Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left open for surprises]

red, carpet, woman, glamour

Dear Special Father,

Forgive me because it's been three years since my last confession/red carpet post. Also I'm not Catholic so I don't know what I'm talking about but this booth was unlocked so I'm in here now. Is this called a booth? Where we talk about what I did wrong? Stress cupboard? Regrets box?

Whatever it is, let's get regrettin'!

Time was when I lived for the red carpets and everybody walking on them in what they were wearing for fame and honor. I'd watch so hard all my muscles would ache. Saucer eyes, frantic notes, endless rewind. CLOCK HER BOW, CLOCK IT. LIP COLOR, LIP COLOR, WRITE IT DOWN, FOOL.

And then I'd spend fives and tens of hours combing photos and organizing them and thinking about flow and jokes and feelings and I would stay up until 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 AM to finish and hit publish as fast as possible so we could all rejoice together while we still remembered what an Oscar was.

But then I got a job. See, when you don't have a job you can do that! You can do that for free from love! When you do have a job, you can't do that for free from love because what if you also have kids. I'm not trying to speak for everybody, and certainly not about what people with or without kids can and cannot do. Everybody has their own thing that requires what it does. But after my job is also kids. So I don't have all the consecutive hours for the momentum these posts need.


And so I let the people down. I'm sorry, the people. The people enjoyed a red carpet post and I ceased to provide them for the people, even though I love and esteem the people and care about their happiness and what I can do to add to it, especially during these pungent times.

But what I have right now is

the flu

and I'm

home from work


I feel like it

so here we are in a post-Oscar, flu-based, auld-lang-syne-vibin' harmonic convergence and it's on. Is it on forever? Nobody knows. Will I ever do it again? How should I know? But for now:

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The first thing you should worry about when you're doing a red carpet post—which I never used to do because I was a buffoon and I didn't know—is photo rights. But now I'm more grown. This is where I started today:

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And, uh, here's some of the stuff that'll allow me to talk about re: oscars red carpet 2018.

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Mandy Moore seven years ago.



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It couple Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers, or "Crogers". Toogers? Is it Toogers? I forget because it's so right now I can't even remember. They're just now falling in love right this second. They haven't even taken this photo yet. (Severe shout-outs to the woman in white on the right who looks fantastic for whenever this is and also to the ultra-adorable, poofiest-feathered-hair, sideways-peeking creature perched on Tom Cruise's shoulder who is straight out of a Renoir painting.)


Adam Driver's gigantic face with this expression on it from the Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiere in Japan.


This wonderful photo of Lucille Ball from 1989, which let's stop a moment and analyze like it's today because it is today. Check the day. The way the goldy-topaz sequins go down while her goldy-copper hair goes up! (Be at ease. You're in the expert hands of a fashion and beauty professional.) The green, the green, eyes, eyeshadow, deepy deep forest green mock neck gown. Her iconic lip shape present and accounted for. How she appears to be all, "You say somebody's blogging about this in 2018? What's blogging?" AND SHE'S RIGHT FROM BOTH THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.

And the least helpful option of them all:

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But I'm about to post a bunch of photographs from this very year. So what I'm gonna do re: all these photos I'm about to sin about, Father Regretbox, is maybe pour salt over my shoulders and hope for the best and not whistle in a theater or walk under any ladders and at the next full moon I'll put my laptop outside in a glass of water to purify what I did.

By the way, the image at the top of the post is by Alexas_Fotos, and what an evocative foto it is. It was tagged "red" and "carpet" and "woman" and "glamour", which all feels so true here. Who could it be? Is it an Anna Wintour sex doll? I am genuinely grateful to include it, in my own way. (The Mandy Moore photo was provided by Mingle Media TV and all the cool late-80s photos were taken by Alan Light. Thanks, Alan Light!)



Also, if you don't mind:

I understand that many of my favorites will not appear here because there is limited space and time and also due to the eye of the beholder.


Full name: ______________________  Date: ___________________




intermission: BLUE SHOW


Let's flip to Part One. *extended page ruffling*


Carpet Favorites


Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira, aka Shock and Awe aka The Spring Awakening aka Humanity's Not Done Yet e.g. for christ's sake look at us we're just getting going.


Oh, no, absolutely. You might have thought otherwise but no. This is newer than anything you think it isn't. Salma Hayek's Disco Victorian Cameo Firefly Fairy that took this shade of lavender and made it not your grandmother asleep in a field of stationery is perfect.

You know Prince wrote a song about her, right? Called "Valentina", which is her daughter's name.

Hey Valentina, tell your mama she should give me a call/ When she get tired of runnin’ after you down the hall/And she’s all worn out from those late-night feedings/and she’s ready for another rock and roll meeting"

So she has that in her bank account also. Try to subtract points and her Prince points swing in and undo all your math immediately.


Sculptural + a thing where it feels like it could be made out of satin OR leather, so maybe it's a special leather given freely from Technicolor blue satin cows that fall out of their skin when they feel like being pink now or what have you + Nicole Kidman so tall and knowing how and when to wield a bow + Big Little Lies WHY DO PLUS SIGNS ALWAYS HAVE TO ADD UP TO SOMETHING

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see, remember this? bow knowledge.


We will now begin our exploration of vertical and horizontal.

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Taraji P. Henson demonstrates vertical as soft, filmy, midnight sleeve waterfall plus also pointing up and also sexy.

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BUT HAVE YOU EVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD WHAT VERTICAL MEANS? DO YOU ENOUGH? If you don't now, after Allison Janney, you won't ever and so you should go ahead and cancel vertical. That's five more dollars in your pocket every month for a service you don't even use.

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And did you even need it? Is your understanding of anything anything anymore?

H  O  R  I  Z  O  N  T  A  L

This could have been happening the whole time we've been alive. Andra Day walked out and decided it was a new her last name.

Moral: Nothing is the way you think it is. You've already done fifty things one way today that you could have been doing a whole other. I want you to drink your next cup of coffee off of a fuckin' plate and think about that.

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Samara Weaving's dress is the first dress I ever saw that actually tastes like fruit to look at it. There's papaya in my eye-mouth and watermelon and blood orange and the window is open with breezes and I'm more hydrated plus a healthy touch of fiber. 

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I think what I want out of St. Vincent is for her to appear like this on my desk in the form of a rubber stamp and a pad of fresh black ink. That way when I pay my bills I can squish a little pointy, inky St. Vincent on the envelope and lift the whole proceeding up a little. (The mouth should only be outlined so I can draw the lipstick in with a red Sharpie.)

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Eva Marie Saint is 93! 93! She's been married for 65 years but if she weren't married or if she felt like being married another way she could murder the dating scene. Swagical.

