Friday, November 25, 2016

Broken LA Times Repost 2012

The signs of a broken relationship were there from the start

We had come together out of a kind of desperate need. Though things didn't work out, the journey was very worthwhile for one reason: our son.

September 08, 2012|By Rhonda Talbot, Special to the Los Angeles Times

    • Email
(Johanna Goodman, For the…)
From the moment we met, everything about our relationship was broken. I was bicycling at Gold's Gym in Hollywood, listening to Bob Dylan. I barely noticed the guy to my left. I'll call him Jay — tall, lumbering, utterly confused. He fiddled with the controls to his bike, trying not to look embarrassed.
"It's broken," I shouted, not bothering to remove my headphones. He sheepishly climbed off that bike and on to another. More fiddling with the controls. I sighed, pulled off my headphones and pressed his start button.
"Thanks," he said. "I just quit smoking. I also quit drugs, and drinking, and sugar and white flour."
He was handsome in that helpless-boy way. I could tell he was an actor by the way he insisted on making eye contact. He kept talking — something about a motel in Del Mar, Miles Davis, Nietzsche and a pig farm in Utah.
He asked for my number. I could have slipped him a fake one. But I didn't.
How I later found myself in his decaying station wagon — shredded floorboards, untrustworthy brakes, scent of dead fish — remains something of a mystery. We would drive for hours into the desert to sit on sacred land, or pick strawberries in Oxnard, or listen to an obscure jazz band in Thousand Oaks.
Jay was decent and thoughtful. He bought me unconventional gifts: a framed print of Ganesh, a book about the Chumash Indians.
I would report back to my girlfriends about this peculiar guy whose hidden potential came with tie-dyed shirts, pajama pants and strings of puka shells.
After one night of constellation gazing in the high desert, we went back to his apartment. He tinkered with the broken lock, then laughed when the doorknob fell into his hand. "Oops."
By now, I expected things not to work, but I was still startled by the sheer quantity of broken items: televisions, toilets, the refrigerator. Even his roommate, who appeared out of nowhere, walked with a limp.
We drank some warm Cokes, then entered his bedroom. I lay on the futon and noticed the maharishi's face beaming down on me, his left eye askew because of a fracture in the glass frame.
Just as Jay lay down, bam. The futon collapsed. We crashed onto the hardwood floor. I was horrified. Jay chuckled.
"Normally I'm much better at this," he offered. "I mean sexually. Do you want to meditate?"
"Thanks," I said, "but I better get going."
I left thinking I should just erase this entire episode of my life. Why did I even have feelings for this guy?
Back in L.A., I pulled onto my street in the Fairfax district and saw a commotion — fire trucks, ambulances, dozens of pajama-clad onlookers. Then I noticed the fire hoses were directed right into my second-story window.
"What happened?" I said. "That's my apartment!"
"Well, maybe you can tell us what happened," a firefighter said. My place was destroyed, he said, but no one was hurt.
I looked at the crowd of mostly older residents, and my face turned red with shame. Had I forgotten to blow out the aromatherapy candle Jay gave to me, the one that I stupidly left on the wicker table?
"Miss, do you have someone to call?" the firefighter asked.
"Yes, I have a friend," I said.
It was 3 a.m. Many people won't understand why I did what I did. I'm not even sure I do. But heading back to Jay's seemed like the only solution.
He answered the door like nothing was unusual. Homes burn down every day.
I slept on his lumpy sofa, and the next morning Jay made me coffee. We read The Times and carried on. Just an ordinary day.
"Of course you can stay as long as you like," he said.
"That's nice of you."
"By the way," he said, "you slurp your coffee." He winked.
In two days we learned that we had much in common. Broken homes, broken dreams. My heart cracked open.
I knew we had come together out of a kind of desperate need — two halves making a whole. I told him that my family had disowned me when I moved to Hollywood. He said we should live together.
Within a month of combining our households and mismatched belongings, he started bringing in all sorts of broken things. First, there was the stray cat missing a leg, then a wild green parrot that had lost its ability to fly. Soon he moved on to humans — runaways and pregnant heroin addicts.
I eventually missed my old life. Clean. Organized. Predictable. But just as I was about to make my exit, we encountered a broken condom.
Jay was adamant about wanting to make our little family work, so I went along to the Self-Realization Center, to the Buddhist retreats, to the couple's therapist who lived in a tepee — all efforts to fix us. None worked.
By the end of our journey, there was the admission of defeat. But there also was one magnificent prize: a perfectly unbroken son. And for the first time, I understood what love was.
L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns are archived at If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chanel Bags for Getting an A?! STOP

Open Letter to Parents ... Okay, Rant:

I'm struggling here, pleading, this bribing your kids with fancy stuff to get them to do their school work is making problems in my home.  I'm sure you're wonderful people, but this system does not seem conducive to raising healthy children who then go on to become responsible adults.

