Tag Archives: friends

out TODAY: flourless! a book by my BFF nicole spiridakis!

flourless by nicole spiridakis

do you have a best friend? i do. her name’s nicole spiridakis and she’s a kick-ass food blogger, chef/baker, who, as of today, just happens to be a published author.

in lieu of being responsible and writing about the end of our cleanse–which, yes, we finished, and yes, i’m still alive in case you were wondering (which, were you even?)–i’m going to take a moment promote her new gluten-free dessert cookbook, flourless, which is both shockingly beautiful (it really is) and entirely sensible in that it doesn’t depend on weird flours and gums but naturally gluten free ingredients that mingle and merge to create delightfully delicious and very, i may add, delectable desserts. (what i did right there is called alliteration. and you thought i wasn’t a professional writer! *rolls eyes*)

before i share the conversation i recently had with nicole about flourless, i’d like to tell you how we met.

nicole and i met in some kind of introductory journalism class at the university of maryland, college, park. it was the late 90s. i was a jersey girl with a pixie cut, a bad attitude, and a lot pens. she was a northern california girl with long, flowing hair and a backpack featuring a variety of feminist pins. she was quiet. i was not. i basically sat next to her and talked to her until she became my friend. 🙂

although we very rarely see each other, she is my daily supporter and my personal cheerleader and i love her like crazy and am just so friggin proud of her and her accomplishment.

so. *ahem* <<wipes eyes and clears throat>> without further ado, may i present a conversation with the newly published author (!) nicole spiridakis about her fabulous new book, flourless.

jessica: hi nicole! what’s up!? i texted you like five minutes ago but i thought i’d ask again for the sake of my readers.

nicole: I totally texted you back but hi again! I am currently baking some cookies. Shocking, I know.

j: so you’re my bff for life (4LIFE) so i wanted to promote your new book, flourless: recipes for naturally gluten-free desserts, a little bit. it’s also pretty awesome so i think people should know about it.

nicole: Aww, you’re my bff, too! Thanks so much for the shout-out.

j: ok so it’s a gluten-free dessert cookbook (mmmm dessert…). but it’s all naturally gluten-free, right? no weird thickeners, no gluten-free flour, etc. tell us all about it!

n: Exactly! All the recipes rely upon naturally gluten-free ingredients – like oats (note: these are naturally gluten-free but commercial oats are often processed in facilities that also process wheat flours so make sure to buy certified g-f oats if you’re allergic), nuts, fruits, eggs, etc.

j: how did you come up with the idea for flourless?

n: My sister-in-law Emily keeps to a gluten-free diet and I started baking her gluten-free cookies and such, using pretty simple ingredients (and no guar or xanthum gums because I am cheap and those are expensive). We got to talking about gluten-free baking and realized that making stuff that doesn’t try to compensate for regular flour items – i.e. is stand-alone delicious – or use weird substitutes often taste much better and is less intimidating to make. Thus the concept of ‘naturally flourless’.

j: some people are kind of freaked out by gluten-free things, especially desserts, but these recipes seem really appealing. like, you don’t even need to mention that they’re gluten-free to people. they’re just…well, naturally gluten-free. do you get what i’m trying to say? i feel like i’m not saying it right.

n: Yes! That was my aim. I don’t want people to think oh, another gluten-free recipe, ho hum, I guess I will eat it because it’s there but I doubt it will be great. The goal was: here are some amazing desserts that taste SO good and oh yeah, they happen to be gluten-free!                      

j: what are some of your favorite recipes in the book?

n: I’m very partial to the Mexican hot chocolate cake; that was one of my early successes and I’m still really happy with how it turned out. I love the almond butter-chocolate chip cookies, and the vanilla cupcakes with lemon buttercream. Oh and the roasted stone fruit with mascarpone and mint. And the cinnamon molasses cookies, salted caramel pots de crème, pistachio-coffee toffee … I could go on.

j: as you know, i do not pride myself on my cooking nor my baking skills. is this the type of book even someone somewhat dysfunctional like me could follow?

n: Absolutely. (Although I think you’re a better cook than you let on.) My goal was to write recipes that would be accessible to the home cook of varying levels of experience – from seasoned gluten-free bakers to those who only bake gluten-free once in awhile (or not at all). I truly hope I have accomplished this.

j: is there anything else you’d like to say? i mean, this is your big chance to reach my 200 readers. no i’m kidding. it’s 300. NO ACTUALLY: 10,000. TEN THOUSAND READERS. 5 MILLION READERS.

n: I wholly loved working on this cookbook and I am truly grateful for the opportunity. I can’t say how/why/when I really got into cooking and baking but it’s something I’ve been doing for years and now it’s just a regular part of my life – it’s true that I rarely let a week go by without baking at least something (often more than one thing). I feel so lucky that I can share some of my efforts with a wider audience, and I so hope people enjoy and benefit from this cookbook.

j: are you going to make me any of these desserts when i come visit you in morocco? is there anything really chocolately in there? omg i loooove chocolate. remember that flourless chocolate cake you made for my 23rd birthday party back in the day? omg it was soooo good. you’ve been such an amazing baker for so long. i should have guessed you’d do a book like this one day.

n: You’re so lovely. Thank you. I will of course bake you lots of delights when you visit me in North Africa. And make mint tea. Who am I kidding: coffee.

j: i’m really proud of you, btw. i love how you’re an author now. i think you’re the best. i’m going to text you in five minutes to say hi.

n: … sorry, what? I was writing you a text. Right! We’ve come a looong way from those days at UMD but I still think you’re the best thing I gained from that journalism program! Oh, other than some sweet Diamondback bylines 😉

(jessica’s note: omg the diamondback, umcp’s very own student newspaper, where i thought i was the bomb-diggity for making $10/article, which, hello, you could totally get some pretty decent shampoo and/or conditioner at cvs for $10 back then.)

if you’re in the san francisco area, you can meet nicole and have her sign your very own copy of flourless this sunday! details are here.

nicole, i love you and congratulations!!!!!! when i gain five to eight pounds from eating all these desserts, i’m going to text you a bunch of angry emoticons followed by a bunch of hearts 😉 XXO

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we watched “poltergeist” the other day. that was a mistake.

