By: Michele Carlo
September 5, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, delivering brief remarks on mottos, mantras, speeches, slogans, and other words to live by. Series edited by Adam McGovern.


Impossible Flower getting what it needs, by the author, 2015


Me at six-years-old: “Why can’t I have a kitten?”
Mom: “You can’t always get what you want.”

Me at nine: “Why can’t I get a bicycle?”
Dad: “You can’t always get what you want.”

Me at 15: “Why doesn’t that boy like me?”
Turns on the radio and hears a song that came out 10 years before:
“You can’t always get what you want…”

Those words were a recurrent refrain throughout my life, especially when I had an obsessive crush: on the boy who sat in front of me in homeroom, the co-worker with the cute mullet, and the man who broke my heart in a million places, who I was seeing when I finally decided to go out with another man … who would become my first husband.

We’d met at CBGB’s Gallery, where my friend’s band, Laguna Moreé, was playing. I was dancing on top of a speaker when he decided to chat me up. It was all great—until I found out he was 21. Twenty-one?!? Unthinkable when you are about to turn 29! So, I blew some clove cigarette smoke in his face (it was 1989), patted him on the cheek and said he was a nice boy. “I’ve been around the world!” he spluttered. “Of course you have.” But he had. He was the black sheep artist son of two acclaimed scientists and had, in fact, spent most of his childhood in countries that were not on this side of the globe.

For the next year that “boy” chased me non-stop. Our social life back then revolved around seeing Laguna Morée play, so I saw him a lot. He stuck his phone number in my coat pocket multiple times, and when I tore it up in front of him, he just did it again the next time we were at a club. He dogged me up and down the East Village: from Brownies to Space at Chase to Under Acme to The Spiral to Mercury Lounge and back again. This behavior would be totally unacceptable now (it would be called “stalking”) and might even merit a protection order, but instead, one night when I’d had enough, I wobbled up on a table at the original Continental Divide (with the dinosaur on top), and slurred to whoever was in earshot, “Hear ye, hear ye, it is March 1st 1990—and I will never go out with HIM!”

Only a few months later I did. My crush had finally taken all my love from me, and I was a mess, so my last three girlfriends who could still stand to be around me did an intervention: “Just go out with him—you don’t have to fuck him, you don’t have to marry him, just get it over with!” So, I did go out with him. On the third date he came home with me and never left … until he did … a few months shy of our 14th anniversary.

And after we finally divorced, I once again developed obsessive crushes on unavailable men. One was kind and told me he wasn’t interested as gently as he could, but still, WHY CAN’T I EVER GET WHAT I WANT?!? Then one late April evening in 2009 I tipsily walked into the Bowery Poetry Club for the Monday Night Talent Show, and three hours later walked out … not alone. Now this behavior would also be unacceptable these days: What, hook up with someone you just met IRL, no swiping, no texting, no nude pics first?!? But I could tell this man liked me, a lot, so I said, “OK, I’ll give this a try.”

It’s now 2022 and “Papi” and I have been together 13 years. As for the ones who got away? I think maybe I dodged a giant bullet—with all of them. Maybe the universe was watching out for me. Or maybe, the words written by one of the most notoriously womanizing, hedonistic, definition-of-debauched rock-n-roll duos of all time are surprisingly true after all:

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”


BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Ran Xia on BLACK CROW BELIEFS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on LEFT-CORNER BRICK | Andrea Diaz on JOY IS RESISTANCE | Lynn Peril on TO THINE OWN SELF | Miranda Mellis on THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | Bishakh Som on LET THE WEIRDNESS IN | Lucy Sante on FLAUBERT’S PERFECT WORD | Stefene Russell on CRYSTAL SETS | Crystal Durant on LIFE IS A BANQUET | Adam McGovern on EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | Josh Glenn on LUPUS LUPUM NON MORDET | Heather Quinlan on SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | Adrienne Crew on WATCH YOUR PENNIES | Art Wallace on COME ON AND GIVE A CHEER | Julia Lee Barclay-Morton on WILLIAM JAMES, UNADAPTED | Christopher-Rashee Stevenson on TO EACH HIS OWN | Nikhil Singh on ILLUMINATE OR DISSIPATE? | Mimi Lipson on CHEAP FOOD TASTES BETTER | Kahle Alford on NOT GONNA CRACK | Michele Carlo on YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT | Marguerite Dabaie on WALKING ON WATER | Raymond Nat Turner on TRYIN’ AND TRANEIN’ | Bob Laine on WHEN YOU GROW UP | Fran Pado on THE SMILEY EMOJI | Deborah Wassertzug on PLACING YOUR BETS. PLUS: BLURB SERIES CODA by Lisa Levy.