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I haven't seen Phantom Thread yet—can't wait—but Lesley Manville's ice-cold clip from her acting nomination knocked me out and so does she. I love it when I can't figure out why I like a look. Gray and beige diagonal stripes that have an ethereal upholstery vibe from a the ghost of a terrible chair BUT SOMEHOW GREAT and with funnel clouds developing at her arms IN A CHARMING WAY—this reminds me of when my relatives in Finland would send me clothing and it was weird and ahead of its time but I knew it was good in a way I just...didn't...know. This is the same color scheme as the oversized sweater I got from them in 1982, before oversized sweaters.


Maybe more than anything what I get is bored, you know? So anyone who strolls in and does something different has an automatic cheerleader in me. Zendaya is spilling over everywhere with matte chocolate sauce that's a little more milk than dark chocolate and I myself when brown is involved in a piece of clothing like the coffee-est dark espresso brown best and it's all really pooling quite a bit BUT I'll take too much over too little. I think back to 1980 when all I wanted was to ride around in a brown VW Rabbit and then go home and watch Solid Gold. If I'd have seen this look then, I'd have hassled my mom to buy me a brown sheet and I would have toga'd myself up in it and borrowed some clip-on earrings and then stared at myself in the mirror for a few hours, maybe walked around the yard dramatically in it.


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I used to be an actor OH MY GOD THIS IS YOUR MEMOIR and I would fantasize all the time about what I'd wear on the red carpet when the shit finally hit the fan. I'd be thinking hard about what would flatter my figure in a certain way and show these parts off and not show some other parts off and it was all about how could I make myself look conventionally hot as much as possible. What a sweet little baby I was. Can you imagine how great Maya Rudolph feels? Such a superchill screw-you to beauty hurts. And when she opens her mouth it's Maya Rudolph coming out of there which is twenty sparklers in every direction. 

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Emily Blunt is from Narnia. <3

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The tones. The touch of blue at the collar, the blue-black velvet. Reflection in the shoes. Mahershala Ali inside it all. To honor this, we should probably be quiet and go listen to soft music, something as highbrow as we can muster. Something very dark blue. Your call. 

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*binkity binkity plonkity tink*

Is that the ice cream man?? Yeah! Get me a Timothy Chalamet. I love those. All vanilla with the chocolate hair and feet.


Why, James Ivory is the ice cream man and he only sells Timothy Chalamets! Original/DIVINE.


Agnès Varda. Obviously I'm not going to say anything to improve upon this. Hopefully you know what I stand for by now. But I do want to acknowledge what a revelation her hair is.


And nothing remains to be said about Helen Mirren that hasn't been said already. She's pure unattainable conventional beauty and she's aged exactly within the lines. In a satisfying way! Perfect things are satisfying, too! You know those photo montages of things that line up exactly with other things or things that fit/nest exactly inside other things? Helen Mirren!

Blue on blue, she's a segue to



Shout-out to that SET and everybody in BLUE against that set which was really the set to end all sets

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nicole blue.jpg


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-Tina, why aren't you talking about the actual Oscars more?

-because I was watching it in bed with the flu crumpled sideways over my pillow like a mangled Andra Day so I slept during a bunch of it


After-Party Smashes

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Kerry Washington but Rizzo but Dorothy's slippers-turned-sea creature LOOK GIMME A BREAK I HAVE THE FLU I CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO SAY HER  BUT SHE STILL HAS TO BE HERE

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Difficult/successful bangs plus spiderweb twinkle antimacassar hurray

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"Tell me the story about where Lupita Nyong'o comes from again, Mom?"

"Yes, child, she emerged one night from Kerry Washington's shoulder—"



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It might be abrupt to go from butter yellow to black like that but Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor are in love and they want to be connected! You don't want her in no gloves and then they break up, do you? 

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Amy Adams is a tradition around here and she knows what I like and she gave it to me.

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That shape is a BELL


                            and Janelle Monae just RUNG IT


                                                                            and now school's OUT


and YOU are FREE

the mighty bouche

Bodies, damn it, are so loud and weird. Mine is popping off like fireworks all the time these days, and this raggedy self-portrait is trying to show you what's going on in and around my mouth and throat. You see the mouth sewn shut up there. This is a sensation I'm getting, say, half of every waking hour. Like my mouth is vacuumed, suctioned shut. (It's fucking annoying, in case you're wondering.)  (I went with stitches in this drawing because I couldn't figure out how to visually represent the glued-shut, suction feeling.) Apparently there are some things that a part of me would prefer I didn't say. That's my best guess about this phenomenon. Anyway, mouth, suction, THING, you have my attention. Now please find a way to explicitly get across what your problem is. 

Meanwhile, mouth. Mine, yours, ours, the. That's where we'll go today. 


Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.

So sayeth Mike Tyson.


It's the night of February 13th, 1984, and I've just let myself into the dark house. My parents are asleep. I leave the lights off and go straight to the dining room mirror. I have been kissing a boy, and now I must look at my mouth. Is it fuller? Does it look kissed? I'm forgetting that I've kissed at least four girls on the mouth at length as an experimental child, and that was only for starters. None of that counted, it would appear. The boy kiss is the first one, in my heart. There's nothing to see but I could stand here all night anyway. I say "bee-stung" in my mind repeatedly. I don't even take my coat off. 

Billy Drago as Frank Nitti in The Untouchables. His is the first and possibly the only on-screen mouth I was ever stirred by. Cruel, sensual mouth. He looks like he's always just bitten or is just about to bite someone. I think it would be satisfying to be bitten by Billy Drago, like having a knot massaged out that can't be got at any other way. Like he could bite right through some old unfinished business, chew it, swallow it, relieve me of it. 

Listen! Clam up your mouth and be silent like an oyster shell, for that tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul, my friend. 

-My main man, Jalaluddin Rumi

A friend of mine went on a ten-day silent meditation retreat. Nobody talked, everybody just smiled and nodded and worked around each other. Then, one morning towards the end of the retreat, my friend went to pick up a couple of pieces of toast that were sitting next to the toaster. A guy came up behind him and broke the silence. "That's my toast."

When I was twelve, I got braces. Five years I had the fucking things. They stretched a metal bridge across my palate to stretch my jaw; we had to stick a tiny key in there every few days and crank it three times all the way around, which felt about as good as you might think it would. For my first year with braces, I unconsciously covered my mouth every time I laughed. My friends pointed it out to me, and I was amazed every time. I had no idea I was doing it.

MOUTH n. trap, chops, kisser, bazoo, mush, yap, 

beak, box, gob, clam, clam shells, clam trap, fish trap, fly 

trap, potato trap, kissing trap, talk trap, satchel mouth, 

funnel, dipper, gab, gap, jap, gash, gills, hatch, head, 

mug, box of dominoes

From the Random House Thesaurus of Twentieth Century Slang, 1988

I'm looking at mouth after mouth on the web. Mouths made of clay and stone and porcelain, mouths in paintings, photographs of mouths. Bare mouths, elaborately painted ones. Lord, what the mouth does. Lord, the responsibilities. Speech, nourishment. Eyes and ears and noses and hands, they're almost precious compared to the hot, corporeal gash of the mouth. Biting, chewing, sucking, yelling: you're in a body now, motherfucker. No way around it. I haven't forgotten the soft work of the mouth, by the way, all that sweet stuff: murmuring, singing, kissing, etc. But I'm more interested in the mouth at maximum today. 

