May 29, 2006

Are you going to eat THAT?

I’ve dated men with food issues. Actually, no, I only dated ONE man with food issues. He hated anything creamy such as cheese, Ranch dressing, or sauces. He wouldn’t eat Indian or French or Italian. Going out to eat was an ordeal.

I ONLY like things that are clear! he’d bellow.
Then drink a glass of water! I fired back.

What’s wrong with Ranch dressing? In junior high, the salad bar was the diet discovery of the Decade. Let’s go to Marie Calendar’s, slather a piece of lettuce with a quart of Ranch Dressing. And then reward ourselves with a five-pound brick of cornbread! Why we didn’t lose weight we could never figure out.

Anyway, I love creamy foods. Milk, cheese … it’s not gluttony; it’s a woman’s instinct for calcium. But my ex-boyfriend didn’t see it that way. He saw it as a hateful assault. And never saw me being more hateful toward him than when I ate mayonnaise. He hated mayonnaise like Paris Hilton hates Nicole Richie. If I dared defy him and eat tuna salad, he would storm out in a rage, as if I’d told him I was cheating on him. But then, he was a freak.

Well, thank God yesterday's gone. And thank God I found a guy who's as accepting as the previous guy was a drill sergeant.

I love Larry. For all the reasons that matter: his spiritual beliefs, his style, his sense of humor. Not to mention we share the same tastes in music and film.

And Larry loves cheese! He even eats Ranch Dressing. Of course he does have his food issues. Chiefly, carbs. He won’t eat them. They’re evil. Sure, he can pack away a pound of pork sausage and brie in a sitting. But he won’t eat bread or cookies or cakes … scones. Mmm, scones!. It was a big deal for him to eat the Key Lime pie our waitress offered us at our engagement dinner.

You need to eat carbs, Lar.
I do. I eat trail mix. And the occasional salad.
You need to eat LOTS of salad. And what’s wrong with carbs? Like potatoes and rice?

Larry smiled, I eat tortilla chips.
He does. I’ve seen him.

I hate Dr. Atkins. Before he died of a stroke, he suckered a generation of dieters into thinking that carbs are evil. But carbs are in the food chain! They provide fuel. Atkins has demonized potatoes and rice. What’s wrong with rice? The entire third world survives on rice. And you don’t see them dying of obesity. Sure there are bad carbs, like cake and pie and scones and … mmm, ah, scoooooooones. But animal protein isn’t perfectly innocent either. Your liver has to work to digest it. Eat LOTS of meat, and your liver works harder. Your body pees so much to get rid of the liver toxins, you can drain your bones of calcium. And animal fat clogs your arteries. Meat isn't evil. Carbs aren’t evil. The Atkins Diet is evil.

I myself am much more balanced. I prefer the Tootsie Roll Diet.

But I love Larry. So I eliminated Tootsie Rolls (just for today). He’s been eating the occasional chip. And rice. So I’ll let him manage his own life. I did tell him he HAS to get a full checkup, including a kidney screen and an EKG. I don’t want to be a widow in five years. Besides, I remember too well the Mayonnaise Wars.

The other night at a party, I was completely avoiding the pastries and chocolate cake, and made myself a plate of fresh veggies, cheese, and even a few pieces of a sourdough baguette. I sat down with Larry and he leaned over. Eat that, and I can’t kiss you or touch you for the rest of the evening.

I thought he meant the bread. But no. His finger pointed directly at a vegetable on my plate. A living, green, vegetable: packed with nutrients, fiber, and mild flavor. A stalk of celery. Larry hates celery. It makes him gag.
You can smell that? I asked. Larry can’t smell the decaying cardboard boxes or dust bunnies that overrun his apartment. But he can smell a stalk of celery?

Yup. From here.
Well, it's too late.
I pulled my napkin away to reveal a half-eaten stalk of the Green Menace.

He gasped in mock horror. Guess I can’t kiss you now.
Guess not
, I smirked back.
He laughed. And he kissed me anyway.

I knew he was only joking. Sort of. I went upstairs, brushed my teeth and gargled, came back down and breathed on him.
All better!
He smiled. Aw, you didn't have to do that. I kissed you .
But you didn't like it.

A life without celery? Ah, all the holiday meals that will never be. No turkey stuffing with celery. No home made chicken soup with celery. No Dr. Brown’s Celery Soda. I’ll have to skulk around the produce mart the way alcoholics sneak off to the bar.

But Larry’s worth it. It’s a negligible trade-off for all the incredible things that he is, the things we both love together. Including cheese.

Now if I can just get him to eat sushi.

Want to read Larry's account of the evening? Read Celery Sins

May 26, 2006

World Enough And Time

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.

What’s that adage, work expands to the time allotted to complete it?
Meaning, if you’ve got an 8-hour assignment, and all you’ve got is 8 hours, it’ll take you 8 hours. Maybe even 7. But if you’ve got 20 hours free, it'll probably take you 20 hours. Because you'll waste the first 12.

Why? Because you can’t start working on that 8-hour project when those sweet peas have grown too tall in the planter and they're falling over. They could die in the next 8 hours. So you drive to Home Depot to buy a lattice for them to grow on. Then you end up digging in the yard to set up the lattice, get bitten by a poisonous spider and have to go buy antihistamines and anti-panic drugs. Then you bleach the sink in case any poisonous spiders are in the plumbing, and sweep and vacuum the entire house for the second time that day and wonder why you didn’t get an air purifier at home Depot when you were there.

