"I like to consider myself a late bloomer, meaning someone who will eventually, however late, come into bloom. Although when and if I will bloom remains a mystery. I wish I knew how to speak a foreign language fluently. I wish I knew how to cook a simple roast chicken, or that I had read The Idiot, whose main character sounds like someone I can relate to."
In quick succession, Amy Cohen lost her job writing sitcoms, her boyfriend (with whom she'd been talking marriage), and her mom, after a long bout with cancer. Not exactly the stuff humor thrives on, is it? But filtered through Amy's worldview, there's comedy in the most unexpected places. In this unforgettable, engaging memoir, she recounts her (seemingly) never-ending search for love, her evolving relationship with her widowed dad, and her own almost unintentional growth as she stumbles through life.
Filled with observations sweet, bittersweet, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Late Bloomer's Revolution will be irresistible to anyone who believes her greatest moment is yet to come.
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THE LATE BLOOMER'S REVOLUTION
By Amy Cohen
Hyperion Copyright © 2007 Amy Cohen
All right reserved.
Chapter One THE FIXER-UPPER
I grew up thinking my mother had the answer to everything. Watch any black-and-white film and she always knew some obscure fact about an actor with one line. "See the fishmonger behind the ox, the one who's yelling, 'Slay the hunchback!'" she'd say. "His name was Skids Monroe. He came out of the Yiddish theater and was tragically maimed in a Ferris wheel accident."
She knew about words.
"The term 'steatopygous' means characterized by fat about the hips and buttocks," she explained. She grabbed a pillowy section of her thigh just below her tennis skirt, adding, "All of this, right here, is steatopygia, and once it was considered not cellulite, but a highly desirable benchmark of fertility!" She pointed at me. "Remember that next time you say you look hideous in a bathing suit."
And she knew about men.
For my mother there were only two answers to any question involving love: he'd be back, or I was better off without him.
At sixteen, when my first boyfriend, Cliff Green, said we should see other people, I was crushed, despairing in a way I'd never experienced. "My life is over!" I wept.
"Sweetheart, I know you're upset, but give me the knife," my mother said, when I took to eating whole pound cakes in one sitting.
She began her pep talk, as she often did, by free-associating. "We all liked Cliff, and it's probably time I told you that although you and your father thought it was your little secret, I knew Cliff snuck out of the house every morning. I could hear him tromping through the living room, then slamming the kitchen door."
I was sitting on a low stepladder, my elbows resting on my knees, scraping the cream filling out of a pile of soggy Oreos I planned to put back in the cookie jar. My mother was standing behind me, wearing a flowered navy and yellow kimono we had picked out together on our trip to Japan. Her hair stopped just below her chin. It was entirely gray by this point, a crisp platinum, but her face remained almost without a wrinkle. Her wide, soft cheeks, modest nose, and lively hazel eyes looked much the way they had a decade before.
"I'm glad that you confided in me about being depressed about your relationship. At first I was afraid you and Cliff were smoking pot and that's why you had the munchies," she said, using a new bit of slang she'd learned at the "Just Say No to Drugs" sisterhood luncheon at the synagogue. She tossed out an empty quart of butter pecan ice cream I'd eaten and another of mint chip from which I'd systematically picked out all the chips. "But now that I know you're depressed, the long afternoon naps make sense." She stood behind me tenderly picking cookie crumbs out of my hair.
"Pussycat, trust me. I'm positive. He'll be back."
"You really think so?"
"Mark my words," she said. "I promise."
Two months later, Cliff came back.
When I fell in love with a boy named Ian, freshman year of college, who told me he loved me in a way he had never loved anyone before, enough to admit to me and only me that he was gay, his mascara smearing as he wept, my mother consoled me with "Better now than in thirty years." She put her arm around me. "Could you really get serious with a man who wore a bustier?" Adding finally, "You're better off without him."
At twenty-four, Jay McPhee ended our relationship of two years explaining that, while his preferred model of love was "The Dog Bone"-namely two separate, independent entities bound by a long, sturdy bridge (he said "long" twice, as in "long, long sturdy bridge")-my ideal was what he called "The Pretzel," where two people are twisted together, fused in several places, preventing any opportunity for individuality. Or escape.
"I'm not a pretzel," I said, desperately.
"Oh, but you are," he said.
"I can be a dog bone!" I pleaded. "I can! Give me a chance!"
I didn't think Jay and I were right for each other, but I had always hoped it would be my choice, not his, whether to suffer a life of regret and stifling mediocrity.