Though I've already parented one child through the LA haze/maze of the private school network, while there were pitfalls and rabbit holes and plenty of snubs because we were not on a first name basis with Steven Spielberg, the entire ordeal worked out fine. But the world seems to have changed since the last time I stepped into the hallways of a Middle School.

Arguably one could say nothing has changed, things have just amplified. But, nostalgia, my constant, dreamy companion will always illustrate otherwise.

Back to my point. I raised a boy. It's different than raising girls. At least for me. Most of them, well, mine that is didn't care about clothes, fashion, cool cars, cliques, instead he focused on what he liked, academics, science, video games, hanging with his local friends and staying clear of the Westside where he attended posh school. Yes, there were problems, but nothing compared to what I see coming.

Now I have 13-year old girls. Just getting them this far took Herculean effort. I should be dead.

The girls have so many interests, dance, music, art, cooking, design, sewing, fashion, Lego's, Marvel anything, collections of stuff...  anyway suffice to say every day is school, activity, homework, friend drama, problems/complaints with my dinner menu; then everyone goes to their own private pod to engage in some pastime. I go to my bedroom, tiny slice heaven, to read, write, scribble notes, talk to myself, channel flip.

Now the girls are getting into more complicated issues. Stuff outside my wheelhouse. Like fashion, boys, make-up, designer shit, girl drama. Well, one twin anyway. Her sister doesn't care about any of this.

But E, she's the artist, idealistic, sparkly, she loves elegance and plush, knows designers, studies Youtube tutorials on fashion, hair and make-up. Her creativity has no bounds. She never stops. My house is an art gallery. The flourish of her paintbrush is also used on my face, I'm her subject. Everybody is her subject.

All of this is fine and dandy. She's also a good student and seems well adjusted. And my make-up never looked better.

But when it comes to schoolwork, my parenting style is pretty much hands off. They're on their own. They always have been. They know this. They like this. And it works. For us.

THEN Yesterday:

E:  Suzie Q gets a new designer handbag every time she gets an A in anything. She just got a Chanel for English.
Me: I can't listen to this. Who does this? Why not just work for the A, get it and feel good you earned it? Why a reward? She's 12 for chripes' sake!

I'm sure my rant was much worse, before launching into: 'My dad gave me a buck for every A at the end of a semester..." but she was already organizing her point.

E: Do you think I can get a Chanel bag at the end of the year when I make the honor roll.

Which lead us into a conversation of, sure, you'll get some kind of reward for getting good grades. Which I don't have a problem with. For example last year I took the girls to Waffles when they got on the Dean's list. It's more of a small celebration for their hard work.

But they're upping the stakes. I'm not buying a 13- year old a Chanel bag! Ever! I don't care if one of them cures cancer. She can buy her own Chanel bag! Get me one while you're at it.

To me this is bribery, suggesting that education is merely a way to get "stuff" and if they work the system, which they can, they will get great "stuff." Alas, life does not work that way. The kid is being set up for disappointment and disaster. No employer is going to buy you a Chanel bag because you did your flipping job.

But I need support. As in PARENTS stop it! Read some articles or books on how this will backfire. As I've written so often before, they will fall apart in college. They will not be prepared.

I am not talking about the kid who works hard anyway and will do well no matter what the circumstances. I'm talking about the majority of kids who don't like school but will tolerate it if they are given material things.

Many studies conclude that paying kids to learn decreases their intrinsic motivation to perform those activities, weakens their internal drive to learn, and removes their love, if any, for learning. Here is a good, short impactful article.

Instead of Gucci bags, Prada flats, BMW's or fifty dollar bills;

you might say, 'I have complete confidence in your abilities to achieve this task.'

I don't even say that, frankly. Maybe I'm fortunate, my kids like school, like to learn. Sure sometimes it's hard. Sure they'd rather play Minecraft or watch Bethany Mota bubble on about her DIY "hauls."

But you know what they hate more than anything? Getting a C or god forbid a D! When that happens, they get upset with themselves, then figure it out. Sometimes I get involved, mostly not. What happens after that? They start getting B's, then A's. Along with the great satisfaction, it was all their own doing.

It seems in this world, most of the kids I encounter have everything. Iphones, IPads, IAnything. Many get allowances (mine don't.) Many get shopping sprees. They want for little. SO, in addition, then get HIGHER end stuff if they get an A?

Bewildered. And I get a sense this is just going to escalate. Hello High School. How can I bend you to my will so we get into an Ivy? Lots and lots of money!!!

Just after posting, I was sent this great article, including a saying: "Punished by Rewards" an excellent read. Perfect timing. Read here.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on spoiled kids, overindulgence, Middle School, High School, Rewards for Nothing, Parenting, Bribery, Help.