Andrea Askowitz

Author & Teacher

Selected Stories

Click on the publication name below to read the full story. For more stories, go to Medium, where I wrote a story a week the year I turned 50. Or listen to Writing Class Radio on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

I Challenged Myself to Stop Talking About Myself in shondaland

When her relationship hit a snag, a writer accidentally discovered the secret to a long-lasting, sex-filled partnership.

As my wife, Vicky, turned off the lights to go to bed, she asked me about my college dorm. We had just dropped off our daughter at college for the first time. The question got me reminiscing about my own experiences 30 years ago, telling her about the guy a few rooms down I cuddled with, who, in retrospect, must have been gay. I laughed and then recalled the time I pulled a muscle slipping in a beer puddle running down the hall.

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Resolve to Fail More 2024

Last Friday night, I was washing dishes when I said, “Yay, it’s the weekend.” 

“Isn’t every day the weekend for you?” My 14-year-old son, Sebastian, said.

I was like, “Listen Buster, first of all, I wake up at 6:25 to get you to school. I know you think I crawl back to bed, but I have work to do.” I could hear the defensiveness in my voice before I even got to my resume. 

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or Writing Class Radio

You Should Try Making an Anti-Gratitude List. Really. (in Slate)

Being thankful is all the rage. It doesn’t always help!

The Bible mentions gratitude 157 times. The New Testament says “Give thanks in all circumstances.” In modern times, Oprah Winfrey calls the gratitude journal life-changing. You’ve heard it. Scientists say gratitude helps the brain.

In the beginning, in the mid-’90s, while playing softball and working to save the world, I was a believer. Every day, I wrote down three things I was grateful for: 1) I live in New York City. 2) I have 24-hour access to pizza. 3) I’m in love.

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WRITING LIFE “Navel Gazing” for Good (in Hippocampus Magazine)

After an intense, long weekend of writing workshops, we walked into a brew pub. I was so pumped up, I couldn’t sit down and went around the table bear-hugging each scientist. “How will we be able to tell if Andrea’s drunk?” one said.

“She’ll start hugging everyone,” my writing partner, Allison Langer, said.

We hadn’t ordered the first beer, but I was already drunk on a sense of purpose. We’d been hired by the Center for Ecosystem Science & Society at Northern Arizona University to teach their graduate students how to personalize their science writing.

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Talking to My Friends on the Phone Led to My Calling—Writing and Teaching (in Brevity Blog)

My daughter, Tashi, just finished her first year of college. Over spring break, my dad asked her what she wants to study. “Dad stop,” I said and threw my arm in front of his chest to block him. The number of times this 19-year-old has been asked what she wants to study is in the hundreds. It pisses her off because she doesn’t know yet. It pisses me off too.

For years, and I mean like my whole life, I didn’t know what I wanted to study either, and when the question came up, I always felt like there was something wrong with me.

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Opinion: What Justine Bateman gets exactly right about beauty (on CNN)

Justine Bateman, a star whose age I’m approaching, played Mallory Keaton on “Family Ties” in the 1980s as a teenager. In her early 40s, she says, she typed her name into Google for research, and the search engine auto-populated “looks old.”

Bateman, now 57, said she was incredulous. “I couldn’t see what they were talking about,” she recently told “60 Minutes Australia,” adding that the way her face has changed represents authority.

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My Valentine’s Day experiment: I didn’t talk about myself for 24 hours (in The Washington Post)

Here’s what it taught me about my relationship.

Thirteen years ago, on Feb. 14, my wife, Vicky, and I pledged our love forever. I thought that pledge meant we’d always be there to listen.

Years later, on a different Valentine’s Day, I called Vicky in the middle of the day while she was having lunch at a restaurant alone. I told her I wanted to talk about something important. I was on the verge of figuring out the theme of my memoir, which also meant the theme of my life (our life), which I’d been working on as long as we’d been together. Vicky asked questions and my ideas started flowing; like when you feel totally caffeinated and clearheaded; like when you feel like you can solve the world’s problems. I was reaching my stride, just at the edge… when she said, “I gotta go. My soup’s here. I need two hands.”

I hung up dejected. We’d built a life, had two kids, but this happened so often. I was mad and heartbroken and, frankly, scared. I wanted a partner who could listen.

