Minor Stressors

Happy Friday, world! It is I, Tori of Tori Dot Gov, and I want to tell you here and now that if you ever find someone else typing merrily away on this government-sponsored website, chase them down with a pitchfork, because this is MY SPACE TO SHINE. MINE.

Why yes, I will take a refill of that coffee, thank you.

The world very well may be collapsing around us, but I have never been one to fiddle while Rome burns. I do not take delight in chaos. No. Like a deep sea creature, I turn inward, focusing instead on the tiny grain of sand that is irritating my tender fins. I zoom in. I double down. I get petty.

In the spirit of solipsism, here’s a list of things that are stressing me out.

Deadlines of all shapes and sizes.

Oh, you guys. When will I learn? WHEN WILL I LEARN? I recently slashed my hours at an editing job from 30+/week to 15ish, because I wanted more time to pitch and write freelance articles. ALMOST IMMEDIATLEY after achieving that dream, sending out pitches, and getting some of them accepted, I remembered the truly terrible thing about freelance writing: the constant low-grade sense that you are falling behind on not one editor’s deadline, but TEN THOUSAND EDITORS’ DEADLINES. Do the math. That is ten thousand angry editors coming at you with pitchforks. QED, that is TEN THOUSAND PITCHFORKS.

Grants.

I have never gotten a grant for anything in my life. This is probably because I am always stretching the truth on my grant applications (“I have a team of trained theater professionals ready and waiting to build the set,” I write, figuring that if I do get the grant I will just force my brothers to fly out and build said set for me).

In the spirit of someone who yells “I QUIT!” just as their boss is explaining that they’re fired, I have decided that grants are an absolute scam. I mean, the money it takes to apply for grants. The time. And for a reward of what, $500? (No one wants to give writers more than $500 at a time.) Absurd. I could make $500 waitressing at a sports bar over the course of one weekend when the Blackhawks are in some sort of playoff situation. And then I could turn right around and spend that money on a sweatshirt that says “MacArthur Genius.” GOODBYE, GRANT WORLD, SEE YOU NEVER.

The accounts I now have on babycenter.com and momforum.com.

I’m looking for a few more mothers to interview for an article I’m writing, and I decided that posting in a mom forum would be a good way to get interviewees. Unfortunately, no one wants to join in the fun, AND babycenter.com made me PICK A DUE DATE in order to register. I clicked blindly and landed on May 24, 2017. The whole thing felt wrong.

Writing.

 I know that getting better at writing happens in peaks and plateaus. Sometimes you advance really quickly (like, when you literally learn the alphabet), sometimes you inch along writing the same damn “poignant ending” over and over. I feel as though I’m on a plateau right now, and I can’t get out of it because I ironically have too much to write and it’s all due too soon. I used to think that simply writing made your writing better, but now I’m not so sure. I think you also need time and mental space to think about what you’re doing and how.

Actually, scratch that, I have changed my belief system once again. Writing will make your writing better. Even bad, dashed-off writing. Doing one pushup will make you microscopically stronger, right? Unless you do it incorrectly and somehow horribly wrench a muscle and then you can’t move for weeks and meanwhile you’re losing muscle mass fast? 

The five minutes last night when I thought my computer was truly dead and I realized I hadn’t backed up my documents in months.

 Actually, file this under “true horror” and not “minor stress.” If my computer ever meets its Maker, you will find me wandering the streets, clad in my wedding dress, holding a soggy notebook, laughing madly. It will not be pretty. I am tethered to reality by this blessed piece of…plastic? (What are computers made of? Angel’s wings?)

The Work of Writing: Week One Update

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In case you missed it, I’m embarking on a month-long project of trying a different writing work style every week. If you’re a non-writer who’s wondering why I’m doing this, STOP READING MY BLOG AND GO BACK TO YOUR FINANCE JOB. Just kidding, I ADORE you. I’m doing this not-so-glamorous experiment because nobody really talks about the pros and cons of different writing styles–people just talk about how Hemingway drank daiquiris. Oh, really? Writers tend toward alcoholism? LOOK IN THE MIRROR, SOCIETY. IT’S YOU. 

