Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My boyfriend and I haven’t even been dating a year and we’re already fighting about a divorce settlement. Not our divorce settlement, but how much Kobe Bryant’s wife should get. And then Mel Gibson’s wife. And somehow it all circles back to Ron Burkle.
In California, the community property laws say that upon divorce, husband and wife must split equally everything that was earned during the marriage. So if Kobe Bryant is worth $150 million as speculated, without a prenup his wife is entitled to $75 million. This is because the second a husband earns a dollar in California, the wife is immediately entitled to fifty cents of that dollar meaning yes, the husband only earned himself 50 cents of that dollar in his paycheck. Any wealth that either party has before the marriage, they both get to keep. But because Kobe earned his $150 mil while being married, she gets half. Same goes for Mel Gibson’s wife, because Mel earned all of his $850 million dollars while in his thirty-year marriage.
This problem is I happen to think this is fair. My Mr. Dreamboat, does not. It came up for us this past summer, when I was studying to take the CA bar and was reading about Ron Burkle’s divorce. He’s the supermarket mogul and at the time of his divorce was worth about $2 billion, however he swindled his wife out of the billion she was due and she received only $40 million. Of course, $40 million is an enormous amount of money, but it’s the principle of the thing, she should have gotten half. My boyfriend seemed indignant at the idea that any stay-at-home wife in a long-term marriage who had raised children deserved $1 billion dollars for her work.
So how much is it worth, then? I snapped back.
I don’t know, but not $1 billion dollars.
Man, did this make me mad. Mr. DB seems to think that there is a cap on how much a stay at home mom is worth. This was also the conversation where I found out that he thinks prenups are a good idea which undermines every notion I’ve ever held about marriage. So, this was not a conversation that bode well for our future. In his defense, he did say he hadn’t given it much thought and these were just his general first impressions.
But back to our little theoretical tiff. (And although I use husband in this discussion as the generic breadwinner because it’s still more common, I believe the same rules apply when gender roles are reversed. So if the wife is the income-earner and the husband is the stay-at-home dad, he is also entitled to half.) Men seem to think that people like Mel Gibson or Kobe are being swindled out of their fortunes by greedy wives. The headlines that report these stories lead with titles like “Mel Gibson loses half his fortune” or “Divorce will cost Kelsey Grammer $50 million.” But you never see ones that say “Gibson’s wife of thirty years who raised seven kids, virtually alone, without ever seeing her husband, and having to endure living with an alcoholic for years gets what she deserves.” No. Because like my boyfriend, the men who write these articles don’t believe wives should see a ‘windfall’ just for being a mom.
The problem is, no one actually deserves that much money. Why does Mel Gibson deserve $425 million dollars? Just because we have a warped celebrity culture that paid him $20 million dollars a movie to carry around a sword in a horse and wear make-up? Does Ron Burkle really deserve $2 billion dollars? Of course not. No one does. But he happens to have made it through a combination of luck and circumstance and probably hard work. And by the same logic, because of luck and circumstance, and hard work, and progressive California property laws that believe marriage is a partnership, his wife should get half.
Plus, maybe Ron Burkle’s wife made it possible for him to earn all that money. Maybe she supported him during school or helped him make business decisions or kept him afloat when he decided to take big financial risks early on. Maybe Mel Gibson’s wife was the one telling him all those years to keep his anti-Semitic mouth shut or helping him stay sober and he never would have been able to make those movies in the first place without her.
My feeling about marriage, is that once you enter into it, you are no longer doing anything as a solo operator. The sum is greater than the two parts and so it’s not that the husband goes to work, earns money and then shares it with his family. The marriage is earning the money all along. Because who makes it possible for that husband to go to work and earn it all? And especially in the case of a stay-at-home parent, who keeps the husband’s home, and picks up his dry cleaning and picks out clothes that match, and takes the kids to soccer and makes him dinner. Once married, the breadwinner is not earning that money by himself. He is enabled by the other spouse.
And on the flip side, if you can really determine a percentage and say that the wife earned herself 25% of the earnings with all her hard work, does the reciprocal of that hold up? Should the court determine that the husband may claim responsibility for 25% of the people the children turn out to be. Do we as a society want to suggest that the dad is entitled to 25% of the kids’ affection because he only did 25% of the parenting?
But when this first came up in my relationship six months ago, I didn’t push the issue very far. It seemed a bit presumptuous to be defensive about how much a woman should be entitled to for raising a family just a few months into dating. But it has definitely been in the back of mind as a concern of mine regarding our relationship ever since. Do we fundamentally disagree about our philosophies regarding marriage? I mean, if my whole idea of marriage is based on a shared partnership philosophy and his is based on earning your worth, my guess is we’d probably flunk one of those e-Harmony quizzes and I wouldn’t be surprised if the screen started flashing red with BAD MATCH written across it.
But thank god for Kobe Bryant because a few weeks ago we got the chance to rehash this all when my grandmother brought up the topic of Kobe’s divorce. And now, ten months into our relationship, we’re past the point of tiptoeing around potential problems, so I rolled up my sleeves and was ready for the debate.
Do you think she deserves that money? I demanded to know.
He tried to avoid answering, but after another male said absolutely not, it cleared the road for him to agree.
So I dug in. I probably got a little too worked up (I could hear the sass in my tone), but I went after him with my reasons as aforementioned above. The topic got changed and the conversation moved on, but I could not.
