My Spiritual Awakening at Olive Garden

It was the night of the blood moon lunar eclipse, and much like a werewolf, I felt a powerful urge commanding me to venture into the night and troll some of the villagers. Well, maybe I was not so much like a werewolf. I felt more like Garfield the comic book cat, as this impulse came with a ravenous craving for pasta.

This happens to me frequently, as I am a devout Pastafarian, which basically means I am atheist (or agnostic, if there’s even a difference) who occasionally enjoys a good plate of spaghetti. I’m considering going on a low-carb diet and converting to the Church of Bacon in the near future, but on this particular Sunday, the Flying Spaghetti Monster tapped my shoulder with his noodley appendage and sweetly invited me to take communion.

Unfortunately, it was 8:45 pm, which in my sleepy neighborhood is considered late-night dining. Most of the restaurants were closing in 15 minutes and it normally takes me that long to locate my car keys. The nicer nearby Italian restaurants were no longer a viable option, and the only local establishment with an open kitchen was, to my dismay, an Olive Garden.

I always feel like I’m acting snobbish when I say I don’t like the Olive Garden. By no means am I a high-class dame or a nit-picky foodie, but every time I give it another chance I wind up thinking, “that food’s not very good.” That said, in our neighborhood, the Olive Garden’s parking lot is always jammed packed with cars, so clearly they must be doing something right.

I took my boyfriend to dinner and was initially impressed. There was a decent wine selection, cool décor, and the menu wasn’t silly with items like deep-fried spaghetti jalapeno poppers. Our waitress, who was bubbly and attentive, served me a nice carafe of pinot noir, accompanied by one of those cheesy logo wine glasses with grapes etched on the side to remind servers that wine goes into this glass, and ends at the bottom of the grapes. The food was still unremarkable – sweaty, salty bread sticks and college dorm spaghetti – but with the right wine, atmosphere, and company, I was at ease, and enjoyed the overall experience.

Then the waitress came back with our tab and a special hand-written card, asking me to have a blessed day and to like her Jesus page on Facebook. (I blocked the name to protect the innocent, perhaps even angelic).

olive garden card sides

This waitress had been exceedingly friendly and provided excellent service, so I still gave her a good tip. I tried to suppress my natural liberal, knee-jerk reaction of haughty irritation, but I couldn’t help glaring at the card, and being haughtily irritated.

My boyfriend, who was raised in a very religious household and is not prone to liberal, knee-jerk reactions, was amused. “Maybe she took one look at us and just knows we’re going to hell,” he speculated.

No. This wasn’t an act of judgment. She probably gives this same card to all her diners. She was not rude – quite the opposite. This was perpetuated more in the spirit of “I’m promoting my boyfriend’s band. Please like and share their Facebook page,” but even that would elicit an eye roll from most patrons.

I imagine most customers would gruffly dismiss a “Vote for Bobby Jindal” message, annoyed a server would even consider pushing a political belief when all that was requested was some over-rated bread sticks.

This lovely server had no knowledge of my religious beliefs. She was blithely unaware that I was actively practicing communion as she slipped her message in under a ridiculously large pile of after-dinner mints.

I crossed my thumbs, bowed my fingers, and said a quiet little prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, asking Him to lay his noodley appendage upon our waitress in understanding. I prayed He would forgive this transgression, gently show her the error of her ways, and somehow stop her from delivering such messages to future patrons. Perhaps He could bless her with 30 more years of serving spaghetti and meatballs to local Pastafarians eager to feel His love in a Jesus-free Olive Garden.


I imagine this is the kind of prayer a devout Christian would perform if, let’s say, a Muslim server asked them to follow their “For the Love of Muhammad” Twitter feed. Assuming, of course, they would only pray, and not issue a complaint to the manager. I would never issue such a complaint, though I should have left a little card on the table, inviting her to like and share my Uncouth Marie page.

Upon my return home, I looked closely at this card, reading it over and over again, until both the card and the Facebook page it promoted became my single-minded obsession.

I’ve lived in the United States for over 40 years and no one has ever once mentioned this Jesus fellow to me before. Could this be the day? The day where Jesus finally, through the divine actions of this Olive Garden server, tap me to become born again? Did God try to reach me through that pile of after-dinner mints and say “NOW you must believe in My son’s divinity and enjoy eternal life at my side. You will savor these never ending bread sticks with the weirdly chunky crusts, for they represent Jesus’s body. His blood is actually better represented by the Cavit pinot noir – you will need to upgrade your wine choice next time.”

Since this miraculous card appeared in my life, I spend every waking hour at the church and have committed the Bible to memory.

Well….. not really.

I mean, hey, it’s the Olive Garden. Not Romano’s Macaroni Grill.

And quite frankly, far more aggressive Christians have tried and failed.

Back in my early years as a retail sales girl, I had a co-worker trap me in a fitting room and coerce me to pray to Jesus. She begged out loud for Him to save my soul and help me be a better friend to my friends. This woman knew nothing about me or my friendships – she was just bat shit crazy.

She did this to other co-workers as well. Some were Christians who didn’t mind, and the rest found their own methods of escaping her lunacy without reporting it to management. Even if a Christian is acting wildly inappropriate, it sucks to be a tattle-tale or to fight back because then you end up feeling like the intolerant liberal stereotype. And yelling at someone because they want to share their love for Jesus makes you look like a total dick.

My tactic was to lie and say I was Jewish. That seemed to stop her, though I was always nervous she would actually ask me questions about Judaism, as I was uninterested in layering up the bullshit.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I encountered a bunch of aggressive Christians who wanted to, yet again, harsh my mellow. I took about a dozen of my Hoosier friends to Cincinnati’s incredible Oktoberfest, where 500,000 drunks line the streets to drink craft beer, eat fantastic German food, listen to tuba music, and lock arms in the world’s largest chicken dance. My friends, being the bad ass super drinkers that they are, were already three sheets to the wind upon arrival.

We chicken danced, purchased funny hats, joyously clinked beer mugs, and then stumbled into a group of Christians who adamantly wanted to warn us about the dreaded hell fire each of us would inevitably face for imbibing alcohol. These Christians were decidedly not joyous. In fact, they seemed rather irritated at having to explain their position to extremely intoxicated people.


I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume these Christians were not specifically invited by the City of Cincinnati to hold court in the middle of Oktoberfest and shame festival-goers for behavior heavily endorsed and encouraged by the festival planners. These Christians crashed the party and then had the nerve to insult the guests to their face. That’s very rude. A good party crasher blends in, is kind to party-goers, and sneaks off with a few refreshments. Apparently, these people didn’t read Emily Post’s Etiquette book.

Drunken revelers from all faiths lined up for the chance to either yell at these zealots, or to slur drunken logic in a calm, rational, “I hope I don’t vomit on your shoes” manner. My friends and I gathered around one zealot in particular, whom I will call “Lil Rod,” as that was the singular name tattooed down his arm in what appeared to be prison ink. I’m not sure if this tattoo was meant to indicate his name, a beloved/departed friend, his favorite gangsta rapper, or his own diminutive penis. I just know the Bible frowns upon tattoos, but on that point, I’ll digress.

Lil Rod wore an expression of calm indifference, trying not to get injured or be clawed at by the mob. His eyes, sometimes getting as big as saucers, almost seemed to blink in Morse code “get me out of here,” as he rotely relayed his hell fire messages. One Christian drunk seemed incredibly agitated that Lil Rod would dare demonize him on behalf of their mutual lord and savior. I thought it was going to come to blows as this particular Christian was quite aggressive and mean-looking, even in lederhosen and an alpine hat.

One of my girlfriends took her turn with Lil Rod, giving up on logic quickly and then asking him if he was okay. She was genuinely concerned, as he looked like a captive who rightfully feared for his safety. Ultimately, after a “please don’t touch me” request, Lil Rod was gracious enough to pose with my friend, though he refused to smile.

lil rod

My friends all encountered this Christian mob. It was a very sobering experience. We all stopped drinking right then and there in deference to their noble efforts.

That night, after all my guests returned to my home, we formed a prayer circle, tearfully asking Jesus to forgive us and save us from eternal damnation. We each took turns emptying beer cans out into the street while reciting the Lord’s prayer. We burned a Dos Equis cardboard cut-out of The Most Interesting Man in the World in effigy. Bottles of whiskey, bourbon, and vodka were crushed. The only bottle that remained was some Cavit pinot noir, which we shared with some shitty Olive Garden bread sticks in communion.

Look, I’m happy for anybody who finds purpose and meaning in their life in any capacity, be it through Jesus, the Old Testament, Allah, science, witch covens, yoga, family, or simply the love of a loyal houseplant.