The little old lady from Poltergeist.

IT’S NOT CLEAN! IT’S NOT. CLEAN!!!!

you can add this to my list of recent bad decisions, including but not limited to after-lunch hula hooping (i hiccupped every five minutes for about, oh, five hours) and other things of which i am purposely forgetting at the moment which may or may not include getting into a fight with the sushi guy at whole foods.

if you’ve read this blog even one time before, you’d probably guess that i’m not emotionally or physically hearty enough to watch horror movies. i watched jennifer’s body like three years ago for one damn kiss scene but i nearly collapsed from fright in the process. was it worth it? maybe. no.

seven years living in this city has given me some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder–except for the trauma isn’t actually over, it’s ongoing–in that blocks and blocks of boarded-up houses and you know, zombie heroin addicts don’t freak me out, but if i see a shadow in my own house i freak the f*ck out. or  a friggin firework goes off a few blocks over, i think it’s actually a gun and shout HIT THE DECK to holly, who’s sitting calmly on the couch looking at me, smiling as if to say oh baby, i love you. but could you please calm down a little bit maybe sometime? 

i was feeling particularly curious (never a good thing with me) a couple weekends ago. holly was flipping through our endless comcast cable guide and i saw poltergeist was listed.

oh poltergeist! i said, half-kidding. let’s watch that!  and you know what? she turned it on.

watching it was a mistake. i knew it would be a mistake the moment we turned it on and yet…we watched it anyway. even though the “special effects” were 80s and therefore sub-par, it still shook me to the core.

DON’T LAUGH I HAVE A VERY SENSITIVE SYSTEM. PLUS THIS WAS A VERY SCARY MOVIE BACK IN 1982.

shortly afterwards i heard a kid yelling outside (there are a ton of kids where we live) and i was like sh*t! is she stuck inside the tv? WHAT IF THAT IS ACTUALLY NOT A KID OUTSIDE BUT A KID STUCK IN OUR TELEVISION.

i managed to calm down but then i kept thinking about that weird little old lady. the ghost-fighting lady? the one they call in for help when they’re desperate to get the little girl back and rid the house of ghosts? i kept thinking of how she looked and her voice and her huge glasses and the things she said and i was like shit! that was really freaky! she was really freaky! also: why did she say the house was “clean” when it clearly wasn’t?!! if she knows everything there is to know about ghosts wouldn’t she, like, know? that the house wasn’t clean like she said it was? that freaked me out for some reason.

then when it was quiet in the house (our house) i started thinking about all those decayed old bodies, you know, the skeletons? with the hair still on their skulls? popping up in the rain…when the mom’s stuck in that huge hole with all the water in it? while her kids are upstairs, like, being attacked by that big ghost and it’s trying to suck them into the other side? and coffins keep popping up from the ground? and they swing open and bodies fall out?

and the DAMN CLOWN. that damn clown toy in the kids’ room! that is burned into my brain now. i need brain bleach! do they make that??

i also thought about the weird red jello-type stuff that was stuck to the mom and the little girl when they fell through the ceiling. what was that anyway? ew!

and THEN, then i kept hearing the dad shout at the evil boss:

YA MOVED THE HEADSTONES BUT YA DIDN’T MOVE THE BODIES! WHY? WHHHHHYYYYYY?

after it was over, i had to sun myself outside for 15 minutes, which, as you may know, is the minimum amount of sun needed for your body to produce mood-enhancing vitamin D.

i have no memory of the rest of the day because i blacked out. but i’ll tell you what helped me a couple weeks later:

watching st. elmo’s fire. which i had never seen before. it’s a pretty good movie! here are some reasons why:

1. a young rob lowe.

A headshot of actor Rob Lowe in the 80s.

look at that bone structure! gorgeous!

2. a young rob lowe playing the sax!

Rob Lowe playing the saxophone in the hit 80s movie, St. Elmo's Fire.

hey now!

some good 80s sax really calms the soul. and when i say calms the soul, i  actually mean makes you stop thinking about that weird red poltergeist jello sh*t.

3. a young demi moore. again: the bone structure.
4. a young demi moore smoking at her desk. i know, right?! the 80s were crazy!

Demi Moore smoking at her desk in the hit 80s movie, St. Elmo's Fire.

what’cha workin on there demi?! looks important!

5. the nerdy girl GETS THE GUY!

Wendy from the hit 80s movie,  St. Elmo's Fire.

YOU GO GIRL.

6. i googled where it was filmed while i was watching and some of it was filmed at my alma mater, university of maryland, college park. HOLLA CLASS OF 2000! SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM WHAT WHAT. look at me now! i blog in lowercase! WHAT!

7. the theme song. hello. that’s some good instrumental sh*t! if that can’t make you forget about the damn red poltergeist jello, the clown, and the little girl in the tv, i don’t know what can.

