Unnecessary Things #2: A Simple Guide to Social Media

Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s just be honest. SOCIAL MEDIA IS TAKING OVER EVERYTHING. I don’t even talk to my friends anymore. We just make inappropriate Facebook comments and tweet at each other (okay, the latter is incorrect; I have like 3 Twitter followers. NOT BEGGING FOR MORE FTR!). From what I can tell, people no longer watch the news. They just get their coverage of world events from things like 30-minute Youtube videos made by shady nonprofits that they see on their newsfeed. All this is cool. If people want to depend on their childhood next-door neighbor—who, for all they know, could be a crazy fascist advocating a government based solely on citizens’ knowledge of Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf—for political opinions, more power to them! However, I think it’s high time for a little social commentary on social media, pun intended. In other words, some good, old-fashioned etiquette lessons. Being the cotillion dropout that I am, I’ll just take this upon myself. Fear not, I’m pretty much an expert.

Article I: Profile Pictures

Can we please pause for a moment and harken back to the days of Myspace? Those ill-fated high school years spent wasting away in front of a blinking screen, our crush’s garage band’s page blazing brazenly in front of us as their terrible, poorly-made music veritably poured from our sister’s old speakers? Our longing to appear as ghostly as possible in front of a camera tilted nearly 180 degrees above our heads? Can we all just remember those blissful days before steadfastly running to the firm, self-conscious ground of the present?

High school is over, folks, and it’s time to put some thought into how we present ourselves to the world. No, we are NOT vampires. No, we are NOT club promoters. We are young twenty- or thirty- (NO ONE older has a place on Facebook) something men and women of the 21st century. We WANT to appear as though we don’t care, as though absolutely NO EFFORT was put into the image displayed at the top left corner of our Facebook page (yes, I refuse to acknowledge Timeline’s existence). So enough with the awk headshots, the weird “model” pics taken by your brother’s creepy friend. Put on your Toms, your fake Ray-Bans, take your Instagram app to the beach and ask a nearby homeless man to snap some shots of you, coolly sitting in the sand, announcing to the world: NO I DON’T WANT TO KNOW YOU.

 Article II: Statuses 

I’ll admit, it’s not easy for me to talk about statuses without getting a few bees in my bonnet. They have never been my favorite form of attention whoredom (why make a six-word status when you can write an ENDLESS blog entry?), but I understand that to some people they are a fun, “creative” way to let everyone know what that they’re allergic to peanut butter or get test anxiety or love vacationing in Cleveland. We’re all narcissistic sometimes—however, I still think there should be a few (at least 500) barometers regarding the type of content that content people are allowed to NEEDLESSLY spew.

For example, it is a universally accepted fact that NO ONE (probably not even your mother), is interested in useless information about your life. No one cares what you ate today! No one cares what you ate yesterday! No one cares what you are going to eat in the future! It literally does not matter. So please, PLEASE, unless Tom Colicchio has cooked you a personal feast or you got an reservation at Next or you just ate In-N-Out Burger for the first time, DON’T MAKE PUBLIC WHAT IS GOING THROUGH YOUR DIGESTIVE TRACK.

Perhaps even worse than the “useless information” status is the “wallowing status.” As its name suggests, proponents of the WS usually just want people to feel bad for them. They can’t quite accept the fact that living in a first-world country and owning a personal laptop makes them far better off than 95% of the world. Instead, they need to get an unreasonable amount of attention because they ripped their favorite dress. I’ve been there, AND IT REALLY ISN’T THAT BAD. [Editor’s note: and she made me mend her dress for her WHILE IT WAS STILL ON HER BODY.]

Far and away, however, the MOST offensive status category is the “Intentionally Cool Status.” The ICS occurs most often in people who are insecure and, instead of self-actualization, have decided to create an elaborate Internet identity they have neither earned nor understand. Common examples of the ICS are as follows:

1.  “Just saw Dylan live, his voice really is shot. But I sure dig that harmonica.”

2.  “Check out my memoir-themed blog at www.Iamselfinvolved.wordpress.com.”

