Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Enjoy Being a Girl

We're taking another trip into the slightly musty hall-closet which is my past.

We had a mutual friend who assured me I would find Jasper handsome and funny; he was right. We laughed and chatted throughout appetizers. I wasn't naming our children yet, but I was starting to think how nice he would look on New Year's Eve.

[I know. Cut me some slack. I was twenty-two, fresh out of a two year relationship and still hopeful. In the dating world, I had that new-car smell.]

As our entrees arrived (Caesar salads for each of us), Jasper leaned over and gently took my hand. He leaned in further and said intently, "I just want you to know how nice it is to see a woman wearing a feminine outfit. I get so sick of seeing women in pants."

I looked down. I was wearing a flippy sort of skirt and a sweater. I'd chosen this outfit for cuteness, sure, but I can't say the adjective "Feminine" came to mind. Since I wore pants 90% of the time, did that mean I was usually masculine? I smiled a little weakly but, luckily, I didn't have to say anything because he was off on a tangent about how a real woman wears a nice skirt, a ruffled blouse, pumps. A brooch. I tried to remember if I had ever seen anyone in that outfit whose husband wasn't running for the Senate.

We talked fashion for a while; he had very strong opinions about women's and men's fashions. It seemed that each gender should be recognizably male or female from a very long distance away, possibly from Neptune. Unconsciously, I was chewing a little faster now, trying to bring this date to a close. Yes he was funny and he was lanky and pale in the way I found appealing (Ideally, anyone I dated should have kind of looked like they were haunting me), but there was something strange going on. To get him off the subject of how women should never wear sweatshirts, I said, "I never asked. Where did you and Mark meet? College?"

Jasper got very still. He finished swallowing, carefully wiped his mouth, took a sip of wine. Took another sip of wine. "Well," he said, looking deeply into my forehead, "it's funny you should ask. I...dated his brother. But I'm not gay."

We all enjoyed the silence. I grew up in a gay neighborhood, went into the entertainment industry and was a ballet-dancer in my teens; I knew gay. One the markers of being gay was dating someone who had the same parts as you. But, according to my date, this had made him not-gay.

I went with the always-classic, "Oh?" and he nodded vigorously, seemingly relieved that I hadn't flung a plate of anchovy-glazed romaine lettuce at him.

"My analyst and I have discovered that because my mother worked full-time as an engineer when I was a kid and my father wrote from home, I didn't develop a full identification with being a traditional male. For years, when I thought I was attracted to large, masculine men, I was wrong. It wasn't that I wanted to have sex with them but that I wanted to be them."

I nodded. Jasper smiled, pleased. I wondered if I could get his analyst's name and possibly report him to someone. I wondered if I could sneak off and beat our mutual friend to death for assuming that I was the kind of girl who hangs out with gay boys who always secretly wanted to date one. Jasper took my hand and looked more deeply into my forehead.

"I'd love to go out with you again. You're exactly the kind of woman my analyst has been hoping I'd meet."

Now, there's a phrase which never grows old. On the plus side, if I could just ignore that he was a big old gay homosexual person, we'd have a lovely life together. Jasper was very successful and would keep me in all the ruffly dresses I wanted and our house would always be full of exquisite furniture and perfectly-made dinners. Of course, we'd have no sex and eventually I'd catch him in the guest-house with the yard-man. But he would buy me something cloyingly feminine and I'd have a bottle or two of wine and we'd sit down at watch "The Women" and tacitly agree to never speak of it again.

But, wait. The children. The children I wanted to have, the children Jasper and I would never have because touching me in a reproductive way would cause Jasper to cry and hyperventilate into a paper bag. The children we would have to adopt, to whom I would say things like "Mei Mei, please don't touch Daddy's nude Roman bronzes." And "Oh, those noises? Well, Daddy is just working out with his private trainer in his private exercise room. Which we never go in to. Ever."

Yeah, too much work. And ruffled blouses did something weird to my neck. I politely passed on dating him. But I did give his number to an acquaintance of mine who was funny and attractive. Best of all, once when she was drunk, she confided in me that she didn't care if she ever had sex again.