So two nights later, over champagne at a fancy dinner, knowing I had made the best argument I could make, I brought it up calmly again. There is a concern of mine that’s been bothering me lately. I suggested we had differing philosophical understandings of the institution of marriage. And though I kept the sass at bay, I just couldn’t resist getting all indignant. And I just could never marry someone who fundamentally disagreed with me about the philosophy of marriage. Yeah, I actually said that to him. And yeah, that would be me being a bitch. Who gives veiled take it or leave it propositions over abstract philosophy in their relationships? Not my finest moment.
You make some good points, he said. BINGO! Relief sets in and I allow myself to pick back up my fantasy wedding. (Why do girls go from zero to sixty on relationship developments in our minds with the slightest smile from a man?) Anyway, this whole time, I’d been perplexed by his stance on this issue because he’s rather close with his mother who was a stay-at-home mom and I couldn’t understand how he could undervalue her contribution to a family. But I had forgotten about his father who has been less lucky in marriage. Mr. DB has seen divorce from the other side. When there are not long term marriages and there are no children involved do I still believe as strongly that everything must be shared equally? Well, I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess I could imagine a hypothetical where the marriage is short and the wife is not contributing anything to the marriage by being an absentee partner and the husband is working hard to earn money and feels like the wife upon divorce is asking for more than her fair sure. Score one for him. I can see where he’s coming from, I admit to him
When I think about marriage, I pretty much talk based on my marriage. Of course, having never been married, I talk based only on how I think it will go. So knowing myself to be a very hard worker, I imagine that I will work tirelessly at being a wife and mother and at staying married a very long time, and should I chose to sacrifice my career for that, I would want my husband to feel that everything he earned, we earned together because I would be working just as hard as him. It had never occurred to me that divorce might come after a short marriage or without children cause well I don’t really think about it all. My parents have been married 35 years, all of my parents’ friends are still married, all my friends’ parents are still married – my mom’s theory on this has something to do with how many Jews make up my life but who knows? In any case, I didn’t grow up with a lot of divorce. So naturally my opinion on this is going to be very differently informed than someone who grew up with divorce as part of his life. All this is to say, I started to feel very bad about all my sass. But does he really think that any marriage involving me might be short term or involve someone not pulling her weight?
I think you might convince me of this though, he offers up to me. I’m gleeful inside. Don’t give up on this one, he smiles knowingly at me. Just in case, we ever do get married and return from living abroad to move into a beautiful house on the Westside and have four girls and I decide to take a break from my successful career to be at home with the little ones where I continue to work from home and also prepare the most delicious vegetarian meals for our beautiful family every night, just in case of all that, I start to believe that Mr. Dreamboat will see me as an equal. Phew. Cause for a minute there, he was just being so ridiculous. Thank god I’m able to bring us all back down to reality…
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December 19, 2011 | 3:27 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
George Whitman of the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in Paris passed away on December 14, two days after his 98th birthday. In 2003, I spent the summer at “the shop” as he called it and eventually moved in to his upstairs apartment briefly as one in a long lineage of housemothers he invited to stay with him above the shop.
I went there to write. I had just finished my junior year of college and was trying to figure out what to do with my last summer before entering adulthood. Quite a few of my friends had fancy internships with big banks or prestigious government offices to help them get snazzy jobs after graduation. I had no idea what I was going to do and it seemed like all of the sudden out of nowhere I had to make summer plans that were life determinative – if I wanted to go into politics I should take an internship getting coffee and answering phones in D.C., if I wanted to work in Hollywood I should be someone’s bitch in LA, or if I wanted to go to law school I should take an LSAT class. I couldn’t bear the thought of any of my options. So instead, I decided to do precisely what I always wanted: become a bohemian writer in Paris amongst other artists and tolerate the insufferability of modern life with other kindred spirits while we watched Jean-Luc Godard films, recited poetry and fell in love to release ourselves from the drudgery of pervasive banality.
There was only one problem. I was just a typical upper-middle class white girl from an elite college, just a hair away from being a virgin, with an over-involved Jewish mother who wanted the precise location of my coordinates at least once a day. So I lied. I had heard about Shakespeare and Co. from a friend who had traveled to Paris a year earlier and hung out at this storied bookstore that she said housed cool artsy kids. I had tried to email the store to find out if I could live there for the summer but of course, this was before his daughter Sylvia had returned from London to help her dad run the store, and George probably didn’t even know that his store had a website. But I bought a ticket to Paris for the summer anyway and I just hoped that this benevolent bookseller I had vaguely heard of would take me in.
I told my parents and everyone else I was accepted in to a “writer’s-in-residence” program after submitting my fiction work to this well-established renown writer’s institution. I showed up in Paris alone, with no cell phone, very little money, no laptop, not knowing anyone, clutching a paper with the address of a bookstore. I had no back-up plan. If I couldn’t stay there, I didn’t know where I would live let alone what I would do for the next few months. I got off the Metro station and walked to the store, with butterflies in my stomach. I walked up to the guy at the till, proclaimed that I was a writer and asked if there was room for me to stay at the shop.
