Archive for the 'friendship' Category

the most gorgeous man in the world

When I was twelve, I was in this program that paired kids with elderly people who wanted company. Every week, I visited a woman I’ll call Mary in her overstuffed one-bedroom in a dimly lit facility circled by a sad narrow sidewalk. The whole place smelled like loneliness and mildew and I was depressed by it.

But Mary was upbeat and earnest and she always made me a grilled cheese on her George Foreman grill. We talked a lot about the virtues of that clever grill. The grilled cheese was always on potato bread with American cheese from her similarly yellowing refrigerator. I loved it.

Mary and I had some other things in common, besides appreciation of a good grilled cheese: we both loved Agatha Christie and romantic stories. Hers was the most romantic of all, she told me. Her third husband was the love of her life. He had been in the Navy and he had a sailboat- a real sailboat! And he was gorgeous. The most gorgeous man in the world. Like a movie star except better. Tan and tall and charming and with such a smile! It would make you faint.



“Don’t you dare fall in love with me,” he’d warned her, when they first met, dancing. “I’m on borrowed time.”

They were in their fifties. He told her his doctor had only given him a handful of years to live, a decade if he was very lucky. The problem was his heart.

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Kate on January 22nd 2014 in beauty, friendship, life, relationships

26 and already pregnant

This is the full version of my piece about pregnancy that appeared here on Slate. I wanted to share the original, because I like the details, and Slate was nice enough to let me. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t really want to tell my friends. We’d talked about babies, over wine and second draft feature articles at a non-fiction writers’ group, and everyone agreed that if you’re smart, you wait until you’re thirty-five.

“There’s too much to do before then!” said one of the women, summarizing.

I was twenty-six when I got pregnant, which meant I’d jumped the gun by almost a decade.

In a lot of different parts of the country, having a baby in your mid twenties is not a big deal; According to a 2009 report from the CDC, the average age of first time mothers in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and nine other states New Yorkers rarely visit was recently twenty-two to twenty-three. But the average age of first time moms here in New York was twenty-six, and twenty-seven in New Jersey, where I grew up. When you account for factors like advanced education, the numbers climb. The Pew Research Center notes that 71% of first time mothers over thirty-five are college educated. Since I arrived in NYC, I don’t think I’ve even met anyone who didn’t go to college.

But on my Due Date Club app, people are constantly starting threads with titles like “aNy othr teen moms on here???” And they get plenty of sympathetic answers. In New York City I only know one other woman my age who has a baby. She’d gone to Harvard and worked on Wall Street, but, she once confided in me in low tones, “I always wanted to be a mom.”

(my eternal hero– Robin McKinley. God, can this woman write a fantasy novel. source)

I have not always wanted to be a mom. (If I’ve always wanted to be anything it’s a famous fantasy novelist – dorky, I know). More immediately, I’ve wanted to get a college scholarship and then get a high GPA and then get into an Ivy League grad school and then have a sparkling career in the big city. I’m not sure about how sparkling my big city career has been (a guess: not particularly), but I made the rest of my goals happen.

Until now, the conversations I’ve had with my friends about babies have sounded something like this:

Glamorous, perfectly made-up Mara: “My mom is a nurse. She says it’s a myth that women are less fertile in their mid-thirties.”

(We all nod sagely.)

Julie, who has just been promoted and is managing ten people and attending star-studded work parties: “I need to spend at least another five years on my career. And anyway, my boss hates pregnant women.”

Stephanie, who works at a tech start-up: “Five years, definitely. That’s the right amount of time. You have to live your own life first.”

Everyone else: “Yes!”

Me: silence

I had been married for a couple years when I decided to go off birth control. By then, I was in therapy to try to cope with my career-related anxiety. At my preconception appointment (this is a thing! Although I may be the only one who has ever taken advantage of it), the doctor congratulated me for being so proactive and told me to go off the pill three months before I was even thinking about trying to conceive, to get the hormones out of my system and allow my body time to readjust. So I did. And then I panicked. “I have to finish my book,” I told my therapist. “Maybe I should wait another year? Six months? I think I rushed into this. I’m not ready.”

