Personal Essays


"Stringbean" Is Not a Compliment


It’s 1981, I’m in 7th grade, and my father is trying to guess how much my friend weighs.

“One hundred and five?” he asks her over dinner. “One-ten?”

My poor friends — they’d done nothing to warrant the sizing up they got at my house. 


The Zen of Middle Age


“Maybe you could be the artsy mom.”

This was my teenage daughter’s best attempt at compromise. After she turned 13, she started longing for a stylish mom, or a fun mom, or a mom who likes the mall—and I was a brutal disappointment.

“I guess you could wear long, funky scarves,” she said sullenly.

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Downwardly Mobile after Divorce


Some days I think I’m going to end up one of those elderly cat ladies, feeding my cats—and myself— from cans of cat food, because I will be wrecked and destitute after the debt and the college bills and the health care costs catch up with me. Other days I think I will be the cat food because from what I’ve read cats will wait only a couple of days before they eat you. (This is called, on the internet, “post-mortem predation,” and I hope it’s not true.) 


Finding a Girl on Facebook


There are thousands of Maria Batistas in the world, and I’ve looked at hundreds of their online profile photos. A lot of them wear bikinis, and most of them pose with sunglasses—you can see their smiles, but not their eyes. Some of the Maria Batistas hold infants, a few straddle motorcycles, and some pose with their dads, or their cats, or grandchildren they’re kissing when the shutter clicks. Many of them wear school uniforms, a few wear sci-fi monster costumes, and one wears a jujitsu outfit.


Are You My Child?


It’s a common question, one that’s usually asked as soon as I mention I’m a mother: How many children do you have? For the sake of simplicity, I say I have three. But I wouldn’t go to the mat with that answer because the truth is, I’m not exactly sure. And while a tedious man might say, with a lecherous wink, “I don’t know,” the same answer from a woman comes off a bit strange.

More than 20 years ago I donated my eggs a couple times out of sheer pragmatism.

Natural Causes


Fifteen years ago on September 11, my 83-year-old grandmother died. In her bed, in Queens. But maybe it was September 10 — by the time her neighbor discovered her body, the coroners in Queens were quite busy. The medical examiner’s visit to her home on 82nd Road revealed nothing unusual.

As a girl I was routinely mortified by her, but because she lived in New York, I visited her often.