They dated for months.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Your Education Ain't Complete

The kid hates having her hair washed. In spite of that, I insist on washing it. Lately, she's improved her avoidance game and I suspect I'm outclassed. Instead of just going with a garden-variety whine-and-carry-on – which I have learned to ignore the same way Queen Elizabeth II would ignore the pair of emus she's just been gifted start to frantically mate during the photo op – Daughter manages to start something educational six minutes before I come for her.

The humbling thing is, I've stopped telling her I'm going to wash her hair. Just as the cat knows when the crate is out, even if it's waiting under a tarp in the laundry room, Daughter now senses when her hair has started to skeeve me and grabs something salutary. I just walked into her room; she and her dirty hair were reading "Philosophy for Kids," a book she inherited a year ago and, until twenty minutes ago, was notable for never having been acknowleged. But there she was, sporting her dirty hair, reading intently about Hegel. I stood in the doorway for a minute and she finally noticed me.

"I'm feeling readish," she announced, "Can you leave me alone for a while?" She gestured to a pile of books: Shakespeare's Tragedies for Kids, Physics for Kids, World Religions for Kids. Explain to me how you say to a child "Yes, your curiosity and your intellect was what I prayed for in pregnancy, but now I'm only interested in the outside of your head. Because I'm just that shallow and easily skeeved."

I tiptoed out, hopeful that we'd get her hair washed before she finished her liberal arts degree.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Big and it's Bland Full of Tension and Fear

It took him years but Consort has finally convinced me that tires actually should be rotated. This still strikes me as absurd, some mechanic’s equivalent of snipe-hunting -- a useless activity designed to separate me from my money but when he and Chris our trusted mechanic say “Rotate,” I say “I’ll be sitting over here with a magazine” which was where I could be found on Wednesday morning: in the waiting room; just me and the very eager young woman on the auto-parts calendar.

To reward myself for taking part in a mature activity, I bought myself In Style magazine. In Style magazine is the most vapid fashion magazine in the world, and I mean this with all respect. Everything is fabulous, sexy, elegant, stylish, fun, elegant, preppy, flirty. Adjectives are free and advertisers are king. It requires very little attention. People in a persistant vegetative state could enjoy it. It’s the perfect thing to read when someone five feet from your head is, from the sound of it, repairing a car by throwing large parts of it on the ground and then hurling beer-kegs on them.

I flipped through the pages. Ben Stiller had his eyes opened on an African mission…well, good for him. I wish I could help the little African children. Oh, it appears I can, by purchasing this Bulgari necklace for $290.00, $60.00 of which goes to help the children. Apparently, the other $230.00 goes to help the children who are the descendants of Bulgari.

Look, the hairdo for summer is relaxed waves or, as I would pronounce it, “unbrushed.” But not merely unbrushed; unbrushed after combing a $32.00 conditioner through my hair. I suspect that $32.00 separates the “Sexy Malibu beach-girl” from the “Shouting homeless woman.” I’m tired of strangers offering me spare change and blankets, so I should get the conditioner.

A new club is opening in New York! Shock! Lindsay Lohan promises to be there! Who saw that coming?

Angie Harmon is quoted as saying that she’s a Republican, which is why she’s at every party, because she doesn’t have a job. She’s also wearing what appear to be stuffed-animals as sleeves. In Style allows Angie to be Angie, without comment.

Tilda Swinton is wearing something odd. Because she’s Tilda Swinton and she’s six feet tall and she’s a Socialist and also British aristocracy there was never a chance she wasn’t going to wear something odd. But across the top of the photo is a bubble declaring, “Really! We love her daring look!” They’re worried we don’t understand that they get Tilda. Oh, In Style, we knew you did. We knew because you’re In Style and you never don’t love anybody, even women who seem to have created their outfit at JoAnn’s Craft Store close-out sale. In Style allows Tilda to be Tilda, with comment.

They love gladiator sandals.

They love Eva Mendes for only having one pose in every photo.

They love leather skirts in summer, which just sounds like a yeast-infection in the making to me.

And, oh! How they love Kate Moss. Here’s an entire page of Kate's 10 Best Looks Ever! The exclamation point tells us they mean it, or maybe it’s something they use for British people because Tilda got one as well. I examine the page. Kate in sequins. Kate in feathers. Kate in fur. Kate at the Cannes film festival in 1997 wearing a gray shift.

