“That’s all well and good in practice but how does it work in theory?”

The theme of the February show is PENIS (ALL CAPS).

I have been dreading this show for months.

I haven’t encountered or interacted with a penis in a really really really really really really long time.


Body Rockin’

I’m going to be away from my baby for thirty hours to celebrate with my very good friend at her bachelorette party.

I. Am. Excited.

(And yeah, a little sad to be away from my family, but that’s not what this post is about.)

The maid of honor has requested that we wear black so the bride to be can don white. I am all for this plan.

However, I don’t have much of a wardrobe. I’ve been broke for a long while and then there was the pregnancy. Most days I still wear maternity yoga pants and leggings and I finally broke down and bought one pair of jeans for the rare moments I leave the house and want to look somewhat normal.

I gained forty-five pounds during my pregnancy and even though I found out later that it was mostly due to water weight attributed to pre-eclampsia, I was completely freaked out every time I stepped on the scale at my check-ups. You know how doctors scales are.

Maternity clothes were tight, I could barely stuff my feet into shoes a size larger than I normally wear and my stretch marks looked like alien cave drawings etched into most of my midsection.

Before I went into the hospital, I was not super cool with being naked. Even in sexy situations, it’s taken me awhile to come around on lounging in the buff. I’ve had months where I weighed less and felt better about myself, so it was easier then.

But once I was bed ridden, in a hospital gown with nothing but my underwear on underneath, things started to change.

I started to not give a fuck.

Then came the anethesiologist, a man in his fifties or sixties, who upon entering my room to give me an epidural, started to run down all of the risks and asking me if I understood what he was saying as I writhed in pain with every contraction. “YES” I would yell without hearing his words.

The most important part of his little speech was that during the procedure, I would have to stay absolutely still otherwise he could mess up the needle and accidentally stick me in the spine.


So there I was, essentially naked, being held up by my partner, as this guy went about his business.

It’s basically over once the fifth random person has stuck their hand up your vagina to feel your cervix.

Finally, once the baby was born, I attempted to breastfeed. Someone was always coming in while he was on my boob and I made no overture to cover myself up. In fact, lying half naked with your near naked baby is a bonding experience like no other.

You leave the hospital still big enough to fit into the clothes you wore on your way in. I was bloated and suffering from major edema from the waist down. It took a couple of weeks for my former self to slowly start emerging underneath all of the chaos.

It helped to see the number on the scale drop dramatically, even though I was well over any weight I’d ever seen in my entire life.

It helped more to see my feet looking like they could fit in my shoes, for the maternity jeans to feel loose, for my partner to say I was looking great.

And I was fine going to buy jeans that were four sizes bigger than normal. It felt good even.

Yeah, so my boobs are huge and my stomach is pooch-y. So my arms are flabby and my thighs and calves have lost muscle.

Maybe they’ll bounce back. Maybe.

But if they don’t, I have a new attitude about my body. It has less to do with skinny or fat and more about just existing in this skin. A human grew inside of me and it turns out this flesh and bones is more than something I need to worry people may criticize.

Yes, I want to be healthy. No, I’m not a fan of my double chin. Yes, getting in a bathing suit or seeing an unflattering photo of me may make me cringe. No, I’m not always cool with the image in the mirror. Yes, I’m considering running again (as soon as I can be reassured that a sports bra will keep my boobs from falling off.)

But I’ve seen what else this body can do and I’m less concerned with how it’s “supposed to” look.

If for some reason I start feeling bad about my body or the number on the scale, I’ll kindly remind myself that I had a baby less than three months ago. And I’ll keep on using that excuse until my kid turns one.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to finding an outfit for this bachelorette party. I don’t care what size I’m in. I have a reason to dress up, put make up on, and have an adult beverage in public.

Besides, this night isn’t about me anyway.


Meet Our Readers

February. It brings to mind romance in the form of heart-shaped candy, black history, that last long eight-week gasp of winter. And penis. Oh, you didn’t have that association? Maybe you will after this month’s show, featuring badass readers Jennifer Peepas, Michelle Yacht, Eden Robins, and back-from-maternity-leave Carly Oishi.  This Wednesday, Gallery Cabaret, 7pm. PENIS.

Jennifer Peepas

jpeepasJennifer Peepas writes the popular advice blog Captain Awkward.com and teaches film and video production and screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago. She has read at Story Club, Story Club South Side, That’s All She Wrote, Guts & Glory, This Much is True, and Story Sessions. She has written for IndieWire and published personal essays in Story Club Magazine and The Archipelago. Her short film Meet In A Public Place, a comedy about online dating, recently premiered at the Oakland Underground Film Festival.

