Browsing Tag

childhood

Divorce, Guest Posts

Not My Happiest Place on Earth

May 26, 2017
divorce

By Heather Grossmann

Mickey Mouse ears and divorce. Probably not an association the relentlessly family-friendly Disney would appreciate, but — with apologies to Walt — one that was cemented for me during a summer years ago and resurfaced recently, when my dad unearthed some architectural drawings of the prenatal Epcot Center.

My complicated relationship with Epcot — well, to the extent that a geodesic sphere and a 5-year-old girl can engage in a “relationship” — began in the early ‘80s. Epcot was a pretty young thing on the eve of its international debut, a stunning 160-foot diameter dome hovering 14 feet in the air in Orlando, Florida. I was a cute pre-K kid on a post-divorce junket, a little thing awash in dreams of pirate boat rides and spinning teacups, 3,000 miles from my hometown of Oakland, California.

I had only just joined the ever-growing ranks of the “children of divorce.” This was the trendiest club in town at a time when the U.S. divorce rate hit its all-time high. But in an age when many parents followed up their separation announcements with a balm of Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbie playhouses, I had something going for me the other members of my not-so-exclusive fellowship did not: My father was the project architect on Epcot.

When my parents sat me down at our kitchen table in the summer of 1982 to say that their marriage was over, there was major upside to the news — the next day, I was going to the Magic Kingdom. I knew something “bad” was happening, but a trip to Disney World? Come on! What could be better than that?

As it turns out, a lot. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Childhood Revisited

May 2, 2016

By Liska Jacobs

We end up at my mother’s condominium one Saturday, waiting out traffic. She’s at work and we have the place to ourselves so I begin going through cupboards, rummaging through the pantry and fridge just as I did when I was a child coming home from school. I find the burned DVD with ’84-85’ written in my father’s hand in the back of her DVD collection. The air conditioning switches on, there’s a comforting hum that we don’t have in our one bedroom apartment in Pasadena, and we’ve filled a bowl with Goldfish crackers, opened a bottle of sparkling water. We press play.

Fuzz and then a plump young dad, hardly recognizable—younger than either my husband or myself are now. He’s video taping his wife who’s even more unrecognizable, just a girl with big auburn curls and thin, thin arms. How could she have birthed twins? But there they are—my twin sister and me—two baby girls, one dark the other fair.

Then it cuts. They’re playing in a blow up pool now. Naked and splashing. The mother pours water on the dark one, the oldest, me, over and over because they both think it’s funny. Get back here Dolly, she calls to the dark one’s twin, who is pale and small and trying to climb out of the plastic pool. Where are you going?  This mother—face and hair so familiar yet alien—calls, splashing at my sister’s backside. Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Guest Posts

Master of One.

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anonymous

I learned how to give a blowjob at ten. By eleven, I was an expert. No matter how many hours I spent in front of the TV with a worn Atari controller clutched in my hand, I could never locate Indiana Jones’ Ark of the Covenant. But I could suck one off like a sorority girl after too many upside-down margaritas.

He was a young 20-something, our trusted neighbor. His hair was long, his eyes warm and sad. Sometimes he and his roommate made dinner when Mom stayed late at work to balance the books. For my birthday, he bought Bob Seger’s “Nine Tonight” album and wrapped it with a blue bow – my favorite color. It was an extravagant gift, one my single mom couldn’t afford. But that boy surprised and delighted me. I played the record over, over, over on Mom’s RCA turntable. I memorized every lyric. Sometimes I stood on the coffee table and sang “Hollywood Nights” at the top of my lungs. My hairbrush was my microphone. I was good.

***

I’ve always found it difficult to say no. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, don’t want to disappoint. I over-commit and under-deliver. Yes, I’ll organize the preschool party. Yes, I’ll bake four dozen cookies for the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. Yes, I’d love to take that freelance project. Yes, I’ll edit your manuscript. Yes, I’ll watch your kids.

(P.S. I don’t even like your kids.)

Yes is easier than no. Smooth sailing more enjoyable than whitecaps.

