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Posts Tagged ‘boyfriend’

You’re at a Justin Bieber Concert

June 19, 2012 | by

Photograph by Peggy Sirota.

About a year and a half ago—when we were all still riding high on the platinum-certified Justin Bieber of My World 2.0; we didn’t even have the very spirited Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, yet—I spent a day as a guest educator at an elementary school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In my role as underqualified outsider, I oversaw a battery of improv activities I had made up the night before (taught being too strong a word, for I taught those wee lads and lasses nothing, save that pretending to be in a school-bus accident is more fun than learning how to write in cursive). At my command, the Midwestern moppets acted out one fantastical situation after another: they walked through imaginary mansions in a game called “Real Estate Agent,” took turns delivering absurd one-word-at-a-time answers as a guest on my daytime talk show, “Three-Headed Expert.” When the time came for a relatively simple activity that required them to act out situations as I named them (“You’re at the grocery store!” “You’re coming home from school!”), I provided a couple of mundane prompts, and then, unable to control myself any longer, played my ace.

“You’re at a Justin Bieber concert!”

Some of the girls threw themselves on the ground in a shrieking rapture; others ran around the classroom in hysterics, shouting “Justin! I love you, Justin!” One young lady, offended by the suggestion that she ought to join this breathless frenzy, stood unmoving and angry, her arms hanging at her sides. “I hate Justin Bieber!” she whined. Most of the boys were with her, groaning, pretending to vomit, plugging their ears. Of all the scenarios I guided them through that day, the imaginary Justin Bieber concert was the hardest to break up. It took me several minutes to regain their attention.

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My Manticore

May 24, 2011 | by

Illustration by Berkley Illustration.

When I was in my midtwenties, my apartment acquired a stuffed Canada goose, mounted in full flight. Although this was around the time when taxidermy was becoming obligatory for a certain breed of sepia-toned downtown restaurant, there was nothing ironic about ours, which my then boyfriend had shot himself on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The less said about his hunting proclivities the better—and I’m sure you could say all sorts of obvious things that were later borne out—but I liked that the goose had a provenance, which is a true urban rarity.

We named him Manticore, after the Robertson Davies novel (he was, after all, Canadian) and generally assumed he would be a whimsical addition to the household. How wrong we were. Manticore, it soon turned out, was a dreary and oppressive presence. Somehow, he became indelibly endowed, in our minds, with a humorless earnestness. It started as a joke but quickly took on a life of its own. We imagined him policing our conversations, interjecting superior opinions, and staring down judgmentally with his glassy eyes. Manticore, we somehow sensed, had strong and implacable opinions on matters like universal healthcare and, possibly, 9/11 conspiracies. He disapproved of levity. He would have been heavily involved in experimental theater, if he hadn’t been a stuffed goose. I grew to hate Manticore.

Initially, I’d thought Manticore would be an integral part of decorating schemes, gamely donning scarves and garlands as the season dictated. When I knew him better, this was out of the question—say what one will about the goose, he had a certain dignity. We might strip him of life, we might force him into unwilling cohabitation, but somehow he would maintain the autonomy of the wild.

When the relationship ended, Manticore took up residence in my former boyfriend’s new bachelor pad, where—since it was a studio—he loomed large. I took a certain petty pleasure in imagining the chilling effect his self-righteousness would exact on any romantic prospects. Or perhaps he’d find another woman more to his liking. Manticore, I sensed, had disapproved of me.

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