The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.
– Amy Poehler, “Yes Please”
Ten weeks ago, I went back to school. Well, sort of.
Two hours of Googling and one very reassuring “this can only be good for you” text later and I was giving Gotham Writers Workshop my address and credit card information. A 10-week workshop sounded nice, and I was getting pretty tired of staying faithful to community news (hell hath no fury like a resident scorned). Both my blog and bedroom were collecting dust, as they still are (consider this a public apology to my boatload of dedicated followers and anyone whose clothes I have stolen and let pile up on my floor). Basically, I considered myself long overdue for one of those life-changing “a-ha” moments you see on the big screen. Like when Harry meets Sally or when Blanche realizes she’s the sluttier of the Golden Girls.
I said to myself, “If all else fails, I guess I’ll have something to write about,” followed by,
“Maybe I’ll even meet a boy.” *
With one class left — and at least 18 pages I would have never otherwise written under my shiny new belt, I can safely say I got my Hollywood ending (minus the part where Lena Dunham shows up at my apartment to offer me a book deal with little to no fine print and a lifetime of free Taco Bell). With just one more rush hour train ride to Bryant Park on my horizon, here’s (a SparkNotes version of) what I’ve taken away from Memoir Writing 101:
Some people are going to really dig your writing,
and others would rather read the back of a takeout menu. Some will grow fond of your flow, your style, your voice, and maybe even your excessive use of commas. Others will not. That’s just how this thing goes.
Some people are not going to “get it.”
Many will. Just make sure they understand who’s who. The rest is up to them.
Make sure you’re getting on the right train.
This is not a metaphor. Balancing work and class is the fucking pits. Make sure that D train is not a B train, or else you might end up taking an Uber home from East Flatbush at midnight with nothing but two dollars in your pocket and a half eaten bag of white cheddar popcorn in your purse.
Times Square is the worst.
Also not a metaphor. Just the cold hard crowded truth.
Keep a journal,
be it in a composition notebook, in the notes of your iPhone or on the back of a receipt. Whatever you do, write it down because, if you’re anything like me, your memory — or lack thereof — will prove to be your greatest enemy in the quest to finish your piece. Think of it as the troll under the bridge that won’t stop asking questions you don’t know the answer to. Be prepared to pay the toll.
Simple right? One would think.
The realization that I will never, ever write enough hit me like a nasty hangover as early on as Week One because — spoiler alert — you can never, ever write too much. Make the time, even if you swear you don’t have it (I, for one, have pledged at least one hour per day I would normally spend Facebook stalking former flames to my forthcoming collection of personal and painfully embarrassing essays).
Write often and write it all, but don’t dwell on writing well. Spill your guts on the page even if that means devoting three and a half pages to the way your college boyfriend looked at you when you drank too much Pinnacle Whipped, and another two to the time you were physically removed from B.B. Kings for spewing on a table full of someone else’s food.
Don’t sweat the small stuff in the first draft (this one’s a metaphor!). Save the heavy editing for drafts seven and eight because, if you’re doing it right, you won’t ever really be finished writing.
* I did not meet any boys.
It’s 10 p.m. on a Wednesday and I am ready for bed; lights out, and Neosporin on my legs because I fear that the sand flea bites I brought home from Puerto Rico will scar. I’m thinking about reading, but also about Zebra Cakes.
The strangers outside are too loud.
I do ten sit-ups in my head and wonder what Wayne Brady is doing now.
“You had the right idea when you moved in with guys you knew you’d never bang.”
Six and a half years ago I buried my father. I had pink hair, a petite frame, and a bone to pick with the world. I listened to a lot of Brand New and Kevin Devine, hoping that one day, the two-family house my mother and I rented would feel like home again. For a while, it felt too big; the smell of dad’s english muffin pizzas still lingering, even though he wasn’t the slightest bit Italian (though I later found out we were a tiny part Polish).
Soon enough, mom and I found a way to make it home again (a new bed-set and a few fresh paint jobs didn’t hurt).
Seventeen months ago I buried my mother. I had brown hair, unsteady hands and luggage-sized bags under my eyes. I listened to a lot of Arctic Monkeys and Ben Folds Five, hoping that one day, the two-family house my mother and I rented would finally be someone else’s problem. That the grime on the kitchen counter would be someone else’s to scrub, and that the unsettling creak of the second floor hallway would be someone else’s to cry about at 3 a.m. That the mountain of crap that belonged to my mother, my father and their mothers and fathers would soon be someone else’s to give a shit about.
In time, I found a new home. First, in a friend’s basement. Second, in a shoebox above a bar.
