Hi.

Welcome to my website. I document my adventures in the literary world, post new essays on my blog and share links to my work. Hope you have a nice stay!

Some Girls Write a Fearless and Moral Inventory

SOME GIRLS WRITE A FEARLESS AND MORAL INVENTORY

“Some Girls give me children I never asked them for/ I only made love to her once.”

Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards

“I wish I were a rock,' he said, and he became a rock.” 

William Steig, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

1.

Some girls want horses, credit cards, drunk nights on golf courses. Some girls want

forbidden lipsticks, pierced ears. Some Girls listen to the Stones, and Some Girls to the

Dead. Some Girls in 1981 get pregnant listening to songs they don’t fully understand,

songs that get in their brains. Some girls get told they are selfish if they don’t wash their

brother’s plate, shuck the corn, or become irate. Some girls want straight A’s and

homecoming dates. Some Girls want babies because they have no luck. Some Girls are

the types Mick Jagger wants to fuck. Some Girls is a racist song, sexist, all along. Back

then, in 1981, I was a Some Girl. I was selfish for babies. I was selfish for unconditional

love. Crazy for baby smell, their baby beating heart and baby head with fuzz. I am

selfish still for the milk stink of them, the hum and vibe of their routing, the perfection of

their small strange ears, the new car smell of their baby souls. I am selfish for their little

toes: I am selfish for my pregnant belly and it’s creamy swell. Some Girls want new

starts. I have been Some Girl.

I was a Some Girl who grew up in an apartment where a woman’s place was in the house

and in the senate-- not in the delivery room. My mother was not a Some Girl, she

frowned at every baby, crying or not. She frowned upon babies with or without sun hats

in public or private, mostly in restaurants and on planes. My mother frowned upon

sewing, and so I gave it up. At fifteen a baby meant—I was here, longer lasting than my

signature on the bathroom stall wall where we smoked cigarettes and sometimes dope.

The only thing in school that thrilled me besides boys was the fact I learned about DNA,

how it was a mysterious graffiti in my body deeper inside than I could fathom.

I was a Some Girl submerged in the pool of adolescence. Our gym teacher told us when

we dreamed of water Sigmund Freud said it meant we were really dreaming of sex. She

didn’t tell us what Freud said about periods, because he was not a Some Girl doing Jane

Fonda workouts to make up cut gym classes, a sanitary pad lumping up the crotch of

leotard.

I never really meant to start having sex. I never really thought about what it might be. I

didn’t know for instance that it was devised for pleasure, connection. I didn’t know

anything about the erotic self. I lived outside the outline of my body by three inches. God

was like a broadband strip around my head directing me, but my will was too haughty.

My will was heavy like a rock at the bottom of the sea made out of the fossils of a whale

that swam a million years ago. Conscious: Unconscious. I was a doppelganger to my real

self.

My mother slept with other women. Once I walked in. My mother and her English lover

were not Some Girls, and couldn’t help me negotiate. They never acknowledged me at

the door or spoke of it afterward, as was the way back then with closeted Westchester

housewives. I found her copy of “Joy of Sex” and it’s manual nature made me think of

car repair.

My father pinched Some Girl’s bottoms, secretaries in which he found delight. I was

scared of the Hell’s Angels, and also bums who peed on the outside brick wall of

our apartment building. I wasn’t yet scared of fire or hallucinogens, gluten or food dye, or

AIDS. I was selfish for oblivion, which I thought was a higher order. I was selfish for

complete immersion into the pool of fuck-you- all, a baptism of zoned out living. I was

selfish for Seventeen magazines and royal blue eyeliner, Daddy’s attention, Boston

Cream Donuts, The Nation subscription my grandfather gave me each Christmas.

Morality was broadcast by my commie liberal grandparents as a penance for

Republicans, the Moral Majority, the PTA mothers, and Junior League women whose

pony tails were clearly too tight with gingham grosgrain ribbon, and whose tennis shoes

were laced up with vigor over their pom pommed ankle shorty socks.

Standing by my orange locker, my Some Girl best friend had just become a vegetarian.

She showed me nasty pictures of what the world did to animals. We were going to go to

law school someday to make the world safe against locker searches and having to say the

pledge. At some point she turned on me, showed me pictures from her church group of

aborted fetus/babies. Look, look, she shrilled. It was before photo-shop even existed,

which meant we believed everything we saw. It looked like a hairless nest of mashed up

marsupials. I was selfish not to believe her. I was selfish to think I was smarter. She

didn’t try to save my soul; she was a Puerto Rican Lutheran. She just showed me a

picture “really gross, right?!” and fixed her “Mick: I Like It!” button with the stones

tongue logo on it that she had pined on her green and white fair isle sweater like a

generation earlier girls pinned virginity circle pins on their twin sets. We were so smart.

