When I was with my boyfriend, (now ex) and I got to know his kids better, I marveled at their impeccable timing; better than any Borscht Belt comic. Their opinions were unfiltered, and they were often unsolicited.
One day, I sat down next to my boyfriend’s son in the living room, and settled in for some mindless (is there any other kind?) television watching. Out of nowhere, he asked, “Have you ever worked on movie sets?”
Startled, I whipped my head around. “What?” Hearing this innocent nine-year-old boy say “movie set,” made me laugh. It had been years since I’d worked on a movie set, and for a moment, I forgot that I actually had.
“Yes, I have.”
He continued. “Have you ever met any famous people or celebrities?”
I rarely talked about my life in Hollywood with my boyfriend and his kids, and I wondered what had prompted these questions.
“Sure, I’ve met famous people and celebrities.”
“Like who?” he asked.
And with that, my mind went tabula rasa. After a slight hesitation, I replied, “Cyndi Lauper.”
He crinkled his tiny face, disappointed. “Who?”
I should have seen that one coming. He was relentless. “Were you in any movies like you see in the movie theater?”
One minute we’re watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and the next, my résumé is being called into question. Was he going to ask me for references next? Again, I hesitated because I had forgotten my own credits.
I stared at this cherub. I was so nervous being the Girlfriend Mom. I wanted to see where the role would take me but I also didn’t want to forget how I got there; in a living room with a child, who was interrogating me like a murder suspect.
I looked over at him. “Okay, you got me, I’ll talk.”
My writing partner and I wrote a screenplay that received all kinds of Hollywood buzz; the kind of buzz that first-time screenwriters dream about while they’re writing in smelly corners of the only Starbucks in town that doesn’t have a restroom. I always wanted to be a card-carrying member of one of the most exclusive clubs in Hollywood, if not in the entire free world.
A top agent signed us, and we dined with studio executives and producers who pitched us movie ideas. “A ballet dancer succumbs to lethal plantar warts and is forced to make a tough decision: live with constant pain or go under the knife, which could lead to infection and end her dancing career. While lying on the operating table, the anesthesiologist professes his desire for her and her warts. They fall in love, but the operation is botched, and she never dances again. It’s Erin Brockovich meets Black Swan by way of Love Story.”
One day we had a meeting with Courtney Love. She wanted to pitch us a movie idea. It was surreal. I was green to the ways of Hollywood, but the effect that being noticed can have on one’s ego? It’s astonishing. I walked a little bit taller. I got so ahead of myself that my shadow struggled to keep up.
Ms. Love was coming off a string of box office hits like The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon. She was a serious and couture-wearing actress now; no longer known just as Kurt Cobain’s wife and the lead singer of Hole.
We rendezvoused at Ms. Love’s home in the Hollywood Hills. I expected tall hedges and barbed wire fences, and then realized she didn’t live in a prison. She’d didn’t even have a gate; even my parents have a gate.
Her manager greeted us at the front door, and as she ushered us in, my partner whispered to me. “We take matches or something from the bathroom as a souvenir.” She was always joking.
I thought it would be nifty if we had a trinket from Courtney Love’s commode. My friend Katy brought me back rusty nails from Cher’s new Malibu beach house when it was under construction. She and her wife were friends of Cher’s, and they knew what a huge fan I was, so they brought me a memento. It was supposed to hold me over until they could set up an actual meeting with the Dark Lady herself. I’m still waiting for my face to face. (If I wait much longer, it’s going to be surgically enhanced face to surgically enhanced face.)
We sat on Courtney’s tailored linen couch in the library, and I already imagined future meetings with Ms. Love as our relationship blossomed. I lived in Seattle for a year and a half during the early days of grunge, so I already felt a kinship. Never mind that I spent most of my time there working backstage on such distinguished theatrical productions as A Shayna Maidel at the Stroum Jewish Community Center.
Ms. Love sauntered into the room, looking fabulous. Her conservative blond bob, Dolce & Gabbana leather pencil skirt, Burberry blazer, and, I believe, newly sculpted nose screamed, Here I am, motherf’er.
