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.
___________________________________________________

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.

 

 

SPIRIT GUIDE, A NEW FRIEND, A NEW ADVENTURE

The clicks and dings of the free AOL Dialup Fax crawled through the air as my resume traveled from my PC to Paramount Pictures. It felt like this fax was taking longer than normal. I couldn’t be late for my LNT job, but I was convinced if I didn’t get my resume in right then, I’d lose the opportunity to interview. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone else taking my potential job.

________________________________________________________________

I was on my way to becoming an adult. After finishing my semester “abroad” I had secured an apartment on my own. From the suggestion of TV Trenches, I was working at Linen N Things (LNT) and was able to make rent and pay bills. I was happy to be working, but when you move across the country to work in entertainment, there’s a difference between working and working in Hollywood.Looking for a Job - Cardboard Box

Before bed, I sent an email to an alumni group, explaining I wanted to get my foot in the door at an entertainment company. When I woke up I had an email from Spirit Guide. She was a Paramount Page; they were hiring. Not knowing who I was, she told me to fax my resume in and she’d vouch for me. I would never put my name on the line for a complete stranger, but here Spirt Guide was doing just that.

I thought I was going to cry.

The clicks and dings of the free AOL Dialup Fax crawled through the air as my resume traveled from my PC to Paramount Pictures. It felt like this fax was taking longer than normal. I couldn’t be late for my LNT job, but I was convinced if I didn’t get my resume in right then, I’d lose the opportunity to interview. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone else taking my potential job.

Shortly after that morning, LNT had a fourth round of  layoffs, which I was part of. I continued to look for work. Weeks dragged on. I was stretching my severance, but I hadn’t heard from Paramount and the severance money was virtually dried up. That’s when I got an interview at a European Canadian Co-Production Company. After the interview they handed me a script and asked me to submit coverage (essentially a book report). I turned it in the following Monday and was offered a job assisting the Development Department. A couple days passed and I was informed I’d be assisting the president because the current assistant was leaving.

Swimming with SharksI was excited for the new work and the full time employment, but that position turned into one of my worst jobs.

Ever!

I gained immeasurable weight, my skin broke out and I was always on the verge of tears. One day the president would berate me if I asked a question. The next day I wouldn’t ask a clarifying question and when I screwed up, he’d berate me for not asking a question. The following day I needed to protect myself, so I asked clarifying questions. He would eviscerate me for asking questions.

On one of the particularly terrible days, the Paramount Page program called. They were setting up interviews.

Thank you Spirit Guide!

The interview would be in June. My heart sank. I couldn’t go; I’d be in CT for my sister’s wedding. I apologized and tried to reschedule. They told me not to worry; there would be another round in August.
In my August Interview, I wore the Talbot’s power suit my parents and grandparents gave me several Christmas prior. I was ready.
Power Suit
Except, I was not. This was not some one on one interview. Fifty of us were in one of the original RKO screening rooms and we had to get up in front of the people we were competing with and explain why we’d be good at the job. I was more nervous explaining my assets in front of my peers than speaking publicly. I talked about college, my love of the entertainment industry and gave examples of leadership skills from church camp (such as leading night hikes and camp fire songs), and was careful to leave off the church part.
My work to be a less shy version of my high school self paid off— I got one of the coveted jobs.

I needed to do something nice for Spirit Guide. I couldn’t afford lunch, but thought coffee would work. She told me that she didn’t drink coffee.

Who doesn’t drink coffee?

Paramount Water TowerApparently, Spirit Guide. She countered with ice cream from the on-lot convenience store. Since there were no toppings, I even threw in a Coke. We ate our ice cream underneath the Paramount Water Tower. Over our snack we talk about goals. We both were aspiring TV writers. She told me I needed a writing group and invited me to join her’s. She explained it was mainly a collection of college friends who were writing majors. She named names and despite all of us having the same writing degree from the same small college, I didn’t know any of them. Again, I was blown away by her generosity. Apparently, this is who Spirit Guide was, a genuine person who likes helping people. Despite all the new people I met at church, she was the first person I really connected with that I didn’t know before my move to Los Angeles. I was so excited to know her and grateful for her help.

 

It was a simple bowl of ice cream for a simpler (more broke) time. But, one can still make an epic sundae from a convenience store with no official sundae toppings.

