Excerpts from Diary of a Slut

“Mom,” my daughter says, “What age were you when you lost your virginity?”

            Do I want to tell her? No. I was a year older than she is; I was fourteen. Do I tell her? Yes.

            “It was not a happy thing,” I say. “I wouldn’t wish it for you.”

            She wants to know everything then and there, but she doesn’t get to.

            I was twelve years old in 1972, the year the Supreme Court legalized birth control regardless of marital status. The doctor who put me on the pill when I was fourteen asked three questions: how old are you? (I lied), how much do you weigh? (I lied), are you sexually active? (no, but I was not going to lose my boyfriend, which was what the older girls assured me would happen).

            At fourteen, I attended an alternative school on an island off the West Coast, a 1970s equivalent of the democratically run Summerhill School in England, except that drugs, sex, and absolute chaos forced its the closure in less than two years.

            As students of Salbatora Island School, we knew the canyons and coves with our feet, and slipped out of our dormitories like the lithe shadows we were when the evening dorm check had passed; then we congregated in the canyons to revel, drinking tequila sunrises in tennis ball cans. We kayaked to town on booze runs. We sailed to remote coves to enact our own version of Lina Wurtmueler’s “Swept Away.” The remoteness of the island untamed us all—if teenagers are ever really domesticated. When the rains came and washed out the roads, the faculty became lovers with their students, the students had shower parties in the dormitories, and wild boar roamed the halls.

Excerpts from The Baby Lottery

“Her neighbor and mother would call and say ‘Sweetie, you just need to relax and forget about it. Then you’ll conceive.” Ever notice that relax is a very unrelaxing word. It has the word AX in it, which is what she wanted to do to all of them. RELAX AX AX AX. Instead she did what she could: Toffee peanuts, rocky road ice cream, frozen burritos, gallons of Chablis.”

“The woman has a cervix like a Goodrich tire. Half a day to dilate a few centimeters, then booming contractions for the last two hours.”

“Her friends say it’s a dead-end relationship. They’re absolutely right, only it doesn’t lead her to the same conclusions. She keeps telling them: Who needs Mr. Right when you’ve got Mr. Vacation?”

“Now her mom’s had a stroke. She can’t tell the difference between a diaper hamper and a mailbox. Half the time, she doesn’t know who Tasi is, but she always knows who her husband is, and in the olive-drab den when no one’s visiting, she tries to brain him with the porcelain figurine he gave her on their fiftieth wedding anniversary, you know the one, Big Girl in the Dirndl.”

Excerpts from The Sperm Donor’s Daughter

“In those days, women were inseminated with fresh sperm so the procedure had to have taken place within two hours of ejaculation. All we had to do was find the closest medical school and call up the alumni association for the year books.”

“On the bus ride out here, I thought about how it’s possible to set out on a journey in America not to discover oneself and succeed. From on-ramp to off-ramp, from Burger King to Burger King, Motel Six to Super Eight, Arby’s, Bob’s, Wendy’s, Denny’s, every place the same place. Why not be a chain-outlet person? Go home with the first person to mistake me for somebody they know.”

“Gust of wind travel up the cliff and fold over the headland, mixing the stench of the cormorant rookeries with the sweetness of new grass. Acid and salt, that which has passed into the gullet alive and died on the way down, the smell is sharp and merciless as first desire.”

“My daughter thinks I am incapable of loving a man when the truth is I love ceaselessly. I am like one of those ghosts that haunt highways because I don’t know I’ve died and no one can tell me.”

“What did I want my father to be anyway? It was like hearing Mr. Roger’s sing ‘You’re Special to Me’ and fantasizing that he was only broadcast to my house.”