From the moment she said, “Hello, nice to meet you guys,” to our departure an hour later, she was effusive and long-winded. “Did you know that this was Ellen’s old house? I had it redecorated, natch. Do you like the Stickley chairs? Have either of you read Proust?”
Before I had a chance to recall what Proust had written, she was discoursing on the virtues of anal bleaching. She insisted that we go to her favorite place Pink Cheeks on Ventura Boulevard—because who doesn’t want a pink and refreshed-looking butthole?
SIDE NOTE: I left this part out of the story because he was a child.
We stood up to leave, and walked to the front door. I looked in the direction of the kitchen, and caught a glimpse of Courtney’s daughter, Frances Bean, who was six years old and looked exactly like her father.
In the end we failed to impress Ms. Love, and the experience became just another in a long list of pitches, promises, and potentials.
Shortly after, my partner and I parted ways due to creative differences. I remember during one of our last conversations she said that I was being didactic. I shouted back defensively, “No, I’m not.” I might as well have added, “I know you are but what am I?”
I had no effing idea what didactic meant and I looked it up in the dictionary when I got home.
Didactic: intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive: in the manner of a teacher, particularly so as to treat someone in a patronizing way. Okay, maybe I was.
My boyfriend’s son sat up on the couch, looked at me, and cocked his head. “So you weren’t in the movies?”
Does a stepparent relinquish their title, and the unspoken rights, responsibilities, support, care and concern, (often included in the character description) if the relationship ends in divorce?
And what the hell happens in a Girlfriend Mom situation… I don’t know either.
I no longer wear the sash and crown, but there are certain habits and emotional bonds that were formed during my halcyon days as the reining Girlfriend Mom, that have stayed with me nearly three years after the so-called divorce. The role will forever remain in my heart as the most unexpected, and enlightening that I have had the privaledge of playing. And I played Leper #2 in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar in theater camp.
It was because of these unique relationships, (that seem to be defined, and then redefined every few months) that I took SN (the daughter) on a road trip last Fall from Portland, Oregon to La Jolla, California for her college graduation gift.
A few family members and friends thought it was strange that I was taking a trip with my ex-boyfriend’s daughter. These were some of the same people who thought that it was weird that I still saw the kids. SN’s mother thought it was a wonderful opportunity for her daughter and thanked me. I didn’t need to be thanked because it was my absolute pleasure and joy.
I wanted to make the trip more than SN. I knew firsthand how life affirming such an experience could be. I made the same excursion when I was her age, after my college graduation. After four years in Manhattan, side-stepping dog poop on the sidewalks on my way to class, knocking into Wall Streeter’s as they hustled to the subway, I hit the road and drove across the country over the summer.
Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to drive across America. I read Kerouac’s, On The Road, watched both Easy Rider, and Lost in America, and the idea of living moment to moment; no plans or schedule was alluring and sexy.
I imagined driving through towns with populations under a hundred. I fantasized about having to get a waitress job in a honkey tonk (even though I’d never waited tables before) because I ran out of money. Perhaps I’d get hired to wax surf boards in a shop along the California coast, even though I’d never set foot on a board. I romanticized the road because I’d been dodging crack dealers on my way to my dorm. Anything would be better than that.
I’d learn how to ride a motorcycle. I’d pick up hitchhikers bumming for lifts. They’d teach me about the world; sharing their wisdom gleaned from years living according to their chakras and not in the chokehold of societal expectations, norms and conventions. These free spirits would regale me with pearls from the backseat of my car, while chewing tobacco, and using an empty Coke bottle as their spittoon.
To be twenty-two.
I used the money that I’d saved over the years in a giant pink piggy bank that my parent’s had bought me when I was nine years old, to fund my trip.
The bank lived on the bottom shelf of my bookcase in my childhood bedroom. It was so big that I doubted that it would ever be full, but I dropped coins into the slit on its back every chance I got.
My parents told me (although it was couched as a suggestion) to wait until the pig was full before I uncorked its underbelly. They assured me that it would be more exciting and gratifying than if I withdrew money every time I wanted another Bonne Bell 7-Up Lip Smacker, which was often.
What ten-year-old girl is going to understand the concept of saving, patience and restriction? It was friggin’ Bonne Bell. Yes, I dipped into the bank on more than one occasion.
