This Is Us

Lessons from a season of table service

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. …

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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.

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

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…


Maybe the Introverts Were Right

Back in the before times, when we knew nothing of pandemics and lockdowns and the extroverts were after me, I needed excuses. The invitations were relentless.

Let’s take a walk, have a drink, catch a show, have a party, brunch, dinner, come watch me do my thing!

I enjoy all of those things, but it’s mood dependent and my midlife moods have trended towards maybe later. I’m thankful for all my lovely friends and family, but oh my god can everyone just sit down and be quiet.

It hasn’t always been this way. When my grown children chide me for…


An anxious mind considers the end of lockdown

The first time — my first whole body, death-is-a-train-and-I’m-on-the-tracks, drop-to-the-floor-and-pray panic — was in Wegmans. There was a typical market crowd, bland music piping in, a bin of green beans before me. I had been shopping for decades without incident — competently, uneventfully, sometimes even happily. That day, however, was the latest emergency flare of what I slowly, dumbly realized was something larger. The list of warnings sent by my body was getting very long, but I didn’t take them seriously until I found myself sitting wide-eyed and quaking on a grocery store floor.

Maybe something is going on here.


This Is Us

These brief flares remind me of my body’s capacity for upheaval and renewal

Standing in the kitchen on a cool early fall day, chopping the last of the late summer sauce tomatoes, I’m suddenly overwhelmed by a bloom of heat in my body. Rapidly expanding heat from head to toe, feeling fall no more, but a heat wave flush, like a sweltering summer day.

Is it me or is it hot in here?

The hot flash is the darling of menopause symptoms, the signal marker of what some consider midlife female malfunction. Hot flash is synonymous with menopause, and those without a clue (men, young women, lucky women) begin their short, practiced list…


A Love Letter to Paper Crafts from an Absolute Beginner

It started with the pen pals. Pre-pandemic, I fancied myself a serious person. I didn’t spend money on anything particularly frivolous, and didn’t spend much time creating things that weren’t somehow useful. Ephemera was not my thing. If I couldn’t eat it, read it, wear it, or hang it on a wall, it wasn’t for me (except for jigsaw puzzles, a panacea for panic and its cousins in the long, cold months). I am, emphatically, not crafty.

It seems, though, that I was just pretending to be a serious person. A year into the pandemic, I write letters, decorate them…


There is no common ground with extremists

Last summer, my neighbors planted a red Trump/Pence sign in their front yard. It has been obscured by the snow for many weeks, but is starting to appear again with the creeping thaw. Four months after the election, the sign is slumped and askew, battered by its winter burial, but it has not faded. Four months and dozens of lost court cases later, these people are still waving their red flag, cocktails in hand and Fox on the television.

I should put up a Carter/Mondale sign.

We’ve been told to seek unity. Talk to your neighbors, they say. Find common…


Learning to dress myself

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…


Have you hit it yet?

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…

Lisa Renee

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