye you and jump in.

“I’ma let you finish but I’ve got to say something to you and I’m afraid if I let you finish your story, I’ll be too scared or feel too guilty to say it. So I’m going to go first.”


If you don’t know Matthew Montana, it is important to note that he is a man of few words. Sparse words. I’m pretty sure the torrent force of his love life our first year of grad school was in many way propelled by the mystery he shrouded himself in. But I digress.

I got a five minute monologue. For Matt’s sake, I won’t reveal the whole thing but here’s some highlights:

“I’ve been in love with you since I first met you”

“I saw some kids with their parents in Central Park and I thought to myself I want that with Sarah. I want to you to be my family. Brett told me not to say that but I said it and I hope that doesn’t freak you out” (It did. And it didn’t. Which freaked me out more).

“I know we’re perfect for each other. You’re my best friend in the world. I think we should be together and I had to tell you while I had enough courage to do it. So that’s it”.

I don’t remember what I said at all. I remember reeling. Here are some thought highlights:

He said I love you. We’re not even dating. I was just engaged. This is too soon. But I love you too! WHAT? DON’T SAY THAT. I love you! Stop it. Did he say babies? Like a family? Zboobs? It’s too soon! Everyone will think you broke this off for him! Your relationship will be tainted! But I can’t wait! I NEED AN ADULT! WHY IS EVERYTHING SPINNNNNIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNG?!?!?!?! He’s perfect. We should make out. NO WE CANT DATE FOR A WHOLE YEAR.

We didn’t date right away…? (We kind of dated right away).  I ran away to St. Croix to see my grandparents and do some soul searching. I was kicking myself that no matter what I did, it all led back to being with him. So I threw caution to the wind and decided to just let it happen. We went on an incredible first date where he recreated the first night we met on a boat. What a charmer, that Matt Montana.

Did I say I threw caution to the wind? Almost. I think at the beginning of every relationship, one person is the gas and the other is the brakes. I was most definitely the brakes. Case and point: we’re sitting in Matthew’s apartment about a week after we’ve officially started dating. We’ve taken some big steps in our relationship (things move fast when you’re best friends and someone has already seen you ugly cry in your sweats with a box of Chinese food. Sue me). Matthew finds a nickel with two hands shaking on the back. He places it in my palm and says, “This nickel, which has clearly been chewed by a dog, has two hands shaking on the back. Keep it with you always as a binding symbol of our upcoming betrothal”.

I rub my eyes. The stress. “That is too soon, Matthew”. I put it in my wallet in a little zipper compartment to humor him. We’re lounging around and the Slap Bet comes up casually. What do we do? There’s only one person to turn to: our Slap Bet Commissioner.

“Sorry, guys, a bet is a bet. Slap bets are a binding contract”.
“You don’t think there’s a SERIOUS conflict of interest here?”
“That sounds like poor strategy on Montana’s part.”

Whoomp. There it is.

Jump forward with me, again. As we jump, take a look down to see a glorious relationship built on love, friendship, trust and respect. Beautiful, right? Land with me on November 30th, 2012.  I’ve made chocolate chip pancakes at Matthew’s apartment. These are his favorite. He settles in, takes a swig of coffee, rubs the cute little sprinkling of sleepy dust out of his eyes, lifts his fork and then his entire body stiffens.

“These pancakes spell SLAP”.

BECAUSE TOMORROW IS DECEMBER FIRST. TIS THE SEASON, MONTANA. GET READY FOR A VERY MERRY SLAPMAS!!!!!!!!!! This is my advent. It is glorious.  His head hits the table in gloom. I cackle gleefully and do a dance usually reserved for anticipation of Outback Steakhouse. That’s how happy I am. Steak happy.

The next morning is Slapmas, December 1st. Matthew is tense. His skin is crawling. He is a puffed up balloon of nerves I could pop with a pin. I watch three episodes of How I Met Your Mother, all containing slap bet antics. He makes me a beautiful fried egg with an S on it. For Sarah, Matthew? Or for SLAP?  HA! This isn’t funny. Why isn’t this funny?

“What is WRONG with you? You’re a grown ass man! I’m the size of a little girl. Have you never been hit in the face?”

“I don’t want to get slapped! I don’t know! What time are we meeting Josh Brown? Are you sure you don’t want to put on a dress? What about your purple sweater dress?”

“To slap you? Please. I’m not even going to straighten or curl my hair to slap you. We should head out as soon as I finish writing these lyrics. To the song I wrote. About slapping you.”

We spend a lovely afternoon with Josh Brown and his girlfriend, Caitlyn. Josh casually mentions that he’s never been to the high line. I tell him it’s one of my favorite places in the whole city! It’s a little cold but we should totally check it out!

As I skip along, I begin chirping about our good friend Sam whom we drove bananas the first year of grad school. I’m describing his beautiful West End penthouse as we approach the entrance to the high line and we see…Sam?

“Sam! We were just talking about you! What are you…wait…what?” Sam has a bouquet of purple anemones. These are the flowers Matthew got me for Valentine’s Day. Nobody knows that they’re Matthew’s flowers for me except Matthew. He’s also holding our French piggy bank. We made him on our first anniversary to keep change to save up for our second anniversary because we’re actors and we’re poor. Things are spinning. He’s proposing. This is happening. This is happening now.