As I got older and more disciplined, it became easier to resist the urge to crack open the swine before she was up to her snout in metal and couldn’t take one more thin dime. She did taunt me, especially when my babysitting jobs dried up in the winter of ’83 but I stayed the course.
By the time I graduated college, the bank had been full for several months. I suspect that my parents dropped a few shekels in while I was away at school.
Soon after graduation, I went into my bedroom, closed the door and pulled the weighty bank off of the shelf. I plucked the stopper, emptied the contents onto my medium pile chocolate brown shag rug, and began the laborious task of rolling the coins into their respective denomination wrappers. This was long before the coin machines in local supermarkets. I rolled until I lost feeling in my fingers.
It was mind-numbing and it required a gross amount of concentration and counting. Anyone who knows me, knows that I find counting mentally exhausting.
As I sat with my legs crossed hunched over mounds of coins (as a Pilates instructor I shudder at the visual) I kept having to remind myself of how many nickels were in a two-dollar wrapper. The whole ordeal made me dizzy.
As the rolls piled high, forming miniature pyramids on my rug, my anticipation increased—How far would the money take me? Would I have to get a job bartending?
When the wrapping was complete, I went to the bank and cashed out. If memory serves, I had over six hundred dollars in dusty and sticky pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I found several half dollars and a handful of silver dollars. I vaguely remember getting those as birthday presents from my grandfather. At the time, I couldn’t get over the fact that a dollar could be a coin.
I also found a peso or two in the mix, which was odd because I hadn’t been to a country where the local currency was a Pesos. Dad?
I had money to make a childhood dream come true and nothing felt sweeter. I was rich!
Once I climbed behind the wheel and was on the road, I tossed my shoes into the backseat of my Honda Accord and crossed over the first of many state lines. I felt as if I’d been infused with a dose of freedom. I hadn’t done a lot of traveling up to that cross country point and I was captivated by the enormity of the country, and awed by the vastness and the quiet. It was eye opening in ways that I had only read about or seen in the movies.
I imagined my foot glued to the gas pedal, never to return to New York. I’d only driven 700 miles from home, but I was convinced that I belonged on the road, and that I would be happy wandering for the rest of my life.
To be twenty-two.
Decades later, I hoped that SN’s experience would be as thrilling as my first time was. I’d play the part of the wise hitchhiker, imparting sage advice, only without the tobacco. I was anxious to see the roads of my youth, and to be seeing them through SN’s youthful eyes.
To be continued…
For my second installment of Revenge Travel, I chose Providenciales, (Provo) Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean. If you haven’t read Part One, you can read it here.
I wanted an island experience; an island where I had never been to before, and where I could read, relax and feel clean white sand between my toes.
It’s important to note that the Turks and Caicos only came onto my radar because American Express Travel sent me an e-mail offering a sweet deal at the resort, in the time frame that I was looking for.
My plans came together pretty quickly once I had made my decision, and so naturally I took it as a sign; a positive sign. A sign that said, yes, this is where you should go next. I thought it was a good idea to be away for my birthday, as it was the first one after my break up.
Somewhere between thirty-thousand feet over the Atlantic Ocean and waiting forty-five minutes in line at customs, I remembered that I actually didn’t want to be traveling. Instead, I wanted to be still. I wanted to address the trauma of the demise of a seven and a half year relationship, and it’s by-products, and fall-out, including, but not limited to, how I was going to see the kids.
However, after I found out that my ex had taken off to Europe (how original… I said to no one), I was compelled to take my passport out of the drawer.
I felt old and lost among the hundred or so tourists whose vacations had begun on the flight from New York and who were already wearing their sarongs and Kappa Sigma muscle T-shirts, in line at the Provo airport.
Fully dressed from head to toe, I waited for my passport stamp. Trust me, it was the only thing keeping me alive. Anyone looking around the hoards of people in customs would have easily picked out which one of us did not belong, due to her, I am not in a vacation mood, puss on her face.
What was I thinking? Revenge be damned. The last thing I needed was to lie on a chaise lounge with a drink in my hand, watching lovers frolic in the sea while I contemplated my navel. I had spent more than enough time in deep contemplation, and the only thing that my navel yielded was a lint.
