Dear Abby

Frequently this site gets a new visitor who is clicking on the old essays—the ones documenting the scary beginning and slog through a never-ending aftermath. Every week another bing on my phone asks me if I wouldn’t mind making a call, holding a hand, or answering questions for a friend. So I wrote a letter. This is to all of the Kates and Leighs and Laurens… and to Abby.

 

Dear Abby,

I heard. Or I guessed it from the cryptic posts and cried when your status confirmed the damning pathology. Telling people–saying it out loud– makes it more certain than the slides. I hope you had some Ativan for that.

Maybe it’s super early, maybe DCIS, maybe a quick lumpectomy and just-to-be-sure radiation will be curative. Maybe you’re exhausted from all of the tight smiling as people tell you how lucky you are– so lucky to be pushed out of the plane because there is a parachute that opens almost all of the time.

But maybe it’s not the lucky kind.

Maybe it’s the pink ribbon monster hiding under the bed. White-coated well-meaners tell you with practiced concern that it’s not curable but it’s still treatable. Maybe they can tame and starve it for years, turning it into a defeated Voldemort sort of cancer. Maybe they’ll optimistically cite future graduations and weddings and vacations and plans like you’re thinking about a time-share in Orlando right now. As if it didn’t take seven books and umpteen tragedies to turn Voldemort into a fetal worm. As if any of this can have a happy ending.

Maybe it was there all along. Maybe it just came back (why does it fucking come back?). Maybe surgery was years ago and your hair is amazing now but there is still this little hidden part of you that only the other Shitty Sorority members see. Maybe you fucking knew it would come back but didn’t tell anyone because the “lucky” people would whisper that you weren’t being “positive.” Maybe you are scared shitless and praying nonstop or for the first time in your life.

Maybe God is listening and sending warm assurances—not that it’ll be okay, exactly, but that He is there. Maybe it feels like God isn’t listening, or doesn’t bother with things like unrestrained mitosis. Maybe it was just too much begging for impossible things. Maybe prayer doesn’t work like that, or for you, or with any sort of speed… or at all.

Maybe. One thing is certain: no one knows anything. Here’s another: you’re not alone.

Probably you are reading everything you can: the cancer sites, the scary statistics, and the stories of a hundred breastless women, gauging the level of your unluckiness against blogging strangers. Probably one of them is like you. Look, she’s totally like you! Probably you’d be fast friends even if you never spoke a single word to each other. Probably.

No, definitely. Definitely that.

There’s no pledge period for the Shittiest Sorority. Sisterhood is immediate. I have yet to chat up a head-scarfed stranger without finding something to laugh or cry about. Usually both. Our hidden parts–our secret cancer selves–we save each other seats in the bleachers. We’ll watch this peculiar sport of losses and triumphs together. Come sit next to me. I brought snacks.

We have cheerleaders, too. It’s different, but they are absolutely vital. Their pom pom positivity, casserole-toting enthusiasm for health and healing, all that marching in your name for cures– it’s wonderful and adorable. Their cheers are prayers, and their prayers are medicine. They fill in for us when we don’t have the Go! Fight! Win! spunkiness people love to witness in the cancer-ed. But you and me, we know cheerleading is for the healthy. And their prayers are purer than ours with all of the distracted, terror-stricken pleading. Let them pray. Maybe it works. Probably?

I see you, Abby. I’m waving you over here. (I’m still here.) Come sit with me on the bleachers. Get under my blanket. You don’t have to do the wave or cheer the fight song. We’ll just see how this plays out. Together. With snacks. And Ativan. You are not alone.

Definitely. Definitely not alone.

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Roadkill

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, a handful of years into graduate schooling, with a series of rotating apartments and a persistently ring-less finger, my dad and his best friend, Lynn, began referring to my boyfriends as “Roadkill.” I wasn’t particularly promiscuous, but inching up on 30, the sheer numbers of boys who would never be my husband got, well… numerous. More often than not, I was the one who was bored, disillusioned, or unfaithful (sorry, boys) and the one to call it quits. Thus, Roadkill.

Ty was my neighbor and probably one of my closest buddies during senior year of high school. He will always be one of the funniest people I have ever known. Carpooling to school through rural neighborhoods we once saw a horse do a yawn-whinny thing that we imitated often and at impromptu times. It was only hilarious to the two of us. “Are you cereal?” he’d ask. “Not nece-celery,” was the answer. He loved The Grateful Dead, so my Julie Andrews covers were deliciously irritating (to him) and entertaining (to me): Roooolll A-Wheyyyy the Doooo! Do you have that one friend who makes you laugh at nothing—a Jerry Seinfeld with a Pez dispenser? That was Ty for me.

