Monthly Archives: June 2014

Teeth Or No Teeth

2:00 pm, 120th and Madison. Headphones and ponytail firmly in place, I marched towards the train station to the beat of a Phoenix tune.

“Excuse me, miss?”

A tall, African-American woman wearing a crisp-yet-stained white shirt, bedazzled jeans and tennis shoes stopped me.

She was missing all her teeth.

I pulled out my headphones.

“I have to take a step back,” she said, and did so, “because I’m so ashamed. I don’t have any teeth.”

She opened her mouth and showed me her gums.

“That’s okay,” I reluctantly offered. I wasn’t sure what she wanted from me, and I had to catch a train.

The woman started to cry.

“I am so ugly!” she sobbed. “My husband beat me in the face a few years ago and I lost all my teeth. My daughter died when she was four and today is my birthday. I’m 69 years old.”

I took a step towards her.

“69?!?” I exclaimed, in encouraging disbelief. “Well, happy birthday!”

She sobbed, harder. Gigantic tears dropped onto her smooth cheeks. She really was beautiful.

I took another step towards her. 

“May I pray for you?” I asked, not knowing what else to do.

She nodded, and bowed her head.

I stepped all the way in and placed my hand on her shoulder. Immediately, she fell into me, limp and needy. I held her. She smelled of alcohol, but it didn’t matter. She was in pain.

As I prayed for her, she softened. I prayed God would comfort her; that He would wrap His loving arms around her and remind her of how beautiful she truly is.

Teeth or no teeth.

“I may be beautiful on the inside,” she whimpered, “but I’m so ugly on the outside. People make fun of me. I just want to die. I wish I were never born.”

“That is simply untrue,” I almost scolded her. “I don’t bullshit. I speak truth, and you are beautiful. Also? You are loved far beyond you can imagine. And I am glad you are here, right now.”

She buried her face in my neck, kissed and thanked me. She didn’t want money, just clothes. I gave her my phone number and told her I did, indeed, have clothing I could give her.

“I love you,” she said. “Thank you. Please keep praying for me. I’ll see you in heaven.”

And she was gone.


I’m sitting on a train platform, not sure how to process all of this, but I have a few initial thoughts.

First of all, I am reminded that humans are absolutely beautiful, no matter what size, shape, color, sexual preference, fashion sense, social/job/financial status, or disability.

We are beautiful with or without teeth.

We are worthy of love. We long to love and be loved in return.

I know why I live in New York. It’s to love the people of this city. People who are hurting and broken and missing things, like spouses and love and children and teeth. I somehow understand that pain.

Everything points to God. Even our suffering.

Jesus suffered the most. He gets it. And I’m quite sure it was He who wrapped his loving arms around that toothless woman.

He wants to envelop you, beautiful friend who is suffering. Allow Him to fully embrace you. There is nothing He cannot handle. He is the lover of your soul. He is the ultimate healer.

After all, He
“rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.”
~Psalm 68:4-5

Having It All

Recently, I asked a friend of mine how many breakups he endured before he got married.

He thought for a moment.

“About eleven,” he answered, matter-of-factly. “I remained friends with just one of them.”

My heart sank. A couple of months ago I ended my second post-divorce relationship. It was a good, brief courtship that simply could not withstand distance. It didn’t end as dramatically as my marriage, or as passionately as things did with my first boyfriend. There was no fight, nothing. It just went away with a phone call.

Afterward, I dutifully prepared myself for a roller coaster of emotions and the five stages of grief. When it finally hit, I felt (in no particular order) relieved, frustrated, listless, sad, depressed, numb and raging angry. I burst into tears on sidewalks and airplanes. I had put everything into this new relationship and it didn’t work out. I cut myself off from social media. Then I cut him off. I deleted any and all evidence we existed as a couple. That was the saddest part.

I now feel resolved.

And, for the love of God, I cannot imagine having to go through this nine more times.


I just so happen to be in Los Angeles for the album release show and party with Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses, so I figured I’d pay a visit to my shrink.

I’ve been seeing my therapist five years now – from the initial discovery of my husband’s affair(s) to the very day my earthly belongings left on a moving truck across the country. She’s seen it all. Lately, our visits have been jovial and celebratory.

“I’m really proud of you,” she told me in March. “You’re a miracle.”

This morning, I sat in the center of the familiar floral couch and shared the latest news: gorgeous apartment a block from Central Park, breakup, Japan tour with Brian Setzer and new album and tour with Louis Prima, Jr. I verbally processed how, since moving to New York over a year ago, my lifestyle has become less stable (for lack of a better term), but I now have a solid home base in the city I have always wanted to live.

