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When I was a young girl, an old man gave me a hickey.

I was about 12 — old enough to very interested in boys but young enough to openly joke about that stuff with adults.  I could have been younger. I could have been older too. Let’s say I was between 10 and 14.

I had never had a hickey before.  I’m pretty sure I’d never even been kissed.

It was at a campground and several adults were around.  What we were talking about? Nothing concrete comes to mind, except that me and hickeys came up.  Maybe I was saying I was nervous about having a hickey someday, or that I didn’t understand the point of them, or maybe that I was intrigued by them.  Or none of those things.

In the midst of this, suddenly, this man bent down and began sucking on my neck.

Afterward, my neck had a light pink mark, about the size of my thumbnail.

I recall very little for sure about this incident, but I remember that mark on my body.

It was light out, so it was during the day, but the month and year are lost to me.  I believe we were in front of an RV. I think I was sitting at a picnic table. But it could have been a chair.

Did he come at me from the right or the left side?  I go over it again and again — and always, I’m just not sure.  Even as I recall looking at my neck in the mirror afterward, I can’t remember which side I was staring at.

I can’t be certain how long the actual sucking lasted – 10 seconds, 30 seconds, minutes?  It seemed as if it lasted for a while.  Long enough to leave a mark, obviously.

Did it disappear within hours, or was I looking at it for days?  I don’t know.

I couldn’t even tell you for sure what state this was in.  I was around several different campgrounds around this time.  I think it was in Virginia. But it could have been Pennsylvania or or even someplace else I’m forgetting.

As for the man himself, my best guess now is that he was about 50 then.  But maybe he was even a decade younger or older. I couldn’t tell you his name.  My recollection is of a scraggy man with thinning hair, but his face is a blur: if I saw a picture of him from that time, I don’t even know if I would recognize him.

Did I somehow … indicate that I wanted him to do it?  My hazy memories of conversations in the aftermath tell me everyone around was astonished.  Yet I force myself to consider my own culpability. Was I complaining about being lovelorn? Did I confuse him?  Did he think he was helping? I didn’t ask him to do it, but did I … ask for it?

Did I see him after this incident?  Maybe a week or a month or a year later?  Was I friendly to him? I don’t think so, but it’s possible.

Of the 5 people, including myself, who I am certain witnessed this, one is dead.

The man may now be alive or dead or anywhere in between.

For years, perhaps decades, after this incident became part of my past, I don’t believe I “spoke up” to anyone about it.  I certainly didn’t “report it” to any kind of authority. Who would I have told? And why? It was tainted with the confusion, shame, and embarrassment that layer over many such incidents women endure.

For huge chunks of my life, I’ve barely thought of it.  And yet, it’s popped into my mind frequently the last several years, and particularly lately.  Like most women, I’ve had several experiences like this — some less bad, some worse.

I hope that one day women will have no stories like this.

But it looks lately like that day is further and further off.

Photo: National Harbor, October 2017

Happy birthday, Jane Austen!

I got this cross-stitch kit when I was in England almost 20 years ago.  I finally began and finished it this year.  And it was a *huge* pain in the ass.  It’s full of mistakes, but I don’t even care!  It’s done and framed!  Jane!  Crafts!

The Best Holiday Romances on Netflix

This is a joint post with G.G. Andrew, a writer of fun, flirty, and smart romantic comedy and an all-around awesome reading and movie-watching pal.

It’s December, which means that holiday romances on Netflix are cropping up as quickly as holly and mistletoe. But with so many options, and Holiday in Handcuffs no longer streaming, where’s a romance fan to start? Good news: We’ve done the festive watching for you, checking out everything from heartwarming films to fun flicks to all those fake relationship movies (so.many. fake relationships) to find the very best holiday romance movies streaming this month. Grab a hot drink and queue up one of these next time you’re in the mood for some holiday swooning!

Christmas in the SmokiesChristmas in the Smokies
Christmas in the Smokies is a sweet and charming second chance romance. Shelby (Sarah Lancaster) runs her family’s berry farm, which is in financial straits. Mason Wyatt (Alan Powell) was Shelby’s boyfriend back when they were teenagers, but is now a roguish country music playboy who’s screwed around too much and needs to figure out his life. (The video of Mason totally bombing a Dancing with the Stars-type country music show is a highlight of the movie.) Mason ends up staying at the farm to clear his head, in part thanks to Shelby’s father (Barry Corbin), the wise bumbling type full of jokes and folksy advice. Mason is 100% appealing as the prodigal boyfriend who learns to grow up, and Shelby is the competent business woman who doesn’t take nonsense from anyone. Watching Shelby warm to Mason as he helps her attempt to save the farm will melt the icicles on anyone’s heart.

Holiday Breakup
This one was a fun surprise: funny, cute, creative, and with one of the best rom-com heroines. Chloe (Manon Mathews) grew up believing that “falling in love meant you never had to grow up.” And she hasn’t. She works in a toy store, does trust falls with herself (yes, really), and when she hits Jeff’s car with her own while texting, she offers him a toy as recompense. Naturally, the two start an adorable courtship. Jeff (Shawn Roe) is Chloe’s opposite in many ways: more serious, a businessman, and the son of an uptight man who doesn’t think he should be with someone silly like Chloe (cue the conflict). So Jeff tries to make Chloe more serious, especially since they’re about to move in together. Spoiler: it doesn’t work. “My dad was right,” he tells her. “You do need a clown school.” Chloe, excited to hear this, exclaims, “There’s a clown school?” The two break up, but because of the pressure of the holidays, they decide to pretend like they’re still together for the sake of braving holiday meals with their families. What follows are a string awkward dinners, lessons learned from their own parents (good and bad), and one “perfectly appropriate kiss between two incompatible adults” that makes them realize what they’ve been missing.Holiday Breakup.jpg

A Christmas Prince
iZombie’s Rose McIver stars in A Christmas Prince as Amber, a junior editor who spends her time rewriting the crappy stories of more senior writers. When she gets an assignment, she is sent to cover Prince Richard (Ben Lamb), a ne’er-do-well newsmaker the gossips say might abdicate the throne. Amber instead finds herself mistaken for young Princess Emily’s (Honor Kneafsey) new tutor and uses the misunderstanding to move into the palace and their lives hoping to find a scoop about Richard and prove herself as a reporter. A Christmas Prince has royal balls, horseback rides, archery lessons, thrilling rescues from danger, poetry, secrets, retrograde jokes about the unwashed masses from snobby royals, and plot twists. Lessons are learned and true meanings are found. McIver, Lamb, and Kneafsey are so fun and earnest and winning as the three leads that any sappiness can be forgiven. Read more

The Left Side: Scenes from San Francisco to Portland

2017-07-25 22.05.45 copyWalking in San Francisco, my friend* was accosted by a gentleman who wanted to be her teddy bear. Talking up his teddy bear credentials, he walked in line with us for at least a block or two. She told him that her teddy bear at home wouldn’t like it much.

He then asked for money, “not from your wallets, but from your hearts.”

2017-07-26 13.11.14 copy.jpg

San Francisco, seen from Coit Tower

At the Dry Creek General Store in Healdsburg, California, I unknowingly paid eight dollars for two chocolate caramels about as big as my pinkie. Then, I discovered the cost and shoved them into my mouth. Read more

Diagramming – Big Stone Gap