She's got an outspoken 3-year-old. An absentee boyfriend. A so-called glamour job. And a deep fear of olive loaf. If you think your life's a roller coaster, spend a little quality time with our new monthly columnist.
I suppose you're wondering why I've gathered you all here today. Wait a second, who starts a brand-new column like that? Why am I suddenly channeling Agatha Christie? Okay, let's not panic. I can break set, I can shift gears. Maybe something like this: Attention everyone who was ever mean to me at Alice M. Birney Junior High (that means you, Randy Herschman, Greg Silver, Judy McMahon): I have my own column now, and I'm not afraid to use it....
My name is Lisa Kogan, and I'm a 45-year-old single woman who maintains that life is a fragile bit of luck in a world based on chance, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be cloned, that nobody's grown a decent tomato since 1963.
What else? I live in New York City because it's the only place that would take me. I work at O magazine, which sounds vaguely glamorous—but mostly involves explaining why I can't get tickets to Oprah's show for my cousin's dentist. I have spent the best years of my life growing out bangs, searching for a good bra and wishing I were skinny. (Here's a tip for anybody who's looking to drop a few pounds: wishing doesn't do it.)
I don't understand money, football, corporate culture, or the computer I'm typing on. I used to think the world wasn't all that complicated—just add water and live—but along came AIDS and crack and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, and I guess I grew up. Still, I'm deeply nostalgic for that time when you had to walk across a room to change channels and there was no such thing as a spy satellite capable of spotting the precancerous mole on my inner thigh.
Keep Reading: Lisa explains her unconventional family
Have I left anything out? Let's see, my recent apartment renovation consisted of turning over the sofa cushions, then realizing they looked better the other way. I think every human being deserves a great mattress, a comfortable pair of shoes, and a very smart shrink—the rest is gravy. It's been a long time since I've believed in God, but now that I've put that in print, I'm scared that this God I don't believe in will be mad at me. I get scared a lot. I'm scared the ozone layer is dissolving. I'm scared civility is disappearing. I'm scared one of those horrible superstores will be coming soon to a neighborhood near me. I'm scared my parents are getting old. I'm scared my upper arms are getting flabby. I'm scared of lunchmeat. I'm scared of ambivalent men.
For a long time, I had a type: dark, intense, just a touch remote—the kind of man for whom "I love you" was something said instead of something done. You know the ones I mean, right? They don't want you, but they don't want to let you go. At the end of most dates, I'd find myself tempted to pat the guy reassuringly and say, "Not to worry, you didn't give anything away." My hope was that this sort of man would fall in love with me. My prayer was that I would get over him. My wish was that we had never met.
Then, just when I decided I could have a fine life as a bachelor girl, Johannes appeared with his slow-dance eyes and his easy laugh—and little by little, he crushed my resistance like grapes into wine. Except for a couple of bouts of stomach flu and a few genuinely ugly arguments, there hasn't been a day in nearly 13 years when I haven't wanted to inhale him. But there's a catch.
In order to share custody of his son, Johannes lives on another continent. For those of you playing the home game, that would be 8,000 miles, nine lost luggage situations, and a six-hour time difference away. We are together roughly every two months—making us the envy of most of our married friends. But there's a twist.
Her name is Julia Claire Labusch—and she's our 3-year-old daughter.
Keep Reading: Lisa on the birth of her daughter
There was a lovely old Warren Zevon song—"Mutineer," I think it's called—playing the morning Jules showed up. It's about rocking the boat and venturing into uncharted territory and bearing witness to a life outside your own. At least I think that's what it's about. To be honest, I couldn't hear much above the sound of my shrieking. I couldn't push, I couldn't relax—free-floating rage was the only creative outlet I had left. "Is that your husband?" the nurse asked, pointing to Johannes. "No, he's my sister's husband, but he's madly in love with me. We're planning to kill her for the insurance money, then buy a villa in Uruguay," I snarled. And she seemed fine with that.
The rest of this story is pretty standard stuff; Johannes and the nurses ordered yang chow lo mein from the noodle shop on Second Avenue, my friend Meg dropped by, shifts changed, I threw up, day turned to night, my friend Francesca dropped by, I begged her to grab a chopstick and stab me through the heart, and then a little after 3 a.m., out came the pink velvet bunny nose, soft butter pecan ice cream cone, floppy peony petal, juggle bug baby girl I thought I would never have.
Dr. Samuel Bender asked me if anything hurt. I said, "Everything hurts." And the answer satisfied him enough to send the three of us home.
Five days later, Johannes left for Zurich, and I learned that one of the exquisite ironies of being a parent is you get to stay up as late as you want, but all you want is to go to bed early. I also learned how little I know about raising another human being. (Here's a tip for anybody out there bringing up baby: Never refer to your vodka and tonic as "Mommy's pain-go-bye-bye juice"). But I'll tell you more about that in future columns.
I'll also be showing you how it really feels to date George Clooney, what it's like to spend a full month—just me and my expense account—living it up on the isle of Capri, and together we'll analyze whether a simple girl from Detroit can find true happiness by being drenched in the trappings of unimaginable wealth—unless of course George Clooney, my boss, or Harry Winston has some sort of problem with that.
My, how time flies when I'm doing all the talking. We're already up to the part where I have to end with some simple, albeit clever, albeit straight from the heart, phrase—something that says we're all in this together, something that leaves everybody feeling a little less crazy in a world where "something a little less crazy" isn't always easy to come by—maybe something like this: You've got a friend.