There's a medieval painting of the mouth of hell. I mean, there you go. It's not a door, or an ear. The guy on the left is showing us an alternate route, right where his shorts aren't. 

In tenth grade, my friend Jennifer (this is a solid, identity-hiding code name for the 1980s) told me about a date she'd gone on with a senior. He convinced her to give him head in his car at the end of the date, and this was her first time. I was impressed with her bravery. A senior, in my eyes, was a grown man, and to orally grapple with the beast in a grown man's pants was inviting all hell to break loose—not morally, mind you, but physically, practically. Who knew what the fuck mayhem was going to land in your lap if you pulled that lever? 

That's still, for me, the ultimate exchange. Nothing is more up close—and potentially fraught—than that. Miraculous at best, degrading at worst. I'd love to go back in time and swoop the younger Tina out of a few situations, rescind that gift. That's an honor I'd like to retroactively set aside for the most truly deserving. Some of those fuckers got too lucky. I didn't know yet that my mouth is a temple. 

Even as I type this, there's a ruckus in my mouth, the thing I described up top. Pulling, thrumming, suction, tension. It's the epicenter of something, but what? Can't I get a printout explaining it all? Right out of my mouth, that'd be the ticket. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk. Paper unfurling down my chin. Dear Tina. This is what I'm trying to tell you.

Whatever it is, I want to get it over with. Drop the knowledge on me, mouth. Or if you're trying to turn me inside out, which is how it feel sometimes, just fucking do it already. Enough with the suspense. Open sesame. 

P.S. I know I swore a lot in this post. Too bad. I have a mouth on me, and that's that. 

time capsule

Up there you see a twenty-one year old wallet. Why? Why do you see that up there?

What's happening is that we're in Week Two of the can't-talks. I mean, I can talk, I'm going about my business, I'm okay, but what I mean is that I can't write, at least not in my normal way. Like I posted last week, my body is doing some deep processing of some difficult material, and there's too much pressure in my head and around my heart and just all up and down everywhere in this old vessel for me to be able to write a real thing. So, once again, we're doing something a little different, and eventually I'll tell you what sparked this.

What we're doing is going through my old wallet. 

Know that I have spared you from many things. This is a highly curated selection. And also, there are no pictures of me because I gave them to Dave, who has them now in his wallet, and it would be cheating to go get them. Which is sad. I had a tiny little proof of a cute old headshot which I would have liked to show you. But rules are rules.

Let's begin.

Phillip J. Griffin, Violinist Extraordinaire. I have absolutely no idea, which is why I like it so much I'm leading off with it.

Ancient business cards of friends who are still friends, which pleases me.

Twenty years ago tomorrow I went on a date with my then-fiancé to go see the Bulgarian Women's Choir in concert, which is somehing everyone should do. (See the choir, that is. You don't all have to go with Thomas. I mean, you can. You can work that out for yourselves.)

There's Thomas now, my first husband, in his old driver's license. I thought that would pair well with the appointment card for the fitting of that wedding dress. 11:00 am sharp on 5. 

Diane Ladd's business card, as you can see. (


, for those who might not know/remember the great Ms. Ladd.) Thomas and I took a weekend acting workshop from her. I did a scene from

The Children's Hour

and she said that there was nothing she could teach me emotionally that I didn't already know, which I've been savoring for 19 years now. Nailed it! 

"You are always welcome in any gathering." Maybe I looked at this old fortune before parties. 

I might also have been welcome because I could do CPR. 

Or because everyone knew I was always good for a grain or two of Equal. Yes, I've kept an empty packet of Equal for twenty years. 

Missed opportunity.  :(

500 Belgian francs, which tells me we're getting closer to the impetus for this wallet raid. In the winter of 1992/1993, I traveled to London for a month with a friend, and then to Luxembourg for a couple of weeks to visit cousins. 

This is my cousin-by-marriage, Anu, who showed me around Luxembourg.

We possibly went here, to the I.S.T. Bal, mat den Challengers. 

We most definitely ate at the Quick hamburger restaurant.

Okay, pause. 

A few nights ago, I googled an old boyfriend. I don't remember why he came to mind but he did, my unlikeliest old boyfriend, whom I met on this particular trip. After Luxembourg, I went to Italy for three months, and there, towards the end, I met Terence, who was a half-British, half-Sicilian mercenary in the British army. (There's the bit that made him so unlikely for soft, unworldly young me.) We had a brief and sweet little romance which I resisted at first because we were so different, but when I gave over we fell in something very love-like. 

The saint up there, as you might guess, is from him. She, like he, was from Syracuse. 

The back of the saint's flier. 

I met Terence at a hostel in Florence. He won me over when I watched him interact with a group of Japanese tourists, drawing maps for them and joking with them, making them giggle. He charmed us all simultaneously. Then a day or so later, on an afternoon bus trip outside the city, we kissed.

We only spent a week together, but we got somewhere in that week. He told me at one point, with...what will I call it, a sad happiness? A happy sadness? The beginnings of regret, maybe...that I had lit something in him. It's hard to describe. Whether he had wanted whatever it was lit seemed like an open question. 

Here are some poems he gave me. In my memory, he had written them for me. But I remember looking at his signature that he wrote them three years before he met me, so they weren't love poems for me, personally. They were still a genuine offering, a little something from his soft side. 

When I left Italy, he was waiting to be shipped off to Bosnia. He gave me his dog tags and a button-up shirt that I wore for a while, and we phoned each other for a few months. He planned to come to America, and we were going to live together, which seemed to me like a worse and worse idea over time, and I eventually stopped calling him, which made me feel guilty. I wondered whether he had lived or died.

He did both. 

He didn't die in Bosnia, like I'd feared. He lived and went on, Google told me, to become a very successful and well-loved special effects and makeup artist for the movies. He died, instead, a couple of years ago, in December of 2012, while I was very sick and scooting closer than I'd ever been to death myself. I don't know how he died. Google didn't say. 

I was going to make this whole entry about and for Terence, but I couldn't do it. I didn't have the emotional and physical werewithal. I had to go sideways into it. But he was real, and we were briefly real, and although he was already so long ago and far away that he might as well have been in the underworld, now he's genuinely gone, which paradoxically brings him closer. This is something I like about death. It's like a lit match next to the memory banks, blazing them up, giving us a translucent, Technicolor show. But it's more than that. Whoever was yours once becomes yours again with time and space out of the way. Cleaned off, refreshed, reclaimed. That's what it feels like. Not central, maybe, but lightly, surely connected. 

dream break (rain check)

I once had a therapist, an older Native American woman who worked out of the house she shared with her grandson, and what I loved about her is that she didn't always make me talk. If I felt like talking, that was great, but some days I just didn't have it. I just didn't want to. And on those days, she'd hand me some paper and some crayons or markers, and I'd draw whatever I felt like with my non-dominant hand, like having a dream on paper. Sometimes the picture would spark a discussion, and sometimes we'd just look at it and say, "Okay."

