The Church of Menschen (See What I Did There?)

The “not cute one,” if you can believe them apples.

The great Eve Babitz tells a story of being out one night with a friend who had extreme cheekbones.

It is my opinion that people with extreme cheekbones make all other beauties look like children’s drawings, even if this latest batch of young people don’t seem to recognize this fact and I wouldn’t wish this level of beauty on anyone. I do not say this because I have extreme cheekbones; I have decent ones.

My mother has extreme cheekbones.

Anyway, Eve and this friend were sitting at Barney’s Beanery, because this is where Eve always could be found in her wonderfully misspent youth. And a man approached them. Even a block away it was apparent this man was just the strain of trouble that some extreme beauties seek because everything else is too easy. He was unapologetically drunk, for one thing, and he also had a lot of dark wavy hair and a very arrogant manner.

These are not details Eve disclosed in her story. I just can tell from here.

So this guy wandered over to their table and said, “Hey you.” And when Eve looked up, he said, “Not you, the cute one.”

Well, this guy subsumed Eve’s friend immediately. She ditched Eve that night and lost touch with all her friends once she fell into his tornado. Years later when Eve saw him on the bus, he asked why she didn’t like him and she reminded him of his rude introduction. He said, “Well, it was just something I said.”

Which, as Eve wryly observes, was his idea of apology.

I keep thinking of this story today because it perfectly captures the kind of bulldozers who disguise themselves as people. Not just the guy who Eve, with her typical overstated understatement, names “Wolf” in the story. I also mean Extreme Cheekbones (named “Coco” by Eve, o Eve).

For that matter, having just finished Lili Anolik’s biography about her, I mean Eve herself.

I worry sometimes about being a bulldozer, too–that sort of take-no-prisoners, self-absolving, meta-whirling-dervish (albeit one with only okay cheekbones). And I know I’m worrying about it today because people responded so lovingly to my SOS--truly, your support was life-changing–and I fear I won’t prove worthy of such faith and kindness.

I don’t want to be what my grandmother would have called a schnorrer.*

Here’s what I think: If you can type it, you can fix it. Meaning: If you can articulate a fear, you also can articulate a solution. I know, I know: Easier said than done. But I’ve always believed in the power of words–why else would I be a writer?–and this last week has only shored my conviction. Not to mention that this worry feels like the most take-no-prisoners, self-absolving, meta-whirling-dervish response of them all.

The ecstasy of influence (Joshua Tree, 2017)

So let’s just say I am going to work as hard as I can on my book and on everything else. This is not so I can live up to the love you beamed my way, because that line of thinking is in keeping with the transactional, conditional mishegos that ushered me into this mess in the first place. It is because I feel your glorious wind on my back now, and stepping forward feels so much easier.**

And thus begins a new week in all of our lives. Know that the love you beamed my way also lights your path as you drink coffee, navigate your commute, shake out an umbrella. To quote the great sage Janet Jackson, that’s the way love goes.

Here’s to a glorious spring for us all. Isn’t spring the loveliest word in the world?
*schnorrer: Yiddish term for user, beggar. Antonym: mensch

**Have I mentioned thank you very much

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy