breakup dong

W. and I were talking about breakup power ballads a few nights ago - the stuff you blast on the stereo those first few days/weeks, in a desperate, indignant grab for validation, empowerment, and confidence. Oh, is that just me?

Anyway, the next day, I texted him (edited slightly):

Me: Pink has a new breakup dong. Blow Me One Last Kiss.

Song not dong.

Though a breakup dong would prolly be hella awesome.

W: That would be awesome. Not to mention handy.

I should keep one in my beside drawer.

Me: On the bible.

You could call it the King James.

W: IN the bible. Cutout compartment.

St. Peter.

I am not your goddamn manic pixie dream girl.

It started with the duck phone.

Eighth grade. Jeff Boseman: awkward, earnest, smart. Slightly tragic in the way that only a junior high drama geek can be. He always seemed so...dejected. I think it had something to do with a mysterious ex-girlfriend (you don't know her - she goes to another school) named Star.

We shared homeroom, English, Social Studies, a loathing of jocks, a similar sense of humor, and, of course, drama classes. He had an enormous crush on me that lasted from sixth grade through high school. Beyond, for all I know (we didn't stay in touch). The most action he ever got off of me, however, was a relatively handsy slow dance at Jason Bachmann's bar mitvah. He just wasn't my type. He was much too nice, and much too sad.

Anyway - eighth grade. My mom used to drive him home after school, since he lived close by. Sometimes, he and I would go walking along the man made lakes between our neighborhoods. That's where we discovered the duck phone.

The lakes were populated by various species of duck, geese, and swan, who clustered in groups at points along the water. There was a section where the water pooled tightly into a narrow, picturesque stream. Tall, willowy reeds, smooth river rocks. In an otherwise perfectly manicured setting, it came close to feeling wild. And it was private.

Jeff and I would amble to this spot, skipping stones along the way and spinning for one another our respective tales of eighth grade injustice. There is no victimhood like junior high victimhood. Once arrived, we'd sit on the grass and shoot the adolescent shit.

One day, I did something funny. Truth be told, I don't even remember exactly what happened. I think we were rehearsing a scene for class, and the stage directions called for a phone to ring. Cue, with perfect timing, a duck quacking near us. I must have deadpanned a response, or maybe I jumped up and ran to answer the duck. Sadly, the memory is hazy. But whatever I did, I know it was playful and silly and charmed Jeff like the dickens. Fits of giggles for both of us. Significant not to me, but to boy who spent such long, eighth grade days with a long, eighth grader face.

I think I became, that day, his manic pixie dream girl.

If you haven't heard of the MPDG trope, here's a good primer. In sum: a manic pixie dream girl is a winsome, whimsical, lighthearted and carefree young woman who exists for the sole purpose of bringing joy, spontaneity, and laughter to the life of a dark-hearted/minded, depressed, or emotionally tortured boy. With little of substance to fill her own life, she is there to teach him how to love. How to embrace life and live in the moment.

And since my pre-teenage, I have, I suspect, been unknowingly - and unwillingly - cast into that role repeatedly, by various men. Edging up on forty, I'm finally starting to see it.

So, first of all, fuck you, Hollywood, for normalizing and romanticizing such malformed female characters. For setting men up to fail in relationships by suggesting that all their problems can be solved with a twee, spunky, Free People-wearing girl. For setting women up to fail in relationships by downplaying for those men, to a point of near-deletion, their complex, complicated, and messy inner lives.

Lest I run out of fingers to point, I should, however, own my part in the tragicomedy that is my romantic life. When rewarded for manic pixie dream girl behavior, I repeated it. Peck the bar. Get a treat. Peck the bar. Get a treat. I loved to make boys laugh with self-effacing humor and goofiness. I loved their faces when I'd challenge them to be spontaneous. "Let's ditch work and class and drive to Disneyland." "Let's hike up to the mountains at four am and go spelunking." And when I finally - finally - bloomed in my early twenties, I added girly and sexy to my repertoire of playful whimsy. "I'm going to get naked and run into the ocean, in the pitch black night. Are you coming?"

I started to hear the same things from men, over and over - a decades-long pattern I wouldn't identify until, well, now. "You're so good for me - you teach me how to relax." "I love being with you. You really know how to be in the moment." "I'm so jealous - you have so much fun." "You're so free-spirited."

