Shabbat is a really big deal at my house, as it is for most Syrian Jewish families living in Brooklyn today. At my house, Shabbat is partly about spirituality, partly about family but mostly about food...Read More
The year I turned thirty my friend said, “You know, you move your face a lot when you talk. You should be more careful.”
“What?” I asked, my forehead scrunched.
“You’re going to have to live with that skin for the rest of your life,” my friend said.
Of course what she’d said was not news to me but it was jarring. What was I supposed to do, talk without expression? No joy? No wonder?
In all honesty, I didn’t give what she said much thought.
But not too long after, I looked in the rear view mirror of my car and saw (with horror) a vertical line (my first) beginning to form in between my eyes.
It was a significant moment, if not traumatic, my youth fleeting.
Then, I started to pay attention.
For a while I got caught up, buying into the idea that aging was bad, something to be avoided or slowed.
But when I noticed lines around my mouth, something shifted.
Maybe I’m crazy but I like those lines! They’re called smile lines for a reason. Why would I want to erase them?
This revelation was empowering.
And that’s why the article in the New York Times, "Cursed With A Death Stare", aggravated me.
That kind of journalism creates an unrealistic, unhealthy, view and perpetuate a ridiculous notion: that we have endless reasons to be ashamed of how we look.
I’d never heard of the term “Resting Bitch Face” or RBF until I read the New York Times piece and its condescending, anti-women, agenda was enough to make me scowl.
And just to be clear, I’m not blaming men.
Women do it to themselves. In the article, Anna Paquin, 33, defined RBF (a woman’s face at rest- no smile) as looking like you want to kill someone.
There are photos of celebrities (Kristen Stewart, 25, January Jones, 37 and Victoria Beckham, 41) who are accused of RBF, which means they look like they are frowning. In my opinion, they are beautiful. But because we arbitrarily label the look pejoratively (angry, irritated), we establish truth from a lie.
Resting Bitch Face is a result of genetics, gravity and aging.
There is madness in creating standards around age and beauty that are impossible to meet, expectations that leave us feeling bad about ourselves.
In the article, Anna Kendrick, age 31, actually wonders, “What’s wrong with me?”
And how’s this for insanity— If I smile, I get smile lines. If I don’t smile, I get accused of having an angry bitch face.
One female doctor, an educated 51 year old women who did not have a line anywhere on her plumped up face, educated me about how as women grew older the corners of their mouths curled downward.
I’d never noticed that before.
She suggested that I become more aware, that I give a little (continuous) smirk, to raise the corners of my mouth a bit.
Was she kidding?
What she suggested sounded exhausting, unrealistic and overly self-focused.
But this summer, at a party, it happened to me for the first time. Someone asked me what was wrong.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You look angry.”
I guess what he saw was my “resting bitch face”, which incidentally we should rename “resting thinking face” because that’s what I was doing.
And what actually makes my brows furrow is the idea that I have to concentrate on looking perky while I’m supposed to be resting.
I was scared and unsure:
Would people like what I wrote and how I wrote it?
Was I ready for the world of social media?
What if I made a grammatical mistake?
Well, I did make errors. Some I was able to fix, others I wasn’t.
And remarkably, I survived.
Reader comments kept me going.
Some of you responded directly on the blog site, some on Facebook, some on Instagram, some by private text message and many in person: at the grocery store, at parties and on the street.
(You’d be surprised how many people are hesitant to comment through social media. I was happy to learn, I wasn’t the only inhibited one.)
Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week as I woke to other bloggers liking my post and tracking how many people had read.
I heard from people I hadn’t talked to in 20 years, from people all over the country and yes, even an old boyfriend.
My work was read in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and more.
A special thanks goes to my friends and family who let me write about them, their outrageous stories and vulnerable moments.
All year, friends teased that they had to watch what they said in front of me for fear they’d end up in a post.
I heard everything from, “Shhh, she’s going to write about you” to “It’s good Corie’s not here.” (Yes, people repeat these things to me.)
Looking for material or attempting to drum up good conversation, this blog has been the impetus for many a dinner table debate.