Then you stop at Trader Joe’s to get coffee to keep yourself alert for this 8-hour work project that you now have only 12 hours left to complete. But while getting coffee you also stop for some cheese, trail mix and protein bars. And then when you eat too many cashews, which you must have a food sensitivity to, because now you’re all sleepy. So then you have to take a long nap, and when you wake up it’s too late to get your mind geared up for an 8-hour work project at 8pm.

But that would mean you'd be working until 4am. So you leave it for the next day. Whatever you do, DON'T go to Ross first thing. I know, you think you'll just get ONE thing: an air-tight canister for those nuts, so you won't spread peanut dust in the cupboard and get food-allergy sleepiness. I know, you ate cashews yesterday. But many people are allergic to peanuts. Maybe you are too. Maybe the cashews were cooked in peanut oil. You want to be safe.

So you find yourself at Ross. Why? Why why why did you come? Because you've got Retail Amnesia. Every time, you forget how depressed Ross makes you feel. You go in thinking you’ll find a good deal, but you get grossed out by the dust bunnies on the floor, the clothes on the floor … EVERYTHING for sale is on the floor, except a broom and an employee to sweep it. Where are they? They're not at the register.

And then there are the children. The screaming, tantruming, insufferable, future delinquents whose mothers think Ross is a free Childcare Facility; who are either a) deaf to their child’s Baby Nero tantrums, or b) afraid to discipline their child in case the kid says I hate you mommy!, because that child is their only source for unconditional love. Or, c) come from a culture that doesn’t discipline kids. Like Beverly Hills.

I told Larry I wanted to buy a fake security badge, like I’m a special investigator for Child Services. Whenever some kid throws a tantrum in a public place, I can flash it and say, “Ma’am. You need to remove your brat from the building, or we’re going to take him to prison. Where it looks like he’s going to be in 10 years anyway."

Yeah, too much time in Ross. Not enough time on my ... oh gosh my 8-hour project and I've only got 6 hours to complete it!

When I got laid off in September, I thought, Okay: All that time I used to go to my job, I’ll show up for work at my own desk! My biggest task was to finish the script of my solo show.

But all sorts of life happened. I wrote blogs, I got Voice-Over gigs, went to New York and taught, I got a couple writing gigs for DirecTV. I had to do my taxes. And most importantly, I fell in love! Which brought a whole ‘nother blog and other wonderful things to write about. His friends, my friends, our friends together. Friends who wanted to meet one-on-one and REALLY get to know us. I've loved it. But if you want to know who I am in one word? I'm tired. Tired and hours to go before I sleep. Four hours to finish that 4 hour job.

Now what am I writing about again? Oh yeah, my solo show memoir. What was it about again? Oh, being in excruciating psychic and spiritual pain. Can writers write about pain when they’re not in pain? Is the productive but tortured artist a myth? What if Van Gough had taken Prozac?

My story is a memoir about faith: namely, my horrible, painful, harrowing crisis of faith. Only Funny. What happens when your faith gets char broiled and pulverized? What happens when everything your faith was based on: church, friends, community, the faith that "obey God and it will go well with you: what happens when all that gets nuked? And God seems to enjoy doing it?

Obviously I survived it. And I went on to find contentment, and even fall in love. But can I write the pain now that I’m happy?

Fortunately I took notes. But will I be able to relive it and recount it in a way that feel real to the reader?

Thankfully, I’ve got a good memory. I remember events from when I was 13 months old and onward. I sure as Hades remember the pain of three years ago. Pain is pain is pain. If I forget, remind me. Some of you were there.

How many hours do I have left?
Better get cracking.

Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

May 21, 2006

The Argument Clinic

You two need to hurry up and have an argument.
Our therapist Ron said this to Larry and me during a pre-marital counseling session. We had taken a test to identify our strengths and weaknesses, and we’re so compatible, there’s little to hammer out. The areas we disagreed came down to semantics.

I.E.: Statement. “My partner and I know how we want to raise our children.”

Larry: (5) Strongly agree. Susan: (3) Undecided.

I checked “Undecided” because there was no number for “Not Applicable.” Larry checked "Strongly Agree" because we both know we don’t want kids. (Hey we love kids. We’re 44 and 51, and too old to raise any from a wheelchair.) So semantics aside, we’re in agreement. In fact, we’re so much in sync, that the test identified us as a “Vitalized Couple.” Or actualized, or self-actualized, or mutually empowered. Whatever. We scored the highest level.

But this test can also identify idealization distortion,” our therapist cautioned.

Sure. We’ve been dating six months, we’ve got a lifetime to be disappointed, then get over it. Then again, we’re 44 and 51. We’re already over it.

RON: So, you two need to hurry up and have an argument.
SUS: Why? So we can have some passionate post-argument snogging?
RON: No, So we can see how you resolve conflict.

I had post argument snogging on my mind. I’d just watched Pride and Prejudice. All that scorn and derision made for some hot sexual tension between the two main characters.

Elizabeth: Your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry!”
Darcy glares at her, hot breath fogging up the cold air between their lips. He moves closer. Her lips part in anticipation. And, and and….
Darcy: Forgive me, madam, for taking up so much of your time.
And he’s outta there.

