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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
You can also find Monica's writing here:
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Saturday
Sep172005

Baby Got Back


It's hard to tell if you've gained weight. You're always with yourself, so you can never be sure. You feel the same.. you look the same, don't you? So you put on your favorite jeans. The ones that don't make you feel like your ass is following you down the street.

Take a deep breath, suck the gut in, squinch the bum cheeks together so's you can shimmy 'em up and over your curves. Mirror positioning is key. You've gotta get in between two mirrors, tweak them this way and that.. You know what I'm talkin' about. The mirror shot that will give you the full on back view of your backside You twist a little, turn a lot, wondering if the jeans don't seem a bit tighter than the last time you wore them, hoping to god it's only because you just washed and dried them.. and you know how that damn dryer is.. always with the shrinking! That's gotta be why they feel so tight today.

It can't be the mounds of take-out from Thai Tai that you and The Surge order nearly every day of the week. It's certainly not that entire bag of Doritos you snarfed down (then disgustingly licked the Dorito dust from your fingers that you let collect there just for that reason) in record time during MTV's eight hundredth broadcast of the Video Music Awards..And there is absolutely no way it's related to the raw cookie dough you spooned straight from the tube three days ago when your premenstrual cravings were on the lam, fleeing from the Midol you were mainlining into your cramp infested body.

Walking to the bank, my ass feels wedged into my usually trusty jeans, like sausage squished into it's casing, they feel so tight my bum isn't even jiggling.. there is simply not enough room! I wonder if I've gained weight.. It's certainly possible I may have packed on the pounds in this city of thousands of restaurants, with no girlfriends to be crushingly honest.. or my mom who - god bless her - just comes out with it..
"You're ass is a little big."
"Really?"
"Yeah.. just a bit, still looks great, just thought you'd wanna know."
"Shit. Thanks mom."
We have a deal my mom and I. I certainly don't hesitate when it's my turn to tell her she's indulged in one too many cookies. But without my A team.. I've been left to my own ass guaging devices here in New Yawk. The Surge isn't much help. If he gets to touch my big ol' bum, he's a happy man. And he's no dummy.
"Does my butt look big in these?"
"Hell no! Nice butt, love the butt, bring the butt to me." No hesitation. He may be up in the night when it comes to many matters of a woman's heart, but he knows a small hesitation when his wife proffers The Butt Question could be fatal. And so it's up to me.

I found myself looking at more women's butts today than The Surge let loose at the Playboy mansion. I try to find a butt that I think is my size, and then see if I think said butt is big. It's tricky work, trying to find your butt on another woman. You've gotta be honest with yourself.. A few times I've tried to trick The Surge into pointing out a butt that's similar to mine, in hopes he'd be more honest about somebody elses' butt... and in that clever way, I can find out what he REALLY thinks about my developing derriere. But he's smart, that one. He's onto me.
"There.. That girl in the white tank top! She's about my size, right?"
"You're waaaay smaller than she is." See! He didn't even look. Sharp as a tack, he is. So here I sit, on the very butt in question, wondering...
Friday
Sep162005

Why I Blog

My mind is a dryer full of various articles of clothing. Socks missing mates, old granny panties, bras with the underwiring poking through nearly dissolved material, all tumbling together in the hot air. By that I mean to say, my brain is a hodge podge of halfway thought thoughts, old thoughts that are nearly all thunk out, thoughts I need to toss in the trash but keep jumbling around because I can't help but pick at them like old scabs that just won't heal. They're all tumbling round and round, sometimes dancing a mini polka with each other before spiraling into aloneness once again.

I blog because I write. I write because I think too much and it overflows onto paper. Writing is my cheap therapy. I must write. And when I write something good I get shivers of pleasure. Will go back and reread a beautifully crafted sentence dozens of times. My friend Natalie scrapbooks. My friend Tabatha knits. I write.

This is a place to organize my thoughts, file my experiences into neat little journal entries and photo sections. I miss good girlfriends, the ones who say "stop thinking that, you're just being silly" or "that's okay, I went through the very same thing". I can keep in touch with the most amazing women through this blog. I am honest through the written word in a way I can never be in person. I am not good with women. In my life I've always been more comfortable with men. I don't have sisters, was not close with my mom while growing up. So I related better to men.

