Old Habits Die Hard

Shiny silver disco ball

Flashing lights once meant a long night. Dancing, drinking, and maybe waking up somewhere other than your own bedroom.

Ambulance with lights on

Lights in the Parking Lot

Flashing lights accompanied by the wail of sirens now means there’s an ambulance in the parking lot. The dance may be that person’s last. Drinking may mean through a straw, or intravenously, and it is certain the person will be waking up somewhere other than their own bedroom, but romance won’t be part of the evening.

apartment building hallway

Home is Where The Heart Is

The immaculate hallways of the building I live in smell like other tenant’s dinners, and the wafting aromas of familiarity. Floor after floor, and hundreds of apartments deeply embedded with the scent of life that hasn’t changed much for years, maybe decades. I am among the handful of people under the age of sixty that live in these small apartments.

Jill Slaughter's maternal grandmother

My Grandmother

Every time I come home my memory reverberates with the same kinds of smells that saturated the hallways of the apartment building my grandmother lived in. On the day she moved in her plastic covered furniture was strategically placed, and for more than two decades it remained exactly as it was on the first day she lived there. Not a single thing ever changed.

The men and women that live in my building know they’re old. But they act much the same as they did when their lives were busied by the whirlwind of raising families and living with a spouse. There are the very social groups that linger in the lobby to gossip and exchange information, and once burly, but tender-hearted men whose physiques have been deflated by time that still bellow orders. My lighthearted neighbors, although unknown to me by name always ask me how I am. The lonely ones invite me stop by anytime for coffee, and remind me that if I ever need anything their doors are always open. There are fashionistas whose clothes are decades old and frail neighbors that need help and care from others.

I stay mostly to myself, but am a witness to the inevitable. I live alone, and am somehow all these people. Wondering sometimes if I will become the woman whose furniture will stay exactly where it is forever.  I’ve worn some of my clothes for decades and question, when do clothes stop being classic, and start looking old and dated. My size hasn’t changed for years, allowing me to wear clothes I bought in my twenties, but that doesn’t stop me from asking myself if I am too old to wear something.

Jill with her arm around painter Josafat Miranda

Jill and painter Josafat Miranda

Collecting social security can begin as early as age sixty-two. Peter Frampton is sixty-two. But when I hear “Baby, I Love Your Way” it’s 1976, and I’m twenty again, finding it almost impossible to believe that Mr. Frampton has grown children and is bald.

singer Peter Frampton as a young man

Peter Frampton

singer Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full retirement benefits kick in at age sixty-six. Mick Jagger could have started three years ago. How can that be? And if one chose to postpone retirement and wait to take late retirement, benefits would begin at age seventy. Bob Dylan would have been collecting his check for one year now.

Who ever thought of age when we weren’t aging? At age fourteen I looked nineteen, at age thirty I looked like I was in my early twenties, and now most people don’t think that I’m in my mid-fifties. Not looking my age has always been beneficial to me. Whether I looked younger or older I know what’s coming. Aging happens one day at a time, to everyone.

Jill standing in front of painting by Bad Panda and Ernesto Kunde

Jill standing in front of painting by Bad Panda and Ernesto Kunde

A relationship that endures over time must make the aging process must seem gradual. I wouldn’t have noticed my husband getting older, nor he me because we would have been doing it together. But now I can’t disguise the physical things that are changing. I’m hopeful that my physical appearance will become the thing that least makes someone attracted to me.

The men I’ve dated have mostly been older than me, but now dating someone older could mean old. I’m not bothered by this; just surprised that time has passed so quickly. There is a couple in my building that still goes by the moniker “the newlyweds.” They have been married for a few years. She was eighty, he was eighty-four. Too old? There is never a too old.

With admitted judgment, and some sadness I noticed that the title of Madonna’s new CD still refers to her as a girl. It doesn’t seem as if the material girl has embraced becoming a woman. The transition is  something to be honored. I want to be a woman who ages gracefully. Someone who eases into feeling comfortable with their mistakes and missteps, someone who’s proud of their accomplishments. A woman who smiles on the inside knowing she has done her best to make her  life, and the life of those she loves the best it could have been.

And so while I continue to prefer to date older men I would still say no thank you to the octogenarian who forgot to put in his teeth before leaving his apartment. He invited me to dinner, and asked if I would like to go dancing afterward. I think he knew I would say no, but that didn’t stop him from asking me, telling me that he still had moves. He said I should go because despite the difference in our ages he was really very kind. That kind of man is ageless.

resident parking space sign

My Space

The parking lot was deserted when I came home one night at about ten o’clock. I was taking some things out of my car and heard the sound of boys laughing. Kids don’t live in my complex so I wondered where the sounds were coming from. I turned the corner and saw six or seven young guys sitting by the vending machines. Their bikes had been thrown to the ground all around them. They were laughing, drinking soda, and eating candy. It was Spring break. We started talking. It seemed kind of late for them to be out by themselves, and I asked them how old they were.

Some were twelve, one or two were eleven and one boy was nine. One of the boys asked me why I lived in the building. Saying “I thought you had to be old to live here.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to answer him. And then he said “excuse me I got to take this, it’s my girl on the phone.” His girl… he’s twelve. He was very tall, very handsome, and could have easily been mistaken for someone much older. When his call finished he had a big smile on his face. He said “yeah that was my girl. I like older women, she’s sixteen.” Sixteen, older woman… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Old Habits Die Hard – Mick Jagger http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=W8fUHD0_aAA

The work of Josafat Miranda http://www.flickr.com/photos/josafat-miranda/

The work of Bad Panda http://www.vinceherrera.com

The work of Ernesto Kunde http://www.kundeart.com

For submission guidelines to write Raw please contact me at jill@rawcandor.com

My dad called me and asked if I would like to post something he wrote on Raw. We had no idea we were each writing about similar feelings.  Below is his piece.

FROM THE DESK OF CARL SHECHTER 

Jill's father Commissioner Carl Shechter

My father, Commissioner Carl Shechter

From 60 to 70, I played golf with “Club 20”. We were 20 guys who played together and rotated through 5 foursomes. Everybody got a chance to play with everyone else. In those days I hit about 220 yards off the tee.

Then from 70 to 80, I played with “Club 12”. Most of the time, we had 12 guys available. Sometime during that decade, one of our guys said, “I’m moving down from the green tees to the black”. We called him a wimp, but within the year, we were all playing from the black. In that decade I drove about 200 yards off the tee.

Then from 80 until today (halfway between 80 and 90), I play with Club 4. Some days Club 3, because one of us has a bad back, bad knee, bad shoulder or a doctor’s appointment. The same guy who said he was moving from the green tees to the black tees announced that he was now moving from the black tees to the silver. He expected, and got, the same derision as before, but within 6 months, we were all playing from the silver and enjoying it. Now, when I hit a “long” drive, it’s about 170 yards.

It’s more than a game. We were (and still are) competitive. From Club 20 to Club 4 we always played to win; but there are no winners. Whatever we “win” goes on the table for lunch.

That’s part of our game. Playing together for more than 20 years and having lunch afterward is one of the pleasures of playing. Being with my friends, talking about everything; children, grandchildren, politics, sports, doctors and anything that’s current and interesting is why golf is such a wonderful game.

