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Activism, Friendship, Guest Posts

Bad A** Feminists

June 9, 2021
catherine

by Tammi Markowitz Inscho

I took my most feminist action on a cold, grey day in January 2017.  I strapped  on my fanny pack with my id., my i-phone and three granola bars. A friend had knitted me a hot pink hat that was supposed to look like a uterus.  She was new to knitting. The hat was too small and looked like rhinoceros’ head.  Still, I stretched it over my head and made my way to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  I was ready to protest the inauguration of our pussy-grabbing 45th President of the United States.

I met Catherine at Logan Square—Philadelphia’s version of the National Mall.  Tens of thousands of other women stood shoulder to shoulder with us.  The crowd began to inch its way down the Parkway.  “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump Go Away,” we chanted in unison.

Catherine and I stopped to take selfies.  We huddled together around Catherine’s i-phone. We admired our photography.  We edited the pictures we liked best.  There was one of me with my rhinoceros horn standing at attention, I held up a peace sign with one hand, my LOVE TRUMPS HATE sign in the other. My lips were glossy and just pouty enough-the picture was Instagram ready.

A half hour passed. We crept along with the crowd.  We hadn’t gotten very far.  Catherine looked over at me “I’m cold,” she said.

“Me too,” I admitted.

Catherine nodded her head toward the old Four Seasons Hotel.

“What?” I said

“Want to duck in–warm up for just a minute?”

I wanted to.

We laid our signs against a telephone pole.

We fought our way through the crowded.

The bell boys swung the hotel doors open for us.  The lobby was warm and smelled like gardenias.

“Heaven.” Catherine sighed.

I took off my hat, ran my finger through my hair. Catherine tore off her gloves rubbed her numb fingers together. She looked at me.  There was a glimmer in her eyes and an almost imperceptible smile across her lips. I recognized the look from tenth grade when Amy McGowen would routinely convince me to cut school and hang out in her basement all day drinking clear liquid from her parents liquor cabinet.

Catherine held up her reddened index finger. “One glass of red wine.” she said.

Red wine sounded perfect.  I could hear the crowd through the Four Season’s windows. “Show me what democracy looks like.” The crowd chanted.

I held up my index finger. “One.” I said.  I tried to sound stern.  I think I just sounded thirsty.

We sank into two leather seats at a round candle lit table. It was 11:15 a.m. We were the only ones in the bar. We ordered Cabernet. While we waited we grabbed fistfuls of mixed nuts.

The bartender set down our wine glasses. Grabbed the empty bowl of nuts and came back with a fresh bowl.  We sipped our wine and feasted on the nuts.

“First person to talk about their kids—takes a shot.”  Catherine said grinning.

I agreed.

Catherine and I met in 2011 at a Mommy and Me class.  She had twin boys and a Cadillac  of a double stroller.  We bonded over things like the pros and cons of phasing out the second nap and whether feeding the boys vegetables in squeeze pouches would lead to bad eating habits.  Now that our kids were five we consulted each other about whether to do soccer shots and where to have the kids’ birthday parties.  Our husbands coached tee ball together.

When we finished our first glass of wine Catherine cocked her head to one side. I knew what she was thinking. My body felt warm.

The bartender came by, “can I get you ladies another round?”

We answered in unison. I said, “no.” Catherine said, “yes.”  The bartender grinned and brought two more glasses of cabernet.

“He is cute.” Catherine said about the bartender.  Then she told me that she hadn’t had sex with her husband in a year and half.  I was shocked but, tried not to show it.  She told me how rough their marriage was.  How unhappy she was. How she fantasized all the time about being with men who truly desired her.

I told her about how rough my marriage had been. I told her how we almost didn’t make it –how we worked so hard to get to where we are today but that things still felt so fragile.  I gave her the number of our couples counselor.  She typed the number into her phone.  She told me about the trauma she endured in her childhood.  She cried and so did I.  We kept shoveling in the nuts as we sniffled into our cocktail napkins. No one suggested bringing tissues to the March.

