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Gina Frangello Archive

Gina Frangello

Pain is a Country

October 31st, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

When you enter the country of Pain, they confiscate your passport. You leave behind the things and people that used to feel important and familiar, in which you used to believe. Everyone in the new country is a stranger, though it scarcely matters because pain is really a nation of islands, and everyone who lives there lives alone.

In 1995, while my husband and I were visiting my best friend Tom in Barcelona, I became an unintentional and surprise immigrant in the country of pain. It happened overnight, and at first I did not realize I had “moved.” I believed I had a bladder infection. I’d had them before—many, in fact, even having been hospitalized for one as a child. Sometimes when I got one, I could not close my legs for the burning; I could not stop pacing the room; I urinated blood. But the agony was always temporary. You take your antibiotics, you take your pills that make your pee turn orange, you feel a little crazy for a couple of days and then it is done.

Except this time, it was not.

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Gina Frangello

A Thousand Words: A Decent Proposal

August 31st, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL–

I’m in an elevator, with my 10 month old twin daughters in their obtrusively large twin stroller. We are headed to the pediatrician’s. Several other people are in the elevator with us, and most of them are staring at my daughters, which is a common response to babies in general, twin babies in particular, and Chinese twin babies with a Caucasian mother most of all. Though I have only had the girls for a few weeks at this point, I am already used to the stares. My husband says that going out with them is like going out with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (who are still married; it is 2001) because of all the attention. We make jokes like this; we think we are unflappable. We think people who adopt children from other countries and then freak out because people stare or ask questions are freaky and uptight.

A woman in the elevator turns to me and says, “Oh, they’re darling!” and I smile. I am still smiling when she says loudly, “How much did they cost?”

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Gina Frangello

Vibrator Shopping: A Tragi-Comedy in 2,000 Words

August 27th, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

One day in spring, accompanied by a 50-something-year-old inorgasmic couples counselor* snapping photos for her out-of-state-lover on her cell phone, I went to a sex store that I always call Great Sexpectations, though it is actually called something else.

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Gina Frangello

Alice, Go to Rehab: An Open Letter on How to be Forgiven in America

July 2nd, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL–

Dear Alice Hoffman,

I should specify that I have not read your books.  I know, I know, I’m a writer/editor and you are a Famous Literary Figure–I get that I should have your novels under my belt by now.  They’ve been on my to-do list, I promise.

Of course they’re not there anymore, because now instead of being a Famous Literary Figure, you are a Famously Crazy Person.  But fear not–I have the solution for you: go to rehab.

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Gina Frangello

Have We Talked About Size Yet?

June 1st, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

A friend of mine just told me a story about a man with a crooked penis.  Her recently divorced friend is sleeping with him, and has seen it with her own eyes.  I don’t mean crooked as in “bent like a pretzel,” but rather that his urethra is on the side of the penis rather than at the tip.  In order to urinate into a toilet, he has to stand sideways and bend at the waist.  My friend told me this in a taxi in New York this weekend, very loudly the way people tend to talk in taxis, as though the drivers are deaf and do not understand English.  Well, the last part of that is often true, especially in New York, but I think I heard our driver chuckling.

The thing about penises: they make great conversation.

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Gina Frangello

(Not) Writing the Dead: Notes on a Novel

April 24th, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

I recently completed a draft of a novel called A Life in Men, about the final decade-plus in the life of a woman traveler with Cystic Fibrosis.  Every chapter takes place in a different country, and the novel’s chronology (though not linear) spans roughly the time between the Lockerbie Disaster and 9/11.  Like everything I write, it is scary long (559 pages) and now sitting with both my writing group and my agent, in an attempt to get someone to tell me how to scale it down to normal size.

Also like everything I write (and probably everything everyone writes), the novel was an exorcism of sorts.  An exorcism 10 years in the making, and ultimately failed.

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Gina Frangello

Facebook Sentimentalis (a new DSM diagnosis)

March 23rd, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

You know this person.  I hate to say it, but she’s probably a girl.  A woman, I should say, because we’re all women now; we’re 40 or pushing 40.  She must have a job, but in this economy who can say?  I’m not sure if it’s scarier if she has a job or if she’s unemployed and sitting at home all day.

Either way, she spends ALL her time on Facebook.  All.  Her.  Time.  

Talking and posting photos and links about High School.

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Gina Frangello

I Hate The Kite Runner (and Other Reasons I Suspect I May Be an Asshole)

February 27th, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

Recently Lenore and Kim were commenting, in a delightfully snarky way, on how many lame internet dating guys claim they love reading by citing The Kite Runner as their favorite book.  Lenore and Kim both went on–being apparently nice, reasonable people–to say how they have nothing against the Kite Runner per se, great book, yadda yadda, it’s just . . . 