"He said you weren't independent? That's ridiculous," my mother said, reaching for the overnight bag I'd brought to stay at my parents' apartment until I felt better. She led me into my old bedroom, still decorated with the many cat posters I collected before we found out I was allergic.
"Not independent." She scoffed. "Mark my words. He'll be back." And when that never happened, she assured me, "You're better off without him."
Right around the time I turned twenty-six, when I reluctantly broke up with David Orlean because he complained I was too independent and career minded, my mother added a new saying to her repertoire.
"People who want to be married are married," she said, thrilled to have coined a phrase that could be so deep and yet so simple.
"Huh?" I said. "I don't get it."
"People who want to be married are married," she repeated. "Look at that woman, the one I showed you in the paper, who's blind now because her husband threw acid in her eyes. Even though she knew he had mistresses, even though he maimed her, she stayed married to him."
She nodded and folded her arms, as if to say, "Am I a genius or what?"
I was confused. "Okay. And?"
"So if you really wanted to be married, you would be!" She clapped her hands in a single loud strike. "That's the answer. When you really want it, it will happen."
A YEAR LATER it still hadn't happened and I was really starting to want it. There had been another David. This time it was David Soloway, a man I'd met in Los Angeles, where I'd just graduated from film school. He was dedicated to me and talked often about marriage, but we had problems. He always wanted me to wear short shorts, the kind I thought should only be worn by women who referred to their boss as "my pimp," and he mentioned often that he didn't judge women who got breast jobs. Or liposuction. At any age. He could also be very critical. He once told me about an ex-girlfriend who'd purred in his ear, "I want you inside of me." "I want you inside me?" he said with disgust. "What kind of thing was that to say? Say, 'I need that huge, hard cock in my hot box,' or 'Your cock is so fucking huge just looking at it makes me come,' or just 'Fuck me with that unbelievably huge cock,' but 'I want you inside me'? Was that supposed to turn me on?"
I was sad after we broke up. I knew it was the right thing, but still I found myself wondering how many chances you get in life to find the right person. Did you get three? Five? Less? Had I already blown it and just didn't know it yet? Should I have held on to him because I might not find anything better? I had also recently weathered the unanimous rejection of the first screenplay I'd ever written. It was called Pleased to Meet Me, about a chronically depressed thirty-year-old single woman who hates her life and goes back in time to prevent her teenage self from growing up to be a thirty-year-old single woman who hates her life. My hope was that it would be a feel-good comedy for the Zoloft set, proof that overwhelming psychological issues, immune to both therapy and medication, could be easily reversed with the aid of a time machine. While I got a few studio meetings out of it, in the end there was no sale. I was a big, pacing, jittery loser in work and love, and once again there was my mother, eager to put me back together.
"What you need is a trip to Prague in May with me!" she announced.
In the past the two of us had traveled together to places like China, Japan, and Holland. We went to Beijing and Shanghai in the late seventies, where we sampled jellyfish, sliced webbed duck's feet, and something we were later told was braised snake. When we were in Amsterdam, we rented a car to explore the countryside, and my mother accidentally drove the wrong way down a single bicycle path, where angry riders threw apples at our windshield. "I thought the Dutch were supposed to be so peaceful," my mother said as we scraped applesauce off the front hood.
And now she wanted us to visit Prague, a city she felt promised both exciting architecture and the possibility of more adventures. She told my father he'd have to fend for himself for ten days, and off we went. The flight was easy, and everything was proceeding smoothly until we went through immigration. Everyone else moved promptly through the line, and then they got to us. The official looked confused as he examined my mother's form.
"What this mean?" he said, his heavily lidded eyes narrowing.
I looked at her form. "Mom, did you have to write that?"
She smiled when she realized what he was pointing at.
"I'm a career volunteer," she explained. "That's my profession. I raise money for charities that support communities becoming self-sufficient. We build hospitals and schools, but I don't receive a salary."
He shrugged and stamped her passport.
In the cab to the hotel, my mother repeated her delight at the wonderful rate we'd gotten.
"The hotel is right in the heart of the city," she said. "I done good."
That's what we thought until we got to the hotel and found out it was under renovation. My first thought upon seeing our room was that it had been designed by an architect who specialized in third world prisons. The bed seemed like something a monk would sleep on after he'd forsaken his worldly possessions. As if that wasn't bad enough, our window was boarded up with a splintery piece of wood to keep out the dust from the construction site outside. When the bellboy tried to tell us what time breakfast was served, he had to yell over the sound of wrecking balls and heavy machinery. We tried to switch hotels, but it was May, and the only thing available was forty minutes outside the city.