Catherine twirled her index finger in the direction of the bartender. He brought us two more glasses of Cabernet. I told Catherine about Pema Chardron, Eckard Tolle and Marianne Williamson.  She had never heard of any of them.  She typed their names into the notes in her phone. My body felt weightless and my head heavy.  I couldn’t hear the protestors any longer.

We ordered French onion soup.  It was the best I’d ever had.

I admitted to Catherine that even though Dylan was five years old I still checked to see if he was breathing multiple times a night. I told her I knew that was crazy.  I told her I loved him so much sometimes I thought my heart would explode. I said I wasn’t sure it was healthy.

She told me I had to take I shot.  I refused.

It was 4:00 p.m. when I said, “maybe we should get back out there.”

Catherine threw her back and laughed.  I laughed too.

“We are a couple of bad ass feminists aren’t we.”  I said.

We high fived.

I went home.

I described the day to my husband as “empowering and invigorating.”

I didn’t feel guilty.  I wasn’t lying.

Tammi Markowitz Inscho is a reformed trial lawyer turned writer. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with her nine year old son, Dylan and husband David. She has written pieces that have been published in the Philadelphia Inquirer and is currently working on her first novel. Additionally, Tammi leads writing workshops for kids and teen girls.

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You know it’s an amazing year to be a reader when Emily Rapp Black has another book coming. Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is remarkable. In this book, Emily gives us a look into how Frida Kahlo influenced her own understanding of what it means to be creative and to be disabled. Like much of her writing, this book also gives us a look into moving on (or passed or through) when it feels like everything is gone.

Pick up a copy at Bookshop.org or Amazon and let us know what you think!

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Are you ready to take your writing to the next level?

Two of our favorite writing resources are launching new opportunities for working on your craft. Circe Consulting was formed when Emily Rapp Black and Gina Frangello decided to collaborate on a writing space. Corporeal Writing is under the direction of Lidia Yuknavitch. Both believe in the importance of listening to the stories your body tells. If you sign up for a course, tell them The ManifestStation sent you!

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Click here for all things Jen and on being human

Friendship, Grief, Guest Posts

Remodeling, Loss and the Kitchen Sink

December 21, 2020
sink

By Devra Lee Fishman

I could tell I confused the Home Depot kitchen designer when I burst into tears.

“Most people are happy to hear they need a new sink when they change out their countertops,” he said.

“I do not want a new kitchen sink,” I said, as I dug around in my handbag for a tissue. “All I want is a new white countertop to replace the forest green one I installed when I remodeled fourteen years ago.”

I have always decorated to my taste with no worry about resale and at the time, I had a taste for forest green. I also had a dear friend being treated for breast cancer.

Leslie and I met on our first day of Syracuse University almost thirty years previous when we were matched as roommates. We clicked immediately, lived together all through college and over the years laughed our way through good and tough times. We were in each other’s wedding and when I didn’t get my dream job and I thought my world was at a dead end, Leslie helped me see the open road. Her bad news came at the same time I was going through a rough break up, yet Leslie consoled me. “Dev, in a lot of ways having a broken heart is worse than having cancer. At least I have treatment options to get me through this.”

When I started the remodel, Leslie had just moved back to upstate New York from Los Angeles. I was looking forward to spending more time with her now that we were both living on the same coast, but she was diagnosed shortly after she unpacked. Her cancer was advanced and advancing. As time went by and her world seemed to only revolve around doctors and treatments, I thought she might enjoy a distraction so I asked her to help design my new kitchen.

I visited every few weeks and brought my architect’s plans. Leslie had a great eye for form and function and there were many decisions to be made about cabinets, hardware, and colors. I valued her opinions and I knew how much she valued having something other than cancer to think about.

After the space planning was done, I sourced the fixtures and appliances locally. The only thing I could not find was the sink. I wanted a deep, double bowl under mount. I knew it had to exist somewhere so the next time I visited Leslie we went sink hunting. She knew of a high-end home goods store that was having a going out of business sale and the thought of snagging a bargain appealed to both of us.