Ugh times ten thousand. This week was not only sickeningly hot, it was a study in everything that is frustrating about writing. If you recall, I was planning to write only new content for an hour a day at the same time each day. Some lowlights:

1. I couldn’t write at the same time every day because my schedule is different every day. Where’s the genius who thought up that parameter?

2. I didn’t write at all on Thursday because I was so sleep-deprived that I had to choose a nap over writing during the sliver of free time I had between jobs. I don’t regret it because I was near death, but I feel guilty about skipping a day.

3. On Friday, I began to get frustrated with the sloppiness of the story. The trajectory seemed off–as though I’d taken a wrong turn circa page 15 and was now careening down a terrible highway. As you may recall, I set a goal for myself to only produce new content–and I did, 20 pages of it, girrrrrl–but once things started feeling off-balance, I just wanted to go back and edit. Or drink myself to death.

4. Yesterday’s “writing” was just awful. I’d-rather-be-anything-but-a-writer-level awful. I was at Intelligentsia, it was packed with loud tourists, I have never felt less inspired. I left in a rage and stalked down Michigan Avenue with my best I’m-a-serial-killer-get-out-of-my-way-you-plebeian-scum face on and bought some expensive honey at Whole Foods.

Some highlights:

1. Despite the fact that I am now on the Chicago serial killer registry for kickstarting the Great Fruit Fly Massacre of 2013, I have 20 pages of a brand-new story that simply did not exist a week ago! I want to fling the pages around an Egyptian temple and make my acolytes strew herbs on them. WRITING A NEW STORY IS THE GREATEST FEELING IN THE WORLD. I KNOW YOU FEEL ME! Earlier in the week when I was young and the world was mine, I was feeling pretty high on the whole concept of creation. Coming up with something new can make you feel like you’re that elusive autopoietic machine or whatever it’s called. FREAKING COOL, RIGHT?!

2. I remembered that stories need to have an “inciting incident.” OH, RIGHT. As I wrote, I started asking myself questions as though I was in a bad relationship: where is this thing going? What’s the point? What am I doing here? Why is that man talking LOUDLY ON HIS CELL PHONE CAN’T HE SEE I’M TRYING TO WRITE?

The takeaway:

If you decide that writing every day is your thing, it’s probably going to feel like what it is: a grind. You won’t always feel like an autopoietic genius. There are a thousand things waiting to burst through the seams of your structured day and just overwhelm you. It’s hard to get enough sleep and make enough money for rent. It’s even harder to carve out time in the day to work on your own stuff when you’re constantly getting new emails, tweets, and texts, and the dishes are piling up, and you remember guiltily that you haven’t eaten a vegetable in days, and also you now have cholera and are skidding towards the grave.

Don’t let the frustration of general existence tear you away from putting in a little time to write. Some of what I wrote this week was awesome, since I am a MacArthur fellow. Some of it was stupid, since my brain is 40% 15-year-old boy. It wasn’t the greatest week of my life, but I put in a little time and I got results: a Frankensteinian baby of a story that needs drastic plastic surgery. Nobody ever said fiction was going to look beautiful without a few stitches.

Things I’m Genuinely Bad At

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In this age of self-help books and post-postmodern selfawareness and black holes that creep ever closer to our lonely planet, threatening to incinerate us into ash (shh, just go with the imagery), it’s important to occasionally take a good hard look at things we are bad at. File this under Getting Real, my friends. You are probably never going to be a pop star and I am probably never going to be a neuroscientist, so it’s time to let certain dreams go so that we can focus on what’s truly important: making a lot of money while looking hot.

I’ll start: here are eleven things I’m truly terrible at doing. If life were a Ferris Wheel, I’d be on the bottom rung in these vicious arenas (TRIPLE MIXED METAPHOR–HAS THAT EVER BEEN DONE BEFORE?!).

1. Drawing. I can’t even draw a circle, much less forge a Picasso well enough to buy myself a car. Note that I once almost spent $50 at Blick Art Supply. What can I say? I am a creature of delusion.

2. Sight-reading. Musicians, you have my undying respect. HOW DO THOSE LITTLE BLACK SQUIGGLES TRANSLATE INTO SOUNDS IN YOUR HEAD? YES I TOOK PIANO FOR 13 YEARS, I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.

3. [FORMERLY] Salting things. I have, however, improved greatly, thanks to a certain incident with homemade apple cider caramels.