At a convenience store (like the Water Tower Cafe), you have plenty of crumbled cookie options, various candies and even fresh bananas. If you prefer to drink your snack, there is always a root beer float! If I wanted a sundae, the me of today would not be stymied by no official sundae bar. I’d insist that Spirit Guide and I throw caution to the wind and create a calorie-laden treat.

*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.
___________________________________________________________________

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.)

*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

*VALENTINE’S LOBSTER SPECIAL ON A BUDGET

I was more excited about Part Two of our Valentine’s Day celebration. It would have the romance that we needed—  We would be celebrating it in the suburbs at his mother’s house.

_________________________________________________________________

Similar to the myriad of books Cosby Sweater’s mother had about raising a genius child, he too liked collecting. He had an abundance of comicbooks. Having a baseball card collection that included early tobacco cards, I respected the effort it takes to build a collection. But, this collection was a little too intense. The floor of his bedroom was devoted to many, MANY, banker boxes of books. They weren’t just willy-nilly organized. No, he had a spreadsheet in FileMaker. I took scrupulous mental notes of what he needed. It was safe bet to give him a comicbook for an event where giving gift is customary, especially if you paid attention. And, I did.

Clearly, collecting was a passion. While I didn’t share his enthusiasm for conventions or have the desire to be in a crowd, when a convention came to Boston my junior year, I went with him.  This was my first and only convention, but I saw this as an important step to learn about my man.

Oh boy, did I learn! When he didn’t want to pay the sticker price on a comic, he’d find a comic (at the same vendor) with a cheaper tag, skillfully remove the sticker and put it on the comic he wanted. I told him he was stealing. He argued the vendor was still getting his money, so he wasn’t. Marvel and DC couldn’t have written a better transformation. Right before my eyes Cosby Sweater assumed the villainous identity of Comicbook Crook. I naively hoped he’d stop stealing, but after each convention he’d gloat and show me what discount he took. I believed I had the power to change him through love.

Yes, I earnestly believed if I loved him enough, I could turn him into the man I needed, one who would be more loving (and who wouldn’t steal).  Love can conquer a lot of things, but it doesn’t conquer all, like rewriting history or changing someone’s moral fabric.

From the time I learned about his unsavory behaviors to Valentine’s Day, with my generous helping of love and affection I was still hoping he would change. He did not. But, my frustration was slightly reduced by one simple fact.

It was Valentine’s Day and I had a boyfriend!

Happy Heart

I put on my favorite jeans, ruby crushed velvet shirt and healed boots for our romantic date. Then, I bundled up to go outside. That year, we had a “wintery mix” of ice and slush on the roads. But, that didn’t stop our romantic walk to dinner. While jaywalking is customary in Boston, he neglected to remember I was navigating ice and slush in heals. We had lost our walk signal, but without hesitation, he hauled me off the curb and I stumbled into the intersection and was forced to race oncoming traffic. Clearly, he wasn’t accustomed to having someone on Valentine’s Day either.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Nearly twisting an ankle while trying to look feminine for an oblivious boyfriend. He couldn’t figure out why I was frustrated. But, we made it to the over-crowed restaurant where we waited half an hour for our reservation.

This was not like the romantic Valentine’s Day dinners you see in movies.

I was more excited about Part Two of our Valentine’s Day celebration. It would have the romance that we needed—  We wold be celebrating it in the suburbs at his mother’s house.

After giving him the wrong Book 2 of one of the many Transformers series for Christmas, I decided on something easier and scrapped together money for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. I purchased a solitary Maine lobster. When we got home from the store, I put the lobster in the kitchen sink. Comicbook Crook peered in and named our dinner Pinchy. I’ve never named my dinner, but I thought it was a very clever name and was happy my boyfriend was so creative. While I poured through recipes, trying to figure out how to expand a lobster for one into a grand dinner for two, Comicbook Crook conversed with our meal, always referring to it by name, Pinchy.

loster in a sink

I brought a giant pot of water to a raging boil and suggested he step away so scalding water didn’t splash him when I put the lobster in. Comicbook Crook insisted he wanted to watch and learn. He said goodbye to the lobster. Then I plunged it head first into the boiling water. No sooner had I covered the pot, from the corner of my eye, I saw Comicbook Crook streak away. I found him in the dark dining room perched on a stool, crying.

A wave of emotions swept over me.

 

 

It was mostly anger.

Comicbook Crook was ruining my very first Valentine’s Day. What the hell!? I was the hatchet man for our lobster, yet I was consoling an innocent bystander. I explained the lobster was killed in the most humane way possible. I smiled and through clenched teeth told him I loved him and wished him a Happy Valentine’s Day.

