Archives

Guest Posts, Video, Vulnerability

What Are You Hiding About Yourself?

April 17, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

What are you hiding about yourself? What are you afraid to share? What do you lie about? Do you worry about being ‘found out’? (Post your answers in the comment section.)

Quite often, it’s the very things that we want to hide that draw people to us. (I go into more detail in my fancy video below. And my fancy I mean simple, poorly lit and using yoga blocks as a tripod. I mean, who need all the bells and whistles, right?)

Don’t hide your shit.

Or your magnificence.

I won’t either, k? Love you guys. Sans bells and whistles, Jen

 

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mother’s Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Featured image by Joe Longo.

Guest Posts, Self Love, Truth

Hunting Self-Love

April 17, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Amy B. Scher

Just say the affirmations, they claimed, and you’ll believe them. So over and over I repeated the Louise Hay affirmations that seemed to dust everyone else’s life with a perfect sheen. I used them tenaciously each day to make me love my 20-something-year-old body that was falling apart at the seams. To make me love the me inside, too.

I love myself.

I accept myself.

I am perfect.

All will be well.

But I just kept believing that these things could only be true if. I would love and accept myself and I’d be perfect and all would be well surely, if I made more money, if I could heal this unruly body of mine, and if my partner accepted me more …

So, I said those affirmations louder and harder.

I fucking love myself.

I fucking accept myself.

I am fucking perfect.

All will be fucking well.

Then one morning, I listened very closely to the gaps between my assertions.

I love myself.

I hate myself.

I accept myself.

I reject myself.

I am perfect.

I am a mess.

All will be well.

It’s all a fucking lie. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love, Video

I Gave Him $20 To Get A Meal And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next.

April 16, 2015
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By Jen Pastiloff.

What happened next was love.

Beauty hunting is right. I am out there with my bow and arrow, folks. Hunting beauty down. And sometimes, I do not have to look very far at all. Sometimes it’s just so right here.

I was walking down the street in Santa Monica yesterday with my friend Rachel Brathen (aka @yoga_girl on instagram) and she said, “Look!” So I did. Natch.

She’s pointing to a man on a bike with a big sign over his chest that says Be Love.

Um.

Remember that guy? I met him in the library a couple years ago and asked him if I could take a picture of him with his sign (he had it on then, too.) He said I could have the snap if I wore the sign. Duh.

I did.

I wrote about it here. Elizabeth Gilbert even shared the story. It was pretty heartwarming. I said may we all walk around with a “Be Love” sign over our hearts.

So yesterday, Rachel, (who has a million and a half instagram followers what what?) saw the same Love Dude on the street. On his bike.

I beckoned him over to us and her dog, Ringo The Gringo.


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You know when I am alone how adventure always ensues? Well, the three of us? Me, Rachel and Ringo? Magic. Pure magic.

I said to Love Dude, “You’re David. I met you in the library. You gave me your sign.”

Please watch both videos below!

I gave him twenty bucks and he said if he was to take it that I had to wear the “Be Love” sign for two full weeks.

I am taking the challenge. Will you? You can make your sign invisible but will you wear one? Please? Let me know. If you do instagram use the #belovechallenge tag. I am at @jenpastiloff over on those parts.

ps- We all wear signs. Invisible ones, mostly. What does yours say?

Some say: Stay away. Some say: Don’t come near me. Some say: I am not enough. Some say: Be Love.

We get to choose what our signs say.

Also: he drops mad wisdom in these videos.

Like, whoa.

He says, “I am looking for someone whose compassion is greater than their passion.”

Yea. Little gems like that are floating throughout the vids. Please watch and share. This is the kind of stuff that needs to get shared on social media. Not Kim-Whatever-Her-Name-Is’s ass. Hell, this is the kind of stuff that needs to get shared on the planet.

Word.

I mean, love.

Love, Jen xo

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Video, Vulnerability

Hate.

April 7, 2015
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By Jen Pastiloff

So, I am going to start posting more of my (totally high-production level) videos here since they are spreading like wildfire on the interwebs and my Facebook page. I take requests too! Any topic you want tackled? I have fun with these, I try and laugh at myself, I don’t take myself too seriously and I do my best to tell the truth and to tell it like it is. I do my best to not be an asshole. Sometimes, I am. Naturally.

