Monday, January 19, 2015
"We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, 'Wait.' But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: 'Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?'; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading 'white' and 'colored'; when your first name becomes 'nigger,' your middle name becomes 'boy' (however old you are) and your last name becomes 'John,' and your wife and mother are never given the respected title 'Mrs.'; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of 'nobodiness'--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair." -- MLK, Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
MOM WRITES ABOUT OVERUSE OF THE WORD "MOM"
Yesterday on "The View," they discussed my NYT Op Ed on "Mom" Culture. In the segment, they referred to me not by my full name, but as – you guessed it – "A MOM"! The caption? "NY Times prints op-ed from Mom tired of pressure to be Super Mom."
Oh, the delicious irony! Go watch the clip now, and savor this moment of extreme cultural absurdity with me.
Sunday, November 09, 2014
WAVE GOODBYE TO 'MOMMY'
I wrote about "mom" culture for today's New York Times, and the mansplainers are already out in droves, informing me that I should embrace this precious time because before I know it, blargle bingle bam. This is very helpful, because I bore children without ever considering what it meant! I have spent hours upon hours and thousands and thousands of dollars on these strange small humans who for some reason live in my house with me, and I have this giant scar on my abdomen, and still I'm all, "WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING? WHERE DID MY MARTINI GO?"
The unwritten bottom line to that piece is that parenting is not a gender-specific job, and work-life balance and parental leave and paid daycare are not women's issues, they're PEOPLE ISSUES. If we want parents to enjoy their lives and feel good about their choices, we need to stop pretending that the pressures of balancing it all are entirely a WOMAN THING. We need to acknowledge this personally, and at a policy level. And thus ends the "Stating The Obvious" portion of my program!
For more clues about my mediocre style of mothering, though, go read this companion piece to the mom culture one: HOW TO WRITE, published by The Awl, see also the best website you might not have heard about yet but will soon bookmark and devour regularly. I also write an advice column called Ask Polly for NY Magazine's The Cut, which is often about finding true love but is also about how to live in the world and be your nasty self and still be happy. I also write funny-ish stuff, like this NYT Magazine piece about Buzzfeed, this other one about CrossFit, or this Shouts & Murmurs about welcoming in all of your social media forever-lovers.
And to all the mothers who came here because they were thinking, "Oh Jesus, it's nice to know that I'm not alone!"? Do a Google search on "mom culture" and see which words come up next to it. You are far from alone, my friends!
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Kid: Mommy, when I'm done with my homework, I'm going to play Umbrage.
Me: What's that?
Kid: It's just writing stuff down on a clipboard while walking around the house.
That sounds faintly relaxing, actually. And I'm reasonably sure there are people out there who get paid six figures to play Umbrage professionally.
Thinking about the professional Umbrage players out there causes me to ask myself, "Why don't I do something ELSE for a living, something that involves a clip board and a regular paycheck, something that includes crinkling up my face and wrinkling my nose and writing things down while shaking my head. "Nope no nope nope. Just: NO. None of this is up to code. None. Of. It. Unacceptable."
I've been dabbling in amateur Umbrage for years, of course. Unfortunately, I'm usually critiquing myself, and I never write anything down. I just commit it all to memory.
"Legos on the coffee table. Unacceptable. Window, smeared by a dog nose. Is someone going to take care of this? Trampled rug. Smell of burnt toast. Unopened bill on counter. That's a systems failure. That's not how we do it. Clean clothes, folded, but not delivered. Who's responsible for this? Birds outside, singing, 'Get 'er DONE, Get 'er DONE alreadeeeee!'"
Thursday, February 20, 2014
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?
Oh Jesus. I still have a blog. It's just been sitting here, like a kid waiting in a running car for his mom to come back from the grocery store, not knowing that she abandoned her shopping cart and moved to New Zealand on a whim instead.
My younger daughter Ivy is four years old, by the way. Unlike my older daughter, who embraces the skin-deep Judeo-Christian value-pastiche of Superbowl ads and Fresh Beat Band lyrics, my youngest has a much more malleable take on ethics. Example:
Ivy: Storm troopers work for the emperor, but not Darth Vader. Darth Vader is good.
Me: In the end he's good. But not the whole time.
Ivy: Yes, he IS good the whole time.
Bill: Darth Vader does horrible things.
Me: Yeah. He had a whole planet blown up. That's about as bad as it gets.
Ivy: Those are just aliens, those aren't people.
Then again, maybe she is soaking in the ambient values of her homeland.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Probably can't write much today, mainly because "filthy house" doesn't go so well with "very sick dog" and "two-week-old headache." Here are some things "filthy house" does go well with, though:
1. Drug bender
At least while the drugs last, anyway. This example is theoretical, but still somehow soothing to consider as a pairing with "filthy house," particularly when very sick dog is very sick. Not sure why.
2. Weekend of screwing new human
This sounds exhausting, honestly, but it does justify "filthy house," and then some. At first I called this "fuck fest" but that sounded a little violent. Is that what we used to call it though? Fuck fest? I hate the young me.
What a fucking stupid word that is, second only to "glamping." Fuck glamping, except when you're eating a catered meal and sleeping on a bed in the woods but you're never, ever calling it "glamping" because you respect yourself a tiny bit. Anyway, if you're really staycationing, you clearly should not be cleaning your filthy house, or it's not a staycation at all. It's a blah-cation.
4. "Six Feet Under" marathon
Why don't these exist? Because if they did, they would definitely justify "filthy house." Why "Law & Order" marathon but no "Six Feet Under" marathon? What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in, anyway?
In case you're wondering, "very sick dog" goes better with these things:
1. Clean-ish house
Not that clean, mind you. But the washing machine should definitely be running in the background.
2. Other, not-very-sick-at-all dog
Nothing makes you feel a little bit OK in spite of very sick dog quite like other, healthy-ass, obnoxious I-still-want-a-fucking-walk dog. And it's the one who can say "Ri Rove Roo," too. So that helps.
3. Plan for dinner
Don't ever wait until very sick dog is even more sick to make some kind of a solid dinner plan that you'll probably have to cancel anyway when you transfer sick dog from the vet to the dog hospital, but not after leaving your remaining kidney at the vet and taking out a second mortgage on the house to pay the dog hospital. Which brings us to…
4. Giant trunk filled with cold, hard cash
Do you know how much the "Does sick dog have a fungal infection?" test is at my vet? $290. That’s just one test. She's on an IV there, and was in an even more expensive emergency place yesterday. Hot tip for dog-owners who live in LA: Never, ever go online and read forums where people in other parts of the country lament how much they're spending on their sick dog's vet bills, because they're spending roughly 1/5th of what you're spending, guaranteed.
And I bet their houses are a lot cleaner than yours, too.
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
WHAT, YOU THINK I AM A QUEEN?
"I read and read and I think, 'Where is suffering?'" -- Smart acquaintance from Moscow delivering single best review of my book, ever.
Related: This SNL skit, which has a certain Henny Youngman-esque quality to it.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
"Any caprice is taken as a dereliction of the novelist's mission of grinding downfield with the stolid, earnest, edifying-redemptive football of "the novel," a mission deemed crucial in a values-flattened, superficial, ironized culture. Of course, this takes for granted that we're a values-flattened, superficial, ironized culture, one starved for stolid, earnest, edifying stuff. I don't. My guess is that the not-too-secret secret of our times is that, behind a few self-congratulatory tokens of decadence and irony, an elephantine utilitarianism and conformism grinds at the center of our culture and its response to art and artists." -- Jonathan Lethem, "White Elephant and Termite Postures in the Life of the Twenty-first Century Novelist"
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
AN UNDERGROUND CLUB, IN A WALK-IN CLOSET
A closet door in my bedroom opened. Silence, bulb light, and piles of clothes and shoes appeared.
Inside was a square space no bigger than, well, a walk-in closet, filled with one person sipping a lukewarm beer. On a high shelf, a boom box played Prince's "Dirty Mind."
Amid the revelry, the staff of one communicated by mumbling to itself, checking that the operation remained unnoticed by the small people milling about outside. In the event that these miniature humans did arrive, several disguises were planned, including "inert pile of clothes" and "extra bulky winter coat with legs." This was life inside The Safe, a decidedly illegal nightclub run by a single adventure-minded and somewhat desperate parent in a walk-in closet at the back of my bedroom for eight weekends in March, April and May.
The Safe was as exclusive as it was lawless. The only way to get in was to make a distinct owl call from the back of the family room, then run in the opposite direction, duck next to the washer dryer, call a number written on the wall there, hang up, tip-toe to the back of the master bedroom, turn the handle on the closet and close the door behind you, with minimal explanation to anyone watching.
The Safe's architect was H.P. Havrilesky, a 42-year-old semi-employed writer known for what she calls “hiding theater.” “It’s about making the visible parent invisible, and unavailable, and drunk” she said of her philosophy. Outside, her children could be heard whining and beating on The Safe's white painted door.
Ms. Havrilesky located a suitable walk-in closet by searching around the house in a rage one weekend afternoon after taking off and putting on socks that were declared "too scratchy" five times in a row. "The great thing about all this beer is how it got in here," says Havrilesky. "I snuck it in during nap time. I wish I had a cooler and some ice, though."
The evening ended near 11 p.m., culminating with a loud rendition of "Yellow Brick Roads" by the club's resident chanteuse, who is also the club's founder and sole patron. After being told to "Keep it down in there, goddamn it!" by an angry voice outside The Safe's four white walls, one tipsy guest exited through the closet door to greet a quiet, sleeping house.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
THE ART OF BLOGGERING LIKE A BLOGGERER
"Bloggering is the magicalest!" – Katy Perry
Now that I'm a bloggerer, everything is so much vivider and more excitinger! Tastes taste tastier, smells smell smellier. It's like my eyes are open, WIDE open, for the first time!
But why does bloggering make me want to go sit in a really dark Mexican restaurant and drink margaritas (on the rocks with salt) and eat chips (with the green tomatillo salsa) for a few hours in a row? Is it because bloggering (unlike blogging – yuck!) is casual and multi-locational and distracty enough that I could be bloggering the whole time I'm using tequila to elevate the joy levels in my blood to all-time highs? Or is it because I can blogger my whole experience in said dark Mexican restaurant -- mostly by taking artful vintage-camera-app shots of my third margarita -- and thus feel busy and productive for the first time in weeks?
Is it the darkness that beckons me, or the thought of bloggering in the darkness, drunk, while stuffing my guac-hole full of guac? Does it just feel right, to carbo-load while also slipping into daytime alchoholism and also crafting something roughly akin to the single most illustrative Yelp post in the known universe? I've always wanted so badly to be a multi-tasker.
Or maybe I just thrill to the thought of NOT going to the stupid gym today, and instead getting really sauced and then stumble-walking to the elementary school to get my kid, and (bonus) she's still young enough to believe I'm just in a superfuckingexcellent mood (not drunk!), and also young enough to believe that a sudden-onset stomach virus (not a sudden-onset bloggering drunkiness!) forced me to kneel and vomit in the bushes.
