Archive for the 'The writing life' Category

Celebrating the independent life

lady libertyLong ago, in a universe far away, I was married. And when that marriage ended and I moved out on my own for the very first time (I went from living with my family to living with college roommates to living with my husband), I thought I was going to die of loneliness.

I had no one to talk to, no one to snuggle with, and no one who would rub my shoulders when I got home from a long day of typesetting (I told you it was a long time ago). There was also no one to blame for the crumb-covered rug or the leaning tower of cereal bowls in the sink. It was just me. And it stayed just me until I fell in love with a handsome writer five years my junior (scandalous!) and we decided to live together.

Looking back on those times now, I laugh. I had only been on my own for six months – six months! – yet at the time it felt like an eternity. At this point, I’ve lived alone for nearly two decades and while I still have no one to blame but myself for the cereal bowls in the sink, I’ve learned that if my shoulders need rubbing, I can just go get a massage. Or ask one of my buddies for a backrub. Or lie down on my crumb-covered rug with a tennis ball under my aching shoulders. 

In other words, I’ve become much more comfortable with my single self. Why? I talk about some of the reasons in this Single Shot column celebrating independence.

Single Shot: O say, can you see how great living alone can be?

As much fun as it can be to live with a significant other — shared meals, shared laughs, shared love — there’s something pretty spectacular about living on your own.

First off, there’s no one to answer to. You can dance around your living room to bad ’70s rock at 6 in the morning. You can turn your bathroom into a shrine to Carlos Silva. For better or for worse (to borrow a phrase), it’s your show.

Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table wearing a vintage Hawaiian skirt and a black hooded sweat shirt. My hair’s pulled into a misshapen bun and I’m wearing two pairs of reading glasses. High fashion, I am not.

In fact, I may not even be hygienic. But that’s the beauty of living alone. You don’t have to worry about scaring a spouse with your haphazard fashion sense. You don’t have to apologize for snoring like a leaf blower. If you use the last drop of half-and-half or leave your dishes in the sink or spend your Saturday reading Mary Roach instead of taking out the recycling, it’s perfectly fine. You could say it’s your unalienable right.

For singles, every day is a celebration of independence.

Click here to read the rest. And Happy Independence Day, fellow singletons!

Should you buy your date’s kids presents?

Colleague and fellow relationship writer Theo Pauline Nestor contacted me a couple of weeks back, asking if I’d be willing to weigh in on the question of gift giving and the holidays. While there are always tons of stories out this time of year about what and when and if and how you should buy a gift for someone you’re just starting to date, Theo wanted to know what you do about your date’s kids.

Do you put on the old Santa suit and bribe the little darlings with the latest smart phone and Wii games? Or do you play dumb and pretend that your new main squeeze has no children (despite the cookie frosting and pieces of Pirate Booty in their hair).

Along with tapping me for advice, Theo turned to Rachel Sarah, author of Single Mom Seeking, Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again and others. Here’s how her story, which ran on Match.com’s online magazine Happen, starts.

As holiday shopping kicks into full gear, you might be wondering if “naughty or nice” should be the sole criterion for choosing the lucky ones that make up your gift list. Those actively dating single parents may be a bit perplexed about whether they should play Santa to their dates’ kids this holiday season. We’ve talked to dating experts, single parents and those who’ve dated single parents to get their insight on the subject, so read on and see how they’ve weighed in on this tricky question.

If you’re dating a single parent this holiday season, the first question to answer is whether it’s a good idea to buy any gift for this person’s child (or children) at all. Some experts and single parents think the answer to this question lies in the relationship you’ve already cultivated with your date’s child. “I think it all depends on whether you have any kind of relationship with the kids or not. Not every single parent is comfortable introducing a date to their kids — at least, not for awhile,” says Diane Mapes, author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World.

Click here to read the rest.  In the meantime, I’m curious as to who out there does buy gifts for their dates’ kids and if so, how long it took you to get to this point. For that matter, I’m curious about how long it took for your date to introduce you to their child. I’ve dated men who’ve told me they absolutely refuse to introduce a new woman to their little one for “a year or year and a half.” Other singles have told me about meeting the kid and the date at the exact same time.

So what’s been the norm with you? Or is it like everything else with regard to the dating world – there is no norm. As always, thanks for the read and happy dating (and happy holidays), people.

Writing about breast cancer is scary, too

So it’s been an interesting couple of days. My essay, Mastectomy and the Single Girl, went live yesterday on Today/MSNBC.com, garnering a lot of online comments. I’m happy to say most of them were supportive, although there were a few people who thought I was “crude and vulgar” or being too flip with regard to a horrible, devastating disease (uh duh — I have it) or that I was suffering not only from ILC (invasive lobular carcinoma) but a really bad case of TMI.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Quite frankly, I still haven’t decided if I’m insane or stupid or brave or full of myself or what when it comes to sharing my story. I just know that I’m a writer and writers write about the stuff that happens to them. And when you suddenly lose a couple of body parts and then your hair and then your strength because you’re being pumped full of poison in an attempt to keep you from losing your life … well, that seems like something that might be worth delving into.

Even if it’s scary. Even if it’s uncomfortable.

And cancer — or any disease, for that matter — is not a comfortable topic.  When I was diagnosed I went looking for information on that topic, though, for stories from women who’d been through it.  Some of those stories depressed me.  (I told my friends if I heard the phrase “I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my wonderful husband and partner” one more time, I was going to throw up, but hey, I’d just been dumped).

Others scared the bejesus out of me. Tip to those recently diagnosed: avoid the online breast cancer forums for a while — they’re full of information, but all you’ll focus on are the horror stories about how your fingernails are going to turn black and fall off during chemo. (FYI, mine didn’t.) Other stories helped me beyond words.

Anyway, I guess I’m just trying to return the favor by offering my take on the situation. And since I write humor and have always had a knack for saying inappropriate things (and I have the grade school report card comments to prove it), I’m not going to be presenting the Lifetime Channel version of breast cancer.

I’m just hoping that some woman, somewhere, who’s just heard from a radiologist or surgeon or oncologist that she, too, is a brand new member of the Breast Cancer Club, will find something useful in my experience. Will see that breast cancer is doable. And survivable. Will realize that cancer can take your boobs and your hair and your physical strength, but it can’t take your sense of humor. Or your will to live. Or in my case, my determination to kill this motherfucker of a disease one bad joke at a time.

Many thanks to those of you who’ve sent me comments and subscribed to this blog. Your support means a lot. Gotta run now. I’ve got tap dance class.

Dating is murder

Jeremy Richards of Seattle’s local NPR radio station, KUOW, was kind enough to ask me onto his show, KUOW Presents, the other day to discuss dating and relationships in some of the current fiction I’d been reading. Ironically, most of my reading these days has been in the literary crime category, so I jokingly suggested a “dating is murder” theme. And wouldn’t you know it, he bit.

Herewith, a link to the show, where we discuss two books by the award-winning Irish author Tana French (In the Woods and its follow-up, The Likeness). Obviously, no one reads books about murder specifically for insights into dating, but I do think you come across as many relationship truths in crime fiction as you do truths about other human behavior. Not to mention some interesting insights into those supposedly “happy” marriages, many of which end with a leaded crystal vase to the side of the head.

One thing I didn’t mention on the show which is sort of interesting is that detectives —  often the narrators in crime fiction — are usually single. They may have occasional flings (sometimes with the wrong people, including suspects) but they always seem to start the book alone and end the book alone and that’s just fine with them. Their true relationship is with the case; finding the killer – as opposed to a soulmate — is what brings them happiness and satisfaction. But it’s not easy. Along the way, they get lied to and manhandled and led down countless blind alleys.

Hmmm, now that I think about it – maybe detective work and dating aren’t that different. What do you think — has your dating life been murder lately? Time to ‘fess up.