Michelle Yacht

WIN_20150217_120151Michelle has one of those resumes that employers think is “unfocused.” She works as a community health nurse, and is a few months away from becoming a nurse practitioner. That’s kind of like a doctor, but with less debt. She makes a lot of arts and crafts. Her favorite holiday is Halloween, and her favorite food is soup.



Eden Robins

EdenFlorenceEden Robins has visited 17% of the countries in the world, on two-thirds of its continents. She speaks four languages badly, including English, has had malaria twice, and, as an adult, has lived in six US states. At one point or another, she has been a singing waitress, a dildo salesman, a dental assistant, an abortion clinic receptionist, a blowjob instructor, a Swahili teacher, and a comedy writer for Big Pharma. She co-hosts the monthly reading series Tuesday Funk, is one-half of the podcast Should I Worry About This?, and is currently writing a novel about the AIDS epidemic and golems.


1797434_721710817863099_559883314_nCarly Oishi

Carly Oishi is a writer, performer, singer, songwriter and caretaker. She is the co-producer of Miss Spoken, the blog and live lit show. She’s also the singer and almost full-time songwriter in her duo Jon & Carly, which has been making and performing music for almost ten years.


Title and Registration

On our last day at the hospital, my partner went out to the parking garage to load all of our bags.

Around this time, an Amber Alert had gone out and the police were there. Everything was on lockdown.

When my dude tried to get back in, they questioned him. So he told them he was my husband and *poof*, he was immediately allowed to pass.

Everyone, from nurses to doctors to the student residents, referred to him as my husband and I never corrected them. I mean, why bother? Unless he was sensitive to it, I didn’t see the point.

But when we were given the paperwork for our son’s birth certificate, it was assumed we were married. Instead, we had to ask for a VAP form (Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage/Paternity), which confused the person on staff.

When I went online to get a physical copy of the birth certificate, a prompt came up saying it was unusual for the baby to share the mother’s maiden name and that perhaps I’d made an error.

Recently, I took a job working as a child care attendant for a gym. The job comes with a free membership and I’ve wanted to approach the manager about getting one for my partner. But “partner” sounds like “lesbian” (not that there’s anything wrong with that, though it should shock no one that the northwest burbs aren’t nearly as progressive as the city) and “live-in boyfriend” sounds about as solid as “baby daddy”.

There is something about the word Husband that legitimizes things in a really annoying way.

I have felt mostly indifferent about getting married. I always assumed when I was in serious relationships that I would eventually marry whoever I was with. But it was a kind of obscure process where I would think of it in the future sense, like “yes, I could marry this person” and essentially leave it at that.

When I started dating my baby’s father, I was 34 and he was 39. I wanted something serious, but have long felt (especially after two break-ups and witnessing other people’s marriages) that I don’t really believe in lifetime unions. If I ever do have a wedding, I’d want it to be more of a commitment ceremony than anything.

He was fairly recently divorced and wasn’t exactly wife hunting.

Five months later, I got pregnant.

Now we have a baby and are co-habitating. To me, whether we are committed to one another because of this human life or because we want to have a relationship seems almost irrelevant. Or, they go hand in hand in one way or another , so the idea of “togetherness” is basically established.

I’m also aware that things might not work out between us and that the best we can hope for is a solid friendship that allows us to be parents who work side by side, creating a loving and safe environment for our kid.

That’s why I refer to him as my partner. We are adults. He is not my “boyfriend”. He is not a boy. He is more than a guy I go to the movies with and occasionally have a sleepover with. This is companionship and a voluntary effort to be a family unit. I wish there were some perfect in between word that described what we are to one another that would carry the same weight as “husband and wife”.

But I guess for now he’s just The Guy I Love Who Is Also The Father Of My Child And We Live Together And Stuff.



“Katherine… I’d like you to meet Ralph… Ralph, this is Katherine. She’s a very good friend of mine.”

I borrowed Judy Blume’s “Forever…” from the library the other day. I wanted to read it because the theme of this month’s show is “Penis”, and while my experience with real life penises is limited my experience with fictional penises is, um, more considerable.

I wanted to read “Forever…” again because I think it’s a beautiful and bittersweet story about first love. I wanted to read “Forever…” again because I think it’s always a good idea to read and re-read the work of Judy Blume. I read “Forever…” again because I always thought it was hilarious that in this book there was a girl named Katherine who had a boyfriend named Michael who had a penis named Ralph.

