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Before yesterdaymimi smartypants

so pine fresh

By mimi smartypants

DRIED

The double-edged sword: but aren’t all swords double-edged? It is possible I don’t know a lot about swords. It seems reasonable that you would want a sword to cut both ways, swish swish slice slice slice, otherwise there is a lot of wasted motion because I have to “reset” in order to continue chopping at you. No? 

Anyway, the double-edged sword of over-the-counter cold medicine. It certainly has drained the fluid from my nose, but it also seems to have drained the fluid from my whole head, and I needed some of that to lubricate thoughts, have saliva, and keep my joints moving without creaky noises. Instead I am a dusty paper-mache heap, a sentient piñata, and every time I turn my head there’s a nearly audible click as my eyeballs roll and slide to catch up. Breathe from both nostrils? Or lose your humanity? The Tylenol Severe Cold + Sinus devil’s bargain.  

OKAY I GUESS

I am subscribed to so many of your newsletters. The free versions, that is. I suppose I understand where you are coming from, you produce amazing content that I love and if anyone out there wants to pay for it, they should certainly be welcome to do so. Pro: It is nice to get mail, and to have a nice blog post to read right there in the old in-box. Con: There are an awful lot of these nice blog posts, and while lots of them might be worth $50/year for special subscriber-only content, one can not reasonably subscribe to a whole bunch of $50/year newsletters. Why do you want to make me choose? Hey I have an idea: you put this amazing content in an INTERNET LOCATION, where I can go read it. I just invented blogs! What a great idea, damn.

Deja vu, incoming: there will be a ton of anger about my very mild criticism of newsletters, just as there was when, long ago in the “blogosphere,” I dared to opine that sponsored posts dilute a writer’s voice and make me uninterested in and suspicious of the other things they have to say, and that sidebar ads on a personal blog are ugly and lame and do you really want to talk about your personal precious life right next to a Duncan Hines cake mix video. I still have emails saved in a folder called SELLOUTS GET SENSITIVE: people who got really mad at that and wrote me full of righteous indignation and I HAVE A RIGHT TO MAKE A LIVING. Of course you do! Never said otherwise!

As for the newsletter thing, I don’t necessarily hate it. It is just strange, that’s all—when I have always conceived of my online diary as a sort of letter to whoever reads it—that the “new” model of writing online is literally writing a letter to subscribers. With (presumably?) slightly better letters going to those who choose to pay. 

Whatever. It has officially, as I pompously announced on Twitter, been 20 years since I started putting my diary (this one right here!) online, and it is not moving to newsletter format. There won’t be ads, there won’t be sponsored posts, you don’t have to pay to read it. That is not because I am so fucking punk rock by any means (remember, I was an early sellout to the blog-into-(terrible)-book gold rush!) It is just because I don’t know any other way, and I like to type about what I am doing, and I don’t need your money because I do other stuff for money. Keep your money! Use it to pay your bills and buy candy and drugs. 

AP LANGUAGE

Seeing this year’s English homework is giving me bad flashbacks to a kind of writing that I never have to do again—that sort of “essay question” response writing that calls out its tricks in order to be successfully graded. Parallel sentence structure? Check. Introductions, conclusions, transitions? Check. Narrative strategies? Check. These things (which are woefully lacking here!) are definitely part of “good writing,” but it sort of grinds my gears to see it all deconstructed and naked like that. Some people like deep dives—they like to note-by-note analyze a Bach Mass or a Prince guitar solo and see “why” it is so perfect and great—but it’s a bit of a bait-and-switch, no? Like if you know how it works you will automatically be able to do it. Maybe (hopefully) you can learn enough to get a good AP exam score, or to faithfully play the notes of the Prince guitar solo, but by no means have you mastered the craft. Oh listen to me, “the craft.” I’m such an asshole. A Tylenol Severe Cold + Sinus asshole. 

MEDICATED SELF

Here is an article that I think did a decent job of detailing the tension between the obvious need for psychiatric drugs and the blunt-force-instrument nature of their effects. Everyone is trying to figure themselves out and figure out how to live. Medication can be necessary to let people get on with the business of that (instead of, you know, spending all day hyperventilating in bed), but it does nothing to show you HOW to do it. 

Speaking of figuring out how to live, how about we watch the video for “Just” again? This video may be where I really fell in love with Thom Yorke (long-time David Byrne fangirl; you know I love me a twitchy dancing man). 

Also, recently unearthed: my little first-grade dude climbing the bus stop sign. He still has forearms of steel. 

—mimi smartypants, while symptoms last. 

along the coast

By mimi smartypants

A WHOLE LOT OF HUMANITY IN THE MORNING

The teen’s high school is on my way to the train so we walk a few blocks together. The rest of my commute is normally very introspective, solitary, and earbuds-and-reading-material intensive, with nary a word spoken until I get to my office and usually not even then. (Until about an hour in, when colleagues both near and distant start to realize they can ask me to solve their problems rather than making the slightest twitch toward self-sufficiency. Oh sorry do I sound bitter? START AGAIN.) 

Today was very different! Near the train station, a kid headed toward (and wearing an ID from) the high school was zipping down the sidewalk on one of those weird skateboards with the bend in the middle. He was weaving all over the place and getting way too close to people on foot, and he then swerved right toward me, to the point where I had to step off into the parkway, so I said, calmly, “Careful.” The kid then spun around and yelled, “Fuck you, cunt!”

Which is QUITE the escalation!

I am not going to let that go, especially from a child, and especially when I did nothing wrong, so I also turned around and yelled, “Shut up and get your tiny dick to school!” I don’t know what happened after that. Hopefully he and his micropenis made it to class as it would be a shame to mess up your attendance record so early in the year. 

After getting off the train I realized I had my very nice iced coffee cup with me but had forgotten to fill it with cold brew at home, so I stopped at one of the seventeen thousand Starbucks on the way to the office. There was a bit of a traffic jam at the coffee-additives bar and a lot of people seemed hell-bent on being FIRST to get to the half-and-half, but I had a pretty chill playlist going in my ears so just waited my turn. 

A guy held the door for me on the way out and started talking about the scene inside, people just have no common courtesy, you know? Just say excuse me! What is the rush? We’re all trying to do the same thing and get on our way, sometimes you have to be patient! Normally my reaction would be ugh, why do we have to speak, but he was actually pretty pleasant and funny about it, so I pulled the earbuds out and we congenially bitched about the entitled rudeness of River North Starbucks customers for about half a block before parting ways. 

So that was way more interaction than usual on a Thursday morning, plus way more trading of sexually charged insults than I ever expected, and now I am tired. No-Delete Thursday means you get all this plus (too much) more, without the benefit of reflection. 

SIXTEEN GOING ON THREE AND A HALF

I realized that the very exasperating Big Questions from the teen (last entry) are just another way in which this age mimics toddlerhood. Toddlers are great at asking questions like “Why are apples?” and “Is five a lot?” Usually when you’re trying to parallel-park in the snow or something like that. Mom? Is five a lot? Um…it’s not a lot of M&Ms. It is a lot of severed heads. I realize all toddlers and all teens are different but in my case see also: increased need for sleep, dramatic expansion of palate/types of acceptable foods, more sophisticated sense of humor. 

I have also come to learn that teenagers can take nothing, absolutely nothing, in stride. My kid is relatively drama-free and still, setbacks or everyday irritants get crabbed about. On the other hand, clearly no one ever really grows out of this behavior (may I direct the jury’s attention to Exhibit A: Twitter). I am far from the ideal practitioner of mindfulness but I find myself espousing its techniques on a weekly basis. My advice is just a drop in the fake-high-stakes bucket that modern teenagers are drowning in, though, with all these artificial SUCCESS DEADLINES like college admission, standardized tests, and deciding what to do with the rest of your life. 