We walk up the stairs to the high line where we are greeted by the Montanas. After hugs, Cynthia pulls out a penny and asks Matthew, “Penny for your thoughts?” (This is my code word. I always say “Penny?” when I want to know what someone is thinking). Matthew gives reasons he loves me. I’m overwhelmed. I’m floored. I’m all of the things. Doing the most. Big Poppy (yes, this is how I refer to Matt’s father in my head. It’s a story) also has a penny to procure MORE reasons. We kiss and we’re off again.

It turns out he has planted people I love all along the high line to do this exact thing. It is a cheering squad of people I love and who love us. I am greeted by friends from Elementary, Middle, High School, JMU, MSM, the real world and my family every step of the way towards the biggest decision I’ll ever make.  It is perfection. It speaks to how well this man knows my heart because he knows the connections I forge with people are the most precious thing in the world. He knows that once I’ve figured out he’s proposing, I’ll need approximately forty minutes to calm down. He also knows he’s the person who can calm me down the best.

When we reach the end of the high line, he takes the piggy bank and gives me a wonderful speech neither of us remember about our life together. Then, he asks me for the nickel.
Sweet. Merciful. Crap. I DO have the nickel! It’s in my wallet!!!! I pull it out and put it in the piggy bank. He flips it, pulls out the stopper and pulls out a little velvet bag with a ring in it. Now the ring is in a box…a fancy box with a light! I can’t breathe. I’m so excited. We’re getting married and HOLY MOTHER THIS RING IS PERFECT! We kiss and kiss. I can't cry because I'm too excited. I didn't think I would be this excited!

After that, Matthew whisks me over to Chelsea Piers to meet MORE family and friends. We toast at the bar and all head out to a dinner cruise around Manhattan. Just like the cruise where we first met. Just like the boat where we drank Thug Passion at sunset for our first date. This night is perfect. He is perfect. After dinner and a lot of dancing, we go up to the roof to drink it all in.  

I fell in love with this skyline when I was a kid. We would pass over the Verrazano bridge, Mom blasting Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind”, never touching down on the way to visit her relatives on Long Island. It’s the skyline that made me believe adventures were possible.  It’s the skyline that renewed my hope that there was a whole world to explore after Mom and Jim died. That skyline was the backdrop for the first conversation I ever had with the man who will now be my husband. I look out at my skyline and I feel something shift. No, I am aware of something that already shifted, perhaps, but a feeling I have no ability to place.

Here’s something most women won’t tell you: we don’t actually love “happy endings”. At least, happy ending isn’t really the right term. It’s sort of a misnomer.

I have been restless my entire life. I have pushed, scrambled, kicked and pummeled my way through milestone after milestone in pursuit of something I couldn’t even name. I thought anxiety was the fuel I needed to get me where I needed to go, even though I had no idea what that meant beyond “greatness”.

As I stood on the deck of that boat, I felt peace for the first time in my entire life. That perfect moment of synchronicity when you’re suddenly exactly where you were always supposed to be.  This was supposed to be my happy ending but I was overwhelmed by limitless possibilities. What will I be capable of if I’m actually at peace?  I suddenly felt that I wasn’t chasing after life’s meaning. I had it. I had him. I had me. Now, I had the rest of my life to gleefully, voraciously explore without fear of failure. Standing on that boat, failure was the only thing that was truly impossible.

That peace, that freedom, that moment is what makes our hearts skip a beat when we’re little girls: the hope someday life will be a grand adventure instead of a desperate search. Fairy tales are about women with the odds stacked against them, full of hope and struggling to get by until life asks them a big question.  I’m not saying that’s a person, a thing or an achievement. It’s a moment we won’t know until we truly confront ourselves. It’s a moment we lay the ground work for one bit of excruciating, exquisite honesty at a time so that when life throws you a tremendous opportunity, you know your yes.

Matthew is my yes. I’ve looked at him and felt he was mine and I was his longer than I allowed myself to know it. Every day of loving him teaches me how to be fearless. It allows me to love everyone I come in contact with a little more genuinely. If that’s all greatness I ever obtain, well, isn’t that all the greatness there is to obtain? To be one of the lights and to see what love begets?

I know what you’re wondering.

I still slapped him. It was a perfect night.

…That’s not to say perfect means “according to plan”. Sure, there was the Korean bride who asked us to be in her wedding pictures. There was the surly park ranger who appeared numerous times to tell us that the park was closing soon. There was DGon. Oh, DGon. I love you so hard.

DGon was so excited to be a part of this proposal that he started celebrating that afternoon. By the time he reached the high line he was…drunk.  He found his way past everyone to the end where he delivered an epic speech about seagulls and chestacles (this is a long and involved story about a poem he wrote in 8th grade and a choir trip where he created the greatest awkward moment Blue Man Group has known).  These are the parts that make this proposal nothing short of epic.