3.  “I just HATE getting mistaken for Alexa Chung.”

Article III: Posts

There really isn’t much to say about posts. They can be a great way to share interesting information with your personally-curated public. I’ll just make a single blanket rule: If you’re posting an article about something being covered in the national news, JUST ASSUME EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS. Facebook does not exist so you can pretend that you are the owner of CNN whose personal duty it is to draw attention to the fact that you read the New York Times.

A Short Addendum: Tweets

There was a sad, lonely time in my life when I though Twitter was the Antichrist. I thought nothing could be more selfish or useless. Yes, when I was a poor and confused undergrad, you could have heard me uttering the five most terrifying words in the English language, “I agree with Jonathan Franzen.” But things have changed, my friends. I have awakened. I now know that that small white box holds greater possibilities than the most velvety of Moleskine pages. It is a place uninhibited by anything more than word limit.

So please, put your pride on the shelf, come up with a nifty screen name (JournalistMeri is taken), and open yourself to the possibilities of creating pure, unedited, Internet poetry.

Unnecessary Things is a column written by Meriwether Clarke, a poet with the eye of a dictator.

Ten Books That Will Make You Cry But Also Look Smart

Let’s be real, I lost it when Fred Weasley died (and don’t even get me started on the dark cloud of despair that descended over my heart when Sirius Black falls behind that fluttering veil), but sometimes a girl wants to cry over a book while still looking adorably intellectual at her favorite independent coffee shop. I know: #poser. If you, too, are completely swayed by aesthetics, but long for your cold, dead heart to feel again, I’ve compiled this list of ten incredible books just for you. They’re a little more highbrow than your average guilty read, but still passionate and perceptive enough to wrench a tear from the most dry-eyed of Voldemorts.

1. Home, by Marilynne Robinson

If you have a father, brother, or sister—even if you’ve watched an old man rise shakily from his chair on a cool Sunday morning—this book will tear your heart out with its sensitive, subtle fingers and then make dumplings out of it, but dumplings so fraught with significance—I’m already weeping/getting carried away. Home is the story of a dying pastor whose prodigal son has returned home after 20 years. Glory, the youngest sister, has also come home to care for both of them while struggling with her own secret heartbreak. If you’re an existential twenty-something like me, this book will make you long for your cozy childhood bed and your lost innocence, while your soul cries something like this: LIFE IS FLEETING, WHEN DID I GROW UP, CAN EVERYONE JUST BE HAPPY?

2. Of Love and Other Demons, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Boring summary: a 12-year-old girl contracts rabies and gets locked away in a convent because everyone thinks she’s demon-possessed and then a priest who’s struggling with his own religion falls in love with her and tries to save her from being exorcised. NO BIG DEAL. If you think that doesn’t sound heart-wrenchingly romantic, you probably haven’t read Lolita. Some authors can make the creepiest things really beautiful. The NYT describes this book as “grotesque, terrible, glinting and gloomy,” so get your pedo-priest jokes out of the way before cracking it open—this slim novel is a masterpiece (and, incidentally, my favorite Marquez).

3. Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [recommended by Meriwether Clarke]

Can you hear the phrase “lives torn apart by war” without tearing up? This novel tells the story of two twin sisters, their lives torn apart (sob!) by the terrible Nigerian civil war of the late 1960s. There’s loyalty and betrayal. There’s a massacre, and someone sleeps with her sister’s boyfriend. There will be tears.

4. Atonement, by Ian McEwan [recommended by every girl friend I own]

Like the previous book, this novel walks the fine and sob-inducing line between a sweeping historical drama and an intimate portrait of guilt, love, and artistic struggle. If you thought Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers, you haven’t met Robbie and Cecelia. (Oh, and rumor says it’s so much better than the movie. Keira Knightly is great, I guess, but sometimes you don’t want to see her teeth ever again.)

5. Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a story set after a war. Don’t draw a shaky breath of relief yet, though, because you will probably still cry. Have you ever known a man who’s desperately in love with someone, but never has the chance or the heart to say it? LIKE HUGH JACKMAN TO ME? This is the story of Stevens, a heartbreakingly faithful, laconic butler who has dedicated his life to this silent duty. One of his employees, Miss Kenton, is totally his soulmate. But being a butler means squashing down your feelings sometimes, even when the love of your life is walking out the door. (It also means providing handkerchiefs and hot rum toddies to emotional ladies who weep over novels.)

6. The Captain’s Verses, by Pablo Neruda

Neruda wrote these impassioned verses for his lover, Matilde, while exiled on the island of Capri. If that sounds like the setting for an immortal romance, just wait till you read the poems—sensuous and explosive, angry and tender, gorgeously direct (meaning you don’t have to, like, “get” poetry to love them). Pore over the poems under a full ocean moon or read them aloud in bed with your lover. Just don’t give the audiobook version to your dad for Christmas. Like I did.

7. Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates

Everything about Marilyn Monroe’s brief, tragic life makes me want to cry. Her over-utilized sexuality, her often-mocked passion for reading, her perpetual aloneness, her pitiful little poems, the fact that nobody really knew her—I just want to be her best friend and let her cry on my shoulder and maybe borrow some of her dresses. Blonde is fiction, but it clings closely to Marilyn’s actual life, focusing on the parade of men—referred to simply as the Ex-Athlete, the Playwright, etc.—who held her, used her, left her, and ultimately lost her.

8. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

This is an exquisite work of fiction. I think you can tell that it’s also really, really sad based on the title alone, which is composed of two really weighty words and one small boring word. So let’s talk about the writing itself: it’s intricate, it’s lyrical, it’s poetic. IT IS ALL ADJECTIVES THAT ARE GOOD. Except “crispy.” If you were ever a young girl struggling with her burgeoning sexuality, or a young boy struggling with his burgeoning stalkerlike obsession with the neighborhood hottie (jk—sorta), this book will play you like a harp. If you were never a young person, that’s super weird, but you’ll love it anyway.

9. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken [recommended by my amazing fiction professor, Anna Keesey]

If nonfiction is your scene, lucky you—you’ve got a host of tearjerkers to choose from. AND DEAR LORD THE SAD THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO REAL PEOPLE. This heartbreaking account of a stillbirth, written by the mother, is told in intimate, devastating, crystal prose.

10. “Ebb,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay [a favorite of mine and Lisa Hiton’s]

This is not a book. This is a poem. A poem so tiny that you can read it right this second. And then you will want to cry.

I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

(…you know what? Forget what I said about coffee shops. You probably want to read these books in a dark garrett, listening to the rats and the rain, only pausing to gasp for air and cry, “WHY IS EVERYTHING FALLEN?”)

Sneak Peaks from Upcoming Memoirs

As the Creative Genius at Large for Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, I’ve snagged a few Advanced Reader Copies (ARC’s, for those in the biz) of next season’s HOTTEST upcoming memoirs–and I’m sharing some of the more titillating bits with my readers, right here on Tori Dot Gov! Side note: isn’t “titillating” a disgusting word? Since these memoirs won’t be released till 2013, I’ve been asked to keep the authors anonymous. Still, you’ll be able to enjoy the nimble pyrotechnics of their prose.

from Extra-Yeasty Bread: Lessons in Love and Cooking from My Mother

 

“Mother would always ask me to grate the carrots when she made her signature raisin-pineapple-carrot slaw. Our grater was bent and rusty, twisted and old. It reminded me of my grandmother’s hands. My grandmother’s hands were my mother’s hands were my hands. Generations of women, all cooking in the same kitchen. I wept a little at the thought. “Keep grating, Cassandra,” said my mother in a voice that was loving and hard at the same time, like the Kraft cheddar cheese we often grated with the same grater.

