SOMETHING OUT OF CLASSIC TV…

We were obsessed. We didn’t realize we were doing it, but we started to fetishize all men that weren’t white. They didn’t need to be on TV, it was ALL with a capital A-L-L men that weren’t white. The idea of dating someone who wasn’t white was exciting.
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The town I grew up in was small. One of the biggest crimes of my childhood was a burglary committed by the local bad boy. (He dyed his bangs with hydrogen peroxide.) Too young to have a driver’s license, he used a lawn tractor as his getaway vehicle. Everyone knew he did it because like any small town, there was gossip. After the break-in most people still didn’t lock their homes. Despite the gossip, the town was a lot like Pleasantville (prior to receiving color). Part of me enjoyed the closeness. I could count on things like knowing that the family of my elementary school librarian would have my back if I ever needed them. But, being a small town, people would always see you as who you were in elementary school.

i-am-me-i-am-okayKnowing nearly all your classmates from an early age, reinvention at any age was prohibitive. Unlike many, who can reinvent themselves in high school, a third of the class you knew since you were six and the other two thirds you knew since 6th grade. These other two thirds were experiencing the same problem because we were all attending the same regional middle school high/high school.  Regional schools are common for Middle-of-Nowhere, Connecticut, where towns are so small there aren’t enough students to fill one school. Two or more towns join together to send their students to one location. My school had three towns, grades 6-12. This meant that middle school and high school shared common areas like cafeteria, computer lab and library. We’d see each other in passing, but didn’t r mix.

When I graduated eighth grade, life inside the regional middle school/high school didn’t change much. Classes moved to the other side of the building and I went from being the quintessential nerd in middle school to the awkward nerd-hippy in high school. Those qualities rendered me updateable… that and I had paralyzing shyness.

I was like those girls in the makeover movies (pre-makeover). I paraded through the halls with my over-stuffed L.L. Bean backpack and flute. I yearned for the romance the Christian Slater films (sans Heathers) promised. Hell, while learning how to write a children’s play my senior project (a requirement to independently study something you know nothing about, write a paper and give a presentation), I wrote a draft-outline and act one for a romantic film. The lead male was named Chris (as in Christian Slater) and the protagonist was a shy mousy girl from a small town. This kind of voyeuristic dating, dating on paper, was easier for me to wrap my dopey brain around than “hey, I like you” dating. Dating in the real world was as improbable as me being able to hit a three point shot from mid-court. Still, my mom thought she should tell me who and what I should date.

Don’t date a jerk.

Date someone who respects you.

Date someone like you.

When she said, “date someone like you,” she meant, “date someone with your same

fullsizerender

Suzanne

values.” Dating someone who was middle class and white was not part of the equation. Race never came up. My family didn’t discussed race in a let’s have a dialogue kind of way. We only discussed people. Race only came up when they told my sister and me how they we
nt to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak and listen to “good music.” One of my takeaways from this repeated story was their incredulity of how they were one of the only white couples there. Another favorite repeated story was when they visited St. Kits with my grandparents the waiter offered to take me outside (when I was having a baby melt-down) and comfort me so they could eat their lunch in peace. Every time I visited my grandma, I saw the portrait of Suzanne that my mom painted when she was a college sophomore. Every now and then they would reminisce at the art professor’s comments, “You’re the first white girl I’ve met that can paint a Black person.” Beyond these glossed-over differences, we didn’t talk about racial differences.

christian-slater-autograph

It was my friends and TV that had a larger influence on my understanding of people who
were desirous. Sure, there was Christian Slater, but he was always a little too damaged. Baboon heart, way too in to roses, suicidal introvert… While I tried to figure out dating, I tried to find friends with whom I fit. I had two distinct groups: in junior high, I hung with the mall group of “we don’t have a group city-type.” (By small, I mean 3.) In high school, I migrated to the “studious hodgepodge” of athletes, band geeks, and all-around smarty pants-wise-asses. One of the city-types left, leaving our group at two, the city-type and me. Even though her family lived in town for years and was active in the founding of it, she had the worldly influence that cable and four older siblings brought her.

Since she worked in the cafeteria during lunch, I tried to navigate hanging out with my more-studious-hodgepodge group. The hodgepodge always ate lunch together and I sometimes joined them. Remember that paralyzing shyness? Even though they were friends, I had a deep fear of being rejected if I asked to sit with them and they said no. Most days I’d take lunch and sit outside the band room and do homework… or just sit outside the band room and be sad. On days where I felt slightly braver, I would force myself to sit in the cafeteria. I’d find an empty table where I didn’t have to worry about rejection and sit alone. On some days, other lonely people joined me. Lacking strong social skills, I didn’t always feel welcome to join my friends because I wasn’t expressly invited to join. From 9th to 12th grade, I slowly got over this.

Very slowly.

While my understanding of navigating these seemingly complex social interactions grew, the student body grew too. When I entered the ninth grade there were 300 students in the whole high school. By the time I graduated, we had 500. And with this growth, we went from counting the number of non-white students on one hand to needing two. (There were seven.)

I was a natural introvert, shy and a little (very) naïve. It’s a no wonder my teens were tough. Band was a default comfort zone. Not having enough instruments in middle school or high school to play a full score, it was the only class where middle school and high school interacted. It offered forced social interaction with my classmates, half of whom were upperclassmen. It was a little intimidating being surrounded by people with facial hair and boobs, but it was exhilarating to have a tangential friendship with them. Band also provided a uniqueness of heightened racial diversity. The principle drummer (the only drummer for five years) was an Indian-American upperclassman. Intersecting through the years we had a brother and sister of Middle East descent (trumpet and clarinet respectively); a Black guy on bass and one Asian boy, on percussion. By the time I was a senior, there were enough students to support having junior high and high school bands. For the Memorial Day parades, we joined forces and invited the sixth graders to join. That influx brought an Asian girl. She played Second Flute and was next to me. In most places, six non-white students won’t qualify as diverse. But, those 6 non-white students out of a 30-member band gave us 20% diversity.

Outside the band walls, the school’s diversity plummeted to .014%. Consequently, I only saw my school as “just white.”

There wasn’t racial tension in Band. We were just trying to stay on beat. With the lack of diversity in the school and consequent lack of interactions with people who weren’t white, I didn’t have a framework to view race. My family’s “Martin Luther King Jr. is awesome” philosophy didn’t provide a framework. The school’s curriculum didn’t provide one. Race and racial differences weren’t discussed and since race wasn’t discussed openly, understanding the different experiences, philosophies and even religions that race could bring wasn’t discussed either. Scanning the student body, the only races that were apparent were Black and Indian-American. With my naiveté, people that were different, (like the brother and sister of Middle-East descent) were categorized as, “not white” or “they have a good tan.”

I can’t say if this naïveté is good or bad. It’s how I grew up and it’s what made me. Despite the shyness, I always liked people. I knew there was an Arian Signing Society 30 minutes from my home, but I didn’t see racism as a “this is happening now” way of life. The singing society was so far out of my love everyone world, it was as unbelievable as the Tooth Fairy. I continued to compartmentalize racism to history books, movies and the Deep South.