(It was a wonderful little house, by the way, with an inviting room for her clients. There were shelves and shelves of wooden animals and statues and rocks and figurines that I'd look at while she made us mugs of tea. And in the bathroom she had this great lavender hand soap and a purple hand towel and a painted wooden stepladder for her phantom grandson, and the bathtub was always filled with his toy boats. It was such a charming bathroom experience that I went out and bought—and to this day still use—the same hand soap.) 

As you can see up there with that drawing/partial collage I've made for you in lieu of a regular post, I just don't have it. I don't want to today. It's closer even to a can't. There are too many things working their way through my body, there's too heavy an energy pressing me down. Half the day I feel like I have some high-powered vacuum attached to the top of my head, reaching down and sucking out all the ancient muck in my insides. There's no fighting it. I don't even know exactly what it's doing, but it's a literal, non-metaphorical, physical sensation. I guess I'm processing some things. 

I didn't want to show up with nothing for you but I didn't have the energy to post something serious, and I wasn't in the right mood to post something light. Goldilocks here said no to both of those options. So here's my picture, presented without explanation. 


Okay. See you next week, when I hope to have some words with me. And thank you, as always, for being so damn great.  

the great chocolate robbery

Since I started doing weekly posts at the beginning of this year, I've always gone in with a specific focus, something I'm going to talk about. Well, that's not on today. I'm digging back into an older tradition for this post, where I'm not talking about a *thing* but instead talking to you in a loose way about what's actually going on. 

I'm doing that because otherwise I wouldn't be posting at all, seeing as how I'm reporting to you live from Children's Hospital here in Seattle, where my youngest boy was admitted early yesterday morning. No panic, he's on the up-and-up, but he had a bout of severe asthma, as bad as we'd ever seen it. He came close to getting sent up to the ICU, is how bad we're talking about. And Fred—who's kind of a veteran here at Children's (Fred : Children's = Norm : Cheers), and whose chill nature and joie-de-vivre are tough to knock off course—was brought lower than I'd ever seen him. Real distress. Horrible to watch. I had to turn my face and cry into the wall over and over. But he's turned a corner and is on the slow rise to getting discharged tomorrow, so the crisis part of the show is over. 

I've had no time to think, though, and I don't know where I'm taking you today. This is pure, old-school winging it happening here.


What I'm wanting to talk about, what I'd been planning on talking about in a the-thing-I'm-talking-about way, I guess, is the body. Well, not the body. My body. A little history thereof. What better place to talk about the fraught history of a body than inside a children's hospital, too? That's got something to it. 

If some cosmic police sketch artist were floating by and capturing some lifelong essence of my body to take back to his home planet/precinct, there would probably be a head, then maybe some rudimentary heart thing dangling from the head like a pocket watch, and then some feet. The body would be missing. My body's been missing, or I've been missing from inside of it. 

This is the part where I get a hitch in my typing finger/a contracted feeling in my gut, the internal shut-the-fuck-up-Tina mechanism kicking in. The words stop flowing. They back up into each other, take turns shoving each other to the front so they can hide and not have to walk on stage. Nobody wants to say it. This happens every time I talk publicly about my sexual abuse, which looks like it's on deck today.

Every time. That's funny. I've talked about it here all of twice, and then once I kind of talked about it on Facebook. And after the two times it came up here, I sort of thought, okay, well, good. I talked about it. All done! I shall never bother the world with this again! Because I thought that to talk about it was unbearably depressing and maudlin, and it was my job to be neither of those things. But it's not unbearably depressing and maudlin; it just is, as they say, what it is. It's a common thing, and a tough thing, but I'm not forever tainted by it, like I might have thought and not wanted to draw people's attention to. And furthermore, that is not my job, to be neither of those things that I'm not anyway. 

So, heads-up. This is probably not the last time I'm going to talk about this here. I may just be getting going. I don't know. It needs talking about, no? This taboo is oppressive. I want out from underneath it. 

But let's get back to the body, the birthplace of it all. 


I had a psychic reading at the beginning of the year. I like to get those every now and then, although I don't come at them with anywhere near the same frequency/urgency I used to when I was in my twenties or thirties. I have much more of an "I'll find out on my own eventually anyway" and "I got my own internal compass working fine" thing going on these days as an old lady in her mid-forties. In any case, it was pretty interesting, this reading, but one part particularly made me laugh. The reader told me that one of my superpowers was my body. 

Ha! Oh, ha, hahaha. That's adorable. My body! A superpower. Oh, go on with you. 

I might have laughed or snorted aloud, because she went on to say, smiling, that a person's superpower isn't usually an area that gives no trouble. The opposite, actually. And then I stopped laughing, because I suddenly felt like she was on to something. 

I thought about the concept of the daimon, which I first read about in this very quirky and wonderful book I was in love with in the mid-late '90s called We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse, which is a conversation in letters traveling back and forth between the famous Jungian psychologist James Hillman and a writer named Michael Ventura, who was (is?) a columnist for L.A. Weekly. (Read it, it's a joy.)

Let's see how garbled my explanation/comprehension of the daimon is. I'm going to see if I can wing it without the help of Google. So, my understanding of the daimon is that it's a combination of an individual person's destiny/innate genius/central bugaboo. It's your thing, you're born with it, it lies latent in you, and it will fuck with you until you solve it/conquer it/own it/live its expression. I don't have my copy handy, but I remember Hillman and Ventura giving a couple of examples. Winston Churchill was one, who apparently struggled in school, had problems with his speech and language. And the other example that sticks with me was a great Spanish matador (whose name escapes me), renowned for his bravery, who was a huge mama's boy as a child, perpetually hiding behind her apron. The theory of the daimon says that something in you knows your fate from the beginning, and so you unconsciously struggle with it/fight against it. Winston Churchill, Hillman and Ventura explained, will have understood somewhere in his being that his words were eventually going to shape world events, and he buckled in advance under that pressure. The matador, similarly, could feel that that the bull was out there waiting for him, so when he clung to his mom, he was dragging his feet against facing his future opponent. 

So when I think of my body as connected to my daimon, somehing stirs. 


Before Fred went into the hospital, before last week's Emmy post, I was sitting at a cafe brainstorming about and starting to make an outline for what was going to be my next post, which was going to be about the body. I was going back through time and chronicling the struggles my body had given me, back from the beginning, to search for threads. I was in the section about my childhood, jotting down some words. Heart murmur, I wrote. Eczema. Sick a lot. And then I wrote down allergic to chocolate and before I could get the word chocolate out, an existential nausea took hold of me. A shoe dropped. 

