A Short Play About How the Mighty Have Fallen

[2010. CC has moved into her parents’s house, living with them until the details of her dad’s overseas gig are finalized. Summer hits in Texas.]

CC: No wonder it’s so hot! The thermostat is set to 83! I can’t sleep in this!

Mom: What temperature did you use in Houston?

CC: 77!

Dad: I didn’t know you were that rich.

Mom: We can compromise at 80, and Dad and I will wear fleece until you get stronger about the heat.


Mom, via text: What is 25C in F? Our AC went out today, and the security guy says it’s back on, but it feels really hot. The thermometer says 25.

CC, via text: Mom. That’s 77. You say you’re cold at home when it’s 80 in the house.

Mom, via text: I don’t know what to tell you. I feel hot.

[Dad has come to Dallas for a visit, and he and CC arrive home from the airport. CC set the thermostat to 85 before she left the house.]

Dad: Holy cow, why is the house so hot?

CC: I raised the temperature before I left. Change it if it’s too hot.

[Two hours later, CC is putting clean sheets on Dad’s bed and notices the room is refreshingly cool.]

CC, to herself: 76??? I WIN.

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A Short Play About Ruts

[CC is talking to JW on Skype.]

CC: I’ve talked myself out of getting yet another BR striped shirt dress. Too ruffly.

JW: What are you getting instead?

CC: A pair of skinny jeans and a striped sweater from the Gap.

JW: Oh, you mean your uniform?


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A Short Play About Double Standards

[Dad is home visiting for a week with the purpose of taking care of handyman stuff around the house. He removed, cleaned, and replaced the air filters; replaced a bulb in one of the high-up motion detector lights outside; cleaned the birds’ nests out of the gutters and put down bird spikes; then could not resist cleaning out all the leaves that had accumulated in the gutters and basically turned into mulch, despite CC saying she could hire someone to do that.] 

CC: Dad, you did so much labor today. Thank you!

Dad: Well, it’s my house. [Cracks up.] 

CC: What’s so funny? 

Dad, still laughing: It’s my house, so I have to do the work, but if this were your house I would have charged you a lot of money. 

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In the Charlotte Cooper dating landscape, the next best thing to having a valid passport is having a library card and reading fiction. Here’s what it looks like in math:

valid passport = library card + fiction

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A Short Play About Ruined Birthdays

[CC and SK are having a long brunch at their favorite restaurant on CC’s birthday.]

CC:  Earlier last year, I sat at that seat at the bar right by the wall and had brunch and read books all morning.  I ordered one bloody Mary and went back to the hotel drunk because the bartender kept giving me tastes of different drinks he was making.

SK:  That’s awesome!

CC:  Bartenders really like me.

SK:  It’s because you’re nice.

CC:  Weeellll… not really.  I’m pretty mean, just not out loud.

SK:  You’re NICE.  You’re super friendly, and you ask really thoughtful questions.

CC:  [Doubtful face]

SK:  I don’t want to ruin your birthday, but you seem to think you have this icy edge, and you just don’t.

CC:  [Horrified and laughing] You have totally ruined my birthday and also given me “A Short Play About Ruined Birthdays.”

SK:  [Horrified and laughing] You can’t call it that!

CC:  It’s the best part!

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Barnacle Goslings and Heartbreak

I’ve been watching Life Story, a BBC mini-series, on Netflix.  “Life Story” follows a variety of animals from birth to adulthood and documents the animals’ struggle to survive and thrive from birth through adolescence, adulthood, and parenthood.  I love it so far.

One of the first animals profiled in the first episode, “First Steps,” is the barnacle goose.  Barnacle geese live primarily in the Arctic, and they feed on grass.  Despite this, they make their nests high up on rocky cliffs to protect their eggs and chicks from predators.

What this means is that shortly after the chicks hatch, the whole family has to leave the cliffs, where there’s nothing to eat, and head for home.  The chicks are so cute, all tiny and fluffy, but they can’t fly.  They haven’t fledged yet, and so when the parents decide it’s time to leave for water and food, the chicks have to jump off the cliff and fall what looks like at least 100 feet to the ground.