Ty and I spent many bellyaching, laughing-too-hard-to-breathe nights together. Chastely. We were truly just friends. But you can imagine how well Ty went over with The Roadkill. One summer night I brought a new boy home. Ty was over for dinner, which was common. Wine was flowing, which was really common. And everyone was making fun of each other, which is in the Stockton Family Syllabus. Future Roadkill misread the room– or was too thin skinned– and got a little territorial about being the boyfriend (with its implied set of privileges) instead of the friend. Ty didn’t miss a beat.

“Whatever, dude. Next year Britt will be with some other guy, but I’ll still… be… right… here.”

Roadkill was the only one who didn’t find this funny. He didn’t last very long. The next one did, but even he ended up smeared all over the grille. Those were Lynn’s words as he and Judy poured me the tallest and tastiest vodka tonic I’ve ever had, and listened to my latest misadventures in love. After that break up, I drove 7 hours to see them, their daughter, and to languish ring-less-ly on the deck of their gorgeous beach house… and to laugh.

I met Bernie just a few months later.

Thinking about Valentine’s Day, these memories shifted to the top of my mind like the big popcorn pieces when you shake the bucket. Suddenly I’m aware of Great Loves in my life who never gave me flowers or chocolates or rings, but made me pee-a-little giggle and poured me gigantic cocktails as I plowed through the dating years that led me to the best one.

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Ty and me on my 21st birthday. Can’t imagine why all the Roadkill hated him.

Luceo non uro

My middle name is Mewhinney. I’ve always loved it. No one is named Mewhinney. Except me. I’m @mewhinney! And of my dearest, closest, oldest friends, I’m still Mewhinney. I was named after Laura May Mewhinney, who Stockton family lore touts as tiny, adorable, and beloved. Growing up, I assumed all sorts of other stuff about her. Mewhinney is definitely a gal who winks. She’ll slip you candy from a stash in her handbag (and definitely calls it her handbag); she embroiders, drinks gin, and wears dresses with tiny floral patterns. Mewhinney gets all freckly in the sun and never leaves the house without a treat for the neighborhood dogs. Is any of this true? No idea. But this is where my mind goes: always to the pretty stuff.

There’s plenty of ugly stuff in the world right now. Possibly in response, Bernie and I recently left the TV off, turned on Corey Hart Radio on Pandora (highly recommend), shared a bottle of Fume Blanc, and appreciated the genius of Richard Marx. It was restorative. At our respective laptops, Bernie edited research papers and I traded song lyrics with Facebook buddies. The kids were in and out of the room wrestling and giggling and farting and being that awesome mix of adorable/irritating/lovable/gross that is The Teenage Boy. They know all the words to Take on Me and Teddy’s don’t… don’t you want me, well, it’s a parenting perk for sure.

I still unabashedly like Facebook, but I’ve seen at least a dozen friends (threaten to or actually) delete their accounts this week. The incessant onslaught of political HEY-DID-YOU-SEE-THIS posts– what David Brooks aptly describes as “the hyperventilating media”– are literally “trumping” funny quips about toddlers, car repair woes, and check-ins at Shake Shack in our timelines. If you’re like me, you’re sort of jonesing for the good ole days of Throwback Thursday bar mitzvah Polaroids and family-in-ponchos at Niagara Falls. I know it seems like the end of days, but I honestly miss discussions about Tooth Fairy handouts and your latest excuses for drinking on a school night.

But being apolitical is a political stance!

I read this on Twitter every day. Those folks aren’t closing up shop on social media and actually seem to be plowing forward with an increasing number of no, really, I, really, really, really hate him sentiments with funny/angry/poignant/unrelenting tweets. Certainly there are legitimate fears about our political leaders, but is social media hand wringing– or worse, trolling and fighting—is that activism? I’m not sure. Sharing info on how to contact your representatives and where to meet to march, that’s valuable politicking. But me? I’d still rather read your date night yelp review of the new movie theater. I’m Mewhinney!

Trump might be the Death of Facebook as we bore each other to tears with shared outrage. Brodie asked, “Is everyone going to pissed off all of the time for the next four years?” God, I hope not. The children are watching, indeed.

Here’s what I am noticing.