Fuck. I knew it in an instant, for the first time in my life. I was never physically allergic to chocolate, as the story had always gone. I got it, I knew it, I knew it before the thought could form itself into words. My chocolate allergy was psychological. 

I got sick a lot, as I said, as a kid. Missed lots of school. Apparently, every time I ate chocolate I got bronchitis. I was frail, I'd always been frail, it was just who I was. Oversensitive and frail. We all accepted it. We were all frail. We were frail together, as a group, our family. It was our thing. 

What I knew, bodily, in that moment in the cafe, was that chocolate figured into my sexual abuse. My dad had given me chocolate as a lure, or a reward. And so later I was "allergic" to it, and fell ill when I ate it. The knowledge dropped in a wordless, complete package. It popped open, all mine, irrevocable.

Son of a fucking bitch. I'd never questioned it. Yep, allergic to chocolate. I was given a whole lot of fucked-up carob brownies as a child because, aw, poor Tina, she just can't metabolize it. Son of a goddamn bitch. 

I sat there in the cafe and wept, a complex weep. Something was simultaneously being taken from and returned to me. Awful, gratifying. 

My mind doesn't remember everything, but my body does, and it's starting to slip me information. It's starting to tell me what it knows. 


I never liked using my body, when I was a kid. I hated P.E., hated sports, hated anything where you had to put your awareness in your body. I didn't like having my awareness there. It felt weird, dangerous, vertigo-inducing. I was not interested in dropping into my body long enough to figure out how to throw or kick a ball, or how to balance, or do a cartwheel. Fuck that noise. If you want me, I'll be indoors hiding behind my brother's bed with my face in a book, eating purloined loaves of bread. 

Early carb cravings. Comfort food. Repression mechanism practice. 

Bear with me while I wander around. I don't know where I'm going, exactly, or how far I'm taking this today. 

Here's what's new. I've been taking yoga. I've always resisted it, but it started calling me lately, and I started taking classes at a studio in town that teaches something called Viniyoga, which translates to something like "yoga of adaptation". It's a gentle form, meant to be adapted to the needs of each student. From my very first class, my body loved it. The class moved so carefully, so respectfully, and never asked of us anything our bodies didn't willingly want to give. I had a hard time not calling out THANK YOU FOR THIS CLASS during poses, it was such a revelation.

For whatever reason, something in me has stopped fighting my body and shutting down awareness of what it knows. I've stopped struggling. I'm open, I'm willing to go in, whatever I find in there. I'm to the part in the story where I stop fighting my daimon and let it drive. I do cobra and butterfly and lion and cat and cow, unlocking myself. 


I've mentioned here before that when I sit in session with my teacher, Jim, I've been getting these shooting pains up my spine, along with more pictures of my abuse. In the session before my chocolate revelation, the pains were so strong they made me cry, and they wrapped around my waist. I saw a picture which I will not describe, one that gave me horror, and no sooner did I see it/narrate it out loud than a pain shot through my head, like my brain was getting squeezed by an invisible hand, retribution for having seen what I saw. I cried out and held my head when the pain struck, and at the same moment, Jim said, "You have to let go of doubt."


I'll tell you what makes me mad. I scan back over my life, and I see myself struggling along the way, struggling in my body, struggling with self-doubt. All that sickness in my childhood. The painful, disfiguring masks of eczema that started visiting me in my early 20s, just as I started to suspect somehing was amiss back in my past. How I froze so easily, got paralyzed by doubt and shame, hid my problems and made them worse. How my hands used to shake. How easily and often I cried, and how I wondered what was wrong with me, why did I take everything so much harder than everyone else? Why couldn't I deal? Why couldn't I function? How I was afraid to give my opinion because it was probably wrong because I was made of doubt, I was practically a solid block of doubt. And then closer in the past, the illness I had just a couple of years ago which almost killed me, where my body went on strike. No more, it said. No more until you listen to me. No more until you respect me. No more until you pay attention. 

The whole thing, all of that, all stemming from this grave violation to my tiny body. This whole life operating unconsciously in response. This disembodied head floating over some feet, this needless frailty. 

No more, all right. 


Fred comes home tomorrow. It's for sure. 

I'll tell you one last thing I know, and then I have to sleep. I know that what mom and dad are carrying in their bodies unresolved gets passed down to their children. Here, a mysterious burden. Good luck. I didn't want to deal with it, so you try. 

I have lots of work to do, but it's okay. I can work faster now that I'm not erasing all my work with this endless, godforsaken doubt. 

bringing the emmys alive in 5-7-5

Welcome back, everybody! Boy, do I have the post for what you're still talking about three weeks later around the water cooler, and that's this post about the Emmy Awards. From 2014. 

Here's the thing. 

You know I love the red carpet. You know I do. Also, you know how you find a fresh song you love and you play it 12 times a day for weeks and you know you're sucking the magic out of it but you keep cueing it up anyway because tomorrow when the song will be dead is the future and the future is some stupid rumor that's probably not even true? The future is true, everybody. I'm there now standing on a mountain of dead songs, and maybe if we're not careful a pile of dead red carpet posts. 

I want to talk about the Emmys but this is the fifth red carpet post I've done this year, which might be more than all the red carpet posts from all the previous years of my blog. I have to protect this form from extinction. I have to be wily. So I'm doing somehing new. With every photograph, I'm giving myself three minutes max to write a haiku about it. I'm timing myself with a timer. Here, look:

A timer. And then I was going to say, "And listen:" but the Blogger app won't let me upload the video I took of me pressing the button and playing the 'Alarm' sound for you, which I've decided after extensive sound trials is the best way to clock out of writing a haiku. It sounds like this:

 {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} {{{BLONK}}} 

But more horrible. 

Let's begin!

Poofy risk taker

In blood-dipped maxi-tutu,


(Three minutes is hard.)

Here, fresh from battle:

Samurai Debra Messing.

She lost but she lived.

Lucy Liu looks nice

In my Mommy's old nightgown.

I loved that nightgown. 

Orange creamsicle,

What are you hiding in there?

Floral lace bike shorts?

Christina Hendricks

In flaming persimmon:

That shit is not fair.

Cylons and Klingons!

Commence fighting over your

Cranky, pointy bride.

Modest lady in

the most popular color,

So sweet and so smug.

I'd love this cape more

If Christine Baranski would 

Fly around in it.

Cheerful PoMo elf!

Tell us about Thunderdome!

That sounds super fun! 

Kate Walsh looks like a 

Statuesque jonquil

In this flippy gown.

Your shiny gold can't

Distract me from my question:

Are you wearing braces?

Camilla Alves

Has mad sophisticated

Paper snowflake skillz.

Little pink bundle 

We call Zooey Deschanel:

You take teeny steps.

Once upon a time,

A dress that was a mullet

was Jon Hamm's girlfriend.

