Recent Work By Lauren Becker


Let’s just get it out there. Because I got it all out there. I puked on Sherman Alexie. Yes, that Sherman Alexie. Celebrated author of short stories, novels, poetry, and tweets. Wearer of very nice leather shoes, possibly handmade in Italy or Spain, or some such country where stooped artisans of the lost art of shoemaking spend months hand-stitching beautiful footwear for famous authors.

I am a good friend. If I am your good friend, I promise I will pick you up from the airport, buy you a drink, support your writing, painting, music, IT and accounting skills, and assure you that your hair looks good even after haircuts gone very wrong. I will not save your life by sacrificing my own, loan you books, give you my last Diet Pepsi, or hold your hand during your vasectomy.

I was misled.

Silas asked me to drive him to and from a “minor surgery.” As said “minor surgery” required that I pick him up at 5:30 AM, I suggested that he take the train and offered to pick him up when normal people were awake. He said he wanted me there. He sounded nervous. I did not want to invade his privacy and ask the nature of the surgery (yes, I did), and assumed, when told the surgery would take place at Planned Parenthood, that he had something growing on him that should not, something that required uncomfortable cotton swabbing, or something stuck somewhere it should not be stuck. I thought his vagueness was meant to protect me.

Silas and I dated for about five minutes, then became good friends. Just before we were formally introduced at a mutual friend’s birthday party, I overheard him say he did not want children. Umm, ok, hi, nice to meet you, guy who doesn’t want kids. I’m girl who does want kids. Five minutes was a pretty lengthy relationship, given our respective procreative intentions.

On the drive there, my 6’6” life of the party friend was pale and squeaky. I asked, and learned that I was chauffeuring him to his vasectomy.

Anyone here think a vasectomy is minor surgery? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The disclosure was followed by the confession that he wasn’t sure he wanted to go through with it. 5:45am on the Bay Bridge. I offered to buy him a box of condoms and drive us both home. He squeaked his resistance. You can’t turn around on the bridge anyway.

We arrived, Silas filled out some forms, and I pulled out my laptop to begin dcumenting. He fidgeted. I tried to distract, noticing his English pallor was paper white; his hands served as a fortress for his offering.  Though he did not want Silas, Jr. to be implicated in the creation of a different kind of Silas, Jr., his reticence was understandable. The choice between having a kid he didn’t want and having someone touch his parts in a way he did not like his parts to be touched was like that one Sophie had. He was not going to win. Not that day.

The wait was long. He got squeakier, whiter. Then silent. I asked if he wanted me to come in. Part of me wanted him to say yes. Not many women – even wives and girlfriends – observe the minor, yet major, snip. The part that hoped he wouldn’t take me up on the offer didn’t care to (a) observe Silas’ genitalia, or (b) pass out, puke, and/or laugh.

He declined. The nurse retrieved him and they disappeared around a corner. Seconds later, he returned and waved me in.

The doctor asked if I was Silas’ wife or girlfriend. We both said no, fast. Bruce got chatty with me. Dude looks at vas deferens all day. And girls at Planned Parenthood are generally there to prevent things or get antibiotics for things, or, you know, to do things a guy doesn’t want to know right away about a girl. I was a mystery who wasn’t afraid to watch.

Silas was not happy with Bruce’s attempts at speed dating. His stuff was getting taped up against his belly. For access. I held his hand. It was limp, too. Doctor Bruce gave him a hand mirror so he could watch.

It was quick.  It was fascinating. I won’t describe: I am a good friend. I will not abuse my power to invoke widespread wooziness. All I’ll say is we both faltered when we saw smoke coming from his boy parts. This was not a he was so turned on his loins were on fire situation. Silas was not experiencing pre-coital metaphorical heat. There was smoke. Down there.

He lowered the mirror. I felt slightly dizzy and put my head between my legs. A few minutes later, he was taken to a room with other limping men for crackers and juice. I didn’t get any juice.

I drove Silas home. Carefully. He called me every day to tell me what color it was. He asked if I wanted to see it. I said I knew what black, green, blue, and yellow look like. The next time I saw him, I gave him a card with a picture of a kid who looked a little like him. The kid was making a goofy face and had French fries stuck up his nose and crammed in his mouth. I wrote “Congratulations. You are not having one of these.”

He asked if I wanted to see it. I asked what color it was. He smiled. I told him I knew what that color looks like. The card is still on his refrigerator.



A few weeks ago, a prominent newspaper ran an article with the headline: “Women Who Drink Gain Less Weight.” I suspect I was not the only woman who resolved to hit the bottle at once, inspired by promises of alcohol-assisted svelteness. I would be buzzed and beautiful. Liquored up and lithe. Snockered and skinny. I would lose my unloved love handles. The close relationship my thighs had with one another would yield to a passing acquaintanceship. I resolved to buy the big bottle of Maker’s at Costco asap.

Beneath the encouraging declaration was a picture of icy cocktails in slim wineglasses. My girlfriends and I would order extra rounds, tightening our belts as our evenings progressed. We would not be those girls. The ones who drink for the wrong reasons. Men would love us – yes – but they would love us for our steadfast resolve. The investment would be sort of like paying for a gym membership.