I grated harder. The carrot’s broken body surrendered to the force of my grating. The carrot bits fell in neat little rows, like so many war victims. Whenever I grated a carrot, I inevitably cut myself on our rusty, bent grater. My knuckles welled with blood. I didn’t mind. I liked to think that my family was eating a little piece of me for dinner. A little skin. A little blood.”

from Everything is Broken Until It’s Not: Sorrow, Grief, Healing, Relapse, Emotion, Feeling, Divorce, Discovery, Sadness, Tears, Sociopathy, Alcoholism, Heroin, Self-Love

“It was New York City in the seventies, and my emotions were not like anyone else’s emotions.

When I drank, the alcohol affected me in mysterious ways. First I grew dizzy, chattery, happy. Then I drank more and began to cry. Eventually I threw up. It was that progression, that strange progression, that made me realize how unique I was as an individual.

“I am a human,” I would think, holding the porcelain bloom of the toilet bowl. “And yet I am a god.”

I was having sex with everyone in those days: the President, the President’s daughter, the homeless man on the corner. Afterward I would feel empty. Or maybe not. Sometimes I would go to the corner bodega and buy some chips. I would sit on the sidewalk, injecting heroin into my veiny feet, and think to myself, “New York: you are the city that never sleeps.” That was one of the preeminent themes in my poetry at the time. I was writing a lot of poetry. I never edited. I felt that the act of writing was enough. That I, as an individual with lots of problems, could put my words onto paper—and that was enough. I had done my share. I had created art.”

from Being Samantha: A Con Artist Confesses

“It wasn’t just getting the haircut right, shopping at the same stores, perfecting the way she flicked her wrist at every passing bug. It was keeping the skin mask supple.”

Dear Lady Violet: Why do I feel like I love him more than he loves me?

Dear Lady Violet,

Last night, my amazing boyfriend and I went on a “date” to talk about the “future” and it backfired. Sometimes I feel like he doesn’t support my plans for the future (I just got a great job offer and am considering moving), because he probably won’t move with me. But I know he supports me. Because he does, and constantly. He just does. So why do I feel this way? Why do I get angry at him? Sometimes I tell myself, “He’ll regret it when I move away and ignore him forever!” But that’s so childish and petty. What is wrong with me, Lady Violet? Why do I feel like I love him more than he loves me?

Love,

E

Dear E,

I hear you and sympathize! Misunderstanding the (oft confusing) behavior of our masculine counterparts can be both irritating and time consuming.

My guess is that you and your boyfriend have different ideas of what support means. To you—as a giving, compassionate, selfless female (thank you, society)—support often involves some measure of self-sacrifice. To you, true support often equates giving something up for another.

I imagine part of you feels like your man isn’t supporting you because he’s not saying, “I’ll move wherever you go, I’m so proud of you, let’s do it!” If he was given an amazing opportunity, that’s probably what you’d say to him. That’s probably what I would say if I were in his shoes. Why? Because women (in general) look at the big picture, because we often want the people we love to be happy more than we want to be happy ourselves, because we are simultaneously more emotionally mature and less emotionally realistic than our male counterparts.

The problem occurs when your boyfriend defines support in less drastic terms. To him, support probably just means being happy for others, instilling confidence in them, listening to their problems, etc.

This has a good side and a bad side. It’s good since it means that your boyfriend is supportive–he just goes about it differently than you do. It’s also good since it’s probably a more emotionally healthy way (for him) to go about human interactions. Obviously it’s bad because it means that you aren’t necessarily getting exactly what you want from him.

With this in mind, the main issue becomes figuring out a way to be content with your boyfriend’s decision without feeling as though the entire burden of keeping your relationship healthy lies on you. When I think about why a lot of women easily give their happiness up for people they love, it’s often because they want to keep everyone else as content and secure as possible, regardless of what it does to them. I think we do this because we have this internal fear that if we don’t, something bad will happen and we won’t be there to fix it.

Don’t look at your boyfriend’s reaction as an invitation to suddenly not care about him (since he doesn’t “not care” about you). But you won’t feel better until you accept that he is acting this way because a) he has his own definition of what’s needed to keep the relationship healthy and b) you know he loves you enough to never choose a lifestyle that will deliberately hurt your relationship. He trusts that your relationship is strong enough to withstand this change. He believes in it.