Blow Bill Blow

Minnesota summers are hot, and when I was 12 my parents’ bedroom was the only place in our apartment with air conditioning. I’d taken to hiding out there whenever I could. I’d watch sitcoms or Xena on the television next to their bed or read whatever I found around the house when I ran out of books. This happened often. I was a fast reader, and didn’t have a ton of friends. 

One bored afternoon that whatever was Time. I didn’t usually go for that but I was desperate, and by desperate I mean lazy: I’d plowed through all the old issues of Funny Times and Mad, and the boxes of books in the basement seemed very far away.

The cover showed a pretty, dark-haired woman with red lipstick hugging the President. Only his back was visible, a long gray suit jacket topped by white hair. The crowd surrounding them was smiling and laughing, but the Special Report seal and title (“Why She Turned…What He Can Do”) let me know something scandalous lurked between the pages. I was intrigued. 

I was about two pages in when my mom opened the door. She shut it quickly so the precious cold wouldn’t escape, then plopped next to me on the bed.

“What’re you up to, kid?”

“Reading.” I showed her the cover.

She made a face.

“How much do you know about what’s going on?”

I shrugged.

“Okay. I’m going to tell you what it’s all about.”

I closed the magazine.

“A young woman was dumb and slept with the President. She kept a bowl of condoms by her bed. I don’t know what she was thinking. He was dumb. They were dumb. They fooled around and did some things with a cigar. There was a dress with a stain on it. Then he lied about it. Now it’s getting blown up by a punitive asshole named Kenneth Starr.”

I stared at her, trying to find a good reply. She had hit most of the points I was curious about, except:

“Are they going to impeach him?”

She snorted.  “No.”

I nodded, relieved.

“He was a good President. He was just an idiot.”

Later, I searched through tiny clear drawers for a pin from years back. I found it: a large square, smooth and shiny, showing Bill Clinton playing a saxophone on a red, white and blue background. It was from his 1992 election. Blow Bill Blow, it said along the bottom.

I picked it up, looked at the trash can by my desk.

“He was a good President. He was just an idiot.”

I propped the pin on my dresser, close to the front.


i’m the one that i want

I was brushing my teeth last night before crawling into bed. I’d already taken off my makeup, washed my face, and put on my pajamas.

My face was sallow in the light, and the zit on my chin was taking longer to go away than I wanted it to. I leaned forward, tilted my chin down to spit toothpaste into the sink, then stood up and examined my face again. I tugged at my bottom lip with an index finger, checked my teeth and gums, frowned. And then it dawned on me.

The Good Baby

I was at a funeral service the other day and people wanted to see photos of the baby.

One person who’d seen a Facebook profile picture of me pregnant thought it was a Halloween costume.

Another person asked if I was married.

And my cousin said my mom told her the baby was a good baby.

When I got home later, the grandparents kindly looking after their lot for a couple of hours so my partner and I could eat french fries and have a beer, I asked him if our baby was indeed “good”.

I explained I haven’t really been able to assess that. There are definitely times I don’t totally get him, but for the most part, it’s pretty straightforward. Even when he’s crying his head off for seemingly no reason, it turns out he’s hungry even though he ate less than an hour and a half before.

“What’s a “bad” baby?” he asked.

“Oh, well, like a colicky baby. One that cries for three hours straight and is inconsolable.” I answered.

“So you mean is he an “easy” baby, not a “good” baby?”

Huh, I thought to myself. He was right. I was confusing ease with greatness. I was thinking that if he slept a lot and never cried and I always knew what he wanted, that made him “good” and anything other than that made him a not so good baby.

And that was total crap.

My baby is good because he talks to a particular shelf on the wall above his changing table. Like, literally chats it up and laughs and often gazes at it from afar when he’s not having his diaper changed. My partner calls him Shelfie. (We’re Booby and Blobby)

He burps like a grown man and lets out long farts while he eats without interrupting a gulp.

He knows how to make a real fist (with his thumbs out) and when upset, flails his little arms as if he’s intentionally trying to swing at you.

He is totally calm during bath time and lets you scrub his endless thigh and arm rolls and wash his hair with bubbles on his face.

He is already in size six months clothes and his feet seem too big no matter how long the sleeper is.

So the next time someone asks if my baby is good I’m not going to have to think about it. I’m just going to say “yes”. Because he is easy and he’s my baby.

Of course I think he’s “good”.


Red Line Rubdown

It was light jacket weather when that guy jerked off in front of me on the Red Line. Kind of chilly but not quite fall. I was heading downtown from Edgewater. It was late afternoon. I was 18. I remember these things, but mostly I remember that I denied what was happening up until the point of no return, and let me spoil it for you: His dick was out. His hand was on it, moving up and down. He was jacking off just across the aisle. I turned away so fast my neck cracked.

