The Driving Lesson

My uncle was energetic, intense, self-confident, and passionate about golf. In western New York, lake-effect snows might blanket local courses anytime between November and May, but my uncle believed that the golf season should start when spring did. Each year he declared he would be golfing again come April first, ignored comments from family and friends that area courses would still be snow-covered, and pretended—or behaved as if he believed—that winter would move out of the way when it was time for golfing to resume.



My uncle chuckled, said those boys needed a driving lesson, and pushed his foot on the accelerator.”

By the end of March he’d start checking out the county golf courses. Hoping to recruit his teenaged nephew to the game, one day he took me with him to look over conditions at a course on the east side of the county. The back road we traveled was narrow, bumpy, with no shoulder to speak of, and passed through barely inhabited farmland and fallow fields. It hadn’t snowed recently, but the course was still mostly covered with dingy crystalline snow; open patches of fairway were few and scattered. We walked around some, my uncle estimating how soon the course would be snow-free and the groundskeepers could get it ready for play. He was cheered by his prospects. Then we began to retrace our way home, taking that back road again.

We were in my uncle’s Mercury, the one with the winged messenger god on the hood. As my uncle joked and fantasized about getting on that golf course soon, I noticed him paying particular attention to the rear view mirror. I could hear a car coming up behind us. Suddenly it roared past, two boys my age or older in the front seat. Once beyond us, the boy driving cut back into our lane too quickly. It was a thoughtless, careless maneuver, an immature driver misjudging distance and ignoring safety checks in his mirrors. Had his judgment been worse, his rear end would have clipped the front of our car. In a few seconds, his greater speed put more distance between us and I couldn’t tell if he’d realized how close we’d been.

My uncle chuckled, said those boys needed a driving lesson, and pushed his foot down on the accelerator. I felt myself thrust against my seatback, my feet instinctively braced against the floor. We gained on them rapidly. The teenager started to speed up but we closed in on their car until our front bumper was barely a foot or two away from their rear bumper. The boy stepped harder on the gas pedal and so did my uncle. We hurtled down the narrow two-lane, inches apart, at 60, 70, 80 miles an hour. The fields along the road were a blur, the boys in the car ahead glancing frantically around and behind them, my uncle smiling ferociously, my gaze alternately on him and on the car close ahead. I was terrified, speechless, certain that the four of us would crash.

Suddenly my uncle slowed slightly, whipped the Merc’ into the passing lane, shot past the other car at nearly 90, then swerved close in front of them, and rapidly decelerated. He laughed as they braked and fell behind us, saying how uncomfortable it must be to drive with your pants full, and guessing the boys would pass other cars more politely from now on. He was happy. He’d done a kind of civic service, he thought, taught them a valuable lesson.

My pants were not full but I’d had a lesson too. We’d never met another vehicle on that road but I didn’t believe we should have counted on that. Had someone been ahead of the boys or if the boy driving had panicked and swerved, there would have been deaths, perhaps the boys’, perhaps a third party’s, perhaps our own. I remembered the smile on my uncle’s face, the terror on the boys’ faces. Our lives had been at risk and I had none of my uncle’s confidence that the risk was always in his control.

My uncle, on the other hand, was in good spirits all the way home. He was certain that in a week or so he’d be on this road again and he’d be playing golf again by the first of April. For him, it had been a very good day.

Robert Root is the author of the essay collections Postscripts: Retrospections on Time and Place and Limited Sight Distance: Essays for Airwaves, the memoir Happenstance, and other books. He teaches creative nonfiction in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Ashland University. His website can be reached here.
Photo courtesy of Robert Root.

The Stirring

I would be home from school pretending to be doing my homework when I would hear the garage door open and the sound of my father’s car crawling into the space beside my mother’s. The hinges on the back door would creak like all the others in our 1950’s split-level, and my father would tap his way down the stairs to our kitchen-dining room. After planting a hello peck on my cheek, he would plop the mail on the kitchen counter, loosen his tie and swing the suit jacket he’d worn all day at the office over the back of a chair. I always knew what was coming next; his trek to the utility room.


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… but my father’s reason for opening the door was to visit the nook of tall metal shelving that displayed his army of liquor bottles standing at attention, each one a different shape and color.”