Looking back, it was a bit of a cop out. Women just scared me. I found it easier to flirt my way into the good graces of men. And that's just sad. Women require finesse, women require intelligence. You can't fall back on good looks or the old flirtations that have always worked. The older I get, the more I realize this and seek out women who interest me.

When you write, you want to get published. You go to Barnes & Noble and buy the How To Get Published Book. You submit SASE's (self addressed stamped envelopes) with articles and when nothing happens, you sink a little lower. So now there is this blog. And it's filling a hole in me. Cementing some of the cracks that widened when I moved to New York and realized I'm pushing 30 and am in a career that pays well but just doesn't interest me the way it used to.

This blog is helping me critically think about myself and who I want to be. I want to live authentically. What does that mean? It means I want to be real. Every time I log in here I have a choice. I can choose to portray myself in whatever light I want. I can opt for candlelight, the most flattering, and paint myself in warm tones or I can flip on the fluorescents, the harsh early morning sunlight and reveal the little wrinkles forming in the corners of my eyes, the spots and black hairs that are growing on my chin at an increasingly alarming rate. I am insecure. I fight with my husband. I obsess over stupid things. I am very self critical. I have social anxiety. I can't express emotions to the people I love. I pretend like I don't care yet I observe what's in fashion and follow the leader and then sometimes even pretend like I am the leader! "I heard this band first", "I've always liked this..." I don't want to submit to the flavor of the week. I don't want to care what's in fashion, what everyone else is listening to.. Yet I do. I just bought cowboy boots. In a small way that bothers me. Because I've never really liked cowboy boots. Yet because they're making appearances on the legs of more and more women, suddenly, I had to have them. And I love them! Really, they're comfortable and look good with everything. But it bothers me that I care. It bothers me that there is a cool and a not cool and I am judged by these random unrelated things that surround my persona. This may sound trivial to many of you, but it weighs on my mind.
Thursday
Sep152005

What Now?

It's a hot today. And sticky wet. There's so much moisture in the air I'm certain Mom Nature will be forced to relieve her bladder on us all later today. At least the weather's interesting. I like clouds, rain, wind.. I don't tend to hang around much outside when it's all sun, all the time. I stay in, lay low, close to the floor where pockets of cool air caress my damp skin.

Feelin' a little down today. Got off work last night, after being trapped on the fucking L train forever.. The Surge was at the bar with some friends and told me to come over. I went home instead. From what I gather, there was a discussion about this blog, and some folks aren't all that into it. Oh well. Don't log on if you don't want to. If you don't like somethin' I or anyone else have to say, don't log on.. or log on and tell us why. I'm not trying to raise hackles. Mostly I started this as a way to vent, and keep in touch with folks back home. As the folks back home don't really seem to be into it.. I guess it'll just be me venting.

Blogs are strange creatures. I've logged on to other blogs, and most times I come away thinking the folks behind them are self obsessed, writing for a pat on the back, compliments etc.. Or I wonder "why are they telling me this? Is it for shock value or do they legitimately feel this way?" That ain't what this is about. It's for me.. and anyone else who has something they wanna get off their chest. And please, what's the big deal? So that's that.

Had a bit of a late night/early morning blubber when The Surge got home from the bar. There he is, half drunk, jamming bananas straight into the jar of peanut butter, and I'm sprawled across the couch havin' a good bawl. Probably related to the particular time of the month.. I'm all weepy. I saw a picture in the newspaper of a Palistinian in Gaza.. on land taken back for the Palistinians. He was standing atop a hill, arms raised to the blue sky in victory, head thrown back, eyes closed. My throat tickled, nose tingled, and there I am blubbering. And it's not like I've been following the events in Israel closely, only periferally and still, there I am leaking over a photo of something a world away. Maybe I just want something so nice to happen to me that I exalt god in such a way. It's gotta be hormonal. I am lonely, I am exhausted, I want to be stimulated, I want to be excited over something. I get excited over my writing, then I read things others write, and I don't feel original. I feel like one of those girls who auditions for American Idol. She can't carry a tune, but for some strange reason, (probably because her mother told her she was a good singer when she was ten and can't bare to hurt her feelings with the truth now) she thinks she's phenomenal. So we sit at home, safe on the couch, watching the slow motion train wreck thinking to ourselves "she can't really think she's that good". Yet there she is, belting out her ditty, struttin' round like a peacock, while Simon mugs for the camera and Paula tries not to laugh. That's how I feel sometimes about my writing. Some teacher told me I had a way with words in third grade and here I am twenty years later, pretending to write. Ah well. I should go wax my arm pits before The Surge divorces me for a sexy Marah fan (Barb!)
Tuesday
Sep132005

A Day In The Life...

