Doorknob Etiquette

The other night as I was tiptoeing around so as not to wake the baby, I was reminded of something minor that I used to spend a lot of time being mad about and have not had to be mad about in some time, and then remembering it, I got mad all over again, and it’s this:

Doors are loud to open and shut, but mostly because the sticky-outy part of the latch makes a big loud noise if you don’t take care for it not to. But! It is very easy to take care for it not to, and if you do that, it’s very quiet to open and shut a door. If you turn the knob all the way before moving the door and then hold the knob while you open or shut the door, and then release the knob slowly in the opposite direction, the door doesn’t make any noise. So if someone is sleeping in the room you’re going into or out of, you should hold the doorknob. It’s just basic consideration.

No one ever taught me any of this; it just made sense to me intuitively, because I’m aware of when other people are sleeping and that they would prefer not to be woken up, and that a door latch chunking is definitely going to wake them up. I’m not even an especially considerate person! Some very patient friends of mine had to teach me how to be considerate in my early 20s, because I simply was not. But I always put this together about the doorknob.

The thing is, though: nobody else I have ever met has ever thought to hold the doorknob when someone is sleeping. I have lived with family and then with an endless variety of roommates of all walks. All these people thought of themselves as good, polite, thoughtful citizens, sometimes to an absolute fault. Most of them considered me as at best a work in progress; at worst, a bitch. But NONE OF THEM HAVE EVER HELD A DOORKNOB IN THEIR LIVES.

When I lived with people and was trying to sleep, I deeply resented this, although, as is the way of my people (Southern women), I never said anything about it or gave anyone a chance to correct it. Now that I no longer live with people (other than my mother who has to love me no matter what I do, even if I text her from the bedroom “would you QUIT slamming the DOORS” and she replies “I am at the grocery store”) I simply find it curious.

So there you go: if you share a room with someone who tends to sleep and this has never occurred to you, start holding the doorknob tonight. Your partner will thank you. Or rather, they won’t, because they won’t wake up and know it happened, which is exactly the point.

Handsome

I was going to bitch about doorknob etiquette tonight, but then I got into a Twitter debate about whether or not Daniel Craig is handsome, and now I want to write about that instead.

There are a handful of different terms we use to describe beauty, and I maintain that each of these terms mean objectively different things: handsome, gorgeous, beautiful, pretty, cute, attractive, hot, sexy. When it comes to “handsome” specifically, it means a certain type of face that conforms to objective standards. The standards might vary slightly from culture to culture or era to era, but they’re typically pretty similar. Currently for men it’s symmetrical facial features, a rectangular face with a square jawline, defined cheekbones, evenly set eyes, an aristocratic nose, full lips, straight white teeth, a cleft chin, ears close to the head, clear smooth skin, thick shiny hair. A woman who has features that fit these criteria is described as a “handsome woman.”

That’s not this man. This man has a round face, a long upper lip, a protruding under lip, a furrow between his eyebrows, hooded eyes with bags, a bulb nose, jug ears, and a receding hairline. Now, look, I am not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Daniel Craig is attractive, and obviously many people are attracted to him. Many find him hot. But by objective standards, he isn’t handsome.

On the other hand, a previous Bond is pretty much the textbook definition of handsome — blandly so.

Other than that his eyes are a bit small, this checks most boxes. I do not know many women who actually find Brosnan attractive (I do not find him attractive) purely because he is so boringly textbook handsome.

All these other terms mean certain things, too — like take the handsome template but tweak it with cheek dimples, a snub nose, and sparkly eyes and you have “cute” (your James Marsdens, your Chris Pratts). Enhance the cheekbones and do a thinner, longer nose, and a curvier mouth, and you have “pretty” (Jared Leto, Tom Hiddleston).

None of this would matter, except that Daniel Craig plays James Bond, a character I do not care about at all, but that has a fanbase of men who lose their shit whenever any actor is cast in the role that does not perfectly fit their mental idea of him. And I don’t know if this is true to the novels, but the general cultural idea we have of Bond is that he is classically handsome.