The furnace and the ironing board were enclosed in that room, out of the sight of guests, but my father’s reason for opening the door was to visit the nook of tall metal shelving that displayed his army of liquor bottles standing at attention, each one a different shape and color. I imagined him contemplating his soldiers: Would this be a day for a martini, or a scotch and soda? Or maybe a Rob Roy, or a gimlet? My father was sadly bereft of all knowledge related to ingredients that might go into a casserole. He wouldn’t even know where to find a cookbook. But when it came to bartending skills and crafting his evening potion, he was a master mixologist.

Having made his choice of spirits, he’d return to the kitchen, his muscular fingers wrapped firmly around the necks of the bottles, and place them on the kitchen table with barely audible taps. He’d unscrew each cap, with metal scraping against glass, and stand it next to its corresponding bottle. Soon, spicy aromas would waft across the room and find their way to my nose; I might wrinkle up to the sharp smell of Jack Daniel’s or open my nostrils to the light scent of a lime segment getting ready to land in a gin and tonic.

Placing a highball glass on the table, my father was ready to mix his brew. I could see him bent over sideways to get a snail’s eye view of the glass and its contents, pouring the liquids with such great care that he might have been preparing a life-saving nutriment, where one extra drop would spoil it. Then, the ice cubes lifted from our dispenser would sink heavily to the bottom of the glass, ready for several trips back and forth on the tip of his index finger. The final check came when he held his glass up to the ebbing light at our kitchen window to examine the results. Yes, it was ready for consumption. Carefully watching my father mix his daily beverage with such loving attention gave new meaning to the expression, nursing a drink.

Ruth Sterlin is a psychotherapist specializing in early attachment and family relationships. She is also a published author of several articles in her field, but for the past several years she has changed her writing focus to personal essay and memoir.
Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2015.

I’m Not From Here

I arrive in Seattle to visit my mother, who has moved many times, so there are no warm fuzzy childhood memories upon entering her house. But I’m relieved to see she’s built a cozy fortress for herself with bric-a-brac, books, and benzodiazepines.



During my travels across America, I’m always looking at other cities and asking, “Could we grow old together?”

She resides in a suburban hamlet where those who can still drive go 18 miles per hour in the 25 miles per hour zone, and those who can still walk cheerfully shepherd their carefully groomed dogs around, dropping off casseroles for those who can no longer drive or walk. It’s not far from where I grew up, but nothing about Seattle feels like home to me any more. The Emerald City informs me that I now only qualify for a visitors pass.

I never thought I’d be away from Seattle this long. Growing up with a stepfather who changed jobs on a whim, there was always a new school, a new house or a new city to navigate. But we always moved back to Seattle when we needed to regroup.  It was a safe place to build up our strength to take on the world again. When I became old enough to make my own impulsive and illogical decisions, I stuck to this pattern. New houses, new jobs, new cities, mostly determined by friends and boyfriends, always ended with me returning to Seattle when my enthusiasm ran aground.  I became a flight attendant, perhaps because escaping was built into the job description; a perfect career for a girl who was raised by middle-class vagabonds. Five years ago, I found myself at the end of the line with a boyfriend in Nashville. This time I was unwilling to admit defeat and so I headed west in a hurry. I needed a diversion.  I wasn’t ready to have Seattle shrug its shoulders and say, “We knew you’d be back.”

Moving to Chicago was all my glorious decision, a place to win or lose on my own terms. But it was still my rebound town. Like when you break up with someone and you call up that party girl you thought you’d never seriously consider, because, why not? You desperately need a distraction; you deserve to have a good time. But you know she’s not going to be a long-term thing. I mean, sure, she’s super fun and she makes you feel alive for a while, but most days she’s just overwhelming; she lives too large and she’s just so damn loud. Chicago told me I could come and live large and get loud for awhile, reminding me that I leave all the time anyway, so it’s not like we could really get that serious about one another.

Chicago has done its best to accept me as an adopted child, even if I use rookie terms like “Macy’s” and “Willis Tower.” Chicago suggested I could reinvent myself in any shape that pleased me.  I listened when the ghosts of Studs Terkel, Carl Sandburg and Roger Ebert whispered to me to become a writer. But they didn’t tell me to write a book or a movie or a play or anything in particular. Writing gave me my first taste of proclaiming vehemently that I was more than seat backs and tray tables, that my identity wasn’t built of Cokes and peanuts. But it didn’t give me a clear path as to what I should do; no sweeping dream, no master plan. Discovering writing was like being given a medicine proven to save my soul, but I didn’t know whether I should smoke it, snort it, ingest it, or even where I could score it on a regular basis. I just know that I would be diseased and miserable without it.

