Gawker

Gawker is back, and I am exactly the sort of aging, snarky asshole they brought it back for. During Gawker’s heyday, I was working a series of desk jobs that merely required me to sit at a desk all day long on the off chance that my boss might at some point want me to do something (and if they ever did, I was a bitch about it). Some might describe such jobs as boring, but I have never understood how you can be bored if you have access to a computer, and I loved spending all day reading and writing whatever I wanted for pay. I did not love occasionally being interrupted in the middle of something important to be asked to do my actual work, nor did I love my extremely low pay, lack of health insurance, and overall disposability to my employers.

Anyway, I always read everything on Gawker. I have always been far too internet shy to become a part of a commenting community, but I read the comments, as well. So far, I’m enjoying the reboot except for the format, which I despise. I really don’t even know how to read sites like this — do I just open up every single article in a new tab and read it there? To my immense dismay, Gawker has not updated its RSS feed, so I can’t even escape the dreaded layout by reading the actual content elsewhere.

In my opinion, there should only ever be two types of websites:

  1. A landing page with an appointment booking plugin that actually works, a list of services and prices, a list of insurance providers accepted, and whatever other information people go digging through business sites trying to find; OR
  2. A long single column of black text on a plain white background (note this blog).

That’s it! There’s no excuse for anything else!

I’m glad that not many people share my views on this matter, however, or the company I work for probably wouldn’t exist.

Haircut

Traditionally, I get my hair cut once a year. I last had it cut in August of 2019, so by the end of quarantine, I looked like a woods witch. When my mother arrived shortly before I was due to give birth, I begged her to chop off my waist length extremely thick hair, so I would not have to go through labor with a fur coat on my head (in the end, I didn’t go through labor anyhow). She quickly descended into the amateur haircut danger zone of “let me just even the other side” and I finally insisted she stop it right before my hair entered the Friar Tuck zone. Still, it did not look good or even intentional in any way. So I was happy to finally go have it fixed.

I have a lot of social anxiety about talking to hairstylists. They are all so incredibly cool, and they are professionally obligated to ask you questions about your life and pretend to be interested in you, so I always feel like I’m back in high school and have been made lab partner with a popular girl who prides herself on being nice even to obvious losers because Jesus. You know the conversation was always like:

Her, knowing full well you did not, but being genuinely baffled as to what someone like you would do over a weekend: “Did you do anything fun over the weekend?”

You, who spent the weekend watching Law & Order reruns with your parents: “You know, I just kind of vegged this weekend, I was really tired, actually.”

Her, generously: “NICE! Girl, those are the best kind of weekends. I know it’s so bad, but sometimes I am at a party, and I’m just like, ugh! All I really want to do is go home and get in bed and watch The Real World!”

You, never having been to a party or watched The Real World: “Totally.”

Her, knowing this is an unkind thing to ask but not knowing how else to have a conversation: “Are you getting into anything fun this weekend?”

You, dying inside, why is she doing this to you?!?!: “Uh, my friend and I might…do something, I don’t know! I don’t know yet, actually.”

Her: “Girl, good for you! Keep your options open! I love it.”

Anyway, this is how I feel whenever I have to make conversation with a hairstylist. I was interested to discover today that now, even though I am fully 40 years old and have a pretty major career and a baby, I still felt like I was forcing my hairstylist to regard me with a sort of tolerant pity for being so unforgivably boring and pathetic in response to her polite queries.

Her, looking amazing and with a sort of effortless self-confidence: “So how was your quarantine?”

Me, sporting Friar Tuck hair, a hormonal acne explosion, and a voluminous $5 jumpsuit from Amazon that’s the only thing that fits anymore with baby spit up on the boobs: “Uh, you know. I just kind of worked a lot, got pregnant. Spent a lot of time with my mom.”

Her, kindly and unconvincingly: “Girl, good for you! Sometimes that’s the best kind of quarantine, you know?”

Ramp Thinger

When I am out jogging or walking or limping through the neighborhood greenbelts, I am often made jealous by the luxurious scenes I see over the fences of the fancy houses that back up to the parks. Landscaped pools, mostly, with waterfalls and fountains and big, garish flowers. Sometimes the wafting smells of grilling meats (I don’t eat meat, but I miss it and it smells delicious to me; I am not one of those lucky vegetarians who is viscerally disgusted by meat as a concept, and so I must actively resist my desire to eat it).

