Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I'm puzzling over a particular question which brings my feminist self into conflict with my candid observer self.

The question is as follows:

Is it okay to talk about the fact that (many/most/all) women get utterly deranged just before their periods?

Anyone who is a woman or who has ever known a woman can report that significant changes in mood and behavior (if not skin quality and weight) often occur in menstruating women in that period of time just before the arrival of their, er, periods.

These "significant changes" often include incessant crying, heightened hatred of one's husband, increased argumentative behavior, reduced threshold for frustration, increased memory of all horrible and hurtful experiences, reduced memory of anything positive that happened in one's life, feelings of deep depression, feels of utter disatisfaction with one's life, increased fantasies of one's husband suddenly dying, etc...

The existence of a Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is such a self-evident truth that I cannot believe it took scientists until the last decades of the 20th Century to figure this out. Still I send out a hearty Yasher Koach* to them for identifying this.....thing.
I remember exhaling in great relief when the syndrome was so named. Finally, I thought, validation from science for the misery that has consumed about a quarter of my life from the age of 12!

Finally, I had an ready-to-wear defense prepared for me in case I killed my boyfriend, say, during that time of month that my jeans won't close and my face looks like a pizza.

And as I move closer to the big Five-O, each cycle brings me closer to becoming Norman Bates. In my freelance interviews with other women of my age, most report a dramatically heightened state of sheer lunacy...sometimes lasting for as long as three weeks at a time.

Especially when one's monthly visitor decides to be MIA or shows up three weeks late, bringing on its own unique derangment, not to mention loss as funds as it becomes necessary to purchase do-it-yourself pregnancy tests, which always turn out negative, causing great relief because you were truly convinced you were pregnant due to the fact that you suddenly put on ten pounds and felt exhausted all the time.

And I'm not mentioning any names, but having been acquainted with teenage girls, I would liken the approach of their periods to a Jekyll and Hyde experience wherein sweet and obedient young women suddenly turn into Elsa Koch.

Who among us would deny that pre-menstrual women are completely nuts?

Yeah, it sounds unfeminist and it's bad for Hillary's campaign but isn't it the God's honest truth?

In this post-post-feminist era, when womyn are doing all kinds of weird stuff like pole dancing, engaging in wild promiscuity and blogging about it, and having orgasms online (, I think it is time to reclaim a truth about womanhood:

We spend a quarter of our lives in a hormonally-induced form of insanity. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

It's empowering, even.

Moreover, it's the bloody truth.


*Hebrew for Way to Go!

Monday, March 26, 2007


*edited 3/28

Nora Ephron feels bad about her neck.

What makes me feel bad is that I do not have a graduate degree.

I graduated college in 1982. Due to a variety of circumstances, I never made it through graduate school and the lack of a graduate degree has stalked me through the better part of the intervening two and a half decades.

At times, the quest for this degree has felt almost Kafkaesque.

Not that I needed the degree to be what I wanted to be, namely a writer...or even, what I became professionally, namely a publicist.

However, a graduate degree (from the university of my choice) is something that I wanted to have for its own sake, a trophy of my academic achievement, yes, but really a memento of my triumphant ability to rectify a ruined chapter in my personal history.

Yet 25 years have passed since college and I still haven't gotten it.

So, today, I undertook to drive up to Yale in order to talk to the head of the Graduate Program in American Studies. In truth, I have spoken to an endless stream of people -- both at Yale and outside of the university -- about this program since the early 1990's when I first heard about it while researching a story for the New York Times.

(Somewhere in the American Studies office -- if not at the FBI -- there is a fat file with my name on it and a record of my numerous queries. There is also probably a letter from a mental health specialist who was contacted at the time of my fourth query by a concerned administrator.)

Of all the graduate programs that I have not attended (over the past 25 years, I have had also similarly badgered other universities around the country) Yale's American Studies is the one I'm most fixated on attending.

Both for its content and for its very Yaleness.

As a university, Yale looms large in my imagination. It is exactly the kind of college I had dreamed of attending. Because of that, it possesses the power to counteract the negative effects of being forced to attend a school for which there was not even an admissions process, let alone noble architecture and a rarified academic environment.

And today, even after the director kindly gave me a reality check on the likelihood of someone who has been out of the academy for so long being accepted into a doctoral program (though journalists were indeed accepted into the Masters program in American Studies), I was hardly deterred from my ambition.

Putting aside the inherent worth of the course of study itself or the myriad ways in which my studies would inform my writing, I feel that getting this degree would be my personal tikkun, a way of healing a longstanding hurt in my life.