But Craig isn’t handsome, and yet no one has ever expressed any surprise at this casting choice. I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t find him sexy or attractive or hot (although I don’t personally), and I’m not even saying he shouldn’t be playing Bond. It’s just weird that nobody ever says anything like, “he’s actually kind of ugly, but he still makes it work.” Rather, everyone acts as if he’s objectively classically handsome and he’s not and I find it a little bit weird, that’s all.

Aunts

Andrew Farmer is one of my favorite people on Twitter, and every October, he does 31 days of “31 Aunts for Halloween.” I love them; I relate to every last one. I have no siblings, so I will never be an aunt, but I have given off strong aunt vibes since I was probably about five, and Farmer is the foremost expert in capturing exactly what makes aunts aunts.

This is my favorite so far of this year’s batch:

Watch them all!

Umbrellas

Having waited tables, I’m always pretty attuned to the sociopolitical dynamics of restaurant staff. Today, Mom and Edith and I went to the farmer’s market in downtown Buda, which is adorable, and then we ate lunch on a restaurant patio nearby. It was a rare overcast day and extremely windy, so the umbrellas were all down.

After we’d been seated, I got up and put one near us up, because I have a baby so I behave like an entitled person now. Shortly after that, our server (a beleaguered woman who was clearly in the weeds all morning) put it down, explaining to me that her manager wouldn’t let them put them up because two had already broken in the wind that day and they cost $500. She said this as if I had challenged her on it; it was the voice of someone who had been explaining this all morning and getting a ton of pushback.

I didn’t much mind because it was so cloudy and cool and Edith had a shade over her car seat. But about twenty minutes later, the sun came out fully and it was suddenly intolerable. I put up the parasol I carry around everywhere, and my Mom always wears a hat with a brim the size of a snow saucer, but the family eating on the sectional sofa near us were not so prepared, and one of the women came over to put the umbrella up. I explained what had happened earlier when I’d tried it, and she rolled her eyes.

This family’s server was really working his tables. He was upselling and schmoozing and doing The Most, and so when he came back out and heard they were unhappy, he marshaled a bunch of other dude servers and they put up every umbrella in the place, and arranged them all around this family. Meanwhile, Mom and I moved ourselves over to a table under a tree.

Our server did not make another appearance for awhile, and when she finally did, she looked around with a “fucking of course” expression on her face, and immediately behind her, a sour-looking middle-aged guy in khakis bustled out and told her to put all the umbrellas down and then he vanished without helping. So she did, to furious looks from the family.

Meanwhile, all the fun dudes were inside and did not come out again until it was time to send their customers off with frozen rum drinks in takeaway Mason jars, because apparently that’s a thing that happens in Texas.

I do not miss those days at all. I left her a big tip.

Walk

One block over, there’s an open space with a little pond, and Edith and I went for a walk around it this morning. There were a few other parents with little kids out walking around. We passed a father with two little girls and one of the little girls wanted to give Edith a branch with some weedy flowers on it and then tell me a long story that I couldn’t fully understand, but it was something to do with her cousin and what Edith could expect the next time she came to this little girl’s house to visit.

Because I was an only child and every adult in my life paid attention to me when I talked, and I haven’t really been around small children since, I’ve never really gotten the knack of how you’re not expected to let them finish talking to you before you interrupt them to talk to an adult or simply walk off. The reason, of course, being that they do not ever stop talking.

But to me, it feels extraordinarily rude, so I treat children with the same courtesy I do adults. This causes a lot of problems because it weirds adults out, and is actually in itself both rude and kind of creepy. An example is that if a child is telling me an endless story and I am supposed to be socializing with its parent, if its parent expects me to follow them or respond to something they are saying, I feel like I have to conclude things with the child first. Which will at times involve my holding up a “just a moment” hand to the adult while I wait for the child to stop its endless babbling.

I don’t know, women expect me to pay attention to their husbands when they’re telling some endless random story, so I don’t know why I’m not also expected to politely pretend that their children are interesting.

Anyway, this little girl’s father was trying to walk away with both his children and I clearly wanted to leave, but I felt like I had to keep standing there paying attention to this child. Which ultimately resulted in the man looking at me like I was the strangest weirdo ever. His expression clearly read “why are you staring at my kid for so long?” Because she was talking to me! I couldn’t figure out a way to extricate myself from the situation without offending one or the other of them, so finally I just squawked, “you girls are very sweet, thank you!” as if I were a celebrity who’d been briefly waylaid by autograph hounds and then Edith and I beat it over the next hill.

On a semi-related topic, because my mother gets up in the afternoon, she takes her morning walk just after sunset every day, which I don’t love for safety reasons, and case in point last night she was tromping through a forested area at the end of the subdivision when she came abruptly into a meadow and also directly into the midst of a pack of wild boars. “They were about knee-high like medium dogs,” she told me. “But I could hear the bigger ones grunting further back in the forest.”

Remember this infamous tweet? We all had a lot of fun with it, but what if this guy just lived in my new neighborhood.

Food

I have never been able to feed myself appropriately. I’m a relatively intelligent person, and in many ways, I ooze competence. I have never struggled with executive function. I’m organized, I’m systematic. And yet still somehow, feeding myself is completely beyond me.

I don’t cook, and while I’ve gone through periods of cooking, it always seems like an absolutely insane waste of time and energy and money and decision-making when pre-made food is so easy and widely available. Home cooking at this point seems like sewing your own clothes: you certainly can do it, if you enjoy that sort of thing, but it’s a full out hobby that’s going to consume no small portion of your life, so if that’s your thing, that’s your thing.

But yet somehow, for everyone else, cooking is merely a daily chore, like bathing or brushing teeth, a maintenance activity. I don’t understand that. For me, it’s a giant onerous obligation that sucks up like fully 3/4 of the scant free hours in a workday.

I am usually able to institute some sort of maintenance feeding of myself that is very fast and easy. Right now, for example, I eat a packet of this pre-made dal for dinner every night, along with a cup of microwave minute rice. The dal takes exactly 1:30 to heat up and the minute rice takes, well, 1:00, so my entire dinner is ready in 2:30 minutes. It takes probably 2 minutes to eat it, and there is no cleanup. Dinner is thus fully accomplished in under 5 minutes.

But now I have this baby.

I don’t know why I thought that when I had a baby, I would suddenly know how to deal with food. I am still as confounded by it as ever, with the additional wrinkle that there are only certain things a baby can eat. There’s a new bit of social pressure for women in my demographic around the idea that college-educated, upper-middle-class mothers do not give our babies baby food, or even homemade purees. Instead, we introduce a colorful variety of whole foods. Baby food — especially pre-made baby food — is for trashy people, or, as we all heavily imply but never say, poors.

Now, typically, beyond the classism, I find all this type of stuff thinly veiled feminist backlash, to re-convince women that they need to spend all their time on domestic duties that had previously been automated or pre-packaged somehow, so that they will be ineffective in other areas and not gain any real power or serious money (or organize and take to the streets in a bloody revolution). But somehow I fell for it in this case, and felt that I absolutely could not under any circumstances give Edith baby food.

In practice, this has mostly resulted in is my not feeding her solids at all, because I’m way too exhausted after a long day at work to make decisions about some sort of vegetable to steam for her till it’s mushy, let it cool, scoop it out for her, let her fling it everywhere, bathe her, clean the high chair, etc. etc. etc.

I’ve been agonizing about this for two weeks and trying to decide how I will build meal-planning, shopping, and food prep into my daily life as a single parent who works full-time. And then I suddenly realized there’s a really simple solution to this for the time being: fucking baby food.

