dana cass

the anti-lifestyle blog

american idiot

“D’ya want [incomprehensible noise]?”

“Um, I’m sorry, what?”

“D’ya want [incomprehensible noise]?”

“I’m–um–sorry, one more time?”

“D’ya want [incomprehensible noise]?”

“I… no. No, thanks.”

 

I am in London, in a cafe on Charlotte Street, where I learn in short order that drip coffee is an American thing, and there is something else that I could have on my avocado toast, but I don’t know what it is and I’m not going to say yes on the off-chance it’s Marmite. That seems like the kind of stunt they might pull in a country where coffee is served in cups that look like doll furniture. Nobody’s awake enough to know better.

It’s the first time I’ve left America in nearly a decade. I live in a world where this is rare: as an employee of a multinational corporation, and also a white person who went to liberal arts college, my unmarked passport is a curiosity. (“Is she on the Do Not Fly list?” “Is she afraid of Canadians?” “Was she banned from crossing the border after trying to bring an agricultural product through Customs?”) The State Department sent it to me in an envelope the December before last and I’m fidgety with excitement when it finally makes sense to fly to Europe for this project I’ve been working on for months.

The last time I flew to Europe, I was seventeen, on a school tour. We took photos of ourselves posing in a circle around a Beefeater at the Tower of London and walking the crosswalk at Abbey Road. This time, I’m 25 and I spend the flight pounding out the script for a marketing video on my laptop. I feel wildly sophisticated until I remember that I’m sitting in a middle seat in economy wearing leggings that I bought on sale at Nordstrom Rack.

I feel nervous walking through Customs. People in uniform terrify me. I am even impressed by the TSA employees at security in the U.S. who hold up the iPads and stare at you to see if you do, indeed, follow the arrow to the left. (As an aside, I’m a tax-and-spend liberal to the point of socialism and I think you should be paying for my tampons, but even I think this is a bizarre place for the government to be spending money. Why not buy the TSA agents more impressive uniforms?) I know all I have to say is I’m traveling for business, here’s when I’m returning, I work in software, but I open my mouth and suddenly I’m waving my arms around telling a Customs agent in my most sophisticated vocabulary (read: lots of syllables) about how I’m here to work on presentations and I’m staying in Soho and I used to have a passport but it expired and now I have this new shiny one and–and then he stamps it, compliments my handwriting, and tells me my presentation skills are very un-American.

I take this as a compliment and glide into the London night, where I am immediately alarmed at the sight of my driver climbing into the passenger seat. Unfortunately, this is a harbinger of things to come; in spite of the trust the Customs agent has placed in me, I am as American as flannel and Michelob Light.

I’ve spent most of my life living in tourist traps–from Las Vegas to D.C. and now in New York–and as a result I’ve developed a healthy distaste for tourists and their fanny packs and their standing on the left on the goddamn Metro escalator, I swear to Jesus I don’t care if you’re from Podunk, Nofreakingwhere and you’ve never seen an escalator before, I WILL SHOVE YOU BODILY DOWN IT IF YOU DON’T MOVE TO THE RIGHT. I take great pride in being mistaken for a local and have possibly given bad directions because I’m so excited that someone asked me for them that I didn’t have the heart to say “No, I’m not actually from here, I don’t know how to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.” Instead, I draw on my street cred and tell them to go left.

I have no such street cred in London. I am suddenly and painfully aware not only of how American, but how Californian I sound. I picture the girl at the cafe after I take my avocado toast out into the rain turning to the customers in the shop and mimicking my hyper-American chatter: “Do you have coffee? I mean, I know you have–like, just a–I’m sorry, can I just get that thing? That thing that that guy just got? I’m so sorry. Also, avocado toast? Um, I’m sorry, what?” I consider learning key phrases like “Can I please have avocado toast?” in sign language and communicating exclusively through gesture for the rest of the trip.

It’s the coffee that gets me more than anything. When I moved to New York, I made the mistake of ordering my coffee “regular” and was horrified to discover upon my first sip that the man at the bodega had given me what you would give a five-year-old to introduce them to coffee. (It was two ice cubes and a trip through the blender from being a Frappucino. I won’t touch cigarettes and I don’t like spicy food, but God help the barista who serves me coffee that looks like anything but tar.) I wonder if there is a magic word in London like in New York, where now I order my coffee every day from the cart on the corner: “Large coffee black in a bag” and the man hands it to me and says, “No sugar because you’re sweet enough without it!” and then I spill it down my front.

In London, there is no magic word. There are only Americanos.

I overcome the indignity of being served espresso water and continue down the street toward Soho Square. This street has changed names at least twice since I’ve started out from my apartment–my flat, which sounds so posh when you say it in a British accent and so dimwitted when I say it (same goes for “posh,” for the record). This is just one of the several challenges I encounter as an American walking down the street in London. Half the time I can’t find the street sign at all–why is it plastered up on the building? In America, we paint our street signs green and stick them in middle of the sidewalk so we can watch people who are texting-while-walking walk face-first into a street sign!

I also find it quite hard to locate the Walk/Don’t Walk sign, which is ridiculously small and should be enlarged for my tiny American brain which is so accustomed to large things, like Big Gulps and the Mall of America. This is of secondary importance to the fact that I am apparently so constitutionally incapable of overcoming my instinct to look to the left for oncoming cars that it’s a wonder I’m not plastered on someone’s undercarriage. This all bodes ill for my dreams of becoming an international jetsetter or even a functional human. Apparently, I have mastered street signs in one country and there shall be no more. If I value my health and safety, I should probably take my next trip to somewhere less exotic, like Vancouver or maybe Pittsburgh.

I want more than anything to go to Japan, though. I think this is mostly because I’ve been tearing through Haruki Murakami’s ouevre and I love the idea of getting to be a manic pixie dream girl without having to do a bunch of drugs. I have this fantasy where I show up and somehow my kind of grungy elementary art school teacher wardrobe is replaced with a bunch of dresses from the Japanese version of Ann Taylor and I deliver messages to a mild-mannered salaryman who needs to have sex with me to, you know, self-actualize. I don’t know how this is ever going to happen if I can’t even cross the street in a country where everything is in English.

This trip is a well-timed reminder that I’m just as much of a buffoon as the tourists who wait for the Walk sign to change before they cross the street in the Meatpacking District. I like to pretend I’m worldly and cosmopolitan because I’ve lived in cities all my life, but my passport–now with one stamp and a sticker on the back!–is proof that I’m as provincial as everyone in the line for Georgetown Cupcakes on M Street. (Maybe not as provincial as them. I know at least to go to Baked and Wired.)

I will try to remember this sensation–the flush in my cheeks as I pull coins out of my wallet one by one and hand them to the counter girl until I’ve given her enough to pay for what I’m hoping is oatmeal, because when I was a kid I always assumed “porridge” was something like an edible form of glue–the next time I’m frustrated by some brigade of West Virginians wearing matching neon T-shirts climbing the marble at the World War II Memorial and hanging all over the left side of the escalator on the Metro. I’ll remind myself that I’ve been a fish out of water, too, and I’ll take a deep breath.

And then I’ll tell them to STAND ON THE GODDAMN RIGHT, YOU MORONS, PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO GET TO WORK HERE!

a field guide to functional insanity

Do you suffer from crippling self-doubt with little to no basis in reality? Does “no basis in reality” describe most of what your brain explores on a given day? Have you ever stopped to contemplate your purpose in life only to realize that when you think about it too much, you don’t have one, and neither does anyone else? Does the prospect of arriving at home only to discover that your bagel wasn’t toasted strike as much terror into your heart as the prospect of global warming?

I understand. But it’s time to lock it up.

Medication is one thing. It got me out of the well and back into the real world. It slows the ticker tape that runs constantly through the back of the unsound mind, flashing any one of the following messages: “BAGELS MAKE YOU FAT!” “SQUIRRELS ARE VICIOUS!” “YOUR COWORKERS ALL THINK YOU’RE A WEIRDO!” “A PLANE CRASH WOULD BE A TERRIBLE WAY TO DIE!” But it doesn’t turn it off altogether and if you want to make it through the day unscathed–or at all–you need tools.

This is my toolkit.

I think I’m a pretty high-functioning nut. I hold a respectable job and I live in my own apartment, an apartment that’s only kind of a disaster. I think most people wouldn’t know that I’m a nut if it weren’t for the fact that I write about it on the Internet.

I’ve known since I was a little girl that my brain doesn’t work quite the way it’s supposed to, so I’ve always gotten by otherwise: with trickery, storytelling, strategy, and logic. Here’s how.

  1. Talk yourself out of bed in the morning

Every morning when I wake up, I think about staying there. I spent much of my sophomore year of college in bed. This was ultimately a bad idea, because my professors kept emailing me to ask why I wasn’t in class. Also, my friends kept asking me why I wasn’t in class. And my roommates kept wondering why I wasn’t leaving the apartment.

All of this leads me to my solution: every morning when you wake up, think of all the people who will negatively judge you if you don’t get out of bed. What if your landlord stops by to fix your faulty shower drain? He’s definitely going to remember you as the weird tenant who was in bed at two in the afternoon. And even if he doesn’t, he’s probably going to wonder what’s up with that job that you told him about that pays you enough to cover the rent check every month. On a related note, your boss will negatively judge you. More specifically, your boss will fire you, and then you’re fast-tracking on the road to being a non-functional human. Don’t get fired. And if you do, at least make it because you left on the emergency jetway or something.

