How To Avoid Happiness


Once in a grocery store in Brooklyn the cashier seemed sad and preoccupied. When I asked her how she was doing, the story came out that she’d felt a lump and was about to go see the doctor.

She then reached over and pulled my hand onto the side of her breast and said, “It’s here, over here.”

It was winter and she was wearing a thick sweater, so I couldn’t feel anything. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m sure I was sympathetic.


Several weeks later, I asked her how she was and I think she answered  distractedly that she was fine, seemingly forgetting that I had felt her up just a few weeks ago and she had practically been crying in my arms. I saw her periodically over the next year whenever I needed coffee or pickles or vast quantities of beer, and everything seemed to have returned to “normal.”

A more humorous encounter involved an older woman crossing the street with me one afternoon. I don’t know how we got into the topic of marriage, but her husband was dead, she was good with it (she lived in a 55 and older *active* senior building) and she summarized marriage this way: “I was a maid, a cook, a slave, and a hooker.”


In a completely different situation, how I got on the bad side of Mrs. Bacchus, the elderly woman who lived in our old apartment building, is still a mystery.

She was like a human version of a parrot. Evidently, if a couple buys a parrot, the parrot will generally end up bonding with either one or the other, but not both. So it’ll only talk to one, accept snacks from one, sit only on one’s shoulder, and spend the rest of its life ignoring the other half of the couple.

parrot love

Mrs. Bacchus made it perfectly clear that she was a human parrot when my husband was emptying her trash for her one day (she was always asking him for favors) and she passed along some unexpected advice: “You need to get a better wife.”


The only problem was, I hadn’t bought her, and neither had my spouse, but yet somehow the weird, unpleasant bonding had happened anyway.

There was a missed opportunity at Smart & Final going on a year ago. A woman in a Rascal came racing up to me out of the baking aisle saying, “What’s going on? Isn’t it crazy?”

I was like, “What’s crazy?”


“You mean…politics? Or just in general?”

“In general! But politics too. Oh, don’t get me started!” And then she added, “Trump’ll get re-elected.”

Assuming she was saying this in a doom and gloom manner, like an Oracle of Negativity powered by Rascal, I said, “Oh, God, I hope not.”

There followed a long, pregnant pause…after which she said slowly, like something had just occurred to her (which it obviously had), “Oh….you don’t like him.” And then, “Why don’t you like him?”

I was like, “Why? Do you like him?”

“Yes, of course!”

this is air

She answered me impatiently, as if I had just asked, “Are we breathing air?”

Looking back, I realize I should have stayed there, probing,  performing an impromptu autopsy of her psyche, but I was in a hurry and wasn’t in the mood to explain that I would dislike anyone  who ran for president because they were jealous of Gwen Stefani’s salary on “The Voice”.

better gwen

Strange how so many of my encounters occur at the grocery store, and usually always with women.

Do I keep forgetting items and have to shop constantly, and do women always outnumber men three to one at Ralphs and Pavilions? If so, that would just confirm that 1., Mrs. Bacchus was right on target recognizing me as a bad wife and 2., the woman whose marriage consisted of furniture polish and unwanted sex was also correct in that women’s work is never done.

better lazyPop Art Tired Housewife Washing Dishes at the Kitchen. Vector illustration

I was walking through the Ralph’s parking lot a week ago and a woman passing me by said, “Are you happy?”

Immediately I was like, oh, my God, here we go. I smiled and said, “No.”

She pointed at my shirt and said, “It says ‘Happy.’”

I had, indeed, forgotten that I’d thrown on my black T-shirt that had the word “Happy” written across it in white letters.

“You’re not happy?” She seemed fairly confrontational. “Your shirt says ‘Happy,’” she reminded me again.

“I guess I’m trying to convince myself,” I said.


And that was true. I remember seeing the shirt in the store and thinking, “Ha. Hilarious.” Maybe through osmosis happiness would melt through the material and leak into my skin. Maybe its aura would douse my personality in a bath of beauty and joy.

Woman underwater-floating

That Happy shirt is kinda old now, though, and I don’t think that way anymore. I feel like happiness is overrated. It’s too fleeting, like trying to catch the wind. Being satisfied is better. Satisfaction is achievable, and durable, like a sturdy pair of comfortable jeans. I’m sure this is old news to a lot of people.

My lady encounters all have one thing in common, though (besides being weird): the search for happiness and the reasons why it’s so hard, in a moment, in a lifetime, in part of a lifetime, in an afternoon, to attain it. And even harder to keep it.

With satisfaction, everything might be different. It could act as an ethereal ballast for serotonin rushes and mercurial emotions.

People might bounce back faster from health scares and the world might not seem any crazier than usual and insulting someone’s wife probably wouldn’t be their first go-to and they might not care as much if they were a whore for their partner, and they’d just laugh and flip off the parrot every time it refused to acknowledge their existence.