That being said, it’s time to see for yourself! Put in some headphones to enjoy all of Sam’s whispered narration and to desperately try to hear what we’re saying above the cacophony of NYC. Try to see if you can spot the following:
-         - The Korean Bride getting ready before she approaches us
-          -DGon wandering past the Montanas and the Smiths
-          -Who is that mystery girl DGon is talking to? No, seriously, I still don’t know.
-          -Matthew trying to take credit for the purple lighting
-          -A woodland romp
-          -The surly park ranger’s multiple warnings
-          -Someone who surprised Matthew! (Besides DGon)
-          -Allison before she runs up behind us

These are some highlights. Also, for the faint of heart, be warned that there are a LOT of F-bombs in DGon’s speech. I would edit them out but….no. No, I guess I won’t because I didn’t. Because it happened and it was HILARIOUS. Besides, we live in a culture where this won’t be the first time or the last time you hear that word and it won’t kill you. There’s also some photos set to music so no matter who you are, your sensibilities and taste will be offended! Huzzah!

And now….for your viewing pleasure…a highlights reel of….Slapgagement: The Proposal!

Friday, May 31, 2013

To the 2013 Graduating Class of James Madison University:

Dear James Madison University Class of 2013,

It’s been a few weeks since graduation. The celebration is slowly ending, you’ve given yourself a break and it’s possible that the panic of the real world feels like it’s closing in like a crushing, mystical fog.  Don’t worry. I have now spent as much time in the “real world” as I did in Harrisonburg. There was a blog post last year about how the rest of your life is going to be terrible after JMU. I’m here to tell you that you’re going to be fine.  You are to be congratulated for graduating from the greatest university in the country.

I know.  If someone had said this to me four years ago, I would have scoffed. I was filled with some impending dread that the real world was hovering and I hadn’t attended an ivy league school or intensive music conservatory. At the time, our frequent boast was that JMU was ranked number six for campus food in the country. This claim to fame suddenly seemed hollow as I was completing a resume. I couldn’t picture future employers and casting directors saying, “She was so happy and well-fed! A STAR IS BORN!” Though, to be fair, had they experienced Buffalo Mash, I could have been the Aladdin to their Jasmine, leading them to a whole new world of culinary bliss. But I digress.

Eighteen year old Sarah was a genius. I was accepted to a very prestigious music conservatory. My visit was filled with speeches about competition, drive and glory. It was cold, gray and everyone appeared manic from paranoia or bravado.  A few weeks later, John Kownacki led me skipping through JMU’s campus on the kind of perfect, Shenandoah spring day they don’t make in other states (the quad…you saucy minx! Your siren call beckons still, years later!) and I fell in love with the people I saw. They were happy, confident and friendly. So. Friendly. Mr. Kingett, after having a door held open one weekend said, “This place is like Disney World with alcohol”. Very astute, Mr. Kingett.

As an adult, I can’t believe I had the foresight to invest in the right life as a high school senior. Here were two distinct paths: the cut-throat conservatory life that was supposed to guarantee a brilliant musical career and this small, unknown university filled with relentless, effervescent drive to build community. Community. Blech. That word feels so corporate and pallid, like “synergy” or “flow”. What we built at JMU was a tribe.

My whole family came to move me into Potomac Hall my freshman year. Beaming faces in brighter yellow t-shirts greeted us at every turn. Students gave up pieces of their summer vacation to help move freshmen into dorms so quickly that I can’t say with confidence I touched a single box as it moved from van to room. When we say we bleed purple and gold it may just be a reference to the deluge of color t-shirts that swarms and overwhelms like a cicada invasion. Nay, a frog invasion, for that’s what our FReshman Orientation Guides were called (this is still a bit thin, guys. We can find an R). Then, we all filed tentatively into the Convo Center for the Frog Dance life hadn’t prepared us for. Hundreds of college kids who were supposed to be cooler than me decided that without dignity, there was no shame. Justin Timberlake and Usher blared, lights raved, choreographed dance moves abounded and the place was electric. I say electric because you were either energized or terrified that you’d suddenly found yourself in that summer camp from The Addams Family Values.

My brother’s eyes were wide as saucers, shimmering with a wild energy that usually led to a night of blue and red lights or nonsexual nudity. “THIS IS PARADISE! I HAVE FOUND IT! Henceforth, I will let nothing stop me from being a part of this magical place!” He then high-fived a FROG who thought he was a freshman and Jim told him he loved him. My parents shoved Jim into the car like he was Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans, screaming, “I WILL FIND YOU (JMU)! NO MATTER HOW FAR!” I can’t say with confidence who was more devastated to be pulling away from campus: my mother leaving her first-born child and only daughter or Jim leaving JMU. No, no, wait. I’m pretty sure it was Jim. Jim was more devastated.

The FROG experience was the tip of the iceberg. If you’ll let it, JMU will grab you by the hand and pull you into a tribe that will love you unconditionally and, most importantly, specifically. It is not a place that says “We love each other because we’re people in a community and we have to”. It is not a place that says “Look to your left and right. This is your competition”. This is a tribe of people dedicated to the idea that the most important thing you can do is “be the change you want to see in the world”.

This is the most important thing I learned at JMU. You cannot change the world. That belies an arrogance, a God-complex, an ego that will ultimately lead to destruction. Your life doesn’t come to fruition with an accomplishment. Change is not a moment. Your life is not a moment. Your life is a state of being, a state of good you are building that is inextricable from your tribe.