I’m allowed to work from home, which means that sometimes I have to trick myself into getting out of bed. This is especially useful when there’s nothing on my calendar and the prospect of delighting my officemates with the dulcet tones of me narrating my innermost thoughts for hours on end. If I sign up for SoulCycle, not getting out of bed means flushing a ridiculous amount of money (that no rational person should spend on an exercise class but we all do so whatever, I’m not even counting that as crazy) down the toilet. Sometimes instead, I promise myself frozen yogurt in the evening, or sushi, or new underwear.

Sometimes you have to stay in bed. Only stay in bed if it’s the weekend and you’ve been a good and sociable and normal human for several days on end. Don’t stay in bed if it’s not the weekend unless you have a head cold and staying in bed is the reasonable thing to do. Don’t make it a habit. Make it a treat.

  1. Prepare for the inevitable event of social interaction

An effective way to address social anxiety is to stay inside. On balance, though, this methodology is not worth the tradeoffs (dying alone, possibly with cats). Instead, you need to steel yourself for the prospect of small talk with people who think you’re a weirdo.

Staying up to date on the topics that your peers like to discuss is a great way to handle social interaction. When you find yourself trapped in an elevator or early to a meeting–and you will be early to the meeting, because you know you’re nothing if not punctual!–talking about topics of general interest is a great way to pass the time. (Note that the weather is not a topic of general interest, no matter how fiercely you believe it should be.)

I deal with small talk by ensuring that there is not a single moment of silence. I babble until I’ve made up at least a few words and possibly several facts, which is most effective if you’re dealing with somebody who is less well-read than you are. This strategy often backfires and I generally don’t recommend it, but if the alternative is staring blankly at your conversational partner, then making a run for it, you should probably stick with blabber. Bonus points if you can convince someone that the jackalope is real.

  1. Respond to emotions like a normal person

It’s hard to react appropriately when you experience emotions at a level that is comparatively more intense than the normal population. In particular, when you have the kind of mood swings that have been diagnosed as clinical, you might be inclined to react in kind.

Maybe don’t. I mean, do—like any good therapist will tell you, feeling your feelings is critical to being a functional human—but maybe try to feel them at appropriate times, like alone in your bedroom.

Learning to postpone your emotions is a useful skill. I have a comically bad poker face, so I like to be armed with a prop at all times. I don’t go to meetings without my laptop or paper and pen and when I feel myself lapsing into what I like to call a “rage stroke,” I distract myself by recreating my favorite high school doodles. When I receive emails that make me angry, I draft responses, then delete them, then do something else, then draft new responses. Rinse and repeat until you’re left with only what needs to be said plus any bitchy rejoinders that can be masked as politeness. When my face really thinks it’s time to cry but my body thinks it’s time to continue sitting through this meeting/dinner party/doctor’s appointment, I breathe through the back of my throat like I’m in yoga and think about ordinal sequences or the lyrics to “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies.

If all else fails, find the best place to freak out quietly without attracting attention in whatever position suits you best. I like to find a nice clean bathroom where I can curl up on the floor and feel my feelings. Public places are also surprisingly well-suited for really unsubtle displays of emotion. Last month I had to go to my company conference—four solid days with 1500 people and no privacy—and the prospect of it had me in tears for days. (1500 people! All of them using words like “synergy” and “de facto” and “optimize” as if they’re normal things to say in conversation! Nowhere to hide!) So I sat in my economy seat and cried from takeoff until halfway over Kansas and nobody said a word to me. I was sitting next to a girl who didn’t speak English and an old woman who I think may have been a corpse buckled into a seat, but still.

Oh, and always have sunglasses. ALWAYS. Put them on. Cry it out.

  1. Reduce your panic to a manageable level

Does the sight of a squirrel bring you to your knees? Nope? Just me? Well, it should. That aside, panic is no joke. Sometimes I work myself into such a panic that I blank out for a second and when I come back, I’ve forgotten entirely what I was worrying about. I worry sometimes that during that blank-out, I’m also carrying out art heists or screaming expletives in public.

I deal with my panic by developing game plans. On my way to the train every morning, I worry that I won’t have enough room to read my Kindle and that I’ll have to run for the train and my back will get sweaty. So I power-walk down to the front of the platform and stand where I can choose between the first and second cars, and I choose books that are engaging enough to distract me from my sweaty back. Then I worry that I’m going to spill my coffee on myself, so I only drink my coffee sitting down and hunching so that if it drips, it drips on my desk. (This has the added benefit of dissuading any of my many single male coworkers from hitting on me, because I look like a hunchback.)

I distract myself. My coworkers think I’m incredibly productive. I volunteer for projects that have me waking up at three in the morning to put together PowerPoint decks for people in Europe to ignore during a call five hours later. Sometimes we measure whether something is possible by whether I can do it and then again by whether anyone else can do it.

The truth? While I read faster than most people I know can, I’m actually just trying to distract myself from things like the purposelessness of human life and my inner anorexic reminding me that bagels make you fat. I need to be told what to think about.

I’ve liked to be busy since I was old enough to decide that on my own and now that I don’t have many hobbies anymore—I quit dance and theatre because giving your inner anorexic an audience is a really good way to turn it into your outer anorexic, plus rehearsals are kind of a drain on my couch time—I work. I volunteer for projects that let me travel. I’m flying to London tomorrow because sixteen hours in flight is worth seven days of newness.

It’s worse at night. The daytime offers enough distraction to keep the demons at bay, but it’s hard to quiet them at night. That’s when the real stuff comes out to play: you’re hopelessly incompetent and someday soon they’re going to find out and fire you, and then you won’t be able to afford your rent and you’ll have to go back to working in retail and living in an illegal four-bedroom and eating hummus and you’re going to die alone because nobody wants to marry somebody whose ideal vacation is alone and what if you have a baby and you hate it?

I use my favorite cliché here. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Then I pick myself up off of the couch and find something else to do. This is why I read so many books.

That said, I’m writing this watching “Selena” on VH1 and there are only sixteen minutes left in the broadcast and she still hasn’t gotten shot so I’m basically about twelve seconds away from a meltdown. (Movies are actually really hard for me. I’m particularly conscious of this when my boyfriend and I are watching movies on the couch and I have really obvious physical responses to anything remotely suspenseful. Long shot of an empty hallway? Tense up! Gunshot? Full-body spasm! Torture scene? Forget it. I’m burying my face in your armpit. Wake up me when it’s time for “30 Rock.”)

  1. Make your world a tolerable place to be and make yourself a tolerable person to be around

There are tradeoffs. I always wanted to act in musical theatre. I couldn’t handle the stress that comes with not having a reliable paycheck. I got a full-time job instead.

Living in a quiet city was like giving my inner demons a microphone. I moved back to New York, where the very act of living in the world requires enough concentration to quiet my mind. I moved to an apartment 45 minutes away from my office because I think riding the subway is like a less boring version of meditation.

Make fun of yourself. Let other people make fun of you. (It’s ridiculous to be afraid of squirrels. Everyone is well within their right to laugh at you when you dodge one. Laugh with them from your position safely out of the squirrel’s path.) Don’t let them be cruel to you. I had a boyfriend once who, by the end of our relationship, took great pleasure in pushing me to my limits like I was an anthropological experiment. I had an important train to catch once and I planned to take the subway, grab breakfast at Grand Central so I’d be sure to make the Metro-North to Poughkeepsie, and he dragged me to a diner, sat me down, told me he’d pay for my cab, and watched me eat my breakfast—and this was back when I was deep in my eating disorder, and to be the only one eating at a table of two was a nightmare in itself, never mind that I was sure I was going to miss my train. I sat there and chewed slowly because eating fast wasn’t allowed and felt like I was going to either squirm out of my own skin or cry or both. He laughed. At the time, I thought I was being taught a valuable but painful lesson in not being neurotic. In retrospect, that was, in a word, rude.

You’re not an animal at the circus. Don’t let anyone treat you like you are.

That doesn’t mean that anyone is required to go out of their way to accommodate your crazy. Feed the neuroses that don’t harm you or anyone else. Fix the rest. I let myself arrive two hours early to the airport every time I travel. I don’t let myself not eat. I try not to make any one person listen to my litany of complaints for too long. When I do, I buy them a drink. I keep a journal. I write a blog. I pay a therapist.

I try to keep my temper and often fail. This one isn’t cute or quirky or excusable. It is also, in a word, rude. I also don’t think it can be chalked up to being half-crazy, but as long as we’re on the subject of personality flaws…

  1. Don’t go back to bed

Make plans. Don’t flake on them. I am a notorious flake because social interaction is an unknown and my bed is a known and nobody can hurt me in my bed. I got out of it this morning, but I want nothing more than to go back to it now.

The world is a better place to be than your bed is. The other week, I had planned on a quiet Saturday at home and my friend L__ asked if I wanted to go to a friend’s concert with her. I said yes because I’m in one of my phases where I pledge that I’m going to flake less, try more. It was lovely. (The artist’s name was Lindsay Dunphy. I really want her to become famous and release a bunch of records. Go listen to her EP on Spotify.)

Good things happen when you don’t go back to bed. I nearly canceled my first date with my boyfriend because it was cold and I was tired. Five months later, it occurs to me that I would have traded a few warm hours in my apartment for the new world that he’s opened up for me. It’s smaller than that, though; once L__ and I went to karaoke and we met a group of boys in black turtlenecks who were on their annual post-graduate scavenger hunt. I sang Queen and someone called me Beyonce. Once I went to a birthday party at a bar in Meatpacking and watched a friend of a friend get kicked out for vomiting on the bathroom floor. Once we met two Australians at a nightclub in Las Vegas. Once I called an Uber for a nineteen-year-old whose friends had left her to pass out on the E train. Once we saw a man dressed as Oscar the Grouch, with trash can, at a bar on Fremont Street—in December.