Y’all, it is so stressful to watch this.  These little chicks fall so fast, and their wings flap so hard to no avail.  They ricochet off various outcroppings and tumble down steep inclines while their parents wait below.  Out of the five chicks that hatched, three survived the jump, and it was such a triumph to see them shake their little stunned heads and bodies and then toddle along behind Mom and Dad to the river.

I fell in love with someone last year, and I’ve referred to him as the wrong man, but that’s not a precise description.  He wasn’t the wrong man because of anything he did that was mean or unkind.  This one was wrong because he didn’t feel the same way about me or want the same things.

So my heart is broken, and it feels like the level of brokenness is out of proportion to the relationship I had.  Very wise friends have gently reminded me that the amount and depth of love a person feels doesn’t depend on the amount and depth of love that person receives and that maybe I should give myself a break.  The only thing I’m worse at than giving myself a break is ironing, but I’m working on it.

When you’re a Type A who spends a lot of time in her head, or maybe even when you’re not, you spend a lot of time looking back, trying to figure out what went wrong.  How could I have avoided the heartbreak?  What magical fact can I remember that will make the heartbreak go away?  Because heartbreak feels wretched, and I want desperately to be done with it.

I haven’t found that magical fact.  What I have discovered, though, is I have a tendency to ignore or deny my feelings when they seem inappropriate or inconvenient.  I started feeling more for this man long before I admitted it to myself, and I waited too long to have the “what are we doing” conversation.

Barnacle goslings can pretend they’re not falling, that they’re flapping their little, featherless wings and are actually flying, but it doesn’t make impact any less jarring or dangerous.  One of the things I’ve learned from all of this is to stop denying my feelings.  I hope I get a chance at this with someone else.  It won’t make the heartbreak any less or any easier, but next time I’ll enjoy every minute of the beauty and pleasure of the fall.

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If you’ve been following the news, you know this story.  Brock Turner met a woman at a frat party at Stanford.  They were both drunk, she to the point of unconsciousness.  Two Swedish graduate students who were biking on campus that evening saw a man on top of a woman behind a dumpster.  The man (Turner) was thrusting; the woman wasn’t moving.  The Swedes thought that was weird and investigated.  Turner tried to run away, and the Swedes chased him and held him down until the police arrived.  The one keeping him from escaping wept as he told police what he saw.

At trial, a jury found Brock Turner guilty of three counts of sexual assault.  The maximum penalty possible was fourteen years, and the DA requested six years in state prison.  The judge in the case, Aaron Persky, handed down six MONTHS in county jail out of concern for the “severe impact” on Turner, who was a swimmer for Stanford’s collegiate team and had Olympic aspirations.  Both Turner and his father, whose statement has also been made public, have not acknowledged that Turner did anything wrong but get drunk in a promiscuous atmosphere.

Campus rape happens often enough that this shouldn’t have been anything but a blip on the media’s radar.  Except this time, something remarkable happened.  The woman Brock Turner assaulted (whom the media are calling Emily Doe) made her sentencing statement public, and it went viral.

Some wonderful things have been happening as a result.  We’re talking during daylight, not in hushed voices, about rape and what causes it and what it is.  We’re talking about consent and privilege and racism and sexism and justice.  We’re looking closely at the media and highlighting the role it plays in feeding the worst of our culture.  We’re talking about the system and learning how to fix it and putting in the hard work to engage with their communities.  This makes me cry.

Some horrible things have happened as well.  I saw a comment on Facebook that expressed the smug hope that Brock Turner becomes a victim of sexual assault while in prison.  This makes me cry too.

I was talking with a cherished friend about all of this, sobbint and snotting on the phone with her about the world burning down and my inability to feel any empathy for Brock Turner and his father.  After telling me that pity for the Turners was the most I owed myself, my wise friend pointed out two remarkable things to me.  First, we know Brock Turner’s name.  We know his face.  We know that Brock Turner has refused to take responsibility for the crime he committed that night.  And the reason that we know all this is because Emily Doe poured her heart out and shared her suffering and bared her deepest darkest secrets, things that she could be (but shouldn’t be) ashamed of.  She told every detail of her story and touched the hearts of millions of people.