Yes, yes, I know. It's not funny anymore.
But it's only not funny because I broke the bloggering rule and went into excessive detail -- like a blogger (ew) would! I slipped out of my newfangled bloggerer mindset by accident. Fuck me! If I were at a dark Mexican restaurant pouring tequila into my face right now this never would've happened.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I didn't accomplish shit today. Maybe I need to start bloggering again. Not like the old-timey blogging of yore, which required taking long, cold stares at your own soul and then sighing deeply, and then forming those deep sighs into clumsy prose.
No, I need to partake of the newfangled bloggering these whippersnappers are doing. The newish bloggering is less like scribbling in your unlocked diary (Hello! Read me, read me!), and more like talking very loudly to your imaginary friend on a busy city street (Brussels sprouts do not have vitamin E in them, Lucille. They're a goddamn Cultivar!). I like talking loudly and I have tons of imaginary friends, although most of them are no longer speaking to me.
Theoretically, with more bloggering, I can remind myself of my "voice" as a writer. It's important to have a very strong "voice" so that, when you send your (theoretical) manuscripts out to the publishers, they have that haunting sensation that they've heard your very distinct (Chillingly distinct!) "voice" somewhere before. And they have! They read your stupid blog once, because you tweeted something profane that was retweeted by some jack juice with 5 billion followers.
This confusion might lead them to confuse your "voice" with "the voice of your generation" – which is actually Mariah Carey, I think, or that lady from the Progressive Insurance commercials.
Blogging is distasteful to me, because I'm not all that interested in writing about my life at this exact juncture. My life is at once far too pleasant and far too unpleasant to discuss. The pleasant things (living with children, dogs, husband) don't typically make for good blogging. No one truly wants to know about how delightful your kids and your dogs and your husband can be sometimes. OK, sure, I don't mind reading about other people's children and dogs and husbands occasionally, but only if I can also gaze at beautiful professional photographs of those kids and dogs and husband(s) as they, I don't know, vacation as a family at a resort that I can't afford? But only if one of the kids gets a stomach flu while at the overpriced family resort, and subsequently vomits all over the quaint restaurant and the gorgeous little seaside hut pictured there, and then only if the writer describes it all in graphic detail, in order to illustrate fairly and realistically just how frequently young children try to a) kill you with the superbugs they drag home from their second-rate daycares (or in this case, lick straight off the airplane tray table of a second-rate airline) and b) ruin everything, especially really expensive vacations paid for by glossy magazines. Naturally, though, the feature would end with a reminder that kids also c) make everything better (after ruining it all) by being clever and delightful for a minute or two, and keeping you distracted from your own mortality for an additional minute (which is exactly 3 more minutes of pure joy than you ever experienced before you had children).
The unpleasant things that I might blog about (trying to write and sighing deeply instead, trying to be friendlier and more engaged when surrounded by small people, dogs and husbands all the time, trying not to eat carbs and growing immediately faint and then needing an emergency custard-filled doughnut to adjust plummeting blood sugar levels) don't make for good blogging either, thanks to their close resemblance to a Cathy cartoon.
Instead, I should be bloggering about these things. Bloggering is short and sassy and to the point and as long as I throw in enough Instagram photographs of adorable dogs and giant custard doughnuts (with pop-up maps to nearby doughnut restaurants) and photos of me, on the floor, having fainted after taking three hours off my usual carbo-loading schedule, I will be perceived as edgy and modern, even though I'm blobby and archaic.
Bloggering is pure magic. I think that's a Katy Perry lyric, but it's still true.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
"Responsibility to yourself… means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short, simply to avoid conflict and confrontation. And this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be 'different'; not to be continuously available to others when we need time for ourselves and our work; to be able to demand of others that they respect our sense of purpose and our integrity as persons… The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way." – Adrienne Rich
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
I'm a 22 year old recent college grad who mostly grew up in New York and Connecticut, and I have one younger brother. I am liberal, feminist, and identify as an atheist. After finishing college a few months ago, I was too broke to afford anything and had to move back in with my parents until I saved enough to scrape by on my own. I am the daughter of first-generation Indian Muslim parents who should never have gotten married and started a family in the first place. My dad was twenty eight when he convinced my sheltered, inexperienced 16-year-old mother to elope with him.
My father is emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive. He is cold, misogynistic, hypocritical, controlling, racist, manipulative, and resents the very existence of his two children and wife. I don't remember ever having any pleasant interaction with my father. I remember being five and trying to sit down on the couch next to him, and he swore at me and moved to the chair. I remember being eight and being afraid for my life because he had picked me up from a classmate's birthday party drunk and kept swerving across the road. I remember him throwing a shoe at my face when I wouldn't eat the steak he grilled when I was eleven.
These are some of the things he's yelled at me in the last few years:
"You're a fucking worthless little piece of dog shit."
"You think you're a fucking white girl." (this is a serious insult coming from people of my background)
"Why are these lights on? Huh? I am the master of this house. This is my fucking house. I control this family." (this is usually said while throwing kitchenware at/around his target)
"You are ruining this family's reputation."
Once in high school, I went to the family car to get my mix CD and instead popped into my computer a CD filled with photos of him fucking all sorts of women. I felt numb and not surprised. He declared bankruptcy a few years ago. I recently did a criminal background check on him, and found that he has multiple arrests that he has failed to disclose to the family in any capacity.
I think you get the point.
I have never witnessed an ounce of affection between my parents. There is only yelling, throwing things, and threats of bodily harm. My mother refuses to leave my father. Divorce is taboo. Remarriage is taboo. She doesn't think her life can ever improve, so she's determined to stay put since "he's old anyway, he doesn't have much time left" (he is under 60).
I think my mother would have been a better parent had it not been for my dad, but she's caught up in trying to force their traditions/values/way of life down my throat. She continues the cycle of abuse that my dad and brother inflict on her (my brother is turning into my father, and has physically assaulted me before when I was home on break from school). Here are a few things she's said to me in the last few years:
"How could you throw away your culture and religion? Why did I even raise you? I wish I had strangled you when you were a baby!"
"You think you're so smart and good-looking, but you're really dumb and hideous. I wish you'd just die." (Hearing this my whole life has done wonders for my self-esteem, let me tell you)
It's hell. Obviously, I never speak to my parents unless it's absolutely necessary. They know nothing about me or my life. I'm so broke and desperate and this is the only family I have. No matter where I go, I always seem to be haunted by their abuse. I have no self-esteem. I beat myself up constantly. I doubt myself and my abilities and end up paralyzed by fear and anxiety. I often fall into a depression when I think about how miserable people are, and how there seems to be no hope for anyone. I have never had a real relationship. I can't seem to trust men. I have crippling body image issues and have had little to no physical intimacy in my 22 years.
So, this is my current situation: I've been working since I was 13 and have a good resume and varied work experience. I got scholarships, grants, a tiny loan, and worked multiple jobs to pay for college myself. Right now I'm working part-time at a job, applying to other jobs daily, and saving everything I can to move out as soon as possible (I'll eat ramen for as long as I need to), but it's slow going. When I'm not at work, I stay in my room and don't talk to anyone.
How do I move past this? Should I keep in contact with my family after I move out? I'm afraid of being sucked back into their cycle of abuse again if I do. I think about how much more alone my mother would feel if I cut off all contact with them, and my heart breaks. I keep thinking that they raised me and fed me and housed me, and didn't leave me to die, so how can I cut off all contact? I imagine blowing up at my dad and telling them all I know about him and storming off without telling them my new address or phone number, and I feel a weight lifting off my chest. But then I remember that I'll forever lose whatever little emergency safety net I have (a bed to sleep in, food to eat). What if end up in a debilitating accident and need housing and care? What happens then? What do I do when my parents age and need me to take care of them? How would I navigate that?
Are people happy? Does everyone just lead sad lives full of quiet desperation before dying alone? Can people love each other? Can a family be a good place to come home to? It all seems like such a lie to me. How can I be positive and hopeful about my future when I have such a terrible past? How can I cultivate a sense of self-worth when the jerks in my head keep me down? Where would I even begin?
Please help, Rabbit.
Many people do lead sad lives of quiet desperation. Many people also lead happy lives of loud ebullience. Unfortunately, being anxious and depressed is like wearing shit-colored glasses: You can only see the sad, desperate people. I remember sitting on a terrace with a great view of the twin towers (that's how long ago it was), telling a friend of mine that I used to think (before that? Presumably when I was 12?) that sadness was limited, like you could only be a certain amount of sad. But, as I told my friend, I'd discovered that there were 10,000 leagues under the sadness sea, and half the people you spotted on the street were, emotionally, somewhere down there in the deep, inky-black water with the really scary bony-faced fish and the giant squids and shit.
Now that I'm much happier, though, I've discovered that there are many, many levels of happiness above mine, and half the people I see on the street seem, emotionally, somewhere far above the rainbow with the bluebirds. I'm not sure how else you put a giant sign that says "You're in Steelers Country!" in your front yard, even though you live in Los Angeles and are 2,440 miles from Steelers Country. And how else do you instruct a passerby to "Have an amazing day!" (Some guys said this to me just this morning, and I thought "What the fuck are you talking about? Is that even possible?")
So look, you've got to rip those shit-colored glasses off your face immediately. You need to get out of that house.
Now, I understand how you got there. You're extremely anxious about money. You don't want to sink into debt. (A legitimate concern.) You're worried about what will happen if you can't pay the rent or you get hit by a bus and you're debilitated and you need someone to drizzle chicken broth into your mouth every few seconds. You can't tell your parents to fuck themselves, because, if you're ever severely injured or financially compromised, you'll need them to let you live in your old bedroom while they call you a worthless slut, or you'll need them to spoon-feed you while they tell you're disgusting and pathetic and you make them sick.
Personally, I'd rather go into debt and stand in line at a soup kitchen than be emotionally abused or even endure the toxic presence of those people. The problem is, the same part of you that feels bad about yourself and worries, worries, worries about whether or not you'll be financially solvent or safe or ok (or just a loser like your parents think) is the part that clings to your home, perversely believing that living there is more "safe" or "stable" than, say, pitching a tent on the sidewalk. It's not. It's much, much, much, much less safe. Because every second you spend in their presence, your self-esteem crumbles a little more.
That's by design, by the way. They want you to feel weak because they can't stand the idea that you could grow strong and leave them and never look back.
But look, let's not worry about never looking back for now. You don't have to decide about the long-term future of your relationship with them right now, anymore than you have to decide right now what brand of adult diapers to use once you're debilitated. All you have to do is get the fuck out of that house. Would it be impossible for you to do roommate referral and move in with strangers? No. Could you borrow $500 from a wide array of friends, thereby covering your first month of rent? Yes. (How about a kickstarter campaign?) Could you put a few things on credit cards until you have a full-time job? Yes. This is what adult people do. They scrape it together. If you had no parents (people without parents do exist), you wouldn't have a choice. Just pretend you have no parents, for the purposes of getting away from these vampires who are eating away at your soul.
