This Is Us

How midlife loosened my tongue

Middle finger up in the middle of a field.
Middle finger up in the middle of a field.
Photo: Gwendal Cottin/Unsplash

When I flipped off the speeding truck, I knew things had changed. Sending a hearty “fuck you” to a stranger was a thing I had almost never considered before, but in the moment, it seemed oddly, perfectly natural. I briefly reconsidered the wisdom of this change when he doubled back. And then I did it again.

Walking on my quiet country road in upstate New York, as I do every day, a jumped-up pickup with a tiny red-hat boy at the wheel came roaring down the road at an unreasonable speed. Frightening, aggressive speed. When he rounded the corner and…

I ate a gummy and boy, are my arms tired

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Photo: Glen Carrie on Unsplash

The gummy cubes are tiny, about half the size of a standard sugar cube, and they’re pleasingly packaged in an adorable tin. The accompanying literature suggests I drop them in tea, coffee, or cocktails. Just like sugar cubes. They’re flavored — “like those hot cinnamon candies,” say the people who claim to love me. They taste like stinky boy.

Thank god someone said, “Mom, you should start with half and wait a while.”

My experiment was based on hope and research. Anna Wilcox writes, “Using cannabis to ease menopausal symptoms is nothing new. Back in the 1920s, medical texts identified…

Learning to dress myself

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Photo by Julija V. on Unsplash

Maybe it’s lockdown, maybe it’s middle age. Maybe it’s just a continuation of the same conversation I’ve been having with myself since the slow slide to dishevelment began, back when the kids were little. I desperately need new clothes. I want a little style. What is my style?

Ah, that is the question.

I hate shopping. Nothing ever fits and the best things are too expensive. It’s exhausting, the lighting is bad, and I always feel like a rat in a capitalist maze. Online shopping is a better experience, but for me the success rate remains low. Shopping is a…

This Is Us

Lessons from a season of table service

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Photo: Hans Vivek/Unsplash

I told a lie to get the job. It was 1981 and I said I was 18, old enough to legally serve alcohol. I was 17. I needed cash and something to fill the time that wasn’t school or the bad boyfriend. My place of employment — my first real job — was a mid-range French restaurant on the fringes of Washington, D.C. For a few years, while in college, I worked six days a week, serving lunch, dinner, and private parties. …

Have you hit it yet?

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Photo by David van Dijk on Unsplash

This is the week, everyone says, every week— this is the week when it all turned to shit. The week when we hit the pandemic wall, can’t take it anymore, the isolation or these people who are always here, whichever is your fate. This is the week that broke us.

This is my week. Maybe. I may have said this a few weeks back, who remembers anymore in the plague time loop. This week, though, I feel kind of broken by it all. The breaking has been slow, sort of like the jar that shows its cracks for awhile and…

This Is Us

Aging is more joyful than we think

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Photo: katrien berckmoes/Flickr

When I think about the way perimenopause shook me, broke me, and made me new, it seems unreal. Like a dream, or a nightmare, it crept up and consumed me. Now, here I stand on the other side, awake and wondering what the hell happened.

The short story goes something like this: I was “fine,” busy and distracted with life. A good and hearty marriage, four wonderful and willful kids, a great mess of a house, animals, projects, work and joy and sadness — a big, “normal” life. Then, I fell down. …

This Is Us

A quarantine tale

An open paper envelope on a yellow surface. A serpentine rainbow snakes its way out of the envelope.
An open paper envelope on a yellow surface. A serpentine rainbow snakes its way out of the envelope.
Photo: Iryna Veklich/Moment/Getty Images

For me, the single best thing about this last year — a year of unrivaled loss, sadness, rage, and anxiety — has been the mail. Corresponding with strangers has been bringing happiness, fulfillment, and a sort of peace that’s lacking elsewhere in this untethered world. It’s as if these missives from afar are somehow anchoring me in place, rooting me in my own life, and forcing me to slow down, pay attention.

I tentatively joined writer Rachel Syme’s #penpalooza early last summer — early in the pandemic — if only just to “feel something,” as the kids say. Rachel’s Twitter

Bye Don!

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Photo by nichiiro on Unsplash

We knew it would be bad. We wept into our drinks at the coronation, hoping for correction. We drowned our sorrows during the impeachment, seeking repair. And here we are. After four years of the world’s most high stakes reality show, we sit quaking in our corners, in masks and soft pants, mainlining carbs, and singing sea shanties. Everything is broken, and nothing is given. Inauguration day, 2021, will be one for the books.

The white supremacists and their windbag king have made a dry January impossible, so here is a menu of cocktails to get you through. Gather up…

When the hardest thing to do is nothing

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https://www.instagram.com/itspeteski/

My stepmother died yesterday morning. It wasn’t Covid, which is a thing we must say now. She was 94 years old, frail and ill, sequestered in a nursing home not far from Washington, D.C. Due to the plague, no one has really seen her since March, except in brief chaotic Zoom calls and weekly “window visits” for my father. He would sit, bundled against the cold, for 20 minutes while she wrestled with a phone and a nurse on the other side of the glass. Then, he’d return to his lonely quarantine existence, sad and beset with guilt.

She lived…

Four Years of Madness Ends Exactly as Expected

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Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

Four years ago, I wrote like mad. I ranted and raved, trying to write myself to some truth, or at least some understanding. I, like most Americans, was stunned by the 2016 election, afraid of the future. I briefly entertained the idea that it wouldn’t last long, that our system of checks and balances would save us from the Republicans and their Trojan monster.

How quaint it seems now.

We are all being taken for a ride, sent up the river for the price of a show, promised a spectacle of “soft sensuality,” if we will only stop worrying about…

Lisa Renee

Write it down.

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