My personal belief is that humans discussing the origins and meaning of the universe are very much like goldfish in a small fishbowl discussing the origins and meaning of the entire Earth. While such conversation can be intriguing and a great way to pass the hours, they have no idea what they’re talking about and never will. It is my humble opinion that as an extremely limited being, unable to see all the colors, hear all the sounds, or even use half of my brain’s capacity, I will never understand the world or the meaning of life, because I am clearly not meant to. The universe is probably much weirder than I can ever possibly imagine, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I don’t need any more answers.

Nor do I need any more warnings about what hell fire will burn my eternal soul should I make a single misstep during my nano-second of a lifespan. I just want to enjoy my life, face my own consequences, and let the truth reveal itself to me if and when it’s ready.

If you, the zealot, can agree to simply leave me alone and let me enjoy my spaghetti without a side of religion, I will agree never to come into your church with a giant sign and start shouting about how drinking is cool. I will never pass you a card that invites you to visit a satanic Facebook page. Most importantly, I will never stand on a street corner and scream about your transgressions through a bull horn in an effort to publicly demean you for victimless crimes and various bad habits.

That would be rude, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster hates rudeness.


Creepy Sexism in Girl’s Sports


When I was 12 years old, my mother reprimanded me for dressing too provocatively. My outfit would not raise a single eyebrow today, but back in the late 80’s, it was still considered trashy to wear a miniskirt that was two inches above the knee and (gasp) lace gloves with the fingertips cut out. Like all 12-year-old girls back then, I was trying to be Madonna, but only had a vague understanding about what that actually meant.

In the most diplomatic way possible, my mother tried explaining to me why it was wrong to dress this way in public. It was a familiar conversation, and always a confusing one. When I was in second grade, both my mother and my teacher took turns both scolding me and begging me not to take my shirt off at recess. It had been a particularly hot spring that year, and all the boys took their shirts off to play basketball. I was playing basketball with them, and I too, was sweating bullets. Why was I being singled out?

“Because you’re a girl, Marie. Girls are different.” They could never bring themselves to explain why girls were different. My chest was identical to the chests of all my second grade male classmates (a trend that would sadly continue for me until I was damn near 20). I just had to accept that girls were required to keep their shirts on, while boys could take theirs off.

So when I was 12 and getting yelled at for my pathetic Madonna imitation ensemble, my mother realized she was going to have to give me a tangible reason why my outfit was deemed unacceptable, one that would save her weeks of fighting and trips to my teacher’s office.

“Because,” she struggled, “when certain men see you dressed like that, they might think you’re selling something you aren’t.”

“Girl Scout Cookies?” I wondered.

“They might think you’re selling yourself.” I stared at her blankly. “Your body.” Still nothing. “They might think you’re selling sex.”

Wait, what?!?! Whoa. Slow down there, missy!!!! To further clarify, my 17-year-old sister chimed in with “Mom thinks you look like a whore.” Okay, I sort of understood the sex-selling part (ew), but what was this “whore” thing? A monster? Based on my mom’s dramatic reaction to my sister, I knew it must have been even uglier than a monster.

So there I was, an ugly monster selling sex, and over the months, I started learning more and more from my friends and society about what attention I could expect to receive from boys (and apparently johns) based on the various sartorial choices I made.

It was about that time that I joined the Laredo Middle School girl’s volleyball team. I loved playing the game and had a pretty mean serve. Unfortunately, joining the team meant donning a ridiculous uniform with long sleeves and very short shorts. I really hated this fucking thing.

The legs would bunch up in the crotch as I scrambled for the ball, and I was painfully aware that my ass cheeks were open to the bleachers every time I had to bend over, which was always, because it’s fucking volleyball. For some reason, however, my parents had no problem with this get-up. Despite the fact that I was not allowed to own daisy dukes, and that I could be sent home from school if my skirt hem reached higher than my outstretched fingertips, it was considered perfectly fine for me to squat and jump in this little number:


Again, I found myself jealous of the boys in my class. Their volleyball uniforms were comfortable. They could play with confidence in their long, flowing Umbro shorts.