Out in the real world where we stand at deli counters and tip the delivery guy and chat up the waiter—out there, face to face, I feel like we are being nicer to each other. Have you found yourself smiling at a stranger over the lemons and limes, letting the Prius merge into your lane with a you-first wave, or making a more deliberate attempt to exchange even short pleasantries with your fellow line-standers? Are you trying to make fewer assumptions, or better ones, about the people around you… by talking to them? Have you paid for a coffee behind you, or thrown an extra quarter in an overdue meter just ‘cuz? These are the things I have seen.

Internet sleuthing led me to a Mewhinney family crest emblazoned with luceo non uro. Shine, not burn. I love that. Few things other than cardio or cut-and-paste-if-you-care cancer memes can tempt me to write angrily. I also don’t trust most reposted articles, preferring to read the opinions of smart lawyers who have a sober handle on precedent, our men and women of the cloth (of all ilk) who devote their lives to assuaging fears of earthly things, and Steve. But when I’m existentially and emotionally exhausted with world news, it’s a fun breather to scroll through the selfie stick snaps of your high school reunion. More than ever we need the silly things, the pretty things, and I hope that sort of sharing doesn’t die because our President is profoundly (and daily) uncouth. Even so, I guess there’s always Richard Marx, right there, waiting for me.

Luceo non uro. Share the good things, the pretty things, too. The children are watching.

moaenyso

Go ahead. Try to resist the uro gaze of Richard Marx.

President Trump: Getting The Liberal Agenda Done! By Steve Safran

As you know, dear friends, I’m not a political sort. But I love Stevie’s current take on Trump. Is he an evil blowhard or a political mastermind? Who knows? But our reactions to him are reminding us who we are.

In just the past two weekends, we’ve had a nation united in its outpouring of support for women’s rights, immigrants and due process. This past weekend, the ACLU raised an astonishing $24 million, nearly beating M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” at the box office, with only slightly less horror in the storyline. Subscriptions to the New York Times are up. Book sales– actual, physical books made out of paper– are on the increase. And in just a few weeks, scientists and supporters of science will join together to rally in Washington DC.

All thanks to President Trump.

Think about this: Without President Trump, would we have had “pussy hats?” Would people be reading 1984 again and debating totalitarian government? Would people have felt so empowered that, when they heard an executive order was signed banning certain immigrants (the ones that pray to Mohammed but aren’t inconveniently located in countries profitable to Trump companies), they rushed to their local airports in a display of love and selflessness? I mean– lawyers worked for free on that one. Lawyers! For free!

Thank you, President Trump!

Reporters are discovering how to report again. They’ve stop relying on the same-thing-every-day White House press briefings which tell you exactly nothing other than what the White House wants you to know. Instead, the Washington Post is adding 60 journalists. It’s expanding breaking news and investigative news. That’s really the only kind of news worth reporting.

People are questioning the government again. After 9/11, it was unpatriotic to question the president. You were either “with us or against us.” Now, we remembered this whole “America” thing: The government is either with me or against me. America is governed by the people– not by a King or a CEO or someone who thinks he can just Tweet laws into existence. I’ve heard more talk about the three branches of government in the last month than I have in years. “The president doesn’t make the laws,” noted one observer. And by “one observer,” I mean every social studies teacher in America who has been trying to get students to listen for the last 40 years.

Thanks, Trump!

I’m a Republican. Been one since January 3, 1986– the day I turned 18 and proudly registered GOP. Reagan was president, and all I really knew about the Republicans was that they were for money and less taxes. I saw “Wall Street” and missed the satirical point entirely and decided that these were the people for me. But I believed, and still do, in fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism.

Who these people are, these new leaders who have dared to steal the name of my party, I can’t say. They’re not Republicans. Certainly Trump is no Republican. I’m not even trying to insult the man. Here’s his political affiliation history:

1987-1999: Republican

1999 – 2001 Reform (The Ross Perot people.)

2001 – 2009: Democrat

2011 – 2012: Independent (Unaffiliated)

2012 – Present: Republican

That’s not a political leaning, that’s just being against whomever is in charge. Donald likes to be in the opposition, because it gets him on TV. He was a Republican while Bush the Elder was president, true. But he stayed in the opposition while Clinton was president. AFTER Clinton left, he became a Democrat, for Bush 45. Obama wins? Trump’s a Republican again after 13 years. Just so he can go on TV and say he’d do better.

But the takeaway here is that from 1999-2012, Trump was not a Republican. And I have a theory:

Donald Trump is a loyal Democrat.