***

My young world was a wonderland of 1970s magic dressed in cut-off jeans. I explored overgrown cornfields, built forts with discarded lumber, beat all the neighborhood boys in sunset games of “Horse.” I hid myself in chicken wire basement storage bins so I could read uninterrupted, the chug of washing machines in the background, the scent of Downy dryer sheets floating on the hot air. I scribbled poems and short stories in my Strawberry Shortcake notebooks. I played 4-Square, SPUD, and Kick the Can until it was time for Kraft macaroni and cheese and a cold glass of 2% milk served on my TV tray, the one with the fold-out metal legs. I wore halter tops knotted around my freckled neck and smoked the butts of my mom’s discarded Merit Ultra Lights.

I gave myself the Sign of the Cross every time I walked into church, asked Jesus for forgiveness in the dark Confessional. “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. It’s been six days since my last Confession. I lied to my mom, tattled on my sister, and had impure thoughts.” I never named the act itself. It seemed an unsavory thing to discuss in a church. I knew He knew. I hoped He forgave. I listened to the nuns, readied my soul for the kingdom of heaven with Hail Marys and Acts of Contrition.

I rode my bike to the drugstore and bought Jolly Rancher sour apple sticks with the change I found under the couch cushions. I sucked their tips into sharp, dangerous points.

 ***

When I think about my childhood, I don’t first think about fellatio. In fact, I can barely recall the pungent scent of stale sweat, the smell of nervousness and sin. There was beer, and often, pot. He smoked the pot. I drank the beer. The smoky haze in the apartment was much more tolerable with an evenly matched fog in my head. Sometimes I drank enough to throw up. I did not understand my limits. He would wipe my face with a warm washcloth, would tune into “Laverne & Shirley” while I rested on the couch, the room swirling and spinning around me. “Schlemiel, Schlimazel. Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.” The couch was faded and worn and smelled slightly of mothballs and bacon. I sank into it, disappeared into the dingy plaid.

He loved me, this boy. He told me so every time.

I loved him back.

But most of all, I loved my mom. My hard-working, breathtaking, raven-haired hero.

***

Once I perfected the oral art form, it was easily transferable. I honed my skills on awkward freshmen with unskilled hands, high school quarterbacks and their cement abs, heavy-breathing frat boys, and strangers in bars. My lips were all-knowing, all-powerful.

I was invincible.

The decision to spit or swallow came later. In the beginning, it wasn’t a conscious choice, but a physical reaction. Later, I chose what I wanted.

Ingest? Expel?

Blowjobs as a metaphor for life. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: What Do I Do About A Sexual Predator?

February 9, 2015

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Hello from London! Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by my friend Zoe Zolbrod, who also happens to be the fabulous co-editor for The Rumpus on Sundays.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in Atlanta in a couple weeks followed by NYC! 

 

Chicago! Join Jen Pastiloff at her first Chicago workshop Aug 22nd! Book early! " It's story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen's booming voice. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home." ~ Pema Rocker

Chicago! Join Jen Pastiloff at her first Chicago workshop Aug 22nd! Book early!
” It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home.” ~ Pema Rocker

Dear Life,

My cousins are twenty-eight and twenty-nine. He’s related to me on my mom’s side and she’s related to me through their marriage. I introduced them as a couple when we were in high school after he asked me to help him find a girlfriend. Of course, there had been a lot of issues with women up until that point, including some awkward comments from him to me (“You should do a wet t-shirt contest”)… but I thought those remarks were just par for the course, given our shared history. I strongly suspect he is a survivor of sexual abuse. His father (my uncle) molested me as a child. I believe he inflicted similar abuse and passed down his gross attitudes toward women onto his children.

Well, at first, everything seemed great. They start dating and hit it off. He snaps out of his depression, goes back to college, gets a driver’s license and travels to Europe with her. They move in together and years later, he proposes. I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. I consider his wife to be one of my oldest and closest friends. But I’m keeping a secret from her.

Over a year ago, at a party we co-hosted in their new home, I went to hug him goodbye and he stuck his hand down my shirt and squeezed my breast. We both had been drinking. I walked out of his house in shock, but I said nothing to my then-boyfriend on the way home. Well, as it turns out, I’m not the only one he groped that night. Two other friends were also subjected to this assault. I’m calling it assault because there’s absolutely no way this touching was invited. It was a hug. He is my cousin and their friend. None of us wanted this to happen. We don’t even want to be alone with him anymore.