Because of my lack of understanding of racial differences, the differences were glamorized with more city-edge friends. Music videos felt like a roadmap of how to date and become datable. The videos became escapism in those formative years when you want to fit in, but are a little too square peg/round hole. Blessed Union of Souls “I Believe” spoke to my love everyone view. I thought I could be like Lucy and just wrap my phantom boyfriend in a hug and protect him from that mean white world. And while I loved this ballad, a die-hard favorite was Salt n Peppa’s “Shoop.” Despite a lot of the innuendo going over my head, the vaguely pro-feminist lyrics appealed to me. The men featured in the lyrics and in the video were hot, particularly the one categorized as, “A body like Arnold with a Denzel face…” These were the years before YouTube, DVR and any kind of V.O.D. that allowed you to watch your favorite video ad nauseam. Since technology to pause real-time TV didn’t exist, when “Shoop” came on, we would stop everything we were doing and watch the video. If someone had gotten up to get a snack, we’d holler to the next room to make sure no one missed the video. Denzel

We were obsessed. We didn’t realize we were doing it, but we started to fetishize all men that weren’t white. They didn’t need to be on TV, it was ALL with a capital A-L-L men that weren’t white. The idea of dating someone who wasn’t white was exciting. These men became trophies. If I dated one, I wouldn’t be merely dating a non-jerk, like my mom had asked for, I would be dating a man like those music vides. I would have made it to the dating zenith.

This more confident future self, would tell people, “Not only did I have a man on my arm, I’m dating outside my race. Take that you racist jerk; I’m open-minded.”

Wow.

I was an ass.

For years theories among friends and family of why I preferred men who weren’t white to white persisted. They ranged in everything from the visit to St. Kits when I was an inconsolable infant and a waiter had to hold and comfort me to my theory of my own insecurities around my genetic condition that causes brown spots and purple tumors to grow on and in my skin. By dating someone who isn’t white, theoretically, they would look past these imperfections and judge me by the content of my character. Whatever experience made me have my dating preferences and choices, I didn’t see my actions as racist. But truly, judging someone’s different and often darker skin as meritorious and a reason to date is just as wrong as condemning them because their skin is different. Age and life experience bring clarity. I was young and naïve. I thought I was being idealistic. It took me awhile to see what I was doing and that what I was doing was wrong.

Recipe: Black and White Cookies.
black and white cookie

Step by step directions:

  1. Go to the local bakery and and purchase.
  2. If your bakery doesn’t bake these scrumptious sugar cookies with two types of frosting, Call Zaro’s Bagels in New York City and have them shipped. Nobody does Black and White cookies like Zaro’s.

 

 

*RAINBOW CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES – A GOOD WAY TO SAY THANK YOU

Her kindness astounded me. First she buys me dinner when she’s struggling herself and then she strategizes ways for me to stay in Los Angeles and continue to fight for my dream of working in entertainment industry. That one dinner changed my life.
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I like food. I was a foodie before being a foodie was trendy. I’ve baked cookies or big meals to stuff my dates (or potential dates) in an effort to show love. But, like your Italian grandmother, stuffing friends and family with food has been a way for me to show love too.

TV Trenches and I met in college and bled for the various TV organizations we belong to. Like Multi-Cam Maven, she and I were hungry for a career in TV and these organizations satiated that hunger. While in our Los Angeles, “semester abroad,” I learned two important things. To survive Los Angeles, you need a Thomas Guide and a good friend.

TV Trenches was that friend.

Oakwood ApartmentsDuring our semester, students in the L.A. program lived at The Oakwood Apartments in Burbank. While a lot of colleges use it for their “semester abroad” housing, real people live there too. Most of these people are traveling professionals and child actors accompanied by their families. TV Trenches lived in a double with her best friend and long time roommate. I was living in a quad with girls I met the day I moved in. I was on the shy side and lacked lots of life experience. They had lifestyles of excessive drinking, drugs and sex. One roommate sold ‘shrooms and liked dropping acid or E depending on the circumstance. Another would have sex in our shared bedroom while I tried to sleep. Heck, they almost got us kicked out of the student housing for throwing a wild party and serving alcohol to child actors! We had a disciplinary hearing. I was in tears and the only reason we didn’t lose our housing is because the head of the program didn’t have the heart to punish me with the three roommates.

I was adrift.

I didn’t understand my roommates and I understood Los Angeles even less. TV Trenches recognized I was struggling. She had recently become acquainted with a local church and invited me to go with her to the college and young professionals service on Sunday evening. It was very different than the small New England church I was raised in. The room for the young professional service was cavernous and the exposed steal beams reminded me a lot of Costco. Despite lacking two things I needed, liturgy and hymns, the praise and worship band provided an element of Church Camp.Church - Pasadena

TV Trenches and I sat next to each other almost every service. Despite the differences from my New England church, Rock Band church soon felt like home. After we “graduated” the L.A. semester, we continued to go, but rarely sat together since we were commuting from different parts of the city.

One March, the minister announced a community dinner to encourage members to commune as “a body of Christ.” We could pay whatever we wanted or could afford. I was depressed with my financial and career struggle and intended to sneak out.

TV Trenches found me. With her limited funds she dropped money in the basket for me and then for herself. Over dinner she gently said, “Sarah, you’re broke. You’ve worked hard to get here. You need to do something to stay in Los Angles.” She pointed out Linens-N-Things (LNT) was opening in Pasadena and doing a massive hiring. She worked at another LNT and said I should use her as a reference.

Even though she was a friend, her kindness astounded me. First she buys me dinner when she’s struggling herself and then she strategizes ways for me to stay in Los Angeles and continue to fight for my dream of working in entertainment industry. That one dinner changed my life.

Linens-n-things-towelsWith her reference and key words to use on my application, I got the job. It took a team of eight of us over four weeks to unpack boxes to stock the Bath Department. We even learned to fold towels in the proper LNT way.

There was a lot of refolding.

I hated it less than the job I had for a day selling cheap merchandise at Pavilion’s under the auspices of child advocacy, but all that folding dried my hands, lint got caught in my throat and it was over eight hours a day standing on a concrete floor. Days became more difficult when the store opened and I had to wear fancy shoes with no support while being nice to rude customers who were frustrated by the largeness of the new store, abrasive when I asked the required, “What can I help you find today,” and unsympathetic when I had difficulty running a new register system.

Despite the cons, the relatively steady paycheck made the woes of retail less bad. Besides, Sonodoro and I had just met through Yahoo Personals. Our routine after-work phone calls were a reward for a difficult day. We officially started dating in late April and that’s when the inevitable layoffs began. The employees knew it was coming; when opening a new store, it’s customary to hire a big batch of people and then systematically release them. I made it through four rounds of lay-offs before I lost my job. They handed me my last paycheck and then handed me a severance check. I was blown away.

PlatedShortly after the layoffs, TV Trenches had a game night. I needed something to show my love and appreciation. She guided me through a crazy semester and guided me to get my first legitimate job in Los Angeles. During times of financial struggle, I was often regulated to the 99 Cent Store for party food, where spending a little over $2 on chips and salsa was normal. This time, I could splurge on chocolate chip cookie ingredients! I decided to make them extra special by adding M&Ms.

Whenever I make chocolate chip cookies with M&Ms, I think about that batch of cookies and their significance. Often you hear creatives reminisce about struggles during their early Hollywood days. While I use food to show love, the night of TV Trenches brainstormed ways for me to stay in Los Angeles and fed me dinner stands out in my mind. She gave me a big push to continue to fight for the dream.