I served our meal with heart-shaped toast points. Being sure that there wasn’t any crust in sight, I ate all of them for my appetizer.

Dinner Plated

My very first Valentine’s Day being part of a couple wasn’t great, but it was memorable. A few months later, I got to relive the memories while Comicbook Crook and I were watching “The Simpsons.” Homer came into possession of a lobster and named it Pinchy.

My anger was reborn.

Not only was the message of “don’t name your food” lost on Comicbook Crook, my clever boyfriend wasn’t clever at all. He had to steal the name Pinchy, much like he stole my virginity or the way he stole comicbooks.Home Cries - Pinchy in pot

The entitlement Comicbook Crook had of taking things that weren’t his bothered me, but blatant plagiarism offended me to the core. Unsavory attributes were building up. While I was gaining more self awareness, I kept trying to come up with reasons to stay together, which was becoming harder and harder to do. Nonetheless, I had made a large emotional investment and wasn’t ready to let this one go.

_______________________________________________________________

What I made for that dinner landed somewhere between lobster thermidor and lobster bisque. While the original recipe took my favorite ingredients of the two dishes from, The Joy of Cooking, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, the recipe below is modified from a Lobster Thermidor Recipe from AllRecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
1 medium (1 1/2 pound) cooked lobster
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
¼ cup white wine (I prefer something sweet like Moscato)
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (can replace with Guyere)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

ingewiwnra

Alternates:
Add sprig fresh thyme
Or 1 pinch coarsely ground nutmeg… If you’re adding nutmeg, leave out the parsley.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook your lobster. To do this- Bring a large pot of water to a ranging boil. Add salt (about a table spoon). Put your lobster in head first and cover. Cook 15 minutes. Remove when lobster is bright red. (For more lobster cooking tips go to localfoods.about.com)
    how-to-cook-lobster-1
  2. In a large saucepan over a low heat, melt butter. Caramelize the shallots. This takes will take a long time. (This is when it’s good to have a glass of wine going.) It feels like it’s taking forever, but that’s because it is. Don’t worry about it. You’re pulling out the stops, it’s Valentine’s Day. As the shallots brown, stir more frequently.
    cooking with wine
  3. Mix in the vegetable stock and white wine. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add heavy cream, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper.
  5. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. This is a reduction sauce; again, patience is mandatory.Cream sauce
  6. Remove meat from lobster and cut into pieces slightly bigger than bite-size.
  7. Add lobster meat and Parmesan cheese to mixture. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    simmer cream sauce

*Note: If your cream sauce is not thickening, in a seperate bowl mix 1 teaspoon corn starch with ¼ cup vegetable stock. Slowly add to your to skillet. It will thicken up. Continue cooking without a lid.

TIPS:
Variations on a theme: Serve with toast points, powdered biscuits or wrap in crepes.

Serve the dish with a lemon wedge. (Click here to learn more about the traditions and reasons why lemon and seafood are paired together.)

With all the cream and the richness of the lobster, I prefer to pair this dish with a wilted spinach salad. It complements the cream sauce while giving your eyes something more to look than just a plate of white food. To enhance the flavor, I top the salad with lemon zest.
wilted spinach salad

Budget 3-4 hours for this dish. While relatively easy, all the chopping, boiling and slow cooking makes for a time-consuming meal. Again, it’s Valentine’s Day. Go big or go home.

*MOMMY’S CRUST-LESS GRILLED CHEESE (How to enable childlike behavior with an adult child)

