Doctors are Not Gods

There was a doctor that my family used in Bayside. He always looked like a doctor. He wore a lot of tan linen in the summer. So I was 16 and was getting pains in my stomach. We went to this doctor and he came in to examine me. My mother left the room. Right out of the gate he says, “Have you been having very hard sex?” I was a virgin. I said no but inside i was going “What!??”

In my 20’s my first husband and I were on a road trip to Texas. I had to go to the bathroom and he would never pull over for me to do so. The same pains came. When we got there I was in agony and he finally called an ambulance. Well, it was my appendix. It was a very close call. Those doctors saved my life. Mr. Linen not so much.

My family looked at doctors like they were Gods, so they never doubted any of them. But when my appendix almost burst because the doctor in linen thought I was having rough sex instead of an inflamed appendix, it opened my eyes a little.

Now almost 80 years old, here I am dealing with more doctors than I’ve ever known. Recently I was having migraines and my doctor prescribed BUTALB-ACETEMIN-CAFF. So I started taking it and found my migraines were gone but so was part of my brain! Suddenly my memory was really having problems. I would be working (yes i still work). I sell real estate and of course design architecture for apartments. Retirement is not my middle name.  So I took a client to an Open House in an apartment I hadn’t remembered seeing before! Well the broker hosting the Open House remembered me. That’s when I realized my brain was being effected. Thanks a lot doc!

So I called the doctor and asked him about the memory loss. I told him he mentioned I shouldn’t take too much if the BUTALB-ACETEMIN-CAFF or my memory would go to “moosh”. Well he denied ever having said that. Trust me , he did. My problem isn’t changing history. Its memory and very soon my problem  will be finding a new neurologist.



Pushing Forward

When I was studying Architecture I had to study math. Math was not my thing and I really struggled at it. One day a fellow female classmate of mine let me know she didn’t need to study for math anymore.

” Judy I don’t have to study for the test tomorrow, but thanks anyway.”

“Really? You already studied?”

She smiled.

“Oh, you had sex with him?”


So there it was. Two ways to become an Architect. Work your ass off or work your ass off. I was one of 8 women in this school, and some of them used sex to pass. I felt very sorry for her. I thought the teacher was garbage. One day he told me was going to pass me because I walked and talked with confidence. He said he believed I could be an architect. The irony is he passed me for reasons that had nothing to do with trigonometry. He passed me for my confidence. That would have never happened for the men in our class.

There was a design teacher who used to make all of the students cry. Men and women, it didn’t matter. He used to take his long nails and scratch our work, which was on tracing paper, and exclaim, “THIS is not architecture”. He told one man he should be a baker. This teacher gave me an F on my first project. He gave another guy an A. Then he gave me a D on my next project. But on the 3rd project I got an A and the other guy got a F.  The teacher explained why. He said because I had to fight for a good grade my work improve and changed exponentially. The guy with the A off the bat didn’t improve at all. It was quite a manipulation, but it worked.

If it wasn’t for my therapist, I would’ve quit architecture school my first year. It was really hard and humiliating at times. Tony, my therapist, gave me perspective. He helped me see that people like this exist everywhere. The trick is to plug away and don’t listen to the words that try to tear me down.

Years later I was designing a library for the city. I made the mens bathroom with pink tile and the woman’s bathroom with blue. I was trying to make a statement and my supervisor (who was a woman) approved it. When the contractor began building he said I made a mistake and reversed the colors. I was furious. I wanted them to change it. My supervisor understood, but said this was very expensive for the city. She said I should focus on continuing to work and do what I do. Basically, this fight wasn’t worth it. Looking back, I agree. I had a lot of good work to do in my future.

It’s interesting the people who pushed me through and how. As I look back nobody every really told me no. They just pushed me forward and I was a better architect for it. My mother never told me no either. Funny.

When you are on your path it’s not always easy, but I guess I can say that the signs are clear when its right. My husband Don used to quote an old Irish Blessing. I think it’s appropriate here:

May the road rise to meet youMay the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand

Running Naked

When I was married to my first husband, Elliot, he waited tables. He said this was a way not to be a part of the system. Living off the grid. He worked at a Kosher restaurant on Delancey Street. We were living in the East Village then and this was the second wind of an already tumultuous relationship.

So Elliot became friends with the busboy, Raphael. Raphael didn’t speak English that well. He came over from Puerto Rico and also worked in restaurants so he didn’t have to declare his income. Two guys avoiding “the man”.

Anyway Raphael’s living situation was pretty cramped so Elliott asked me if he could come stay with us.  There was no end date discussed, but Raphael was pretty cute so I didn’t mind.

When Raphael lost his job he continued to stay with us. We spent most days together while Elliot was at work. One day we went to the San Genaro festival, and that’s when it happened – he held my hand. I didn’t think much of it, but then we were kissing. And then we went home-made love.

A few weeks later he moved out but we continued our affair. It was during the Cuban Crisis and Raphael wanted to go to Cuba and fight against the United States and support the people of Cuba. So off he went. He called me once for money – which I happily sent to him –  but I never saw him again.

Eventually I told Elliot about Raphael and about being pregnant. I knew it was Elliot’s baby because enough time had passed.  You would think the affair would’ve been the bad news, but he freaked out about the baby. So he ran away from home to apparently run naked in the woods. I took that opportunity to move out. I moved into a nearby apartment so I could stay in the East Village.

During this time, I would’ve done ANYTHING to have a role model. But my liberated, activist lifestyle didn’t have a lot of role models at that point. I tried to go to a friend of the family for advice but he told me to move back in with my mother! Some help he was.

So you’re probably wondering about the baby. So there I was, alone. My husband was unreliable and I couldn’t both support myself and take care of a baby. The only other option was to move home and leave the baby with my parents while I worked all day. So there would be a baby without me most of the time and with a crazy father. I could see how unhappy this child would be. I also would never be able to go back to school. Both the baby and I would have no shot at happiness. None. So I made my choice.

My friend Rita and her husband took me to Queens for an illegal abortion. I was late and made the mistake of calling ahead to let him know. The doctor was worried he would get caught so we rescheduled and came back. The doctor put me under and did the procedure. Afterwards he told me he was a 3 month old boy.

It was 1962. It was not yet a progressive time but I was a progressive and among a lot of women who were forging new territory. People were communicating more and sharing stories of their past. We were intent on growing up and away of everything we knew. We had no role models for this, only the support of each other. It was a fearless and very brave time. Anything was possible, and for women like me, there was no turning back.

When I look back, I think about how my mother inspired me to rebel in so many ways. Not only by driving me crazy, but by leading by example. My mother started working at 14. She lived a life and worked very hard. She backed me up and paid for me to go to  Architectural School. In many ways she was my role model.

Each generation moves forward. It’s our nature. To grow. No matter what. We also seem to accept each other more and more. I wonder if this next generation will continue to be independent and living lives where they feel productive and happier. Many say technology brings us together, and I agree with that. But in the 60’s we came together to talk, we didn’t text. We created group after group with the purpose of rallying each other through life’s hurdles. I hope people keep rallying. It changed me, and for that I am very grateful.