The total (that I know of) now stands at four women who have been groped without permission. Each time, he’s drunk and his wife is out of sight. He clearly has issues with alcohol, but the line has been crossed and he’s acting like a sexual predator. The last time he groped me was three weeks ago. He slid into the backseat of his wife’s car while she walked another friend to the door of her house. He hugged me from the side and I went stiff. He touched my chest and I made my voice firm: “You’re touching my tits, stop it.” I pushed him away, but he reached for me again. When I pushed back, he finally pulled away… and called me a tease. When his wife got back to the car, she looked at him strangely. She asked him what he was doing in the backseat.

Here’s the hard part: she’s pregnant.

I am at a total loss as to how to proceed. I want to protect her, but it’s hard to imagine that she’s not catching on to his drinking problem and his boundary issues with women and the sexual predator side of his personality. What do I do? Silence isn’t protecting me or my friends. I feel responsible for introducing them as a couple, knowing he had issues — but he never tried anything like this when we were teenagers. And it’s not even just happening with only me. I want to protect myself and my friends, but I don’t want to hurt someone who has a lot at stake. Please help.

Signed, Protective

Continue Reading…

death, Guest Posts, loss

Feeling My First Goodbye

January 20, 2015

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By Alana Saltz.

I wasn’t sure my grandfather was going to be aware of what was going on when I read to him from my novel. As I share the words I’ve written, he laughs at my narrator’s self-deprecating humor twice, and that’s how I know that he understands me. After I finish, he struggles to find the words to tell me what the story is about.

“The girl is very…it’s…very internal. It’s mel…mel…”

My sister and I take guesses at what he’s trying to say. Melancholy? Melodic? He shakes his head no. I never find out because he trails off and stares up at the ceiling. I hear the churning of the oxygen machine, see the silent face of Clifford on the TV screen, the show on mute.

Finally, just when we think he’s asleep again, he says, “You have a gift with words.”

I smile and say, “Thank you.”

Three hours later, I’m sitting in the front lobby of the hospice, watching the sun set over snow-covered roofs and bare trees. I’m thinking about how my grandpa barely knew me, only saw me once or twice a year when I visited St. Louis, yet he supported my dream to tell stories and have them heard. He helped me pay for grad school so I could study writing. But I’d never shown him any of my work until today.

There’s a whir of sliding doors behind me. Murmurs of nurses and patients down the hall. Clean couches, bright lights, my mother beside me talking to someone on the phone and complaining about his treatment, the sky dimmer, deeper, darker.

Continue Reading…

death, Family, Guest Posts

The Cemetery.

October 29, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jane O’Shields-Hayner.

As a red-blooded American girl I grew up with a, pardon the pun, bone deep fear of cemeteries. My cousin Marcia, six years older than I, told me there were skeletons under the beds in the big old two-story house where I lived with my parents, my grandparents and my aunt Vivian. It was a decidedly spooky house to begin with, with old unused rooms and dusty beds never slept in, wearing the same sheets they had for decades. There were shelves full of books, unread in my lifetime and deep, dark closets that went to who knows where under stairways and slanted eaves. Remnants of the years my family spent as ranchers were present throughout this house: kitchen towels made from feed sacks and tack for horses, tools for marking and castrating cattle, which looked like torture devices to me.

It was twilight, always, there. Electric lights were used mostly at night. They hung on chains as small, pear-shaped pendants, or under one-bulb glass shades. Wood frame windows, with layer upon layer of peeling paint let the sun in, but just barely. The pomegranate bushes and apricot trees, untrimmed and old, bounced back most of the light before it entered those windows, so the sunlight happily found another direction to shine, rather than into this old, dusty house.

Inside the dark, foreboding closets there were wood-bound metal trunks and dusty coats hanging, and who knew what lay behind them. My father, a kind man by nature, once disappeared into one of those dark, untraveled closets under a stair with a two by four, and came out with a dead rat and a bloody plank.

Continue Reading…

beauty, Guest Posts, healing

The Bit Jar.

August 6, 2014

By Rebecca Kuder

“Will her fingertips ever grow back?” my five-year-old daughter Merida’s friend Sophia asked me.

Her mother Vanessa and I were perched on the sofa, watching our children perform a play. Created by three young acrobats clad in butterfly and fairy wings, the play featured flips on hanging rings, trampoline jumps, and tightrope walking. The children wore red, green, and goldenrod silk squares tied around their heads, like pirates. Sophia’s older brother William wrapped more silk squares around small yoga balls, and launched them at intervals behind the scene, the rushes of color making a backdrop of motion. Sophia had stopped mid-jump, to ask about fingertips. The other children had also stopped.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, Self Image

Wayne Dyer’s Daughter Reflects On Being Raised By Spiritual Parents.