Talk yourself into it. Bribe yourself the way you bribed yourself to get out of bed: if you go out into the world tonight, you can stay home tomorrow, and the night after. Go! The world is waiting. You’re weird. You’re special. You’re allowed to be here.

rumplestiltscass

My parents almost named me Georgia.

I’m convinced that if I had grown up a Georgia instead of a Dana, I would have been infinitely more glamorous. Instead being Dana, five foot two with a Buddha belly, wearing leggings and pink Converse high-tops and one of those T-shirt that might lead well-mannered straphangers to give up their seat for me, I would be Georgia, five foot ten and wearing one of those hats with a swoopy brim and high heels. (Yes, the simple fact of a different name would have overcome genetic science and the fact that I really, really hate wearing heels. “That which we call a rose,” my ass.)

As I remember the story, it was my four-year-old sister who liked “Dana” better, which is ridiculous, because if you had asked four-year-old me what I wanted to name my little sister, she would have been named “Vicky Pat Rice” and the swoopy-brimmed hat store wouldn’t have even looked at her. Anyway, I don’t have a little sister, which is probably for the best, and I’m Dana.

More specifically, I’m “Danacass.” One word, not two; sometimes with the inflection on third syllable alone and sometimes on all three equally. (“DanaCASS!” “DANACASS.”) Or I’m “Dacass,” which, yes, if you say it wrong, sounds like a weird reference to anal sex, but it’s really just a relic of when I went to Vassar and my email was dacass@vassar.edu. Kind of like how in the 40’s, the girls were all Bootsie and Betsy and Bitsy, it was trendy when I was at Vassar to call people by their email names, if you were lucky enough to have one that rolled easily off the tongue (first two letters of your first named followed by your last name, unless you were unlucky enough to have a last name like Wong or Smith, in which case you might have three or four letters appended to the front of your email and you’d never hear about all the trendy events happening that weekend in your dorm).

It makes me nervous to hear my own name. Nobody calls me plain vanilla “Dana” unless something grave and serious is about to happen, like if I’m in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or I was supposed to send someone a PowerPoint but instead I drank three beers and fell asleep with my shoes on. I’m “Dana” when I’m about to be called on to do something I don’t want to do, like get a Pap smear or give a presentation that I’ve invariably forgotten to rehearse.

Nicknames mean that somebody cares enough about you to give you some special call sign that means that they like you more than your boss or your dentist does. When I was thirteen, my best friend found a new best friend and the surest sign was that they had given each other nicknames and I was still just Dana. My sister called me “Monster,” or “Dollface,” if I was being nice, and my dad called me “Buddy,” but my friends called me “Dana” and so I knew that something was wrong. I might as well have been in class, answering math problems, if they were going to call each other special friend names and I was still and always and only Dana.

It was a source of great pleasure for me when I went to college and I finally got a nickname. It felt like the first time that to a few people on the planet, I was more special than everyone else in the universe. My friends and I thrive on stories: our friendship, now that we don’t see one another that often, is built on a foundation of narrative that we are constantly hashing and rehashing. We’re always jumping to explain to an incurious audience why we use the names we do, and our favorite nicknames are the ones that require ten minutes of backstory to explain: “We call me ‘Shmiggs’ because of the time that I was in my room—oh, and I was always in my room, did I mention that? I was a terrible housemate, they’d have been better off with a plant, it would have been more social—but anyway, I was in my room and there was a cheesecake and…” and ten minutes later, no conclusion has been reached and we’ve gone down into that precious rabbit hole that is the time that we actually got to be friends in real life and not just in our memories and every so often at weddings.

We used to give our love interests nicknames, too. Code names, rather, the only way to gossip when you go to a college small enough that your ex-boyfriend’s roommate’s best friend is definitely sitting next to you at the dining hall talking about how you miss him, but you don’t really miss how his “chill and awesome” iTunes playlist that he always insisted on playing when you had sex. We would spend more time crafting up complex and layered code names like we were little kids playing spies and not almost-grown women who could have been in Sex and the City (minus the city and, except occasionally, the sex). And of course, it was college, so within a week’s time a code name might quickly become an expletive, but even that meant that you, Mister Chill and Awesome, had done something to cement yourself a place in my address book.

I work now at a company where everyone who was there in the first four years or so has a nickname. I missed that cutoff by a year or two and so at work I am Dana, and when I hear it, someone’s about to ask me to do something at six o’clock on a Friday night and it isn’t to join them at happy hour. I react like a golden retriever when I hear my name, and I almost wish that people would append it with some assurance that even though they’re calling me Dana and not “DANACASS” or “Shmiggs” or “Dane” or “Monster” or “Dollface” or “Dacass” or “Daney,” it’s not because they’re mad at me. Like how my high school dance teacher used to say “Can you see me after class? You’re not in trouble” so you wouldn’t spend the next hour and a half wondering if you were about to get expelled for going to Port of Subs during fourth period last week.

I still maintain that I would have been a different person if I had been a Georgia. Can you imagine, though? gecass@vassar.edu? That’s not the kind of call sign you can respond to with a disco pose, the way I liked to in college when someone called my name from across the room when I came into a party on a Friday night. I wonder if I would have pictured some spunky alterna-verse Dana, envied that girl across the aisle, cozy in leggings and high-tops and drinking cheap wine and staring at her computer with bug eyes, pounding at her keyboard, hopelessly unfashionable but at least she’s carved out some very small, Buddha-shaped place in the universe.

there and back again

When I think of anorexia, I think of Karen Carpenter. Like every normal teenage girl who came of age in the 1970’s, I idolize Karen Carpenter (I, unfortunately, grew up in the 2000s, which makes the “normal” qualifier irrelevant). But only insofar as I would give my right arm to feather my hair and belt out “Superstar” in front of a screaming crowd. It never occurred to me to want to be thin like Karen Carpenter. I knew that she died of anorexia, which as a little girl, I knew to be some terrible disease where you weren’t allowed to eat cereal or chicken fingers or any of the other beige foods starting with the letter “C” that I was willing to eat.

But her death, years before I was born, was irrelevant to me the way that Janis Joplin’s or Jim Morrison’s deaths are irrelevant to me: tragic, of course, and preventable in hindsight, but a fact of life, a thing that happens to people who aren’t me. It is only when I am 25 years old and staring at a piece of paper that says in clinical numbers—307.1, the diagnostic code for anorexia nervosa—that it occurs to me that I never got the feathered hair or the Asian tour, but I did get that freaky disease where you forget how to feed yourself.

I always assumed that if I were to contract an eating disorder, it would be something like pica, where you eat paint chips or whatever, things you see on “My Weird Addiction” (or read about in your favorite children’s book, the Childhood Medical Guide, if you were a friendless child with bizarre literary interests). Anorexia is awfully basic for a girl like me who prides herself on being original. Anorexia is for cheerleaders and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul contributors. I’m a writer—I’m supposed to be an alcoholic, or bipolar; something sophisticated and higher-brow. I’m too smart to starve myself.

But as ridiculous as it seems—that I, a girl who has always been best described as voluptuous whose favorite sin has long been a tie between sloth and gluttony, could be on the brink of death from self-induced starvation—the omnipresent pain in my chest tells me the truth.

“No, it’s not,” my then-boyfriend said when I mentioned that I thought my chest pain might be a consequence of my alarmingly low weight. I don’t know why—maybe he genuinely believed it, or maybe he was in denial, or maybe he was just sick of the fact that somehow the smart-mouthed, energetic little thing he’d fallen in love with had morphed into a moody, listless, half-cadaverous excuse for a human who would rather exercise than spend the morning in bed with him. I can hardly blame him. Nobody wants to date a sack of bones.

And a sack of bones I am. To clarify: I have always had great boobs. It’s awfully lowbrow of me to say that in such a public forum, but it’s true, and it’s important. They are perfect, and nobody in my family knows where they came from. They are big enough to be noticeable, but not so big that they’re, you know, slutty—because as any woman knows, large breasts are a visual indicator of one’s genetic predisposition not only to heterosexuality but also to wanting to sleep with any and all men, including that guy yelling at you from his car window—and they’ve always been one of the few parts of my body that I am comfortable with.

I looked down one day, though, and instead of my beautiful Raphaelite boobs I had a bra that I could have worn to smuggle drugs. Instead, I had a lucky rib.

“Rib” is probably not the anatomically correct term. I never pretended to be good at science, but to the point, I had a lucky rib—a little nub that protruded from my sternum that I could feel when I poked around at my chest, which I did often when I wanted to make sure that I was still a good and disciplined and virtuous person and not a greedy-sloppy-sluggish pig.

My lucky rib was more fascinating to me even than the base of my spine, which I discovered for the first time some eighteen months ago when the protective layer of fat that coats my bones first began to melt away. It became my talisman. I rubbed it like an underfed Buddha.

I could count, then, every bone from my collar to my waist.

It becomes harder to concentrate. I quit reading books. When I was a kid, I used to get a stack of books from the library, read them all in three days, and beg my mom to take me back. At 25, I am no longer able to read books because they are too much for my shriveling brain.

My hair grows brittle and falls out in clumps. The more I exercise—and oh, boy, do I exercise; even my spin instructors admire my dedication to the classes that I attend every day without fail—the grayer my skin grows. My veins pop out of my arms and legs. My heart pounds out of my chest. Sometimes, when I lose control and eat too much, I stick my finger down my throat and vomit. This is by far the least glamorous part and I try to save it for when I really need it, like when I eat ice cream.

“If you continue like this, you will DIE,” C_______ writes to me in an email.