(Recently, I wrote a short story that centers around a Jewish girl in Queens in the 1970's, locked in a battle with her parents over her right to tap into that American rite of passage called "going away to school." Needless to say, that pretty much forms the backdrop to my own story.

As an adult, I do understand that in my parents' eyes "going away to school" was synonymous with doing drugs, sleeping around, getting pregnant, dating non-Jews, breaking Shabbat, getting tattoos, eating non-kosher, joining Jews for Jesus, joining the Hare Krishna, running off with the Maharishi and other activities I was dying to do.

My dad, who had been a congregational rabbi during the sixties and seventies formed this opinion after counseling to the parents of such wayward teens. Thereafter, he vowed to avoid their fate by keeping us close to home.)

The experience I was deprived of as a teen has become fetishized in my mind, tinged with longing and unattainability. Driving through New Haven today, I was adrift in a reverie, seeing myself in every passing undergraduate.

Working on my laptop at the internet cafe on York Street after my interview, I allowed myself to pretend that I was a card-carrying member of the Yale community. I had my Cafe Americano, my wireless hook-up and my paperback of Isaac Babel on the tabletop. Though feverishly engaged in sending and answering e-mails and speaking to clients on my Blackberry, I might have just as well been doing school work.

I was busy -- if not busier -- than the Yalies around me.

Even dressed in Manhattan all-black, I felt utterly at home in this Connecticut college setting.

So I feel in most college towns in America.

I am pulled to academic environments in a spirit that is drenched in the quest to belong.

Those close to me know that, even thirty years later, I feel cheated out of the undergraduate experience I dearly wanted and deserved, I might add, by virtue of having been a well-rounded and high-performing high school student at an elite NYC high school.

Yet, in their fear for our future, my parents decreed that the local branch of city college was the only college option available to their children.

And so...if I have looked towards graduate school as a chance to set everything right, restore things to the way I wanted them to be, give myself a shot at the opportunity that was denied to me when I was 17, why have I failed to actually attend graduate school?

Oh, a complex of mostly, but also relating to the business of not being able to juggle motherhood and graduate work...which seemed infintely more tricky than juggling career and motherhood. Jobs happen during the day when kids are school. Studying, doing research and writing papers often take place at night and on weekends and that would have meant no time with my children.

Even if I had figured how to finance the degree and prevent my family from starving while I took a break from wage-earning, I could not fathom finding this time or having the space to be a student.

I was fairly certain that I would have to drop out due to the sheer impossibility of doing my course work, indeed, I did start one program while nursing a baby, raising two elementary school-age kids and working full-time, only to drop out after six weeks due to the ridiculousness of the undertaking.

The logistical obstacles were real, yet there is another, deeper, more intrinsic reason for the Kafkaesque nature of my journey to grad school.

I hadn't really given myself permission to pursue this dream. On some level, I didn't quite believe that I deserved it.

Now, as I watch my children navigate their way through their respective academic and life journeys, I am filled with pride and excitement, for them and for myself.

I do not seek to control the variables in their lives. I don't wish to shelter them from threats to life values I hold dear. I don't necessarily want their lives to mirror my own. I honor their experimentation. I believe in their intelligence and their character.

And I am thrilled by the opportunities that come their way, the horizons that are opening up to them.

By giving my children permission to grow independent of my constant supervision, I reach back through time and give permission to my adolescent self, encouraging her to pursue her dearest dream.

It is a pleasure to reacquaint myself with my inner adolescent. For someone who was stashed away in storage for 25 years, she looks pretty good and her mind is every bit as sharp as I recall. Energetic and inquisitive, she is caught in that glorious moment of teetering on the threshold of transition; the door to her future is swinging wide open and she is trembling with excitement and apprehension.

What is most pronounced about her, my adolescent self, is the bright flame of her personal intellectual ambition. In the dark of the intervening decades, it has grown even brighter. At night, when the light of this computer screen illuminates my dark apartment, it glows with sheer brilliance.

My mothering is not complete, nor have golden coins begun to rain down from heaven. Middle Babe's college tuition will need to be paid for the next four years and Little Babe's high school and college career looms in the distance. Big Babe may need some financial assistance. The piles of unpaid bills persist. There are no winning lotto tickets on our kitchen counter.

Still, the Three Babes are older, which means that I have a shot at being able to disappear into libraries on weekends and evenings to complete my course work.

It might not be next year and it might not be New Haven (hey, Columbia also has a really good American Studies program...and it's right across the street from the Urban Bungalow), but the feisty woman-child who is my inner and my eternal self has informed me that the journey I have branded as Kafkaesque is about to take a page out of sci-fi, traveling into the future in order to heal the ruptured past.

*Original post read as too long and maudlin. Two days after the visit to Yale, I'm able to get a better grip on the experience. Thanks for living through the (public) rewrites. BB

Friday, March 23, 2007


With HOBB’s arrival home from India (if ya haven’t already done so, check out the action on, my resolve to flee to a sanatorium in Switzerland was sidetracked when he showed up sick that he slept for two days straight, emerging from the bedroom only to stagger through the Urban Bungalow in a state of complete and utter disorientation.

As Alfie the Pomeranian ( had failed to learn how to keep house -- and as HOBB looked like he might die without someone to tend to him -- I cancelled my Swiss Miss adventure and turned into Bungalow Nursebabe.

Bereft of my relaxing retreat, I drowned my sorrows in Low-Carb Mini Bundt Cakes instead, courtesy of a home-delivery from the Fat Free Experience. You can read about it two posts back or visit

But as HOBB’s illness receded, I began harboring escape fantasies once again. Not that I’m keeping count or anything, but after a week of driving Little Babe to school twice, attending Parent-Teacher conferences by myself, parking the car and doing massive food shopping and shlepping all the bags upstairs myself, I did feel entitled to a vacation…if only for one night.

HOBB good-naturedly agreed, assuring me that I should take off while he retrieved Little Babe from his after school class and spent the evening in a special Dad ‘n Son-a-thon. In his e-mail to me of 5:25 today, he wrote (and I quote): “Make sure you go to the gym tonight! I want a happy [embarrassing term of endearment deleted] on my hands.”

Well…here is how my “happy” night turned out.

5:45: Leave the Urban Bungalow with Katie the Intern for the ATM at Lerner Hall. Pay her, chuck plan to take subway down to gym and opt to walk in unseasonable warm weather.

6:00: Call from Little Babe, expressing surprise that I did not pick him up. I reassure him that he will have a great night with Dad and I’ll be home to say sh’ma with him.

6:10: Stop in to peruse cute yet shockingly expensive frocks at Liberty House. Flee store and find solace at Steps, where entire outfits can be had for $15.

6:15: Enjoy walk down Broadway though the sidewalks seem covered in smeary dog poop, the gutters are filled with filthy slush and the corners are populated by screaming bands of high school kids.

6:30: Opt for manicure at under-populated salon where staff wear red satin Chinese tunics. Two seconds into manicure, I ask for 10-minute backrub.

6:35: HOBB calls. Wants to know how I am. Wants to know where I am. Wants to know what time I’ll be home. I pretend I can barely hear him and hang up.

6:45: Backrub commences. Joy, joy, joy.

6:47: Cellphone rings. Two feet away from me. Chatter commences. I am relaxed, taking in the sound as ambience. No stress.

6:50: The bitch is still at it. I lift my head suddenly and demand that she shut the $%^ up. I ask her if she has failed to see me having a backrub about 24 inches from her blabbering mouth. She looks shocked. Then she retaliates, telling her caller that she is being “accosted” by a customer. (I will skip over the particulars of this fight. It is very depressing that the concept of consideration needs to be disputed. Readers, weigh in on this issue, please.)

7:00: I leave the salon feeling furious, upset, shaken, disappointed, confused and agitated. I run into two cops on the beat, a guy and a woman. I ask them about indoor cellphone usage laws or regulations. They report that there are none; that it is up to the proprietor of the business. I tell them the story of what just went down in the nail salon. They express shock at the behavior of inconsiderate cellphone gal. Their empathy actually makes me feel a heck of a lot better.

7:10: I start composing an Op-Ed in my head about indoor cellphone use being a lot more dangerous than in-car cellphone use because it leads people like me to thoughts of murder, whereas in-car cellphone use might only result in a car accident. I decide to take up arms against the sea of cellphone talkers invading these bastions of R and R. I reflect upon the feasibility of petitioning nail salon owners to enforce cellphone restriction rules…and then abide by them. I recall another incident in the not-so-recent past, where another nail salon visit was utterly ruined by another yapper…and where the owner of the salon was similarly passive. (You can read about it in a previous post).

7:18: I stop at a Starbucks and order a Grande Americano. I ask the barista about obnoxious cellphone users. She tells me she wants to write a book about being a barista in NYC. She said that most of her customers are major a-holes.

7:20: I realize I ought to high-tail it to the gym, which I haven’t visited since earlier in the week if I want to have a good workout, a steam room visit and a shower. After all, I have to be home in two hours.

7:30: I stop in at the Gap on 86th Street. I try on four pair of knee-length shorts, all of which make me look like a middle-aged camp counselor.