So…a satisfying Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it.

Pleasant, peaceful, satisfying holidays to you.

And most definitely have a potentially promising, hopeful, encouraging, favorable, enlightening, optimistic, revitalizing and satisfying 2021.

swimmer sunset

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The other day after writing a book review, I scanned everyone else’s thoughts and came across one that said (sic), “I wish there’d been a heads up about the explicit sex scene. I wasn’t expecting that and wish there had been a warning.”

When I think of scary things, apropos to today, Halloween, ghosts and goblins and the undead do not make my list. Rotting corpses and witches intent on my destruction are nice, in my opinion, compared to the horror movie we’re in today.

What movie is that, you ask?

I don’t know, maybe Cancel Culture Dystopian Nightmare?

Wear Your Seat belt and No Smoking Outside Nanny State Regime?

Freedom of Speech Accepts Blind Date with “1984”?


What’s the difference between former US Senator Al Franken’s tacky locker-room-humor depicting him with his hands hovering lecherously over a sleeping female soldier’s breasts, Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, and Congressman Jim Jordan witnessing sexual harassment on his Ohio wrestling team?

One difference is that Al Franken’s tacky, some would say classless humor, was immortalized in a photo while the others, so far, involve he said/she said only.

And while Al’s actions may have been considered offensive and extremely sexist, one must remember that he was still a comedian then, and although I’m not “excusing” the joke, per se, when, exactly, were comedians elevated to Buddhahood-like existence?

Where the hell would Pryor and Carlin and Sykes and Silverman and Bruce be, today, in this recycled McCarthy-era world where everyone lives under a microscope, under suspicion, their every syllable dissected and judged by the Moral Thought Police, the social media version of the Eye of Sauron?


Meanwhile, in our upside down world, the potentially much more dangerous behaviors of Kavanaugh and Jordan have been shelved and, for now, just forgotten while upstanding Al Franken simply bowed out.

This is what I’m confused about: when did we all turn into such soft, wiggly Jell-O that we need to be “warned” about sex in a book, as if coming across verbal descriptions of physical love was going to make our eyeballs implode or spur a psychotic break?

I wonder—do you think it’s possible—that the person was irked or annoyed or “put off” by the sex because possibly—just a guess here—they got turned on? And if so, since when is that a no-no?


I’ve noticed more and more of these warnings in front of books, as I’m sure you all have. Some even go so far as to warn that there’s “strong language.” I’m sorry—are we all adults, or are we not all adults?

Strong language? Sex? Violence? Do we need to armor ourselves with emotional hazmat suits now before we even crack open a book because our psyches have become that fragile?


What if Turing and Mandela and Newton and Margarita Neri and Socrates and Qui Jin and Galileo and Fela Kuti and Esraa Abdel Fattah and Socrates and Mother Teresa hadn’t continued in a straight line down the paths they had chosen but instead succumbed to public opinion and “soup du jour” societal beliefs and conclusions?

What if Turing was too afraid of being “outed” to crack the code? What if Esraa decided “You can’t fight City Hall”? You can’t be Jell-O when you’re trying to instigate big changes. Maybe because mega changes will reverberate a lot longer than meta warnings about profanity.

Mother Teresa didn’t “feel God” for 50 years. What would have happened to her today if that had leaked on social media? Would she have been criticized, shamed? Received death threats from Christians?


Socrates was killed for what—“corrupting the youth”? When in reality he was simply encouraging critical thought and boosting intelligence levels from the equivalent of “The Kardashians”, say, to maybe closer to Ted Talks?

Murdering “witches” then. Cancel culture now. Blasphemy then. Burning books now. Freedom of speech? Or Conditional Freedom of Speech? There’s a not-so-fine-line between trying to consider everyone’s feelings, while simultaneously expressing yourself—but only to a point, and very, very carefully so that no one could possibly be offended–and the road to hell, isn’t there?


Why isn’t it okay to feel torn anymore? I feel torn when I see Al Franken in that photo, because I wouldn’t want to see my niece or my daughter or my mom in that position. But it’s also just dumb, too, and part of me kind of snickers and says, “Oh, Al Franken. Come on.”

Life isn’t just black and white, right? It’s a many-colored beautiful complicated crazy thing. But it seems like we’re slowly erasing away any gray, trying to completely eradicate not just pain but even discomfort, to sanitize and Disney-fy until no unique, identifying features are left.  There’s no being torn anymore. There’s right or wrong. Yes or no. Good or bad. In trying to accommodate all, we seem to end up alienating many and accommodating very few.


Maybe everything’s exaggerated and excessive, as with all new movements, and will eventually even out with time. But for now, though, that’s a scary haunted house that I want no part of.

(RIP, Sean Connery)


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