Today, as I was dragging myself along a path under the blaring sun and dreaming of the can of seltzer I planned to drink when I got home, I saw this thinger in the distance:

Let’s take a closer look:

It maybe doesn’t look like much here, but it had streams of water running down it and a sort of rotating water spray at the top, and there were also plumes of water shooting up from the ground level, and from the sounds of the children involved, I’m pretty sure it emptied into a pool of some sort. I stopped on the path and gaped, and suddenly I felt that nothing in my life would ever be sufficient until I had one of these thingers I had only just realized existed in my back yard.

I’m still depressed about it.

Special Treat and Rumpus Dance

Jogging in the summer heat has been bringing back a lot of summer camp memories. Mostly because it makes me very thirsty and my primary sense memory of being at camp is of being very thirsty and not having sufficient access to liquids. Most of my camp experiences were various horse camps which all turned out to basically be a way to get wealthy parents to pay for their children to do manual labor for a stable, but occasionally I went to a more standard summer camp.

The other day on my run, I was thinking about delayed gratification (something I’ve never mastered but would still like to teach Edith somehow) and I remembered a particular thing that happened at my favorite summer camp. This was a “farm home” camp run by Quakers, which meant that it was tents on a working farm and we all got to milk cows and play with baby goats in addition to the more typical roster of camp activities (we also got to attend Quaker meeting every Sunday, but that was less of a draw). It was idyllic and I loved it, but I only attended for one summer because my mother felt that the counselors were overly familiar with the campers and that the camp as a whole had a progressive agenda (another thing I never learned as a kid was just not to tell my mother things, which is something I hope Edith also fails to master).

Anyway, on our first day, there was a sort of meeting where announcements were made, and one of the things that we were told was that there were two changes being made from the previous year. Apparently, there was a certain dinner (I can’t remember what it was called, so I will just call it “special treat” although that wasn’t the name) that was so beloved by all the campers that they continually tormented the kitchen staff by asking incessantly if special treat would be served that evening, or if not, if it were possible to change the intended menu to feature special treat instead, and if not, when special treat might be served again? To fix this, all campers were hereby informed that special treat would be served once and only once during the two week camping session and that all campers would be informed in the morning when it was special treat day, so there was no reason to ask about it ever, and doing so would not change the plan.

Secondly, there was a particular campfire song and dance combo (again, I cannot remember what it was called, so I will just call it “rumpus dance”) that was so beloved by all the campers that whenever it was performed, the campers were worked up into an absolute frenzy and things got entirely out of hand. Exactly what “out of hand” meant was not specified, but from the tone and the abashed response of the veteran campers, I can only assume that it had led to a cannibalistic orgy. To fix this, rumpus dance would only be performed a single time, on the final night of camp.

Obviously, as a new camper, I was very excited to experience both special treat and rumpus dance! With such stringent rules limiting our access to both of them, they must surely be treats of the first order. When we new campers asked the veteran campers about either one, we were assured that the delights of both were transportive, but they seemed to be so superlative that words failed when the campers tried to describe them in any detail, so they remained shrouded in mystery.

Well, we eventually had special treat and it was literally a slice of bread with pasta sauce ladled all over it. I found it inedibly disgusting. I don’t know why this dish was so beloved by campers, except for the fact that the camp served vegetarian dishes that were mostly based around a hearty grain and whatever produce was being grown in the gardens, and so maybe bread and pasta sauce was more suited to your typical child’s palette. But I was the sort of kid who got offended whenever a server gave me the children’s menu and would hand it back by two fingers and sniffily ask for “a normal menu” (in other words, a gigantic pain in the ass), so I wasn’t particularly into it.

On the final night of camp, we had rumpus dance. I don’t remember much about it except that all the campers leapt to their feet and threw themselves into a circular dance around the campfire with wild abandon. I particularly remember one very withdrawn girl who had spent the two weeks keeping to herself and maintaining a grim expression absolutely flailing about as if possessed. But because of the embargo on rumpus dance, none of the newer campers had been able to learn it, so all we could do was sit there and watch, perplexed and intrigued, while the previous year’s campers reenacted this scene from The Secret History. This was a letdown.

I don’t know what the point of this story was. Something about moderation and/or delayed gratification not being worth it? Although as an adult, I can see that in this case, it actually worked its intended purpose, in that the campers were unable to annoy the staff on these two points. Maybe the takeaway is that limits work great when you’re forcibly applying them to other people, but not so great when you’re experiencing them yourself. Which is possibly not an especially novel observation.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes love me. I know a lot of people say that mosquitoes love them, but my case is extreme. If you are sitting next to me anywhere outside in a moderately wet climate in the summer, I will become covered in mosquito bites and you will avoid them entirely. I am the best mosquito repellent any person other than me could ever have.

