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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Put a Lock on the Bedroom Door (or Sex, Tamoxifen, and My “Rockin’ Roll”)

I was desperate when I wrote this song — sleep-deprived and husband-deprived (though still happily married). I was enjoying my five- and two-year-old sons, Nick and Joe. But other parts of my life — they simply weren’t there to enjoy.

As soon as you start to want sex again, the kids start walking into your bedroom at odd hours. Even if you’re organized (and rested) enough to try once in a blue moon, that’s the blue moon during which somebody comes in, trailing a blankie, asking for a glass of water. We were batting .000 in the sexfield. I bought the lock as a kind of jump-starter.

The first performance of this song was a revelation: it brought the house down. I knew I was not alone. Afterward an audience member said, of the early days of her second marriage, “We put a lock on the bedroom door because we were newlyweds and couldn’t get enough of each other — but we had seven kids in the house, ages 2 to 17!” I was jealous of even their memory of that newlywed ardor — but I had the lock and I had hope.

Fast-forward sixteen years, to this video. After two successful motherhood CDs, I’m finally making my debut at the Café Carlyle, one of the pinnacles of the cabaret world — with these motherhood songs, on Mother’s Day! The band is rocking, I am getting warm laughs, and my piano chops are right up there.

But now as I watch this video, all I notice is this:

My muffin top.

It’s jiggling — more like an undercooked pudding. Not even a muscular muffin top!

I was never chubby (unless you count being pregnant, a much sexier bulge) till four years ago, one year after I started taking an anti-cancer drug. I blame it on the Tamoxifen.

In Spring 2004, when I started the five-year course of Tamoxifen, they told me I was lucky. I had caught this breast cancer at such an early stage, and my cells “responded” to the drug.

But I felt unlucky. The annoying side effects barreled in on me: insomnia, anxiety, hot flashes, and that mother of all side effects: weight gain.

Twenty-five pounds heavier and four years later — this month! — I am going OFF Tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen gave me many things, but it took away something very important: songs. Creative flow. Was it the constant exhaustion? Lessened hormonal drive? Do we write because certain chemicals are coursing through our bloodstreams? How else do you explain the fact that now, as I am getting back my energy and my figure, melodies and lyrics flow into my brain day and night. As does the drive to turn them into songs.

So I watch myself jiggling there at Bobby Short’s famous perch, suddenly I stop hating my muffin top. I see it as a kind of emblem.

It signifies: I made it through. I’m still here, cancer-free. The medicine that gave me a raw pudding belly, large thighs, a double chin, sleepless nights and no songs, also gave me now — these days ahead. Days to write more songs and enjoy my family.

In the video, my nearly grown sons are laughing at the sexy irony, enjoying my rhythm “pocket” with two sublime musicians, Everett Bradley on percussion and Jerome Harris on bass. My boys do NOT notice (or care about) the muffin top. And next to them is husband Pete, who will say, when I moan about my weight gain, “There’s just more of you to love.”

Better a bigger me than no me. Thank you Tamoxifen. Thank you sons, Nick and Joe.

And the Lock? It got quite a bit of use over the years.

September, 2009

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