Traumatizing Moments From My Present, Volume Five: Death by Triscuit

 Last night, I faced Death. Greater men than me have gazed into her dead-white eyes and cowered, but I was not afraid. I sat on the beach under the glimmering moon and held my gasping mortality in my hands, which were coated with the dusky seasonings of Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuits.

Though the waves crashed upon the shore, disturbing the screaming gulls, my mind was elsewhere that night–turning over the same three thoughts, again and again:

1. Triscuits and cheese are so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o good.
2. My stomach is stretched to capacity and if I continue eating them at this rate I will literally eat myself to death.

And I was terrified–terrified at the metal of my own psyche, at my willingness to die for the causes I believed in. Thankfully I was distracted by a screaming girl who ran past me and threw a half-eaten apple into the lake. Then a mosquito got in my mouth so the rest of my night consisted of spitting violently.

Jack the Ripper and My Other Exes

We were both young when I first saw you
I close my eyes and the flashback starts…

By now, everybody has probably seen the music video to Lady Gaga’s smashing single, Judas. We’ve all held our breath as Our Lady of Art belted out the ravings of her conflicted soul: Jesus is my virtue, but Judas is the demon I cling to. It’s raw. It hurts. It’s blistering. (If it starts oozing or weeping, please see a doctor.) Inspired by her soul-baring and over-sharing, I’ve decided to come clean about the lurid affairs that clutter my own past.

First, there was Jack. Sweet, murderous Jack, with his fetish for red roses and other soft, moist, fleshy, crimson things–like organs ripped from a still-beating breast. I loved Jack despite his imperfections; I loved him for the man I knew he could be. A star! A household name! A man who would rise from the gutters of London to make the world blanch at his surgical precision! Unfortunately, before Jack’s meteoric rise to fame, I broke up with him over his inability to leave the toilet seat down. Facepalm!

I had a quick rebound fling with Caligula, against my better judgment, but what can I say? Sometimes a girl just needs a crazed Roman Emperor to make life a little sweeter. I couldn’t resist the way he threw audience members into the arena to be eaten by animals. His claims of divinity were so endearing, too. He was a man who knew what he wanted out of life and just WENT FOR IT, you know? It was really cute when he made his horse a member of the Roman Senate, but after a while he started paying too much attention to that animal (feeding him oats mixed with gold flake?!) and not enough to me, so I had to cut him out of my life.

Perhaps I ignored a few warning signs when I plunged into my illicit romance with Fagin, but I’ve never been able to withstand a man with long, sensual fingers that can filch diamonds out of the bourgiest pocketbooks. And oh, those fingerless gloves–! What a fashion icon. He was a little older than some of my more predictable inamoratos, but I found his ability to break into song and dance despite his age quite alluring. All my girlfriends swear he was getting ready to propose,  but unfortunately he was hanged for thievery first. (I’ll never forget the time I found out that a Mr. Charles Dickens, who wrote his biography, described him as “disgusting” to look at. I wept all night at the heartless depiction. Some people will never understand Love.)

My last mad fling? Ah, I was young, so young. Surely nobody can fault me for loving the wrong man–though I cringe at the memories. “How could you, Tori?” screamed my mother, the day I told her we were courting. My father simply wept, polishing his shotgun through his tears and muttering, “I could never use this weapon on such a pulpy, spineless boy.” Even my friends railed against him. “The unnecessary falsetto!” they howled. “The watered-down lyrics! The insipid imagery!” But I closed my ears, for I thought I loved him. One afternoon, as we sipped iced tea from vintage tea cups in a field of daisies while sitting four feet apart on separate blankets that his grandmother had knitted for his hope chest, he said, “I wrote a song for you.” And I said, “Ooh, what’s it called?” And he said, “It was called Yellow.” And I said, “Oh…that’s cool.” Chris Martin paused to brush a butterfly from his shoulder, then murmured, “I drew a line for you.” I smiled and nibbled on a homemade biscotti because I wasn’t sure how to respond. He took a deep breath and said, “I swam across, I jumped across for you.” And I said, “Across what?” And when he didn’t have an answer, I knew that it was over.

Thoughts on Economic Instability and the Widening Income Gap

I just spent $5.27 on an iced latte from Intelligentsia. I literally don’t know how I racked up that kind of total. Did I accidentally give the barista the secret signal for add shot of caviar or infuse with unicorn blood?