Over the course of this year, I wrote about topics that mattered to me.
Equal rights- Gay Marriage
Empathy- Still Alice
Parenting- Parenting Gone Well
Friendship- Friendship Matters
Sex- Masters of Sex
Education- Doodle Power
Addiction- Monkey See, Monkey Do
Writing- Writing: It Could Come Back to Bite You.
The Environment- Earth Day 2015.
I wrote about topics that peturbed me slightly- Pouting Face Emoji
And things that annoyed me greatly- A Tip for My Uber Driver.
And things I feared- Fear: The Good The Bad and The Ugly.
Writing about these topics made me focus on them, and in writing Gone Girl No More, I faced my apprehension, put myself out there, and finally got headshots!
Daring greatly (I'm a Brene Brown lover) I'm posting them here.
Help me choose the new From The Core photograph so I can get rid of the blurry one on my About Page.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the night my husband asked me to marry him so this is kind of a double anniversary for me.
And it’s appropriate that my blog about relationships and my marriage share an anniversary because as long as I’m married to my husband, I’ll always have plenty to write about!
P.S. Thanks for reading!! And don’t forget to pick a headshot favorite!!
“Who’s happy?” one of my friends said over drinks this past weekend in regards to marriage. He wasn’t being facetious. He was really asking. Okay maybe he was being a bit tongue-in- cheek since he is actually happily married.
But as I looked around at my group of friends, I saw something I’d never really seen before:
A friend who was divorced and with her new husband. A friend who was there alone because she was in a fight with her spouse. A friend in the middle of a divorce. A friend who is widowed. And one married couple.
That same day the New York Times reported: 5-4 Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide.
So of course, this historic news came up in conversation with my friends.
“It will be the new normal,” one of my friends said, a bit concerned or at least unsure. “It’s all the children of today will know.”
“That’s okay,” another friend responded. “Fifty years ago Blacks and whites didn’t share the same public restrooms and then that became the new normal.”
How was that reality even possible?
I guess it’s a good thing that situation feels antiquated and, more to the point, it is evidence that in time we'll look back and wonder how we could've denied marriage rights to any particular group.
I must admit I stared for a long while at the twelve photos of the same-sex couples on the cover of the newspaper, wanting to know their stories, imagining their lives— what it was like for them before this vote and what life would be like for them now.
I took a hard look at these people, happy for them, feeling celebratory that they’d accomplished this goal—to be together, openly and legally.
And now they had what we had.
And yet here we were a handful of mostly married people: all living our own individual lives, all making different choices, at different turning points.
What did we all have in common?
Maybe the divorced friend would remarry, maybe not. Maybe the married couple would stay together, maybe not.
I recently read that the word gay has become so prevalent in meaning homosexual that people hesitate to use the term in its original sense to mean happy or joyful.
I’d like to use the word in its original meaning here.
If it’s what you choose—Gay Marriage for all.
I’ve expected loyalty but got betrayal.
At one time or another, haven’t we all?
Trusting someone requires vulnerability. What I’ve learned, the hard way, is that you can’t allow yourself to be vulnerable with just anyone. People have to earn your trust. I used to just give it away- no prerequisites.
My mother (I think I’ve mentioned) used to call me Tinker Bell. And it was mostly because of this- I was too trusting. I couldn’t fathom that someone would deliberately hurt me: repeat a secret I’d shared or make fun of me in a group.
I was wrong.
Brene Brown, a research professor, writes about trust and vulnerability in her book, Daring Greatly. She says that vulnerability is full of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. It is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experience. It is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.
In my defense, understanding that vulnerability was the road map to those gifts was the reason I opened myself up again and again.
But I didn’t know about the Marble Jar.
When Brene Brown’s third grader came home from school devastated because a girl in her class revealed her embarrassing secret to her entire peer group, Brene’ struggled with how to best teach her daughter about trust and connection.
She didn’t want her daughter to operate out of fear and become disconnected in an attempt to stay “safe”. Even though it makes sense that after a betrayal someone might disengage and stop trusting, it is heartbreaking to imagine that outcome because one of life’s greatest joys is connection.