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happy teenage girl with bright red hair wearing a white dress and black gloves

The pictures we post of our teens don’t always tell the whole story (in Motherwell)

In June, my daughter, Tashi, graduated from high school. She got dressed up under her robe in a vintage wedding dress, black-lace gloves, and full makeup including press-on eyelashes. Maybe over the top, but her effort gave me hope.

I was tempted to post pictures on social media. I took a million: one with her arms out looking like a Goth angel; another in the auditorium among 650 graduates, distinguishable by the bright orange hair poofing out under her cap; one we staged that captures her cap flying in the air and her face exhilarated, even happy. Or maybe that’s me projecting.

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When You Were Once Extraordinary, What Happens When You’re Just Ordinary (in NextTribe)

Andrea Askowitz was a young phenom at tennis. Now at 54, there’s more at stake than winning.

Twice a week, I play in an advanced-level clinic at Neighborhood Tennis in Coral Gables. Recently, I partnered with a guy who didn’t seem to trust our coach’s scorekeeping and shouted the score after every point. He didn’t trust the coach’s line-calls either and argued over every ball that landed near the line. This guy cared way too much about winning.

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Abortion rights activists have been doing it wrong for 50 years in NBC THINK

For every woman seeking an abortion, there’s a man responsible for that unwanted pregnancy. We need them in this fight.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday morning, turning the legality of abortion rights over to states to decide. We’ve failed to keep abortion a constitutional right because we’ve made abortion a women’s issue when it is everyone’s issue. It’s time pro-choice advocates change our strategy.

I was 5 in 1973, when the Supreme Court passed Roe. But the decision was never a complete safeguard for women. I grew up watching as state and federal laws restricted access, especially for poor women and women of color. In high school, my mom took me to Washington to the March for Women’s Lives. We chanted, “Keep your laws off my body.”

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53-year-old Andrea Askowitz races her 12-year-old son, Sebastian.

If I’m Not the Runner I Was, Who Am I? (in Oldster Magazine)

At 53, Andrea Askowitz reckons with the effects of menopause on her athletic abilities, and struggles to keep up with her 12-year-old son.

I’ve been a runner my whole life. Until a year ago, I’d injured myself only once, while sliding, drunk, across a recently mopped floor. I never stretched growing up. Now, I have to do hula hoop circles to get to the bathroom in the morning.

On the Nature Channel, flowers age at warp speed with time-lapse photography. There’s a seedling, stem, closed bud, open bud, slight bow, dropped petals, shrinking stem, death. All in thirty seconds. Menopause is like this. At least for me. Puberty might accelerate the aging process this fast too, but at that age, I didn’t have the life experience to know any different. I had no perspective…

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WRITING LIFE: Writing Class Ruined Me for Social Reentry (in Hippocampus Magazine)

On Thursday, just after noon, I bike to Bagel Emporium. My kids are at home in their rooms, Zooming into class. Sebastian, who’s 12, may be playing Minecraft. Tashi, 17, is probably flipping through TikTok.

On my way in, I bump into three moms I know from when Tashi was in elementary school. One mom and I shared a carpool during middle school. Another’s daughter played on her basketball team. Those were active times.

The three women are eating outside, chatting. I stand there straddling my bike. The carpool mom asks, “How are you?”

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I Offer You Love, Light, and Blatherskite During this Trying Time (in The Haven)

Thank you for joining me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Clubhouse, Zoom, Google Meet, Facetime, Reddit, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok, my podcast, my vlog, and in the cosmos for Love, Light, and Blatherskite. Clever, right? Did you hear the rhyme?

I am not a yoga teacher, but I’ve taken an Intensive, Light, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Ayurveda, Pacifist, Warrior class before and I know how to speak with a feathery voice in that awkward and un-bossy way where every sentence starts with a gerund.

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Since March, since we’ve been locked down with our kids, every other Saturday is cleaning day. Our nanny hasn’t been able to come to work, so I thought I’d use this moment to teach my kids self-reliance. Also, with all of us home all the time, the house is always a disaster and I didn’t want to do all the cleaning myself. / On our first cleaning day, I made a quick list—tidy bedrooms, scrub down the kitchen, wash and fold laundry, sweep, mop, and water plants. My wife and I would take care of the bathrooms. / Sebastian started with good energy. He took a rag to the kitchen countertop but soon got sidetracked by an avocado pit. He rolled the pit over the ridges of the stovetop. Avocado pieces lodged into the creases of the stove. Then he took out our biggest knife, but I got to him before he could test if avocado pits can be machetied in half. Sebastian is 11.

