Everything You Ever Wanted: A Memoir

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9780142181638: Everything You Ever Wanted: A Memoir

A Best Memoir of 2015, “This memoir is compulsively readable and full of humor and heart.”—AdoptiveFamilies.com 
“A punk rock Scheherazade” (Margaret Cho) shares the zigzagging path that took her from harem member to PTA member...


In her younger years, Jillian Lauren was a college dropout, a drug addict, and an international concubine in the Prince of Brunei’s harem, an experience she immortalized in in her bestselling memoir, SOME GIRLS. In her thirties, Jillian's most radical act was learning the steadying power of love when she and her rock star husband adopt an Ethiopian child with special needs.  After Jillian loses a close friend to drugs, she herself is saved by her fierce, bold love for her son as she fights to make him—and herself—feel safe and at home in the world.

Exploring complex ideas of identity and reinvention, Everything You Ever Wanted is a must-read for everyone, especially every mother, who has ever hoped for a second act in life.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Jillian Lauren lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Weezer bass player, Scott Shriner, and their son, Tariku.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED

JILLIAN LAUREN is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel Pretty. Some Girls has been translated into eighteen languages. Jillian has an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Magazine, Salon, Elle, and The Moth Anthology, among others. She is a regular storyteller with The Moth. Lauren blogs about motherhood and writing at www.jillianlauren.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Weezer bass player Scott Shriner, and their son.

“Lauren’s writing is brave and honest, and she calls out hypocrisy wherever she sees it.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Lauren proves she is a master storyteller.”

—Catherine Burns, artistic director of The Moth

“In this ferociously brave, funny, and heartwarming memoir, Jillian Lauren parses the challenges and rewards of motherhood with true grace and humility. No other parenting book has ever made me feel so validated about the big, messy, beautiful picture of what it means to care for another human being. I closed the cover in awe of both the author and of parenthood itself.”

—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance

“With humor and poignancy, Lauren interweaves her struggle to become a mother with her own story of being adopted as an infant. It’s a love story—between Lauren and her rock star husband and also between a couple and their new son. Like all great love stories, the beauty is in the struggle.”

—Kristen Howerton, founder of Rage Against the Minivan

“A transformative, unflinching account of the creation of an adoptive family. Jillian and Scott and their son, Tariku, show us—painful, frustrating, and joyful step-by-step—how to attach, heal, listen, trust, and then let go. A testament to the fierce and fallible journey of any mother. Reads like a novel, moves you like any great story of survival would, to tears of joy and triumph.”

—Jamie Lee Curtis

Praise for Some Girls

“Riveting . . . [Lauren writes] with humor, candor, and a reporter’s gimlet eye.”

—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

“[Lauren] is a deft storyteller and not afraid to provide candid descriptions of her life.”

—The Miami Herald

“Lauren . . . imparts equal parts poignant reflection and wisdom into her enlightening book. A gritty, melancholy memoir leavened by the author’s amiable, engrossing narrative tenor.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Some Girls is a heart-stoppingly thrilling story told by a punk rock Scheherazade. Lauren writes with such lyrical ease—the book is almost musical, an enduring melody of what it is to be a woman.”

—Margaret Cho

Pretty

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

penguin.com

Copyright © 2015 by Jillian Lauren

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Excerpt from “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman. Copyright © 1982 by Universal - Geffen Music, Trunksong Music, Ltd., and Menken Music. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Reprinted by permission of Hal Leonard Corporation.

Excerpt from “Good Morning Starshine” (from Hair), music by Galt MacDermot, words by James Rado and Gerome Ragni. Copyright © 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970 (copyrights renewed) by James Rado, Gerome Ragni, Galt MacDermot, Nat Shapiro, and EMI U Catalog Inc. All rights administered by EMI U Catalog Inc. (Publishing) and Alfred Music (Print). All rights reserved.

Cover design: Rachel Willey

Cover photograph courtesy of the author

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Lauren, Jillian.

Everything you ever wanted : a memoir / Jillian Lauren.

pages cm

ISBN 978-0-698-16855-8

1. Lauren, Jillian. 2. Women—California—Biography. 3. Identity (Psychology) 4. Women novelists, American—Biography. I. Title.