It was mid-August and the temperature was burning into the nineties. Leslie wore a short black and white checked shirtdress, which hung on her like a drop cloth. Even though she was cooler without it, she put on a red baseball cap to cover her chemo-bald head.

We drove to the store that had a five-foot high neon yellow banner out front advertising its closing sale – everything was marked down. Inside it was Kansas after the tornado with faucets, lights and curtain rods strewn about the shelves. After pacing several aisles we finally spotted a sticker with a picture of my dream sink but did not see any nearby. While I searched for a cart, Leslie enlisted the help of a stock boy and together they found the sink on a high shelf, behind a tangled sculpture of showerheads. The stock boy lifted the sink into the cart, and Leslie and I wheeled it over to check out.  There were four cashiers, each with lines five people deep. Leslie and I chatted while we waited.

“The stock boy, Darryl, is very sweet but he smells like he had a lot of garlic for lunch,” she said. “He’s been working here for three years, putting himself through college and now that the store is closing, he’s nervous about how he’s going to pay for his tuition next year.” She only needed a few minutes to get a life story from a perfect stranger.

“Did you also find out if he has a girlfriend, where he lives and what his mother’s name is?”

“No, didn’t have enough time. He did ask if you were single. Are you interested in cradle robbing? Because he’s up for it.”

“Cradle robbing appeals. Garlic could be the deal breaker,” I cracked.

“Hey, we’re next”, Leslie said. “I’m going to see if I can get you a better deal on your sink.”

“How you going to do that?”

“I’m going to play the cancer card.”

I caught my breath and lowered my voice.  “Don’t you want to save that for something more important than a kitchen sink?” I pointed to the sign on the cash register that said ‘PLEASE DO NOT ASK FOR A BIGGER DISCOUNT’. “I think they mean business,” I said, trying to talk her out of making a scene.

Leslie locked her eyes on mine. “Dev, I have cancer. I don’t save anything for later.”

I nodded my understanding but still tried to make myself as small as possible when Leslie stepped up to the cashier.

“Hi, my friend here is buying this sink and I’m wondering if you would give her another five percent off. After all, we had to climb all over to find it and wrestle it down from the top shelf,” Leslie said.

The clerk looked like she was barely old enough to work. Her voice was rehearsed, but warm. “We have a policy that we can’t give bigger discounts,” she said.

“Do you give bigger discounts for people with cancer,” Leslie asked as she lifted her hat. The entire store seemed to go silent as the nearby customers and cashiers froze waiting for the answer.

The girl took Leslie’s hand and whispered, teary eyed, “I wish I could, but my manager said no discounts to any one under any circumstances or I’ll get fired.”

I interrupted and asked, “We don’t want her to get fired, do we Leslie?” I quickly swiped my credit card and finished the transaction.

Leslie asked, “Can we at least get someone to help us carry this out to the car?” She was going for a victory, no matter how small.

Before the cashier could answer, the store manager and two other men who were in the line next to ours almost collided as they vied to take control of our cart.  The three of them walked us outside and lifted the sink into my car.  Each one of them gave Leslie a hug before going back inside.

Leslie died the following year and I think of her – and our sink buying adventure – every time I walk into my beautiful kitchen. But my forest green countertop was fading and there was a stain from when I did not clean up red wine fast enough. It was time for a new countertop.

The kitchen specialist explained. “When we remove the old countertop, the sink will get damaged.” The finality of the trade-off made me cry more. He pulled out a brochure and said, “We’re having a promotion on new sinks this week. Do you like any of these?”

I wanted to tell him that I bought my sink with my dear now dead friend and that shopping trip was our final crazy caper, but I just sniffled, nodded and pointed to the only double-bowl under mount on the page.

When I got home that day I called my mother for solace.

“Grief is a wicked shape shifter, honey. We never know what will trigger us. This is difficult because it reminds you that Leslie is gone,” she said.

She’s right. My kitchen holds the last memories I have of Leslie and the project we worked on together throughout her fight with cancer. I feel like I am saying goodbye to her all over again and will with each piece of the kitchen that has to be replaced. Just last month the motherboard of my original refrigerator crashed and the appliance was diagnosed beyond repair. I cried then, too.