The first time I made him breakfast he delicately removed the crusts from his perfectly toasted toast and pushed them the side of the plate. After already being scolded for how I made his hot cocoa, I decided to venture a query. __________________________________________________________________ When my grandma met Cosby Sweater, she mused the 25-year-old was still attached to his mother’s apron strings. Sure, Mommy’s bookcase was loaded with titles like, “What to do When Your Child is a Genius” and “Gifted: Raising a Genius Child.” She may have even been suffering from “knight in shining armor syndrome” after Cosby Sweater rescued her from the dragon of his father by calling the cops during a dispute. Sure, he was a mama’s boy, but I NEVER would have said he was attached to her apron strings. (That would be blasphemous, even if it was true.) In my early twenties I understood the financial benefits of living at home after graduating college, but Cosby Sweater still acted like a pre-adolescent. It was incomprehensible he was deemed ready for a new chapter of life. I did what was expected. He expected me to treat him the way his mom did: Like a child. I laugh, now. When you’re young (and sometimes past young) you think you’re supposed to be the caregiver. I admit, it took some time to learn this. Eventually, my friends made me get a cat to focus my giving energy. But, in my junior year of college I thought this was acceptable. Lacking dating experience, I thought it was acceptable to spend as much of your free time with your significant other as possible. After Friday dinner with friends, I often left Boston. Spending the weekend at Mommy’s house was easier than sharing a narrow dorm bed. Plus, my roommate would appreciate it; she and her boyfriend had the room to themselves. I was a diligent packer: homework, clothes, contact lens solution, toothbrush… One Fall visit, while getting ready for bed, I realized I forgot to pack a key component: Something to sleep in. Shoot. Mommy, being generous offered to lend a nightgown. I didn’t like the idea of sleeping in someone else’s pajamas, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. (Besides, what choice did I have?) She led me to her secondary dresser— It was brimming with floor-length nightgowns. I could have my pick. I wanted a career in theater/entertainment for most of my life. By the time I was twenty I had read Oedipus Rex half-a-dozen times. This is seriously screwed up. Despite their dynamic, Mommy was no dummy. I chose a heather grey, long-sleeve, flannel number. It had a white lace bib with little lace cuffs. Flannel Nihtgown Doudy New England is chilly for at least six months of the year and the nightgown was so warm and comfortable, I never considered bringing my own sleepwear again and Cosby Sweater never asked me to. (Point for mom.) Looking back on it, I’m sure this was due to a passive-aggressive rationale: “If I lend her a nightgown, it’ll be like a chastity belt, and my son won’t touch her.” She was wrong.                                   Point for me. I’d stay in the nightgown through breakfast. I love Saturday breakfast. Since I was a morning person, I’d wake up, have coffee and do homework while Cosby Sweater slept. Several hours later, I would nudge him awake. I started my second cup of coffee and made him hot cocoa Can you make hot cocoa wrong? I found a way. Apparently my hot cocoa making skills were so poor, he found it necessary to “edumacate” me how to properly mix Swiss Miss Cocoa. “First empty powder into the mug. Then slowly add some milk while mixing. When you have a syrup, that’s when you add the hot water from the tea kettle. Mix constantly.” (I was not allowed to microwave the water; it had to come from the duck teak kettle. Duck Tea Kettle Even with his very specific directions, I still couldn’t get the hot cocoa right, the way Mommy made it. After sustaining multiple critiques during our early dating, eventually I gave up and let him make the hot cocoa himself. While not wanting criticism, I reasoned this was a good way for him to participate in the breakfast making process— It was so domestic to be cooking together! Swiss-Miss-Hot-Chocolate-1024x717 Saturday breakfast was usually some kind of eggs and toast. The first time I made him breakfast he delicately removed the crusts from his perfectly toasted toast and pushed them the side of the plate. After already being scolded for how I made his hot cocoa, I decided to venture a query. “Why don’t you eat your crusts?” I don’t east crusts. “How can it be crusty? It’s Wonder Bread” I was perturbed, but lacked experience dealing with man-child behavior, so I didn’t push a change. I added it in his Idiosyncrasies List. Today, if I dated a man with this quirk, and I cared about him enough, I’d ridicule and tease him until he learned to eat his crusts. If he has other “quirks,” that are equally annoying or worse, I’d break it off. But, I was in my early twenties, so I ate Cosby Sweater’s crusts. I’m not sure how many pounds I gained from this practice. Lunch was also on Wonder Bread. Even with all her errands, Mommy would come back for lunch. One day she used the opportunity to teach me her famous Crust-less Grilled Cheese. Between her nightgown and the new recipe, she was turning me into a version of herself. A new version of me that would be more appropriate for her son. Her brother died from a heart attack at the age of 45, so she made grilled cheese in the toaster oven. Trying to keep lunch heart healthy, it’s still a mystery why she buttered both sides of the bread. This near Ivy-League educated woman seemed to think toasting the sandwich was healthier than frying it. It would be healthier IF the sandwich were simply toasted, but with buttered bread, the sandwich still had the saturated fat just as if she fried it. I didn’t want over-step. I was determined to learn this family recipe. She pre-heated the toaster oven while delicately cutting the crusts off the sandwiches. She put the sandwich on the tray, toasted it and when it was perfectly golden, she flipped it. When the sandwich was done, she removed it from the toaster oven, cut in quarters and served it. (Yes, the 25-year-old-man-child wanted his crusts cut off and sandwiches quartered.) Unlike my toast, Cosby Sweater ate the whole sandwich.

Grilled Cheese in Quarters

I’m doing a wheat cleanse and nobody on Pintrest makes grilled cheese without crusts.

Somehow I compartmentalized these behaviors. I didn’t see the cumulative affect they were having on me, our relationship, or my waist. I’m seriously glad that I don’t have to deal with his crust-less lifestyle any longer, and Heaven help me if I date another man that drinks hot cocoa on a semi-regular basis. I’ll tell you this much, I won’t stick around long enough to try out a breakfast recipe. MY HEALTHY GRILLED CHEESE INGREDIENTS: Bread Cheese STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS: Preheat your toaster oven/oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. (If you’re using a full-size oven, line sheet tray with parchment paper.) Lay out your favorite bread. Add cheese. Top with another layer of bread. Bake. When you have reached desired toast color, carefully flip. Resume toasting. When it’s done, take it out. Let it rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cut to desired size. (I promise I won’t ridicule you if you quarter it.)   ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Not only did Mommy inspire me to incorporate a healthy baked grilled cheese into my life, I have found the toaster oven method is ideal for grilled cheese and tomato as you can get the cheese to melt more slowly without burning the bread.

*THE BIG SANDWICH – A CAMPING ADVENTURE

Cosby SweaterMost people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

———————————————————

I dove into the deep end dating Cosby Sweater and did the best I could with my limited dating experience. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all the “norms” of an adult relationship. But again, I had no hymen and harbored the desire to make sex with him special. Even though there was something “off” about my first sexual experience, my conscious mind did not make the connection that it was date rape.  I had planned I would give my virginity to my husband or the man that would be my husband, so I tried to rectify this sexual experience. And yes, I now realize this was insane, but mind you, I was thinking I was going to spend the rest of my life with this guy…

…or at least make it more special than a one night stand.

There was a month left of school before Cosby Sweater would graduate. One month to organize the chaos. One month to make something happen. In that month while dealing with all this new stuff, I gladly took on the caregiver role he was seeming to require. I was twenty and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

While we worked through early relationship kinks, we got to know each other in the traditional where are you from sense.

What was your childhood like?

“One time when my dad was beating up Mom, I had to call the police. The cops came and took him away. After he moved out, Mom divorced him. I saw him on weekends.”

Even prior to Cosby Sweater interceding on his mom’s behalf, it seemed he had always been a target of his father’s criticism. Calling the cops only further complicated their relationship. Anything in Cosby Sweater’s life was up for critique, including me.

Cosby Sweater was 5 feet 7 inches, 126 pounds; I was 4 feet 11 inches, 135 pounds. I was happy to still be shedding my freshman weight, but not happy to outweigh my boyfriend. Body image issues continued with his consistent reminders of his father’s potential criticisms, in addition to my writing major being a poor decision, my complexion was a favorite topic. Pointing out zits, Cosby Sweater gave them sound effects, like the sound of popcorn popping.

Seriously?

A boyfriend is supposed to give you complements, not point out shortcomings that are out of your control.

His observations (and sound effects) hurt my feelings. But, I rationalized and put it under “Idiosyncrasies I Need to Get Used To.”

Cosby Sweater

Most people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

I kept hoping moments with Cosby Sweater would get better. The twenty-year-old me was thinking he was preparing me for judgment of his father. I’ve since realized he learned how to judge and communicate the way his father did. I thought I could love him into the man I knew he could be. And while loving him into the man I knew he could be, the pride of having an honest-to-goodness boyfriend I could love outweighed any critique he could dish out. (Besides, I was still trying to make my first sexual experience mean something.) Cosby Sweater accepted my love and affection. He seemed to think he was justified in his actions. I was not perfect. My skin was not perfect. I was a poor example of quality girlfriend. Cosby Sweater seemed to worry that his father would think he wasn’t perfect either.

Sure enough, when I Mr. Cosby Sweater and step-mom during Graduation Weekend my “poor choice” of major and bad skin came up. On some level I respected Mr. Cosby Sweater wanted the best for his son, but was more hurt that he was as critical as predicted. I was still in college and needed time to prove I was good enough for the family. Cosby Sweater’s mom, however, did not criticize— She appreciated who I was, what I was doing with my life and where I wanted to go. She was also wowed by my kindness. At the family dinner, I met more relatives, including his cousin and her husband.