My ability as a golfer has gradually diminished, but my love for the game and for my friends has never waned.

I look forward to the next decade and we’ll probably move to the gold tees.  I’m good with that, as long as my friends are there to with me on the first tee.

Runs in My Blood – Lauren Walter-Rozells

Lauren shares an apartment with my daughter J.Lucy in Eugene Oregon . They are perfect room mates. Dedicated to each other’s well-being and happiness, respectful of each other’s privacy. Packages of snack cakes, socks and various sundries I send my daughter always include something for Lauren. Lauren and J.Lucy are about to leave Oregon to launch the post college phase of their lives. They will be leaving school, but taking their deep abiding friendship with them.

Jill

www.youtube.com

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA by my single mother, a photographer. My father was trained in drumming by the famous Buddy Rich beginning at a young age, and later became talented at both the guitar and singing. Musical talent runs strongly in my blood on that side of my family. At the age of 6, I began piano lessons. Immediately discovering my ability to play by ear, I put my teachers under the impression that I knew how to read music. I began playing guitar, singing, and songwriting at age 13. During my first two years of college, at University of Oregon, I played keyboard and sang in a rock and roll garage band. Most recently, I studied guitar, singing, and piano in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 5 months. I now perform as a solo artist at local venues around Eugene. I was accepted into a prestigious music program in Los Angeles, and turned down the offer to work at a record label and pursue a music career with the tools I already have. My musical inspirations include Jack White, Karen O., Neil Young, Charlotte Gainsborough, The Black Keys and Adele.

There are two concepts, which guide my music-making process: accepting imperfections, and continually breaking down personal and societal boundaries. Asking for and accepting help is a skill that I have had to develop throughout my life because I have always been attracted to the idea of independence. While independence is vital to making decisions regarding my art, it is also important to have the humility to learn from others. By making consistent effort to stay open to constructive criticism, new ideas can percolate my shield of independence. Personal experience shows that vulnerability and imperfection are catalysts for growth. Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen says, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” In gaining acceptance around imperfection, it has come to play a quintessential role in my songwriting and performing.

A boundary represents that which prevents someone from growth. My experience shows that these boundaries, most often, take the form of fear. I strive to push myself through self-created boundaries. The result of continuing to challenge myself has been an immense rise in my self-esteem. When faced with decisions, in the medium of music, and life, I choose the path with unexplored territory (usually the one I am most scared of) because it always leads to growth. The first of these experiences were uncomfortable, however, I can see now that they created a blueprint for having the faith in myself to accomplish my goals. Upon moving back to Los Angeles, I will lead a rock and roll/ blues band, and dedicate my time to the music studio, so as to continue my work as a songwriter. Eventually, I plan to open a small record label.

www.laurenwalterrozells.com

Lauren playing keyboard

Lauren Walter-Rozells

Lauren sitting outside

Lauren Walter-Rozells

J.Lucy in her kitchen

J.Lucy at home

Is There Something You Didn’t Want to Talk About When You Were Growing Up – Sybil McCarthy Hadfield


Sybil is one of the women that stood in front of me to protect me, and stood behind me to have my back. This is just a small part of her story. I love her.

Jill



Sybil with a smile standing in a crowd

Always smiling


I found out my dad was gay when I saw book on his bureau that was called Men Loving Men.I remember it had a black and white silhouette picture of two men embracing and a brown border.
It was 1973.
I was 8.
I didn’t tell anyone outside of my family until I was 16.
That is a long secret.
And something that i didn’t want to talk about.
When you keep a secret, it defines who you are.
It defines who you think you are.
And until you share the secret, you won’t know what you might discover about yourself.
I’m here to tell you, it’s time to share your secrets.
Because until you do, you won’t know who you are, who your friends are or who you might become.
We are all here to walk a path that is laid for us, this I believe.
Keeping secrets stops our steps on this path.
Until you share your secret, until you talk about the thing you didn’t want to talk about when you were a child…you won’t really know why you thought the keeping of the secret was so important.
Sharing a secret puts you on a new path, it gives you new shoes, and re-soles your soul.
Do it.

13 years after that book finding, I awoke from another dream.
Life, I have found, is a series of awakenings.
Some of us enter fully orbed, with a knowledge of why we are here (I consider those people very very lucky) more often, we human beings slowly awaken.
At 21, I awoke from yet another dream of denial and fear.
Because of my father’s secret sexuality, I had always relied on my mother to be my “healthy role model” for sexual and intimate relationships.
I was sleepwalking for 13 years.
I noticed my mother was spending a lot of time with another woman, who was, shall we say, rather dominating. The unkind word is “bull-dyke”–or whatever that means.
And it became apparent to me, that they weren’t just chewing bubble gum together, they were lovers, and they were living together.
Boom… as Tennessee Willams says: “

It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that’s how it struck the world for me.

And that is how it was…a blinding light.
Who was I? Who was she? Was she disgusting? Was something wrong with me as a result?
I carried the burden across thousands of miles, trekking around Europe, through turnstiles of men, seeking a home in foreign counties and looking for the answer.
I found none. It just was. It didn’t change her, or me, or how she loved me as my mother.
It only changed the way I saw it.
And vision, I have found, is an illusion. How we see things can always be altered by taking two steps to the right, or a step backward. Look up close at a Monet, it’s a blotted mess, take 10 steps backward, and it is a masterpiece.
So, in my search: What I did find out is this: Tell your secret. If you already know it’s a secret, you are that much down the road. If you don’t know it’s a secret, your soul will soon reveal it to you, and you will be nudged until you do open the door.

Open it.


___________________
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear-
I will choose Free Will.
RUSH, “Free Will”
To write Raw please contact me at jill@rawcandor.

…This Is Only A Test

Acrylic on Canvas 2 monkeys

Dudes-Rafael Espitia

There was nothing to cushion the blow when I slammed into a bank of hand-crafted wooden cabinets in his kitchen. Wrapped in bandages, attached to a pump which incrementally dripped medication to alleviate the pain caused by my surgery, the man I was involved with for more than two years grabbed me and threw me across the room. His grip was as fierce as an adolescent dog which refuses to release a child’s stuffed toy from its saliva dripping mouth.

man in red devil mask

Masked Man

It was two o’clock in the morning. Unable to drive, and too embarrassed to call anyone I slowly and silently crawled into the bedroom, locked the door, and waited for daylight before calling a friend to come get me. The woman I called was the same person that introduced us. Believing wholeheartedly that  our common interests and similar tastes would suppress his temper, she hoped I would bring out the best in him. Nothing could or would do that. Nothing could squelch his rage. He had done this before to another woman. Nothing could make him happy, least of all me.

turtle inside its shell

Safe Inside

I wasn’t able to care for myself.  After a day or two on my friends couch her live-in boyfriend demanded his privacy. He and the man whose house I fled were good friends. She drove me home and stayed with me, and made sure I was comfortable. She insisted I call if I needed anything, anytime. I slept on my own couch for days.