4. Throwing away clothing tags. I always feel like I might want to return it, and that if so, I could somehow reattach the tag, even if I’ve already worn the clothing item to the biannual Bloomington Homeless Mudslinging Contest. I realize this makes me 1 step away from a bag lady.

5. Watching horror movies. Cue a bare branch skittering against a frosty window—cue me on the floor in a dead faint.

6. Returning emails. As you know, I hate the Internet.

7. Accepting genuine help from other people. Doesn’t that make me such a brave, tragic figure?

8. [FORMERLY] Waking up/being a morning person. But now that my fabulous roommate is letting me use her juicer, I have lots of incentive to get up early and shove gnarly kale stems through a loud crunching thing that’s sort of like teeth!

9. Finishing large salads. I am just NOT a salad person. And this is NOT me trying to be the “cool girl”–I don’t eat burgers and I hate beer, so you can just let go of the mental image of me in a White Sox hat, shoveling down stadium nachos like one of the bros (OH WAIT THAT HAPPENED). Please note: small salads, I’m cool with.

10. Making regret-free purchases. Anyone who has ever shopped for clothes with me has probably also wanted to kill me. I can deliberate for hours over the smallest incidentals, and I yell things from the dressing room like, “I mean, I’m worried it might stretch out a little?” and “Is this floral pattern too similar to that baggy overshirt I got at Village Discount that I have literally never worn?” What can I say? I’m 50% Scottish, AND WE STINGY.

11. Knowing which of my emotions are real and which are byproducts of delusional perfection fantasies. It’s fun to  be a gUrL.

Now you know lots about me. What r u bad at?

GUEST POST: Against Irreverence: Grammar in a Time of Apathy

Lisa Hiton is a beautiful poet, talented filmmaker, twisty yoga instructor, and also Spencer Hastings. She has a sexyyy poem in the latest issue of the Indiana Review.

It was about the twelfth time listening to the latest overplayed song on the radio (perfectly timed with the unraveling of a non-relationship relationship and the changing of seasons) that I realized the problem with Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” That. Once I heard it, I couldn’t unhear it. It should be who.* This mistake is made frequently in everyday life, casually and off the cuff. Even in academia, I constantly correct this very error when grading my students’ papers. Deciphering the use of that vs. which and that vs. who causes much trepidation for my blossoming scholars.

Then I got to thinking about the importance of grammar in my life. Correcting grammar is problematic in many social circumstances for two reasons: it makes the corrected feel incompetent or chided, and it makes the corrector seem a pompous curmudgeon to all who bear witness to the scene. Linguistics have become a mark of the elitist. But as a writer, it seems crucial to be corrected when I make mistakes with language and syntax. Even punctuation seems such a small feat, but it can change the entire meaning of a sentence, the way it is read, and thus, the way the reader translates its essence.  Language is not a privilege; it is necessity. The complex modulation of breathing. So it would benefit us to consider it with such seriousness.

Think about how different the history of music would be, for example, if we allowed laziness of language from the beginning of time the way that we do now: our entire understanding of Whitney Houston completely changes if “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” had the line “…somebody that loves me”.  When we get to the break of “somebody whooooo, somebody whoooo” we simply would not have that part of the song.  And without it, perhaps we don’t have the song.  And without that song, what version of Whitney Houston do we really have at all?

So, comrades, grab your magnifying glasses and your old, dusty copies of The Elements of Style (no one makes grammar fun the way Strunk and White can) and prepare for the thrill of a lifetime. You’ll find song in structure of sentences and proficiency of language. These tiny markings may seem insignificant, but the power of arrangement and depth of complexity change the way we see and feel everything around us. Somebody who you used to know. If the suffering and pain were profound enough to write the song, write it correctly. Mostly, I hope you unrequited lovers all turn next time to J Alfred Prufrock for comfort in your lonesome—no one begs or croons quite like him (especially in the three dimensionality of Modernism compared to the lame, muted idea of emotion in post-911 American pop-music). [Ed.’s note: yea-heaahh.]