There are many kinds of selfishness and self-seeking and most stem from the will’s use

of desire and desire’s use of the will. Vaguely each deadly sin is involved with

selfishness: I am told this by a woman who might listen to my moral inventory. Those

seven deadlies of lust, avarice, etc., etc. etc. But my selfishness has to do with mostly

with words not on list: emptiness and nothingness. I didn’t believe in anything the world

told me. Life was a grand illusion made by the Grateful Dead where cartwheels in the

grass by the river were the only answer. I didn’t know how to pray or that I was myself a

prayer. Sometimes the closest I ever got to a prayer was an image or a memory.

In a picture I have of my favorite girl cousins and myself during that period of time, we

are in Palm Beach at my Jewish grandparents, on what is known as the Gaza Strip

between where the WASPS live and the city limits. In the picture I am fifteen and sitting

between my cousins, squished on a large beach chair. I am pregnant and I don’t know it. I

have lovely big bosoms and healthy shampoo commercial girl glow. I look really happy. I

love those cousins, one with her thick Russian novel, and impenetrable black hair; the

other with her secrets of back handsprings and the ticking time bomb in her brain. I look

the healthiest I have ever seen myself from childhood or adolescence. I am radiating pure

and angelic vibes as if I was part of the Allen Ginsberg poem I was memorizing. I am the

queen of all Some Girls, and—Mick-- I like it. My grandfather called us Some Girl

cousins his bathing beauties—second generation Americans and who were going to

college. No matter what. He wiped off our lipstick when we wore it and taught us how to

fish, which we all thought boring. At night we’d sneak cigarettes in the pool house

cabana under the Jewish side of Palm Beach stars when he fell asleep reading the New

York Times or his how to “Become Fluent in Spanish” book that he carried around. “Mi

querida,” he’d say to us as he wiped off that lipstick. Our grandmother pretended not to

notice.

But in this picture I can recall my body wanted one thing and my mind and family and

place another. Teenage motherhood was a verboten trashy lowbrow Some Girlhood that I

wasn’t allowed to consider in 1981. I had a spiritual hunger, but followed the wrong

spiritus. I followed this syllabi of cold war era girlhood and the lovely booze I

bamboozled from whomever I could. I am not sure what the booze followed. I was scared

of tainted salad bars (for fear they had been laced with drugs by a villainous trickster),

trick or treating on Valentine Road (for fear of razor blade apples), my father’s

international house of girlfriends (for fear of jealous women), and, of course, the

doomsday clock.

I won’t describe the silly vanilla sex that lead to the pregnancy because that was written

in my sex inventory where I detailed where and how my relationship to sex had been

selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, or afraid. I made a list of every person I had a sexual

encounter with and looked at the relationship honestly. I made a separate list for the sex

that I never asked for and made it a burnt offering. Then I stashed the rest of it in a box

and duck taped it while I figured out who to read it to. One day my place was robbed,

everything was thrown around. The box was open. All the extraneous diaries and

mementos were strewn on the floor, but my red folder with the words INVENTORY

written in block letters across the front was neatly put on top of my bed and Laura Ashley

comforter from TJ Maxx. Some anonymous burglar had been my priest, my rabbi, had

read my sex inventory and had laid the tome of it on the altar of my Sealy Posterpedic.

And that is not being dishonest.

2.

Some girls lie for attention. Some girls lie to get out of trouble. Some girls lie because

they are pretty sociopaths. I was not a Some Girl who lied to anyone but myself. No need

to lie, my parents permitted everything and anything. Back then I didn’t know there were

ways to lie by remaining silent or giving a partial truth, or what lying to oneself was or

that it was even a thing. Back then Some Girls shoplifted Stones albums. Back then I

didn’t know shoplifting was a lie, just a way of life.

Back then I was a Some Girl who one autumn afternoon did cocaine deep into the day,

deep in the woods with a much older couple who had just left the Dobbs Ferry Abortion

clinic, too. Back then I didn’t know drugs were a kind of dishonesty. But right now, I

might be lying. I lie to myself sometimes and don’t realize when I am doing it.

Back then, in 1981, I lied before the abortion, before we were sitting in the woods behind

the abortion clinic snorting cocaine with the couple, (weirdly) my apartment building’s

superintendent and his hippie mistress.

