People typically shut down when someone talks for more than 40 seconds. I’d recently read that from Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, and this past weekend I had a firsthand experience of it.
When some friends of my wife’s visited us for an overnight stay, I discovered the guy, likable enough, was quite a talker. As we sat together in my office after dinner, his verbal stream of consciousness washed over me, and I wondered when he might pause to take a breath. He didn’t.
I felt myself shutting down, losing interest not just in listening to him but…
I had always wanted to cook, but my first kitchen, no more than a 6-foot-by-6-foot linoleum-tiled square in my tiny walk-up apartment, stopped me from cooking anything more than couscous salad and the occasional batch of pumpkin muffins. I had always longed for a green thumb, but my first garden was a strip of shady, rocky soil, so I halfheartedly planted a few pansies and basil plants and waited patiently for another house that would have a garden with direct sun. I had always wanted to write, but I didn’t have a room of my own.
For a long time…
It is the curse of the humanist to want all the laws of science to apply to people too. I confess to being cursed in that way. A few years ago, when I was researching my novel Weather Woman and was reading a lot of science, I became captivated by the theory of entanglement, which refers to the idea that once two particles have interacted they thereafter always respond in relationship to one another, even when far apart. In a 1935 paper, Albert Einstein called the phenomenon “spooky action at a distance.”
I’ve been happy since November. Yes, I understand that happiness is a subjective concept. I know that it’s not the end-all, be-all in life. I absolutely get that it’s only been six months which shouldn’t even be that big of a deal. But it is to me, dammit.
“That seems long. Mine doesn’t take long at all.”
I put my feet on your dashboard, sand and beach tar between my toes; we are old friends.
You pull out a Marlboro and fumble in your pocket for your lighter, holding the steering wheel with your knees. “Don’t,” I say, reaching out for the wheel, nodding toward my child in the backseat. You nod and drop the cigarette out of your lips to your lap and grin at me. “Fine, but only for you.”
“Not for me,” I say.
“For him, because he is yours,” you say.
“Yes, but also for you.”
I’ve been trying to save you for…
A few years ago, when I was dating the woman who’s now my wife, I cooked dinner in her home and was looking for a knife to chop vegetables. She said to try the top drawer near the stove. When I opened it, I found a knife all right—along with a hammer, screwdrivers, a tape measure, a chunk of string, a small tube of glue, and lots of other stuff.
Her house was tidy; everything arranged just so — the plants, the artwork, all the little touches. Every day, she made the bed, pillows arranged symmetrically. But when I opened…
It was 1987, my freshman year at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The First Intifada had just begun. Young Arabs with keffiyehs around their necks stood at a long table near the cafeteria’s exit, a Palestinian flag hanging behind them.
“Sign the petition! Free Palestine!”
They terrified me; I walked by as fast as I could. To me, a keffiyeh stood for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Palestinians weren’t human beings, they were terrorists. Right in front of me, in real life.
I wasn’t alone. The main student cafeteria, the Marvin Center, had its own imaginary Green…
I was unprepared when my 12-year-old daughter told me she might be bisexual. We were on a hike, and she confided that she “knew she liked boys but also found girls in the locker room very pretty.”
My daughter and I have always been close, and I was probably overeager to show her my support for her sexual orientation. Over the next few months, I would occasionally ask if she had crushes on any boys or girls. I think I overdid it a bit. About two years later, she started dating a girl and told my wife, “Don’t tell Dad…
When my mother found out she was pregnant with triplets, she quit her job and let her passport expire. She was elated and scared, nauseated and starving — and by her second trimester, under strict orders to stay in bed.
For the next four months while she lay on her left side, my mother’s belly swelled, stretching in such a way that it required scaffolding — a harness doctors custom-designed to support the weight of us all. From the back, she looked narrow. From the front, enormous. …
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