My cell phone is breaking down, one button at a time. No, those misspelled atrocities you’re getting from me are not drunken texts, they are the desperate cries of a girl battling technology to the bitter end. As Martin Luther once said at the Diet of Worms*, I WILL NOT RECANT AND GET AN iPHONE. Except everyone I know has an iPhone and I feel myself getting sucked into the vortex of sheer lust that the iPhone provokes in even the most rational of beings. Does anyone know how much a monthly Verizon iPhone plan costs? Wait no, don’t tell me! Yes, tell me! NO! YES! AHHH!

I spilled red wine on my brand new skirt. I know what you’re thinking: HIGH ROLLER, BABY. Oh wait, the wine was $4.99 (I splurged, okay?) and Charlie and I were drinking it from a paper bag. The skirt was originally $4.80 but I snagged it for a cool $2.40 during my favorite thrift store’s Father’s Day sale. It’s a fabulous vintage 1990’s poly-blend.

My parents have the douchiest rich neighbors ever. They’ll never say so, but that doesn’t mean I can’t. Blond economics majors who golf and hunt and drive vintage red convertibles look like LOSERS QUICKLY APPROACHING MIDLIFE CRISES to my untrained and prematurely cynical eye. I can’t tell you what evil my neighbors are planning YET but rest assured, one day the world will know, and the swift wings of my judgment will fly like the red smoke of an apocalypse…sorry, the caffeine is k-k-kicking in.

This latte better sustain me until payday. Maybe if I take one sip an hour and supplement it with twigs and leaves, I’ll make it. Until then, adieu, cruel world!

*Regarding the Diet of Worms: that’s not, like, a hilarious joke I made up. It really happened. Yeah, it’s a wacky title for a serious event, but also, YOU SHOULD READ UP ON BASIC EUROPEAN HISTORY, YOU COMPLACENT CITY SLICKER. I once won an essay contest on Martin Luther (you could say that was the day I decided to become a writer, but it wasn’t…it was just the day I realized my intellect was a dangerous weapon that could be used to tear down as well as build up) and my sixth grade class was treated to a dramatic reading of the winning essay by moi. But I was so awkward that–WHOA this is definitely a Traumatizing Moments From My Past post, mustn’t get ahead of myself.

How to Fight the Establishment: For Your Body Type

Pear? Apple? Hourglass? Chinchilla? Knowing your body type comes in handy while shopping for jeans, scouting out potential mates, or plotting your Kim Kardashian impersonation career. But a quick scour of the World Wide Web using the search terms “antiestablishmentarianism body shape” reveals a shocking dearth of information, a fact I find, quite frankly, rather tragic. After all, nobody would expect a Sporty-shaped gal to squeeze herself into a pair of Petite-friendly jeggings, so why do we require that ladies of all shapes and sizes trudge along to the same old anarchic, Ginsberg-fueled beat?

Thankfully, I exist. And I’m here to fix this travesty. My handy guide will help YOU determine how best to strive for the ruination of the Establishment and everything it stands for while rocking the curves your mama gave you. WORK IT, GURL! But not for a soul-sucking megacorp, please.

Finding Your Shape: According to my online Bible,, APPLE ladies have fabulous legs and/or boobs so dressing is all about showing off those best bits and avoiding adding volume round your middle.

Fighting the Good Fight: APPLE ladies should focus on bringing down the Man by bonding with the lower classes as much possible. While big businesses sacrifice human interaction for the sake of a paycheck, the APPLE is using her fabulous legs and bust to lure the overworked and underpaid out of their shells. Meanwhile, her stylistically-appropriate, flowy-around-the-middle dresses provide the perfect cover-up for the supplies necessary to fuel a revolution. Can I get an A-R-M-Y O-F T-H-E F-O-R-M-E-R-L-Y R-E-P-R-E-S-S-E-D? I knew I could.

Finding Your Shape: The PEAR beauty should balance out your curvy bottom half with bold bright tops or tops with large collars, lapels or sleeves.

Fighting the Good Fight: The curvaceous PEAR must master the art of subtly breaking large panels of glass with a quick whisk of her legendary hips. As she struts past each soulless syndicate, swaying to the beat of her shoplifted iPod, she can’t resist the spirit of the dance that begins to overwhelm her…she spins, she sashays…oops! Did she just shatter that expensive Goldman Sachs revolving door with an innocent little pop ‘n’ lock? The PEAR must always have a mustachioed motorcycle man on hand to spirit her away if things get too legal.

Finding Your Shape: If your first reaction is “WTF, Strawberry?” then I’d advise a quick attitude change, Miss! Cynicism won’t get you anywhere when it comes to subverting from within. Don’t forget, sassy strawberry-shaped ladies have a figure that’s bigger up top than on their bottom half because of broad shoulders and/or big boobs in relation to their waist and hips.