As my team won game after game, I noticed girls from various schools would eye each other up and down. Not to get into each others’ heads, but to sympathetically acknowledge each others’ uniforms. Many girls suffered the same cheek-grazing shorty-shorts, but I remember one team I played (and beat) had shorts more reasonable in length. Unfortunately, they were fabricated in a thin, white polyester that let you see each player’s underwear.


For many years I mentally blocked the memories of these heinous athletic fashion crimes. It’s been a long time since junior high, and I assumed things got better for girls. Nearly every time I fire up the ole’ Internet, I see some article about a girl being sent home from a school dance for being too scantily clad, or about how yet another female sports team is kicking ass and building a bigger audience. More respect for sport. Less respect for skin exposure. Things must have gotten better for junior high school volleyball players, right?

Infuriatingly, no. A precious 11-year-old girl in my life is currently trying out for her school’s volleyball team. The shorts she’s wearing are so short, they practically look like underwear. She’s afraid to dry them in a clothes dryer, lest they shrink to an even smaller size. The uniform they will put her in if she makes the team will be just as short.

Her school is following a very common trend. And it’s disturbing.

Do a Google image search for boy’s volleyball teams at the junior high or high school level. You will see confident boys in reasonable uniforms looking like they’re going to kick your ass:


Now do a Google image search for girl’s middle school volleyball teams. You will see in most images, the girls look apologetic and strike modest poses that clearly show how uncomfortable and naked they feel in their uniforms. Sometimes, these girls are blatantly sexualized by people taking bend-over sneak shots.


There are now many websites like that let horny men rub out to girls in volleyball uniforms. Is that what we training young girls for?

And why is that top male volleyball athletes still manage to keep their legs covered, like soccer players, for the most basic running and jumping? If there was a competitive advantage to wearing skimpy underwear instead of comfortable shorts, men would have done it by now, just as they do with wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, and ice skating. Male athletes have no shame in attire when it comes to winning.

So could somebody please tell me why schools and athletic teams are still subjecting young girls to this bullshit? What is the message we’re sending to these young ladies? And who are the creepers designing these things?

Seriously. Somebody please explain the logic to me. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Dating Advice from Schmucks

Allow me to share what I’ve learned over the years as I rank the advice of popular love experts and introduce my very own 11-step guide to falling in love.




Long before I graduated college, my parents wisely impressed upon me the importance of having good job search skills. If you know how to write a stellar résumé and can ace any job interview, they advised, “you will have confidence in knowing that you will always have viable job options.


Upon graduation, I bought tons of books about résumé writing and interview strategies. I would dispatch at least 50 résumés a day and ensured that every day I would have a job interview. Even if the job opportunities weren’t relevant to what I was looking for, I would get to practice my interviewing skills and avoid the trap of staying at home and feeling sorry for myself. As my career progressed, and I went from one job to the next, my approach became more targeted, and as a skilled job seeker, I always nabbed great jobs and writing contracts.


Unfortunately, my love life had not progressed so well. I was divorcing a man I had been with for 19 years. He was my high school sweetheart, the second boy I had ever kissed. We started dating when I was 17 and got married when I was 25. On the day of our 11th wedding anniversary, what we jokingly referred to as our “anti-versary,” we said our tearful goodbyes and drove away from our home in his and her moving vans.


I was 36, moving across the country, and absolutely TERRIFIED of being alone. I had no idea what it meant to be single, as my idea of courtship was handing a boy a note before a second period algebra class that basically said “Will you go with me? Check yes or no.”


So I decided to approach dating exactly the same way I approached job searches. I mean, how different could finding a good man be compared to finding a good job? With the right skill-set, I was certain I could control my love life.


I bought a ton of audiobooks to play in my moving van, as I white-knuckled the trip (I’m a lousy driver) from Florida to Indiana. I listened to advice about men, dating, body language, love languages – you name it. Upon arrival, I purchased every dating coach product I could find, read all sorts of books, and watched endless videos. I decided to accept fewer writing assignments, basically taking time off work, so I could focus on my new full-time career of making some guy fall in love with me.


Most of these so-called dating experts simply repackage the sound wisdom your mother already gave you: Be yourself. Build a good life of your own. Put on some makeup. Practice good manners. Don’t be such a whore. Etc.


I would say that of all the information I parsed through, 90% of it was good, if not somewhat obvious and repetitive. However I noticed a few disturbing trends:

  • Most of this advice is old-fashioned and predicated on the notion that all women should be married. I didn’t really see any dating advice targeted to women where marriage was not the ultimate goal.


