From the monthly archives:

April 2014

Good at It

by Marinka on April 19, 2014

There are things that I am absolute shit at and that list is not short.

I don’t like or care about decorating. I’m happy with college-era furniture. I’m not interested in cleaning and am useless with a vacuum cleaner. Really, we have a very frosty relationship, staying out of each other’s way as much as possible, save for the time that I’d tripped over it because I couldn’t bother to get it out of the way earlier. The fact that I snapped a seldom-worn heel during that incident didn’t endear the vacuum to me any, by the way, and neither did the fact that it’s not spelled vaccum, although I really think it should be.

One time the cleaning lady told me that the filter needed to be changed, and really, you’d have thought she was asking me to arrange an intergalactic journey, on frequent flier miles, for her. My breathing quickened and the only solution I could come up with was the buy a new vacuum cleaner, which I assumed would come with a filter already implanted, the way the Good Lord intended, and that would put an end to the whole changing the filter nonsense. I recognized that it was a temporary solution, to be sure; but as solutions go, temporary is sometimes preferable to final, especially if you’re not into the whole Holocaust denying thing.

Fortunately, while I was trying to slow my heart rate down to non-Code Blue, mumbling “filter… I’m not so sure…” she opened some side closet that was apparently devoted to filters and changed it herself like it was the most natural thing in the world. The crisis was averted, but it drove home, to my living room, the point that not only was I was no domestic goddess, I was not even domestically competent. I am, quite possibly, an embarrassment to women and perhaps humanity at large. I feel that I should apologize, but apparently I’m not good at that either.

What’s worse about my lack of cleaning aptitude is that I don’t mind it. I don’t see it as a character flaw that I need to work on, I’m not embarrassed by it and I don’t even wish it were different. I know there are people who feel a sense of satisfaction after cleaning the bathroom or organizing the kitchen, but I can’t play at that. I’ve had my share of washing the bathroom, scrubbing the toilet, rearranging the spice rack, of course. But instead of the elation of a job well done, of feeling pleased that things are in order and that I held the center for the household, if just for a few hours, I feel instead the kind of melancholy that drove home the point that I just spent hours cleaning instead of say, going for a walk, listening to Leonard Cohen, spending time with friends or reading the US Weekly “Stars! They’re just like us!” feature. Because knowing that stars feed the meters and their kids like us mere mortals is what democracy is all about. Maybe if there were photographic evidence of Angelina scrubbing her toilet, I’d get on board with it too.

But I doubt it.

I’m telling you the things that I am bad at to take the sting out of telling you what I’m good at. I want you to think that I am just like you– bad at some things and good at others. Because then maybe you won’t resent my superpower. Because I have to level with you–I’m really, really good at it and I don’t want you to think that I’m boasting. And, yes, of course I’m boasting, but I just don’t want you to think that I am.


I’m really good at making friends. Or rather, I’m really good at attracting people, men and women, if you’re not familiar with the concept of “people” to me and binding them in friendship. It’s witchcraft, almost, except I refuse to sink to prove my virtue. Or float, for that matter.

It is, nevertheless, uncanny– ever since I was a teenager, and I was a really awkward teenager, I drew people to me who became lifelong friends and gave me more than I deserved. I am not being modest when I say I did not do anything to earn the friendship- I really didn’t. I mean, I wasn’t an asshole. I didn’t abuse the people that I knew I was lucky to have in my life, but I also didn’t work on the friendships, I didn’t pursue them. I didn’t solicit. I didn’t show up with balloons and surprises. I didn’t lend my favorite sweater. I was a person. Whenever I had a new boyfriend or something, I’d disappear and not return calls. The usual stuff. But somehow I kept the friends. It just happened. I was lucky.

And I’ve always known how lucky I am to have the friends I have. I’ve always known it was an anomaly. Like years ago, before children and marriage, I dated a man who I sometimes describe as the best looking man I ever dated, but that’s not true. Because he was the best looking man that I’d ever seen, at least at that time; I’m not great at look-backs. The thing about dating him was that sometimes I wondered if the people we met as a couple thought I was blackmailing him with something unmentionable or if they suspected that I had a trick pelvis. But no, that wasn’t it. We were just young and fun.

Now, when I see the friends who show up for me– for my karaoke birthday party that I threw together on a Monday night with a few days notice, for a weekend in NYC, lunch at SoHo House, a few days in Rome, I catch my breath. Because I know how unspeakably lucky I am.