Anyway, today’s is based on request. I blended three requests together because, well, I can. This one seemed to touch a lot of my Facebook tribe so I hope it resonates with you, as well. Walking around with hate in our hearts is so damn exhausting, if nothing else. Watch the videos and leave your comments below.

These are totally off-the-cuff, impromptu, in my living room. I push all my shit out the way so you can’t see my mess. Tricky, huh?

Love, Jen Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts, Marriage

Dear Life: I Have Cold Feet. I’m Not Sure If I Should Get Married!

April 1, 2015
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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. To submit a letter, email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com and please be as detailed as you can.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the brilliant Amy Sage Webb.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

(Well okay, maybe a little.) Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you at one of my workshops soon! xo

 

Dear Life,

I have cold feet. They’re not so much cold as “frozen in a block of ice” and when archaeologists discover them a million years from now, I’ll be the 21st Century version of Lucy.

My wedding is three months away.

The dress is fitted, the flowers are chosen, the photographer’s adjusting his camera. Everyone is ready to dance and smile the night away. Everyone is texting me about how “excited” they are. How they just can’t wait to catch my bouquet, sing along with the DJ, watch us ride off into the proverbial sunset. (We live in the Midwest, we could be riding off into a snowstorm, even in June.)

Everyone is on Cloud Nine. Everyone but me. I’m stuck in some mental dungeon basement, where one day I want to run out of my bedroom like Monica Gellar in FRIENDS, screaming, “I’M GETTING MARRIED TODAY!!!!!!” And the next, I’m that chick from that Disney movie, with my feet frozen to the ground and no one helping her let it all go.

And it’s not any ONE THING, which just makes it worse. And there’s all this money and time invested, and there’ll be hatred – from myself and from my family and his family – if I called it off. But sometimes I take the ring off and it feels like I can breathe.

So you see? It’s 17 things, all on top of each other, until I scream and cry and freak out, falling apart, going “No I can’t do this, not no way, not no how.”

He doesn’t hit me, or our dog. He isn’t falling down drunk every night. He doesn’t leer at other women.

But then there are days…. Where we fight and he screams so loud I get worried our landlord will come and knock on our door. Where he just gets so angry and glares for so long that I feel I have to kowtow and apologize like a small child, just to get things to be “okay.”

And the fights aren’t over anything MAJOR, per se. It’s not like, I want six kids and he wants zero. It’s more like “you spend too much at the grocery store.” Or, I’m a really big planner, so I like to organize stuff to do on the weekends, and he just wants to sit on the couch. Or instead of spending time with me when he gets home from work (Right now he works and I don’t) he’ll make a little small talk and then go straight to video games until he’s ready to go to bed. And when I say that hurts my feelings, he says I get his weekends and he has so little free time anyways, just leave him alone so he can play games. And he’s always going “talk to me, work with me, you have to work with me.” But sometimes the words catch in my throat. Or I start to say I’m unsure, and he’ll say, “This? Again?” And it turns into a fight. So I scuttle around the house and leave him alone.

I have depression, and stopped seeing a psychologist when he (I know I’m “supposed” to say “we” here, but I don’t pay the bills, so it’s he) Anyway, I stopped when he couldn’t afford it. Which just increased my stress tenfold. (All the wedding planning has been on my shoulders because he says it’s “my” job)

As for affection, that’s been a struggle through the whole three-year relationship. I like a lot of it, he doesn’t even like holding my hand when we’re alone.

My last rough patch, which inspired me to write this letter, was when I told him after our marriage, I want to travel alone. I didn’t say often. I didn’t even say to where. Just someplace, alone. He told me to be prepared to sign divorce papers if I did it, and I completely lost it. I’m currently writing this from our bed, like some sort of near-fainting Scarlett O’Hara, which, if you knew me, you’d know I’m more “I am woman, hear me roar,” than some damsel in distress.

But then there are moments where it’s LOVELY. When he hugs me without me having to ask him for it. When he kisses me longer than two seconds. When we actually sit down and talk. When we return to the spot where we got engaged. When we spend time exploring our town. When I step out of the shower with nothing wrapped up but my hair and he just looks at me like he’s a parched man and I’m ice-cold lemonade. So don’t get me wrong, there are moments- but the closer the wedding gets, the further and further apart those moments seem.

