To The Cute Guy Who Works At The Bagel Shop


I mean “Hey” er, “What’s up”? Yes you, the one with the beautiful light bedroom eyes and facial hair and knit cap and flannel shirt.

“How’s it going?”

I can only imagine how I must look. It’s 6:30 in the morning and I have no make-up on and my hair looks terrible. Oh, and I’m wearing maternity clothes.

Sorry, my boobs aren’t normally this big.

And I’m old. I mean, you look about twenty-five, give or take.

Yeah, that’s my SUV parked outside, the one I drove four blocks to get here. I’m on my way to my super interesting job of nannying.

And yes, the father of this baby is still totally in the picture and I’m very in love.

I’m not, like, some old, sad, pregnant lady who only gets out of the house to drink decaf Americanos and eat bagels. Though to be honest, that sort of sounds like a dream. Even better if someone went to got those things for me.

But then I wouldn’t get to see you.

I think you’re a representation of my past self. As in, back when I was single and looking, I would have planned my day around seeing you. That probably sounds weird and creepy and probably is, but it’s true.

I would have tried to glean as much information as possible from you as I placed my order and made small talk. The more I interacted with you or sat in the bagel shop to eavesdrop on your conversations with co-workers, I’d figure out what your story was.

I’d know which bike was yours locked up outside. I’d know what college you went to and where you lived. I’d hear about your favorite bands or what you did over the weekend.

I would talk about you to my friends and pen Tweets about our brief interactions.

Of course all of my dreams would be shattered once I found out you had a girlfriend or were gay. Or I’d see you on Tinder and swipe right or message you on OkCupid even though we’d only be a 54% match and I wouldn’t hear back and I’d be forced to avoid the bagel shop for awhile because it would be too embarrassing.

Now though? Now I tell you what I’d like and am polite and smile a little too hard and stare a little too long and my voice drops three octaves which I think is some weird, instinctual mating thing.

I factor in the ridiculousness of the situation. That even thinking you’re cute is absurd.

You would have played a much bigger part in the narrative of my existence back when I was so desperate for a connection.



It’s Not Like I’m Smoking Crack

In an effort to figure out if I should still be this insane and depressed, I picked up my copy of “What To Expect…” the other night and came across something interesting. Interesting and terrifying.

A half page section described many of my symptoms and said that these can sometimes be signs of a thyroid problem, masked by pregnancy issues.

I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but my mom has a thyroid condition and this was one of the reasons I should probably have been tested for it.

I was not.

If you read more about hypothyroidism (as I obviously did), I found out about many disturbing statistics, ranging from miscarriage to birth defects to an out and out link between this condition and having a kid with a lower IQ.

Unless detected and treated early or before pregnancy, there’s no telling what effect this may or may have on my baby.

If I even have it.

I may or may not get tested at my next appointment, told by my doctor that I could wait until I see her next month to discuss it.

So all I can do is just that…wait. And worry.

This in combination with the extra ultrasound I have to have in a couple of weeks to make sure my placenta has moved up (if it hasn’t, I may have to have C-Section) and the gestational diabetes test I’m scared I’m going to “fail”, I’m suddenly more than concerned with whether or not my baby is OK.

Here I was worried that he’d be a picky eater, the asshole kid on the playground or one of those douches I saw on the DePaul campus walking around with his frat brothers. Instead, I could unintentionally be the cause of his brain damage.

This is the reason I opted out of the genetic testing. I didn’t want to know of any potential deficiencies because I would have spent my entire pregnancy contemplating the implications.

I know there is nothing I can do. Not only can I not go back into the past and ask to be screened for a condition I had no idea could affect my pregnancy, I can’t do anything for him now other than what I’ve been doing.

It’s the most helpless and pointless feeling ever and I’m just trying to remind myself that whatever happens, it will be fine. It will play itself out and we will roll with the punches and make the best of the situation.

I suppose I need to start working on being able to live with uncertainty more than I ever have before.


Kiddie Ride

Here’s a story about that time I pushed Robin Williams’ son off a coin-operated horse. Written originally as a submission for Chicago’s Biggest Liar Contest (I didn’t get in). It’s bittersweet in the wake of his death, but beyond that I think it’s funny and a little ridiculous. Which I think he would have liked.

Also, come to the show tonight.

There are different types of lies. There are lies of omission, where you leave a small or large but definitely crucial part out of a story, creating something 70 or 80 or 90% accurate but really, 100% dishonest. There are the mutual lies, where one person is telling a lie and the other person is telling themselves they believe it: a mutual dishonesty. And there are the straight-up, simple lies, where you make something up that never happened.