Chicago yells, “Oh stop being so dramatic and get back to work, already!”  Chicago gets brusque with me sometimes. The city that works is also the city that stays up too late, drinks too much, and pushes too hard. I find myself on the “L” in the wee hours, night after night, wondering how long I can sustain this pace. Attempting to keep up with this town is exhausting even in sensible shoes. So many reasons for me to believe it would be a terrible place to grow old, slow and complacent. I fear I’ll end up like the elderly folks I see on the train, expending all their energy battling the landscape just to get their groceries home in a snowstorm. I wonder how long I have to find a more subdued slice of life, to be part of my own little casserole community.

During my travels across America, I’m always looking at other cities and asking, “Could we grow old together?” Denver tells me, “You don’t want to spend your golden years with us here in the land of thin air and stoner mountain hippies. Plus we get snow here in May here, like, for real.”  Los Angeles coos to me to in a smooth jazz radio voice, “Honey, you know these lithe sun-kissed super humans with their Gucci sunglasses will never make any sense to you. Plus you hate being in the car.”  Austin tells me I’m too much of a Yankee. Philly says I’m not tough enough. Every time I come home from a trip, Chicago throws a pint of Old Style in my face and tells me to snap out of it. It mocks me when it gets wind of my civic infidelity. “Quit being ridiculous,” Chicago implores me. “Have a hot dog with mustard. Take a walk through Millennium Park. Have a drink downtown and laugh at the tourists on Michigan Avenue, knowing these streets are all yours all of the time. You’ll feel better.”  You can always count on Chicago when you need some straight talk.

I hoped Chicago might cure my loneliness, but it follows me no matter where I go.  It’s the souvenir of the urban nomad. I find solace in random encounters with the people I come across in my travels. There is an unexpected joy when the girl half my age with a maternal smile in a diner in Wichita touches my hand as she sets down my coffee and says “enjoy this,” instead of “you look tired.” There is a piece of me in the grey-haired hotel security guard across the street from the hockey arena in Pittsburgh who tells me in great detail about the day they brought the Stanley Cup through the lobby and how beautiful it was when the sunlight hit it just so, his eyes picturing it, helping me to see. I find myself in the little girl who stops me at work and says, “I drew you a picture.” I take all these pieces and I try to build a nest, but often it feels like heavy lifting and my arms get so tired.

At the end of my Seattle visit, on the way to the airport, I make small talk with the cab driver. “I hear a little Midwest accent,” he tells me. “It’s hard to believe you were ever from here.” I smile. Seattle bids me a calm, crunchy granola farewell. “You’re welcome to come back here anytime,” Seattle tells me as I stare at Mt. Rainier beyond the highway traffic. “But you are made of so much more than this now.  There will always be a quiet, tree-hugging chunk of this place in you, but it’s time for you to go home. I mean, you’ve become accustomed to living pretty large and sometimes you’re just so loud.”

Chicago senses I could use a pep talk when my plane touches down at Midway. “You didn’t move here to make your life easier,” my town reminds me. “You moved here because you wanted to fly by your own lights, you wanted to make your own way. Such a conquest tends to be complicated, overwhelming and messy. But you can handle it. We showed you how to be determined, how to open yourself up to possibility. Welcome home, kid. Now get yourself over to Pulaski and grab yourself a bag of tacos al pastor. You’ll feel better.”’

Eileen Dougharty has shared her essays at numerous live lit shows in Chicago and has contributed to Chicago Public Radio’s “Pleasure Town” podcast. She has written for Nvate, Story Club Magazine, and Tattooed Heroine. She’s currently playing around with mixed media in hopes of creating stories for all of the senses.
Photo by Ellen Blum Barish




Home Alone

I walk over to the console TV and pick up the gun. It’s small, and my 10-year-old hand wraps easily around it. I slip my right index finger neatly into the loop and press gently against the trigger, not pushing down but holding it the way Michael Douglas does in “The Streets of San Francisco.” The gun is silver and shiny, snub-nosed and Saturday Night Special come to mind now, though at the time phrases like those don’t exist in my grade-school vocabulary.







With my back to Debbie, I ease my finger off the trigger and open my hand on the grip, willing myself not to move too quickly.”