Is that okay? Is any of this okay? Or am I just telling myself it’s all okay? Are my feet cold, like, a normal level? Are they refrigerator cold? Or is my racing heart really imploring me to run away from the lava that’s coming, that’ll bury me in years upon years of an unhappy union?

Dear Life, you tell me.

Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A Teenager on Grief.

March 30, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Breanna Bridegan.

I thought once, when my father died that life was playing a sick joke on me. Because why would you put someone so amazing, so completely captivating in some ones life  and then take them away. I blamed everything, even god, mostly god. I tried to think of things I said to him before, I replayed the last time I spoke to him so many times in my head. I started to become another person, I didn’t know who I was without him. My life was something off a television show, I didn’t recognize anyone anymore.

My father was the glue that kept us whole, without him we became aliens to one another.

I no longer felt like I knew who I was. I desperately craved good days, I was exhausted from trying to save memories of my  life before his death. I missed everything about him, mostly the love he gave for his children, my siblings who were both too young to know what happened.

I think now to how my baby sister, who was only five, never experienced his love like I did. I cry for her because I know the pain she will go through as all her life moments come and he isn’t there.  I cry because she has so much of him in her that it takes my breath away. Her spirit is so spontaneous and quirky. She has so much love to give just like him, she reminds me so much of him. I know she’ll come to me with a head full of questions, and I’ll cry because she wants to know things about the other half of her the parts that make her who she is. Continue Reading…

Binders, Family, Guest Posts

Forget Memory

March 30, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Marcelle Soviero.

The door buzzer goes off on my way in, I’ve forgotten again to key in the passcode, but the patients are not rattled, only the nurses notice the piercing sound as loud and long as a siren.

The unit is locked so patients don’t get out, don’t get lost. My mother has a bracelet around her ankle now, prisoner style, just in case. She wanders, my mother. Wandering is what got us here. The time just nine months ago when she left her condo unit to check the mail and instead walked to the post office, lost. That was the day we knew. We just knew.

Dirty carpets line the hallway, chipped radiators hiss with heat, but it is always cold here. And every one is old, so much older than Mom who is turning 74 next month. She’d been diagnosed with early onset dementia on her birthday two years ago.

The woman I know as Gladys, wears her usual knit hat and scarf with her striped pajamas; she startles me as I walk down the hallway. “My baby!” she says, “My baby!” speaking to the doll cradled in her arms.

“Looking for Mary Blue Eyes?” Nurse Kelly says, “She’s in her room.” This is what all the aides and nurses call my mother. When I peek in Mom is in her bed, sleeping. She is always in bed now, her long days distilled to a haiku.

Her usually chestnut hair is flat and dyed too black, I reach out for her hand that is thin as crepe paper, and her eyes open.

“Marci,” she says, and I tear up, because she remembers me on this particular morning.

“I brought you raspberry yogurt,” I say in a sing-song voice, ever upbeat when I am with her. I sit on her twin bed, I always sit on the bed, never on the upholstered chair next to her. I want to look into her eyes and see what memories are there today, maybe a short sentence, or a lyric from her life, or nothing. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, Video

Haters Gonna Hate. Taking Things Personally.

March 29, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88Happy Sunday! I make loads of videos (shockingly bad production valyue, but hey!) which you can find on my Youtube channel here.

Today’s (well, I made 2, as you will see after you watch video. Go to my Facebook page or Youtube to watch first), today’s is about taking things personally. One of my faves.

Haters gonna hate.
Lovers gonna love. (Pssst…I say we love!)

This one is on taking things personally. Do you? I do at times.

But I get over it quicker now. That’s the thing- recovery time gets quicker. Are you going to take what “they” say as truth?

Also this: don’t defend who you are. And yes, some people may not like you. But so so many do. I do.

I like you.
**
Personal
BY TONY HOAGLAND

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—
the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,
the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me
and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.
The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,
and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.
Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk
Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts
but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;
I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,
I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back
and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?
You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.
I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:
trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love, Inspiration, Video, Women

To Have a Friend Like This: On Friendship, The Holocaust & Survival.