UPGRADED CHOCLATE CHIP COOKIES
Ingredients
*Inspired by the Original Toll House cookie recipe from Nestle.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (2 sticks) margarin, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 16 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 16 oz bag plain (FROZEN) M&Ms

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

  1. CREAM TOGETHER margarine and sugars. Add eggs and mix again.
    Cream
  2. Gradually add flour and baking soda.
  3. When thoroughly mixed add in chocolate chips and frozen M&Ms.
  4. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  6. Cover your sheet trays with parchment paper.
  7. With your cookie scoop drop your cookie rounds.
    Sheet Tray
  8. When the oven is up to temperature, bake 10-12 minutes.
  9. Transfer baked cookies to a wire rack.
  10. Repeat.

INSIDER’S TIPS:
*Keep cookie batter in the refrigerator while you’re waiting for one round of cookies to bake.
*Wait 1-2 minutes after you take the sheet tray out of the oven before transferring cookies to the wire rack. (They will hold their shape better.)

*GAMEBOY & THAI GASTRONOMY

While quirks and questions outweighed things I liked, it didn’t seem like reason enough to end it. I figured I’d date him until he did something that was reproachable and warranted a breakup or until we fell madly in love and got married. He was okay, so I decided I could cook him dinner.

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In the spring of 2003, I was living the Hopeless Romantic life. Joe Millionaire and The Bachelorette catered to my thirst for love. I would watch both regularly on my T-VCR. It was the days when those AOL dialup discs were everywhere, enabling us to get online for free. It was also a time when many didn’t multi-task like watch TV and surf the internet simultaneously, neither did I. Like many things at that time, Yahoo Personals was also free. I did my searches before or after these two shows.yahoo personals Yahoo Personals did what it promised; it provided prospective people that could be The One. Overall many people were leery of online dating, probably because of the newness of it. Despite people still relying on traditional dating modalities, there was still a good assortment of potential future boyfriends.

I guess this is the benefit of living in a city as large as Los Angeles.

Among the assortment, I met Gameboy, a Scientologist. He was witty and smart (enough). It wasn’t until a couple dates, I learned he liked Halo, a military first-person shooter game. I’m  not sure what the object is besides shoot stuff. Gameboy loved inviting friends over for a multiplayer Halo Party. This was before flat screens TVs were readily available; most TVs still had a picture tube, which made them bulky. People would load their TVs and gaming consoles into their cars and schlep across town to play video games. I suppose it was more interactive than staying at home and logging on at a specified time, but barely. All the effort to play video games seemed ridiculous. I would have been okay if he didn’t invite me, but since he extended an invitation, I thought I had to accept. While it was interactive for them, it certainly wasn’t an interactive date. Gameboy made a half-hearted offer for me to play. I declined; I was already getting motion sick, besides I didn’t want to make him lose. I didn’t care if it was a dating faux pas, I turned down future Halo Parties.

microsoft-previewed-a-new-halo-game-out-next-year

While Gameboy’s love of first person shooter games is the thing I remember most, it was our first date that won me over. We went for Thai food in Pasadena. Similar to what I did with the Redheaded Italian, I met Gameboy at the restaurant. It was raining in Los Angeles, but we braved the big spring storm. (As I came to learn, to the local population, driving in rain is a big deal and shows you like a person.)

Gameboy didn’t change the plan like the Redheaded Italian. I didn’t need to translate like I did with Mucho Gusto. And, as far as I knew, he didn’t take comicbooks like Comicbook Crook. We drove our own vehicles to the restaurant and had a conversation in English while we waited for our dinner to arrive. It was perfect. Then the restaurant lost power.

He wished for a Mini Maglite. I hadn’t been out of college for a year and was still giddy on TV production advice I received, “If you want to work in TV production, the two things you should always have are a Mini Maglite and an 8 inch crescent wrench.”

I have both in my purse.

I rummaged in my purse and pulled out the Mini Maglite. Gameboy was pleasantly shocked. Then, he disassembled it, turning it into a candle.

maglite_candle

It was unique and romantic. I was enraptured by his ingenuity. (I didn’t know at the time, that this is a well-known feature of the Mini Maglite.)

The first date was great. The subsequent dates, not so much. Prior to the Halo Party, parts of future dates included watching him play video games with his roommate. I thought I could learn to love the quirk.

His gaming was chronic.

While quirks and questions outweighed things I liked, it didn’t seem like reason enough to end it. He didn’t care I attended church regularly and I didn’t care he had separated from the church of Scientology and that his parents and sister still attended. The me of today would see that lack of compatibility is reason enough, but again, I was an unskilled dater. I figured I’d date him until he did something that was reproachable and warranted a breakup or until we fell madly in love and got married.

He was okay, so I decided I could cook him dinner.

During dinner, somehow Gameboy and I started talking about a future family. It wasn’t our family per say; it was an amorphous family. Since he had disconnected from the church of Scientology, I didn’t think twice about letting him know what I thought about the religion he was raised with.

“If I have kids, under no uncertain terms,will I raise them with Scientology. Further, I can’t get behind a religion that started based off a bet some science fiction writer made.”

To my surprise, his hackles went up. “L. Ron. Hubbard is a great man. I don’t care that he used to write Science Fiction; his writing helped develop a lot of concepts that are important to Scientology. I might not currently practice, but it’s important to my family. I want to raise my kids with the same religion that made me me. Besides, if it’s so bad, why do so many people practice it?”

He left shortly after dessert. We hugged each other goodnight. He said he’d call, but he didn’t. I didn’t even need to break up with him. I just had to offend him.

I was so excited about my first Thai iced tea from our memorable first date, I wanted to recreate the memory. In lieu of a pre-dinner cocktail, I  made Thai iced tea. I’ve tried different recipes since then, but my favorite is from  Thai Table.

THAI ICED TEA

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai tea to taste

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS
1. Add sugar and sweet condensed milk to a glass or cup.
2. Put one tablespoon of Thai tea  in a tea sock or lose tea bag.
3. Place the tea  directly above the glass.
4. Pour hot water over tea.
5. Set the tea aside.
6. Steep for 5 minutes and remove.
7. Stir until the sugar and sweet condensed milk are dissolved.
8. Add ice and top the tea with milk.

Thai Iced Tea

*B.S. (BEFORE SONODORO) and SHRIMP DEVEINE

Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.
_______________________________________________________________3-28-14 Mariposa

In all of Los Angeles County there was only one place that would rent to me. I loved my first solo apartment. But, let’s be honest— It was in a questionable area.

My slumlord deemed me “a ghost.”

She explained: “You have no credit. Having no credit is worse than having bad credit.”

Her rationale made no sense. I had had a credit card for four years and a cell phone for two. I paid them off in full each month.  Surely, that should have given me credit. Apparently, it did not and that’s how I ended up living at Mariposa and Hollywood in late 2002.

Pride and lack of experience prohibited me from asking my parents to co-sign on an alternate (safer) apartment. I was excited I got Mariposa all on my own. Bonus, I could paint it any way I liked! I was the center of my own universe. If you walked four blocks east you could see the Hollywood sign. Eight blocks west I once received a rate inquiry. Ten years later I learned the area of Western and Hollywood was the unofficial Red Light District.

That explains so much! 