Woman sticking her hair onto a mirror with tape

Hold On

It was dark in my living room, with only a blue-white light from the television casting a faint glow, and only voices from the TV to puncture the silence. The women that loved me came to care for me daily. They brought me food. Peeled oranges for me and made sure I ate every day. They washed my hair, and my body. They sat and listened to my silence. They cried when I cried. They drove me to my surgeon’s office to check the progress of my healing, and they took me to physical therapy. But I was alone at night, and I was alone in my broken heart. His anger, and subsequent violence leached the comfort from my soul. I was drowning in shame and despair.

black image on white target with one bullet hole

Not A Moving Target

Women just like me, and women that I had nothing in common with became the people who inspired me to change my life. The location of the support group was kept secret, and we only used our first names. For the first three or four meetings I wore a hat pulled down to cover my face, and never looked up or spoke. A sweater draped over my cast, and I wore large dark sunglasses inside at night.

used college text books and index cards

The Index

Seated around six laminated wood tables that formed a large rectangle twenty or so women took turns speaking. When it was my turn I could only cry. Other women did the same. Eventually thinking, and re-thinking about my broken down life was exhausting. I wasn’t strong enough to work, but I could drive with one hand, and I could listen. I became a student at a local college, taking all the courses not  offered to me during my art school education.

white letters on black background saying "Don't Take It Personally"

Mean It

In each of my classes the other students asked me if I was the teacher. Old enough to be the mother of every student, I was even sometimes old enough to be the parent of some of my professors. My injury prevented me from writing. As a disabled student I was given a note taker for every class.

Biology, English, Math, and Speech. If I was awake I was studying. Math required going to the math lab to be tutored, and biology would have seemed completely incomprehensible if not for my study partners. I rehearsed my speeches countless times before standing at the front of the class to orate. I killed it in English. My professor asked me to become a tutor. I won a scholarship for writing, and my advisor encouraged me to transfer to UCLA or USC.

female figures on trophies

Finish Line

There were no tests in art school. But I had been a good student in high school, and I remembered how to study. I absorb facts through through the act of physically writing. As I got stronger I was able to write what I needed to know, what needed to be regurgitated to pass a test. First I read, next I write everything on index cards – longhand. I underline. I memorize. I highlight. Different colors indicate different categories and subcategories. I excelled. I achieved a  4.0 GPA. I know how to take a test. And damn the ladies around the secret table were so proud of me.

Man Tailored

Don't Hang On Me

Several months ago I got a call from a man I had met only briefly at an event. Shortly thereafter he called to ask if I would be interested in being part of a project he was developing. “Send me an email with the details.” I never received that email, but there were more calls. His hello became more familiar. I became suspicious of his invitation.

Jill's foot in heels standing next to a stuffed pig

Toe to Tail

Recently my phone began to ring. Repeatedly. Continually, almost constantly for days. Each time the conversation was aborted. Sometimes his voice was barely audible, and I asked him to speak louder, but then a click and silence. Multiple calls would begin again the next day, and continue into the night, with only minutes separating what became an unwanted intrusion.

Jill Slaughter standing against a wall

Stand Up

I stopped answering the calls. He left a message telling me that it had been a test. He was testing me, in his estimation I had passed. He would now let me in. I would have the privilege of being included in his world.

Jill standing with arms out

Just Like Helen Reddy...I Am Woman

I played his message twice. Disbelief. Utter disbelief. Sadness that a man like this was attracted to me. A man only thinking of himself. A man who wanted control. Not anymore. Not ever again. We ran into each other recently. I made it emphatically clear to him in the instant that he lightheartedly greeted me –  “DON’T TEST ME.” I’m sure he’ll never call me again. I’m free.

Champagne in orange box

My Favorite

Women In Distress | Broward County, providing victims of domestic 

http://www,womenindistress.org/

To write Raw please send submissions to jill@rawcandor.com. I invite you to share an experience which echoes in your heart. 1000 words or less, 3-4 j-pegs of images that relate to the post. Include an image of yourself.


Create Like a God, Command Like a King, Work Like a Slave – Sexton Garcia

a white round light in a black sky

A Bright Spot

She uses her high society influence to mold a new reality for the once farm boy. She shakes the proverbial mud from his boots and sends him off to medical school. As society would dictate, they marry and spend the next 4 decades playing house. The next logical step in a disastrous domestic path is to of course, manifest the angst in the form a child. Fast forward a few years. ADHD, attention deficit in high-definition! My life seems to be a blur of landscapes, after school activities, after school detention and music lessons.

Portrait of Sexton Garcia

Mr.Sexton Garcia

My fondest memories are at the mall, where clothing and records became the objects of an ongoing obsession. To this day it’s where I disconnect, quiet my mind and find my center. The other place that warms my heart is the beauty parlor. That’s the place where I’d spend countless hours with my mother. Lots of happy, husband bashing, Valium loving women trading gossip while venerating their vanity. The depth of my shallowness was now properly quarried. On certain Saturdays I’d do “rounds”. Good times at the hospital visiting the infirmed. My father was a doctor when doctors were still as relevant and revered as celebrities, and my father was a celebrity. Dash and debonair with a sinister conspiratorial view. He was a man of great charisma and charm; he cultured and prepped me for life as a demigod, a salesman and a great persuader. He taught me to embrace the new world order for it was the path of inevitability.

Sexton Garcia surrounded by costumed man and two women

The Thread Master

My life as I viewed it seemed perfect. I was raised with a silver spoon in my mouth. Plenty of politics, mounds of money, tons of toys and I swear I was hugged too much. I attended an upscale Southern Baptist school where and when child abuse was considered discipline and an ideal way to drive out the demons. Tied up, locked in dark closets and beat with wooden paddles is how I prefer my studies.

Needless to say I quickly developed resentment for educators, religion and just the whole system of authority in general. Rebellion became my response and the harder they pressed the harder I fought back. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were good people but they were so wrapped up in their reality that actual reality seemed to pass them by. Like the true bourgeois they just threw money at it all. I was left to the devices of those who “knew better”. I waged battle with the deafening roar of my own brain as it did battle with god’s messengers. I was on Ritalin, I lacked responsibility, I was hyperactive, I had no direction and I had an I.Q. of 124. Only one option…

floating pieces of white matter in a jar

The Depth of Shallowness

Sex, Drugs & Rock n Roll! The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To discover oneself is to find true freedom and in that freedom lies the responsibility for one’s own actions. After a few semesters of college I came to the realization that I was not to follow in my father’s footsteps but rather I would create, I would rebel and I would sow my wild oats. As a result of my extensive music research and by research I mean hunched over the stereo pouring over album after album and devouring them with the same veracity an addict would slump over a spoon and needle. Music was my shelter and fashion was my cover. I created music, I created wardrobes & I created a persona. I united my two passions and formed Cabbage & Jules a clothing store that pioneered fashion to Gainesville, Florida. It was rock n roll and it was haute couture. Business was good. So much so that I later opened a second store called The Body and Soul Culture, a 24 hour experience of music, fashion and nightlife. They were viciously consumed by the flames of excess.

Sexton Garcia and one of his young children

The Tie That Binds

I retreated to Miami but my defeat would not last long. I soon and unexpectedly fell in love. I married within a year and together we created two boys. Now my clan was assembled and I was well on my way to rebuilding my realm.

logo for Thread Nectar

Thread Nectar

Present day. I am owner and director of Thread Nectar, Inc. Purveyors of tasty garments with a mélange of the occult, political conspiracies, nautical flair and the soft underbelly of Miami. I am co-owner of Hi-Tech Floss a recording studio and production company currently working with internationally recognized artists. I also consult for and market companies who are looking to brand themselves and expand in a 21st century environment.