THAT BEING SAID, you still have reason (within the irrational realm of feelings) to be annoyed. It is ALWAYS infinitely annoying when someone doesn’t act the way you would, given the same situation. But it’s not because he doesn’t love you as much as you love him. He just loves and makes decisions and choices in his own unique way. Just like you do.

Yours (as a woman equally prone to self-sacrifice),

Lady V

Lady Violet writes an advice column for Tori Dot Gov. She just intuitively knows.

Dealing With Your Post- St. Patrick’s Day Depression

The day after Saint Patrick’s day is hard for all of us. The river is no longer green. It is blue, like our tears. How are we to survive the next 364 days until all our annoying neighbors meet again, clad in green wigs, swilling Guinness, and kissing each other for the sheer nationality of it all while we sit on the floor of our dark apartment, watching the flies swarm closer and closer our computer screen?

Here are some suggestions for dulling the pain until the next time everyone in the world but us is busy wearing shiny green “Irish” beads made by tiny children in Indonesia.

  1. Learn to love mushy minted peas.
  2. Every time you eat a potato, reference the Great Famine. Sample joke: “These fries will go straight to my…grave.”
  3. Shove lots of vowels together, randomly capitalize some of them mid-word, and add a ton of accent marks.
  4. Paint some freckles on your nose. Better yet, burn yourself some permanent freckles with a match. To be Irish is to weep with pain.
  5. Walk through the mist, keening.
  6. Become a Druid: the original creepy priest.
  7. Say “Kiss me, I’m [blank],” CONSTANTLY. Fill in the blank with literally anything. Are you hungry? Happy? Do you have hair? Fingernails? SKIN? Just be in the moment.
  8. Quote James Joyce whenever you can. Don’t have a James Joyce quote memorized? Neither do I. Just kidding, I have TWO memorized:
    1. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan something something Lord’s Prayer shaving cream.
    2. Snow and some metaphor about lost love or nationality softly falling and falling softly all over Ireland.
  9. Invest in a quality pair of plastic Shamrock earrings.

Pizza Toppings to Impress Your Very Best Friends

Chunks of Raw Fish

Tired of writhing in envy as your sophisticated compatriots slurp down eel, octopus, and yellowtail amberjack at the chicest of sushi bars while you nibble on well-cooked sweet potato tempura? Decorate your pizza with large chunks of raw fish. Cast a judgmental look on anyone who expresses nausea, and murmur something about “Western hamburger culture.”

Pages From Your First-Edition Hemingway

Is that first edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls really worth $11,000 if it simply rots on your bookshelf? Paper from the 1930s has the delicate flavor of Depression glass and pairs wonderfully with fresh mozzerella and a good Pinot Grigio. Just before pulling your pizza out of the oven, top with a few pages of Hemingway (check for graphic depictions of Spanish Civil War violence first) and allow to crisp slightly. Serve immediately. You might want to give Bob the piece that says “Look at the ugliness… After a while, when you are as ugly as I am, as ugly as women can be, then, as I say after a while the feeling, the idiotic feeling that you are beautiful, grows slowly in one again. It grows like a cabbage.” He’ll understand. Bob will understand.

Your W-2 Form

Your friends will be in awe of your ability to construct such a delicious pizza from farm-fresh ingredients when they realize you make less than twenty thousand a year.

Dehydrated Earlobes

This topper is a two-hit wonder: not only do earlobes look and taste like delicate Hen of the Woods mushrooms, they do wonders for your artistic credibility. Your dinner guests will immediately recall Van Gogh, giving you a chance to pull out your prized posession from beneath the kitchen sink: the original of Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, Easel and Japanese Print. Unless, of course, the next pizza is topped with…

Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, Easel and Japanese Print by Van Gogh

A delicious, oily, vegan substitute for pepperoni!

Shade-Grown Coffee

Who isn’t obsessed with coffee these days? It’s a cultural phenomenon! If you cry yourself to sleep because your friends toss around confusing terms like “crop rotation” and “Stumptown” and you’re just so tired of their intellectual posturing, SO SO TIRED, WILL YOU EVER SLEEP AGAIN?!, then cash into this red-hot trend by pouring a Siphon of fragrant coffee on top of each friend’s head until they die.

