It was my birthday last week. I noticed you didn’t leave birthday love on my Facebook wall, but then I remembered we’re not FB friends. What up with that?? Are you even on the ‘book? I don’t want to friend some silly fan site. We’re closer than that, right?
Anyway, I’m 30 now. It feels pretty good. I have a couple more lines on my face than I did when I was 20, but it seems worth it.
When I turned 20 I was going to school in Boston. It was cold and rainy and on the night of my birthday I asked a co-worker to get dinner with me. I told her on the walk to the restaurant that it was my birthday. How depressing is that! Despite the magazines and chick lit I read, the rom coms I watched and what my mother said, in the second year of college I had not made the friends that would be with me my entire life. I think I knew that then. I think I knew I had a lot to figure out.
I was a journalism major, and while I had faith in my writing, I learned two things – that all the A’s I got in High School English classes meant nothing to college professors, and that I was not a fan of writing factually-based stories. I had just started my first Intro to TV class a month prior to this birthday. I just thought I’d take it for fun.
I was in a relationship that, even with all the mistakes we were making, I believed would last forever. I took the Chinatown bus to NY almost every weekend to see my boyfriend. It didn’t help my social life. It certainly didn’t help my love life.
I didn’t like going to clubs, but I was too ashamed to say I’d rather stay in on a Friday night. I tried hard to fit in with people I thought knew more than me. I forced myself to fall in love with movies and bands that I can’t stomach now.
In the ten years since, I’ve grown more than I thought a decade would allow. I learned what boundaries are and how to respect my own. I allowed “no” to be a response to people and plans that I didn’t want to say yes to. I survived the collapse of the most serious relationship I’d been in, and devised the collapse of dozens more. I moved across the country to LA to run away from not achieving my goals back home, and struggled with figuring out what my goals would be here. I found a career in TV that speaks to my strengths and tests my dedication. I met and grew closer to the friends I will have for my entire life. I ran 2 full marathons and have medals from a few more. I know what it’s like to push my body till I don’t think I can take it, and be able to push some more. I’ve climbed my way out of some really dark times. I’ve allowed my friends to give me a hand when I needed it. I left jobs I was miserably comfortable in to take on challenges I wasn’t up for. I found a relationship that appreciates the lessons I learned from my mistakes, and I do believe it will last forever.
The night of my 30th birthday was cold (by LA standards) and rainy. I spent it curled up on my boyfriend’s couch watching TV, relaxing from a long weekend of out-of-town visitors, massages and hikes overlooking the Pacific. It was one of the best weekends I’ve had in the last 10 years. Not only because I had fun doing things I enjoy with people I love, but because I finally know what I enjoy and who I love.
In the next ten years I’d like to get better. I want to say I need space before I have to run away to get it. I’d like to use the phone for more than just making plans and telling passengers I’m right outside. I want to stop gossiping when there’s nothing else to talk about, and when there’s everything else to talk about. I want to stop worrying about the last 10 lbs, because I don’t want to have to buy new clothes anyway. I want to discover what my next goal is. I don’t know if I’ll accomplish it by the time I’m 40. I just want to know what it is.
Glad we had this talk Helly Belly. I feel much better now.
It’s been a while. I’m sorry for the extended absence. I suppose I was hoping your heart would grow a sort of fondness, and yet, I haven’t heard a peep from you in ages. I suppose everyone gets busy. I will not venture to make assumptions about what’s been keeping you from holding up your end of the correspondence. I respect your choices.
I’ve been thinking of writing you for some time. I was going to sit down today and talk about cattle (I think it might really catch on). I also thought about writing on mixed tapes – how for years I was pretty sure that Birdhouse in Your Soul could only be followed by Bounce Around the Room thanks to a tape I played every morning of 1999 on the drive to swim practice.
I may want to talk about that stuff some other time (maybe I can call you?), but today I have something else on my mind. Helly, Maurice Sendak died today. I really respected this man. He found a way to talk to and write for kids that wasn’t condescending. He saw kids as tiny humans who knew just as much as their taller versions, just lacking the vocabulary to express it. My Kindergarten graduation concert was built around the song, Chicken Soup with Rice. I was April. I took it very seriously. I think Maurice would have appreciated that.
Of course, Sendak was just a writer from my youth. He may have inspired my Oscar-worthy kindergarten performance, but he wasn’t there to watch it. Luckily, two very important men were in the audience that day. Two men who treated me like a grown up since the time I was three because they believed in my worth as an adult. They respected my opinions and passions and held me to a very high standard. The first was my my father who always questioned my 99% test grades, “If it was so easy, why didn’t you get 100%?”. I may have hated that when I was in high school, but I appreciate it now. The other man was my grandfather, George Pressman – Poppy.
Poppy passed away 3 years ago yesterday, the day before his 99th birthday. Everything I know about him is what I still expect a man should be. He was a captain in the army. He was his town’s favorite dentist. He made Seven Dwarfs figurines for his younger patients. He had an old oak desk with a brass pen holder. When I was a child he would pretend that he was a little girl and sing happy birthday to me – usually when it wasn’t my birthday. He would race with me down the hallway of his apartment and he taught me that pressing that elevator button more than once doesn’t do anything. He took me to the pool on the roof and made me jealous with how tan that white man could get. He hypnotized me to stop sucking my thumb. He would only speak in Spanish to the doorman and I thought that was the greatest thing in the world. He was the nicest and most patient man I’ve ever met. Later in his life, he became the in-house comedian of his old age home. The jokes were almost always dirty. He got away with it because he was so damn cute. And tan. Good lord that man could tan. He told me he loved me and that he meant it every time I saw him. I could tell he meant it. I could tell he was proud of me in a way that was inherent – even if I hadn’t done anything. He always said it wasn’t worth doing anything if you weren’t going to do it to the best of your ability. He instilled this in me as a child before ever knowing that at 29 I’d still be trying to be the adult he knew I could be.
Poppy would have been 102 today and if you’d have met him, Helen, you’d be begging to be at the party.
Ummm… Hi Helen. Hope you’re having a good day. Mine is fine. Work isn’t super busy, which is nice. Getting some filing and such done. Uhhh… ya know. It’s Nora’s birthday, so… that’s cool.
Ok, I’m just gonna come out with it because it’s on my mind and it bothers me.
I read an interview you did with the NY Times last week and while I found most of the interview interesting and a good insight into your wonderful self, I found this question/answer somewhat bothersome:
Have there been any moments when you thought — Oh, I feel very Jewish.
My love of sparkle. I don’t think that’s particularly Jewish or Gypsy, but I do have a certain love of sparkle.
Ummm… yeah. I see the Gypsy thing. Gypsies like sparkle. I hope that’s not offensive to them – they’re a shiny group and I think they embrace it. Jews, on the other hand… I don’t think it’s a compliment to associate us and glitzy glam. I mean, you’ve heard the stereotypes, right? The ones about money and greed and all that? Yeah… so… I would maybe think about that before you umm… talk?
Yeah, I guess that’s it. Uhh… hope this doesn’t make things awkward in the future. At least for you. I’m always awkward. Awkard and Jewish! It’s cool.
So many people have been sending me this article from NPR. It lists 20 iconic male movie roles that you would have rocked. I don’t doubt it, but between me and you, I suck at movies. I fall asleep if I watch them at home (and sometimes even when I watch them in the theater – I was out cold by by the second act of Analyze That). So while I’m sure you’d be the bomb as those characters, I can’t really envision your performance because I haven’t seen most of those movies.
What I do know is TV. So, without further ado –
10 Iconic Male Television Roles that you would have KILLED(if you had a better tan):
Rerun from “What’s Happening”
Stringer Bell from “The Wire”
Dr. Huxtable from “The Cosby Show”
Mr. Eko from “Lost”
Stephen Urkel from “Family Matters”
Lafayette from “True Blood”
Cleveland from “The Cleveland Show”
Eric Foreman from “House”
Lamont Sanford from “Sanford and Son”
Mr Cooper from “Hanging with Mr. Cooper”
So… what do you think? Wanna team up on some remakes?
Love and miss you!
I’ve got this idea swimming around in my head and I wanted to share it with you because, well, you’re so awesome and kind and generous and beautiful. I want to share everything with you! Do you want to be buried together? Too much? Ok… nevermind.
