October Surprise?

It's my 55th birthday, and all I got was a (potentially dubious) late night announcement from POTUS.

I always have a hard time sleeping the night before my birthday (which is technically part of my birthday.) No matter how old I get, each year on October 2nd I’m overcome with kid-waiting-up-for-Santa energy, and then wired the whole day.

Of course 2020 would bring this up several notches. I awoke at 4:30 a.m. and reached for my iPad, where I learned that POTUS and FLOTUS have tested positive for Covid-19. Or, he says they did.

I deserve some kind of Wife of the Year award for not waking Brian. (Until I got up extra loudly to pee at 7:15, after I was given the go-ahead by another Libra’s much less patient husband.)

So…RBG’s revenge from the grave? The Universe’s birthday present to me? Is it a Trojan horse? A politically motivated lie — the proverbial October surprise?

In any case, if you were considering getting me a present, save your money and instead please join me in working to vote that monster out, and to flip the Senate, so we can begin to move away from the ridiculous level of danger we are now in. Maybe take part in some text-banking to register Democrats in swing states, like I did last night. Do something, anything.

But if you absolutely insist on parting with some cash on my behalf (*of course after you’ve donated to Democratic senate candidates, and contributed to Black Lives Matter and protester bail funds, and local mutual aid efforts)…

…please consider pre-ordering the updated edition of Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving & Leaving NY that I have been working on. It comes out April 6th, 2021 (assuming the planet hasn’t exploded by then 😀) and includes additional essays by Leslie Jamison, Emily Raboteau, Ada Limón, Lisa Ko, Rosie Schaap, Danielle A. Jackson, and Carolita Johnson.


Anyway, happy birthday to me. I took the occasion as an excuse to order myself a cute pair of clogs (even though I swore I was done buying clogs) in a somewhat juvenile style I have lusted after since Rayna Schwartz showed up in similar looking shoes to my fifth birthday party. They haven’t arrived yet, but they will look like this:

As I’ve established in this newsletter before, I’m kind of a birthday slut. Even in my mid-50s I can’t handle not celebrating, not telling people. There are likely toddlers who are less exuberant about their birthdays than I am.

There was no way I was going to let this, my (first?) pandemic birthday, pass by unceremoniously. The world is so depressing, scary, and lonely right now. This is not the time for false stoicism.

Most years I throw myself an average of three parties. (No, really, I’m a birthday beast.) Last weekend was party #1, a “pizza formal” for which Brian and I and a tiny group of friends got all dressed up to eat pizza and pre-packaged gluten-free cake from the supermarket in my back yard, socially distanced, around the fire pit.

Putting on a little black dress, makeup, shoulder-duster earrings, lace stockings, and one of my fancier pairs of clogs was even more uplifting than I could have predicted. I felt like a civilized human for the first time in months. It was also, predictably, nice to be surrounded by friends.

Tonight if the rain stops I will go out for an (outdoor) dinner at a restaurant with just Brian, and tomorrow we will meet my Long Island family in the city. (Then, I will put an end to the birthday festivities like a grownup and get on with my life. 😂)


I tend to also get a little witchy around my birthday (despite being a fairly skeptical, agnostic Jew), setting intentions over candles, asking the Universe for this and that with the help of flying wish paper. Just in case, you know?

This year I’m going to float a wish here. I’m putting this out into the Universe (and the Substack-verse, in case any of you hear of anything) — for, like, April 2021:

✨💫🌟 After the 3/15/21 deadline for my book, I'd like to be on staff somewhere again, editing personal essays. (I really miss being part of a team.) Maybe it’s an already existing publication…? Maybe it’s…creating my own thing, where I edit and publish essays…? Maybe it’s starting an anthology imprint at a publishing house…?

I think about this every day, because I receive SO many unsolicited pitches for personal essays, and can take very few for outlets I freelance for. I’m getting like 10 a week, from great writers, with great ideas, and/or complete pieces, and I hate that I can’t do anything with them.

Universe (and Substack-verse), what I’m requesting is for you to hook me up roughly six months from now. (*Although, I’m open to this happening earlier than April, if it’s the right opportunity. I’d just have to hustle harder on the book.) (Okay, but maybe don’t listen to me about that last bit, because I have a very hard time putting boundaries around my writing time, and so maybe I should wait until April after all…?) ✨💫🌟


Speaking of places I freelance for, the first piece I’ve edited for Catapult, by the wonderful Hope Wabuke, was published this week.

I’ve also been enjoying editing short-form essays for The Uplift, a series published by The Guardian. So far there have been pieces by Laura Lippman, Carolita Johnson, Jen Doll, s.e. smith, Fiza Pirani, Sejal Shah, Ryan Chapman, Julie Klam, Jennifer Pastiloff, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Mártir, Minda Honey, Morgan Jerkins, and Laurie Penny. Coming soon to the series: essays by Terese Marie Mailhot, Alice Driver, Jonny Diamond, and Michael Musto.


Clearly I am very fortunate to have the opportunities I do! The Universe and the lit world have really shown up for me since I left my last job, and I am very grateful. I hope that going forward I can continue to prove myself worthy of this work, and get to keep doing more of it.