I stand next to the TV, gripping the gun. It’s heavy, surprisingly so, and the metal feels cold, like a fresh can of Pepsi on a hot summer day. I raise the gun in front of me, straighten my arm, and turn and face my friend, Debbie. I point the gun at her chest and squeeze the trigger, but it’s harder to move than I thought and the metal won’t budge.

“You know that’s a real gun,” she says, giggling.

Only I don’t know. Why would I?

Debbie is a year older, but we’re in the same grade. We have the day off from school and we’re spending it at her house. I told my parents Debbie’s mom would be there, but her mother works and Debbie always stays home alone. I said yes when Debbie called because I didn’t want to tell her that I’m not allowed to stay by ourselves, and I would never invite her to our house because I’m not allowed to watch TV during the day. Debbie says we can watch “Ryan’s Hope” and “All My Children,” maybe even “General Hospital.” We’ll eat candy and chips for lunch.

A few minutes before we find the gun, we’re standing in the kitchen, trying to decide what to do, when Debbie opens the door that leads to the basement.

“Want to look around?” she asks. “Karl’s at work.”

Debbie’s 19-year-old brother, Karl, lives in their basement. Today is the first time Debbie invites me to go down the dark, narrow stairway.

The basement is gloomy, the only light comes from high windows that open to the blacktop driveway. It’s set up like an apartment; wood paneling; stained, brown shag carpet; an old couch with holes in the arms and brown corduroy cushions that form a perfect V where it sags in the middle. The console TV is against the opposite wall. A square of sunlight hits it like a beam, illuminating the gun.

When we go down the stairs, Debbie’s dachshund, Schatzie, follows us only as far as the first step, her front paws on the stair and hind legs still on the kitchen floor. Debbie gets to the basement and whistles for the dog to follow her, but Schatzie won’t move. Instead, Schatzie backs up into the kitchen and whines. The dog understands what Debbie and I know all too well.

“If Karl finds out we’re down here, he’ll kill us,” Debbie says.

Danger permeates Debbie’s house, in her older sister Ingrid’s cigarettes, in the tall, brown bottles of German beer her dad drinks day and night, and in the motorcycle and sidecar that sit in pieces in the garage. Debbie talks about boys at school in a way I don’t quite understand, and when we climb the ladder to the loft her dad made by laying sheets of plywood along the beams of their garage, she teases me about my clothes and shushes me when I sing along to the weekly Top 40 on her AM radio.

Debbie tells me a lot of things that summer that I’m not ready to know, like it’s cooler to mouth the words to songs rather than sing them out loud; that a French kiss means using your tongue; that after you light a cigarette you should blow the smoke sideways and not straight in front of you. That’s what Ingrid does when she talks to Karl’s friends.

So when Debbie tells me the gun is real, I smirk. Having a real gun in her house is just one more thing Debbie knows that I don’t, and today I refuse to give her the satisfaction.

“No kidding,” I say.

I lower my arms, turn around and put the gun on top of the TV. With my back to Debbie, I ease my finger off the trigger and open my hand on the grip, willing myself not to move too quickly. It’s hard, because my hand suddenly feels like it’s burning.

I decide I want out of the basement.

“Did you hear that?” I ask. It’s quiet, but I turn my head as if to follow a sound. Debbie plays along. Her brother is supposed to check on us on his lunch break. He works at the gas station down the street.

“Let’s get out of here,” Debbie says, running past me and taking the steps two at a time. I follow her, bolting up the stairs and slamming the basement door behind me.

Schatzie watches us from under the kitchen table, ears flat against her head. She puts one paw forward, then another, then bolts across the floor and into the dining room. The sound of her nails clicking against the linoleum makes us both jump. We look at each other, then burst out laughing.

It takes a minute for us to catch our breath.

“Do you want something to eat?” she asks.

“I want another Pepsi,” I say.

Debbie pulls two cans from the refrigerator and picks up her sister’s pack of cigarettes from the table. We go outside, and we don’t talk about the gun.

A year later we’re no longer friends. Instead, Debbie and a girl named Angela start hanging out on the playground after school, showing off hickeys they get from junior high boys. They steal stuff from my desk and leave anonymous notes in my locker, pretending to be my secret admirer. In high school, there will be rumors about them skipping school and one of them, I forget who, gets pregnant. In eleventh grade, Debbie will drop out and not come back.

But on the afternoon of the day we find the gun, Debbie walks outside and shouts something over her shoulder.

“Don’t forget the matches.”

