I am a person who feels things intensely. I don’t do neutral. This is not a conscious decision, nor something that appeared out of the ether. I’m pretty sure I was, to borrow a phrase from Lady Gaga, born this way. I love fervently, I hate vehemently. I rarely say, “I don’t care,” and when I do say it, chances are that I don’t mean it. I commit myself to things completely or not at all. I potty-trained myself when I was three-years-old because Carly Tesser called me a baby for still wearing diapers. I came home from nursery school that day and informed my mother that I would be wearing Big Girl Underpants from now on, preferably ones with Ariel from The Little Mermaid on them, thank you, you can dispose of these diapers, I have decided that I am So Over Them. And that was that. A more recent example: I did not write or create anything for months, and now I can’t seem to stop.
Note: You can also listen to me read this essay in the final episode of My Week In Tinder. Bonus musical content included.
Last Christmas, I published the first episode of my podcast, My Week In Tinder. A little bit less than a year later, I’m deciding to end it. This was not an easy decision to make, or rather, admit that I had already made. But, as Joan Didion writes in her essay that serves as half of the title of this one, “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” For those who have been active listeners, you’ll know that my last episode was almost five months ago. I had planned to do a summer recap episode, replete with a parodied version of “Summer Nights” from Grease that I was going to sing with a backup karaoke track, but I obviously never got around to it. And I’m sorry about that, because it was really clever.
While the impetus for my podcast was clear, and remains clear to me almost a year later, its ending is murky. If I’m being honest, with not only you, but also myself, I made the decision to end My Week In Tinder months ago, but have had trouble pulling the proverbial trigger. My difficulty in ending something that I created, something that received far more (and surprisingly positive) attention than I anticipated had a lot to do with why. Why do I want to end this? Why have I lost interest? Why did I even start in the first place?
Here’s the cheat-sheet version of the answers to those first two questions: 1) Because it is no longer, to borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo, sparking joy. 2) Because I’ve lost interest in the premise, which is largely rooted in dating men I meet through Tinder or OkCupid or Bumble, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam (emphasis on the nauseam). The third question—Why did I even start in the first place?—is both the easiest and hardest to answer. Ultimately, I know why I started. It’s just difficult to talk about.
On Mondays, I go to therapy. I don’t think the fact that I’m In Treatment is a Big Deal, or reveals that I’m broken or a less stable person than I “should be.” I actually believe that everyone should go to therapy, at least at some point, over the course of his or her life. But it occurs to me that Monday might be a significant day to be encouraged (or forced—the verb I associate with therapy varies) to talk about my feelings for 45 to 50 minutes. (I’m not sure how long my sessions are; or, rather, how long they’re supposed to be.) I don’t know if going to therapy on Monday sets the tone for the next seven days, but part of me thinks that it has to, at least on a subconscious, or even unconscious, level. Because most of the time, it’s the very first thing on my calendar for the week. And that has to be significant somehow, right? I’m probably just looking for meaning where there is only a mutually convenient timeslot.
Today, I told my therapist that I’m having trouble being alone; specifically, being alone with my thoughts because I can’t seem to turn them off. Most of these thoughts are whispers. Others are echoes. Some are sarcastic, some are unbearably earnest, some masquerade as profound. A select few resonate as primal screams into the abyss, like that scene in Garden State where Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, and Peter Sarsgaard are wearing trash-bags and it’s raining and “The Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon & Garfunkel is playing and Natalie Portman is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a filmic characterization that has since been retracted, but I really don’t understand why because it’s still a thing. Also, why is there no Manic Pixie Dream Boy? There should be one, I think I could probably use one. Especially when I’m feeling directionless, like there is Something Important that I should be learning or realizing, should be doing, but I don’t know what it is. Most of these thoughts, though, regardless of their volume or tone, are along the lines of: Just how damaged am I?
The clinical part of my brain, the part planning to become a psychotherapist in the not-so-distant future, takes issue with that statement because it denies ownership and accountability. There’s a passivity to the question, a pretty explicit implication (ha) that I have been damaged by circumstances beyond my control. Or, perhaps more realistically, by people I let into my life even though I shouldn’t have and, more often than not, knew that I shouldn’t have, but let them in anyway. A former friend said something to me along the lines of, “When you’re a teenager, you don’t see the red flags. As a young-ish adult, you see the red flags, but ignore them. Part of becoming a real adult is seeing the red flags and running as fast as you can in the opposite direction.” I no longer ignore the red flags. In fact, I tend to actively look for them, even when there might not be any. I acknowledge that I not only have been damaged, but also have caused damage. In fact, I’ve been the simultaneous perpetrator and victim of damage more times than I’d like to admit. A self-perpetuating damage machine. But that’s humanity’s par for the course, isn’t it? Show me a person who claims to have not hurt or been hurt, and I’ll show you a person who needs to be in psychotherapy. Starting yesterday. (Is it becoming clear why I’m having trouble being alone with my thoughts yet?)