Oh and if you wanna dance with somebody, you wanna feel the heat with somebody…:

*the ongoing debate between who and whom is long and endless.  Somebody “whom” I used to know would just be too pretentious, so the coin fell to the colloquial for this top-40 hit. In addition, whom has fallen out of favor on both sides of the Atlantic in the mode of flexibility that characterizes the English language.

Tired Jokes

Some things just aren’t very funny any more. For example:

  1. Jokes about white people getting artsy/Zen tattoos of Chinese symbol tattoos that actually mean something gross/dirty in Chinese. E.g., Sally thinks she’s getting the symbol for “clarity” tattooed on her thigh, but it actually means “pea soup.”
  2. Jokes about hipsters involving cliché hipster signifiers (handlebar mustaches, bikes). To make a funny joke about hipsters, it has to be reeeeally out there and/or specific. May I remind you of this brilliant quote from my dear friend Joanna?: “I didn’t think he could get any more hipster, but then he drank a Rolling Rock and a man sat on his lap.”
  3. Parodies of hyper, caffeinated women who talk really fast. Caffeine addiction is a real problem. I have an addict friend and let me tell you, it is really hard to witness her struggle. Separate her from her morning coffee and the only one laughing will be her defense lawyer, if you catch my drift.
  4. When rappers say obviously dirty things and follow it with “if you know what I mean.” I’m looking at you, Pitbull. All the women get down, if you know what I mean? YES, I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. You foul little man.
  5. When peeps get mad because their internet is slow. EVERYONE’S INTERNET IS SLOW. Note: not technically a joke.
  6. When peeps punch you in the face. It’s like, hellooooo that’s not funny that actually hurt!
  7. Self-conscious costume jewelry. Omg ur such a risk-taker.
  8. Slogans.
  9. Jokes about Twilight being awful. BUT I CAN’T STOP MAKING THEM!
  10. When ppl can’t win the argument so they reference something really obscure and give a tinny little laugh. Ugh.
  11. Reminiscing about inside jokes/good times on Facebook, e.g.: Summer 2011 at the lake house, baby! “Juice” on the beach, tipping cows, SKINNYDIPPING!!!, “egg head” competitions, Jersey Shore marathons, “mixology lessons.” I WILL ALWAYS LUV U cc. Karla Marx, Freddie Chopin, and Gregor “Fuckin’ Cockroach” Samsa!!

Please help me add to this list! After all, is anything really fresh in this day and age? No. There is nothing new under the sun. And if you doubt me, just try ordering something feat. vegetables at any chain restaurant.

Minor Horrors

It’s beautiful outside today and I feel misanthropic. I think this has to do with the mounting stress in my life. This is my last week at work and I’m going to California to visit my family and I’m moving and my days are colored with a general sense of upheaval that is not helped by the fact that I read The Sound and the Fury faster than a speeding planet and now everything I see is tinged with incest. I have lots to do. And every time I move a book I sneeze. Dust is everywhere. The universe is expanding. Soon we will all explode.

Here are some minor horrors currently bothering me:

Kendra Up Top. Everywhere you go in Chicago, you’ll see posters for this audiovisual atrocity, feat. Kendra of Girls’ Next Door infamy. What drives me insane is the plasticine Photoshopped quality of her smile. Yeah, I said plasticine in a sentence, although I’m not even sure it’s spelled correctly. But I refuse to spellcheck it. I’m not dependent on Google for my sense of self-worth, I’m dependent on heroin. Anyway—Kendra, why are you smiling like that? You have a beautiful life, girlfriend! You’ve slept with Hugh Hefner! If that’s not a thought that’ll bring a natural smile to your face, I give up.

Protein Bars. Why must you always taste so fake? Luna bars, if you really cared about women, you would be delicious.

Stress. Can you go away? I’d like to return to the halcyon days of my youth when all I did was send angry/hilarious emails to Meriwether and listened to the Talking Heads at my boyfriend’s apartment while bemoaning the weather.

Intelligentsia Iced Coffee When the Ice Melts. You taste like whiskey. I don’t like this facet of your expensive personality.

Bank Account. Grow, baby, grow! Little sweet innocent child. I WILL STRIKE YOU DOWN.

Poetry. Sometimes you are good and sometimes you are bad. Why is this?

Music. You are boring lately.

Culture. Shrug.