Welcome to Little Armenia. The area had character. And, unlike most L.A. apartments, I didn’t even need to buy a fridge! Sure, the fridge barely kept food cold enough and had exoskeletons of cockroaches emended into the rubber on the door, but I was living in Los Angeles

The city’s car culture lead to extreme isolation. I really wanted to date. Really REALLY wanted to date. Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.yahoo personals

I met a tall redheaded Italian-American. (I was super excited to tell my Italian-American artist friend back home.) In the early days of internet dating, it was customary to meet in a crowded area. That’s exactly what I did with the Redheaded Italian. But, he wanted to forego the original plans and go for sushi off the 5. I hated driving in Los Angeles and the 5 is a trucking route. When he offered to drive, I didn’t question the potential danger; I was just relieved I didn’t have to drive.

When we got to the restaurant I was perplexed that it was in a strip mall. He assured me that most good L.A. sushi is in a strip mall. My doubt eased when we were seated at the sushi bar and he knew all the chefs by name. I ate all kinds of wonderful and mysterious sushi, including tempura-battered shrimp heads.

Tasty sushi prepared at japanese restaurant.

It was a good evening and as relaxed as a first date could be. He did the majority of the talking, mostly, about his ex-girlfriend. I didn’t mind; it meant I didn’t have to talk so much. Clearly he still cared about her. I figured if he could care this much about someone who cheated on him, he could care for me too. I learned that he was close to his family. I had visions of meeting them and laughed to myself how at 4′ 11.5″ I would fit in among a family of giants.

He drove me back to my car. We made plans for another date and then I drove home. Since my apartment didn’t come with parking, I had to park several blocks away. I used it to plan the dinner i would make for the Redheaded Italian, which would have to be sentimental, yet cost-effective.

Living in my very first apartment I had a very strict weekly food budget. My favorite grocery store was Food4Less (eight blocks away), followed by Jon’s (four blocks away). This dinner was going to go over my weekly budget, but I was determined to make it special.

Struggling to make ends meet sometimes, one applies for jobs they wouldn’t usually apply for. I applied for a position at a small marketing company. I made it to Round 2.

Round two was like a cage match. With our mentors, another girl and I were sent to the Pavilions at Melrose and Vine for the day-long interview.

It wasn’t marketing at all. We were carnival barkers.

carnival-barkerStep 1: Place yourself in a well-traveled area to hock stuff.
Step 2: The hook. “Hey, come see what we’re doing to help missing children.”
Step 2A: If they have a kid, offer to fingerprint it. Once the kid is ‘printed, give the parent the fingerprinted card, gratis.
Step 3: The merchandise. They’re looking at it. Hand them the item they look interested in.
Step 4: The pitch. Explain proceeds from the gifts you’re selling helps to prevent and protect missing and exploited children.
Step 5: The close. With the pitch and item in their hand, odds are the mark, I mean good citizen, will buy it.

Cha ching!

I was walking distance from Paramount Pictures, home of Sherry Lansing, Linda Obst and a myriad of other entertainment executives I looked up to and wanted to emulate. Here I was harassing people that could be potential bosses or co-workers.

I hated it.

But, my competitive streak was stronger than the other girl. I won.

Day 1: Training Day (unpaid). It was also my special dinner with the Redheaded Italian. Work was supposed to be over at 5, but my supervisor kept making us stay later. I kept calling to push back dinner. Eventually the Redheaded Italian said, “let’s re-schedule.”

He probably thought I was a flake. I didn’t care.
1. The sherbet in my icebox (in the fridge that barely kept food at a safe temperature) would turn into soft serve soon.
2. Food could potentially spoil.
3. I was over my weekly food budget.
4. There is no clear salary for my new job.

I got home at 9pm. I didn’t bother to cook. My dinner was rainbow sherbet, straight from the container.

Day 2: More training (also unpaid). An all-day lecture. At 6am I called home. My mom gave me permission to quit. (It felt silly I needed this, but it was good to have Mom’s blessing to do something so devious.) I called work, told them I was sick and quit.

Since I no longer had the job I hated and the shrimp was going to go bad, I decided to turn the Italian Redhead’s dinner into a celebration dinner for me. I was excited to learn how to devein shrimp. If it came out good, I could possibly make the meal for him. I waited for his call to reschedule.

He never called. I was a little sad for missing out on the potential for love, but I was more relieved. At his height I’m not sure how I could’ve afforded to keep feeding him. The meal lasted several days.

(It only occurred to me while writing this post that I’ve done several variations of this meal. The first time I reimagined the meal was for Sonodoro.)

INGREDIENTS
Penne Pasta
6 TBS Butter
½ medium white onion
10 shrimp
1 green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
½ cup black olives, pitted & cut in half (optional)
1 lime
salt and ground pepper to taste

 2014-03-27 19.34.30

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

DEVEIN the shrimp (washed and set aside).

devein shrimp

DICE your onion. The pieces should be shouldn’t be too small. If you let them soak in rice vinegar or salt for half an hour before cooking, it will help eliminate some of their bad-breath power.

SEED & CHOP peppers into pieces that are roughly 1” by ½”. Put these in a bowl.

2014-03-27 19.59.01
Half your pitted black olives (about ½ cup) and put in a seperate bowl.

Chop the tomatoes….

PASTA
Cook according to package instructions.

SAUTEE
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy pan and slowly cook onion on a low to medium heat. When it is almost translucent, add the peppers. Let them cook. I like my veggies crisp, so I don’t do too much cooking with any of it. Dump veggies into a bowl and set set aside.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

Melt more butter and add the shrimp. Cook until pink on both sides. Add veggies to shrimp. Stir together and add remaining tomatoes, and lime juice. Cover with lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Drain water from pasta and toss pasta with veggies. Cook together and keep on low heat until your company arrives and/or is ready to eat. (As an alternate to shrimp you can use pitted black olives.)

*CUTTER’S CAPRESE SALAD

I can’t remember if Cutter and I met during a fire drill or through friends. Somehow we met. What I do remember is that he lived by Fenway Park and was an easy walk to/from campus and an even easier T-ride.

Copley Square

He had a video editing internship in Copley Square and invited me to meet him for lunch at his office when his hours were over. I was excited to actually know someone who worked in one of those fancy offices and proudly walked past the throngs of people going to the grocery store that was in the same building. Too timid to go into his office and not wanting to get him in trouble for having a visitor, I waited outside the office doors. When he he came out, he greeted me with an awkward “we just started dating” hug and kiss. Then we walked to his apartment, which was about fifteen minutes away.

He lived in a second story walk up and when we got back to his place, the mid-day spring sunlight was streaming in casting beautiful light along the exposed brick walls. He offered me a chair by the wet bar so we could easily talk while he made lunch.

Lunch was fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I found it to be incredibly elegant. I also later found out it was a simple caprese salad. It doesn’t matter it was “simple.” This is the first caprese salad anyone ever made me. And, he purchased all the ingredients from Boston’s historic Farmers’ Market. (*Bonus points.)

Finished

The same spring light that made the brick look so good made Cutter look even better. With his blond hair and butter yellow shirt, he was nearly glowing. I was enraptured. I was having a great conversation with a cute boy who was making me lunch. No one had ever done this. We were at peace and we were alone.

Then, a roommate walked in from a bedroom— It was one of my friends from the Broadcast Journalism School. I’m not sure who was more shocked. My friend and I typically talked TV production and the Red Sox. The most personal we ever got career goals. We were both caught off guard that he saw this other, more vulnerable, side of me. We made small talk and then he left. My friend and I never spoke about that day.

When we were finally alone, Cutter announced lunch was ready. He continued to amaze. He opened the living room window and we climbed onto the porch a previous tenant had constructed. We were going to have a spring picnic!