I’m ashamed to say my pop-culture draintrap of a brain actually remembers that outfit. She was dating Johnny Depp at the time and I recall the dress because I had an almost physical pang as I realized I’d never be able to wear that color and because at the time I remember thinking, “Yeah, but she’s underdressed.” Johnny Depp was in a dinner jacket, the women around her were in big dresses and Kate was wearing a dress I wanted for summer weddings. Had you or I gotten on to the red carpet in that dress, fashion editors would have sneered at us in print. They would have said things like “Quinn struck exactly the wrong note,” and “Quinn, looking frumpy, brought down the whole tone of the event,” and “Obviously, Quinn stopped by the premiere of the film on her way to a summer wedding.” It was the wrong dress for the event but it was on Kate Moss so it became, by definition, the right dress because Kate Moss wasn’t wearing the dress, Kate Moss was wearing Kate Moss and no one else can get that.

My mind raced. I turned the pages. In Style tried to make a strapless jumpsuit look appealing, but I had no time for their nonsense, because it was possible I was having an epiphany while my tires were being rotated. Ah, here we go. Rachel Bilson, ingénue of some kind, is giving fashion advice. For summer she suggests wearing low boots with a cute knit dress or denim shorts and a t-shirt. I happen to have seen Rachel Bilson once in a grocery store. She was wearing some variation of that look and it was adorable. And do you know why it was adorable? Because she’s wildly beautiful, the width of a pipe-cleaner and in her twenties. I’ve never seen her act but if I had, I would have found her even more adorable because In Style’s exhortations notwithstanding, the adoration of a star’s style is not actually about Louboutin heels or what color lipgloss they wear.

[I won’t even mention how she suggests getting a blazer from the boy’s department as an alternative to a light sweater for summer evenings. Were I to wear a boy’s blazer over a light summer dress, I’d look like a real-estate agent who had a nervous breakdown and started showing houses in her nightgown.]

One of the unforeseen side-effects of the Internet is how we have so much more information about celebrities. Thousands of websites dedicated to all celebrities, certain celebrities, certain shows, children of celebrities, pets of celebrities, trash about celebrities, trash of celebrities. We get more, so we expect more. We expect more, so we get more. There's nothing we don't know about our star of choice, including their mortgage, vegetable of choice and STD history. Celebrities had children before the year 2000 but there weren’t hundreds of venues where, if you chose, you could see the celebrity dropping them off at school, cheering them on at soccer, standing with them at a crosswalk.

A mom I know recently told me about pulling up to a restaurant in Beverly Hills, only to have five cars careen around the corner and block her path. A dozen people swarmed out from their cars and surged towards the restaurant, cameras clicking. One of the cars barely avoided hitting an elderly woman in the crosswalk. My friend waited to see who came out, not the least because the paparazzi had prevented her from parking her car. After a minute, Jessica Alba came out carrying her daughter. The cameramen rushed her and the baby as she raced to her car, the photographers in hot pursuit. After hearing this story, I went home and checked out a website dedicated to pictures of celebrities and their children. There was the picture of Jessica Alba running from the restaurant cradling her daughter looking harassed. People commented on the blog about how cute her baby looked and why wasn’t she ever smiling in pictures? They also noted you could buy the baby’s shoes at Stride-Rite.

We get more, we expect more. If we choose we can wear what they wear, eat where they eat, dress our children to resemble theirs and go to the same places they get their faces injected with plastic. But we’ll still be nothing more than a simulacrum and that ultimately isn’t enough. One buys the face-cream or the shoes or the evening-shorts and one is still not Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway is young and beautiful and has been in movies which made one happy and the sight of her face floods one's brain with endorphins, so when she wears evening-shorts with heels she only looks a little silly. But evening shorts on nearly every other woman on the planet would make her look like a gym-teacher who had a nervous breakdown and started teaching class in heels. Having not gotten the good feeling one was hoping for from dressing like a celebrity, one pages through next month's In Style which is happy to relate that Anne Hathaway is only Anne Hathaway because of a certain red lipstick. And it starts all over again.

I think some celebrity-followers won’t be completely happy until they’re allowed to eat someone famous. But not before they’d check In Style to see what cutlery Christina Applegate got for her new house.