There are ways that you can tell when someone’s telling a lie. Lack of eye contact. Poorly timed emotions. Hands touching the face, throat, and mouth. Unconsciously placing objects between themselves and the audience. Cameos from celebrities and their children, and actions that infer an aggressiveness and confidence not often displayed in adulthood.

Anyway. When I was five, I pushed Robin Williams’ son off a horse.

Not a real horse. It was the kind that moves when you put coins in it. Two quarters. The golden pony in question was located in an ice cream parlor on Clement Street. The inside of the ice cream parlor was a riot of color, plastic and rubber and wooden toys lining the turquoise walls from counter to ceiling. The horse bucked wildly amongst a thousand boats and ducks and Mickey Mouses, throwing me and Robin Williams’ son back and forth. The ice cream had made me thirsty. I felt the four Dixie cups of water I’d drunk slosh in my stomach. I had to pee, which made me more impatient than normal. I didn’t want to share the horse.

And so I pushed him off. I was three and he was five, but I was more aggressive, if not physically stronger. The horse’s name was Caramel, and for a moment that ride was all mine, until I felt my my mom’s death-grip on my arm, pulling me away.

Mom was mortified, forcing me to her side. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “Can I pay for another ride? Or get him an ice cream?” She fumbled in her bag for change.

Robin Williams looked bemused: “Lady, do I look like I don’t have money for horsey rides or ice creams?” He sounded like he meant it, and well, he probably did have enough money for both those things. “Don’t worry about it. Really.” He was nice.

He walked out with his son Zack, leaving my mom embarrassed with a sullen, sticky-faced blonde kid. I didn’t get it, or maybe a tiny part of me did, but didn’t care. He was taking too long. His turn was over.

A series of events had brought us to this point. My parents, East Coast born, had met in San Francisco, dated, lived together, married, had a kid. Dad had been a sound editor on Apocalypse Now. Mom had worked on Harvey Milk’s campaign. Dad worked for Sony now. Mom was an art teacher at a public school.

Robin Williams’ son was born to Robin Williams and Valerie Velardi. Robin Williams’ marriage didn’t last. My parents’ marriage didn’t last. Despite this, neither of our fathers had kids out of wedlock: to my knowledge, Zak, me, and our siblings were born within the bonds of matrimony. My parents lived in San Francisco. Robin Williams and his then-wife and son lived in San Francisco.

Our paths were bound to cross. It was fate. And this story is a lie — the straight-up, simple kind. The horse’s name was not Caramel. It was Butterscotch.

Not That You Asked: Sex When You’re Pregnant

Have you ever read Samantha Irby’s blog Bitches Gotta Eat? Yes, obviously you have. And if you haven’t, stop what you’re doing right now and go there. Now. Do it.

OK, anyway, she hasn’t posted in awhile, but there is plenty of archival posts to go through, so don’t you worry.

Sometimes I live and die by her posts. Mostly because they make me feel things, especially laughter. I love her for that.

She’s not without her super sad moments either. Times when I’m absolutely struck down by the weight of her words and feelings. This is what great writers do.

For the 90% of you who do know her style, you know she’s not shy about sex, or at the very least, not afraid to give you some Real Talk on the matter. It comes from a very unique and subjective experience, one that is influenced greatly by her health conditions.

I won’t get into the details, because they’re not for me to speak on, but I do want to focus on some of the limitations she talks about.

Or rather, how much more I appreciate the difficulties she’s gone through now that I’m in a fairly compromised position myself. And no, I am in no way comparing pregnancy with chronic illness. What I’m saying is that no matter how much I could empathize before becoming pregnant I feel like I understand her just a TINY bit more than I did before.

I’m going to explain what I’m going through and again, am not making direct comparisons. Merely saying this all kind of sucks and I’m lucky that it’s temporary.

First, my libido is hovering around a 2 out of 10. It used to be around 9 – 9 1/2. My desire is probably directly related to how I feel, physically and about myself. It makes my boyfriend feel bad, which makes me feel worse. I don’t mean that he makes me feel guilty for not wanting to have sex as much as I used to. It’s just hard to feel attractive and desirable when your partner would rather sleep.

Second, my first trimester I felt like I was going to puke basically everyday. That means everything was a turn off, from saliva to smells to just thinking about being intimate.

By the time I managed to get past that, I was bigger and less coordinated. I read I shouldn’t do it missionary style and obviously not lying on my stomach.

I feel like one huge obstacle course, a giant, frustrating puzzle that absolutely kills spontaneity.