As it turned out, George was in London for another week and so although Patrick who was in charge of the shop said there was a bed I could have for now, I was expected to write a biography of myself in the time I had till he returned. Upon his return, he would read our bios and if they were satisfactory, he might allow us to stay. In the meantime, I was introduced to the sundry group of wanderers who spent most of their time reading on the benches in front of the shop. I fell into the most fabulous and dirty group of hipster ex-pat gypsies I could have ever hoped to find. There was Jonathan the fiddler who made his living from busking, Ted, the Australian painter whose portrait of me, in front of the store, now hangs in my home, Vereen, the Indian vegan who taught me how to hop the turnstile to get onto the Metro, Xander, the Brit who spent most of his time lying on the ground next to a girl of the week reading poetry, and Pehter, the Slav, who introduced me to Absinthe by telling me to open my mouth and pouring it straight down my throat. We all shared the responsibilities of opening the store, setting up the book displays, and signed up for shifts to work the till. I had never worked a register before and loved that I was expected to spend most of my shift reading. The first thing I read was A Moveable Feast, naturally. But I was also introduced into the world of Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell, and Jacques Prévert. Rumors about George were plentiful– people talked of him throwing all his guests out on a whim, of his many relationships with the pretty girls that frequented the shop, the divorce from his much younger ex-wife, and his friendships with the famous writers we all worshipped.
There was a typewriter upstairs which we were encouraged to use and on which I wrote my biography. The day George returned, we all passed in our pieces of paper and waited for him to decide whom he was keeping and whom he was booting out of his shop. He was almost ninety at the time and though he moved slowly, his mind was starkly nimble. He read them all in front of us while we waited, watching his face for the occasional grimace or laugh. Maybe he took a fondness to me because I was the only one to write my bio on his beloved typewriter, maybe he appreciated my academic pedigree, or more likely, he called my name because I was a pretty young girl (although I must admit, it wasn’t hard to be the prettiest girl in a group of really grungy boys. If you were man, it was much harder to get George to like you – you had to be a truly talented writer or at least a true intellectual.) Whatever the reason, he did call my name. All of the sudden, his whole demeanor softened into an almost flirtatious manner as he asked me if I’d enjoyed my stay at his shop so far. You will be the housemother, he told me. You’re moving upstairs. This was the best news I could have imagined.
When you hear that George housed thousands of travelers throughout the many years he ran his shop, you might imagine as I did, a tiny little room in his apartment that he allowed people to crowd into. But, most of us travelers he provided lodging to, stayed literally in the bookstore and never saw his upstairs apartment. The shop had tiny little beds in random corners all throughout. During the day, the beds that someone might call home for months, were converted into unsuspicious book displays. We all shared one closet upstairs that had a combination lock where we could keep our backpacks and where I had a cd player stolen twice. There was no bathroom in the shop. There was a little sink where we could brush our teeth but that was it. There was a public restroom not too far away that cost me one euro for a shower which I didn’t use nearly enough. Learning the bathrooms of the Latin Quarter became some of the most valuable information I learned while in Paris. And no one was given a key to the shop. So you had to be in the bookstore by the time at night when the store was locked up or you would find yourself sleeping in the park – unless of course, you knew how to sneak in through the second story balcony which I eventually did learn by necessity. And so, while we were all grateful for the free lodging, it was an existence that constantly required planning to say the least.
So when George invited me to be housemother, this meant I no longer had to live quite as dingily. I could stay in his apartment above the store which had an actual bathroom. Although, the place was really less an apartment and more just a book storage warehouse with some random furniture and a stove thrown in for good measure. But it was also magical. And not just because sometimes when you pulled a book down and opened it up, money would pour out of the pages – George didn’t like banks. It was magical because it was the fairytale of every angsty suburban teenage girl come to life – a place filled with weighty ideas and prolific thinkers in the most beautiful part of Paris. And George was telling me I belonged there. George showed me his private typewriter and demanded pages from me. Everyday, he wanted to know what I was reading and why I wasn’t finished with that book yet. Sundays, the housemother made pancakes and if we were lucky a famous writer or two would drop by and share a manuscript.
And though I went there to write, I realize now that I really was just there to live. I took up a Gauloises Blondes cigarette habit and drank red wine for breakfast. I spent two euros a day on food – usually a cheese sandwich which to be precise was a sliced baguette with butter and brie smeared on it. Once a week or so I would sight see, making fun of the American students on study abroad programs. I drank too much. Way too much. I wasn’t yet of legal drinking age in the states, so buying wine at the store became a perfectible pastime for me. One time, I went with my gypsy gang to the Pompidou center early in the morning to get inspired. Naturally, we drank heavily on the walk over. I eventually slipped away from my friends and sat down on the couch at a rather disturbing video art installation. I woke up five hours later when a guard was poking me, yelling at me in French that the museum was now closed. My friend Nikolai and I actually snuck into the American cemetery at Normandy because we got there so late on a Friday it was already closed. Being fearless and young, we scaled the brick wall and walked through the grounds understanding that there was literally not another living soul for miles.