Dang that kind of arguing is hot! Well, in the movies, it is. But in real life, arguing wears down your soul. It kills the trust, and eventually the love.

On the other hand, when someone really “gets” you? Knows you, loves you? When you trust them and feel safe enough to be your best and baddest self? That’s what’s really hot.

Still the question remained. Why haven’t Larry and I had a big argument? Are we hiding our true selves? Are we codependent Yes-men? Are we not getting close enough to hurt each other? Or could it be: we’re honestly well matched and resolve issues well? Funny, it’s so hard to accept the happiest answer.

My parents rarely argued, because A) they didn’t get close enough, and B), we never talked openly and honestly about things. Well, until the 11th hour. Then my father lobbed some apocalyptic denunciation at us.
“You’re immature and irresponsible! We never should have let you skip full-day kindergarten!” He said this to me, the Class Valedictorian. Okay, so I was sneaking in at 3am. But still …

Not long ago, I said something that stung Larry. It was uttered in a noisy, rushed cell phone call. A while later, I had the intuition something was wrong. I asked him, he told me. I explained what I really meant, he was no longer hurt. And it was actually a healing moment. I saw Larry could deal with an issue, even when he was hurt, in a mature, graceful way. It made me trust and respect him so much, I wanted to rip all of his clothes off. But I’m a good Lutheran girl.

But what happens when what I say IS what I meant, and it hurts him? Or he does the same to me? What happens when we don’t notice something’s wrong? Or we don’t have the grace to explain how we’re hurt?

Since Larry and I hadn’t had those arguments yet, I brought up an argument I’d recently had with a friend; one we weren’t having success resolving.

RON: When you’re in an argument you shouldn’t emotionally react.
SUS: Where did you get your license, Codependent University?

Of course I didn’t say that. But I sure as heck wasn’t going to do that psycho-speak:
I'm having issues around that statement, or, Your truth isn’t compatible with my personal meta-narrative. Instead I looked at Ron and said, “That’s a load of crap!” I’ve known Ron for a few years, I can tell him when I think he’s full of crap. Larry’s only recently met Ron. Larry went about it more tactfully.

LAR: Can you clarify what you mean, Ron?
RON: If you react emotionally, you just ignite the other person.
SUS: You can ignite someone with a calm intellectual reaction, too. Remember Hannibal Lechter?
RON: Susan, you’re not supposed to react at all. You are supposed to show empathy.
SUS: Empathy is an emotional reaction, Ron.
RON: But it’s empathy toward the other person’s feelings, not your own.
SUS: Don’t I ever get to share my feelings? That’s not resolving an argument, that’s burying it for another day.

I spent my childhood having to stuff my emotions. I spent my early adult life trying to talk and empathize with my father. He talked; I empathized. After a while I realized we weren’t really communicating; he was just reciting his Life Monologue, and I was his current audience.

So Ron, Larry and I proceeded to argue over how to have a constructive argument. And again it came down to semantics. Ron’s points, after his psycho crap, were these:
  • It’s okay to RESPOND emotionally, just don’t REACT emotionally.
  • Empathize with the other person BEFORE responding with your feelings.
  • If you can’t empathize, take the time to try. Try to listen. Try to see from their point of view.

RON: Arguments don’t have to be bad. Handled rightly, arguments can be Growth Opportunities! You see where your weaknesses are; you get to love the other person. You get to grow up a little at a time.

THAT EVENING Larry and I got ourselves a Growth Opportunity. An AFGO as I’ve heard it called. “Another F’ing Growth Opportunity.”

I read another piece from my dating blog at a public venue, called The Waiting Was the Hardest Part. It didn’t just chronicle my anxieties about dating, about the battle between hope and cynicism. It chronicled the awkward beginning of my relationship with Larry: specifically, the awkward fortnight between our first emails and the first time we saw each other face to face.

Larry came to the show. He’s come to most of the shows I’ve done since we met. He’s always enthusiastic and supportive. He met some of my friends. He was the new fiancé, they loved him. It was great.

Until he drove me home.

SUS: How did you like the show? (Girl Code for How did you like MY PIECE?)
LAR: It was pretty good! Some of the pieces weren’t as strong as the others, but overall it was a great evening.
SUS: Well, what ones did you like?
(Girl Code: What did you specifically love about MY PIECE?)
LAR: I liked X’s piece, liked the flow of her story. Didn’t like Y’s piece as much. Z’s was good but too long. But hey, I commend all of you. It’s a huge feat, just to get up there and be that raw and honest. It’s almost as vulnerable as having sex.

SUS: Yep. It is.
(Girl Code: HELLO?!)

Larry gave me a clueless kiss goodnight, and turned to go, but I tugged on his hand.
SUS: Uh, I feel weird, Larry.
LAR: Why?

SUS: I just recited in public a vulnerable piece about my anxieties of dating. About dating you! And you didn’t say anything.
LAR: I’m so sorry! I guess, because we still hadn't met face to face, it was just your story, not mine. Maybe that’s why I didn’t comment.
SUS: If I'd been talking about cheddar cheese, I’d want to hear your feedback … You just said talking in public is so vulnerable.
LAR: God, I’m so sorry, Susan.

I looked at him, calm and sober. I wasn’t going to cry.
SUS:I won't be the girl who says, "I love you" first every time. I won't be the girl who has to ask to be loved. What love is it, if you have to beg for it? I spent my life doing that with my father. I won’t do it anymore, Larry. I won’t be in a relationship like that.