The cast of the hit 1980s movie, St. Elmo's Fire.

thanks for the memories, guys! i’ll never forget you. if i had your yearbooks, i’d write, “never change!” in each one of them. except you, demi: you need to stop smoking. and the cocaine. thanks for that sweet sax, billy. rock on, nerdy girl. if you wanna be a social worker, you go ahead and be a social worker. your dad will get used to it.
always ‘n foreva, jessica

this is what happened when i met jennifer weiner, part 2

the fourth and final installment of the “what i did this summer” series.
[part 1 (shot guns/cooked a fish) is here. part 2 (flirted with siri) is over here. part 3 (took a 30-minute flight without xanax, made a scene) is over there.]

you may recall my post a few months ago in which i met my literary idol, new york times bestselling author jennifer weiner, and promptly turned into a blubbering idiot, scaring her by saying things like, “i think i’m going to faint.” and the very unique “i’m a writer, too.”

it was my mom who wound up rescuing me from myself, miraculously and stealthily popping up behind my shoulder, announcing in a way that only a jewish mother can that i really was a writer, making me look far less crazy and perhaps only emotionally deranged.

when i found out that jen would be stopping by the philadelphia public library on tour for her fab new book the next best thing, i called my mom immediately on her new iphone (that she bought at best buy for $49; please oh please don’t ask her about her iphone–more on that later) and told her we needed to go. a longtime jennifer weiner fan, she immediately agreed.

we got to the library and there was already a line to get into the auditorium. once the doors were unlocked and everyone filed in, it soon became absolutely packed. despite the crowd, i knew with great certainty that i was still jen’s #1 SuperFan.

what i’m saying is: if she had a fanclub, i’d be president and i’d make holly treasurer and we’d hold bake sales. i’d make holly bake everything, of course. and we’d name the baked goods after her books, like Good in Bed Brownies and Fly Away Home Flan (ok wait: flan’s probably not good for a bake sale.)

my mom and i found seats towards the front right, and after this funny library guy gave an introduction, jen walked out and the crowd went wild. well, as wild as a library crowd can get.

she started speaking and five minutes later, i see my mom covertly open her purse and unearth a small mass of chocolate chips. and they’re wrapped in plastic wrap. she “secretly” unwraps them, then begins sneaking them out a couple at a time.

she’s trying to be quiet, but it’s no use. she’s the kid in synagogue trying to wrestle a hard candy out of a crinkly wrapper in the middle of the torah service. (if you’ve ever been to synagogue you know this isn’t a good thing.)

mom,” i whispered.

“do you want some?” she whispered back. (and by “whispered” i mean not whisper. jewish mothers are not renowned for whispering. it’s like an evolutionary mechanism to protect their children from wild animals and cold weather.)

“they’re ghirardelli,” she said, pushing them in my direction. like the fact that they’re a name brand was going to make me want to snack on chocolate chips during a jennifer weiner event.

“no thanks, mom.”

then she informed me she had “cheese wedges,” in her purse, too, which i could only surmise meant laughing cow cheese wedges, which are actually meant to spread on crackers at home or at the office, or even at a picnic, not enjoy on their own in the philadelphia public library’s auditorium during a jennifer weiner event.

“mom, what? cheese wedges?” i whispered, my eyes wide.

“well, it’s protein,” she non-whispered back . “and carbohydrates.”

“oh i am so blogging about this,” i told her.

“do you want one?” she asked, trying not to laugh.

“no, mom, i don’t want any cheese wedges!” i said, trying not to crack up while simultaneously trying to remember what she was saying, since i knew i’d be writing it down.

then she offered me chocolate chips again, which i declined–again.

after jen’s talk, (which was hysterical–you can listen to it here) all us superfans ran out and got in line for her to sign our books. i guess the problem with sitting in front at an author event is that you’re pretty much dead last in line for the signing.

i really didn’t mind, as i feel a special kind of kinship with other jennifer weiner superfans (JWSFs). i quickly befriended my fellow line waiters, thrilled to discuss my fave JW books without holding back. we also animatedly discussed jen’s foxy new look, which featured glamorous extensions and fabulous shoes.

my mom joined the line, also thrilled to be part of the JWSF excitement. i don’t know how it came up, but one of my new JWSF friends started talking about coupons and wouldn’t you know, my mom has an app for that. on her new iphone. that she got for $49 at best buy.

“i have the greatest coupon app!” my mom told my new friends. (this from the woman who never figured out how to use a VCR–and yet she’s mastered the world of apps. i know, i don’t get it either.)

“i got my iphone for $49 at best buy,” she continued.

mom,” i implored, gently touching her shoulder. but it was too late. the levy broke. the i-got-my-iphone-for-$49-at-best-buy-yes-i-really-did-no-i’m-not-kidding speech had begun.

“…you see? it’s a real iphone. yeah i really did get it for $49. i can’t believe it either.”

“i think you’re calling someone,” one of my new friends, i think her name was emily, politely informed her.

“what? i am? how can you tell?”

“look, the call counter’s on,” i said, pointing to the screen. “it’s ruth.”

in her coupon app excitement, she had accidentally called her friend ruth. i love ruth.

she held the phone up to her ear.

hello? HELLO? ruth? hello?”

when it comes to cell phones, jewish mothers have no volume regulator. it’s only loud or LOUDER. it’s like they think whomever they’re talking to is connected to their cell phone by a piece of string and if they don’t speak loud enough the other person will not hear them.

“i think she hung up,” she told us.

then my mom did what any sensible jewish mom would do after accidentally calling her friend ruth while waiting in a jennifer weiner booksigning line at the philadelphia public library: she called her back.

“ruth? HELLO, RUTH? hi, it’s susan! IT’S SUSAN. right, i called. by accident. uh-huh, i’m at the jennifer weiner event right now with jessie. oh it’s so fun! yeah. ok i can’t talk. but i’ll…what? what? i think we’re…hello? right i’ll call you, i’ll call you back. ok, talk to you later.”