March 18, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

Hi guys, Jen Pastiloff here. I don’t post my own stuff too often these days, but these videos, holy Wow, mother of all cups of coffee. Please do yourself a favor and take a few moments and watch these videos. Please. One of these women is a Holocaust survivor. Their friendship is so utterly inspiring to me that it brought me to my knees. I want to have that kind of love. It’s an honor to the guest speaker again here at Canyon Ranch. What a great honor and privilege. Thanks for watching and sharing these videos. May we all listen more. May we all pay attention to the stories inside of us and inside of others, because, do not be fooled, we ALL have one to tell. Listen. This is beauty hunting.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, parenting

All In.

March 12, 2015
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By Ryane Nicole Granados

For anyone who has been married for any reasonable amount of time you know that time is one of the biggest commodities you have to offer your spouse. It’s more valuable than wild pearls, more rare than a royal flush. Time. It’s a game changer, a bartering tool, a poker chip in the name of love. Whose turn is it to change the baby? Whose morning is it to get five more precious minutes of sleep?

“What do you mean you watched one of our favorite shows without me?”

“The DVR was getting backlogged and I knew you wouldn’t have the time.”

“Your betrayal is profound.”

Time is in a constant sprint while you’re kicking with all of your might during the uphill portion of life’s marathon. Each day ends much like the one before it. Victory is the hot shower to wash off the grunge of the day met by the letdown when you climb into bed to find your wife partially clothed, one leg peeking out from under the sheet because she can’t decide if she’s hot or cold. She always claims to be cold, yet to you her skin is warm like fresh baked bread. You tell her so, but she is already asleep drool collecting in the corners of her mouth. To wake her would make you the boor of the century, so you convince yourself it’s not the right time. Instead, you set your alarm then watch the remainder of the episode you missed so that the two of you can be all caught up. True romance is about catching up and relishing those moments when you’re perfectly in sync. I’m the one leg in one leg out sleep drooler and my husband is the guy who catches me when I least expect him to.

“Babe, do you think it’s possible to breathe life into an inanimate object?”

“What?” I scream over an inconsolably crying, sorely teething baby.

“I said, do you think it’s possible to breathe life into an inanimate object?”

My husband is always asking these esoteric questions and while we’re both artistic in our own mediums, he never seems to be impacted by the poor timing of his inquiries.

“Yes I guess you could do that. Like with characters in a book you mean?”

“Nope that’s not what I mean at all.”

And with that he walks confidently up the stairs with a mission to show me exactly what he means. Weeks pass and I don’t think much of his question. Schedules begin to get particularly hectic and phone messages get subsequently longer. Texted to-do-lists interspersed with sexually laden punch lines serve to remind us that despite it all, we still actually like each other and that is a feat worth celebrating.

Even more weeks turn into months and the calendar rounds the corner to a new year. Time continues to fight against the white knuckled grip of our harried existence. This time, over the sound of our 7 year olds’ drum practice, I shout, “We should go to Vegas.” My revelation carries with it a tone of immediacy. I envision us boarding a plane following a spirited game of freeze tag where we zoom across Nevada state lines before our frozen embryos even know we’re gone. My husband sensing my urgency yells, “Like, now?” His sarcasm rings louder than the 8th notes of our son’s rendition of “Welcome to the Jungle.” Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, Relationships

To the Woman Who Wants to Forgive Her Cheating Partner.

March 11, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Erica Garza.

To the Woman Who Wants to Forgive Her Cheating Partner,

I’m not here to reiterate what 95% of the internet, women’s magazines or your girlfriends are likely to tell you. And I’m not here to place blame on any entity: the cheater, the other woman, patriarchy, the media, God.

I’m here to welcome you to this experience.

This might seem strange, but hear me out. What has just happened to you is undoubtedly awful. You’re feeling things no person should ever have to feel in this life, although many of us do. Regret, anger, blame, resentment, self-pity, maybe even self-hatred. Please note that these feelings are normal. Don’t shut them out. Don’t drown them in too many glasses of wine. And don’t let them dictate your next action. Just witness them. Feel them. After all, they’ll be gone soon. I promise you that.

I’d rather focus on something else. Because the fact that you are even considering “forgiveness” as an option means something extraordinary. And the world needs to celebrate the extraordinary much more than it glorifies the wicked and the vengeful.