His cousin invited us on a couples-only camping trip. I felt so grownup.

It was just like the movies!

Camping

I was still nervous about sex and emotionally reeling from my first sexual experience. One night while laying in our zipped-together sleeping bags, Cosby Sweater leaned over and kissed me sweetly. He said, “two weeks after we met, I knew how I wanted to propose.”

Um. Gulp!

Counting my church camp boyfriend, PK, this was only my second relationship. I wasn’t quite ready for marriage, but the idea of a future proposal helped me reconcile the sex out of marriage; it made me feel like this relationship was heading somewhere… Even though I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to marry Cosby Sweater. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to marry him. Being very curious I asked him how he was going to propose. He said I would have to wait until it actually happened.

Damn!

I guess I better see if I can  actually be okay with this sex thing.

Marriage CartoonWhile erasing the bad from the my first sexual experience, this non-proposal piqued my need to understand Cosby Sweater more. It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. Some may consider our one month of dating would qualify him as a stranger, but I had a large emotional investment and had figured out ways to love him. Besides, a couples-only weekend was a way for us to get to know each other better. We talked to the cousin-couple about relationships, food and cooking. More importantly, I was introduced to Cosby Sweater’s Big Sandwich. Rather, the recipe was his cousin’s. As she explained her method of constructing this gargantuan sandwich, she winked and said, “it is a two hand job.”

Maybe, her husband was a two-hand job. Nothing about Cosby Sweater required two hands.  

The best thing I got from this relationship was the Big Sandwich. As with most recipes I learn, I typically find a way to make them better. I’ve tested different assembly orders of the contents, but the order below gives proper flavor balance. Some reasons are for practicality (you don’t want cheese next to tomatoes due to a chemical reaction that can happen), but the rest is for taste and presentation.

INGREDIENTS:
Round loaf of bread (about a pound; I prefer pumpernickel since it has more flavor oomph for this recipe)
Pesto
Black pitted Olives (sliced on horizontal bias)
Roasted Red Pepper
Tomato
Meat** (can replace with cucumber cut on vertical bias)
Cheese
Sweet Onion
Lettuce

ROASTED PEPPERS

Grateful I had a stash of roasted peppers!

THE REST:

1. Slice the top off the round loaf. (It’ll become a lid of sorts, so you don’t want to make it too thin/thick/uneven.)

SLICE TOP(Rather than slicing the top straight off, I turn the loaf, making a perforated cut around the circumferance of the top. By doing this, it helps to ensure that your top is even.)

2. Hollow out the bread, leaving some room for the walls.

IMG_3847(To help with hollowing out, take a cerated knife and cut along the edges. It is more efficient than grabbing fistfuls of bread innards.)

3. Layer your ingredients it the same order they’re listed above. (Don’t do more than one layer each, if you’re too generous with your ingredients, the sandwich will fall apart.)

4. Slice the sandwich like a pie. (You should be able to get 8 pie-shaped pieces.)

MIDDLE
5. Skewer each piece with a large toothpick.

IMG_3855

Featured Bread: Artisan Beer Boule

6. Keep the sandwich wedges in their circular shape; wrap the whole sandwich in aluminum foil.

7. Refrigerate. (Tastes should have time to commingle and get to know one another before having a party in your mouth- 24 hours is ideal.)

TIPS:

You can typically preorder your bread boule from your local bakery. When you do this, you can specify the size.  (You’ll want a loaf that is 1 pond or more.) Also, pumpernickel is often overlooked, and I’ve often had to special order this flavor.

Budget about 1.5 hours for prep, assembly and cleanup.

FALLING APART

While slicing, sometimes, one wedge falls apart. That’s when you eat the evidence.