Fifteen months ago I signed a lease with two boys in a band.* I had a fuckton of shit, very limited closet space and a U-Haul booked for a blizzard. I listened to a lot of Animal Collective and Radiohead, hoping that one day, we’d be able to afford basic cable. In the year and two months that followed, I learned more about after-shave, bass amps and Sonic Youth than I ever would’ve as a close, personal friend of Thurston Moore, among other things, like:
There is a very small chance they will tolerate Taylor Swift, but they will allow you to tolerate her so long as the door’s closed or you’re taking a shower.
They will always ask about your day, and almost always start a mid-day text conversation with an obscure emoji like the set of eyes looking left or sweet potato. They will give your weekly television shows a try, but only some will stick (see: Bob’s Burgers and Broad City). Most will not (see: Girls, Parks and Rec, and Dancing With the Stars). They will push you to hit on cute boys at the bar, and, even when they’re not there they will serve as estranged wingmen when where you live comes up in conversation:
“I actually live with two dudes.”
“So, you’re just like Jess from New Girl?”
“I’m really more like Nick.”
– A real conversation I had in Atlantic City
They will almost always compliment your outfit, even though, to them, what you’re wearing looks exactly like the last five things you tried on. Also, they are perpetually unsure of whether or not “does this look okay?” is actually a trick question.
“Can you see my butt in this?” “Uhh.”
They will sit at the foot of your bed while you’re having a panic attack. Then, they will ask if they should call 911 because they have never seen anything like this and are concerned you might choke on your own tears. In due time, they will start to PMS with you, and when your period is late, they will know. For weeks, they will secretly wonder if their roommate is pregnant and ask you about it every day until you finally do.
“Did you get it yet?”
They will buy you a bottle of Duane Reade wine when your writing gets published and their band will shout you out on Twitter for always letting them practice in the living room. They will change the lightbulbs they can reach and wait for you to order dinner and make sure you get where you’re going in one piece. They will share in your accomplishments and pour their hearts into a “Sorry today is the day your mom died” greeting card.
They will wake you up when you’re crying in your sleep, and one of their moms will buy you light up shamrock earrings for Saint Patrick’s Day. They will never judge you for wearing your ex boyfriend’s pajama pants (yes, the ones with the hole in the crotch), and they will stay silent about all the hair you leave in the sink.
They will change your life, unexpectedly, and for the better.
“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out”
– Lou Reed
The funny thing about a hard-hitting loss is that you never know what you’re going to gain from it. I may have lost the only nuclear family I’ll ever have (and a killer tomato sauce recipe) but, somewhere in the wreckage, I found a new one.
And it’s something like the Partridge family.
*Two friends, I should add. I didn’t find them on Craigslist and this isn’t the set-up of a poorly scripted horror movie, unless it’s just taking a really long time to pan out. In that case, stay tuned.
Also featured on HuffPost Women.
Last December, I vowed not to touch my friends’ tits or leave the house with wet hair.
This Christmas, a good guy friend of mine walked into the woman’s bathroom at our every-week bar to find both of my tiny, un-manicured hands pressed against his girlfriend’s chest. He was looking to smoke a cigarette and we’d been in there for close to a half an hour discussing DD bras and breast reductions (a life event I’d been denied earlier this year for lack of a better insurance plan, and to be fair, shitty luck).
The next day, my hair dryer broke.
Needless to say, my resolutions have a habit of hitting the high road come MLK weekend.
Not all was lost, though. I did stop buying cold cuts out of boredom and start buying unlimited Metrocards. I did not ask any OKCupid matches to “meet me at the Ratchet Pussy Party” and I only drunk texted my ex-boyfriend once* (to my knowledge).
*This is a story that no one believes. It was a-quarter-to-six on Santacon — second in line only to Saint Patrick’s Day for NYC’s drunkest and most degenerate day of the year — and I was simultaneously hailing a cab by Calico Jack’s, and trying not to get hit by one. As I haggled with the driver to “please take me to South Brooklyn for a flat rate” and “not fuck me over, it’s almost Christmas,” a drunk Santa emerged from the backseat. His sidekick was asleep (such is life). Before I could turn around and rush the two along, the coherent man-in-red said,
How’s [ex-boyfriend’s name redacted]?”
It was a friend of his from college that I was not nearly drunk enough to see.
The text read something like,
“Saw [Santa’s name redacted].
He asked me how you were. Fucker.”
(Only there were a lot more typos and it sounded a lot less cool.)
I read four whole books (which, as a writer, seems pitiful but is a vast improvement from last year’s single read: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling). I stopped Google Map-ing the closest Chipotle (one may have opened across the street from my apartment but that’s neither here nor there) and I stopped staring so hard at children on the subway (their parents, not so much).
This year was not my best, by miles. But it wasn’t my worst, either.