HERE IS WHERE I CONTRADICT ALL MY MINDFULNESS TALK BY LISTING EIGHT EXTREMELY MINOR THINGS THAT NONETHELESS BUG ME

  • Books where you can somehow tell the author was simultaneously thinking of the screenplay/movie of the book
  • Makeup: excessive use of facial highlighter, particularly way up past the cheekbones and onto the temples
  • Referring to anything and everything as a “journey” and any negative emotion as being “devastated”
  • The fact that there are so many Skarsgards—I’m not convinced that Big Skarsgard isn’t secretly adding a new one each year to see if we notice
  • The media’s attention to UK politics: not to be rude but we are busy having our own constitutional crisis over here
  • The media’s attention to new Apple products
  • My stupidity whenever I entertain, and how I completely forget that guests are polite and will bring alcohol to a party; so I buy too much alcohol and then everyone brings alcohol and WOW, TOO MUCH ALCOHOL: MY HOUSE IS NOW A WINE STORE
  • The fact that some popular thinking about mental illness has failed to acknowledge that you can be both mentally ill AND an asshole, and that mental illness is no excuse for poor behavior; I propose we work to  #endthestigma but also #takenoshit

—hashtag mimi smartypants.

plant-based portfolio

By mimi smartypants

GOT NO AIM AT ALL

Some people get all hopeful and excited when school starts. On the one hand I get it: New year! New me! New chances! On the other hand, maybe those people are just high on permanent markers and or poisoned by mechanical-pencil lead. For me the beginning of this school year has been nothing but an anxiety spiral. The tension between trying to provide Aaron with everything he needs to be successful vs letting him figure it all out independently (and possibly fail).* The horror of trying to help a shorter, stylish teen boy find clothes when he is as picky about fit as an elderly Italian tailor. The big unknown of college and how do you even start narrowing the options? The fun layer of gender anxiety on top of the normal teen anxieties. 

*Inevitable! Not very high-stakes! Not really, at the end of the day, my problem! But parent feelings get all mixed up with kid feelings when bad things happen. 

I also took about a million vacation days this year, between the London fun and the Pacific Northwest adventure. I do not regret one bit of it; but I have to pretty much work straight through 2019 now, particularly if I want to save vacation days for a thing that I do not want to talk about right now. VAGUEDIARY: ACTIVATE! (You know I’ll blab eventually. Be patient with me.)

The kid is feeling the anxiety too, in many small and large ways. Apparently one was supposed to have saved all the materials from a previous class in a binder to use in the next class—although this was literally never mentioned until the first day—so he is being punished for Marie Kondo-ing his schoolwork over the summer. (The teacher seems unable to give a straight answer as to how big a deal this is.) He is supposed to take an online class to fulfill an art credit that his aggressive schedule does not allow time for, but has a counselor explained how this works, despite diligent teen emailing? No. I hear reports that his Spanish teacher speaks in a Castilian monotone mumble that makes understanding difficult for the indifferent language-learner. And so on.

Then there was our whole existential conversation last night, when I was very tired and crabby and Not In The Mood. Do you have to “love” something to do it for a living? Do you have to have a “passion” for something to study it in college? How do you know if it’s the right thing? What if you change your mind? What if you get a job and it turns out you did not even need your degree at all? What if you are good at your job but you like it only okay; do you just do it until you die? Isn’t that kind of sad? Isn’t life kind of sad? How do you feel okay about that? How do you stop worrying and then getting mad at yourself for worrying? 

My answers were much longer (and sometimes crabby), but generally thus—no; no; you don’t; that’s fine; check out your very own father, the “nearly-a-history-PhD” computer programmer; check out your very own mother, who has an entire successful career that she finds merely tolerable; meh, debatable: the idea is to have other good stuff in your life besides paid work; yes but so what, it’s what we’ve got; million-dollar question; I don’t know, DRUGS? SEX? ICE CREAM? 

I’m sympathetic but sometimes I just cannot wrestle with the Big Questions out loud, especially when I am probably expected to impart some parental wisdom or (at least) comfort. Do you think I would have obfuscated my human despair with 20 years and 100 million words of published diary content if I felt content about these things? I love you! I’m sorry it sucks! Do what I do when it sucks: go to bed!

MORE SUMMERTIME SADNESS

In my upstairs bathroom I have a metal vertical thing that holds three extra rolls of toilet paper. As a proactive housekeeper and a fan of toilet paper, I usually grab two more rolls and fill the thing when there is only one roll left. After a few rounds of this I start to feel sorry for the bottom roll, coming close to having its time on the big stage and then BOOM, two more rolls dumped on its head. I have started to rotate Bottom Roll up to the top when this happens, and putting the new rolls on the bottom. Bottom Roll has been patient. Fair is fair. 

FAUNA

Besides the yelly orange cat in the last entry, I forgot to make note of some of the other animals we saw on the Oregon/California trip. Elk! Lots of birds of prey! A cute skinny black snake that quickly got out of my way in the redwood forest! The snake was just lying there on the trail, in full sun, and went quickly back into the shadows as we approached. It was probably like ah fuck, I just got warmed up. Sorry snake.

Also, apologies if you saw my Twitter post and know this already but a mouse (apparently) got in our house and Murphy cat took care of it. I came downstairs at Ridiculous O’Clock in the morning and saw a weird something in the corner of the hall. What is that? Is it a cat toy? NO! (But also: YES! It used to be!) It was a small mouse, twisted and broken-necked and slightly damp, and Murphy was like YES YES IT WAS ME OH MY GOD SO COOL YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE. I am sure he has told the story four thousand times to the other cats by now and they are so sick of it. 

I was seriously grossed out, but LT helped me clean up, and after thoroughly inspecting every bit of the house for poop, chewed-on things, and mouse urine (via blacklight), I do not believe we actually have a mouse problem. Why did this one come in? How did this one come in? How much, and how quickly, did it regret its mistake? (Murphy says: more mice please! It was awesome. Also look at my claws I’m totally the best.) 

CHECK CHECK CHECK IT OUT

Recently finished books: We Cast A Shadow, The Impossible Climb, and Molly Fox’s Birthday.

I also highly recommend that you listen to the monotonous-in-a-good-way, hazy-methadone-twilight, acoustic-droney-shoegaze album I Declare Nothing by Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe (of Brian Jonestown Massacre + other projects fame). Or maybe don’t listen to it if you have stuff to do as it quickly leads to lighting candles, popping 50 or so milligrams of THC, pouring some red wine, and wishing you still smoked cigarettes. 

Other things I recommend: working out in the morning (it sounds like it sucks but it really doesn’t), reading more “young adult” books, using sticky velcro things to hang stuff instead of putting holes in your walls, solar-powered string lights, blue shop towels instead of paper towels for terrible messes, reaching out to your friends and planning a meet instead of waiting to be asked, and changing your frequently-barfing cat’s diet to 100% cans and cutting out the kibble cold turkey, no matter how pitifully she whimpers. 

—mimi smartypants needs the amino acid taurine in order to thrive. 

pinned to the open road

By mimi smartypants

I took a trip with my family. Then we came back home. Then I went back to work and remembered that working is not as much fun as traveling. Weird.

Anyway, we flew to Portland and then drove down to San Francisco, stopping to hike and stay in some very odd Airbnbs along the way. At the end of the trip a bad thing happened. However, thinking about how the bad thing could have been much worse has given me all sorts of cheesy-cliché gratitude feelings. So come with me! First: to Portland!

The Portland sleeping spot was a tiny little doll’s house of an apartment, 600 square feet but somehow also two bedrooms, with lots of clever storage and perfectly proportioned built-in furniture. It awakened a long-dormant fantasy in me of living alone and having a dedicated place for everything; a life where everything gets put back in exactly that dedicated place, AHEM, no that is not at all a shout-out to my husband and child. Why would you ask that. This place was the apartment equivalent of having literal outlines of tools on the garage-wall pegboard. THE PEGBOARD LIFE, I (OCCASIONALLY) LONG FOR IT. 

First we explored a Portland park to find the “Witch’s Castle” (which I noticed that all official Portland websites were careful to call the “Stone House”). Graffiti! Urine! 

spooky?

For a less urban experience, we drove out to the Mount Hood area and hiked a small part of the 2600-mile Pacific Crest trail, the part near Timberline Lodge. I guess the exterior of this lodge was used in The Shining, but I fall asleep when I try to watch that movie so it was not familiar to me. The views were very dramatic. 

There were lots of chipmunks. I liked walking under the ski lifts. On the way out we saw a huge patch of dirty snow (in August!) and on the way back it was gone. WACKY. Wacky how the sun works in mountain-world.

Portland food: Hogan’s Goat pizza, Gateway Breakfast House, marijuana edibles. (For the adults.) 

The next house was picked just because it was about halfway between Portland and where we wanted to be next, and because I never want to spend too long in the car. That said, I feel compelled to point out that LT was the one who picked it and booked it, out of a limited set of accommodations in the middle of nowhere (aka Wolf Creek, Oregon). I also feel that some of the features of the house, such as the outhouse and the upstairs-deck pee bucket (for nighttime), probably should have been listed more prominently in the description.