English Majors Who Are Pretentious Toward Other English Majors. Yo yo yo, any serious English major has probably read the same amount of books as any other serious English major. Why must we compete? You’ve read everything Tolstoy has ever written, I’ve read everything Marquez has ever written, clearly I win when it comes to sheer coolness but I mean IT’S NOT A COMPETITION, BRO.

Bros Who Take Up Too Much Space. I get that your fragile ego needs lots of room to bloom and grow but when you sit next to me on the train and your elbow is in my face and you’re sitting on my skirt, I resent that. Why are you so entitled to SPACE, young bro? Does it have something to do with your massive paycheck? Or did you just discover the Beat poets and feel that, as a young bro, you have something to say that the world needs to hear, and you will say it not with writing (like a square) but with your elbows? (Alright: I really gotta stop hating on bros; I think I may be related to several.)

Unnecessary Things #3: Groups to Avoid (An Offensive Exercise in Judgment)

Meriwether Clarke is an embittered poet living in Santa Barbara, California, home of the following people groups. (And this is a photo of my brother. Our parents trained us from an early age to pursue the arts.)

Like Mongol hoards patrolling the Central Asian steppes in 1200 A.D., there are certain groups of people so dangerous, so detestably self-serving, they must be avoided at all costs. Jump into traffic, throw yourself onto prickled cacti—ANYTHING to stay away from the rank, unfiltered stench of intellectual repulsiveness closely associated with members of the following groups:

 Hipster Christians

Pseudo-intellectual debates about the existence of God have a time and a place—and they are not in coffee shops. They are the following: on Gchat between the hours of 10 pm and 1am, in front of the Old Navy on State St. in Chicago whenever that offensive proselytizer is present, in religious studies discussion classes at your overpriced private university. This excerpt from a chat with Zalman pretty much sums up my thoughts:

me: btw hipster Christians may be America’s most unintentionally destructive group of people.
Zalman: elaborate
me: they comprehensively represent American society’s worst faults.
Zalman: such as?
me: insincere kindness, turning their belief system into some sort of materialistic status symbol, hypocritically holding opinions they do not attempt to utilize in their everyday life, complete and utter judgment of people who live differently.
Zalman: so they’re kind of like us, but religious.
me: exactly.

 Rich, mean old people

Have you ever stood in line at your local cupcake bakery when a cruel, wrinkled woman clad in Prada loafers and a St. Johns skirt-suit brazenly steps in front of you? And then proceeds to take approximately ten years to order? I’ve been there, and it’s awful. Cease and desist, wealthy old people of the Santa Barbara area and beyond! I don’t care if nearsightedness prohibits you from seeing my impoverished, youthful frame. Just because you’ve purchased the reverence of the rest of society doesn’t mean you can have mine!!! Go back to your Montecito vacation home and LET ME CONSUME MY CUPCAKES IN PEACE. It is the one pleasure remaining in this wretched world.

 Pompous journalism students (note, not all J-school grads fall into this category)

As a former Wildcat (c/o 2010!), I am intimately familiar with the stereotypical journalism student. He or she is typically smart, super-interested in current events, slightly dorky, a little socially awkward, maybe a teensy bit frizzy-haired (wait—am I describing myself?), yet generally well-meaning. “They sound pretty great, Meri, what are you rambling about?” you may be wondering. Journalism students are bad news in two terrible situations: (1)  on the job hunt and (2) when discussing literature. Are you up for a position against a former journalism student? FORGET IT. It won’t be yours. These people research random stuff like it’s their job. They already know everything they need to do to impress the owner of that magazine or small press or Danish bakery. Fear not—there is still one thing you can beat them at. Yes, young English major, they may have you on current events, but you have them on BOOKS! Don’t get your pants in a knot, youthful journalists of the world. You may be better than us in a lot of ways, but there is a difference between people who collect knowledge for the sake of informative articles and people who collect knowledge in order to, I don’t know, READ POETRY. Do I sound bitter? Hopefully, because I am! I didn’t waste four years of my life trying to understand Ezra Pound so I could nod politely as some creepy wannabe reporter tells me Hemingway was the greatest writer of the twentieth century. Or pretends like they personally discovered David Foster Wallace. Or smiles sheepishly when I ask how many female writers they read.