PS3612.A9442275Z46 2015

813'.6—dc23

[B]

2015005344

Penguin is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity. In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers; however, the story, the experiences, and the words are the author’s alone.

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

Neither the publisher nor the author is engaged in rendering professional advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions contained in this book are not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be liable or responsible for any loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestion in this book.

Author’s Note

THIS is a work of creative nonfiction. My son, Tariku, disagrees. He insists that this book couldn’t be nonfiction, because real nonfiction contains photographs of planets and lizards and stuff.

I have changed names and identifying characteristics at times, to protect the privacy of those involved. That said, to the best of my ability, planets and lizards aside, this book is the truth.

I’m his December bride.

He’s Father, he knows best.

Our kids watch Howdy Doody

As the sun sets in the West.

A picture out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine,

Far from Skid Row

I dream we’ll go

somewhere that’s green.

—Alan Irwin Menken and Howard Ashman, from Little Shop of Horrors

~ Prologue

THERE are three kinds of daylight in Los Angeles.

There is the midday light—flat and relentless. Usually partnered with heat, it catches and suspends you, like a formaldehyde solution. It has weight, singes your lungs, would poison the rain if the rain ever fell. Makes you wish the bloody red sunset would hurry up and come already.

There is the light after a rare rainstorm—the cerulean blue sky that frames the Hollywood sign and breathes new life into a thousand impossible dreams. Shatters your heart into glistening David Hockney swimming-pool pieces. You feel rich. You want to be driving down Sunset Boulevard through Beverly Hills in a convertible. Forget that. You want to be driven down Sunset in a Bentley with tinted windows. Only tourists admit they want to be seen.

Finally there is the dawn—cool, pale, and still smudged with shadows from the night before. In Hollywood, for many people it still is the night before. But for those of us who wake with the dawn instinctively, it is forgiving. It is forgiveness. It is soft, from the humbler east, more understated than the garish twilight displays over the ocean. It yearns for something clean that never comes. No matter—it is the yearning that counts.

The dawn is my time. I always rise before everyone. More often than not, I dress quickly, have a few sips of tea, and walk out the door to exercise.

On the morning of my eighteen-month-old son Tariku’s final adoption hearing at the Children’s Court in Monterey Park, I wake at five. The hearing is a formality, but a significant one. After this, he will be irrevocably ours. My husband, Scott, and T are sleeping next to me. The pale predawn light seeps around the edges of the curtains. We don’t have to be there until ten. I slip out of bed and lace up my sneakers.

In our neighborhood in northeast L.A., there is a hill on the southern border. A road cuts over it, but the back side is undeveloped, with trails I’ve yet to explore. The road is steep and winding. A good hike, I think, and doable in time. If I walk at a brisk clip, I don’t even need the car.

I feel strong as I push toward the top. When I reach the crest, the trail looks clearly marked. I figure fifteen minutes to the bottom. Perfect. When I arrive home, Scott will have just woken up with T, the morning chores will be under way, and I will plunge in.

But now I’m headed down and something is wrong. I hike enough to be able to feel when a trail is going wrong—probably heading to a dead end. I go back to the last fork and take another trail, which also ends abruptly. Through the branches, I can see the back of what looks like a high school down below. I figure I can bushwhack my way through the brush, then walk through the campus and back out to the street. It won’t be far. After that my home is just over the next familiar hill.

It’s harder than I thought. Burrs invade my shoes; an errant twig scratches my face; another tears my favorite leggings. At the bottom, I remember that this isn’t the era I grew up in, of smoking pot and getting felt up in the woods behind the library. This is the era of high-security schools. A tall chain-link fence blocks my passage.

My chest seizes and I recoil. When I was a kid, a jagged end of chain link ripped my hand open. I still remember the pale blue T-shirt I was wearing, the smell of damp earth after I hit the ground.

It always takes me a minute to remember . . . this injury never actually happened to me. It happened to my father.

When I was little, I used to ask my dad over and over again to tell me how he got the thin white scar that bisected his palm and ran down his forearm nearly to his elbow. I heard the story so many times it became almost as much a part of my own body as it was his. In my dreams, it’s always me: stumbling, light-headed, nearly bleeding to death, trying to hold my torn skin together with my blood-soaked T-shirt.