I am Sexton Garcia. I wear many hats and in them I keep ideas.

sextongarcia.com, threadnectar.com, facebook.com/threadnectar

ECLECTIC NETWORK MAGAZINE

There’s one place online for all things eclectic, Eclectic Network Magazine is the social sister blog of What’s Up Miami? Miami’s coolest online art magazine.Founded in 2007, Eclectic Network is a new-media company that aims to give exposure to established and emergent artists on the web with fresh interviews, profiles and photographs of art enthusiasts and friends who like to hang out with creative people that portray Miami as a truly multicultural city of the world.

Jill Slaughter at Next@19 Archive

Saturday March 17, 2012

Self-described as ‘always candid, always truthful,’ Jill Slaughter possesses all the complexities of a middle child; the entitlement of marrying into money; the weakness of having lost it all; the broken heartedness of losing a custody battle and the triumph of serenity earned by her persistent, never-ending crawl toward optimism.

The dark comedienne is also a painter and in 2011, was named one of the ‘Faces of the Arts of Broward County’. Her website, www.rawcandor.com, is a refreshingly personal window into Slaughter’s life challenges and triumphs.

Next@19th is located at 137 NE 19 Street, Miami FL 33132, on the campus of Temple Israel’s historic site in downtown Miami.

For more information please call 305.542.7732 or visit the website at www.nextat19th.org. Reading at 9PM A free event.

(Source: examiner.com)

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THE HIGH COST OF LUXURY


2 painted hearts at Tobacco Road Bar

Two Hearts

Dominick gave Sharon gifts. Peeps at Easter, chocolate hearts for Valentines Day, and on her birthday “gold” jewelry that turned her skin green. They were the kinds of presents girls got in elementary school. The boy I liked gave me my first cigarette. He skulked around the neighborhood. His straight blond bangs covered his boyishly handsome face, as he tried to be invisible from the adults which might suspect he was truant. On occasion he walked me home from school as I nattered on about the presents Sharon got. He never looked up, and never gave me any gifts.

Ballerina in a box

Spinning in Circles

When a boy gave you something in the fifth grade it meant he liked you. In my innocent confusion I began to wonder why my adolescent choice of a boyfriend was someone who never asked me what I liked, or what my interests were. And despite the focus being on him, I remained his girlfriend, and remained silent until the relationship faded away.

Wooden circular ceiling

Repeat Pattern

I knew I was questioning my choices, but I didn’t know who to ask about what I was thinking or doing, ergo no answers, just got older, and repeated the pattern. More of the same.

Two light fixtures

Illuminated

My teenage romance began at fourteen and lasted until I left for college. He was five years my senior, so kind and well-meaning, but he didn’t give our relationship much thought. He was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. I read literature, he read the liner notes of every Grateful Dead album, and we grew apart. We loved each other, and stayed friends until sadly he was killed in an accident in his thirties. My juvenile definition of love sometimes leached into how I wanted him to love me, and I would sometimes think about the presents Dominick gave Sharon. I don’t remember ever receiving any presents from him over the course of our four-year relationship.

Once loved boyfriend sitting on a chair with my dog

No Common Language

The next man in my life was brilliant. He knew things I would never know. Sometimes I didn’t understand a word he was saying. He was fluent in Fortran and Cobalt before most people knew what computers were. Hours would go by with him perched on a stool reading  and studying. He was introspective, quick-witted and gentle, but ultimately we were unable to find a common emotional language to give us a future together. I don’t remember him ever giving me any gifts.

Lights in a vase

Bright Lights, Big Love

Other men came and went. Same as it ever was, with the exception of an eruptive, all-encompassing relationship that left me broken-hearted in my early twenties. And then I met the man who became my husband.

Chandelier and potted orchid

Light Of My Life

Once we were sure we would go forward in life as a couple he gave me his pin number, back when ATM’s were equivalent to flying saucers. To a girl who had almost never been on the receiving end of tangible displays of affection, sharing that information was tantamount to an engagement ring.

Street Pavement

Looking Back

My doorman knew I had been crying. I had retraced my steps surrounding the four blocks I had walked but couldn’t find the earring. I asked my then husband’s assistant to interrupt him in the closed-door meeting. Sobbing I explained that one of the diamond earrings he had given me had fallen out. It was replaced.

Shattered Glass Pane

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

He gave me a car wrapped with a red ribbon, just like in a TV commercial. He gave me  jewelry, giant bouquets of exotic flowers, and luxury vacations, and when I asked for my own professional quality copy machine, he gave me that.

An exotic bouquet of flowers

It Looked Good

He gave me things, but I never felt like what I imagined Sharon felt like when Dominick gave her candy. I never felt loved.

Black Italian Boots

More Than My Rent

And then we divorced. I had grown accustomed to having and owning things without  thinking about how they would be paid for. I was able to shop just because I wanted to. Post marriage I bought what I needed, with only an occasional splurge. I bought a pair of boots that cost more than my rent when I still had spousal support. When that ended so too did those kinds of purchases.

I got a job. My salary was probably less than what we had once paid our live in nanny. Style isn’t contingent on how much something cost, but none the less I stopped shopping in stores where the bills had once been sent to our business manager to be paid.

A stuffed animal bride and groom

Stuffed Love

My former husband and I had agreed that I would be a stay at home mother, given that I had not worked in years. When I went back to work the rules had changed. One rule that doesn’t change however is that it is never okay to sexually harass employees. That was the situation I found myself in.

Stuffed Leopard with stuffed poodle in the background

Me Against Him

Hermes "H" belt and Hermes orange box

H is for Won't Back Down

I was up against a powerful, rich employer. We settled out of court. I spent a portion of my settlement in the Beverly Hills Hermes store and bought the signature “H” belt.

Scar on my right shoulder from surgery and my lips and chin

My Injury, My Watch

Several years later I had a workplace injury which resulted in a torn rotator cuff and surgery. I was awarded a settlement, and with a portion of that money I purchased a Tag Heuer watch. The watch was stolen from my gym locker.

Tag Heuer Watch box

Empty

Last year I dated, or more accurately re-dated someone I knew when I was much younger. He knew that my watch had been stolen and asked for the model number so that he could replace it. The watch he gave me was quite different. It was reflective of his taste, more so than mine. We talked about it. It wasn’t important that the watch was different. It was hurtful that he had not listened to me. As if what I said didn’t matter. He bought the watch he wanted me to wear, not the one I had already been wearing. The watch stopped working. In less time than it took me to type this sentence our family jeweler told me it wasn’t authentic.

Three ceiling lights

The Truth Is Bright

Sharon didn’t love Dominick any less for having received jewelry that turned her skin green. He gave it to her with the sincere desire to make her happy. It’s possible that the watch I received was given to me with that same intent. I was not happy though. Not because the watch wasn’t real, but because it was presented as if it was. But, I don’t want to be with a man who isn’t forthcoming with the truth in every circumstance.