Wow.

It was a perfect lunch and a warm memory, but summer was around the corner. We saw each other a couple more times, our talks got further between, and then I graduated. Neither he nor I officially ended anything. We just kind of drifted apart. I never saw any of the stuff he edited. I don’t know if he has siblings. I’m not even sure where he’s from. It’s not that he wasn’t nice, we just came into each other’s lives when we were both under the crunch of finals and life transitions. People today would classify our few encounters as “hanging out.” Heck, even then, people probably called it hanging out. But, to me it was dating, even if it was casual.

It doesn’t matter how you want to label it, what Cutter showed was kindness. And, most importantly, yes, there are guys out there who like cooking.

Epilogue
Several weeks ago (ironically 13 years to month we drifted apart), I was at an alumni event in Los Angeles and saw Cutter. We were watching a live-stream event our alma mater was webcasting. While trying to watch the screen, we kept looking at each other out of the corner of our eyes. There was a shared sense of recognition and the desperate hope we could melt into the atmosphere, hoping we weren’t really seeing each other and ostensibly leave the event unscathed.

LA Webcast

INGREDIENTS:
Your favorite in-season tomato
Fresh basil
Fresh mozzarella from the deli. (I go to Monte Carlo in Burbank)
(If can’t get to store that has it, Bel Gioioso has packaged cheese that has a wonderful flavor and texture.)
Olive oil
Nice balsamic vinegar
Ingredients
STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS
Rather than topping your salad with oil and vinegar, Drizzle olive oil and balsamic on plate. It will give your presentation a cleaner look. (For a bigger presentation factor, I like breaking out a plate/bowl.)
 Base
Arrange with tomato, basil and mozzerella.
 Tomatoe and fresh ingredients
Top with more olive oil and cracked pepper. I provide my guests a small carafe of oil and vinegar so they can top how they like, but they got to see the nice presentation.

INSIDER’S TIP:
If tomatoes taste more like cardboard than tomatoes,  you can add a little salt to bring out the tomato flavor.

*LET ME HEAR YOUR BAR TALK

About an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took.

_________________________________________________________________________

In the fall of our senior year, SuperFoods introduced me to her group. They adopted me and Mutli-cam Maven, who was also a friend of SuperFoods. In the spring, I lost SuperFoods to the West Coast, where she was doing her semester “abroad” in our school’s Los Angeles program. The group continued the bi-weekly excursions, while I stuck to one night of dancing.

Kells EXT

Senior Year. It was my Freedom Year. I was no longer tied to Comicbook Crook and I was enjoying the single life. In the fall, I was introduced to Sissy K’s. We never went to the bar; we were always on the second floor, dancing at the club. It wasn’t just a fallback club; it was the club of choice. Every now and then, members of our tiny group persuaded the rest of us to go to places like The Kells, an Irish bar out in Allston with two levels of dancing. (The Kells had more a frat-boy-jock culture with mediocre music. I was not a fan.) We also tried a mixed ages club in Faneuil Hall, but it felt like everyone was in their 30s-40s, married and trying to reclaim their youth. Given we were still in college, even someone 5 years older seemed old. I realize now how ridiculous this is, especially since when I’m out dancing, I don’t care what those college kids think.

The memory of SuperFoods having to rescue me from the gargantuan man was still at the forefront of my mind. The Kells and the mixed-ages bar were not my favorite places, but they helped scrub that memory. Despite the bad experience, my love for Sissy K’s was undying. It had the best Top 40 dance music and a fun crowd. Besides, I had started wearing a fake engagement ring; it felt like I had protective shield around me.  If somebody started getting handsey, I’d point to the ring, smile and say, “My fiancé is okay with me going out dancing with my friends, he just wants me to be respectful.” Looking back on it, I can’t believe this seemed acceptable. Would I be okay dating a man that prohibits me from doing certain things? Certainly not, but, this was reasonable to a 22 year old me, and it was less confrontational than, “Get away from me I don’t want to talk/dance/have a drink with you.” Since then, I’ve refined my avoidance tactics…

  1. If my group isn’t close, find a group of women and dance with them.
  2. Tell him, “I’m going to go dance over there. Don’t come with me.”
  3. And a favorite, “I’m waiting for my boyfriend; he’s in the bathroom.”Sissy K's Dancing

During one trip to Sissy K’s I was dancing with this mini dude. I was in heals (which maybe made me 5’1″) and I was as tall as him. He reminded me of this short guy from my freshman year Tae Kwon Do class, who thought it was okay to pick me up and carry me like a doll. (What is it with men needing to do this?) Needless to say between this memory and my recent experience, I was on edge. When Mini Dude got handsey, he received  my long-winded explanation about the fake engagement ring. He stopped trying to grope me. When the song was over, I didn’t even say bye; I just danced over to my friends.

I stayed with the core group; about an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took. More than anything, I was happy to protect my friend. I danced and talked with the lanky boy; he never touched me. When the song was over I excused myself to return to my friends that were on the other side of the room. All of a sudden Mini Dude bounded in and was throwing punches. The crowd swarmed.

A taller person shoved me back, blocking me from my friends.

Where are the bouncers?

I was scared. I couldn’t see my friends and I was worried I was going to get trampled. When the bouncers finally got there and broke up the fight, my friends and I found each other. One was laughing. She turned to the group beaming, “See, I was right; it was Sarah.”

I was sheepish. “What are you talking about? Men don’t fight over a friend’s wing-woman. That’s all I am.” Nobody listened to my argument.

Mini-Dude and his alcohol-fueled small dog syndrome ruined the evening of dancing. We went home. On the way, we stopped at the Convenience store inside the dorm and picked up supplies for salsa con queso. We spent the rest of the night in, eating and watching a movie.

Even though salsa con queso was our food of choice, I do not have a bad association with it. In general, salsa con queso was a staple food among us. We’d eat it from a jar and when time allowed, we made it from scratch. We were aware of the calories, but didn’t particularly care. Besides, when you’re in your early twenties staying up late eating and waking up early to go work it off isn’t a big deal. More than anything, salsa con queso was a way for us to hang out. Unlike cake or donuts, you can’t take a plate of it back to your room and hide.

I’m judicious with how often I make this stuff now, but I stick to the dorm recipe.

Salsa con Queso

INGREDIENTS
1 12 oz. jar favorite chunky salsa. (We preferred Ortega medium.)
1 16 oz. pkg. Velveeta cheese cut in to cubes.
Tortilla chips

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

Microwave-Queso-Dip

Microwave:
1. In 1 ½ quart microwavable bowl, heat salsa and cheese at medium for 7 to 9 minutes.

2. Stir every minute or so until cheese melts and is well blended.

3. Serve with chips.
I now, prefer stop top because I have greater control over the heat.

Stove Top:
In saucepan, over medium-low heat, heat salsa and cheese, stirring constantly until cheese melts and is well blended.

*DORM COOKING – WASHING AWAY A NIGHT OF SKEEZY MEN

I shoved hard against his chest and kicked. When that didn’t work, I yelled at him to put me down. He did not put me down. He tried to take a kiss. I continued to push away and averted my face so my lips would be as far away from him as possible.