Back then, I thought I remembered everything clearly. Now, if I don’t remember

something correctly it is not necessarily dishonesty. Some Girls tell the truth of events in

chronology. Some Girls tell the truth in metaphor. Some Girls tell the truth with a capital

“T”. I suppose, also, my disassociation is a kind of dishonesty, so I don’t have to feel

things or remember them in their totality.

Here’s a big lie from 1981: I was fifteen not sixteen. Another big lie (not mine): My

boyfriend told his big sister (who was definitely not a Some Girl but more of a “That

Girl”) who had her own apartment in Manhattan that he had vandalized the windows at

school one night after a keg party by “accident” and needed two-hundred dollars.

My boyfriend had once stolen sneakers from Kmart even though he was from an affluent

“special” family in town. He got sent to Outward Bound in Colorado instead of prison,

because in 1981 that is what privilege looked like (and still does). My boyfriend told his

sister, because his parents would have sent him to military school if they found out he

wasn’t walking the line.

Back then, in the Dobb’s Ferry abortion clinic I told the Nurse Ratchet of the Laughing

Gas and the scratchy dry hands that I was sixteen because I thought otherwise I’d have to

get my parent’s permission, which I was sure they’d give, but I didn’t want any truck

with them and their ambivalent lives and closed doors.

I guess that is technically a lie, but back then I had read “Our Bodies Ourselves” and

though it didn’t prevent me from getting pregnant, I thought I had that right to lie about

my body to anyone and also myself. I didn’t even know what an orgasm was exactly

though I was bedded down many times.

Back then, bedded down on the examining table, feet up in stir-ups to ride to the other

side, the mask was upon me. Apparently, as I was sedated they couldn’t get me to stop

screaming. I’m not sure if this is the complete truth. I recall screaming before laughing

gas and after. In the post-procedure room I continued with my crying-screaming. The

post-procedure room was a beige and white striped with six beige vinyl recliners, three

facing three like a train to hell. There may have been a fern in there, too. A clock ticked.

It had black hands and a white face. For all I remember, it might have said two minutes to

midnight.

The apartment superintendent’s mistress was staring at me in a kind of stupor. She was

twice my age, wearing turquoise earrings, braids. Her turquoise earrings matched the blue

songbirds on our matching abortion johnnies. We also were wearing matching little blue

slipper socks, and mine had a drop of blood on the left right toe. We were like girls in our

matching Christmas pajamas full of some ennui even worse than Santa Claus bringing-

coal-terror for the naughty. This much older Some Girl was trying to calm me down,

telling me everything would be okay even though nothing was ever going to be okay, and

that was going to have to be okay with that.

“How old are you?” she kept asking me. The truth was I had just turned fifteen, but I kept

screaming: “I’m sixteen. I really am sixteen.” I kept thinking I was George Washington

and that I had cut down the cherry tree. “I’m sixteen! I’m sixteen!” I continued to chant.

Some Girls are sixteen. Some Girls are fifteen. There were bloodstains red as Virginia

cherries on my johnnie by then. I cannot tell a lie: My cherry had definitely popped, was

thrashed, suctioned, fucked over.

I was still delusional when the apartment Super’s Some Girl mistress with turquoise

earrings helped me to the lobby where my boyfriend waited with his moped keys and

stupid blue helmet. No one had told us not to ride a moped for an abortion. We only had

one helmet and because my boyfriend was a gentleman who eventually became the

master of a huge publishing empire, he let me wear it. Because he is so important now I

will lie and say his name is Luke. Back then we used to like to watch General Hospital

stoned, and Luke was the hero. So, I will call him Luke.

Luke and I got offered a ride with the apartment Super and his mistress in the Super’s

Olds Cutlass. My eyes locked with the apartment Super’s eyes and we both understood

that if either of us said a word to anyone about this event (I babysat for his kids) all hell

would break lose. It would be war. Luke’s mother and everyone at her anti-Semitic

country club would know. This is why the Super shared his cocaine with two stupid

teenagers, by way of bribing us. His coke was his hush money. He was creepy with long

dirty blonde hair and a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt and jeans with holes before they were

a fashion statement.