This place was a teeny cob house owned by elderly lesbians in a very, very remote location in the woods. Follow the emailed directions (since Google had not a clue), engage the 4-wheel drive on the rental car, go a mile down a dirt road past some chickens and a blue school bus with someone living in it, let yourself in the gate and you are home. No wifi, no phone service, just you and a pee bucket and a whole lot of Starhawk books. I worried a bit about meth’d-up Nazis coming to kill us in the night—the lock was a joke and no one would hear you scream—but honestly how would they even find the place. 

Food here (since no restaurants for miles): salami, cheese, crackers, fruit, and wine we bought on the way. Evening entertainment: Sunset, weird animal noises in the dark, Aaron reading us Trivial Pursuit questions, drinking wine. Nighttime entertainment: me trying to use the pee bucket after all that wine. Morning entertainment:  looking out the window and seeing a large orange cat patiently waiting at the gate. Aaron went down there to open it and the cat followed us into the house, yelling for salami and hard-boiled egg and everything else we were having for breakfast. 

oh hello
finish the banana and move on to the hard-boiled egg. I too enjoy hard-boiled eggs

Next, several different redwood forest hikes. I like the big trees very much. 

In Crescent City we ate more pizza and walked on the beach. It was low tide and thus CRABPOCALYPSE. Yum, say the seagulls. We ate the middles out of you. 

nobody home

Crescent City house was a grandpa-style house on the river. Redwood tree in the front yard, this in the backyard. We spent a solid hour just standing here and throwing rocks. 

afternoon
later

This house probably had the best shower of the trip. It is possible my appreciation of that shower was heightened after the night of the pee bucket. 

Next we continued south, with lots of ocean views while driving, to the Mendocino/Little River area. Snuck through a cemetery to look at a blowhole/punch bowl.

The hotel had a fire pit so we did the usual, with beer. 

beer not pictured

Around this time LT started to feel unwell, with gradually worsening abdominal pain in a specific spot and none of the usual other symptoms that one can knock out with antacids or whatnot. As it got worse, we began to talk about medical care. Although it made me feel like a jerk, I proposed going driving the rest of the way to San Francisco if at all possible, because hospitals in an extremely small town? When you’re not at all sure what’s wrong? Maybe not. So it sucked, but we pushed on, straight to a (useless) urgent care that advised us to go to the emergency room. (Interestingly, when I asked the urgent-care nurse which hospital was closest, she said, “Zuckerberg is closest but…I wouldn’t go there.” Thanks! I will take your word for it!)

The ER we did take him to, in Bernal Heights, was not too bad; only a handful of people bleeding or vomiting or threatening to kill themselves. (It’s an emergency room in a big city—there’s always going to be SOME.) Scans, blood draw, elevated white cells = diverticulitis! How fun. How novel. How unexpected.

LT told us to go on to the apartment because there was really nothing more to be done. It was sad, but true, so Aaron and I took ourselves out for gelato and then back to our nice apartment in the Mission. Is that right? Do people say “the Mission”? Adding “District” like the maps do sounds stupid.) The apartment had a weird steep stairs (more of a ladder, really) behind a closed door, going up to an attic/crawlspace area. I was too chicken to investigate but Aaron wasn’t, and he reported that (a) the ceilings were too low to stand upright but (b) there was a twin mattress on the floor up there, a lamp with an extension cord, and a box of kleenex. San Francisco luxury! I was surprised that the creepy attic space was even part of our Airbnb and not being rented out separately to a Google employee for $1500/month. 

Around dinnertime LT texted to say he was being kept overnight. Bad! Bad in a normal, human way—I don’t want LT to be in the hospital—but also bad in a weird, logistical, uniquely San Francisco way! We had planned to ditch the car on the way in to San Francisco, but since we ended up driving right to the hospital, it was now in a semi-sketchy unattended lot to the tune of $50/day, as well as being overdue at the rental place. This meant that I (a somewhat nervous driver under ideal circumstances) had to return it myself, in a city I don’t know, in a car I don’t understand, to a place I have never been. Aaron and Google Maps were my navigators to a tiny, very poorly marked, car rental return in SoMa (again: is this something people actually say?) I did not cry and hyperventilated only once, after multiple instances of overshooting the rental place due to the lack of signage, insane number of one-way streets, skateboarders, bus-only lanes (except not really because everyone goes in them to turn right), and old people in electric wheelchairs zooming out into traffic. 

Ultimately, it worked! Car gone! Things were much better. Aaron and I walked down to the water and texted poor LT lots of photos. We’re looking at seals, you’re looking at your IV antibiotic drip! That’s fair, right?

He was discharged later the next day, just in time to get to our apartment and see us before we left for the Lights acoustic show. Which was so chill! She gave away signed prints, there were folding chairs on the main floor (although we went up to stand on the balcony rail because, as Aaron put it, “What if we get stuck behind someone with a huge head”), and she played for nearly two hours. The crowd was pleasant, bathrooms were clean, and I wasn’t even the oldest one there. Concert success. 

We flew home to needy cats (YOU GAVE SALAMI TO A STRANGER????) and a ten-day supply of antibiotics for LT. No redwoods or ocean here, but on the other hand no pee bucket. 

—mimi smartypants was very brave in the woods. 

come closer and see/see into the trees

By mimi smartypants
  • Here’s something I will never understand: donating, or worse, selling, extremely small-ticket and random items on the internet. You see this on all manner of neighborhood social media, Craigslist, etc. “New-with-tags dishtowel, $2, porch pickup.” “Half-tube of diaper cream, free, message me mornings only.” “Picture frame, $4 obo.” “Free hot dog buns, we only used two.” How can anyone spend energy, both mental and otherwise, on making and replying to these posts? How can anyone lift fingers from keyboard—“Ah! Finished!”—wait for inbox to fill, respond, greet a stranger at the door, exchange dishtowel for wrinkled singles? Who is the person who replies and goes off to collect said dishtowel? Why was dishtowel not used? Donated? Draped over a fencepost? Thrown in the trash? Used to clean up cat barf and THEN thrown in the trash? Literally set on fire during a night of drunken merriment? The life-minutes devoted to microtransactions of this most worthless kind bother me more than they probably should. 
  • I had a very literal and wordy dream that a horror movie was released called The Unseen. In the dream this led to a lot of funny bad reviews (“I wish this movie had remained…Unseen”). Also, the Unseen of the title referred to an actual scary entity in the film, which caused a lot of dialogue problems. 

There it is! 

What?

The Unseen! I saw it!

But you literally could not have! 

I did! The Unseen is real! And it was…seen!

  • Last week I had to talk into a microphone in place of my boss, which is a lot more talking into a microphone at this type of meeting than I normally do. It was not a big deal except that the schedule got pushed around and we ended up with my bit being during the “working lunch.” This meant no lunch for me because I am not going to give a report into a microphone in between bites of taco salad; it is just not the most professional look. “If you’ll look at the graph on page 92 [guacamole noises].” I came home and ate a block of cheese, more or less. 
  • I also went to a fancy cocktail bar with a friend and had a gin drink I really liked. I did not put my drink on Instagram although that was what everyone around us was doing. This bar serves the kind of cocktails that have at least one ingredient you have to google (Singani 63? Veev? Gustoso?) and one ingredient that is not actually an ingredient at all but a feeling (insert the largest jerkoff gesture ever here). My not-an-ingredient was “rock and roll” and I really wanted to ask the bartender if that meant “jism,” but I refrained.
  • On a not-really-related note, LT and I have a private bit we do where we pretend we are founders of a small sports-drink/Joe-Rogan-tough-guy-style beverage startup called Grizzly Jizz. We lament how we keep losing engineers and product managers who are mauled while trying to collect grizzly bear semen, and discuss how maybe we should consider using artificial grizzly bear semen, get some scientists to synthesize the flavor, but no, the real thing is what sets us apart from all the other ursine-ejaculate-based drinks out there. 
  • Thanks a lot for telling me that Katharine Hepburn was bisexual and possibly non-binary, internet. Like I’m not going to think about THAT forever now. Like I’m not going to put my chin on my fist and stare out the window dreamily for like an hour and then retire to my bed for a “nap.” Sheesh. 

—mimi smartypants is going to get us all killed. 

another heartbeat in the room

By mimi smartypants

CRUEL, CRUEL SUMMER (WITH FOOD AND DRINK)

The universe must have heard my whining in the last entry because suddenly everything’s coming up Mimi. Well, not work. If work were fun and fulfilling it would be called something else. But some things I was under-the-surface fretting about have resolved themselves, I got kind of serious about exercise and hydration and the right kind of socializing, and Chicago weather seems to be getting back to normal, meaning swinging between ABSOLUTELY LOVELY and WAY TOO HOT. I will take it over the every-other-hour tropical rainstorms of a few weeks ago. 