7:40: I stop in at Origins and buy some products. I ask the cashier if the store has a cellphone use policy. She tells me that there is no such policy but she is amazed by how loud and inconsiderate many of the customers are. I find solace in this and tell her my story. She nods in grave commiseration.

8:00: I stop in at Filene’s and use the bathroom. I meander through the store and then leave, realizing I will have less than an hour at the gym. Nearly everyone at Filene's is yapping on their cellphones.

8:10: I get to the gym. While I am changing, I realize that I smell of stress sweat.

8:15: I wash my pits and spritz myself with perfume.

8:17: I climb aboard a treadmill and tune in to Law and Order. Bliss.

8:20: My cellphone rings. It is Little Babe. He is tearful. I whisper to him that I cannot talk; I’m on a treadmill. It’s not nice to talk inside the gym. He is upset. His mouth hurts. He’s tired. He wants to go to sleep. When will I be home?

I tell him to brush his teeth and call me when he’s in bed and ready to say sh'ma.

8:30: Little Babe calls. He’s in bed. I whisper sh'ma to him over my cellphone. I am gasping from the effort of walking at 4 miles an hour and climbing at an incline of 7 while singing in Hebrew. I tell him not to wait up for me.

8:45: Little Babe calls. He cannot fall asleep. What time will I be home?

8:50: Little Babe calls. He’s not sure his friend should come for the weekend. What time will I be home?

9:00: Two and a quarter miles on the treadmill; three-quarters of a mile to go. I run to the bathroom. My phone rings. It is HOBB. “What time will you be home?” he asks. I remind him that I have been on home duty for two solid weeks and deserve a bit of a break.

9:03: I forget about finishing my treadmill workout. Instead, I do three sets on the pull-down machine. I vow to finish my weights at home. I vow to do my abs at home. I vow to go to the gym the next day. I vow to leave for Switzerland after Shabbat.

9:10: I shower hurriedly.

9:13: I duck into the steam room for an un-relaxing two minutes.

9:15: I shower and hurriedly slather lotion on myself.

9:17: I throw on clothes, while talking a mile a minute to a friend (mostly about how much in a hurry I am), put a baseball cap over my wet hair, grab all my stuff together and run out of the locker room.

9:23: Hail a cab. Think about stuff I might have left in the locker room. Call HOBB en route. Find out I need to repark the car.

9:36: Arrive home. Find the car. Drive around a few million blocks. Find a spot. Call my mother as I am walking down Morningside Drive to find out about her latest injury. She's semi-hysterical that I'm walking along Morningside Drive by myself at night. In the middle of the conversation with my mother, Little Babe calls.

I thought he was asleep. He is not. He is in tears. He is in pain from the sores in his mouth.

What he wants to know is, when will I be home?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Who is the most retarded Stage Mom in America?

No, not Kathy Hilton. (I didn’t ask who the mom of the most retarded celebrity in America is.)

The most retarded Stage Mom in America is none other than Dina Lohan, mother of Lindsay, profiled here in today’s venerable New York Post. Check it out at:

After reading the entertainingly snide write-up, I just had to send a shout-out to Dina, Kathy, Lynne Spears, Jarnette Olsen (the twins’ mom)…and all the other mothers who pushed their babies into the limelight and then stood on the side, clapping delightedly as their lives turned into public nightmares:

You guys have screwed up.

In a major way.

In a way that cannot be blamed on poverty and lack of opportunity.

In a way that will be hard to undo.

Hey Deens, when the world looks at your daughter and “trashes” her, calling her a slut or drunk or bimbo, you might wanna stop and consider the validity of these charges and whether it is time to assess the role your own parenting (or lack thereof) has played in turning that adorable and gifted star of The Parent Trap into an utter train wreck.

As mothers, we have a daunting responsibility to nurture and protect and guide our children. Therefore, it is not in the best interest of your daughter when you act as her pimp. It is not in her best interest when you act like her best friend, going clubbing with her, drinking or hooking up, or even tottering around in her Jimmy Choos.

It is not in her best interest when you are such a media whore that you grab every opportunity to vogue for the cameras, flaunting some adolescent version of the Good Life as if you have discovered the meaning of life.

Tell me, you really think that sipping champagne in a limo is such a big freaking deal? Don't you think that at 44, it's more than a bit pathetic that you are so dazzled by the glitz and glitter of Hollywood? Don't you realize that we're all laughing at you?

It seems that as long as Linds is in the headlines – whether for flashing her privates or falling down drunk or getting into car crashes or showing up late and hung over to film sets – you believe that she is living – as you claim – the American Dream.

Wake up, Dinaleh.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Whilst driving up to Little Babe's school tonight, half an hour late for parent-teacher conferences (yeah, the thing I hadda register for online last week...and, oh, btw, HOBB is in bed, sick after returning from India. Poor little poopsie.) I got a furtive call on my Blackberry.