These men fit their molds, too: dissatisfied with their lives in some way, creatively stymied, baggage-ridden. In fairness, who isn't all of these things at some point in their life? But many of the men I've been with didn't have the tools to get past these emotional hurdles. I became that tool.

The problem was - is - that I have my own goddamn issues, too. My own dissatisfactions. I'm creatively stymied, much of the time. And baggage? Oh, honey. I've got a storage unit at Union Station just to house mes valises.

Not of all of my relationships see me playing the manic pixie dream girl. But those that do tend to break down around the same fault line: the point at which I start revealing, bit by bit, that I'm just as broken and needy and damaged as the Andrew Largemans of this world. And manic pixie dream girls aren't supposed to be broken or needy or damaged. They're supposed to twist a lock of hair, bite their lips, and suggest an impromptu gelato on the fire escape. Anything heavier than that is alarming and alienating.

The obvious objection would be my age, but I'd argue that being a MPDG is less about years and more about mindset. And my mind has pretty much always been set to Child. I'm thirty-seven, and for all intents and purposes, living the life of a twenty-seven year old. I'm single and childfree. I go out several nights a week. I sleep in. I don't have a career, and have been flying by the seat of my pants, financially, for several years. I dress youthfully. I act youthfully. I do this because I can, because it's fun, because I'm an irresponsible, reckless hedonist, and because so far, I've been able to outpace reality.

But maybe it's time I clue my partners in, before the third act, to the fact that I'm a fully developed female character in this movie.

So guys? I'm just as fucked up as you are. Deal with it.


Stuff I've thought and seen this week:

They should sell that silvery stuff they use on Scratchers tickets. In a small bottle with a brush, a la Wite-Out. Think of the possibilities. Love letters, telegrams, resumes. STD test results. Newspapers could make obituaries a lot more interesting.

Been walking around Little Tokyo a lot lately:

There are, like, 27 varietals of hot pepper, but basically one kind of banana. This seems unjust. I love bananas, and I'd love more kinds to choose from; I do not think I am alone in this. A sweeter one, maybe, or a softer one. Fuck, how about a blue one? Who wouldn't love to peel and eat a blue banana? But we just have the one: yellow, tantalizingly short window of ripeness, bruises easily. Also, why do all the hybrid fruits sound like painful geriatric afflictions? Grapples. Pluots. Peacotums.

Just discovered The Lumineers. Awesome debut album.

Had coffee with C. a few days ago, and he brought his girl. She seemed less than thrilled that Chaucer was allowed the dregs of my caramel macchiato:

Watched The Woman. Holy shit. If it was just slightly less gratuitous, it would make for a great feminist reading. Lots of interesting things going on there, for the strong-stomached. Also - great soundtrack.

The summer concert series has started in Pershing Square. A few nights ago was Berlin. Went to check it out:

It's easy to settle for pretty good, where relationships are concerned. Lots of people do it, for years on end. Lots of mediocre marriages out there. I know. I was in one. But it takes real balls to hold out for amazing. This is what a lifeline-shaped thought looks like, anyway.

K. put up a massive, seven foot projection screen on his patio, for showing movies. Put out an air mattress, pillows, and chairs, and had some people over. We ate pizza and watched Wrath of the Titans, which was LOLzy and fun. The views going to and coming from the Metro station in Silverlake:


Monday night, W. and I go to La Cita for Mustache. On the way in, the bouncer asks us if we know it's "gay night". I look at W. as if scandalized. "Don't tell me you're gay!" I say. "No," he deadpans, "but the guys who suck my dick are."

We sit at the bar, catching up on our lives, plans, and, with our phones, internet stuff we've wanted to show one another. He confesses to loving Call Me Maybe, which delights me to no end, and I regale him with random animal trivia about baby aardvarks whose coloring matches their mothers and a lizard I read about that has two mates (one big and strong, to mate with, and one with a good nest, to raise her offspring with). We chat up the new bartender, from whom I win a bet and a shot (he doesn't believe I'm older than him). Sigh.