It’s stronger than “friend” or even “family”.  It’s a web of lives connected by something deeper than school spirit. At JMU, I invested in people. I learned how to love everyone by getting specific. In a small space with little anonymity, we can either throw up walls or we can learn that every person we encounter, if we dig, has something valuable to offer. There is something in them that doesn’t just make me better, it contributes to the tribe of us that are striving to achieve a better way to exist and coexist.  The coolest kids on campus were, in a word, involved. Most campuses revere their athletes but we loved our ambassadors.

During Christmas break of my senior year, someone broke into my home and murdered Jim and my mother. A lot of people didn’t expect me to return to school immediately but I couldn’t imagine being anywhere but with my tribe.  With Jim’s tribe. In the darkest times, a real tribe bands together and knows that your pain is their pain and their strength is your strength. Sometime while my head was spinning, my people moved my apartment, contacted counselors, fixed my schedule, threw parties, organized A Cappella benefit concerts but most importantly never ever let a moment go by where I felt like I had lost everything. My tribe reminded me at every turn that the bigger we are, the stronger we stand. The deeper we love, the bigger we build. When devastation rips those we love from us, it’s only by investing and building in love that we mitigate the loss. Somewhere, amidst the sorting of emotional debris and the reassignment of values, my tribe taught me that love was my purpose. Being the change I want to see means living together honestly, loyally and fiercely as one.

After JMU, I went to a fancy-schmancy conservatory to get my masters in music. My tribe came with me. They grounded me in a big city where people can crumble from loneliness and vicious competition. Months go by and someone has a concert, a promotion, an event or even just a guest and it’s as if Ron Burgundy has yelled “NEWS TEAM! ASSEMBLE!” My fiancé is overwhelmed by it. “I’d never even heard of JMU and these people are everywhere!” We’re not big but we are fiercely present. Knowing that we have this makes it possible to do the impossible. I’m proud of the friends who are on Broadway, National Tours, Wall Street and attend Columbia and NYU. I’m equally proud of the people who came to NYC with one goal and suddenly found themselves counseling, DJing, building businesses and rising to management positions on new adventures. I’m equally proud of my tribe all over the country starting churches, going to graduate school, writing blogs and having babies.  (I just got off the phone with a friend I haven’t spoken to in years from JMU who has a masters, a marriage, a baby and a house and said, “I’d love to keep talking but I have to go tile my kitchen floor” We also talked about our friend who is a happy hipster nomad. There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s). 

I think about our tribe right now and I realize none of us are sinking or trapped. We won’t let each other. We turn to each other and say “You are amazing and I love you and I want to slap you for not being awesome right now!” Then, we do it. We are awesome. We applaud the awesome even when it’s not our type of awesome. I feel loved when I know YOU don’t like contemporary classical vocal music but you were willing to come to a recital at Lincoln Center put on by two Dukes because that’s what we do in this tribe. I cried when I saw my best friend and roommate in Newsies. I cried when I saw my best friend in Jersey Boys. I didn’t cry when I saw Book of Mormon because it was too funny. I wept openly to the concern of audience members around me at the first two because I was SO. HAPPY. I was up there with them as they are there with me. Their strength is my strength, my joy is their joy. It’s that simple. And it’s what life is really about.

You don’t have to go far to get a lecture on what a terrible country our generation is receiving. The idea of rehashing that sends my body into conniptions because it’s not sure whether to vomit or roll my eyes so far back into my head that I retain some permanent “Children of the Damned” look. I’m annoyed because I don’t think we’re that destitute.  I’m convinced that we’re the solution.

There’s got to be a more eloquent way to say this but the American Dream is just a stupid joke with a devastating punch line. I’ve met a lot of very “successful” people with nothing but screaming behind their eyes. That, or a terrifying blank space. Take a step back. Doesn’t being a part of 1% just sound really f*&king lonely? Why on earth did our parents beat into our brains that a career would fulfill a sense of purpose? I’m not just talking about the parents who forced us to be doctors and lawyers, I’m talking about the parents who forced us to be performers instead of artists. The generation ahead of us who told us to get something instead of build something. As if life and achievement were about grabbing a limited spot at the top. As if we’d get a promotion, a role, an opportunity and then life would plateau into some white, boring, cruise control of pleasantness.

You know better. You know that you’re not seeking to change things, you want to BE change. Dukes know that building a life is kinetic, people-centric  work. You know your life is about others. You are creators, connectors, innovators. You’re not afraid to say, “I was supposed to want this thing over here. It was supposed to make me happy. It doesn’t seem very important somehow. Let’s create a new adventure and let’s start by figuring out what’s truly valuable”. You’re not afraid because you know you’re never, ever going to be alone.

I have news for the non-Dukes. That right-winged nut job on your news feed talking about abortion mills with their AK-47 in hand? That communist, Obama-loving, left wing hippie who thinks we should let kids pick their own names? They’re a part of your tribe. They contain something beautiful. They are a change YOU need in order to build something greater than yourself. Sorry, Oprah-fans, but you are not enough. You can’t do this alone. You don’t have all the answers. Does anyone accomplish anything alone short of havoc?  This foolish pride and prejudice is a depletion of our greatest resource and it’s of far greater concern to me than any other kind of sustainability.

I have MORE news for non-Dukes. You went to a school like JMU. You were raised by people who taught you how to love fiercely and specifically. You dare to be awesome. We want you. We’re adopting you. We are not an exclusive club. We do it every day and we’re excited about it. When we find the people who love the spark, live for connection and for each other, we grab you and we don’t let you go. We know we need you to build something better and we’re fired up about it.

