Purple Clover Blogs

Purple Clover


My Invisible Lover
Laura had been my college professor, literary mentor, partner in crime and best friend with major benefits, and I couldn’t wait to surprise my old friend
August 3, 2014

The truth is, I came back to the south of France to find her.

Laura had been my stateside college professor, literary mentor, partner in crime and best friend with major benefits. Our relationship, too, was a rite of passage. I was 19, she was 33. A few weeks into my senior year, Laura, my prof in Advanced French, invited me to dinner at her apartment (we’d been flirting since the start of the term). After a bottle of wine, she kissed me on the lips and pulled me down on top of her. A few hours later, I stumbled home, feeling like a champion. Continue reading

When Long Lost Friends Should Stay Lost
Sometimes Facebook unlocks too many doors and lets in the past where it doesn’t belong.
May 25, 2014

What do you owe a long lost friend you haven’t seen in 40 years who finds you on Facebook and begs for help?

That was the moral crevasse I fell into one morning looking through email. At first, I was happy to see R’s name in my inbox. Amazed, to be honest. I am still in awe of the power of the Internet to connect us to people we no longer know. Mostly, these phantasmic rapprochements are harmless and casual but R’s note had a different tone. “Please call me. I really need to talk to you,” she wrote, adding a phone number with an Oklahoma prefix. Continue reading

The Married Crush
Marriage doesn’t stop desire for people we’re not married to; it simply draws a line between the impulse and the act itself.
March 23, 2014

My good friend P adores his wife but gets serial crushes on other women.

P swears that these crushes are harmless, platonic. An oversexed academic of 50, P’s never cheated on his wife and sees nothing wrong in these dalliances with acolytes, students and random girls besotted by his biceps and intellect. Continue reading

Die Hard
We Live in the age of the entitled penis, the penis-in-denial, the penis-as-revenge against the Grim Reaper.
February 23, 2014

The night when impotence first crossed my mind announced my fall from grace as a man.

I was 14 years old, a blissful stranger to the histrionics of the male erection. My own was something I took for granted; he was there, more or less constantly, rising to my beck and call. It never crossed my mind that an erection could be anything but automatic or become an embarrassment in the bedroom, causing mockery, disappointment and worse. Continue reading

The Only Place I Want Drama Is on TV
Life does not need to be so Sophoclean. Sometimes it could be Louis C.K.
January 20, 2014

It was one of those moments you never forget, a betrayal so deep you can’t rebound. I hung up the phone after hearing the news, disgusted by what my friend had admitted, sick with rage and disbelief that a woman I trusted and loved, who I thought would be my friend forever, had become, in five short minutes, someone I never wanted to speak to again. Continue reading

How to Visit Your Family Without Going Crazy
This should be the forgiving season — at least, that’s what I’m telling myself this year
December 15, 2013

The last time I saw my family, we were planning a funeral.

My older sister had died. She’d been sick a long time, had little money, used an oxygen tank and could barely walk. When my younger sister found her in bed, looking like she’d just fallen asleep, she had a cookie in one hand, the remote in another, with her cats snuggled around her feet. It wasn’t a terrible way to go. Continue reading

Why Thanksgiving?
Imagine if the holiday changed from being about feasting and pride
to being an uplifting celebration of life itself
November 24, 2013

My mother-in-law is having her Thanksgiving Meltdown. “I hate this holiday,” Bev complains, keening back and forth at the kitchen table.

“You OK?” I ask, though I know the answer. Bev has had a terrible year. My father-in-law’s dementia has spiraled out of control. Last year, David’s mind was fuzzy, but he could follow a conversation. He could crack a joke, cut his turkey, flirt with the nurse who gives him checkups. This year, his mind is entirely gone. As Bev and I talk, my father-in-law is wandering around the house in his underwear, uncertain where he is and unable to complete a discernible sentence. On top of that, Bev’s grandson just fathered a child out of wedlock, she has pain in her legs, the economy stinks and Barack Obama is still in the White House. Continue reading

The Secret Life of Plants
Is tripping on a pot of sassafras tea the key to happiness? Maybe.
November 10, 2013

When she meets me at the restaurant, my old friend looks several years younger. Lighter is the word that comes to mind.

“Wow,” I say. “You look amazing.”

She smiles with a devilish twinkle. “Everyone keeps telling me that.”

“You’re in love.”

“You’re right,” says Daphne (I’ve changed her name to protect her job). “I am in love.” She giggles cryptically. “It has nothing to do with a man.” I’m completely lost. “I’m taking journeys with plants,” whispers Daphne. Continue reading

Man in the Mirror
It’s easy to slide down the slippery slope of cosmetic improvement, as I learned from experience
October 13, 2013

No one prepared me for F’s transformation. Before the shock of his sixtieth birthday, no one had warned me about the procedures he had done to prepare for this milestone: the face-lift, hair plugs, eye job, wattle tuck, silicone implants and movie-star teeth. When I saw him, he’d gone from being a nondescript, middle-age corporate VP to a mature Ken doll with biscuit cheeks, plasticized skin and a scalp machine-gunned with follicle-size bullet holes. Continue reading

The Mystery of Love
If you want the love of your life to appear, just tell the universe you’re not ready.
September 22, 2013

Love is the greatest mystery. It comes when you’re least expecting it, and disappears when you think it is here to stay. The heat that ignites it at the beginning is doused by the intimacy it creates. Love’s a portal, a mirror, a cross to bear, a joy, a heartbreak, and an axe. It cuts through your hard parts, the gristly parts, and lays your beating heart bare. Then, one way or the other, it kicks your ass. 
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Secrets and Lies
Everybody needs a secret life. It’s what keeps us interesting.
September 2, 2013

Every life is a patchwork of secrets, half-truths, evasions, shams and disguises. The most authentic among us have hidden compartments, shadowy corners and taboo behaviors we keep under wraps for fear of destroying our public image.

