my modern love essay that the new york times didn’t publish

i know, i know. i kind of suck b/c i haven’t been blogging lately and you’re sick of seeing that androgynous goth person staring at you every time you visit to see if i’ve updated. (in all honesty: not a clue if that’s a man or a woman.)

i’ve been so busy working (pbbbbt! work! i know, right?!!) that i’m going to cheat and in lieu of one of my typically ridiculous entries, i’m going to share my modern love essay recently submitted to and politely and promptly rejected by the new york times. not a huge surprise they didn’t publish it, as i’m sure they get about a trillion submissions a month, but a bummer nonetheless.

the great thing is that essays like this don’t go to waste when you have a blog. so i am self-publishing my essay. please enjoy all the capital letters and proper punctuation and i promise i’ll be back soon…

You’re Gonna Meet a Prince(ss) 

Throughout my youth and adolescence, my grandmother predicted three things:

1. If I ate any more than 10 grapes (red or green, didn’t matter), I would get a “bellyache.” (This wasn’t just me, either. This was all people.)

2. I’d meet and marry a prince. A “Jewish prince,” she declared, despite my argument that Jewish princes hadn’t existed for at least a couple thousand years, if they ever existed at all.

3. That using a blow dryer every day would ruin my hair.

Which do you think turned out to be true? (I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with fruit or princes.)

When she died nearly 11 years ago (she was 91, I was 21; “A babe in the woods,” she’d say), I probably had never eaten more than 10 grapes at any one time, and I was still on the fence about the hairdryer thing. But even in high school, I secretly knew in my heart of hearts that the prince she predicted I’d meet might actually turn out to be a princess. And who knows if she’d even be Jewish.

Losing my grandmother was devastating to me. Our coffee klatsch of two was now a coffee klatsch of one. I had lost my best friend.

Who would I have toasted bagels and lox with? Who would I call at midnight just to say hi? And now that she was in heaven, what would she think of the fact that her granddaughter was a rainbow flag-waving homosexual? Surely she would find out (after she hit the Heavenly Diner all-you-can-eat cheese Danish/macaroni salad/pickles and smoked fish buffet, of course).

I tried not to focus on what she’d think, and kept my head down and focused as a young community reporter in suburban Washington, D.C.

And then it happened: I met my princess. I met Holly.

It was an unusually hot April night in downtown Washington. We were both wallflowers at ladies night at a gay bar on 17th Street. Soon we were talking outside. She wrote her email address on a square napkin in blue ink. I emailed her a week later. She wasn’t Jewish. I went out with her anyway. I mean, how long could it really last?

That was 10 years ago.

Since then, we’ve been married twice (once “unlawfully,” once lawfully—both times in Washington, just up the street from where we met in 2001). We bought, gutted and renovated a boarded-up crackhouse in southeast Baltimore, which we now call home. Our life is one big adventure. I love her more than life itself.

While Holly never had the pleasure of meeting my walker-pushing, hell-raising, unfiltered Pall Mall-smoking grandma, I’ve kept her a part of our lives by reminiscing almost daily about our times together. Sometimes I’ll even call someone a bastard (“bas-tid” in Grandma’s Jersey-ese) in her memory. Usually behind their back, but not always. This would have made her incredibly proud.

I don’t wonder anymore what she’d think of the fact that I’m gay. She wouldn’t care. I don’t wonder what she’d think of Holly. She’d absolutely adore her.

My grandmother had four younger brothers. My 90-year-old Great Uncle Ben was the baby of the Leibowitz clan, and is the last sibling standing. He’s become like a grandfather to both Holly and I. He’s been our biggest supporter, and was up front and center—fresh off the plane from Fort Lauderdale—at our legal wedding in Washington in March 2010.

He is the male incarnation of my grandma—kind, funny, generous and always ready with a dismissive “ah-who-the-hell-needs-‘em” hand wave to anyone who does me wrong. I love him so much my eyes fill with tears when we’re together. We both do. And he loves us back.

Holly met him for the first time in August 2009, and he gave her a huge bear hug from his couch.

“My new niece!” he announced, holding her hand, his eyes shining with delight.

He took my parents, Holly and I out to eat that first evening. As he and I walked into the restaurant, he paused—his wheelie walker (the kind with the breaks) and south Florida humidity between us—and turned to me.

“Are you happy? Does she make you happy?” he asked, touching my hand.

“Yes,” I said, tears in my eyes. “Yes, she does.”

“Well, that’s all that matters. If someone doesn’t like it, they can go to hell,” he said. “Let’s eat.”