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My daughter is 15. Her favorite outfit is a tube top paired with denim shorts that barely cover her vagina. She argues she should be allowed to wear whatever she wants. She says tube tops and short-shorts are the style; that she feels good in that outfit; that I am a prude.

A week ago, I dropped her off at another girl’s birthday party. As we pulled into the driveway, three girls got out of a minivan; each girl was wearing the same denim shorts and a tube top. I felt so disheartened.

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When my daughter’s teacher asked me to explain Hanukkah to her first-grade class, my first reaction was, “Hell, no!”  / I had no interest in donating my time teaching people’s kids. That’s not because I didn’t want to get into a religious debate, or answer questions I didn’t know the answers to, or be labeled the “Jew” in the room. It’s because I already donate all my time teaching my own kids.

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Someone tweeted, “Which books do you brag about reading?” I retweeted with a comment, “Every time I read a book I brag about it.” / I’m not a voracious reader. I can’t believe I just wrote that. I hate the term “voracious reader.” As cliché as it is, that’s how every writer describes herself, except me. I wasn’t that kid who checked out seven books from the library every week. I didn’t sit in corners. I didn’t escape behind books. And now I feel like I’m running from behind, and I’m a bit defensive about it.

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Every time I see my mom, she tells me, “Dye your hair. You look like an aging hippie.” / I’m 51, and while I fear I’m aging out of a lot of things—the ability to run miles and miles without getting injured, for one—I’m not aging out of looks. There’s a photograph of the writer Susan Sontag taken at 58. She’s lying back, holding her elbow up with her hand resting on her head. Sontag was known for her political theories, but also for the thick swath of gray hair right in front, while the rest was dark brown. In the photo, you can see the gray and also the loosening of the skin under her eyes. She looks strong and calm. The picture was taken by Annie Leibovitz, who was her lover.

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It took two years and 130 houses to find the one. It was my first house and I considered my options carefully. I didn’t rush in. Instead, I rushed to the bathroom. / It was always the kitchen that made my stomach seize. This one was the same as all the others:  an industrial-sized refrigerator, dark brown cabinetry, marble countertops, and an island as big as Manhattan. / “This is a spectacular renovation,” my wife, Victoria, said. She was right. The kitchen was straight out of Better Homes and Gardens. The bathroom was pristine and all beige. It had Grohe fixtures (no American Standard). There was a candle burning because certain smells sell houses; they evoke an image of home. But that candle had nothing on me.

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The downstairs toilet clogged. I tried to flush it, but then all the water came up. Maybe it overflowed, I don’t know. I ran. / When Victoria got home from work, I asked her to plunge it. She said she would. Later that night, while turning off the light, I asked, “Did you fix the toilet?” She forgot. / I went to bed thinking: I need a husband.

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I emailed my friend Allison a story I wanted to publish. The story was about my experience volunteering in a foreign country and how I discovered something I don’t like about myself – I’m entitled. It was embarrassing to admit, but I know that to write a story worth anyone’s time, you have to tell the truth, even and especially if the truth is ugly, which means you have to be willing to get vulnerable. I thought I had done that. I thought the story was pretty good. /Allison emailed the story back. The subject line said, “Call me to discuss before you read edits.” / Oh no, she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings.

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I’m watching Christine Blasey Ford testify in front of the world. She says she was assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has denied the allegation. / I believe Blasey, because why would anyone put herself and her family through this kind of scrutiny and loss of privacy? Why would anyone make herself the target of hatred, including death threats? / She says she’s been forced out of her home and is now protected by bodyguards.

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My daughter posts a bikini selfie on Instagram. Half her ass is showing. I rush to her room and swing the door open so hard the knob makes a hole in the wall. I say, “Take it down.” / My daughter is fourteen. She’s 5’5” and just over a hundred pounds. She looks like a marathon runner or a beach volleyball player, one of those women who can run across the sand in a bikini and nothing jiggles. She wears glasses and braces and her hair straightened and down to her butt. She has big, pouty lips and defined cheekbones. People say we look alike, but she is much prettier than I am—than I ever was.

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I went to a small beach town in Mexico to rescue turtles. I took my daughter, Tashi, who’s 14, because I wanted to teach her about the world and do something good. I did a quick Google search – Volunteering Families – and then gave Tashi three choices: old people in Guatemala; a cultural tour of Cuba; turtles in Mexico. She said, “I don’t care, you decide.” / The website showed smiling volunteers releasing baby turtles into the ocean. I thought turtles would be relaxing. So I picked turtles. I paid $2,500 for me. Tashi was a bargain at $350.