___________________________________________________________________________

Church camp helped rewrite my shaky inner-monologue and during senior year that inner-monologue continued to slough off. In large part this was because SuperFoods wouldn’t let me cloister myself away from irreverence. Hanging out and relaxing is natural for many people; for me it was not. But, with her constant encouragement, slowly, I was becoming comfortable with something as simple as hanging out. Bedroom Eyes started my affair with flirting and dancing, but they improved over time with SuperFoods’s continued to push to go out dancing at least one night a week. She didn’t need to push too much since I loved dancing. The problem was, I had done all of my sexy flirting dancing with a gay boy, so dancing and flirting with a straight guy was something I had to get used to.

I was excited about my growing flirting skills and wasn’t completely adept at using them. Clearly, this would take time too. Given my deep naiveté (as demonstrated with Guapo) and my diminutive size, my friends tried to look out for me. Standing at 4’ 11.5” I could easily get lost in a crowd, left behind (like they did at the Purple Shamrock) or just get into a situation.

sissy K's EXT

My friends recognized (and worried) that men gravitated towards me and acted like it was okay to do whatever they wanted because I’m small. Some men were more aggressive than others and I still needed to work on standing up for myself. One night while we were at Sissy K’s, I had the opportunity.

It didn’t work.

Sissy K’s was a bar in Faneuil Hall and our favorite place to dance. Shortly after arriving, the group splintered off and no sooner was there ten feet between us, one gargantuan man approached me with his friends and said he was going to pick me up. They were built like football players and looked like they had seen better days. He had a puffy face and bulbous nose, which I assumed was from drinking too much and his advanced age. With a bar that was predominantly college students and young professionals, he and his friends were by far the oldest there. I was scared, angry and incredulous that he thought his behavior was acceptable. I stood there and firmly told him, “DO NOT PICK ME UP.”

jack-facing-giant

He picked me up anyway.

I was horrified. I shoved hard against his chest and kicked. When that didn’t work, I yelled at him to put me down.

He did not put me down. He tried to take a kiss. I continued to push away and averted my face so my lips would be as far away from him as possible.

Where are the bouncers?

The giant’s friends laughed and continued to goad him on.

Why is this okay? Why me? I didn’t ask for this. I don’t even look that good.

SuperFoods hurried over. She looked so small below me. Copping her Brooklyn attitude, she only used  when necessary, she forced the giant to put me down. As soon he did, she yanked me away.

I was shaken up. She hugged me. We found our group of girls and she told them she was taking me home. On our way out, SuperFoods chastised the bouncers for doing a bang up job for protecting women against obtrusive drunk men. We walked home in almost complete silence and spent an evening in, cooking and eating.
I do not associate my recipe of the evening with the skeezy man; I associate with SuperFoods, our friendship and our shared passion for cooking.

DORM-STYLE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CREAM PIE

Without dating someone, I still needed my baking & cooking for love fix. Like an addict, I kept baking/cooking supplies around because “you just never know.” As luck would have it, I had supplies for a dorm version of my Church Camp Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie.

INGREDIENTS
1 pre-baked graham cracker crust
½ cup chopped salted peanuts
16oz can Reddi-Wip
8oz cream cheese
1 cup melted dark chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter

**Hairdryer

Ingredients

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

THE CRUST
1. Take cover off pie shell.
2. Spread ¼ cup peanut butter in shell as best as possible.
3. Turn hairdryer on to high heat and melt the peanut butter into the crust. This will also help spread the peanut butter and in turn make it more spreadable.

**If you need more peanut butter to get a micro coat on the whole shell, that’s fine. Take more from your jar and spread until satisfied. This is comfort food, after all.

THE FILLING
4. 
Using a wooden spoon beat the cream cheese until smooth.
5. Add remaining ¾ cup peanut butter, ½ cup melted chocolate chips, and ¼ cup roasted peanuts, beat together.

Cream Cheese Batter
6. Create a cream cheese bowl/cavern within the mixing bowl.
7. Spray in roughly 4 cups Reddi-Wip into the cavern.
8. Fold it into the peanut butter/chocolate mixture.

9. Spoon into the prepared pan.

Pie

THE REST
10. In your secret microwave, melt more chocolate chips on 10 second increments, mixing as you go and adding a judicious amount of milk (or Reddi-wip) to keep it moist.
11. Spoon chocolate syrup onto plates.
12. The pie hasn’t had time to set up, but cut it as best you can and put it on the chocolate pool.
13. Garnish with more Reddi-Wip and chopped peanuts.

Pie Final

MUCHO GUSTO (It’s nice to meet you)

I started senior year of college mainly feeling adrift. This lasted several months and was in large part due to spending so much time with Comicbook Crook the previous year. This resulted in a rift between many friends and me. I did manage to maintain TV production friendships, and like camp I was forced to be more outgoing. I could do this for meetings, but being inherently shy, I had to step into a more gregarious version of the camp me for social situations. Comicbook Crook had done a great job providing recorded criticism, so being a more confident me was not as easy as it sounds. Nonetheless, the modicum of confidence I had, enabled me to talk with my crushes.

There was the Canadian in my Public Relations class. . .
. . . and the tall one in my comedy class with the email: AmishDanceBeats
Then, there was the one from the TV studios. I loved that he knew the etymology of the ¾ inch tape. (It was ¾ inches wide.)

(This list sounds more glamorous when read in a Audrey Hepburn/Julia Ormond Sabrina voice. Further, I still can’t believe I was enamored with etymology of the ¾ inch tape.)

All these guys could potentially be THE ONE. And, because of this potential future they all possessed, even with my shaky inner monologue, I was feeling pretty good.

It was a crisp October afternoon, when I was walking through Boston Common to my Public Relations class on Comm Ave. I was rockin’ the L.L. Bean backpack/dark glasses look. I loved the class, plus I was going to see the cute Canadian (who I had yet to figure out was gay because he hadn’t shown me pictures of his ex-boyfriend).

boston_common Fall

I was in a rush.

Someone was talking over my shoulder, but this is a city, people are always talking.

The voice kept talking.

I was in my own world.

Oh, he’s talking to me!

I turned to the voice.

Wow. Latin American. He’s super cute.  

His English wasn’t so good, but we managed. He introduced himself as Guapo and commented how pretty I was.

Yay! 

He told me that he doesn’t make it to the city often and needed directions to get back to the Orange Line. (I rarely took the Orange Line and was flummoxed that he thought I was pretty. I gave him directions, but I’m not sure how accurate they were.) Then it hit, me, if he thinks I’m pretty now, what if I took my glasses off and showed him my green eyes! I’ve received many complements on them, so I lowered my dark glasses and flased a smile.

We set up a dinner date for Friday at California Pizza Kitchen. It was convenient for me and I still thought he lived close by.

We sat in the crowded restaurant, staring at our menus and made small talk.

Very small talk.

I don’t remember his English being this poor.

In my rudimentary conversational Spanish, I learned he was originally from El Salvador and moved to Somerville, MA with his mom, grandma and sisters.

The waitress came by. She gave her waitress spiel. Guapo gave her blank stare. Clearly, he didn’t understand. I translated in my crude Connecticut high school Spanish and continued to interpret between the two for the remainder of the evening. We eventually ordered our personal pizzas. He got barbeque chicken and I ordered their Mexican Pizza. (Hey, I was trying to be inclusive. This was the closest thing they had to El Salvadorian food. I’d later learn more “traditional” Mexican pizzas resemble a flat taco.)
Mexican Flag

Despite our difficulty to have intellectually riveting conversation, the date wasn’t completely bad. Mainly, I was excited I had a date with someone who actually liked the way I looked rather than pointing out my imperfections the way my rapist did. We made plans to see each other again.