LAR: And you shouldn’t.

He drew me into his arms to comfort me. When you get up there and speak, I’m transfixed. You’re so talented and honest and real, and I love it. I am SO proud of you. And I’m not just saying it.

I stood there, allowing my body to know what it felt like to be held, encompassed, contained. That’s when the tears came. A lot of them. Not just for this moment, but for the years I spent hoping, asking, despairing to hear my father say the words.

SUS: You didn’t cause all these tears, Lar. You just hit the iceberg.
LAR: I know. I still feel horrible. Please forgive me.
SUS: Of course. I’m going to need it when I hurt you.

Maybe that’s the grace of love. The Effing Growth Opportunity. Loving the other person, you participate in their healing, a little at a time. I pulled away and thanked him, but he drew my face up into his, and his eyes sharpened with pain.
You mean so much to me. I love you so much. His voice cracked. You have no idea how much. Some day you will.

Later that evening, I called that friend with whom I had a conflict. I heard myself say, “Empathize, Susan. Just empathize.” And whaddya know? I started to feel how she must have felt. The light went on. And yes, I got around to sharing my side of things. She and I grew a little closer in the process. I got to pass on some of Larry’s grace along.

That whole thing about not reacting? It works. I guess Ron isn’t so full of crap. But don’t tell him I said so.

May 17, 2006

After The Gold Rush

Larry and I spent Sunday afternoon driving back from his birthday weekend in Santa Barbara: Or the Birthday/Engagement weekend, as it will be known forever hence. Larry watched the road and stole glances at me; I watched Larry and stole glances at the gold rush on my ring finger.

Larry set the iPod on “Shuffle” and we let the songs come to us at random. Nevertheless, it still picked an inordinate number of U2, The Who, and “The History of the British Invasion.” Including two in a row by Procul Harum? (“Whiter Shade of Pale”, etc). And Bono sang “Vertigo” twice in an hour. Of course I knew “Gimme Shelter” and “Won’t be Fooled Again,” but when I blithely followed along with “Georgy Girl” and the White Stripes, he looked over and he crowed:
How did I ever find you?!

We do have uncannily similar tastes in music, movies, and humor. Thank GOD. It’s a silly but significant detail. Music can make a relationship sing or sputter. If Larry were a smooth jazz fan; or I were into country music? God help us. I supposed we’d manage to stay married, but we’d never survive a road trip.

It was a simple question that he asked on Friday. And such a simple response that I made. We'd been throwing them both around for a while. So we knew both the question and the answer that were coming. Yet that simple YES started something in motion. Inevitability, gravity? Now it’s a tidal wave of calm and completeness. And a second coming of girlish glee is building as well.

I look over at the guy in the driver’s seat, a silly puckish grin as he sings “Winchester Cathedral” and then Beck, and I think, I get to marry that guy!

How right he is for me! How deep the rightness of this is taking root! Who else would want to start the day with a latte and free wi-fi, and end it reading Brendan Manning or the Bible? A guy whose web browser is set on spiritual things, but who loves the White Stripes and Marvin Martian, who’s frugal and eccentric and dangerous and funny?

Dang I get to marry Larry! He just gets foxier by the hour.

May 13, 2006

Up The Mountain

If you haven't read it yet, first read: We're Not Dating Anymore

I wrote the following not long ago, and it never seemed more timely to post:

A couple of years ago I experienced my own dark night of the soul. Or as I like to call it now, my middle-class white girl's tragedy. It started with a bad breakup and continued into the unraveling of my spiritual life. Well, they often talk about the spiritual life as a path, or a journey. Mine seemed more like a hike up Mount Everest. With no parka.

Add love to the equation and: no sherpa either. The men I dated had the creativity, vision and cojones. Vision, that's what made them attractive to me. However, their visions included a creative life, but not a spiritual one. My vision was for God. That was the road I was on. So dating these men, particularly the last one: was like trying to climb a mountain. The Mountain to God. The man could only go so far before he stopped: “I can't go with you. I don't find God in church."
“Well, I do find God there,” I replied. “Or at least, that's the best place I know to look.”
He never would. He couldn't, or wouldn’t, walk the mountain any further.
I went on ahead alone.

And as soon as I rounded the next hill, I saw that the trail washed out: There was no safe, real church anymore. It was just the "hair gel churches" with the Purpose Driven Life programs, all the answers fit into a box. I was devastated. I'd never felt that alone and abandoned by God, ever.

I tried to run back down the mountain, but the bridge was washed out. There was no way down. And no trail up either. What was I supposed to do? I could no longer NOT go up the mountain. I had to press onward, I had to find him. Even if it meant climbing up the rocks, even if I fell to my death. I had no other choice.

That's where I left the story in my darkest hour. I had no choice but to keep walking.

In the last year, my hike up this mountain started to show some life, some purpose. I'd started to see a vision for my life: my writing, my relationships and friendships, teaching, whatever, all were connected in a way, to help others up the mountain. Others that the church wouldn’t touch: lesbians and new-agers and writers and yoga friends … walking with them up the Mountain of the Lord. That's what I knew I was supposed to do.

And in a short few months, I realize now, I reached the next chapter. It looks something like this:

I’ve got enough strength to keep walking up the mountain. I reach a rest stop. And who should be there, sitting under a tree, but a man. A man with wild hair and an earring and glints of danger in his blue eyes.