*A STOLEN FIRST KISS

In spite of the “unconventional” beginnings, I continued to date Cosby Sweater. I hoped that by pouring out love and affection, he would mirror my actions and love me the same way in return. I was hoping that this would not only make him into the man he could be, it would make him into the man I needed. —————————————————————————————————————- I had a crush on a friend freshman year of college, but he had a crush on Michelle Kwan. Despite all our study sessions and meals together, we did not date. Darn! Michelle Kwan I left that school, transferring to a college in Boston. Prior to beginning my new college, there was camp. I always felt at home in my skin there, and the summer of 1999 was no different. Even with my weight-loss and now shared senior-staff status with PK, my camp boyfriend from the previous year, he was not interested. Despite his aloofness, camp as it always did bolstered my confidence. That summer, The Kid from Long Island was on first year staff. His affection was obvious, as he followed me around like a puppy and babbled cute little things to me. Not only was he still in high school, at barely sixteen, he was the youngest member on staff. He was such a child. But, yay! Someone has a crush on me! Camp buoyed me and allowed me to step into more of myself in the outside world. I was still inherently shy and I still had difficulty walking into a room of strangers, but this confidence shot in the arm made transferring colleges easier. It allowed me to walk into those rooms with strangers and feel less awkward. During the first week of my new school I made friends and immediately found a home with the TV production people. I was and forced to be more outgoing than I ever was. We gorged on war stories of the entertainment industry and spent long days working on set or late evenings in pre-production meetings. To recharge, before or after these meetings, in solitude, I wrote. We further satiated our appetites by reading things like The Mail Room, The Hollywood Reporter’s annual “Women in Entertainment Power 100” (I would constantly re-read mine until the following year came out), Is That a Gun in Your Pocket or Hello He Lied. I wanted to be like Nora Ephron, Sherry Lansing, Nancy Meyers, Lynda Obst… Naturally, when the opportunity came to go to Manhattan with my school and meet working entertainment alumni, I was there. The weekend was an intensive networking/career building event. On a tour of the Late Show with David Letterman, I met a guy in a Bill Cosby Sweater. I shared self-conscious flirty smiles with him. He sat next to me during one of the lectures, we shared an elevator ride and dinner that evening. I learned he was a senior getting ready to graduate. His best friend was attending New York University. He invited me to have drinks with them and some of her friends at a dive bar in Greenwich Village. (How grown up.) Even though I was only 20, I accepted. This was the closest thing to a date I’d ever been on. I sat next to Cosby Sweater. The friends talked about their first presidential election they voted in. I realized I was only in junior high while they were having this milestone. They taught me how to order drinks when you’re underage. I felt incredibly out of place. Cosby Sweater squeezed my knee, and I knew I was going to be okay. I had one drink because I didn’t like breaking the law and I didn’t want to be out of control. I drank slowly and enjoyed this very adult moment. Times Square Cosby Sweater and I went back to our hotel in Times Square. He even walked me back to the mini suite I was staying in with my weekend roommate. I was expecting maybe a kiss goodnight, at the most. He came in and we hung out with her in the modest living room until she went to bed. I was attracted to Cosby Sweater and had those great nervous butterflies, but I wasn’t accustomed to the attention he was giving me… flirting, touching… He gave me a back rub and I politely fended off his advances. We kissed some more and I told him I was tired. He asked to join me. My emotions were sitting between dizzying panic of sleeping next to a boy and an extreme worry of not wanting to be rude and make him sleep in his own room. I agreed. The bedroom was a standard hotel room two full-size beds, and a nightstand assigned to each. No sex until marriage. It was a solid plan. My “no sex decree” wasn’t inspired by my time working at church camp. It certainly wasn’t inspired by mainstream media. It was an idea set forth by my public high school Humanities teacher: “Wait until marriage. Your virginity is the only gift you can give once.” It was incredibly romantic. I loved giving gifts. THIS was the ultimate “I like you” gift. While my weekend roommate slept soundly in the bed next to me, Cosby Sweater took my “I like you gift.” I felt detached, like I was watching myself in the third person. I was scared and frustrated I didn’t have my gift to give. I scrambled to make the misstep out of marriage ok. The crazy thing is, is: This wasn’t making love; it was date rape. But, I didn’t know that at the time. When Cosby Sweater and I woke up the next morning, the roommate was already gone. Cosby Sweater walked to the window and peeled back the shade; it was a window to nothing. It was as if the building had folder over on itself. House keeping came by. The sheets were ruined. Shit! It was an awkward morning. I’ve never had sex before and wasn’t entirely clear how we should act. Do we hold hands? Do we not hold hands? Do we pretend like it’s not a big deal? I don’t know how people act after they have sex for the first time. All I could think of was Tom Hanks in Big and how he gave everyone high 5’s and started drinking coffee and went as far as to take it black. I did not feel that way. But Cosby Sweater and I sat next to each other in the remaining weekend lectures and even on the bus ride home. I was embarrassed and frightened. My brain went into overdrive to rectify everything. I wanted to erase what Cosby Sweater did and worked