Saturday, October 3

On the Fallacy of Adulthood


When I was 19 I thought Jenny Lewis was writing pop songs about teenage love through the more refined lens of an adult who knew better. It was the frothing, consuming, carnal sort of love that destroyed you while you lavished yourself in it. That spoke to me, a teenager, and Jenny Lewis, an adult, knew what she was talking about because she had lived it already and then, as she sang about it, had the wisdom and grace to discuss it as an adult would.
I'm an adult now and I know that the only kind of love that exists is teenage love, and the only true knowledge Jenny Lewis had, as an adult, was that she knew better but couldn't help it.
This is all just to say that I don't really believe in growing up. I don't believe that adulthood is a real thing. And I don't mean some "Child at Heart" bullshit about whimsy, about buying twee skirts or playing with babies. I mean adulthood is a fallacy. As adults, and often I am called one, we really are just walking around pretending we know what the fuck is going on, pretending we're going to make all the best choices and always do the right thing and that our thoughts and feelings and lives are as evenly balanced as our checkbooks.
The truth is we're still as idiotic as our teenage selves.We're still manic and ruled by our hearts, our whims, the moon, a good time, the nagging want to be a hero, a rock star, happy.
I've always equated true adulthood with "settling down" or chilling the fuck out. You stay home, you decorate, you have a kid, you pay a mortgage, you work at a steady job, you drink less, you don't even know where you would buy weed, and you definitely don't touch your lover's penis through his pants in an alley. You know, you chill the fuck out. You're respectable.
But it seems to me now that settling down just means you're tired. Too tired from work to leave your house, too tired from raising your kids to go out. But the minute you get that second or third or fiftieth wind, you catch your breath: and you're drunk on the same brand of Schnapps you used to steal from your dad, and you're taking off your Eddie Bauer cargo shorts because the kids have all gone to bed and you're naked and swimming in a lake with your wife, who is also naked, and six of your best friends, who are also naked, and this is hilarious, you're 42.
Or maybe that's not you. Maybe catching your breath is just copping a feel in a darkened movie theater, or making out while the sun comes up, or quitting your job in a blaze of glory that burns all of your professional bridges, or touching a dick in an alley. Either way, these are not things that adults do, but we do these things anyway because we're still the shitty kid we used to be and we're clawing and scratching and kicking at death.
One Independence Day while I swam in my clothes in a blow up pool that was purchased and inflated for my baby sister (I was a young teenager, and I felt awkward swimming, like I was "too old" to play in a pool - clawing, scratching, kicking) I saw my elderly grandfather pinch my grandmother's ass. I know. I've fucking seen it. I've seen what I thought were adults violently working against the inevitabilities of their lives. I've seen what real adulthood looks like, real death, and I've seen what it does to people who are finally catching a breath. My mother post-seizure waiting until my father left the room to ask me to help her escape the hospital. When I was 21 I made out with a man who was nearly 40 in a parking lot. We were drunk and he was terrified of me, but begged me to go home with him. I saw a grown up couple sneak behind a rock wall at a country club so the woman could blow the man. I know about clandestine Facebook messages and new leather jackets and how if this weren't how it was, if things were different, if it didn't take so much out of you to catch your breath, if you wouldn't be the scorn of your social circle, end up in jail, have to explain it to your kids, if you didn't have to maintain some semblance of stability, you'd fucking do it. Exactly the way you would have if you were 18.
When the wind is warm or the snow is fresh or someone's drawn a hopscotch on the sidewalk and you get to act like an idiot for one more minute before dying, but you wait until you're sure nobody's looking, that's adulthood. The rest of it is a myth.

Monday, September 28

Florida by Elizabeth Bishop

The state with the prettiest name,
the state that floats in brackish water,
held together by mangrave roots
that bear while living oysters in clusters,
and when dead strew white swamps with skeletons,
dotted as if bombarded, with green hummocks
like ancient cannon-balls sprouting grass.
The state full of long S-shaped birds, blue and white,
and unseen hysterical birds who rush up the scale
every time in a tantrum.
Tanagers embarrassed by their flashiness,
and pelicans whose delight it is to clown;
who coast for fun on the strong tidal currents
in and out among the mangrove islands
and stand on the sand-bars drying their damp gold wings
on sun-lit evenings.
Enormous turtles, helpless and mild,
die and leave their barnacled shells on the beaches,
and their large white skulls with round eye-sockets
twice the size of a man's.
The palm trees clatter in the stiff breeze
like the bills of the pelicans. The tropical rain comes down
to freshen the tide-looped strings of fading shells:
Job's Tear, the Chinese Alphabet, the scarce Junonia,
parti-colored pectins and Ladies' Ears,
arranged as on a gray rag of rotted calico,
the buried Indian Princess's skirt;
with these the monotonous, endless, sagging coast-line
is delicately ornamented.