Unfortunately, these admissions were late in coming, and instead I smiled up at the passport stamp man.
I was now stuck on an island with college kids, the recently engaged, honeymooners, and parents who had escaped their asylums for a few days—and each and every one of them were drunk. It felt eerily similar to being at one of my brother’s parties that he’d have at our house in high school, while our parent’s were away. I stayed locked away upstairs in my room, studying, writing sad poetry, or composing love letters to Bobby Emerson. My point is, I was profoundly out of place.
I checked into my hotel, and I was instantly upgraded to a spacious suite with an ocean view. This would have been a wonderful surprise, had I been on tour with The Partridge Family, and Reuben, (including the musical instruments). I did not need that much room. It only depressed me further, and I felt even more alone than I already did.
I went through the motions of being on vacation, which was a lackluster attempt at best. I walked into breakfast each morning, and quietly sat at a table set for two, pretending that my non-existent companion had the shits, due to a contaminated lettuce leaf, and couldn’t leave the suite. Telling myself this story made me feel only slightly better, as it was like acting in a play.
I read several books on the beach, and romped in the ocean on a paddle board until my skin shriveled up like a prune. The hotel staff was scattered and inattentive with just a hint of rudeness. I was convinced that it was because I was flying solo.
On the afternoon of my birthday, there was a knock on my door. I had no idea what or who it could have been. I didn’t order room service, and no one, including my parents, even knew where I was staying. That probably wasn’t a good idea. If there was an emergency, or a hurricane for instance, and the resort was washed away, nobody back home would have known that I, too, had been washed away.
For half a second, I thought that perhaps my ex had hired a private investigator, or had done his own sleuthing and had found me. Yes, I was still romanticizing, and the hot sun had made me loopy.
I opened the door to find a staff member holding a tray with a piece of chocolate cake on a plate. “Happy Birthday” was written in white frosting along the rim. What? How the f’ did they know? He came into my suite and placed the tray on a table in the entryway, and looked around the cavernous room. “Oh, no family?”
Was he kidding me? How did he know that my family wasn’t frolicking in the ocean or rehearsing in the beachside cabana? How rude, Mr. Cake Man. Now if you don’t mind, please extricate yourself from my presence.
The pit in my stomach, which was the size of Toledo, never dissipated the entire time I was on my dreamy Caribbean getaway. It was a dreadful experience, and I was miserable. Taking a trip alone to a resort that mainly catered to couples certainly was not the healthiest, or wisest, decision that I had ever made. And if I were to guess, it probably wouldn’t be my last.
The experience reminded me of the time that I went to a podiatrist because I got a coupon in the mail. I was shocked and dismayed when the doctor (and I’m only guessing that he was an actual doctor, because I never actually saw a framed degree on the wall) said that I needed surgery to remove both of my bunions, when I only had one.
I guess sometimes a deal isn’t. And sometimes what you think is a sign, isn’t.
When I returned home, I put my passport back in my drawer, hoping that I wouldn’t have to use it for awhile. And I didn’t… until I did.
Revenge travel would see more miles and more stamps.
To be continued…
It was a hard choice to make but I knew that some of my precious literary babies wouldn’t make the final cut and that they would be left out of my upcoming book, THE GIRLFRIEND MOM: KIDS? NO, THANK YOU, I’M NOT HUNGRY. It wasn’t personal, they simply didn’t serve the bigger picture. Don’t be sad for these unfortunate outcasts, as they will live on here in this blog.
The Captain and Tennille, the famous singing duo from the ’70s that were known for their love songs, lied. Their hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” was a sham. Love will not always keep people together; those two are now divorced.
For a while I fantasized that my boyfriend and I would find our way back to each other. I even romanticized the breakup. I thought that once he saw the ass-ness of his ways, he’d make a YouTube-worthy gesture, and we’d live happily ever after. I wouldn’t stop believing that love conquered all and that our relationship could survive the quirky way he disobeyed traffic laws (stop signs were so pesky), or the fact that we didn’t have much in common, or that I had sacrificed a part of who I was to be with him, would all prove inconsequential in the face of the love and passion that we shared.