My tires were rotated. I was free to go. I toyed with tossing In Style in the blue recycling bin outside. In the end, though, I left it for the next tire patient. In Style night signify everything which is wrong about society, but you can’t say it’s not diverting.

But I did tear out the page on Liv Tyler. I liked that lipgloss she recommended.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I ask, I answer.

Thank you! Even if I used all my fonts and colors and the italics, it wouldn't express how much the book-signing emails have meant to me. And for those of you who live in Los Angeles, I am excited to say that I'll be at Vroman's bookstore on July 11th at 4:00-


(To Laura, who said her gays friends in LA would come to see me, send them there. And did I know I was a gay icon? I'm no Judy or Kylie Minogue, but I'm very happy I make certain gay men happy. I don't know if it's because I grew up in a gay neighborhood, or because I favor Liza Minnelli in the wrong light or because I remind every single gay man I know of the arty girl he hung out with in college, but there's no denying the love.)

Now, on to the other news. For the moment, I'm going nowhere. As I said before, it's 2009 and everyone is keeping their expectations and their budgets very realistic. I really hadn't meant to work everyone up into a lather, and I'm sorry for that. It's just that I might be in the Baltimore area at some point early in the summer, and my brain went, "Well, as long as I'm there, maybe I could do a book thing and, hey! Find out if there's an audience! In fact, find out if anyone wants you around, smiling at them nervously and reading from her book!'

And you did. And that was just about the nicest thing I read all day. And if I can figure out some loopy, creative and cheap way to be someplace without being there, I'll do it. Which is my way of saying thank you again. Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Publisher is looking at a reading in Philly, DC or Baltimore. Are you in the area? Would you actually come to a reading/book signing of mine (Yeah, still sounds weird)? Could you convince a friend to come?

Better yet, what city should I be visiting? Keep in mind, it's 2009 and if I don't get where I should be, it's not personal.

Keep Ya Head Up

And now we may speak of Lupac, otherwise known as Lulabelle, the saddest cat in Sadtown, having the worst spring ever in the history of cats. As those of you who follow my life know, first she had several rounds of bladder infections, which meant several rounds of twice-daily pill-jamming-down-gullet. Then, we determined she was shot at some point in the past, which didn’t probably didn’t happen this spring but the bullet’s existence led to many, many abdominal palpitations, which can’t have been pleasant with her bladder infection.

Then Clementine arrived and life took a darker and more aggravating turn. Somehow, Clementine didn’t understand Lu hated her. Clementine assumed Lu's aggressive behavior was merely the “Meet-cute” in the romantic comedy which was to be their lives together. Lu would hiss and Clementine would pounce on Lu’s tail. Lu would spit and lunge at Clem, and Clementine would wait until Lu was dozing and attack her ear. Lu, who has brought half-eaten things into this house larger than Clementine, would look at me eloquently. I would murmur, “No, you may not kill her. Later, I will give you stinky wet food.” Then I would give her stinky wet food and Clementine would shove her head into Lu’s bowl.

So when Lulabelle was a little too interested in grooming herself, even for a cat, I just chalked it up to stress. When the fur started falling out I gave her extra love and attention and tried to dissuade her from licking the thinning patches. When the sores developed I started to think that if it was stress and one of us needed a Xanax in our stinky food. By the time the vet’s appointment came around, one of us had…how can I put this delicately? Oh, I can’t; Lu had a bald ass. When you are a black cat, a bald ass looks especially bald. I assumed it was some combination of stress and maybe a reaction to spring fleas but the doctor diagnosed it as a bacterial infection. She was to be given liquid antibiotics twice a day for two weeks.

Now, pill antibiotics are a chore because you have to hide them in wet food and the cat gets really good at surgically removing the medication no matter how deeply you bury it, but liquid is another matter entirely. Twice a day, I’d go to the fridge, draw out the dosage and carefully not think about medicating a cat because Lu can read my mind. I’d then locate her in the house, leap upon her, crack open her jaw, squirt the syringe, and jump off before she went for my carotid. The first few days were awkward but luckily her teeth only pierced the gardening gloves without actually making contact with my skin. By the end of the second week, I was medicating her with the ease of a ranch-hand on branding day. Lulabelle was slightly less blasé about the process. It didn’t help that Clem would bite Lu’s tail during medicating. After the medicating, I would pull teeth out of the gloves and pet Lu’s bald butt and croon, “I know, I know. But there’s only another week on the meds and Clem leaves on Friday.”