Fighting the Good Fight: “Broad shoulders”? Sounds like the sweet, sweet cacophony of blue-collar labor overtaking the callous upper class!

Finding Your Shape: Not to be confused with a teenage boy, the gamine RECTANGLE is fairly straight up and down though she doesn’t always have the boyish chest to match.

Tall and slim, the RECTANGLE should not despair over her lack of ropey biceps and abs of steel. Though she may never tear down buildings with her pinkie finger or burn oil fields with naught but her fiery gaze, the RECTANGLE may still serve many purposes in the endless struggle against The Man, including, but not limited to, the following:

Narrow head: use as a pole by simply fastening a subversive poster to the forehead.
Thin legs: use to pick the locks of City Hall.
Jutting ribcage: using a pair of soft hammers, pick out a battle-tune, treating each rib as a different note.

Novels That I or Joyce Carol Oates May One Day Write

Beautiful, successful, GOTHIC.

Faithful subjects,

It has been brought to my attention that the world is crawling with people who are more wealthy, beautiful, and successful than I. This is why you’ve experienced such a dearth of hilarious content on my free government-funded made-possible-through-the-generosity-of-the-Macarthur Foundation website, Tori Dot Gov. WHY SHOULD I WRITE ANYTHING WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS MORE GENIUS?

In an effort to pull my drooping spirits up by their bootstraps, I have compiled a list of titles for all my future novels (if I ever get over my contagious disease called Why Would I Ever Want to Write a Novel When There’s Shopping and Facebook). Unfortunately, Joyce Carol Oates, the freakishly prolific creepürkind of the past 72 years, will probably snatch up a number of these titles before my lack of  talent hellishly busy schedule allows me to write them…

Old People and Ghosts

Dying: A Novel

Death: A Novel About Dying

Horror: A Novel

What is Happening to Me, Where Has My Life Gone?

It Will All Be O.K.: Seven Stories Full of Lies

Hot Girl and Tragic Downfall

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth: A Love Story

Why Are You Following Me, Where Did You Come From?

Sexual Heeling: How Marvin Gaye Inspired Me To Become a Cobbler

I Decline an Oscar

Gentlemen of the Committee:

I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. But I cannot accept this great honor.

It was approximately 9:10 AM this morning when I received the kind of telephone call every young girl dreams of getting at least twice in her lifetime…

Dearest Tori, the voice said, rich and syrupy through the static, I am honored to inform you that you have been awarded the Best Actress Oscar for your short film, The Way You Walked to Work This Morning While Listening to Tupac.

How did I react? I dropped my martini and screamed at the cockroach that was crawling up my leg, bien sûr. And then I cried. I cried tears of searing joy and searing grief, because every human emotion experienced since the beginning of time was coursing through my body–naturally, I snapped a few quick emotive headshots–and I could do nothing but bow my head and feel.

But here, standing before you in the nude Cavalli dress I had to be sewn into, I realize that I cannot accept this gleaming signifier of my own perfection. Yes, my performance was flawless. The spring in my step and the gleam in my eye as I sung the words “smoking sherm, drinking malt liquor” under my breath will probably become an iconic Youtube clip. I am a devoted method actress and have practiced that scene by listening to Tupac on my way to work hundreds–nay, thousands!–of times. And I blush at the critical acclaim garnered by my scene in the elevator, as I prepared to face the dragons of a corporate job by “juking” to the lyrics “never leave me, baby, I’m paranoid, sleeping witchu loaded by my bedside.”

But gentlemen!

Wouldst thou bequeath this honor on me, when the skies of Hollywood are bright with so many incandescent stars? Before you immortalize me, stop and consider The Others–the femme fatales who you snub tonight:

What of Angelina Jolie’s immaculate performance in The Tourist, where every scene was a perfectly-executed rendition of a woman so frozen by plastic surgery that she can only look over her shoulder and blink her heavily made-up eyes?

What of Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong, who imbued her raw vocal talent with the gritty blues and rough-hewn heartbreak of her native Mississippi?

What of Justin Bieber in Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, whose face is destined to be the template of feminine beauty for decades to come? Who dared–dared!–to show the world what’s possible “if you never give up”? Can you afford to ignore such a powerful cinematographic message of socioeconomic change?

What of Vanessa Hudgens in Beastly? The Academy has overlooked her glorious, cutthroat, breathtaking genius for too long!

But I digress–my passion gets the best of me, and the orchestra crescendos in protest. And so I place this oddly heavy statuette on the podium, gather my skirts about me, and leave. Oh, the limo isn’t mine, I’d rather walk. Can someone please return it? I’ll keep the bracelet. The bodyguard won’t stop following me. Ugh. Oh, he wants the bracelet back. That’s cool, man. Anyone want to get tacos?