It’s time to love by being specific. We don’t love everyone because they are people. Try as we might to be good people, it’s not compelling enough to be a real catalyst. We love each person because we take the time to find the spark and then we throw all we have into actually igniting something.

I think about the JMU commons all the time. A tiny courtyard where an uninvited preacher could spew sermons about the sexual abominations of our generation right next to a Gay? Fine By Me table and a Women’s Rights campaign. A place where multi-cultural fairs were celebrated without riots, all sorts of religious and political groups could recruit and there was none of the visceral, hate-filled word vomit that dominates our news networks. It wasn’t NYC where everyone turns their head the other way and opinions in public make it possible to confuse you with the homeless. She could join CRU and he could join LGBT and we could all go grab a table at DHall together. And seriously, the Buffalo Mash was incredible.

Sure, it’s idealistic. Sure, we live in a giant bubble at JMU. I don’t think it’s unrealistic if we continue to approach the world with the mentality that you and I are in this together. Your strength is my strength and my pain is your pain.

You’re scared. Yes, you need a job. Yes, this is a terrible economy. Unlike your parents and the New Yorker, I’m not frightened for you. You're not going to make the change, you are going to be the change. You are going to build a life, a country and a better world because you started by building a tribe. We’re already out here and we’re excited for you to be a part of it. It's hard work and we're not there yet. We need you here. And this is why:

There are people out there who need to know they’re not alone, need to know they’re valued so that they stop destroying classrooms of children, breaking into homes and murdering families or even leaving a wake of emotional destruction just to get noticed. There are people being labeled and abandoned because no one will take the time show them what they have that sparks, what they have to contribute.

You’re a Duke. You would never relish in a fellow Duke’s demise because it doesn’t just diminish your degree, it diminishes you by extension. You come from a school with a mission statement focused on building global community one student at a time. All Together One. You’re going to go out there and let everyone know that we need them specifically to be a part of something great. Even if that something great is just a society where lives are measured by the size of their tribe and the beautiful intangibles instead of long resumes and cold assets.

You don’t know me but I already count you as mine. I can’t wait to see what we build together.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Poetry Reflections: Subway Edition

Here's a poem I wrote on the subway. It was inspired by the modern transportation poetry they post on billboards.

Here it is:

Modern poetry seems
to me
like a middle school dictation class
with Christopher Walken
William Shatner
where the kids are
to hit the enter
for every long
the kids hands are

I know, guys. I missed my calling.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Let them eat pie!" That's totally how that goes...right?

In a feat of superhuman strength, Matt and I made it from St. Croix to NYC to Manassas, VA in an eighteen hour turnaround to go to a tasting and expo at our wedding venue. Given the uncertain nature of our schedules, there’s no guaranteeing we will have another opportunity to go visit again before we are backhanding each other with frosting and squeezing each other’s hands through slurred, unprompted toasts. It was imperative we get to Virginia and start gathering intel for Operation: Wedding.

You can pinterest your wedding all day long and in the heat of the moment, some decisions will still come as a surprise. The strongest example for me?

Wedding Pie.

It is impossible to oversell my love of pie. Oh, what kind, you ask? What is this, amateur hour? ALL OF IT. I love PIE. The miracle of sweet, tangy key limes juiced to perfection, floating delicately above compressed graham cracker crumbs all whilst kissing a small, puffy cloud of creamy, sugary heaven? Give it. Rich molasses enveloping hearty pecans so delicious nobody cares how they’re pronounced, bursting against the confines of buttery, flaky golden crust? Bring it. Schnazzberry and rhubarb? I’ll gleefully devour seconds whilst wearing your silly purple top hat, Mr. Wonka. Pie isn’t afraid to transcend borders and stake out new territory, either. Chicken pot pie. Shepherd’s pie. PIZZA pie. Everyone loves pizza. Chicken pot cobbler? Pizza cake? I’d gag but my head already exploded trying to conceive of such vulgarity. I think you get it.

 I have never been one of those girls who planned her wedding. The only thing I nailed down from an early age was that I would have wedding pie instead of cake. It has been literally the only detail I cared to plan. Tiers of wedding pies with unlimited choice for my guests! Pies on pies on pies! Pies in a house with a mouse, on a boat with a goat with nary a cake to be seen!

I’m just not a huge cake fan. When people pass it out at birthday parties, I take the smallest piece possible out of obligation. It’s all just…sugary bread with no flavor jazzed up with a chance to eat some annoying cartoon character’s face (face it, gleefully chewing Dora’s face so she can’t ask you another insipid question is MOST gratifying. I’ll tell you which way to go: MY STOMACH). Celebratory cake almost never blows my mind (Two exceptions: My Nannie’s lemon pound cake and Cynthia Montana’s chocolate mint cake. Nannie’s lemon pound cake was so good, one year my grandma tried to replicate it. Cheers of “NANNIE CAKE!” quickly subsided into sputtering crumbs and shrieks of disdain. The masses knew an impostor when it crossed their lips). Bottom line: the best cake is just…cake. The worst pie still pile-drives it into the ground for me.