Woke up to the racket of a Mack truck rumbling past, rattling the windows of my first floor apartment in the heart of the trendiest neighborhood in the country, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Friends back home: you would not believe the people I pass on the streets on a daily basis.. Mary-Kate, with her bag lady clothes layered over her stick person figure, hiding behind gigantic sunglasses has nothing on these hipsters. Outfits contrived to look as if they've been sitting in dirty piles on the floors of bedrooms... In actuality, these hipsters probably spend a good hour, hour-and-a-half carefully piecing together their groovy ensembles.

Picture some barely there, vintage (would it be anything but?) smockish type item floating over a white tank top, extra-large beaded necklace resembling cherries strung together clanking against protruding collar bones, wide leather belt encircling the whole top, bare legs making a brief but skinny appearance before disappearing into the tops of brand spanking new cowboy boots (meant to look old like Sienna Miller's, of course).. and that's just the men!

No seriously though.. the men are even bigger dandies if you can imagine it. Super slim trust funders vaselined into tight Diesel jeans, hair strategically placed to appear unkept, strut down the streets with ipods attached to heads, most likely blaring Interpol, or some other such band that paid Viacom execs millions for a shot at TRL stardom.

I throw on my "sooo last season" flared jeans, flip-flops and my favorite black T-shirt and dodge past the throng of hipsters crowding the subway stairs. There I stand, on the hotter than hell subway platform, ball bearings of sweat slipping down my back and legs. The L train to Manhattan is the turtle of hares in the subway world. Sometimes I don't mind the wait, the people watching on the subway is generally better than a Spielberg summer blockbuster. An ash colored black man wearing headphones, shouts into his walkman, pretending it's a cell phone.
"Whatchoo goin' on about man?!? You know jesus lives! I be talkin' to him jes da other day."
His eyes slide right and left to see if any of us are paying him mind. I chuckle to myself. Not much different than the Mormon missionaries I'm used to.. He's just got his own style, that's all. The next person of interest is a pint sized girl in a sequined top and what appears to be no pants. Upon closer inspection I notice a pair of so-tight-they-look-painted-on jean cut-offs intermittenly peeking from the bottom of the sparkling blouse. Her bleached mohawk salutes me as she minces by. That's when I notice that SHE is actually a HE. I think. These are the fun ones. When I can't figure out the sex. I can pass at least five endless waiting-for-the-subway-minutes speculating, each new gesture of the person in question a clue to their hidden gender. This particular case leaves me stumped.

Just when my interest in my commuting companions begins to wane the subway intercom crackles to life and what sounds like a woman, but I can't be sure, proceeds to bleet into a microphone, like a cashier at a Mcdonalds drive-thru. I catch snippets of words.."signal problems"... "working on it".. I look at the sweat dappled faces around me to see if anyone has a better interpretation of the announcement. I see shrugged shoulders, hear a few groans, but everone seems determined to wait out the problem. Not me. Last time this happened I stood around in tropical temperatures, sweating through my clothing, only to be told a half hour later that the train wasn't coming. Feeling ever so savvy I cast a disparaging glance at the bedraggled commuter wannabes around me and importantly weave through the crowd for the stairs.

Once I'm back on the street I walk briskly toward the car service. My smug aren't-I-a-clever-New-Yorker melts right off my face as I see at least 15 people lining up for cabs into Manhattan. Well! I snatch my cell phone from my purse for a time check. 2:30. Exactly thirty minutes to get my late ass to Manhattan, over to the 1 train, and uptown.. Fuck!