But my body was. Two hours after that therapy session, I peed on a stick, telling myself that I was stupid for even taking a test this soon. It said “YES” in very straightforward digital letters. I was already pregnant.

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don’t ever tell me that my friends aren’t beautiful

Awhile ago, I was telling a close male friend about some friends I’d met at a new job in a new city. “They’re so cool and smart,” I happily informed him. “And they’re all really pretty!” I was in bragging mode. Everything about these new friends was great! I had found them! I was going to be OK after all!

“Let me see,” he said, and we went on Facebook, of course, where people have learned to search for truth.

He proceeded to dismiss each of my friends in turn. “Eh, she’s OK.” And “I don’t know … I wouldn’t call HER pretty”. And “Seriously?”.

I was hurt and offended.

“You’re prettier than this girl,” he was saying, and I got the sense that this was supposed to make me happy. As though he were giving me some kind of medal. Well, thank god, I’m prettier than my friend. Now I can sleep at night. I have officially won at life.

I was annoyed and upset, but I wasn’t very surprised. The practice of casually dismissing a woman’s entire appearance is sometimes a part of everyday conversation. Guys do it, girls do it. Guys I’ve dated have reassured me that I’m “prettier than my friends”, even though I hadn’t asked and found that observation awkward and most likely untrue. Is he automatically sizing up my friends’ attractiveness and ranking them in terms of it? Is he compiling a quick spreadsheet in his head? 

(a boob! no, the bell curve of all of our beauty….source)

Other women have mentioned their partners telling them the same thing. One of my friends told me exactly which of our mutual friends her boyfriend doesn’t think is attractive at all. Apparently, he “just doesn’t see what everyone thinks is so hot about her”.

You know what, come to think of it, I can even remember one of my friends, at 13 years old, mentioning her parents assurance that she was the prettiest of all her friends. That includes me, I thought immediately, and wondered sadly why her parents would say something like that about me. Had they ranked me? Was I very low on the list? It felt personal at the time.

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Kate on March 18th 2013 in beauty, friendship

the girl I wanted to be

This piece appeared originally on the Frisky, for my Mirror, Mirror column. I’ve been wanting to write it for a while.

She was really beautiful. She was the coolest girl ever. She always knew what to say, and she said it casually, like she barely had to think first. I wanted to be just like her. I was 13, she was 15, and she was perfect to me.

My parents were very supportive. They thought I was smart and pretty and capable. And that is so important, like the concrete they pour into the husk of the foundation of a house when it’s just planks and sticks in the dirt. But the shape of the building, the furniture inside—I think that comes from other girls. That’s how you learn how to be a girl, after all, from the other ones around you.

I learned later than most that I had to be thinner than I’d at first assumed. I mean, I didn’t have to have to, but it would probably be better. You know, for life. I learned later than most that my face was not as pretty as it should be, and that I should worry about that. I think somewhere along the line, most of us learn these lessons. For some of us, they feel like tattoos on our faces, and we see them every time we look in the mirror, and we can feel everyone else registering our flaws every time we interact. I was lucky, though, and one of the reasons was this girl.


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Kate on January 17th 2013 in beauty, friendship

being friends with a pixie girl

Sometimes I see girls walking together, and they’re inevitably wearing the exact same shoes. Sometimes they are wearing the same shoes and the same jackets. Sometimes they mix it up a little, like the jackets are all leather, but one is brown, one is black, and the other has both brown and black on it.

So many women seem to have friends who look just like them. They all have long, straight hair. They all have the same color skin and the same color lipstick. They are all teasing their one friend for being “so tiny!” because she is one inch shorter.

I nudge Bear as we’re walking. “Shoes.”


“Shoes!” I make a quick, emphatic head bob in the right direction.