to reconcile the events of New York. By making a relationship work, everything would be okay. I’d visit Cosby Sweater in his dorm room. If things got too heated (and they often did), my nerves sent me fleeing back to my room. I was on a seesaw. I wasn’t ready for an intimate relationship, but here I was hymen-less. I had to make this relationship work. That’s what people do, right? Marry the first person they sleep with? Part of my inability to see that it was date rape was my naïveté and part of it was the vitriol that women were fed, and it was always some permutation of NO: “no” and “no means no.” Other phrases like “stop” or “get off me” were not part of the “say no to rape” catchphrases we learned at a time before the rule of “Yes Means Yes.” I cordoned off my first sexual experience and locked it and the miserable memories associated with it in a room to wither and die. In spite of the “unconventional” beginnings, I continued to date Cosby Sweater. I hoped that by pouring out love and affection, he would mirror my actions and love me the same way in return. I was hoping that this would not only make him into the man he could be, it would make him into the man I needed. We dated all through my junior year and broke up in the summer going into my senior year. Boston Public Garden Senior year was transformative. It was also the year where other media students and I were involved with a group that was collaborating with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) and the Boston PD to produce a rape awareness video. The video would be shown to incoming college students in the greater-Boston area. The message was twofold: educate them about available resources and teach them they’re not alone. Doing this work, I learned that one in four college women are raped or sexually assaulted. Holy shit! Those are some crazy statistics. Holy shit! That’s me! I submitted a script pulling from my experience. The three members of BARCC, who were liaising between the center and the college told me the script was too dramatic. Really? My script was essentially a cry for help. Now, the very people whose duty it was to assist rape victims through their work at the Rape Crisis Center were telling me my script was not accurate. Their inability to see the cry and listen to my explanation of camera movements showing how the victim would feel detached from everything after a rape made me feel like my experience was invalid. I knew if I confronted Cosby Sweater to tell him he raped me, he’d cry. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. It’s okay you raped me. You didn’t know any better. After he’d be done crying, he’d say it wasn’t rape and then blame me for not wanting to have sex. He is one of those Accidental Rapists, one of those people who admits to having sex with a person against their will, but doesn’t view their actions as rape. The article points out if the R word isn’t mentioned, more people are willing to admit to doing it. Cosby Sweater’s misconception of rape doesn’t make him any less culpable and it doesn’t make him any less rapey. I do not want to even consider confronting him. For a time after the incident and moments since then, I felt I could no longer connect to things that were enjoyable. Food on occasion became more of a necessity— Fuck what am I going to eat? I have to eat something. In the weeks and months after the rape, life started becoming filled with more moments of yawning indifference. I even became fed up with long-distance dedications on the radio and witnessing the smallest romantic gesture in other couples made my stomach turn. Sex for may years was an enigma, often times scary, un-enjoyable and even one of those duties one must subject themselves to (like doing dishes). To my soul, the rape was like taking a crystal vase, dropping it on the floor and trying to put it back together. There really isn’t an amount of glue that will repair it. Talking about rape is one of those things that people push off. It’s taboo. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t happen. A dialogue needs to happen. But, people’s inability to have an open discussion or burring a discussion within a blog shows how uncomfortable the discussion of rape is. While not admitting it was rape right away, I knew there wasn’t something right about my first sexual experience. I couldn’t deal with it. Admitting I was raped seemed inaccurate. A dream. How can I be the victim of rape? Over the years I’ve tried to rewrite history, to talk myself out of it. Then, I reread things like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings or Patricia Lockwood’s “The Rape Joke,” and I’m thrust back into the reality. No, I’m one of the four. Somewhere in my dating life, I was able to get back to enjoying romance, making other people happy and even cooking for them (out of affection). But, while traveling I still can’t and won’t stay in the same brand of hotel where the rape occurred _____________________________________________________________ SIDEBAR The issue with rape and sexual assault among college students is that the crisis is large. Many victims remain silent. Their silence and the lack of help from their college or university goes beyond resources, college-sanctioned alcohol consumption, state laws and sexual mores. In trying to find contemporary material while making peace with my past, I found many articles on the subject. One that really spoke to me and helps shine a light on the many angles of the problem is  an editorial by Jed Rubenfeld. In his editorial, “Mishandling Rape,” (published in The New York Times, November 15, 2014), Rubenfeld takes time to carefully unpack the elements of rape among college students. In it, he looks at historical social mores and current trends while calling for a transformation of colleges. As an outsider who is over 10 years out of college, I can see that colleges have come a long way. It’s not enough. Cultural change won’t happen over night, but we need to keep advocating change.