This is about survival, ok? You are not surviving right now. You're hurting yourself, by telling yourself that you're safer in an inherently unsafe situation. You need to say soothing things, avoid pissing the vampires off, all the while quietly getting the fuck out of there.
Sure, you will still be anxious and depressed. At first, it'll be worse than ever. I still remember the first night I spent in an apartment full of strange roommates, in a strange city, after getting dumped by my live-in boyfriend from college. Thank god I asked him to keep the one-bedroom apartment, because one month later, I had a bunch of new friends and a new life, and I felt about a million times happier than I had in my "safe" little apartment with a boyfriend who didn't like me all that much. The shit-colored glasses make you think that clinging to people who are supposed to love you, but who don't love you nearly enough, is somehow less sad and scary than swimming around in the great big sea with friendly strangers.
What you forget, though, is that some of those strangers are actually very happy, happy enough to say "Have an amazing day!" and mean it. They actually WANT YOU TO HAVE AN AMAZING DAY. Do you know what your parents want? For you to be miserable, like them.
I never thought I'd tell a youngster that going into debt is no big deal. Sure, it's a big deal. But this is an emergency. First you get out, then you look for a job, make more friends, get into therapy, all the other stuff that you clearly know you need already, because you're smart and you've got your shit together. The only concrete problem you have right now is that you associate safety, and a safety net, and being cared for, with your parents. Break that association, because it's bullshit. Most of us don't know what we'll do if we're debilitated. Get a job and get disability insurance. Save your money. But don't think for a second that letting people who dislike you take care of you is an option, because it's not. Talk to them, don't talk to them – that's something to decide over the long term. But stop relying on them right now, and don't look back. They aren't reliable, and leaning on them is bad for you.
One day, maybe a few months from now, you'll wake up and realize that you don't need them for anything anymore. You just don't. And that will feel really good. You'll still need years of therapy (who doesn't?), you'll feel crazy and lonely (see above). But you'll be free. And you will have an amazing day.
Monday, September 24, 2012
I have a brand new existential crisis advice column over at The Awl: Go read it! Those of you who've had trouble getting me to answer your letters here should resend them to me there: firstname.lastname@example.org My newly regimented advice-offering lifestyle affords me extra time to ponder your deepest, darkest worries and fears. Mmm, succulent anxieties and neuroses. Nectar of the damned!
Monday, August 27, 2012
I never knew what twerking was before now! Where have I been all these years? Under a rock, that's where, giving birth to other ignorant rolly pollies. Meanwhile, this was happening. Pay attention, young people: Those two ladies have the exact sorts of marketable skills that will keep them in yellow leather sectional La-Z-Boy couches for the balance of their days on earth.
"What marketable skills do I have?" you're probably asking yourself now. "What the hell am I doing to make this world a better place to live?" Keep asking yourself big, heavy questions like that and you'll become even more useless than you are now.
After all, did these fine women set out to become the masters that you see before you? NO. At first, they just liked shaking that ass. That's all. See also: Do what you love, the money will follow. Especially if what you love is to shake your basketball-shaped ass vigorously for the camera.
Friday, June 22, 2012
New coffee house. Oh good, this coffee is too strong. Uh oh, this coffee is too strong. Oh good, this coffee is too strong. Uh oh, this coffee is too strong. Oh good, this coffee is too strong. Uh oh, this coffee is too strong. Oh good. Uh oh. Oh good. Uh oh. Oh. Oh. Uh.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
LOVELY AND AMAZING
Should I have another child? Is there ever a good time? My son is now just over 2 years old. He's beautiful and brilliant and amazing and healthy and everything I could have hoped for. He's wonderful with other children, older and younger. If I were a wealthy woman of leisure, I would surely dedicate myself to immediately producing several more just like him.
The problem is that I am not wealthy, and my relationship with my husband is strained by our lack of financial resources (I think we're doing fine; he worries about his ability to Provide...and it's true that our current outflow is a tad above our income because he has made much less this year than he did last year) and our lack of time (we both work and then take turns with Toddler Patrol) and our lack of family support (much as they'd be happy to help, our parents and siblings live many hours away and we have ZERO local relatives to share the joy and exhaustion).
Thing is, though, if we'd let fear of poverty overtake us, we wouldn't have had our son. And our son is AWESOME.
It may be worth noting that I adore my brother and am very grateful to have grown up with a sibling close in age, even though he drove me nuts when we were kids. My husband was an only child until his divorced parents started new families when he was 12. It would be nice to think we have that much time to think about potential child #2, but due to our ages the window is 3 years, tops.
What do you think?
Before I could weigh in on this matter, I needed to verify the accuracy of your claims concerning your firstborn. So I hired a private detective to investigate whether or not your 2-year-old is indeed "beautiful," "brilliant," "amazing," "healthy," "wonderful with other children," and "awesome."
He informed me that your son is average-looking, relatively sane, and shows signs of above average intelligence, despite the fact that he still shits his pants regularly. His peers report that he is, indeed, quite tolerant of their various quirks, despite his recurring tendency to screech like a mynock and insert dirty fingers into his nose. The investigator found your claims of brilliance and amazingness far-fetched at best. He confided that personally, he found your kid pretty irritating, but he admitted that he hates most kids and just quit smoking to boot.
Anyway, now that I've established that you're not threatening to populate the planet with enraged miscreants who've never heard the words "no" and "not now" and "do you need a time out to remind you to listen to your beautiful, brilliant, amazing mother?" before, I say: Go ahead. Have another kid.
Little known fact: Two kids are way better than one. This isn't a popular sentiment against a backdrop of gigantic carbon footprints and world overpopulation, but fuck it. Two kids good, one kid bad.
First of all, have you ever dated an only child? I sure as fuck haven't. But you're married to one, so you know. They're not team players. Everyone knows this. Never, ever date an only child (hothouse flower, whiny, compulsive, lonely, weird in a bad way) or a middle child of three (inferiority complex, no-fair-ness syndrome). Oldest and youngest children are best. Youngest children should always date other youngest (who understand them, who feel actual emotions, who are artistic and sensitive and thoughtful and depressive, too) or oldest (who tolerate youngest children well), but never middle children (competitive, angry). Actually, oldest children are sort of bossy and condescending and withholding and weird in a bad way, too, aren't they?
Which brings us to another reason to have another kid: Since your first kid will turn into the oldest kid, and your new kid will be the youngest kid, the younger kid is bound to be way more beautiful and amazing than even the older one is (through your eyes, anyway). Imagine, the slightly above average looking, well above average intelligence, potty-trained, non-nose-picking child of your dreams!
Now, to be clear, the first six months of having two children will make your life so torturous and intolerable that you'll find yourself daydreaming about being drawn and quartered, or trampled to death by wild steer. You will gather your entire family in a circle and lecture them on why they should stop making you miserable at once, preferably by allowing you to set them all on fire so you can hibernate for the next six years. Even when the small ones weep and the big one begs you to be quiet, you will persist, through tears, admitting that you're insane and laughing and also screaming. It'll be just like the last scene of Aguirre: The Wrath of God, when everyone else is dead and Kinski is on the raft asking the monkeys, "Who's with me? Who's with me?" Except it'll go on for way longer than that.
But then, after that part, the two kids start to actually play together, and talk to each other, freeing up your time to drink more heavily. Instead of talking directly to your one child, over and over and over again, sometimes you'll find yourself observing your two children as they amuse you without actually interrupting you or invading your personal space. I know, it sounds too good to be true. One will make the other one laugh. I'm serious. They'll look adorable and special holding hands, when you force them to. And damn it, it's just more fun, much much much much more fun that just one kid. It's less intense and dreary, somehow. It's more light and weird and goofy. I just can't describe it, except to say that it's way better. After the younger one is potty-trained, it's not harder, it's easier.
You're not wealthy. So what? Who is? That's not even relevant. You just scale back and work more and shit. Same as anyone. You have no relatives to watch your kid(s). Cry me a river! My mom spends half her time providing free care for my (wealthy) sister's kids, 3,000 miles away, while I sink into debt funding the once-in-a-blue-moon babysitter. I always thought my mom would be begging to move across the country and move in with me when I had kids, but it turns out she doesn't like me all that much, maybe because I'm one of those narcissistic, oversensitive, shrill, exasperating youngest children I just described, and my far calmer more mature older sister (middle child!) doesn't push her buttons the way I do. Oh well.
Trust me on this: even if you are just flattened by the second baby, even if you're poor and stressed out and freaking out and your marriage gets a little frayed by all of it, you will still (I promise!) never, ever regret having a second kid, and you will many, many times look at your two kids and say to yourself, "Wow, this is just the fucking best life EVER." Can I qualify this by saying "Get an amnio" without sounding like an asshole? No? OK, then I won't.
One last thing that I think is important: In my family of origin, my sister and brother and I were really close, but we fought a lot. No one ever told us that we should love each other, say nice things to each other, that we would be depending on each other for the rest of our lives. That's not really how people like my parents talked in the '70s, plus they were really young. But my belief is that the more you say positive, loving things to your kids about each other, and build up the romance of siblings between the two of them, the better they'll get along. You know, try to sound like a Christian and shit. Kids really love to have stuff to believe in, and what better thing to believe in than the idea that you live with another person who loves you and will have your back forever, no matter what? Even if two kids are like oil and water with each other, they can still be told this over and over. Even if they fight a lot, you have them make up and then say I love you and I always will. I know that's a little much (and they think it's a little much, too). But fuck it. It's working pretty well for us over here, so far, and I strongly recommend it.
What's this about you ONLY have three more years, anyway? You should have a kid right now. Don't stretch it out. Bite the bullet, make it happen. In my personal experience getting pregnant at 36 was beyond easy. 38? Very difficult, took almost a year. 2.5-3 years apart is the perfect gap between kids. More than three years and they may not play together as often or as well. Again, I don't fucking know that for a fact, and I know many will dispute it. But waiting for the perfect time to have a kid is not a good plan, IMHO. Do it when you're younger. Poverty is no excuse. Eat more beans and rice. Make another baby, dummies. Do it now.
Love and squeezes to your little genius,
p.s. That only-child husband of yours should consider anti-anxiety medication. Putting off having a second because you're slightly underpaid at the moment? Come on, man. There's no pot of gold around the corner, and even if you're on easy street now things could be scrappy tomorrow. That guy needs another kid, then he'll calm the fuck down. See, with one kid, you stay neurotic forever. But somehow after the purgatory of that second baby, you learn to chill the fuck out. Odd, but true. Try it and see. Three years from now, he'll wake up and he'll go, "I'll be damned if that old Rabbit wasn't right about the kid thing, too. Motherfuck!"