My friend revealed something:  regardless of the sentence Brock Turner serves, EMILY DOE WON.

What organization is going to invite Brock Turner to speak about the toxic culture of binge drinking and promiscuity when he still doesn’t acknowledge he assaulted someone?  What healthy woman won’t think twice about putting herself at risk by being anywhere near him?  Brock Turner’s dreams were to be an Olympian (USA Swimming says no way) and to be a surgeon.  Even if Aaron Persky chaired the admissions committee a med school and then ended up as the program director for residency — what female patient is going to consent to being unconscious in his vicinity?

Brock Turner’s father cited the fact that Brock will be on the sexual offender registry for the rest of his life.  Brock Turner’s legal team is appealing the sexual assault convictions.  And none of it matters now, because we know his face.  We know Brock Turner’s name.  We know him.  We see him.

Second, my friend pointed out that two strange men, two foreigners on bicycles, who could so easily have shrugged their shoulders at that weird thing they saw behind the dumpster that night and kept on going, didn’t.  How many times have any of us felt uncertain and turned the other way from the odd things we see?  We have proof that there are at least two men in the world who are the opposite of Brock Turner, who avoided pouring gasoline on Brock Turner’s fire when they chose not to be bystanders.

All of this has happened because of Emily Doe’s remarkable strength and courage in sharing her vulnerability.  She could have chosen not to publish her statements, she could have hidden for the rest of her life, she could have taken a hit out on Brock Turner and his father.  She chose truth and exposure and light, and in doing so, I hope she has set herself free.

We’ve been marinating in a caustic mix of outrage in this year’s presidential election.  The injustice of what we consider to be the insufficiency of the Brock Turner sentence pushed a lot of us into the red zone with our emotions.  And the red zone is a very dangerous place.

When we are in the red zone, we are vulnerable to our baser impulses to say things and write things and do things that damage our souls and our communities.  The red zone makes us reach for gasoline to make sure we get to contribute to the fire.  Some of our friends and family members have been living in the red zone, and if we don’t come up with some fire extinguishers soon, all we’ll have left is smoking ashes and premature death.

Emotions are good.  We have to feel our feelings, or they’ll kill us.  I’m not saying we should try to avoid the red zone.  What I want is for us, when emotions are running high, to feel the heat and smell the gasoline in the red zone, take a breath, and then channel that ALL CAPS OUTRAGE into something that extinguishes fires rather than spreading them.  A Stanford professor is leading the charge to remove the judge in the Brock Turner sexual assault case from the bench next year, all within the system.  My friend who has two sons, who has always been a wonderful mother, has doubled down on making certain her sons understand consent and respect.

One last thing, about fire extinguishers and the Swedes.  It’s tempting to paint all men with the Brock Turner aggressor brush.  Or white men, or rich men, or male athletes.  To paraphrase Alison Armstrong, not everything with teeth is a wolf.  Most of the time, the thing with teeth is a sheepdog.  We can’t fix even the tiniest corner of the world if we don’t include everyone, so maybe the place to start with our fire extinguishers is being aware of the buckets we create and the assumptions that go with them.

Empathy and love are the answer, and it’s not even empathy and love for others.  Empathy and love for ourselves, because when we set fires, when we feed fires, we are the ones who suffer.

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A Timeline of Frustration

December or thereabouts:  electricity stops working on exterior wall of bedroom, in closet and vanity area, and above tub (light above toilet is fine); CC brushes teeth, washes face, and deals with contact lenses in the dark, and moves hair drying and styling to a bathroom with working electricity.

End of March:  CC realizes man she has fallen in love with is the wrong man.

First three weeks of April:  CC is off the road.

First week of April:  CC schedules electrician to fix the electricity, starts going to rock-climbing gym to distract from heartbreak.

April 14:  Fluorescent bulbs in vanity area of bathroom stop working altogether after a period of vertigo-inducing flickering.