Donald Trump knew the best way to energize the centrists in the party was for it to join common cause with the base. What better way to do that than to have a common enemy? So Trump, true patriot that he is, that keen mind with the best brain and the best words decided: I have to fall on the sword for the good of America. I will make America great again, even at the cost of my own reputation. I will become the scapegoat that will unite the country.

The U.S. had been becoming outrageously anti-Muslim. Odds of being killed by a refugee terrorist in the U.S.? 1 in 3.6 billion. Odds of being killed by a fellow American with a gun? 1 in 25,000. We had become overwrought with fear of Muslims and not concerned nearly enough with the safety of our fellow countrymen (even our fellow schoolchildren). Trump knew “he alone” could fix this.

And so he did. He signed a blatantly unconstitutional, anti-American executive order that, well, nobody’s quite sure what it did. On paper, it stopped a bunch of people coming in, but even the folks at the borders weren’t sure to whom it applied. See, Trump didn’t want this order to work, so he didn’t run it by the Justice Department or the State Department. Instead, he just had a total idiot outline some garbage about countries people couldn’t come in from. That idiot, Steve Bannon, happily complied because he doesn’t know Trump is using him.

Within hours, Americans showed up at airports, united in their support of Muslims. Americans were hugging Muslims who must have been at least a little confused after their 15-hour flights. You have to believe an Iranian, showing up in New York, seeing a giant protesting mob at first blush is thinking, “This can’t be good.”

But it was good. A federal judge in Brooklyn put a stay on part of Trump’s order because the government couldn’t make a case that people being detained at the border posed any risk. This may have had something to do with the fact that they posed no risk.

What’s next? Science. That whole anti-science agenda that the Republicans want to pass? The one that says, essentially, peer reviewed scientific studies are kind of up for debate? Trump’s totally going to eviscerate that. By which I mean, he’s going to pass it. And in a few weeks, there will be the March for Science in Washington. Scientists, people who like science, and people who simply think that rocks fall when you drop them will be out in droves to march in favor of things like teaching the actual age of the Earth and giving children vaccines so they don’t die before age 3.

Who do we have to thank for that? President Trump, of course! Without his staff of yes-monkeys furiously cribbing policy from the Alex Jones radio show, none of this would be possible. Without Trump, women wouldn’t be calling their representatives in Washington to safeguard their reproductive rights. Without Trump, average citizens wouldn’t have willingly gone to an airport on a weekend, let alone to protest, let alone for Muslims (!) in a show of patriotic unity. Without Trump, scientists wouldn’t be the next stars of the show.

Thank you, President Trump. You’re one hell of a Democrat.

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Clyde

Five years ago, when I knew I’d be losing my hair anyway, Bernie advised me to chop it all off in advance. Getting used to short hair was prudent preparation, and honestly, the thought of long, blonde clumps circling the drain was more than I could handle. Katherine booked an appointment for me at a fancy salon. I still have no idea how she convinced them to squeeze me in, just two days before Christmas. Well, I guess I do. It’s very Katherine to chase down Boston’s most famous hairstylist in Beacon Hill to insist on a favor for a friend. Appointment secured, April came to fetch me, and we drove into the city on a dark, snowy afternoon.

That night in the fancy salon was blurry. I chose an edgy, short hairstyle out of a magazine. I was terrified I would start sobbing. Suddenly, there was someone who didn’t look like me in the mirror. I don’t remember paying (thanks, guys). April and I returned to the car, and it wasn’t there. We navigated slushy streets in the wrong shoes to find an ATM and then a cab to the sketchiest parts of a city where cars are towed. We paid the scary man, found the car, and shared nervous could-it-get-worse?? giggles the entire way home.

A month later, a few days before surgery was scheduled, my short haircut was getting shaggy. But I wasn’t going to return to the fancy salon on Newbury Street for a trim. It was time to come clean with Clyde.

Clyde had been my go-to guy for a quick cut and color since 2007. Back then, I was a walk-in to his studio as an exhausted, frumpy-feeling mom of tiny boys. I needed to mask the gray and just wanted to feel pretty, dammit. Clyde promised me this would be easy, as I was already pretty (and now I already loved Clyde) and he also assured me fabulous hair for small money in a short time. We were fast friends and I’ve been a regular at Clyde’s station for a decade.

A typical exchange with Sandy, the front desk receptionist:

“Hey, it’s Britt… can I get in with Clyde, like, TODAY?”

“Hold on babe…. yep. When?”

“1 o’clock?”

“You got it.”

“Really?”

“You know he’ll squeeze you in whenever you want, doll.”

My girly readers will attest there can be quite a bond between a gal and her hairdresser. Geez, there are entire movies centered on conversations in swivel chairs and over contoured sinks. Though I will watch Steel Magnolias every time it is on and love the idea of being a regular at Truvy’s, Clyde is a true departure from any stereotype you have of a hairdresser. Picture an extra from The Sopranos: slicked back, black hair (when he had it), sleeve tattoos, and a Harley. Clyde is Andrew Dice Clay in a beauty parlor.

After umpteen hours in his chair–over most of the years of my marriage– Clyde could quote my mother-in-law and recite the list of all of the extra Asians we’ve housed over the years. He even talked Shmo out of pink hair when he knew she was applying for jobs. Clyde and I shared similar taste in binge-worthy television programming and agreed that kids should never be forced to eat broccoli but should be dragged to Church regularly. We covered all of the topics.

After too many months without seeing Clyde, I booked my appointment, showed up with hair he hadn’t cut, and confessed.

“I cheated on you.”

“Sit down. What’s going on?”

That’s when I told him I had cancer. He understood entirely how I couldn’t ask him to lop off the hair he’d been perfecting for years. I knew he’d be too sad for me. And if Clyde was choked up, I’d start sobbing, and I only had so much Ativan, and that’s how close we are with the dear ones we choose to tend to our hair. It’s an oddly intimate relationship some of us have to the talented folk who know us well enough to forbid bangs.

Last night Sandy called me at home. Clyde is gone. A brain aneurysm means I will never see Clyde again. He was only 48.

I’m sad. I’m praying. I’ve been writing since midnight.

I have an irrational (?) need for his closest family and friends to know I loved him, too. Likely there are so many of us who have relied on him for years, have marveled at his talent and speed, and loved him, too. Clyde has been on the sidelines of my silly life—making me feel prettier when I felt invisible, literally shaping my recovery, and always telling me I was a cutie.

Clyde is gone, but I take solace knowing Clyde knew I thought he was fucking amazing. I hugged him hard, tipped him hugely, and only ever cheated on him with a fancy salon once. I told anyone who asked that no one was better at color than Clyde. Six years ago, I even yelped it, earning him a shout out from the corporate office.

“Do you really think I’m actually that awesome? I mean, no one has ever written a review like that for me.”

“Clyde, you’re fucking amazing.”

“Alright. YOU said it.”

And I’m so glad now that I did.

Day of Beauty Three

Hair by Clyde.

No resolutions for me!

I’m so sure I need Healthworks to “focus on myself.” I’m plenty self-absorbed already, Kat. I have a blog.

from: Kat at Healthworks
to: Britt
date: Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 11:52am
subject: Need help getting started???

Hi There!

I noticed you were a previous member at Healthworks Chestnut Hill, so I wanted to reach out to check in to see how you are doing with your fitness. We all have something that is motivating us to keep focused on ourselves. What is motivating you? You can rejoin Healthworks and start focusing on yourself today for just $1 enrollment and no membership dues until March 1, 2017. We can your set membership up right over the phone or schedule a time for you to come in for a visit sometime this week. I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your current fitness goals! This offer ends on 1/31/17

In good health,

Kat Vicino

Membership Advisor, Chestnut Hill, HealthWorks Fitness Centers

 

 

from: Britt
to: Kat at Healthworks
date: January 26, 2017 at 11:54am
subject: You’ve got the wrong gal

Hi, Kat.

I have been trying to unsubscribe from Heathworks emails for YEARS. I hate working out. I’m vain, so I exercise, but joining a gym sounds wretched. Plus, I already pay Equinox monthly for the privilege of not going. I burn more calories blogging about how awful spin class is than actually spinning. NOTHING is motivating me except a closet packed with smallish, pretty dresses. Good luck drumming up business, though! And if you can possible unsubscribe me from chipper emails from Healthworks inquiring about my fitness, that would be amazing. Otherwise, I look forward to burning a few more calories typing these sorts of retorts.

Eating cheese,

Britt

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This is me.

 

Two-A-Days

I went back to yoga. It’s been awhile. But it is THE NEW YEAR and salads must be eaten and muscles must be stretched and exerted with strangers sharing humidified air. Thems the rules.

You know what I also wish was a rule? That sick people wouldn’t go to the gym. Yesterday, like some sort of Olympian, I attended a competitive spin class and followed that with a power hour of hot vinyasas. In each class the willowy woman near me was… coughing. Phelgm-y bike girl was more discreet, hacking into her hand towel on the up beats. The sweaty downward dogger in front of me just spewed her virulent microbes into the damp studio without compromising her warrior two. This freakishly fit fanatic was never asked to leave, and certainly wasn’t going to let a touch of tuberculosis thwart her hour of half crescent moon twisting. (Yoga is occasionally very Pillsbury.) YOU ARE ALREADY SKINNY SO GO HOME, I scream-thought.

You faithful few still reading this drivel know my love/hate/complain/mock/go back again relationship with exercise. Yesterday, I was fully in the love zone; I’m actually very stretchy and good at yoga. Plus, it will be perpetually dark and freezy here until May, so I appreciate a fire hot room. But then this ponytailed terrorist aerosolized her sputum all over us, and the heavily bearded (why? why? why a beard when you spend all day at 110 degrees?) instructor told us to “relax your eardrums” and I was over the edge into scream-thinking.

But I will not be deterred! I went back to spin class again today and college boy next to me was so genuinely hating it, too, my hope for humanity was renewed. For sure there were still whoo whooing weirdoes racking up more miles than a minivan, but gasping boy next to me (who was killing it nonetheless) was my silent, exercise-begrudging conspirator. Maybe. More likely I was just some invisi-mom on the next bike. But knowing there’s at least one other person immune to endorphins made the never-ending 45 minutes suck less.

How are you getting through these January, work-off-the-cheese days? With a New Year enthusiasm for fitness, I’m continuing this (2 days and counting) habit of two-a-days with a second workout: dismantling the Christmas tree. Fourteen trips up and down stairs lugging boxes and then vacuuming up the godforsaken mess of it all…the way Jesus intended.

Hope all of you are being kind to your minds and bodies in this New Year and remember to RELAX YOUR EARDRUMS.

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A previously underreported source of stress and tension… according to yogis everywhere.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO STEVIE… by Britt

When Kim suggested we fete Stevie for an unexpected 49th birthday surprise, I was ALL IN. I bet most of us are double booked for any Saturday during the holi-daze, but this is one of the few things I actually wanted to do. Can’t think of many better things than joining a gaggle of Lovers of Steve to raise a glass in his honor.

That event prompted me to go back—way back—through hundreds of Facebook messages where Stevie and I became buddies. Reading these silly essays over the past five (FIVE!) years, one might assume Stevie and I have been besties since the ‘80s. But we weren’t. Back in college, I was only loosely connected to Steve. He was the popular older boy, wickedly smart and funny, a writer for Trinity Tripod, and “in” with all of the pretty, talented people. I’m sure I hardly registered on his radar in the ‘90s. I was a younger, dorky Biology major with Sally Jesse Raphael frames and no fake ID. I would never be game show cool.

remote-control

Remember Remote Control? Stevie was on it, and won.

But by 2008, I was a stay at home Brookline mommy with 3- and 4-year old boys. One day my gorgeous, Swedish babysitter set up a Facebook account to message her for gigs. Email was for, like, old people, Ingrid said. Within months, the Facebook algorithm matched Stevie with me, and once we learned we sort of knew each other, lived only a few miles apart, and had similarly inappropriate things to say to each other on line, it was instant friendship.

Three years later our text messaging and occasional in person catch-ups became something deeper. I got breast cancer. Stevie was divorcing and then… dating. There was much to discuss. Reading through those old Facebook exchanges I can feel the comedic relief Steve was sending me through the interspaces. Surrounded by stifling, helpful, baffling, wonderful, and hilarious Asian relatives, I maintained sanity trading short messages with Steve that still make me giggle. I swear he suffered through at least one date with a crazy woman merely to provide stories for my amusement. Bald, poisoned, mutilated, and badgered by relatives insisting I eat papaya soup, I retreated to my bedroom and laptop to laugh with Stevie. This little exchange was about a woman we nicknamed “Chinatown.” That thread is too racy for even this crowd… but here’s a sample.

SS:  Black leather jacket or peacoat?











BL:  It’s fucking cold and leather is trying too hard.











SS: Agreed











BL:  And you don’t want her to think you’re one of those guys that is always hot and sweating. Wear a jaunty scarf. We like those, too.




 We, meaning me. And it’s optional.











SS:  I don’t like this online thing– I’d much rather a reference from you: “He’s a little hairy and out of shape, but worth it.”