I grab them off the table and slam the door behind me.

Ellen Fowler Hummel writes creative nonfiction and the occasional short story. She is managing editor of, an online literary and photography magazine that she cofounded, and she writes about creativity on her blog, Jump the Page
Photo by Ellen Blum Barish

A Piece of Sky

I was standing naked in a bathroom with a stranger pointing a needle at my penis and I thought, you know, life is weird.  Don’t get the wrong idea, I am a Southern gentleman.  The stranger was a rabbi, actually a mohel, but my Johnson was definitely in his hands and he was absolutely about to poke it.



All I wanted was Barbie’s Dream House and a set of decent Shabbat candlesticks.”

It didn’t matter that he was a man of God, that this was his job, or that I had paid for this service.  Having anyone direct a sharp object at your privates is at best an unsettling feeling.  I looked at the florescent lighting above us and all I could think was, “Oh! The places you will go!”

I didn’t necessarily plan on ending up in a bathroom with an old man cradling my junk while chanting Hebrew.  How could I?  I am from the Mississippi Delta, where the singing of Hebrew of any sort isn’t exactly on the list of traditional activities.  Judaism is pretty scarce in the Delta, and becoming a Jew certainly isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. The people I grew up with want to find a new place to go deer hunting and they cross-stitch Bible verses onto pillows.  I’ve always felt like a bit of an alien, but it’s fair to say that voluntary ritual circumcision is a little off the beaten path.  On the other hand, when I think back to my early, more impressionable years, no one should be surprised.  Where else could I possibly be?

Judaism came to me the way it would for anyone strangled with Southern fire and brimstone.  It was beamed down from satellites and zapped across cotton farms and eventually found its way into my living room and onto my television set.  No, there wasn’t a weird telethon on the Shalom Network. The chosen people paid me a house call via my babysitter:  HBO.  There is no proselytizing like marinating in the glow of a TV when you’re eight years old. It was there that I found my people.

What I obviously mean to say is that Barbra Streisand, that is, Yentl, had a very lasting and powerful influence over my life choices.  I am living proof of what watching Yentl 36,000 times can do to a person. To my little virgin eyes, she was the most amazing person who had ever lived.  We were a perfect match, Babs and I.  She sang and danced and talked to God with candles while cross dressing in the forest, and so I sang and danced and talked to God with candles while cross dressing in a locked bathroom.

The more I watched the movie, the more obsessed I became.   The movie is about a young girl who disguises herself as a boy so that she can study Torah. I was some sort of Yentl in reverse.  I eventually stopped hiding in the bathroom to reenact scenes and brought my show to our living room.  I needed a bigger stage and a more complicated wardrobe and hair selection than bathrobes and beach towels could offer.  I started hijacking my mother’s dresses, nightgowns, and heels.   My floor show was about a young boy from Arkansas who had to disguise himself as a girl so that he could openly adore Mandy Patinkin.  I would get myself all wrapped up in my mother’s overcoat, hat and scarves like a freezing immigrant from Eastern Europe.  I’d stand there in front of the television picturing myself on a boat coming from the old country.  I looked just like a mini-version of Babs.  I’d sing the final number over and over until my Mom had had enough.  These are the things that happen when you tell an only child to go entertain himself.

The final scene of Yentl is my favorite. It’s when Barbra sings, With all there is – why settle for just a piece of sky? It knocks me out every time I hear it. I’d think to myself, “Don’t you worry. I won’t!”

My parents were perplexed.  They were good Christian people.  What had they done to deserve a cross-dressing, Jewish eight year old?  They focused my religious instruction and plied me with every masculine toy they could get their hands on – basketballs, Bibles, guns, a model of the Millennium Falcon – anything and everything that eight-year-old boys were supposed to play with in 1983.  I was disgusted.  All I wanted was Barbie’s Dream House and a set of decent Shabbat Candlesticks.

None of these parental tricks worked, of course.  I found sports baffling. Guns aren’t pretty. I had been praying for years begging to be turned into a girl and it got me nowhere, so clearly God was useless. I was heavy into Star Wars; I just wanted that metal bikini for myself, not stare at the person wearing it.  Instead, somehow I reached the point where it was no longer acceptable for a boy to wear Smurfette gym shoes and a homemade Wonder Woman tiara.