Look, I just am not an especially healthy person when it comes to diet and I’m incredibly lazy. I once lived for three months eating nothing but Clif bars. I was a beta tester for Soylent. I eat conventional produce from Mexico. I spend an obscene amount of money on delivery just for myself that I could easily go pick up. I go through probably two jars of peanut butter a week. My roommate had to teach me that you’re supposed to heat the pan before you put the egg in when I was 30 years old. My idea of health food is an Amy’s frozen dinner. I drink wine out of a can.

I formula feed my baby and now I’m giving her jarred baby food, and it won’t kill her, and if you don’t like that, well, you can fucking bite me.

I Hate My Furniture :(

I left all my furniture at my old house for staging, so for about a month now, Edith, Mom, and I (as well as the nanny) have been sitting on the floor, eating out of a mini-fridge, and sleeping in twin beds. It’s gotten really old, and so I was excited for all our furniture to finally be moved in yesterday.

Except now that it’s here, I’ve realized that I hate it.

In my old house, my furniture looked a bit shabby, but cute. The colors and textures went well together. It wasn’t especially matchy, but it all looked intentional. My living room especially appeared harmonious to me. Every time I walked into the room, I got a good feeling of peace. I always felt mildly pleased with how things looked.

But in this living room, it looks like the room where we stored all the furniture we weren’t using and didn’t know what to do with. It’s sort of weird how a set of furniture that looked coherent in one space can look so wildly mismatched and unintentional in another space.

Every time I walk into the living room now, I feel slightly stressed out and displeased, the same feeling you get when you suddenly remember something that isn’t going well at work, or some particularly detestable chore you have to take care of. I mean, I really hate it!

But I don’t have any time right now, and I don’t have any money after the move, so there’s not much I can do about it. Also, I invested in a really expensive couch that fit my old space perfectly, but it doesn’t work here at all, and it’s only like seven months old. So I’m sort of stuck.

Maybe I’ll just spend all my leisure time in the walk-in shower, which I do like.

Bad Art Friend

I rarely dig into the Twitter main character of the day, but last night when I saw that everyone was tweeting about this article, I checked it out:

I am obsessed with this article. If it were an AITA post, it would be a clear ESH, and indeed, most of Twitter has been focused on how badly everyone involved comes out, but I actually think that all of them are so relatable! What a parade of human weakness! Who has not been a Dorland at some point in their life? Who has not also been a Larson? This story about a short story is itself one of the more involving short stories I have ever read.

Here we have a woman with zero self-awareness who was being extremely self-aggrandizing and obnoxious about her own performative good deeds. She also considered people who were merely acquaintances to be her dear friends, and had no idea she was the Michael Scott of the writing group. Beyond just that, she figured her Facebook friends would act as her personal fan base. Then! Then! She was rudely and abruptly confronted with her true self in the form of a fictional avatar. This must have been sickeningly awful. None of us want to have a mirror held up to us in this way. But rather than accept her own shortcomings and work on becoming a better person, she went into deep “deny and attack” mode. She told herself that all her motives were as pure as she ever thought they were, and that she had been deeply wronged by this unflattering caricature rather than absolutely nailed by it. And she went after the writer, telling herself it was about maintaining her status as inspirational figure to others rather than admitting it was about the damage to her own ego.

Then, on the other side, we have a woman who had an acquaintance who was mindblowingly up her own ass and didn’t realize it, and rather than just avoid that person, she was nice (or at least courteous) to her face, and then constantly trashed her in a group chat and delighted in doing so. She told herself that this woman meant nothing to her, but in fact, she was OBSESSED with how much this bitch bothered her. So much so that she wrote a short story about it. She even directly copied part of this woman’s Facebook post into the story even though she knew she shouldn’t have. And then later, when she’s confronted with all this, rather than admit that yeah, she did exactly what it looked like she did, she professed innocence and surprise and rewrote history about it, and she is now sticking to that narrative.