Thirty or more buzzards are drifting down, down, down,
over something they have spotted in the swamp,
in circles like stirred-up flakes of sediment
sinking through water.
Smoke from woods-fires filters fine blue solvents.
On stumps and dead trees the charring is like black velvet.
The mosquitoes
go hunting to the tune of their ferocious obbligatos.
After dark, the fireflies map the heavens in the marsh
until the moon rises.
Cold white, not bright, the moonlight is coarse-meshed,
and the careless, corrupt state is all black specks
too far apart, and ugly whites; the poorest
post-card of itself.
After dark, the pools seem to have slipped away.
The alligator, who has five distinct calls:
friendliness, love, mating, war, and a warning--
whimpers and speaks in the throat
of the Indian Princess.

Monday, September 21


I'm getting older and that's made me more committed to my health than in previous years when I consisted primarily on things like Bagels and Coffee and Cereal Bars and Domestic Lager. Now, I try to eat vegetables regularly and exercise and when I don't my body doesn't feel great. So I try to be healthy.
This is a fine goal for anyone, but always after any stumble in this goal I become really distraught, like I've Completely and Utterly Failed and will never achieve Full Health. So I come back to my goal even more committed, perhaps even over-doing it (I get a lot of cool exercise injuries this way) which inevitably means I'm just going to fuck up again, right? This week as I was recommitting myself to Health after a weekend of Way Too Goddamn Much Wine, I started a mental inventory of all the things I have to do to be healthy IMO and I realized how totally exhausting it is.
1. Eat right. Eating right to me means 75/25 - three whole quarters of everything I eat in a week should be legit good food. Salads and shit you make in your kitchen, minimal prepackaged anything, minimal carbs, minimal dairy. The other quarter is inevitably like Taco Bell, frozen pierogies and egg rolls, diner pancakes and whatever trash I buy out of a vending machine at work.
2. Exercise. This means for a lot of people ~30 minutes a day of something that raises your heartbeat for most days of the week. My weekly exercise goal is always some insane number that equates me burning 5,000 calories in total because I've never in my life not wanted to lose 3 pounds. I have yet to lose the mythical 3 pounds and now that I'm aging and also overdoing my workouts to compensate for ~weekend fuck ups~ I can feel my bones scraping against one another.
3. Taking supplements. Like, this is probably bullshit. I know. But I have skin problems and I would rather waste my money than go see a doctor so whatever. I have been told my nails look great, so the Biotin is obv working.
4. Floss. A human could go their whole entire life without flossing and still be a healthy and robust individual but I treat it like this huge failure if I'm not doing it? I think it's because my dentist is always really impressed with my gums and always telling me how "well-formed" my teeth are and I just don't want to disappoint her.
5. Be tidy. This means that floors are swept, things smell good and literally everything is put away. Clutter just unnerves me and if my house isn't right it's impossible for me to relax which means I can't be chill and can't be healthful.
6. Drink 70+oz of water each day. I'm a mermaid who has to pee all the time.
7. Practice good mental health habits/self-care. I really feel like this should be my A#1 priority but I like to think cooking and cleaning and exercising are self-care? I just really like to be in control of things, so doing things that allow me to be in control, like putting shit away and making shit I can put into my body, is a small and satisfying way to do that. A fun control quirk that's been kind of very apparent lately: I have to eat every grain of rice/quinoa or every last noodle or get every last piece of garlic into my body or I just...I don't know, something feels wrong about the meal. Feels incomplete. You guys do I need to see a therapist?
8. Don't drink so much booze. Whatever. I try God dammit. Don't make me so nervous and I won't have to drink.
As you can see this is fucking ridiculous. Why do we make these terrible goals for ourselves? Health is honestly such an ephemeral, abstract concept that even saying things like "I am just trying to make healthier choices" is so loaded. Like sure, maybe that's not a diet, maybe you're not getting down on your body, maybe you're doing only exercise that you love and enjoy and maybe you honest to God just want to feel better and live longer but holy fuck what the Hell is a "healthy choice"? What's an unhealthy choice? What happens when you make an unhealthy choice?
Making Health a goal for yourself is like making Being Happy a goal. Good fucking luck. Like, you will be happy, I'm sure, happiness is not an unattainable sort of thing, but it's not sustainable. Bad shit is going to happen to you. And if it doesn't, some days it's just going to be fucking wet and gloomy and you're going to hear the wrong Cure song and you're going to feel crummy. Just like some days you're going to eat 3 fucking Totino's Party Pizzas loaded with Cholula and it's going to run your ~goals~ into the damn trash, just like where I'm going to throw this shitty destined-to-fail mortal ass body. I want a hot ass robot body that runs on chocolate oils and random gems and in 70 years it gracefully and painlessly powers down because who the fuck wants to live that long anyway?