“I had two heart attacks,” says K__. “You will have a heart attack.”

I dislike these opinions, so I ignore them. I stay home, mostly, or I go to the gym, where people ask me what I do and what I eat and eye me enviously. The gym is a safe place. Restaurants and bars are not safe, so I stop going to them. I go to bed early. C_______ and K__ want me to be healthy, they say, and happy, but it’s unclear to me how I can be happy if I’m not skinny and being skinny is incompatible with going to restaurants and bars and staying out too late to get up and exercise. Plus, I get cranky when I’m hungry, and I’m always hungry because I only eat when I’m ready to chew off my own arm and I stop when I stop shaking and that doesn’t really mean I’m less cranky, just that I’m less faint.

I’m not very much fun to be around. My boyfriend dumps me, eventually, and then I am alone, except for my lucky rib. Like a country song about a lovelorn vegetarian at a barbecue.

I am a sack of bones dangling from a coat hanger.

I used to be a wild animal. I used to go out dancing, take four shots and sweat it out in a pile of bodies and then go pile into a booth at the diner and order chicken fingers or buy a bag of tacos from Del Taco and down them in the back of the car.

Have you ever asked a sack of bones to go out dancing with you?

Nobody loves a sack of bones.

I watch a video of Karen Carpenter a few months before she died, after she had been force-fed 30 pounds’ worth of food in a hospital. She is haggard. She could pass for sixty—and I’m not just saying that because she has the same haircut that my grandma did before she died, which I don’t think you can really blame on anorexia—and her skin is gray like mine. I want to drink away my heartbreak, but I can’t, because alcohol has calories, and I want to read away my heartbreak, but I can’t, because I can’t read, and I want to run away my calories and so I do until my heart is practically popping out of my chest and I hear again—“I had two heart attacks. You will have a heart attack”—and with no love and no wine and not even a book to keep me company, I know that I have lost.

This is rock bottom, I suppose. Sometimes, now, twenty pounds later—and counting, God help me, I’ve already replaced my pants twice and I’m about ready to join a nudist colony—I look at pictures of myself from those months between when my boyfriend dumped me and when I finally called the treatment center and I am abjectly horrified. I want to make inappropriate jokes about the Holocaust and the Bataan Death March because I don’t know how else to explain away the complete irrationality of starving yourself.

Rock bottom is the night at work that we need to pull an all-nighter, and I can’t bring myself to eat so eventually I lose it and start screaming at my coworkers and solidify a reputation for myself as the psycho girl who can’t hack it during an all-nighter. Rock bottom is leaving my best friend’s bachelorette party early because I want to get up early and run the next day. Rock bottom is doing that again at her wedding.

But I felt so glamorous. This is what they don’t tell you about anorexia: you feel like a movie star. “You look great,” I hear, often, from coworkers and strangers and relatives and friends. “What do you do?” I am unused to this attention and this is what is so hard to give up: the idea that I’m finally doing something well. I’m not good at very much: I wasn’t very good at ballet, and I wasn’t very good at being a girlfriend, but for a time, I was good at being skinny and that felt really, really good.

I am smart enough to understand that being good at something that will eventually kill you—“The only good anorexic is a dead anorexic,” C_______ says to me, and I suppose logically, that’s true—is not actually a talent you want. I go to therapy and the dietitian and I learn that I’m slowly killing myself and that my body is eating away at my brain and that if I don’t start feeding myself again, and soon, I’m going to lose my job and then I will have nothing, absolutely nothing, left to live for.

What I also learn is that I have a choice: I can be a glamorous movie star in a tiny dress with jutting elbows and cheekbones and ribs that I can count in a dressing room mirror, or I can be a human being, with a life and friends and love and hobbies.

My therapist gives me a list of the things that happen to you when you starve yourself: not just the hair, or the being cold, but things I never guessed, things that explain why my life has become so intolerably lonely. It turns out that starving yourself is a good way to become an antisocial hermit, only minus the part where you read the works of James Joyce and write your version of Walden, because as I’ve mentioned several times, malnutrition is really bad for being a functional human.

I am given instructions to feed myself. This is ironic: I’m 25 years old, I was the valedictorian of my high school class, I have a degree from an almost-top-10 liberal arts college and I have to pay $160 an hour for a woman to tell me how to eat properly. (Maybe if I’d gotten Phi Beta Kappa, I’d still be able to eat sandwiches without feeling like I’m trying to solve Fermat’s last theorem. Prove? What do you even do with a theorem? See above re: not being good at things.) It’s demoralizing.

I cry a lot. I cry about the bachelorette party that I missed. I cry about the fact that I went an entire year without eating sushi because it has rice in it. I cry about my relationship, both because my eating disorder destroyed it and because I think that maybe letting myself stay with someone who was so cruel to me was, in a way, tacit permission to let me be cruel to myself. It seems to me that I have lost an entire year of my life to what looks to other people not like a disease but a weakness, and I cry over every night that I could have spent dancing and drinking and eating bags of tacos from the Del Taco drive through but instead I spent on the couch reading a single page of some women’s magazine over and over until I finally digested whatever bullshit they were feeding me about how I should hate my body.

Eating disorder therapy is not all tears and confessing that your high school dance teacher made you keep a food journal (side note: in retrospect, that was really fucked up). It’s kind of fun, trying to regain 20 pounds. It’s fun to say that going out and drinking beer and eating pizza is your therapy. It’s fun to down a whole plate of enchiladas like you’re a fifteen-year-old boy and feel the warm sensation of fullness spreading through your veins in a way that you haven’t felt in months.

It’s not fun to feel yourself seized by a wave of panic induced by a plate of enchiladas. In fact, it’s downright embarrassing to be 25 years old, gainfully employed, ostensibly an independent adult, and to be brought to your knees by a plate of enchiladas. It’s not fun to buy a new pair of jeans every month because you’re blowing up like a hot air balloon. I could probably buy stock in the Gap right now. I would happily join a nudist colony right now if it meant that I never had to put on another pair of jeans and feel the button crushing into my fat belly every minute of every day, reminding me that I am no longer thin and glamorous.

I’ll be 26 in three months. I’ve remembered mostly how to eat on my own again. I am reading voraciously, catching up on all the books I missed while I was underwater. I have a new boyfriend who puts his hand on my belly sometimes like it’s something precious. He looks at me like a girl in a Renaissance painting and I forget for a moment that I’m covered in fat, that my lucky rib is buried again, that I’m not virtuous or special. I go out dancing and I eat pizza and I drink beer, and when I do, I look at everyone in their sweaty, imperfect bodies, girls with mascara running down their cheeks in cheap faux-silk tops from Express and boys who are finally outgrowing their teenage metabolisms and I feel—well, not lucky, yet, but at the very least, at home in the world again. Alive, again, at last.

elf on the shelf

“Cutie!!!”

I brace myself. She is coming.

She comes every day at lunchtime, diving on me like a jackal on a rabbit. I hear her battle cry and know that it’s only a matter of seconds until her arms close around me, lifting my defenseless body into the air and breathing her Lunchable breath into my ears.

I run through my options. I know how this works: if I scream, or I kick her in the shins, she’ll claim that she was just being “nice” and somehow I’ll be the one who loses her gold star for the day even though I wasn’t the one running around assaulting my classmates. She is one of those pretty Mormon girls that all the teachers loved, and I am the freaky little kid who I suspect the teachers view as most likely to blow up the school one day, and in short, that means that I will definitely get blamed for it somehow. (You know the Sunday school scene in A Prayer for Own Meany? It’s like that. Minus the nuns.)

So I tense up my entire body and prepare for the assault. She grabs me, spins me around, shrieks in my ears, and drops me. Some days, she pinches my nose or my cheeks, as if she were my grandmother (who at four foot nine would never do me such a grave indignity). “Cutie,” she says over and over again. I am never able to discern her motivation for carrying out this ritual day in and day out. I understand that height-wise, I’m the closest thing our second-grade class has to an infant, and maybe she’s just practicing in case one of her fifteen Mormon babies turns out ugly and she has to force herself to call it cute. (Meanwhile, I’m here wishing I could just eat my peanut butter crackers alone in the corner in peace like I do every other lunch day. Don’t other weird kids get to be home-schooled?)

I am small. I have almost always been small. I combed through my medical records a few years ago and read with mild interest as I fell further and further down the percentile charts that track childhood growth. Nobody has ever been particularly concerned about how small I am—my mother, after all, is all of five feet and for a Wilson girl to surpass that is an achievement—but people often feel compelled to comment on it. More specifically, dudes like to comment on it. Women understand how I can, in fact, be both five foot two and a fully functional human, while men seem to be trying to vet that I’m not lying about being over eighteen.

Sometimes, these comments are a clear and harmless expression of surprise that evolution hasn’t done away with my kind yet. Other times, I get the sense that I’m being politely warned that I am likely to be murdered posthaste.

  • The one who told me that I was “beautiful… like a porcelain doll”: Murderer. Wanted to stuff my body and add it to his Madame Alexander collection.
  • The one who nicknamed me “little girl”: Murderer, inspired by some combination of the Brothers Grimm and Hannibal Lecter. I suspect that upon his death, his journals will reveal detailed plans to chop me up and store me in a mini-fridge.
  • The ones who poke and prod at various parts of my body—my calves, my waist, even my ears—and say, “You’re so tiny”: Not murderers. Just genuinely fascinated with the idea that natural selection hasn’t done away with a nose as small as mine. (“Can you even smell?”)