Considering forgiveness means you have entered a new era in your life. I’m not talking “era” in the way people sometimes refer to adolescence as the era of innocence or the twenties as the era of recklessness. This era has nothing to do with your age. But it has everything to do with your humanity.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

Secrets.

March 11, 2015
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By Maryann Gray.

I was 13, in 8th grade, and my mother had enrolled me in the John Roberts School of Charm, which was around the corner from the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Every Saturday, I rode the train by myself from Scarsdale to Grand Central Station, took the Madison Avenue bus uptown to 59th street, and devoted the hours of 9:00 a.m. to noon to classes on make-up (called “make-down” in JRP), wardrobe, figure control, and something called “poise and personality.” After, I went to lunch with the girls in my class and then we wandered around the Upper East Side until it was time to go home.

There was something about the ride from Grand Central back to Scarsdale that brought out the melancholy in me. The train started in a long black tunnel, and then emerged into daylight somewhere in Harlem to roll by tenements and housing projects. They were so close to the tracks I could see anemic houseplants reaching for sun on fire escape landings and window curtains fluttering in the breeze. There was something pathetic and brave about these small efforts to prettify urban grit. Gradually the city gave way to the Westchester suburbs, where I could catch glimpses of a stream running alongside the tracks and see the back sides of houses, with their swing sets and cement patios. They were further away from the tracks than the tenements but close enough that train noise had to be a fact of life. I felt sorry for those families – the only houses they could afford were the ones that no one really wanted. The closer we got to Scarsdale, the denser the trees alongside the tracks became.

The train ride home was both comforting and lonely. My day had been devoted to the hope, or maybe fantasy is a better word, that I could be beautiful, self-assured, and popular. Now I was returning to my real life, uncomfortably aware that charm school was not going to fix me. I stared out the window and wrapped myself in depression like a big cozy blanket.

I carried a notebook with me on these days, so I could take notes at JRP. Moisturize before applying foundation, I wrote. Use a sponge. Always stroke upwards. I made shopping lists — eyelash curler, lip liner, good tweezers, natural bristle brushes, a magnifying mirror. I recorded my homework assignments. Walk with a book on my head for ten minutes every day. Do twenty side bends, twenty toe-touches, and twenty twists every other day. Once a week, apply an egg facial. Let the egg come to room temperature. Separate the white from the yolk. Smear the yolk all over your face, except the eyes and lips. Don’t forget under the chin. When it dries, apply the egg white right over the yolk. When that dries, gently wash your face. Pat dry, never rub.

On one of those rides home, tired and morose, I tore a corner off a page in the notebook, and in neat rounded letters wrote, “Help me please.” I folded the scrap, then folded it again, and slipped it in the thin crack between the window and the metal frame.

Even as I did it, I knew I was being adolescent and overwrought. I hadn’t been kidnapped and held as some maniac’s sex slave. I wasn’t dying a tragic death from a rare and painful disease. I was healthy, loved, and heading home to Scarsdale, where my mother would pick me up at the train station and take me to Lord and Taylor, so we could buy eyeliner and maybe a sweater.

But as soon as I tucked that note into the window frame, I longed for someone to find it. I wanted them to wonder about the girl who left it there (they’d think “girl” because my handwriting was pretty obviously feminine). Maybe it would be the conductor, cleaning up the train at the end of the line, a couple of hours away in Connecticut. Maybe he would read the note and remember the quiet girl in the blue dress, and maybe he would be extra nice to me the next time I rode the train. Or perhaps somebody’s father would read it, a businessman on his way home from work. He would feel badly for the mysterious unhappy girl and wish he could find her and give her a hug. Or maybe another girl about my own age would read it, and she would understand. “Help me, too,” she might write before slipping the note back where she found it. Or maybe some cute boy would find it and feel touched by the note’s raw vulnerability. He might start riding in that carriage every Saturday afternoon, studying the passengers until he noticed me and knew right away that I was the author. Maybe someone, an old lady perhaps, would find the note and call the conductor over. “Do you think we should call the police?” she might ask. “Someone on this train needed help.”

What was most likely, I knew, was that no one read it. It probably got plucked from the window and tossed in the trash, along with gum wrappers, cigarette butts, soda cans, food bags, and other notes from other lonely girls.