I have, as a result, tried every form of mosquito repellent on the market, be it an ointment, a spray, a device, a candle, or a post-bite treatment or instrument. Here’s what works:

  • DEET

Here’s what doesn’t:

  • Every single form of mosquito repellent other than DEET

“Ah,” you say. “But have you tried…”

Yes! I have! I have tried it! It does not work!

“Oh, but,” you say. “It really does, though. It works better than I ever could have thought. Let me tell you a story of how well it worked for me.”

I believe that it worked for you, but it does not work for me. I promise. And the reason is that most remedies, potions, tools, and dietary changes work based on the placebo effect. This does not mean they are nonsense; they really do work! The placebo effect is incredibly effective! But you have to genuinely believe that something will work, and I am fundamentally incapable of being optimistic about anything, ever, so the placebo effect will always fail me.

Even so, I keep trying things that I know are not going to work for me, because I am so convinced by the effusive testimonials of others. My latest disappointment is Bug Bite Thing, which claims to “sucks the venom out” of your bug bites, thus making them itch less. It doesn’t, of course, because while that might theoretically work immediately after an insect has bitten you, you do not know you have a bite until much later, and you can’t suck venom out of intact skin that is not punctured in any way. It does feel pretty good, though, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something. People love it! It will probably work great for you! It does nothing whatsoever for me, except stimulate the bite area and thus bring on a session of especially intense itching.

I really hoped that Edith would not inherit my attractiveness to bugs, and when we are sitting in a park or on a restaurant patio, I hover over her, fearing for her lily white soft baby skin. It would be so awful to have a mosquito bite as an infant and not even be able to scratch it or to know if it would ever stop! But so far, she has gotten zero bites, whereas I am absolutely demolished, so fortunately, she seems to have escaped my fate.

I only resent her a tiny bit.

Space Race

Despite the fact that in my sleep-addled new mom state, I’ve barely been able to keep abreast of world events, I have sadly been unable to avoid the news of the billionaire space race. On the idea that we might all live in space, I have basically two thoughts: one is that people who are excited about this tend to wildly underestimate how impossible it would be; this thread does a great job of explaining.

And two, nobody seems to be pointing out how incredibly miserable and hopeless it would be for human beings to live in space, even if we could somehow manage it. Imagine never again feeling the grass under your feet and the sun on your face. Never feeling a breeze, or seeing flowers. Never climbing a mountain or swimming in the ocean. Even if it were possible to somehow exist for some time in space or in a highly artificial environment on a nearby planet, we would all be sickly, miserable, and horrifically depressed, and would surely die out in a generation or so. And if I, the world’s biggest indoor kid, who as a child used to regularly fantasize about being locked up in prison so that I could just read all day and nobody would make me go outside for an hour, blanch at the thought of existing in a space vessel or a terraformed bubble, the rest of you normals wouldn’t make it a week.

Incidentally, if you have never read about the Biosphere 2 experiment, I highly recommend it. It’s a fascinating story. Or maybe I’m actually thinking about a short story I once read that was loosely based on Biosphere 2. Whatever.

Experimenting With Multi-Generational Living

My Mom and Edith and I spent all day today driving around looking at houses, because my parents and I are looking to buy a house here together. This was my idea, and I want to do it for a few reasons: mostly, I want Edith to have as many people around her who love her as possible. I want my parents and Edith to have a lot of time together (and I want to have time with them, too). Also, my parents have been looking to move here from Tennessee for a couple of years now, and it’s not really affordable at the moment, because the Austin housing market is insane (like over 90 competing offers on a house near me in one weekend insane).

Finally, and possibly most importantly, I am incredibly anxious about what is happening with the climate, and after everything that happened in 2020, I just want my entire family to be under one roof in one location. I don’t know that this will help me feel much better about things; I will still be anxious. But it will help me feel a tad bit more in control. Every time I see a news item about the climate lately (which is daily! So much shit is happening!) I feel this pressing urgency to do this as quickly as possible. I know this isn’t a logical response: I cannot control what’s happening and I can’t really even handle my own fear, so I’ve seized on getting my parents here as something that I can actually focus on and affect, and I have sort of told myself I don’t have to worry about the broader issue until that’s taken care of.

Anyway, I’m posting about all of this just to share that I saw a pretentious white lady blogger whose family is currently fleeing San Francisco and moving back in with her parents refer to their move as “experimenting with multi-generational living.” She wasn’t even making fun of herself! She really deadass said that! I could not stop laughing, and I think of it multiple times a day as we’re going about this. I have “experimented with multi-generational living” several times throughout my life when I was unemployed and at loose ends. I imagine that if things keep going the way they are now, all of our children will be “experimenting with multi-generational living” until they are 30 and perhaps permanently.

Energy Company

I am regularly astonished by how a simple chore can eat up an entire day, especially in this age of convenience where you never have to actually go anywhere or do anything in order to accomplish an administrative task.

A word in advance: I don’t understand anything I’m going to be talking about here.

Most places I’ve lived in the past, there’s one energy company you get your energy from. It’s, like, a local utility company? I think? And you just give them your name and they send you a bill. But in Texas, they have created a market opportunity by forcing you to get your energy from a third-party company that buys it from the energy people and sells it to you. So you have to pick between like 40 varying energy companies with different pricing structures and plans and shit, and then every year, you have to do it again. These resellers provide cheap plans for the first year and then raise the price, so you are supposed to change companies every year, so you’re always rotating around on the cheapest plan.

I don’t do this, because I have depression and minor administrative decisions use up all of my energy (the free kind, although frankly, I wish I could buy more of it), so something like this is my nightmare. I can’t describe how much I hate doing shit like this. So, every year, the energy reseller I use sends me an email that is like “renew your plan! Analyzing your energy usage, we recommend this one for you” and there are three options and the middle one is highlighted, and I just click that one even though I could save money by going over to the big reseller comparison website and picking some other reseller and transferring all my information over there.

This year, I did what I always do, but some weird thing happened when I clicked and it confirmed that I had selected a different plan other than the one I chose. I was already depleted for the day, so I decided to worry about it the following month, and hoped it maybe would have sorted itself out in that time (things often do).

Well, it’s this month now, and it didn’t sort itself out, and if I was reading the plan I had not picked correctly, it was going to be needlessly expensive. Except I don’t know if it really would be. Because the pricing is like “so many cents for so much energy if you use this much energy, if you use more, it’s this much, if you use less, it’s this, but then you also get a credit to apply to it, which will reduce it.” I don’t know what any of that means, or how to translate it into a single dollar amount that makes any sense to a human person. Also, because I had already picked a plan and renewed it, the website wiped out every other option and any record of what I had before, so that I could not possibly compare this thing I have now to anything else.

So, I did the thing I hate most in all the world and I called customer service on the goddamned phone. After the customer service rep laboriously asked for and received all the information that the automated system had already made me key in to get to her, I tried to explain what had happened, although I knew she wouldn’t believe me, and she just skipped past that altogether and began to explain the options to me. She talked a mile a minute, and I don’t understand a word she said. Apparently the plan I did not choose but somehow ended up with anyway was only going to be cost effective if my energy usage was somewhere between 500 and 2000 kWh, which it has only ever been once, so she agreed that this was not a cost-effective plan for me. The other plans were a certain amount in that window, but if you were below 500, you received a credit, which effectively adjusted the rate to a different rate, and same thing if you were above 1000. Or something? And then included they would come and install two thermostats in your house for free.

“I don’t need a thermostat,” I said. “Is there anywhere I can read about the different plan options?”

She ignored that question and repeated everything she had just said much faster, but louder this time. Then she said that if I didn’t want the thermostats, I would need to close my account and open a new one.

“This is a fixed plan, right?” I asked her, because one thing I know about Texan energy plans is you do not want a variable plan.

“It is standard pricing,” she replied.

“Does that mean it’s a fixed plan?”

“It’s like a standard pricing plan.”

Eventually, she transferred me to another department because, she said, I would have to move over my account to get the plan she recommended. She asked me for a lot of information to put into the system so that things would be all ready to go when she transferred me, and I waited on hold while she did that. Then, she transferred me over.

“Hello,” said the new guy, and he laboriously asked for and received all the information that she had just taken from me again. Then he said, “And how can I help you today?”

“I was just transferred,” I said. “A lady said I would have a plan that was under 500, but I had to begin again? Standard. Or fixed. So she transferred me to you, the starter person? She put my birthday in.”

“What?” he said.

“It’s different than was on the website,” I said. “There was a lady. Do you know who the lady is?”

He sighed. “I don’t know any lady,” he said. “We just get calls here.”

“There was…I was on the phone before?” I said. “With a lady? She didn’t tell me to write anything down.” Then, I made something up out of nowhere: “Is there maybe any kind of note?”

Y’all! There was a note!!!!

“Ok, I see a note in your account,” he said. “But this says…hang on. I need to talk to a supervisor.”

I waited on hold for awhile.

“We can do this, but we have to do a soft cancel of your account and open a new one,” he said (or something like that). “So I will call you back in 20 to 30 minutes.”

An hour later, he called back and said that if they shut down my account, I wouldn’t have any power. Did I want that?

I said I did not. He said in that case, they would just change my plan over in my existing account. I said that sounded like just the thing to do, so he said he’d put me on a brief hold and take care of it.

I am still on hold and the lights have started to flicker.

Fudge

Because Edith isn’t old enough to do it herself yet, it is currently my job to name all of her stuffed animals. She has a fat pony, and I have named it Fudge after a horse I once knew.

When I was between the fourth and fifth grades and we lived in Knoxville where my mother was in law school, my mother got a summer internship at a law firm in Nashville and I went with her. While there, I took horseback riding lessons at a stable adjacent to the day camp I attended. This stable was pretty down at the heels: it had a muddy riding ring and a plywood stable with about five tired old school ponies. I got head lice from borrowing a riding helmet (despite the ingenious coffee filters they provided as a barrier). The horse I was usually assigned to ride was named Fudge.

Fudge was a fat, tired old plug, low to the ground, a deep chocolate brown with white spots on his rump, always covered in dust. School ponies are notorious for their recalcitrance, but even by that standard, Fudge was extreme. He had to be dragged from his stall and actively kicked around the ring, and every time he passed the stable, he attempted to break for it, which was the only energy he would demonstrate during the hour. Jumping was a lost cause — he would sometimes consent to step leisurely over a low crossrail if repeatedly flogged, but if you managed to make him, he would often stop still astraddle it and stand there, giving his rider the horse equivalent of a middle finger.

I was regularly assigned to Fudge because I was tenacious and could get him to more or less participate in the riding process. This was one of my early lessons in being punished for being good at something: because I could manage to get Fudge to stay in the ring and lump himself along for an hour, however unwillingly, I got stuck with Fudge every single time. The riding teachers were actually pretty entertained by my abilities with Fudge. I could get him up to a canter and make him take jumps, and I would sometimes overhear them laughing to each other: “Did you see that girl got Fudge over a three bar vertical jump? God bless her.”

When the summer ended, we returned to Knoxville, and my riding lessons ended for the time being, but a year later, my mom graduated law school and was offered a position at the firm she’d interned at and we moved to Nashville for good. Some time after that, I wanted to take riding lessons again. We had come up in the world a bit (although as a kid, I was unaware of this), and so my new riding stable was very fancy. It had multiple outdoor riding rings, including a dressage ring, gleaming white fences, vertical jumps with flowerbeds built into them, an indoor ring bookended by two huge shiny stables with constantly rotating ceiling fans, monogrammed tack trunks, and brass name plates outside the stalls, a club house for relaxation, and three fat little corgis named Apple, Kiwi, and Cherry. There were certainly no lice-ridden helmets for borrowing; everyone had their own, and fancy riding habits besides.

Many of the kids who took lessons at this stable had their own horses, but a number did not, and there were school ponies for those who didn’t. The school ponies at this stable were of a better class — younger, thinner, better cared for. They did not, however, get to live in the stalls, but instead roamed free in some pasture land out beyond the various riding rings. Before my first lesson, the teacher got a few older students to show us new kids how to go collect our horses. She looked at each of us in turn, and named the horse we were to ride. When she looked at me, she barely thought before she said, “She can have Fudge.”

Common name for a horse, I thought.

When we got down to the field, all the horses came running over to the older students, who had brought some tempting carrots to better corral them, and they were easily caught and handed over to their riders. Except for mine.

“You’ll have to go get Fudge for her, he won’t come,” one of the older students said to the other, and that student rolled her eyes and began to march out toward the edge of the pasture where, I now saw, a dark brown lump faced determinedly away from us. I watched a small battle play out, as the brown lump darted away from the student each time she attempted to put a halter on it, but after some time, she prevailed, and dragged the lump toward us.

Still, I was in denial. It couldn’t be. And yet, undeniably, it was. Fudge in all his glory was hauled up to me and handed over, his eyes rolling, his teeth gritted. If he remembered me, he gave no sign of it, but over the coming months, we would get reacquainted, as we were clearly each other’s inescapable fates.

There’s some analogy in here about how no matter how many social classes you might ascend, you cannot escape your own personal Fudge, but I can’t be bothered to connect those dots, so you can do so for yourself.