No, he says, you don’t.

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I say I want to live in a small town.

No, he says, you don’t. You’re such a wonderful person and you’re so beautiful.

I can be wonderful somewhere less crowded.

He says, You don’t want to isolate, you’re so gregarious.

I’m not.
I’m a yappy little shelter dog who has learned enough tricks to keep the world at bay. That’s what I think.
I say: I like my own company.
I mean: I don’t think I like yours.
I think: How soon can I get off the phone?
I think: I want to be somewhere I can hear my own thoughts.
I think: I want to be somewhere I can walk down a sidewalk, a road, a dirt path and not have a man who doesn’t know me tell me who I am.
I know perfectly well who I am.
I have known me all my life.

He is still talking. Now, about how much I will love Fiji.

I have deliberately moved places people would not want to visit.
Several times.

I’m training to be a cranky old woman, I say.

No, he says, you’re not. You’re not old. Or cranky.

Looking at my watch, I think: I am older and crankier than I was before the phone rang.

You would have loved Belize in the 90s. You will love (insert hot tropical place).

I like Vermont. And I can like more than one place. But if the world crumbles until there is only Fiji and Vermont I will be the Queen of Vermont and you can be the King of Fiji, I think.

He’s written a script for his life and in his movie we live on a desert island, we backpack through Europe. A Rom-Com with no Com, I imagine that sounds to him like him and me against the world. Or him and me discovering the world. Or sharing. Or something tender and sweet.

I think: Who wrote this Hallmark Lifetime Mr. Rogers script for you, bub? Quentin Tarantino wishes he could option the scripts in my head. Chuck Palahniuk steals my dreams. Damon Runyon named a cheesecake after me. Nora Ephron wished upon a star for me. Patricia Highsmith wanted to be me. Hank Bukowski was my hero. These are my script writers. My collaborators.

I have intimacy issues I say, I’m a runner.

No, he says, you’re not.

Going Solo

Oprah October 2015 CoverMenopause was the best thing that could have happened to me. It’s been nine years since I’ve had sex with anyone other than me, but at 57, I don’t think of myself as celibate or sexless. I’m simply clear-headed.

A promiscuous child of the free-love ’70s and a hard-partier until the ’90s, sex was my currency. If I wasn’t desirable, I felt invisible, and by my early 30s, I was using a color-coded spreadsheet to keep track of all the names, dates, photos, and details. But, I gave up the booze, my estrogen began to ebb, and without them, I lost my sexual appetite. Sex wasn’t making me feel good or important anymore; it left me empty. I started forgetting to be that girl who slept around. Then one night I slid into bed and realized it had been years since anyone else had slid in there with me.

The vodka haze & hormone fog had lifted, and I was left to figure out who, if not that hyper-sexual being, I was. I had to redefine myself. I did stand-up to a room full of twenty-somethings who stared back silently, I got my motorcycle license, jumped out of a plane. Started to love my body for all the other things I could do with it. I chucked my high heels, danced all night in cowboy boots, and went home alone to a new queen-sized bed, sleeping diagonally, corner to corner along with that delightful cliché, a cadre of cats. I posed naked for painters, photographers, and sculptors. I laughed louder, and more often. I spoke my mind. Conversations about life, pain, the world, and hope replaced faceless seductions. The quality of the men in my life changed, from one-night stands to friends and companions. I was free.

Maybe there’s a Venn diagram with my name on it where sex and companionship overlap, but I’m in no rush. I still have sexual desires. But I also have the Wahl All-Body Massager—with two speeds and seven attachments.

 

Previously published in the October 2015 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

A Lesson in Loss: On the Death of a Friend

A friend of mine died this week. The older I get, the more often I’m going to find myself saying that. It’s sad to lose someone you cared about. To realize a child will grow up without a parent. To watch a parent lose their child, a friend lose a friend. But there’s more than that, more than loss and grieving. There’s the lesson.

In everything you experience, every single thing–good, bad, or somewhere in-between (where most of life falls) is a lesson. The trick is to get the lesson the first time it comes around, to find the opportunity in the chaos. Broken hearts. Death of a friend. Lost job. Major illness. There are lessons in there, and we each have to figure it out for ourselves.

When Adam died, there was something vaguely familiar about it. Not because it was the same “rare” cancer that killed the love of my life three years ago. That just reminded me how fast it would happen, that will-to-live meant nothing to this cancer and there is no way around this one. No, it was the turn-out of support, the mass of people who contributed on the GoFundMe page to raise money for a last-ditch I’ll-try-anything-cure. Collecting almost three times what they’d asked in less than a month. The flood of posts and well-wishes that filled the Facebook feeds, the Twittersphere.

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Everyone always says “Oh, she was so special,” or “There will never be anyone like him,” but the truth is in the pudding. It’s in who shows up, who speaks up, what’s said and why.

And that was what was familiar.

A few years ago another friend died. No one saw it coming, no one was prepared. Is one easier than the other? Losing someone suddenly or having time to prepare? Can you really prepare? I think all you can really do is use that time to say a proper goodbye. Big Daddy Addy was lucky that way. His friends and family were too, even though it didn’t feel like luck at all.