I have been greatly hashtag blessed with my home, career and community. One thing is still missing, however. I want to share my life with a partner.

“I just don’t know how I will ever meet anyone,” I mused. “I am on the road a lot. I refuse to date online. I did it for years and hated it. I tried a long-distance relationship and it crashed and burned.”

My therapist nodded her head.

“My hope for you,” she said, “is that you’ll meet someone who has his own thing going on, and, at the same time, is flexible and supportive.”

I hummed in agreement, but left thinking, No such man exists.


There’s a huge part of me that is annoyed and angry that I am such a dynamic and talented person. It feels weird to write that without sounding narcissistic, but it’s my truth. For example, if I weren’t so passionate about — and good at! — singing, I wouldn’t be on the road so much. If I were less independent, opinionated, divorced or foul-mouthed and a bit more submissive, googy-eyed and/or mousey, I might land a date with a guy from Christian Mingle who isn’t threatened by my accomplishments, or very presence.

Perhaps if I had a “real” job I’d have time to join a community group at my church in NYC and finally meet someone in the city, get married and have babies. But I won’t do it. I won’t quit what I love just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Other women my age are corralling their two toddlers while the newborn sleeps soundly in a sling tightly wound against their breast. Their husbands still gaze after them adoringly and actually write Facebook posts about how much they love their wives of two, six, 15 or 20 years.

Interestingly enough, neither my ex-husband nor two ex-boyfriends ever acknowledged a relationship with me on social media. No photos. No kissy-face pictures. No adoring posts. Nothing.

The bright side is this: it took less than a minute to erase the relationship and “unfriend” these men I loved. Realistically, I do not believe in the staying power of acknowledging relationships over social media. People come and go, which is why we should all choose our “friends” carefully. As C.S. Lewis says, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” I’m talking to you, serial Facebook-relationshippers.

A true relationship doesn’t need social media to acknowledge, strengthen or sustain it.


Today, I do not believe I can have it all. Based upon experience, I do not actually believe I can have a successful career as a singer and have a family at the same time. It only realistically works for Gwen Stefani and Beyonce, and they were already rich and famous before they met their also-rich and famous husbands.

I am not sure if I believe, at present, there is a man in this world capable of being my partner. Dating is like playing a game of darts with a bunch of squirrely teenagers. They keep trying to hit the bullseye, but their aim and technique is staggeringly immature; unfocused. The result? Consistently off-mark. And I lack patience for the players to become skilled at the game.

Perhaps I still have a lot of work and self-reflection to do. Well, go ahead and throw all the clichés and Christianese talk in the world at me. Tell me how much you think my life is cool. How hashtag blessed I am. How the grass is always greener. I will not argue with you. Yet, at the end of the day, I go to bed alone. My eggs are dying. I am starting to feel jaded. I certainly feel duped. At the same time, life does not owe me a damn thing.

So, right now, if I had to pick one, I choose my career. It’s all I’ve got. Christian Mingle can go fuck itself.


Where is God in all your complaining, Leslie?

Listen, I don’t mean to complain. I prefer to think of it as verbal processing. I try to encourage myself with phrases such as, “This, too, shall pass.”

Jesus never said that, by the way. It’s just another cocktail of Christianese to numb the pain.

I’ll take a double, please. Neat.

Here’s what I do believe today:

  • God is in control. He has never abandoned nor disappointed me. I am not going to live anything less than a full life, even if — or when —  I want more. God is like the ultimate chiropractor. If I’m willing, He’ll adjust me so I’m walking straight again.
  • The two relationships I had post-divorce were real, beautiful and worth every moment, even the breakup grief. I am finally learning you can love someone and let them go. You don’t have to marry every person you love. It’s an amazing concept. I wish I had grasped it years ago.
  • I’m most likely 100% wrong about not having it all. You can have it all when you surrender your hopes, dreams and desires into the capable, loving hands of God, Himself. He may not give you what you want, when you want it, but He knows what you need. He can change your heart. He can mold your desires. You just have to be pliable.

I don’t think I’m ever going to stop desiring a successful career, a partner in this life to love, honor and cherish me (and I him!) and a family. It’s okay to want those things. Hope (and humor!) is what keeps me going. Even if that day comes and I meet a good man who will choose to lead me on the dance floor of life, I guarantee I’m going to continue to want more (I’ll start with a Grammy, please!).

After all, it’s what makes me endearingly human.