I had brunch three weekends in a row, which was literally a New Year’s resolution. One brunch was at this Lincoln Park place that was VERY Lincoln Park. I could imagine Tinsley Mortimer and her amazing mom* eating there every Sunday. The food was good but I felt terrible for the waitstaff because the best-selling rosé was named “Sex” and how many times a day does some botox’d matron or shrieking sentient manicure “hilariously” order more Sex. God. I would slit my throat. 

*If you watch RHONY, and you give me some alcohol, I will (with very little prompting) start talking like Dale Mercer because I find her rude comments, spoken in a very posh Virginia accent, to be the best thing ever. In fact it may be hard to get me to stop talking like that. 

One of my other brunches was pre-Pride parade, with Aaron and my sister-in-law. We walked down to a reasonably shady place to stand and noted the incredible amount of balloons involved this year. Some investigative reporter needs to EXPOSE the Big Gay Balloon Monopoly! There did not used to be this many balloons at Pride; I am not kidding.

I got in a minor argument with a lady who kept telling me to move over (nowhere to move to, we’re in a crowd situation in case you had not noticed) and that she was “stepping on my foot.” I replied pleasantly that no, she was fine standing where she was and was not at all stepping on my foot, and she started yelling about how she should know if she’s stepping on my foot or not. But conversely, I should know if my foot is being stepped on, yes? Oh the unknowable perceptions of the Other!

If it had gone on much longer I was going to offer her a THC edible to chill the fuck out but she abruptly left, to go not-step on someone else’s foot I guess. We got back to my sister-in-law’s place just before the rain and finished the day with rosé on the deck. (Not Sex.) 

SOMETIMES I THINK THE CAT VET WANTS A VACATION HOME

We take our cats to a fancy cats-only vet practice. The upside of this is that the vets are, you know, full of cat knowledge. The downside is that they often come up with More Things You Should Do For Your Cats. Lola’s last batch o’ bloodwork showed that she might not be absorbing all the nutrients she needs from food, so the vet recommended we give her B12 injections. I probably will do this, as it is cheap and can be done at home, but damn. Is Lola a Edie-Sedgwick-style superstar in Warhol’s Factory? Or JFK reincarnated? Paging Dr Feelgood!

NOT A SPOILER

But Toy Story 4 is definitely implying a MFF throuple with Woody/Bo Peep/the Polly Pocket-esque Giggle McDimples—yes? (I will let you work on the Polly Pocket/polyamarous joke yourself.) 

ALSO NOT A SPOILER

The New York Review of Books reissued “classics” is kind of a mishmash; some of the “forgotten” novels could happily have remained forgotten, but every once in a while there is a book where I wonder why I didn’t read it before, or why I was not assigned it in a literature class. Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban is in the latter category. Very short, very dry, very depressing in a wry British way (but not ultimately despairing). It kind of reminded me both of (the original) The Office and a less-horny Nicholson Baker. Representative amusing bit, when William G, one of the protagonists, is at the aquarium: 

The sign said: “The Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, is the source of turtle soup…” I am the source of William G. soup if it comes to that. Everyone is the source of his or her kind of soup. In a town as big as London that’s a lot of soup walking about. 

He also refers to another aquarium resident as a “poor little civil-servant-looking leopard shark.” Anyway I am sure this book is not everyone’s cup of mopey-smirky tea but you can see why I like it. 

FIX YOURSELF

Two personal-grooming recommendations: 

  1. The original Baby Foot foot peel. It is not cheap but it is the one that works and it was a delightful experience for me. At first there are several days of “this is not working.” Then there are several days of wanting to call in sick so you can stay home and peel your feet. DELIGHTFUL. 
  2. As someone who does not love foundation but who also does not like my face with nothing on it, I am now all about this tinted face oil. (That is a Bon Appetit link but I don’t know why. Don’t eat the tinted face oil.) It is perfect for my dumb dehydrated face skin and feels like nothing at all! (Stupid Sexy Flanders!) I used the shade finder on Sephora’s website based on a foundation I already had and it worked well. 

Happy Friday! Make something today. A sandwich, a sentence. A baby! A photo. A joke. A paper bag puppet! Make anything. I think it will help. 

—mimi smartypants uses her fangs to inject digestive fluid directly into the prey; liquifying the insides but leaving the exoskeleton more or less intact. 

maneuver on the mic or lose heads like John the Baptist

By mimi smartypants

WHO DID THIS

Honestly I am so sad today. There is no reason for it. Someone reached into my brain and let out all the bathwater and HEY I WAS USING THAT BATHWATER it was where the happy chemicals were stored. Gone now, down the drain along with the soap scum and the remnants of that bath bomb from the Christmas stocking. I am so so so-so, a frog behind glass, an argument going in circles. My mouth is the smallest wavy line and I am wearing the Depression Cardigan (a shapeless olive thing). Brackish, messy, monstrous. I feel like the stuff in the Roomba’s dirt cup.

The following are not precipitating factors but they are contributing in their own small way:

  • The cats had another stupid fight last night which makes me CRAZY. Conflict-free for days, even weeks, and then suddenly there is nonsense. EVERYBODY CHILL OUT.
  • My “sleep” is a joke. It is hilarious. If a good night’s sleep is a thorough soapy shower with a loofah, my sleep is a lightly moistened washcloth, gingerly applied to maybe one dirty knee. (Where are all these bathing metaphors coming from?) I want someone to forcibly strap me in a car seat and drive me around the highways, humming shoegaze melodies, until I sleep properly.
  • As a result I am snappish and grim at work, and I have a new direct report who somehow manages to drop by to ask me questions at all the worst possible times. That is not remotely this person’s fault nor is my terrible mood their problem, but I feel like I am not being as helpful or mentor-y as I should be and then: guilt spiral, etc.
  • There is a sense of looming disarray. I make to-do lists. I do not do the things, or I do only a few of them, or I do them and then it turns out the things are not done after all and need to be re-added to the bottom of the list.

The good news is that this is definitely a Mood and not a Condition. I know the difference. Maybe I should just take off this fucking cardigan, make and eat a pan of macaroni and cheese, take a Xanax, burn a PTO day to sleep all day.

Observed: I was eating dinner at a brewery and had an obstructed view of the sign listing all the beers. From my vantage point I could see that one of them had a name ending in “SWIPE” and I sincerely hoped for ASSWIPE (mmm, so hoppy!) but it turned out to be SIDESWIPE. Oh well.

Also observed: a dog that looked like Bjork. Sadly I could not get a photo.

Culture, written, except no thank you: I get a daily email of what ebooks have suddenly gone on sale (the microeconomics of that publishing phenomenon are fascinating, btw: but we don’t have time for that now). Occasionally something on my to-read list pops up on there and I get it for cheap, but it is mostly a roundup of that have a very good reason to be priced at $1.99. Honestly for some of them you’d need to pay me $1.99 to read it. I feel sorry for the person who writes the descriptions—here is a sampling of phrases, all from different books you can unfortunately buy.

  • …she encounters two ghosts! [exclamation marks in original]
  • a delightfully witty cozy mystery
  • a devastated, perilous world…but the greatest danger is within
  • a bold woman with a tragic past
  • forced to turn renegade to clear his name
  • spellbinding whodunit
  • a bizarre dognapping
  • evil sorcerers, romantic dilemmas, and the challenge of riding her very own dragon

Culture, musical: I am on a concert ticket buying spree; now all someone has to do is supply me with methamphetamine so I have the energy for all these shows. Lithics! Colleen Green and Dressy Bessy! Lights! Adult Mom! Various festivals!* And Sleater-Kinney, of course! I was a little “hmmm” about the single that came out but it has grown on me a bit, and honestly S-K could probably put out a track of free-form didgeridoo** jazz and I would give it a chance. Fangirl 4 Lyfe, sorry/not sorry.

*Neighborhood ones that happen that have like one or two good bands playing. I don’t do the giant festivals because that is way too much outdoor-bathroom action.

**The worst instrument. Petition to rename it the didgeriDON’T. Or to misquote Freckle, “Sometimes things that are indigenous…are worse.”

Culture, musical, soundtrack: Five songs that played while I wrote this diary entry.

  1. Queen Zee, “Loner”
  2. Drahla, “Fictional Decision”
  3. The Octopus Project, “Small Hundred”
  4. Stars, “Ageless Beauty”
  5. Enjoy, “Two Extra Pumps of Bliss”

SUNSHINE ME

Co-worker, on the elevator: Wow, the fog this morning! Just a solid wall of gray.

Me: Yeah, it’s like being dead.

C: …

Me [at my floor]: Welp, have a good day!

—mimi smartypants is still the thug that you love to hate.

call it

By mimi smartypants

I went to San Diego for a work conference and barely got off the hotel property, partly because of being busy and partly because we were marooned way out in the bay and you had to cross twelve streets to get just about anywhere. The times I did cross all those bleak and foot-traffic-free streets I was amazed at San Diego’s insane scooter investment. I think I stopped counting at eight different scooter companies, all stupid colors of the stupid rainbow, and literally just piled up and abandoned all over the place. I swear San Diego has more scooters than humans. City planners: COOL IT ON THE SCOOTERS.

One of the times I did leave the hotel, I walked past all those scooters and to a part of San Diego that the city actually touts as something worth seeing: Seaport Village. I apologize if you are a fan but Seaport Village is creepy as hell. I suppose it has a good view of the water and all, but only visit if you are a fan of a “gated community” feel and multiple opportunities to buy “Life’s a Beach” handpainted wineglasses for your bachelorette party. Good lord I could not leave fast enough.

Educational sessions at the conference were good but because I am shy and suck at “networking,” all the socializing and business-talk (ie: wine and complaints) was done with people I already work with. Two work friends and I bought a great deal of wine at the hotel bar one night, including rounds bought by the bartender* because we are cool and a round bought by some weird old guy because (a) we are cool and (b) we were lined up at the bar like so: cute redhead/cute blonde/cute brunette (ME), and he probably thought he had stumbled into some businesswoman porno. We said thanks and toasted him and he did not press for interaction (thankfully), so I did not have to shut anything down. Never forget that you are under no obligation, ever, to talk to anyone. This is Mimi’s #1 Life Tip and it’s shocking how many people have not internalized it.

*The bartender was the kind I do not like, who eavesdrops on your conversation even when he is not directly serving you and then tries to interject with his own uninteresting stories. He found out we are from Chicago and spun a tale of how he loads up on multiple cases of Old Style when he visits Chicago, in order to lug it back to San Diego.

  1. It was news to me that Old Style is not distributed nationally
  2. I don’t care
  3. Dude, why? It’s not that good.

Speaking of shutting dudes down, I got in my first airplane fight!

Mid-flight, the guy across the aisle from me started to watch a documentary about sharks on his iPad, with the sound on and no earbuds. ON A PLANE.

I stared at him pointedly for a while, my whole body turned to make it clear what was happening. He kept glancing over and smiling nervously. After about four of those glances I asked, “Would you like to borrow some earbuds?”

Shark Douche: No, thanks.

Me: I really think you should. Or I could get some for you from the flight attendant.

SD: I’m good.

Me: Or, alternate plan, you could turn off the SOUND and use closed captioning.

SD: Why though?

Me [slowly and through extremely gritted teeth]: Because. I already know. A lot. About sharks.

IT’S IN THE CAN

Aaron and I went to one of the films in the Buster Keaton retrospective at the Music Box (The General) and I had forgotten how strangely modern certain moments of the film are. There’s a whole physical/romantic comedy thing where he’s trying to stuff the female lead in a sack to sneak her somewhere, and a whole thing where he gets frustrated with her ditziness (but not in a mean way, at all). There’s also the deadpan “oh god this again” of Buster Keaton that is pretty much a 1920s Jim Halpert. It made me want to watch more silent films. (At least the good ones. They are not all gems, of course.)

Not silent, but here is one of my favorite Marx Brothers bits of randomness:

I feel due for a strange interlude; maybe I’ll have one this summer. Strange interludes are often in the summer, it seems? Maybe because it’s a bounded stretch of time with weird weather (at least in the Midwest). I remember the high school summer where I worked in the video store all day and watched film versions of Hamlet at night. I was involved in a flirtation with a girl drummer in a local band called Dolphin Rape, I wrote a lot of poems, and I ate a lot of Taco Bell bean burritos and carrot sticks dipped in mustard. What’s the 40-something version of that summer? Tell me and I will make it happen.

—mimi smartypants wants to smile for boring girls, would walk a mile for boring girls.

if I can’t be a star I won’t get out of bed

By mimi smartypants

IT’S JUST A BUNCH OF STUFF THAT HAPPENED

There was a deer on my block last night, just crossing the street and heading into someone’s yard to (probably) munch on their well-tended flowers and plants. The deer was safely not in the road at all but some guy driving down the block stopped to honk at it. What was the point of that? Honk honk honk hey deer! You’re a deer! I hate that guy.

I have heard that the Chicago neighborhood deer are actually becoming a problem. No natural predators (I assume our sporadic urban coyotes are too weak/inexperienced/more in the mood to eat rotisserie chicken carcasses than actually hunt). There are too many deer and this is why they are frequently leaving the not-at-all-confines of the forest preserve and showing up near our bungalows. I do not know if the park district is actually considering a cull or if we all just have to understand that THEY’RE DEER/THEY’RE QUEER*/GET USED TO IT.** I propose a Neighborhood Naked Bow Hunt, to foster teamwork, camaraderie, and a nihilistic foretaste of future desperate and apocalyptic times. Please put your name and address on this sheet and indicate whether you can bring face paint and hallucinogenic mushrooms.


*Presumably at least some of the deer are? Here.

**


DISCLAIMER

I was reading more about old-timey disease outbreaks and came across probably the greatest “Limitations” section of any science article ever:

“These problems are, and will probably ever remain, among the inscrutable secrets of nature. They belong to a class of questions radically inaccessible to the human intelligence. What the forces are which generate phenomena we cannot tell. We know as little of the vital force itself as of the poison-forces which have the power to disturb or oppress it.”

God I love that. “Here’s some science, but let’s get real; not only do we not know, no one will ever know.” That gets you off a lot of hooks.

SEEN YET NOT SEEN

I just set up my out-of-office message but it is a bit of a lie—Wednesday to Friday I am technically on the clock because I will be at a conference in San Diego, which means I am expected to answer email and generally be virtually available. But: not in the office. But: if you’re sending me an email, do you really expect or need me to be in the office? There should be a business-world-acceptable way to convey “I’m at a work thing and reading email; I just am not going to particularly care about it.” (This is a quick one and I doubt I’ll get too far out the door of the conference hotel. I am not even going to ask for taco recommendations as it would be kidding myself and ultimately just too sad.)

But first! A three-day weekend. I am going to run around like a maniac for some of it, with an epic and long-overdue Target run, gym plans, and taking the kid to both a haircut and a blood draw. (I said: “You’re leaving bits of yourself all over town tomorrow! You’d better hope your hairdresser isn’t into witchcraft and make sure you don’t get the voodoo phlebotomist!”) (Did you know that I am not funny? If you don’t even get the teenage eyeroll, it’s probably time for new material.) I also am going to the THEATER (say it in a fancy voice) with a pal and grilling meats with my family and planning several naps, as well as reading The Witch Elm (finally—had been on my list forever), a book that I think has ended my weird little streak of nonfiction books, at least assuming I can find another novel just as well put-together as this one. Also assuming I do not go insane.

—mimi smartypants is fictitious trash.

as close as you dare

By mimi smartypants

I AM ONLY DOING AN OKAY JOB


A week or so ago I attended one of my very sporadic yoga classes—this was a fancy one with candles and live music and I took it with a friend. It was fine but the instructor was way too proud of us. Oh you’re doing great. Good breathing! Oh feel that stretch, yeah? You all are fabulous. I do empathize with yoga instructors and the very difficult task they have trying to provide the right kind of experience for everyone; I bet Yoga People are much more demanding/particular about that than, like, bootcamp people, who mostly just want to exercise and leave. Probably some people in my class felt extra-supported and peaceful through all the affirmations. I felt patronized, and maybe kind of giggly when complimented on my breathing. Thanks! I’ve been doing it a long time!

Afterwards the friend and I went down the street for beer because toxins out, toxins in.