Sunday, August 23

I read Great Expectations in a British Lit survey 6 or 7 years ago. Everyone hated it. They all said they hated it in high school and that they hated it then in college, that Charles Dickens was boring, they hated it. I liked it, and I've told you that. I told everyone that I liked it because I thought it was charming and I am just generally a fan of a novel that tells the day to day life of a different kind of people. Someone said to me, "Just don't ever read A Tale of Two Cities. It's terrible!"
After class a girl approached me. She was also an English major so she had been in some of my other classes, I had seen her around. I thought she was odd, the sort of girl who is fine, who tends to gravitate toward me seeking friendship, but who is so fundamentally different from me that the friendship can never really become a friendship. She seemed very Christian, if you know what I mean, and wore long denim skirts and had long mousy brown hair. She wore wire framed glasses. She seemed like the kind of girl who loves Jane Austen, which is fine, but is so fundamentally different from my own loves. She wore a homemade cape one day. One day she dressed up in a period costume because it was some author's birthday, probably Jane Austen. Another day she dressed up like the Scarlet Pimpernel and I had no idea what that was and had to look it up and I still don't really know what that is or why anyone would dress up like it to class. Anyway, I found her odd, but I liked her in the way you like a venus flytrap or a child who says "labyrinth" instead of "maze."
She approached me and said, "Don't listen to them. You should read A Tale of Two Cities, you'd love it." And she smiled very confidently and very knowingly and walked away and we never spoke again, but I did put the book on my To Read list and I thought about her when I bought it.

Monday, August 3

Time to Forget

For the last few years, once a year (or twice), I am surprised that, suddenly, it is my mother's birthday. Or that I've completely forgotten it and it's already passed. Or it's not her birthday at all, because I can't remember if it was August 4th or September 4th, and which one would mean she was a Virgo? Because she was a Virgo - I remember at least she was a Virgo.
We forget birthdays - at least I do. I'm terrible with birthdays; even my own tends to sneak up on me, and who can even do that math, subtracting 1,986 from 2,015? But I've always been able to remember my family's birthdays. Still, remembering their births requires devices, clever tricks I came up with as a child. Easy math. The math is easy. My father and mother were both born in 1960, a good, even number with a zero. My brother is five years older than I am, so if I can remember my own age, I can remember his.
The months are slightly more complicated, but not much. My father and I were both born on the fifth of our individual months - my father in June, the first real month of Summer, me in November, generally around some election or, at least, Halloween. My brother and mother were both born on the fourth of their individual months - my brother in April, the day before Kurt Cobain killed himself, and my mother in whichever month would make her a Virgo.
My mother died eight years ago this October, and I guess I'd be making assumptions about other people who live with a small part of their hearts always in mourning, but I do believe something about time makes an honest to God ghost out of the people you loved when they were alive. Maybe I forget because I can't call her, can't e-mail her, can't make the old family joke - "It was 55 years ago today, the scariest day of my life..."
She would have been 55 years old this year, the same as my father, and that's all I can speculate about what else she would be today, all I can speculate about a person who was sick for so long and so long ago that I can't really remember anything in particular anymore, just scenes like a movie I only saw once.
I've been sitting here all day thinking about how surprising it is that I feel like I don't remember her, and how I know, for a fact, that I definitely do not remember her birthday, and how every year I'm planning on buying cheesecake or making carrot cake to eat to celebrate her life just a little bit, in a small way, but then I always forget. And I'm listening to an album about a mother that's passed and thinking, "It's tomorrow. I can still make a cake. I can buy one."
But it's not. It's next month. Her birthday is in September. There's still time for cake, but there's also still time to forget.