“that was ruth,” she said.

“i know,” i said.

i think everyone in line knew it was ruth.

the line was moving at a decent pace. before i knew it, it was our turn.

jen greeted us warmly, and i mentioned that i was the crazed SuperFan that blogged about meeting her months earlier.

“and this is my mom. again,” i said, smiling, proud of my effervescent champ of a professor mom that, if i invite her, will come with me to any and all jennifer weiner events in the philadelphia area, come hell, high water, or chocolate chips. she will get there three hours early with me to sit in the front row (like she did last time), and she will stand in a book signing line with me for who knows how long, make friends with other JWSFs, and educate them on handy, money-saving apps.

jen laughed and said it was nice to see us again and yes, of course she remembered my blog post. (how could she not? if you had a psycho fan write a 1,000-word blog post about how she met you for two minutes, you’d remember it, too.)

then she asked me why i was so nervous about meeting her the last time.

i blubbered something about…oh hell. i actually don’t remember what i said because i’m probably repressing it as it most likely sounded mentally incompetent or at least slightly demented. however i do remember saying something about madonna. (i have the unique ability to insert the topic of madonna into any conversation.) 

jen announced that i needed a beach towel. before i knew it, i was holding a huge JW towel.

then she mentioned something about thinking about her when i was hot and steamy just out of the shower and then i really forgot everything i planned to say.

in my JWSF stupor, someone handed me a JW tote bag. then, tote and towel in hand,  i waved goodbye to jen and my new JWSF friends–just another 30-something emotionally deranged superfan with her sensible mom.

i put my JW beach towel in my new JW tote and stepped into my dad’s waiting highlander, amped up from the delicious combination of literary celebrity, community, and free fan merchandise.

suddenly i felt my blood-sugar dropping.

“mom, do you have any of those chocolate chips left?”

of course she did. and man was i glad they were a name brand.

as the chocolate chips melted in my mouth, i held my new JW tote close and thought about all the fun things my mom and i have done over the years: playing hooky when i was a kid to hit the MET and the hard rock cafe on a school day (YES REALLY!); getting miraculously bumped up about a hundred rows closer to barry manilow when he played madison square garden a few years ago (yes i took my mom to a barry manilow concert; it’s called love, people–and besides, he still has a voice like buttah and moves very well for a man his age); countless mall outings, coffee shop chitchats, and trips to buy me bare escentuals make-up and warm winter coats (jewish parents live to buy their children warm winter coats).

i suddenly kind of wanted a cheese wedge, too.

“i love you, mom. thanks for coming with me,” i said.

“i love you, too, honey. i had a great time. i knew you’d eventually want some chocolate chips. that’s why i brought them. here’s a cheese wedge. the chocolate’s not enough. you need protein, too.”

aw, mom.

——–

this concludes the what i did this summer series. it was a busy summer full of mystery and intrigue: grilled cheeses. guns. flirting with female robots. a 30-minute flight to pittsburgh without xanax. literary celebrities. moms. chocolate chips. free totes.

special thanks to jennifer weiner for once again being a good sport with her more…excitable fans. and the towel. and the tote, which i proudly tote around, proclaiming my superfan-ness.

an additional special thanks to jen’s fab assistant meghan, who not only remembered me, but didn’t run away when she saw me coming towards her. i believe she orchestrated the free towel and tote, but i was too excited to understand it at the time. love the towel, love the tote, love that you didn’t kick us out for chocolate-chipping. (do you want some? i’m sure my mom has more.)

next up: tacos with the in-laws. and how i thought i just scratched my throat with a corn shell but wound up coming down with a two-week cold that’s resulted in me becoming an alcoholic.

part two: it’s cold & bright on the set of the anderson cooper show

"hi, i'm anderson. i know it's cold here, but my smoldering eyes will keep you warm ."

part 2 of a multipart series about our 3-weddings-3-states-1-day BFGW anniversary extravaganza (click here for part 1)

we determined the most sensible thing to do after my big fat jersey high school reunion was, of course, go to a taping of the anderson cooper show.

i mean, what else are you supposed to do after an evening saying things like oh yeah! i totally knew that was your identical twin! (twice!) and yeah yeah! i totally meant to wear jeggings while the rest of you beeotches had to wear GOWNS.

the next morning, before getting on the road to nyc, we hit the ritz diner, where we ate unnaturally large, fresh cheese blintzes (delicious) while holly joyfully discovered taylor ham. (as a non-pork-eater, i’d never tried it.) no one at the diner could actually explain what taylor ham was, which, personally, would worry me a little. this did not bother holly one bit, as she announced to the cashier that she’d like to get some for her family for christmas.

anyway, yes, anderson. anderson cooper is holly’s gay boyfriend. as soon as his new show hit the air and she found out it taped in manhattan, she decided we needed to go. being a planner, i.e. the one in our relationship who’s able to plan beyond what’s for lunch that day, she got free tickets like a month in advance. we were pretty  psyched.

we rolled into the park slope neighborhood of brooklyn, i.e. the place where almost everyone i’ve ever known from every facet of my life–i’m talkin jewish sleepaway camp, middle school, college, first jobs, you name it–lives, sunday afternoon to stay with our fabulous friends meredith & tiffany, who are basically famous for being one of the first same-sex couples to marry in new york. they also both have great hair and seem too attractive to actually be gay. (sorry to go there but i’m gay and i’m totally going there)

to add insult to injury they’re able to run up to their fifth-floor walk-up with vegan-food-stuffed reusable grocery bags, laundry and bikes all strapped to their backs while holly and i basically had small heart attacks every single time we went up there while each carrying a single ikea pillow.

whatever. we live in baltimore. we dodge bullets. we feed stray pitbulls. we…oh hell. we stay inside hiding all day. that’s why we’re both out of shape and i have a vitamin D deficiency.

so of course i wake up monday morning, holly’s big day, w/a five-alarm migraine–the kind where i can’t even eat or look at a ray of sunlight–and we get to the building where his show tapes just as the last elevators went up.