I flip open the phone and call another car service I know around the block. I translate my location to the Egyptian man on the other end of the line, he barks "three minutes!" and hangs up. Satisfied, I cop a squat on the corner and proceed to wait. Proceed to wait. What a funny thing to do. Hurry up and wait!

Ten minutes later, my makeup has slid to my chin and I have giant underarm and underboob rings of sweat, but no cab. I ring the guy again and am promptly put on hold. Fuckity Fuck! Now I'm debating the merit of my decision to abandon the subway. Maybe I would have been dodging crowds in Manhattan instead of Brooklyn by now if I'd just been patient. Nah.. A glance at subway stairs spitting red faced commuters into the sunlight confirms the train is still down and more people are following my lead. Finally someone rescues me from hold hell.
"Metro cabs, where you at?" The sitar solo that had been assaulting my ears via cell phone is abruptly replaced by Egyptian shouts.
"I ordered a cab nearly 20 minutes ago, and you said three minutes!"
"One minute!" Again he bangs down the phone, leaving me wondering how he knew who I was and if a car would really be arriving in a minute.

To my great surprise, a twilight colored sedan screeches to a halt beside me and I jump in. Growing up driving my own vehicle, I still feel strange being chauffered around town.. I must admit, it gives me a small case of moviestar-itis. There I am, nestled in leather seats as the car speeds across the Williamsburg bridge, gazing out at the Manhattan skyline.. Granted, the leather is cracked and peeling, and ominous gray clouds all but obscure the skyline.. but still. I'm enjoying the breeze when the cab driver slams on the breaks. I find myself halfway in the front seat, my hair hangs in a tangled mess across my face.
"Close one.. Almost wreck". The Pakistani driver chuckles nervously and glances at me in the rearview mirror, revealing a row of small, yellow, corn kernal teeth.
I peer out the dirty windshield and to my horror see an endless parade of cars stretched out in front of me. Off in the distance, the winking lights of an ambulance or police car signal some kind of crash.

Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck! Not on the bridge! Anywhere but the bridge! Caught in traffic on the bridge is tantamount to prison. You ain't goin' no place anytime soon. I try to focus on the radio station jabber to calm myself. It takes me more than a minute to realize it's in a different language. You ever done that? It happens to me a lot in New York. I'll be listening to something, or reading a sign, not comprehending.. it takes me more time than it should to realize it's in a foreign language.

I send out a few random text messages, hoping someone will bite. Texting while on line at the post office or the bank always seems to grease the minutes.. But nobody responds, leaving me to my own devices.

After nearly a half hour of the stomach churning, lurching stop-start of gridlock we ease past a seemingly minor fender bender. Dammit! I want to see some carnage for a damn near 45 minute wait! I want crumpled cars hanging dangerously off bridges as emergency crews hover anxiously nearby, strategizing the rescue effort.. But this, this fender bender! That does nothing to justify the wait. A dead body or two would at least remind me I'm lucky to be alive.

After some impressive maneuvering up 5th avenue and across 14th street the driver brakes near the 1 uptown train.
"15 dollars please."
Yes, that's right, you read correctly. Fifteen dollars! That's how much a car service from Brooklyn to Manhattan'll run you. I toss a twenty at him, ask for two dollars change and jump out of the car.
The heat hits me like a hairdryer, and only gets hotter as I descend into the bowels of the subway. A toe-tapping five minutes later the 1 train whooshes in.. and the air conditioned subway, an amenity that never ceases to surprise me, whisks me uptown to the building where I work.

Work was...well, work.. More Hurricane Katrina.. When I get home, Max had managed to shed another small dog on the living room floor. I sweep the black hairs into a pile that would indeed, bury Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell and dump the whole mess into the trash.

Thank God The Surge loves to cook. He's got his famous stir fry well underway, singing mournful, made-up country songs as his chicken pops and sizzles in a delightful, mouthwatering fashion.. I smile to myself as I crack open my tenth diet coke of the day and collapse onto the couch.
Monday
Sep122005

The Night I Met The Surge

The following is a journal entry I wrote three days after meeting The Surge.