We’re at the expo trying different bakeries samples and my stepmother is graciously asking every baffled vendor if wedding pie is a possibility. The best suggestion? “We could maybe make a cake that was like a pie!” I just…fail to see how that’s not a cake. Or how a bakery could be so confused about the concept of pie.

Here’s my Marie Antionette moment:  everybody else likes cake but me…so let them eat cake. Cake is classy. Somehow, it became the desert of celebration and pie became the desert of holidays. I can respect that, sort of an Apple vs PC situation.  Some jagaloons even look forward to cake at a wedding. It’s one of the comforts in this pinterest-crazy, themed wedding world we live in. Think about the INSANITY we’re subjecting people to at weddings now.  “I wasn’t sure where I was after that slam-poetry reading of Mumford lyrics at the ceremony… or after sitting on a bale of hay for an hour while they passed out mason jars filled with homemade pickle juice, whiskey and condescension at cocktail hour but…this is definitely a wedding! There’s CAKE!” I can’t ask my closest friends and family to vow to support our marriage without giving them a piece of cake or it’s doesn’t feel official.

I may be a bride who loves pie but this isn’t “my day”.  It’s about family.

I do not have the luxury of believing our family in this world comprises only those given to us by birth. I shook that notion like so much dust from my feet years ago. It’s at weddings and funerals that we see the bond like so many silk threads connecting us inseparably and inexplicably. The deceptive plateaus of time between extremes can allow us to delude ourselves that the connection has been worn away by distance and neglect but it’s never true. We thread and weave new members into our family with every passing year and their joys and trials send ripples of energy through every strand. We are all affected by even the tangential connections. Its touch lets us know we’ve transcended into family; that our lives are no longer merely anecdotal to one another but experienced together. Matthew understands the finality and implications of becoming my family. We are now openly inviting people to join or reaffirm that connection.

Every guest who RSVP’s attending will be entering into that covenant with us. I hold that covenant close to my heart, closer than…dare I say it…pie.  Our guests vow to shine the light that guides us home to each other when we veer off course, to cover our ears from the siren calls of the world that want to watch us dash apart against the rocks. So many marriages are falling apart around us these days. I don’t think it’s harder to be married. I think somewhere along the line we convinced ourselves that marriage meant one person should be our “everything”, “the one”, “MY WORLD” instead of asking someone to be our PERSON: our best partner amongst a wonderful, ever-expanding  network of people.  Two threads in a web intertwined for strength, knowing that without the whole web they’ll be blown about in the wind.

If you’re at our wedding, you’re a part of us. You’re connected to us forever. Your highs and lows are ours and vice versa. We will feel them rippling towards us, heedless of the confines of time and space, because we are family.

That’s a lot to ask of anyone. The least I owe you is a piece of stupid cake.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

St. Croix-Vey

I’m sitting in San Juan willing myself not to eat five “gourmet hot dogs” while I sit out my two hour layover waiting for my fiancé. I haven’t had one yet but one always leads to five with hot dogs. Hot dogs should also only be consumed in almost inhumanly industrialized places because they are already inherently disgusting. I don’t like to think about what goes into a hot dog but if in New York City it’s probably 20% pigeon, 15% rat, 30% homeless man’s boot and 35% meat we typically eat, I don’t like to take my chances in places that recognize meats as “typical” that I do not. That’s not racist, it’s just a preference.

This is also a big deal because I’m hungry but recently experienced a betrayal of trust by my body so great, I’m considering divorcing it. Let me backtrack.

My grandparents moved to St. Croix a few years ago. I’ve been down to visit them once on one of my famous “everything-just-fell-apart-it-worked-in-Eat-Pray-Love-so-maybe-it-will-fix-my-life” trips. My graduation present was supposed to be a round-trip ticket but post-school calendars in New York are a black hole. You have nothing scheduled but you tell yourself, “the week I leave for vacation there will be a million auditions, I would have booked ALL of them but missed my window and I’ll officially be a cocktail waitress forever. With a masters. And a hole where my dreams were”.  At some point, you have to jump, seize any and all opportunities and just decide to be happy. The deep irony in this is that then, you book jobs!

I picked a week and tickets were so cheap, my grandparents were able to purchase two tickets for the price of one, meaning Matt could join me! Tickets were SO cheap that after a bottle of wine, a close friend decided it was time to redeem her standing invitation with my grandparents and join us. DOUBLE RAINBOWS ACROSS THE SKY!

Funny thing about St. Croix: they drive on the opposite side of the road. Not in a British “our cars match our backwards road, like ya do, guvnah” way but in a “Here’s a totally American car. Now do everything backwards” way. Tourists are the second worst at adapting to this. You know who’s the worst? Drunk tourists.

Choosing a ditch over said drunk tourist was noble of my grandpa, but it resulted in a fractured arm and hip. The best surgical option meant a six week return to Virginia just days before our arrival.

So reschedule the flight, right? Wrong. Your fiancé is a performer whose ticket is from his recent Florida gig. This would require a one-way ticket home out of your price range and another ticket to Florida at some point when rescheduling. Also, your best friend is a DJ who already took the time off work and is using her only other free-time this year for your wedding. However, your trip was supposed to be to visit your grandparents. So, do you want the bagel with lox and guilt or the cinnamon-raisin bagel with unsalted guilt-butter? Oh, also, the bagel is made of seven grain disappointment.