Our second date Guapo came over to watch a movie. My shared suite had a common room, but we opted for more privacy. I took Guapo into my bedroom to watch 10 Things I Hate About You.

10-things-i-hate-about-you

I love Romantic-Comedies s and really wanted to see how Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew was adapted to film. I spent more time fending off advances than watching the movie. The kissing was okay, but between his grabbyness and his tongue ring, it too much for my inexperience. As we got closer, I felt something I had never felt before.

One of his front teeth was outlined with gold!

I guess it’s a cultural thing. 

Friends have since corrected me, “No, it’s a player thing.”

For a number of years I blamed myself for Guapo mauling me, rationalizing, “I guess some people take ‘watch a movie’ as a euphemism for ‘get busy.’” Now, I’d just say he is an asshole.

That afternoon, I was way in over my head. When I realized Guapo’s motives, I should’ve escorted him out of the dorm immediately, but being polite and naïve, I wasn’t sure how to navigate this. I wanted everything to stop. I hated the situation I was in and did the best I could to readjust my expectations of him and add barriers to prevent sex.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, I heard the suite door open. SuperFoods said hello to an empty room and I eagerly ran to greet her. Guapo followed. The three of us talked for a bit. I’m sure she could tell my discomfort. I pointed out it was late, I needed to do school work and SuperFoods and I had dinner plans that night. I walked Guapo downstairs and signed him out.

When I came back, SuperFoods asked what I was doing with Guapo. Growing up in a city and with more experience of reading people, she probably saw the predatory aspect that I didn’t see. My parents taught my sister and me to love everyone. And I believed everyone deserved a chance at love. Somewhere, I forgot the caveat, “don’t give love to a loser.”

That afternoon was the last time I saw Guapo and I was glad for it. The next time he came to the city and tried to make plans with me, I was busy. I think I was washing my hair.

MEXICAN PIZZA
As I prepared the meal, I realized that this was likely the inspiration for another culturally insensitive meal, “Latin Fusion Pasta.

INGREDIENTS
Favorite pre-made cheese pizza
½ medium green bell pepper  (chopped in large pieces)
½ medium red bell pepper (chopped in large pieces)
¼ medium sweet white onion (chopped in large pieces)
½ cup mozzarella
2 Tablespoons tequila
Couple springs Cilantro  (chopped)

Ingredients Best

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven according to package directions.
  2. On a low heat, heat oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add onion.
  3. Cook onion about one minute.
  4. Add peppers. Another two minutes. (You want them still almost raw.)
    Veggies
  5. Add tequila. Stir rapidly. Remove from heat (take it off the burner).
  6. Grab pizza from the freezer, remove from packaging and put on pizza stone or cookie sheet.
  7. With your favorite kitchen spoon, spoon peppers and tequila on top of pizza.
  8. Spread evenly.
  9. Top with mozzarella.
  10. Cook for allotted time packaging recommends.
  11. While pizza is cooking cut up cilantro using kitchen scissors.

**Ideally, you would add cilantro as soon as the pizza comes out of the oven so it sinks into the cheese. Cilantro is a divisive herb. (Some people think it taste like soap.) If you’re unsure of your guests, put the cilantro in a separate dish, and let them add it themselves.

Mexican Pizza

MEXICAN PIZZA: Red, white and green, like the Mexican flag AND it has tequila! (A close fascimile to what I had at CPK.) Yes, I realize the racism.

AN OVER-ACHIEVER’S PRE-GAMING

Lacking experience in balancing dating, friends, school and co-curriculars, I didn’t see my friendships unraveling, not to mention, the perfect senior year. Looking back on it, I was a bit myopic.

When my parents were my age, they were living in married student housing. I didn’t expect to be married, but when dreaming of senior year of college, I did not expect my year to start the way it did.

I lost the majority of my small group of friends due to my commitment to school work, to “be the perfect girlfriend” to Comicbook Crook and my deep allegiance to select TV organizations. Interestingly, it is this involvement that kept my friendships within the TV community going. It is also through one of these organizations that I became acquainted with future roommate, SuperFoods. In the spring of my junior year, A&E invited me to join her and some other girls to request a suite of six single rooms. We were accepted.

Senior year. It’s not how I pictured it. Not only did I dump my first real boyfriend, my dancing partner left me for a college in Seattle, WA. Without Bedroom Eyes, who was I going to dance with?

Dance - 2 Gettin w it

 

I entered senior year, with no boyfriend, no dancing partner and living in a suite with virtual strangers.

In an instant all these problems were dwarfed.

Senior year was punctuated with the September Eleventh attacks.

It was Tuesday at 9:15am and I was brushing my teeth in preparation for my 10am sketch comedy class. I could hear my TV across the narrow hall. For some reason, Good Morning America was still on; I went to investigate. The reporters were trying to make sense of everything. Charlie Gibson was talking with Don Dahler, who was calling in from his cell. Dahler, a seasoned war correspondent was always rock steady. He was not rock steady that morning— The panic in his voice scared me more than not knowing what was going on. I was held captive by my television, listening to the conversation between him and Gibson. I needed to stay. I couldn’t stay. My studious nature went into over-drive and I went to class. When I arrived, we were trying to wrap our heads around a plane accidentally flying into the World Trade Center. As classmates trickled in there was another plane crash….

 

… And then another.

 

Classes were canceled.

Soon, the entire school, commuters and residents alike were in the commissary and dormitories. We gathered around each other, eating ridiculous amounts of the comfort food the kitchen was cooking for us. . .  mac n cheese, tuna melts, ice cream.

The only thing that could silence a city so quickly would be a national tragedy.

This was it.

I walked through Boston in a haze with my suitemates and their friends. I have never experienced anything so quiet and hollow. The haunting silence loomed over the city from which American Airlines Flight #11 and United Airlines Flight #175 departed.

 

Senior year… It’s not how I pictured it. When a plane flew close to the ground, I ducked and covered almost all the time.

 

I was terrified.

 

I remained steadfast in my hyper-academic focus, but when tensions started to ease, SuperFoods insisted I have fun—

“It is your Senior year, you don’t want to study all the time.”

I have always studied all the time. I’ve done this since I started getting homework in the third grade.

But, I liked the taste of irreverence SuperFoods and her friends provided. Over the next year, her friends became my friends too. SuperFoods gave me a solid goal— DANCING. I studied harder during the week so I could have more balance and fun on the weekend. During senior year I gave Friday or Saturday to SuperFoods and the other evening was reserved for studying.

We tried to be normal carefree college kids. In the early months after 9-11-01, things weren’t normal. Nerves were exposed. People drank and danced in a fog. It was masquerade. No matter where you were, it seemed each evening ended with Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A.. During one of these excursions we went to The Purple Shamrock. A guy I was dancing with had a connection to the bartender; I could have anything I wanted.

Purple Shamrock

May I have some water please?

I told a group member where I was going. I learned a very important lesson that night— Assess how drunk your friends are and tell the most responsible one where you’re going.

I was at the bar talking with this guy and enjoying my water. I looked up and didn’t see my friends. I declined an escort home and resolved to walk back to the dorms by myself. I made it to the street, and SuperFoods and Mermaid Linden were there to rescue me. Thank goodness responsible R.A. Mermaid Linden had decided to join us that night. When she did a head count and saw I wasn’t there, she brought the group back to retrieve me. SuperFoods told me I should’ve never trusted that other girl. Going forward, I never allowed us to go back to The Purple Shamrock and if I had to leave the safety of the group, I made sure I told SuperFoods where I was going.

