Archive | Etiquette Matters

Matt Harrington: A Friend of Everyone’s Heart

My classmate Matthew Harrington died last week, and I keep thinking about him.

What I didn’t anticipate about aging was the pain of losing your peers—-the people with whom you move through this life without the complicated bonds of biology or romance. The co-witnesses whose casual presence you take for granted, at least until you get older.

I knew Matty best in elementary school–in sixth grade, really. Most kids are little punks at that age, and our class was an exceptionally unruly bunch–mean, to be honest. In the 1980s, Nonantum (our Newton, Massachusetts neighborhood, also known as the Lake) was still in the Middle Ages when it came to racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, you name it. But though Matt threw around as many jokes as the rest of the boys (RIP, Terry Notartomaso), he stood out to me because he was never unkind.

I remember him singing Beatles songs on every bus ride with a heartbreaking earnestness, craning around with a look of concern well beyond his years when I got teased for being Jewish or just plain weird. I don’t recall him well in high school—it was huge and we all splintered off–but I’ve been thinking about him ever since I heard the news of his passing. Because in my memory he stands out as someone committed to humor and fun that didn’t come at the expense of others–a boisterous guy who somehow was also very gently compassionate. You can’t say that about many people, especially tweens. He was like a character in the best Beatles song never written.

Decades later, when I’d see him at reunions–when it was absolutely apparent we had so little in common that even small talk might be difficult–he was still generous and curious. So I’ve been flashing on his sweet affability over the last few days; his matter-of-fact, un-mercenary kindness. Such qualities can make living in this world hard even if you never let on. I hope that wasn’t true for him.

May we tell everyone who shines light on us that we love them. And may Matt find joy wherever he is now. Sixth grade Lisa will always be grateful to him.

Donations can be made here to defray the costs of Matt’s funeral.

There’s No Pleasing Daddy

This was a fairly bogus day–a lot of mansplaining/scolding in my personal life. But I was very happy to learn that Jamie Spears is finally stepping down as conservator of his daughter, though his announced “choice” reads as very Cuomo–AKA an attempt to control the when-and-how now that the writing is already on the wall.

It may seem silly to focus on anything tabloid-related, but the story of Britney Spears’ conservatorship is a devastating model of how patriarchy infects every aspect of US life, from government to nuclear family. Essentially it underscores that, as a woman, you can be a multimillion-dollar enterprise, and still wield no control over your life.

For anyone with shitty parents, Britney Spears’ story is a worst-case scenario–one in which your abusers benefit from your ability to transcend their abuse while they abuse you some more. No parent should be granted complete control of their adult child’s life, especially if they financially benefit from that control. Family dysfunction is usually a contributor in emotional decompensation, so reenacting childhood trauma by reestablishing parental control is counter-intuitive–“criminal,” to quote Britney herself. Continue Reading →

50 Is the Body Electric (Space Crone Jams)

Ready for the thing no one ever says? I like my body better at 50 than I did at 20. It’s not perfect now but it wasn’t perfect then. In general bodies aren’t perfect. Bodies are encasements, temples, tactics. Precious and purposeful. Us. At 20 I was sick, scared, anxious, angry–anorectic, with the colon and joints of a much older woman due to two decades of sustained and displaced trauma. Aka hysterical in the classic Freudian sense. (Fuck Freud, obviously.) I panicked over every extra calorie and drew what little self-esteem I had from being thinner than others–no one acknowledges what mean girls we anorexics can be. At 50 I am all curves and angles–fully inhabiting the Scottish-Sioux-Ashkenazi peasant body that is my birthright. Big hands, breasts, hips, belly, brain. Fierce look, limbs, will. Strong as a mother, o yes, and perfectly willing to flirt with whomever stares because at this point no one can topple me with their desire. I’m like a red oak that way (every way). Are my eyes going? For sure. Is my back worse? Doubly sure. But every day I feed this body beautiful useful things. I stretch it, walk it, water it, sun it, shower it. Lipstick it. Listen to it. Love it. In return it still holds me up and sometimes even lets me shine. At 50 I am old enough to be grateful for every day and every way I feel physically good–for every organ, muscle, inch that works well. For every ailment that heals. Even better, I have learned how to be grateful for change–even decay–because it means I’ve lived long enough for it to happen. At 50 you don’t look like anyone’s projection anymore, no one’s generic dream of a girl or a perfect lady. But you’re not really invisible. Instead, you look like the life you’ve led. What’s more beautiful than that?

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