 I don’t do jaunty scarfs. Do I need to get one? What color/style?

BL:  Forget the scarf. I’ll get it for you.




 She is welcome to message me any time on Friday. I have no biopsies planned. And I will totally vouch for your worthiness.




 And who wouldn’t take to heart the words of a hot, dying girl?










 SS: “My friend and shiksa goddess Britt has cancer, but is more focused on me. As it should be.”











 BL: Too much? I’m not dying. Really. But you can use it to get into Chinatown.











 
SS:  I can work up a tear. You would have wanted it that way.











BL:  But if my Komen fight can get you laid, then you’re coming to Church with me on Sunday.











SS:  If I can get laid after LUNCH, I am accepting Jesus as my Lord, Savior and King.

We didn’t realize this was the start of our back and forth blogging at the time, but I quickly recognized Steve’s appearances in my comments were just as popular as my on line posts. So did he. This message preceded one of our first shared writing ventures that was featured by WordPress and continues to be circulated.

SS:  The blog keeps getting better. I think you should invite guest bloggers. I think I should be one. Because I always try to make things about me. And I’m pretty fucking funny.

I agreed heartily. Still do.

Last year, in a devastating show of solidarity and commitment to the blog and our friendship, Stevie got cancer. The mutilating surgery, go bald kind. Seriously, Stevie… this was above and beyond. As a veteran, I had an arsenal of right things to say. I had experience, expertise, and empathy. But I was angry and sad and scared and terrified. Fuck cancer and the rogue cells and fates that choose its victims. To date Steve has written funny and poignant essays about love, loss, life, death… and, you know, marshmallow fluff.

And now our friendship is the stuff of books and movies and really something that we are too lazy to actually capitalize on. We’ll tackle that in 2017. But tonight, celebrating the eve of his 50th year on the planet, knowing he is marinating in love and friendship, I want to tell the world (or at least our limited readership) that I love him dearly and think somehow ours is the most special friendship. And I’ll bet many of us feel exactly like this—that we have a particularly funny and fantastic friendship with Steve that is unmatched. Thank you for making me feel special by inviting me to be a part of your weird and wonderful world.

Happy Birthday, Stevie.

xoxo

Berlin Can Take It… by Steve Safran

This week in horrible news has Stevie remembering Berlin. His thoughts remind me of how all of us are Boston Strong. Hate never wins. Our hearts are in Berlin (and so many places where horror happens), but Berlin can take it.

It was in Berlin where I apparently ordered a “Coffee with ice from the road, please.”

It was in Berlin where I smoked my first and last e-cigarette. The nicotine still hasn’t come off my face.

It was in Berlin that I leaned casually against a wall where, just a few decades earlier, I would have been shot.

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It was in May 2012, that I visited a friend who was working in Berlin. I’d always wanted to see this legendary city so I finally had an excuse. Newly separated, I traveled alone. It was my first real trip as a single guy. It felt… odd. Berlin. Legendary. Land of spies. Ground Zero of the Cold War. Home base for the Holocaust.

And so, so many places to get beer.

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Berlin is not generally a beautiful city. It can be as ugly as it is fascinating. Certainly, the part that was West Berlin is better looking than the former East Berlin. It’s sort of the difference between Brooklyn and Queens, if Queens had been flattened and been rebuilt out of bad concrete.

There are parts that are beautiful. The Grunewald is Berlin’s equivalent of Central Park, but ten times larger– plus a lake. Wannsee sits on the water here, a beautiful beach and home to the eponymous 1942 conference where the Nazis decided on “The Final Solution to The Jewish Question.” There are contradictions and cognitive dissonances everywhere.

At the Brandenberg Gate, where Ronald Reagan famously challenged Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” tourists mingled with street performers dressed, tastelessly, as American and East German soldiers, Darth Vader, Yoda and Mickey Mouse Gone Bad. This is now banned. However, you can still find costumed Fake Soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie, the famous gate that used to separate East and West Berlin.

I danced on Hitler’s grave in Berlin. Really. It’s not marked, but where Hitler was burned on a pyre outside his bunker in April 1945, now sits a small parking lot capable of holding, maybe, 10 cars. Germany didn’t want lots of Neo-Nazis hanging about the place, so they literally paved over history. (OK, almost literally.) My friend and I pulled in. I got out of the car, danced a small jig, and got back in. Good enough.