The music is lame, so dancing's a bust. We go to LA Cafe, order chili cheese fries, and socialize with tablemates. A. comes by to walk me home, even though he's exhausted from preparing for a show Thursday. I'm wearing a cropped t-shirt, and it's cold - he insists on giving me his sweatshirt. Before we leave, I get to hold the tiniest of tiny puppies (Chihuahua and Dachshund mix) named Maggie. She's 1/3 the size of Chaucer's head.

Today, sleeping way, way too late, then housecleaning, laundry, and a trip to Pussy and Pooch. Tonight A. and I go grocery shopping, and despite the fact that our cart is overflowing, he insists on self-checking. It takes a good fifteen minutes, is a ridiculous pain in the ass due to how much crap we have and how little room there is to bag it, and at the time, I'm pretty annoyed. Later I realize there'll come a day when I'll look back and would kill to be there, in a grocery store in downtown Los Angeles, relatively young and carefree, in the company of a cute boy who thinks it's fun to scan his own produce so he can sneakily combine three kinds of onions.


I've been wearing fear like a corset for years now. Laced up tight, I think some part of me finds comfort in the constriction. If I can't move, maybe I won't make any more mistakes.

Fear has motivated far too many of the major decisions I've made. It's a seductive closet to hide in.

It seems to me that the only way to conquer the huge, deep-seated fears I have is to flood them with light - to ask myself question after question until I get to the root of the problem. Fear hates introspection.

So I ask myself what exactly I'm so afraid of. I take a step back and look at everything that so overwhelms me: all the personal, professional, financial, and legal issues I have to tackle. And I realize that, oh my god, I have completely overdramatized, in my own mind, the extent of what I have to do. I have very few actual decisions to make. I'm cowering in the face of paperwork, at the end of the day. Some phone calls. A bit of leg work. Typing. Printing. Mailing. That's all it really is.

Since when am I the kind of girl who's afraid of keyboards, ink cartridges, sidewalks, and stamps? I jumped out of an airplane, for Christ's sake. I took off my clothes for a room full of strangers. I took myself across the planet, alone. I filed for divorce with no job and no money. I cut an alcoholic mother out of my life. I watched my father die. Since when am I afraid of some paperwork?

Since I stopped feeling independent and competent enough to take care of myself, and passed more and more responsibility on to other shoulders, would probably be the answer. Wow was that a self-fulfilling prophecy I talked myself into, oh, about ten years ago.

But it can't possibly be just the prospect of drudging through paperwork that has me so paralyzed, can it? So, the same question again. What am I so afraid of?

Here you go, Fear. Here's the tasty meat you're after:

I'm afraid that even after I do everything I need to do, after doing all the right stuff that's set out before me with neon guideposts to walk me through it, that I'll still be making the wrong decisions for myself.

I'm afraid I'll embarrass myself.

I'm afraid I'm not talented or smart enough to achieve the things I want.

I have cast myself as the villain/fool in a movie I haven't even written yet. I'm a racehorse who's shot herself in the head, saving everyone the trouble of betting on her.


So I sit down and I write a list of every single thing I need to do. It's huge and fucking scary. So I title it that. Ellie's Huge and Fucking Scary List of Everything She Needs to Do. The absurdity of the title releases a little tension from my shoulders: I've taken the wind out of Fear's sails. I add a second line: Incredibly Complex Resources Required - Laptop, Paper, Printer, Brain, Time.

Now who's looking stupid, Fear?


That's all I can do.

dog lottery

Well, dog, you're five. Happy birthday.

There was a time when I didn't think you'd live much longer than this, because of things I'd heard about giant breed dogs. But it's obvious you're not going anywhere for a while. At five years old, you have the energy and playfulness of a puppy, which is what you're still occasionally mistaken for.

Speaking of which, you were a ridiculous, pain in the ass of a puppy. Adorable, clumsy, hysterical when left alone. You hated to be crated, and you were terrible on a leash. But now that you're all growed up, I can't believe how much I lucked out.

I won the dog lottery.

Let's start with what a pleasure it is to walk you. You trot along beside me, and you only pull when you see a familiar face that you want to greet. The leash hangs slack between us, a wordless agreement to move at a comfortable, companionable pace. People are amazed at how good a walker you are - other dog owners, jealous. Even if you're in a mood to sniff every goddamn tree, you respond to my slightest correction, and settle in by my side, content just to be out and about. At night, when the streets are empty, I unclip you, and we sprint together down the sidewalk, you bursting with energy and joy in the cold night air. But you always stay close, and I never have to worry about you running off, or away. I take you everywhere I possibly can: coffee shops, the cleaner's, the tailor's, the salon, late night pizza runs. I even sneak you into the very edge of Grand Central Market, so I can get juice for our walks.

