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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Some Favorite Photos From London

To check out more fun photos click here
And London from a tourist's point of view

The Kiss... And Not Rodin's...Oh So Far, Far Away From Rodin's

I'm in the midst of a complex strategy to disentangle myself from a Kiss Hello program I've somehow entered into. I didn't sign up. There was no application. No opportunity to refuse. There was no agreement, no handshake. Oh that there were handshakes instead of all the kisses! One day we were casual acquaintances nodding our hellos, the next we were engaged in awkward, herky-jerky kiss hellos.

I don't know the gentleman in question very well. I see him at my neighbourhood bar. (HA! Look at that - neighbourhood. I am sooo British. Like Madonna, I'm currently speaking with an accent, you just can't tell because I'm typing. I figure I'm qualified for the accent now as I've just been on holiday in England) Anyway, back to the Kiss Hello chap in question - I know him from the neighborhood, see him at the bar, the subway platform and occasionally on the street.

Apparently, kissing is now not enough. Not only am I on The Kiss Hello Program, but I've managed to be included in The Kiss/Hug Hello Program as well! Somewhere in the middle of June our man decided his standard cheek kiss was simply not enough and pulled me in for a tight squeeze as well! No, before you ask, he isn't the sort trying to cop a feel, although there are plenty of those types 'round these parts as well - he's just an older, lonely sort of fellow - a friend of a friend, really - who is SUPER EXCITED! to hang out.

Most recently, The Kiss/Hug Hello Program was less than satisfactory, just not enough kissing and hugging apparently, and the fellow cornered me into a kiss/hug goodbye. Dude, I'll probably see you, like, tomorrow I'm thinking to myself while my intestines were being squeezed upward, through my espophagus.

Suffice it to say, as a part of my strategy, when I see this fellow coming I've suddenly got to tie a shoe, adjust my belt, pick my nose, whatever it takes. He'll make the rounds, kissing and hugging his way through the crowd.
"What's up, guy?" I'll say cheerfully while carefully adjusting my fish nets, rearranging chairs... You know - I'd just love to kiss you hello but I'm extremely tied up here counting the change in my pocket. Anything to avoid the unavoidable. I'm hoping to derail his program yet every time I see him again he goes in for the big squeeze.

It isn't the germs I'm worried about if that's what you're thinking. I just ain't into all the gladhanding. It's always bungled, floundering. Awkward. I'm already as socially retarded as Busta Rhymes at a proper English tea party.. I don't need the extra hassle..
Just kiss the guy hello for Godsakes! I can hear you thinking. But where does it stop? An intercourse hello (Seinfeld knows of what he speaks). Recently my friend Alexis stopped by the bar on her way home from work. After the requisite kiss/hug hello she decided she wanted to change into some jeans and ran to her home a block away. She was back in less than thirty, rolling her eyes at me over Dude's shoulder during her second kiss/hug hello in less than an hour. See!? My raised eyebrows told her in response. We're a few Kiss/Hug Hellos away from a Kiss/Hug/Ass Grab hello.. And then what?!

After my burdensome and seemingly insensitive strategy attempting to get off The Kiss/Hug Hello Program you can imagine my horror at spending the weekend in London, bungling the entire business with the inventors of The Kiss Hello, the Brits.

We Americans... well, we hug people we haven't seen in awhile.. The Brits, they're huge fans of The Kiss Hello, HUGE! You know, that high societyish double kiss.. Mwah, Mwah.. So of course every time I was introduced to someone there was the bobbing and weaving of heads, more awkward than two zit-faced teens with braces going in for their first smooch. Which side? WHICH SIDE! For the love of God, could somebody please tell me which side I'm supposed to kiss first? After the initial head dance was over and I'd committed to one side or the other I was left wondering if I should go in for the other side or just leave it at the one? Everyone's playing by different rules!

I'd mangled every introduction by the end of the week, trying every combination. After fucking that all up I finally decided to abandon The Kiss Hello and just tried to give the bride at the wedding a congratulatory, one-sided sort of hug. A shoulder squeeze, really. Chummy, but not too huggy. No chance of messing that up, right?

I bungled that, of course, because after going in for the squeeze I had to abort at the last second, realizing she was going for the kiss, so I ended up feeling her up then kissing her nearly on the mouth even before the groom got a chance at her on their honeymoon.

"Which side first.. And how many times?!" I asked my friend Kate after ranting about The Kiss hello in frustration.
"The French do it three times. One cheek, than the other, then back again." She replied.
"Well that's a fucking commitment, isn't it?" I muttered. "I could be finished with the obligatory small talk by the time they finish kissing hello."
"It's no coincidence making out is called french kissing" Kate replied breezily. "The Frenchies love them some kissing."
"Well, which side do I go for first here in London?"
"I don't know." She answered in an exaggerated English accent. "I just commit to a side and go for it. It usually works out all right. You just think too much about it, that's your problem." She took a drag on her Marlboro light and exhaled through expertly puckered lips.
"Well, yeah.. I think too much about everything. But The Kiss Hello is a social retard's worst nightmare. It's right up there with Small Talk."

My conclusion? The Kiss Hello, like it's American counterpart The Kiss/Hug hello or any other form of kissing and hugging hello is wrought with peril. And I'd just as soon forgo all of it. Unless, of course, we've hung out more than three times and it's been at least seven full days since I last saw you. Otherwise, I'd rather shake hands and swap poop germs. Bacteria, I can get over. Social awkwardness eats at me, leaves me more flush than the rash you may potentially pass me through a contaminated handshake.

Oh.. My hair is not brown anymore. Very, very far from brown. But if I told you what color it is now I'd have to kill you. Really, I would because the color, well it's.. it's.. eesh.. Let's just say if I told you I'd have to kill you so you could never, ever tell anyone.

Identity Crisis

I am standing on the edge of a rather high cliff.. below is water. Yes. There is water. But it's a long fucking jump, yo. Will the water be warm? Will it be ice cold? Shocking my system into paralyzation. Or action? Will I flap about vigorously in my frantic effort to get somewhere or will I sink like a stone? What to do. Knowing me, I'll sit around on this here cliff, sometimes dangling my feet over the edge, but mostly laying about, occasionally peeping over the edge, often talking about leaping off the edge.. but never jumping. But maybe I will. You just never know.

The computer doctor says my hard drive is terminally ill and is, for all intents and purposes, brain dead. That's why there have been no photos as of late. Which is not to say I haven't been taking any. I have a slew of goodies from the 4th and am sure to take a bunch in London this week... Eventually I'll resurrect the poor computer with a hard drive transplant.. Not now though, I only have one day here in Brooklyn. We leave for London tonight.

I am seriously contemplating moving from NYC. It's nice, yes. Interesting. Fast paced. But I want wide open spaces. Grass that I can call my own. Lakes close enough to walk, or at least drive to. Here, I have drank more alcohol than I did in my entire life previous to moving cross country. Here, I spend much of my time with acquaintances in bars. Acquaintances with whom very occasionally we accidentally stumble into meaningful conversations. That's different from real friends who share their troubles and fears, who don't anesthetize the hurt of life with liquor. I don't know. Perhaps I am depressed and blaming it on my location instead of myself. Grass Is Greener Syndrome. If I don't feel so suffocated in my neighborhood maybe I'll be happier. But when I get my own plot of grass and bitch about having to mow the lawn. Again, who knows?

I don't know who I am. What it is I'm about, what I want.. Some days I want to live in the city among creative people, write a book, and follow The Surge's band to Europe. Other times I want to move to the mountains, start a garden, walk my dog and yes, maybe even have a baby.

I feel crowded all the time. In my apartment, on the sidewalk, at the park, on the subway. I miss space. Driving my own car. Activities with friends that don't include drinking. Maybe I gave up and am just not making the most of all this city has to offer. I could forge my own lifestyle here instead of going with the flow. I can explore on my own. Then I think, for the rent I'm paying I could afford an extremely nice house in cheaper climates. I could make a home for my family. No, I don't want to live in the suburbs. I want to live where where I can't see the nearest neighbor for all the trees. I know places like that. I miss places like that.

London, soon. Must go pack.

Happy 4th!

Smells like: barbeque, grass, smoke

Grilled burgers and hot dogs, wiffle ball, lake swimming, fireflies, family, liquor, pot brownies, ice cold beer, coconut scented tanning oil, laughter, swimming suits, sunburns, grilled veggies, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, blazing sun, blue sky, grass, fried chicken, watermelon, frozen grapes, picnics, iced coffe, red, white & blue, parades, cannons, beauty queens in sashes, marching bands, bag pipes, firecrackers, sparklers, popcorn balls, lawn chairs, flags, patriotism, friends, barbeque, carnivals, sweat, cotton candy, cut-offs, flip-flops, paper plates, root beer, Dairy Queen, mosquito bites, sun tans, charcoal, lighter fluid, camping, tank tops, tube tops, halter tops, fishing, fireworks, drunk, tan lines, sleep.

In Which Sally Hansen Saves The Day

It was time. The lone goat hair grazing on my chin had multiplied, seemingly overnight, just like a gremlin. One moment it was a seemingly innocuous hair.. and suddenly there were three thick, angry black hairs.