  • Many of these experts had really bad relationship histories, and some had never even been married, despite offering “proven methods” to getting a marriage proposal and evangelizing the importance of marriage as an end goal.


  • Every dating coach seemed to use an angle or gimmickSome odd piece of advice or rule to distinguish themselves from all the other dating coaches. This is where things can get weird.
  • In order for these coaches to sell the effectiveness of their products, they have to hold their audiences accountable for results. The general message is that it’s the woman’s job to be fascinating and irresistible, and to steer the relationship. Dating coaches grab your attention with outrageous claims such as “You Can Win Him Back” or “Married in a Year!” It doesn’t matter if the guy is a total idiot, or gay, or transferring into the Federal Witness Protection Program  if you can’t win him over, it’s because you’re not following the advice and making yourself irresistible enough with your magical feminine powers.


Please read my Guide to Dating Experts to get a more detailed account of these love coaches and the advice they dole out. Every day a new so-called expert comes out of the woodwork to take your money and sell you the dream of a fulfilling love life. Which begs the question:


Why can’t I make a little money from this?


I’ve done the research, pounded the pavement, and got results. For only $450, you too can benefit from my new love program, which guarantees that all of your wildest dreams come true, or else I will send you a free newsletter that offers alternative solutions. Either way – YOU CAN’T LOSE. I present to you:



“Finding Love in 11 Easy Steps”


(The program will be more detailed, but here are some excerpts.)



Step 1: Slut it up. Invest in high heels and plunging necklines. Get yourself a “ho bag,” a small, overnight bag with toothpaste, a clean thong, and at least two dozen condoms you’re gonna need for all those hot overnight sex sessions you’ll be having with wildly charming men in their ultra-cool bachelor pads.


Step 2: Put yourself online. Upload your profile on free online dating sites. Include lots of pictures of your lips wrapped around cigars, your boobs pushed up to your neck, or your arms around Ron Jeremy. Never forget that sex sells.


Step 3: Take down the slutty pictures immediately after you instantly find out how gross guys can be online. Upgrade your profile with a new façade that pretends you’re just nice, quiet girl who only enjoys an occasional cocktail in social settingsContinually change your profile to synchronize with your ever-morphing online persona.


Step 4: Date a ton of dudes you meet online. Try dating at least three new guys each week. Realize most of these guys aren’t worth even hugging, let alone fucking. Regret your ho bag investment. Meet so many guys at Starbucks that every barista within a 5-mile radius will know all about your futile exploits.


Step 5: Perfect your techniques. Flirt relentlessly with every single man you encounter. Act like you know nothing about wine as you flip your hair at some (dammit, of course he’s gay) guy in the grocery aisle. Learn how to perfectly light up a robusto at the cigar bar for the guy who’s recruiting a third for a creepy Twilight-themed three-wayFigure out the cutest drink to order while conversing with a married man who’s pretending to be single. Hone your conversational skills with sympathetic bar flies when your date stands you up. Perfect the art of faking illnesses and even strokes to get out of particularly bad dates.


Step 6: Try not to hate all men. Lean on a big support group of guy friends that you genuinely enjoy spending time with. Keep these relationships as drama-free and enjoyable as possible by acting like a frat boy around them. Lovingly address these guys with pet names like “fucktard” or “cunt muscle.” Make these relationships fun, easy, and platonic by being as vulgar and spastic as possible. Share your dating disaster stories with them and collect their feedback.


Step 7: Keep dating Internet dudes no matter what. Even if you’re exhausted and would rather spend your time downing Jägerbombs with platonic male friends. Especially that particularly sexy one who got divorced under similar circumstances as you and is also self-employed. You still need to keep your head in the game. Don’t lose momentum.


Step 8: Become a dating wiz. Learn from your mistakes. Get better at vetting potential dates. Become really good at politely and effectively ending it with guys you don’t have any chemistry with. Build your tolerance for being rejected. Develop a sixth sense for detecting assholes and discover what you are really looking for in a man. Begin to trust your instincts.


Step 9: Win the game. Become so good at winning mens’ hearts that you get a man to declare his love for you on the fifth date. Date this guy for three months until he presents a portrait of you and him to his mother on her birthday in front of you and his whole family. Freak out and feel smothered because this guy spends two nights a week at your house.