My daughter and I are in Rome to visit one of her closest friends. They met in NYC, during a period when they were both playing parental-mandated tennis. Eva’s family moved back to Rome over the summer, and my daughter experienced the kind of missing that you know is part of life but wish to spare the people you love. I don’t post many pictures on this site, and hardly ever of my kids, but I’m posting this one that I snapped a few seconds before my daughter was reunited with her friend. I’ve never seen her look happier. And I recognized that kind of happiness. I know that kind of happiness. I’m good at it.


I met Daisy during freshman orientation in college. Again, we were both just there. It was random and so lucky. I had no idea then that she’d bear witness to my life and when things fell apart for me last year, that she’d tell me “I”ll meet you anywhere.” Big talk for a woman who lives in Prague and works full-time and has a family, but she did. This week in Rome, she showed up and we walked the city and we talked and laughed and remembered and cried and drank Campari and wine and cappuccino and coffee and I felt as happy as my daughter looked.


Things aren’t perfect.

I’m at a complicated time in my life, I hate to vacuum and I still don’t have a trick pelvis.

But I am also so lucky to have a life that’s so rich in friendship and love.

Sometimes I think I’m the luckiest girl in the world.



by Marinka on April 16, 2014

I’m in Rome.

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but I thought if I did, you’d get all clingy and start dropping hints about how you love Rome/always wanted to go and/or have a Prada purse. So I took the easy way out and snuck out behind your back, without alerting you.

And there’s nothing that you can do about it. You don’t get a say.

I’m here with my daughter, who’s sort of the perfect traveling companion. We’re very gelato-compatible–it’s like I birthed her or something. I’m working on a post (tentative title: Meaning of Life/Key to Happiness (and Younger Looking Skin) but that will take a while and in this age of instant gratification, I wanted to share some of my off-the-cuff thoughts about Rome with you. I know you’re still mad at me for leaving you like I did. I’m mad at myself too.

1. I’ve been to Rome more than any other European city. Paris may be a moveable feast, but Rome insists that you visit. Or that I visit.

2. All Italians are attractive. I have no idea how they swing that, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of those miracles that the Vatican keeps harping on about. (Also, Italian men need to get themselves to NYC and other major American cities and give classes at the Learning Annex and maybe Harvard on how to look at women.  Because no one does it better.)

2a. You have no idea how hard it has been for me not to tweet “when in Rome, do a Roman.” But I’m a lady. Or something.

3. I know smoking is bad, but why do the Italians look so good doing it? Wait, is this related to 2, supra? Whatever. I’ll check with the Surgeon General if there’s any wiggle room on the denouncement.

4. You must have a native Italian friend when you visit Rome. We’re staying with ours. And when he embraced me and said in Italian-accented English, “Marinka, I hear you are getting  a divorce and also a new cat, yes?” he made it sound like not something I’d need to slash my wrists over. And not just because he held out a bottle of wine as a salve. (I didn’t tell you about the new cat. Sorry again.  I did mention that I’m going through gender reassignment, right?!)

5. This native Italian friend will make comments about you being American. Like when you want to take a very hysterical photo, he will say “oh, sure, go ahead. You’re not the first American to do this.”
This could have the potential to lead to an international incident, but fortunately I find Rome intoxicating. Besides, my cats need me to come home in one piece.


6. There are a kazillion museums and churches, but Rome is basically an open air museum. Just walking down the street is a treat.



7. So is stopping by St. Peter’s Square on a late morning and seeing that the Pope is addressing the masses. I had no idea what he was saying, I’m guessing something the American Blogger movie. (Also, really disappointing that there was no Q&A at the end).

8. There is no Starbcucks in Rome. My friends told me this, and I said “that’s impossible, I have a Starbucks-locating app!” Because apparently I believe that the app comes with a brick and mortar extension so that a new Starbucks store could be built. But I checked and Rome is Starbuck-less. And when I insist on getting my cappuccino to go, they insist on pouring it into a urine-sample plastic cup. But it’s still delicious.


9. There is a water fountain app that people in Rome use. And today we learned how to use an Italian water fountain correctly. With this knowledge, how far behind can relocation be, really?

Italian water fountain from Marinka NYC on Vimeo.

10. I can eat gelato every day. I can spend endless hours walking the city with my daughter. I never forget how fortunate I am.


I’m over at Alpha Mom Book Club with a review of Drew Magary’s Someone Could Get Hurt. You should read it immediately.



April 10, 2014

If it’s true that it’s better to be lucky than smart, then I have it made. Because when the trailer for the American Blogger documentary came out earlier this week, I had friends who contacted me to spoof it. And I’m smart enough to jump on it. Enjoy: Thanks to Neil, who always has the […]

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