Author Archives

Jen Doll

Age Appropriate

igorr1 / Getty, James Woodson / Getty, Collage by Katie Kosma

Jen Doll | Longreads | September 2018 | 20 minutes (4941 words)

In the summer of 2017, when I was 41 years old, I temporarily lost my parents. This is both less and more dramatic than it sounds. On August 1st, the start of the Long Island beach house rental I’d arranged for the month, I got into a car with my mom and dad, who’d helpfully flown up from Florida to join me for the initial stage of this retreat after I realized I hadn’t driven since I was a teenager, and I wasn’t going to start trying again on the Long Island Expressway.

After we loaded the rental car and I dutifully fastened my seatbelt in the backseat, assuming the position of so many family road trips past, I realized I hadn’t mailed my maintenance for my Brooklyn apartment. “Hang on — I’ll be right back!” I yelled, grabbing the envelope with the check in it and dashing across the street toward a mailbox. My dad waited at the side of the road, but then came a surge of traffic, and then a cop, and he had to drive on. “Noooooooo!” I yelled, chasing after the rental car (what kind was it anyway? I had no idea!) in the heat, knowing even as I did my perfunctory sad jog that there was no way I’d catch up.

I had no phone, no purse, no keys, no way to communicate with them other than to send mental signals: I will be right here waiting for you, a Richard Marx song on repeat. When you lose someone, stay put!, I remembered, a lesson imparted at various times during my childhood. So I waited. And waited. Finally, I saw the rental car heading back in my direction. No need to know the make or model when Mom was leaning out of the passenger side window, waving in the wind, shouting my name at the top of her lungs. They’d found me.

It was not the most auspicious beginning to our trip, and I felt relief and embarrassment in equal measures. I was, by all accounts, an adult. Yet I was never really a grown-up, particularly not when my parents were around.
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Flying Solo

Illustration by Katie Kosma

Jen Doll | Longreads | July 2017 | 24 minutes (6,048 words)


The day after my boyfriend of nearly a year broke up with me because I wasn’t an evangelical Christian also happened to be the day before a trip we’d planned together: five days and four nights in beautiful, sunny, USA-tropical Miami. It was supposed to be a romantic escape from January New York, gray in the best of instances but ever drearier on account of the swirling political anxiety and despair that followed Donald Trump’s election and inauguration. It was like the weather was in on everything that had turned us all upside down, too; it rained like the skies were weeping. (They had good reason, what with climate change.) Since November, politics was all anyone was talking about, all anyone could talk about. We’d been looking at each other with dazed, pained expressions while attempting to gird ourselves for what was next, and the nexts kept coming, faster and more furious. Talking about politics was increasingly exhausting, even when you did it with people you agreed with. But with my boyfriend, talking about politics had become something else.

It turned out that he had been living something of a double life, unknown to me upon perusal of his Tinder profile and most of the numerous dates we’d been on since. From May to fall he appeared as your typical liberal “coastal elite,” or at least my conception of one, which is to say, he wore plaid shirts and hipster sneakers, he enjoyed drinking and good food and Brooklyn bars and indie bands; he was sophisticated and smart and funny and sweet and quirky. He worked in the arts. He was, like me, writing a book. I never once saw him read a Bible.

Except. As we grew closer, this valuable information began to flow out, in fits and starts. He’d grown up evangelical, and even though I believed he’d moved on from what I considered a repressive childhood — after all, he was dating me, a person whose secularity very nearly dripped from her Twitter page; he was enough of a progressive to wrestle with the views of his Trump-voting parents and even criticize them (though not to their faces) — what appeared to be vestiges of those beliefs would pop up now and again in our conversations, emotional bombs that led to explosions.

After I participated in the Women’s March in New York City, he confessed he’d once been in a march, too. But, um, a pro-life one. “Ages ago, though, and it was pretty lame,” he said.

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