"Okay," my mother said. "So we won't spend any time in the hotel. Who wants to anyway?"
APPARENTLY, WORKERS START very early in Prague. We were up at six. When I looked outside, I saw a bunch of mustached men, smoking and drinking black coffee, listening to fast-paced accordion music.
My mother and I started the day with what I had heard called the "Jewish Quarter," but which the concierge referred to as "Jew Town," which sounded to me like a theme park that would be filled with rides such as "The Emotional Roller Coaster."
"Do you think he was anti-Semitic?" I asked as we left the hotel.
"Oh, you and your paranoia," she said. "No, I don't think he was an anti-Semite. And I don't think the cabdriver was either," she said, referring to our ride from the airport. "I think it was an unfortunate translation when he called us 'Jew People.'"
We proceeded to Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. My mother read the guidebook out loud as we walked.
"The area was named in honor of Emperor Joseph II of the Austrian Empire, which ruled the Czech Republic in the eighteenth century. Emperor Joseph issued the Tolerance Edict in 1781, which revoked the old law that required Jews to wear distinctive caps and Stars of David on their clothing." She put the book back in her bag. "Well, thank God for that. See, this city was very progressive when it came to Jews." She snapped a photo of the Hebrew clock, which had numbers in Hebrew and ran backward. It sat at the top of a mauve building with an elaborate baroque facade. It was early, and the streets were empty as we walked toward the "Old-New" synagogue next door.
That's when I felt a tap on my shoulder. The young man was probably twenty-five and sublimely handsome. He had shoulder-length black hair, blue eyes, and was dressed in an oatmeal V-neck sweater and jeans. He had an ethereal beauty that said, "You can look, but you can't touch." Poets would write about beauty like his. Which made me think of the Shakespeare sonnet "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Then I thought of what Shakespeare might have said about me. "And this one to a humid night in Newark."
"Are you Jewish?" the young man asked.
I clenched my teeth and looked at him. "Why?"
My mother interrupted, placing a hand on each hip.
"Yes, we are Jewish. And deeply proud of it."
"Me too," he said, cheerfully. He held out his hand. "My name is Miguel. I am from Argentina."
"Hello, Miguel." My mother held out her hand. "I'm Joyce Arnoff-Cohen." She always used the hyphenate. It was a throwback to her interest in feminism in the early seventies, when, for a short time, she went bra-less and paraded around in a neon maxicoat trimmed in knotty yak fur. "And this is my daughter, Amy Cohen."
Miguel smiled. "Very nice to meet you, Amy and Joyce. May I join you?"
"We'd be delighted," my mother said.
At lunch, we found out Miguel had planned to come with his brother, but he'd gotten into a soccer accident which had resulted in a minor head injury.
"I'm studying to become a pediatrician," Miguel told us.
"Bravo!" my mother said.
"Amy, do you like children?" he asked.
"Not like, love," I said, laying on my best earth mother shtick. "I can't wait to have my own."
"Me too," he said, winking. "My mother would like me to have them tomorrow. I think I will be ready soon." He pushed his plate toward me. "Amy, would you like the rest of my salad? It's very nice."
"No, thank you," I said, but what I really wanted to say was "I'll have your children."
A Jewish Argentinean doctor. And as if Miguel weren't perfect enough already, when we went to the Jewish cemetery, he cried. Not sobbed, just a single elegant tear gliding down one of his perfectly molded cheeks. I gave him a napkin I'd taken from the restaurant, and he tapped the corner of his eye.
He took my hand and held it for a moment. "Thank you," he said. "I just have so much feeling being here. All we have endured and fought for. All the people who were lost."
We stood amid the headstones-some fat, some tall, all clustered together. My mother was crying too, but she'd started crying as we entered the front gate.
"Miguel, that's beautiful," she said, blowing her nose.
I was very moved being there myself, and yet all I could think was "How can I get rid of my mother?"
"Miguel, I hope you'll join us for dinner," my mother said.
"Yes," he said. "I was hoping you would ask, Joyce."
Then he kissed us each on both cheeks and said, "Until later."
We watched him walk away, and when we were sure he was out of sight, my mother said, "He's a devastatingly attractive young man. For him, I'll come visit you in Argentina."
"Slow down there, partner," I said, as much to myself as to her.