You're friendly to strangers, stopping cheerfully to say hello when you hear them exclaim over you. You've come to recognize the oohs and ahhs that mean someone wants to pet you. You allow yourself to be stroked, your chin to be lifted, and your gaze to be held, by humans you've never met. You read my energy, and if I'm nervous, so are you - but you never snap or snarl. Most days we can't go a block without at least one person wanting to meet you. You're unfailingly calm with children, even when they grope and pull and scream. You sniff toddlers' and babies' faces with gentle curiosity, to the delight of both them and their mothers.

At home, you're less a pet than a roommate. You keep me company for hours at a stretch, lazing about on your bed or the floor. You've learned to ask permission to be let on the bed: you'll stand beside it and look at me imploringly. Sometimes I'll indulge you, and throw an old sheet on top of my covers, so you can stretch out in luxury.

You're smart. You've learned your schedule, you read my cues - you know how to ask for what you want and need, be it a toy that's rolled under the bed, a trip to the park, a treat, or just a few minutes' worth of caresses. You're completely in tune with my emotions, and it never ceases to amaze me, how much your mood on an given day lines up with my own. If I'm sleepy, you zonk out. If I'm happy, you're playful. If I'm stressed, you pace.

When I'm upset, you're instantly at my side, pawing me, licking my face, whimpering. If I cry, I can't do so for very long - I quickly end up consoling you. But I don't even have to get to that point for you to feel the change in my energy; you reach me before the tears do. You've seen me through the death of two parents, a divorce, three moves, and a handful of breakups. You wait patiently while I travel the world. You never judge a single bad choice I make.

You love your toys, and play with every single one. When friends come over, you systematically present each of your balls, ropes, and stuffed animals to them one at a time, showing off like a child. You're no longer afraid of the toy basket I bought you a few years ago; you plunge your head straight into it and root around to get exactly what you want.

You've learned to talk, small growls and cries and barks and howls that I echo back to you. We converse together in your jowly voice, sometimes throwing our heads back and singing. You ask for meals. You whine for lost toys. You growl playfully for attention.

You've accepted the major changes in your life with grace and even, it seems, gratitude. Suburb to city. House to apartment. Yard to sidewalk. Smaller and smaller abodes each time. And yet you've remained sweet-natured, playful, well-adjusted. You let me know when you need some attention - a few minutes of tug-o-war, or a good long walk and some socialization. You've adjusted to loft life beautifully. You've made friends. You have play dates. You're a recognizable fixture in our neighborhood.

You're never picky. When things are tight and I run out of dog food, you're content with a few eggs, or rice, or whatever I have on hand. You'll eat salad, for god's sake. You love berries and apples, steamed carrots and broccoli. At least a couple times a week, we split a banana during a walk: you eat your half straight from the peel, like me, standing on the corner while we wait for the light.

Your size is never a problem - only a bonus. You're tall enough that in the morning, you can press your face into the bed near mine, wagging your tail when I smile and say good morning. Then, kisses. And yawns - you've learned to yawn loudly because it makes me laugh. Beside me on the sidewalk, I don't even have to stoop to stroke your back or finger your velvety ears. You're a sure, solid weight next to me as we walk. Sometimes when I'm feeling overwhelmed with happiness and optimism, I'll shut my eyes and tilt my head back to feel the sun, the breeze on my face. I keep my eyes closed for a few moments, knowing you'll keep leading us straight.

You delight onlookers with your sweet, puppyish face and goofy gait. When I used to get lonely late at night, I'd walk you by the bars and nightclubs, just to have some social interaction. You've made me friends. You're an excellent wingman, too.

You never complain when I have to leave you for several hours at a time, or if I spend the night away. You never have accidents, even those times where emergencies have kept me from you for half a day.