Everyday, I woke up, intending to work on my novel. The summer was passing quickly and though sometimes I would eek out a few pages on George’s typewriter on his kitchen table with the Paris sunlight streaming in over the Seine and onto my words, they never amounted to much. I was twenty years old, my senses were on overload and I didn’t have the will power to keep myself upstairs in the apartment alone while my newfound vagabond friends were outside drinking, laughing, and propounding the philosophies of young idealist thinkers who came to Paris for compatriotism. Mainly, I drank and ate and smoked and loved. In fact, I thought I loved twice. Really, I just loved my life there. I lived for the first time on my own terms in a world I made for myself. I had shed the training wheels of my upbringing – I wasn’t relying on my parent’s money, or my grades, or my university, or my connections, or the world I came from. I created an identity for myself based on a blank slate and it was more freeing than any other single experience of my life. I had never felt more like the real version of myself. And the best part about it was George Whitman approved. As the summer passed, I fantasized more and more about not returning to college but staying on as housemother indefinitely. I remember a heart wrenching conversation over the phone with my mother where I was crying telling her I was in love and never wanted to leave Paris.
But when the day came to go back for my last year of college, I packed up my things to head home. Maybe I knew I wasn’t in love. Maybe I knew I was never going to get enough writing done in a place where I became obsessed with living. I dreaded telling George, I was leaving. I was scared that the paucity of novel pages on his desk combined with my relinquishment of the title of housemother was going to disappoint him. But when he saw my packed bag, he just smiled. He wasn’t surprised I had decided not to stay. I guess after fifty years of housing and saying goodbye to peripatetic writers he understood my path better then I did. I knew you were gonna leave, he said. Keep sending me pages, he practically barked on my way out. I am greatly saddened, that in literally the same month that I have finished my first book, George has passed and he will never read it. But I am also at peace with it. I never would have been able to write much at all without my time with him. And the point of George and his store and even his own story was not to provide great writing for his own reading pleasure. But rather to ensure that there would always be a place for great writing and writers. He believed books and writing were the lifeblood of human existence and I am heartened to know that in some small way, I continue to perpetuate this conviction by continuing to write. Because when George told me to send him pages, it was not so he could read them, but rather to ensure that I continue to write them. And so George, as the thousands of ragged souls around the world unite to say goodbye and pay homage to you, I join them with my own promise, to continue sending you pages…
December 15, 2011 | 8:45 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My boyfriend’s company had their holiday party this past Saturday evening, which meant I was on my best behavior – except of course for that one moment when I asked the woman who was there with her step-son where her husband was and she had to tell me they were separated. Eek. I always love a good holiday party and it’s always interesting to get a sneak peak into your significant other’s work life, where he spends all those hours toiling away and you can’t help but wonder if they know the same person you do.
After hours of small talk, when we finally got home and I was looking at him sans suit and tie, I thought about how this is the little part of him that nobody else knows. The person we are when we rest our head on that pillow next to the one we love is different from the person everyone else sees.
There’s some element of being arm candy that I confess I love. I want my boyfriend to be able to show off that he has a pretty, smart girl on his arms whom he can trust in a situation like this. But on the other hand, sometimes when the women group off together and leave the men to talk to business while we talk girl stuff, I get a little uncomfortable. At times, I feel like a teenage girl playing dress up in an adult world and at any moment, I could get exposed for having the emotional development of an errant teenager. A lot of the women who were just a few years older than me, have kids and were talking about getting their hair done and building homes in the Palisades.
In the last two weeks, I’ve had a ton of fun at some of the very LA holiday parties I’ve been at. As much as people love to rag on LA, it really is a creative environment – even if they have stopped making creative movies. I feel it because when I’m socializing and it comes time to talk about my profession I feel comfortable without defining myself and instead talking about whatever I happen to be working on that particular day. But, when I step into his white shoe world, and no one can think of any question to ask me except what job I have, I am suddenly very conscious of the fact that there is a “right” answer to this question. Yes, some of the significant others have professions, but many more of them are simply moms, and more notably, I could sense that all of their careers seem to take a backseat to their husband’s pursuits. In having to answer the what-do-I-do question, it is most expedient for me to simply say that I just obtained a law degree and so I do. But I am very conscious of the fact that a complicated answer to this question is not going to be “right” at any point in time for these people.
What I’m most concerned about though, is I start to wonder if Mr. DB wants me to be like all the other significant others tossing back champagne. There is a type of woman who wants nothing more than to be an accomplished man’s significant other. But it’s not me. I met some of them Saturday night and they really were lovely. They seem like they’re great mothers and smart and funny and I enjoyed a lot of them. But I’m never really going to be one of them. I wonder if my boyfriend knows this about me. I think he does, but sometimes I get a whiff that although he might not need a Stepford wife, he does want to be with someone who might be more domesticated than I am.
One of the very few times, he has ever made me cry involved this matter. We were in Cambodia, listening to one of our favorite podcasts, Radiolab and somehow the topic of cooking and cleaning came up. I joked and said that my mother taught me how to hire someone to do those things. He said that my lack of interest in domesticity did kind of bother him. I was taken aback. It was six months into our relationship and it was the first time he had ever said anything critical of me. I made some smart alec remark back to him, apologizing for being successful in other areas of life which shut him down.
Naturally, when we got back to the hotel, I completely lost it and cried for the first time in front of him, accusing him of making me feel like he could care less about my brain and just wanted a maid to clean up after him. He quickly assured me that it came out wrong. In fact, he exhaustively tried to explain that he didn’t mean cleaning and he just thought home cooked meals were important especially down the road with children and something about how his mother had spoiled him and maybe given him unreasonable expectations about what a partner should provide and yada yada yada whatever else he could say to dig himself out of this hole. Clearly, he eventually convinced me that he loves what my mind has to offer and that he was just talking jibberish when he said this because we’re still together and I have reiterated that I will never be someone who enjoys cleaning sinks.
