Category Archives: writing

Dating is Like a Chocolate Pecan Cupcake

Yesterday I wanted Pecan Pie. I also wanted Chocolate Cupcakes. So, I decided to put the two together. Seeking guidance, I turned to the internet, where I found dozens of recipes, all written by witty ladies and teeming with glamorous photos of food.

My photo doesn’t look like that. Mine looks like this:  20150809_115211-1

Messy. Complicated. A work in progress.

And so, I bring you: Dating Is Like A Chocolate Pecan Cupcake.

The photo shows you my first tentative efforts. I’ve got the ingredients, I’m ready to go. I’ve told all my friends I’m going to pursue this, so I’m pretty much committed.

The internet ladies didn’t mention that there would be a cat in the kitchen, the one that wove itself between and around my legs while I tried to cook. The cat represents the things about the dating relationship that were cute at the beginning, but soon become a major annoyance, like his snoring or the way I sing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” all day on Sunday when I do, well, the laundry.

Let’s say you get past the cat (although it never leaves the kitchen), and you make it to the point where you’ve got all the ingredients mixed together, the batter in the little fluted papers, and the pan in the oven. You look on the counter and there you see the pecans, which were supposed to go in the batter, and the Hershey’s Cocoa, which wasn’t even in the recipe. These are the little things you didn’t expect, like his friends being complete assholes or your insisting that he go with you to the “80’s Retro Dance Party” on the third Saturday of every month.

You try to recoup by pulling the pan out of the oven and sprinkling the pecans on top of the half baked cupcakes. The pecans are the guy in the accounting department who you keep flirting with, just in case your new relationship crashes and burns and you need a last minute date to your cousin Yvonne’s wedding next April. Speaking of crashing and burning, the pecans begin to smoke. No need to explain this, you all know the beginning of the end when you smell it.

But you remain hopeful, and leave the cupcakes in that 350-degree heat for another little while.

When you finally admit that they’re done, your friends look at your ruined cupcakes and put on fake smiles. “It’s not that bad,” they say. “You can try again another time, maybe use a new recipe.” That’s what all happily married women with 2.5 beautiful children say to their hopelessly single friends.

And now you’re stuck with the dishes. You’ve used every pot and pan you own to make this mess. You fill the sink and squirt in the detergent, you pull on the worn yellow gloves. You can hear your friends telling you that it won’t take as long as you think it will, that you’ll feel so much better when it’s done. You vow that next time you’ll do things differently, you’ll read the recipe all the way through, you’ll, you’ll – oh screw it, there is no positive spin to this. Everyone hates to do the dishes.

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Filed under aging, autobigraphy, chocolate, communication, conflict, cupcakes, dance, divorce, fiction, flash fiction, food, friendship, humor, irony, relationships, sarcasm, the 80's, women, writing

Freeway Funk

Leslie had never wanted to drive on the freeway. She never wanted to go that fast. She didn’t ski, she didn’t bike, she didn’t rollerblade for the same reason. Going fast wasn’t desirable. Going fast risked being out of control, at the whim of gravity and unpredictable factors like angry drivers, roads in poor condition and stray animals. No, freeways were laden with dangers, rife with the chance of pain and death.

Not that death was that scary. There were plenty of days that death seemed appealing. A way to stop all the hopelessness and anxiety. What if I’m in this job forever?  How will I ever find another job if I lose this one?  How can I have a PhD and be so unqualified for anything?

So, most days she was open to death. It was the pain that worried her. Dismembered, brain damaged, these were the real dangers of going fast. A rock on a bike path could throw her off balance and crack her skull. A mogul, coming up too soon, could incite a swerve into a gully and break her legs. A bear, wandering onto the freeway… and so on. So many scenarios that could bring pain and a longer, more miserable life than the one she had now.

Fairytales would have her meet a man or take up a hobby that filled her soul and brought her joy. She wasn’t keen on either of those.