Step 10: For the love of God, stop dating. Chill the fuck out and delight in your independence for Pete’s sakeEnjoy your free time and get back to earning a living. Stop fake-laughing and only laugh at jokes that are genuinely funny. Love having your own place and your own schedule. Sleep in the middle of your queen-sized bed, dress however you’d like, and have fun with your friendsEspecially that particularly sexy one.


Step 11Fall in love. Let that particularly sexy friend eventually make you his girlfriend. Be as happy as you’ve ever been in an honest relationship with someone you are genuinely compatible with. Don’t stress about marriage because you know it’s not a guarantee for happiness. Just have a really good time loving your best friend and feel strong in knowing that you are with each other because you want to be and not because you need to be.



If you enjoyed this, you will love my next program called:


“How to Get that Wonderful Man to Marry You,” or “How to Get Over that Wonderful Man You Lost, You Stupid Bitch, You. I dunno. I’ll see where life takes me.



My Deprived Childhood

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have read Heather Barwick’s essay on the difficulties of being raised by lesbian parents:

Her article inspired me to write this one, because gay parents or no, this is America. In this country, it is everyone’s constitutional right – nay, civic duty – to bitch publicly about their deprived childhoods and shitty upbringings. Today, it’s my turn to represent a quiet and overlooked minority in this country. Societal norms and expectations have long restrained me from sharing my truth, which is this:

I was raised by loving, cisgender, heterosexual parents in a functional, middle-class household. My mother and father were law-abiding, affectionate, monogamous, ethical, non-violent, sober, and gainfully employed. It was a nightmare.

Sure, everything seemed okay when I was very little, but as I got older and started visiting other households, I began noticing the limitations inherent in my upbringing.

Not Enough Competition: There was a stunning lack of competition in our home which, as a patriot and a capitalist, I still find upsetting. I never got a day off from being grounded because it was my dad’s turn to have me over to his house and he wanted to be the “cool” parent. I was never able to coax my mom into buying me a better birthday present by bragging about the sweet boom box my dad already got me. Nope. My parents acted as a single monopoly instead of two separate businesses vying for my approval. Completely un-American.

Not Enough Guilt: My parents never thought they were depriving me of anything, so it was extremely difficult to manipulate them. As an eleven-year-old, I was unable to get the motorcycle I wanted – no, DESERVED – because my parents didn’t feel obligated to atone for any negligence or wrong-doing. Making sad puppy eyes at your daddy just isn’t enough to get a Harley Davidson unless he’s covering the shame of having a secret baby mamma in Tijuana. No secret siblings = no cool chopper.

Not Enough Angst: Throughout my life, I’ve always worked in the creative fields. I’ve painted, illustrated, and apparel designed until I settled into my long-term career of writer. But all of this has been done on a very mediocre, commercial level. While I’ve been able to carve out a decent living, I know I will never be truly ground-breaking. I’m not compelled to dig deep into my soul, because it’s so boring in there. What pain have I to tap into? What childhood traumas still haunt me? Who would ever be inspired by my memoir and its harrowing chapter recalling the time my family drove through the length of Nebraska while the car played a tedious audiobook?

Not Enough Blame: Unlike children of dysfunctional families, I have no one to blame for my bullshit. When I talk to shrinks about my family, they get bored and quickly move the topic along to the “real” issues. Apparently, my drinking, swearing, and general lack of self-censorship stems from something other than my parents forcing me to keep up piano lessons a few weeks longer than I wanted in order to prevent me from becoming a “quitter” of something “they already paid for.” A psychologist once diagnosed my condition as “Being an Asshole,” which, as it turns out, I’m not even allowed to blame on genetics.

Not Enough Freedom: In a two-parent household, there’s usually an adult at home, so you can’t get away with shenanigans. Sure, I would have loved to be like all the other kids in the neighborhood who were building pipe bombs, spray-painting buildings, and stealing cars, but no. I’ll never forget the feelings of isolation and dismay as my mother’s voice rang out over our front porch: “Marie can’t hotwire that Volkswagen with you today, Billy. She has to finish her homework.” It was geometry homework, by the way. I don’t even use geometry in my daily life.

Every day, I ached for leverage – an angle that would let me go nuts and act a fool. Even to this day, on the frequent occasions where I behave ludicrously or shamefully, the people who know me best say “What’s wrong with you? You were raised better than that.”


Of course I was.