I just…have been both of these people? I mean, not to this extreme, but I definitely have made all these mistakes at various times in my life! The main thing you hope for yourself is that when your chickens come home to roost, you graciously accept it rather than double down. Neither of these women managed that, and that’s ultimately why this story escalated to involve multiple lawsuits, damaged both their reputations, and ended up in the NY Times.

Except it also ended up in the Times because Dorland hilariously pitched it to them thinking it would vindicate her! I truly cannot relate to that level of denial.

Obviously, although she acted poorly here and continues to refuse to own it, Larson is the winner because she turned her somewhat unreasonable irritation at this woman into what seems to have been a genuinely good piece of fiction which is what artists do, and also because the middle finger of changing the signature in the story to “kindly” AFTER the lawsuit is a truly beautiful piece of trolling, even though she should absolutely not have done it. Also, she has a family, friends, talent, and a career (all of which means she could have afforded to be the bigger person here).

The only people who are 100% innocent in all of this are the group chat — they did exactly what they are supposed to do: talk shit and instigate. Group chats should be incubators of drama, applauders of escalation, a Greek chorus for our basest instincts. That’s their function. Hopefully all of us have at least one friend in our lives who will tell us the truth about ourselves and check us when we’re being assholes. But that friend is not in the group chat.

The group chat as institution is pure chaotic evil; may we all live in fear of the day ours is subpoenaed.

Sleep Training, Okay, But Like Really This Time

Regular readers will know that I have changed my mind approximately one thousand times about whether or not to sleep train my baby, and have been sort of pseudo-sleep training her, sometimes, -ish.

On Saturday night, I relented (again) and rocked Edith to sleep before putting her down, and she subsequently woke up THREE TIMES and did not actually fall asleep until well after nine, and only then because I finally just let her cry for 40 minutes.

So, I thought, ok, I have to sleep train.

But then I googled “sleep training — bad?” (for the billionth time) and read all these moms who say that you’re not actually training your baby to fall asleep on her own, but are actually just teaching her to give up because no one is coming.

“How could I have done this to Edith?” I thought. I shared my concern with my mother, and she said, “Well, yeah! That’s the point — you’re teaching her to give up and go to sleep!”

I asked the pediatrician what she thought and explained my previous attempts. “So…you have been lying right next to this baby while she screams every night for an hour?” the pediatrician asked.

I am very familiar with this sort of question, asked in this sort of tone. It means that something that I have been doing, which seemed normal and adaptive to me, is actually completely insane.

So, it seems that everyone is on the same page about this, and that I had lost perspective. So last night, I did the first night of the Ferber method. I moved Edith’s crib across the room, and then I put her in it. And then I left the room.

I checked on her at 3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, and then 10 minutes. She screamed her head off for 28 minutes exactly, and was not remotely comforted by my coming in to rub her back. And then she fell asleep.

Then, I took a shower and went to bed and we both slept until 6:30 when she woke me up by babbling happily.

I can’t predict what will happen next, but it seems possible that what you have to do here is what every single person says you have to do and the results of doing it are exactly what every single person says they will be. Incredible.

Doctor

Edith had her six-month checkup today and I found out how much she’s grown in weight and height (a lot!). She also got her jabs, and handled them like an absolute pro — she wailed in outrage for exactly one second and then immediately accepted a small toy duck as a peace offering and dried up. She also demonstrated how good she is at kicking and sitting up and performing other feats of strength. No one asked her to do this, but she felt like showing off, I guess. Finally, she took the opportunity of being the center of attention to deliver a long, assertive lecture to her physician. She was more or less ignored, but she persevered until she had said everything she had to say (whatever that was).

I’m so proud of her. She’s so happy and confident and strong and outgoing. Before having a baby, I thought we were more or less unmolded clay coming into existence, but this is one thing that direct experience with watching a person grow has already changed my mind about. Edith is who she is, and she arrived here as herself. I won’t ever be able to claim credit for her, but I hope very much I can avoid getting in her way.