See what happens once you hit the dating scene after a painful, financially debilitating divorce? The birth control fails and ooops...out pops a baby. My niece. Her name is Isabela...an auspicious name: the main character in my master's thesis (aka: 476 page novel) which remains safely tucked away in a shoe box somewhere in a damp garage.
So welcome to the world, Isabel. You picked an interesting time. Or should I say my brother, R, did. Along with his rose, a thorny girl, but we love her because really, is there anything sexier than a woman with an opinion. About everything.
Now, you're going to get a lot of advise from my family: eat your peas, don't play with your food, get good grades, don't talk to strangers and let Jesus be your savior. But your auntie Second Edition here will occasionally offer up a different perspective. Because as my father recently told R upon your arrival, "You're screwed now, son. Once you have a daughter, she'll spend every damn day of her life breaking your heart." Ahhhhh.
Let us begin.
1. Most definitely talk to strangers. Ask them for a bite of their food, a sip of their wine. No one will refuse you. Seriously. I've tried this from Coast to Coast and have never been turned down. Not only is this an excellent way to expand your palate, but you will discover that you're surrounded by some interesting, slightly dangerous folk who will tell you stories that will simultaneously blow your mind and make your wish you could live forever. The world is very, very big and the best way to explore it is through the hearts and minds and appetites of her inhabitants. Plus, your Uncle Ranger was a stranger once. And after he gave me a sip of his beer, he offered to show me a lighthouse and well...life as we know it changed forever. So go ahead, sidle up to that bar stool, look someone in the eye and say, "howdy."
2. Find a Spanish or Italian shoe designer and stick with them forever. Your feet are your crowning glory and beautiful shoes are a worthy reflection of your love for beauty. Sadly, Americans still know nothing of leather, stitching, or how the arch of a woman's foot must be caressed like a lover. So travel abroad. Forget the cathedrals. Shop.
Admittedly, your auntie spends her days barefoot or in Keens which is the shoe equivalent of a mallet, what with that huge rubber tip, yet they're remarkably handy when tramping after a Ranger. Every now and then, however, I still break into the gallery and slip on a supple pair of burgundy suede boots that transform me from exhausted yoga teacher to Smokin' Hot Yoga Teacher.
3. Speaking of lovers (sorry bro...stop reading NOW). When you are old enough to choose a lover (your father will peg this as being somewhere in the mid-30s), show him how to please you. Don't tell him. Show him. It's shocking, I know, but most men know squat (no pun intended) about the female anatomy. That's why God invented those teeny-tiny little flashlights that hang on your car keys or live in your desk drawer. So yes...Jesus CAN save.
Understanding ones own anatomy makes a strong argument for choosing another woman. BTW -- if you do opt to be a lesbian or play for both teams (this seems wholeheartedly reasonable since, mathematically, your odds go through the roof), I support your decision. Just remember #2. Don't let your lesbianism compromise your taste in footwear. There's some great butch boot designers out there. Mostly in Germany.
4. And yes, while you should eat your peas, try them blended with a hearty broth and dash of wasabi powder, topped with a lemony dollop of kefir cheese and cilantro. Play with your food. Learn to cook for yourself before you cook for others. And drink good wine; don't be afraid to spend money here. Those people who tell you they found this "excellent Cabernet and it was only nine bucks" are standing in your kitchen doorway waving a cheap-ass bottle of bitter brew trying to convince you they deserve your finely cooked, four-course meal because they are such exquisite bargain hunters. These people are not your friends.
5. Find a sport that you love and stick with it. Play it forever. It will keep you healthy and make your hair shiny. Soccer. Baseball. Badmitton. Just not golf -- those little carts are so silly. This is one regret I have. My lifetime sport was hand-blended margaritas. And I'm spending a lot of my middle years making up for that.
6. Do your research and find a top-notch gynecologist you can stick with forever. Would you trust your turbo-charged, V-6, 24-valve, Japanese designed sports car to Jiffy Lube? Of course not. So why would you send your Happy Place to some amateur with a speculum. I found the perfect mix of smarts, humor and empathy in Dr. Urban. Sadly, he was killed by an avalanche while mountain climbing. But I keep a picture of him (a snappy tuxedo photo which was handed out at his memorial service) in the map drawer of my turbo-charged, V-6, 24-valve Japanese designed sports car so I never forget, "if you have to die young, make sure you're doing something you love." I'm wondering, however, if sitting on the front porch scrapping the plastic creme off Oreos and replacing it with creme fraiche while drinking a crisp, pear-like Sauvignon Blanc and having my feet rubbed by a whipper-snapper who was in utero during my high school prom...I wonder if that counts?
7. Speaking of dying young...ask me about your Uncle Edward. You have his squinty eyes. By the time you develop any curiosity about him, he will have been dead a long, long time. Even now, nobody talks about him except me and your grandpa because everyone is tired of being so sad. Although I will never take you to his grave (your dad can do that), I will take you up to the mountains, rope you up and show you why your uncle loved the wilderness so much. How he learned to live without fear by scaring the shit out of himself on the side of a rock. Then I'll tell you everything. Just not his secrets. Because those are going to my grave.
8. Chicks. Gather yourself some female friends and keep them close. While the post-feminism backlash has taught us that women are the enemy and we must claw our way past our sisters for men, promotions and timely salon appointments...well, that's simply not true. Women will save your life. They will wash your hair when you're too depressed to get out of bed. They will tell you you look great in those jeans even if your muffin top has popped. They will fly across the country to save you from another dumbass decision involving a handsome Cuban and his promises of happily ever after. They will loan you money, no questions asked, when your X cleans out the bank accounts. Chicks rule. Boys drool.
9. Floss. As soon as you have teeth. I was a late bloomer, but now I can't get enough. If I'd only known.
10. I can't help but notice your furrowed brow. Are you worried already? Was the camera flash too bright? Or are you simply pushing out a little dooty. Live large, little one, live!
Travel to countries where you don't speak the language. Read Hemingway (ignore your lesbian friends on this one), eat sea urchin, make some brutal mistakes then man up and apologize. Fight the power. Look out for hope. Forage for mushrooms. Don't bite your nails; don't bother with polish. Pick a dog from the pound. Buy cashmere, but never in sweater sets. Pearls only on rings. Salt without iodine. Vegetables without pesticides. Shave your head at least once. And I'm thinking a little waxing between the brows.
I know just the place.