And so I pretty much thought this was all settled. I did agree with him on one point - as someone who grew up on home cooked family dinners every night of the week where attendance was required, cooking for children is important to me, but otherwise I’m never going to be much in the way of Susie Homemaker. But there we were at his holiday party and I was talking to the pretty young housewives with their fabulous lives and wondering to myself, does he think I’m the same as them? And if he doesn’t, does he think he can turn me into one? I just want so much out of life, there’s no way, I’m ever going to be happy as only a cheerleader for my partner. Maybe I’ll work from home when I have kids or maybe I’ll take some time off when they’re young, but I’m never going to have a simple answer to the what-do-you-do question. I’m always going to have five things going on at once and probably still be in school to learn one more. He has to know this about me, right?
Which brings me back to that moment on the pillow. That moment when it’s just us. Not the us out there, but the us only we know about, that only exists in here. I really had spent a fair portion of the evening wondering if I’m dating a man who wants me to be someone I will never be. I start to worry that he believes that the act I put on to blend in at the party isn’t really an act at all. I start to realize how exhausted I am from acting like that for the last five hours and as we both begin to unwind I am feeling very self-conscious, wondering if the woman he loves is really the one that now lies here beside him. He tells me he loves me so much and I look back at him for a long time. I don’t say anything, not on purpose but just because I am really considering whom he thinks he loves. It’s painful and I remain motionless and silent because I haven’t figured out what to say. I start inner monologuing at a mile a minute: Maybe we need to have a talk. I’ll wait till after till Christmas, but I need to tell him I’m not who he wants. If I don’t tell him, he’ll never see it and I’ll be perpetuating a lie - He grabs my head almost forcefully and pulls my ear to his lips so he can whisper to me. He whispers what I need to hear. How does he know? He uses my whole full name. He’s slow and deliberate with his words. He makes me feel how much he loves me.
And I really believe him. Not just about the love part. But about the me part. He does know me. He knows me and he picks me. And I let him tell me again. And again.
December 9, 2011 | 11:28 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Tonight, I hate the world. And in accordance with cliché, I don’t even understand why. My boyfriend called me tonight and by the time I got the message I had about a fifteen minute window to call him back before he went to sleep; I let it pass so that I didn’t have to talk to him while I was in this mood. I figure that’s probably a good idea considering I could feel myself about to pick a fight with him. I was going to test him by telling him I want to name the four daughters I plan on having after my favorite cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, and Tallegio. I might be willing to compromise if he wanted to replace one with a Gruyere or an Asiago, but if he pushed back, I was all ready to make a big deal about him being a slave to convention.
I know how crazy this sounds. But sometimes, it’s hard to help. Maybe it’s the holidays. Maybe it’s the end of the year. But with all this forced commercialized cheer and focus on things coming to an “end,” if you are not completely satisfied with where your life is, the holidays can be a brutal angry time dominated by self-loathing. I’ve spent this week hating a recent haircut and simultaneously annoyed with everyone for not noticing, frustrated with myself for not finishing my work, angry at my printer for breaking, angry at everyone I knew in Santa Monica for not having a stupid scanner. Angry at myself for going to holiday parties instead of exercising, angry at myself for not going to all the holiday parties I was supposed to. I’m mad I stayed up way too late last night reading Christopher Hitchens and I’m also furious at myself for being unable to finish his entire four part series on cancer last year. So essentially, I just hate myself and I’m inconsolable about this. Actually, if you are my friend and you try to console me, I will be unreasonably irritated with you for trying.
I wish I had a really good reason for all of this right now but I don’t. If I had to guess I would wager that it has something to do with a general dissatisfaction with where my life is right now. Last year on New Year’s Eve, I remember precisely what my resolution was. I wished that in the year 2011, I would fall in love. I was finally in a place in my life where I was healed from the previous exes who had hurt me and I was willing to open myself up enough to risk heartache and let love into my life. Normally I think resolutions are stupid but I stopped judging myself for wanting it this time and I just let myself wish for love over and over. And lo behold against all odds, my wish came true. Not that long after, I did fall in love. But it didn’t fix everything. Love wasn’t the only thing that was missing from my life. And so now, despite the fact that I’m in love with a great guy, I am still succumbing to the omnipresent malaise I felt last year.