You're a riot. You'll lick a cut lemon and huge, foamy bubbles will froth from your lips. Sometimes you fart when you're play-bowing, and the noise will startle you. You run and slide down the hallway, slipping clumsily around corners. Your huge, post-meal burps are a viral YouTube video waiting to happen. I'm pretty sure I gave you a contact high a few months ago: you spent five minutes sniffing in bizarre circles and tracking invisible prey around a tree and into the air. You once stole a slice of pizza from a kid in a stroller.

We've perfected our relationship. You know when you can get away with pushing my buttons, and when I need you to be more independent. We understand one another's needs, and we meet them as best we can. And you forgive me every time I fuck up.

We have our own language. I have so many silly, secret, special phrases and pet names for you that no one else gets to hear. I grab you and nom-nom-nom on your head, your cheeks, your ears. You wag and smile. Sometimes when I've been at my desk for a long time, you'll come to me and paw my arm. Come sit with me. And I do. I sit cross-legged in front of you and stroke your front legs, kneading the calluses on your elbows and cooing at you. Every part of your anatomy has a special, silly name. I baby you completely, and you are a little bit spoiled - but everyone comments on how well-behaved you are, nevertheless.

Look, we both know this letter is for me, not you, but whatever. You're incredible, and a birthday card is the least you deserve for all the love and laughs you've given me this half decade.

I love you, dog.


Things I've thought and seen this week:

I am unnaturally calm in the face of a falling gavel.*

Resentment is a pool you can walk out of anytime; or you can wade deeper into it.

Sometimes I think My Beloved Monster is the most romantic song ever written.

When I was younger, I think I considered my boyfriend's professional success and wealth a reflection of my own self worth. The truth is, they weren't even a reflection of his own.

If you're going to read the writing on the wall, first make sure that it wasn't written in disappearing ink.

Some of my favorite people are the most exasperating. It eventually comes to be something I love about them - rely on, even.

My computer has a bullshift key. I accidentally hit it all the time.

I was wrong about her. She's actually a very sweet and friendly girl, with a hard candy shell. I'm glad I got to know her better.

* I read that a similar concept inspired the film Melancholia - depressed persons already expect the worst from life, so they're more emotionally prepared for tragedy than others.

4th and 5th

Update: I published this post, then I pulled it. I'm republishing it, though annotated, lest I feel like a chump for whitewashing my own messy, complicated, but usually pretty decent life.

Yesterday: Malibu. Paradise Cove. Friends of his. Shitty alcohol, good pot, fried food, funny people. Fireworks closer than I've ever seen, reflected in the water.

Today: I'm asked out for a drink, then broken up with, I guess? Sort of unclear. Let's go with yes, I've been broken up with. (Not fair, and not true. I made assumptions, didn't understand what was happening, got melodramatic, overreacted.)

It's OK. It's not a huge surprise. (See above, the bit about being melodramatic.)

I run. I cry. I feel more alone than I've ever felt in my life. Who else am I going to lose? Who's next? (Well, that was definitely how I felt.)

I come home and download the Of Mice and Monsters album, which I've had on loop for the past few days, anyway. For every transition, a soundtrack. So, that for this, then. I sync it to my phone and walk Chauc, blasting sound. Dirty Paws. Little Talks. King and Lionheart. And Love Love Love, over and over and over. A thought occurs to me. I come home, go straight to my laptop, and do this:

Life goes on. The world keeps spinning. Hearts get broken, and eventually, healed. A girl takes six weeks to get over a boy, then takes herself to a music festival, and moves on with her life. (A girl is desperate to have something else to think about, too.)

I'm taking the train down to San Diego tomorrow, to see some friends and be distracted for a night or two. I'm still a very lucky girl, even minus one very loveable boy. I have loveable friends, too, who aren't going anywhere. (I didn't go to San Diego.)

Time. Time and the knowledge that I'm amazing and special and lovely (ugh, that didn't hold up to a second reading, so let's just go with "a not horrible human being"), and just like I had no idea this was waiting for me, I have no idea what other amazing things are in store for me down the line.

Revised ending: things had been rocky for a little while leading up to the last two posts. That's it. We're two people who love one another, but who can't seem to get it together, for whatever reasons. We're on the same frustrated, disappointed page, though I can't claim to know completely what he feels, or what he wants. And that's where I'll leave it for now.

I write better when I'm single, anyway. (Sigh. Probably true.)