The logical conclusion was to go to St. Croix anyway, check in on the house and enjoy our vacation. Just the three of us. When Matt’s cast mate found out we’d be in St. Croix for a week he gave us an uplifiting, sarcastic toast:

“I don’t hope you get dysentery. At all”.


I won’t divulge the perfection that was our first day on the island. I don’t have to tell you how the resplendent blue sky was only outmatched in beauty by the crystalline, turquoise seas. I don’t have to tell my Manhattan friends how we chortled with rum drinks in one hand, bobbing in coquettish waves when we learned you were being impaled by a hail storm. I won’t tell you any of that because trust me, we got our come-uppance.

Oh, we got our come-uppance. Uppance came and settled in for a nice, long blanket party. *For those who don’t know, a blanket party is an old-school tradition of throwing a blanket over someone’s head and beating them with a bat. **I don’t know if that’s an old school tradition, I just know it’s something my Pop Pop said. Then again, he served twenty plus years in the military, grew up in Brooklyn and has detailed the uncomfortably short number of steps it would take him to kill a man with his pinky.

I’ll spare you most of the details because no matter how funny Tina Fey is, it’s still a little weird for girls to talk about stomach things.

I told my soon-to-be-mother-in-law about the bug and she said, “Oh, that must have been really hard for him because we never get sick”.  I have come to learn, over time, that sometime in the next forty years, I will be procreating with a direct descendent of Hercules. I wish I meant this sarcastically.

They’re all tan. They have impossibly white teeth. They have perfect eyesight. They never get sick. When they don’t work out, they get tinier. When they do work out, they get eight packs. Every generation,  when the offspring turn eighteen, they are given the same choice as Hercules at the end of Disney’s infallibly, mythologically accurate rendering of the famous hero:

You may drink this elixir and join your god-like relatives on Mount Olympus or stay behind for love.

I’m Megara. I greet most situations with inappropriate humor like I’m in a bad film noir. I am friends with many shady, annoying little monsters who work for Hades to varying degrees. I have a dark, pain-filled past that makes people uncomfortable. I have shockingly round hips considering how much more shockingly small my waist is. I secretly think if I learned to swing my hips instead of spazzing all over like a kid who snorted pixie sticks*, I would be UNSTOPPABLE.

I take that back. I still look sixteen.

If I learned to swing my hips like Megara, in ten years and no kids, I COULD be unstoppable.

This metaphor has gotten away from me.

In any case, Matt has clearly chosen the mortal life with me. This denial of deity status means he is unaccustomed to what happens to a person when they get sick. And as they say, practice makes perfect.

Kids…(sometimes, in my head, I’m Bob Saget on How I Met Your Mother. Or Full House. Either way, approaching life-obstacles takes on this calm, acoustic guitar accompanied narrative for me)… when you agree to marry someone, you realize there will be certain milestones that will eviscerate you and your partner ruthlessly until seeing each other as beautiful, attractive beings becomes IMPOSSIBLE for a few days (Full House ep. 502, no? No. Got it). A stomach bug is DEFINITELY one of those milestones. It reveals some crucial points about how you and your partner handle vulnerability.

Our quaint, mountain-top beach house turned into that stomach scene from Alien in the wee hours of the morning. My best friend was also in agony but I only became aware of this after I’d finished attending to Matt. Because I was JOLTED out of sleep several times by his needs.

Close your eyes. Imagine a lost Velociraptor frantically asking a triceratops for directions. They don’t speak the same language and the raptor’s frustration takes his tone from hint of panic to tempestuous font of sputtering rage. (Sputtering. Too soon.) Now, picture a large jungle cat trying to hock up a kazoo it accidentally swallowed.

This is the range of noises Matt makes when he vomits. Is it possible to teach someone how to toss their cookies more productively and silently? For the sake of our marriage, I pray to God, yes. This is what premarital counseling is really for.

I have a history of being codependent. I want to help even when my help is not only unnecessary, it’s a flat-out hindrance. When the sound of Matt’s turmoil echoed down the hall, I sprung to action. I stroked hair, whispered reassurances and backed up when I was promptly told to. Matt deals with uncomfortable vulnerability by turning into a totally cranky superior called Jerkface Bossypants. It’s HILARIOUS. I need you to hear all these phrases as if said in Christian Bale’s Batman Voice. Or just Christian Bale’s Batman if that helps.
-          Don’t touch me. GO away.
-          Hold me. No, I don’t want to go back to bed. Hold me on the bathroom floor.
-          STOP TOUCHING ME.
-          Scratch my head.

After each episode, Jerkface Bossypants demanded I let him be the little spoon on the bathroom floor so he could fall asleep. Then, he would shove me off of him at some point and I would roll over. I would float somewhere between sleep and consciousness when I heard tiny moans as if they were coming in over a baby monitor. Then, I would literally be SHOVED awake when he was about to lose it again. This would have made me mad if I wouldn’t have been more offended to be startled awake by his scream-puking. Scruking? (He says he only shoved me awake because I asked him to. This is absolutely true). This happened EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR. Like clockwork. By sunrise, I was a new woman with a new perspective on my impending marriage.