Her daughter’s teacher kept a clear glass jar on her desk, and whenever the class did something positive she put marbles in the jar. Whenever the class did something negative, she took marbles out. That day, the class was so unruly she took marbles out of the jar.
Brene told her daughter to think of her friendships as marble jars.
“Whenever someone supports you, or is kind to you, or sticks up for you, or honors what you share with them as private, you put marbles in the jar. When people are mean, or disrespectful, or share your secrets, marbles come out.”
I’d say this marble jar idea holds up in any relationship: parent, child, sibling, friend, lover, spouse, co-worker.
I love the Marble Jar metaphor. It is a concrete reminder, one that is useful for someone who is 8 and someone who is 48, that trust is built one marble at a time.
My husband doesn’t look at me like that. We have to discuss this. Why doesn’t my husband look at me like that?
Laughing so hard I thought my stitches would pop, I wrote: I just sent my husband to buy me stool softener. Maybe that’s why.
(In thirty years of marriage I’ve never asked this of my husband but post-surgery...)
Anyway, isn’t that the point? When you live with someone, share a life with someone, a real life, can there be mystery?
My final text before going to sleep was, You can’t compare three months of dating to twenty-five years of marriage.
But I woke thinking about this.
According to Ester Perel, a NYC therapist and best-selling author of Mating in Captivity, “Desire needs distance, freedom, dream, mystery. It is that very freedom that allows us to maintain desire that also has the risk to separate us. The freedom posits risks but without freedom we don’t maintain the intensity of desire.”
It seems impossible to have distance, freedom and mystery in an intimate long-term relationship. But Perel writes, “Reconciling the erotic and the domestic is not a problem we can solve; it is a paradox we manage.”
There is a well-known cartoon by Sam Gross that was printed in the New Yorker. Two snails are talking. They are staring at a scotch tape dispenser and one snail says to the other, “ I don’t care if she is a scotch tape dispenser. I love her.”
The shapes of these things appear the same but what else is known? This is what we do in the beginning of a relationship. We see some things and we conjure up the rest; part fantasy, part denial. And the distance and mystery stokes yearning.
Ester Perel asks an important question in regards to her work on desire.
Can we want what we already have?
I grew up in a house with a bar that spanned the length of the living room. I thought as little of the bar as I did of our couch, the coffee table or any other piece of furniture in the room. Granted, the bar had a mirrored front and a sleek wood top, which proved glamorous and alluring, but my parents weren’t addicts, they were partiers. When my husband and I had the opportunity to decorate our living room, we built a bar equally as sleek as my parent’s bar and it took up a good portion of the living room. I never thought about the message this sent my children or what I was unconsciously teaching them.
Entertaining one Saturday afternoon, a friend caught my eye. I watched him stroll to the bar many times over the course of the day filling his glass with scotch again and again. After about ten trips to the bar I lost count. I wasn’t concerned or shocked. The only thought I had about how much he’d consumed was, boy he can sure put it away.
This was a friend who’d been married for fifteen years, had five children, drank scotch straight from the bottle, often fell asleep in his clothes on the couch, and at times woke with no memory of the evening before. How is it possible that when he went to rehab, I was surprised?
I write about this now because I want to call attention to how unaware we are of the enormous and immeasurable ways addiction impacts our lives and how the values of our culture, community, family, along with our childhood experiences and our feelings of self worth play a part in how obsessions show up, sometimes unexpectedly.
I’m not an addiction expert. I’m a writer, a teacher, a mother, a woman living in a tight-knit community, who has witnessed the progression of something so alarming and prevalent it has become impossible to deny any longer.
In Connected: The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, the authors claim that how we feel, what we know, whom we marry, whether we fall ill, how much money we make and whether we vote all depend on the ties that bind us. But Social Networks don’t distinguish between good and bad, so they spread happiness, generosity and love... but also eating disorders and alcoholism.
Tina Rosenberg’s book, Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World, argues that peer pressure can lead to acts of bravery or destruction (depending on the trend) and that through social networks we could transform the world. Rosenberg asks us to re-imagine social change based on the most powerful human motivator: our desire to connect with one another. And she refers to this phenomenon as the “social cure.”