"Hey, I'm on Amsterdam and 116th," said a voice over the crackling phone line. "I've got your stuff. Roz said I might catch you."
My heart leapt with joy. Earlier, while racing from a meeting on East 59th Street via cab, Roz called and apologized for not delivering my Fat Free Experience Mini Bundt Cakes earlier in the day.

I'm positively addicted to these things but they are hard to find, flying off the shelves at Fairway within minutes of landing. Just yesterday I noticed a phone number on the wrapper of the coffee cake confection I had just scarfed down and called. The friendly Roz told me that I could arrange weekly my home!!!!

Somehow, the morning delivery got off-track, but now Mitch the driver was in my nabe, having just delivered a batch to Garden of Eden.
"Great!" I barked over the phone. "I'll meet him while I'm digging out my van in about 5 minutes." As I clicked the call off, I quelled the inner voice that I was already late for the parent-teacher conferences and a quick transaction on the street would not delay me any more.

Well...five minutes came and went as the cab deposited me next to my snowed-in van. No sign of Mitch. Getting into the minivan, however, I met Little Babe who was walking Alfie the Pomeranian ( and who watched in shock and awe as I drove my way out of the snowbank, lurching forward and backward, weaving, pitching, nearly killing half the faculty of Columbia University.

Amazingly, I got the minivan out, shouted goodbye to Little Babe through the open window and started burning rubber to make it the second half of the parent-teacher conferences. As I was humming along Amsterdam Avenue, Mitch called to say he was on my corner.

Oy. Dilemma. I deliberated for about, oh, half a second before executing a quick Youeee and screeching down Amsterdam. Parked in front of Camille's, there was Mitch, holding two cake boxes with my muffins. I pulled up alongside him, smiled winningly, handed him the cash and drove off with my fix.

Fresh from their Bronx bakery, the little low-carb bundt cakes are pretty close to heaven. And almost guilt-free. Especially if you forget about parent-teacher conferences.

So, here's Bungalow Babe's hot tip for the week. Visit to arrange for a home -- or curbside -- delivery of these goodies.

Monday, March 19, 2007


*to take out the garbage, walk the dog, do the dishes, move the car, replace light bulbs, change the toilet paper, figure out online Parent-Teacher conference sign-up forms, etc…

This evening, at approximately 5 p.m., a momentous event will take place in the life of Bungalow Babe.

HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe) and Big Babe, who have been traipsing through India for the past 12 days, will return to the bosom of their family. (To see what they have been doing in India, visit

In their absence, this particular bosom has sagged. So much so that major reconstructive work is called for.

And while the mental recovery will take some time (experts estimate that twelve days in a sanatorium should just about do it. See the previous Bungalow Babe posting, Woman on the Verge), the physical effort will commence in about five minutes.

Starting in about five minutes, all evidence that the Urban Bungalow has been inhabited by a Woman on the Verge (plus a delighted Little Babe who had a “sleepover” in his mom’s room with Alfie the Pomeranian every single night and missed a total of FIVE school days during this 12 day period due to sickness AND a snow day last Friday. Thanks a whole lot, Hashem. You’re a real pal) will be obliterated as Bungalow Babe (together with her dedicated cleaning Lady, Lady [her real name]) springs into action.

Some of the reconstructive efforts entail:

*Tossing out the piles of newspaper which have accumulated around the apartment (largely unread) like so many Stonehenge monuments

*Putting away the piles of clothes that lie draped over the office chair in the bedroom, a testament to the fits of sartorial decision-itis that have only increased in the absence of the menfolk. These piles have migrated from the master bed, where they lay for at least four days, making a pleasant nest for Alfie the Pomeranian, until Little Babe complained that he didn’t like sleeping next to suits. Bungalow Babe actually got used to it

*Removing the challah-crumb-infested Shabbat tablecloth from the table, putting away the challah tray and washing the wine-stained kiddush cups

*Finding the various unread mail deposit sites around the apartment and gathering all the important looking stuff into one pile to place on the dining room table, now cleared of the Shabbat tablecloth

*Finding the missing New Yorker with the great cartoon of the writer on deadline plus the issue of the Forward that had an opera review written by Big Babe

*Washing the fleishig dishes in the sink; removing the clean milchig dishes from the dishwasher

*Throwing out the used fish pan that has lived on the fire escape for the last twelve days because it is truly disgusting now that it has been snowed and rained and hailed on. (But the spatula inside of it with the plastic yellow fish head can prob. be saved.)

*Finding the missing phone receiver (where the *&*^ is it????)

