Friday, December 09, 2005


Tomorrow is a day for re-blonding. I have an appointment for a "partial", which means that I will spend 2 hours in the morning at the hair salon, getting my roots touched up. It always takes forever. Jason, my stylist, is amazing. My hair responds to him like it never does to me. It just likes him better, and is on better behavior when he is wielding the hair dryer and round brush. When I walk out, I will look traffic-stoppingly gorgeous.

By consulting my Outlook calendar, I see that last time i went in for hair was October 1st, just two months ago. The entry on my calendar is so innocuous--it simply reads: Hair, Liquid, 10:30am. That morning was anything but innocuous, though. For starters, I was probably still half drunk when I walked in for my appointment. At the very least, I was exhausted, emotionally devastated, and looked like I'd been run over by a Mack truck. The previous night had been spent having an explosive, atrocious fight with my ex. We'd foolishly decided to meet for a few drinks just a month after our break-up. He wanted it to be "his treat", in honor of my birthday two week before. At first it was quite nice. We were civil, the food & drinks were good. It felt like a good milestone, a sign that we could "do this" whole break up thing.

I left the bar to meet up with my pretty, petite brunette friend. Then, two hours later, Dramafest 2005. I went out to have a smoke and he'd left me a harassing voicemail, which beget a screaming drunken argument, and lots of hysterical crying on my behalf. Suddenly, not so nice.

It seems like all of that happened a lifetime ago, and most certainly longer than two months ago. It seems even longer ago that I was happily engaged to a wonderful man. He used to be so, so good to me. Sometimes I think about it and feel utterly mystified by what has happened to that person. Where did he go? When I'm mad at him like I am lately, it's easy to pretend that he was never really there in the first place. But I know that's not true either.

So much has changed. The actual time, as recorded by my Outlook calendar is not expressive of time. My two inch roots are a bit more expressive. At least they provide evidence of time elapsing, some reminder that, even when it doesn't really feel like it's happening, a person is growing every single day.

So, tomorrow, reblonding. I think this time I'll go even lighter.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


So, I haven't posted anything in months. There's good reason for that.

You see, my last post about the Italian in the wine store wasn't very good, and caused me far more trouble than it was worth. I tried to make it cinematic & interesting, but I rushed though it, and it shows. I can accept that it's not my best writing. Really, I was plowing through the piece for the wrong reasons. I was trying desperately to get something posted on this site, to actually get some traction with this project, to be a little less self-critical and self-censoring for once. The result? A post that is undeniably sub-par.

I wrote that piece around 8/9, hence the date, and posted it about a month later. Two days later, the boy I am seeing--to whom I shall heretofore refer as "the Mathematician"--confronted me about it. All of a sudden we were having an issue and, all of a sudden, a talk. Since then, I've been blog-paralyzed.

At the time of our conversation, the Mathematician and I were a little less serious. More specifically, we were both feeling kinda serious about each other, but weren't using certain types of verbiage, such as "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to refer to each other and our feelings. I have good reason for this. I just broke up with my fiance of 3 1/2 years. It was recent and colossal, and I need to just take my time right now.

None of this changes the fact that I care about the Mathematician quite a lot. I have since started using the b-word, and am quite psyched about it. And I was upset to learn that he was not psyched to read my post about the Italian in the wine shop.

To understand this, I try to imagine how I'd feel to read a similar story about the Mathematician. Maybe he'd be at a rock show, for some indie band I've never heard of. A cute little thing wearing a tee-shirt for Pinback or the Futureheads or yet another band I've never heard of and cat eye glasses would start talking to him about music. Maybe she's in a band herself, maybe she's even a bassist. She'd be just his type, and they'd have a fantastic, intelligent, and infuriatingly flirtatious conversation. So yes, I can understand where he's coming from. Just imagining him flirting with this indie rock bitch has me hot under the collar. And she's a figment of my imagination--not an Italian who can be found at the wine shop on Tuesdays and Thursday.

So what's a girl to do? What does a writer do when her pet project threatens her love life?

I have this curiosity, this minor obsession even, with the exchanges that occur between men and women, where sexuality is at play and it messes everything up. I have this fantastic title, UNDERCOVER BLONDE. But, more importantly, I have a deeply vested personal objective for this project. It's my attempt to understand how the body betrays us, how external factors, like the way we walk, talk, move, and act can at times speak more loudly about us than our voices do.

Here's an example. When I first started working as a waitress at Tremont 647, someone made up the ridiculous story that before working at the restaurant, I worked as a stripper. "Kitty? Yeah, she totally used to strip. I mean, just look at the way she walks! It's like she's dancing around a stripper pole. Duh!" Maybe it started out as a joke, but it certainly spread as a rumor, and shortly became accepted as fact, all unbeknownst to me (news-flash: people rarely spread lies about you to your face.) Months later a friend mentioned my "previous job" to me casually--to my horror. I turned bright red and almost dropped the plate I was clearing right in a regular's lap. It was humiliating.

Sure, Tremont is your typical cliquey little South End restaurant, and of course they have their own special and especially bitchy ways of teasing the new girls. But, like so many myths, at the core of this one there is some fact. Something about my body, something about the way I move, speak, and act screamed "stripper" to these people. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I am incredibly self conscious, brutally self critical, and struggle every day with the deeply ingrained mental image of myself as a fat, unloveable little girl.

So, where is that disconnect? How can I be communicating something so far from my true feelings, without even realizing it? It's something that's troubled me since that dirty old bastard ogled me for the very first time at my very first restaurant job when I was just fourteen years old. This blog, this social experiment, the book & personal research I intend to do to support it is all part of my quest to resolve two grossly conflicted parts of myself that somehow share a mind and body. I would like to find a way for these parts to coexist in peace.

My last posting is entirely unsatisfying to me, because all it shows me doing is flirting shamelessly with a stranger for a couple of free glasses of wine, then wondering lamely if he'd have given me freebies if I was fat. That's not what happened. What happened was this:

I had PMS and was feeling exceptionally bloated and ugly that day. I went out to meet my adorable, petite, brunette friend, who has great clothes and was dressed way better than I was. The Italian was friendly and accommodating to me, sure, but I assumed he was just being professional, and hoping for a decent tip. I didn't think for a second that he thought I was pretty--how could he, when I was looking so totally fat & bloated and under-dressed next to my adorable, petite, brunette friend? We got drunk, stayed until close, and as we stumbled out the door, my girlfriend intimated that she thought the Italian liked me. We tabulated the amount of free wine he'd poured for us and decided that, yes, this may in fact be true. Of course, we were drunk, so who knew, and who the fuck cared?

That said, I understand exactly where the Mathematician is coming from. And going forward I will approach this project and all that it entails, starting with this very post, with no small degree of trepidation.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Special treatment

The waiter was European, Italian perhaps? And hot. It was obvious that we had a special connection. I arrived about ten minutes before my pretty, petite, dark-haired girlfriend. I was alone, had no place to sit in the crowded little bar, and must have looked vulnerable. He was in the weeds, but polite and kind.

It's a narrow little sliver of a bar, with a huge butcher block in the back, where they carve up expensive meat to order and offer an amazing selection of wine. The back wall is lined with reach in coolers full of hanging pink sausages, pale cheese, and various prepared foods. All of the tables and chairs are high, so you are constantly on eye-level with your servers. This is one of those little things I notice because I work in a restaurant--the difference between looking up at your server and looking them straight in the face. It's more intimate and a huge reason why bartenders get more respect than waitresses. They are not looking down on their customers, and their customers have nothing to prove.

So, when the waiter poured me a taste, when I swirled it around in my glass, when I held it up to my nose then my lips, and nodded in approval, I was looking him right in the eye. It was sweet--we had a sort of understanding.

Looking back, I wonder if he or anyone else would have talked to me right away if I weren't me--if I were fat, or dark-skinned, or old. Or, conversely, if I exuded the kind of confidence that makes some people seem completely at home while drinking alone at the bar.

We were two girls out on the town, out on their own for a girl's night. I frequent the place, and I knew he recognized me, had perhaps even waited on me once or twice. But he'd never given me any sort of special treatment before.

