Before Christmas, a box came in the mail with no return address. My wife said, “This could be anthrax.” I thought: Nah, anthrax isn’t trending, and opened the box. It was baklava. Right away, I knew the real poison-sugar.

I shouldn’t have eaten the baklava. I’d already had a piece of birthday cake and then one more sliver. Then I had to even the cake out with a knife.

Lately, I ideate about food all day long, the sweeter the better, but then potato chips, Kettle Brand Backyard Barbeque, which never interested me before, are like Sirens.

For 30 years…

By Andrea Askowitz

Since March, since we’ve been locked down with our kids, every other Saturday is cleaning day. Our nanny hasn’t been able to come to work, so I thought I’d use this moment to teach my kids self-reliance. Also, with all of us home all the time, the house is always a disaster and I didn’t want to do all the cleaning myself.

On our first cleaning day, I made a quick list-tidy bedrooms, scrub down the kitchen, wash and fold laundry, sweep, mop, and water plants. My wife and I would take care of the bathrooms.

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

I used to feel like I could make a difference in the world. I used to march in the streets. When I was a kid, my mom took my brother and me to March on Washington three times. For fifteen years after college, I worked full-time to help homeless people find jobs, working-class people make a livable wage, and queer youth who’d been bullied out of their schools or homes. I volunteered for Democratic candidates all my life. My candidates didn’t always win, but I always felt like the world was moving in the right direction.

Four years ago, I…

Someone tweeted, “Which books do you brag about reading?” I retweeted with a comment, “Every time I read a book I brag about it.”

I’m not a voracious reader. I can’t believe I just wrote that. I hate the term “voracious reader.” As cliché as it is, that’s how every writer describes herself, except me. I wasn’t that kid who checked out seven books from the library every week. I didn’t sit in corners. I didn’t escape behind books. And now I feel like I’m running from behind, and I’m a bit defensive about it.

Thirteen years ago, I joined…

Andrea Askowitz in high school and now. Now photo by Stephanie Howard

Every time I see my mom, she tells me, “Dye your hair. You look like an aging hippie.”

I’m 51, and while I fear I’m aging out of a lot of things — the ability to run miles and miles without getting injured, for one — I’m not aging out of looks. There’s a photograph of the writer Susan Sontag taken at 58. She’s lying back, holding her elbow up with her hand resting on her head. Sontag was known for her political theories, but also for the thick swath of gray hair right in front, while the rest was…

List in my notebook of my stories and themes, color-coded.

A year ago, I turned 50. A few days before that, I saw a quote on Twitter attributed to Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451. He said, “Write a short story every week for a year. It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.”

I didn’t see myself as someone who gave herself added challenges, but without thinking much about it, I wrote essay №1 about turning 50 and challenging myself to 50 essays in a year. A year went by and here it is, essay №50.

Writing 50 essays taught me some things. I learned…

My mom with her kids.


My mom has cancer now. I say “now” because six months ago my brother had cancer. He was lucky. He had thyroid cancer, which everyone says is the good cancer. They cut out his thyroid and some lymph nodes. Then three days of solitary confinement after swallowing radioactive iodine and he was cured.

Friday was my mom’s first round of chemo. My brother showed up at 8 a.m. with a piece of his blue blanket, for luck. Later, she showed me the threads and I recognized it right away — the blanket he slept with as a kid.

When I…

Getting suited up as Hannah G. Solomon, the founder of National Council of Jewish Women.

I was invited by the National Council of Jewish Women to speak at their annual meeting as Hannah G. Solomon, the woman who founded this progressive organization 125 years ago. I learned about Hannah’s life and struggles and this is how I told her story:

Thank you for inviting me here. It’s been so long. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to talk about what went into founding the National Council of Jewish Women. And to share with you a little bit about what I’ve learned with 125 years of hindsight.

My name is Hannah G. Solomon. …

That’s me working the push mower.

I think I have principles and then I sell out under the slightest provocation.

I want to live car-free and did for six months when I was 28 and living in Los Angeles. When I tell people this, they’re impressed because it meant biking great distances to get anywhere. Truth was, I was jobless at the time and had nowhere to go. As soon as I got a job and needed to take the 10 downtown but instead spent a few hours biking Venice Boulevard, I bought a used Honda Accord.

Now I want to get my kids on bikes…

Andrea Askowitz stretching (not modeling) before a cross-country race (1985)

Several months ago, I started training for a marathon. I gave myself 13 weeks to train. I knew I was cutting it close, but I was a runner in high school. Sure, that was more than 30 years ago. Whatever. I thought I’d have no problem.

I trained with my friend Aaron, and even though he’s a few years younger than I am, I got a crick in my neck talking to him because he was always a few paces behind. That’s always how it was. I was the fastest on my cross-country team. …

Andrea Askowitz

Books: My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy and Badass. Essays: NYT, Salon, The Rumpus, HuffPost. Podcast: Writing Class Radio.

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