NOT EVERYONE LIKES ME (IT’S OKAY)

The yoga friend is someone from work. A few recent happenings (hello vagueblogging!) have sent me into Introspective Mode re: friendships. The hurdles to havng adult friends are a total meme-cliche at this point, but for me the difficulties, such as they are, are more about my own strengths and limitations, about what I want from friends and how to go about getting it. I have worked at my place of employment a long-ass time; I am an indifferent happy-hour-attender, a rare lunch-goer, and probably have a reputation as a bit of a crab or weirdo. Nonetheless, there are a few people who like me and I like them, and we do things outside of work, and I don’t need to be on guard or watch what I say because we trust each other.

In contrast, I moved to my neighborhood nearly a decade ago and right away started meeting a large network of people (women) who seemed fun. Who seemed to do things together; and how convenient to do things in your neighborhood! I attended a few of the things. The things were moderately fun. I mentally started to put a few of the people on the “maybe a friend” list. But it turned out that their group was possibly not as open as it first seemed, and now sometimes on my infrequent Facebook visits I will see large groups of these people getting together, in the neighborhood, for holidays or wine and I live on the same street, but: sure.

My point is: that is fine! It would not have been fine when I was younger. I would have been wondering how exactly I screwed up in the previous get-togethers. I would have been paranoid or defensive that different life circumstances (working full-time, having an only child, not having given birth, being newer to move here, etc) meant that I was being excluded on purpose. I may have been sad or self-loathing, or I may have been all like FUCK THOSE BITCHES and carried a full, simmering pot of Resentment Glögg in my heart that constantly threatened to spill over. But now I am old and I think, Oh well, those were not the droids friends you were looking for. That is fine. (I am saying that it’s fine too much and I’m worried you won’t believe me. It really is fine!)

It still seems that the very best adult friendships are the utterly bizarre “instant connection” ones, where I am drawn to someone in person or online, and eventually one of us writes the awkward email or direct message that goes like this: “Hey we should do something in person/without our spouses/when we’re a little more sober than this.” Boom, instant real true friend. I guess it is the adult version of meeting on the playground or at camp.

I AM SCARED! AND ANGRY! AND ANGRY! AND SCARED!

Hey wait I actually do have a reason to be miffed at my neighbors, or at least at one of their creatures, and it is not the least bit friendship-related!

There is an outdoor (pet) cat that roams around my block. I disagree with this for so many reasons (we live in CHICAGO it is not a FARM), but let’s not start that now. The point is, this cat likes to be in my yard. It sometimes poops in my yard, and I clean that up, swearing the whole time.* Seeing this cat through the windows upsets my indoor cat trio greatly—particularly Murphy, who has grown into a giant absolute unit of a 2-year-old boy cat but (I suspect) still feels a little insecure about his place in the cat pack.

Cats are very stupid. There literally is something called redirected aggression where something scary happens (another cat, a bookcase falling over) and all of a sudden all the cats are panicking and acting like they have never met their sibling cats ever in their whole lives. Outdoor cat startled Murphy by being actually on my windowsill, looking in, and Murphy lost his damn mind. There was hissing and worse, SCREAMING. He attacked Rocko (who also started screaming, no surprise). He attacked Lola. Everyone got all tangled up in a bad spot, near the staircases and some interior doors, where there is no easy escape. Rocko freaked out even harder and attacked MY KID. Aaron was literally standing on a chair in the home office swatting at a snarling ball of Rocko-fur with a throw pillow, and he still got scratched and received a hole in his pants. Eventually I shoved Murphy down into the basement but—I am not kidding—it took almost 48 very tedious hours to reintroduce all the cats. All would seem calm and then Rocko or Lola would walk around the corner, making Murphy puff up like HOLY FUCK WHO IS THAT. All this drama because somebody would rather keep their cat outside. Come on man.

*There was a recent Reddit thread about how to keep your house smelling good if you have pets, and the number of people who said, “My cat goes outside to poop” really started to irritate me. I have a hunch you don’t ALL live in the woods, miles from neighbors! Guess where your cat is pooping? My yard!

(NOT) HAMMER TIME

Although it’s a very old true-crime story, sometimes I think about the woman who strangled her hitman. He was kind of a dumb hitman, picking a hammer as his hitman weapon. So messy! So inconvenient! So personal! Was that the hitman’s choice, or was the husband a gross weirdo who wanted that? And why would you want that? Anyway, it is good that the hitman did (bring a dumb weapon), and it is good that Susan survived and that the husband went to jail. As for the hitman, I guess you reap what you motherfucking sow. I bet that guy had an outdoor cat.

—mimi smartypants, professional rhombus.

to the hoes who hardly wear any clothes

By mimi smartypants

HASHTAG BROCCOLI

On April 1 I told Twitter what I was cooking for dinner. (Why? I do not know.) Then I decided to tell Twitter what I was cooking for dinner as often as possible for the month of April, a move that on the one hand seemed like a dumb self-indulgent overshare (LIKE TWITTER IN GENERAL)  but on the other resulted in several adults-with-family-cooking-responsibilities telling me that they appreciated another source of input on the meal planning front. In retrospect April was exactly the wrong month to try to be a completist about reporting my dinners, since my family and I spent a week of it in London for spring break. We ate dinners in London, but I did not cook any of them. We ate fish and chips and excellent pizza and roast chicken and some surprisingly great gnocchi at a pub in Chelsea. Also, in an airplane over the Atlantic I was served a delicious hot sandwich. I was actually a bit freaked at how much I enjoyed it. What’s the deal with airplane food, indeed.

London is a great food city now, but food is still not really the point of it for me or LT, and certainly not for the kid, who views all food in terms of grams of protein and units of energy to turn into more doorframe pull-ups or whatever. Our London consisted of a few predictable tourist things, like the Tower (hello ravens)* and Hampton Court,** and a few more out-of-the-way things, like Greenwich*** and Hampstead**** and my beloved cholera pump.*****

*A sign on their aviary said that the ravens’ favorite treat is a “blood-soaked biscuits.” Honestly: same.

**It was a beautiful day and Cardinal Wosley King Henry sure had a beautiful castle, but man were there a lot of crabby children and screaming toddlers there. I would not have been surprised to hear that some of them were parentally abandoned in the hedge maze. Good luck, you ungrateful moppets! Happy navigating!

***Reached via new (to me) high-speed water taxi! I may just be a whore for boats, but I thought it was a fun ride and it works with the Oyster card.

****Another beautiful day and a paradise for (a) cute dogs and (b) people like us who like to look at cute dogs. Also, Keats’ house! He only lived in it for two years but probably contracted tuberculosis in that very house, so that’s cool. (Wait, no it’s not. I forget that not everyone is as fascinated by infectious disease as I am.)

*****Speaking of: cholera pump! We took a special detour on a hot afternoon so I could see it in person. The cholera map (don’t drink the water!) is probably the most famous “Figure 1” in epidemiology, curiously not reproduced in the eBook, but available in a cool interactive version here.

My favorite bit of the eBook are the pages and pages of publisher advertisements for other books. Thirty-seven pages in all! Including Mr. T. J. Ashton’s blockbuster, “On The Diseases, Injuries, and Malformations Of The Rectum And Anus,” which was blurbed by The Lancet AND The New York Journal of Medicine! That is a must-read.

NOT CONTAGIOUS

We stayed in a cute, if insanely overheated, Airbnb apartment near University College London (a name that Aaron found amusingly redundant, and that led to the coinage of similar names like “Market Shop” and “Stadium Arena”). It had a balcony, but that was rendered unusable by the presence of a pigeon nest and two juvenile pigeons inside, as well as a large quantity of bird poop and the comings and goings of a nervous mother pigeon. On the plus side, the sliding glass doors turned the life journey of these pigeons into a private-showing nature documentary, and by the time we left the babies were standing up and stretching their wings more often than not. Bon voyage, air rats!

The only other notable things that happened in London were that LT accidentally (I hope that doesn’t need to be said) slammed my hand in the car door of an Uber. It hurt like hell and I am sure I frightened the driver with my tears and colorful oaths, but there was no lasting damage. I will revengefully injure LT at a time of my choosing. (Just kidding.) Also I got to see my friend from college, she lives all the way out in Brighton and I sent a (I hope) politely worded email saying that we really were not planning to visit Naughty Brighton on this particular trip, but if she wanted to make the journey to London we would happily take her out for a meal. We had to dodge Extinction Rebellion protests when she arrived at Marble Arch but soon were settled in an Iraqi restaurant sharing a bottle of wine, and then at a pub full of overdressed chavs and chavettes sharing another, so I am very glad I reached out.

BESIDES THE GOOD SANDWICH

On the way home the plane seatback entertainment was showing Hard Knocks, that HBO show about an NFL team’s training camp and preseason. I love this show because (a) I am a sucker for behind-the-scenes stuff and sports documentaries in general, and (b) because many of the big giant football guys are very quotable. There was one bit where the team was playing a nighttime preseason game and a tight end looks up, notices the sky, and says:

“All right, the moon. I can draw energy from it. [pause] That’s dope.”   

I kind of can’t stop thinking about that or saying it. I looked this guy up and he is no longer playing football professionally but has retired to pursue “spiritual healing and his passion for crystals.” OKAY.

—mimi smartypants conveys in an agreeable and epistolary style some most important truths.

tell you my name

By mimi smartypants

I returned a dress (purchased online, naturally) to the Michigan Avenue LOFT store. Save a stamp! Give a store clerk easy tasks to do! If you have time to lean you have time to clean process my return.

Clerk: Anything wrong with it?

Me: No. It just looks weird on me.

Clerk: I have to tell you something. This dress looks weird on everyone.

Me: Thank you for saying that!

Clerk: I’m serious! I’ve processed so many returns for it. Everyone who works here tried it on because it was so cute and not a single person bought it. Cute idea, bad execution.

Me: Maybe it’s cursed! An ancient curse! Cursed dress!

Clerk: …uh, maybe. Credit back to your Visa?

I’m currently obsessed with the idea of cursed objects because of my Wine Ordeal. My parents were going on a road trip to visit a relative, and my mom asked me to buy this certain bottle of wine, with an older, weirder version of our last name on the label, to bring to said relative. The wine is only sold at Eataly; even Binny’s would have to special-order it. I work near(ish) the Eataly on Ohio.

(Keep in mind that my work likes to keep me so busy that I usually cram a hastily microwaved Amy’s burrito in my mouth at lunchtime and only go out of the building if I have an errand. For instance: this wine thing.)

Day 1: I go out at lunchtime to get some Trader Joe’s groceries, thinking I will stop and get the wine on the way back to the office. I did not. I realized that in the elevator up to my office. D’oh!

Day 2: Shit is crazy. I spend lunch chained to a content management system.

Day 3: I head out to Eataly. Hello! I am here! Security guard at the door says that they are “closed for a private event.” In the middle of a weekday. Is the private event all over the store? Apparently so. Can I buy some wine? No I cannot. I go back to work.

Day 4: Hooray for me! I buy the wine! It is twenty dollars (my mom will give me the money, but it had better be good because (a) the family name is on it [kind of] and (b) good wine can be had for half that). I put it in a tote bag along with some work papers. Then, and this is important, I go out drinking with one of my best friends. This part is also important: she drinks beer, and I decide to drink wine. (Not the wine I just bought.) I love wine. Me and Malbec, we get along so well. It is usually pretty easy for me to say no thank you, I have had enough beer. It is not so easy to say that to wine. I’m not sure I’ve ever said it to wine. My friend is fun and I love her. (And wine!) I stay out much later than intended and rideshare home.  

Day 5: I am getting ready for work and realize I no longer have the tote bag. With the (cursed) wine and (more importantly) the work shit. The bar does not have it. I contact the Uber driver, using the “lost item” thingy on the app, and we talk on the phone and he says he can deliver it to me that evening. There’s a $20 charge or something like that. I need the work-related stuff and I am fond of the tote bag, so fine. This Uber driver now knows my actual phone number (slight yikes). But I am grateful. I thank him.

Evening of day 5: Uber driver texts that he’s near my house, I say I’ll come out and grab my stuff and once again, give effusive thanks. He pulls up, gets out, and hands me the tote bag. The other stuff is there, but it is obvious there is no wine.

“Make sure everything’s in there,” the Uber driver says, giving me a creepy smile. I was suddenly very very Done with this guy and did not want to give him the satisfaction of letting on that I knew he had stolen my wine. “Yup, seems like!” I practically yelled. “Goodbye!” I did not add “forever.” I did not add “asshole.” He (wisely) did not try to get the $20 charge for delivering the lost item; the $20 wine makes us even, I guess. Asshole.

Day 6: I buy the goddamned wine (again). I carry it home in that same tote bag, and I never once let go of the tote bag strap on the El. My mom drops by to pick up the wine. I point to it from across the kitchen and make her literally take it out of the house herself, because clearly the next step is that it shatters on the kitchen floor and I lose an eye to the flying glass.

—mimi smartypants has seen enough to eye you, but too much to try you.

allergic to your salary

By mimi smartypants

MATRICULATE AT THIS (GRABS CROTCH)

Accompanied the kid to a college “fair” recently and I think events like that are going to be dead in five years. It seems mostly like a crowded and low-tech way to leave your information with schools and start to get lots of mail. Maybe it would be useful if you had never been on the internet in your life?

Also there are all these shadowy companies now, intertwined with high school guidance departments in what is probably a monopolistic and unethical way, that I guess run some weird proprietary algorithm and give you a list of where you are likely to be accepted. BACK IN MY DAY [elderly wheeze] you mostly just tried to write a decent essay and hoped for the best. I literally think I filled out a paper application for my alma mater. With a typewriter, because I wanted it to LOOK GOOD.

Lately it seems that I’m morphing into some sort of Zen Person, trusting the universe and all that shit, which irritates me greatly. My mental image of myself is more of a tightly wound Business Rodent, smoking and stressing out and unable to stop the rodent thoughts in my head. But now it’s like J. Jonah Jameson went camping and ate a strong edible and realized he didn’t really need pictures of Spider-Man to consider his career a success. What is a picture anyway? J. Jonah Jameson got high, read some later Wittgenstein, and realized that a picture of Spider-Man wouldn’t have any meaning on its own but would acquire meaning only by being put to specific uses and pushed into existence through language. Where was I going with this.

Anyway, my baby is a sophomore and unsure what he wants in a college, but I’m starting to think (Zen Person style) that the specifics might not matter so much.* Although I am not the one attending said college, here’s what I want as a mom: not TOO far away (four-hour drive or less? Something like that? I’m flexible), a place where he finds his people, graduate in four years with a degree and not too much debt, ability to have some kind of independent research project or work experience that can translate into getting that all-important first job. And those wants can be realized at lots of colleges! Lots and lots!

*This recent news about the “side door” college admissions scandal notwithstanding. I read the whole DOJ report on my lunch hour, and while it was gross and embarrassing I really enjoyed the wiretap phone transcripts after the FBI flipped the guy in charge. Basically the crimes were already done but they asked him to call each of the indicted folks back and be like “Hey remember that crime we did? I just want you to acknowledge that we did that crime. Here’s how to cover it up. Can you repeat that after me? That we did that crime together but we’re going to cover up the crime in such and such a way? Thanks, dude.” Holy shit, HANG UP if you do a crime and then get a call like that. Don’t you people ever watch TV?

FULL SPECTRUM

In keeping with my vow to be physically present in as few retail establishments as possible,* I use Stitch Fix and mostly like it. It’s great as long as you are not looking for specific clothing pieces but are okay with making a Pinterest board of clothes** you like and trusting the stylists to send you similar stuff.

But speaking of trust, I recently requested a different stylist after she bugged me about colors for three shipments in a row. “Please tell me what colors you like for spring!” “Are there any other colors you like besides black and gray?” I already branched out into maroons and wines! What do you want from me?

This last missive was the one that broke me, where she wrote something like, “As we move into spring, black and gray will become hard to find, so let me know what other colors you like!” Oh sure, IMPOSSIBLE to find black clothing once spring hits. Nary a piece of black or gray cloth in the land! It’s okay if you find my monochrome professionally frustrating, but don’t LIE.

*TREND STORY: GEN-X’ERS ARE KILLING BRICK-AND-MORTAR STORES

**My Stitch Fix board sometimes turns into aspirational Look At This Fashion Lady: I Either Want To Fuck Her Or Be Her. As in, less about my lifestyle and my particular body and my clothing needs and more about a dream of a different life. But hey that’s Pinterest in general. So maybe I’m doing it exactly right.

—mimi smartypants in a dusty black coat with a red right hand.

social insecurity

By mimi smartypants

TAKE A NUMBER

I took a personal day recently and I did not spend it in any of my top-twenty first-choice ways. (On the list: enormous nap/enormous reading-in-bed, making a lasagna from scratch including the noodles, private karaoke room with a ‘90s gangsta-rap playlist, taking a book to a quiet daytime old-man bar and drinking fourteen Old Styles.) Instead I spent 2 hours of it at the Social Security office! The reason was more gender paperwork, as it is my fondest wish that there be nothing outstanding regarding this business by the time Aaron turns 18. I will do everything in my motherly power to ensure he will be able to launch himself further out into the universe with no lingering bullshit.