We did a lot of coke with them in the woods way behind the abortion clinic. I was ninety-

five pounds small and getting smaller. Psychic blood was being sprayed all over the walls

of my memory with each snort I took. No memory could see out. This is a kind of lie,

leading oneself to one’s own slaughter of innocents. I began to understand the Super was

a dealer, the mistress was an “artist”, and my boyfriend was the ruling class. I hated

myself some more that day, but partied like it was 1999. I began to know this: The sun

went down quickly on all my passing realizations. It was autumn. It smelled of earth’s

humus of leaves and dried buds. My nose was numb. I was thinking about how I felt like

Peter Rabbit. I had gone into Mr. McGregor’s garden and it was curtains. There would be

no chamomile tea awaiting me at home, just empty apartment. Even though I was a Some

Girl my favorite writers still included Beatrix Potter and William Steig. I still lived in the

imaginary world, so the abortion took on mythic proportion and developed its own kind

of philosophy and worldview.

3.

There is an old saw that says fear can turn you to stone, meaning you can’t move, and

you have to sit heavy upon the earth. We all have to survive until we die. Survival

requires we sacrifice needs for a higher order of consciousness. I made the self the center

of my decisions much like a donkey I identified with in a children’s book I still liked to

read at fifteen, William Steig’s “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”.

Sylvester was a lonely but carefree donkey. For a lot of the book I was very AFRAID for

Sylvester in the same kinds of ways I was afraid for myself as a child and as a teenager. It

is said that fear is false evidence appearing real. Fear also got Sylvester into binds.

Here’s a recap by Wikipedia of “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”, if you’ve not read it:

“It tells the tale of Sylvester, a donkey from the fictional community of Oatsdale, who

collects pebbles "of unusual shape and color." One day he happens to come across a

pebble that grants wishes. Immediately afterward, a lion scares Sylvester, and as a

defense he wishes himself into a rock, the only thing he could think of at the moment.

Unfortunately, the magic pebble falls off the rock, and Sylvester is unable to revert to his

donkey form, as the pebble must be in contact with the wisher to work. The rest of the

story deals with the resulting aftermath: Sylvester's personal attempt to change back into

his true self and his parents' search for their only son.

The book raised controversy among several school districts and organizations for its

portrayal of the police as pigs, and because of that was banned in some areas.”

Fear had taught Sylvester a lesson in the consequences of “real self”. Sylvester gets to

experience rock consciousness. Steig was ahead of his time in his thinking of

consciousness. A recent New York Times article titled “Mind of a Rock” says: “The rocks

innards ‘see’ the entire universe by means of a gravitational and electromagnetic signals

it is constantly receiving.”

In 1981, however, I was a Some Girl that imagined that huge rocks and boulders had

once been whales and that was how they held consciousness. I totally believed that rocks

and stones and pebbles had consciousness, as a Charles Simic poem I read and love

suggested:

From the outside the stone is a riddle:

No one knows how to answer it.

Yet within, it must be cool and quiet

Even though a cow steps on it full weight,

Even though a child throws it in a river;

The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed

To the river bottom

Where the fishes come to knock on it

And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out

When two stones are rubbed,

So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;

Perhaps there is a moon shining

From somewhere, as though behind a hill—

Just enough light to make out

The strange writings, the star-charts

On the inner walls.

My cousin from my favorite photograph suggested I’d been to too many Dead Shows

when I had told her I believed that boulders we saw in the woods had once been whales

millions of years ago. I thought it might be true that these whales of the ancient world had

helped to sing our world into existence. I was a Some Girl who was “on the bus”. I

believed the center of the world was a secret place where whales convened with God. I

was a Some Girl who had also heard on a nature program that there are times of year

when whales travel across the world and our human sonars actually lose them for a while

and we don’t know where they are. The center of the world is made of imagination and

matter as thick and true as blood and the whales hang out there and dream us all into

being.

As an article on children and philosophy points out on teachingchildrenphilosophy.org,

“According to Socrates, happiness comes from learning and knowledge, in that

knowledge leads to virtue, the only cause of true happiness. Socrates would say that

while Sylvester’s pebble gave him the means by which to do good, it did not supply him

with the knowledge of what good is.” That, too, was my dilemma. I held so many

contradicting views inside me it was no wonder I felt like a lie itself. I didn’t want to be

part of the Moral Majority, but I didn’t think the womb invasion was nothing. Even if it

was like a rock, it might have a voice trapped inside it like Sylvester the donkey trapped

inside the rock.

It was William Steig’s “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” that I thought about frequently,

how you want your parents to find the real you but that you also do not. When stoned I

constantly asked myself: “Is Sylvester still a donkey if he has become a rock?” As Steig

says in the book when Sylvester sees the lion for the first time, “he could have wished for

many things, like the lion would turn into a butterfly or a daisy or a gnat, but he panicked

and could not think.”

