Archive | February, 2014

I Am Lena Dunham and I Want to Be

22 Feb

I’m a 55-year-old married, mother who is Black and lives in the suburbs. She’s a 27-year-old, White girl who lives child-free with her boyfriend in Brooklyn. She’s also the creator and star of the hugely successful HBO series, Girls, and I’m a stay-at-home writer of four successful, if mostly out of print novels, and an adjunct professor (can you say, the new slaves). Obviously, our stats prevent us from being twins, yet we are so much alike. I’m only an occasional watcher of the show–I’m not the target audience–but after reading a profile on her in Vogue magazine, I so admire her writing hustle and her freedom to be herself.

This girl writes ALL THE TIME. She creates. She grew up the daughter of artists, a photographer and a painter, who  gave their daughters “an office” in which they  created everyday. I not only admire her drive, which doesn’t seem grabby and aspirational,  I admire her freedom and to be so in front of millions.

She’s been criticized for often showing her naked rather un-thin, kinda doughy body one on the show. Lena looks like most women. She’s not fat, not thin, just a regular sized American woman. We’ve become so used to the unnaturally thin, fake boobed, Gisele Bundchen protracted legged image, that we think normal is an anomaly.

Last year Howard Stern referred to Lena as a “little fat chick.” After which, when Lena was on the David Letterman show, and said that her gravestone would read: “She was a Little Fat Chick and she got it going.”

Judd Apatow, the director (Super Bad, 40-Year-old Virgin , Bridesmaids among others) and Girls’ ex producer said: “The criticism hasn’t thrown her…I would be naked and crying under my pillow.”

Me too. Another reason I want to be her. I want to be inured to criticism.

And then, there’s her ability to,  “work pretty well within the whirlwind of my life.”

If Only…

I would more prolific . It’s not  like I don’t have an idea a day, but between running to the grocery story, worrying about the amount of time my son spends on the Xbox, being on 24-hour call for my college-age daughter, trying to accompany my husband on the occasional work/social outing, looking after my 88 year-old father who has dementia, there’s not enough free head space to create. You might say, cut off some of those things; and you know what, you’re right and that’s exactly what I am going to do.

Lena’s executive producer, Jenni Konner, says: “Where it takes me 20 years to write about my 20s in a really honest way, it takes her 24 hours to have gone on a bad date, experienced it, had pain about it, gone home, metabolized it and turned it into art. It’s the fastest system I’ve ever seen.” Another colleague calls Lena an “aggregator of humanity.” My gift is that I’m a vacuum of people’s stories. I ask because about people’s lives because I’m genuinely interested. I want to be a person I actually am, whose collected stories actually morph into tangible work and not just remain in the tangle of my brain; and I want to be able to do it with regularity.

IMG_0898She writes constantly on planes at the Girls studio, in bed. “It’s her great ambition to be the sort of writer who sits down go  to work [at her desk], but hasn’t ever gotten there.” Finally something I can do that she can’t.

“…I can’t overstate how much I hate leaving the house…no one would describe me as a private person, but I actually really am. It’s important for me to have a lot of time alone and to have a lot of time in my house by myself. My entire life sort of takes place between me and my dog, my books, and my boyfriend, and my private world. To me privacy isn’t necessarily equated with secret-keeping. What’s private is my relationship with myself.” Twins!

 

With all her success and the bootlicking from celebrities and being a media darling, she maintains:

“I still go to a party and say something embarrassing to someone and then write them a weird email about it the next day, and then write them a text because I think they didn’t get the email…no matter what happens with your level of success, you still have to deal with all the baggage that is yourself.”

And if you’re lucky, you can turn the baggage into art.

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Things My Mother Taught Me

11 Feb

IMG_0639Today is my mother’s 89th birthday.  Next month will mark five years since she died. As many of you know from reading this blog, my upcoming book, Welcome to My Breakdown (March 2015), is a lot about my mom. Obviously I think she was amazing, but lots of others share this view.  I purposely don’t write a lot about her here because I want you to read about her in full in the book. I also need to get writing this post over with so I can stop crying and get on with the other work I have to do today. I still miss her. I always will. It’s what you learn when you lose someone you love. Of course you miss them on the big occasions:  holidays, graduations, birthdays, but for me, as time passes, it’s the little things I miss the most. I miss her voice, the funny, sharp, brutally honest observations she always made, the way her hands felt when she held mine. Her crazy intuition.

This morning I jotted down some of the things off the top of my head that my mother taught me:

Don’t take it personal–She didn’t actually use these words, but it was how she conducted herself. If someone did something to her that was hurtful or mean, she would chalk it up to the transgressor’s stupidity. “She just don’t know no better,” she’d chuckle. She was so often clear that the transgression had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the person doing it. She didn’t hold grudges.

I can’t say that I’ve fully learned this one, but I’m working on it.

Stand up/Stand for something. My mother was warrior. She fought for kids in public schools in Newark to have the same level of education as their suburban peers. She believed in fairness, in this country’s promise of justice for everyone and she was unafraid to fight for it.

It’s okay to be afraid, but do it anyway.

This was how she approached so many things, small and large. One small, funny one was my mother going to Broadway, to the theater. I don’t how, but as a young woman, she discovered  that she loved going to the theater. She would save her little money to buy a ticket. When she first started going , she’d get off the bus from New Jersey without a clue how to get around in Manhattan. She’d have no idea even which direction to walk, only that she’d figured it. When I was 9 or 10, she would take me to a matinée and didn’t seem to  think twice about taking me out of school. She understood that she was giving me an education.

Choose your friends wisely anwidely

“You’re lucky in life if God gives you two good friends,” she’d always say. It was impossible to believe her because she was surrounded by dozens of loving and devoted friends. While her girls–her do or dies– were Aunt Thelma and Aunt Eva and Miss Rose, her circle of friends was vast: all ages, shapes, races, ethnicities, backgrounds and religions.

I have my do or dies, too and I also have a wide assortment of friends. I’m richer for it.

How to make collard greens

She was an excellent cook and I am not, but I do make some good collard greens. My nephew Kamal, her much beloved grandson, used to say that Grandma’s food tasted so good because there was so much love in it. Yep.

As a mother, you can’t love too much

This one speaks for itself and as for learning this lesson, I got it.

Happy Birthday Mom

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

1 Feb

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4.

I just stumbled upon this blogger, who is a divorced dad and on a mission to save guys from making common mistakes they make that lead to divorce. This letter is just one of 5. I suggest reading all of them and pass them on to your husbands, friends, grown-up kids, everybody. I think he’s giving great advice and insight.

Don’t be put off by this title. In his first letter he explains that by shitty husbands he’s not talking about ones who cheat, beat or do drugs. He’s talking about the ones who pay the bills, walk the dogs, take the kids to practice…read what he’s saying. He’s honest and for me that’s a, the, most important quality.