Unnecessary Thing #1: Independent Coffee Shop Owners

Unnecessary Things is a column written by Meriwether Clarke, a poet with the eye of a dictator.

As a frequent loiterer in independent coffee shops across the globe (okay, just Chicago and Santa Barbara, and soon NYC, BUT WHATEVER), I have come to expect that certain standards will be upheld during my experience. Call me a snob, call me a connoisseur, call me whatever you want (as long as it’s not Tyler, I HATE THAT NAME). The point is, I spend a lot of time in these dens of pretentious caffeine consumption, so I have needs. I have EXPECTATIONS. Below is a kindly-worded letter of persuasion asking the ICSOs (independent coffee shop owners) of the world to pay a little more attention to their quietly-seething poetess customers.

March 15, 2012

Dear ICSOs,

I’ll get straight down to business. I WANT to be your best friend. I WANT free drinks, I WANT to lounge for hours at a time without judgment in your trendy thrift store furniture, I WANT to be the person you ask to sample the first batch of those maple pecan scones you plan to sell for fall. I WANT all this, so I’m not the one sabotaging everything. YOU ARE.

That’s right. I am the one constantly putting myself out there. Patronizing your crowded shop day after day, seeking out a free table with a persistence rarely seen outside of a jungle cat’s hunt for prey. I’m the one shelling out my precious cash for your cups of foamy, caffeine-filled delight. I’m the one cheerfully saying hello, complimenting your delicious squash soup, ordering more than one drink when I stay for multiple hours. And what do you repay me with? Besides the drink I just bought? Creepy employees, snobby baristas, lack of outlets, judgmental furniture. That’s right, I called your furniture judgmental. AND IT IS. JUST LIKE YOU.

Yeah, I’m calling you out on your attitude problem. I’m announcing to the world, that YOU–the ICSO I am forced to interact with because of an addiction I have no control over–are not a very nice person. You look down on me–a lonesome, rage-filled poet–because I don’t know everything about coffee bean crop rotation. Because I have no idea what the phrase “pull a shot” means. Because I understand physics more than the complicated process of foaming milk. Well, sorry. Sorry that I dedicated my 200,000 dollar education (not that I paid for it: SCHOLARSHIPS IN THE HOUSE) to something besides java (which led to a great job in corporate retail). Yeah, I called it java. ARE YOU MAD YET?

And you know what, male ICSOs? Sorry that I’m not a bro regular that you can have “witty” repartee with. Sorry that my gender makes you feel like a creep if you’re ever nice to me. Yeah, I see the way you interact with men that come in every day. YOU ARE WAY NICER TO THEM. I’m not going to think you’re in love with me if you say hi without scowling. I’m not going to assume that you’re, I don’t know, proposing to me when you politely ask if I want a refill or compliment my earrings. I WOULD NEVER DO THAT. GOD, WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?

Okay, sorry, things are getting a little out of hand. I just want you to know that I’ve changed in the past few months. I’ll never misread your actions again. In exchange, can you please just be a little nicer to me? Can you please not make me feel like a creep for coming in all the time? I just moved into my mom’s house and can’t be there 24 hours a day. It’s not my fault that I don’t have a job or any friends and need somewhere to write. So can we just be cool? I really don’t want to have to start going to Starbucks. I don’t want to go somewhere with employees who are PAID to be nice to me. I just want you to be nice to me on your own. Can you do that?

Yours in love…for coffee,

Meriwether

Proper Arch-Nemeses for the Modern Young Lady

1. The Aging Bro

As today’s modern Miss languishes at her unfulfilling office job, she is likely to encounter an Aging Bro in the form of a Director of Marketing or an Agency Account Executive. Given your brains, spunk, and the charming way you blush under pressure, the Aging Bro will frequently attempt to take advantage of you, be it personally, professionally, or artistically. He may try to wheedle you into finishing his screenplay. He may lure you into his office with false promises of promotion. He may swear that he can get you into the club his “buddy” owns, despite the fact that you are under 21. When he tries to manipulate you with high-gloss business cards and expensed arugula salads, smile in sympathy at his existentially barren existence and walk politely out of his office and into your next job.

