I was 12 when I found out. My stepsister hurled it at me during a fight: “At least I’m not adopted,” she retorted after I called her a four-eyed idiot. My real mother died when I was six, and the fact that I now had a stepmother didn’t mean I was adopted.
“You really are a blockhead,” I laughed “if you think I’m going to fall for that one.”
However, I soon learned the four-eyed idiot was right. I was indeed adopted. I had been given up as an infant. And worse, no one had ever told me.
“I thought your mother told you,” my father responded when I asked him if it was true.
The news left me feeling vulnerable and reminded me of a time when I was four, shopping with my mother at JC Penney’s. She was looking for a dress.I ducked under a waterfall of polka dots and paisleys and hid in the center of the circular rack – only to become frightened and reemerged, grabbing on to the familiarity of my mother’s legs — except they weren’t her legs; they were the legs of a stranger, but for a few seconds I was betrayed by a false sense of reality. Here I was again, hugging onto the legs of a stranger—completely unaware — and deceived for nearly 12 years by the same false sense of reality. Keep reading »
My parents got divorced when I was almost too young to remember. I carry only brief images of the time surrounding their divorce. My mother, in a red dress with polka dots, kneeling down to meet me at my level as I squirm in a chair, legs swinging above the floor. “I’m going away for a little bit,” she says. “I’ll see you soon.” Our new house in New York is full of books and my grandma is there and my father stretches the phone cord taut so he can sit on the steps to the basement and argue with my mother in California, 3000 miles away.
The details of the event were unusual for the late 1980s. The court granted primary custody to my father — we’d spend summers in California and live in New York for the school year. My primary memory of family growing up is as a unit of three — father, sister, me. Our trio was strong, it was unshakeable, and my sister and I adapted to an early independence. We did our own laundry, heated up our Kid Cuisine dinners in the microwave while our father worked late and made annual trips to the West Coast every summer to visit our mom. Our household was just as functional as that of any two-parent household. We trotted off to school each morning with combed hair, brushed teeth and all of our belongings.
I grew up into a independent, self-sufficient and confident adult, a woman who would much rather do it myself than wait on someone else to understand what needs to be done, a woman who is okay with the idea of potentially spending a life not married — not because no one would have me, but because I like it that way. Alone. Keep reading »
While many people start online dating to meet people, I joined OKCupid because I knew far too many already. This may sound cold, but I wanted to meet guys outside of my social circle who were more … expendable. If a date or few went badly, I didn’t want to bump awkwardly into these guys at a party. At that time, I didn’t take dating especially seriously. I was bored and I thought of it as an amusing diversion. Maybe I would have been more cautious if I had been more invested, but I wasn’t.
Online, most daters try to present the best possible versions of themselves in their profile. Supposedly, this is the only way to get dates. Instead, I tried to present a more accurate picture. I had a few photos of me all dressed up, but being a makeup artist, that felt a bit unfair, so I included some regular candid shots with my usual BB cream and lip balm. I didn’t want my dates to be disappointed when I didn’t put that much effort in to meet them for coffee. On the older version of OKC, you got to describe yourself in three words and I always made sure one of them was “neurotic.” Keep reading »
Sometimes, I have a hard time talking about being bisexual.
Part of the difficulty is label itself: bisexual. As soon as it’s said out loud, or implied with the abbreviation bi, lady sex pops into peoples’ minds and all of a sudden things get X-rated. The mere mention of bi conjures images of co-eds kissing and dancing on bars for male attention. Or, it incites the delightful fallacy that bi-folk are lying to themselves about their sexuality.
So, if labeling myself bi creates a feeling of ick, then why not call myself something else?
I’ve thought about latching onto other labels: flexible, fluid, queer, open? Why not just call myself straight when I’m with a man and gay when I’m getting my lez on? Why a label at all? Keep reading »
Up until last month, my boyfriend Nick and I had lived in Oregon all of our lives. We both grew up in small towns outside of Portland, and then, after high school, we migrated into the city like people from small towns tend to do. For the past few years, Nick worked at the cheese counter of an upscale Portland grocery store. Like most things in our lives, his job was fine, but it wasn’t spectacular. We felt stagnant in many ways, like we were passively living a life that had been set out for us, rather than choosing the life we wanted. Looking back, we lived in Portland not because we wanted to, but because we always had.
A weekend trip to Nashville changed everything. Within hours of landing in the city, we knew we wanted to move there. After feeling anchored in place for so long, the prospect of picking up and moving made us feel practically weightless, not to mention giddy with excitement. We couldn’t wait to start a new life. But first came the responsible plan. Keep reading »
The June issue of Allure has the usual headlines about what beauty products to buy and how to get good hair and better skin. Also thrown into the sexy, sun-kissed mix is this tidbit of information about their cover girl: “Zoe Saldana: 115 Pounds Of Grit And Heartache.” Hey, she’s slight but this gal’s got might!
