My brother always says that if he had a choice, he would have stopped aging right around the time he turned two.

Life was simple back then: Play dates. Naps. Mushy comfort foods. Lots of crawling around on the floor. Do something simple like utter a sentence and the adults around you clap and call you cute names. How much better can it get?

I, on the other hand, always wanted to be a grown up. I wouldn’t leave my mom’s side at the playground, because I just had to listen to what the adults were talking about. Going to sleep was out of the question while my parents were still awake, because I couldn’t possibly miss all the exciting stuff that was going on between my bedtime and theirs.

I thought that adults had it all. They could choose what clothes to wear in the morning and what to eat for breakfast. They could go to work and drink coffee and smoke – all at the same time! – and nobody would tell an adult to “put your gloves on!” or “no dessert until you finish your homework!” Also, as an adult, you could have a boyfriend and get married and have sex and babies – and not necessarily in that order. You didn’t have to account for where your allowance went and, darn it, if you wanted to spend it on pink notebooks, you could and nobody would say a thing about it.

I felt like this about adulthood for a long, long time. Even as I turned into an adult – we could argue about the exact timing – I felt all right about how my fantasies about grown-up life meshed with reality.

But lately I’ve been feeling a bit jibbed by this whole grown-up thing.  It is becoming more and more clear that I’ve been sold a bill of goods and if it’s OK, I’d rather not have any of it, thank you very much.

Through the years and years we spend as children with teachers, parents, and relatives, nobody is really straight forward about the icky stuff. Nobody tells us about the bloody battle to find a career or calling; nobody talks about broken hearts, or what to do when your boyfriend tells you that he likes to wear diapers. There is never any mention of performance evaluations, fertility treatments, mortgage payments, team-building retreats, marriage counseling, unemployment, leaky roofs, ripped condoms, emergency surgeries, car accidents, dead pets, self-doubt, aging parents, taxes, used-car dealers, lost friends, rejection letters, unrequited love, recession, hormones, cubicle farms, voicemail, speeding tickets, mid-life crises, HIV tests, drunk dialing, or lost luggage.

When I mention my discontent to my parents, they usually point out the obvious: I am lucky, because I really haven’t had to face too many challenges. It’s been pretty smooth sailing so far.  True.  But what surprises me every time I come across any of the above-mentioned obstacles, is that despite great parents, good education, supportive friends, I am still taken by surprise and feel unusually ill-equipped to tackle what the grown-up world throws at me. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as my hubby and I are experimenting with fertility treatments. When a few weeks ago I was driving to the doctor’s office with a jar of sperm tucked in my bra, all I could think was “Really? Nobody could have mentioned that this was in the cards?”

I am not sure what I would have done differently to prepare myself for adulthood. Maybe there is no way to prepare. Maybe despite the wisdom of our parents and grandparents, they look at our challenges with the same surprise and wish that they could have warned us, but didn’t know what to warn us about. After all, talking to a two-year-old or even a 14-year-old about fertility treatments is probably not responsible parenting.

The only good news that emerged from my whining to my parents is that it turns out that they did keep my favorite blanket along with “Kacsa,” my blue, polka-dot duck. So I am off to take a nap now.

In Vladimir Nabokov’s short story, “Signs and Symbols,” the narrator says of one character that, “Living did mean accepting the loss of one joy after another, not even joys in her case—mere possibilities of improvement.” I have always found that line to be profoundly depressing and if you’re reading this, I wish with all my heart that your life is not an acceptance of the loss of one joy after another.

My own life, I have realized, can partially be characterized by the acceptance of one embarrassment after another. I have decided to chronicle these embarrassments (the list will never end as long as I am alive and participating in the world) starting with the Blue Ribbon for the Most Embarrassing Thing Ever:

My first husband and I had just moved to Toronto from the Bay Area. We were renting a basement apartment with no kitchen. We used the window sills, where the winter temperature hovered around 20 degrees, to keep milk and juice, and ate all our meals out. I had no friends, no job and nowhere to go. I spent a lot of time reading in the apartment and a lot of time walking around and looking at things.

And then I joined a gym. It was a yuppie place near our apartment with lots of good-looking twenty and thirty-somethings’ who thought they were cool because they were at that point in life where they had just started to make a lot of money but didn’t yet have kids, dogs, ageing parents and the things that remind you that you are not really that cool and that the world around you needs less cool and more hard work. My husband and I were young enough and dumb enough to think that we were cool, too.

The first day at the gym I went to a yoga class where I stretched and twisted and roped up my very limber body with the thought that no one in Toronto could possibly be as flexible as someone from California. In short, I was showing off.

After the class, I followed the other yoga students into the locker room where they proceeded to take off their clothes and step naked into the hot tub (it was a single sex locker hot tub). I took off my clothes, too, and also stepped into the hot tub even though I’ve never really liked hot tubs. They’re too hot for me. I like warm tubs.

About ninety seconds into the soak, I began to feel light headed. I sat on the edge of the tub for a moment, then stepped out and started to walk toward the bathroom, as I was feeling a little queasy. Before I could make it to the bathroom I unexpectedly hurled a shooting stream of vomit onto the gym floor. As the vomit was coming out I could feel my vision shutting down, like a computer screen turning off.

I passed out on the vomit on the floor.

This little episode is the Blue Ribbon of embarrassment because it combines the three most humiliating human events into one tidy, pool of shame. It has, 1. Public nudity. 2. The projectile externalization of a body fluid in public. And 3. Passing out in public.

To have done them simultaneously, and then to have so perfectly lain my body atop the vomit was, in my opinion, quite a spectacular feat.

I called the gym the next day and cancelled the membership. And then we joined the Y.

An open letter to Maggie, my neighbor’s black Lab:


Dear Maggie,

I think your name was Maggie. You were a black Lab, and you lived in a small kennel made of chain-link fencing and wood in my neighbor’s backyard. I peed on you one evening when I was about seven years old, on a dare from a few of my friends. We were standing around your kennel, looking at you, when suddenly it occurred to me that I had to urinate. I mentioned my condition to my friends, and one of them suggested that I pee on you, for fun. And then the rest of them said, “Yeah, I dare you.” And so I did.

I remember you ran back inside your doghouse once you realized that I was peeing on you. And then I ran home.

My mother got a call from your mother a few minutes later. Apparently, she had seen the whole incident from her bedroom window. On hearing the news, my mother was horrified, and fittingly, I was grounded for the better part of a week as punishment. I also had to walk over and apologize to both you and your mother in person. I can only hope that you forgave me. I really felt bad about peeing on you, in the pit of my diminutive soul. I always thought that you were a really cool dog, and I secretly wished that you were my own.


Brad Listi
Los Angeles, CA

An open letter to God, Creator of the Universe:


Dear God,

When I was a kid, I was forced to go to church, and I was advised by my elders to believe in you. On many occasions, while seated uncomfortably on a hard wooden pew, listening with grave confusion to the rambling of a large, avuncular preacher, I turned my gaze heavenward and prayed in your direction. Almost every time, I prayed that you might provide some sort of definitive, supernatural evidence of your ever-abiding existence.

Dear God, I’d pray, could you please shoot a beam of purple light through that window up there above the altar, so that I can know for a fact that you’re actually listening to me?


Dear God, could you please blow out that candle sitting over there by the piano, so that I can know for a fact that your powers are actually real?

Naturally, on every such occasion, my heartfelt prayers went unanswered. My pleas were met with an altogether deafening silence.

Here and now, as I enter the prime years of my adulthood, I certainly wouldn’t expect you to trouble yourself with any of my petty requests issued forth in prayer. I can imagine that you are an incredibly busy entity with plenty of universal responsibilities to attend to. I wouldn’t think to bother you.

At the same time, I continue to find myself troubled by your total lack of regard for the innocent requests that I made as a young boy. One would think that a being as powerful and compassionate as God could trouble himself momentarily to shoot a beam of purple light through a small stained-glass window for the benefit of an innocent child.

No offense or anything, but the fact that you ignored me is pretty fucking lame. Hopefully, you will see fit to change your protocol for the next generation of good-hearted inquisitors.

Stay black,

Brad Listi
Los Angeles, CA