A free bottle of wine later, we stumbled out of the restaurant drunk. My friend and I are not big people, and we would have been well saturated on what we ordered alone. His free tastes were meant as a little icing on the cake, I guess, but when he lingered with us at the door, saying goodbye and thank you and goodbye again, I had to wonder. I was sheepish and drunk, but according to my girlfriend, his eyes were trained on me. Immediately I began to wonder what he'd think of me if I were 100lbs bigger, or twenty years older, and when I realized that that would render me invisible, I wished I hadn't had quite so much to drink.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bitch Shoes

The other day, I made them shut up, and I knew that day that I had won. This is what I wore:

A simple hot pink, sort of sparkly tee shirt from Anthropologie, which is cut well, accentuates my bust while slimming my waist
Also well-cut Seven jeans. These used to be tight, but are looser now since I lost a few pounds, but like any quality clothing item, they still fit well
Hair curly & up in pins, in my signature style
Jangly silver bangles
My Perfect shoes

I have worn this outfit a thousand times since I first assembled it last summer. It's my sort of signature backup, something cute to throw on when meeting friends for drinks, in which I always feel good. But really, it's nothing special.

I saw them from a block away, clustered in the usual spot, on the corner of Gainsborough and Huntington, right by Symphony Market II and Burger King, waiting to shake their cups in my face and ask me for change. These men are the worst and most frequent kinds of sexual harassers. They want my attention, and they want my money, which I guess gives them special license to call me anything they want. You never know what you're gonna hear.

Sometimes they just call me pretty. Sometimes they call me sexy. Sometimes they call me pretty, then sexy, then bitch because I don't give them any money. No matter what, they make me feel about as big as a mosquito. I hate it, And for different reasons, I struggle each time with denying them change. We both know I have money and they have none, so why shouldn't I share? Then they call me whatever it is that day, and my guilt vanishes, replaced by shame, anger, frustration, and fear. When I walk past these men, I am at once degraded, and degrading.

But the other day, I won. I decided to take anything that happened in this interaction for the team, because I now want to write a book, and I can chalk up any pain/embarrassment/anger/frustration I feel to "living" and "research". So I held my head up high, kept my steps long, and kept walking. I made every effort to wipe any trace of openness from my face: the curling remnants of a smile, faint happy wrinkling in the corner of my eyes, raised eyebrows--all of these, erased. I replaced them with a firm, angry looking mouth, and a glare that I assume looked accusatory. I wasn't trying to look like mad, per se, but I presume that I did.

But I think what cinched the deal were My Perfect Shoes. These are shoes that I bought on sale last summer from Diesel. They are slightly platform, open toed, and sturdy in structure, with a curved heel and shabby chic fabric. Perhaps it was the way these three inch heels pitched me forward, or the thunk thunk that their wood heel makes along the sidewalk. Or perhaps it was just the extra three inches, with the added height of my Prom-tastic up-do, plus my very formidable posture, which can make me seem about 6 feet tall at times.

So there the men were, shaking their cups, commenting to people as they walked by, craning their necks in an effort to make eye contact with these rich strangers. But as I approached, the men grew silent. As I stalked by, I could feel their faces looking directly into mine, eyes searching. As I passed them, I knew they were carefully observing my ass. But all I heard was one brazen sole whisper to a friend: "I ain't saying anything."

I walked on and smiled. Because that one day, I won.

It must have been the shoes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


I have a very fickle and often antagonistic relationship with my body. When I was young, I was a fat kid. Looking back on the pictures now, I'm kind of shocked that that's how I thought of myself at the time. But it has shaped me, possibly more than anything else.

I was tall, always about a head taller than my twin brother until he finally, anti-climactically outgrew me. My cheeks in the old photos are roundish, but my body doesn't look how I remember it. I remember it as a wide, fleshy vessel, inside of which I hid, waiting with a book propped in front of my nose for puberty to hit and give me hips and breasts and perhaps even someday a boyfriend who would pull me out of the hellish in-between.

I spent so may hours wishing my body different, and when I look at the pictures from those years now, I can finally see the cute little girl my mother saw. I now know why she kept the infamous horse picture, that wretchedly embarrassing photo of me posing with the horse in front of the barn. I am standing there, with my hair teased into perfect Jersey coiff, in my big hoodless green & white Joyce Kilmer Elementary School sweatshirt layered over thigh hugging stretch pants. On my feet I am wearing white keds. I am awkward but adorable and I look so happy, and I can see why my mother kept this photo on display in the front hallway, much to my chagrin, until just about a year ago.

