I have a picture I took thirty years ago of a white clapboard house partially obscured by brilliant, blazing leaves of autumn. The photo, which I framed and hung in my Upper West Side apartment, represented something beatific, something out of reach. I could only imagine what it would be like to live in a house like that.

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And here’s a quick excerpt…

Spring at my house is like a duel in an old western. My husband wields the Home Depot catalog, packed with tons of stuff for DIY backyard projects. My weapon of choice is the Crate & Barrel catalog, loaded with staged backyard idylls that make me want to reach for the lemonade pitcher.

I’m scared about tomorrow. Waiting is the worst part. The closer it gets the more unhinged I am. I try to stop picturing it. At least I’ve kept myself from Googling.

Since I scheduled the appointment two weeks ago, I’ve tried to press the thought into the furthest corner of my mind. There is nowhere in my mind for the thought to hide. Instead, I count down. Twelve more days. Seven days. 36 hours. This time tomorrow…

My gynecologist discovered it at my annual exam.

“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “I see these every day.”

My gynecologist could not pick me out of a line-up. He would not know my name if he didn’t glance at my chart before an exam. I have seen him once a year for the past decade but ours is a shallow relationship. Routine exams. He ticks off answers to my questions on a yellow pad. “No surgeries.” “No medications.” “No pain with intercourse.” Sometimes he asks the same question twice. Can’t figure out if he’s absentminded or trying to trick me. He always says “how’s your better half” just as he cranks open my vagina to insert a long swab.

This was the first time a check-up veered from routine.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” he said, seeing me turn green as a kid stumbling off a carnival ride with undigested lunch in her belly. “Take your time,” he continued. “Think about it. It’s not urgent. I’m just suggesting you do this for your own convenience.”

Out of the room he sailed. Leaving me in a paper robe with gooey genitals and a swath of fuzz wrapped around my head. All that was left in the room were me and his words. “In 99% percent of the cases it’s benign.” “I’m not worried.” “It should stop the long stretch of mid-term bleeding.”

His last words: “Just suggesting you do it — for your convenience.”

“FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE” I fixated on those three words. “For your convenience.” I imagine a butler tipping forward from the waist saying, “Here you go, madam. Your bumpershoot — for your convenience.”
“I have a polyp on my cervix,” I shouted into my cell phone, yelling over the Fifth Avenue bus’s squealing breaks. “The doctor says it’s not serious but he thinks I should have it removed. For my convenience.”

“You’re breaking up,” my husband said. “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Crisp autumn leaves swirled on the ground. Tree limbs were thin with nakedness. I stood in the bus stop motionless, me and my polyp. I’d let two buses go by so I could call my husband on my cell phone. I didn’t want to say aloud ‘I have a polyp’ while riding on the city bus. Even though it is not a medical term you need to whisper.

My husband knows a gynecologist.

“Can you please ask Michael to tell you all about this procedure,” I requested that afternoon.

Michael says “It’s like having a scab pulled off?”

“Did you ask him if it was painful?”

“He said they numb you; it’s like going to the dentist.”

That was not the best image for me because when I was 17 years old and I was driving with my mother on the Belt Parkway to a clinic in Manhattan she said something I will never forget. She glanced over at me, sheet-white and quivering, and said, “Think of it as a dental extraction.”

My mother was not one to fabricate but let me tell you there was nothing about climbing on a table and putting your legs in stirrups that is similar to the dentist. The searing pain from the injection that started in the vein of my hand traveled like a cigarette burning down to ash. I was too young to become a mother but left with sadness nevertheless.

So I’ve been told this procedure is “no big deal” and really it’s just “for my convenience” but still… I envision being cranked open like a soup can and ladled with clunky metal tools. It makes me think about the women in my family. My grandmother’s mother who died in childbirth. My grandmother who lost a breast. My mother’s carved out uterus. My sister’s tangled fallopian tubes. My womb.

The sun is going down. The sky is orange and red and purple. It looks like a beautiful serape floating outside my window. Sometimes I think if the sun never set, I would never be afraid. Twelve hours to go.