Do the editors of a beauty magazine think of a celebrity’s weight as just some random fun fact to share with their readers? No, of course they don’t. It’s aspirational. Even if the number itself is completely out of the realm of healthy possibility for most women, it reinforces a longing — that dream of ultimate thinness. It’s defining. An entire interview with Saldana and how do they describe the stand out qualities they learned about her for their cover? In pounds. But what is most insidious about that headline is that it immediately forces comparison. For many women, that comparison is likely to stoke insecurity. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still a giant waste of time and energy: Do you weigh less or more? But wait, are you big-boned or small-boned? You might weigh this much, but actually you wear this size in pants or that size in tops. You felt best about yourself when you were this weight. You’re proud of your weight and fuck anyone who says you shouldn’t be! Keep reading »
When I was pregnant, everyone warned me not to judge myself against other women either positively or negatively. They told me not to compare myself to the Super Moms, the Momzillas or even the Deadbeat Moms. People warned me that once I was a mother there would be some things I would do effortlessly, and others I would fail dismally at.
Largely, I ignored their advice and trusted in my own self-worth and confidence. I was a little older than most of my mom friends and figured that with those extra years came extra wisdom. I instinctually understood that hanging out on online baby forums leads to intense paranoia about teething, and battling it out with anonymous strangers is stupid. I never thought I would succumb to the motherhood comparison game. But in the end, I was wrong. I did judge myself harshly. But it wasn’t against other moms. It was against my own husband. Keep reading »
As I am getting ready to leave for the doctor’s office, Auntie Shadi gives me a warning: “Now don’t expect to be seen exactly on time. This is not America.”
“Oh. Ok,” I say, instead of admitting that we don’t necessarily get seen exactly on time for our doctor’s appointment either. During this one-month stay in Iran I have learned to choose my battles with misconceptions. I only correct the important ones, like the one where they assume that anyone who lives in America has lots of money without working.
Since I had left a lucrative career as an oral surgeon to become a writer, money was tight and most of my activities were on hold. When dad invited me to Iran on an all-expense-paid trip, I gladly accepted. As most everything is cheaper in Iran, I decided to get some of my annual medical exams out of the way, too. My father takes a particular pleasure in going to the doctor. It’s his fear of hospitals that makes him so diligent in preventative care to the point that when he runs out of things to do, he just pops in for some blood work. So, hearing about my interest in seeing a doctor (any doctor, really) was good news. He secretly wanted to show off the excellence in Iran’s medical care.
A routine check up at the OB/GYN could not be that complicated, I reasoned. Besides, nowhere in the United States does a specialist visit cost $16. Keep reading »
The unexpected side effect of running into an old friend from college on the subway and falling deeply in love with Him, for me, has been a renewed interest in my past. I can’t tell you definitively why this is. Maybe it’s because I knew Him in college, and re-meeting Him after 16 years gave me a new lens through which to view my past self and understand her better.
My hunger to reconnect with my past self started with the hint of a memory of a photograph of the two of us from college. In my mind’s eye, I see it: Me and Him sitting next to each other in his dark, dorm room, both of us dressed all in black as we did at the time. Me: black dress, black fishnets, black leather jacket and heavy, black eyeliner. Him: oversized black pants, a black baseball cap, black hoodie. His arm around me. Sitting on top of his extra long twin bunk bed. Top bunk.
I’ve convinced myself that this photo exists. Keep reading »
Last summer, I had my first panic attack, and it was induced by children.
By the way, I don’t have any kids.
During an office baby shower, a female colleague about 15 years my senior reminded me that I was next, since I was married, 27, and only had an estimated 12 percent of my eggs left. Highly inappropriate? Hells to the yes. And effective. It freaked me out.
Four months later, I was having a particularly rough morning at work. I couldn’t stop getting interrupted and my to-do list kept getting longer. I suddenly felt massively overwhelmed. My brain went into a crazy-spiral: If I can’t get my work done today, I can’t get home and write the screenplay of the century, and it’ll take me forever to become the Nora Ephron of my generation, and I will be letting down every woman and brown person in America by not unleashing my voice to the masses, and I won’t be able to have a baby until there’s at least some small sign that I could accomplish that, because I’m not trying to be some resentful, broke mom with “dreams.”
I blacked out at my desk for a minute, popped an Advil and sat in a nearby park for an hour inhaling an economy-sized bag of popcorn.
That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Keep reading »