*Pouring the sour milk down the drain once the fleishig dishes are done

*Throwing out the empty bags of chips and boxes of crackers that populate the shelves. Somehow, it seemed like too much effort to discard these over the past twelve days

*Getting rid of the abundant evidence of takeout food

*Putting new toilet paper rolls on the toilet paper holders. Right now, they are resting on the bathroom floor, to be perfectly truthful. Bungalow Babe considers herself virtuous to have risked her life by climbing atop a kitchen counter yesterday and successfully retrieving the bag of new rolls by batting at it wildly with a broom until it came flying off the top of the kitchen shelves while Little Babe ducked for cover.

*Relocating the recycling material to the basement. As of this morning, there are enough empty Poland Spring bottles in the Urban Bungalow to make a homeless person rich

…and various and sundry other tasks that will remove the illusion that, in his absence, the Urban Bungalow has been inhabited by a grunge band .

Meanwhile, there are a whole host of tasks that Bungalow Babe will not even attempt, i.e. – replacing the light bulbs, digging the minivan out of its icy snow bank, replacing the steering wheel fluid, for starters. Bungalow Babe is hopeful that the mere sight of these tasks will ignite compassion in HOBB’s heart for her ordeal of having to run the Urban Bungalow in his absence.

Of course, the return of HOBB and Big Babe will also be celebrated by the requisite balloons and Welcome Back signs, provided that Bungalow Babe finishes the project she was supposed to do over the weekend but frankly blew off for the pleasure of going out with a friend to Makor on Saturday night, attending a Congressional Breakfast on Sunday morning and taking Little Babe to a production of Di Yam Gazlonim, the Yiddish version of The Pirates of Penzance on Sunday evening (visit It’s playing for two weeks only. See it! You’ll plotz!)

In other words, having a life.

It is now 9:15 am. The new workday and workweek has begun. Lady has arrived, thank God. Little Babe went to school, undeterred by illness or weather. Bungalow Babe’s professional Inbox is pinging, signaling the arrival of work-related e-mails. Alfie the Pomeranian is snoozing happily on the master bed, curled up next to the outfit that Bungalow Babe wore to yesterday morning’s Congressional breakfast and might likely recycle for today's 1 pm meeting.

Get those happy zzz’s in now, my little furry friend, because once HOBB returns home, the honeymoon is over.

Thursday, March 15, 2007



FROM: Your Wife, Bungalow Babe

The purpose of this memo is to inform you of my intention to leave the country the very minute you arrive home from your 12-day trip to India, which commenced last Wednesday and will conclude this upcoming Monday.

I anticipate being gone the same amount of time as the duration of your trip, most of which will likely be spent at a sanatorium, if such places still exist.

(In fact, the minute I finish this memo, I will start Googling sanatoriums – sanatoria?? It is possible that I might even find a discount package through Expedia or Orbitz. But why am I even thinking about the cost?? I will be billing it back to you, dear HOBB.)

Do not misunderstand. I am not leaving in a fit of rage, rather in a blur of exhaustion.

Mental, physical and spiritual.

I simply need time away from my life, which has begun to feel like a horror film directed by John Waters.

I think it was while I was cleaning up dog poop at three in the morning that I realized I need to distance myself from the ordeal of nearly two weeks of unrelenting duty on the domestic front, a tour which included:

  • Alternate side of the street parking nightmares, complete with interminable – and fruitless -- late-night searches for a good parking spot for the following day, ticket-happy traffic cops and sociopathic parking spot thieves

  • Dog walking adventures featuring a constipated Pomeranian who decided to turn into a prolific pooper on Day Five

  • Four consecutive sick days for Little Babe and then reams of catch-up schoolwork and homework; wasted time waiting for late school buses on most mornings and then a frantic flight down West End Avenue in hot pursuit of the school bus on the only morning that the driver was on time and we were late; indignant calls to the company when the driver yelled at Little Babe for failing to get off the bus “fast enough,” causing him to fall down the steps and the other kids to laugh

  • Life-threatening efforts to retrieve the toilet paper from the top of the kitchen cabinets where you stored them for some sadistic reason

  • Heart-stopping attempts to replace the four light bulbs that decided to blow in your absence

  • A couple of hours spent researching and ordering party supplies for Little Babe’s Luau party from Oriental Trading Company

  • An anxious hour spent figuring how to fill out parent-teacher conference forms on line (WTF!)

