"Regrets," Sinatra croons over my ridiculously old JBL speakers, "I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention." Which leads me to this conclusion: Ol' Blue Eyes never had to write a monthly column. If he did, he would know that when you're forced to fill a 1,300-word space 12 times a year, everything bears mentioning.
I stand in the produce section wondering what a pomelo is and whether I can get a column out of it. I see a woman trip in front of Bloomingdale's, and (instead of rushing to help her up) I begin spinning it into a piece on the perils of stiletto heels.
Regrets? I've had a few, and I'll be more than happy to mention every last one of them if they can be labeled "Lisa Kogan's March column."
Rebellion rocks Soweto, America turns 200, Red Army Faction terrorists stand trial in West Germany, and I am an impressionable 15-year-old fresh from seeing the Streisand-Kristofferson remake of A Star Is Born
. I regret thinking that if I permed my stick-straight hair to look like Barbra's, I could somehow become fabulous enough to snag Kris Kristofferson. Instead, I attend my first major make-out party looking as if a demented poodle had taken up residence on my head.
John DeLorean is acquitted, the Apple Macintosh is in stores, Miami Vice convinces men to dress as if they were dishes of sherbet, and I am 23 years old, living in New York City. I regret that I didn't raise a little more hell back when I still had nothing to lose. But I got no kick from cocaine and mere alcohol didn't thrill me at all. I was born the old soul, the good girl, the designated soup schlepper, and I actually believed that I had the rest of my life to go dancing in ruby red lipstick.
Exxon screws up Alaska, Salman Rushdie irks the Ayatollah, Zsa Zsa Gabor slaps a motorcycle cop, and I leave a job in real estate that paid more money than I had ever made before—or since—to take a job as an assistant at a little weekly magazine called 7 Days
. I'm not sure that changing careers in my late 20s is a brilliant idea, but my father tells me that when you really love what you do, you tend to be pretty good at it, and when you're good at something, the money eventually comes. I regret that I never thanked my dad for saying what I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it. Only a few years earlier, he'd told me that it's always best to open the garage door before
backing out of the garage. Now, that was a situation where he probably should have said something a little bit sooner than when we were standing in the driveway surveying what was left of the car and the garage. Anyway, it was at 7 Days
that I met my friend Mark Carson—the person who taught me everything I know about grace and courage and authenticity.
Anita Hill speaks truth to power, the Soviet Union calls it a day, the Gulf War begins, and it hits me that I'm looking for something I will never find with my boyfriend of nearly five years. The rites of passage are narrow and they come just once. If I hadn't walked away that rainy November morning, I know I'd have stayed for the rest of my life. I regret that it took me so damn long to figure out who I wanted to be when I finally grew up, and I regret having hurt someone I loved along the way.
There is war in Bosnia, Rodney King in Los Angeles, Dan Quayle unable to spell P-O-T-A-T-O in a New Jersey elementary school, and I spend the next 10 long months filled with regret that I didn't eat more lasagna prior to starting my hideously grueling diet.
The World Trade Center is bombed, Václav Havel is elected president of the Czech Republic, Heidi Fleiss is busted and I deeply regret eating all that lasagna upon completion of my hideously grueling 10-month diet. There's an old saying: to consume one's own body weight in melted mozzarella is to go directly back to your fat pants.
I don't remember much about that year except for this: The AIDS virus was savaging beautiful young men, and Mark Carson—my partner in crime, my in-case-of-emergency-please-call guy, my whip-smart, deeply honest, very brave, infuriatingly optimistic, darling friend—died as I held him in my arms. He had goodness, he had integrity, he had cheekbones that could open an envelope. He liked bright lights and big cities. He cared about justice and art. And in my dreams he's always there, dragging me to the best Turkish restaurant in Astoria or playing some CD of an obscure albeit amazing indie rocker, or simply racing forward to offer me sanctuary within his incredibly generous embrace.
Stop tormenting yourself with regrets...