"Sweetheart, a mother can dream, can't she? I saw him staring at you not once, not twice, but several times today."
She folded her arms and nodded. "Yes, really. The only reason I invited him to join us in the first place was for you. Sometimes you need your mother to push things along."
Okay, I thought. I'll ditch her after dinner.
* * *
WE CHOSE WHAT we had been told was the best restaurant in Prague. It was actually a large apartment, which had been divided into several intimate, formal dining rooms, each with only a few tables.
When Miguel arrived, he looked even more handsome than I'd remembered. He was wearing a slim, navy wool, single-button suit with a rich blue V-neck sweater underneath. He was so continental, and I was so local. He was the Riviera. I was the East River. This was the early nineties, when granny boots and T-shirts worn under loose apron dresses were big. I had worn this, my favorite outfit, specially for the occasion. I also had on earrings, big hoops. I rarely wore earrings, because I thought they made me look like a gypsy, and true to my fear, I now felt as if I should be banging a tambourine and pickpocketing tourists in a crowded marketplace.
"You two look very beautiful," he said.
I imagined kissing him. Standing under one of the dramatic arches we'd seen that day, on a cobblestone street in my long apron and granny boots. I'd press that gorgeous Argentinean face into mine. He'd whisper something in my ear like "I couldn't wait for dinner to be over. I couldn't wait to be alone with you." I just had to be careful not to drink too much since I was very nervous.
"Joyce, your necklace is so unusual," Miguel said.
My mother was wearing a thin red sweater and a heavy silver necklace that my brother, sister, and I thought looked like an enlarged, diseased organ.
"I got this from a sculptor in Tel Aviv," she said. "He usually does large installations using scrap metal from cans. My children hate this necklace, don't you?"
"We call it 'The Liver,'" I said, smiling at Miguel. I kept smiling, then smiled some more, but he didn't look at me. Instead, he stared at my mother.
Excerpted from THE LATE BLOOMER'S REVOLUTION by Amy Cohen Copyright © 2007 by Amy Cohen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
"Amy's honest, hilarious story of her transformation without
liposuction, botox, or any kind of surgery had me in stitches. A totally
relatable story that had me laughing and nodding in agreement with her
universal observations about becoming a woman. This is better than chick
lit, because this chick's grown up." (Marissa Marchetto, contrib of Cancer
Late Bloomer's Revolution is a wry look at love and life. Amy's storytelling is irresistible throughout her foibles and her bittersweet triumph.
author of The Glass Castle
Refreshing is too tame a word. In this world of contemporary
literature, with its embarrassment of pink books featuring disembodied high
heels on the cover (if only there were a name for this genre) The Late
Bloomer's Revolution is a genuinely subversive work. It's also
delightful. Amy Cohen is as funny and observant a writer as one could wish
for, but it is her book's measured and elegant delineation of the very real
difference between solitude and loneliness that will bring you up short.
author of Don't Get Too Comfortable and Fraud
Who wouldn't fall in love with Amy Cohen? Her The Late Bloomer's
Revolution is the new single woman's bible . . . She reminds you of what
it means to love. I was riveted to her tender feelings for her parents, her
disastrous dates (How could men not adore her? I am with her father on that
one!), her rashes, her honesty. She provides the new happy ending -- which
is better than being married, at any price.
author of Sleeping Arrangements and Beautiful Bodies
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book disapointed me and depressed me at the same time. I did read the whole thing but would not recomend it. You may need prozac by the time you are done.
A funny/sad memoir of family and dating.
I enjoyed this book. It was sort of like having a long conversation with a grumpy but funny friend. I felt like Amy Cohen did a really good job of keeping her tone light even when faced with the more serious events in the book. There were a few moments where I thought I might lose her as a character I liked - mostly when she was ruminating on her married friends and whether people who have kids really *are* that busy. (answer is yes - but you can't know that until you go through it.) Anyway - she kept my attention - and I was pretty amused the whole way through. It is a fast read - good to bring to the pool or the beach.