Vanessa Williams.

I don't know what to make of 

Your minty peplum.

Katherine Heigl

Is the benevolent queen

Of this parking lot.

This lady looks great.

I just really, really think

This lady looks great.

Allison Janney's

Rosy, wine-y velvet gown 

Looked brighter on stage.

Everybody loves

Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

That's all. Move along.

I love blondes in red,

And five syllable names like

January Jones.

Hey! Howard Johnson's.

That was a line of motels

With this color scheme.

Seth Meyers' lady.

Like a star high school athlete

All girled up for prom.

It's Freaky Friday!

But with Mayim Bialik

And Kate Middleton. 

Hey, look at my ass.

Oh, gross. You're looking at it. 

But look at it, though. 

Saturday Night Live.

Katie McKinnon from it.

She seems kind of mad.

Looking tough in a 

Fancy army parachute:

Sarah Silverman!

Hi, I'm Danielle Brooks.

Does Tina like me the best?

Fuck yes because RAD.

Look, Kelly Osbourne.

I'm always gonna be like,

"What'd you do THIS time?"

Lampshade-shaped lady,

You made time and space stand still.

Is what it looks like.

Listen, you fuckers.

Robin Wright can kick your ass

Even without feet.

Michelle Dockery

Is a flight attendant on

Heavenly Airlines. 

A little mesh bell

With a confusing waistline

For Kiernan Shipka

Kaley Cuoco!

Technicolor butterfly,

I rescind old snark. 

The end.

mrs. hulot's holiday

Hey, lovely readers.

I'm going on a little blog vacation. I'm a couple of weeks late to be French and take a full August off, but I'm borrowing that spirit and disappearing until September 10th, when I'll be back to my regular weekly schedule. 

I love the discipline of these weekly posts, by the way. No matter how I feel about any particular post, there's satisfaction in showing up when I said I would with the best thing I could give you that week. So I'm going to keep going with it after this break. It's good vitamins and I love it. 

One of the things I'll be doing while I'm gone is working on my application for


, which is a writer's retreat/residency for women near here on Whidbey Island. (I already wanted to go, but then I saw an episode of a great local TV show called Art Zone which was all about Hedgebrook, and I boo-hoo'd all the way through it, I wanted it so much.) I started to apply last year but I chickened out because I wasn't really ready; I couldn't articulate the answers to half of the questions on the application. This year, though, I am ready, and coming here and talking to you each week has contributed to that in a big way. 

(I don't tell you enough how much your presence here means to me, you readers, because I get bashful, but you fuel my engine so very much. When it's 3:00 am on a Wednesday morning and I have a couple more hours of writing to go to have a post ready for you, the knowledge that you're out there and you care gives me the burst of energy I need to finish. Thank you, you guys, for showing up here on the regular, and for commenting. Never fails to make my day.) 

I've noticed, too, that my posts used to naturally form themselves to somewhere in between 1000-1500 words, but lately they're stretching out nearly twice as long, which development has me curious. It seems like I'm trying to cram some thinking into this blog that would live more happily/comfortably in the book, and I keep staying up destructively late to finish these posts, so that ain't what. Time to readjust and go give that project my love and attention for a minute, and then we'll see if the blog springs back into a less unwieldy shape. 

Wish me luck with Hedgebrook! (Or not. You don't have to.) The idea of spending time in a cabin with nothing to do but write and think makes me weak in the knees. I need to get my game on to convince them to let me come. 

So, off I go to a mental seaside resort in the meantime. Meet me back here in September, yes? 



P.S. Please enjoy this ancient trailer for the film that inspired the title of the post.

love song for the gymnasts

A few weeks ago I wrote a post examining how I developed my ideas of womanhood, and I wanted to answer that today with a parallel post about manhood. Something loving, something light, some kind of ode. And that's where I'm aiming, but we have to start somewhere darker—no choice, or else this is going to run about an inch deep.

(The bear will make sense later. Hold tight.)

In Hinduism, to get to the other gods you have to go through Ganesha, the placer and remover of obstacles. He's the doorman. You worship him first and only then are you clear to interact with the rest of the pantheon.

 To get into my Hall of Men, I have to stop and address Dad. If you've been following along, you know that's fraught, but the first stop is the first stop. 


an earlier post


I showed you this paper towel tube

and explained it a little, how it's supposed to be a model of my energetic spine, with the electrical tape marking where the blocks/trouble bits are. See the tape at the bottom? See how thick that part is? That's the big one. That's the sexual abuse. We're going to talk about it a little bit, get some things clear and then move on, I promise.

I was working with my teacher, Jim, today, and I started getting some shooting pains in my lower back, sharp and intense, a little like labor pains. (When a baby is faced the wrong way, you can get what they call back labor, and this was like that.) When I checked it out, it seemed clear that this wasn't a chiropractic deal, or something else purely mechanical. This was an emotional iceberg starting to melt and crack. I sat there and observed and waited, and then I dropped straight into my old tiny consciousness. I'd say I was around two. I seemed about that size. 

I was in our old living room in New York—don't worry, nothing lurid/sensational is coming—on a normal, peaceful afternoon. Nobody was around in this glimpse. What I picked up, though, from this sudden bit of mental/emotional time travel, was my mindset back then. I didn't feel like a child. I felt the same as I do now, person-sized. Neither adult nor not-adult, just awake, conscious, present. And I was very sad. Calm, but gravely sad. I saw in this bit of time travel that my small self felt that the people around me didn't see me as a person. They saw me as a thing, an object. They had no consciousness of my consciousness. 

My mother took fine care of me as an object. I was a clean object, fed, dressed in pretty clothes. But I was not used so well as an object in other quarters. That understanding was there. If I had to make the feeling concrete, I'd say I felt that I got used sort of like a towel. Something you wipe yourself with, something you leave your dirt on. Something you don't think about. Something...well, you're not even actively, purposely disrespecting it. Purposeful disrespect would have been a step up. This was something more careless, and thus more profoundly disrespectful. 

No horrible particulars. That's not what I got in my trip back today. This is just what I knew. This is how I knew myself to be cared for, or not cared for. And so I was resigned to it, but so sad, and there was a pervasive feeling of loneliness.  

Okay. So, that. That, and the pain shooting in my back today from what I buried down there, that old stuff starting to move, making me cry out a little, with the stabbing feeling, the surprise of it. 

We start there, manhood. (I warned you we'd begin dark.) But shit, I need a little rest, and we're barely out of the starting blocks. The worst is over, though. Let's sip our drinks. 

<pause button>


Men reading this, I'm going to #notallmen for you, so you don't have to. I love so many men, and I'm not predisposed against you. I carry the normal, streetwise, savvy amount of wariness because of some of you, since I can't see into all of your souls immediately on sight. I'm married to a wonderful man, and I have two sons, and a beloved brother. I have male friends that I cherish, bunches of them. And here we are on earth together, being humanity. I have huge tenderness for you as a group. 

But we have history to contend with, personal and societal, and it's not all great and it has to be addressed. Patriarchy, I'm looking at you. You've done so much wrong, and you're reluctant to stop. This doesn't need more explanation, does it? I hope not. I don't have time. If you need more, you can google "patriachy" and "wrongs of" and keep yourself busy for a while. And we know, right, that it doesn't operate by itself? We know collaboration is required, and collaboration is alive and well. And you know that you're in play, right? You, reader, whoever you are, male or female? You're either helping it along or you're on the dismantling tip. You don't fall into the "neither" camp. I'm implicated, too, with what I agree to and don't agree to, and I'm not necessarily working to bring that fucker down very hard myself. So, I feel you. It's heavy. But this discussion is going to float away on a cloud if we don't ground ourselves in those facts. 

It's tough to trace the exact fallout from the sexual abuse—I keep flashing on the title of that book,

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

—it's like that, sort of too big and close in to see clearly, but can we doubt that I got the message that girls/women are objects for men's pleasure? I was practically vaccinated with it, like the world's smallest geisha. 

Probably not the smallest, either. Oh, world. Bent, in pockets, beyond belief.


I'm thinking about The Fonz now, who was one of the earliest alpha males I knew about. This was a man among men. He snapped his fingers and a couple of identity-less babes flocked to his side on the double. They were always pretty and they didn't say anything. It was never some mouthy bookworm.

No, lady, shut up and decorate that arm.

Okay, I see. Men don't want to hear you say stuff. Okey-doke. (I was never a Fonzie girl, by the way. Potsy was the one for me. There seemed to be some consensus that Potsy was a dick, which I didn't get. He's cute! He sings! What'd he ever do to you?)

Then there were The Monkees. Adorable scamps! 

People say we monkey around!/But we're too busy singing to put anybody down!

They were funny and sexy, but also they were good guys, safe, and that pulled me in. The more I think about it, the larger those Monkees loom. They were my first love interests, and I imprinted on them hard. They were larrikins, is what they were, which is an Australian term I'll explain a little later when we meet the Rowleys. 

But let's go back and turn off the television and see what the real-world men were doing in my neighborhood. My dad—whom, of course, I loved, and who was much more complex than a plain figure of harm, so we're not going to monsterize him—wasn't what you'd call the classic All-American male. Harvard-educated, wine over beer, vegetarian when it was still an oddball thing to be. (And he was in the army during the Korean War, where a vegetarian was a super-duper anomaly.) Classical music listener, dead against rock-and-roll. Huge reader. Brought a book with him everywhere, showered the rest of us with all the books we could handle. Inveterate punster. Beret-wearer. Computer guy, math guy. 

What really made an impression, though, were the sorts of men he admired, and didn't admire. My dad was the smartest guy going, as far as I could see, so I paid attention. 

There was his own dad, Fritz, whom he adored, who died when I was two. Fritz was a huge intellect, a gentle and funny man, and his life was organized firmly around his spiritual principles. He and my grandmother founded a Theosophical camp on Orcas Island, Indralaya, and right there in the meadow next to the main lodge was a driftwood sign painted with the word AHIMSA, which is Sanskrit for non-violence. Fritz spent a lot of time in India at the Theosophical headquarters there in Madras, and someone made a cartoon poster of him sometime in the 1920s. He was dressed like Robin Hood/Peter Pan in a little green suit, wearing his trademark round spectacles and sporting a halo, and he was aiming an arrow at a mosquito, who also had a halo. The caption read "Fritz Killing a Mosquito at Adyar", so that gives you a sense of his rep.

Namaste, I greatly regret this, but off you go. 

And we had a friend of the family, John Verrall, a composer, ancient when I met him, and the quietest, most ethereal man I ever saw. I mean, he was barely corporeal, he was so quiet and frail. Dad treated him with infinite reverence, so I guessed he was perfect. When the Verralls came to visit they barely ate or drank, and the conversation was so soft and slow that we might as well have been conducting it in a sleeping baby's crib. 

He had other heroes—Paul Robeson was one of them, for example—but these two shared the throne. 

Dad was also clear about what kind of men he didn't admire, and that included bullies, drunks, loudmouths, gladhanders, salesmen, Republicans, rednecks, hippies and the overly ambitious. Big men in suits acting like big men in suits*. Men slapping each other on the back around barbecues. Loud men, cocky men, aggressive men. Bums, he called them. 

*I'm with him on that one. Your captains of industry, you can keep them. I couldn't be less interested. They're interested enough in their own damn selves.

I know it could be a tough sell to listen to this kind of list after what I talked about earlier. Like,

who's this guy judging other men? If they didn't molest their kids they're all ten steps ahead of him.

But my grandmother, his mom—

who, as I mentioned in another post, was not exactly kind to him

—said that he worked harder to be a good person than anyone she knew, which may have been the only nice thing she ever said about him. He failed, sometimes, devastatingly, but that doesn't mean he didn't try. I saw him succeed lots, in fact. 

Life is complicated. 


What is my Platonic ideal of manliness? When I call that up, what do I get? 

The first thing that arises is the idea of soundness, like a structure is sound. The wood isn't warped, there's a nice, resonant thump when you test it. The thing doesn't fall apart. There's a feeling of not just strength but health. 

Then I see something like a dancer, a male dancer lifting up his partner, and the solidity and generosity conveyed in that gesture, the willingness to be in a supporting role. 

I was out to dinner with a friend the other night, and we were talking about our favorite qualities in a man. For her, humor was at the top, and for me it was kindness. I've grown more stringent about that. I used to let a less-than-stellar kindness rating slide if enough other things were in place (good looks, intelligence, humor, etc.) but now I've crossed into a zone where I don't respect a man who isn't kind, plain and simple. A man who isn't kind doesn't seem fully grown to me, no matter his age or accomplishments. Conversely, a man who


kind is a big man in my eyes, all grown up, and that stirs me. 

And then there's an ingredient that's more keen, something like true aim. It's not just strength and softness, but acuity. That doesn't in and of itself make a man for me, but it definitely puts the shine on one who's got everything else in place. 


Part of me wonders whether this is a constructive or a destructive exercise. I don't want to foist my ideas of manhood on anyone, in the same way that I don't want want someone else's ideal image of womanhood projected onto me. Part of me thinks it's better to resist fixing my ideas about this. We desperately need fluidity in our conceptions of gender. Big portions of humanity are suffering because of this lack. (I'm thinking about the GLBTQ population in particular, though everyone suffers when we carry on like it's the dark ages.) I'm more inclined to dismantle whatever notions I've built so far.  But I don't know how fixed my ideas are until I pull them out and look at them, so here we are. And some fixed ideas are values and principles, which are good, particularly since I'm raising sons. They need to observe some of those, so they can build their own. 

There's work to do, too. 

Finn was playing next door at his friend's house one day, and his friend got hurt/upset and started crying. His dad browbeat him, telling him that boys don't cry. The fuck they don't, buddy. And then Fred had a pal over for a play date, and all the boys were outside drawing on the driveway with chalk.

We had some pink and purple chalk in the mix—


colors, don't you know—and the boys were making a huge show of scribbling over them, yelling "Destroy the pink! Destroy the purple! We hate pink and purple!" It was a symbolic display, as violent as you can get when you're talking about sidewalk chalk in a little kid's hand, and it kind of took my breath away. This was one of those teachable moments you hear so much about, but I was too stunned to catch it properly. I didn't know what to say, and I didn't want to shame them, but it made me sad. Femaleness was not just something to distance themselves from as hard as possible, but something deserving of contempt and destruction. Fear and hatred,


, had made inroads into their beautiful little minds. 


Don't get the wrong idea. There are some classic displays of manliness that give me a thrill. Oh, baby, there are. For example, I'm a football fan—

a Seahawks fan, to be specific

—and it doesn't get much more old-school Y-chromosome-y than that. The crush of it, the grunt and thud, it talks to me somewhere ancient in my brain. I didn't grow up with any of that stuff, either, so it's exotic and maybe a little erotic. It's


, after all, and not


. And it's not good! Physically, for the players, it's not good. It's awful. They're hurting themselves. It's like we're all gathered in a Roman coliseum watching a very slow execution that gets completed later, offstage. But there it is. Fuck it. I love it. Let's go, football season. Get here. 

And since I'm a heterosexual woman, a discussion of manhood isn't complete without at least a glance at what makes my blood flow/makes my pupils go heart-shaped, and that's not all high ideals, you know? Without some roughness, without some push, my bell does not ring. It's all well and good to be John Verrall at the dinner table, but if Richard Sherman doesn't show up a little in the hay, then I get disgruntled. 

The night I had dinner with my friend and we talked about the qualities we went for in our men, we walked past some guys playing bike polo. They were young and pretty but for me they didn't do a thing. I don't get off on straight-up handsomeness, and youth is boring. I like a face that makes me wonder where it's been. I like crinkles and scars, or at least something a little crooked, a little bent, a little fucked-up. A touch of the criminal. Christopher Walken, say, over Bradley Cooper. 

Old-school manliness, with its implications of sex and violence: yes, ma'am. I'm not immune. It's a paradox. I want progress, I want evolution, but at the same time, vive la différence, you know? That old binary can be so sweet. 

I wrote a short autobiographical story once about a romance I had when I was traveling in Italy in my early 20s with a half-British, half-Sicilian mercenary. Not a figurative mercenary, either, but an actual one, in the British army. He'd killed people. Five, to be exact. Chilling. He loved guns, too, and took me to a gun shop in Florence to show me his favorites. Not my scene, man. Hoo boy. Anyway, I showed this story to a male friend, and he really liked this guy, though his regard may have been for the character as character more than anything. But maybe not. In any case, he liked his James Bond-ness, and something like his amorality. He said admiringly that this guy was a man, and even gave him a shout-out for being a liar for some reason. This was interesting to me, because the stuff I liked in my temporary, unsuitable boyfriend was the other stuff, his sweet side, his romantic side. The other stuff was the BUT.  But maybe also it wasn't. Maybe I liked being near all that wrongness. Maybe I appreciated being with somebody who wore his danger right out where I could see it. 

(I vaguely remember reading some book or seeing some movie a million years ago where a woman was talking about how nice it was to have the kind of stormy boyfriend who loves you but hates all others. Like you've won some kind of special prize, or tamed a lion or something. I related.)


If the subject is men, and ten billion words says it was, I have to end with my favorite clan of men, the clan whose name I've taken as my own. All hail the Rowleys! And they are a clan of men. Since sometime before 1943, a female Rowley has not been born. Dave's dad, Stan, hit the scene, and then came Dave, and then his brothers Mick, John and James, and then the next generation, Mick's kids Daniel and Bryson and Brodie, and then our Finn, and then Mick's youngest son, Kalani, and then came our Fred bringing up the rear. All us female Rowleys had to marry in. 

I took Dave's name not just because I fell in love with him, but because I fell in love with his whole family. They exemplify everything I love in the other gender. The Rowley men are kind, above all, but they're also funny and quick and tough, not afraid of a fight. (Not like my family at all, god bless them.) They're


, as my mother-in-law, Larraine, would say. Australia has a lot of testosterone running through it, and the Rowleys certainly fell in a pile. They have a streak of the larrikin, too, which term I promised earlier that I'd explain. A larrikin is a lovable rogue, a good guy who makes a little mischief, a character, and that's the Australian temperament, right there. I had a big thing for Australians when I was a teenage girl, and I would have shit myself if I'd known I'd end up marrying one. 

The one I married comes as close as humanly possible to my Platonic ideal of manhood. Dave is sound and kind and true, and he's old-school and new-school all at once. Poker but also poetry, yoga but also surfing. He's thrown a punch, but he knows his way around a meditation cushion. And he's got me and Finn and Fred firm in his grip, lifting us up like that dancer, steady and stable and giving. 

After I met him and fell in love, I wanted to clean house. I wanted to examine what I was carrying around about men, because I didn't want to bring any baggage along that would weigh us down, so I jotted down the following. (I made it into a song later which a friend of mine recorded for me, backing me up on clarinet. If I hadn't lost the CD I'd just play it for you, but I did lose it, so you're reading it.) 

Here goes, here's what I was packing. 

Love Song for the Gymnasts

Men are bespectacled bears 

Intelligent and animal 

Bulky and refined

A study in contrasts

Men are of the head and the muscles

The brain and the muscles are working

There's an atmosphere of work

Whether straining work or effortless

Men are serious

And not to be disturbed without good reason

Men require good reasons

There is the question of what is allowed

Men are prone not to think much of you

Unless you do something surprising

Such as you might see 

In a traveling circus

Something involving a parasol

And you atop something tall with wheels

Something where you make a loud noise

Like ahhhhhhhhhhh

Men get warm

A thick deep warmth like syrup

And when they get warm

They get strange and unpredictable 

They talk to you with their eyes

In two different languages

Purposely twisted together like ropes

To mix you up with their homonyms 

Men get cold 

Like sudden unseasonable weather

And it was because of something you did

(It really is)

Even if, of course, it isn't

Men hang their heads in shame

Standing in their own draft

They've done something horribly wrong 

that you can't understand

But it would be wonderful if you did

A holy surprise if you did

They would drop to their knees for you

They explode in perfect gratitude

Like gymnasts out of nowhere

Striking the mat, the beam

The vault in a cloud of powder

A sudden conflagration 

Of angle and force and something else

Something harder and hotter and more insistent than joy

It's a breathtaking display

It prepares something hot in my chest

Something radiant and aching and painful and good

Which no one but a man can give