Hand crafted wooden jewelry box with Jill Slaughter's 1960's metal flower pin collection

A Finely Crafted Box of Love

Handmade jewelry box

Made with Love

When I got divorced my children and I moved across the street from a man that fell in love with all of us. I was too enmeshed in the betrayal I felt in my marriage to be in love with someone else. But he loved me just exactly as I was, and gave me exceptionally beautiful gifts that he either made or bought. Things that I would have designed or chosen for myself. But I was too stupid, and too focused on our differences to let him love me. I broke his heart, and so regret that. His kindness though has given me something more valuable than any actual thing. He has left me believing that there are kind and honest men.

A small sign made by Jill Slaughter's daughter with a picture of a heart

Love by J.Lucy

I am hopeful that going forward in my life my luxury purchases won’t be the made possible by accidents, injuries or lawsuits. My ex-husband once said that I would be the one in our family to earn large sums of money because of my talent. That has not happened yet, but I look forward to the time when I’ll be able to buy something I want, and be able to buy things for my children just because I want to.

Painted tile saying I Love You by Jill Slaughter's youngest daughter

Hand Painted Love

I don’t need a relationship to qualify how loved I am anymore. I have been able to give that to myself.

Jill Slaughter in front of Ruben Ubiera mural

Standing Smile

Heart Painting taken Miami’s oldest bar – Tobacco Road http://tobacco-road.com/index.php

Grateful Dead – http://www.dead.net/

Tag Heuer – http://us.tagheuer.com/en/home

Hermes – http://www.hermes.com/index_us.html

Mural by Ruben Ubiera – http://www.facebook.com/RubenUbiera

I will be reading Raw live at Nextat19th on March 17th 9PM – This is a free event

http://nextat19th.org/

BECOMING BEAUTIFUL

3 dolls painted white

She, Me, Her

My sisters and I are Irish Triplets. Born to the same mother within three years of each other. We have a strong family resemblance. Big light-colored eyes, small noses, full lips. My paternal extended family shared these same beautiful features, and my mother is beautiful.

Jill and her sisters

All Of Us

Jill and her sister wearing dresses

Girls with Bangs

My sisters and I shared physical characteristics growing up, but we viewed the world differently. My older sister had buck teeth. My younger sister struggled with her weight, but unlike my sisters there was nothing about my physicality which caused me to question my self-worth. My deviance was valued. I was pretty.

Sibling rivalry isn’t uncommon when there is a two to four-year difference in age between children. My older sister was born two years before me, my younger sister thirteen months after. It seemed unfair that my sisters had to suffer because of how they looked. It seemed equally unfair to me that I couldn’t say I was suffering for exactly the same reason.

Raising children in the late1950’s, early ’60’s had more to do with discipline than praise. The phrase “good job” had not yet become the qualifying anthem for all behavior, short of killing a sibling. Staccato commands to action and phrases which included “You want to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about” were more common. Innocence and ignorance led the march for child rearing when I was growing up.

Because of her protruding front teeth, adults frequently suggested that my sister alter her appearance. Without intent it was mean. She was hurt, and angry, and was often mean to me. We were mean to each other.

My father's family

All Eyes

Jill as a baby

Baby Green Eyes

My middle daughter as a baby

Baby 2

Jill as a young adult

Big Eyes and That Face

Being different as a child is awful. No kid wants to stand out. Not even for something seemingly enviable. While I’m sure that each of my sisters stores their own painful memories of wishing they could have looked different, my incessant thoughts of wishing I were different have plagued me for almost  my entire life.

My younger sister and I shared a room. She slept peacefully in the bed three feet away from me, while I stayed awake night after night, year after year staring at the ceiling; wondering what I had done to cause the attention I was getting.

Girls were mostly unkind. Conversely, I asked myself what had I done to deserve the adoration heaped upon me by boys.

The older I got, the more attention I received, and became increasingly unsure of how to act, but it didn’t matter how I acted, people made assumptions about me. The undeserved attention made me believe that I was superior. I began to think that I deserved whatever I wanted. I began to believe that I looked better, and therefore was better.

glass slipper on a cushion

Does It Fit

I was the subject of unsolicited adoration and/or misplaced anger. Girls that didn’t know anything about me ignored me. Boys wanted my attention, my time, my affection. It was confusing, and I felt like I couldn’t’ tell anybody that it was hard to be pretty.

I was pretty, but began to think that I wasn’t pretty enough. I began to think that I wasn’t enough of anything. I was consumed by self-doubt, but that didn’t stop me from receiving constant attention.

White Painted Doll

Not Something Enough

My sister’s braces were removed and my other sister lost weight, but my face looked the same. As a young girl I began to absorb the inappropriate things people said to me about my looks. Compliments or advances, or spiteful innuendo. People that didn’t know me would approach me as if they could. And I didn’t know how to ask them not to.

Painted figure in shadow

Don't Want It

I wanted to  protect myself, but didn’t know how to, and didn’t know who to ask for help.

It seemed as if  there was no filter for who I let into my life, or who barged in. My introspection as self-preservation was often interpreted as being aloof and/or mean. And maybe sometimes I was, or am both of these things. Maybe I am.

family portrait of aunts and uncles

My Beautiful Mom with my Dad's Family

In my late teens I asked my mom why I had to be pretty. Telling her that I sometimes felt like I wanted to wear a paper bag over my head. The constant ping-pong of emotion that ricocheted off my brain, bouncing between, so glad I am, wish I weren’t pretty was exhausting. I was tired of being judged for what I looked like.

what it might be

Could Be

“ Being pretty is a gift”, my mom said. I didn’t feel that way.  The random linking of my DNA resulted in facial features that align with scientific research, indicating that high cheek bones, thin jawlines and large eyes (relative to the size of the face) conform with how we are hard-wired to recognize beauty.

Jill in Miami

On the Sideline

Jill's middle daughter age 7

Repeat Pattern

The “Golden Ratio” (defined as the mathematical formula based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, resulting in proportions closest to phi) cause some people to be considered more beautiful than others.

white candles

A White Formula

Was it possible that I was unlikable because my facial features met that formulaic criteria, or maybe I had become insufferable, and was just unlikable.

I didn’t have buck teeth, and I wasn’t overweight. I felt self-involved for being happy that I didn’t have these physical issues to cope with, but at the same time guilty that my frailties weren’t visible. I wanted to appreciate what I was given. But I didn’t. I vacillated  between feeling apologetic, or acting egoistic about my appearance.

black lace

Black and Flesh

Judging myself became the template by which I lived my life.

mannequin

Made of Clay

In the early 1980’s I was a mannequin make-up artist. I painted make-up on very expensive mannequins for the highly respected house DG Williams. It was not until I got the job that I became aware that mannequins (at this level of artistry) are either the images of actresses, entertainers or models.

mannequin face

A Perfect Face

My days were spent painting eyeballs of every color, lips, eyebrows, and as a final touch always lightly pouncing a large bristle brush across the nipples with a faint flesh color to make them appear “real.”  The Brooklyn factory was nondescript. Rows and rows of stunningly beautiful long-legged “women” stood on the factory floor waiting to be shipped to Neiman Marcus, Saks, Barneys and every other expensive store across the country.

amorphous shape of white

Perfect Shape

Toni, Virginia, Tamara and I painted hundreds of ladies (and an occasional male) weekly. We worked in a small room just off the factory floor. Toni talked about her hunky husband Lou and their boat on Staten Island. Virginia was our boss. She talked about cooking and new make-up designs. She had followed and created mannequin make-up trends for more than twenty years. Tamara didn’t talk.