At first I plucked, so horrified by the tiny soldiers blazing a trail of hatred across my chin that I executed them immediately. But their brothers returned to avenge their deaths the very next day.

So I yanked them from their cozy home in my embarrassed chin as well. Take that, bitches! And then I brushed my teeth. While rinsing I noted in horror that they had already returned! I could make out their little black seedlings, sprouting like weeds, working toward sunlight and fresh air.
"Huh?" The Surge peeped around the bathroom door.
"You best step back, sir." I ordered authoritatively. "Mama's got work to do. Now where is my surgical safety pin and the alcohol? I'm goin' in."

The Surge, well acquainted with my Do It Yourself Kamikaze Surgical Stylings didn't need to be asked twice. Before I found my surgical safety pin the door was slammed shut. Subsequent footsteps skittering across the kitchen floor informed he had beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of our bedroom. Shortly thereafter, the muffled plinging and plonging of blue grass music confirmed my suspicion. He was in hiding, trying to ride out the surgical storm at the other end of our apartment.

Ten minutes later my "seedlings" along with most of my chin were gone.
"That'll teach 'em." I growled Clint Eastwood style while blowing on the business end of my safety pin and tucking it safely back in it's holster.

But the hair came back the very next day. By week's end, like a reporter in Iraq, it was embedded in my chin... if I looked close the hair appeared to be flipping me a double bird. Cheeky fucker!
"I suppose I'm going to have to start waxing my chin now." I huffed resignedly to The Surge over dinner that night. "I'm starting to look like a pubescent boy."
"Yup." The Surge agreed, one eye cocked to the Discovery Channel's "Attack of the Great White", other eye on the stir fry he was shoveling in his own maw as fast as the shark on TV crunched through an unlucky surfer's arm.
"But I don't wanna wax!" I whinnied like Mr. Ed. "It's expensive!"

I left The Surge to his (and the shark's) feeding frenzy and wandered Bedford Avenue... That's when I saw it. Like a neon Diner sign at the tail end of a drunken night out, it beckoned me inside.


Surely I'll find something inside to aid me in my battle against the wily goat hairs. The chemical equivalent of the Atom Bomb, perhaps?

The harsh fluorescents cast a pallid spotlight on my offending chin hairs. I know because I stopped to inspect my goat hairs in the mirrors for sale on aisle 2.

On aisle 4 I located my ammunition. Rows upon rows of bleaches, lotions, depilatories, wax kits.. Boxes emblazoned with soothing sentences like BE BARE AND BEAUTIFUL! FAST LASTING RESULTS! WORKS IN MINUTES! GREAT VANILLA SMELL! You mean I can obliterate my goat hairs AND smell like cake? Sign me up!

45 minutes later I was still reading boxes. Although I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder caused by THE NAIR INCIDENT OF '96, I was fascinated by a particular product called SALLY HANSEN'S CREME HAIR REMOVER. (Incidentally, what is this 'creme' all about? What's the difference between cream and creme?) I had reached an impasse, debating the merits of wax over cream. Wax=painful.. but the worst that can happen is glopping the sticky mess on while it's too hot. Creme.. well, it's creamy (cremey?) and painless, right? RIGHT? Unless, like the NAIR, it eats my face off and leaves white bone behind, gleaming through angry purple marks.

But it smells like vanilla! And it was made by someone called Sally Hansen! It can't be that bad. I pictured Sally in my mind's eye... a bleached blonde with blue eyeshadow, rocking out to Fleetwood Mac in her pink Mary Kaye cadillac, a flume of Jean Nate noisily perfuming the air in her wake. Beneath Sally's artfully applied make-up were NO GOAT HAIRS! This Sally has to know what she's doing.

I emerged from the pharmacy clutching my bag containing SALLY HANSEN'S CREME HAIR REMOVER. I scuttled home high on emotions not unlike the time I bought my first vibrator; ashamed at the purchase in my brown paper bag but excited at the prospects.

At home, locked in the bathroom, just me and Sally Hansen, I uncapped the tube of "creme" and prepared for war.
"Incoming, motherfuckers!" I hissed to my rogue goat hairs.

Know what? Sally know's what she's doing. Not only did she get rid of my goat hairs, but she did away with the moustache I've been doing my best to ignore. Sure it's as thick as Tom Selleck's, but it's blonde, I reasoned with myself.

I made my triumphantly glorious exit from the bathroom sporting a chin as smooth as a penis... and thanks to our gal Sally, smelling like a freshly baked cake!