But it was at least possible that someone read it, and that was enough. The note became my precious secret. I thought about it all the time – while waiting to be excused from the dinner table at home, struggling with pre-algebra homework, and watching other kids flirt on the playground while I sat on the bleachers and pretended to read.

I thought about leaving a note on the train every week, but that first one said it all. I had written down my prayer, although I didn’t call it that at the time, and sent it into the universe.

***

A few months after graduating from JRP, I made up a boyfriend. That summer, instead of going back to sleep-away camp in Maine, I signed up for a teen tour and spent six weeks traveling across country with 30 girls and 5 chaperones. We started in Denver, made our way west, drove up the California coast, and then flew to Hawaii. We stayed in luxury hotels and traveled to fancy restaurants in a fleet of limousines. We had to wear dresses, and we weren’t allowed to chew gum or date. Everyone complained about missing McDonalds, but I only pretended to miss it because I’d never been permitted to eat there.

The cliques formed quickly. There were the losers – the girl with the badly repaired harelip, the one who was maybe just a little bit retarded. There were the sophisticates – an impossibly thin girl who hid from the sun because a tan would hinder her modeling career, a girl whose last name placed her in one of the wealthiest families in the world, a girl who was going to boarding school in France after the teen tour. Then there were the girls with attitude. They couldn’t believe they had to wear a pastel dress and spring coat to sit in a box seat at the Hollywood Bowl and listen to stupid classical music while their friends back east were on their way to a rock concert somewhere in upstate New York. They sneaked onto their hotel balconies late at night to smoke joints that they scored from boys on the street. They scowled at the chaperones, broke the rules every chance they got, and were staunchly unimpressed by things like museums or even the marble bathrooms in the I. Magnin department store in Beverly Hills. They preferred to hang out by the pool and flirt with boys.

Iris Bishop was the center of this clique. She had long red hair and big breasts. She was as sultry as a 15-year old can be. Everyone knew that Iris had a boyfriend back home in Philadelphia. He sent letters to each hotel on our itinerary, and she was constantly bumming stamps for letters and postcards back to him.

I wanted to hang out with Iris and her clique. I wanted to be one of them, unafraid of adult condemnation, a little contemptuous, ready for adventure. At first, they wanted nothing to do with me. My clothes were too conservative, my manners too deferential. I was a goody-goody, afraid of breaking the rules. To solve this problem, I invented a boyfriend, telling Iris all about him on one long bus ride from Denver to Aspen. His name was Robbie, he was three years older than me, and I met him through my cousin. We had to sneak around because his parents were poor and mine were rich. We hadn’t gone all the way, but we had made out on the bed with most of our clothes off. I loved him, but had broken it off just before the summer because I was going to college and he wasn’t, so we really had no future together.

Iris became my friend. We spent hours trading stories about our boyfriends, and she picked me to be her roommate at each hotel. Under her tutelage, I learned to ignore instructions from the chaperones and flirt with boys just for the heck of it (because I was still in love with Robbie and not ready for another relationship. In Hawaii, I stole a golf cart one evening and we careened around the resort grounds laughing hysterically until hotel security stopped us and the chaperones threatened to send us home. It was the highlight of the entire trip, much better than the 17-mile Drive or Hearst Castle. On the last night of the trip, Iris and I vowed to stay friends forever. “I used to think you were so straight, but that was before I knew about Robbie,” she said, and we both laughed and laughed.

I never told anyone that I lied to her. It was my secret, private information. I didn’t feel guilty about it; if anything I was proud of the way I’d figured out how to make friends. The girl who was in a passionate but troubled relationship with Robbie felt more like the real me than the girl who took notes on make-up techniques at the John Robert School of Charm, spent her weekend evenings baby-sitting for the neighbors, and had never been kissed. She was the false self, all wrapped in anxiety and ambivalence. The real me was bold and sexy, and she would emerge as soon as I shed the cocoon of family and childhood that still encased me.