I can’t say I’m totally averse to this line of conversation. As a former ballet dancer, it’s refreshing to be called small or tiny, considering that I had one teacher who used to come up to us at the barre, poke us in the belly, and ask if we had eaten a watermelon for breakfast. (There’s nothing like the trauma of thirteen years in ballet to make a girl seek self-actualization with questionable life partners!)

Really, for the most part, I like being small. Airplane seats are almost comfortable. I can tunnel through a crowd without making awkward eye contact with any of the people that I bodily shove out of the way. I can always fold myself into that three-quarters of a seat next to the dude on the Metro who is airing out his balls.

But there are myriad indignities associated with being small. I often thank the universe that I was born before they started telling parents to keep their kid in a carseat until they were like four foot eight, because the eighth grade was embarrassing enough as it is. At the airport a few years ago, the guy running the backscatter machine asked me if I was old enough to go through. “How old is old enough?” I asked. “Twelve,” he said.

Like my second-grade classmate, men also like to pick me up. As in, when I run into a dude that I haven’t seen in a while and he greets me with a hug, maybe two times out of ten, he will pick me up. I understand that this is out of both love and a desire to demonstrate your masculinity, but 1) I am a human, not a kettlebell and 2) I weigh like a hundred and ten pounds. Call me back when you can bench-press The Rock.

Clothiers seem to be under the impression that I should have four more inches of skin between my shoulders and my boobs. Consequently, every shirt I buy that isn’t designed explicitly for petite women is inappropriately low-cut. I live in constant fear of nip slips. More specifically, I live in constant fear of realizing halfway through a conversation with one of my many male coworkers that my shirt has slipped far enough that my bra is exposed and of course it’s the leopard-print one.

At the ATM or to punch in a code to get into a garage, I can’t just stick my arm out the window like a normal person. Rather, I have to wrest my body halfway out the window and if even then I can’t reach the keypad, I have to open the door and sort of drape myself across the window while the line backs up behind me and all the normal people wonder why they gave a pygmy a driver’s license. I am waiting for this to appear in a Final Destination plotline where some poor sap has their skin burned off in a tanning accident only to be chopped in half by a rogue power window trying to get cash out at her local Wells Fargo.

I came across my second-grade tormenter recently on Facebook. She has a kid now. I imagine if that thing’s internal organs haven’t been squeezed out of its eyeballs yet, it’s probably dressed up in a lot of ruffles and getting posed next to a chalkboard every morning detailing how many hours old it is. Best of luck, kid. May you make it to five foot three unscathed.

the butterflies are still there

Ten years ago, I had a flawless first date. I have no qualms about bragging about this because none of my other firsts have been so storybook-perfect. My first kiss startled me so much that instead of kissing back, I hiccupped. My first relationship ended in a hotel room and not even in an exciting “I cheated on him during a coke binge” way. My first date, though, was one for the ages: making out in the back row of the movie theatre, and ice cream afterward, and I think we even planned it over the phone because that’s what people did back then before Tinder.

It was so perfect that a few days later when he called me to tell me that, essentially, I was too young for him—which at a young and inexperienced fifteen to his seventeen, I was, but still—I wasn’t just gobsmacked but downright offended. How could he possibly have held my hand and bought me a movie ticket if he didn’t intend to take me to prom in five months and introduce me to his parents and post a picture of us together on MySpace?

Ultimately, though, it made sense to me, because after all, things like that didn’t happen to girls like me. I have always been susceptible to this illogical line of thought, that 1) there is a species of woman called “girls like me” and 2) we are by some universal dictum excluded from being honored by experiences that fall into the category of “things like that.”

If you asked me to define either of these, I would probably be embarrassed into taking it back altogether, because empirically speaking, “girls like me” means short white girls and I know plenty of short white girls who are often privy to “things like that,” which I suppose refers to good dates that lead to good relationships and good marriages and, you know, good houses that are well-decorated and not living alone in an apartment that looks like a homeless person’s been squatting there. (This is a more current characterization of the species. When I was fifteen, “girls like me” were girls who bought “Well-behaved women rarely make history” bumper stickers and read everything that had been published about sex on the Internet as some kind of theory-based preparation for an event that would occur in a distant and unfathomable future, maybe in a decade after we were finally allowed to go to parties where parents weren’t present.)

Clear as it was that this storybook first date was an anomaly, it’s been a decade and I don’t remember what it felt like when S_______ slipped his arm around me in the back row at “The Aviator,” but I remember how giddy I was. And how my stomach sank when I realized that this had been a mistake on the behalf of the universe, that Cupid had mistaken me for one of “those girls” and let me go to the movies with a cute boy, and how I felt some of those butterflies that had rendered me practically unable to speak for the whole night die away.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the flock of butterflies that lie dormant in my stomach have never come to life as energetically as they did that night when I was fifteen and S_______ took me to the movies. It’s been four months since the breakup of my first ~*real*~ relationship, and now that I understand that the pain of disappointment is in direct proportion to how long you spent feeling giddily certain that this was the stuff of love songs and that Pinterest wedding boards are for basic bitches but maybe you should start thinking about what your first dance song should be. That’s some curl-up-under-your-desk-and-cry level pain. That’s the kind of pain where if you aren’t careful, you might start thinking it’s okay to quit showering. Fortunately, as I’ve discovered lately, that pain does subside to the point that you can listen to Leonard Cohen again and refer to the vagaries of your relationship like you refer to old friendships that have faded over time. And you shower.

It occurred to me a few days before Thanksgiving, as I wondered whether enough time had passed that I would be able to listen to Mariah Carey’s seminal Christmas classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You” without caterwauling, that it might be time to dip a toe into the dating pool again. I haven’t been actively avoiding dating, but nothing has come of the occasional flicker of flirtatious eye contact with dudes on the Metro who don’t look like their favorite hobby is beer pong on the weekend with their bros. (It occurs to me that perhaps what I think is “flirtatious eye contact” is me giving crazy eyes to innocent strangers trying to get home from work. This has burned me before.)

Because like all good millennials I don’t understand basic face-to-face human interaction, I signed up for OKCupid, where you can curate away your crazy eyes and your general inability to speak English when you get nervous. I engaged in witty banter with a few sparring partners who looked reasonably unlikely to be serial killers, and a couple of these sparring sessions turned into dates. And not only did I not get murdered, but I even felt the stirrings of my long-dormant butterflies.

It was such a relief to discover that even though I’m 25 now and not fifteen, and I have confirmed through personal experience that a breakup is the emotional equivalent of getting a cavity filled every day for four months on end, I’m still capable of feeling butterflies. Butterflies. If I could ask for just one emotion for the rest of time, it would be butterflies, butterflies like the ones that practically knocked me off my feet when I was fifteen and the cutest boy in school wanted to take me to the movies. Butterflies like I felt when I was 24 and my boyfriend told me that he loved me. The sensation that anything could happen and the certainty that whatever happens, it will be good; the belief—the self-delusion—that although an infinite list of possibilities invariably includes negative ones, they could not possibly happen to me because the universe is smiling on me.

No first date has made me as nervous as that very first one did. This is a good thing, certainly, because I think the only thing that got me out of the minivan and into the movie theatre that night was the fact that my dad circled the parking lot long enough for us to finish listening to “Stairway to Heaven” while I did some deep yoga breathing and thought about how pretty I looked in my red sweater and my corduroy flares (blissfully unaware that nobody who doesn’t want to look like the Keebler Elf should wear flares, but then again, it was 2005 and we’re lucky I wasn’t still wearing a T-shirt from the Limited Too), and I can’t really get away with having my dad drive me to dates in a minivan these days.

It makes me a little sad at the same time, though, to know that I’ll probably never be knocked off my feet by butterflies the way I was that first time. I suppose every time my illusions are shattered—that ice cream doesn’t mean the prom, and that bringing someone home for Christmas one year doesn’t mean that they’ll be there the next—my flock of butterflies is pushed a little closer to extinction. I remember how my stomach sank when I realized that I wasn’t going to the prom with S_______. And sometimes, despite my best efforts to think about neutral things like whether I prefer Brie or Camembert or whether I would rather date Ben from “Parks and Rec” or the grown-up version of Seth Cohen from “The O.C.”, I remember what he said to me that night in August and how my whole body went numb.

But in spite of that, a flicker remains. Mostly because butterflies are so goddamn fun. When someone whose hands are unfamiliar puts those hands around your waist, runs them through your hair, looks at you like you’re something new and shiny and unencumbered by the baggage that maybe one day you’ll share with them and they’ll carry as their own—is there anything more fun than that? Anything more fun than walking on air, than dancing around your living room the next morning lip-synching to Mariah like you’re fifteen again and this boy is going to invite you to the prom?

I’m grateful for my little butterfly farm, for those strivers that have survived every cull to help me steadfastly ignore the likelihood that any good evening will lead to disaster or, at the very least, disappointment. Without that blind optimism, after all, girls like me would just quit showering altogether.

squirrel!

I am a nervous Nellie. Always have been and since no matter how passionately I beg, my doctor refuses to write me a prescription for intravenous Xanax, always will be. I’ve outgrown a few of my fears: when I was a little girl (okay, until I was like, sixteen and driving myself), the bumpy span of U.S. 95 in Las Vegas that stretches between the Spaghetti Bowl and the Sunset Road exit used to send me into white-knuckled, armrest-clutching paroxysms of fear. I was sure that our minivan was about to fly off the overpass, much like how nowadays when I fly, I am convinced that my plane is going to fall out of the sky at any moment.