2. The Overly Seductive Neo-Housewife

Though we dwell in an era of modern conveniences such as toaster ovens and iPads, a proper young lady may occasionally encounter the Overly Seductive Neo-Housewife: an attractive, buxom nemesis who’s not above using her feminine wiles to lure your man away. She may bake him bourbon-infused cupcakes. She may wash her kitchen floor on hands and knees, humming an alluring tune. She may own several low-cut aprons. If her culinary prowess threatens to shake your decorous confidence, merely point to your well-stocked bookshelves and ask her to borrow a feather duster. The pen is always mightier than the bundt pan.

3. The Bitter Elder Relative

When an au courant young lady chooses a life of art and intellect over a life of drudgery and soulless ladder-climbing, she may rouse the interest of the Bitter Elder Relative during holidays and other family affairs. Lamentably, the Bitter Elder Relative never found the courage to pursue his own creative dreams, and disguises his unhappiness by scoffing at your tenuous artistic future. “What’s the net worth of a poem?” he may sneer. A terse dedication to the Bitter Elder Relative in your first novel–To Uncle Gregor, who taught me perseverance–should silence him forever.

4. The Lecherous Barista

Sometimes he foams your cappuccino just right, and you embark on a life of cortados and croissants together. But sometimes he leers at you over the lukewarm percolator and tries to charm you by drawing comics on your to-go cup. At first it’s all so French, but ladies, you are under no obligation to be flattered by his coffee-stained intentions. An unwanted advance is an unwanted advance. Hint gently that your future lies elsewhere by tipping your scalding macchiato onto his toes.

5. The Craiglist Sociopath Who Wants to Kill and Eat You

These are trying times, ladies, and even the most comely peeress may occasionally finding herself surfing the Craiglist “gigs” section, hoping to make an extra dollar or two to support her no-chip manicure habit. As she ignores uncouth calls for “seXxY laTinO or whiTE gUrlZ 18-21,” she may perk up at the sight of innocent-seeming ads that ask for a “talented young writer to beautify my novella” or “well-mannered housekeeper to dust my antique dictionary collection.” Ladies, beware! Do not click on the anonymized Craigslist email address. Do not attach your resume and the required “recent full-body shot” that displays your lusciously full cheeks to mouth-watering advantage. Close your browser window, take a calming moment to water a houseplant, and remember that you feature prominently in Aunt Cynthia’s will.

6. The Fauxrtiste

Her jeans are paint-stained, her hair is tousled, and she insists loudly that she’s “not a dress-up kind of girl.” It’s only natural for a proper young woman to feel threatened by those whose bohemian ways and shrieking denouncement of the Establishment seem to hint at a rich inner life. Ladies! Remember the Bronte sisters, who lived out their narrow lives under the watchful eye of their father, drinking water contaminated by graveyard runoff. Remember Emily Dickinson and her white cotton dresses and her habit of speaking in a low voice from the other side of the door. Remember that the young ladies who change the world are often in the corner, watching everything with lavender-rimmed eyes. The Fauxrtiste may garner fleeting attention as she spins beneath the disco ball, tossing around the words “meta” and “aesthetic” like so many ironic paperback novels, but she is no threat to the mind that simmers inside your small, well-coiffed head.

Charlie’s Opinion #1: Writing Careers

Charlie’s Opinions is a column dictated by Charlie, who can be found transcribing Warne Marsh lines when he’s not staggering under the weight of all his opinions.

“You gotta start with the small, Christian magazines. Then soon Lorin Stein will be knocking on your door. He’ll say, ‘I’ll give you anything for your book,’ and you’ll say, ‘Give me three million dollars,’ and he’ll say, ‘Make it four million.’ Then we’ll go to Great Lake every night.”