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.

One year ago ...

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

TwoBusy April 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm

And justlikethat, you demonstrate something else you’re good at: planting a big ol’ smile on my face.


Susan Weinstein April 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm

That truly was a moving touching post. I also cannot vacuum and leave the rug better than it was. And most of those vacuums are made for taller more coordinated people. And I cannot cook restaurant grade vegan meals. But I recognize also the luck of having long friendships.


Barbara Sigelbaum
April 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm

You have an appealing way about you. It’s easy to sense. (Imagine how many friends you’d have with a tricky uterus)


Sherry Carr-Smith
April 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm

This makes me happy. I’d take friendship making over vaccuming (should be spelled this way) any day.


Karen April 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm

We are the lucky ones who get to call you friend. Can’t wait to hang out in Atlanta in two weeks. Love you tons!


alexandra April 19, 2014 at 10:03 pm

I’m the lucky one. I can tell you why I love you. Your kindness to me over four years time of meeting a stranger like me. I am grateful to know you. And you deserve the friends you have.


Nicole Morgan April 19, 2014 at 10:10 pm

i was going to try and be witty and prolific … but then i saw that you were heading to ATL and now i am giddy with excitement at seeing you again. Cocktails, hugs, commiseration … cannot wait.


Deb Rox
April 19, 2014 at 10:49 pm

While I’m disappointed about the trick pelvis news, as I had heard murmurings, I’m so happy for you. This is beautiful.


christy April 20, 2014 at 7:56 am

This is one of my favorite posts of yours, ever. xoxo


Liz @ ewmcguire April 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Love this one so much, Marinka.


April 20, 2014 at 7:58 pm

We like you just as you are, Marinka.


the mama bird diaries
April 20, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Beautiful post Marinka. You deserve it. xo


Jane April 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Awwwww you made me happy with this post!!!!
Have a wonderful time!


anna whiston-donaldson April 21, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Loved this post, Marinka! All week I enjoyed thinking of the smiles and tears and hugs you were experiencing in Rome.


dusty earth mother April 21, 2014 at 9:55 pm

I have an unspeakable love for this post. And you are a wonderful friend.


Laurie April 21, 2014 at 11:00 pm

You don’t let down women-kind by hating cleaning. I don’t know how we got saddled with that anyway. I think we should give it back.

Your friends make your life so much richer than clean floors.

Smart, smart lady!


kim @the fordeville diaries
April 22, 2014 at 12:17 am

I love this post. Sounds like such a special time in Rome — enjoy!


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