And she did leave on Friday with her new family, who were very excited to have her and who loved her very much. But their cat was not very excited to have her and did not love her very much. In fact, he tried to kill her, which isn’t to be taken lightly when the alpha cat weighs twenty-eight pounds. They might have worked it out but the humans who adopted Clem and loved her weren’t prepared to take the chance. Tearfully, regretfully, a week later, they brought her back. A week in a kitten’s life is not like a week in our lives. She had reached a new stage in her development: the “A” stage. Attack. Ambush. Ankles. If you move, you’re fair game. If you’re stationary, you’re fair game. The woman who runs our rescue group has a policy that any kitten must go to a home with another kitten already in place or with another kitten from the rescue, and I think this has a certain brilliance. Let me assure you that no other living thing wants to play as extensively or as forcefully as a kitten. Best to let them be with their own people.

Consort, Daughter and I took to carrying a water bottle holstered to our waistbands. Clem learned quickly; upon seeing the dreaded bottle, she’d drop the Sunday paper or the computer keyboard and go off to find something else to torment. Sometimes, it’s a bouncy cat-toy or the dog but for sheer kittenish joy you can’t beat teasing a middle-aged cat with a bald ass. A middle-aged cat with a bald ass and a twice-daily date with a nasty-tasting goo syringed down her throat. A middle-aged, bald-ass, forced-nasty-medicine cat who has to do another two weeks of the medicine because she's not totally well and is not allowed to kill the kitten even though the cloying interloper really, really deserves it.

Some nights, I scoop up Lulabelle and she and I go sit in the bathroom listening to the sound of two pounds of unmedicated maniac galloping through the house in search of an unwilling companion. I whisper in Lu’s ear, “Soon, my pretty. Soon she will be gone and you will have hair on your butt and life will be good again.” She shuts her eyes and we both dream of a more peaceful future world.

[For those people who are going to write in and say “You are so keeping Clem, Quinn,” we’re not. Consort’s allergies wouldn’t allow it, even if Lupac did. She wouldn’t be with us at all right now if she could go to the rescue, but there’s no room there. My favorite podcast, ‘Planet Money,’ uses quirky statistics as economic indicators so here’s my economic indicator: our rescue group has 25% more cats than this time last year. All of the most recent arrivals have been due to people losing their jobs or housing. Legally, we cannot put even one more cat in there, and every single volunteer who can foster, is fostering. We’re not alone in this. Every group I know of is straining at the seams. If you have it in you to foster for even a week at a time, please let some local group know. We’re up to our collective necks.]

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Booked Up

Here's the link to the cover of my book.

My book.



Nope, still sounds weird.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Around and Around

Today, I won’t write about what I want to write about. What I want to write about is Lupac the cat and her travails but Consort has astutely noted I’ve been writing about cats an awful lot lately. Soon, I will write about Lupac and her travails and we’ll all feel sorry for her and she’ll sneer at our pity, but today I am going to write about the least likely thing I ever did. Something so out of character, in fact, that when Consort first heard about it last night his eyes widened and he said dubiously, “You…!” This was especially pleasing since we’ve known each other over a decade and he assumed he knew every detail of my past life. He was in the room when I had my c-section so he’s even met some of my internal organs; that still irritates me on some level. And yet, I do have a few mysteries left. I have done things I’m not proud of. I have found myself in situations where I could do little more than bow my head and pray for the strength to see me through a dark and troubling experience.

Yes, I attended a Grateful Dead concert.

I like to think of myself as adventurous. Then again, I also like to think of myself as 5’9”. In reality, I’m happiest when eating something I’ve eaten before or listening to something I’ve listened to before, ideally while wearing some variation of the same khaki pants I’ve worn my entire adult life. For instance, I spent this past weekend reading a book about Patrick Henry College, a place dedicated to forming the next generation of evangelical politicians. To me, this was the perfect Quinn adventure; reading about someplace completely outside my world while sitting on my couch wearing my familiar clothes and feeling my cat sulk behind me.

[I promise you, I’ll bring you up to date on Lupac in the next post.]