Growing up is hard and being different is a challenge.  Kids are the meanest, especially if how you express yourself cannot be ignored.  It’s damn near impossible to suddenly not be feminine or sound like whatever boys are supposed to sound like.  Peer pressure forced me to pack away my Yentl obsession – the nightgown, the towel hair – and close my living room drag show.  I focused my attention elsewhere, namely on making it out of my hometown in one piece.  I made it my mission to try blending in, to be invisible.

It’s that last part that I could never wrap my little head around.  I’d let my guard down for one minute and the next thing I knew Tallulah Bankhead or some other glitter bomb would come flying out of my mouth.  I was the gayest.  And like anyone with a flair for the dramatic, I was led kicking and screaming to a theatre department.  It was there in college while fluffing my dreams of staring in Yentl Part Two that I discovered the next best thing to Barbra Streisand: a whole gaggle of Barbras.  Yes, I found a college theatre department’s most renewable resource:  Jewish girls.  I was completely enamored.  I watched as they sang all the songs and felt all the feelings.  They were everything I wanted to be:  loud, brave, and busty.  Those girls accepted me and took me in as one of their own.  They reconnected me with the mini-Yentl I was as a kid and I vowed to be just like them one day.

While my characteristic Talmudic shrug, hand talking, and generalized anxiety disorder usually keep my Christian past a secret, I quietly think of my Yentl years when questions arise.  I wish I could tell you that I had a far more mystical Jewish beginning than dancing in my mother’s nightgown while listening to “Papa Can You Hear Me” on repeat.  Let’s be honest.  That sounds far more like the birth of a drag queen than a Jewish American Princess.  It certainly isn’t the sort of story you share with a panel of rabbis if you want them to approve your conversion.

That’s right, my Jewishness had to be questioned and reviewed by a board of rabbis.  How Jewish is that?  I didn’t just get to say, “Hey, everybody, look at me, bust out the Manischewitz.  I’m a Jew now!”  No, in spite of my Jew Fro and affinity for deli meats, I had to actually do some work.  Converting is more complicated than a simple prayer or declaration of allegiance to matzoh balls.  It is not easy, becoming Jewish is a full time job; especially for a Southern Baptist.  I had to read and study Jewish literature and immerse myself in all things Heeb as if I were defending a dissertation.  It was intense.  What a downer.  I mean have you read The Diary of Anne Frank?  My conversion was a yearlong process complete with essays and a monthly meeting with a rabbi.  I was prepared for the reading and endless questions.  Yentl is my favorite movie, so I knew to be ready for the inquisition.  What I wasn’t expecting was for my yearlong home-schooled religious studies program to culminate in a penis slicing and skinny-dip.

To be fair, you should know that I am circumcised.  I was before I converted.  That happened many, many moons ago.  I suddenly feel like you should all buy me dinner.  The circumcision is considered to be the physical symbol of the relationship between God and the Jewish people, so it is customary to perform the ritual on new Jews as a way to affirm this new bond.  What this means is that I paid an old man a lot of money to sing some Hebrew while poking my wiener until it bled.  A drop of blood was collected and then presented to a group of rabbis.  This is where I should admit that this ceremony is suggested and totally not required.  That’s right.  I’m a gangsta Jew.  I got my penis carved for my people.

Surprisingly, that’s not the most awkward part of my transformation.  After the penis poke, I had to disrobe in front of my rabbi and give myself a sort of Jewish baptism while chanting Hebrew prayers.  I’m clumsy and hate swimming, so it was a lot like giving a cat a bath.

Life is weird.  Who knows why we choose the things we choose.   All I can tell you is that when I watched Yentl all those years ago, I knew two things instantly:  I am Jewish, and men are attractive.  Don’t be nervous.  Watching Yentl won’t make you Jewish, just a little gay.  I was obsessed with the movie as a kid because in Yentl’s story, I saw myself.  I knew, even at eight, that I was different.  Knowing who you are is the easy part.  Finding a way to be the person you are supposed to be (and learning to love that person in spite of everything you’re taught), that is a whole other universe.

Maybe it’s a coincidence or a side effect of my Streisand obsession, but the people who got me to the other side are Jewish.  When you find your tribe, you have to hold on to them, and that’s exactly what I did.

Jeremy Owens is the creator, host and producer of “You’re Being Ridiculous,” a quarterly reading series on Chicago’s Far North Side. He is a food writer for Gapers Block and Oy!Chicago. He has been featured in JUF Magazine and Story Club Magazine.
Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2015.