I missed Bedroom Eyes, his friendship and the rhythm we had on the floor. I carried his teachings with me. When SuperFoods, friends, et al would go out, I danced to the feel of the music. Guys. Girls. I didn’t care who I was dancing with as long as I was dancing. And, if I fancied the guy I was dancing with, I would break out the eyes. The first guy I did that to kissed me! Holy smokes, I was not prepared. But, I kinda liked it. When I felt comfortable with my dance partner, The Eyes became my signature move. I turned down each invite to “continue the party somewhere else.” The only person I ever went home with was SuperFoods.

I was regaining the confidence Comicbook Crook stripped from me and getting confidence that was akin to a better version of me.

Before a night of dancing, the girls would come over and pre-game.  I had pushed myself so hard during the week, I was usually exhausted. My gaming started around 9pm.

It was coffee.

 

FAIL-SAFE PRE-GAMING RECIPE

You know that coffee pot that you’re not supposed to have in the dormitories? Yeah, that one.Mr. Coffee

  1. Brew yourself a full pot (two 10oz mugs).
  2. Have half a mug doctored however you want.
  3. Take a 20 minute power nap.
  4. Wake up and pound the rest of the now tepid/cold beverage.
  5. Splash some water on your face.
  6. Microwave the second mug of coffee.
 Doctor to your liking.
  7. Start drinking.
  8. Brush and style your hair.
  9. Apply makeup while finishing your coffee.
  10. Put on your club clothes.
  11. Grab money, keys and all necessary forms of I.D. (Due to my height and baby face I had to carry several as nobody believed I was over 21.)
  12. Go out.Coffee adbd Makeup

*MY VERY FIRST BREAKUP DINNER (AND A SIDE OF POTATO SALAD)

I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

________________________________________________________________________________

It’s not real life, but I with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change.

Sigh.

Will he?

I don’t know. My mantra was losing conviction.

I tried so hard.

I tried so hard to make him love me.

I tried so hard to love him.

I tried so hard to undo what he did in that hotel room.

I was tired. I was tired of trying. Comicbook Crook had his good points. And I firmly believed everyone deserves to be loved. (I believe that to this day.) I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

I was at a loss for what to do. When confronting breaking up, many follow their heart. I couldn’t do that. I trusted the thing I understood most. I reasoned with my head and made a list.

List

By the time I was shipping Comicbook Crook Brownies in Box, I had already stopped working at summer camp to spend more time with my family before my move to Los Angeles. I stayed home and worked for my mom this summer as well.

My mom gave me the book 10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives written by the incomparable Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Coming from my very liberal mother, you knew she was desperate. I read the book. While I didn’t agree with the conservative rhetoric or Schlessinger’s view point, there were truths that one could grab on to… like break up with idiot boyfriends.

I wasn’t keen hurting Comicbook Crook’s feelings and wasn’t quite sure I could stomach breaking up with him.

Maybe staying with him won’t be so bad. That way I won’t hurt his feelings.

He may have been dense, but he knew I wasn’t happy. He added to my summer reading list: Are You The One For Me by Barbara De Angelis, PhD. With conviction, he said, “It’s how my dad decided he should marry Jane. (She would never be a step-mother and only his dad’s second wife.)

I read two chapters.

One list, one book and two chapters of another, I had resolve with what I should do.

His July visit was around the corner and it coincided perfectly with his half-birthday. While most don’t celebrate half-birthdays, the Crook’s mother got him in the habit of celebrating them as his birthday is December 26. I was delighted, after a long search, I had finally found that blasted Transformers comic he had been looking for.

The visit was filled with ups and downs. Squabbles. Weirdness from him.

Did I ever mention Comicbook Crook like comics…. And sci-fi and fantasy? Well, he did. Xena: Warrior Princess was one of his favorite shows. In the early evening, in a moment of unquantifiable geekdome, he insisted on transforming his Nissan Altima into the ultimate fan car. To do this, he would pry the M & A off so the car read, Nissan Alti. He rationalized a true fan would appreciate the nod to Alti, (the Siberian Amazon Sameness that taught Xena her evil ways).

Alti

My parents held dinner.

Half an hour later, Crook still wasn’t done. Apparently, Nissan used some super strong glue for the letters on their car.

No kidding.

I was growing increasingly impatient with his behavior. He told me he wouldn’t come in until he had successfully pried the M & A off, so I left him outside while I ate dinner with my parents.

Eventually, he came in. We were already done.

nissan altima

The next day, Comicbook Crook kept trying to keep me to himself. I was annoyed. 

My family graciously invites you to their home and this is how you act?

We had more conversations. I let him know I was dissatisfied. He assured me that this was just a bump in dating.

On his second to last night I took him to celebrate his half-birthday. Before dessert, I presented him with his (parting) gifts. While I had found and purchased most of the gifts before I convinced myself breaking up was necessary, the gifts in large part were to assuage my guilt.
At least I’m doing one nice last thing for him.

The next day, he had to go back home. While we were saying goodbye, he said he wanted to work on things. I blurted out, “I just can’t take it anymore.” And like that, it was over.

I was sad but deeply relieved I managed to get through breaking up with him. He drove away. I went inside to have dinner and told my parents what happened. They tried to be sympathetic, but I’m pretty sure I caught my mom smiling.

Mom had made her famous potato salad for the Crook’s visit. She’s accustomed to making it for a party, so as often happens if she makes it for the family of four, we had extra. I had two helpings and nothing more.

Plated

That night was a milestone. And with each forkful, I celebrated I was gaining myself back.

POTATO SALAD (for 4)

INGREDIENTS:
4 Organic Russet Potatoes
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
3 Eggs
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Purple Onion. (Purple onions are sweet, and add some extra color)

Ingredients

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Put onion in a bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with cold water.
  4. Wash, Peel, and wash potatoes again.
  5. Put potatoes in cold water. This will help them from oxidizing.
  6. Slice potatoes down vertical axis and then again the wide way. Pieces should be approximately 1 inch square or larger, but roughly the same size.Diced Potatoes
  7. Put back in cold water.
  8. When all potatoes are cubed, cover pot, put on burner and set to medium heat.
  9. Cook 20 minutes.
  10. Put eggs in a small pot of cold water. Cook 8-10 minutes.
  11. Timer will go off.
    1. Check potatoes. They should be tender. If your fork doesn’t slide in easily or they still taste starchy cook slightly longer.
    2. The eggs should be done. You want them hard-boiled. Take a slotted spoon. Remove one egg and spin it.
    3. (If the egg does not spin, it’s not done and needs to be cooked more. This egg is done.)
  12. When potatoes are done drain into a colander.*
  13. When eggs are done, carefully pour out hot water and fill pot with cold water (to stop cooking process)
  14. Put potatoes in a large bowl. Let cool about 5 minutes.
  15. Add: ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, and salted onions. Gently mix.
  16. Peel eggs.
  17. Chop eggs into large pieces.Potato Salad
  18. Add eggs to potatoes. Gently mix.
  19. Cover and put in refrigerator.

Potato Salad Mixed

*COOK’S TIP:
I like catching the water from my potatoes so I can use it to for vegetable stock later.