I have to admit, I was not really a Joan fan. In fact, her “can we talk” shrillness used to make my shoulders tense when I would hear it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for brash, uncouth, in-your-face behavior. As a former New Yorker, even her accent didn’t get under my skin. I think it was a quiet desperation that I intoned, something underneath her poking fun at celebrities, bristling at housewives, and most of all, her self-deferential slant that gave me pause. I just really never tuned into her Late Show debacle, or her Joan Rivers Show on television, though it ran for five years. And then, just when I might have given her more credit, she started the heinous mother-daughter alliance for which she has become known since the 1990s: the red carpet pre-award hosts for cable channels like E! Entertainment and TV Guide Channel (yes, imagine that, even they have a channel!). There has also been several guest spots on TV shows I don’t watch, like Nip/Tuck, QVC Shopping Network, and Celebrity Apprentice in which her daughter, Melissa, appeared in the same season and lost. Joan went on to win. During all this time, Joan has had some, shall we say, adjustments, in the surgical arena. Whether you endorse this practice or not, it’s difficult not to judge someone that you only know through a TV image or in a magazine, and they appear so completely altered. Like a puppet, a shard of one’s former self.

A: A Night Together!

Okay, there’s no real joke here. But there is a great event coming to NYC on April 6th, cosponsored by The Rumpus, Tin House Magazine, and Flavorpill. “A Night Together” features authors Sam Lipsyte, Colson Whitehead, and Lorelei Lee (yes, THAT Lorelei Lee),This American Life’s Starlee Kine and comedians Michael Showalter and Dave Hill. It will also have music by Jeffrey Lewis and Alina Simone.

The preorder price for tickets is ten bucks, but if you tweet, blog or post about the event to your Facebook page, you’ll get four dollars off. Now, I’m not great at maths, but I think that’s 6 dollars. Which–again, this is shaky–comes out to a dollar per featured person, not including the musicians. Rock solid, if you ask me.

So you should really think about doing that posting thing. And if you don’t live in NYC, you should post anyway, and like give your discounted ticket to someone you know in the city. Because shit, you totally owe them a favor. To get your discount, post a comment here, linking to your tweet/blog/etc.

My office smells like old snacks.

Apparently, this is what happens when you trade your corner office for a minivan.  I really miss the old digs: the custom-ordered swivel chair; the view down 56th Street from 40 floors up; space to “think.”  And all of this guarded by an assistant who sat outside my door ready to intercept anyone who might try to enter the inner sanctum uninvited.  It was luxurious, organized…peaceful.

I have skinny jeans and I’m not happy.

I’ve never had skinny jeans before.  Of course I’ve put on weight since my college days – probably around 20 pounds (I was 5’8″ and 125 when I graduated.  Hate me?  That’s okay.  I hate me too now).  But I never noticed a dramatic change.  It just sort of snuck up on me – this morning.

Sure over the past 10 years I’ve given birth twice – once to twins – and I noticed that I am rounder, softer…a bit more “zaftig”.  And it’s not like 143 pounds is even so bad.  I actually feel pretty good about myself naked.  My butt is still kind of yummy, when I suck in from the side I can achieve a lovely silhouette, and my boobs have magically maintained a firmness and defiance of gravity despite the shifting landscape upon which they are perched.  It’s just that there’s more “stuffing”as my daughter referred to it recently, and I never really noticed.

I had always been thin.  Naturally thin.  I spent my life eating exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, and it burned right off.  When my 10 year old was a toddler, I could eat the macaroni and cheese off her plate and still look fabulous.  It wasn’t till I hit 40 that I noticed the hint of Spaghettios on my butt.  But I chalked it up to just not having a lot of time to exercise.  I could get rid of it whenever I wanted to.  Or so I thought.

“I’m so lucky, I have a fast metabolism,” I would say to friends who dared to eyeball the cup of chocolate pudding occasionally found in my hands.

And I believed this twist of fiction.

My jeans always went out of style, or I had long since lost track of them, before I ever outgrew them.   And if I did have a pair of jeans long enough to notice they were getting ‘snug’, I always had a great reason why they were no longer hugging my hips, but rather strangling the bajeezuses out of them; they were in the drier too long, I’m bloated…it’s Thursday.

Maybe if designers had kept the waistline of jeans up around my midsection, I would have had some sort of “control” group — some reality-smacking way to gauge the growth.  A “constant” against which I could judge the ever increasing, pudding-and-childbirth-induced wave of flesh.  Maybe then this wouldn’t have happened.  But no.  My fat responded positively to this fabulous new trend and like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed flat from the bottom, the “paste” came up and out the open flip-top cap.  Hey, if they closed, they fit.