Most people are afraid of things that have some basis in reality. I, on the other hand, am afraid of things like airplane bathrooms. While it’s at least conceivable that my plane could fall out of the sky—especially now that rogue drones are apparently a thing that I need to worry about, JESUS CHRIST, PEOPLE, BIRDS WERE BAD ENOUGH—airplane bathrooms are pretty much completely harmless. For the first several years of my life, I coped with my fear of airplane bathrooms by dehydrating myself nearly to the point of collapse every time I boarded a plane. This included, notably, a ten-hour flight from Phoenix to London.

Only the steadily decreasing capacity of my bladder has forced me to confront this fear head-on. On a related note, I found myself in my own personal hell a couple weeks ago on the Acela from New York to Washington when the door to the train bathroom got stuck shut. With me on the toilet side. I have never felt less dignified than I did when I had to press the “CALL ATTENDANT” button next to the toilet. You know, the one that’s there for old people when they’ve fallen and they can’t get up? That one.

(Really, though, if it weren’t for the keen embarrassment of having to look the conductor in the eye after he wrestled the door open to discover a fully functional adult standing on the other side, I would have felt empowered. They should probably make an episode of “I Survived” featuring me, hungover and confused in the Acela bathroom, struggling mightily to wrest open the door, considering whether I should just climb out the train window instead, and ultimately emerging triumphant to face the world with newfound strength. And by “strength,” I mean “the lifelong burden of knowing that one time when I was 25 I had to press the CALL ATTENDANT button in the Acela bathroom because I got stuck.”)

In addition to bathrooms and certain highway overpasses in the Southwestern United States, I am also afraid of fire, injuring myself on a trampoline, and carpal tunnel syndrome. The trampoline thing isn’t much of an issue these days—except for the occasional 27th birthday party at the trampoline park, because as you’ve probably heard, the millennial generation refuses to grow up—but there is something a little demoralizing about being 25 years old and constitutionally incapable of striking a match. Or toasting a marshmallow. Or using an Aim-Flame to light candles on a birthday cake. (Carpal tunnel, the only real threat to my well-being given that I am a writer both by trade and by hobby, is naturally the one I take the least seriously.)

I’m also afraid of space. You’d assume that all this means is that I never had to trouble myself with being disappointed when NASA rejected my application, but instead, it means that I still have nightmares about the space-themed “choose your own adventure” that we used to play in Gifted and Talented class in third grade where if you chose the wrong adventure, your spacecraft blew up and you went cartwheeling into oblivion like George Clooney in Gravity. (Karmic retribution for making us think we were intellectually superior to the other third-graders. You’ll never win the Pulitzer if you’re always up all night worrying that you picked the wrong noble gas to fuel your jet propulsion engine!) Also, Gravity scared the shit out of me. I can barely handle navigating a vehicle with Google Maps talking to me, let alone fly myself across space in a pod with only Chinese directions for guidance. No wonder Sandra Bullock felt compelled to strip down to her sexy astronaut underwear the second she got back to Earth. That’s what happens when you let women drive!

I’m not afraid of conceptual things like dying alone or failure. As a curmudgeon, the prospect of dying alone is not an unpleasant one. (I’m half-kidding, but doesn’t it sound nice to live out your last days nesting quietly in a pile of books with a mug of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal? It also sounds like my senior year of college, although I expect to throw fewer costume parties in my old age.) Failure is impossible when you don’t set goals for yourself, so I’m pretty much set on that front. Instead, I’m afraid of an arbitrary selection of things that have an incredibly low chance of affecting me during my lifetime. Why am I afraid of plane crashes, but not train crashes? Trampolines and not waterskis? Not that I’ve ever gone waterskiing, and if I were given the chance I’d probably spontaneously develop a fear of it, but the point is that my fears are not just irrational but kind of bizarre.

I admitted my newest fear publicly for the first time at Thanksgiving dinner the other day after we had opened the second bottle of wine (to be honest, we opened the second bottle of wine at the same time that we opened the first bottle of wine. Why wait?). “Guys,” I said, apropos of nothing, probably because the conversation had subsided for a moment and I’m about as afraid of silence as I am of drones flying into my plane engine, “I think I’m afraid of squirrels.”

They looked at me like I was crazy. Granted, my friends have mostly learned to keep this expression on their faces when I’m around, because a lot of what comes out of my mouth is, like the content of this blog, weird. Instead of changing the conversation to something more universally appropriate like Taylor Swift or the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, I pressed on. “I’ve noticed that I’ve started to, like, avoid squirrels when they’re in my path,” I explained. They continued to look at me like I was crazy, which is probably a reasonable response when your friend, who has a history of mostly harmless mental instability, is confessing to a fear of small and generally nonviolent mammals. “Like, if a squirrel and I are walking in the same direction, and it becomes clear that one of us needs to move before we end up running into each other, I move.”

I didn’t grow up with squirrels. I grew up with wildlife that actually poses a threat: rattlesnakes, and scorpions, and cockroaches that can both fly AND live without their heads for thirty days or some equally ungodly length of time. I encountered squirrels in the wild for the first time at Vassar, a college that, like many others, is infested with squirrels that are too damn big for their furry britches.

If you went to a college with squirrels, you know what I mean. Like freshman boys at the on-campus dance club, they are all up in your grill, no matter how hard you try to intimidate them from your ostensibly higher position on the food chain. I was walking down the sidewalk on the quad once when a squirrel came rocketing out of a nearby trash can. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced in my life, including the time that I had to fly into Denver in a turboprop plane during a lightning storm. They are fearless.

Squirrels in Arlington aren’t quite as ballsy as the squirrels in Poughkeepsie were—maybe they’re not all tripping on molly—but they are certainly as comfortable around humans as I am. (Which is, to say, sort of. Depending on the day.) They’re on the grass and the sidewalks, and when you come near them, they don’t back down. They’re feisty. I was jogging down the Custis Trail in Arlington a few months back when I found myself in a showdown with a squirrel. It was scampering back and forth—a little rabidly, I thought, based on my comprehensive veterinary training and deep knowledge of the pathology of rabies that I developed as an English major at a liberal arts college—and it was clearly not bothered by the footfalls of the hulking human advancing rapidly. Or, rather, the featherweight huffing and puffing down the sidewalk at an embarrassingly leisurely pace.

I weighed my options. I could continue on my path and assume that the squirrel would eventually move out of the way. I could leap over the squirrel, putting my twelve years of ballet training to use for a reason other than puddles (I don’t get much out of all that money my parents spent on pointe shoes these days, but my feet stay dry!). Or, as I ultimately chose to do, I could dodge the squirrel by angling sharply to the left at the moment I passed it.

“Gotta watch out for those squirrels,” I heard from behind me as the dulcet tones of Demi Lovato faded just in time for me to remember that I had neglected to weigh the embarrassment factor of each choice. Two commuters on their bicycles rode past me, cackling like the K Street version of Miss Gulch, as if I hadn’t just come face-to-face—okay, face-to-feet—with a vicious creature and won. It was just like the conductor on Amtrak. People underestimate the potential threat posed by overconfident woodland creatures. Just imagine: one second, you’re trotting down the Custis Trail like a champ listening to “Let it Go” and imagining yourself outrunning Usain Bolt in the 500-meter dash, and the next, there is a squirrel CLAWING OUT YOUR EYEBALLS. And it all could have been avoided had you only thought to dodge it. Face your fears. Let woodland creatures have the right-of-way.

I suppose it’s a sign of gentrification that in 2014, the greatest threat to a single woman walking alone down the streets in Washington D.C. is a squirrel. Either that, or it’s a sign that I’m probably going to jump into the arms of a mugger someday when I’m trying to escape a rampaging squirrel.

I’m also afraid of llamas, but I’ll save that one for the third bottle of wine.

the hitchhiker’s guide to the holidays

I come from a long line of nomads. My mother’s mother raised her family in Washington State, far from the Minnesota farmlands where she grew up and where their Finnish mafia of a family still lives. My father was raised a military brat, the son of a Coast Guard captain, and my own parents decamped from where their families settled in Washington to new opportunities in the Southwestern desert. (It was like Manifest Destiny. With showgirls. And air conditioning.)

For the past several years, since seventeen-year-old me made the grand decision to go to college 2,500 miles away from home, I’ve spent much of the holiday season being personally victimized by the airline industry. (Ever been snowed in overnight in the bag claim of the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York with only your backpack for a pillow and Skittles for a meal? I have. It was a low point in my contentious relationship with winter travel.)

Not to mention that the dregs of humanity come out to fly when the holidays roll around. By “the dregs of humanity,” of course, I mean people who wait until they’re at the front of the security line to take off their sixteen bracelets and empty their pockets of what must be a piggy bank’s worth of change and then have the audacity to request a pat-down rather than an X-ray when it’s clear that the radiation would probably do them some good. Also, babies. In the context of an airplane, babies qualify as the dregs of humanity.

I understand now why my parents never took us to visit Grandma for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I also understand that other families undertake these epic journeys every year as a matter of tradition, but the Cass family doesn’t do well with crowds. In fact, while this is probably truer of me than of the rest of our family, we don’t actually do that well with people other than ourselves. And so holidays for us have always been a rather sedate and insular affair: no genetically modified turkey large enough to feed thirty, no drunk relatives making inappropriate passes at the nephews’ girlfriends, no neighbors showing up empty-handed and eating all the cheesecake.

What is glaringly absent from our family celebrations, other than a bunch of interlopers trying to get in on whatever Epicurious dessert experiment I’ve embarked on this year, is just that: tradition. Or at least the slavish devotion to tradition present in pop culture and other people’s families. There is no ceremonial green bean casserole dressed in French’s French Fried Onions, nor do we sit around the table and share what we’re most thankful for before we dislodge our jaws in preparation for the feast.

