How To Tell If You Are In A Grace Paley Story -The Toast

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Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 10.07.07 PMPreviously in this series.

You’re a Manhattanite, of course.

Your mother and father are both alive, but you keep thinking of them in the past tense.

You used to be married, but it seems you’re not anymore. No one, including you, knows whether you’re actually divorced.

Your parents cry when they think of you taking the subway.

You keep finding yourself in parks, surrounded by children, just when you want to be having a goddamn conversation about something, and there’s no talking to children.

You are enduring secondhand heartbreak, which is the best kind of heartbreak.

You are a woman with graying hair and you still have a sex drive, though you’d never call it that, because the Second Wave hasn’t happened yet.

You live in the Bronx for a few years, which makes you feel proud. Then you move back to Manhattan.

You make a political statement in everything you do. Then again, no one cares what you do, so it’s an empty gesture.

The man you might be divorced from comes back, and you go to bed with him. It’s hot until it’s not, so you kick him out.

You go to Communist countries just to prove that Communism can work.

You are aggressively pro-union, even though you don’t work.

You never say outright that your children are annoying, even though they really are.

The times when you feel like a real mother are the times when you pass guilt on to the next generation.

When it snows, you slip and slide your way through Manhattan, clutching the arms of strange men whenever they reach out to help you. You only bristle at their daring later, when you’re safely off the streets.

Sometimes inspiration strikes and you find a nice man to have conversations with over a glass of wine in the Village. Sometimes you kiss him goodnight, sometimes you slap him and make him pay for your taxi home.

You met your second sort-of husband in Washington Square Park. He was busking and you gave him money. Later you found out he had a trust fund.

After twenty years, you finally learn your downstairs neighbor’s name. The two of you become great friends and talk euphemistically about your husbands’ “endowments.”

You teach writing at an all-women’s college. The girls who aren’t sleeping with their professors flirt with you instead. It makes you feel young, and very straight.

Your sort-of second husband runs away with someone else. You sense a pattern emerging in your life.

You watch your kids eat all the mac and cheese and you wonder again why you had them. Oh, right, you remember, it was that guy.

You call your dad “Father” because you think you’re a grown-up now, and he acts like he doesn’t know who you’re talking to. “We’re Jewish, for Christ’s sake,” he tells you.

You like to go and protest whatever ill-advised war your country is in this time. You bring your kids with you because you believe in training them early.

You find a tree in Soho and sit in it for a while, just to be dramatic. Some people drop change at your feet.

Everyone you love thinks you have “potential.”

Everyone you hate understands you perfectly.

You can’t escape who you are or the boat your parents came on. You can only make mistake after mistake after mistake and call it love.

Ilana Masad is a queer Israeli-American writer living in New York. Unsurprisingly, she has two cats and tons of books. Less predictably, she is a columnist for McSweeney's. Follow her @ilanaslightly or at

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