April 17:  CC goes to nearby Walmart for contact lens solution and also picks up fluorescent bulbs.  CC heads straight to bathroom, realizes that she did not grab the stepladder from the garage, decides that she is a rock climber now and doesn’t need it, climbs up onto sink. Upon standing, she realizes that she has instinctively grabbed onto the towel bar for stability, admonishes herself that it wasn’t meant to provide support to things that weigh more than towels, and takes her hand off the towel bar.

CC removes first fluorescent bulb and discovers that the bulbs she bought at the store are a foot too long. CC curses, accepts that she has to go back to the store, and jumps down from the sink, again instinctively grabbing the towel bar and RIPPING IT OUT OF THE WALL.

More cursing.

CC returns to Walmart, returns bulbs, find out that Walmart does not carry the correct size bulb, and girds her loins for a trip to Home Depot. She comforts herself that she would have had to go anyway because of the two massive holes in the wall where the towel bar used to be.

CC arrives at Home Depot and faces the aisle of bulbs. The bulb guy explains to her the differences in the bulbs (also that while the bulbs she’s replacing lasted 30 years, the new ones will probably only last 5-7 because quality has gone down), she selects two, then heads to the spackle department. The nice woman there listens to the problem that needs to be solved and directs CC to a patch, spackle, and putty knife. CC finds the towel bar aisle, agonizes, selects one, and skips to checkout, where she realizes she does not know where there might be a drill at home.

CC finds the drill section and considers moving to another city and changing her name. She selects a drill and tries to find the right bit. Not knowing what size bit she needs makes this task more difficult. Also, bits seem only to come in sets of 100, which is more than she needs or wants to buy. During this process, CC has been muttering and talking to herself out loud. Yet another kind Home Depot employee comes to her rescue, opens one of the towel bar boxes to find the instructions, locates the smallest possible kit with the bits she needs, and marks a fair price on the kit that has lost its UPC packaging. CC considers asking this 65-year-old gentleman to marry her.

One hundred and thirty-five dollars later, CC drives home, sweaty from stress and disgusted frustration. She grabs the stepladder from the garage on her way in the house, replaces the fluorescent bulbs. Angel choirs sing when there is light. She cuts the patch down to three smaller patches (she decides she might as well rip the unstable towel ring out and patch that hole as well), sands, spackles, and waits for it to dry, about an hour.

During this hour, while vacuuming and dusting the drywall mess, CC loses all enthusiasm and energy for this project and decides that she does not need a towel rack right away.

End of May:  CC comes to the end of a five-week stretch of traveling.

May 28:  CC decides it’s time to tackle the towel bar situation and charges the drill.

May 29:  CC wakes up, makes coffee, catches up on the world, takes a deep breath, and opens the towel bar box. She follows the instructions, using the included template to mark where she should drill. She installs the correct drill bit into the drill and makes four 3/16-inch holes.

CC can’t find a hammer in the house for the plastic anchor, decides to use the handle of a big screwdriver. The anchor pops out of her hands after the first strike.

CC goes into the garage where she finds three hammers. Like Goldilocks, she selects the medium-sized one.

CC begins hammering the anchor into the wall. It doesn’t go well. CC perseveres, because that is what CC does.

The anchor warps into a useless shape. CC tries to claw it out, discovering that the medium-sized hammer is very, very rusty when it leaves reddish-brown streaks on the wall.

CC’s cursing continues.

The anchor will not leave the wall. CC accepts that she is going to have shift the placement of the towel bar and start all over again. CC goes to the kitchen for the utility knife and cuts the head of the anchor off so it is flush with the wall and busts out the spackle to fill in the four holes she just made.

Tomorrow, CC will go to Home Depot with the remaining plastic anchors, find a kind employee, and ask if there is a sturdier option that will tolerate hammering. Maybe. She has survived without a towel rack for this long; she can probably go longer.

Y’all. Between all of this and the skylight that was leaking and had to be repaired, as God is my witness, I’ll never be responsible for a house again.