And so Goldilocks found herself in a kitchen that felt at once familiar and strange. She saw three bowls on a wooden table of questionable soundness, under whose third leg was stuffed a number of Splenda packets. She knew she should proceed with caution, but she was really goddamn hungry, and porridge always hit the spot. She intuited it was porridge not by sight or smell, but by the sure knowledge that it couldn't possibly be anything else.

She'd just finished getting cut out of a wolf's stomach, after all. She knew exactly what road she was on.

Predictably enough, she burned the living hell out of her tongue on the first bowl, cursing up a storm the likes of which hadn't been seen since that Midwestern upstart (and her little dog, too) had landed in town. The second bowl was stone cold, and the small sip she had of it made her shiver violently. She held her spoon poised above the third bowl and stared at its contents; a delicate curl of steam reached the tip of her nose. She felt its warmth on her face. It promised to be perfect. It promised to be just right.

It wasn't.

Fucking fairy tales, she thought. They get me every time.

Disappointed but not defeated, Goldilocks composed herself. She set the spoon down on the table. She smoothed her frock and tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear. She set her shoulders and lifted her chin. She walked to the door and through it. And as she did so, she caught her reflection in the window pane: still hungry, but none the worse for wear.

plum wine

Well, as promised, I went to Saturday's Japanese themed party looking a fool. Attempted a sort of Harujuku girl concept that, in execution, was just me wearing a bunch of Hello Kitty crap and looking kind of whorish. Everyone else was awesome - geishas and samurais and a Japanese tourist and even Godzilla. I apologized to my hosts for my C- effort, then proceeded to gorge on their plum wine and sashimi. I'd never had plum wine before.

I really, really love plum wine.

It was a make-your-own-meal kind of deal, with all the fixings and spices for sushi, wontons, salads, and the like. Thankfully the more competent and sober members of the party made sure the rest of us were nourished. After dinner, some of us got high on the roof and told horribly offensive religious jokes. Then we all played charades and got prize bags with our names written in Korean (no idea).

Best part of the night: I got tapped for wonton frying duty, but the girls decided my low cut shirt was an invitation for oil burns. So they took me aside and wrapped my chest and shoulders in Saran Wrap before sending me back to the stove.

Took some pictures (on my Flickr), but here's my favorite:


Friday night, I spent a few hours with an unpleasant person. As is usually the case when I'm stuck in the company of someone I don't like, I find a way to detach from the interaction and observe (read: judge) them. It isn't the nicest thing for me to do, I know, but it helps make an otherwise unpleasant situation fun. I'm going to blog the shit out of you, honey. You don't even know.

During the course of our one-way conversation (she didn't ask me a single question about myself), she disclosed to me - with clear pride - that she never cooked, and she'd never set foot on public transportation of any kind. Later in the evening, I mentioned I had to be up at 8:30 am the next day to help a friend move. She stared at me, horrified. "Why would you do that?" she asked, genuinely perplexed. "Because I'm a good friend?" I bounced the question back to her pointedly. She shuddered perceptibly, and assured me she'd never do such a ridiculous thing. I shrugged and smiled as if capitulating. I know. Crazy me. I is so wacky.

Something came up, giving me cause to ask where she'd gone to college. She answered in a tone that suggested she'd just presented me with an impossibly large and rich slice of cake that I was expected to eat in one bite. Without milk. Swallow that, she seemed to be saying. It wasn't even that impressive a school, but I think she must have had me pegged for a recent, less-than-affluent Los Angeles transfer. I probably still smell like the suburbs. She and her sorority sisters ate girls like me for breakfast.

She barely inclined her head towards me when we spoke, and she frequently adopted a scornful, slightly scandalized look at the off-color jokes and comments the rest of us were making. She was a true pearl-clutcher in the making, despite her insistence that West Hollywood was the perfect life for her. She had the skin of a twenty-five year old and her clothing was pitch-perfect downtown LA. But something about her hair and face were decades older. Maybe it was the Farrah feathered balliage, combined with the vaguely condescending expressions she wore. Eyebrows furrowed just subtly enough to say, Oh, I get it. But I was taught to pretend not to like it. Probably in cotillion classes.

Another couple of years establishing enough career cred to hold her own in conversation, then she can retire and make someone an excellent, entitled Orange County housewife.