I signed a lease with two boys in a band who, 12 months later, I consider family (even if the seat’s always up and there’s always tobacco in the glass crevasses of the coffee table).
My girlfriends and I celebrated our five-year high school reunion by drinking full bottles of (complementary) red wine and running through the hallways of said high school like chickens without heads, and super-super-super seniors who’d forgotten their locker combinations (#hailtotheeourschool).
My writing went viral and it was equal parts terrifying and completely bananas. I had love-mail and hate-mail and readers in North Korea which, looking back, seems both ironic and confusing. I became a featured blogger for The Huffington Post (with a login and everything!) and finally thought (while splurging on brand-name waffles at Foodtown), “Hey, this whole writing thing might actually work out.”
I was recognized (as said featured blogger) at a graduation party by the tattoo on my wrist, which is still one of the wildest things to ever happen to me (up there with: dancing three inches away from the lead singer of Hellogoodbye on what used to be the runway at a strip-club-turned-venue in the West Village, and casually e-mailing Aaron Samuels).
He totally e-mailed back and it was totally grool.Our group welcomed its first baby, little Leo, and he’ll be one this February.
I celebrated my first birthday without my mother, but only cried once (twice if you count the beer tears post-one friend’s bloody face-plant and another one’s arrest). Three months later, I hosted the second annual fundraiser/concert/Sunday afternoon drink-fest in my parents’ memory and raised more than $6,000 towards cancer research. I also raffled off an inflatable kayak and a bud light rocking chair but, again, that’s neither here nor there.
I visited London, just because, and did not die at a five-day music festival in Delaware.
I laughed until I cried, and I cried until I laughed (almost always in public, often at the bar).
And so, in the spirit of every “New Year, New You” post that you’ll see today (the majority revolving around losing weight and “getting fit”), here’s sixteen New Year’s Resolutions that I probably won’t keep because Urban Dictionary said so and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
1. Read more on paper and less on screens.
2. Give form-fitting shirts another chance (the resolution formerly called: Don’t buy anymore fucking flannels).
3. Take more risks. Say “yes” more often (unless, of course, you want to say “no”). In that case,
4. say “no.” Do not say “maybe.” Put your size-9 foot down.
Nein. Nej. Ne.
5. (For God’s sake,) stop trying to make brunch plans. Accept that everybody (including you) would rather sleep in past noon and re-watch the first season of Broad City. That being said,
6. try to make and keep at least one set of brunch plans. (DO IT FOR THE BLOODY MARYS.)
7. Write more of what you want to write. Leave the resignations of high-profile congressmen at your day-job and start telling the world about the 750 milliliter bottle of Smirnoff that helped shatter your knee-cap senior year.8. Pay more attention to the group texts of loved ones, and respond with something more meaningful than an an emoji of an airplane seat.
9. Write a follow-up e-mail to Aaron Samuels that says “your hair looks sexy pushed back.”
10. No tumblr after midnight.
11. No chocolate after midnight.
12. No Tinder after midnight.
13. Look up from your god-forsaken cell-phone every once in a while. Stop texting while walking. Stop texting while eating. Stop texting while talking to friends IRL and, most of all, remember what Ferris Bueller said about life moving pretty fucking fast. (Also get that shit fixed, you’re going to get glass in your fingers and die.)
14. Lose weight/get fit. (I’d be lying to you if I didn’t mention the miniature, foldaway stair-master I just impulse-ordered off of Amazon for my bedroom because, #booty.)
A little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody.
15. Actually use said stair-master.
16. Smile more and bitch less. Nobody likes a Salty Sally.
She looked at me like I was fucking orphan Annie.
– Me, Thanksgiving Eve, three sips into a Long Island Iced Tea
It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times.
The holidays, however joyful, are never easy in the days, weeks, and months following the loss of a loved one. The heavy hitters like the brother who died in a car crash just days before the New Year, the step-father who didn’t make it through surgery that September or the mother who gave chemo all she had but lost by one in overtime.
The grief that never really goes away.
I spent the second Thanksgiving Eve without my mom (and the seventh without my dad), doing whiskey shots at a dive bar called JJ Bubbles (Bubbles for short) and then — not one hour later — weeping into my Long Island Iced Tea at the next one.
(Cue: “Don’t fucking tell me to go home.”)
What nobody manages to mention when somebody close to you dies is the eyes. The eyes that water up whenever they catch yours. The eyes that magically appear to look down not just at, but on you, no matter how much shorter than you the person who they belong to might be. The same ones that say, “I know you’re not okay” without actually having the tact to say it.
More than one person this Thanksgiving Eve — the biggest party night of the year for a reason I’ve yet to determine — looked at me, to quote myself, like I was fucking orphan Annie looking for my Daddy Warbucks and/or Jaime Foxx in a sea of Miss Hannigans and/or Cameron Diazes.
More than one person that no good, terrible, very bad night asked me what my plans were for the next day.
More than one person was sincere or, at the least, genuinely curious.
More than one person was not.
More than one person did so in a way that sounded more like, “Oh, you poor thing. Do you have any plans at all?” than “I care about where you’re going tomorrow.” More than one person laid on the same “I’m sorry” eyes that start to get old no more than five or six hours after the death of a loved one. 
The holidays fucking suck. They never get better. They only get worse.
– Me, Thanksgiving Eve, post-Long Island Iced Tea to a friend of mine who, five months ago, buried his mother
And I’m complaining about tact?
I don’t remember his reaction — nor do I know how much of this he actually remembers — but I can still feel the words rolling off my tongue. They felt sharp like knives and tasted terrible. I shook him as I said it and cried harder and harder until it was 3 a.m. and Fall Out Boy was on. He and his (beautiful, loving) girlfriend (who I peed in front of for the first time that night) followed ten steps behind me on my two-block walk home because, “I can fucking do it.”
I was on a roll — but I was right (see also: very, very wrong).
The grief never does go away. It just stings a little less each year.
That thanksgiving was the worst, and not just because of the crippling hangover that left me quiet and cold to both my family and wine. It was the hardest holiday since last year because, while we’re led to believe that time heals all wounds , it really just acts as scar tissue.
This wasn’t the first Thanksgiving without my mother  and it was by no means the first without my father, but it was the first one where they really felt gone. They were characters in stories without seats at the fold-out table and I was to the far right, hungover, parent-less and stress-sweating on a plastic chair. Seven years later, I still get the chills (and a slight stress rash) whenever someone else carves the turkey.
One year later, I’m still hoping she’s just outside, soaking up her seventh cigarette break.
One year later and the “I’m sorry” eyes are still the only thing that make it feel real.
Each snowfall, tree trimming and ball drop cuts close to the bone but, sooner or later, the burden gets easier to bear. The load gets a little lighter and, one day, you will feel the presence of a small, imaginary stranger, there to take the weight of the world off of your shoulders and sprinkle it into the abyss of the New York City sewer system .
- Each passing holiday is a small victory, and there’s always someone out there (dead, alive, and/or imaginary) waving a finger-glove in the cheering section. Remember to thank them.
- Avoid Long Island Iced Teas (they might make you a monster).
Also featured on Huffington Post Women
The first month feels like a year, and then a week, and then a year again. A cold, long, drawn out year with no seasons, and no clocks.The first few days are as cold as ice; way too chilly for Columbus Day Weekend. You stop crying, and you start cracking smiles at small talk but there’s still a pound of salt in your wounds and your friends see right through your grin, no matter how many teeth you’re making it a point to show. Old neighbors, classmates and even complete strangers rise from the rubble to ask how you’re holding up, including but not limited to that friend-of-a-friend you follow on Instagram but have never met in real life and that middle-aged man who does PR for your high school. Each “fuck off” you feel rolling off your tongue turns into something civil once it hits the air.
You wake up. You get dressed. You go back to work. You get on.
Everything reminds you of her.
Two months in, you start to feel feelings again (for-real feelings, not just that jolt you you get when you miss your train by half a flight of stairs). You muster up the courage to watch her favorite movies, listen to her favorite songs, but nine times out of ten you stop halfway through (if that far at all). The tenth time, you make it ’till the end, only to realize that the last 30 seconds of Dirty Dancing has never left you feeling more confused; that Patrick Swayze telling Jerry Orbach not to put Baby in the corner has just left you equal parts inspired, weepy, starving (?) and (#1) wondering why the fuck you just did that to yourself.
Your friends and family show their true colors. Some of their shades surprise you.Three months in, normal is the handsome stranger sitting at the end of the bar and you’ve finally locked eyes. Sure, you immediately break eye contact and you’re moonwalking away to go finish your pint glass of Pinot in the bathroom Cady Herron-style, but (moral of the story) normal is in arm’s reach. Even if it looks like Patrick Dempsey and you, like Amanda Bynes post-Is It A Bong Or A Vase?
The “I’m sorry for your loss” eyes grow infrequent and the harder holidays come and go as an empty chair — her chair — is filled by someone new (best case scenario: a three year old whose favorite song is Blurred Lines). Some days, that chair is all you can think about. Others, its the last thing on your mind. That, and the laundry list of things you still need to do (see: pay for her headstone, settle her bank accounts, tell that debt collector in Virginia that you’re not going to pay for that fucking X-ray she got in 2002 and that they can go shave their back now).