As the great cartoonist Roz Chast points out, “Steig, who was a follower of Wilhelm

Reich, was deeply interested in psychology. Much of his work looks at society from an

outsider’s point of view, observing with humor and compassion the compromises we

make when we grow up and try to conform to society’s expectations. 

I was a Some Girl who could never reconcile consciousness with brain activity. Was a

fetus not part of humanity because before thirty-three weeks it has no brain activity?

Didn’t all matter have mental properties? In the end maybe it comes down to the

narrative itself of which this is a part. Dr. Thomasine Kushner wrote in “Having a Life

vs. Being Alive:

“Life may refer to something that is alive in the sense that inanimate objects, such as

trees are alive, or it might describe a person’s biographical existence. In some languages

this most important distinction is clearly marked. Greek, for example, has two terms for

life, zoe and bios (which form the roots of our words ‘zoology’ and ‘biography’…the

fetus is not yet the subject of a biography…the fetus cannot have any psychological

attributes necessary to make it a human being who is the subject of a life.”

But, where was the shadow life that never lived. Where did the glimmer go? I made a

decision to create a different narrative. I had made my self the center of this decision not

for myself, but for fear of all other selves living and unborn. I was haunted by their

voices mimicking the birds that flew overhead.

Maybe it was the cocaine that made me think of “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” that

day in the woods behind the abortion clinic. Those were average Hudson River Valley

rocks and boulders we sat upon. Maybe I was feeling how everything contained life and

being unborn was like being a kind of rock that had made a wish and was stuck,

unmovable, yearning for parents. I considered the rock I was sitting on might be

communicating with me. The Philosopher Swedenborg once said,” Everyman,

immediately after death, comes into (this) universal language.”

I was afraid that the rocks like my fetus might have been ensouled, even though the fetus

had been before sixteen weeks. Who knows how old the rocks were exactly, old enough

for souls, I’m sure. It used to be in the old days of abortion, you might try swallowing lye

and die. Or the abortionist would require you fuck him before he would proceed with the

procedure. Now, people were starting to bomb and picket abortion clinics 1981. Now

people were hooting and hollering at people entering the clinic, holding up placards that

said, “Baby Killers!” I felt like a murderer. I was afraid I had become a murderer. I was

pale from cocaine. I saw myself in the mistresses’ makeup mirror we were snorting

cocaine from. I was afraid to look in my eyes in the reflection. I was afraid of the

consequence I had become. Who knows what is right use of will, and that very fact has

scared me ever since.

I was a Some Girl who believed the Rabbi’s truth: that life began at first breath. But now

I wasn’t so sure. All the picketers. All the Bombers. Reagan. The Bomb. The Iron

Curtain. The coke. The mirror. The whales. Sylvester’s sadness in being a rock without a

family. I understood the telepathy of the unborn; I had had it with my twin who

miscarried and I absorbed. The feeling of this unborn memory is absolute, even if my

brain has blocked so much of reality out. I am a smart Some Girl when it comes to

tricking myself. I was pale from cocaine. I was pale from abortion. In the cocaine

“healing” circle, my boyfriend “Luke” passed me the rolled up bill in a loving way that

suggested doing coke after an abortion was a loving thing. What kind of Some Girl did he

think I was?

I was afraid of the siren song of angels I kept thinking I heard in the woods like wood

nymphs and witches that chased me in my childhood nightmares. The rocks were singing

like whales and only I could hear their low hum. As a Some Girl I believed in the life

force of the child. What had I done? I was going to law school to work for the ACLU and

against locker searches. I was going to go to Grand Central that weekend and was

probably going to get groped on the platform again. I was going to go to Florida next year

and pose for a picture with my cousins. What had I done? I was a Some Girl in need of a

magic pebble. Like Sylvester the Donkey I once believed the world had things to wish

for—like a family to care for me, but on that day I just turned, like Sylvester into a very

large rock. Unmovable. Perhaps my boyfriend “Luke” or the Mistress with turquoise

earrings or the apartment Superintendent would find my pebble and put it in a safe. I was

so afraid all I could do was wish for a wish for a wish for a wish. Some Girls turn to

stone and don’t have the pebbles to make wishes that turn them back into girls. Some

Girls fear the oncoming night. Some girls feared riding in the back of the Super’s car into

the black autumn night, the sounds of the unborn like whales only certain Some Girls can

hear.

Essay: Market Researching My Desire (The Rumpus)