 People who walk around in cyclist outfits

“TMI” is a completely normal response when someone loathsome tells you unnecessary information about their life. Like when your secret barista enemy tells you how much he loves going to church. Or when your coworker tells you about her pap smear. Or when your parents tell you about the night of your conception. ANYWAY, I’m starting to think it should also be an acceptable phrase to say to someone who is dressed completely inappropriately in public. And what, I ask you, is more inappropriate daily attire than a cycling outfit? What is tighter? More revealing, despite showing no skin? Less flattering? Literally nothing. So beware, Santa Barbara cyclists, the next time I see you lounging in front of my favorite coffee shop, your cycles casually resting against your table, spandex shorts digging into your fleshy leg, I will mutter three simple letters as I breeze past: T.M.I.

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

Eleven (11) of the World’s Most Annoying People

1. People who play Never Have I Ever by constantly insisting, “Oh, that’s the one thing I HAVEN’T done.”

 You: “Never have I ever done heroin.”
Them: “Whoooo-eee, that is the ONE drug I haven’t done. Ohhh man. Crazy times, crazy times.”
You: “Never have I ever had sex at the bottom of the ocean.”
Them: “Good thing you didn’t say “in a bed!” Because you would not believe some of the wild nights I’ve had. Oh baby!”
You: “Never have I ever punched a celebrity in the face.”
Them: “Not in the face, no, but boy have I punched some celebrities!”

…and so on. Note that this person loses EVERY TIME.

2. People who are overly enthusiastic about horrible, banal, annoying jobs, specifically the people who stand in the middle of the sidewalk with clipboards.

Him: “Hey you! Yeah, you! We’re gonna make CHANGE today!”
You: *puts in headphones*
Him: “You can’t spell environment without mention! As in, did I mention how fabulous it feels when you do the right thing?”
You: …
Him: “SAVE A WHALE! RAH RAH RAH! SAVE A WHALE! SING IT WITH ME NOW!”

3. People under the age of 50 who write memoirs.

Her (chewing thoughtfully on the end of a pen): Middle school was a particularly hard time for me. I remember we used to eat lunch in the cafeteria. The chairs were plastic, red and hard. I was lonely. Everything changed when I went to high school. I met Bobby. We kissed under the bleachers, and he tasted like [insert applicable popular candy of the decade].
You: …zzzzzzzz…

4. People over the age of 50 who haven’t done anything that can be objectively described as “badass” and who write memoirs anyway, usually about a) the heavy drug/alcohol/party culture of their youth or b) the pristine/countrified/home-cookin’ culture of their youth.

Him: I remember growing up in the 80’s. All that big hair and neon clothing. Tim and I used to go down to the clubs and dance the night away, smashed out of our minds on acid.
Her: Mother baked the sweetest lingonberry pies.
You: ZZZZZZ! ZZZZZ! ZZZZZZZZ! JUST SHUT UP EVERYONE JUST SHUT UP!

5. People who write recipes that call for too many onions.

You (while making the recipe): Ouch! Ouch! My eyes! GODDAMNNIT!
You (eating): Yum…YUCK!

6. People who offer to make “delicious, home-cooked meals” for your boyfriend.

Someone actually did this to me. Inexcusable, unless that person is your/his mom.

7. Old people who have no concept of time and constantly get your age wrong.

Your dad (with his arm around you): Hi, Aunt Agatha, you remember Juniper, my daught–
Aunt Agatha: Is this that skanky bleach-blonde wife of yours? You two were always pawing each other in public.
You (leaping away): AHHH!
Aunt Agatha: Oh, Juniper, my cataracts are so bad that I didn’t see you! You look just like your mother. How’s the fourth grade? You got a boyfriend yet?
You: I’m 22.
Aunt Agatha: Is that your husband?

8. People who don’t understand you and/or think you are always talking to them.

Your facebook status: UGH I WANNA DIE.
Them: http://www.thereisstillhope.com call me sometime gurl.
Your facebook status: Anyone know a good place I can pick up some crack cocaine? This day WILL NOT END.
Them: http://www.drugsarenottheanswer.org im here for you babe!
Your facebook status: It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.
Them: Where/when?