I know a Buddhist teacher who sells pot for extra money, a radical feminist whose sexual tastes call for chauvinist pigs to restrain her in bed, a vegan who eats bacon out of town, a priest who doesn’t believe in God, a best-selling author who doesn’t write, a poet who slept with his best friend’s daughter (over 21) and a college professor who used to turn tricks. Continue reading

It Is Sweet to Do Nothing
Though we live in a culture addicted to doing, being is equally important.
August 18, 2013

I used to dream of a non-stop life, a successful life that was crammed to bursting with deadlines, dates, demands, and duties so ceaseless and important I’d barely have time to think. This frantic existence, I imagined, would make me feel like someone who mattered, a person with a big life — going places. Continue reading

Tweet or Die
Morphing from being a plain old writer to being a brand with a public platform.
August 5, 2013

I was dragged kicking and screaming into the social media age. Had I not been a professional writer, warned by publishers to become my own platform, I would never have issued a tweet, posted on Facebook, sent Constant Contact e-blasts, done audio promos, video promos, podcasts, webinars, teleconferences or Google chats in this lifetime. I would also have died a happy man.
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Forgive or Forget It
Forgiving is a selfish act to free yourself from being controlled by your past.
July 19, 2013

Friendships are the great overlooked love affairs of our lives. On the hierarchy of emotional connections, we place even our dearest friends several rungs beneath lovers and family, and only slightly higher than colleagues, all too often, in the pecking order of who gets attention.

Friendships are affairs of the heart, however, whether or not we acknowledge it. Friends hurt our feelings, get under our skin, betray us, dump us, lead us on, seduce us and do many of the hurtful things that lovers and family do. Yet we have no protocol for healing these wounds. Lovers kiss and make up, families hold to tradition, but friends flounder when complications arise. We feel compelled to mend romantic and filial troubles but incline toward letting friendship issues slide, beginning with forgiveness. Continue reading

Age Is What Makes Us Sexy
It’s entirely possible to be smoking hot without any struggle to young it up.
July 11, 2013

I know a person who’s having a midlife crisis. It isn’t a secret; that’s part of the crisis. His issue comes down to an excess of sex that he talks about excessively. His best friends don’t mind that he’s scoring more than LeBron James in a heated playoff — they just wish he’d stop flaunting it.

He was beautiful at 25 and universally lusted for. At 45, he was freakishly youthful, increasingly whorish, but quiet about his insatiable lust. The hunger that peers thought would subside only grew more intense through his fifties. Now two years into his roaring sixties, the calendar’s packed, his cell phone is beeping and he can’t stop marveling at his own penis. Continue reading

Living Forever Is the Best Revenge
Dmitry Itskov wants to keep our species going — by turning us all into robots.
June 20, 2013

This past weekend in New York City, nearly a thousand people from around the world gathered together with the express purpose of figuring out how to live forever.

The Global Future Conference (GF2045: Towards a New Strategy for Human Evolution) is the brainchild of Dmitry Itskov, a wealthy, 32-year-old Russian Internet entrepreneur committed to helping move humankind to the only sustainable future he believes is possible: placing human brains in robot-avatars that don’t eat food, don’t drink water, don’t drive cars and don’t squander the dwindling resources of this planet. Continue reading

The Optimist’s Manifesto
There’s no better life lesson than a near-death experience.
June 4, 2013

When you’ve been hauled back from death’s door, it’s hard not to be an optimist.

I was supposed to be dead at 30, over two decades ago. The condition didn’t kill me but what did get annihilated was the cynic hiding under my cheerful mask — the clever, dystopian pessimist part, who secretly feared that the future would only get worse and mocked optimistic, smiley-faced ninnies. Continue reading

What’s your Story?
We live as if our fictions were reality, until one day something comes along and cracks our myth wide open.
June 1, 2013

Every life is a work of fiction. That’s what I tell my writing students. People come to me wanting to tell their life story, the narrative that sums them up, that captures the essence of who they are. They expect to find this story hiding inside them like a Michelangelo statue trapped in the marble, fully formed, waiting to be released.

Instead, what they confront is a tower of Babel, a chorus of conflicting voices, a cast of many different characters in search of a coherent author. There is no singular there there, they find. There is no figure inside the stone. It’s more like “The Invisible Man,” as they unwind their memories in search of a self, pulling layer upon layer of gauze — just like the creature in the movie — finding only person-less space, riddles, fantasies, dreams-in-progress, enigmas, puzzles and open questions.
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