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An Open Letter to the Men of Tinder

Dear Sirs,

I write to offer some free and unsolicited advice from a smart, fun, independent woman regarding your search for a female companion on Tinder.  [AUTHOR’S NOTE: before you get all judgmental, many smart, fun, independent women have started relationships on Tinder, although we are also not against the right hookup — it’s 2015, and the sexual revolution was about 50 years ago, so please check yourself before you wreck yourself over Tinder.]  Here is what goes through the mind of a smart, fun, independent woman when she looks at your pictures and profile.

  • Profile:  smart, fun, independent women ACTUALLY READ your profile. It’s true.
    1. No profile:  if you do not bother to write a profile, then I assume you are only interested in a hookup. Smart, fun, independent women are not interested in hookups with boring men, so if you decide to skip the profile, your pictures had better demonstrate that you lead an interesting life that’s going to lead to interesting conversation that could lead to all sorts of other interesting places. Otherwise, we assume that being with you is going to be a total drag, and nobody wants to hook up with a total drag. Think on that for a little bit.
    2. Profile content, “I’m smart and funny”: don’t tell me you’re smart and funny. Use the profile space to prove to me that you’re smart and funny. You know who thinks they’re smart and funny?  EVERYONE. I haven’t come across a single profile where someone wrote, “I’m dumb and a total downer.” You know who is actually smart and funny?  NOT EVERYONE. If you tell me you’re smart and funny, and you don’t prove it in the profile, your pictures had better prove without a doubt that you are smart and funny.
    3. Profile content, too much detail: please don’t tell me all the minute details of your life. Give me enough to pique my interest and to show me that we’ll be able to have an hour’s worth of conversation without wanting to hang ourselves. You can get this done in two sentences. Seriously.
    4. Profile content, looking for laid-back women or not looking for drama: you are not an adult who can deal with the confrontation that’s going to come from spending time with a smart, fun, independent woman.  Left swipe.
  • Pictures: what do smart, fun, independent women think when they see your pictures, which are all pulled from Facebook?
    1. Women in pictures with you
      1. Full face: is that your daughter or your girlfriend?  Will I be dating everyone in this picture? Either way, left swipe.
      2. Body parts
        1. Torso: is that the ass of a stripper in a thong?  Left swipe.
        2. Hands/arms/legs/feet/hair/ears: is that a friend or a girlfriend or a family member?  Could you really not find any pictures on Facebook of yourself alone to use for any of these slots?  The photos that are supposed to draw me in?  Left swipe.
    2. Solo pictures
      1. Full face, no smile: you look mad and/or sad and/or mean.  Left swipe.
      2. In the bathroom mirror: wow – you don’t have any colleagues at work or any friends that you could ask to take a picture of you, you had to take a picture of yourself in the mirror, and the only mirror you own is in the bathroom.  Left swipe.
      3. Full face, smile: he looks happy and nice.  Right swipe — I’m totally willing to meet you for a drink.
      4. Full body, engaged in some activity: you look happy and nice and like you’re having fun.  I also like to have fun — right swipe.
      5. Repeat pictures: when we see the same picture several times, it makes us think you don’t care about the message your profile is sending.  Left swipe.
  • Text messages:  Look. Seriously.  The purpose of the text message is to find a time to meet in person. We’re only able to send each other messages because we both right swiped. Ask me to coffee or drinks or dinner. Do not spend four days texting with me about common interests. Let’s meet in person ASAP and decide if we’re willing to meet in person again.
  • In-person meetings:  PLEASE DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOURSELF 85% OF THE TIME. We’ve agreed to meet in person. I already think you’re interesting. I don’t need a rundown of your resume. I want to know what you think is funny and what you do for fun.  FLIRT WITH ME. Pay some attention to the things I’m saying and try building a bit of conversation around that. NINETY PERCENT OF YOU ARE FAILING AT THIS, AND WE ARE DISCUSSING IT WITH OUR FRIENDS.

I hope this helps you in your quest to find whatever it is that you’re looking for.



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An Open Letter to the Men of OK Cupid

Dear Sirs,

I write to offer some free and unsolicited advice from a smart, fun, independent woman regarding your search for a female companion on OK Cupid.  Here is what goes through the mind of a smart, fun, independent woman when she clicks the link to your profile or when she reads your e-mails.