I hated that picture so much in my youth. Mom protected it, knowing full well what I had done to my old dance pictures in a fit of self hatred. She found them lying in a lifeless pile, many multicolored snowlflakes in the bottom of the plastic bag lined trashcan in her bedroom. I hated the horse picture, the dance pictures, all the pictures so much. When I looked at them, all I saw were parts, like the parts I described above. Disjointed, ugly, hateful parts.

So it should come as no surprise, if I saw myself as parts as a child, and if I continue to see myself as parts to this day, that I am completely and utterly confused when confronted by an assessment of my whole being. It continues to come as a surprise when people call that whole being "hot stuff", or "sexy", or simply hiss like the Dominicans used to in my neighborhood in Jamaica Plain. What, exactly, do they see? What do they see that I don't?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

You always remember your first

This is my new project, a journal of my body, my clothing and the reactions they elicit. I want to do this for a few reasons: 1) to enhance my understanding of the limits of my own body, where skin meets space, where the universe ends & I begin; 2) to enhance my understanding of the language of this body, which seems to be sending crazy messages to everybody all of the time; and 3) to get to the bottom, for once & for all, of the sexual harassment experience.

The bottom line is this: when I turned thirteen years old, my body became visible as a billboard. I grew a few inches taller, developed hips and breasts, and all of a sudden, my body was no longer my own. It became a public entity, avidly consumed by the viewing public. Along came judgment and commentary by that public. I have been reeling ever since.

Let me start at the beginning: the first time I recall feeling vulnerable because of my body in the workplace. I remember it vividly because I couldn't believe it was happening to me--I couldn't believe I was being "sexually harassed", this thing that happened to grown women as they worked adult jobs, like Anita Hill.

I was working at my very first job, as a busser on Saturday and Sunday mornings at the Black Forest Cafe in Amherst, NH. My uniform was a white, buttoned-down shirt and khakis. I wore my hair up in a ponytail, and I'm sure I wore some sort of sneakers. I didn't know much about making myself look good then, but I knew what frumpy felt like, and I do recall feeling utterly so each morning as I pulled up to the restaurant in my navy blue 1985 Cutlass Supreme.

It was the end of my shift that day, and I was putting away glassware. I learned early on from my crazy, abusive boss (my first, but definitely not my last) that the only way to earn my stripes would be to work constantly. I had to work as though the minute I stopped working, I might be caught & be fired. Even when nothing was going on, I should work, find a way to have something to do, find a way to make myself look busy and un-fireable. Wiping glassware was the last ditch effort. It came last after filling sugar bowls, marrying ketchups, straightening silver on tables. It was a job I did slowly, so as to drag it out until ti was time to go home. So, I was wiping glassware with a damp cloth, methodically, to remove the spots that inevitably formed as the steamy water from the dishwater dribbled down their sides to dry on their cool, still surfaces.

I was so young then, and a busser, so I had no real experience talking to customers. There was a man at the bar that day, of whom I wasn't aware until I went to put the glasses back in their rightful spot. I remember nothing about him, but for the fact that he was old, about my dad's age, and perhaps a little crazy. As I bent over to place a glass on the middle rack, back turned to the counter guest, and, I suppose, my ass sticking up in the air, a man's voice said "Yeah,that's real nice. Why don't you bend over a little further, sweetheart." I felt the blood rush to my face, quickly dropped to a kneeling-squat closer to the floor, and rushed the remaining several glasses on to their shelves as fast as I could. Then I stood abruptly, head down, face red, and rushed to the kitchen. I could feel his eyes on me, and hear him chuckle softly as I walked away.

I still remember exactly how it felt when the man spoke to me that way, though the details of the day remain fuzzy. I remember it vividly because I reinhabit those feelings on an almost daily basis, each time a man talks to me as though my body is public property. I zoom back to the body of my fourteen year old self: surprised to hear such words spoken; embarrassment seeping from my stomach to the tips of my ears like spilled ink; frozen in the moment with fear, and no notion of what to do next. And I feel so stuck because this man is completely, outrightly demeaning me, but couching his cruelty in the form of a compliment.

Thus stuckness, this confusion, this embarrassment: that is what I want this blog to be about.