9. Really friendly people who are actually employees of weird, soul-sucking pyramid schemes.

Friendly girl: Hey! Sorry to bug you, but you have the CUTEST shoes. Can I ask where you got them?
You: Gee, thanks! What a relief to experience some friendly human-to-human interaction in this cold, bitter era! I got them at Payless.
Friendly girl: Awww, job doesn’t pay very well?
You: Hehe, you know.
Friendly girl: Have you ever considered working for Mary Kay?
You: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! (You run out of there and update your facebook status to “TEAR MY HAIR OUT BY THE ROOTS AND SOUSE MY EYES WITH BURNING OIL!” Friend #8 helpfully directs you to http://www.amIacutter?.gov.)

10. People who are flakier than those Pillsbury commercials would have you believe their croissants are.

Instead of a dialogue, I’ll give you a sermon. It’s fine to flake every now and then. Everyone gets sick. Everyone occasionally feels like they’d rather jump out a windowpane of razor blades than socialize. However, if you flake on your friends two (2) times in a row, or several (SEVERAL) times in a month, especially when they have paid good money to prepare the cavier brulee that you specifically asked them to make, don’t be surprised when they move on without you. In this day of instant gratification and bloated newsfeeds, who has time for a flaky friend? Not me, Hugh, not me.

11. People who unnecessarily correct your “mistakes” and/or people who respond to casual texts with perfect capitalization and punctuation.

James Joyce at a writer’s workshop, reading aloud: Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
– Introibo ad altare Dei.
Them: I’ll go first! OK, so my first comment is that “dressing gown” should be two words. Let’s see…oh, and I’m not sure that the Latin really does anything here, like it doesn’t really tell us anything about the character if we can’t understand what it means, you know?

You, commenting on another friend’s facebook status: aw guuurl that’s awesome!
Them: Sorry to be annoying, but did you mean girl?

Your text: are you coming to the thing tonight? i cant get a ride might be late cuz i have to take the el.
Their text: I’ll be there at 8 o’clock.

Who do you think is the most annoying person on this list? (IS IT YOU?) (Nahh, impossible.) (Secret answer #12: It’s the Kardashian sisters!) My vote goes to Person #1. Thanks, Person #1, for inspiring this whole post. Keep living on the edge.

Things That Are Whack

Who can resist a good bourg-y display of solidarity?

On Sunday, Charlie and I re-watched “Rachel Getting Married”–a movie that blew us away the first time we saw it (um, Anne Hathaway is amazing), but upon second watching revealed itself to be a totally vapid “critique” of Western culture and ideals, coupled with some kind of soulless glorification of the Self as the ultimate God figure or something–um, Charlie put it much better than I can. We were squirming the whole time at the thought that we used to love this movie, and found ourselves inspired–nay, REQUIRED–to write the following list. 


THINGS THAT ARE WHACK:

happiness
having fun
smiles/hugs
friendship
impromptu performative artistic expression
“accepting” people
troubled wealthy families (especially w/ divorced parents)
self-consciously poignant interracial platonic handholding
musicians who “play like nobody’s watching”
moments of general hilarity in which a given individual’s emotional scab is torn away via an off-hand, well-meaning remark, resulting in a moment of solidarity with the only other individual in the room who is privy to the newly opened wound because he or she “knows” the first individual, allowing the two of them to sneak out of the room arm in arm, thus marking their relationship by a profound emotional/empathetic connection
“being there” for people
tambourines
non-traditionally colored wedding cakes
blogs
referring to wine that has a two-word name by one name (e.g. “Pinot”)
saying you’re “awkward!” when you’re not awkward
passing plates piled high with delicious home-cooked food around a table of gregarious family members
extended family
families who welcome people with “open arms”
families that think they’re a particularly special family
sitting around drinking “Pinot” with your theater friends and breaking into a spontaneous singalong of “Let It Be” that, despite its spontenaity, is miraculously captured on your friend’s camera and uploaded to Facebook
FACEBOOK IS WHACK
collecting records
people who “dig” Miles
mimosa brunch specials
organs (the instrument)
being an organ donor
charities/altruism
gardening if you’re under 35
being “young at heart” if you’re over 35
boyfriends/girlfriends
authenticity
“elegant” prose

Basically, the only way not to be whack is to be a) a creeper, b) a homeless person, or c) both. CHECK!