I’m not delusional. If I think about it, I realize that of course that scar is my father’s scar. Still, the memory comes to me with a momentary stab of fear.

I’m chilly in the shady grove, my sweaty shirt cooling in the morning breeze.

It’s one of my greatest fears that my hurt will become Tariku’s, in spite of my best efforts to give him a whole new world. Maybe the legacy of our parents’ pain is unavoidable. Maybe these scars are not just psychological but somehow cellular. Maybe the darkest moments of my story are so deeply inscribed in my body, my voice, my very soul that I won’t be able to help transmitting them.

I steel myself, wedge my toe into the diamond of chain link, and pull myself over the top.

Maybe so, I think. But I can also transmit this: Even shaking with fear, you can still scale the fence.

~ Chapter 1

WHEN I meet Scott in September 2003, I am midway between the before picture and the after picture. The before picture is not one I’m eager to frame and put on the wall: addiction, depression, a past checkered with ill-advised intimacies and even-less-well-advised sources of income, including a short-lived career as an exotic dancer and an unlikely stint as a member of a harem in Southeast Asia (yes, really). But the after picture—ah, the after picture. I’m like the endearingly trashy character Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors: working in a flower shop, teetering around on too-high heels and dreaming of that tract house of her very own (before she gets noshed on by a carnivorous houseplant as comeuppance for such hubris). I imagine a sun-drenched vintage kitchen with tiny handprints smudged across the yellow cabinets, a vestibule scattered with pint-sized sneakers, a garden overflowing with heirloom . . . heirloom whatevers, just so long as they’re heirloom. I’m sure I’ll get there, if I just work very, very hard at being very, very good.

I first see Scott at a bowling party. He’s wearing his light brown hair slicked back, overdyed jeans cuffed at the ankle, worn but polished steel-toed boots. He is square at both the shoulder and the jaw and holds himself ramrod straight, like the former U.S. Marine he is. He is a force. I know from friends that he is a bass player for a popular band. I’ve heard he’s a heartbreaker. I resolve to be aloof.

“What do you do with your days?” he asks.

Not my favorite question, but I suppose it’s unavoidable. I should mention here that between the before picture and the after picture is a no-man’s-land I’ve been dwelling in called cosmetology school.

“I go to beauty school.”

“Beauty school is hot.”

“Beauty school is not hot. Anyone who thinks beauty school is hot is a pervert.” Scott is not deterred.

“Aw, come on,” he says. “How about I pick you up at beauty school and take you to Norm’s?”

Norm’s is a 1950s throwback diner, but not in a shiny, hip kind of way. It’s an L.A. institution, with cheap breakfast specials and grime worked into the linoleum floors. At Norm’s of West Hollywood, senior citizens share a counter with rock musicians looking for a nostalgic breakfast. The invitation to a date at Norm’s is a clever nod to Frankie Avalon’s version of beauty school.

Scott sees beauty school as some kind of holding pen for gum-cracking bad girls who wear lots of eyeliner and have dropped out of high school. The truth is less romantic. My story is, I’m a few months out of rehab and scrambling for some way to pay the bills.

Just a year before, I was hiding amid dust bunnies, syringe caps, and cigarette wrappers under a bed in a filthy flophouse in East L.A. while I hoped against hope that the men who had jimmied the lock and broken in looking for my dealer wouldn’t find me instead. As I held my breath and focused on the laces of their track shoes, I rediscovered the long-lost (like, since my bat mitzvah) value of prayer in my life and made a little bargain with God that if I lived through it, I’d walk my stupid, stupid self right into rehab. I miraculously emerged unscathed, and that’s exactly what I did. Every day, I’m still surprised to be alive and just as shocked that I’m nearly thirty years old. Chastened by the dangerous, Burroughsian roller coaster I have just exited, I stuff my artistic aspirations in the darkest corner of my furthest drawer and barely even take them out to look at them anymore. A job as a hairdresser seems fine. Not exciting, but haven’t I had my fill of exciting? Since childhood, I have romanticized the life of the artist, and all of my poetic aspirations have gotten me nowhere but teetering on the edge of an early grave. What was it I once dreamed of? To write something? A book even, one day? What comic naïveté.

So, no, beauty school is not hot. Beauty school is humiliating. Beauty school is pe...

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