**

I kept the sink. I had to. I planted it in my backyard and now use it as a container for irises, Leslie’s favorite flowers. I know Leslie would get a kick out of that. But the refrigerator…I had to let it go and I am trying not to resent the new one taking its place. I know Leslie would like that, too.

Devra Fishman is a writer and long-time hospice volunteer. She is currently working on a full-length memoir about the beautiful transformational friendship she shared with my college roommate who died from breast cancer way too soon. Devra’s essays have been published in The Saturday Evening Post, The Manifest-Station and Laura Munson’s summer guest blog series. She lives in Falls Church, Virginia.

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Click here for all things Jen

Friendship, Grief, Guest Posts

Hogtied Heart

November 30, 2020

By Laura Zera

When I spun up a blues playlist this morning—T-Bone Walker, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters—I wondered why I’d let months go by since I’d last listened. I know better. If there’s ever a day where my feet aren’t planted or my heart is paining, which has been most days lately, the blues set me straight. Not by taking away the discomfort; by dropping me right into the middle of it.

The first time I heard blues played live I was 21 and too-soon worldly. But I was unprepared for how that particular genre of music could twist its way into soft tissue, seep into cells. I’d traveled from Vancouver, Canada to Phoenix to buy a secondhand Jeep CJ, a realistic hare-brained scheme back then. All it took was a brief meeting with a banker in his mid-20s (I think his name was Kai). “Yeah, I’m a student with a part-time job, but those jeeps are so rust-free. Can you throw in a bit extra to cover travel?”

With six-and-a-half thousand advanced for my mission, I rode Amtrak and stayed at the youth hostel. There I met Glen, an Australian goliath who had to step in for my singular 4×4 test drive when, inexperienced with manual transmissions, I couldn’t make it around the block, thanks to my shaking legs. The vehicle was a Toyota Land Cruiser because my price range turned up nary a Jeep. I switched my search to sports cars.

At the hostel, a German engineer with a beard (so weird for 1990) delighted in explaining Mazda’s rotary engine in extravagant detail and dissuaded me from buying an RX-7. Thorsten also left a note for me with the manager. I can still see myself reading it at the front desk, confused. “It says he’s fallen in love with me.” Her smirk told me that as camp counselor to the young and restless, she’d seen this trouble before.

My partiality was for Nick, a pensive Brit who later came up to Vancouver and explained he hadn’t been himself in Phoenix. In the last part of a spell in Mexico, he visited a river with two other English travelers. They wanted to swim at a waterfall, and, feeling apprehensive, he stayed further downstream. A day later, Mexican authorities called on him to identify their bodies. He got the hell out of there, and when I met him, he’d just called the boys’ parents.

I don’t remember any women from the hostel, which fits perfectly with my dear friend Jill’s one-time remark that I always noticed the men in the room. She was right, of course. It wasn’t until 2018, when I interviewed Jenny Valentish about her book Woman of Substances, that I connected this habit to earlier sexual assaults. Yes. I always notice the men in the room.

At the time, Jill, Welsh by origin, was working illegally as a caregiver to an old Iranian woman on a ranch near San Diego. She caught a Greyhound to Phoenix and together we road-tripped through America in the car I eventually bought: a hot little Datsun 280ZX. Aside from being conned out of fifty bucks in San Francisco by a hustler who promised tickets to a fictitious mega concert and then disappeared, the trip was a smash hit. I dropped Jill in Seattle because she couldn’t cross the border, for reasons different than the circumstances of today.

But back to the music. A group of us from the Phoenix hostel found ourselves at a tiny club called Char’s Has the Blues. I stood for eons in front of the stage, beer in hand, C-PTSD undiagnosed, and felt that music like it was pouring out of me, instead of into me.

I looked up Char’s online today, the first time in 30 years I’ve checked to see if it was still around. A month ago, it was put up for sale, a casualty of COVID.

Jill died from cancer in January.

A kid today with some miles to travel and living to do cannot in good conscience hang out, shopping for well-preserved Jeeps by day and finding their soul at night.

I was in Phoenix for all of five days.

Thank the Lord, we still have the blues.

Laura Zera’s essays have been published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, DAME, Full Grown People, Catapult, and others. She is a mental health advocate for The Stability Network, has completed a book titled Jump: A Memoir About Skating and Survival, and is working on a novel set in South Africa.

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Click here for all things Jen

Friendship, Guest Posts, motherhood, No Bullshit Motherhood

What We Remember: Epistolaries To Our Daughters

September 15, 2019
remember

By Jill Talbot and Marcia Aldrich

Water

You know that photograph, the one I’ve kept on the refrigerator of every Somewhere we’ve lived? The one of you—at maybe two or three—standing on the edge of a pool? You’re wearing a tiny blue bikini, the bulk of a yellow life vest snapped tight, one of your hands held to it. Are you checking it before you jump? Or are you gesturing, the way you still do when you speak, your arms floating up and down, almost flapping at times (like a bird). The water shimmers in the sun, and your short, blonde hair is wet, and there’s a puddle on the pool deck, so this must be jump two or three or ten. Your sweet knees bent, your tiny feet. There’s the dark blue tile at the water’s edge and three bushes line the flower bed behind you. Do you remember how Gramma would stand in her black swimsuit, moving the hose back and forth, back and forth over the bushes? Here, in this moment, she’s behind the camera, catching your joy. You’re all glee, giddy, but it’s the certainty that gets me every time, a pinch of tears in the back of my throat. Because I’m the one in the water, the one you’re watching. I haven’t always been something you can be so certain of, someone steady. I’ve told you this, but you claim not to remember. Your memory of those years an empty pool. Everywhere we’ve been, everywhere I go, I tack this photo on the fridge to remind myself—it’s my job to catch you.

Possession

When we moved back to Seattle, you had just turned two. I wouldn’t say the terrible two’s in the sense you didn’t throw regular tantrums, but you did have moments of supreme willfulness, and I couldn’t predict them for they came out of nowhere and caught me off guard. I remember one such fit staged in a public space to devastating effect. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

The Sisterhood of the Jade Fountain

March 14, 2018
jade

By Barbara Krasner

On the night before Passover in the spring of 1972, my mother pointed to our front door and said, “Out! All of you, out!” She wanted us out of the house so she and our longtime housekeeper, Clara, could change the dishes for the holiday. Changing the dishes was a Passover rite of passage and meant changing pots and pans, all silverware, tablecloths, even re-lining the cabinets.

My mother handed my eldest sister, Eileen, a wad of money.  Eileen, twenty-two, in turn, ushered us— my middle sister, Evelyn, eighteen, and my twin, Andrea and me, fourteen—to her red 1966 Ford Falcon. My mother’s mission was clear: Have dinner out at the Jade Fountain. It was situated in the next town, North Arlington, where our father had grown up and where he owned two supermarkets, a Jewish-owned business in a town governed by the Roman Catholic Church, specifically Queen of Peace, which stood across the street from our flagship store.

We passed Krasner’s Market on our way, that part of Ridge Road that intersects with Sunset Avenue, where my immigrant grandparents settled and set up their mom-and-pop shop in 1920. Farther north on Ridge Road, Eileen pulled into an alley which led to a parking lot behind the restaurant. Kitchen workers on break stood by the back door and the garbage cans. Already we could smell the fried grease mixed with sesame oil. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Let the Dead Things Go

June 21, 2017
prince

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Allison Nowak

In the children’s book Le Petit Prince by Antoine Exupéry, The Little Prince is journeying far from his home asteroid, hoping to find understanding. He makes his way to earth and meets someone who shares a life-changing lesson.

The Little Prince has realized at this point in the tale that his asteroid rose, with whom he is in love, is just like the other roses he has discovered on earth. She had told him she was special, unique; but it is not true. The Prince feels distraught and confused. Just then, The Fox appears.

Hoping for relief from the pain, The Little Prince asks The Fox to come play with him, to which, The Fox replies: “No, I cannot; you have not yet tamed me.”

Curious and confused, The Prince probes at the meaning of to tame: apprivoiser.

“‘It is an act too often neglected’, said The Fox, ‘It means to establish ties.’”[1]

*

Christine was a very bubbly person. She had a sparkly, charming smile and that platinum hair, blue-eyed combo our culture so very much adores. On her best days, she would slip into clean-dyed American Eagle jeans, tucked into chestnut-colored riding boots, and a long, knit cardigan. I used to tell her she looked like a Christian Country singer. It made her laugh. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts, Women

A Small Coin For Your Thinking

December 3, 2016
coin

By Liane Kupferberg Carter

“I’m kidnapping you to Italy and this time I’m not taking no for an answer,” my college roommate Pat announces.

Pat bought a vacation house in Umbria, Italy eight years ago, but my husband Marc and I have never visited. We aren’t able to travel together much because we have a developmentally disabled son. “You should go with Pat,” Marc says. “It’s the trip of a lifetime.”

Still, travel is a mixed bag. There’s the pleasure of it, of course. But there is always an undercurrent of longing and sadness too. I so wish Marc and I could travel together. And I feel guilty. Doesn’t he deserve some respite too? Why should I be the one who gets to go gallivanting?

“What can I bring you?” I ask him. “Gloves? A wallet? Wine?”

“An ancient Etruscan artifact,” he says.

“Right,” I say. “I’ll go digging up Pat’s back yard.”

Pat has invited three of her closest friends. None of us knows each other well.  “What if we don’t get along? What if the others don’t like me?” I ask Pat.

“Lynne and Eve said the same thing!” she says. “Do you think I would have put us together if I thought we wouldn’t click?”

So I pack, in my usual anxious way, for every contingency. A first aid kit. A four inch folding umbrella. An Italian phrase book. I’m the kind of girl who always remembers to bring the toothpaste. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

When We Poured Coffee and Dreamed of Men and Horses

November 30, 2016
coffee

By Shannon Spangler

“What if God was one of us?” – Joan Osborne, 1995

I grew up in the middle of Kansas, a place where contrails score the baby-blanket blue of the sky, but only crop dusters land, a place of wind and dust and strip malls, their parking lots littered with fast-food detritus.  Money was tight but my parents were teachers, and we were rich in the currency of education.  My life traced a box, its four corners home, the Baptist church, school, and the public library.

To pay for college, I waitressed graveyard at a truck-stop diner just outside the city limits.  As with any new job, the first task was to learn the language.  “Eighty-six on the fried chicken.”  “Coffees on ten.”  “Hey, bitch,” from another of the waitresses was an endearment, unless it came from Lori.  “Fuck,” at least, was familiar to me (although I’d never actually used it and wouldn’t for many years), mostly as verb and adjective, but here it became a sort of adverb (“fucking running my ass off”) or noun and pronoun (“fuck-wad”). Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

How to Catch a Salmon: The Nature of Female Friendship

June 17, 2016
friendship

By Carmella Guiol

“I hope we catch a female,” my friend Selena says as we hike along the grassy banks of the Bartlett River. “Mmm, think of all that fresh roe…”

“Actually, I don’t want to think about eating slimy fish eggs,” I say to her, “even if they are straight from the source.”

She ignores me and carries on. “I’m going to cut it open and eat it right on the spot, sashimi style! I want to feel its heart beating as I chew,” she says, shouldering the fishing rod she finagled out of the teenage boy who works at the lodge.

I wrinkle my nose and shake my head. “You’re disgusting,” I say.

Everywhere we’ve ever traveled together, Selena always manages to gross me out with her food choices— whether it’s by scraping bivalves off a craggy cliff in Brittany for a quick snack, or sucking the brains out of a lobster at a roadside shack in Maine. “It’s the best part,” she said between slurps, butter running down her chin, while I watched on in horror.