I’d seen strange peen in the wild once or twice before, the odd crazy or perv exposing themselves.  And there’s always dudes grabbing their denim-clad junk, either at you or in the general sense, offering their dong to the world. I should have been prepared.

In fact, I should have been super prepared, because my friend and I had talked about this the week before. We were on the Red Line. Mid-Loop. She was telling me about some dude who’d whipped it out on the train recently. She’d stared straight at it then looked away. It took his power away, she said, to not react to it. She was older and wiser. I was impressed. What a badass, I thought. She’s so much better than me.

But in that moment I was in mild shock. Again, maybe because I’d been lying to myself hardcore from the moment he stepped on the train.

It was an empty train car. He took the seat directly behind me.

That’s odd. But not super odd.

I went back to texting on my cool new Nokia brick phone.

His breathing sped up. He leaned towards me, so close I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. My stomach churned, but still I refused to believe it. I needed to see it with my own eyes. I was about to get my wish.

The train stopped. The doors opened. As they closed, he moved like a snake to the seat directly across. I didn’t have time to contemplate how someone so short and stocky moved so fast because his hands were fiddling with his pants.

Maybe he’s just fixing his fly FUCK it’s out, his dick is out, yup it’s totally out. FUCK. 

Not only out, but fully hard and getting more so by the second. He didn’t look at me, but stared straight ahead the entire time. This was somehow worse.

I swallowed. I said nothing. I did nothing. When we got to Argyle, I ran to another car.

Sorry, older friend. I wasn’t strong or feminist about it. I was scared and grossed out. He won. But I think it’s like when people yell at horror movies: “Don’t go into the basement!” “Why don’t they stay together?!” “Hide all the knives!” It seems obvious from the comfort of your couch that duh, you’d make the right decision. But really, shock and adrenaline make a person all kinds of confused and cowardly. You might run into the basement. You might do nothing while some dude jerks off a few feet away.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Fear and disgust addle our smart and brave parts, pulling the focus off you and onto in my case, some creepy fuck with his dick hanging out of his pants.

Trust your instincts. If you think he’s going to jerk off, he is going to jerk off. And however you react is okay. I’m not going to judge you. But if you can, don’t let the dick-monsters from the Red Line Horror Show win. Take a picture. Raise your voice. Send it to the police. Put it on the Internet. Do something. Don’t make the world safer for creeps and pervs, and worse for girls and women. The world doesn’t really need your help.



If a doctor said you had an 87% chance of living, how would that make you feel?

I suppose those odds are decent. But something about being 90% or over always sounds so much better.

Since I’ve decided that getting pregnant is only a step above death, as in, it’s the second worst thing that could happen to me, 87% isn’t really doing it for me.

Birth control is the worst.

We spend a good portion of our sexual selves trying NOT to get pregnant and yet every method of birth control, outside of rendering it impossible to conceive, makes having sex a lot less fun. Whether it’s causing actual physical side effects or creating mental blocks, there’s no way to get it on freely without worrying about insemination.

Why are women the bearer of the responsibility when it comes to figuring out how to not get knocked up? RHETORICAL QUESTION, I KNOW.

Sure, men can get their tubes tied or wear condoms, but those are their only two options. Not to mention, more often than not, women are supplying the condoms.

Also, neither of those things directly mess with your body or mind in a constant, potentially deadly way.

At the age of 35, being overweight and potentially going on drugs for high blood pressure, I increase my chance of having blood clots, a stroke or a heart attack. And lets not forget the effect of hormones on someone with mental health issues.

As much as I dig all the pros about IUD’s, psychologically, it’s just not for me. I don’t want something inserted inside of me with strings hanging down that I have to keep track of (other than tampons.)

I’m actually considering getting sterilized, though there’s 5% of me that thinks I might want to have another kid at some point. Or at least, I’m not totally on board with saying a definitive Never.

Anyway, I started a progesterone only pill because you can’t take estrogen if you’re pumping or breastfeeding and I’ve already forgotten to take it on time twice. This from a person who is basically home everyday and doesn’t have an excuse. This pill is 87% effective if taken by a normal person who will probably not manage to take it at the exact same time every single day.

So I guess the means we’ll still be using condoms on top of the pill just to be EXTRA SURE. Which by the way, condoms should be free just like my birth control pills.

Thank god I’m old though, right?! I can start having all of the best sex when I’m going through menopause and my partner has an increased chance of erectile dysfunction.