On Birthdays and Water Picks

I have a reputation for being anti-adult birthday. This is not entirely true, but it’s close enough to the truth that I have leaned into it, since overall, I’m more anti than pro. In actuality, I mostly just feel that it’s unseemly for an adult to make a huge deal out of their birthday or to be especially demanding about it. Specifically, I feel it’s weird when an adult insists that their birthday be observed on their actual birthday, rather than, say, the following Saturday. It’s not polite to insist that everyone get babysitters and be out late on a random Tuesday just because you’re turning some unremarkable age like 36. It’s also weird when people insist they cannot do something important on a certain day because it’s their birthday. Just observe your birthday the following week, who gives a fuck?

For my birthday this year, I received a combination electric toothbrush and water pick, because I asked for it. It was not, therefore, a surprise. I don’t really understand adult presents, either, because most of us have our own money and can just buy anything that we want for ourselves. But every year, my parents ask me what I want, and usually I don’t have an answer, but this year, I had just gone to the dentist and they told me I needed an electric toothbrush and a water pick, so I said this. This was the first time I had been to the dentist in two years, and they told me that I have receding gums. They said I needed some sort of spraying treatment and that my insurance would only pay for them to do half my mouth at a time, so I had to go back again a second time. I don’t know if any of this is true — they could have just been making all of it up, how would I know? But anyway, I got the spraying treatment.

One thing that annoys me about going to the dentist is that you have to get x-rays. I have never had a cavity in my entire life, and I am never going to have a cavity, so the x-rays are always entirely unnecessary. I understand that the dentist cannot possibly know that in my case, they are unnecessary. They can’t just take my word for it that I’m not going to have a cavity. I tell them every time and they act smug about it, like “we’ll see” and then I don’t and they see also that I never have, and they praise me and say there is no one like me. If there is a hygienist present, usually the two of them will exclaim to each other about how excellent my teeth are, and how superior I am to their other patients.

One time a dentist told me that if I ever died in a fiery crash, they would have a hell of a time identifying my body, because my teeth are perfect. I think this is my favorite compliment I’ve ever received, the perfect combination of macabre and awkward.


I turned forty today. It feels like I’ve been forty for a long time, so although it’s rather a milestone birthday, it doesn’t feel like one.

The main thing about being forty is that I’m a mother now. I had a baby three and a half months ago. I’m not one of those people who think that everyone should have children, or that people cannot really understand life until they have a child, but for me personally, I was a real dead inside piece of shit before I had my daughter, and now I feel joy and sadness and all sorts of things. It’s as if when I went into the hospital, the world was in black-and-white, and I came out and it was in color.

Today, we (my mother, my daughter, and I) went to lunch at a restaurant and sat on the patio because we’re still a little nervous about taking the baby inside places, especially when they are crowded, which this place was because it’s Saturday. It’s boiling hot in Texas and there were fans and misters on the patio. This was the baby’s third time at a restaurant, which also means that it was my third time at a restaurant in about a year and a half. Ordinary things seem new to me twice over — because the world is opening back up a little and I have not done them in so long, and because I am getting to see all of them through my baby’s eyes and everything is a new adventure for her. She wore a navy blue onesie with flowers on it, and we worried that she might be getting too much sun, or that it might be too hot. She has bright red hair, and it’s long enough now that when she’s hot, it gets sweaty and curly in the back and fluffs up into a little ducktail.

I’m typing this in bed, and my daughter is right next to me in her basinet. She was asleep, but she has woken up and is staring at the ceiling fan now, and waving her arms back and forth. Every night I’m just amazed that I have this awesome little person next to me, that I get to end the day with her, and then we wake up and spend another day together.

It’s all so much fun! I hadn’t had fun in years, and now everything is fun. I was so deeply bored and had been for so long, and now everything is interesting.

So, I’m looking forward to my 40s overall.

Thoughts On the Pandemic

I don’t have much to say about the pandemic that has not already been said, but as things start to open up again in my neck of the woods (acknowledging that they very much are not many other places, and recognizing my immense privilege here, although I suspect it might be temporary), my lasting takeaways on the entire experience thus far are: 

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II Samuel

We get a second book of Samuel, even though Samuel died halfway through the last one. We did see Samuel one time after his death as an especially pissed off ghost: does this second book indicate that he will keep turning up as an undead cranky old man? I hope so! But probably not.

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I Samuel

I was misled by the brevity of Ruth. I forgot how long and repetitive a Bible book typically is, and embarked on I Samuel with good spirits, before slowly realizing that it is longer and more tedious than the pandemic has been. I feel completely beaten down by it. It’s the one where we meet David. Let’s get into it! 

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Recent Reads

I read 70 books in 2020, not including a few books I read for work and one I abandoned part-way through (see below). Here’s the last batch, followed by a list of the ones I especially liked over the year (15). This was a typical year’s reading for me, as I’m an antisocial hermit and a big reader just in general, and so my lifestyle this year wasn’t really all that different than it is any other year (except that I didn’t travel or see family, and also I got pregnant).

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Ruth is a sudden and extreme departure from everything we have read until now. First of all, the Book is the story of a woman with a name. Second, in the very first chapter, we are introduced to three women all with names, none prostitutes, and are told of the closeness and loyalty of their relationships. It’s hard for me to express just how wildly unprepared for this tonal shift we are by anything that has come up in the Bible thus far. It is as if we have been reading XXX Big Jugs and Extreme Car Crashes magazine, and suddenly there is a long personal essay about raising an abandoned baby bird by hand. 

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When May I Masturbate at Work: A Guide For Men

Several weeks ago, Jeffrey Toobin was suspended from The New Yorker for masturbating on a Zoom call with his colleagues. He thought his camera was off. This was somewhat surprising, but much more surprising was the general reaction to this: men were horrified at what they felt was a massive overreaction to a situation that anyone could find themselves in. Their position is that everyone masturbates, and it wasn’t his intention for anyone to see him, and it was unfair to punish him for an accident. Furthermore, the new work-from-home movement is blurring the boundaries between work and home, and this is very confusing to men, who no longer know when and where they can masturbate. 

I myself have been working from home for eight years now for a fully distributed company. I spend many hours a day on Zoom calls with my colleagues, and I have never once masturbated while at work. I am therefore uniquely positioned to help with these new etiquette questions. Here are some FAQs about situations you might find yourself in. I hope this is helpful: 

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Ghost Story

In honor of the season, here’s a short story I wrote in response to a prompt for my writing group about a year ago. (It is not really a scary story. Well, maybe it is, a bit, but not because of the ghost.)

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