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
CHILDLESS WHORES IN THE NEWS
"How has [Obama] stayed so competitive?" David Brooks asks in The New York Times. "First, the Democrats’ demographic advantages are kicking in. The population segments that are solidly Democratic, like single women and the unchurched, are expanding."
That's right! Childless, godless whores are keeping Obama's approval rating high. Because the Godless have no morals, and support the immoral in their reelection bids. Only an authoritative patriarchal figure can bestow some sense of right and wrong on his infantile flock. And God knows (and tells His flock often) that single women have no morals. Just look at how those vulgar heathens on HBO's "Girls" behave, pulling their skirts up and humping every Tom, Dick and Harry that wanders through their slovenly bedchambers!
Goddamn it, I adore those heathens. No one takes aim at the entitled, delusional denizens of Manhattan's urban elite romper room quite like Lena Dunham. This episode where Dunham offers to have sex with her demented boomer boss, then threatens to sue him, then threatens to quit, and he can't stop laughing the whole time? Eerie, hilarious and also somehow totally realistic. How the fuck do they do it?
Anyway, just feeling proud of the unchurched at the moment.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Money doesn't solve everything. I know that, but I can't stop thinking that it does anyway. Maybe a therapist could remind me that money doesn't solve everything... if I could afford one.
But money isn't the path to happiness! That's easy enough to see. Just go to a really expensive restaurant, and look around. All you'll see are couples in expensive-looking clothes, sipping $80 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and glaring at each other without speaking. If I could afford to go to a really expensive restaurant, I'd sit there, savoring a tasty butternut squash gnocci or a lovely halibut steak, and I'd look around and remind myself that money isn't the path to happiness, no sir!
Life is short, that's the thing. You really have to live in the moment. I learned that from my life insurance agent, who encouraged me to seize the day by lying on my insurance application, claiming that my father died of natural causes at age 71, when he really died of a heart attack at age 56. Because life was particularly short for my father, the insurance company might guess that my life will be short, too, which means my policy will be very, very expensive. It's too bad, because I'd like leave my daughter plenty of money (with a note in my will, of course, making it clear to her that money doesn't solve everything and isn't the path to happiness), but to do that, I'm going to have to spend a lot of money, money that I don't have.
But hey, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and even if there were, it wouldn't make all your problems go away. You might be a little bit less hungry, but unless there was also a free breakfast, a free dinner, and a free life insurance policy coming your way, what difference would it make?
Besides, you could win the lottery tomorrow, and still be unhappy. I hope you do win the lottery tomorrow, in fact, just so I can tell you "I told you so" when you run around spending money and having fun with lots of nice wine and fancy cars and beautiful clothes that fit well and high-class hookers and high-grade cocaine. I'll laugh in your face when I see you, all tanned and relaxed from your weekend in Lake Cuomo, Italy, where you stayed up late dancing with George Clooney and some Argentinian pro soccer players and a Moroccan prince and some heads of state. Sure, you'll act like everything is going really well, but I'll see right through your facade. In a few years -- maybe 20 or so -- you'll get bored with all of the great food and the hot girls, you'll start to get depressed whenever you see the sun set over the Mediterranean sea or hear the faint pop of champagne corks in the distance. You probably won't know me by then, since I can hardly afford to meet you for coffee, let alone fly to Belize at a moment's notice, but if you did know me, you'd look to me for comfort and wisdom, and I'd chuckle softly and say, "Yep, I knew you'd take a hard fall sooner or later. In your case, later. But still. Money doesn't solve everything, buddy. Wish it did, but it doesn't."
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
My brain is turning to Jello. What should I do about this?
I also think that lawn gnomes are plotting against me. I see them everywhere, and they always seem to be staring at me.
Perhaps I shouldn't have had that last meatball.
It's true, you shouldn't have had that last meatball. It contained a probe designed by the conspiring lawn gnomes, or technically, Lawn Gnomes Against White Urban Professional Males. You see, lawn gnomes have, for years, suffered the oppressive stares of white urban professional males in silence, not wanting to bite the hand that feeds. One day, an elite marionette escaped from an elderly matron's home in Pasadena and organized the lawn gnomes nationwide. Although he was not, technically, one of them, the marionette had spent 20 years in the matron's library, slogging through The Communist Manifesto and other seminal texts, and recognized that the gnomes were inhabitants of primarily lower-middle-class neighborhoods, and could, therefore, safely conspire against upper-middle-class professionals without feeling that they were striking out against their keepers.
And even if they did hurt their own keepers, the marionette told the gnomes, aren't all landowners just a part of the modern urban serfdom, the high capitalist patriarchy we each tolerate without question, kneeling on our little stools, gazing into the middle distance as petunias tickle our elbows? Fuck the man, with his high-nitrogen lawn fertilizers that make our little gnome eyes sting! Fuck him, with his incessant wasteful watering, and his army of poorly paid Mexican immigrants, armed with angry leaf blowers that burn fossil fuels and pollute the environment! Fuck him with his enormous car, big enough to provide shelter for a small community of gnomes! That's right! An entire community of gnomes could flourish in his car! A community of mobile gnomes!
The marionette was a rousing speaker, indeed. And although the gnomes didn't really understand the part about urban serfdoms and high capitalism and patriarchs, they did really like the idea of mobile gnomes. They'd always felt something was missing from their lives, something vague and difficult to put into words. Maybe the real crime of modern life was that gnomes were no longer mobile! Gnomes ought to be mobile, after all! In days of old, gnomes roamed the land freely! No one is sure, but they probably did. Anyway, they didn't merely sit on toadstools for weeks, months, years without so much as a stroll around the neighborhood!
The marionette wasn't pleased with this Mobile Gnome Initiative, and he came to regret mentioning that part about the SUV housing a whole herd of gnomes. The gnomes were to rise up and take down the man first, then they could roam freely! But the gnomes disagreed, so he broke with them and concentrated his energies on his speaking tour, which brought in astronomical fees and freed up more of his time for acting classes. Acting was his true passion, after all - all of this proletariat shit was just a sideline gig.
At any rate, Kevin, I'm guessing you have some variety of SUV in your driveway, which is why the gnomes fed you that meatball with the probe in it. The first reported symptoms of the probe include nausea, dizziness, and a feeling that one's brain is "turning to Jello."
Soon, I'm afraid, the probe will control your brain. Using a small laptop, the gnomes will program you to drive them across the country this summer (their preferred touring season), stopping occasionally at historical landmarks and Dairy Queens. The gnomes enjoy Southern Utah in particular, and are often spotted on some of the lower-impact hikes in Bryce Canyon and at Arches National Park.
If you wake up in a few weeks in a Dairy Queen in Iowa with some chocolate-dipped cones and chili-cheese fries in your hands, far more than you can reasonably consume by yourself, you'll know that it's over, that the gnomes have won.
Best of luck!
(Reprinted from The Rabbit Blog: Tuesday, June 01, 2004)
Thursday, January 26, 2012
HOLD THOSE PURSE STRINGS – TIGHTLY!
I have been following you blog for a long time and really enjoyed it when I was 20-something. When I first read "Pajamas with feet" I was child-less. A year after, I truly understood what you meant. Up until then, my life seemed vastly different from anything you wrote. Then, I began to believe that you could a good source of advice for me. All this happened and then I was too busy with a baby and thought myself to be a happy, and lucky person. But then, I don't know what happened or how it happened, my world crashed a year ago.
I spent half of my life with my partner, been with him since high school. We had a child together after being married for roughly 10 years. One would think we know the inside and out of each other. He went ahead and invested all our savings, and maxed out my credit cards, and had massive debts and invested all of this in some scheme at his work place, and lost it. After my maternity leave, I took a year extra off , thinking we had savings. We had discussions about it too. All through this, he lied to me deliberately. Never explained how much deep shit he put us in. I went back to work in a different place with more flexibility (and of course, less pay) and pay based on fellowship which pays once every six months. Then, finally when his job was gone, last December, all of this came out in bits and pieces. He has no answer to what happened to savings, not paying even regular bills for last 3 months before that, my 6-month fellowship pay. We had our home phone cut off and car didn't have insurance, and behind house payments by 6 months.
I was very very hurt and angry. On the one hand, I realize that I should have been more grown-up and taken care of my own affairs much more regularly. On the other hand, I think I deserved to focus more on the baby, especially when we worked years prior to that to make sure we will have that leeway before the baby came. But it is also difficult to explain to anyone why I was so hurt and felt betrayed. People have this easy way of understanding if there was an affair. It was much difficult to explain this loss of trust. My own mom thinks I should support him since he might have become depressed due to the loss of money. How does she not realize that it is not the loss of money and that he fucking lied to me about such massive debt and maxing out MY credit cards? Although his reaction was as if he tried to do the best for the family and that failed due to outside forces. Like it was a perfectly logical thing to borrow from credit card to invest. *head slap*
So, all in all, I did what I had to do with respect to finances. I moved from my prestigious fellowship, prepared a budget, consolidated debts, moved to a new city where there are better jobs to both of us, worked from home and juggled the baby to save money on daycare and opened my first personal checking account with a different bank, that is not a joint account. But underneath it, I wonder if I should leave him after our joint fuck-up is fixed (It is 70% fixed now). I hate the new city, the weather, our new place, and hate not having my friends around, especially the ones with kids around same age as mine. I started a blog to write all those dark things anonymously. My mentor advised me to stick together, because it is family and I have a child who deserves both parents. I can see that my kid is very attached to his dad and of all the moves we subjected him to, he thinks his parents are his only friends in this world. Sometimes, I almost think of things being normal and I have to move on by forgiving him and getting over this anger and hurt. But, what if forgiving him only makes him think that what he did was alright? Most importantly, what if I slide back to this apathetic role on finances and being a nice little homemaker and dreaming of second child? It really scares me, Rabbit. What should I do?
First of all, here's my highly prejudiced opinion, for you and anyone else who's listening: Women should control a family's finances. Why? Because, in my experience, men are more prone to lying about money than women are. I know, I know, tell that to the man whose wife cheated and stole his money, blah blah blah. Almost every single woman I know, myself included, has had a man lie to her about finances. With a few of my friends, the guy was hiding a mountain of debt and singlehandedly screwing both of them without admitting it. Time after time, I've seen it happen. We'll get to the lying part later, because you're right, that is the biggest issue as far as your marriage is concerned, and it makes sense that you feel hurt and betrayed and wary about it.
First though, let's talk about your finances. It sounds like you've taken some control, but let me come out and state the obvious: you should be the one controlling every penny, with an allowance from his salary for him. If he doesn't agree to this without protest, then you're right that he has no idea just how egregious his past errors were. He may have been trying to protect the marriage, but in doing so, he came close to destroying it.
What really bothers me, though, is where you ask "what if I slide back to this apathetic role on finances?" What the fuck are you talking about? I have so much compassion for you in every other dimension of this problem. But the fact that you can project forward into a future where you stop taking responsibility for money and LET HIM DO IT AGAIN makes me a little queasy. How can you even imagine that? Listen to me very closely: You are responsible for your family's finances now. If things go south, you're to blame. Your husband, who's bad with money and has a lying problem, screwed things up. You didn't know. NOW YOU KNOW. If you let him take it over again, or even handle a single thing until your trust is restored, that's on you. Learn all the goddamn passwords and account numbers, write them all down, put them in a safebox on your desk, take on the whole goddamn job and do not look back. You think you can't nurse a second baby and pay bills? Bullshit! Don't be a loser. Does some part of you believe that managing money is naturally a man's job and he's a pussy if he's not dealing with it? Because that couldn't be less true. Managing money is quite naturally a woman's job. Um, have you ever noticed how spaced out men are? They're distracted, forgetful motherfuckers. I've dated one guy out of maybe 20 who was extremely detail-oriented and careful with money.
So your husband fucked up. You take on the responsibility, you let him relax a little, and you're playing to each of your natural talents. But if you keep shoving his failure in his face without doing the job yourself, if you do half of the job and micromanage the other half? You're torturing yourself and him. Why? Do you want to be miserable, or do you want to get on with your life? He's letting you down if he doesn't allow you to handle ALL of it, and you're letting yourself down if you don't commit to it, excel at it, and take pride in it, without this mealy-mouthed horse shit about sliding back into being passive. If you slide back into passivity, then you're choosing misery over happiness.
OK. Onward: Lying. I have a lot of compassion for how hard this part of it is. What you need to explain to your husband is that lying will ruin a marriage faster than anything else. My husband used to tell me small lies, when we were first married. He had been married before, and had some idea that you couldn't be married without just appeasing the other person in a kneejerk way while thinking whatever corrosive thoughts about them you wanted to. Understandable approach, considering what a bossy intolerant human I am, right? And yet, if you each have your rotten attitudes thinly veiled by full-of-shit words, what's that? That's not a relationship, that's a domestic drama scripted by Raymond Carver. You have to find ways to tell each other the truth. It's tough right now because you don't have a lot of good will towards him, so he has trouble saying anything true, because he assumes he'll get clobbered for it.
My hunch is that you're furious, but it's coming out in these blanket tirades about how he's to blame for absolutely everything in your life. I think you have to continue to say, calmly, even when you're not furious "I'm just so angry at you." He needs to see how it hurts you, how the anger plagues you and you don't even want it to, but it's there. But then when it comes to the present, you have to deal with the facts on the ground rationally without making it all his fault. I'm thinking you're suspicious that he'll never admit that what he did was totally fucked, and that he'll never change. He's suspicious that you'll never forgive him if he ADMITS that he's a big asshole who fucked up and that's a fact, period point blank. He needs to admit what he did, and you need to hear him admit it – all calmly, when neither of you is pissed off. And from that point forward, I think you have to be a little bit softer in your approach. You have to say, "I accept that you fucked up and fucked our lives in the process. You made a mistake. The most important thing is that we don't lie to each other anymore." If he can admit that the lies were terrible for you and him, and commit to not lying, then that's a new marriage right there. You start over.
Your part of it: Be someone he doesn't want to lie to. That means not jumping all over him the second he tells you the truth about some small mistake he made. That means not conjuring the fact that it's all his fault every time you're angry. That also means not blaming him for where you live now. You cleaned up the financial picture by pushing both of you to make sacrifices. That was smart. Don't leave him because you're in the wrong city and have no friends. That's really not his fault – it's just where you had to go to fix things. If you blame him for everything that goes wrong with the two of you from here on out, you won't have any relationship at all. He'll believe that lying is the only way to handle you, and eventually he'll start cheating, too – another consequence of living that Raymond Carver double life.
As long as he admits that he screwed up and he can talk calmly about the importance of honesty, you should try to open your heart to him and tolerate your new circumstances. Join a mom's group, take a class. Just force yourself to meet some people. Once you patch up your finances, then you can reconsider moving back to where your friends are. You think bailing on him and moving back there alone is the answer? I don't think so. I don't blame you for wanting a quick escape to the despair that you feel was not your doing. But what I see, with limited information, granted, is a marriage that needs to be rebuilt. You've rebuilt your finances but you haven't rebuilt your marriage yet. If he's accepting his share of blame, if he's admitting he was wrong, if he's talking about honesty, if he's open-hearted, if he's ok with you managing the money, if he works hard, if he's a good dad, if you love him somewhere deep down inside, I would not leave him now. Instead, I would cut him some fucking slack. I would ask him to write down every account number and password, and I would tell him that he doesn't have to stress out about money anymore. You love him, that's your gift to him. All he needs to do is be honest and kind and admit his mistakes, and you will reward him with your own honesty, kindness, and humility.
Now let me tell YOU the truth: Something about that "what if I get passive again" comment makes me think that now that he's been to blame for a giant failure, part of you is prepared to make him a scapegoat for the next big failure. Don't do that. Set aside your anger, go to him with an open heart and start to map out a thriving future together as a family. You two can be so happy together, you can have another baby, you can have everything you want. You have to stop panicking and blaming and just start believing. I think if you come to him with love and kindness and acceptance of his flaws, a new human being will blossom before you.
Please write back with an update (or a rebuttal!).
Best wishes –
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
WELCOME TO MORNINGWOOD FARMS!
People often write to me when they want to dump someone or move somewhere new. I'm a good Move Somewhere New consultant because, unlike many people, I don't believe that you'll just pack up your stupid problems and relocate them to a new place. Many times when you move, you forget to pack about half of your stupid problems. You arrive at your new location and you start unpacking your piles and piles of baggage and voila, half of your problems aren't even there anymore. So easy!
And I'm a good Dump Him consultant, because there was a time when I dumped boyfriends at about the same rate that bored rich women redecorate their guest bathrooms. To be clear, in most cases I dumped men who were obviously poised to dump me, even if it might've taken a few more months in my aimless-stoner-in-residence program until the bastards were actually prepared to move out. But can you blame them? That residency had some serious perks.
The Morningwood Farms Aimless-Stoner-In-Residence Program
Our two-year residency in a ramshackle bungalow at Morningwood Farms affords program participants a rare opportunity to smoke fat bong hits and enjoy late-night televised sporting events while savoring home-cooked meals prepared by the house chef (who is also the on-site housekeeper, therapist and fluffer). Residents are also invited to take advantage of our weekly lecture series. Lectures are given on a wide range of topics, including "Why I'm The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You," "The Countless Ways You Disappoint Me On A Minute-By-Minute Basis," and "Things You Should Never Say To Someone When They're Weeping Inconsolably, Particularly If You Want To Continue Living In Their Ramshackle Bungalow Rent-Free, Motherfucker.")
As much as I enjoyed forming these young, impressionable lumps of clay into old, resentful lumps of clay and then releasing them into the wild, where they might continue to productively leech off society and/or elderly relations, eventually I grew tired of wearing so many hats – lecturer, weeper, dreary noodle slaving over a hot stove – and soon resolved to trick some gainfully employed man into creating a Moody-Dipshit-in-Residence Program just for me, preferably with a lifetime term.
It worked. Praise Jesus!
And without a doubt, the Moody Dipshit Residency is just as rewarding and magical as I hoped it would be. But... I still have to do laundry, which is fucking bullshit. I also have to keep earning money, which I find irritating in the extreme. Another disappointment? I don't get to redecorate my bathrooms as often as I used to dump my boyfriends.
Let me tell you about my bathrooms. Yes, I have more than one -- thank sweet Jesus Lord God almighty on high in heaven for that! One bathroom has bright red walls and a black sink and a black toilet. It's exactly the sort of bathroom you'd expect to find in a bar that fancies itself hip but is maybe a little less hip than it thinks it is. You see this bathroom and you think that maybe junkies owned my house before I did. But that's not the case. The rest of the house is pretty normal -- except for the other bathroom, which features dingy cream-colored wall-to-wall industrial carpeting and faux-wood countertops the likes of which used to be found in your finer Hardee's fast food restaurants.
Luckily, I don't care about bathrooms. I'd rather spend that $8000 on a three-year supply of great cheeses, expensive boots, good music and beer. (Oops, now I'm in debt.) In fact, I'd sooner install a waterslide in my backyard than spend money on making my bathrooms look less stupid.
Those are my priorities, dig? Which brings us to your priorities. Your top priority right now should be to send me a request for advice that has nothing whatsoever to do with your bad boyfriend and/or the fact that you still live in your scrappy hometown among your insane relatives. (Full disclosure: I dearly miss my scrappy hometown and my insane relatives.)
Rabbit will answer your letter immediately if you are:
* wondering what to do with the rest of your life
* wondering what the point of doing anything with the rest of your life is
* wondering why so many people speak primarily in clichés
* wondering why only dying people, true artists, and Stephen Colbert have anything interesting at all to say
* wondering why you're so lonely
* wondering how to start your own happy-go-lucky-slut-in-residence program
* wondering why your children shouldn't watch 3 hours of television in a row right now while you finish this really good book you're reading
* wondering why you never had children
* wondering why you never married that happy-go-lucky-slut-in-residence you once hosted, back when you were young enough and hot enough to reside with happy-go-lucky sluts
* wondering what to do with your evening
* wondering what the point of doing anything with your evening is
* wondering why your mother never loved you enough
* wondering if you should go back into therapy
* wondering if you might not save money on therapy by writing to the Rabbit first
Write it down. Send to rabbit at rabbitblog. True happiness and/or complicated, long-winded answers are almost yours!
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I don't know you from Adam but I liked your columns in Suck a very long time ago and I need advice, of both the friendship and the job varieties. Here's the situation:
My best friend is studying abroad, professionally (this is not a thing where she is in Spain for a semester because she is 19 and in college, she does this for a living). She sits around and thinks about things she likes to think about and then people are like "you are smart, let's hear some more about these awesome things you like to think about!" I used to be a student too, but I'm not smart enough to do that sort of thing and get people to pay for it, which is the name of the game. So I envy her a lot. My friend is generally smart and has her shit together.
I live where I grew up and I have a scumfuck job. If I told you what I did you wouldn't answer the letter or would tell me to fuck off and die right now, so just imagine the scumfuckiest, lowest thing you can do, like being a professional rapist of baby pandas or tying grandmas to railroad tracks, and we'll agree that that's it. Anyway, part of me is like, yeah, I should quit my job. But my job pays well. It doesn't pay money-raining-down-from-the-sky well but it's the best salary that I'll ever get (I know this because I have been in other professions and gotten half the salary for twice the work--also, all the other professions that I used to work in are now dead). This is the only job I've had where the boss is like "buy yourself a new car!" Part of me is like yeah, I want a new car, even though I don't actually earn enough to get a new car and I wouldn't even buy a new car if I did. But I like the idea that someday I could possibly have a new car, even if I have to be a scumfuck to get it. I have my shit together to a certain extent, but not to the extent where I'd trust myself striking out on my own, doing something that doesn't involve a regular salary and an insurance plan.