And I’ve only gotten bigger and more uncomfortable.

Throw in some pregnancy carpal tunnel and now I’m unable to hold myself up in certain positions. Or even when we find a decent one, my right hand will go completely numb. The kind of numb that’s painful and feels like blood is going to shoot out of my fingertips from pressure. The last thing I want to do is yell “OW” mid-coitus, so I try to ignore it.

Oh, I also have random dribbles of urine coming out of me and I fart way more than normal. I feel dirty and smelly because of this.

I’m always thinking about how exactly this is going to work and if it’s going to enjoyable for me AND for him. I cannot stop thinking. I cannot be in the moment.

It is a real fucking buzzkill, folks.

But this is the reality of the situation. There is about four more months of it and then a good four to six weeks (depending how smoothly or not so smoothly my pregnancy goes) before things will even start to remotely look like they used to.

I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to focus on the fact that this truly isn’t a lifetime sentence.

In the meantime, I’m learning how to be someone’s girlfriend when sex isn’t really part of the equation. It’s new and weird territory, but I hope we come out stronger for it.

And I could definitely see how if I were trying to date and be in this position at the same time, it would be hard to stay optimistic.


Teenage Dream

(Wherein I do a lot of name dropping and pretending I was cool. Bear with me, if you care to.)

I started going to The Metro when I was fifteen. As a singer, it’s been my dream to perform there.

Remember Silverchair (Daniel Johns 4-EVA)? Seven Mary Three (7M3)? Poe (“Angry Johnny”)?

I saw them all live, standing in the balcony with my best friend, too chicken to stand with the masses down below, closer to the stage.

My parents would drive us down and pick us up near the McDonald’s at Clark and Addison. We’d buy a t-shirt at the show and wear it TWO days later, often getting my mom to call me in sick or late.

I saw Rage Against The Machine at The Aragon and didn’t die. I saw the Beastie Boys at the former Rosemont Horizon just after Hello Nasty came out.

Foo Fighters in Milwaukee. Smashing Pumpkins in Iowa. The Red Hot Chili Peppers at the United Center (tickets I won from the old Q101, THE alternative music station back in my day. Remember Wendy & Bill in the morning?)

I went to the B96 Summer Bash. The Q101 Jamboree and Twisted Christmas (where Fiona Apple performed live for the very first time).

I saw Common, Macy Gray and the Black Eyed Peas (pre-Fergie) at The Double Door of all places. I went to an outdoor concert featuring 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg. And yes, I went to ONE Dave Matthews Band concert (in college…C’MON, GIMME A BREAK).

It only increased once I turned 21. A friend of mine introduced me to indie music, and I’d be at Schubas, Empty Bottle, the Abbey, the Hideout seeing whoever I was into at the time, scouring Early Warnings in the Chicago Reader. Death Cab For Cutie, Spoon, Low, Ida, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Ted Leo, TV on the Radio, Cibo Matto, Junior Boys, Ani DiFranco (a billion times), LIZ PHAIR PLAYING EXILE IN GUYVILLE SOLO AND ACOUSTIC.

Yes, I’m pretty fucking impressed with myself. Or really, blown away by the amount of live music I used to see.

It was my life.

My all time favorite band was and probably still is Pinback. I could listen to their stuff on repeat, album after album, all day long. I’ve actually done this.

I’ve seen them a handful of times, including once at the Empty Bottle, where I awkwardly went up to Rob Crow and told him how bummed I was to have missed them the last time they were in town.

But miss them is what I’ve done over the last couple of years.

Tonight they’re at The Bottom Lounge playing their entire “Summer in Abaddon” album. Something inside of me (youth? fangirl tendencies? denial of current situation?) is dying to go.

If only I could stand in the Pope’s bullet proof glass mobile, front and center, swaying and bopping and singing along in peace.

Alas, my thirty-five year old pregnant ass will most likely be at home, in bed. Or maybe I’ll sit and rearrange all of the old ticket stubs in my scrapbook.


Study Environment

I couldn’t decide if my first college roommate was Mexican or Middle Eastern, and I
needed to figure it out quick because she was standing in front of me, a slim, black-clad
figure with 1-inch buttons dotting her messenger bag strap like a bandolier. My money
was on Mexican and she was, but taller and darker than I expected. Later she would
laugh and say she was mistaken for a different race, sometimes Indian, and I felt slightly
less like a relies-on-physical-stereotypes asshole. I realized I had never seen a photo of
her, even though I had been reading her Livejournal for months.

And then we lived together for a school year in a small dorm overlooking Sheridan
Road, about halfway between the Loyola and Granville Red Line stops. It was a rough
year for both of us, but in some ways we were lucky. There weren’t a lot of girls like us
in Simpson. There weren’t a lot of guys like us either. We had written down “comics”
and “music” as interests on our housing preferences form. We had written down “nerds”
in invisible ink, and the great wheel of roommate matching was ever in our favor.

Comics and cartoons brought us together. We were both kind of gothy (this would fade
somewhat with time, as it often does post-high school), and bonded over a love of
Jhonen Vasquez and Roman Dirge. I lent her Sandman trades, she introduced me to
Invader Zim. We watched a lot of Invader Zim. Other favorites included Clone High and
the occasional anime, all from her laptop screen. We could watch this way because we
bunked the beds almost immediately, craning our necks slightly to laugh at awkward
teen Joan of Arc bumbling in front of equally inept teen Abe Lincoln.

She had a boyfriend. He was tall and quiet and Polish. He was nice. I felt bad when they
broke up, even though his veganism annoyed me and I wasn’t super into his band.
Years later I ran into him on the train, and we had five minutes of mildly excruciating
small talk before fleeing to our tech jobs.

Meet Our Readers

This month’s theme is College Years. We came up with this theme because we’re nosy. We don’t know a lot about people’s post-secondary experiences, and were curious. Also our original theme, “Back to School”, was kind of meh. So we stepped it up, just a little. For you. Come on down to Gallery Cabaret next Wednesday and hear tales of cults, communes, and the Vagina Monologues – just a preview of what college meant to this month’s line-up.

351468_origDana Norris

Dana Norris is the Editor-in-Chief of Story Club Magazine and the founder of the Story Club franchise. She produces and hosts Story Club North Side at Holiday Club in Chicago and teaches at StoryStudio Chicago.





gRRwQqseKr-wdphjgO8P1Q_gU4A2ZghAQNmK_khXC98Erin Watson

Erin Watson is a Southern person living in Chicago. She hustles for nonprofits and writes poetry. Her poems appear in Anthology of Chicago and in the chapbooks No Experiences and Instax Winter, both of which she will shamelessly sell or trade to you after the show. She was a finalist for the 2014 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. You can usually find her on her bike, at a coffee shop, or on the Internet at

IMG_1023Genny Ramos

Genny Ramos is a writer from southern California. She moved to Chicago three years ago and has no plans to leave any time soon. Some of her current goals are: run a race, learn how to sew properly, and make time for travel. She’s driven by possibility, food, and Beyoncé.




jp-monteJessica Palmer

J.H. Palmer is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, and has performed in live lit and storytelling events in Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, NYC, and Michigan. She is also the co-producer of That’s All She Wrote.


brandy_agerbeck1smBrandy Agerbeck

When she isn’t drawing, Brandy Agerbeck aka is thinking about drawing, or writing and speaking about drawing as your best thinking tool. For nearly two decades, Brandy has worked as a graphic facilitator, mapping out strategy meetings and conferences on giant sheets of paper so people can see what the heck they are saying. In 2012, she published “the Bible” in her field, The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide: How to use your listening, thinking and drawing skills to make meaning. As Edgewater’s biggest fan, Brandy has lived in the same two-block radius for the last 18 years.

Dating Advice Since I’m No Longer Dating

I used to write a lot about my “dating life”, or lack there of.

There was a good four years that I was not attached and I spent a good portion of that time looking for someone.

And by someone, I knew that I would just know. Sorry for that ineloquent statement, but what I mean is that I was sure when I met the next person that I wanted to be serious with, I would be able to feel it in my gut.

I didn’t think it would take years and I definitely started to worry about when it might happen.

So I tried all sorts of things. I tried going out with guys I wasn’t all that interested in. I tried going on as many dates as possible. I tried filling out a more specific OKCupid profile.

If I did happen to go on a good date, I tried to do all of the right things. Wait the appropriate amount of time to contact them, say all of the right things in a text message, try to decipher and pick a part their messages back to me.

But being away from that for almost a year now has given me perspective that I wish I had been patient enough to accept.

Dating Is Not A Game.

At least, not if what you want in the end is a significant other, partner or husband/wife. You don’t have to play to win.

There is no formula, no perfect wording, no “new way” of thinking and approaching this thing.

Because in the end, there is either some kind of connection or there isn’t. And it doesn’t have to do with anything but fate. I don’t mean destiny, I mean chance.