I saw this happen firsthand.
When the man who drank scotch straight from the bottle returned from rehab, he surrounded himself with other recovering alcoholics and attended Alcoholics Anonymous, a social network. He lived according to the program, one day at a time.
But within our community, outspoken, he stood out until a few months later, another community member got sober. Together they seemed to stand taller than they did on their own. They made recovery look good. They didn’t talk about how much they missed drinking. Conversely, they spoke about the benefits of sobriety. They could participate in their own lives again, be reliable family members and concentrate at work.
Fun-loving and charismatic, they turned what was once perceived as shameful or undesirable into something that was not only accepted but respected; a loser move had become cool. They were a dynamic duo and were suitably named Batman and Robin - Caped Crusaders.
It wasn’t long before others recognized their serenity and wanted some too. I watched as person after person joined the bandwagon. Individuals who’d struggled, unable to remain sober, were finally able to stick the program. The group, attractive, grew. The social ties were spreading recovery.
A few years ago, we had a fire in our house and needed to redecorate the living room. This time: without a bar.
“Who’s Madame Marie?” they asked.
“Are you kidding?”
They weren’t. They didn’t know Madame Marie was a fortuneteller on the Asbury Park boardwalk; or that her clients included Ray Charles, Elton John, Diane Keaton, and The Rolling Stones. Reportedly, Madame Marie told Bruce Springsteen he’d be a huge success; and he wrote about her in his 1973 song, 4th of July, Asbury Park.
“Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”
Madame Marie was an icon on the boardwalk for decades and as she aged, she trained her children and grandchildren to read tarot cards and crystal balls. I see her granddaughter, Sabrina, who for $25.00 reads my palm. I should get a kickback because every summer I visit her and bring friends. Relatives. Anyone who’ll come with me.
Two years ago I brought my cousin, Pam. I went first. Sabrina studied my palm and told me I’d live a long life. “You’ll live until you’re ninety-two,” she said.
I was thrilled.
“I’m going to live a long life,” Pam said after her reading. “Eighty-six years old,” she boasted.
“Oh, Pam,” I teased, “I’m going to miss you those last few years.”
While we laughed out loud, inside I panicked picturing myself as a 92 year-old woman; and if that wasn’t bad enough, I tried to envision a world without Pam in it. I brushed away the thought.
Part of me recognizes that Sabrina can’t possibly know this to be fact but she’s been right about so much. Yes, I had a friend who got sick and needed me. Yes, she was on the money about a specific guy a different friend was dating. And yes, there was something about an upcoming medical procedure.
My two friends were torn, half excited by the idea of having their fortunes told, and half skeptical.
“Come on,” I said. “You’ll see.”
It was around six pm, a time that for as many years as I can remember was dinnertime, bath time, homework time. It hadn’t been my time since I was twenty and so this felt outlandish and adventurous. It was also a perfect summer evening, the air off the ocean a gentle breeze, the temperature perfect. I took off my shoes and walked barefooted on the boardwalk.
After my reading, I smiled wide. “What did she say?” my friend asked.
Here’s the thing: you’re not supposed to share your reading.
Was that so she could scam us? Tell each of us the same thing? (There was one year she kept asking, is there a Michael in your life?)
Or was it because of the old superstition not to reveal your wish if you want it to come true? (How many times have you wished on a star or a chicken bone and not told fearful your dream wouldn’t come true?)
But there is another belief.
Say your wish out loud. Yell it to the universe and it will come true.
So here it is, the good thing Sabrina told me the other day…
She said that something positive was going to happen with my novel in September. “You hear that! All literary agents- you have until September!”
There it is. I’ve said it. My wish is free in the world. It’s up to the universe to respond. Or not.
Every day since my visit to Madame Marie’s this summer, I think about Sabrina’s words. Every day I get a bit giddy imagining she’s right. For $25.00 a world of hope and possibility opened up for me. There was something special about that evening: the spontaneity, the ocean air, the purple sky. It was girly and fun, like the world was my oyster, and that all the opportunity in the universe rested in the palm of my hand.