It’s our last day in southeast Alaska before heading to our respective homes—Austin for Selena, and Miami for me—and we’ve spent the last two weeks hiking, kayaking, and camping all over the region. During our travels, we have learned that Alaskans live for salmon, spending much of their summer stocking their freezer so that they’ll have plenty of fatty fish for the long winter ahead. Although it’s mostly chum or pinks this late in the season, Selena is hoping for a sock-eye—a female, of course.

As we maneuver our way through the tall grass, I trail behind Selena, singing all the songs about fishing that I can think of. She doesn’t join in. She’s very focused on the task at hand: finding the best spot on the river for catching salmon. Every now and then, she stops at the river’s edge and scouts the landscape, hands on her hip, head cocked to the side like she’s listening to something I can’t hear. Mind you, she only learned to cast a fishing line a day ago, so I can’t imagine what intuition she’s working with. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

Traversing Female Friendship

May 30, 2016
friendship

By Melanie Bates

It’s fall of 1982. The grass hasn’t started to crunch yet, but you can feel that Cheyenne Winter is sitting on his suitcase full of snow in a vain attempt to secure the latches. His flight is booked. His car is waiting to take him to the airport. I’m wearing ginormous brown glasses with a butterfly decal in the corner, but I can’t see anything because I’m crying tears that won’t stop. There’s a moving van, semi more-like, out front, and I’m in my bedroom that’s been stripped of all its Holly Hobbie decor. The cheery yellow walls look like rancid butter. My best friend Monica is there with me. She’s crying too. Our parents think we’re being melodramatic. They think we’ll forget each other. Make new friends. Get over it.

I don’t. Not really. Not for a long time. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

Shippers Gonna Ship

February 19, 2016

By Jackie Hedeman

It started with the hot TA. In the fall of my sophomore year of college, I took Victorian Literature, and spent most of section—“preceptorial” is what we called it at Princeton, leaving no pretension untapped—fantasizing in truly PG fashion about the soulful grad student leading discussion. Tom, the TA, looked like the front man of an indie folk band. That or the eponymous hero of George Elliot’s Daniel Deronda, which we were reading that semester.

I already knew that Tom was from the Midwest, and that he liked books. Who knew what else we had in common! I got back to my dorm and hopped on Facebook to find out.

My hopes were more or less immediately dashed. “Come on!”

“Come on what?” my roommate Amy asked. She was pouring over molecular biology notes and casually singing an aria, both of which she abandoned when I spoke. I must have sounded truly forlorn.

“He has a girlfriend.” I pointed at the screen.

Amy crowded me half out of my chair and took a look. “Looks like it,” she said. Then she cocked her head to one side. “You think he has a girlfriend because he has all these pictures with this girl?”

“Yeah?”

“Well,” said Amy, satisfied, “when you become a grad student, your students might find all the pictures of the two of us and go, ‘Oh no. She has a girlfriend.’”

Amy had a point. “You’re right,” I said. “I need to gather more evidence.”

Hardcore shippers do nothing but gather evidence. They pour over the canon, and when they run out of material they turn to author blog posts, or interviews with the actors, or anyone else who can offer any insights into what exactly is going on with a particular character. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Friendship, Guest Posts, Surviving

Black Light

December 3, 2015

Trigger Warning: This essay mentions rape. 

By Joan Wilking

The job was supposed to take just a couple of days; we’d been there four. The inside of the club had already been painted flat black like a chalkboard. We added the dayglow lightning bolts, a moon face, and a rising sun with multi-color rays meant to mind-fuck the drugged and drunk hippies who would soon be whirling dervishes on the dance floor under pulsating black lights. It all looked pretty shabby during the day, but come nighttime – magic. We cleaned up our mess and asked to be paid.

“There’s still the billboard,” the owner said.

“That wasn’t part of the deal,” my roommate said.

She was small but tough. One of her eyes was a little off. More so when she was mad.

“Three hundred bucks,” she said. “That was the deal.”

“Three fifty if you do the billboard.”

“Four hundred,” she said.

“Three seventy-five, then.”