I hate The Kite Runner.  I could go on and on about why, but you don’t care why.  (If you do, please comment cause I love talking about why.)  The point is, if there’s a book out there that touches everyone’s heart, I tend to think it’s drivel.  Not because I’m a poser, or at least I don’t think that’s why.  I’m not trying to pose, and I liked that guy’s other book, the Thousand Splendid Suns one.  I hated The Lovely Bones but I loved Sebold’s memoir Lucky.  Etc.

Still, I got to thinking.

Have you ever wondered if maybe you might actually be . . . you know, kind of an Asshole? (more…)


Gina Frangello

The Real Beauty Myth: A Cautionary Tale

February 16th, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL—

Why do so many beautiful people have sucky marriages?  The most obvious example is Hollywood, where nobody can stay married for 15 minutes without having an affair, getting a messy divorce, quickly remarrying, having another affair, publicly declaring Sex Addiction, and finally marrying someone 20 years younger and settling into obscurity, too old to score gossip-worthy roles.  Most of us figure the reason actors are unlucky in love is that they face too much temptation—if you have to make out with Russell Crowe or Angelina Jolie on screen, chances are you’ll want to do it again off screen, right?  But it’s long seemed to me that excessive beauty can be a liability even in the real world, especially for women, so for the hell of it I made a list of my 10 most beautiful women friends only to find that 8 are either in unhappy marriages or already divorced; 1 is alone after a string of movie-of-the-week bad relationships; and only 1 is in happily in love. 

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Gina Frangello

How Crazy Is Too Crazy?

January 26th, 2009
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

Recently, my business partner and dear friend Stacy Bierlein posted a piece on TNB contemplating how famous you have to be before you are “too famous”—before your fame becomes obnoxious, even to yourself.  Stacy lives in California, where “too famous” is often a reality, or if not a reality then a goal.  I live in Chicago.  We don’t really do “too famous” here, unless, I guess, you count Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey—both of whom, incidentally, I have managed to never see in person despite having lived in Chicago for the better part of my life.  And so, Stacy’s piece got me thinking about what kinds of “too ______ (fill in the adjective here)” are familiar in my own life, leading me to the Chicago writer’s equivalent of the question: How Crazy Is Too Crazy?

Like most writers, I love crazy people.  When you’re a writer, crazy is your bread and butter—I don’t mean economically (since most writers have little of that kind of bread, and none of that butter, anyway), but in terms of inspiration.  

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Gina Frangello

My Publisher Went to Hell and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

December 8th, 2008
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL—

Friday, October 24, my cell phone rang.  My publisher, Willy Blackmore of Impetus Press, was on the phone from Long Beach, California.  I thought he was calling to talk about an Impetus Press fundraiser some friends of mine were throwing in Chicago in a couple week’s time.  Instead, he told me that Impetus was bankrupt.  The press was closing its doors immediately.  They had six titles in their queue, one of which was my second novel, London Calling.  Now, all six would be without a publisher.  

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Gina Frangello

The Community Baby (or “The Big Chill: 2008″)

October 20th, 2008
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL–

Four months ago, my best guy friend, Tom, had a beautiful, healthy son who looks just like him.  Tom, a gay 39-year-old atheist of Cuban-Puerto Rican descent, who grew up in Venezuela in a borderline-fanatical Baptist household, is married to Brad, a happy-go-lucky, boyishly charming old-money W.A.S.P. from Chicago’s North Shore.  Tom is the biological father of their son, Julian, and Brad’s younger sister (we’ll call her Becky) was the egg-donor, making the baby a biological mix of their two families.

My best girlfriend, Alicia, was the gestational surrogate.

Alicia’s husband, Jason, spent 9 months looking for places to tell the joke: “My wife’s having a baby!  But it’s not mine . . .” so he could watch people’s expressions and derive amusement from their awkward confusion.

It was all very Big Chill.  It was all very Noel Coward.  It was all very Blue State progressive.  We were all–not just Alicia and “Becky,” but it is probably safe to say everyone in our larger community of friends–very proud of ourselves.

Then, Reality hit.

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Gina Frangello

The Friend Who Got Away, Part I

September 29th, 2008
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL–

She called herself Hildegarde Swineherd whenever we met new guys who didn’t go to our school.

She had a certain brilliant irreverence, an unbreakable bullshit detector, an ability to spin a deranged yarn as though it were a mundane by-the-way.  We used to quip that all she had to do was say Hello and we would all start cracking up.  These qualities, in high school, seemed rare and valuable, though as I have aged I find they were actually more common at 17 than they are now.

We once had a menage-a-quatre.  It had begun as a menage-a-trois, but my best friend Alicia and I, who had picked up the older guy who was throwing a party we’d somehow ended up at, were astonished at the size of said guy’s penis–the biggest either of us has ever seen to date.  It would have been like meeting someone with five arms and keeping it to yourself, so one of us–I no longer remember which–got dressed quickly and ran out of his bedroom to where the rest of the party was taking place squealing, “Hilde!  There’s something you’ve got to see.”