All in the Family
Signature listed books about dysfunctional families, which is probably my all-time favorite sub-genre of literature. I haven’t read any of the titles on this list (yet), but here are ten great contemporary novels about dysfunctional family dynamics.
I’ve been drinking a lot of wine lately. This is partly because the world is falling apart (on a micro and macro level), but mostly in anticipation of (read: in preparation for) my guest appearance in my friend Chris’s show, Chris Tries to Review Wine Live!, tomorrow. Because extensive
pregaming practice makes perfect!
So, here are some great songs about wine. Well, really just songs that mention wine in a lyric or two, because hey, fun fact, there aren’t too many songs exclusively about wine. For shame, music industry. For shame.
Things That Are Ridiculous
On the nineteenth anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts (which, by the way, is a fictional event that never actually happened…right?), J.K. Rowling tweeted that she was sorry for killing Severus Snape, whom Alan Rickman (still upset about his death last January, which actually did happen because he was a real person) portrayed in the films. Rowling’s prolific tweeting, not only about which of her characters she’s sorry she killed, but also about reality at large (i.e., things not related to Harry Potter), apparently prompted fellow British author Joanna Trollope to compare Rowling to Kim Kardashian, which is quite a big stretch if you ask me. According to Trollope, authors who tweet as much as Rowling does are “a threat to literature.” Alright, alright, calm the fuck down, Joanna Trollope. If anything, Rowling is an addict whose substance of choice is the fictional world she created. I remember Rowling going on record saying she was “done” after the publication of Deathly Hallows, but it’s about ten years later and we now have Pottermore, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and last summer’s Cursed Child (which has been scheduled for a portkey across the Atlantic Ocean to Broadway next April). Rowling’s inability to walk away from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a bit quirky and, in my opinion, slightly disturbing (like most addictions are), but it’s certainly not a threat to Literature at large, which, by the way, is possibly the most pretentious thing to actively worry about.
My parents both studied Psychology as undergraduates in the 1970s. When my mother told her father she was majoring in Psychology, he asked, “What are you going to do? Sell Psychology?” That anecdote has nothing to do with my point, but makes me smile. My point is that my parents both studied Psychology as undergraduates in the 1970s when Freudian analysis was the “it” mode of psychotherapy.
Flash-forward thirty-something years later when, at age sixteen, I was perusing the bookshelves in our basement and found their combined collection of $2 paperbacks of Freud’s works. I felt like Ariel in The Little Mermaid: “Look at this trove! Treasures untold!”
The timing was somewhat fortuitous because suddenly, Freud was everywhere. I was about to study Oedipus Rex in English class. When reading Federico García Lorca’s La Casa de Bernarda Alba in AP Spanish Literature, I struggled to adequately translate my thoughts, but was ultimately able to smugly announce that la caña de Bernarda es un símbolo fálico. One day in History, my teacher told one of the popular boys to stop playing with his lacrosse stick; I loudly offered, “Well, you know what Freud would say.”
Things That Are Annoying
Oh good. Another “think piece” about millennials by a millennial who wants to draw a distinction between Old Millennials and Young Millennials because “Old Millennials, as I’ll call them, who were born around 1988 or earlier (meaning they’re 29 and older today), really have lived substantively different lives than Young Millennials, who were born around 1989 or later.” Thanks for the math lesson, Jesse Singal. If it makes you feel better, you are a special subset of Old Millennial: Whiny Mansplaining Old Millennial.
In other millennial-specific news, according to the Times, we’re also apparently answering “the call of Mexican wine country.” Not mentioned in the article: it’s probably because of that Fountains of Wayne song. Continue reading
Earlier this evening, I was getting off the bus when an older gentleman asked me if I was okay. I made a noncommittal noise and rolled my eyes. He took what was barely an acknowledgement of or response to his question as a green-light to then say, “I could tell by your face how sad you are, but I bet your husband brightens your beautiful face right up.”
Maybe I like my face this way! I certainly don’t need a man–let alone a husband–to brighten it up. Maybe I’m not prettier when I smile! The fact that this man assumed I even had a husband also pisses me off. Just because I am an almost thirty-year-old woman doesn’t mean I need–or perhaps more on point, even want–a husband.
I don’t think this man intended any ill-will, but he did royally piss me off. Because benevolent sexism (which is what this was) is still sexism. So, here are some of my favorite feminist anthems. Stay nasty and persist.
Here’s my favorite stuff from the Internet this week. And I made it (mostly) all about me. You’re welcome.
LitHub ranked fictional drugs of literature on 4/20, which is apparently a significant date to some people who do certain drugs. I have never understood why, but maybe I was never cool enough. (Read: I never smoked enough pot to understand, or care enough about understanding, this phenomenon.) Also, glaring omission of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass…cue Grace Slick’s haunting vocals: “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small…”
Karen Chee wrote an amazing Daily Shouts piece for The New Yorker: “Upcoming Utopian Novels (Now That We Live in a Dystopia).” The titles/plots are based on actual dystopian novels (e.g., The Happy Games, Animal Town, and my personal favorite, Atlas Hugged).