This Is Us

Lessons from a season of table service

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. …


This Is Us

How midlife loosened my tongue

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

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…


A message to the swimsuit industry

Photo by Luka Reedy on Unsplash

This summer, I’ve decided to jump in the lake. There’s a big, beautiful lake minutes from my house and I haven’t been in it since my kids were little. A decade, at least, of thoughtlessly avoiding the pristine waters of my home place, ignoring what may be the perfect therapy. It’s time to change all that, so this year I have resolved to get in the lake and take the water cure.

I bought a state park pass and some water shoes, to protect the feet from slime and zebra mussels. And now, the last piece: A swimsuit. I have…


On menopause, midlife, connection, and creativity

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

“Sometimes you just have to go through the crash and see if you can walk away on two legs.” Sandra Tsing Loh

I wasn’t going to write about menopause. I wasn’t even going to notice menopause, except maybe Margaret Mead’s zesty part. I have a hazy recollection of other plans. Based on experience and anecdotal information, I figured it would be a blip on the landscape, followed by blessed relief from the bloody inconvenience. I always wanted to write, and flailed around the empty page whenever a thing inspired me. The inconvenient body was never the thing, though. …


Menopause took my license

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

I have a driver. This is an unfortunate midlife development, born of necessity and luckily available in the form of my retired husband, who loves to drive. Today, he is driving me to acupuncture, where I will ask why I can’t drive. It’s an absurd situation and I have not accepted it with grace. Midlife has taken my keys, relegated me to passenger — it’s humiliating. I’m hoping to reclaim my place behind the wheel, just as I’m waiting to reclaim my calm confidence. Put it on the list of things that midlife has stolen from me.

For most of…


The first post-vax road trip

Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

We are vaccinated and have no more excuses, so we left the house and went visiting for the first time since the world shut down. We drove hours south, straight into the peak of Brood X, into a surreal sci-fi landscape. We were unwittingly also visiting the long dormant, briefly present cicadas. Big bug juice on the windshield, a wave of hiss and hum outside the car that made us briefly worry that we had mechanical trouble. I saw my rattled mother and my lonely father, I visited my son and his wife and saw their new house. I laid…


Childhood summers in Maine

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I visited Maine every summer as a kid. More specifically, I was dragged to Maine every summer to visit central-casting relatives — mean, hard-bitten girl cousins who glared at me and said everything was “wicked.” Dopey, lumbering boy cousins who always wanted to race me and always lost. More Beans of Egypt than Bushes of Kennebunkport.

I remember a train screaming through the woods in the darkness, a little too close to the rickety summer cabin for my taste. I remember small, questionably lake-worthy boats. I remember hard-drinking, crusty grown-ups, grousing from the depths of a nicotine haze. I remember…


Training myself to take up space

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Long ago, as a teenage waitress scurrying through crowded kitchens and dining rooms, it was my habit to say “sorry” when I needed to pass.

Sorry to my fellow servers, each of us balancing trays of food and cocktails on flower stalk forearms.

Sorry to the earnest, bow-tied busboys with their baskets of bread and carafes of water.

Sorry to the noisy guests in their Sunday clothes, even on Wednesday, as they jostled in the front door and waited their turn at the tables.

Sorry to the busy shouting men in the kitchen.

Always sorry. Never excuse me. Never nothing…

Lisa Renee

Write it down.

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