Slouching Towards a High Aesthetic Standard (or People Ain’t Got No Taste These Days)

Here’s something I really believe in: our generation should vote unrelentingly with our dollar. The systems of our country are so backlogged and creepy and laborious and unnecessarily shrouded in confusion: the justice system, the healthcare system, the stupid dual-party political system (I am a huge disbeliever in both parties), the terrible insidious advertising. People my age seem very despairing and/or lethargic about their inability to enact change. And yeah, casting votes for polished men in suits with impeccable ties and charmingly imperfect smiles feels pretty pointless.

But voting with our dollar–! It’s perfect. We all have to spend money, and lots of it, so put your money where your beliefs are. If you hate Jewel, storm the farmer’s market and leave no radish unturned. If you believe that clothing designers should be credited for their designs and not blatantly ripped off, avoid Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters like the plague. If you care about the environment, pitch your tent outside your favorite vintage store and join Freecycle.

Personally, I hate big corporations that lie about their business practices, so I switched my biggest expense (rent) to a tiny, family-owned apartment company. I love independent coffee shops, like any good white person, so my boyfriend and I spend a ridiculous amount of money at Intelligentsia and Dollop and Chava. I want things that nobody else has, like any first-born girl, so I buy the occasional laptop cover on Etsy. One of my favorite posessions is a little painting that my boyfriend and I bought from a street artist in Boston. It’s absolutely beautiful, it’s completely original, it improves my quality of life every time I look at it, and that purchase, which I wanted to make anyway, directly supported an artist. It’s the perfect win-win situation, as opposed to, say, donating to a big charity. Not that donating to charities is bad, it just doesn’t mesh with our hardwired survival instincts the way that purchasing food, clothes, and housing does. So it’s not as sustainable; it’s not a lifestyle choice, really. Does that make sense?

So yah, yah, yah, I try to be good and support the arts and spend mah hard-earned cash at places that don’t make me feel nauseous. LIKE JEWEL. But today I had a realization. A meritocratic, anti-hipster realization: the kind you’ve come to demand from my government-funded website ( Care to read on?

“Supporting the arts” isn’t enough. “Supporting the arts” is something everybody prides themselves on doing, from celebrities who attend charity galas to white boys with rich parents who start their own zines (oh wait–that’s not supporting the arts at all). “Supporting the arts” is something that sounds really nice and will probably impress your date because it showcases the tender quality of your social consciousness–but “supporting the arts” is a vapid phrase that needs to be cut from our vocabulary.

Support the good arts, dammit!

The world is overrun with people who lo-o-o-o-ove art. Woohoo, art is so great! They love aesthetic for aesthetic’s sake, but have no visceral pull towards creating or witnessing real artistic achievement and no desire to delineate art into categories like good, better, best, and shit. These are aesthetes without taste; people to whom the idea of “greatness” is probably kind of terrifying; people who like to capitalize the word Art. Because nothing makes a rich white person feel better than experiencing a little Art, except maybe cocaine.

But the simple fact of the matter is that art can suck, and not all art deserves a minute of your time, much less a fraction of your paycheck. “Gallery opening” sounds glamorous, but do you actually like the art? Do you see some worth there? Some meaning? Some hip non-meaning that really speaks to you? Are you buying that chair because you truly love it or because an independent artisan made it on Etsy? Are you going to that reading because the people reading are fucking badass writers or does “going to readings!” make you feel like a cultured person?

Why are people so reluctant to admit that “art” isn’t a holy word? Is it because “this painting sucks!” makes you sound ignorant? Is it because you think everything is relative? Is it because you want to be an artist and you think you have to pay your dues and you don’t want people to criticize you when it’s your turn to get onstage? I’m not being sarcastic; I’m being REAL, folks. Real like Coco’s greatest asset.

I’m totally at fault here, too, so don’t jump down my throat. There have been times when I stroke my reclaimed shade-grown aluminum neck brace and murmur to myself, “I feel like wandering around a museum for the afternoon and then soaking in a night of spoken word at La Cafe. It’s fabulous being a member of the cultured intelligentsia.” But I think we need to be harsh and unrelenting and admit to ourselves that amateur spoken word is probably terrible and we’d be doing ourselves and the universe a favor if we just went home and read some Borges. You know: greatness.

Supporting the arts blindly is kind of a terrible thing. Cultivating discernment? Putting your meaningful dollar toward a meaningful experience or creation or just a really beautiful hardcover? That’s so hip.