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Gina Frangello

What’s a Nice Soccer Mom Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

September 21st, 2008
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL–

I have never been a “joiner.”  

In high school, I was not a part of any clubs (unless hanging out in the McDonald’s parking lot drinking illegally procured alcohol and talking about the weekend’s parties can be considered a club), and in college, when I attempted to leave my urban-ghetto past behind me by rushing a sorority, I promptly became the worst, most antisocial and laissez-faire Tri-Delt in history, before eventually dropping out altogether.  Although I attended U-W-Madison, a school well known for its activism, I attended all of one politically themed meeting in my four years on campus, and later snickered about all the earnest privileged white kids at the meeting, the theme of which was “Apartheid.”  I guess you could say that I somehow thought my blue-collar roots (the fact that I’d witnessed some murders, for example) made me too savvy for what I viewed as naive college-kid radicalism.  In truth, I was less savvy than I was cynical and lazy.  While I knew a great deal about what was wrong with being part of the urban poor, I knew very, very little about the political system behind my family’s particular condition, and even less (thanks to my crappy early education as well as my general disinterest) about the global stage on which I myself was comparatively privileged.  Yet while I lost a lot of my cynicism and smugness as I aged–while I have managed to learn to “care”– (more…)


Gina Frangello

Notes on a Blue State Life

September 15th, 2008
by Gina Frangello

It’s very hard for me to accept it, but apparently my life is the stuff Red State nightmares are made of. I suspect this is probably true of most of us on TNB, and most people reading TNB, so alas, it’s just another instance of preaching to the choir. But reading this weekend about the “Family Values” convention that was really just a thinly-disguised KKK gathering, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason I just don’t “get” how anyone could possibly vote for John McCain–much less Sarah Palin–is that my friends and I are exactly the America these “family values” professional haters love to hate.

How exactly can this be? I mean, I am a soccer mom. I’ve been married for 15 years and have 3 children. Almost all my closest friends are also married with kids, with professions like teaching and social work–things that contribute to “family values.” We walk our kids to school in the morning, and our lives–whether we work outside the home or not–revolve mainly around playdates and homework and sports practice and piano lessons. My children go to Sunday School (okay, I myself am agnostic at best, but that’s fodder for a separate post.) My aging parents live downstairs from us in an extended family situation, and are a part of my children’s daily lives. In short, my life is pretty damn conventional–far from the Anais Nin fantasies I had in my early 20s; far from the hash-smoking, leather-pants-wearing expat days of my early 30s. I live in a residential neighborhood in a Midwestern American city. Life in these parts is about as family-centric as it gets. And yet, apparently, my life–my community–is exactly what the Religious Right and “Family Values” conventioneers are trying to wipe off the face of the earth with a Sarah Palin ray-gun. (more…)


Gina Frangello

How Many Activists Does It Take to Find a Clipboard?

September 4th, 2008
by Gina Frangello

Last weekend, I went down to the Chicago jazz festival to help register voters. I know, I know: Obama already has Illinois in the bag–but still, I loved the idea of helping as many people be a part of that vote as possible, especially African-American voters who haven’t always had stunning turn-outs in other election years, and Latino voters, who the media keeps saying aren’t really “decided” yet. I turned up at Grant Park at the designated time, and was pleased to see there were quite a few volunteers congregating around, excited to help get out the vote.

That was when things started to go astray . . .

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Gina Frangello

The Two-Bed Epidemic

August 21st, 2008
by Gina Frangello

CHICAGO, IL-

Maybe this has happened to somebody you know.

They’ve been married for awhile now. For years, they seemed like a fun, compatible, sexy couple. Once upon a time, when you were all young, in your 20s, and probably not married yet, they used to come to parties and tell funny, slightly sordid stories about their sex lives–along with all the other 20somethings who had similar stories, some featuring regular bed/life partners, and some featuring random, one-time-appearance guest-stars. Maybe you have an old videotape of a New Year’s Eve party in which someone was taking a poll about anal sex. Everybody was young, and everybody was fucking. No one had kids yet. Of course.

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Gina Frangello

Why Aren’t Fiction Writers and Activists in Bed Together?

August 17th, 2008
by Gina Frangello

CHIGAGO, IL-

I have this one friend who is a political mover and shaker. Her name is Jen Nix, and she has done some really cool things that those of us who spend much of our time either hiding in a quiet room trying to write fiction (or changing diapers and organizing playdates) don’t spend a lot of time doing, i.e. putting out political bestsellers like George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, writing for and co-founding progressive blogs, chastising Michael Moore and other big name lefty types for publishing their progressive books with big corporate publishers and ultimately making money for Right wing corporations, drawing the attention of not only the alternative media but also the very corporate media she was lambasting and getting invited to Judith Regan’s office…

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