"Where are you going?" he asks.
"I don't know. I just know it's up the mountain." I tell him.
"The Mountain of God?"
"Yes! That’s it. Is He up there?
"He's up there alright."
"How do you know, Have you made it to the top?!" I ask him, scared and excited.
"I've been a ways up the hill already."
"Why'd you come back down?"
"To wait."
"Wait for what?"
" You mean, 'wait for whom.' There's a big rock up the hill, you can only get over it if you have a partner. I was waiting for someone to walk with."

"How long have you been waiting?" I ask.
"A long time. Not many people climb up this far."

I feel calm now. I feel good and clean and strong. As if God is smiling on me for getting here, and he’s saying, keep walking. I don't feel so tired.

The man under the tree jumps to his feet. He's lean and wiry and wild, like he seems dangerous. Dangerous in the best kind of way. Like he's got a secret you need to know. He seems familiar, like I already know him.

"It's time. Are you coming with me?"
I hesitate.
"You can't go up much further alone."
"I barely know you."
"You know me," he answers.

His mouth is straight and grave but his eyes are wild and alive with that dangerous secret. And I realize why he looks so familiar. I know him from every dream I've had about walking up this mountain. I recognize his face, the way I know I'll recognize the face of God when I see Him.

"Well, but do YOU know ME?" I press him.
"Yes I do. You're the one I was waiting for."

And he holds out his hand. I look down and I see, there's a trail under my feet. Very faint, as if maybe only one or two people have walked it. I think this man has. I think I'll go with him.

We're Not Dating Anymore

Today I’m sitting in a Coffee joint in Santa Barbara. What better way to spend a Saturday morning than in a beach town with good coffee and free wi-fi. Writing on my Mac G4 laptop, and some hot guy typing across from me.

Thursday was Larry’s birthday, May 11. We’d had it planned for a couple months to come up here for this weekend. “You don’t need to come over on my birthday,” he brushed it off. “We’ve got the whole weekend to celebrate.”

But I surprised him at his apartment in Pasadena on Thursday, with a couple of gifts. The last one was the shape of a thick CD pack. It was a 60 gig black iPod video. He was speechless.

“I figured you should get this today. That way you can spend the next 24 hours loading it with road trip music.”

He swallowed and laughed, there were tears choking him up. And that’s what he did, from Thursday noon to Friday at 1pm when we left for Santa Barbara.

I used to go up here a lot when I was at UCLA, because my sister Nancy and her future husband Phil were at UCSB at the same time. I know State Street pretty well, but as you can imagine it’s changed a lot in 20 years. OUCH. It’s been over 20 years. Anyway, State Street is crammed with all the nationalized chain stores, from PF Changs to Urban Outfitters to Banana Republic. There’s no more Salvation Army on State Street. Forced out by rising lease costs I imagine. But the Alpha Thrift Store is still here. Go figure.

Larry remarked on the vibe: it’s a transition town, he said: half way between So Cal and No-Cal cultures. It’s true; the Spanish architecture is well maintained. It feels like a town with an old Spanish mission. It’s got that sleepy upper class feel, though. Casual California with blue blood money.

We walked all the way down State Street toward the beach, looking for a place to eat. We passed a couple of Indian restaurants, but I thought we should walk the whole street.
There’s this 100 year-old joint called Joe’s Café from whence came the scrambled egg dish, “Original Joe’s Special.” The place looks like a saloon you’d find in New York's Little Italy, or old San Francisco. It’s near Highway 101, so I imagine it used to be a stage coach stop. The sign out in front used to say “Eat At Joe’s.” Red and white checkerboard tablecloths, the real OLD saloon bar, old style booths, with high wooden backs and a flattened rectangle cushion to park your behind. We were early and so the waitress sat us at the last available booth.

Larry sighed and said, “This has been the best birthday ever.”
Yeah, well when have you ever gotten a 60 gig iPod,” I joked.
“I got everything I wanted,” he started. “Except one thing.”
“Oh, what?” I asked.

I guess I knew what was about to happen. But it didn't look like anything I had imagined. I realized I didn't have any of how this was going to happen. And now it was going to happen, at least I thought it was. Or is that what I was thinking? My thoughts were probably something along the lines of "Oh boy here it is, well go with it, yea! How natural! I feel so calm! Oh gosh am I sweating? is HE sweating?"

He pulled out a piece of paper, on which he’d written down an excerpt from “The Little Prince.”

"What does that mean — 'tame'? asked the Little Prince.
"'It is an act too often neglected,' replied the Fox. 'It means to establish ties.'"
"Just that,' said the Fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy, just like a thousand other little boys, and I have no need of you. And for your part, you have no need of me. To you, I'm nothing more than a fox like a thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you shall be unique in all the world. And to you, I shall be unique in all the world.'

"I'm beginning to uunderstand,' said the Little Prince. 'There is a flower — I think she's tamed me.'

"'It's the time you spent with your Rose that makes your Rose so important,' the Fox said. 'Men have forgotten this truth. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your Rose.'

"'The men where you live grow 5,000 roses in a garden and do not find in it what they're looking for,' the Little Prince said. 'Yet what they're looking for could be found in one single rose.' “

He put the paper down, pulled out a ring box, opened it and said, “I've grown a garden with 5,000 roses and never found what I was looking for. But I've found it in one single rose. You. You've tamed me, Susan Emily. Will you marry me?"

We’d been talking about it for a while now: “When we get married ... as a couple we'll do this or that ..." And now, here it was: the question I knew was coming without knowing when or how or where. And as much as we both knew my answer, it flowed off of my tongue, simple and calm.
“I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more.”

I moved to his side of the booth, smiled, we laughe. I was so calm and unemotional. Until I burst into tears.

The waitress came over with the food. “Oh, I see a ring box!”
We just got engaged,” Larry spoke for us, as I was busy wiping the mascara out of my eyes.

“Oooooo!!! She squealed. She was a old hippie lady, maybe late forties. “So many people get engaged here!” She held her chubby hands to her heart.

She came by later … “How’s the food-aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!” her big red lips peeled open in laughter, and she answered her own question.

We got out onto the street and I jumped up and down. “Lauren Glade Wilson, I’m going to marry you!”

A while later I called my sister.
"Hi, Susie! Phill just took me out to dinner for our anniversary. What's up with you?"

"Oh yeah, it's your anniversary ! Well add another anniversary of sorts to it.

This morning we found out where they had good coffee and free wi-fi, and dragged our computers there. If you lived here in Santa Barbara, if the Coffee Cat was your hang out, it be an interesting picture, to see this couple walk in, dragging their backpacks, conferring with each other on what’s the best place to park their laptops, together or apart. Maybe the couple would look eccentric, or pathetic, or just from out of town.

But the view from here is, I don’t know how I’ve managed to find someone for whom finding good coffee, free wi-fi and an outlet is the ideal Saturday morning. A guy whose first instinct is to log on to Christianity Today or Beliefnet or some website on the emerging church. Really, where do you find that kind of compatibility? Nerds in love. Hip cool hot old nerds in love.

So the long and the short is, Larry and I aren’t dating any more. He's not my boyfriend. He's my ... oh GOSH. Larry is my fiancé ... accent aigu and everything.

It's the most natural, wonderful, delcious and real moment. I can't imagine my life getting any better than this.

But hey God, go ahead and try.

So that's my version of the story. Here's Larry's Version of the Story

May 9, 2006

Proof Photo-Positive

Lar and I had been dating nearly five months, and I didn't have a picture of us together. People started asking me if he was 'for reals.' For one thing, how could anyone as great as I described him. My friends were skeptical until they met him. Still, I had people out of town asking for proof. Photoshopping the two of us together wouldn't cut it. Maybe we'd have to fake a baby, like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Oh God. No children. (See Below)

So last Saturday Larry asked, wanna go to the zoo? Sounded like fun. When he brought his camera, we decided it was time: get a shot of us together. But where, with screaming children everywhere? Well, there's that enclosed aviary, with its own waterfall and beautiful tropical birds that fly around unencumbered. It'll be like the Jungle Cruise meets the Tiki Room.

If only. At least at Disneyland they chlorinate the water, and the birds are fake. Fake birds don't poo. Here in this aviary, where birds fly unencumbered, they also poo unencumbered.

We stopped in front of the waterfall and asked a guy passing by to take our picture. But while the guy was trying to adjust the camera, the spray of the waterfall sent waves of nauseating, putrefacting odor our way. We got a picture and ran. Look at those clenched teeth. We're about to barf or faint.
We were on a roll now! Heck if we could survive a picture in front of a bird excrement waterfall, we could survive anything. That was it! We were going to get... more pictures taken.

That night we hung out with my friends Meredith and Catheryn. We ate, drank, chatted about the nature of evil. And Larry patiently went under the Best Friend microscope. I knew he did Ok when Catheryn passed me in the kitchen:

"He's sooo delicious!!" And he is. Not just because he's so adorable. but also because he's such a great guy. He more than Made the Corkboard. He's warm and friendly, and he likes my friends. (This was new. My friends dubbed my last boyfriend "Captain Bringdown.") He's also got substance and loves to talk about deep issues. Look, girls love to talk. Girls love a guy who loves to talk. Larry loves to talk. ergo, girls love Larry. And Larry loves me. Which is all the proof positive I need.

Okay I'm getting sappy. So sue me. I'm allowed. I'm just proud to be with him.

Zoo Story: Kids In, Out and Under Control

Saturday Larry took me to the zoo. (Read Larry's Zoo Story) What a great idea, we thought. Several animals had given birth to babies, and it would be fun to see the cute cuddly infants.

Well this was true and not so true. For one thing, some of the “babies” were over a year old. Like the tiger twins who were born in June of 2005. Still they were adorable, and the way they playfully knocked each other around like caroms, reminded us of how fun kids can be.

The human kids on display weren’t nearly so adorable. And they weren’t locked up in cages either. We were appalled at the behavior of so many of them. Screaming, throwing tantrums. I actually watched a four year old hitting his mother over and over and over. And over, with his stuffed animal: I WANT POPCORN! NOW NOW NOW! Fortunately, most of the parents knew to discipline their kids and teach them it’s not acceptable behavior. Wait, that’s the show Super Nanny. Here at the zoo the parents were letting their kids wreak havoc on them. Hey keep it at home.

I’m not a parent, so I can’t judge how hard it is to be one. But I can make a fair assessment of what I’ve observed in public. And it’s awful. I’ve seen it in department stores, from Robinsons May to Ross. The other weekend I trying on a shirt, when over the dressing room stall came the piercing sound of a Hispanic kid, screaming bloody murder at his mom. I peeked out to see four women in the hallway, chatting away, doing nothing to stop him. He stopped for a moment to see if they’d react, and then went on. He was working it. But the women did nothing. Finally I yelled over my stall, “SILENCIO, POR FAVOR!!!” I heard whispers and giggles. And more screaming. I should have yelled was, “Alguien da eso hijo una TIT!” Someone give that kid a tit.” Ay caramba. No wonder our prisons are filling up. No wonder the Kenneth Lays and Jack Abramoffs of the world violate the law with no compunction. No one has boundaries any more.

Why are parents afraid to discipline their children? Are they afraid of hurting them? Or are they so insecure, they can’t risk losing the approval of their own children?

My sister and her husband seem to be doing a great job with their four children. They’re strict with them. They make the rules clear. When the kids disobey they get warnings, and then they get punished. They also get rewards, and they get a lot of reminders of how much they are loved. My brother in law makes a point to do a one-on-one activity with each of his kids. They feel special. I’m really amazed at how well they’re doing.

But the oldest is only 12. What’s it going to be like when they all reach puberty?

Nancy and Phill home school their kids. Or rather, Phill goes to work and Nancy exhausts herself trying to teach four kids under the age of 12. I wouldn’t be so worried, except that they’ve come under the influence of this couple, Michael and Debi Pearl, an Amish looking couple who are big on discipline and spanking, girls staying at home and not going to college; men cut their hair but not their beards. Girls never cut their hair and God forbid they wear pants. Debi cites some verse in Leviticus that for a man to dress in women’s clothing is an abomination unto the Lord, and for a woman to dress like a man is an abomination that causes desolation or whatever.

Okay yeah, most conservative faiths have a problem with cross dressing or drag. I gotta admit, most drag queens or kings make me feel sad for them and icked out. But there’s a big different between trying to be a man and wearing a pair of jeans to the supermarket. And what about Scotsmen and kilts? What about those white wigs that the british barristers still wear to court? Indian women wear saris and pants under them. "The only cultures where women wore pants were the Eastern ones," Debi Perl says, as if they're already condemned pagans and the trousers are the reason.

My brother in law has already said his daughters won't date. They can be courted, and they'll have to be chaperoned.
What about going to the movies?
Oh, they won't do that either.

Phill's also said he doesn't believe his daughters should live out from under his roof until they get married. They need to be protected. They're my responsibility, I'm their covering.

This kind of thinking was normal in 1850. But this is the world my nieces and nephews are growing up in right now in 2006. Maybe they’ll pass right on into it. Maybe Emily will get married at 16 and start having babies at 17. Maybe Emily will want that life. She sure is good with kids, and she’s very mothering. But maybe that’s because it’s the only thing she’s been modeled. There are plenty of cultures who do that. Including the Hispanic cultures right here in LA. Who are we to say what’s the acceptable time to get on with life? I can’t help but think of Emily in Paris, learning to make crepes. As of today, it’ll never happen. Unless her father goes with her.

I’m not a parent, I can’t judge what it’s like to take on that job. But I am qualified to report what I see. And right now, all I see are two polar opposites:, out of control barbaric kids, or happy obedient kids with a narrow of acceptable behavior.

I realize our culture is out of control. Way out of control. Not just spoiled kids. But just go to the supermarket and the check out lines are littered with gossip magazines about Heather and Denise's war over Richie. Charlie Sheen's prostitution addiction. Go to 7-11 and the check out desk is papered with porn magazines disgused as "for men."

It's sad. It's really tragic. Kids can't grow up with any sense of innocence. Nothing is pure or good anymore. Make all sex OK, make it accessible and all OK, and nothign has any preciousness. Flood the jewelry market with diamonds and diamonds won't be worth anything. Plaster us with any and every kind of sexual pleasure. Nothing is bad any more. Well then nothing is good either. Nothing is special. Nothing is pure. It's like the artist squeezed out all his tubes of paint and made one big blob of gray.

What a sad, empty, valueless world.

I understand exactly why my sister and her family have retreated from modern American culture. But maybe God wants us out in this world, this culture. God loved the world he created. Doesn't he? Shouldn't we be out in this world, loving people, modeling a different way? and not having to put on a bonnet to do it?

I heard about this church in Vegas, where strippers are welcome. The pastor just wants them to know they're loved by Jesus. Maybe the girls don't leave their jobs right away. Maybe they never do. But isn't that first step knowing you're loved?

On a ligher note: Larry did get assaulted at the zoo, not by a human, but by a Peacock. Either he was challenging him to a duel, or trying to come onto him. Oh no, a gay peacock. The end is surely near.

May 4, 2006

Audition, Ad Infinitum

I don't know if I'm still an actress. My theatrical agent told me he'd submitted me for a Molly Shannon movie months ago, but the casting people never responded. Maybe I'll have to take it into my own hands. I know Molly, she's seen my shows. She's a really cool person. I have friends who know her really well. I hesitate calling my friends and seeing if they can contact Molly for me -- I don't want to be one of those blood sucking friends. However, I DO want to work.

I had a few commercial auditions today, though. My first "On-Camera" auditions in WEEKS. Pine Sol and AT&T Yellow Pages. Products that will change your life! Well, they'd change MY life if I book one, the ad runs a while. It could mean the difference between health insurance and the Venice health clinic.

As for my auditions, I was brilliant. And a lot of good it'll do. What a crap shoot. The first audition runner said, Let's tape the rehearsal because you're always good.

A guy I knew from the The Groundlings, a comedy superstar and a guy who worked all the time, came over and said hello.
I asked him how it was going?
Hanging on by a thread, he said.
Even for comic superstars.

The audition office has dozens of auditions going every day. They must have been casting a beer commercial, because there was a parade of gorgeous, leggy, titty babes in various levels of undress, going in and out of the Ladies Room, which I was sitting across from. Two other 40-ish "at home casual" actors were on the bench with me. We watched silently as the cheesecake chicks giggled in and out, checking their pasties or thongs. Finally one Chick with a loosely-laced boustier giggled in to check her placement. I looked at my fellow 40ish actors and said, I think I should audition for that spot.

I went into my second audition. A suburban couple, "casual at home" dress, are camped out on their front porch waiting to catch the Yellow Pages being delivered. The actor paired up with me didn't really look like my "husband." He had snow white hair, looked about 60, and was dressed like he worked for Morgan Stanely (he probably walked out of a Morgan Stanely audition).

The time was coming when we'd slate: smile and give our name to the camera. Do I comment on the disparity between him and me? I know what I'd say, but would it insult the man? The words were on my tongue, the thought in my head. Do I say it? How many shots to you have to distinguish yourself?
I thought of my friend Catheryn, who usually goes for it.

So the slate came.
Me: Hi, I'm Susan Isaacs.
Morgan Stanley Man: Hi, I'm Cooper Harriman.
Me again: I'm his trophy wife.

It worked. I was brilliant. The rest of the audition went fine. But who knows if they'll even see it? Maybe they'll fast forward and never see my brilliant quip, because they'll only see Morgan Stanley and Mismatched Woman.

When we finished, the young guy running the audition said, I see you in a lot of things, you work a lot don't you? Which has its own kind of desperate hope in it.

I had a few Voice Over auditions at my agent's office the other day. There was an actor in the waiting area. I recognized him from somewhere. He played a doctor in one of the DVD’s I’d just watched. "Shop Girl" or "Broken Flowers."

He chatted me up. He went into the booth ahead of me.
When he came back out, I almost asked: Did you play a doctor in "Shop Girl?" But I chickened out. Instead, I got into the booth and said something to the engineer.

I saw him in a DVD this weekend!
Good Night and Good Luck? the engineer asked. He was brilliant in that!

Then I realized, the actor also had that meaty role in GN&GL of the Newscaster who committed suicide. I'm glad I didn't gush over his two-line bit part as a doctor in Shop Girl.

Even after GN&GL you gotta get back on the horse and audition.
Again. Again. Again.
No matter how brilliant you are.

May 3, 2006


Two days ago Larry decided to go on a 24 hour fast to pray about the future. I love this man: a man who takes God seriously when it comes to planning his future, and ours. I joined him in the fast, so did his family and friends. Larry said he was awakened at 5 AM in the middle of his fast. So he got up, walked around his neighborhood, and prayed.

I did nothing of the sort. I didn't pray much, not the kind where you sit in silence and wait. Whatever prayer I carried out was thinking out loud in the car, praying as I typed, typing what I was praying; or praying while I was juicing ten pounds of fruits and vegetables I planned to drink on this fast. Larry's fast is over. He inadvertently ended it early when he went out to lunch with a friend. I've got a quart of carrot-apple-ginger juice and a gallon of Master Cleanser in my fridge. I guess I've got a lot more praying to do.

Coincidentally (or not?), tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. Today I came across a radio program on which an old man was talking about prayer. He said that many years ago, he realized that if God wanted him to grow into a man whose character resembled Jesus', he better start spending time with that Person: in prayer. He also said that, before every major decision Jesus made, He went out alone to pray. I thought of my Larry doing the same thing, taking the time to pray. I feel proud and honored to be with a man whose character resembles Jesus. (actually, so does his hair. Hmmm). And I thought it more-than-coincidental that I stumbled onto this radio program not a day after Larry had fasted and prayed. I love this man. I'm so freakin lucky.

The old guy on the radio said his great-great grandfather prayed at least an hour a day. These people didn't have TV or the internet. Go back further, they didn't have electricity. So what did they do in the dark? Besides make babies? They prayed.

Anyway, this old man lamented that our prayers today tend to be shallow: unloading our problems, asking for things. Not that asking was wrong. But it was clear his experiences in prayer had gone much deeper. I could hear it in his age-weathered voice. It was calm and grounded.

He talked about how wonderful it is just to have a prayer life with God. He said he tried to talk less and listen more. He prayed for his children. I thought of my mom, who was up at dawn every day reading her Bible and praying ... mostly for her children.

I heard that still calm in this man's voice, and I started to cry. I cried not out of guilt, but out of envy and longing to have what this man had. Longing for what my mom had. Ache for what I've had in the past: A deep solid calm, grounded in a history of getting quiet and listening to the Person who loves you, who knows you, and whose character you'd most like to resemble.

I still have all that juice in my fridge. I think I'm going to keep on this fast until it's gone. And until I've had some of those moments in prayer I've been longing for. The kind you can't get when you're shoving carrots into a juicer, or trying not to murder the driver in front of you.