In my junior year of college, I was in this elite fiction writing class, culminating in a short story that served as our final. I wrote about this girl Audrey who drove around in a Snapple ad-wrapped VW bug searching for something at garage sales. I had a great professor, Sheila Donahue, and she seemed to think that my early versions of the story had great promise. So when I finally finished and turned in my last draft, I thought I had written something to turn the world of fiction on its head. I got a B+ I think. It might have even been a B. Prof. Donahue wrote a long critique on the back of my story where she essentially said I had gotten the ending wrong. I was surprised because I had planned on this ending from the inception of the idea, but she pointed out the myriad of reasons it didn’t work. You see, my story was predominantly about Audrey’s back-story told through the objects she buys and sells at garage sales, all while she was on a quest for this one particular object. In the very end at the last garage sale, she meets a man who of course has her holy grail and I alluded to their happiness ever after. But Professor Donahue rightfully called me out on this. Audrey had never been searching for a man or a relationship. The whole story was about her journey to find this ‘thing’ and I chose a cheap and somewhat sexist out by writing that the only thing she really needed to find was a man. Once she found the man, she had everything she needed, literally he proffered the object she was looking for, the end. But why did Audrey need a guy anyway? The entire story had never mentioned her love life and yet the second she falls in love, she finds her special object and it’s all over. No wonder my professor was disappointed in me. And of course, the moment I read those words from her glaring up at me in thin red ink, I realized her criticism was unintentionally an indictment of me. The reason I had Audrey fall in love at the end of the story was because I wanted to fall in love. I was waiting for love to come to me and fix me. I was ignoring the rest of the complicated and interesting story because I was so desperate for true romantic love in my life that I just unquestionably believed it would solve everything. Love was all anyone ever needed. Or so I thought.
You would think that because I had been in love before, this time around, I would know how little it really solves. But the beginning of every great romance is so majestic, so consuming, and so beautiful that even though you know it’s not going to fix everything, you often have a hard time remembering what your problems were before. I’ve been dating Mr. Dreamboat for ten months now and been in love for most of it. But it’s also been long enough for me to stop floating around on air and to realize that the rest of my complicated messy life still exists. Falling in love didn’t make all of that go away. And so now that I can feel my feet firmly back on the ground, I need to take the bull by the horns and figure out the rest of my life instead of ignoring my inevitable and welcome responsibilities. And perhaps, I’ve been putting this off for a while. Facing it, means facing dissatisfaction with myself and my life at this stage of the game. And that’s making me really frustrated. And also kind of hate the world. I know what I have to do, but sometimes it feels like so much work, it seems easier to put it all off and stay depressive. I mean, if he really loves me, won’t he just go with Roquefort?
But alas, I know it’s time to end my self-pitying. I’m getting sworn into the CA State Bar today and I’ll complete my yoga teacher training certification next week. I will officially not be a student of anything for the first time in a while. It’s time to kick my life into high gear. And although love hasn’t made that fact go away, I’m hoping that maybe it will make it a little easier for me to find what I am looking for.
November 16, 2011 | 2:32 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Have you noticed that when you make plans with someone, you almost never really make plans with them? You essentially make plans to talk with them on the phone at a certain time from a certain location. This drives me crazy. If we’re meeting at 6:30 and we’re both on time and know where to meet, why do we have to call each other at 6:29 and say where are you? I’m walking up right now. Oh wait, is that you? Right where you said you were going to be, right at the exact time? Oh good, that is you approaching. I think you see me. Yeah, hi, oh you’re waiving about ten feet in front of me! So glad we had this talk! Why doesn’t anyone just show up anymore?! For some reason, this seems to be particularly pronounced in Los Angeles, where people are more iPhone-than-Blackberry obsessed and where the entertainment industry seems to attract a lot of flakes.
I went to dinner recently at Zengo, the excellent-if-overpriced Latin-Asian fusion restaurant atop Santa Monica Place. I had made the plans a weak ahead of time and additionally, I had emailed the day before to confirm. My intent was that our next communication be in person – unless of course a change in events required an update. On the designated day, I showed up at the restaurant early, checked in with the host and waited at the bar.
Now let me interrupt my story to warn you that as a longtime customer of AT&T, I have a particular aversion to using my beloved iPhone for any of its actual telephone features probably because it is so wonderful for everything except for anything that requires actual cell service. I don’t get any service in my apartment, I sometimes get a bundle of text messages from the previous 12 hours in one large cacophony of harp alerts in the middle of the night, and it’s not uncommon for one cell phone conversation to involve three or four instances of a dropped call and subsequent so sorry, my service is terrible here. So this my have something to do with my aversion to useless telephone communications. But it’s even more than that too. Doesn’t anyone want to make an entrance anymore? Remember the anticipation of meeting people before cellphones when you didn’t know if the person was there or not and you had to look through the crowd until you finally found the person you were looking for!
So anyway, while I was sitting at the bar, ten minutes early, I pulled out my phone to turn it off as any polite dining-out patron would do and I noticed that I had received a missed call at 5:30 from my companion and a text message a few minutes earlier that said “where r u.”
I was irritated that he wanted to reconfirm via phone when we had such clear plans and I don’t like wasting my time to repeat a conversation I’ve already had. While holding my phone, I got two more text messages “about 15 min away” and a few minutes after that, another one that again said “where r u.”
So much to my dismay but not wanting to be rude, I texted back “at the bar.” I decided that was sufficient communiqué and I would see my dining partner when he got there, turned off my ringer and put my phone away. Over the course of the next ten minutes, I could tell my phone was vibrating but refused to pull it out. We didn’t have anything to tell each other! He knew I was here. I knew he was on his way. We both knew where we were meeting. Why why oh why must we talk about this all?
Ten minutes later, I finally gave in. I pulled my phone out and read the following
“at the valet”
“up the ramp now”
“at front desk”
“no one here”
“will walk in”
“going to bar”
I didn’t respond to a single one. I just watched new ones drivel in and thought about what I could have been doing instead of reading a bunch of useless text symbols. I could have been talking to the people around me, interacting with actual people. I could have read the New York Times on my phone or responded to emails. But no, I had to get dragged into a time sucking completely useless communication.
Finally, my dining partner showed. Ah there you are! Did you get my texts?
I looked surprised. Oh no. What texts? What was I going to say? Yes, I did but on principle I didn’t respond because I like to help build anticipation and create an element of surprise when I meet people, also do you know about capital letters?
Dinner was lovely, but I just can’t help wondering what happened to the element of surprise? The element of being tapped on the shoulder and whirling around to be face to face with your date! Looking through the crowd for the familiar face and feeling a moment of elation at your friend. Look, I appreciate the cellphone as much as the next girl but have some discipline. You’ll never be able to make an entrance if you’re giving someone the play by play of your whereabouts. For whatever reason, there’s just more satisfaction in finding something if you were looking for it first. So let him look and wonder for a moment where you are. Then, enjoy the look on his face when you get found!
November 11, 2011 | 7:31 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I’m about to leave for my yogi pow-wow about this past week’s cleanse. I’m dreading having to admit that I’m a cleanse-failure. The thing is, I know I didn’t do it properly so I shouldn’t really comment on it but I really did try. If you’ve ever had ultimate meal, you know what I mean – that stuff tastes worse than almost anything I can think of.
My roommate who did a much better job of staying on the program for the past week went with me to lunch to break the fast. We both skipped this morning’s aloe vera juice shot (again so disgusting) and breakfast so we didn’t have to deal with what to eat. Our first solid food was going to be raw organic vegan food at lunch. We went to Planet Raw to toast our natural bodies. We both started with smoothies. I had had two yesterday so having one again for lunch felt good. She was starving and couldn’t wait to eat. Our entrees came and as soon as she ate hers she said she felt drunk – she was feeling so happy and loopy it was like she was high off of the foods. I imagine the taste of good food was releasing endorphins or serotonin and giving her that sense of bliss. I felt but was unable to eat my meal. The smoothie was all the calories my body could handle, so I took mine to go and am eating it now for dinner.
We both came back exhausted though. Maybe digesting the food was taking so much energy our bodies needed to rest. Either way, we kept talking about the Starbucks we were going to have tomorrow. I’ve agreed to stay off of coffee and diet soda and even what I normally eat till tomorrow but for all intensive purposes I’m done.
I can honestly say though, I am never going to do a cleanse again in my life. I guess it’s good to try everything once but my body is just not made for this type of thing. Technically, my roommate and I both lost a few pounds but I doubt this is the kind of weight loss that we will sustain when we go back to our normal eating and exercising routine next week.
I’d like to tell you, that after a week of being off coffee, and aspartame and all the chemically diet drinks I love, and all the protein bars and Amy’s frozen meals and wine and soy I normally have, that my body feels amazing. But I don’t. I feel tired, really tired. Still a little weak and annoyed that I wasted so much time and energy on this. And otherwise, no different. I guess I do eat somewhat healthy to begin with so perhaps if my diet was mostly fast food, I’d feel differently. But I’m in my eleventh year of being a vegetarian and I try to limit my caffeine intake to a cup a day and just eat sensibly all the time. Treats in moderation, preparing vegetables in a way I like them so that I eat them, trying to buy organic when there’s an option.
In a health conscious world, maybe there is a limit to being too healthy for some of us. I think I got sucked into this idea that there’s this pure healthy ideal out there that we all are reaching for. This person who never puts a single bad thing in her body and always gets a good night’s sleep and grows her own organic vegetable garden and is so purely healthy her hair and nails and skin are an oasis of wholesome sterile perfection. I guess I have “health guilt” sometimes. I feel bad when I order a diet coke because I think all those chemicals must be bad for me. I worry about the sodium in the organic frozen food I heat up when I’m in a rush. I worry about ingesting too much soy when I have fake meat products. So because of this guilt, I guess I believe people when they tell me that there must be toxins in my body. But I feel great, my doctor thinks I’m in excellent health, and my health allows me to have a happy life. How did I let myself get brainwashed into thinking I needed to drastically change my life to get healthy? I think I’ve decided that even though my body may not be the epitome of perfect purity, I’m healthy enough.
November 11, 2011 | 12:56 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
So after yesterday’s debacle, I wasn’t sure what to do about finishing out this cleanse. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t completely go off of it because I didn’t want to immediately start inhaling caffeine and foods that could be hard to digest. And I do often eat without thinking about it so I liked the awareness it was calling to my eating habits and we all ingest lots of things that we know aren’t good for us. I figured I could finish out the week trying to adhere to these principles but I also wasn’t going to get anywhere near an ultimate smoothie – just the idea of it makes me nauseous.
This morning, even though I had probably only had a few ounces of soup and some OJ last night, I felt completely transferred. I was still weak and tired with a mild headache but compared to the state I was in last night, I can’t believe I even tried to work when I was like that. I decided I would just get smoothies and soup that actually tasted good for my meals today and that I would eat what was necessary to be functional. Then, I’d still be off all of the processed chemical food-stuffs I normally eat, I’d still be off caffeine and diet coke, and even my normal snacks, but I also wouldn’t be in debilitating pain wishing I could die.
I went to Planet Raw which is a raw vegan restaurant in Santa Monica and got a Maca smoothie for breakfast. It was heavenly. If you think that raw food doesn’t taste good, this place will change your mind. Trust me, this is coming from someone who apparently would rather starve herself than eat something that didn’t taste good. This restaurant is incredible and will make the most die hard meat and potatoes person a fan. But because they’re so dedicated to using organic non-processed vegan foods, I’d still sort of be cleansing my system of these “toxins” but eating something that tasted good and had enough calories to keep me going. I had the rest of my miso soup from last night for lunch and went to Planet Raw again to grab a vanilla protein shake for dinner and even threw in an organic orange – my first solid food in days.
After my morning shake, I felt so incredible I went to a yoga class. Right away I noticed I was definitely light-headed every time we stood up after bending over and would lose my balance randomly. I took it easy but was sort of annoyed that this whole thing was causing my yoga practice to suffer. The only reason I did the yoga teacher training in the first place was to deepen my practice. The only reason I did the cleanse is because yogis had convinced me I would feel better and bring more awareness into my life and would have the most amazing practice of my life. Instead, I wasn’t able to practice for the last three days and then when I finally got to class this morning, my practice was suffering. Plus I had to listen to my mother use her I told you so voice to ask me what toxins? What are these people talking about? What are you cleansing? like I had joined a cult.
The cleanse for all the yogis ends formally tomorrow. I think I’m going to continue to try to eat raw vegan for one more day and then go back happily to ordering soy lattes and wine and even processed fro yo when the occasion calls for it. My yoga teacher training meets at 7pm and I assume I’ll have to listen to everyone talk about how transformative it was and how they felt the “toxins” leaving their body. I still have on more day on this thing so maybe euphoria will come to me tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m going to dream about the Starbucks I’m going to have on Saturday…
November 9, 2011 | 7:51 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
This is the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
At about 6pm tonight, the third day of my stupid ayurvedic cleanse for my yoga teacher training, I started to feel really ill. I hadn’t been feeling well all day, and it had progressively gotten worse and worse, till I really felt debilitated. I had a pounding headache, my stomach was painfully aching, I was freezing but sweating, my hands were clammy, and I pretty much wanted to die. Then my heart started racing and I really thought I was going to faint. I knew I had to do something but I also couldn’t think clearly enough to figure it out. I was just lying in my bed cursing yoga.
My yoga teacher who had designed the cleanse had said that if we felt like we were really going to pass out, we should eat an avocado and then we could continue on the program. I finally gave in. It took me five minutes to peel the thing, I was so weak.
I know part of this is my own fault. We were supposed to drink three veggie juices today for our meals and they were just so gross I couldn’t get anything down so I just drank water. Plus, the last two days, we were supposed to be having these Ultimate Meal smoothies. But it is no joke, the absolute worst thing I have ever tasted. I really tried and tried that first day to get it down but I couldn’t. I even cut the amount of ultimate meal in half that I put in my blender and it was still too repulsive to swallow. But that smoothie has all the calories and protein we’re supposed to need, so I knew I wasn’t getting enough of what I was supposed to.
The first bite of the avocado was amazing – I never realized how complex the flavors are. But after I swallowed it, I became more nauseated. I ate the whole thing. Then I threw it up. Yeah, that’s when I started to wonder if I was going to die for real and was seriously considering calling the hospital. Luckily, I’ve had the same family doctor for years so I got through to him. He said it might be severe dehydration (even though I told him I was drinking lots of water) or I might be on the verge of metabolic shock. HOORAY FOR CLEANSES! Apparently drastically cutting your calorie intake from like 2000 calories to 10 for three days can do that to you. He said to try eating something a little lighter like soup and if I still felt the same, I should go to the hospital.
I called my boyfriend who was on his way home from work and he offered to come by with miso soup and OJ. He said the traffic was bad and it might take an hour. I was just relieved that if I did pass out, someone would realize it quickly and get me to the hospital. I feel like I closed my eyes for a minute and he was there but it must have been 45 minutes and he came in bearing liquid food for me. Eating still seemed repulsive to me so I just had a few sips of soup. Mr. DB stayed in bed with me, coaxing me to eat more and rubbing my back. About fifteen minutes after my first bite, I realized I was feeling better enough to probably not need to go to the hospital. About an hour later and I had kept a few sips of OJ down and a few ounces of soup. He had been doing the cleanse with me and felt ok but had said he would end it after Wed night because it was starting to affect his performance at work. So he ate his own miso soup as my face started to slowly change back from greenish to just pale.
I still feel pretty miserable but a thousand times better than a few hours ago. So now that I’ve essentially “cheated” on this cleanse because I thought I might die, I have to decide what to do for the last two days. Should I give up completely and have cereal in the morning or do some modified version where I have like a sweet tasting fruit smoothie and veggie soup and stick to liquids?
I’m just so mad at myself for even trying this. It wasted so much of my time and money and it didn’t do anything but put me in incredible pain. Plus, my doctor added that there is no proven medical benefit to these cleanses or fasts and that a sensible diet is the healthiest thing for everyone.
I can’t believe I bought into this BS. I thought I was going to feel guilty if I cheated and went back to my yoga teacher training this weekend and admitted that I didn’t finish. Now, I just feel annoyed that I even tried. I guess getting off of coffee and diet coke was good for a few days but it doesn’t really seem worth all this. I can’t wait to give those self-righteous cleanse-aholics a piece of my mind this weekend. Although my mouth is probably going to need a good cleanse after that…