This essay was originally published by Brit+Co on April 3, 2017, titled “My First Real Apartment Gave Me an Identity Crisis”
My New York obsession began in childhood, before I could even speak English. All it took was a giant monkey ascending a glowing skyscraper, in a movie theater in Leningrad. I bolted outside and had nightmares for weeks afterwards. But I returned later, to see the movie, King Kong, all the way through: not for the plot, but to be whisked away into the land of glass and steel, so different than the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse.
A version of this essay was originally published in ScaryMommy.com on Feb. 25, 2017
I see you, Mama, pacing from room to room, recalling what still needs to be packed for tomorrow. You pause by the sleeping baby’s crib, in awe of his eyelashes and his measured breathing, unsuspecting that tomorrow someone else will be reading him his favorite bunny story and putting him down for nap time.
You try to cook as much as possible to prepare for your upcoming 11-hour, perhaps 12-hour, absences. You bought a crockpot and bookmarked recipes online; you stocked up on groceries as if Armageddon is fast approaching, and now your freezer door won’t close.
Look, I know what you’re thinking: who in their right mind would apply makeup in a moving vehicle? It’s dangerous, plus people think car makeup looks like the aftermath of a baby playing with a tube of red lipstick.
Car makeup is something I admit to doing only once in a while, and only when vehicle is stationary. Sure, I wish I could be like those 20 year old YouTube superstars, who baste themselves with 180 eyeshadow colors using 35 eye makeup brushes for an hour, before moving on to contouring.
Life with two small children shortens the daily beauty ritual. Multitasking is key. So, um, hey guys, here are some tips.
Let’s face it, most of us have been there one way or another – because not everybody spends a day in February with Godiva chocolates and overpriced balloons.
1. Robert signed a Valentine’s Day card for Clarissa with a tentative “Love, Robert,” which forced them to confront the inauthenticity of their feelings, whereupon they broke up.
2. Jared flew across the county for a romantic weekend rendez vous with his long distance girlfriend, only to find her sick with the flu, the situation quickly deescalating from raunchy to viral.
The other day, I came across some pretty amusing things my former college students wrote in essays, informal reading responses and the “Here’s why I’m not bringing myself or my homework to class today” emails.
It was also a reminder that English teachers are often seen as unlicensed therapists of sorts, becoming privy to students’ depression and homesickness, struggles with gender identity, family abuse, unplanned pregnancies, homelessness. Perhaps even more so in the multifaceted San Francisco. In fact, an English college class in the Bay Area is kind of like the microcosm of our country. Everyone is different. Yet everyone wants to do well. That’s why empathy, on case-by-case basis, instead of authoritarianism and blowing people off with “you’re fired/deported/whatever” might be just the thing to help someone succeed.
ANYWAY, here are those funny bits I promised.
1. She glared at me with her frightful open eyes, popped out.
2. Hearing [Alice Walker] talk about the small shit she worries about makes me think about the small shit I worry about, which makes me think I really need a cigarette.
3. In the midst of California’s prospering “Silicon Valley,” my adolescent purgatory stood like a fading ghost of post-war optimism.
4. In Russia, party without vodka and herring is not a party.
This essay was originally published by Kveller.com on Dec. 29, 2016, titled “Embracing the Russian Food of My Youth for the Sake of My Kids”
I never thought I’d miss Russian food, the unassuming cuisine of my birthplace. I was self-conscious about Russian salads, for instance, referring to boiled and chopped root vegetables loaded with mayonnaise, not microgreens. Traditional Russian recipes use just one kind of cheese, called cheese. Growing up as an immigrant kid in the United States, it’s awkward having to always explain that sour cream really does make everything better, that Herring under a Fur Coat isn’t furry, that the jiggly meat jelly is no weirder than the processed American chicken tender.