Experts say that staying busy helps get over a breakup or maybe it was Oprah—hallowed be thy name—who said it. For me, travel had always been a salve. However, if you’re traveling after a breakup, you probably shouldn’t go to a place that you have been with your ex in the past or that he’s been to with his new girlfriend or to a place where the native language is that of your ex (if it’s other than English).
My ex knew that there were few things in life that made me happier then getting a new passport stamp, so it was therefore deplorable, and an act of utter betrayal, when I learned that he had taken his new paramour overseas and stood by her side in customs while she got stamped. It was an act of treason that cut me to the quick. To punish him I would travel without him, and collect so many stamps that I’d run out of pages, and have to request new ones.
Revenge travel was born.
I wanted to be classy in the days and months following the breakup, but I fell short, like way short, like Martin Short, short.
Sorrow cost me a lot of frequent flyer miles. Seven months after we broke up, my ex went to Brazil, and I went to a yoga retreat in Mexico. A retreat had been on my to-do list for a while, and now I had the extra motivation that I needed to book my ticket.
Haramara Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico, had no electricity or Internet, and guests were gently, but firmly, asked not to flush their used toilet paper. Instead, you were encouraged to throw it in the wastepaper basket next to the porcelain bowl. I found this curiously fun. It did take me a couple instances of “Oh, crap, I forgot” before I got on a roll. I was afraid that the retreat police were going to knock on my hand-built, environmentally “friendly” cabana door and make me fish it out with my bare hands.
I don’t know why I was surprised that there were three yoga classes a day during the weeklong yoga retreat. It was a goddamn yoga retreat! The sessions were wonderful, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t just a wee sick of downward-facing dog and child’s pose. I was a Pilates girl. I went on a yoga retreat to help me get my head out of my ass, and funnily enough, by the end of the week, I was able to put my ass over my head.
All three of the daily meals included fresh, local, organic food and fruit that I had never heard of before nor could pronounce. The wellness center was built into the forest and was surrounded by unpaved trails, a private beach with climbing rocks, and an infinity pool that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. It was not low rent.
Sharing the property with the human inhabitants were scores of gulf crabs that seemed to be suffering from dyslexia. These crustaceans would trek up, or rather side-shimmy up through the lush hillside, and stop when they hit the dirt trail. Unfortunately, they’d shimmied in the wrong direction. They should have headed toward the ocean, but instead they had landed on the footpath, where they would take their final crustacean breaths and expire.
Interesting fact: crabs’ teeth are inside of their stomachs. I would have thought that my stomach had teeth from the gnawing and crushing that I was feeling.
Each night we walked back to our rustic (constructed without machinery) cabanas by flashlight and literally hopscotched over what looked like the remains of a massive crabby suicide pact. It made me think of my ex’s kids and how they would binge watch and quote from SpongeBob SquarePants.
The ocean was rough and loud, which, gratefully, lulled me to sleep each night. I luxuriated in the open-air shower with its unobstructed views of the whitecaps. I was not at all concerned with my hair shedding and clogging the drain, because there was no drain. My strands slid freely off the shower floor into the jungle.
The resort informed us that we were among a mélange of wildlife. I knew that they didn’t mean freewheeling lemurs like in Madagascar, but what specifically was considered the wildlife wasn’t exactly clear. Every bed had a net that hung from the ceiling, and I closed mine every night to protect me from the animals, even though it was hot and humid, and it made it difficult to breathe. There were no actual cabana walls but I convinced myself that the netting would protect me in case of an attack.
I shared a room with my yogi friend, Carla, and one evening I got up to go to the bathroom. It was pitch-black, and I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. I stumbled into the bathroom half-asleep, and I sat down. It wasn’t until I felt warm liquid dripping down my legs that I realized that I was sitting on top of the toilet seat cover and not on the actual toilet seat. I was peeing myself. “Shit!”
Carla yelled from her bed, “What happened? Are you okay?”
How does one respond with dignity? “Nothing. I’m fine. I just peed myself. Go back to sleep.” I cleaned myself up and laughed because it was funny…and gross. I hopped back into bed, returning to my cocoon, but I couldn’t sleep. “Carla, are you awake?”
“Yeah, are you okay?”