I would also be met with obstinate pouting as soon as I “suggested” things like “water” or “a fever reducer”. He would cave under great duress.  There was grunt-whining. This was NOT something that ever happened to descendants of Hercules. Ever. I heard innumerable times how he never gets sick because he hates being sick. I stifled jokes about how millions of American put this at the top of their New Year’s Resolutions (“This year, I need to get totally laid out and remember how disgusting it is to be a human. I just want to know I’m ALIVE”, said no one ever). I finally got him to a place of clear fluids and sleep. Then, around 4 PM…
My time had come.

I do NOT handle vulnerability as openly as my husband to be. I do not. I turn into Christina Aguilera at the beginning of Beautiful: “DON’T LOOK AT ME!!!!” Here, I so happily Florence Nightingale’d myself into his situation and when my time came, I did everything short of throw things at him to get him to leave the room. “I don’t want you to see me like this!” “You’ll never be attracted to me again!” I screamed Jo Jo lyrics (“Get out ‘LEAVE’, Stay out”) at him like I was in the end of Act One of August: Osage County.

All the while, apparently, I looked like I was waiting for someone to break into my house. The down side to anime eyes is that when you’re pale, sweaty and about to lose it I look like Gollum sans-precious. So yes, I am totes adorbs when I’m sick.

The upside to my experience was that I have weathered this storm before. I would not go down. I know how to let the Bronx rumble until it all comes out once. I’d spent the last night as Cersei in the Sparrow’s Prison being poked awake every hour to the point of insanity (the show is highly rated, so I read the books. Sue me.) I would not do it again! Thanks to some terribly bad TV, I slept for twelve hours with only one horrific visit. At the end, I managed a guttural laugh because I was so shamed and terrified of my own body. But I made it. I didn’t go through it over and over and when push comes to shove, I started a day late and am crossing the health ribbon a day sooner than my comrades. Professional sick person.

So as I sit here, waiting for Matt to board a plane from St. Croix to San Juan, nibbling my cuticles instead of hot dogs, I can’t help but wonder:

If I can normally be so emotionally open, why did I eat Matt’s dust in this vulnerability contest?

He was a little bummed (see what I did there?) that I wouldn’t let him be there for me like I was for him. He has absolutely every right to feel that way. No, that’s something condescending people say when they’re not really sorry or they don’t agree with you but know that feelings are never “wrong” so… here’s some verbal candy. He doesn’t have every right to feel that way...he’s right. I have some theories.

I know there’s nothing Matt could do that would make me stop being attracted to him. Gain weight, lose weight, lose all his hair and teeth (I KNOW! HE WON’T! HERCULES GENES!) I would still think he was incredibly sexy.

“But why wouldn’t you assume that works both ways?”

This is not the cue for a feminist rant but it’s the remnants of sexism that I realized infect my brain. I don’t have anything but perfectly normal feelings about my body. I have photo-shopped proof for work that I’m a beautiful girl and I can biddie up with the best of them (her name is Briana Marcantoni, by the by). Sure, the occasional H&M fluorescent dressing room lighting can send me into heaving sobs but that’s just because they’re designed to make Kristen Stewart’s pinky look great in a sack dress. In general, I am proud to be a beautiful girlie girl.

I’m doubly proud to be one of the guys.  I can smack talk your terrible Fantasy Football lineup with a whiskey in one hand sounding like Vince Vaughan pens my daily scripts. I get guy humor. I LOVE guy humor.  I’m also aware that MY guy humor has to come from the double standard vantage point of being witty and above it all but NOT a participant.

I grew up with brothers. They didn’t operate under any delusions that girls don’t do certain things. However, they’ve never hid their genuine disgust. One time, at a desperation point because none of the men in my family would wear clothes, I came downstairs in underwear and a tank top. The deluge of screams would have belied a robbery. I thought I was going to have to grab the smelling salts (we’re from the south so some relative definitely has them). Who knew I was raised with such delicate flowers? I casually sipped my water, slammed my glass in the sink and said “THIS IS HOW I FEEL WHEN YOU WALK AROUND IN YOUR BOXERS! PUT. ON. PANTS. NOWANDFOREVER”.

It didn’t work.

The point is, I was shocked at how even boys raised with girls see a clear line in the sand on what’s gross for girls to do but acceptable for guys to do. For whatever reason, girls grow up knowing boys are disgusting but we miraculously rise above. Guys grow up to have their Disney Princess Paradigm shattered when they have firsthand evidence that girls do “gross things”.

 I’m 90% sure any crime committed during a stomach bug is one of these gross things.  I’ve seen the look as the glass shatters. I’m too young and too hot for the unsexification to begin! I’m getting MARRIED.  My body needs to remain a beautiful place of mystery, rainbows and unicorns for as long as possible.

That means my fiancé can’t see me go through a stomach bug. Not the puking, sweats or anything else. He can see me adorably drunk vomit on a tree on the rare occasion it comes to that. And that’s it. And I can scratch his back and laugh at his raptor sounds. Because he’s a boy and I’m a girl. It’s totally sexist. If sexism remains, I will bend it to my advantage.

And this is one of the things I learned in St. Croix.

PS: I just found out Matt rode in a six person plane to San Juan and got to sit in the co-pilot seat. He totally sucks.

*My original metaphor involved Honey Boo Boo. Matt locked eyes with me intensely and said, “Don’t you EVER compare yourself to Honey Boo Boo”. I’ll never know if this means raising or lowering my standards.