Berlin is no stranger to horrors, and this week’s is a mere scratch compared to what it’s been through. Still, how awful. How unfair. How absurd and shameful. An attack on Christmas shoppers. It’s beyond the pale. We all agree on that. And we stand, of course, with Berlin. Ich Bin Ein and all that.

But those who are claiming responsibility have nothing to claim. They haven’t accomplished a thing. They murdered people, yes. But they are a mere footnote to a great city’s long and complicated history. They stand for nothing. They may cost Angela Merkel her job, but another chancellor will come along. Berlin and Germany will go on, being a complex, industrious powerhouse.

You want to hurt Berlin?

Try harder. You’ve got nothing on history.

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Committees

Sitting at a cute café in Brookline this morning, sipping my chai latte and waiting for the rest of the committee to arrive, I thought, “In the New Year, I resolve to be on fewer committees.” A minute later my phone reminded me that today is the 19th, and our committee meeting is on the 20th. So although I have an extra shopping day (yay!), I still have another committee meeting tomorrow morning (boo).

For someone who doesn’t “work,” I have seven different committee meetings on the calendar just in December. If I count all of the Boards and focus groups and nominating and discerning and development committees, there are 11 different tables I’m scheduled to appear, drink the coffee, offer my input, take the minutes, and probably plan something. And I’m definitely forgetting a few. Why am I on umpteen committees? I’m going to figure it out in the New Year.

There are upsides to being a Committee Girl, and the first is that most of these groups include people I adore, lots of giggling happens, often there are baked goods, and Important Things are accomplished. If you know me even the teeniest bit, you know I’m a cheerleader for Steps to Success which supports and champions kids who live in public housing in Brookline. Most people think Brookline is flush with millionaires, and they’re not wrong. Tom and Gisele live here. But 13% of our neighbors are living in poverty, and until that number is zero, I’m going to keep talking about Steps to Success. Steps to Success. Steps to Success. Steps to Success. Get your checks in the mail.

I’ve also urged the local lot of you to Shop for Jesus, also known as the Christmas Market at the Church of the Redeemer. Since 2008, we’ve raised and given away a half million dollars to Boston’s “unhoused,” food pantries, St. Stephens Church, and oodles of other worthy organizations. So if you came and bought a sweater or some chocolates or commissioned Pete to draw your house or dog, you “gave,” too. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Though the work is rewarding and the people are wonderful, when staring at a calendar riddled with meetings, even the most chipper committee girl begins to wonder if someone else could take her place at some of these tables. Recently, I met one. Though we’d been friends-of-friends on Facebook, in person this was a seriously gorgeous gal. I mean, she is totally television pretty having been, you know, on television. She was all cute and tiny after giving birth, like, a minute ago. And with her handsome doctor doting husband sitting by her side, she admitted she wasn’t returning to work in the media, but was looking for a meaningful volunteer job once the kid got a little bigger.

This girl is low hanging fruit, thought Chipper Committee Girl. I braced myself to assail this unsuspecting beauty with poverty factoids and inspire her to devote her time and checkbook to my causes. Already I fantasized tapping into her media savvy and got excited about the possibility of having someone without an AARP card on my development committee.

I want to do something with animals. Pretty soon we’re getting a pig.

A snort might have actually been expected from me, because I am a terrible person. But after watching her delight talking about animals and her husband’s bemused acquiescence to the certainty of imminent pig ownership, Chipper Committee Girl crumpled up her pitch and vowed to stop trying to recruit everyone. Certainly the animals need their champions, too. And although cats make me sneezy, doggie poop bags make me dry heave, and anything in a tank doesn’t belong indoors, even I have to admit those teacup pigs are irresistible. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing them on Facebook already.

The second upside to being Crazy Committee Girl is, occasionally, a welcome distraction. A creepy and actually not so very nice elementary school teacher often said, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” Ten year old me would picture a tiny horned dude in a red suit engaged in odd carpentry inside my lazy, lazy head. And if I go back to posts from five years ago, I can read the dark thoughts of an idle mind trapped indoors and awash with cancer fighting poisons. This year, I was too busy with meetings to wallow in Cancer-versary memories. But it’s been five years, y’all. I should probably plan a party. Who wants to be on Britt’s Party Planning Committee? We’ll only meet once. And there will be cocktails.

Merry Christmas, friends! And may the New Year find you only on committees whose work blows your hair back… or makes you more excited than a kid on Christmas morning (who just got a teacup pig). Snort snort.

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What is cuter than a teacup pig? TWO TEACUP PIGS.