“Okay, shoes…”

A grunt, an eye point (you know, where you point with your eyes? That’s a real gesture, distinct from the ordinary “look”). They’ve almost gone by us. And then he sees.

“Ohh…They’re wearing the same shoes!”

(once I saw four girls on the subway, all wearing a version of this boot. source)

“Yes!” I hiss, too loud. “All girls wear the same shoes!”

“Weird.” He isn’t very interested.

“It IS weird!”

But it’s not weird, really. It’s normal.

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Kate on December 11th 2012 in beauty, being different, body, friendship

deciding to trust other women again

Sure, this counts as a Little Victory!

I got this text on Thanksgiving from a woman I haven’t really talked to in at least a year: Friend, today I am thankful for you. Hope your day is filled with gratitude and warmed by people who love you. 

She’s busy, in a writing program down south. I’m busy, here in NYC. We never really got the chance to get really close, but I’ve always liked her.

I thought there was some mistake. She’d probably meant the message for someone else. Or she’d sent it to a lot of people, and I was accidentally included. I felt awkward, responding, because what if I was too personal in return, and she was embarrassed for me and it was weird?

I am always waiting for women to leave me. Like the guy who doesn’t call back after what seemed like a perfect second date, like the breakup that never makes sense even though the other person seems to be trying to explain, I am never sure of the reasons, even though I dig through my memories, unearthing things that look like they might be clues. Things that have been broken a long time and are probably better off left there, underground.

(sorry, that was morbid. source)

I have fought passionately with boyfriends. I’ve yelled and stormed and stomped out and slammed the door and disappeared into the night for a while until I realize I’m just wandering around a parking lot and someone is probably going to rape and murder me and the fantastically successful dramatic exit is probably not worth all that. I have a flair for the dramatic with men. But with women, I am gentle. Since I was twelve or even sooner, I had best friends—girls I dressed up with in endless rounds of play acting, and had sleepovers with and wrote letters to and illustrated the envelopes. And they have tended to get mysteriously hurt or bored or something else and leave over the years, without telling me why. Or they’ve abruptly betrayed me in some teenaged, heartbreaking manner. The girl who I worshipped who was abruptly dating my boyfriend, just after I’d broken up with him. But she didn’t tell me—instead she showed up with him one day, just like that, and then she left the room while he berated me from his towering height of six foot four inches, telling me that I was stupid, ridiculous, pathetic– a little girl– that I didn’t know anything about the world. He was obviously in love with me, furious at me, and she was obviously letting him loom over me and tell me what a little fool I was. I couldn’t believe she’d chosen him over the stories I’d written with her about our shared future, where we had little farm houses down the road from each other in New Hampshire, and I came over for Christmas even though I am Jewish, and our kids played together and eventually married each other.

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being friends with other people’s moms

Oh, and you should read my better beauty rules column over at The Frisky. When you get a chance, I mean. 

My friend was having a birthday party, and of course I didn’t want to go. I know people like parties. I know parties are supposed to be fun. But I dread them. I force myself to go to them sometimes, when it’s someone who is a close friend, or because there is this voice in my head that is definitely my mom’s that is always saying “you never know! It could be a great opportunity!” and otherwise I make something up.”I think I have swine flu. Again.”

(i don’t have the right hat! source)

“My mom is coming,” she texted. “Just so you know.”

“I’m in!” I wrote back. “Of course I’ll be there!!”

Thank god for my friends’ moms. I love them. I have loved them since I was a kid. You know what kind of kid– one of those secret introverts, loud and friendly on the outside, dying to get home and curl up with another Tamora Pierce book on the inside. I always wanted to hang out with moms. I don’t know why.

Guesses: they’re nicer than kids. They are impressed when you’re friendly and polite. It doesn’t take much to impress them. They know interesting stuff.

Once my friend’s mom farted in front of us, and she was like “Oops.” And she didn’t even care. It was an amazing moment. To be at the point where you don’t even really care that everyone just heard you fart. Hell yeah.

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Kate on August 21st 2012 in friendship, homeschooling, life