What brought her a reluctant sense of relief was to stop going on about how depressed she felt, get up from her desk and fucking do something like, for example, get dressed and go to work.

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Filed under autobigraphy, bodily harm, conflict, depression, driving, fiction, flash fiction, irony, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing

Writing Group Angst

Let’s say you’re in a hotel conference room, attending your very first meeting of the Low Country Writers’ Group (Mount Pleasant Chapter). It’s a panel talk on “Getting Closer to Getting Published.” While you wait for the guest speakers to arrive, you look back through the notebook you’ve brought with you – the one you always bring to things like this – and, becoming aware of wetness under your arms and realizing how appallingly ineffective your new deodorant is, you see that the two-word notes you’ve been leaving for yourself, snippets of story ideas jotted down in your almost illegible shorthand, meant to inspire future writing, are utterly worthless. “Cherry Pie = Pizza Pie”, “Baby, not Piano”, “Aqua Velva and Farts.” Seriously? You can’t even be sure if those are references to personal experiences or things you saw on late night comedy shows. Who knows.

The moderator cheerfully kicks off the opening ice breaker: “Tell us your name and what you’re working on,” she says. You take a quick look around the room. In so doing, you identify a group of thirty-two people, of which you are in a minority, the minority comprised of three attendees under the age of 50. As the introductions go around the table you meet a woman with three books published, another woman who is trying to decide which agent she wants to go with, and a man – one of the men in your under-50 group – who has a PhD and teaches creative writing at the College of Charleston. You think of what you will tell these people when it is your turn to speak. You have about twenty-five short stories in various stages of completion. Your mother says they’re really good, always adding, “… and I’m not just saying that because you’re my daughter.” Head down, you smell a funk waft up from your armpits as evidence of your deodorant’s epic fail. You look up to tally the people who will talk before you have to, and this glance reveals you to be in another minority, a minority of one: those who are grossly overdressed. And, although your mother has always said that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed, you begin to formulate the rebuttal you will give to any of the shorts and flip-flop clad strangers when they ask why you are wearing a floral wrap dress and heels – you will tell them you are on your way to a baby shower, a wedding, a bris… something important, something adult, anything that might lend credibility to you – the most uncomfortable person in the room.

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Filed under autobigraphy, body image, conflict, fiction, flash fiction, humor, irony, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing

I’m an idiot.

Now, typically I shun such negative and demeaning self-talk.  But today, today I can’t find a better way to sum up my behavior.  I’m an idiot.  Why else would I sit for 97 minutes waiting to use the ATM?

Well, it seemed important at the time.  A friend had repaid me a huge amount of cash, and I knew if it went anywhere other than the bank it would never make it to the bank.  Not that I’d go out and buy something grand, like a leather coat or a 60″ flat screen TV, no, that chunk of cash would be whittled away slowly, imperceptibly, until it was gone.  A latte here, a “special treat” there.  A massage, an “I deserve it” new sundress.  I know better than to take a stack of Benjamins home with me.  Those bad boys needed to go straight to the bank.

Today as I pulled up to the building I could see “Insert Card To Begin Transaction” glowing green on the screen, a very positive sign.  As I walked up the steps and entered the vestibule, I heard clicking and beeping, very negative signs.  My hand was inches from the card reader, paused in some bizarre ATM foreplay when the message changed to “Temporarily Out of Service”.

I should have left then, but I had all that cash I couldn’t trust myself with, and I could hear the ATM workerbee on the other side of the wall, refilling the machine with twenties.  How long could it take?  I decided to wait.

As each minute went by I became more committed to staying.  I mean really, you can’t sit waiting for twenty minutes and then leave – that about guarantees that what you were waiting for will happen at minute twenty-one.  So I waited.  I filed my nails.  I checked my email.  I consulted my phone’s online user’s manual and learned how to work the voice recognition.  I stared out the window.  I stared at the ATM.  I eavesdropped on the ATM workerbee as he talked on his phone.  At one point the ATM went through several diagnostic tests, and when it clicked and clacked its deposit slot open, I caught a glimpse of the workerbee and gave him a friendly wave.

All told, I spent 97 minutes waiting 549for the ATM to come back online. Ultimately I deposited that pile of cash and went home.  What’s weird is that I had a really fun afternoon.  I’m an idiot.

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Spa Day

pedicure

Angry asian rat

Gnashing teeth

Attacks my tender nubs

Razor edge

Snapping jaw

Sandpaper

Until all’s that left are stubs

facial

Wrap me in a warm rag

My face feels like a teabag

Moist happy mummy

massage

Let’s not talk

We only have an hour

Push pull moan groan

Pressure points

You knew I’d like the lemongrass

But c’mon, now,

We both know it’s not loveall is well

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Cigarettes, Darth Vader, and Crows

Every morning, as I drink my tea on the back porch, I am at one with nature. Today the new neighbor two doors down was out on his porch, too. He smoked his first, second and third cigarettes, scaring away the birds, the deer and the squirrels, as well as chasing away the crisp, clean smell of evergreens. I channeled my inner Darth Vader and used The Force to explode his head. Then the crows came and ate his brains.

Moral of the story:
Watch out for crows. They’ll eat anything.

birds

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Filed under autobigraphy, coffee, conflict, fiction, flash fiction, humor, irony, nature, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing

It Ain’t Pretty, and It Certainly Ain’t Good

Pretty. Good.

Two perfectly fine words, yes? Sure they are, if they’re hanging out at the same party or stuck beside each other in traffic. But should those two words hook up, or say, carpool, then those two words ain’t fine at all, no sir. Put those two words together and you have a harbinger of doom. Let me explain.

The phrase ‘pretty good’ has two meanings. Adjectival. One indicates that the thing being described is acceptable, admirable, close to good. The other indicates that the thing being described is unacceptable, subpar, and no good.

“Pretty good.” The cavernous dichotomy of meaning tied to this two-word phrase is highly problematic. The meaning of the received message depends greatly on the body language and intonation of the communicator.

For example: you are out with a friend and you want to tell her that you think Pizza Hut’s new Stuffed Pretzel Crust is to your liking. You’d smile, turn your face a few degrees to one side and nod. “It’s pretty good.” However, if you think the pizza tastes like rusty nails covered in ketchup but observe that your friend is loving every bite, your response to the question “What do you think?” would be to cock your head slightly to the one side while shrugging your shoulders and offering a politically correct half smile. “It’s pretty good.” See the difference? Same words. The entire message depends on body language. This is why talking to people face to face is ideal.

Another tool in relaying the intended meaning of ‘pretty good’ is tone. Intonation. The way words are pronounced is a powerful indicator of their meaning. “Pretty good”, with a short ‘pretty’ and a drawn out, warm ‘good’, tells your listener that the thing at hand is satisfactory, pleasing. “Pretty good”, said with ‘pretty’ and ‘good’ being of the same length but with a drop in tone that ends in flat-lined silence means that the thing could be, in a pinch, somewhat satisfactory. Try it. Go ahead. Say “pretty good,” and then say “pretty good.” Hear the difference? And that’s just the tone of your voice. This is why talking to people on the phone is only quasi-ideal.

But what if there is no opportunity for body language nor tone? Let’s say your communication is limited to the written word. Now what? You can write paragraphs of exposition, you can state your case clearly and cite examples, but at some point, you’re doomed to use the words “pretty good.” And then, how the reader interprets your meaning is entirely out of your control. Two perfectly innocuous words, put together, could imply only one of two things. It could be “it’s not too shabby” or it could be “it sucks.” This isn’t a big deal if you’re telling a friend about pizza, but it is utterly disastrous if you’re reporting third quarter performance to the board of directors. This is why email totally blows.  jenny phone

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