But this morning, I went to put on my favorite jeans, which had disappeared for about a year and had  resurfaced after a good closet cleaning.  They didn’t close.  And it wasn’t pretty.

I couldn’t use any of my old excuses, and I had to face the music.  And put down the pudding.

So now I have “skinny jeans.”  And maybe – just maybe – one day they’ll fit again.  If I diet and exercise and don’t pick at my kids’ chicken nuggets.

Or maybe, even better, I’ll just wait for them to go out of style.

“As the mother of a child with autism…”

I don’t have anything else to add to that, but I got your attention didn’t I?  Don’t feel like a sucker.  You’re not the only one.

It has come to my attention that whenever I say, “As the mother of a child with autism…” people instantly pay attention.  They presume I’m wise and sagely, and they’ll take virtually anything I say as gospel.  It’s quite fabulous really.

The statement could be followed with something as simple as “…I like kids chewable vitamins” and people will take this into serious consideration.  “Hmmmm…maybe chewables ARE better for kids than gummies.  I mean, she would know; her child has autism.”

I didn’t ask for this.  I didn’t plan on having a child with autism.  I didn’t want to have a child with autism, but “lo and behold” I do.  And it sucks.  But when you have a child with special needs and you’ve put in the hours and years of dedication to the process of helping that child as I have, shouldn’t I enjoy a few of the perks?

Well, people thinking I am really smart is one of them.

When I say ,”As the mother of a child with autism, I buy mostly organic fruit,” it is met with a collective, “Oooooooooooooo.”

When I say, “As the mother of a child with autism, I have my kids ride their bikes at least twice a week,” I hear a united, “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Believe me, I don’t actually think I’m saying anything interesting or even noteworthy.  I’m usually not.  And God knows, whatever I’m yapping about is almost always unsubstantiated.  I’m a busy woman.  Sure my kid has autism, but that doesn’t mean I know any more than the average bear.

But people can’t help but think I have something valuable to say.  It appears to be a natural gut reaction to think, “Oh, she’s the mother of a child with autism.  She must know a lot about child development.”   Or, “Wow, her kid has autism.  That sucks.  Even if I don’t agree with her, I feel sorry for her and I’m going to give her whatever she wants.”

I’d love to say I’m above it, but I’m not.

It’s wonderful.  If I’m at school and I want my daughter to have a better seat in class, I just say, “As the mother of an autistic child, I think my girl should sit in front.”  If I’m out with friends at a movie, I can say with accepted authority, “As the mother of an autistic child, I think the characters in that movie were well-drawn.”  Or, let’s say we’re driving to the valley and I just don’t want to be stuck on side streets.  I’ll say, “As the mother of an autistic child, I think we should take the highway.”

I suppose I shouldn’t expose myself to the world and tell people I’ve figured this out, and I certainly shouldn’t use my own family’s misfortune to take advantage of others when I can get away with it.

But I did, and I do.

And tonight, I’m going to go out to dinner with some friends.  I’d like to have a couple of cocktails, so I’m thinking I’ll casually ask, “Who wants to be the designated driver?”  We’ll all look at each other and then I’ll point to one of them and say, “As the mother of an autistic child, I really think you should be the one driving.”

And it will work.

At long last, I’ve found my silver lining.


Please explain what just happened.

I debated between masturbating or filling out this questionnaire.  I won’t tell you which one won.

A light bulb dangles in a Northridge, California motel room. Streetlights glow through cracks in the blinds. Trembling hands dump a bottle of Bacardi 151 on the head of a shirtless Philip Seymour Hoffman. Said hands strike a match. Enter the flames. The screams.

This is my tenth post on TNB, which I’m treating as some sort of milestone. And as with all milestones, I’m going to take this moment to look back and reflect on what a crazy journey it’s been… (Imagine some sort of bubble effect or that wibbly-wobbly screen wipe with harp music at this point.)

As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a gangster writer. Or kind of. I’ve always wanted to be a writer when I haven’t had crazy schemes of what I was going to be.

A memory that haunts and embarrasses me to this day is standing up in class at the age of about five, wearing glasses and no doubt a zany waistcoat. I was a nerd as a kid, I dressed like a fucking magician. I was standing in front of a class with a list of books I was going to write (most of them about dinosaurs) and how much they would retail for.