  • Pictures: what do smart, fun, independent women think when they see your picture?
    1. Women in pictures with you
      1. Full face: is that his daughter or his girlfriend?  Either way, I don’t want to date him.
      2. Body parts
        1. Torso: is that the ass of a stripper in a thong?  I don’t want to date him.
        2. Hands/arms/legs/feet/hair/ears: is that a friend or a girlfriend or a family member?  Could he really not find any pictures of himself alone to use as his profile photo?  The photo that’s supposed to draw me in?  I don’t want to date him.
      3. Solo pictures
        1. Full face, no smile: he looks mad and/or sad and/or mean.  I don’t want to date him.
        2. In the bathroom mirror: wow – he doesn’t have any colleagues at work or any friends that he could ask to take a picture of him, he had to take a picture of himself in the mirror, and the only mirror he owns is in the bathroom.  I don’t want to date him.
      4. Full face, smile: he looks happy and nice.  I’ll click on the link and read more about him in his profile.
      5. Full body, engaged in some activity: he looks happy and nice and like he’s having fun.  I might want to have fun with him, so I’ll click on the link and read more about him in his profile.
  • Profile: what do smart, fun, independent women think when they read your profile?
    1. No profile: he has no personality.  I don’t want to date him.
    2. Profile written in text abbreviations: he’s not a grown-up.  I don’t want to date him.
    3. Profile written without punctuation: he skipped elementary school.  I don’t want to date him.
    4. Profile written with punctuation but without capital letters: he was in a huge hurry to find love on this dating site, which is weird, but I guess I’ll keep reading.
    5. Profile written with specific ways in which gentleman is different from all the other men out there, including interests and values that also express the gentleman’s personality:  I’d totally meet this guy for coffee.
    6. Profile claims that gentleman will put girlfriend on a pedestal: ugh, pedestal – the only direction from being on a pedestal is down.  I don’t want to date him.
    7. Profile claims that gentleman is funny: too much claiming to be funny, not enough actually being funny.  I don’t want to date him.
    8. Profile says that instead of looking for smarts and humor women should be looking for men to protect them because of 20,000 years of nature: I don’t need to be protected from lions anymore.  I don’t want to date him.
    9. Profile claims that gentleman is nice guy: what does this mean?  Does it mean that he’s going to hold doors open for me?  Mostly I think this means he’s passive-aggressive and lacks the ability to be specific.  I don’t want to date him.
    10. In six things can’t live without, lists air, water, family, etc.: he claims to be funny but missed his biggest opportunity to be hilarious and distinguish himself from the other men out there.  I don’t want to date him.
  • E-mails
    1. Text of e-mail is, “Hi,” “How are you doing,” “How’s your day going,” or some variation: he didn’t read my profile, and he sent out 500 of these messages to 500 women.  He obviously didn’t read my profile, which means he’s lazy.  I don’t want to date him.
    2. Text of e-mail is, “You’re so beautiful,” “You’re so pretty,” “Hi gorgeous,” or some variation: I can’t believe that there are enough women out there with so little self-esteem that they would respond to this generic bullshit, because why would men do it if it didn’t work?  I’m attractive, but my outside is not my best feature.  He obviously didn’t read my profile, which means he’s openly superficial and lazy.  I don’t want to date him.
    3. Text of e-mail is, “Your profile is so interesting,” or some variation, but e-mail does not specify what is so interesting about the profile: he didn’t actually read my profile, which means he’s superficial and lazy, and on top of that, he’s a liar.  I don’t want to date him.
    4. Text of e-mail is, “Can I get to know you?” or some variation: I don’t know, can you?  Ask me a question.  He’s a stranger who just put the burden of me repeating my profile for him, which means he’s superficial and lazy, and on top of that, he’s not inquisitive, which I’m going to take to mean that he’s not that inquisitive about life in general.  I don’t want to date him.
    5. Text of e-mail is, “I’m moving to your area, can we get together?” with no details on what we would talk about:  did he seriously shift the burden of making friends with strangers onto me?  I don’t want to date him.

I hope this helps you in your quest to find whatever it is that you’re looking for.



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