So here’s what is taking up a large portion of my brain these days – Groundhog Day. Not the holiday, the movie. The one with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell that my mom hates because it frustrates her almost as much as that Mad About You Thanksgiving episode where they drop the turkey out the window. Basic premise in case you haven’t seen it (and it’s ok if you haven’t – I’ve never seen a Godfather movie or Indian Jones), a guy repeats the same day (Groundhog Day, specifically) a bajillion times until he gets it right. (Spoiler Alert! WhenhHe finally does get it right he continues on with his life starting with February 3rd). So for Bill Murray’s character, getting it “right” means, not using lies to get into someone chick’s pants, not stealing money from a Brink’s truck, saving someone’s life, blah blah blah. I think the shitty moral of the story is that once he realizes that he has the opportunity to learn from each repetitive day, he starts using the days to learn more about Andie MacDowell’s character until finally he can be the perfect man for her (because we live in America and the only way we know it’s a happy ending is if two people fall in love. ugh).
Chances are, we – you and me (although, less me than you cuz you’re special and I’m just… Lisa) will never have this opportunity. But… we kinda do, right? So listen, I’m not perfect. I know… I know… I’ll give you a minute to digest. I’m flawed, Helly Belly. I have lied and cheated and stolen. I have made up excuses to not see people or go to work. I’ve snuck into movies without paying and drank the last beer in the fridge, even when it wasn’t mine to drink. But most of my personality flaws are rooted in my avoidance of confrontation. I would rather turn the lights off in my room and pretend I’m not home than talk to my roommates sometimes. I ignore calls from people who I have plans with and have no intention of keeping. I abide by the “fizzle out” method of breaking up relationships, which involves more email and text deleting than talking, explaining and apologizing. And I figure – that’s me! Lisa! You know Lisa – she doesn’t like people. She doesn’t like talking. She’s fierce and self confident and doesn’t need your silly human connection. I could live my life as that Lisa. Every day. And nothing would change. It might not be February 2nd when I wake up, but in the broad sense, it sorta is.
Or… I could use each job, each relationship, each thing that bothers me as an opportunity. I can learn how to get better at avoiding or get better at confronting and fixing. I can learn how to steal money from the Brink’s truck, or learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver (interesting tidbit – I knew how to spell “Heimlich” but not “maneuver”). So now, each time I make plans, I think about if I want to keep them and if I don’t, I’m honest about it. And when I’m dating someone and something doesn’t feel right, I’m more apt to say it than stay home with my phone off watching Closer. And maybe someday I’ll get up the nerves to tell my roommates that I’m annoyed that I’m the only one who picks up the mail. … or not… Anyway, I think it’s a fair point. Maybe one you could pass it along to your less perfect friends. The only way to change the date is to, well, change.
Thanks for listening Hellz. I know I can always be myself around you.
Do you know about 20-Something Bloggers? It’s pretty awesome. It’s for people in their 20s. Who blog! And we talk about bloggy things. It’s great. They do this thing every so often – a Blog Swap. And if you are as lucky as I am, you get paired up with an awesome chick from the other side of the world and she writes a post on your blog, and you write one on hers. So Kez, my Awesomely Unprepared blog swap partner wants to write you a letter. It’s really quite sweet. So read it! And if you have time, you should read her blog – Awesomely Unprepared. She writes about life and learning and learning how to love getting thrown off track. She’s gonna be a mamma soon and no matter how unprepared she thinks she is – I have a feeling her and her hubby are going to make for some awesome parents.
Today (the day this guest post is published on this fine blog) is the day that my husband and I would have been up in the air (literally), headed for our European summer experience. It was to be the Contiki tour to end all Contiki tours (well not really – pretty sure they’re doing good business without us). We were going to spend 14 days travelling on a coach, occasionally stopping to cause mayhem and get lost in odd places (because I have no sense of direction and because we might have been intoxicated). It was going to be our reward for all the years we stayed at home (other than the occasional jaunt to Thailand) working hard and keeping a roof above our heads.
We got a fantastic deal at a travel expo and already I could imagine walking around in Rome eating my body weight in carbs. And same goes for Paris. My husband was planning his birthday for Monaco (apparently some boy crap involving cars happens there sometimes?) and I was so looking forward to shopping in London! Man, we would have had the most awesome Facebook photo albums to annoy our friends with! Actually, we would have been able to talk with our friends about that time we went to Rome and about how awesome the dress up parties were and the stuff we’d done that time in Germany (drink beer probably)…we would have understood. We too would have been able to have that smug air about us as we told our less fortunate, less travelled friends about “that time we were up the Eiffel Tower”. We had dreams!
Not long after paying the travel people the entire balance of the trip (they wanted it within 4 days of booking – holy hell), I did this thing where I peed on a little stick? Not just some random stick I found in the park under a tree. A home pregnancy test. I didn’t believe the two little stripes so I raced out to the shops (before my husband had time to blink) and bought another one – surely the first one was broken! When the fancy, expensive digital test flashed *pregnant pregnant pregnant* there was no denying it. We were/are knocked up!
We jumped up and down (well I was gently jumping up and down) with the joy of it all…and then it dawned on us. Would I really be able to fly long haul from Down Under to London in economy at 6 months pregnant? And even if that was quite viable (which I’m told it is), would I be able to get on and off a coach, run around several cities in Europe, and sleep in hostel accommodation (where being in the same room as my husband was not always guaranteed) without killing myself?! Not to mention being surrounded by drunken people, while I padded around the night clubs with my highly inappropriate baby bump! I am sure that you, Helen, would be able to do that whilst wearing a slinky body suit or glamourous ball gown…but me? I’m not that awesome. Just Awesomely Unprepared.
“Oh sorry guys, I’m having a quiet night in at the hostel tonight” I would have said, as I glared at my husband in a “Yes that means you too” way. Party pooper.
So, with heavy hearts we cancelled. Don’t get me wrong, we’re thrilled about the impending arrival into our family…we just missed out on a big rite of passage in between being clueless lovestruck teens and having a mortgage and a marriage! We skipped the Euro trip and went straight to “old” with kids!
Not to mention, I will never have a chance to meet you – something this blog tells me is like the holy grail of meeting people.
This summer we will have a brand new bundle of joy. Christmas will be filled with sunshine, sleep deprivation, vomit and poop (so not that different from usual). We’ll take our new baby boy to the beach for the first time where I will be paranoid about sunburn or sand getting into crazy places. I’ll probably be wearing some kind of caftan with a bathing suit from the 1800s (we’re not all Miranda Kerr you know). There will be breastfeeding, the occasional sneaky cocktail (oh stop judging) and friends everywhere. I will be sleep deprived and running on empty. But it will be fun. And I can’t wait.
I guess you might be able to figure out why my blog is called Awesomely Unprepared.
PS. Sorry that I am no good at photo editing. I guess that’s why I’ll never be your #1 fan. Also, I am not a righteous Dame.
Don’t want to bother you on vacation, although from the looks of all these photos floating around the interweb you already have some unwanted guests nearby. I appreciate how you deal with the papparazzi. I’ve never once heard about you taking a swing at a guy with a camera and you always look so gracious even when a photographer catches you off guard.
I wish I had a similar poise about me. I am no good at hiding my feelings Helly Belly. If I am annoyed that you have come up behind me with a camera when I am getting out of the ocean, you will know it. You will know it because there will be a knee in your crotch and a scowl on my face. I think I used to be better at fake smiling and then once I discovered the laugh lines around my mouth I thought, “well that’s bullshit – I don’t even want to smile at these people”. That said, I do smile an obnoxious amount, but that’s moreso because I’m really proud of my teeth (braces from 2nd to 7th grade will do that to you). Also, I think I look younger when I smile. You do too. Not that you need to look younger. Ugh, there I go putting my foot in mouth again. My perfectly orthodontia-ed mouth.
Alright girl. You get back to your vacay. See you when you return!
So… remember when I had that short stint back in like, November, when I used these letters to you to call out other people who were making me angry? Well, those days are back. Don’t take any of it personally. I know you of all people, would NEVER hurt me. Right? RIGHT????