  • Back and forth e-mails with Middle Babe’s doctor in Jerusalem over the best way to have funds wired to her for Middle Babe’s treatments

  • Plaintive requests for Richard the Super to come and fix the bathtub when the drain stopped draining

  • Conversations with John the Contractor about the renovations we requested for the summer

  • Supervising the nameless plumber on the replacement of the broken faucets in the kitchen and bathroom

  • Mad dashes through Fairway to stock up on food

  • The preparation of nutritious breakfasts and dinners for Little Babe

  • The sacrificing of all of my extracurricular activities in order to take care of Little Babe and make sure he practices his cello….not to mention the regular stress and work of running my own business or the looming and often converging deadlines or the fact that I haven’t made it to gym this week – or (most pathetically) even onto our home treadmill, located in Middle Babe’s bedroom – or the paltry quota of two to four hours’ sleep I allow myself in an effort to finish my work commitments.

    In other words, I have had it.

    I’ve been there.

    I’ve done that.

    I’m outta here.

    The sanatorium room I will request should have a view of snow-capped mountains, or the ocean or perhaps an enchanted forest. As this sanatorium will likely be in Switzerland, I intend to spend my days with tall, healthy, non-neurotic Swiss people who will administer massages, manicures and pedicures, take me on restorative hikes through the Alps, protect me from visitors, administer medicinal doses of chocolate several times a day, smile a lot and agree with everything I say.

    While away, I also plan to have some advanced facial treatments that will obliterate the telltale signs of stress and sleeplessness. And perhaps I’ll have my hair professionally colored instead of the over-the-bathroom sink production I undergo once every five weeks. I’ll make my hair the color of bittersweet chocolate. Perhaps actual chocolate can even be used in the process. And I'll have a chocolate massage to go with that.

    During the day, when I am not having treatments or hiking through the Alps, I will sit in a cozy theatre, watching DVDs of every great movie I’ve ever wanted to see…and missed. Or watch the film versions of every great book I had hoped to read…but haven’t. And eat Caesar Salad the entire time. Without croutons and anchovies but with extra cheese.

    The cost of my stay will include daily sessions with a world-renowned psychologist (or even psychiatrist…what’s not to like about drugs?) from Vienna. In our daily therapeutic hikes, my new shrink will enable me to achieve profound insights into my psyche. The mysteries of my life will finally be revealed, in fact, I will realize that it all makes for a great (and marketable) screenplay. Together, we will have transference and counter-transference and when I am ready to return home, I will be tranquil, wise and fully-evolved.

    I’m sending out this memo to you, dear HOBB so you don’t wonder where I am when you return home. Out of the deepest sense of compassion for you, I have decided to leave before you return because I honestly think I might kill you if our paths cross on my way to the sanatorium.

    Your loving wife,

    Bungalow Babe

    PS: I’m putting Alfie the Pomeranian in charge of Little Babe until you get home. Later tonight, I plan to teach him how to pick up the mail, make dinner and lock the door.

    PPS: Don’t try to call or e-mail me. I am giving my Blackberry to our cleaning lady.

PPPS: Did I mention that I'm writing this memo in the Jury Selection room of 111 Centre Street? Yeah, I have Jury Duty today and tomorrow. Did you contact the New York State Court system and set this up in advance???

PPPPS: I will be staying in the most sun-drenched room at the sanatorium to make up for the twelve days of living in darkness. Little Babe has been doing his homework and practicing cello by candlelight. My attempts to replace the four broken lightbulbs in our apartment have all failed.


*Husband of Bungalow Babe, in case ya haven't figured it out by now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


(NOTE TO READERS: Since posting this entry last night, I had a personal realization and have updated the post as a result. If you saw this post anytime before 11:30 pm on 3/14, you haven't seen the latest version.)
Last week, I was really burning to write about anorexic women at the gym and how upsetting it is to watch them wander listlessly through the workout floor, barely managing to lift weights, traipsing feebly on the treadmills, drowning in overlarge clothes, staggering through workout class, publicly engaged in a war against their bodies.
I wanted to communicate the horror of seeing these women naked in the locker room – stripped of buttocks and breasts, skin invariably turned a waxy yellow, Auschwitz-like victims of their own internal concentration camp transplanted onto the pleasure-oriented landscape of 21st century Manhattan.
I wanted to write about the complex reaction they evoke in me – a mixture of pity, worry and outrage. Like coming upon a homeless child on a street corner or walking through a cancer ward, my soul contracts at the sight of these skeletal gym rats. They are pathetic, these dying women on the workout floor, come to absolve themselves of the sin of imaginary fat.
I have spent entire workouts covertly monitoring them as I sweat my way through 45 minutes of Law and Order-fueled treadmill torture, worried that they might drop dead any second. I have been disturbed by the failure of fitness trainers to remove these women from harm’s way with a gentle intervention…and quick call to 911.
I have pondered the responsibility of fitness clubs towards anorexics and concluded that any facility dedicated to health and exercise needs to install vigilant monitors who might offer intervention in the same way that restaurant managers would be compelled to administer a quick Heimlich maneuver to a patron who has started to choke.