So I think about being a scumfuck a lot. Is anyone really any better than anyone else? I mean, you might have a job making zithers or whatever, but you're still letting bad shit go on and not doing anything about it, right? Letting those baby panda rapists roam free while you're making your zithers? Maybe there isn't anything you can do about it. But in that case, why not just do it yourself and be rich, or at least rich-er? Most people aren't zither makers or whatever anyway,* most people work crappy, boring, soul-sucking jobs, so why not work one that makes more money? There's no reward for working a shitty job that makes less money but is slightly less morally culpable or whatever. Besides, now that I've done scumfuck things, I can't just waltz back into the non-scumfuck state of being because being a poor student or working as a yarn weaver or whatever is more emotionally satisfying than being a scumfuck. I'll still be a scumfuck, and karmically deserve cancer or at least having my legs cut off or something along those lines. This isn't just a question of being kind of dissatisfied with what I do, I'll always be disappointed in myself for doing what I do now, and on some level I think I really do deserve to be punished.
Then I think that perhaps I am overthinking this and maybe I'm just making myself out to be the worst person in the world, because I'm bored (my job is also boring, but that's beside the point). Maybe all this stuff about morals is bullshit? On the Hannah Arendt level of things, yes, what I'm doing is wrong. But on the human level, the level of my friends and family, if I quit everyone would just think that I was stupid and start worrying about what they'll say if I ask them for money.
This is where my friend comes in. I try to talk to my friend about this. I'm all like, hey, I have something to talk to you about cause we've known each other forever and I want to know if what I'm doing is super wrong or just kind of wrong, but when I try to talk to her about it, she is like ew, that's gross, I don't know anything about your moral problems, I am a student and don't know about that shit. I don't have any other role models because I'm not religious and my family has fucked-up priorities, so man, this is the worst! I just hate her now and want to kick her in the face. Then she starts talking about all the stuff that she's doing that's interesting and new and similar to the stuff that I used to like to do, and then I want to DOUBLE kick her in the face. Then I want to kick myself in the face, for being stupid and petty and wanting to trot around Abroad while I really should be repenting for being a scumfuck.
OK, so here's the advice I need:
1. How do I keep doing my job, even though I think what I am doing is wrong? I kind of have to, because I have to eat and stuff, and because I'm a bad person and greedy and don't want to take a pay cut and also I'm pretty lazy, so the odds of me getting anything else that I like better or pays better are really low. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do (that's practical for me to do, at least). Most likely I would just end up being broke and asking various people for money and being called an ugly dyke that nobody wants to be around**, which I don't want to go through again. Plus there would still be scumfuckery in the world, it would just be somebody else who was doing it, and I'm too lazy to actively combat scumfuckery, anyway. So I should keep on keeping on, right?
2. How do I not kick my friend in the face (figuratively)? I want to still be friends with her, because we've been friends for ages, although I kind of wish she wouldn't be friends with me because I always thought she knew her shit and therefore would call me out on my scumfuckery. Also, I really want to be doing what she's doing but I can't, due to being lazy and all that nonsense I already stated. But that's not her fault!
P.S. Feel free to suggest anything, I mean, you could suggest I throw myself off a cliff and I'd be like "OK, I deserve that," but skip the therapy suggestion. I've done it already, it obviously didn't work or I wouldn't be writing this letter.
* I'm assuming zither-making is a labor of love, although maybe it's done by slave labor in Chinese zither factories for all I know
** this had nothing to do with actual dykery, but was the end result of living in my parents' house while being broke and jobless and trying to have a girl talk-style chat about a Significant Other, they really are not the kind of people you want to ask for advice on anything because you are just going to get a heaping helping of crazy (they are very willing to offer cash for plastic surgery, though)
Let me get this straight. Your job is morally reprehensible and it's tormenting you. You live where you grew up, among insane people who don't understand you, are wary of giving you money, and call you an ugly dyke when the chips are down. Your smart, sane friend, who senses that you're defensive and resistant about your shitty job, tiptoes around this issue in order to protect your feelings, because she knows that it would be severely obnoxious for her to tell you your job sucks and you should quit it. Still, she's the one you want to kick in the face.
Even though you're obviously someone who's smart enough and charismatic enough to be successful in plenty of different kinds of careers, you are actively choosing the worst possible life for yourself: a hauntingly unethical career with no real future in a town you don't like filled with crazy people and apparently not that many friends and no love.
You didn't mention friends other than the far away one. Do you maintain friendships? Do you respect anyone around you? You didn't mention love. Do you ever date? Are you interested in love at all? You didn't mention what all that money actually gets you. Do you get any lasting joy out of the money you make? What in your life brings you happiness?
You're afraid of change. You don't trust yourself to handle it well. You picture yourself asking people for money.
You have such a defeated view of yourself, of what you're capable of, of what's possible. It's obvious enough why you hate your friend, who approaches her life in the exact opposite way. And look, maybe she's awful. I'm willing to imagine that. But you didn't mention it.
Of course you don't want therapy. Any therapist is going to slowly, gently prod you to change everything. The slow, gentle prodding probably makes you nuts, and yet if that therapist said, "You have to get off your ass and change everything. You hate yourself and your life," you'd walk out and never come back. Your friend knows this, too, so she doesn't challenge you. She values your friendship. You value her friendship. Stop pulling her into this – you'll need her for support once you change a few things.
You hurt yourself every fucking day, when you get up and go to a fucked job among fucked people in a lame town filled with confused blood relatives. You are keeping yourself in constant pain. Is it really worth it, just to dress well? You think you're going to miss eating really good sushi that much? I don't think so. You think you'll have to borrow money from people constantly? Why? What about spending next to nothing? You think living in a small, cheap place is going to make everything else in your life bad? It sounds like everything in your life is already bad, so what's the worry?
This noise about being just as damned a year from now, when you're not working your fucked job, is horse shit. You stop that job today, you're less damned. Period. You're starting over, and building a life that actually has some promise built into it. People sometimes say, of dating someone who's not right for you, "The right plane can't land when the wrong plane is blocking the runway." Well, the right life can't land when the wrong life is blocking the runway. None of the things that your letter implies that you want – love, good friendships, happiness – will be yours until you're living in a way that you feel good about. Right now, you're attracting scumfuckery and insanity and ugliness in your life. When you quit that job, the whole world opens up to you.
You have to be brave. You have to change everything. You have to use the internets to find an apartment, a job, friends and love. It's so much easier than it used to be. I don't give a shit what you do next, but you probably have a few possibilities in mind in spite of yourself. Something about going back to school, apparently. Taking out loans, getting a waiting job for a few years, living somewhere cheap – these things will feel great to you, because they mean that you're pointed somewhere. Right now, you're pointed at hell.
Start by getting in good shape and saving all your money and researching schools and jobs and towns. I don't give a fuck if you don't know a single person where you're moving. You need to learn to trust yourself. You will join some shit. You will look up a few groups to join, whatever fits. Recovery? Support group for major life changes? Running club? Whatever. I don’t' care that you hate that stuff. You will find a place that's cheap, you will learn about your new town, you will decorate your new small crappy apartment with sentences written on pieces of paper and tacked to the wall:
"The future is mine. I am not the same person I was yesterday. Love, friendship, happiness are all waiting for me. I just need to open up and let them in."
I know, just reading that is fucking depressing.
I don’t care. You need to read those sentences and believe them, every morning. Everything you want can be yours, but you have to get the fuck out of dodge and redesign your whole life. Say goodbye to everyone, pack up your stuff, go, do something new. Do you really want to live the way you're living now forever, and then die? What's the point of that? You haven't given me a single good reason to continue on your current course. So change everything. Every. Single. Fucking. Thing.
You can do it. The whole world is waiting to help you down this new path. Magic will start happening, the second you change course. You are at the shining new beginning, you are at the most exciting point in your timeline, right now. Can you feel it? It's breathtaking, it's beautiful. It's all yours.
Friday, January 13, 2012
THEY HATE ME. THEY REALLY, REALLY HATE ME.
My second novel has been getting bad reviews and it's making me crazy. My first novel was widely praised, so I've just been stumped by this. This novel took me 5 years to write. I was so proud of it, but now I'm second-guessing myself.
I can't write. I can't think. I feel like I'll never write another word for the rest of my life. I talk to my therapist about it, but she just says the usual things, buck up, get back on your bicycle, etc. It doesn't help. I just hate everything I try to write. I can already imagine the bad reviews in my head. Do you have any advice here? I feel like I'm losing it.
I understand how you feel. Writing an online column for Salon for years meant chomping down a generous platter of criticism every single day. There was a time when I'd start to write my usual strangeness, and a voice inside my head would say, "Write something that'll please them on the comments pages. Write something dry and self-serious that won't stir up any shit."
And guess what? I didn't want to write something dry and self-serious, so I found myself struggling to write anything at all.
There's a difference between learning from criticism and resolving to please more people. You can carefully evaluate feedback and criticism and improve your writing with it. But you can't use it to mute yourself. You can't use it to downshift your talents. Maybe 70% of the people out there aren't all that fond of what you do. But the other 30% may just be unreasonably fond of it. They may not be able to find anything like it anywhere else. They may truly savor your words in a way that they don't savor anyone else's.
We're taught to believe that someone else will tell us when we're good enough. Personally, I think I had a few teachers pump me up early on, and I ran on those fumes for a few decades. Not that many people, even when they love your writing, will say that. Plenty of people will tell you what you're doing is shit. And while I'm the first to say that there's an awful lot of crappy writing out there, you sort of have to trust your own instincts regardless. What else is there to do?
Watch out when you start to make it, too. Because the more glory you bask in, the more attention you get, the more copies you sell, the more detractors and haters will be out there, waiting to strike. That's part of the deal. Not only that, but if you're really loving the positive attention to an almost unhealthy degree, you can bet that the negative attention will take the legs out from under you. The more freaked out you are by a bad review, the more likely it is that you were propping up your ego with praise and becoming a little more self-obsessed than is reasonable or healthy in the first place. Think of Norma Desmond, Scarlett O'Hara. You live by the sword of vanity and ego, you die by it.
Whenever I find myself obsessing about bad reviews or nasty comments, I have to look closely at myself and ask what else is going wrong in my life. Have I fallen into some unproductive ego hole? Do I trust my own voice anymore? There are things you can do to find your sea legs, writing-wise: Read more. Free write for a half hour every day. Force yourself to start 10 new novels, and then choose which one you like the best.
But most of all, you have to believe in your appeal as a writer. I don't care how good you are. That doesn't fucking matter. All that matters is that you believe. And that belief isn't up to someone posting in the comments section, or reviewers or your spouse or your therapist or anyone else. You're the only person who can do it. No review, not even a terrible one, changes a goddamn thing. If you're talking about your terrible review constantly, you're reminding people that someone says you suck. You must suspect that you suck, or you'd never fucking remind people of it.
But you work hard, don't you? You hold yourself to a pretty high standard. You do believe in your talent, don't you? So what the fuck? Basically, obsessing about a bad review is never about the review itself. It's about something your mom or dad said to you as a kid. It's about some past injury that you have no other way of accessing. It's about some compulsive reaction you have, some voice in your head that says you're worthless. Whenever you mention your bad review, you're really trying to talk about whether or not you're a worthless, talentless sack of shit.
And look, to be fair, every writer spends about 10% of their time convinced that they're useless. In my personal experience, the more talented, smarter writers seem to spend more time in this state than the less talented ones.
The question is: How do you want to live? Because beating yourself up or whining and winging about your legacy isn't going to get you any more love. It's not even cathartic. You're just hurting yourself. You're repeating some old pattern, where you throw a fit and hope that someone will demonstrate that they love you enough to give you love, to clean up after you, to love you in spite of great flaws. It's pretty narcissistic. I feel for you, though. I've been there. And maybe no one ever did step in and take care of you when you really needed them to, as a kid. So you're still in pain over that. I'm not one to say: fuck you, get up, move on. I know how that kind of grief can overtake you. You deserved to have someone take care of you as a kid.
Today, though, you're the one who needs to care. You're the one who needs to say: "Fuck it. I believe in my work. Everything I write will be entertaining and weird and flawed. All I can do is keep writing. I love writing. I sometimes think that I don't, but I do. I love it because I'm fucking good at it. I don't need anyone else to tell me that. I'm going to be a writer for the rest of my life, because I love to write."
It's a luxury to write. We're very, very lucky that someone will let us do this. Maybe you'll never get another good review. Maybe you'll write one shitty novel after another. Who the fuck cares? Who are you, anyway? You were supposed to be the next Hemmingway? You were supposed to be the next Updike, the next F Scott Fitzgerald, the next Jennifer Egan, the next David Foster Wallace?
Just be who you are. Do what you do. You know what makes even great writers miserable? Obsessing about their fucking legacy. You might not be proclaimed one of the Great American Novelists, but at least you won't be reduced to thinking about your place in the so-called canon. What a horrendous waste of time that is. The world is filled with talented unknowns. Thinking that you're special because your shit is popular or praised? Get over yourself. You got lucky.
All that matters is that you believe what you write is special. And that you dare to write great stuff, and accept that half of it will be horse shit, every single day. Write something self-pitying and outrageous and unhinged. Write something melancholy and defeated. Write about a novelist who thought he was special, and then some bad reviews almost killed him. Because ultimately, even if you're anointed the greatest living author, no one else cares nearly as much as you do. You're the only one who really, really gives a fuck. So please yourself. Write what you love.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
My paperback comes out on December 6th, the perfect gift for all of the childless whores, Mr. Flinchys, reformed Catholics and grumpy former cheerleaders in your life. I loved the hardback cover, but I think I like this one even more. I'm a little bit worried about the baby who lives right next door to that volcano, though.
Speaking of families in peril, I'm working on my first novel right now, which is about a family being torn asunder because, in the parlance of progressive preschools, some of them are making bad choices. As I strain to describe the family's bad choices, I can hear two little girls downstairs engaging in hand-to-hand combat over a green magic marker. The big one loves drawing ladies in fancy dresses who are clean and style their hair, unlike her slovenly mother. The little one likes to draw potatoes with stick legs named "Mommy" and "Daddy." They both love "The Wizard of Oz," dance classes, and scratching each other's eyes out. Potato Daddy is frying them eggs for breakfast, while two bad dogs loudly lick their bowls clean. It's cold and foggy outside, which is truly a blessed state of affairs here in the Southland, where we long for drizzly rains and chilly winds the way the rest of the country longs for unrelenting, tedious sunshine.
Friday, November 18, 2011
JUST CALL ME FRIENDY
Been an ardent reader of your blog for some time now, and thought I'd finally take the plunge and write in with a problem that's been plaguing me since, well, since this young lad realized he was never going to get the love that most sons receive from their mothers, and, as a result, it was most important that he venture out into the Big Wide World as soon as humanly possible, and try to find said love (and, in thereby doing, "validation") in some kind of successful, loving relationship with another woman--indeed, any other woman at all.
I remember you wrote, quite a while ago, a post that detailed your encounter with a stuffed animal (puppet?) named "Friendy" (in my mind's eye I see him perched on a car dashboard, staring back at you sitting in the backseat... I can't recall precisely, but it seems like this might've been how your post described your first meeting with the guy). And how, after hearing his name for the first time (from the couple that owned him), you thought, "Wait, what? Friendy? Who names their stuffed toy Friendy?" And then, as you wrote, much like "El Guapo" or any of these other marvelously sticky character names, it just glommed onto you somehow, and you found it impossible not to think about this little fellow (or at least his name, and the notion of it) for quite a while after.
Well you weren't alone in this mild obsession, Rabbit. I remember reading this post of yours, years ago, and I must confess, like the most infectious of Mozartian earworms, it's stuck with me, followed me, ever since. (Well that, and, for whatever reason, your keen observation from long ago re: Jonathan Franzen looking like kind of a dick in his book jacket photo for The Corrections. But, hey, considering how unassumingly nebbish he came off on Bill Maher the other week, I think we can forgive him that one.). And indeed, there is a very specific, very real reason I've been unable to shake this idea for all these years.
You see, I. Am. Friendy.
Allow me to explain. When I first meet a girl, I am never, ever immediately attracted to her "in that way." I mean, OK, sure, I can see or meet women and think, "Yep, wow, she really is quite PHYSICALLY attractive" (I feel like one of the guys from The Big Bang Theory, breaking it down like that), but honestly, physically attractive or not, my M.O. has always been (and this is not by choice per se, it just seems I'm hardwired this way) "Well then--ahem ahem--she looks to be a pretty girl, sure, with a nice smile, etc etc--but let's see who she IS, first... Let's find out more about her, let's see what she has to say, let's see how she actually acts, what she actually does, before we (I seem to be using the royal "we", here) make up our mind as to, irrefutably, whether we actually like this girl or not..."
Now, I always thought (damn you logic!) this philosophy actually made the most sense (particularly jibing with my rather Buddhist notion of "If something looks like X, I can almost certainly guarantee you it's nothing at all like X, but Y instead..."--and hence, I never, ever trust first impressions, or appearances in general...), this idea of: get to know the girl, get to really feel out her character, her likes, her interests, her passions, what she wants to do in life, and THEN, if that's all well and good, THEN (and only then) do I start to think, "Hey, you know, I've known this girl for a few weeks now, or a month, or two, or whatever, and I think I really kind of like the cut of her jib... I could see us going places together. Doing things. Having adventures. Making our mark on the world. And being a hot-as-shit, kick-ass, romantic-as-all-hell, 'I'm-so-jealous-of-that-couple-I-want-to-BE-THAT-COUPLE!' couple to boot..." And right around the time all this is starting to occur to me, in my mind, is always, inevitably, without exception, right around the exact same time that said woman in question, is, alas, relegating me to--
THE FRIEND ZONE... (And as we all know, once you've been banished to the Friend Zone, there is never, ever, any hope of escape. Ever...)
I could give you countless examples from the past 10 years I've spent in New York City, surrounded by women that, after having gotten to know them for a bit, every now and then, it occurs to me that, "Hey, we'd make a really amazing couple, don't you think?" But generally speaking, the pattern goes something like this: we meet, we have an immediate connection, we spend all this time together, we have so much common, we effortlessly talk for hours and hours, we want to do the same thing(s), in the world, we want the same thing(s) out of life, we're so great together, sooooooo... I say, after making my case (sometimes subtly, sometimes not): "Have you never wondered: why we aren't together...?" ("We're so great together--why DON'T we add sex and love to this equation?") I mean, you're single, I'm single, you keep bemoaning the fact that you're single, all the while describing your perfect mate who, last I checked, just going down the list of "Things you're looking for in a man" obviously seems to be me, and yet, whenever this comes up (it's happened at least a few times, over the past 10 years), said girl in question looks up at me with startled wide eyes, completely flummoxed, and says, "Oh, you're so nice and sweet and sweet and nice, you know, and you're right, you're totally right, we would be so great together, BUT--I can't date you, I know you too well, now. I LIKE you too much. Sooooooo..." (i.e. "You are one of my girlfriends, now, you just happen to be a guy. And in keeping with that, let me tell you all about this total asshole I just had sex with last night...") And that's the end of that. (And no, it's not a looks thing: I feel pretty confident in stating that I'm at least as decent looking a fellow as any of these other guys the girls are hooking up with--clearly then, it's much more of an attitudinal / energetic issue we're dealing with, here...)
As I mentioned above, growing up, Mom was never there, never cared, yadda yadda yadda, and so it was always really quite important to me--an absolutely priority, in fact--that I be liked ("LIKED!!") by women. But here's the thing, dear Rabbit: here's the Big Secret that I'm starting to suspect: women don't have sex with men they like. They're FRIENDS with men they like. Women have SEX with men they don't like. (Forgive me, I'm all about the caps today, for some reason...) Every time a woman near me has a rolled her eyes at a man and said, "God, I can't STAND him, what a douchebag, what an asshole, he's so DISGUSTING..."--this, more than anything else in my experience, is the single most reliable indicator that the girl is going to have sex with the very guy she's complaining about, and usually within the next 5 to 10 minutes at that (and I know I'm going to hear all about it afterwards)... And me: I'm sitting there thinking: you know, I don't want to, I really, really don't want to, but I'm actually starting to identify with that Recovering Nice Guy post from the Best of Craigslist way back when...
All of my male friends swear that not all women are like this, that I'm just not meeting the right girls, that I need to keep looking, that there ARE good ones out there... (My response: "On some vague, abstract, intellectual level I know you must be right, and yet... I've been actively dating in NYC for 10 years--so, where are they?") All my female friends swear that if I just continue to be my authentic self--my "nice and sweet and sweet and nice" self--the right girl will come along, will magically appear, and we'll live happily ever after... (My response: "But you're dating a horrible douchebag asshole who you complain about incessantly--shouldn't I, then, NOT listen to what you're saying, but instead actually COPY the behavior of the guy you're dating, so I can be like him, and get the girl too?" Of course, as you can imagine, that one always goes down so well, with the ladies...)
And so I turn to you, gentle Rabbit--fearless Rabbit. I need your help. I don't want to be Friendy anymore--I don't want to be the nice and sweet and sweet and nice perennial Nice Guy who's surrounded by female friends (many of them beautiful, extraordinary women--though certainly I can't always vouch for their taste in men--and every now and then one of whom I'd love to take it to the next level with, and date) and yet who, inexorably, always ends up trudging home and sleeping alone at the end of the night (and it's clear that as long as I continue to simply "be myself"--as they all recommend--this is what I'm going to continue to get...). But at the same time, the thought of going out and deliberately playing up the douchebag / asshole factor right out of the gate--or what so many women of NYC have oft oh-so-lovingly referred to as "edge" (as in, "That guy has no 'edge'...!!")--really does just make me a little bit sick... (Or perhaps there's some magic sweet spot I need to hit in between? But then, I don't want to turn the whole meeting women / "making a proper first impression" thing into a video game, like: "Shit, almost had it that time--just up the douchebag 2% next time and you'll totally be in the zone...!!")