What I’m trying to tell you is that you’re not doing anything wrong. You do not need to be better looking. You do not have to go out with people who don’t interest you just to give them a chance. You do not need help crafting a better online dating profile.

Because even in a better fitting pair of pants, armed with grammar and interesting words on a screen, you are still you and chemistry is still chemistry.

I’m sorry if that lack of control is driving you insane and making you feel bad about yourself. I’m sorry if you’re spending a lot of time wondering when it’s going to be your turn or if you’ll even have that turn.

Don’t stop trying. Just don’t try to strategize. Go out with people you want to get to know. Ask people out you want to get to know. Talk to strangers. Let friends set you up. Use your online profile however you want to.

Be yourself.

And remember that you are only 50% of every situation, every relationship. That other person also has to spark an interest in you and that isn’t so easy to come by. Attraction? Sure. Lust? Definitely. But desperation? No thanks.

More than likely you already know what this looks like even if it didn’t work out. You know what it’s like when two people click, even if it was only temporary.

Keep this in mind when you’re out there.

It’s frustrating as fuck to not find it right away and worse when it’s been years. It’s hard not to view it as some sort of failure on your part. It sucks to put so much effort and time into something and still end up with nothing.

But it’s worth it to get what you want. It’ll be what both of you will want.


My New Whip

(Thanks to Rose for suggesting I write about this when I couldn’t think of anything to blog about.)

My parents bought me a car. Well, an SUV actually. A 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Yes, I am basically a sixteen year old girl dependent (spoiled by?) on my parents.

It has a cassette player and that’s awesome.

I’ve officially stopped taking public transportation and I don’t miss it. At all. Though I do kinda miss bitching about Ventra on Twitter.

Having a car is not without its downsides, though. I can’t believe how much money I’ve spent on street parking. It’s also not tons of fun buying gas. Though my dad has tanked it up quite a bit, so I really can’t complain.

I have a tinge of road rage. OK, it’s more than a tinge. And Chicago is filled with a bunch of idiots on the road.

I’ve somehow managed to avoid all manner of tickets, which is an absolute shock. If you’ve ever tried to memorize the various street cleaning days and times and weeks of the month, it’s basically impossible.

Radio is terrible nowadays, unless you really wanted to hear that new Taylor Swift song or Ariana Grande Anything at least three to four times in a twenty minute commute.

Right now the heat isn’t working, which I figured out because it’s 50 fucking degrees out. I think one of my tires has a slow leak. And I don’t know if you can check the life of a battery, but mine might need replacing.

Overall, though, having a car is kind of great. I don’t feel overwhelmed having to travel to more than once place during the day or carrying bags of groceries or other heavy items I bought at Target. I like getting places faster. I like not having to take the Metra to my parents’ house.

And it’s the perfect mom mobile.



Happy Birthday to Me

I really want to be one of those people who’s cool with aging.

“It doesn’t matter!” It totally matters. My sister got into the Whitney at age 23. Younger, more brilliant people are being younger and more brilliant all around me, every day, each minute. I feel perpetually unaccomplished.

I want to make it clear that I don’t judge anyone else by this lame standard. I save this nonsense for myself. I also want to make it clear that this posts ends on a less whiny note – one where you don’t want to punch me in the face. Hopefully. If you want to, I get it.

But yeah. I’m totally not cool with it. I didn’t even want to let on how old I am and as of a couple of days ago I am 29 years old. So lame. Such bullshit.

Shut up. You might be older than me, and rolling your eyes hardcore right now. You might be younger and doing the same thing. I’m still not into this.

And this? This is all pretty good. This is all really solid. This is better than it’s been in a really long time. The best it’s ever been. I’ve screwed up a lot, or more often done nothing because I was scared.

But still. Aging sucks. I want everything I have now, but five years ago. I never think I’m good enough. I look at 23-year-olds doing better than me and wince because fuck, I’ve wasted so much time.

But enough of the flailing that was the last few paragraphs. Let’s talk about my first birthday in Chicago. Because I’m not super into getting older, but the stories that come along with it are pretty much everything.

There were five of us at the Thai restaurant that opened late and stayed open late. It was called River Kwai (later, unimaginatively named Late Night Thai – I know) and it wasn’t that great, but it opened late and stayed open late. I had turned 18 that day, and we were there for my birthday. We had vague plans to see The Breakfast Club later that night at The Music Box. I didn’t know what either of those things were because I had grown up up in a cave as far as classic movies were concerned, but I was excited to be in a new place with new people. It was nice to have something to do after 9pm that didn’t involve updating LiveJournal in my childhood bedroom.