I was hired by the owner, but almost never saw him. Virginia told me one day that he had seen me and thought I looked like a model they wanted to hire. Famous women would come to the factory to be sculpted, and within a matter of weeks their exact likeness would become a DG Williams mannequin. I too  became a mannequin.

2 of the same black faces

One Face Twice

Jill's foot in a black suede open toed shoe

Two Grays

Instead of hiring the model I resembled they gave me a box of jelly donuts and the afternoon off. Weeks later the “Jill” mannequin was on the floor. 8 x 10 glossy tear sheets were printed for publicity and were stacked in the studio where I could see them. My face was on that mannequin body. “Jill” was spray painted with flesh tones which included a peaches and cream kind of girl next door look, olive skin tones, much like the real me, and different shades of white, black, and brown. I painted myself with green eyes (which I actually have) and every other color.

The “Jill” mannequin wore black, brown, red and  blond wigs. Long hair, short, and high fashion bald looks all became “Jill.”. Arched eyebrows, not so arched eyebrows. Every possible permutation of myself was brought “to life.” My 5’4” body became 5’11”. My petite frame was transposed and I became perfect, with perfect measurements. “I” stood unclothed on the factory floor. Dozens of me. The guys that made “me” looked at the mannequin and then stared at me. It was creepy. I was jealous of myself. “Jill” was very popular in the south. After I became immortalized I didn’t work their much longer.

white empty chair

Not Anymore

Jill's daughter sitting in a chair reading

I've Seen That Face Before

I personally didn’t know what to do with my face and now there were hundreds of me. My face has once again been recreated.

My middle daughter

Big Eyes, Small Nose, Full Lips

Jill as a young woman

I Had This First

Jill's young daughter

One Little Face

One of my daughters looks very much like me.

Jill and her oldest daughter

Between Us

My children and I were separated when they were 8,10, and 12. We endured years apart and have journeyed through Parental Alienation. Defined as the programming or brainwashing by one parent to denigrate the other, coercing children into alienating one parent with the goal of proving that one parent is emotionally superior.

a single light fixture

Just a Shadow Left

My children and I never lived together again. They are now 17, 19 and 22. We are, and have been reunited for some time.

Jill in black

Sad With This Face

Sadly, children that physically resemble the absent parent internalize their grief. Trapped in this situation, the children often wish their appearance were different so the alienating parent will not be reminded of, and hate them for looking like the former spouse.

my daughter's hair

On Top

It is only recently that my daughter is willing to acknowledge our physical similarities. I worried that she would succumb to the same uncertainty about her looks that I had suffered because of mine. But my daughter is much more sure-footed than I ever was.

Jill and two or her daughters

The Eyes, The Nose, The Lips

My girls all have inherited the features I have described. As my family members that passed this gene pool on to me begin to die, I am honored and happy to look the way I do. To be the visual constant of my ancestors. I am privileged to be the mother of beautiful daughters.

Jill and oldest daughter

My Dearest J.Lucy

My joy comes from knowing that my girls see themselves as beautiful from the inside out.

Jill's oldest daughter

So Beautiful with Heart

Jill eating cake from a box

Let Them Eat Cake

Jill in first apartment

Still At It

My face looks much as it did when I was a teenager, a child, a baby. My heart and soul however look much different to me.

          PINK

“F__kin’ Perfect”

Made a wrong turn once or twice

Dug my way out, blood and fire

Bad decisions, that’s alright

Welcome to my silly life

Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood

Miss ‘No way, it’s all good’

It didn’t slow me down.

Mistaken, always second guessing

Underestimated, look I’m still around

Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel

Like you’re less than f__king perfect

Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel

Like you’re nothing, you’re f__king perfect to me

You’re so mean when you talk

About yourself. You were wrong.

Change the voices in your head

Make them like you instead.

So complicated,

Look happy, You’ll make it!

Filled with so much hatred

Such a tired game

It’s enough, I’ve done all I could think of

Chased down all my demons

I’ve seen you do the same

(Ohh ohhhhhhh)

Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel

Like you’re less than f__king perfect

Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel

Like you’re nothing, you’re f__king perfect to me

The whole world’s scared, so I swallow the fear

The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer

So cool in line and we try try try but we try too hard

And it’s a waste of my time.

Done looking for the critics, cause they’re everywhere

They don’t like my jeans, they don’t get my hair

Exchange ourselves and we do it all the time

Why do we do that, why do I do that (why do I do that)?

(Yeah!)

I’m Pretty, pretty, pretty

Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel

Like you’re less than f__king perfect

Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel

Like you’re nothing, you’re f__king perfect to me

(You’re perfect, you’re perfect)

Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel

Like you’re less than f__king perfect.

Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel

Like you’re nothing, you are perfect to me.

I didn’t tell my older sister  how I felt about being pretty until I wrote this piece. I wasn’t able to read it to her without crying. Her friendship is one of the most valued relationships I have as an adult. It took more than forty years for us to forgive each other.

Is there something you didn’t want to talk about when you were growing up. Would love to know your comments, or please consider writing Raw and share your story. Submit to jill@rawcandor.com

The Raw posts I write are my details, but could be anybody’s story.

Irish Triplets – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=irish%20triplets

Sibling Rivalry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibling_rivalry

DG Williams Mannequins http://www.flickr.com/photos/8512804@N02/sets/72157624921904221/

To read more about me and my girls and the story of our separation read Live Raw – https://rawcandor.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/live-raw/ 

I Want To Be Beautiful

Introduction  – Jill Slaughter

Maru volunteered at Heartcamp. She was not a speaker at the conference.  Our shared experiences were unpacked at the end of the day in an ordinary hotel meeting room. And then Maru stood and unleashed her unvarnished soul. The audience listened in stilled silence. Bravo.

Maru reading

Don't Let Her Size Fool You

So If Your Reading This – Maru Gonzalez

From the depths of my heart to the tip of my tongue, I reveal my soul, depict (my) reality and narrate stories as I personify my observations. I began writing at age 11 but with the wrong intent! There was a girl in class whom I disliked, and I decided to write a short poem/song about her. It would be my first piece. I never showed it to her, and fortunately, it was the only mean poem I have written… So Pam, if you’re reading this, remember that I was only 11!

On a serious note, I love different forms of expressions, be it through dance, theater, instrumentation, visual art (including photography) and of course writing. Through my poetry, I become conscious of my inadequacies. It’s almost like rediscovering myself; it’s an adventure in my mind. I started writing a poem about this the other day, about what inspires me to write. LOVE inspires me to write – love for all things in life. Knowing that there are people in this world who wish to express themselves yet haven’t tapped into their ability to do so impels me to open up my heart and be sincere about my dreams/fears, and where I’ve been/where I want to be. I’m motivated by personal and foreign emotions and experiences. Actually, sometimes to hear a random word will suffice to spark a chain of unrelated thoughts that then become a 4-minute piece.

At times I write with a specific intent but end with another; other times I am clueless as to where my mind is taking me, yet some how with every circumstance I am able to beautifully portray a story that isn’t necessarily mine. I am beginning to master the art of storytelling, and I love it! Especially when I perform such pieces with an undeniable passion, mesmerizing the audience and compelling them to wonder if I am the subject. Ultimately, to bestow consciousness through my work by way of exposing my soul is my goal.

a painted image of legs

Standing Tall

A single word or line is all it takes to plant a seed in the minds and hearts of a people, and if it takes me one poem everyday to achieve that, then I guess I will be writing until my carpal tunnel symptoms kick in and performing until my voice is only heard in my mind. “They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I know it dwells deep in the heart. That is why…

I want to be beautiful,

The kind of beautiful that needs not be polished.

I want to be acknowledged for my heart

As it travels through the souls of people,

knowing that I’ve left a mark.

flowers

Color On A Wall

To be identified as a wholesome being

Like purity from within and gentleness in my speech,

Healing to the spirit, and pleasing to the mind.

See, I want that kind of beauty where I can easily possess the power

To stimulate the goodness in others

The kind of beauty that leaves their minds in awe.

I want to walk into a room and be sensed through my aura,

Positive energy transmitted from one body to the other.

I want the kind of beauty that lost souls

Feel inclined to open up parts of them

To confide in me.

image of boxer painted on wood paner

Oil on Wood - Richard Kurtz

I want to reach those who weep,

Interact with those who crave,

Challenge those brave enough to leap into the deepest ocean

And mend those broken-hearted people with my contagious giggle.

Through my spoken word, I want to be beautiful,

To be a pure representation of love.

I want to be beautiful.

With a magnitude that reaches other women

Don’t get it twisted though,

I want those of my same gender to just admire my quality,

statue in a garden

Standing Still

To feel a sense of trust and inspiration after shaking my hand.

See, I want the kind of beauty that other women seek-

That at my mere presence

They wish to befriend me in hopes of attaining some of my essence-

white painted doll with one eye missing

In The Vacant Space

The kind of beauty that brings about true friendship

Loyalty and respect.

I want to become a positive influence among my sisters,

To lead by example yet remain humble in my ways,

And without the slightest hint of hearsay

I want to be spoken of with delicacy.

I want the kind of beauty

That connects with other women at every level,

In a way that my transparency is apparent and my intentions are clean.

I want the kind of beauty I see in the women I value,

To be construed as a woman of virtue

I want to be beautiful,

The kind of beautiful where I can easily sway a man

By my ways and not my waist.

So he can attempt to look at me from the corner of his eyes

To not lust on my figure but to figure ME out-

ethereal sculpture

In The Spaces

The kind of beautiful that speaks in volumes,

In a way that a man will bring up my name amongst other men

With disbelief that my kind exists,

Divulging only particular details about me

For fear that his friends will find me incredibly fascinating-

The kind of beautiful that transforms a man’s approach.

See, I’d like for a man to look forward to what I have to say

As opposed to wonder if we’ll have sex on the first date.

And I want to arouse a man’s audio senses with the tone of my voice,

To intrigue his mind with my choice in word play.

I want the kind of beauty that wont disperse,

Like that inner beauty that can penetrate through my pores

And dazzle a man even in his sleep.

I want a sweet splendor to seep through my soul

And transcend to unseen places,

To be in a man’s innermost thoughts and dreams

Which he keeps in secrecy.

Forever, I want to remain beautiful.

boxer with the words All I Want is Everything

Acrylic on Paper - Richard Kurtz

FB: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/IAmMaru/115916985181826

Twitter: @IamMaru7

It’s Never Black and White

black and white polka dot shirt

It's Black - It's White

Andrea Askowitz (one of the co-producers of Lipservice) heard me read Raw at a Miami venue, and suggested I submit a story for the upcoming show. It would showcase stories about “Culture Clash.” Interfaith, interracial true stories, out loud.

I told her I didn’t think I had anything to write about. On the way to my car I knew what I had, or more so, what had me. I wrote, edited, and rehearsed It’s Never Black and White. I spoke it until I knew it, until I felt it.

I had loved him for more than thirty years. By the time I stood on stage in front of a sold out audience of three hundred to read It’s Never Black and White I loved myself more.

smooth stones

I Am A Rock

My husband was white.  Jewish, a lawyer.  I was married to him for more than a decade.  We had three children together.  But before I married him, I was desperately in love with a different man. A black man.

White statue of a powerful animal figure

On A Pedestal

We had talked over the phone for months. I was producing a performance piece at a downtown space in Manhattan, and he was one of the artists. He had a beautiful voice.

We were professional until the instant we met. And then it was on. He was the first black man I had ever been attracted to.

Black tree drawn on white paper

Thomas Zipp - acrylic on canvas/mixed media on paper

He walked in and said, “So, you’re Jill.” “Yea, and you’re black. You didn’t sound black over the phone.” As soon as I spoke, I knew I sounded stupid and inexperienced. I was twenty-something from Brooklyn.

I sunk into him hard, and fast, and deep, and what would become forever.

He brushed his arm against my skin the first time we met and even though I’d spent months planning the exhibition, I kept the audience waiting. Wedged between paintings in the storeroom I kissed him because he told me to.

silver hand with a string attached

Pulled

He commanded my attention and dictated my behavior from then on. He was maddeningly smart and charming.  And unfaithful.

I knew about the other women.  We crossed the street many times to avoid a conversation with one or another of them.  Sometimes he would stop to talk. I was humiliated, but I always waited until he finished.

Love Hate written on the street

Love - HATE by NOBODY

He told me early on that his mother was white, and left him when he was really young.  Because of that, he hated white women. No doubt, he hated something about me, but I didn’t care.  I wanted to be whatever he wanted me to be.  I would have changed the color of my skin for him if I could have.

For more than two years we danced between exhilaration and explosion. I felt powerless over my attraction to him.  Maybe it was an addiction.

painting of exaggerated looking people

Work by Sergio Garcia

One night in my apartment, we were awakened by the phone. He had given another woman my number. I harnessed the last shred of self-respect I had, and told him to leave and to never come back.

So, even though I rehearsed telling my mom I would be marrying a black man, we never had that conversation.

black and white diamond pattern

Square-Diamond

Years after my divorce we ran into each other in a restaurant. I was with my three children to celebrate my daughter’s eleventh birthday.  His dreadlocks were gone, and he was bald.  The muscles that were chiseled decades earlier were softer, but he looked as beautiful to me as he had the first time I saw him. This time the surprise of seeing him had nothing to do with the color of his skin.

two rusty chains

Let Go

We met for lunch the next day. I didn’t know what to say, or how to tell him that I had loved him for all these years. But my body came to my defense, self-preservation, I suppose. I woke up with laryngitis, and couldn’t speak.

Eleven years later he sent me a Facebook friend request. I stopped breathing, and waited days to accept.

He came to town this year,and we had dinner. I was waiting at the bar when I felt his embrace from behind. I felt my heart pounding, and I could smell my own bitter sweat.  I was afraid I would want to kiss his mouth.

Jill in doorway

Then, Not Now

My voice cracked when I told him I regretted choosing him. He said I didn’t choose him, we had chosen each other. At our small table in the middle of a very crowded restaurant I cried, not because I wanted him back, but because I realized I was just like him.

He was trying to resolve his childhood pain with me.  Since falling in love with him so many years ago, I have attracted only mean, only selfish men.  I have repeated the same relationship with every man, black or white.