I have to warn you, I have sharp claws today. Not because I'm pissed off or hungry (claws for slashing squirrel faces in half, claws for digging up dead stuff to eat). I have the kinds of sharpened claws that a cat might use to injure a shrew, then bat it around in the garden for a few hours until it dies of exhaustion, exposure, dehydration and despair.
Sorry about that. So look, I'm going to be honest: I'm already a little bit bored with your exhaustion, exposure, dehydration and despair. I'm particularly uninterested in the ways that these feelings get translated into the excessive use of ellipses, and the repeated, clichéd narrative concerning women who like assholes instead of liking super-swell guys like you. The ellipses and the super-swell-ness of you combine to make me want to tag and track the nearest douchebag. Your golly-gee, "I sure like to get to know a girl's real-live personality before I take it to the next level" thing makes me hungry for the flavor of meat Chiclets that decorate the chestal regions of the most dismissive, high-fiving, preppy fuckwads in the universe, the sorts of dickrats that wear banker shirts and carry signs that say "Occupy A Desk," the sorts who inform you that of course the future wifey will stay at home with the little ones because "someone has to be there to cut up the apples." You, with your nicey-nice whining over all those other guys who get tail, make me want to fuck the enemy.
Don't believe the really wonderful hot girls who are your bestest friends, who keep telling you not to change a thing about your super-swell, delightful personality, which is so great for trips to the museum when the hot guy they're fucking can't make it because he's fucking someone else who enjoys condescension and big, fumbly bear hands and tiny pea brains and slick mouths with bubble gum goo stuck in the corners.
You should change some shit.
First of all, stop it with the ellipses and the all-caps (OK, fine, I do it, too) and the run-on sentences (also guilty there, but that doesn't mean you should be). You express yourself too much, too often, too wordily. You have something to prove all the time. You are hopelessly insecure. Paradoxically, this insecurity, caused by your bitch mother, is what I like about you the most. Let me dare to say that this is highly lovable, and rare: a man who is very, very insecure and knows it. Yum. Delicious. We try so hard to get men to admit that they're insecure, so when we can find one who admits it? Delirium.
BUT. You should not express your insecurity via 1) poor syntax in gushing, praise-filled emails to pretty besties, 2) bad Backstreet-Boy style choices like shoulder pads, jaunty hats, annoying facial hair, fancy cowboy boots, 3) know-it-all behavior, 4) envious, wordy deconstruction of assholes who get laid, 5) constant availability and supportive talk offered up to said besties.
Instead, channel your insecure energies (Note: Don't get rid of them! Don't deny them! Channel them. We love them. Channel.) into 1) working out your chestal region vigorously (it's soft and squishy, I know this, I just know it), 2) writing your feelings down in some type of journal thing, 3) going to therapy once a week, 4) doing yoga or meditating 10 minutes a day, in the morning, reminding yourself that you're not bad, you're not messing up, you're not doing it all wrong, you're worthy of love, etc.
Now, in telling you that you're bad, messing up and unworthy of love, I do run the risk of playing the same role that your bitch mother (and that little voice in your head that stands in for her when she's not around) does/did. This is why good therapists won't tell you to lose the shoulder pads and stop moaning about the douchebags who get laid like a wilty piece of girl lettuce. But, you see, good therapists will also never ever ever ever ever ever get you laid. I will.
Instead of waging this nonstop campaign for yourself (Me Fucking You! 2012!), with longwinded talk of how you're a great guy but great guys get screwed over, you need to start leading with your flaws, the real flaws that you fear make you unlovable (but, paradoxically, actually make you more lovable. I mean it.). I know you're feeling angry now, you're thinking, "I don't talk like that, I only did it in my letter to you, Rabbit!" But it's there, buddy. It's always in the room. Trust me.
And there's something non-specific about your devotion to these beautiful ladies, too. They know that. You'd be happy with any one of a number of them. That's how it starts to sound when you don't get laid much and you don't have any real standards for whom you'd like to romance beyond "one of my hot lady friends." No one wants to feel like just another chick who's hot enough to fuck. That's the twisted thing about becoming The Friend. (I won't say Friendy because Friendy is meant to be much more comfortingly asexual than what you describe. The whole point of Friendy is that Friendy doesn't even want to fuck you. He's busy, he's taken. He's just your buddy.) When you're The Friend, you expose your own lack of standards and even as you listen, listen, listen and support, you make the other person feel invisible because she suspects you just want into her pants. If you sat there like a douche and said "I want into your pants," she might ascribe more passion to your motives. You might seem a little dirtier in a good way. Instead, you're the pal who would like to fuck her, or anyone, really. That's about as unattractive as it gets.
Now, believe me, I know this is not your fault. This is just how being The Friend for too long evolves.
Instead of selling yourself hard, praising yourself to high heavens, going on and on about what you know and don't know, (and also saying too much about the many people you'd like to sleep with, which, even if you don't do, you imply, trust me), you need to pull back and be straight about your flaws. You need to get picky. You need to say, "I'm too insecure for you." And then resist explaining. Say, "I overthink everything. That's not your style, and I definitely want to be with someone who overthinks everything, too, or I'll go nuts." See? Your old message to women: YOU'RE TOO GOOD FOR ME. The new message to women: YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME.
This is not about hating women, or putting on a front, or being a dick. This is about the truth. The truth is, you dislike these friendy buddy pal hotties of yours. Why? Because half of them aren't even as cool or as thoughtful or as interesting or as soulful as you are. Right? Come on, just admit it. As much as you want to fuck them, only one or two are really compelling enough, and even then they'd probably get boring. This is why the undercurrent of your whole letter is about fucking. You are saying, "I just love girls, I don't think about getting their panties off for sooo long." But underneath that, there's this: "Goddamn it, I want some pussy" thing going on. That conflict? It's. Not. Attractive.
Why is it unattractive? Because anyone will do. These women know that.
It's also unattractive because it's inaccurate. You are currently advertising the opposite of the truth. You're trying to SEEM confident, but you're not. You're trying to SEEM like a great guy, but in fact you're more driven by fucking girls than the douches who are actually out there fucking girls all the time.
I would suggest that you advertise the truth. You are an insecure person. You are currently interested in friends, and also in fucking. You like hanging out with fun people, sure, but you're not going to waste your time on women who have no appreciation for complicated men whose mothers were really fucking mean to them.
See? In fact, the next time you try to say that a) you're great or b) you know this about that and that about this or c) you're going to make someone the best boyfriend ever, I want you to try saying this instead: "I don't know. You seem nice, but I have a pretty complicated, neurotic mind, thanks to the fact that I didn't get enough love as a kid. I'm not sure that's really the kind of thing you're prepared to grapple with. And it's good to recognize that, because I'm at a point where I won't waste my time with anyone who isn't really enamored of complexity and deep, deep insecurity and darkness." Please note: these are not actually pick-up lines. They're ways of repelling people who prefer simplicity and empty-headed douchiness.
Now let me be clear: Many many people DO prefer simplicity, shallowness. That should be the actual cliché. Women don't like dicks, they like people who are as stupid as they are. And also, really smart women don't want men who make them feel aware of themselves in space. The nice thing about a confident man is that he makes you want to work hard to get his attention. Unconfident men give you too much attention, which just feels undeserved most of the time.
I'm not saying that there aren't some serious pathologies in the mix here. But the confidence part – that's not about general-purpose confidence. It's about having a little swagger around your flaws, and giving up on the hard sell. It's about having standards. It's about cultivating your pickiness. And it's about puffing up your chestal region.
I know I'm shallow. So are all of these adorable girls you spend time with.
Really, your plan is so easy.
1) Work out way too much, with extra attention to the torso. Make your torso exceptional.
2) Get a therapist.
3) Write down your many, many, many feelings instead of telling dumb girls about them.
4) Make a list of the traits you really want in a woman, and don't tell anyone about what's on the list, and don't settle for less.
5) Write down every lame thing about you, that you fear will prevent women from loving you, ever. (Don't include "squishy torso," or "pushover," or "secret pussy hound," because you're going to fix that.) These are, perversely, exactly the things that a smart, good, complicated women will love you for. That and your nice torso. Believe it. Make it your religion.
6) Every single fucking time you meet a woman who seems flinchy about insecurity, turn on a ticking clock in your head. She has a few seconds to prove that she's capable of appreciating a complicated guy whose mom was a fucking asshole, and then you're out of there. No hard feelings, of course. I'm sure she's great. Be nice about it. Just explain that you're probably a little too dark for her. Or she has sort of a reductive mind, but you like a mind that seeks out complexity. That's great for her, though. You wish you were simpler sometimes, but you don't want to waste her time or yours. Genuinely try not to be condescending about it.
See? You're extremely nice and polite and honest about yourself, but you're not wasting your time anymore. That's ALL. You think that's what you're doing right now, I know, but you're actually sort of a dick right now – just not the sort that ever gets laid.
Don't skip the working out part. I can't say that enough. It will build your confidence. I'm sure you work out some. Work out more. You need a boost. Women you know now need to see you differently. You need to see them differently, too: they're people who are wasting your fucking time, that's all. You don't even like half of them that goddamn much, have you noticed?
Be good to yourself. Love yourself. I feel for you, the mean mom thing. That's a tough one, really really tough. It's also interesting and lovable, and you will find a beautiful, smart woman who makes up for it, and then some. You will be adored, truly. I know this. (Read all about what a pathetic needy slob I once was [and how I dug my way out of it] here.) You will be loved from your head to your smelly feet. Milk a little style advice from one of those shallow whore friends of yours before you blow her off forever. Go on a good shopping trip, and encourage said friend to be brutal. Get a haircut that a gay man approves of. Stop trusting your instincts about your body, hair and clothes, and start trusting them about your fucking soul, which is sick of hiding behind your tedious neurotic machinations. Bear your soul, motherfucker. Drag that sick, rotten thing out into the goddamn sunlight, honky boy. Make people squeamish with it.
You will be loved, loved, loved, more than you can even handle, once you do.
Oh, and then, when some smart woman loves you? It will feel unfamiliar and weird, like she's trying to trap you. This is true because your mother didn't love you enough. When your mother didn't love you enough, not-enough-love feels romantic, and plenty o' love feels alienating. You will need to fight the urge to flee, in other words. (That's where the therapy comes in. Start now.)
I happen to know that, thanks to me, you're about to arrive at a land where wise, funny ladies throw their naked bodies at you. Enjoy! Remember, you have standards. Pick that really exceptional, sensitive, funny one. Then the work really begins.
Good luck! Sorry about the claws. As any bad mother would say, it's for your own good.