It was 1967. She was the one who got us the job. I didn’t know the guy. He was a friend of a friend who sold her some pot. He wore fitted black shirts and gold chains and had a voice that sounded like he ate nails for breakfast. He walked us outside. The club was in an industrial building on the New Jersey side of the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, where we lived. The highway was a truck route. Semis and tractor-trailers flew by, spewing exhaust fumes. The billboard looked homemade, the supports were rickety. It was smaller than a real billboard, more of a big rectangular sign. It was July. So hot and humid I started and ended each day soaked in sweat.

The guy said, “I want black with a big fluorescent rainbow and a yellow arrow pointing at the club. No name.” He described the rainbow’s arc with a sweep of his hand and added, “The radio ads will pull the suckers in.”

“How are we supposed to get up there?” I said.

He left and returned with a couple of wooden ladders. We each took a side.

We were just out of college, young and thin with tight tits and asses, which, in our tank tops and short shorts, were much appreciated by passing truckers who catcalled and blasted their air horns throughout the blistering afternoon. By the time we climbed down we were sun burnt and verging on heatstroke. When we stood back to get a look at the billboard I reeled, dizzy from the heat. Continue Reading…

beauty, feminism, Friendship, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts, love

Beauty and Bitterfruit

November 24, 2015

By Renee Gereiner

There’s something painful about living in a world where the rules have never made sense to you, where the idea of following the rules breaks your own heart, so you start making bird calls in the middle of the night, hoping someone will hear you, hoping there will be someone else out in the cold night singing.  It takes so long for it to happen so that when it finally does the other bird is old, and she presents you with a bitterfruit.  Like no one you know, she speaks, “We are not of this world.”  And you don’t question her, because she holds you in the deep brown of her eyes.

When you bite it, you become the women you always knew you were.

You sneak into parties you aren’t invited to where the beer is cheap and the women are shirtless; you drink bottles of wine in fancy restaurants standing up; you talk about film and documentaries and both the history of it and all the bullshit of what happened to old fashioned picture taking like you’re a famous photographer who has an honorary PhD at NYU; you drink your weight in wine; you stay up all night literally burning your shit in a bonfire with hippies; and you finally start making those blue nude portraits that actual professionals compare to the late Francesca Woodman.

But, of course, the bitterfruit gives you diarrhea and you end up spending afternoons over the toilet bowl, and even so, you still go back for more.  Because the calling of the bird tickles you from the base of your spine all the way down the sides of your wings until you are flying.

The bird knows shit that women wish they didn’t know. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration, Women

Importance of Female Friendship

October 8, 2015

By Nicole Baxter

I never understood the importance of having female friends until eight months ago.   Before then I didn’t think it was that important.   In fact, for years I felt that having female friends just set you up for nothing but drama and heartache.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say this just to say it; I say it out of experience.  When I was younger, I had trusted my best friend with a traumatic event only to have her betray that trust and ultimately cause a lot of pain.   Looking back even to this day, I cannot decide if it was that betrayal that caused me more pain or the actual event.   It was then I made the decision to never allow myself to get close to another girl and hence began the wall I erected.   I could be friends with females but to trust them was entirely a different thing.   I didn’t realize then when I made that promise to myself, how the importance of having close female friendship really is.

If you were to tell me a year ago that I would once again trust and allow another female friend into my heart, that I would reveal things to her that have occurred but never told anyone (let alone things I would not even admit to myself) I would have told you that you were crazy.  I am not even sure how it started other than it happened at a time that I needed it the most.   You know the saying: people come into your life for a reason.

At first it was only little things here and there but soon I began to trust her more and more.  All of a sudden I wanted to tell her everything even though it was hard and still today hard for me.   The more I shared the more I began to see what I had been missing out on the last 20 years.  I had closed myself off to others and now with her help, guidance and love I have begun to open my heart up and everyday it is opened a little more.   She has encouraged me to go after the dreams I put off, picks me up when I get down on myself (which is a lot lately), always telling me to be to myself, and that I am powerful and enough. Continue Reading…