The Late Bloomer¿s Revolution by Amy Cohen is a memoir about a woman trying to find herself and what she had envisioned of her life becoming. She figured she would meet the love of her life, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. Come to find out, things would be completely different for her. All with in a short time period she broke up with the man she thought she was going to marry, lost her job, and had her mother die. After everything she had lived for just crumbled away before her eyes, she just couldn¿t get her life back on the track she wanted, but decided to take a new route. Her father became a key figure in her life, and she got closer to him than ever before. She took on new challenges in her life that she never thought she would accomplish, and lived her life the way it happened, not how she had created in her mind. This book closely relates to our theme of utopias and dystopias because main character, Amy Cohen, had created a utopia in her mind. She dreamed that the way her life was supposed to be was finding her true love in her early twenties, keeping the job she had, having some kids shortly after, and living the fairy tale. She quickly learns that this isn¿t always going to be the case, and has a hard time understanding that. She starts to think something is wrong with her, that she¿s not good enough, pretty enough, funny enough, etc. to find a husband. In reality, nothing was wrong with her, she just wasn¿t meant to live that life. Eventually, she learns to accept that and be happy with how her life turned out. I think this novel gives a lot of insight to the fact that there are so many priorities in our society that don¿t necessarily have to be. It seems the majority of people see the goal of life, if you will, to be finding someone to spend it with. I think for some people this fits but not for all, and just because it may not fit you doesn¿t mean the way your life turns out is wrong. Everyone is different, and creating a utopia based off what society envisions as ideal doesn¿t make it ideal for you. This is an excellent book and I would recommend it to those who think they can handle it. I will admit it tended to get depressing at times. I feel it was this way because there is something about that story that wraps you up in it, and I got so involved that I felt like everything that was happening to her was happening to me. Although the realization in the end wasn¿t as powerful as I was expecting, it was still very meaningful.
Eh. What can I say? I found this book in the dollar bin at Books-a-million, and frankly, didn't read the cover well enough to realize it was a memoir. To be honest, at times it felt like fiction. The author is obviously funny and that comes across in some really amusing descriptions and anecdotes (I especially liked the descriptions of and her interactions with her parents). But I must admit that at some point I started to feel like maybe I should just abandon this book. It is depressing, sad even. Though ironically, since I am a 36 year old married woman with 3 kids, it made me want to be single in Manhattan. Maybe I just felt like I could be a better single person than her? Overall I just wanted to finish the book. I found her too neurotic for me, and that's saying a lot! It also might have been an easier read if I was Jewish and had a greater understanding of that culture. I don't know how I feel about this book overall, but I can say that I'm happy it's done.
This memoir is far from the happy ending that is expected. This New York Times Bestseller tells the story of a thirty year old woman who is far behind in her life, she isn't married, doesn't have a job and to make matters worse she can't find a man . The memoir begins with Amy Cohen loosing the guy that she always thought she was going to marry (Josh) while then trying to overcome the loss of her mother. To make matters even worst her father starts dating again, and to Amy's dismay she finds that her father has more dates then she has. Through coping with the difficulties of dating, Amy then contracts a severe rash on her face that puts her into hiding in her apartment for a year, where she then tries to forget all her memories of her ex(Josh). Throughout the story, as there seems to be hope for Amy, fate strikes her again. It seems that as a new man that enters into Amy's life everything seems great, but by the end he seems to almost break her down a little bit more than the last guy did. The end of this story takes a turn for the better when Amy is finally able to say, "I do." I enjoyed every page of this unpredictable invigorating story. The memoir in itself is an original and realistic story that can be enjoyed by all.
Laugh-out-loud funny (you'll have to resist the temptation to read the funny parts out loud to those around you), yet very poignant. Hilarious stories of the author's misadventures in dating, moving stories of her life's challenges and family's trials. A unique glimpse into someone's real life, real thoughts & feelings, and real successes.
the author is very funny and you'll like her from the beginning.
Although slightly humorous, this book never really grabs the reader. You keep reading to find out what happens but nothing ever does. It's just a bunch or random stories from the authors life that never really tie together. I read this for a book club and didn't get it completely finished before our meeting. I was the only one to read this book for that meeting and several people wanted to know how it ended. I actually lied and made up an ending- I later finished the book and as it turns out, I was right! It just goes to show that this book is uneventful and predictable.
Thank you, Amy, for your openess, sharing a very difficult time in your life. Losing a parent is one of the hardest things. There is never a good time but especially when you are looking for relationship advice.
It was funny and moving at the same time. There were so many times that I was nodding my head going through the same thing. It is nice to know that other women are going through the same things.
If you like 'Sex in the City', then you'll love Amy Cohen's writing. She tells this story in a wonderful and entertaining manor. Any women or man for that matter, who has been single, can relate to her humorous stories. I highly recommend this book.
Amy is a great storyteller whose sense of humor really comes through in her writing. Even during sad times, she finds a way to bring out the humorous side of the situation. Her story and writing style really held my attention.