Frankly, when it comes to Thanksgiving, we’ve pretty much given up. My sister and her husband spend the holiday with her in-laws (a fair trade-off, considering that the shiksa gets to bring her husband home for Christmas every year) and I alight wherever it makes sense to go that year: occasionally my parents’ house, sometimes I glom on to a friend’s family celebration. Last year, it was my then-boyfriend’s childhood home; this year, I’ll spend a motley “Friendsgiving” with a single girlfriend, a married couple, the husband’s mother, and an aging poodle.

Does this sound lonely to you? Au contraire, mon frere. Perhaps it’s my pathological addiction to change, but I feel like I get to play cultural anthropologist every Thanksgiving. Like Dian Fossey in the jungles of Africa among the gorillas—except, you know, in the dining rooms of New York and New Mexico among the upper middle class—I have eaten fried ravioli and fried cactus. I’ve played Trivial Pursuit and sung Bob Dylan songs at the piano. I’ve marathoned “Say Yes to the Dress” with my best friend and her dad and I’ve played Boggle with my sister’s in-laws.

It’s different every year, and every year brings a new story to tell. I find it refreshing, because I feel about traditions how I feel about holidays like New Year’s Eve and Halloween. I like to dress like a slutty disco ball as much as the next girl (oh, and I love Halloween, too!), but I cower in the face of the expectation to Have a Fun and Crazy Night. The winter holidays take on a similar level of pressure: you must have fun and be thankful for your family and get in a fight with your crazy aunt and eat your sister’s weird mashed potato/Jello casserole and God forbid if one of those things doesn’t happen because if it doesn’t, you might as well just CANCEL DECEMBER.

When you uproot yourself, you give up a few things, and tradition is often one of them. So much can go wrong when getting home is a matter of planes, trains, and automobiles, especially during the time of year when you might as well end up snowed into the baggage claim at the smallest airport in the Hudson Valley as make it home unscathed. Hanging your happiness on the prospect of a holiday proceeding as it has every year prior is asking for disappointment.

To eschew tradition is not to reject the holiday season altogether. My family’s version of tradition is a collection of odd little rituals that don’t count so much as tradition as familial idiosyncrasies. I think it’s because we recognize that putting all your eggs in the tradition basket is a dangerous prospect. You never know when your father is going to up and detach his retina and find himself bedridden for two weeks just when you’re all supposed to be hopping on planes to come home for Christmas. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re a nomad. You have to roll with the punches, so to speak. Roll with the retinal detachments. Roll with the flight delays.

We adapt. My sister married a Jewish man whose family hosts a grand Thanksgiving; we lost Thanksgiving and gained latkes on Christmas Eve. (Fair trade, if you ask me. Give me greasy fried potatoes over dry turkey any day of the week.) I spent a few minutes considering whether or not to cry the year my father’s eyeball ruined Christmas. Instead, I bought a six-inch light-up Christmas tree that doubled as a USB port and made a reservation for three at our favorite Thai restaurant near the crack dens in central Las Vegas.

Barring ophthalmological disasters, there are a few constants in our holiday celebrations. A giant slab of red meat is the centerpiece of our table. Someone drops the phrase “meat sweats” (common side effect of having a giant slab of red meat as the centerpiece of your table. Sorry, Michael Pollan). We play several vicious games of Scrabble and we curse my sister’s aggressive tactics. My dad tries to get away with playing the Led Zeppelin live album with the 20-minute “Moby Dick” drum solo and two minutes in, my mother starts making faces. We take walks for the express purpose of making judgmental comments about the neighbors’ gaudy holiday lights.

But none of this is sacred (except the meat). I think it’s what motivates us that is sacred: our shared love of food and word games, how my father and I know that 20-minute Led Zeppelin solos are our thing and nobody else’s. Playing Scrabble every year because my grandmother, gone ten years now this October, was the grand dame of Scrabble and on the off-chance that there is a heaven, she is absolutely cheering on my sister’s asshole Scrabble strategy from the great smoking lounge in the sky. The fact that colored Christmas lights are really ugly and anyone who hangs them should be judged by a family who measures our Christmas by the severity of our meat sweats. It’s, y’know, togetherness. Unity. Umoja (okay, I learned that from “The Baby-Sitters’ Club”).

In my role as a holiday anthropologist, I get to explore and participate in the traditions that hold my friends’ families together. It’s bittersweet, because I’m always just passing through, but it aligns with how I view tradition: as a concept that tries to deny the transient and fleeting nature of happiness and comfort. I have never felt more strongly about this than I do this year, a year after I spent my first Thanksgiving with a significant other’s family (and we all know how well THAT one turned out, am I right?!), when I am questioning why I even have to celebrate the damn holiday just because everyone else does.

Happiness and comfort may indeed be transient and fleeting, but they exist, so I seek them out. They are unreliable sensations, but I expect to find them tomorrow at the kitchen table with my girlfriends and C_______’s husband and mother-in-law and aging poodle. And I’ll find them again in a month with my family together again for another Christmas of meat sweats and Scrabble rage. And in the days in between, I will find them at raucous parties and on quiet evenings and wherever I can dig them up. Wherever, that is, that nobody has dared to hang colored Christmas lights.

album rock

When I was thirteen, I brought along with me on a weeklong family vacation to Texas a single album: Avril Lavigne’s seminal Let Go, featuring cultural touchstones like “Sk8r Boi” and “Nobody’s Fool” (actual lyric: “I’m not the milk and Cheerios in your spoon”).

For seven days, I listened to Let Go on repeat. Nobody understood me like Avril did: the album was a journey through my thirteen-year-old brain. I doodled her lyrics in the margins of my diary (“He wanted her; she’d never tell—secretly she wanted him as well,” which conveniently ignored the reality of the situation wherein I told my crush that I wanted his spiky-haired, skateboarding bod and he went after my best friend instead). I glared at my father when he played the rental car radio loudly enough that it interrupted my seventeenth ceremonial listening of “Anything but Ordinary.” I glared at the rest of my family because I was thirteen and that was the only facial expression I was capable of.

I like to tell that story whenever we talk about how hilariously tragic it was to be a teenager. And it’s the kind of story you tell with the implicit suggestion that you would never do something that ridiculous again, especially in this age of shuffle and Songza: listen to one album and nothing else, no matter how loud your dad blasts Click and Clack (RIP), for a solid week?

Yeah, we all know where this is going.

Want to know what I’ve been listening to since last Friday when I finally bit the bubblegum-flavored bullet and dropped thirteen of my hard-earned dollars to buy Taylor Swift’s 1989? That’s right. Taylor Swift’s 1989. On repeat. Every time I leave the house. Or when I don’t.

Like every twentysomething who recognizes that the therapeutic effect of Taylor Swift on a breakup is worth the indignity of acknowledging that Taylor Swift is, in fact, a musical genius, I was excited to listen to 1989. (Also, I was born in 1989, and I’ve been waiting since 1995 for the Smashing Pumpkins to pay tribute to a year that I was around to experience. That obviously hasn’t paid off, so this was the next best thing. Despite all my rage, I am still just a white girl wearing red lipstick in a cage.)

I did not expect, however, that doing so would catapult me back to the summer of 2002. I can blame it on any constellation of factors: my recent breakup and the fact that I, like Taylor, used it to propel myself to artistic fame (okay, whatever, she has a few more fans than I do and I don’t have backup dancers yet but I bet I could bribe my fellow retired amateur ballet dancers enough to follow me around for, like, an afternoon); the fact that it’s getting cold and taking off my gloves to change the music on my touch-screen phone means inviting certain frostbite; the fact that it’s just so goddamn catchy.

Regardless, what I know is that being forced to buy 1989 meant that I did something that I almost never do anymore: I listened to it from beginning to end. (87 times. In a row.)

I had forgotten what a unique experience it is to listen to an album that an artist designed specifically to evoke a defined sequence of emotions. I’m a sucker for shuffle and Pandora and Songza, tools that supply me with a steady stream of interesting music by artists I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. The wheat is separated from the musical chaff for you: none of those flimsy little B-sides that never should have made it into the recording studio, let alone out of it, none of that bizarre filler that seems to serve only as a means to string together disparate tracks.

I wasn’t raised to listen to music like that, though. I am the daughter of a man who saw Led Zeppelin and Queen in their heyday. The golden period of my musical education was in ninth and tenth grade, before I got my own driver’s license, when my father and I listened to his album collection, from “the Mighty Zep” to Dark Side of the Moon to Highway 61 Revisited over the course of our daily thirty-minute drive to my high school. I learned to look beyond “Stairway to Heaven” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and to appreciate how the psychedelic strains that opened “Tie Your Mother Down” brought “Teo Torriate” to a satisfying close. I could write a novel about all of the wonderful things that my father gave me by forcing me to listen to Leonard Cohen and Pink Floyd at 6 AM when I was fifteen, but chief among those is the appreciation of the album as an art form.

Playlists provide the constant entertainment that the millennial generation craves: the sonic equivalent of empty calories that leave you satisfied but, ultimately, emotionally unfulfilled. Albums are the medicine that remind you that what the world throws at you is not an unceasing string of flawlessly crafted hit singles, but rather a roller coaster of emotions wherein sandwiched between masterpieces like “Oh! Darling” and “She’s So Heavy” is, of all things, “Octopus’s Garden.” (While I don’t share my father’s utter disregard for everything the Beatles let Ringo slip onto an album, you have to admit that in this slightly painful extended metaphor, that’s like when you leave for work hungover on a Thursday and realize halfway through your commute that your laptop is still sitting on your couch from when you tried to work on a marketing document after three margaritas the night before. I think the word I’m looking for here is “undignified.”)