Chloe Dzubilo died suddenly at 50. Violently. She died alone.
Adam Roth died slowly, peacefully, and surrounded by friends. He was 57.

10608786_10152817636030625_8912646138906773135_oThey were both performers, musicians, and stylistas. He went through dozens of hair styles, colors (oh, that frosted stage…). So did she, leaning more towards the peacock colors.  East Village icons and stalwarts. First generation Punks. He was dapper, a mod, a rocker, always dressed with intention. She, identified warmly by a friend as the “trans Courtney Love,” wore vintage lingerie and silks mixed with rock t-shirts and tight pants.  Both had struggled with addiction and gotten past it. One battled anxiety, the other, depression. And both were met with an ear-splitting roar into the abyss when they passed. A roar from the huge crowd that loved them. Huge. Crowd.

A sign-up sheet had to be created for visitors when Adam went into hospice at his parent’s home. Without it, the room was swamped, his family overwhelmed, himself, drained.

Judson Church overflowed with Chloe’s memorial and it felt like we were hundreds who marched in her honor down to the Hudson River.

Adam brought his sober-and-wicked-cool musician-funny-as-fuckness with him to work with at-risk kids via Road Recovery.
Chloe took her HIV+ transgender fierceness to help with the first HIV prevention programs for transgender sex workers.

And that’s the thing. The thing that made them each so special. That attracted crowds. The lives they lived. The love in their heart and their ability to open that heart, not just in the doing, but in their daily lives.The impact of their lives spreading like a pebble dropped in still water, they radiated outwards.

Adam was a high-energy, rapid-fire, snappy-dressing dynamo who could get a party started or be that guest you wanted there that kept it going. And he was your biggest fan.
Chloe tended more toward the soft-spoken, sometimes raunchy, often Southern-belle-ish delicate flower,  and earth mother. She was your tender and constant support.

They  made you feel seen. Heard.

She  spoke in a  Monroe-like whisper and you leaned forward to hear, and suddenly the two of you were in a silver bubble, an intimate conversation in the center of a chaotic city. And you felt beautiful, important, trusted. She shared her heart with you.
He drew you in, dragged you along wherever the party was, was sincerely happy to see you. Sincerely. He made you feel special–like you were the funniest, prettiest, smartest, somethingest. He shared his light with you.

They knew there was enough for everyone. Enough love, enough light. Like a moon reflecting the light of the stars and suns, sometimes you were the moon, sometimes you were the star.

So, the lesson? They were so loved because of who they were. Because of how they saw you, opened themselves to you, stood aside to make room for you. They were loved because in all their frenetic activity, talent, insecurities, battles, human-ness they made you feel as if you were the most important person in the room. Big open hearts. Hearts that were honest. That wanted love, wanted to love and be loved.

I was out with my “brother” (family of choice, related by hair) the other night, and we talked about how we are, he and I. How we are not that kind of people. We are the kind of people who don’t allow you to get close to us. We are afraid we will be crushed by all that love, that it will break us.

The lesson?  My lesson in the death of my friend? Love doesn’t break you. Love makes you larger than life.

Photo of Adam Roth courtesy: Jeff Smith~ReflectionsNYC

1957 Rambler Rebel

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what’s the sound of two edies talking?

Scene: I am 19, Big Edie on my break up with my boyfriend, Bobby, who we both thought was “the one.”

Big Edie: I feel sorry for the men in your life. You take the nice ones and twist their minds, and you take the crazy ones and push them right over the edge.

rambler 1957 custom

Scene: Thirty years later, she is 79 and finally found a good one for herself, and we’d talk about the men in her life. And I’d realize which side of the family I inherited my broken picker from. But there’s a no return policy on the original factory-installed parts for this 1957 model. Not the broken picker, the shoddy brakes, or my busted speedometer. I went too fast, in the wrong direction, with no idea how to slow down. For thousands of miles and hundreds of years.

I don’t tell her he wasn’t “the one,” at all, he wasn’t even “one of the good ones.” He was simply one in a long line of bullets I would dodge, playing with crazy too often, just a little too close to the edge.

I’ve installed a super-sized rear view mirror so it’s a little easier to see the roads I’ve traveled, where I’ve been, the places I’m leaving. And every once in a while I pull over, and leave a little more luggage by the side of the road.

 

meteorological foreplay

photo courtesy of Nick Brandt @ nickbrandt.com

Keep your sun-drenched days and well-oiled bodies.

When the wind rips limbs off trees.
Pushes cars across the highway.
Topples small buildings.
When the air is soft. warm. heavy. moist.
When wind can kill.
My body becomes slick, ripe, and tender.
My every breath charged with electricity.

When every breath holds bits of lightening and promises of chaos.
When the sky darkens. the clouds hang low. heavy. full,
with potential destruction.
and the possibility…
of
annihilation.
I wait,
breathless,
for the howl,
the scream,
the cry.
The hoursminutesmoments before the storm.
Meteorological foreplay.

Keep your sun-drenched days.
Screw your rainbows.
Fuck your flowery words. your soft music. your tender touch.
I wait for the storm.

Note: Please check out Nick Brandt’s photos. They are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.