And with that, I knew. It wasn’t just Uncle Ben speaking. It was Grandma, too.

I’d like to think it was more than serendipity that brought Holly and I together that warm April night 10 years ago.

“That one,” I imagine Grandma saying from her regular booth at the Heavenly Diner, her mouth full of potato salad and beets and everything else she loved from Jersey diner salad bars that I couldn’t stand as a kid.

“She needs to meet that one,” she said, pointing down at Holly. “That’s the one. They’re going to have a wonderful life together.”

And we really do have a wonderful life together. I have my coffee klatsch of two again. Sometimes, when we’re lucky enough to all be together, it’s even a coffee klatsch of three—me, Holly and Uncle Ben.


18 responses to “my modern love essay that the new york times didn’t publish

  1. This was super cute, I loved it. It makes me giggle that your grandmother smoked ‘Pall mall’.

    Its astonishing how accepting my grandma is with me and my girlfriend. When we was visiting her with my mum and dad, we all stood up to leave. This is where we all give her a hug while she sits on her loundge chair and where I tell her I love her as I cuddle into her neck. But as my girlfriend went to leave she said: “Ay come give me a hug… now” so she did. I thought it was really cute and a way of her showing she is apart of the family too.

    If you grandmother is as interesting and as cool as she sounds I’m sure she would be giving hugs too.


  2. aw, j! now *that* is supercute! you’re a lucky girl–hug that grandma of yours as much as possible!

  3. Loved this essay. A beautiful tribute to Holly and your grandma. As for the New York Times – they can go to hell 😉

    Yonat 🙂

  4. Beautiful essay! Brought tears to my eyes.

    Maybe Grandma’s got a bigger plan than the NYT.

  5. you know, lynn, i’m hoping you might be right. so glad you enjoyed.

  6. Awesome, I really enjoyed reading it!!

  7. I want a hell-raising grandma. But not one that smokes. Only because I’m incredibly allergic to smoke and I break out in hives. And I would have to tell her, “it’s not you, grandma; it’s me.” Also, I want an Uncle Ben.

  8. Love it! Great essay. 🙂

  9. everyone needs an uncle ben. also my grandma would have totally put out her cigarette for you. she was that kinda lady. she would have probably also suggested some kind of home remedy for your hives and forced you to take home a piece of fruit “for the ride home” even if you lived like five minutes away.

  10. I remember reading about your Uncle Ben on your *legal* wedding post and thinking how great he sounded. Seriously MY eyes well up just reading about him. As for the Times? Ah-who-the-hell-needs-‘em!

  11. FabulousMari

    The NYT probably “politely declined” your essay because it sounds fake- too good to be true! You sound like a Danielle Steele novel or something. Girl meets girl, they fall hopelessly in love, they buy a cracked out love den, get married, and live happily ever after. Even the family sounds too great. The whole thing is just too great. Even the proper capitalization and punctuation capped the whole thing off greatly. Can’t wait to read the next one…

  12. The New York Times editors are a bunch of schmucks. That’s obviously why they haven’t hired us yet, right?

    I heart grandmas. Yours sounds almost as awesome as mine was. 😉

  13. who-the-hell-needs-‘em! is right, EB! love all you guys. mmmwah.

  14. This made me tear up!! What a great essay. I know exactly what you mean. I burst out into tears the other day in a parking lot when I remembered that my grandma and zayde wouldn’t be at our wedding. I know they would approve. Lucky you that you have Uncle Ben! What a sweet essay!
    By the way, Grandma and Zayde *also* smoked…pall malls. XO

  15. those old-school pall malls are the real deal–straight up tobacco, no filter. (*gasp* sorry i just coughed up a tar ball as i wrote that) you know, i bet they all smoked pall malls b/c there were only like four brands of cigarettes those days. my grandma always told me not to smoke *while* she was smoking. bless her heart, i miss her so much.

    p.s. your grandma and zayde will totally be watching your wedding from *their* booth at the Heavenly Diner, cheering you lovely ladies on the whole way. xo.

  16. this was super cute! i loved it!!
    its so nice to hear of people, doesn’t matter if they are gay or straight, talk about how long they have been together and say how they still love each other as much as they did the day they met.
    I think love is not what it should be anymore, people get married and divorced within a year and I don’t want to be like that.
    I admire you and Holly & your two weddings :D, anyway sorry for the rant

    I think your grandmother sounds like an awesome person, I don’t use sounded because she is still around you all the time therefore we shouldn’t talk like she isn’t ;p.

  17. AWSOME! 🙂

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