“sorry, ladies,” the fancy elevator guy told us. “you just missed the last elevators up to the show. you’ll have to wait on standby.”

it was like i could hear holly’s heart literally breaking. i felt so bad. i obsessed over how bad i felt until anderson’s psycho fans came along and then started obsessing about how the hell i could get away from them while staying in line.

first, a disheveled looking lady came up to the surprisingly friendly elevator guy to tell him she had “a message” for anderson. and that she needed to go upstairs to give it to him since she couldn’t find his email address on the website anymore. i kept wanting someone to tackle her bc she was holding a lot of bags. (hello! bombs!)

then a lispsy gray-haired guy came up to us and asked us 10 million times how we got tickets for the show even tho he said he had tickets for the next day. then, while holly was in the bathroom, he had me take a photo of him standing next to a photo of anderson. then he asked the elevator guy if the fact that he worked on a cruise ship would get him up there while i covered my hands in antibacterial gel bc i had touched his camera.

then the crown jewel of psycho male anderson fans came along: this mustached middle aged dude with an on-and-off-again yarmulke (i.e. the little skullcap jewish, mostly orthodox, men wear on their heads). he immediately honed in on holly as a friendly bystander and started loudly singing to oldies to her. i was rude to him, of course, i don’t even remember what i said, i just wanted him to go away. then holly got mad at me bc i’m always freaking on the crazies.

you only make them crazier, she hissed thru her teeth. even tho i told her she was wrong, i knew she was right. but it was too late. the damage was done and, to be completely honest, he really did just get crazier. in the meantime, bc of my pounding headache, everything seemed very loud and very bright. things were not, as you might say, off to a great start.

our luck changed fast tho. the elevator doors opened–DING! “ok, they have room for four more,” the elevator guy said. “you guys are in.”

YES. things were getting better.

we got into the elevator and crazy mustache yarmulke man asked the poor anderson cooper lady that happened to be in there already a million questions until we got up to the 5th floor.

we wound up sitting in a balcony above and off to the side of stage for the first segment while mustache man stood not sat two inches behind me, breathing on my hair while simultaneously waving to anderson like he was on a navy ship about to set sail for five years.

despite the little voice in my head that warned me not to freak out on him, i finally turned around and whisper-yelled, directly into his face, can you move back??? then he loudly mumbled about how i act just like his bitch sister-in-law and then i prayed for the remainder of the segment that he wouldn’t hit me on the head with a chair.

we moved down to the main area for the rest of the segments. i should note that the set of his show, like all big television sets, i suspect, is outrageously cold. i’m usually five to seven degrees warmer than everyone else around me so this is really saying something. it’s also pretty much the brightest place on earth. not the best place to have a migraine, is all i’m saying.

and of course! of course anderson had to stand right next to us for what felt like half of the damn penn state show (it was a special on the penn state sex abuse scandal). i kept telling myself to keep my head up so i wouldn’t have a double chin on air but i knew it was useless so i focused on the view outside and my relief that psycho mustache man wasn’t behind me breathing into my hair and comparing me to his sister-in-law who probably isn’t as much of a bitch as he says she is.

we had a pretty good time, all things considered. kathy griffin (LOVE HER) showed up for a new year’s segment and they practiced slicing champagne bottles open with knives. and his fabulous mom, gloria vanderbilt, suddenly appeared. i kept wanting to tell them all we were getting married three times the next day but i figured i’d hold it in bc anderson would be reading it here on my blog anyway.

anyway, if you happened to see the penn state show, that zombie girl with the ponytail, double chin and massively dilated pupils next to anderson is me. and i was totally wearing the sweater i wore to my big fat reunion, so if you were there and you saw me on tv i don’t want to even hear about it.

part one: my big fat jersey high school reunion

i invented post-its, bee-otch!

ok so i posted a million years ago that we were about to embark on weddingpalooza 2011 (three weddings! three states! one day! click here for background) and now that we’re back in town, post-honeymoon, post-holiday, i’m ready to break it down for you, despite the fact that i’m tempted to divorce holly’s ass in multiple states for many reasons including but not limited to:

1. her inability to throw used tissues from her side of the bed into the trash when she has a cold–which she does now, which she continues to remind me of by saying, “baaaaabe. i’m sick. make me tea.”

2. the fact that she continues to butt-dial every single contact in her phone, since she refuses to carry it anywhere but her pocket, like a five-year-old. or my purse. and hello, i don’t want to carry her phone all the time, esp bc it’s always dinging with email notifications from kohl’s, bed, bath & beyond, bath & body works, every single deal-of-the-day and who the hell knows what else bc she signs up for everything while i’m grumpy and sign up for nothing and mark everything as spam.

anyway, there were many stops and much adventure on our wedding blitz. in the interest of time, space & procrastination (yours, not mine; i’ve heard from more than a few of you that lunch at 11:30 is a top workday procrastination station and you know i live to make you happy) i’ll be breaking it down into a few parts, starting with:

1. my high school reunion, i.e. we’re gonna party like it’s 1996.

saturday, november 12th, late afternoon

my high school reunion is in a few hours. while copywriting is a perfectly respectable career, i’ve decided i’m telling everyone i invented post-its.