I envisioned the Holy Grail: Smaller jeans. I would look great sipping scotch in smaller jeans.

I had not read the article. The (dormant) attorney in me kicked in. The headline did not promise weight loss. It did, however, quite clearly declare that drinkers would gain less weight. I adjusted my enthusiasm accordingly. My jeans size was ok. I would save money on new clothes, both smaller and bigger.

Still, I did not read. I considered less attractive reasons for drunken weight stability. Do women who drink more gain less weight because they pass out before making late-night runs through the Jack in the Box drive-thru for curly fries? Does the cost of alcohol deplete their food budgets?

I’m not a big drinker. Two drinks over the course of an evening does me fine. Maybe three if it’s a very long evening. How much more would I need to drink? Would I need to invest in a flask from which to nip throughout the day? Where does one buy a flask? Are they expensive? Because I would want a really nice one.

I read. The dormant attorney in me was pissed. And not in the way she planned to be.

The article describes a study that does not endorse the promising declaration of the headline.  It ends with the caveat that the study’s findings do not mean that women should drink to lose weight; rather they suggest that women with weight problems are probably not getting their extra calories through alcohol consumption.

It seems I was not the only one peeved with the writer. I did not read all 356 comments, but a number of physicians dismissed the writer’s reasoning as simplistic and chastised her for giving women false hope and potentially harmful advice. Quite a few “fattie” and “drunkard” bashers chimed in. Some provided thoughtful commentary about whether the results of the study were meaningful, in that they did not take into account lifestyle choices, such as drinking sugary sodas or smoking.

A particularly sage commenter agreed that the study was missing an essential component: Wealthy men. By marrying one, she has been able to maintain her petite bottom by going to the gym before hitting the expensive wine with her rich girlfriends or personal trainer.

Her observation is compelling in its simplicity. Though anecdotal, it is difficult to argue with her logic. Longitudinal studies are unnecessary. I am disappointed in myself for not having pursued this avenue.

Upcoming headline: The Sugar Daddy Diet: The Bigger His Wallet, the Smaller Your Jeans.

We are not exhibitionists.  We are confessors.  We express excruciating moments with carefree wit.  We use writing as a means to an end, the end being someone else.  If we laugh – if others laugh – those things will leave us.  We can rename those things as if they never were the way they were.

I would not have been so shy that the first day of school was the worst day of my year because my parents named me Lauren, but called me Laurie, and I had to tell my teacher when she called attendance.  I would not have been so afraid to ask to go to the bathroom that I peed in my pants in the library.  I would not be the one who came home on the first day of seventh grade with her bra up around her neck because she didn’t know how to ask her mother how to adjust it.  I would not be the one who asked, mortified, only to hear her mom laugh while telling her friends about it later.

I would not be the one who stole candy from her babysitter’s car.  I would not be the one who was certain that no one liked her.

I would not be the one who ate her way through law school instead of leaving.  I would not be the one whose dad’s cousin raved about her mother’s beauty, then told her she looked just like her father.

I wouldn’t be the one who found a napkin stuck to her boot last night after walking across the bar to the restroom.  I would not be the one who won’t finish writing the novel that tells the truth.  I would not be the one who worries that nobody will comment on this introspective nonsense.  I would not be the one who worries that people will judge.

You won’t be the one who didn’t go to your prom.  Or who was beaten up by a younger kid when older meant stronger.  You will not have been short, fat, frizzy-haired, tall, skinny or a late bloomer.  You will have had perfect skin and teeth.  You will have been friendly with puberty.  You will not be surprised when people like your writing, or think you are pretty or handsome or want to spend time with you.  You will not be the one who ate lunch in the library, or played fantasy games, or collected stamps or could not talk to boys or girls.  You will not be the one who read words but could not say them.

I will be the one who Brian chased on the playground so he could kiss my hand in its red mitten.  I will be the only freshman to have had a part in the school play.  I will be the one whose first submission was published.  I will be the one who makes people laugh when I tell them about the worst things.  The things I think of 20 or 30 years later.  The things that still don’t make me laugh. Not really.

We write ourselves into different stories and then edit.  And edit more.  Until the original is disappeared.  Mostly.  Run your fingers across our scars, knotted and raised.

He posted in the writing gigs section of Craigslist. 

Some people say they’re empowering; others say they’re oppressive. They’re high heels, and, like them or not, women keep wearing them. The benefits of walking tall are obvious–attractiveness to the opposite sex, added height and confidence. But at what price? If one were to look inside the mind (and shoe closet) of a shoe diva, what would one find? What does the siren call of fashion footwear sound like? And is the wearer still smiling when she removes her shoes at the end of the day?

I am interested in having a short story written about a professional woman who has a love-hate relationship with her collection of impossibly high, pointy-toed stilettos.  