But when I was twenty-two I was invited to join a friend at a Grateful Dead concert. I decided while the very thought of it made me nervous, I should consider it an adventure, something which might open up a whole new side of me. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that my personality might be an immovable object, my likes and dislikes carved in stone before I reached the age of maturity. I didn’t understand a great deal about myself and the world around me at the time.

For example, I didn’t understand that part of the Dead experience was to get there early and walk through what appeared to be a street bazaar situated in a country whose main exports were incense, body hair and whatever is the opposite of irony. I arrived with my friend and her mother. My friend’s family was wrapped in the sixties like a permanent poncho. My friend’s name was kind of a weather system and kind of a Platonic Ideal; let’s call her Raintruth.

Needless to say, they had seen the Dead many, many, many times and they were very familiar with the pre-show cavalcade. They bought their dinner and encouraged me to do the same. I’m a vegetarian but I’m not that kind of vegetarian; you know, the kind who likes a bean burrito with fingerprints. I’m the fussy kind. I asked around, to see if anyone had food which had been packaged in a large and anonymous building, preferably by Chinese prisoners who washed their hands, but no luck. Yes, there were bags of substances to be bought, but they had no relationship with the Kraft Corporation. My friend and her mother, having travelled all over the world living on local street food, had a digestive system capable of extracting nutrients from untreated sewage.

So now I was hungry. I was also coughing because we were walking though a nearly solid wall of smoke through which you could see nothing more than a flash of graying braid or the glint of sunlight off a dream-catcher. It was like walking through London in the 1870’s, only without Jack the Ripper. Or undergarments. Under the constant chatter of people buying grubby food or hemp backpacks, I noticed what appeared to be some music playing. Or rather, it was the same seventeen seconds of music, which had been playing for twenty minutes. Was someone’s cassette stuck? Do cassette tapes stick? I pointed out the sound to Raintruth. She cocked her head and focused on the noise, a pre-Raphaelite beagle hearing the bay of the fox hunt.

“That’s ‘Uncle John’s Band’, she said. “Berkeley…August ’75, I think.”

And with that, I understood a little more. I learned about the Dead bootleg tape industry, I learned that Raintruth was probably not going to find the humor in this and I learned I disliked Grateful Dead music very much. Someone once described the Dead as modern variation of bluegrass. I’m fine with bluegrass but this wasn’t bluegrass. This was the soundtrack to staring directly into the sun.

The small part of my brain which isn’t mean and horrible spoke up. Let’s try reserving judgment until we actually get inside the Forum and hear a single solitary song, okay? it snapped. Besides, they drove and you can’t sit outside for three hours so just suck it up and think of this as an adventure.

It was an adventure, all right. We got inside, the lights went down and several men who looked to have eaten a few fingerprinted burritos in their time ambled onstage. The audience cheered which I took to mean these were The Grateful Dead. I came of age in a time when “Rock God” meant “Deathly pale, thin and British.” My ideal rock star was Bryan Ferry. These appeared to be Bryan Ferry’s roadies. They began tuning their instruments. A few minutes passed. The woman next to me started spinning in circles, her hair and breasts flying around. I came to understand the band wasn’t tuning up; this was their first song. I had never heard it before but by the end I was singing along which wasn’t a great trick because the song lasted seventeen minutes and had one chord. Everyone around me was sort of spinning and sort of hopping. I had a sudden flash of insight: this is what American dancing would have looked like had black people never existed.

The song didn’t end so much as gently expire on the floor. Another song, nearly identical, began. The woman next to me, refreshed from a pull of something pinkish-grey in a water bottle, began to spin again, faster. Her hair whipped across my face, some actually brushed my lips. It tasted a bit like lentils. It was time for me to go. I raced up the aisle, prepared to sit outside the Forum in the dark and count not-so-distant gunshots to pass the time. As I dashed toward the exit, an older woman touched my shoulder and looked at me kindly. “Are you having a bad trip?” she asked, understandably assuming anyone running about at a Dead concert might be trapped in a horror of their own making, desperate for a wiser hand to lead them to safety.

She wasn’t entirely wrong, but I didn’t see her driving me back to West Hollywood. I answered, “Thanks, but I just need some air,” and I took my khaki-wearing, judgmental, hungry, novelty-despising self out into the clear and music-free night.