when we get to the hotel in Livingston, NJ (hometown of my longtime fave chelsea handler WHADDUP CHELSEA! love ya! call me!), the lobby looks like a wanna-be jersey housewives convention. it’s noisy, crowded and smells like a variety of overbearing perfumes–like the mall. or a synagogue function. or perfumania. i wonder what the commotion is all about. is there a hairspray-and-mousse giveaway? eyeliner rally?

holly joins me in the check-in line and i discreetly point out a couple women in leather pants and hooker heels pushing baby carriages. i assure her that yes, this  really is where i come from. this is the land, these are the people, that nurtured my first 17 years on earth. so, really, the daily jeggings, frosty lipstick and occasional chico’s holiday sweater isn’t all that bad considering what i was up against.

a couple hours later we come back to the lobby area for the reunion. luckily the mascara convention is over, and i suddenly see a bunch of people that i think i recognize that i think recognize me. thanks to facebook, i get some names right. this one nice girl, i don’t even know how i remember her name. when i get it right, i feel an immediate sense of pride. i see her again later and get her name wrong bc it’s not actually her, it’s her identical twin. shit! twins! i think.

we walk into Ballroom B or whatever, and it’s pretty fancy. candles, centerpieces, real silver. the whole nine yards. we immediately realize we’re severely underdressed since we’re in jeans & sweaters while all the girls are pretty much in, uh, gowns.

“did we miss the memo?” holly asks me.

i told her there was no memo. just a facebook event page. someone inquired about “dress code,” and i enthusiastically wrote on the wall “jean chic!” since i suggested it, i figured that’s what we ought to go with. brilliant, i know.

“whatever,” i say, suddenly aware just how snug my jeggings really are. and that maybe my boobs look too big in my sweater. “we’re gay. everyone probably expected us to show up in bad pleated chinos, brown boat shoes–the kind with the white stitching and the two-tone laces–and unfortunate plaid flannels. tucked in. oh, and brown belts, also with white stitching. so i actually think we look great. plus i’m wearing my nine west reptile high heels. and jeggings plus high heels equals fancy. so we’re good.”

“well i’m not wearing jeggings. or heels,” holly says quietly.

“you’re fine,” i tell her. “you’re wearing black boots. that have small heels. plus your sweater is black. plus your jeans are dark. plus this is my high school reunion and i don’t even care.”

holly was definitely the hit of the evening, as many of my old classmates already felt like they knew her from this blog. on my way back from the ladies room, i made eye contact with this one guy and figured it’d be rude not to stop and say hello even tho i really wasn’t all too sure who he was.

“hi!” i say. “dave, right?”

“no, rob,” he says. “dave’s my brother,” and he points to the guy sitting next to him. his twin. shit! another pair of identical twins?! what class of approx 144 has two friggin sets of identical twins??

lovely gals that i wish i’d spent more time with in high school tell me stories of fun things we did or funny things i said or did and i realize holy crap, i don’t remember anything about high school. it’s kind of frightening how much of a blank i’m drawing. later on, i realize that, while other people had no idea, high school as a closeted teen was so horrifically painful for me that i think i just left and never looked back.

i tell people about our “wedding blitz” plans for that tuesday, and everyone is so excited. i get hoarse from catching up with people, answering everyone’s questions about our weddings and our life in baltimore. i love that i can finally stand proud with my partner of 10+ years by my side. i love that all my self-doubt is so far in the past. i love that i finally learned how to put a damn arch in my eyebrows b/c dang! i needed a makeover! HOLLA!

well apparently i’m 60 because i started shopping at chico’s

before nicole’s wedding, i went to chico’s looking for a dress. i went to chico’s b/c they make “dressy” clothes specially designed for ladies with curves. sometimes, but not all the time, these “curves” are actually rolls. (not dinner rolls, folks; the other kind) other times, they are actual curves. the kind that used to be revered, but are now frowned upon b/c ppl think they represent a poor diet and lack of exercise–even if your diet is actually pretty much fine and you occasionally drop-kick bathroom locks in the ladies room at under armour–when you’re actually just of eastern european descent and hello, hispanic guys totally love you.

chico’s gets a bad rap amongst the younger set, and it really doesn’t deserve it. here’s why:

first of all, chico’s makes clothes you can roll up in a ball and they won’t wrinkle. it pretty much blows my mind. (see “travelers collection.”)

they also have fives sizes: 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4. size 4 is actually, like, a size 22. for example: i wear a size 2 and i’m basically like hell’s yeah bitches! i’m a size 2, kiss it! kind of like going to a weight watchers meeting in suburban baltimore (like i did before our big fat gay wedding) and you look around and think: damn i’m fine! which prompts you to leave early to buy an 8,000-calorie celebration frappacchino no whip (hello, whipped cream probably adds like two points!).

chico’s also has the best damn salesladies on earth. they are so friggin attentive i can’t even deal with it. i want to be like YES! yes i’ll take The Big Lady Belt–in black and silver! b/c i love you. b/c you are not judging me like those skinny bitches at Express. and you remind me of my mom. and i want to hug you, let’s hug right now, i don’t even care that i don’t know you, let’s just hug.

so i go to chico’s looking for a dress–this is, yeah, like a week before the wedding. and they don’t have anything for me. i wind up finding a dress at macy’s. oh but what did i find at chico’s? i zero in on this silver sparkly tunic sweater that i decide i really need to have. hello, it’s a TRAVELERS piece, which means i can take it to san francisco without it wrinkling to wear for…something!

oh it’s so sparkly, i say to Judy the Attentive Saleslady.

oh i know, isn’t it *fabulous*? she says back. and it looks wonderful on you. just wonderful.

ohmygoshthanks, i say breathlessly. but it’s too expensive, i continue. i…i couldn’t. 