I’ve been trying to resolve the pain of my relationship with him for thirty-two years.

Being different colors was the obvious difference between us. But failed love is never black and white.

sequin skull

Done

Loving a black man wasn’t the problem.  Loving this man was.

Sergio Garcia – http://www.wix.com/newpaintings/sergiogarcia

Thomas Zipp – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Zipp

Royal Copenhagen – http://www.royalcopenhagen.us/shop/shop-browse/2/figurines

Iam Tmnk – http://www.menobodyknows.com/#/content/start/

Lipservice (reading It’s Never Black and White)

http://www.lipservicestories.com/?page_id=652

The Last Laugh

2 painted white dolls

Mommy

The girls came peeling down the hallway. It was the time of night that could have been morning. The house was moving and shaking. I comforted my two-year old and four-year old daughters, and protected my belly. Zazu was in there.

painted doll in profile looking at image of man in shadow

Baby 3

Things had shifted, but it wasn’t the earthquake that weakened our foundation, my marriage had deflated long before that thunderous moment. Could I be like Mary. Was immaculate conception actually possible. The four at home pregnancy tests I bought and took confirmed I was going to have another baby.

doll and painted portrait of a man

Going Home

The hospital was in still in disarray when I gave birth a couple of weeks later. Beds in the hallways. I asked my mother to close the blinds so that the painters perched on the scaffolding wouldn’t witness the birth of my third child. Hours later we went home. Zazu, my husband and me.

Zazu and I were cloistered in my bedroom for more than a week once I brought her home. My older girls were tenderly cared for by my mother and my beloved nanny. I sat quietly, almost motionless in a black leather reclining rocker, hour after hour, day after day. Zazu on my lap.

doll and dog

Ordinary Home

Our house was ordinary in that way a house with young children and a dog is. Noisy, busy. I didn’t want my baby to crash to earth. I wanted to give her a smooth transition, a peaceful introduction to her sisters, my husband, our life.

After many many days we emerged. We were intimate. I was her mother. She was my baby. I erased my schedule to give her my undivided attention. We were ready to re-join the fold.

Jill and baby Zazu

I'll Hold You

She found her place in the family. This baby was keenly observant and kinetic. Zazu would not be restrained. She would jump, and leap, and catapult herself from bookshelf to countertop in the blink of an eye. Her smile was illuminating. Her hearty giggle was unusual for such a young baby. But Zazu knew something we didn’t know. And I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I knew she saw herself. She knew (even as a baby) that she had conviction, and intention.

Zazu moved around our enormous house like a Saturday morning cartoon character whose movements are indicated by sharply drawn speed lines. The tranquil atmosphere I created for my baby in my bedroom when I brought her home was not her cup of tea. She is “Patty, I am “Cathy.” In spite of the difference in our velocity I wanted her to be happy. I wanted to be her good enough mother.

silver chain on the floor

You and Me Baby

Zazu was one when her father and I divorced. My daughter almost never used words. She did not speak. Doctors said she was normal. Zazu made a decision to keep her thoughts to herself. She would speak when she was ready.

little girl standing alone with shadow figure

Still with You

I lost custody of my children. I would not be the one to teach her how to become a woman.  Zazu was eight. I could not be there to tell her that to avoid getting wrinkles she must not  pull her eyelid when applying eyeliner.

eyeshadow kit

Eye Love Her

She may have left her house with labels on the bottom of her new shoe soles, because I wasn’t there to tell her to take them off. I was not there to let her know that it’s okay to pair inexpensive pieces with well made garments, but that it’s an axiom that shoes and purses  must be of the highest quality you can afford. I wouldn’t be the one to tell her to start using moisturizer and sunscreen at about twelve. And I didn’t teach her how to use a tampon.

I was not there to tell her to listen when people tell you who they are. I was not there to tell her not to listen when they manipulate that truth. I was not there to listen to her. I was not there.

empty nest

Gone

My child was gone, learning how to be a woman from other women.

zazu and mommy

Broken Hearted

two of Jill's daughters at dining table

At Home

Women I did not choose. Women I did not know. Women that weren’t me. But she didn’t forget me. I made an impression on my child before she was gone.

Jill preparing food

I'm Still Here

Jill looking in mirror

Don't Forget Me

Zazu and Dixie getting ready to go out
Getting Ready
Jill and two youngest daughters

Love, Love, Love

She is seventeen and getting ready to leave for college in the fall. What follows is Zazu’s admissions essay for Oberlin college.

Zazu walking on path covering face

Zazu on the Path

I come from a long line of people who wanted different mothers.  Upon entering my first dance class, I was brutally confronted with what the rest of my life would entail. While the other girls’ mothers were dressed in pinstriped business suits, my mother resembled something more similar to a Vogue magazine, circus edition. At the time, her outlandishness struck me as pure embarrassment. I had hoped for a mother who made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread and listened to The Beatles in her Volvo. Instead, mine packed tofu eggless-egg salad on whole wheat and blasted Bjork out of her Ford. However, as I grew, I began to appreciate my mother’s eccentricity.

At age seven she read me “The Big Orange Splot” by Daniel Pinkwater, the story of an ordinary man, challenged to be not be ordinary. Mr. Plumbean accidentally spills orange paint on the outside of  his average looking house, but instead of covering the splot, as requested by his neighbors, he transforms his home into a multicolored, majestic jungle, not unlike my mother did with her wacky outfits. Much like Mr. Plumbean, who proclaims, “[his] house is where [he] likes to be and it looks like all [his] dreams,” Oberlin is the house I hope to inhabit.

children's book

Oberlin Inspiration

Idiosyncrasy, combined with determination, effort and planning laid the foundation for my scholastic life. My desire for learning was guided by the Mr. Pinkwater’s message to stay true to your own convictions. Rather than covering my mistakes, I have learned to redefine accidents. Oberlin’s fertile and challenging environment will enable me to unpack new and unfamiliar interests in a focused atmosphere of exploration. My family environment fostered creativity, and the diversity I crave. This school offers classes that encourage students to use art as a portal to delve into culture much like in my home, where intellectual and artistic freedom has encouraged similar acceptance. Oberlin parallels my iconoclastic mother. While I would not have wanted it any other way, I could not choose my biological mother. I now have the opportunity to choose my college.

Zazu has found her voice. We have found each other again. I love her, and she loves me. We are proud of each other.

Jill holding baby Zazu

I love Zazu

We won’t find out if she got in to Oberlin until March. But my youngest daughter found acceptance long ago.

Zazu's self portrait

Of Zazu by Zazu

Zazu and Spongebob Squarepants

A Silent Friend

Zazu in the backseat with a pig on the headrest

Zazu Likes Pigs

girls outside a temple

Stand Together

Zazu smiling

A Natural Beauty

Zazu laughing

Just The Way She Is

Daniel Pinkwaterhttp://www.pinkwater.com/

Oberlin collegehttp://new.oberlin.edu/

Parental Alienationhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation

Selective Mutism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_mutism

HeartCamp– I will be speaking about my family’s experience with Parental Alienation – February 4, 2012 http://heartcamp.org/. TICKET SALES CLOSE February 1ST.

Art, photos – Slaughter