I was trying hard not to let my ache completely envelope my body. “Yeah,” I lied. “I can’t believe I peed myself. Although I can’t say that it was the first time.”
Carla laughed. There is no greater satisfaction for me than making someone laugh. “I can’t stop thinking about the kids. The whole fucking thing is so unfair.”
I could see Carla’s silhouette turn toward me in her bed. “It’s going to take time. For what it’s worth, I think it’s so cool you still want to be in the kids’ lives. They’re lucky to have you.”
“Most people think it’s weird. I don’t understand why. I didn’t break up with the kids.”
“That’s probably because most women wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
I could feel hot and sticky water pool in my eyes. “I’m not sure I can either.”
“But you are. I’d get up and give you a hug, but it’ll take me ten minutes to get out of the netting. Try to get some sleep.”
I thought again about peeing myself and I fell asleep with a grin on my face.
By day three, I was as relaxed as I was ever going to be or wanted to be. I tried to keep my mind still, being on a yoga retreat and all, but my thoughts continued to drift. I’d swing back and forth from despair to anger. Was I being a fool to think that I could maintain my relationships with the kids without cracking up in the process?
I strolled down to the ocean (unlike the crabs) and sat on a large, jagged, and uneven rock (ow). As I teetered off-balance, which was an obvious metaphor for my current state, I watched the waves; beautifully balletic, as they washed onto the shoreline and then flowed back out. I tried to breathe in time with the sea.
I was in a pristine and tranquil environment: healthy, fortunate, and surrounded by like-minded people. I had to change the tape that played on a loop in my head. I refused to piss away my time with negativity and the past. I didn’t want “breakup stink” to penetrate the remaining days of my retreat. Obsessing over my relationships with the kids, while perched on a craggy rock, that was dangerously close to sticking me where the Mexican sun didn’t shine, was not productive.
Before I left New York, I dreamed that Mexico would provide me with answers, signs, or something to tell me why the caged bird sang. Praised be that sweet, sweet Jesus when the owners of Haramara said that they were offering their guests the opportunity to take part in a temazcal ritual, or sweat lodge. I was the first to sign up. The sweat lodge is also known as a house of heat and is used in Mexico and Central America for spiritual and health reasons.
I would surely be released from my emotional shackles and purified, thus emerging anew. Perhaps I’d stop using phrases like emotional shackles as well. Carla and I joined forces with a few women from San Diego who were on their own retreat, and we got our spiritual on.
There were thirty of us gathered in front of an igloo-like structure, which symbolized Mother Earth’s womb. The female shaman told us the history of the temazcal. I was only partially listening because I was imagining how claustrophobic it might be in the womb, and then I started to panic thinking about the heat. Was it going to be like Bikram yoga hot? How hot exactly?
When the shaman finished her introduction, she assured us of our safety (which had the opposite effect) and said that if at any time during the ceremony anyone needed to leave for any reason, they could simply get up and do so. She instructed us to drop down to our knees and kiss the ground before entering Momma Earth’s womb—out of respect, like knocking before entering a room…or womb.
Actual volcanic stones were heated outside of the igloo in a fire pit by a fire man (I forget what his actual title was) who then carried them into the womb one by one, which made me sweat just watching him.
The stones were placed in a shallow pit in the center of the igloo. When the last stone was lowered down, the shaman had us yell in unison, “La puerta.” Fire man stayed outside, closed the makeshift door, and then covered it and the hole in the ceiling with thick Mexican blankets.
We were now in the darkened, moist, and steamy womb. Huh, just like I remembered it. The shaman talked about respecting the earth as she poured water onto the hot stones, which instantly became steam and turned up the heat. It was like Bikram yoga on steroids. Okay, that’s enough water, shaman lady. I get it. It’s hot.
Every crease, orifice, and nail cuticle was sweating. I wanted to release as much shit as I possibly could, but I couldn’t catch my breath, and I could have sworn that my eyebrows had been singed off.
I took deep and deliberate breaths while telling myself that I could leave at any time. We sang, we introduced ourselves, and we shared our reasons for coming back into the womb. I told the group that I wanted to move forward. Some confessed that they were stuck either in their personal lives or in their careers, while others talked about family struggles. Again, I stopped listening. I was too hot to focus on their babbling.
After what felt like an hour, but was probably more like fifteen minutes, the shaman instructed us once again to yell “La puerta!” and the door magically opened.
We crawled out of the womb one at a time and drank in the fresh air as fast as we could. There were three more rounds of this, and I didn’t think that I could head back in. I heard others declaring the same.
Carla and I smiled at each other because we knew that, although it was extreme, that we would go back in. After a second drink of water and a little time, we slithered back into the womb. This time, I put my head down on Mother Earth’s lap, which was a lot cooler and less disorienting.
By round four, I was certain that my brain had lost mass, and I didn’t have any to spare. The shaman asked us to go around the womb and, with one word, express our wishes for humanity or some such esoteric sentiment. We began, and the words started to fly.
“Love.” “Peace.” “Kindness.” “Animals.”
After six or seven people had gone, one word turned into paragraphs, prayer recitations, and postgraduate theses. Did they not hear the shaman’s directive? I wanted to scream, “One word, people! The sooner we do this, the sooner we get out. Step off the soapbox, and let’s wrap this shit up.”
If this sweaty lot of people were truly spiritual and solicitous, they would have been less preoccupied with the shrinking polar ice caps and the extinction of the Iberian lynx, and more preoccupied with the fainting bodies beside them.
Unfortunately I didn’t leave the retreat any more centered, grounded or forgiving, as when I had first arrived. I did, however, work on my tan. Even in such a peaceful and meditative environment I couldn’t shake my rage and disappointment. I knew that I had to stop clinging to the past as if it was my lifeline, but the thought of letting go, and moving into the unknown, was downright frightening. I wasn’t entirely convinced that I had the energy, fortitude, or cojonas.
I had no regrets going on the retreat and shedding five pounds of water weight in that igloo, but I came home less enthusiastic about traveling. That was, until my birthday rolled around four months later. It was my first birthday post breakup, and I didn’t want to be in New York alone, knowing that my ex was in Spain with his girlfriend—as if packing my bags and leaving my apartment would somehow make me forget.
Revenge travel continues next week.
I recently read an interview (more like a Q&A) with author, Elizabeth Gilbert, in The New York Times In Transit section. Now while I wasn’t one of those readers who went insanely gaga over EAT, PRAY, LOVE, I was inspired by her latest work, BIG MAGIC.
All of this aside, I was taken aback by her response to the columnist’s question about whether she had met people who started traveling later in life. This was EG’s answer.
“My mother, for one! She was 55, and finally had the freedom and the means, and she woke up to the reality that my dad’s not a traveler. Now she and her sister-in-law do a trip every year. They’ve been to Chile, Turkey, Thailand, up the Amazon River. They’re really adventurous. Fifty is the age women start to become invisible, but the flip side of that is: Invisibility is a super power— it makes them safer to travel.”
I had to catch my breath. Invisible? Was she shitting me? It’s bad enough that profound and obvious ageism exists in this country, er, world, and that women are practically shamed for getting older, losing estrogen, collagen, ass mass, and their lovers, boyfriend’s and husbands to younger models, but EG, a woman whom other women look up to, tells Diane Daniel of the New York Times, hey, women disappear starting at fifty, but it’s okay, because now they can travel safely to war torn Syria because no one will notice them? It’s a win-win.
Hey, maybe that’s how we fight terrorism. Let’s send a shit ton of fifty, sixty and seventy year old women, into Iraq, Nigeria and Lebanon. They’ll fly under the radar and then hit them with a surprise attack and take out the top leaders thus defeating militant groups around the world. Fuck drones, send in the old ladies.
And how is invisibility in the real world, not in the D.C. Comics world, a superpower? I hope that three years from now, when EG starts becoming invisible that she feels powerful. Me? I prefer to serve up my super powers front and center, with klieg lights spotlighting my fifty self; seen, visible and loud.
Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps I misunderstood her comment. Perhaps I’m taking it personally, as fifty gracefully saunters up to my doorstep. I just don’t think that we ever need women, or men, (I’m an equal opportunist) to feel, in any way, shape or form, that they’re going to blend in with the scenery once they hit the big 5–0.