Letters … we get letters

postmanIt’s always interesting to see how people will respond to stories and my recent piece on swearing for MSNBC.com has been no exception. 

One fellow wanted to know — in all sincerity — why it was that only saying something like “Jesus F*cking Christ!” gave him any satisfaction.  “JFC , much to my chagrin, seems to be my favorite curse … yet [it] makes me cower in fear for my soul,” he wrote.  For a while, he apparently tried to use alternative curses, such as  “Oh …  Mahatma Ghandi!” or even “Ah Mahatma F*cking Ghandi!” but nothing did the trick like good ol’ JFC.  The only insight I could give him was what I learned from my swearing expert, Dr. Timothy Jay, who said that the whole appeal of taboo words is that “they’re forbidden and we’ve been punished for saying them.” In other words, the reason it feels soooo good is because it’s soooo naughty.

Speaking of naughty, another reader sent the following: 

Real men and ladies would never use the “F-bombs”!!!!!!!!!!!! Only “trash” like you, who belong in the sewer, would write about this in such a cavalier matter!!!!!!!!!!”  

Naturally, I felt the overuse of exclamation points, unnecessary quotation marks and incorrect word choice a much greater sin than having written a fun story about swearing. But then, I’m a total word geek (and hardly alone judging by my recent piece on “spelling snobs”).  

Worst response? The blogger who suggested that I’d picked up a particularly juicy quote “somewhere else” then built “an ostensibly legit story around it just so [I] could use it.”  What do you think? Should I send her my 30 or so pages of transcribed interviews and three pounds of printed research? Or should I just say f*ck it and move on to the next choice assignment?  ; )

Parting “shot”

single-shot-last-column2My last Single Shot column appeared in the Seattle P-I today.  Appropriately enough, it’s about what to do when you’re dumped. Even more apt, it’s appearing on Friday the 13th.  Talk about timing.

Obviously, I’m very sad about Hearst choosing to shut down such a great newspaper and not just because it means I’ll be out of a column. I’ve worked at newspapers off and on since I was about 19, basically bootstrapping my way up the ladder from “composing room” paste-up artist and typesetter (yes, I have a pica pole and know how to use one) to freelance columnist at one of Washington’s largest dailies. I’ve worked with hundreds of dedicated, die-hard news people — journalists, photographers, copy editors, sales staff, printers, pressmen, those weird guys back in litho — at big dailies, rinky-dink weeklies and everything in between. 

It’s very difficult to see the newspaper industry on such shaky ground, to wonder if the written word holds value any more. 

Obviously, I’m not the only one involved in this kind of soul-searching these days. There are many industries in trouble out there, although from what I can tell, bars and online dating services seem to be doing okay. Who knows, maybe I can rework Single Shot into a column about booze and dating. 

Before signing off (I’ve got deadlines, as always), I would love to give a shout-out to the talented crew at the Seattle P-I who made Single Shot happen: my editors, John Levesque and Chris Beringer; the many talented news artists who created such brilliant artwork to illustrate my pieces; the copy editing team who caught all my embarrassing mistakes before they hit print; the online media folks for helping me get those all-important clicks. I’d also like to thank the P-I’s readers for taking time out of their day to listen to my voice and put up with what must seem like a never-ending stream of corny jokes.  Now you know how my poor family feels.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank that fabulous P-I globe for lighting up my life — and my city — for all these years.


What’s the story?

Meet Diane Mapes, your friendly neighborhood freelance writer. My beats include health (with an emphasis on cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship) and lifestyle and singles issues, but I also love writing about history, natural history, pop culture and TV/film. On this site, you'll find links to stories, praise for my writing (*blush*) and the odd bit of social commentary about the single life. Also here, a few shameless plugs for my books (hint: see links below). Have fun, glad you're here and hope to hear from you soon.

Oh! And if you're looking for my breast cancer blog, go to Double_Whammied

Check out my books!

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Follow me on Twitter!

May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031