I had another secret that summer, too. The secret was that I couldn’t stop thinking about killing myself. I had no intention of actually doing it. When Iris and I paraded to the beach in our bikinis, shared tokes off a joint after escaping the chaperones, or traded stories about our boyfriends, I felt happy. But as soon as I was alone for any period of time, my thoughts turned to death, specifically suicide. Often this occurred on our bus or car rides, when I felt the same sad sense of dislocation that came over me on the train. A few years later, when I read about anomie in sociology class, I had a label for what I felt, a dull depression that put me at a distance from everyone and everything. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to cry as that it seemed like my smile muscles were permanently frozen.

In Los Angeles, I dared myself, knowing I’d never do it, to fling open the door of the limousine carrying us to Universal Studios and jump out onto the freeway. A few days later, as we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway in a chartered bus, I tuned out the chaperone’s lecture on Cannery Row and wondered what it would feel like to run to the edge of a cliff and jump. Would I reach the water, or land on the rocks below? Would I be scared? Would it kill me? During our surfing lesson in Hawaii, I had the strongest urge to just keep paddling out to sea, until I was out of sight of our group and the shoreline receded and all I could see was water.

I had these impulses everywhere we went. But then I’d hear Iris’ throaty laugh, or someone would poke me or ask me a question, or the chaperones would hand out treats, and just like that it was over. I could smile, I could talk, I was a normal girl again.

Months after the teen tour had ended, my sister eavesdropped on a telephone call I had with Iris. “I heard you,” she said as soon as I hung up with phone. “You made up a boyfriend, didn’t you? That’s so pathetic.”

I hated my sister that day, for listening in and discovering my secret and then for exposing me. Most of all, I hated her for confronting me with my lies. I wasn’t the person that Iris thought I was, or the person that I could believe myself to be when I was with her. I was just me, flushed with shame and full of impotent anger.

 

***

When I was 22 years old and had largely but not entirely quit making up lies, I accidentally killed an 8-year old boy named Brian who darted in front of my car. News about the accident spread rapidly in the small Ohio college town. The son of one of my professors played on the same little league team with the boy who died; the department secretary belonged to their church. The local newspaper ran a story about the accident including my name and address. For months, I couldn’t not talk about it. The accident totally dominated my attention; it was all I had room for. I told the story over and over again, to friends, to my therapist, to the lawyer, to the insurance agent. It was an edited story, though, a story that left out some details. I didn’t do this as part of some master plan. I simply had no vocabulary for certain aspects of the experience. Continue Reading…

death, Family, Guest Posts

Mars Street Girl.

March 6, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melissa McMahon.

In January of 2010, it was a brisk sunny Wednesday when she said “I love you.”

***

I’m not sure when the dementia started or when we noticed, but I had been making weekly visits for the past six months to relieve my dad who was my grandma’s full-time caregiver. He lived with her, but he didn’t have a life outside of her, except playing with Sadie the Doberman and tending to his Sonoma garden. He was usually in the garden when I would arrive, and we rarely exchanged greetings.

The days began to blur; dementia was stealing our lives. Some days were better than others, but better is a relative term when it comes to someone’s mind and body deteriorating and betraying them. I’d be lying if I said I never wished for her death. She was 84, and I feared she might live as long as her mother, my great grandma Helen, who died at 98. It seems like a cruel and unfair sentence; to force someone’s body to stay and only allow their mind to drift out of memory. For me, she was already gone, and I had already said goodbye.

Today seemed typical. As I entered the house, Sadie’s nails clicked along the wood floor bounding over to greet me. The screen door slammed, and her tongue kissed my cheek as I turned to avoid her halitosis. I first learned the word halitosis from grandma. She used it to describe the bad breath of a black lab from my childhood. “Ok, Sadie, that’s enough,” I said pushing her paws down and wiping away the spittle. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Relationships

What It Feels Like When Someone You Love Threatens to Kill You

March 5, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Cheryl Yanek.

Every moment is in slow motion. How the roughness of the chair feels against your shoulder blades. How the scissors pressed against your neck feel so cold. So cold. How you think, “Everyone will just blame me.” How he tells you they’ll laugh at you when you tell him you’re going to call the police.

You don’t call the cops, but later, always, wish you did. Even though you lived. You want him to be punished. Still. Even today.

To love this kind of person is to never forget. How even when you remember the good times, you think, “He tried to kill me. He threatened to kill me. He tried to kill my cat.”

Continue Reading…