Something still feels like it’s missing.Four months in, the smell of hand sanitizer on the counter of a smoothie shop brings you back to the foot of her hospital bed. You forget how to breathe as you envision the nights she (more than likely) spent sleeplessly crying because you left her alone with a six inch television she could barely see and a 12 inch Subway sandwich, half of which she could never even stomach. You wonder how that PA — Johnny, Jason, James, she could never remember his name — is doing. You want to thank him for being there when you weren’t, but you never call.
Everything still reminds you of her.
The smell of cigarettes. Bay Ridge Pizza. The sound of Tom Bergeron’s voice.Five months in, you attend the local Saint Patrick’s Day Parade with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, and her one month old baby boy. You wish, more than anything, that she could have met him — loved him — but you find solace in the fact that you got to tell her he was coming. The pregnancy of a childhood friend — unexpected, but welcomed — was one of the last big things you were able to tell her about as her blood pressure plummeted in New York Presbyterian’s immaculate emergency room.
You feel her presence every once in a while, some times more powerful than others.
Six months in, the floodgates open and that corner of your heart you’d roped off for all the shit you need to tell her finally overflows. One day, you swallow your pride, hold your cracked iPhone to your ear, and fake a call on your way home from work. You “talk to her” (while trying desperately to ignore the fact that you’re really just talking to yourself) for 13 minutes, just hoping she can hear you, and that no one can see you ugly crying from their cars.
You tell her all about being published by The Huffington Post, this season of the Voice (#TeamShakira) and that time you got shot in the nipple while paint-balling. You wish her a happy belated birthday, and pretend to hang up.
She would’ve been 60 this year.
Seven months in, there are finally more good days than bad. The afternoons get easier, but after midnight still stings worse than any sunburn she ever tried to prevent when you were feeling young, wild and free (see also: rebellious and completely against anything over 15 SPF).
You gather the strength to go through the Aldo shoe-box full of old photos you salvaged from the two-story house you used to share together. You have so many questions (Is this my grandpa? Who is this blonde woman you’re jumping from cliffs with? Are those bell-bottoms real and where can I find them?) but they’re all left unanswered. Maybe for now. Maybe forever.
The very same goes for how she feels about your outfit, or your highlights. A second opinion that was once second nature is no more, and it doesn’t help that you live with two boys.
Eight months in, you celebrate your first birthday without her. Your first birthday without her using the wrong form of “your” in a fold-out Hallmark card. Your first birthday waking up alone, and not to a voicemail of her singing, even though she’s only downstairs on the couch.Nine months in, you find a travel bag you never unpacked from her stay at Presbyterian. Inside are two unopened Burt’s Bees chapsticks, an orange prescription bottle, Dove deodorant and an eye-mask (when the fuck did she start sleeping with an eye-mask?) You can’t bring yourself to get rid of it, mostly because you have a feeling it’s illegal to toss 15 milliliters of Caphosol to the curb all willy nilly.
A small part of you keeps it just to keep it.
You tuck it away in the bottom drawer of your Ikea nightstand that won’t. fucking. stay. together. (#NoDisrespectToIkea but, in times of grief, the smallest inconveniences have a habit of feeling like the end of the world. Most days, though, you’re just thankful to have furniture at all.)
Ten months in, time starts to blur. You start to forget what it was like when she was around, if only for a second. The next thing you know you’re eleven and a half months in and seeing her favorite singer perform live from the Great Lawn at Central Park. You sob gracefully (you’ve mastered this) as girls around you in cut-offs and maxi skirts frolick in circles to Carrie Underwood’s 40-minute, very pregnant set at Global Citizen Festival. You pray for the love of God she doesn’t sing Jesus Take The Wheel even though you know damn well she’s going to.
She damn well does and you damn well lose your shit.
You go home and watch Dancing With the Stars over a Marie Callender’s chicken pot pie because, even at 23, you can feel yourself turning into her.Twelve months in and you accept that the month she died will always be the hardest (followed closely by her birthday, Mother’s Day, and for some odd reason Saint Patrick’s Day). It’s been 364 days since you held her hand and pulled the plug, but you still can’t bear to listen to old voicemails, afraid of what her voice on tape might do to you (even though you’ve heard her laugh every day since she died). Sometimes, you can hear her say funny things like “fuck you,” and “JACKass,” emphasis on the “Jack.” Most of all, you can still hear her say, “Got me” — her go-to whenever you would say you loved her more.
One year in, all the roads still lead back to her, and that’s okay with you.
John Lennon (and one in five white girls’ high school yearbook) once said, “Life happens when you’re busy making other plans.” #TBH, life’s been really needy lately (like, ex girlfriend at the end of “The Fault in Our Stars” needy) but, before Kanye drops in to tell me Beyoncé had the best blog of all time, let me finish.