Even after the great state of Nevada made the grave error of allowing me to operate a motor vehicle alone and my dad and I lost our precious morning ritual, I continued to devour albums as they were meant to be devoured. I can play back the memories of my most wretched teenage moments to the soundtrack of Damien Rice’s O and 9 and the Postal Service’s Give Up. It gave me great pleasure to sit in silence waiting for the hidden track at the end of O to begin, like Lisa Hannigan singing “Silent Night” was a reward for my patience.

Albums are funny that way: as a rule, they start out with energy and with hooks, the kind of music that makes you want to run outside and engage with the world and fall in love and dump your boyfriend and start a riot. And then they lapse into the tracks that don’t make it on the radio, the songs that more accurately reflect the banality of human existence (okay, whatever, I am trying REALLY HARD to excuse how shitty “Recycled Air” is compared to “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” but bear with me here). And the best albums close not with inspirational bullshit but with meditations, choosing instead to intersperse the more powerful songs at choice moments along the journey.

Consider Rumours: there’s a reason that “Go Your Own Way” isn’t the closing track, and it’s because you need that to survive listening to “Songbird.” And then you take “Gold Dust Woman” with you into the universe to help you grit your teeth and keep moving after you divorce the bassist (guys, don’t date your coworkers). I believe that considerable effort is expended in determining the structure of every album, no matter how lightweight or artistically unimpressive the responsible party. At a young and impressionable age, I was devoted to this tenet.

Then Steve Jobs ruined everything.

My family were early adopters to collecting music digitally. We had Napster back before anyone noticed it was illegal (and then KaZaA and Limewire and everything else that I probably shouldn’t admit here lest I ever apply for a security clearance). I burned a LOT of mix CDs featuring artists who weren’t quite tolerable in album length: Something Corporate, Oasis, Taking Back Sunday, etc., etc., angst angst scream scream. But when I got an iPod, I turned into a shuffling monster. I flagrantly disregarded everything I held sacred about the art of the album and, in the process, lost something precious. (My attention span, that is. Look! Something shiny!)

Because I’ve already acknowledged that I am hopelessly basic, I am only moderately ashamed of the fact that it took Taylor freaking Swift and an album that contains the lyric “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes” to remind me of the power of the album. And though like any good recent college grad, I really like free stuff, I have to admit that I support her decision to pull her music from Spotify. Because I had to buy her album to listen to it, I did, and I suddenly remember what music is supposed to be. It’s like books: you don’t pick up a book and read a single chapter because you like it better than the other ones (right? People don’t do that, right? I would judge you). You read the whole damn thing and it’s a journey and some of it is Harry and Hermione farting around in the woods for like four hundred pages, but that’s what life is and you can’t subsist only on peaks and valleys or “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin.” You have to take the weird shit in between, even if it’s only there because the Moody Blues were doing A LOT of drugs.

So anyway, in conclusion, the point of this exercise is to convey my deeply held belief that Taylor Swift can do no wrong and to make it clear that although I may have burned the song “Konstantine” to approximately every single mix CD I made when I was fifteen, at least I never bought an entire album by Something Corporate. Which is probably not enough of a declaration to discount the number of times I’ve referenced Taylor Swift in this essay, but, like, it could be worse.

By the by, are we out of the woods yet? It’s unclear.

everyone’s a little bit basic

Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Mimosa brunch.

Sex and the City.

Hear that? That’s the sound of 500 followers running for higher-brow ground. Can you blame them? No self-respecting intellectually competent young adult wants to be caught associating with someone who’s—dare I say it?—basic.

There was a time, not so long ago, when a young woman in Ugg boots could enjoy a shitty chemical-laden beverage without incurring accusations of being a brainless bimbo. “I like coffee-based drinks that incorporate the flavors typically associated with Thanksgiving, especially when my feet aren’t cold,” she thinks to herself. “What’s wrong with that?”

The Internet is what’s wrong with that. (I hope you guessed that. The Internet is what’s wrong with everything.) Would you have ever felt compelled to contribute to the national conversation about the proliferation of Pumpkin Spice Lattes among the young women of America if 1,000 of your closest friends weren’t posting about it on Facebook? Would you even know what a Pumpkin Spice Latte was if 1,000 of your closest friends weren’t posting about it on Facebook?

The Internet has made the world smaller and, in doing so, revealed to us a hard truth: we are not unique and beautiful snowflakes. To me this is both a comfort and a source of angst. “I’m not alone!” I think triumphantly, then, just as quickly, “but I’m also not special!”

Without the Internet, we would never know that for the literati among us, to purchase and consume a Pumpkin Spice Latte as anything but part of a performance art piece is social suicide. Before the Internet, a trend was something you noticed on the street: a lot of women are wearing pants that would previously have been categorized as undergarments. This exercise class is certainly packed today! I overheard two other woman having the same debate we were having, contemplating whether they needed to face facts and accept that they’re Carries.

But with the Internet—with real-time access to the proclivities and inner thoughts of not only everyone you’ve met since 2006 but also everyone else, from Matt Lauer to the Dalai Lama—we’re bombarded. Leggings-as-pants are a pandemic! SoulCycle is a cult! Sex and the City is being shown on TBS and if you had any self-respect, you’d throw out your cable subscription, log onto your parents’ Netflix account, and watch something way less mainstream like “Orange is the New Black”! (Let the record stand that at the time of publication of this essay, liking “Orange is the New Black” was not yet a hallmark of being basic. Check back next year.)

When we identify “basic” tendencies, we are declaring that to like what many other people like is to be unoriginal. Being basic means being—God forbid—normal. Conventional. Sheeplike. A consumer of highly caloric beverages flavored with a chemical that sort of tastes like a pie.

Now, normalcy is one thing. I’ve spilled a lot of ink writing about how I learned to accept my weirdness. What’s bizarre about the advent of the “basic” trope, though, is that now we whose binders were graffitied in elementary school have grown from painfully weird children desperate to be normal into painfully weird adults desperate to be… not normal. Because “normal,” now that “basic” exists, implies a level of stupidity. If you drink mimosas and you buy your underwear at Victoria’s Secret and you’ve not only paid $13 to watch an Adam Sandler movie in theatres but enjoyed it, you are normal, you are basic, and you are stupid.

Thanks to the Internet, and to the notion of “basicness,” I’ve added a whole slew of new anxieties to my repertoire. Because… well, do you want the truth? I drink mimosas. I buy my underwear at Victoria’s Secret (how can you beat 5 for $25? Or, rather, 5 for $26.50, now that last year’s stealthy price increase is in effect. Still, everything else is damn expensive). I watched “Click” and I cried like an idiot. Not only that, but I have read several Jodi Picoult novels, and if I didn’t think Pumpkin Spice Lattes were disgusting I would probably drink them on the regular, and I just used the phrase “on the regular,” and I spend an exorbitant amount of money on SoulCycle, and I bought an infinity scarf on Saturday, and last year I finally bought LLBean boots instead of Uggs and I feel like a traitor.

Because I—I am a little bit basic.

But so are you, probably. Frankly, if you’re not, you’re probably an asshole, and you probably also went to my college and I probably stalked your music library on iTunes from down the hall because you probably shared it so you could force everybody within reach of the college network to admire your super underground collection of 38,000 songs comprising mostly Gregorian chants, didgeridoo remixes, and Gregorian chants remixed with the didgeridoo and then self-consciously stop sharing their library because apparently Regina Spektor is not as underground and hip as you thought.

Or maybe you just really like Gregorian chants remixed with the didgeridoo. Does that make you feel like a weirdo? Go spend a couple hours on the Internet. There’s probably an r/gregorian-didgeridoo-remixes with a whole passel of weirdos whose dingo ate their monk baby. (I apologize for this metaphor. It’s painful and I should have left it behind several sentences ago. This is where the “blog” format falls short compared to the “legitimate publication with editor who would cross that shit out” format.)

See? You’re basic, too. We’re all basic. The more we’re exposed to the world via the Internet, the more we discover that none of us is as unique as we had once imagined. And it’s hard to take that as a comfort, now that being unoriginal is equated with being unintelligent. With being basic.

I got over feeling bad about being weird. Now I need to get over feeling about about not being weird. I already have a whole catalogue of things that I could hate about myself. The last thing I need is to add my underwear-buying habits to that! (Or, rather, the last thing I need is to add a bullet point to what I hate about my underwear-buying habits. I really do need to buy underwear more often. I have enough disposable income to stop wearing the Victoria’s Secret underwear I bought in 2007 back when it was actually 5 for $25.)

I am only self-conscious about the fact that I like bottomless brunch because the Internet told me that there are other young women out there that like bottomless brunch and that they also bought an infinity scarf last Saturday, and therefore I should feel bad and stupid and I should go out and knit myself a woman-sized hemp sack and wear that for the winter and also I should consume only home-distilled liquors, even at breakfast.

Here’s the thing: none of what I listed above makes me any less weird. I’m still writing this alone in my apartment, surrounded by piles of unread copies of the New York Times and the Washington Post from the past two Sundays. I still need two hands to count the number of moderately uncomfortable conversations I had today and all of them were uncomfortable because there is no magic pill being ground up in the global mimosa supply to teach you how to be a normal human.

Anyway, long story short, haters to the left, because I’m going to go get my hair ombre’d and then I’m going to go to SoulCycle and I might even go buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte just out of spite.

(And then I’ll throw it into a bush because seriously, that shit is rancid. I’m less concerned about the basicness of the young women of the world and more concerned about what pandemic has annihilated their taste buds.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,383 other followers

%d bloggers like this: