Apartments I Have Known

1. The first summer sublet I had was more like a wide hallway. I moved into an apartment with two other women. I had a mattress, a wardrobe from IKEA, and… maybe a nightstand? It’s a little fuzzy. I was 20 years old. I did not actually have a room — Lisa and Christine each did, and they were very good about boundaries, letting me know when they had to walk through my “room”.

Plus, I had a boyfriend, so I wasn’t necessarily there every night. The boyfriend shared an apartment with two other men who were also his bandmates — a theme for me it would turn out — who put his bedroom above a sitting room by putting down plywood and a mattress on the exposed beams.

At least I could sit up in my hallway.

2. The Catbox, also known as The Escher House.

This was, hands down, the worst apartment I ever resided in. It reeked of cat pee. My room probably was the least smelly, but had little else to recommend it. The best thing about this apartment was that my share of rent and utilities came in under $100.

It was, truly, a living space only a college student could survive. My friend Kim Z. Dale lived there too.

I lived there first, and I think I only survived three or four months. I had three women roommates, and a guy who lived in the basement. (He had a cat, but his cat was not responsible for the stink in the apartment.) One of my roommates was very, er, enamored with her boyfriend, and we saw very little of her. Another of my roommates was, er, a lazy slob. She let dishes sit and sit and sit in the sink. I finally stopped doing them for her, and resorted to doing my dishes in the bathroom.

Trashed hallway.
Okay, it probably wasn’t this bad.

The other roommate was fine. She did her dishes. And she had introduced me to both Pearl Jam and Toad the Wet Sprocket, so who am I to bitch?

The other downside to this apartment — if I haven’t made it sound awful enough — was that if someone was in the bathroom, which had two doors, I couldn’t get into or out of my room.

3. My Second Favorite Apartment
Finally, I landed an awesome living space. My buddy Joe stumbled across this space, which was being newly renovated. It was a third-floor, corner apartment with a HUGE common space/living room, a small kitchen (where I am happy to report everyone did his/her own dishes), a small bathroom, and three decent-sized bedrooms.

The only downside to this space is that the drop ceilings in the bedroom disguised how drafty the windows were. I froze in the winter. We attempted to put up plastic to insulate my room, and it belled out almost comically.

Joe and I lived there for three years — and, no, we never dated; we were friends and roommates, only. The third roommate changed each year: Annoying Man, my brother, and Pete. Then we somehow landed a fourth roommate, who called himself Craivent. After he had crashed on our couch for a few months, I moved out. That was a mistake, although after three years of living with guys, I was pretty excited to move in with girlfriends in the House of Babes 2, which needs a blog post all its own.

4. The Studio
In a desperate bid to live by myself, I found a studio apartment on the South Side Slopes. If I hadn’t already lived in the Catbox, this would be the worst place I lived. I had slugs on the “porch” and cockroaches in the bathroom, and after six months, I moved in with a boyfriend — which was not romantic; it was practical, and ultimately, a mistake, also deserving its own blog post.

5. The Final Apartment
The last place I lived in as a single lady was my favorite. It was a one-bedroom, and it was simple and clean. Bedroom, bathroom, sitting room, and one of the nicest South Side kitchens I had ever had. It had room for an entire kitchen table with chairs! The kitchen got lots of light; the closet in the bedroom wasn’t very big, but it was all mine. My land-people lived upstairs, and they let me use the yard if I wanted. They kept to themselves.

Dan and I rented a house until we moved to the suburbs. I miss my old stomping grounds, but I do not miss many of those living spaces. It’s shocking what a college student will do to be independent!

How about you? Have a favorite apartment? Terrible roommates? Cockroaches?

The Strength of a Man

Dan texted me Tuesday: “Do you have a minute.”

My reply: “Yes.”

Dan and I touch base at least once a day via text or phone call. Most of the time, it’s a quick check in: How are you? How’s your day going? Some of the time, it’s a question that needs an answer: Can you stop at the store/bank/beer distributor? And very occasionally, it’s urgent.

A few moments later, he called. His tone was very intent. “How is your day?”

I know my husband well enough by now to know that with that kind of opening, there was a purpose behind the call.

“It’s okay. Getting stuff done.”

“How’s the tension level?”

“Well,” I said, tensely, “it’s starting to ratchet up now!”

Dan sighed. “I just got some very bad news, and I’m trying to figure out where you are mentally before I dump it on you.”

Me: “I’m fine. Shoot.”

A friend of Dan’s called him. Her sister, who was past her due date with her first baby, had just discovered that the baby had no heartbeat.

And just like that, it was June of 2003 again.

My husband said, “What should I tell them? What do you think they need?”

I listed a few things:

1. A photographer if they can find one. This may sound morbid to some people. But having this experience recorded and having images of the baby — it’s important. It’s vital to grieving. Or it was for Dan and me, and I’ve heard from other baby loss parents that it helped them too.

2. A support community. My go-to for these situations is usually Glow in the Woods. Compassionate Friends is helpful as well, especially when parents are ready for real-life interactions.

3. “A Fr. Ray,” I said.

Father Ray is the priest who married us. He was a good friend to Dan while they were both at Duquesne, and he’s become a friend to both of us since the wedding. He was there when we were in the hospital with Gabriel, and he has baptized our subsequent children. Everyone should have a Fr. Ray — if not a religious person, a therapist, a counselor, a sounding board, a shoulder to hang onto to.

Dan became their Fr. Ray.


It was hard to know that my husband was carrying this for the couple. I honestly don’t know how he did it. That phone call from him brought back a lot of memories. Not bad memories, exactly. Hard memories. Painful.

Knowing that I was going to have to go through labor with nothing to show for it. (For awhile, denial and shock protected me from that. My brain knew it, but my heart didn’t accept it. Shock and denial are very useful tools for a body.)

I couldn’t help thinking about what this first-time mother was facing. A labor that could be long, possibly painful. My epidural wore off, and I was finally put on a morphine drip. It took four days to deliver Gabriel. I barely remember the last two because of the pain and drugs.

The parents were probably discussing a name. I wonder if the one they picked was one they had already decided on. They didn’t know if they were having a boy or girl. Dan and I hadn’t known if Gabriel was a girl or boy at the time either (although, my mother’s heart thought “boy”). We had had a girl’s name picked, but I didn’t want to use it on our still baby. We discussed a lot of names. We finally decided on Angela or Dolores for a girl. And Gabriel for a boy.

While we were at the hospital, we had a lot of support. My parents, his parents, siblings, and friends. I don’t know about Dan, but after a while, I felt like *I* was responsible for comforting *them*. Telling them that it was okay, that I was okay, that — all evidence to the contrary — it was going to be okay.

The pain. The frustration. The waiting. It really is not okay, any of it, but what are you supposed to do? What are you supposed to say?

I just waited it out. I remember asking Ray if Gabriel (well, “the baby” at the time) needed to be baptized. Ray said no, that he had gone from one world of love into another, of love and light.

That helped.


The baby came. Dan held him. The parents named him.

Dan came home, spent. Utterly drained. I made him a cup of chamomile tea.

We sat on our respective couches to pick a show to watch. We couldn’t face Breaking Bad, nor could we deal with most of the Netflix documentaries. “None of these are happy,” Dan pointed out.

We came across the listing for the updated Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch (whom I insist on calling Bernard for some reason) and the ever-affable Martin Freeman. “Look,” I said. “It’s Khan and Bilbo! Let’s watch this!”

Partway in, Dan griped, “I wish we had a TV in our room.” I expressed my dislike of that idea.

“Yeah,” he said. “But if we had a TV in our room, I could lay down next to you and be warm.”

I made room on the couch. He fell asleep before Sherlock was over.

Memory Lane: 1994

So, SPIN Magazine released its list of the 100 Best Alt-Rock Songs of 1994, and I basically fell down a rabbit hole. This is the soundtrack to my 23rd year.

I was a hot mess, but damn, the music was fantastic.

A few of these songs remind me of a short-lived abusive relationship I was in with a drug addict (short-lived because he was an abusive drug addict, der). See: Suede; Smashing Pumpkins.

A number of these songs remind me of The Ex, a man I would spend the next four years with, give or take a few months in the middle there. (We were on a break!) See: Liz Phair, “Supernova”; Guided by Voices, “I am a Scientist”; Pearl Jam, “Better Man”.

But most of these songs remind me of being single and feeling fierce, which is how I spent most of 1994. I had a pierced lip and a tattoo, and I was Gen X to a T — a pot-smoking, aimless slacker living on my own. I had a job and was freelance writing, and spent most of my money on rent and beer at Dee’s Cafe on the South Side.

I don’t remember “Possum Kingdom” being so rapey. I do remember Urge Overkill’s version of “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” being *exactly* that creepy, though.

The most nostalgic songs for me: “Something’s Always Wrong”, Toad the Wet Sprocket; “Gee Angel”, Sugar.

And talk about women in music: L7, Lisa Loeb, Hole, Breeders, the aforementioned Liz Phair, Bjork, Luscious Jackson. LUSCIOUS JACKSON! Lots more. And I remember every single word to “Seether” by Veruca Salt.

And now for a video.

I thought about posting the video for “Gentleman” by Afghan Whigs, but, two things: 1. I didn’t listen to the Afghan Whigs in 1994. They are a new obsession. 2. If I watch a 28-year-old Greg Dulli in this video one more fucking time, I’m going to turn into a puddle of quivering jelly.

I limited myself to the Top 10 songs, and I still have to post two. Point and counter point as it were.

1994 was the year Kurt Cobain put a bullet in his brain. “No Apologies” from Nirvana, from MTV Unplugged Nirvana, is a fitting elegy.

On the flip side, we have Courtney Love of Hole howling into the void with “Miss World”.

If you don’t feel like flipping through the slideshow at SPIN, here’s the link to the Spotify playlist.

What were you listening to in 1994?

Bad Memory

[Dad, you DO NOT want to read this post. It’s got some information in it regarding me, your oldest daughter, that you’d rather NOT KNOW.]

[Okay, you’ve been warned. This is a post I don’t want my dad to read. It contains graphical sexual descriptions.]

[Really, Dad, don’t read this. I’m not even posting this to Facebook because I don’t want family reading this.]

So, this is pretty terrible.

And it made me remember that a pretty terrible thing happened to me almost 20 years ago.

I didn’t report it. Because I didn’t think it was rape. It was definitely sexual assault, and I definitely was drugged, and thinking about it now — nearly 20 years later — is making me a little sick to my stomach.

But part of that sick feeling is simply due to the fact that I didn’t spend time thinking about this until I read this article.

I have always claimed that, although I have been sexually harassed, I have never been raped.

But I would say coming suddenly back to myself with a cock in my mouth and another man performing cunnilingus on me is pretty graphically rape.

And, yeah, that’s what happened. The man performing oral on me asked if we could have sex. I asked if he had a condom. He did not. I said no, and we did not have sex.

I was not as out-of-it as the woman in the article. I could walk, I was not so incapacitated that I involuntarily urinated. I remember *most* of the night, although how I ended up in a bedroom with two men — neither of whom I knew very well — is a blank.

I went to the bathroom and threw up shortly after the one guy came in my mouth.

Then, I washed my mouth out and gathered myself together, and went home. And the word rape never, ever occurred to me. Maybe because I was fairly sexually adventurous. Maybe because when I declined actual intercourse, I was listened to. Maybe because I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t restrained. Maybe because I had an orgasm. I even told the people at the party what had happened when they asked where I had gone.

That doesn’t excuse these two men.

I realized shortly after the incident — probably the next day — that I had been drugged. As well as having had the weird oral menage a trois in the bedroom, I had made out with two women, and while I was hardly virginal, even that was quite a bit of action in one night for me.

And still, after realizing someone had slipped me a mickey, the word rape never crossed my mind. I have never considered myself a victim. (And I certainly would not have donned that mantle as a way of claiming special privilege, as George Will would assert.) This event didn’t haunt me; it didn’t inhibit my ongoing exploration of and enjoyment in sex.

I don’t feel particularly outraged — I didn’t back then, either. Disgusted, that someone would drug me, and other people at this party (seriously, it was practically an orgy in this apartment. I was not the only one with extremely lowered inhibitions).

And of course, even the belated realization doesn’t change anything. Except I can never say never again.

Open Letter to Gotye

Re: Somebody That I Used to Know

Dear Gotye,

I know it’s been awhile, and that has been my choice, not yours. You seem to have taken it a little personally. I mean, I’m just saying. I’m glad you got a Grammy award out of it, though. And from Prince! *swoon*, am I right?

I, too, sometimes think about when we were together. I thought I was happy, and I thought I loved you. I was definitely in love with you. You were a nice enough guy, after all, we had a pretty good time together, and you never went out of your way to harm me. But I felt lonely, too. It just felt like we weren’t really pulling together.

I know I said that we could still be friends. But you seemed to think that that meant that I could be your fallback position whenever you wanted to hang out, and you also seemed to take it to mean “friends with benefits”, which is not what I intended. I know, we did have sex a few times after we broke up. I was lonely, too, and you were safe and known. And sex feels good. Until it’s over.

I knew if I didn’t stop that pattern, of hanging out, maybe having some drinks, talking like “old friends”, and then falling into bed together, it would just keep happening. And if it kept happening with you, it wasn’t going to start happening with someone else.

I needed to move on, find someone who loved me — because I am deserving of love. And I couldn’t move on when you still called me out of the blue. You knew all my weak points: Sunday afternoon, Thursday evenings, my love of Starbucks tea, Burn Notice marathons on USA, IPAs, and take-out Chinese.

I wanted someone else to learn those things about me too, though. Actually I wanted someone to learn my strengths, not my weaknesses. I wanted someone who valued the same things as I did, and someone who would challenge me to grow — not just accept me as I am. Someone who would let me challenge him, too, without taking it so damned personally. Would it really have killed you to take ballroom dancing lessons for six weeks? I wasn’t looking for Silver Linings Playbook. Just something to do that wasn’t hanging out on my couch watching cable, or playing pool at the local bar.

So, I did have to cut you off. I did have to pretend that I didn’t know you, had never cared for you. Because otherwise some little bird of hope stayed alive in my chest whenever I saw your name come up on my cell phone. And that little bird was killing me. I needed it to leave the nest.

Besides, it’s not like you were waiting around pining for me. I saw you in the grocery store with your new friend, after all. I remember shopping with you like that, for dinner ingredients. Breakfast ingredients, too, for that matter. It hurt a little. Okay, a lot. But you know what? It helped me a lot too. It clarified my position quite pointedly.

Don’t take this too hard, but to be frank, I realized I *didn’t* want to be friends with someone like you. You didn’t value me enough to treat me well when it didn’t suit you. You didn’t want to be part of my life, but you liked it that I was around. Sometimes you were mean. And after we broke up, you exploited my weaknesses instead of leaving me to develop my strengths. I don’t need that kind of person in my life.

Sorry that my friends were jerks when they came to get my stuff. They are very protective of me, and you were the bad guy who hurt me, you know?

By the way: Elliot Smith did it first.

Wishing you all the very best (really, I am),
Somebody That You Used to Know

This one goes out to a friend, who is suffering the same heartache I did when I was her age (26). Breakups clearly still suck.

Memory Lane: The Name Game

In honor of all the soon-to-be Twitter parents I know who are picking a name for their first or second or fourth babies.

Picking a name for a child is fraught with the possibilities of familial conflict. I must say that Dan and I were (are) pretty lucky. Although my MIL had names for all her grandchildren picked out, she knew full well that her children and children-in-law were going to name their kids.

(To wit, here are the names my MIL picked out: boy names were John Phillip and… ah! I can’t remember; girl names, Savannah and Philadelphia (yeah, IDK). Then she met my grandmother, and decided either I or my SIL had to have twin girls that we would name Olivia and Olympia.)

Obviously, none of these names came to pass. If my own parents had strong opinions about what we should name the children, they never told us.

When I was pregnant with Gabriel, Dan and I did not find out the sex of the baby. (I suspected he was a boy from the get-go, though.) When we talked names, I said if L’il Bean was a girl, I wanted to name her Flora Marie or Maria. Flora was his grandmother’s name, and Marie is the middle name of all the first-born girls in my family. I don’t remember any of the boy names we talked about; we didn’t pick Gabriel until we were in the hospital.

So: Flora became Flora. We went to Dan’s father when we found out she was a girl and asked for his blessing. Flora was his mother’s name; she died when he was 5 years old. We didn’t want using the name to be a source of pain. Of course, he was honored that we asked him, and said, “Of course.” (Looking back, I suspect that if I knew using the name would’ve caused a problem, I would’ve avoided it.)

When I was pregnant with Kate, and we found out she was a girl, I told Dan I wanted to use my father’s mother’s name (Kathryn). I said using it as a middle name would be fine.

But we couldn’t decide on a first name. I wanted to steer clear of very Italian sounding names because we already had one of those. I would’ve loved a Colleen or Irene (or Noreen or Maureen), but it was too rhymey with our last name. We briefly discussed Aubrey and Audrey, Gianna, Siobhan, Giada, and more.

Then suddenly, we realized that we were facing (another) induction, I distinctly remember turning to Dan and saying, “We need to pick a name!” I don’t remember who thought Kathryn would be a great first name, but we agreed on that point almost instantly. I think I proposed another family name (passed from his maternal grandmother down to his sister) that sounded perfect with Kathryn, plus we’d be keeping up with another naming tradition.

(My mother at first was not very fond of this choice. “That’s not a name!” she said when we told her.)

Also, Kathryn became Kate within about an hour of her birth.

And then our pregnancy with Le Bud. One of the reasons I was so happy he was a boy was because I didn’t think I could come up with another girl name. (Mentally, I put Danielle and Gabriella on the list.) When we first talked about names, I thought Michael was too “common”. I wanted Nathaniel, but we both thought that was too long (again, I don’t know). My brother and SIL (who have four boys) had taken up a lot of boy names! Dan’s other top pick was David, which I didn’t like for our son at all. (Again, don’t ask me why. M’s got two Uncle Daves, so it’s not like I dislike the name in general.)

Obviously, in the end, I came around to Michael. It was my Pap-pap’s middle name; Dan has an uncle and a cousin who are named Michael, so it straddled both families. We used my dad’s (and my brother’s) first name as a middle name.

In contrast to Kate, Dan and I continue to call him Michael, although we recognize that others do (and will) call him Mike. People call Kate “Katie” too. I mean, what are you going to do? Protip: Think of possible nicknames and initials before you name the babies! Poor Flora doesn’t get a nickname, although my brother is working hard to get Flo to stick.

During the process of all these name games, I think Dan’s favorite thing to do was to read baby name books. He had a blast sitting in the midwife’s waiting room reading out names and their meanings. We also loved watching sports (football and hockey, mostly), and trying out some of the more outrageous names with our last name. Ultimately, though, we never really fought about what to name our kids, and, as I said, our families never appeared horrified with our choices.

How did you/are you picking names for your offspring? Traditional, family, saints or sports?

Memory Lane: Best Date Ever

Dan and I started dating in October of 1999.

In November, he asked if I wanted to go see the Leonids meteor shower. Having never seen a meteor shower before, I decided that would be cool.

I suppose I have a layperson’s fascination with the night sky. I can point out a few constellations; I can tell shiny planets from twinkling stars; I love to watch the waxing and waning of the moon. I even have a favorite moon phase, the waxing crescent. I have it tattooed on my arm.

At the time that we were going to see the Leonids meteor shower, Jupiter and Saturn were closest to the Earth than they had been in decades. You could pick them out in the night sky because they were so bright, but if you had a telescope, you’d get a really good look at them.

Dan and I made plans to travel out to Wagman Observatory to see what we could see. Dan packed a picnic blanket and a bottle of wine. He already knew the way to my heart.

The first thing we did was to walk over to the large telescope. Someone from the observatory was there to make sure it was pointed the right way in the sky to view Jupiter and Saturn. I wanted to see them.

I looked at Saturn first. I don’t know when you were in Earth-Science classes, but I was a ’70s baby, so we’re talking mid-late 1980s. You know when you learned about the planets, the pictures they had in your text books? Not the high-definition, digital images that are out there now. We’re talking Kodachrome, here. Flat. Muted colors.

Well, that’s how Saturn looked — it was cool, don’t get me wrong — very two-dimensional, like someone had cut it out and hung it up in space. I had a funny reaction — like, “hey, it really does have rings around it! And you can see them!” It was weird, I guess, to look at something I had learned about, but not really internalized.

Or I’m just weird. Take your pick.

Then we walked back to the blanket and settled in. A full moon was going to make viewing the meteor shower a little difficult, but not impossible. We drank wine and held hands, and stared at the sky waiting to see stars start falling.

And then, a meteor went right over our heads. And I don’t mean a shooting star far away up in the sky. A ball of flame went streaking right over us. It was amazing, intense, stunning.

I don’t remember who said, “Make a wish,” me or Dan. I honestly don’t recall. But I know that we were kissing each other next.

Wishes do come true.

What was your best date? What would you wish on a shooting star now?

Memory Lane: Maker’s Mark

It was the summer of 1999, and I had just gotten back to Pittsburgh after a girlie vacation in Rehoboth Beach, DE. While there, I had discovered Dogfish Head Microbrewery, mostly because the first three days were somewhat cold and rainy.

I was single. And surprisingly restless after a 6+ hour car ride back to the ‘burgh.

So I donned the only clean clothes I had available (white pants and a navy and white tank) and went around the corner to the Lava Lounge on the South Side. It was the place where most of my friends could be found on any given night, plus I knew the bartender, plus they had live music that night.

Not that I ever got to the back to see the band.

As I was waiting to order a drink, some people of my acquaintance came in, including one guy I knew from Duquesne.

He was cute, and I was *extremely* single, and we got to talking.

“So,” he said at one point, “can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure,” I answered. “I’ll take a Maker’s Mark on the rocks.”

The look on his face was worth the price of admission. Simultaneously surprised and impressed. I think he was kind of expecting me to order a wine cooler. He didn’t know me very well back then.

We got married two years later.


For Christmas, Dan bought me a Maker’s Mark gift set, which included two square-bottomed cocktail glasses with the distinctive red “wax” enclosing the bottom and a booklet of cocktail recipes.

We’re not big liquor drinkers in general, tending more toward beer (microbrews and craft beers mostly) or wine (red, dry). But I took a little look through the booklet of cocktails, and we mixed up a couple over the New Year’s weekend.

(after dinner drink for two; serve in a brandy snifter)

3 parts Maker’s Mark
2 tbsp. powered sugar
6 tbsp. (or 1/3 cup) heavy cream
2 parts orange liquor (we used Cointreau)
nutmeg and twist of orange peel for garnish

Mix Maker’s Mark, powdered sugar, cream, and orange liquor together. Pour over crushed ice. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and garnish with orange peel twist.

This is a perfect cold winter drink. Dan and I shared one on New Year’s Eve while we snuggled on the couch and watched Super 8. It’s like a sophisticated egg nog.


The other cocktail we had was called The Pub. Dan’s favorite cocktail is a Moscow Mule, which is made with ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice, so we always have ginger beer around the house. (He also just likes ginger beer.) The Pub is made by pouring 1 1/2 parts of Maker’s Mark over cubed ice in a pint glass, and then filling the glass with ginger beer. Tasty and refreshing! We drank this before dinner on New Year’s Day.


What’s your favorite drink to share, and with whom?

Memory Lane: Getting Glasses

I raised my hand.

“Yes, Dawn?”

“I can’t see the board, Sister.”

“Okay. Why don’t you move up a couple of seats?”

And so it began.


I was always tall, and as a tall child, I was placed in the back of the classroom.

In first grade, this didn’t seem to be a problem.

In second grade, it was.


By the second month of school, I was sitting all the way in the front row, leaning over my desk. And still the letters on the chalkboard were blurred or simply not there.

Sister Rita Marie (God rest her soul) touched my shoulder one day.

“Dawn, you have to tell your parents you can’t see the chalkboard.”

This hadn’t occurred to me.


My parents did not wear glasses when I was a child. They had 20/20 (or so) vision until they reached their 40s.

So when I went home and said, “I can’t see the blackboard,” they responded the way Sister had the first time I had told her.

“Just ask your teacher to move you up a couple of seats.”

I remember a pause here, a kind of confusion in my mind. Maybe related to the fact that I thought my parents, much like God, were all-knowing and all-seeing.

“I’m already sitting all the way in the front,” I finally informed them.

They took me to the eye doctor.


I couldn’t tell you if I am near-sighted or far-sighted. I know, starting in second grade, I started wearing glasses. By the time I was in eighth grade, I couldn’t see without them. Still can’t. Everything beyond the end of my nose is beyond blurry. Without corrective lenses, the world is big blobs of color without detail, without feature.

It’s been this way since elementary school. If I could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of my physical being, I would give myself 20/20 vision. I would like to wake up in the morning and be able to see my bedside clock without squinting at it.


In eighth grade, I asked my parents, and then my eye doctor, for contact lenses.

My eye doctor told me that soft contact lenses wouldn’t correct my vision enough.

“However…,” he trailed off. “I don’t want to put you in hard lenses. You’re too young — they really aren’t healthy for the eye. But there are these new contact lenses out now. They’re still hard, but they let oxygen get to the eye.”

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses in 1985 — the year I was in eighth grade — were still fairly new.

He was still hesitant. When my mother pressed him about his concerns, he was honest. “These lenses require a lot of care, and take some time getting used to. I’m not sure she (meaning me) is mature enough.”

My mother reassured him. “Dawn is very responsible for her age,” she said. “If she wants to try them, I think we should do it.”

I’m kind of proud that my mom was confident enough in me to let me make the decision to get RGP lenses.


I wore RGP lenses until I was 36 weeks pregnant with Michael. They had taken some getting used to — the first week or so it felt like I had a piece of glass in my eye. For all intents and purposes, I DID have a piece of glass in my eye (actually a disk made up of gas-permable polymers). Through the years, my prescription has changed very little, and I’ve had about four or five pairs of the lenses — they are remarkably durable, much moreso than soft contacts.

Then something changed, and my eyes haven’t recovered. Some combination of pregnancy and allergies (and possibly age) have made RGP lenses untenable. I went to soft lenses, but even those, lately, aren’t working.

I miss wearing contacts. They afford a certain amount of freedom, especially when it comes to outdoor activities and swimming. I miss sunglasses — a lot! I miss peripheral vision. It’s really not about appearance for me, not as much as convenience. I look pretty cute in glasses. And I could really do without perpetual itchy eyes; I forget to put in my eyedrops about as often as I remember.

I’ll take a pair of lenses to North Carolina, along with saline solution. Maybe my allergies will subside enough for me to wear them. If not, I guess I’ll be the woman in the orange dress wearing purple glasses in the wedding pictures.

If you could change something about your body unrelated to appearance, what would it be?

Memory Lane: Nevermind

A co-worker walked up to my desk.

“Kurt Cobain killed himself,” she said.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “Right.” She looked uncertain.

This was a rumor that had been circulating for a couple of years at this point. That Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, who struggled so publicly with heroin addiction, fame, his wife and fellow addict Courtney Love, and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, had committed suicide.

My co-worker looked doubtful. “They’re saying they found his body. He shot himself.”

“‘They’ve’ been saying that for, like, the past two years,” I responded.

It was April 8, 2004.


I came late to Nirvana. Like, say, summer of 1992 late.

After my Pearl Jam revelation, I made my way through Seattle-area grunge: Screaming Trees (lead singer of which, Mark Lanegan, was clearly Vedder’s voice coach), Soundgarden, Alice and Chains, and so on.

Why yes, I was a sunny, happy post college graduate. (Not.) Why do you ask?

Although Nirvana’s single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had caught my ear, it wasn’t until I saw the video with the tattooed cheerleaders that I decided to pick up the CD. I distinctly remember hoping that it wasn’t just that one song.

To this day, Nevermind resides in my top five albums of all time.


I know Pearl Jam and Nirvana were lumped together in the “grunge” music category. Out of the necessity that we have for labeling and categorization. I tend toward seeing their differences, though, especially these many years later.

Pearl Jam had a dark romance to them. Nirvana were nihilists.

Pearl Jam’s music was tightly focused, driven, while Nirvana’s hovered at the near edge of chaos.

Both bands knew their music history — they truly sensed their roots. PJ were rooted in Neil Young and other ’70s-era bands, plus the Ramones; for Nirvana, it was classic rock, and punk and alternative rock forerunners (The Stooges, Pixies). While both groups seemingly struggled with their sudden fame, where Pearl Jam and especially Vedder learned to channel and use the spotlight, Cobain simply turned into a deer in the headlights. Then imploded.

Pearl Jam went from angst to activism; Nirvana, although they made an amazing third album (In Utero) (counting Bleach as their first) and an amazing MTV Unplugged episode, didn’t go farther than 1994.


Once upon a time, WYEP had a Friday night show that focused on very new music, a lot less Joni Mitchell and a lot more… well, at that time, Nirvana. An acquaintance of mine, Don, was the DJ.

And when, that evening on the air, Don announced Kurt Cobain’s body was found, I believed him. Don’s voice was hushed, serious, that of a fan already mourning a dead star.

I called him.

“Are you okay?” I blurted.

We talked for a while before he had to get back to DJ’ing. I told him about what my co-worker had said earlier in the day. “I didn’t believe her,” I said.

“I don’t blame you for not believing her. Cobain would be dead a hundred times over if every rumor of his death were true.” He went back to his shift.

I went to the bar.


I’m not proud of this, but when Don announced Cobain’s death, the first thought that went through my head was, “Now I’ll never get to see Nirvana live!”

My second thought was for his baby girl.


Although I never bought into the idea of Kurt Cobain as “the voice of a generation”, it’s not as if he didn’t have anything to say. He was an artist of his era trying to capture, if nothing else, his own intense experience. He was troubled, plagued by chronic pain, tortured by his fame, and, ultimately, not strong enough to take on the weight of his own world. But Nevermind — along with Ten — launched a thousand alternative rock ships.

And if I can be nothing else, I can be grateful for that.