Between the delivery of a brand new bed that I can, now, never get out of and breaking news at my day-job — special shout out to those cops who saved that woman from choking on a meat kabob, and a not-so-special shout out to that rapist on the loose two towns over — I haven’t had time to do my laundry, nevermind write much for myself. Seriously. I’ve been hand-washing my underwear and buying new shit (#LABORDAYSALE).
This is getting out of hand.
But I’m still breathing, overspending on Starbucks and doing shit worth writing about. See:
- Riding Nitro and crying hysterically.
- Drooling as Katy Perry rides around the Barclays Center on a high-wire and lap-dances a lucky audience member.
- Watching my roommate eat a six inch Subway sandwich at the bar.
- Being asked my age at an 18+ event, only to answer “23 and too old for this.”
- Taking mass transit to the Hamptons at 7 a.m. for an afternoon of two-dollar beers and poor decisions.
- Losing a bet over mini-golf and getting a Henna tattoo tramp stamp of an acquaintance’s name in script.
- Waiting 45 minutes for said Henna tattoo tramp stamp to dry.
- Sleeping a lot more than I should.
- Dancing on what used to be a stripper runway with the lead singer of Hellogoodbye because, I’m still sixteen at heart and still pay actual money to see Hellogoodbye in concert (on background: he also took a selfie of mostly just his mustache on my friend’s phone and then asked all the men in the audience to take off their shirts).
- Making this still of Leslie Knope my cover photo on Facebook:
- Planning a benefit concert (and designing lots of buttons online).
- Diagnosing myself with a thyroid condition via WebMD because I’m too stubborn to admit that it’s my fault (and that of the Starbucks lemon loaf cake I eat each morning) that I’m getting a little pudgy (#MYANACONDADONT).
- Losing six pairs of sunglasses.
- Sitting shotgun all the way to Scranton to see Fall Out Boy butcher “Dance, Dance” live (but hey, $15 lawn seats).
- Dropping my venti iced chai tea latte from Starbucks in the middle of the street only to be looked up at with pity by a woman with a walker, to whom I responded, “At least it’s not a Monday.”
Here’s to hoping I will one day find the time to write something other than a listicle. Until then, THANKS INTERNET for sticking around (and somehow still following this occasionally dormant blog).
Blink 182 was wrong.
Okay, okay. Blink 182 was right about a lot (see: the entire two minutes and 45 seconds of “Dammit” and that line in “The Party Song” about girls trying too hard), but not about birthdays.
If nobody is supposed to like you when you’re 23, our generation is doing something wrong.
By 23, you’ve weeded out the fair-weather friends. The ones just there for a good time and a few beers on your tab; the ones you genuinely liked but just didn’t stand the test of time; the ones that sucked; and the ones that fucked your best friend’s boyfriend.
You’ve shared the last five, ten, maybe fifteen birthdays with the majority of the RSVPs at your three-hour open bar on the Upper East Side, and those friends who may be new to your overly boozy (and overly 90’s) shindig are there for an important reason: because we’re 23 and ain’t nobody got time for that (that being fake friends).
The friends we keep at 23 are the friends we keep for life, no matter how little or long we’ve known them.
These are the friends that, at 18, risked their asses to throw you the biggest birthday party you’d ever had up to that point in their parents’ basement. They bought gold wristbands and made guest lists and had your best friend fly back from Ireland to surprise you. They’re the friends that turned a sweat-soaked kegger/makeshift wet t-shirt contest into a night to remember, complete with a personal concert a’la your friends’ first band (another surprise), a bucket full of gin, and little regard for noise complaints.These are the friends that, at 19, did the same damn thing; this time around with more gin, some glitter, and far fewer clothes. They still loved you even though your college roommates were passed out on the concrete out front (“Get Iona in the house”) and another friend jumped in the neighbor’s pool. They poured full beers on your head, but didn’t blame you for the phantom vomit by the sink.
These are the friends that, at 20, loved you at your worst (your worst being the bad end of your hormonal bender at the Knights of Columbus, just two drinks deep). The ones that apologized to strangers on your behalf after you told them to fuck off for not knowing your name. The ones that baked you a birthday cake, lit the candles on top of it and had a bar full of people (half of whom you’d already verbally assaulted) to sing “Happy Birthday,” while you cried in the corner and your best friend smoked a cigarette indoors.
The ones that took you home at 10 p.m. to your sobbing mother and nodded as you swore you were roofied when really, you just didn’t eat dinner. The party only started at 7.
These are the friends that, at 21, trekked to the upper most end of the Upper East Side to celebrate, even if some weren’t as legal as you yet, with a few dozen vodka-clubs. The ones that took the risk and schmoozed the bouncer and pretended to be your 29-year-old cousin your mom convinced the owner “just looked young.”These are the friends that, at 22, convinced the owner to let them into that bar on West Fourth with their birth certificate because your birthday wasn’t one to be missed, and fuck the DMV. The friends that ordered Fireball on the rocks and took a tumble down the stairs to mark the one-year-anniversary of you turning 21 (sorry, Marina). The ones that put two credits in the jukebox and spent them both on “Picture” by Kid Rock and the one in particular that fell out of the roof of a moving car, because your birthday, as usual, got him that drunk.
Don’t forget the one who got lost in Queens and asked the cops to take him home.
These are the friends that, at 23, packed out the basement of an Amsterdam Avenue bar, even though they’ve been at this for years. The ones from all walks of life and all parts of town — Bay Ridge, New Rochelle, Middle Village, Hollis Hills, Far Rockaway — bonding over shots, selfies and another year of you. The ones that cut the music at midnight to sing Celine Dion, and “Happy Birthday,” but mostly Celine Dion.
The ones that rallied so hard that they woke up from a vodka-coma in your friend’s back seat only to puke on the Brooklyn bar that wouldn’t let your friends in and break a bad fall with their face (I love you, Erin). The ones that carried said friend up three flights of stairs, doused her face in Neosporin and put her to bed. The ones that stayed a little late just to watch the sunrise, and eat Halal on your roof.
Oh, and the one who got arrested. That one, too.
“Next year, we’re going to the movies.”
One month into 23 and I haven’t pranked called anybody’s mother from a pay-phone, but I’ve felt pretty fucking loved. If you’re a friend and you’re reading this (which is likely, as my readership is 60 percent Facebook friends and 40 percent foreign countries), I raise my hypothetical glass to you, for standing the test of time and still being there, even when I’m crying in the back of the bar.
To my fellow twenty-somethings: Hold tight, kids. These are the ones.
“Months are different in college, especially freshman year. Too much happens. Every freshman month equals six regular months—they’re like dog months.”
– Rainbow Rowell
A lot happens your freshman year of college. It’s one of those years you learn who you are, what you’re made of and, in most cases, the art of laundry. For me, freshman year meant Four Loko out of Dr. Pepper bottles on the Metro North, falling for a stranger I met on a scavenger hunt, and holding hands with a once-friend for my first tattoo (spoiler: she went bat-shit and called my roommate a cake-faced, boge-smoking bitch).
A real milestone year.
It was Columbus Day weekend, 2009. I walked through the doors of my family’s two-story home in South Brooklyn for the first time since going away to college and living three people to a dorm room. Mom had the house to herself. I had meticulously positioned one of those middle school slap bracelets around my left wrist, barely masking a two-week old tattoo I’d gotten for my father (without my mother’s permission) on Saint Mark’s Place in the city.
Looking back, settling on a shop called Whatever Tattoo was wrong.
She wasn’t suspicious in the slightest. To her, the vintage bracelet was just another five-second trend I was trying on, paired perfectly with an XL Led Zeppelin tee shirt and the blonde streaks I was still growing out from the summer before. I was going through something, that’s for sure (Cue: I’m Not Okay by MCR and Torn by Natalie Imbruglia).
It took all of twenty minutes for me to break.
“I have to tell you something,” I said, asking her to sit down.
In hindsight, this was cruel. Her mind went straight to teen pregnancy, leaving anything I said after that that wasn’t “I’m carrying some senior on the rugby team’s child” to be tolerated, hell, maybe even thrown a ticker-tape parade.
I peeled back the quarter-machine cover-up to reveal the teeny tiny, permanent text:“This is sufficient for me,” ripped right from the last line of the prayer found on the back of dad’s necklace. The one he was given while working down at Ground Zero. The one he gave me right before he died. The full line read, “Give me your love and your grace, for this is sufficient for me.”
Mom was hysterical. Equal parts angry, touched and relieved I wasn’t with child.
“How can I be mad,” she asked, I had hoped hypothetically. She loved it. But she was definitely kind of mad.
Second came an anchor on my upper back for my best friend since six.
We met in kindergarten and, at 18, she said she hated me at first. Thankfully, she traded in her grudge for rainy weekends spent hiding handwritten wishes under the floorboards in my room. Sometimes they were for full seasons of Degrassi on DVD, or to marry the Madden brothers. Most of the time they were for a sleepover and, most of the time, they came true.
I sat mom down beforehand.
“Eileen and I are getting matching tattoos,” I said with a sort of confidence that surprised us both. I think she thought I was kidding, but I was serious. Rick Shoots Up Degrassi serious (okay, maybe Manny Wants To Be Hot serious). Either way, we weren’t kidding.
The definition we tossed around was, “well-grounded hope.”
“Since an anchor is what puts down roots deep into the sea to hold a ship in place, it has been associated with strength and stability. The anchor can be seen symbolically as something that holds you in place and provides you the strength to hold on no matter how rough things get.”
– Tumblr, 2011
Boy, were things rough at 20 (this is only partly sarcasm; Steve Jobs died that year and Pitbull released an album called Planet Pit, life totally sucked).
Either mom didn’t hate it, or she was really good at lying.
Four years, one shot-in-the-dark addition (“Is that a rope or a dollar sign?”) and one not-so-terrible touch-up (never trust a guy who says, “I got it” because A. He definitely does not have it and B. It will look nothing like what you saw on Tumblr) later and my best friend is still the one who keeps me grounded/reminds me to eat healthy every once in a while.
Third was an ampersand on my inner right ankle. Mom had no more say. She knew I was going to do it anyway and “at least it wasn’t a tramp stamp or Justin Bieber’s face.” Direct quote.
“To always remember what I want to do,” I told her, as if I was going to get into some terrible accident down the road and wake up thinking I wanted to be a doctor. “I want to be a writer.”
Truthfully, it came on the heels of one passionate journalism course and its brutally honest professor who, Day One, told us, “be prepared to waitress after college. Journalism is a bitch.”
(He was my favorite.)
Fourth was a tribute to a summer abroad in France, and mom, or so I said at the time (her true tribute would come later and hurt far less). The foot’s a fucking nightmare (and impossible to flatter in a photo so here it is with hanging dragonfly lights).
It was summer, 2013 and mom was halfway through her third round of leukemia treatments at New York Presbyterian. We sat and talked for hours from her bed by the window, overlooking the East River. About the Home Reporter, living alone and all the drugs I didn’t do at Lollapalooza. About her roommate with the cunty attitude, her constant cottonmouth and her favorite PA John, or Joe (she could never quite remember), before I told her to look at my foot.
I can still see her face.
“Toujours se souvenir; To Always Remember in French,” I said. “It’s for you.”
She started to laugh from her gut.
She called in the passing resident on her rounds. “This is my daughter, Meaghan,” she said, tears of laughter streaming down her face, “and this is her new tattoo. Apparently it’s for me.”
It really was, I assured her. To always remember the four weeks I spent galavanting through Europe at her expense. To always remember everything she’s ever afforded me, like that drunken bike ride along the Siene and that order of Escargot I never ate. And, you know, life.
To always remember where I’ve been (Brooklyn, Bermuda, Paris, Rome, Rocking Horse Dude Ranch, etc.), where I came from (our stoop on 73rd Street, the county of Cork, my mother’s womb), and who I am (a McGoldrick, and, more importantly, my mother’s daughter).
She loved it, I think, but all she could do was laugh.
Five treatments in, I called her to tell her I’d fucked up the anchor and that the rope made its silhouette look like a dollar sign.
“It was missing something, I don’t know,” I said over the phone, smearing tear-soaked mascara from my eyelids to my chin. “It looks awful.”
She returned home for five days before she died. We ordered in from Tasty Chicken, watched The Voice and said “Goodnight” in person. We fought hard the Saturday before her heart gave out, but, not about the touch-up.
“It doesn’t look bad at all,” she said, when she easily could have said “I told you so.”
One month after I buried mom next to dad in a shared plot in Staten Island, I buckled up and got the anchor fixed. A few more flowers, some asymmetrical lines and a lot of “Fuck it”s later, the same guy who did my ampersand gave new life to the anchor that once was.
Nearly a year later and I’m still learning to love it, because mom said it wasn’t so bad.
Fifth and finally came something special. “Love you more,” in her handwriting on my right wrist — pulled directly from a Hallmark Card she bought me the day I e-mailed my current job to ask if they had any internships. Not the day they took me on as an intern. Not the day they hired me full time. The day I asked if they had anyone to do their coffee runs.
“I bought this card the day you e-mailed the Home Reporter. I knew you would get it. Your MEAGHAN. Love you more then you know.”
Wrong form of “you’re” aside, I framed the card and, eight months later, am finally able to accept that she’s no longer here. Never gone, though, as her words lay opposite those inspired by my father; the two of them still holding my hand and guiding me through this fucked up life (and helping me home on the weekends).
(As a journalist, I couldn’t bring myself to tattoo the wrong form of “than” to the arm that I write with. Grammar was never her strong suit, and “Love you more” was always our thing.)
I think she’d dig it. I certainly do.
Also featured on Huffington Post College.