i’ll give you $25 off, she says.

how could i possibly say no?

ring it up, judy! i say. ring it up before i change my mind!

so i bought the damn sparkly tunic, much to holly’s dismay. and i bring it to california, and of course need to wear it to the pre-wedding party at nicole’s parents’ house in sebastopol. as soon as we arrived i knew it was a mistake.

you know how, at every party, there’s that girl who’s overdressed? you try not to look at her but you have to? i was…that girl.

that’s because it’s a *holiday sweater*, holly told me when i got back to baltimore.

what, because it’s sparkly? i said.

holly: yes because it’s sparkly! it has sequins in it! 

me: so you mean to tell me that i wore a chico’s holiday sweater to nicole’s parents’ party–in october. in california. because i felt really overdressed. 

holly: yes, honey, you wore a chico’s holiday sweater to the party.

me: why didn’t you tell me i was buying a holiday sweater at chico’s?!

holly: i tried but you didn’t listen to me! it looks good but it’s for the holidays!

me: so you mean to tell me i spent $75 on a sweater i can only wear one month a year?

holly: yup. i tried to stop you. you didn’t listen.

ladies, this is the magic of chico’s. while everything else there fits like mom jeans, there will be that one item that absolutely dazzles you. you will be blinded by its beauty. an attentive saleslady will bring it to your dressing room, pump you up with compliments and then give you a coupon. bolstered by a false sense of self-esteem from the fact that it’s a fake size 2, you purchase it and then wear what turns out to actually be a sequined holiday sweater to san francisco in early fall.

so yeah, i play bingo. and i stare out our windows at our neighbors. i shop at chico’s. i’m a senior and i don’t even care. and so help me i’m going to rock that damn sweater the entire month of december. so if you’re here in baltimore and you’re blinded by a silvery tunic’ed figure, it’s actually me. and shut the hell up b/c i’m still from jersey and i’ll kick your ass or hire someone else to do it for me.

it gets better

i’ve been tossing around the idea of posting my written contribution to dan savage’s it gets better project for a while now. my reservations about participating in the project are the same that kept me in the closet–namely fear, shame and embarrassment. all the same things that lgbt youth are feeling so intensely–especially after cruel, vicious bullying at the hands of their peers–that they’re killing themselves in shocking numbers.

i kept thinking: i want to share my story. i want lgbt teens these days to have a better experience coming out than i did. i want to help them feel a sense of hope that i never did. so they can see thru the despair, shame, sadness, hopelessness, fear, depression and head-spinning confusion they may be feeling right now and fully realize that, as the project mission states, “love and happiness can be a reality in their future.”

it’s been embarrassment that’s held me back. after all, as my blog readers, i don’t want you to view me as anything other than put together, funny, fun-loving, well-adjusted. happy. and i am all of those things. but i didn’t want to tell you about the hurt and heartache i had coming out. b/c i’ll tell you the truth: i gave myself such a hard time about being gay when i was younger, i am ashamed. but i shouldn’t be. b/c i see now it didn’t need to be that way. it doesn’t need to be that way. i want to keep it from being that way for teens and young people out there that are in the same predicament i was.

so i’ve finally decided to suck it up and take one for the team. if my story can save the life of just one teen, even just help save the sanity of a young person out there, or make them see that yes, they can have a normal life. more than that, they can have a happy life. then it’s worth it. so for once, i’m not going to joke around, and i’m going to tell my story.

if you’re a regular reader of this blog, or you know me personally, you already know that i grew up in a small town in northern new jersey about 25 miles outside new york city. i’m also jewish, not just culturally so, but i actually care about being jewish and have a firm belief in G-d.

i’ve also always been, as my late grandfather used to say about me as a toddler, “an arch individualist.” i cut my own bangs when i was 3. i asked for an atari for my birthday when everyone else was getting nintendos. i wrote elementary school fan letters (written in cursive pencil) to jon bon jovi beginning with “dear mr. jovi.” i’ve always done my own thing, and, luckily, was always encouraged to do so by my parents.

“different” was always ok. but by the time middle school hit, i’d say seventh grade, something started creeping up my spine and settled uncomfortably in my brain. it made me feel different in a new, uncomfortable way. it was a question without an answer, something so foreign to me as an 12-year-old in 1990, that i couldn’t even think about it.

am i gay? a voice whispered quietly. i didn’t even truly know what “gay” was. there was no “will & grace.” there was no out & proud ellen. there was no adam lambert. there was nothing, really. but i knew my feelings, i knew who i had crushes on, and i knew it wasn’t “normal.”

i kept my feelings to myself–because they felt wrong. after all, i had crushes on boys. i loved the new kids on the block the same way all the other girls did. but things were off.

i pushed my feelings way way down. packed them down so deep they turned into concrete in my stomach–and my heart. they plagued me day and night. what you’re feeling isn’t normal, they whispered. you’re not normal. you’re weird. you’re a freak. you’re different. you’re wrong. and the very worst one: you’re a bad person.

here’s the catch: no one else was bullying me. i was bullying myself.

year after year the feelings were there, as was the voice in my head. the self-bullying continued. the feelings got stronger. the voice got louder. the bullying got worse. i was my own worst enemy. i didn’t know it at the time, but i was destroying myself. by the time i reached tenth and eleventh grade, you’re a bad person morphed into you’re a bad person and a bad jew.

one by one, my dreams started crumbling. marriage. children. a happy life. i might be alone forever, i told myself. i couldn’t see my way out. i felt doomed.