November 18, 2013

On Being Raised By Spiritual Parents.

By Serena Dyer.

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People often ask my siblings and I what it was like to grow up with Wayne Dyer as a dad. I usually immediately feel this need to bring up my mom- since she did so much of the “raising” and has probably been the greatest spiritual influence on my dad throughout his life. The funny thing about that is my parents separated over 12 years ago- but they have remained incredibly close, so close that they have never gotten a divorce- they said they never felt the need to.

Whenever I am asked about my parents, usually my Dad, I reflect back on my childhood and feel overwhelmed with a feeling of security and love. My parents- both incredibly spiritual people- loved us unconditionally- and that love can be seen in family photos, when watching home videos, or even in my own mind when I reflect back on what it was like to grow up in my household. I am one of 8 children, and my siblings and I are insanely close. We spend all of our free time together because we really are each others closest friends.

But despite an ideal childhood filled with loving family and spiritually progressive parents that loved every part of me and made sure I knew it, it has been a struggle to find that same kind of unconditional love for myself- and that, I believe, is the most important kind of love we all need in our lives.

If we accept the fact that we cannot give away what we don’t have- then we must also accept the idea that until we learn to treasure every part of ourselves, we will not be able to fully love anyone else either. Love must begin within before we can offer it outward.

And for so many of us, loving ourselves, accepting our looks, being at peace with our bodies, embracing our past, treasuring our insecurities and giving up judgement of ourselves is the hardest thing in the world to do! We can encourage others to love themselves but we cannot allow ourselves to do the same.

I know a lot of people that also grew up with spiritual parents. Parents that told them they were wonderful, beautiful and capable of anything- but they never felt worthy of anything inside. I believe that learning to love ourselves- unconditionally- is one of the hardest things we can attempt in life.

My parents could have been Jesus and Mary and it wouldn’t have mattered- until I learned to love myself! I believe that when we put ourselves down- we are putting down the name of God. We are all little sparks of God- little pieces divinely created with love- and we each came here with a dharma to fulfill. If you want to know what your purpose is, you gorgeous little miracle you, then get quiet and thank the part of you that recognizes that you are indeed a little piece of God. A spark of the great oneness. Begin to honor the God-presence within you, and give thanks for being as magnificent as you are.

It was only when I stopped judging myself and tried loving myself that I began to discover that the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, fully supported me in my efforts and I started getting all “green lights” on my path toward discovering just what my dharma was. When I started attempting deep and profound self-love, the kind great parents offer to their children, I started to feel good- I started to find that the right people were showing up at the right places and my life began to feel more on purpose. Since I began the process of self-love and self-acceptance, the right man came into my life. When I started to offer love to myself on the inside, I started to lose the extra weight I was carrying around because I began to realize that I didn’t need food to give me the feeling of being full, I felt full and complete without food or drugs or alcohol.

The practice of loving myself has been filled with ups and downs- and that is ok- because it is a “practice” and i am still learning to get good at it. The practice of loving myself has brought miracles into my life. As Louise Hay says so beautifully “You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving yourself and see what happens.”

I have given approving myself a shot, and it has been paying off. I urge you to do the same.

Serena wears my "What Are You Manifesting?" t-shirt.

Serena wears my “What Are You Manifesting?” t-shirt.

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Serena is a graduate of the University of Miami, holding a Master’s degree in International Relations and a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion. While finishing her first book, Serena is traveling and blogging while also maintaining her hobbies of cooking, reading, working to combat human trafficking, and being with her 7 brothers and sisters! Serena has co-authored a book about growing up with spiritual parents with her father, Dr. Wayne Dyer, called “Don’t Die With Your Music Still In You” which should be out in the Spring of 2014. Serena lives in south Florida with her fiance. Her website can be found at serenadyer.com.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! A workshop for girls and teens. Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff. Ages 13 and up. (NYC is 16 and up due to studio policy.)

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! A workshop for girls and teens. Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff. Ages 13 and up. (NYC is 16 and up due to studio policy.)

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.