It is not, as the director of the Dodge Fitness Center at Columbia University once told me when I voiced my alarm at the growing number of anorexic students at his facility, an invasion of privacy to intervene. That is utter bulls#*t.

Intervening when you witness a suicide-in-progress is a moral imperative.

And while I fear for my starving sisters, I admit that I also experience anger at them for failing to overcome the habit of denying their bodies’ basic needs, a habit popularized by adolescent girls running from their sexuality, their mothers, the encroachment of adulthood, their emerging selves.

Rather than embrace the often-fattening pleasures of life, adult anorexics are stuck in a romance with the concept of self-abnegation, they practice masochism every minute, feeling purified by their hunger, strengthened by their resolve to forego pleasure.

Spiritual purists, they disavow interest in their corporeal existence. And though they intend to make themselves holy, they inadvertently sin, dishonoring God by tampering with God’s most glorious design – the human body – desecrating it through deprivation.

So, this is what I was burning to write about last week, this and the fact that, lately, as I observe these bony, brittle women at my beloved gym, I am aware that my extra winter poundage has necessitated the addition of cellulite-control leggings beneath my little black running shorts.
However, as this week dawned, the issue began to recede from my radar screen. Feeling duty bound to tackle the matter (having referenced it in the past post) I began writing but the prose didn't flow out of my fingertips. I found the going difficult, the subject eluded me, seemed foreign, barely held my interest.
Still, I soldiered on, determined to make good on my promise, choosing to segue from the scenario of starving women to my own winter weight gain. Here is the rest of what I wrote:

It is also impossible to ignore the fact that my abs are hardly rock-hard due to my winter penchant for eating pretty much whatever I like, including the vanilla Haagen Dazs I am currently inhaling…straight from the half-gallon container, I might add…with little spoonfuls tossed to Alfie the Pomeranian who has magically appeared computer-side, lured, no doubt by the scent of vanilla wafting through the apartment.

Yes, it is weird writing about anorexics while eating ice cream at midnight. Weird and ironic... or weird and appropriate.

Life affirming, even.

Haagen Dazs at midnight is the opposite of anorexia. (Unless you go and throw it up afterwards, but that is really bulimia.)

Indeed, I am feeling elated as this creamy confection melts on my tongue even if my belly is not bikini-ready and my thighs and butt need to be encased in slimming black spandex before I’ll appear in public. I am feeling elated even while acknowledging that I'll need to wear those leggings a little while longer before my inner fitness dominatrix prevails and chains me to an elliptical trainer and carb-free regime.

HOBB is away in India with Big Babe, Middle Babe is studying in Israel and Little Babe is asleep in my bed next to the pile of clothes I’ve neglected to put away since HOBB left the country last week.

Like amassing piles of clothes, eating ice cream at midnight is one of the pleasures and privileges of adulthood.

That, and watching late night television, perhaps an episode of Law and Order, until I wrest myself from the couch to return to the deadline project due at 10 am tomorrow morning. And that is where the original post ended.
But readers, as I read and re-read the post obsessively, I felt agitated. Yes, I had written about my honest reaction to starving women at the gym, revealing myself to be less than, or more than simply compassionate towards them in their plight. However, there was something else going on, something I was afraid to touch. Something that was at the core of my annoyance with anorexic adults, something that explained just why I felt compelled to dive into a half-gallon of Haagen Dazs to make it through the writing.
It had to do with my adult self confronting my starving teenage self, seeing myself in the extreme waif-like women, averting my gaze from the reminder of what it was like to be obsessed with overcoming my appetite, being unable to bear what I might have become.
It had to do with standing inside and outside the mind of the anorexic, feeling the draw of denial as a sham way of gaining some control over my life. It zapped me back to a nightmarish time of being forced to inhabit a role I did not choose, of feeling like a prisoner in my own life.
And though I have moved beyond that time, travelled light years out of that hell, the default mode for the stress and disequilibrium in my life is still the mode of self-denial.
So, what was left unstated in the original post is that I see myself as I was in the desperate dieters at the gym. And because of that close identification, I want to yell at them, shake them out of the hell they are in, move them into adulthood where autonomy generally allows us to create our own reality, rewrite our destiny, even.
In my life, I have slain the false god of self-destruction, refusing to capitulate to his decree.
The midnight Haagen Dazs is therefore my trophy, elixir of sticky delight and sweet dreams, the essence of my healing.