a loop of self-made insults and self-loathing swirled in my head day and night. i joked around in high school, did well in classes and had plenty of friends, but i felt crushed and breathless all the time. instead of hanging out with my friends, i cried alone in my room, scared to death of my feelings. scared to death i’d be shunned by my family, shunned by my friends, shunned not only by an entire religious community but also by G-d. looking back at it from the safe distance of a happy, open adulthood, i don’t know where all the self-loathing came from. after all, no one in my family ever said anything bad about gay people. no one, absolutely no one, told me that if i was a gay, or had an attraction to anyone of the same sex, i would be anything less than a good jew. (and that’s the truth–for any religion.)

but you see, all of those feelings–those feelings of being wrong, being a freak, being a bad person–are indoctrinated in us as we grow. i’m a perfect example of that. i’ve always been a free thinker. i grew up in the new york metro area. my parents are open-minded. but i got the message from society at large: gay is different. different is bad. gay is bad.

and so i stayed quiet. i stayed quiet until i came out to my high school best friend in a fit of tears and shivers in the middle of the night just a few days before our senior year started. i came out to her b/c i literally was making myself sick. i had prepped myself for our friendship ending once she heard my secret.

instead she wrapped her arms around me and told me it was ok.

“really?” i said thru my tears. “you still like me? you still want to be friends?”

“of course i want to be friends!” she said smiling. “i don’t feel any differently about you. you’re still jessica. you’re still my best friend.”

a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. i had told someone and she didn’t care. she loved me unconditionally. but i was 16. and even though i wasn’t completely sure about my sexuality, i knew, deep inside, that i would have a long way to go. b/c i didn’t love myself.

i’d like to say that i replaced fear and shame with pride and happiness, and came out to everyone that was important to me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. i didn’t feel any better about myself. and i would continue carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and continue bullying myself until i literally made myself sick–sicker this time–and finally came out to my parents when i was 18 and in college.  

and you know what? when i told my parents, they didn’t care either.

no one, not one person, who i’ve come out to in the years since–and i’m 32 now–has ever cared. they don’t see me as “gay” they see me as jessica. you see, when you’re a teen, you have a limited view of yourself and others: pretty. cute. smart. athletic. artistic. gay. straight.

oh but we are so many other things! if only i had known that–had really really known it. not just known it but truly felt it. gay, straight, bi, trans, queer–however you identify yourself. it’s simply one small aspect of who we are as people. it’s not the main course. it’s a side dish. you see what i mean?

if you’re struggling with this right now, i want you to go to the mirror, look at yourself and say “i’m (your name).” if the words “gay” or “bi” or “trans” or “queer” are on your lips, replace it with your name. b/c that’s who you are. that’s the core of you. i hope you can understand that. b/c it’s something i didn’t understand for far too long.

i wasted years–years!–feeling bad about myself when i didn’t need to. it’s hard enough when you’re a teenager. you don’t want to be seen as “different.” maybe different in the sense of you’re a cool dresser or exceptionally creative or something like that. for me, being gay was the last straw inside of me. i already felt like i didn’t fit in. and it pushed me over the edge. but it didn’t need to.

i felt so alone, so completely alone, when i was closeted in high school. but let me tell you something: when i got to college everything changed. everything! i started meeting like-minded people. i started meeting people of every sexual orientation and background. my world opened up. like a screen door in a windstorm–BAM! and suddenly i wasn’t alone anymore. and i started becoming the jessica i once was as a kid, before worries about my sexuality came along in middle school and high school. i started coming into my own. and i started to realize, hey, i am normal. i am totally and completely 100% normal.

and you don’t need to go to college for that to happen. once you expand your world–meet new people, go new places, graduate high school–things will start changing. b/c if you’re living somewhere now where people don’t accept you, or are bullying you, there are so many places where things will be different. you just need to hold on. even if your family doesn’t wind up accepting you, families don’t always have to be blood relatives. we can make our own families. and if you haven’t come out to your friends or family yet for fear of being rejected, give them a chance. they just might surprise you.

the it gets better project has focused on other people bullying lgbt youth. i was lucky enough to never experience that. but i think what i experienced was just as bad. i bullied myself.

if you’re bullying yourself, please stop. i promise you things will get better. go easy on yourself. you are a good person. and you will find your way.

if you’re religious, please know that G-d loves you no matter what. do you hear me? gay, straight or anything in between, no matter what. if anyone tells you anything different, ignore them. shut them out. b/c it’s untrue. do you know how many lgbt-friendly houses of worship there are? tons! and you’ll find yours one day, i promise.

life as an lgbt person can be happy, extremely, gloriously happy. and normal. when i was 22, just six years after i came out to my best friend in high school, i met holly, who would become my partner of now almost 10 years. she is the love of my life! we have so much fun together. i feel like the luckiest person in the world. we got married not just once, but twice. and you know what? we are ridiculously normal. as in: we fall asleep on the couch together and watch movies and go grocery shopping and do laundry and go to starbucks and make meatloaf. we have a home and its filled with love. and you’ll have that one day, too. you really will. i promise. you just need to have faith. and give yourself time. and talk to someone you can trust if you feel so hopeless that you’re considering taking your own life.

because you need to be here.

you hear me?

you need to be here. you deserve to be here. i want you to be here. holly and i want you to be here. we all want you to be here. you might not know us but we’re out here. and the people closest to you that you might not think care–they care more than you know. you need to stick around so you can meet all the awesome, fun, impossibly sexy people that are going to help make your life not just bearable, but totally and completely awesome.

don’t bully yourself the way i did. don’t worry yourself about things that are going to work out just fine. i bet you’re not all that much different than me. and i’ve managed to figure it out. and you will, too.

i didn’t know at your age that it could get better. but it does and it has and the craziest thing? it just keeps getting better. it gets much, much, much better.