Listen Helen, if you think you ever want to stop being my friend – you have to tell me. And do it like a man. Really – balls out – man up. If you think you’re a changed woman because you’ve moved or got a better job or got married then say it. Don’t just say you’ve changed. There is no change without a catalyst – at least not a change so big that it would cause you to not want to be in my life anymore.
Long story short, if Taylor Hackford ever says, “It’s me or that blogger girl” and you want to choose him, fine. But don’t expect an anniversary present next year.
I have some prom photos to rip up. Check ya later Hellbee.
Hey Girl Heeeeeeey,
You must be LOVING all these letters this week. I mean, I’m sure you’ve gotten a ton of birthday cards, but tell me they mean as much to me as my letters do. Tell me! You can’t, can you? I know. I know…
So I was going to talk to you today about that teacher from my past who I thought might have… well… passed. Thanks to the expert sleuthing skills one Mr. Cam Saino (name change alert!), it has been confirmed that she did not pass away, and it was just a woman with the exact same name and approximate age from the same region who departed us earlier this month. RIP Aunt Gay Gay.
Initially, I wanted to write to you about this teacher because it spurred something in me that I hadn’t felt in a while. A true loss of someone who, while not a big part of my life this moment, did much to shape who I am. However, the more I thought about it, I realized it may be in poor taste to eulogize a woman who is still with us. Ok fine Helen, you got me – it’s not the “more I thought about it” it’s the more I talk to people with a meatier moral fiber than myself. It’s the consensus of these friends that I use this new information as an impetus to respond to this former teacher’s Facebook message from months ago and not mention that I thought she was dead. Fair enough.
I will, however, take this opportunity to enjoy the feeling that came over me when I found out she was ok. The weight of 50 textbooks had been on my shoulders since I heard (what I thought was) the bad news and now that everything is in it’s rightful order again, I can move on with a better sense of appreciation for her and maybe life in general. So let’s travel back to that morning (henceforth called “The Bad News Morning”) where I have a conversation with a friend over breakfast about the ability to teach writing. I tell him that I believe that while the basic technique of writing can be taught to an extent, the creativity which inspires it, cannot. My friend is of the mindset that it’s all teachable – from the conception of the idea to the presentation through words. This is ridiculous to me. If you could be taught how to write – like actually write – like the kind of writing that swallows you whole when you read it – then the people who do it well would mean a lot less. The town in which I live would be filled with less depressed 20-somethings who have traveled too far from home to give up, and I wouldn’t cry when I finished a good book because I was worried there might not be another like it. He disagrees. Fine. His smile is charming enough. I’m disarmed. I walk home from the restaurant and call my parents and we have the conversation that has lead me to today’s letter. The conversation that ends with them telling me that my teacher had passed away. It hits my heart. Hard. Why? Because I know this teacher taught me to write. From idea seed to stylized grammar. She red-lined my short stories as if I were an actual writer and encouraged my poetry by staying after school to read with me. She told me that some day I’d be published. If it turns out to be true or not, her belief in me made me want to write more. Thinking about her like this is a wake up call and I want to run back to the table I had breakfast that morning at and start all over again. I want to agree with my friend and tell him he’s right, that you can be taught to write. And more importantly, you can be taught to write well.
So that’s that. I need to start writing more. New leaf. Starting over. Starting… tomorrow.
Helly Belly! It’s your day! How special! I’m very happy to be able to share it with you, too. I mean, at least in thought (which, as we know from crappy present giving, is what counts). I wish I was actually able to attend the festivities, but I’ll be working all day today. Also, I didn’t really get the details of your invite. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really get your invite at all. Oh wells. Sucky mail system. Speaking of which…
Remember when I got all freaked out that I was going to die because my co-worker was going to have a baby on my birthday but then you calmed me down by saying you have the same birthday as Mick Jagger and you’re still alive so it’s ok? Well, then –
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICK JAGGER!!!!!!!!!!!!
But now I’m just realizing that Mick Jagger is older than you (duh, he is) so HE would have died when you were born. Anyway, everyone’s alive and we still get mail. Except Amy Winehouse. RIP.
So I will forego today’s possibly sad letter to be festive (and also because that issue has yet to be resolved…hrmph). Happy Birthday Girl. Hope it’s a great one.