August 15, 2005

Everything has changed. You go through life waiting for something to happen. At least when you are me, stuck, for the time being, in my job, living where I live, you go through the motions. Particularly this last year. Getting over Andy, realizing religion is so false, becoming the woman I am supposed to be. This past year has been the hardest of my life. But I feel as if I rose to the occasion, and reached a higher, more spiritual level of self awareness.

Anyway, back to the point. You go through the motions, then one day, out of the blue, everything changes. You wait for those moments, when the clouds part, and you see things so clearly.

On Wednesday, August 11th I got off work and was headed to a movie. By myself, it's the best. Anyway, I'm about to get off the exit for downtown when my friends from work Steve Worthing and Scott McKane call me. What's funny is Steve calls me all the time to do stuff, but I never answer. And on those rare occasions when I actually answer - I never do anything. But for some strange reason, this time I answered the phone and agreed to meet him in a parking lot next to this bar, to listen to a band.

We got gloriously stoned in the parking lot, then went to hear the band play. I planned on staying a half hour at most. Then the band began to play. Marah. That's the name of these cats from Philly. So, from the moment they begin, to the moment they end, I am transfixed. Amazing live performance. There were perhaps thirty people in the room but the band tore that stage up, as if thousands were watching. Good, straight up rock'n'roll, which I have been so thirsty for. First my CD's were stolen, then radio drivel left me with no option but a silent ride to work.

But this music lit a fire for me. And then there was the guitarist. Sure, give any guy a guitar, put him on stage and the chicks dig him. But this guy, he was in his own world, just playing the shit outta that guitar, harmonica and whatever else he could get his hands on. I couldn't take my eyes off him. And he couldn't be further from my usual attractions. Toward the end of the evening, after a few shots of Yagermeister, I talked myself out of the attraction, chalking it up to "sexy band guy syndrome". So the band stops - ending with my particular fellow writhing on the floor, making love to his guitar, as I climaxed with him. Then it was over.

So my work buddies wander over to get a T-shirt and other band merchandise. The keyboard guy? Not sure - but one of the band members sits next to me at the bar, and as I'm curious about the rock'n'roll lifestyle, I ask a few trite questions, the likes of which they hear, I'm sure, at every stop along the way.

Then the guitarist pulls up a stool and joins the discussion. Soon, the other guy disappears. Not physically, but as far as I was concerned, he no longer existed. The guitarist tells me his name, which I promptly forget and then I am lost. Lost in this man-boy's world.

I couldn't tell you what we talked about. I remember bits and pieces. But it all seems so fuzzy. The next thing I know, I'm driving him to his hotel and we are in my car talking and he is beautiful. It's been so long since anyone touched my heart, and intrigued me this way. But my tough girl routine is in fine form. Because I know how it goes. And we can't help it - we fuck in my car, twice I think. And to me it was beautiful. It felt real. Souls colliding.

But I reserve a part of myself. Because I don't know what it means to him. Don't know if it's his tour routine or if he was feeling what I was feeling. But he said such beautiful things to me, like no one ever has. I want so bad for him to mean what he said. Don't want them to be standard lines. Despite the legions of shallow assholes I come across, I still want to believe the best.

Serge, yes, that's his name, talks to me about books, music, travel - the three things that keep me sane. And then it's time to go. Suddenly it's morning and I have to say goodbye. At some point, he got my phone number, at some point, I gave him my email. And then he was gone. Off to the next city on his tour. I am left feeling empty, wondering if I dreamed the whole thing.

The last year has been like a desert for me. Then this beautiful boy comes along and pours ice water down my throat then leaves, taking his water with him. I have since logged online to read about his band and him. I've read interviews he's given to various music mags etc.. and I've fallen in love with his words. I bought his CD and it is almost too hard to listen to. I am fucked. He is gone. He text messaged me from Portland. But it was cryptic - don't know how to take it.

Did I matter? Was I a fling? On the one hand, I fully expect it - on the other; I can't bare it if that's the case. I emailed him. What do I have to lose? I don't think he's checked it yet. So here I sit, with a rock in my stomach, overjoyed to know that someone like him exists. Terrified that my heart will be trampled.

I take solace in the fact that he opened my eyes to a different world. One that neither I or anyone I associate with know anything about. If that's what he was meant to do then that's enough. He has changed me forever. His name is Serge Christopher Bielanko