For a moment, I indulged the illusion that the posting entity might be a women’s fashion magazine or website. I released the moment and wrote a quick, yet thorough, e-mail that detailed my many qualifications for writing a PG-rated pervy shoe story. Writing gigs don’t last long on Craigslist and I’m unemployed. I spend much longer moments dreaming of groceries.

I had questions for “Paul.”  “For you or publication?  Erotica or literary fiction?”  The unemployed are not choosy. I wanted to know what Paul was buying so I could sell it. Fast. For American cash money. The kind they take at Trader Joe’s.

He admired my powers of perception. He liked the ridiculous water bra workshop casualty I sent him as a sample. “I’m in discussions with several other writers but I must say you stand out.”  Just as I would accept his money, I accepted his flattery. I’m a writer. I like praise nearly as much as I like Trader Joe’s tomato and basil hummus.

Paul was discerning. There is plenty of free foot fetish literature on the internet. I did my research. I sensed that he wanted more of a connection.  That he didn’t take as much pleasure in reading the same stories as hordes of the similarly-stimulated. 

He asked if we could chat online.  He wanted to share the nuances of his custom order.  I grudgingly threw in the extra time and learned the following:  He is turned on by the thought of women’s feet hurting.  He loves very high, pointy-toed stiletto pumps.

And Paul is really into bunions.

For those not learned in podiatry, a bunion is “an unnatural, bony hump that forms at the base of the big toe where it attaches to the foot. Often, the big toe deviates toward the other toes.” In layman’s terms, they’re painful foot deformities.  Painful, smokin’ hot deformities to some, it seems.

I was all business. “Anything else?  Calluses, blisters, bleeding, corns?” 

No calluses, blisters or bleeding.  A corn or two would be fine.

He specified that the afflicted, yet fashionable, main character should have little to no interaction with men. He reiterated that she should be an educated professional.  Paul did not want a trashy heroine in hooker heels.  He wanted me to write him a girlfriend.  He didn’t need to say it. 

I received a lesson in two types of shoeplay: dangling and dipping. Dangling occurs when a woman, often seated with legs crossed, allows her shoe to dangle from her toes, exposing her heels.  A woman is dipping when she slips her foot in and out of her shoe, often when she’s been standing in uncomfortable shoes for a long time.  Though Paul enjoys dangling, he prefers dipping.  He kindly provided me with a YouTube link to ensure my comprehension.   Though he was at work, he located the video link in a jiffy.

In addition, he instructed that “[r]ealism and authenticity with respect to the woman’s day are what give this admittedly formulaic story novelty for me.”  He seemed innocuous, even sort of sweet.  Then he asked the question.

“Do you happen to have bunions?”

“Damn,” I thought, “Please tell me he did not just ask that.”  He was not sweet and innocuous.  He was trying to score some free foot chat.  The kind provided by professionals for $3.99 a minute. I shut him down and advised that matters involving my own feet were outside the realm of our transaction. 

He explained that he pays some of the writers to provide photos of their feet as “author inscriptions”. In exchange for the promise of one picture of my bare feet, Paul tacked a cool ten onto the $50 he would deposit in my Paypal account immediately.  He wanted to know more.  Did I have bunions?  (Lie number one:  Yes. I have early stage bunions. Truth: I don’t even know what that means.)  Did I wear pointy-toed shoes?  (Lie number two:  Yes.  Truth: I am 5’9” and, though I like some heel on my shoes, five-inch stilettos hold little appeal.)   What color polish will you use?  (Lie number three:  I don’t know yet. You’ll find out when I do. Truth: Is he freaking kidding me?)

I wrote the story. She’s an architect.  She dips and dangles with the best of them.  Her Manolos are $500 vises, twisting her feet into shapes no foot should know. 

[She] is happy to dress conservatively from the ankles up, but is unyielding in her insistence on wearing the highest heels possible.  Her feet, disarranged and misshapen without the stunning stilettos, are perfect when tucked inside the pointy, pretty, pain-making pumps she wears.  They proclaim her womanhood and dare anyone to think otherwise.

It wasn’t terrible.  I arranged my feet to look as ugly as possible, snapped and uploaded a picture and sent it and the story to Paul.

I didn’t hear back for two days.  I had my money but where was my flattery? 

“I’m sorry for not writing back sooner.  My mom had surgery.  She’s recovering nicely.  I love the story and the picture.” 

I admitted that I had been worried that the story was more literary than he wanted.  “No.  I love rich narrative.  I would like for you to do another.”  During our interactions, I took note that he was not a stupid person.  I was genuinely pleased that he liked the story.  Then he asked, “Didn’t you say you had corns?  Which toes are they on?  I can’t really tell from the picture.”

Ick.  I knew there would be some hanky-panky going on with the story, but cognitive dissonance had downplayed the co-starring role my feet would play.  Double ick. I did not respond to his e-mail.  It didn’t seem necessary.

That was about a month ago.  He e-mailed the other day to tell me he wants to buy another of my “incredible” stories after the holidays.  The ick factor faded with the compliment, the promise of compensation and the idea of him saving up to buy stories about women with beautiful bunions.  I will gladly write him another story.   I’m a writer. It’s what I do.