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Sebastian came home from school and like every day, he barged through the door of my office, and there he was, sweaty and red-cheeked. He’s in third grade and carries a big backpack, which, seconds after he arrives, ends up on the floor, along with his sneakers. / “Grab a snack and do your homework,” I said. I motioned for him to pick up his backpack and pointed to the kitchen, where the kids do their work. Then I got back to my own work.

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Before 8 November 2016, I thought it was okay to stretch the truth in storytelling, especially if you were trying to be funny. Now, I’m not sure. / TrueStory was my handle. I don’t remember Victoria’s handle; what I remember is her picture. She’s wearing drag-queen quantities of makeup: gold swathes across her eyelids, blush from cheekbone to temple, and fuck-me red lipstick. She’s leaning forward, her white, fitted shirt is unbuttoned way down, and she’s squeezing her boobs together with her arms to exaggerate her cleavage. She looks like a hoochie mama.

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At midnight, my midwife, Dana, drove me to the Hollywood Birth Center. My mom, her boyfriend Bob, and my two best friends followed in a separate car. / The Birth Center, until we got there that night, was just an empty house. I took a shower right away because Dana said hot water would ease the pain. By then, I’d been having contractions for eight hours and while the hot water felt hot, it did nothing to ease the pain. So I got out of the shower. 

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My mom has spent her entire adult life volunteering for the Democratic Party. She’s also an artist and was also very active in the women’s movement. She was the president of the local chapter of National Organization for Women and the head of the Miami Women’s History Coalition. She campaigned for equal pay for equal work and worked so hard for the Equal Rights Amendment that I can still recite the language: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. The amendment died in 1982. I was 14.

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I’m going on two hours in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office when I send my wife an angry text, “Waiting for the pediatrician is NOT what I envisioned for my life.”

Victoria is at work. She’s a financial advisor at a prominent firm. She texts me back, “You are the most beautiful and sexy mommy.” Feels good for a second. Then I think: That’s like saying, “You look hot doing the dishes.”

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Several years ago I went to the California Cryobank’s Web site to buy sperm. I was single and a lesbian and wanted to have a baby. I’d always wanted a family and dreamed of creating one with a partner, but I’d proved to be a love loser. When it didn’t work out with anybody, including my most recent ex (after six years of couples counseling, meditation, acupuncture, hypnosis), I gave up.

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Besides the usual things that get in the way of good sex — kids and busy lives — Victoria and I also have to worry about lesbian bed death. / Lesbian bed death is a common affliction caused by the lack of testosterone in lesbian relationships. Some people think homosexuality is the gateway drug to freaky sex. Like once you’ve tried same-sex sex, you’ll try anything and often. But for most lesbians I know, that’s not true. We’re pretty conventional. Even less sexual than straight people, probably, because when there’s no man forcing sex — no one’s forcing sex.

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I used to feel like I could make a difference in the world. I used to march in the streets. When I was a kid, my mom took my brother and me to March on Washington three times. For fifteen years after college, I worked full-time to help homeless people find jobs, working-class people make a livable wage, and queer youth who’d been bullied out of their schools or homes. I volunteered for Democratic candidates all my life. My candidates didn’t always win, but I always felt like the world was moving in the right direction.

Four years ago, I dragged my kids to phone-bank and canvass door-to-door for Hillary Clinton. Then the most qualified candidate that ever ran for president lost to the most absurd candidate. And the world went dark.

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Miami Caste System (In The Haven)

Dear Ivette,

I noticed you planted a hedge on the swale between your swale and our swale. I noticed you didn’t plant a hedge on the other side, which makes this hedge feel very aggressive. Also, you have to admit, your lawn is awkward now.

I also noticed you positioned tiny flags along the street-line, lest anyone park on your lawn. The thing is, the swale’s not your lawn and you should know this better than anyone since it has only been one week since you called the City of Coral Gables Code Enforcement hotline about the political sign we pitched on our swale, which according to Code Enforcement is lawn that belongs to everyone.

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In high school, I spent weekends with my best friend Janet. We cuddled and slept like spoons. I would rather do anything with Janet, even homework, than go on a date with my boyfriend, who would drive me to a spot by the canal in his mom’s checkered cab and eat me out, which I discovered was pretty great.

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