One thing that internationally adopting and then having a child transition has done for me: I am becoming a real pro at this kind of document-wrangling. I should write up some tips and tricks and put them online. One thing I can tell you right now, for free (LOL, every single thing I have ever told you is for free)—a US passport is the key that unlocks a lot of other shit. Get one for your kid ASAP, it’s the most useful ID they will ever have. If you need to change names on a whole bunch of documents, passport office should be stop #2 after you have the court order. (And about that court order, I’m convinced it’s worth it to have a lawyer help you—there is lots of advice online about do-it-yourself name-changing but we got a fast court date and our asses saved from a scheduling mistake by virtue of our lawyer knowing the judge. Pay the money! Call Saul!) (Or rather, call someone good at family law.)

Anyway, on my day off I went to the gym and then bopped on down to the Social Security office, timing it to be there right when it opened (9 am). I arrived at 9:08 and I know this from my parking app, which I conservatively (so I thought) had loaded up with 30 minutes worth of parking. HA HA HA HA HA. There were literally 100 people ahead of me once I got a number, so there must have been a line at the door just like at an all-ages show at the Metro. I got to witness 2 full-scale meltdowns from my fellow citizens. One resulted in a very dramatic flinging of papers at the window and a storming out (the employee at that window is my absolute hero for taking a long, ennui-heavy slurp of her Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee and then calling the next number). The other was some old lady who I guess had A Problem Too Complex for the service window and was called to the back office; when the security guard sensibly asked to take a look in her bag before she waltzed into a government office she started yelling about how humiliating that was. I guess she doesn’t go to the airport very often.

That security guard was another saintly human who respectfully explained that it wasn’t meant to be humiliating, it’s a safety policy, etc etc blah blah while she shrieked and sprayed spittle in his direction. Dear World: I recommend you never ever EVER give me a badge or a nightstick or any kind of peacekeeping authority because I have a feeling I would go full jackbooted thug—not in a violent way but more in a “we are not doing this” way. I would throw people like her out of everywhere. I would march people out to the street the minute they started acting the fool. There would be lawsuits about me. I know the Social Security office isn’t very fun but adults need to learn how to hold it together.

STATE OF THE FEELS

Speaking of the kid, I am already thinking about summer, and am torn between encouragement/insistence that he apply for various programs, internships, and experience-providing “jobs,” or just signing him up for lots of time at the woodshop, the pottery studio, weeks of chilling at home, being my clean-the-house elf while I work, and playing guitar for hours. Maybe I’m projecting because lately I have been a thousand percent OVER IT when it comes to my career,* but you have your whole life to be productive and gobble up accomplishments like a good little Pac-Man. Maybe take one last summer for creativity and loafing about because soon enough summer will mean jack shit.

*Supposedly I will have been 25 years at my workplace (not my exact job, but my workplace) this year. That is a bit of creative accounting on their part as it seems I got partial credit for the period of time when I quit and fucked off to the Middle East on my husband’s fellowship and spent a year violating the terms of my “housewife” visa by working for cash at an advertising agency. I’ll take the anniversary, though. I was told to choose a longevity “gift” worth five hundred dollars and because I listen to everything Natalie Dee says I bought myself that insanely expensive hair dryer. Owning it makes me feel gross in a Monopoly-Man capitalist way but gee my hair smells looks terrific.

A friend of mine tried to give me shit for being Gen-X and yet anachronistically staying at the same company for so long like a 1950s dad but my job situation has never been irretrievably broken so I have never fixed it. Sorry for getting promoted a whole bunch, dude. You smell a tiny bit envious of my unbroken tedium. I will admit that right now I am in a mode of WHY WHY WHY MUST I WORK WHY MUST MY LIFE BE SO CONSTRAINED but that is more about working in general (because the last time I was unemployed for more than a few months was like…1988?) than it is about my particular work situation.

COME ON SPRING

After all that California-map-studying and Twitter crowd-sourcing, LT found cheap tickets to London for spring break so: new plan! We will do museums and formal gardens and save redwoods and tacos for the summertime. If there is a summertime. Ever.

—mimi smartypants: those disco synthesizers, those daily tranquilizers.

nowhere to hide

By mimi smartypants

THANKS FOR NOTHING, LUMPNECK

I did indeed go to the doctor about the lump in my neck noticed by the dentist, and the doctor was like huh that’s a lump all right. But (continued the doctor), I know nothing and will say nothing, reassuring or otherwise. Go get an ultrasound appointment! It will take a week to schedule and in the meantime you can entertain alarming visions of dying of cancer at a very critical point in your kid’s growing-up process.

I did as I was told and a nice ultrasound lady put lube all over my neck and rolled a high-tech version of one of those nonsense “jade rollers” on me while looking at squiggles on a screen. It took forever and she was very exuberant and carefree in her application of neck lube, which meant some got in my hair. Just search for the “radiology technician” tag on Pornhub, you’ll probably find the video.

Long story short, my lump is a lump of nothing, just a slightly enlarged lymph node. Maybe it is a lump of Miller High Life, and I need to drink more Millers High Life to push it on through. Maybe it is a lump of ennui. Something fun that happened, though, was that OTHER stuff showed up on the scan, namely some “thyroid nodules.” Isn’t a “nodule” in your body basically a tumor? But “nodule” sounds nicer. My doctor pretty much told me that the nodules ain’t no thing, particularly if I’m not having thyroid symptoms (I’m not). She said, “By the age of 60, more than half of women will have thyroid nodules.” EXCUSE ME, I’m not 60 but whatever. If you’re going to be blase about nodules (pssst: tumors), so shall I.

SUBBACULTCHA

My family went to the symphony for some very dull and BLATBLATBLAT horn-filled 20th-century piece (it really was not enjoyable—and I say that as a modern-composers FAN) and also what everyone had really bought the tickets for, the Mozart Requiem. I only cried a little bit. It’s a weird piece really, because the first part is the most amazing orgasm-in-your-pants piece of music in human history, and the rest is only really good Mozart (which of course means “better than 99% of anything ever”). That’s what you get for dying before you finish stuff!

More music! I am a bad playlist-maker, but I like trying new things, so I tend to just randomly add anything that looks good or that Spotify recommends to me, and then I play my giant playlist on shuffle. If I’m like Christ What Is This Shit when something unfamiliar comes on I go back and delete the song from the list. The last three times I did that, all the CWITS songs were by CHVRCHES. Sorry, CHVRCHES, I guess I just don’t like you although Spotify’s algorithms REALLY think I should. Also, that is a very popular method of naming bands or artists for the past five years. You change a letter to another letter or add superfluous letters (Wavves, Alvvays) you go all uppercase or all lowercase (mxmtoon, dodie, R.LUM.R, pronoun, FIDLAR). Or both, as in the aforementioned. If modern life is going to be baffling and make you feel like everyone else got the memo and you didn’t, then it is very fitting that we can’t pronounce the names of any of the bands we like.

A SHORT LIST OF THINGS I MISS

  1. Hallucinogens. There should be some kind of adults-only retreat with a multi-acre meadow and small, widely spaced, very clean cabins with excellent showers, and you receive 4 grams of mushrooms and a finger puppet upon arrival. I realize that most people they accomplish this via “camping,” but that just involves so many variables and I have never been. (I SAY I’ve been camping, from the time that LT and I spent the night in a tent on the edge of the desert in India, but it was a luxury “tent” that had furniture and Persian rugs and a “boy” that brought tea or beer if you stood outside the tent and clapped twice [which as an American I was fundamentally unable to do], so I don’t think that really counts.
  2. Zines. Extremely amateur YouTube videos. Web pages that have no self-branding or monetary value whatsoever. I remember a page where a girl threw some hot dogs into her neighbor’s yard and updated the progress of their (non)decomposition. Way too much internet now is a Serious Undertaking with a business plan.
  3. The Al Gore Has Been Replaced With A Replica guy. He’s probably dead. (The sandwich board guy, not Al Gore. Although that’s not a bad conspiracy theory in and of itself.)
  4. The green Skittles being lime and not stupid sour apple.
  5. Being able to use the same brand of deodorant for more than six months at a time. I need to switch things up on the regular because that’s about how long until my body chemistry finds a way to beat the system. Is that an old-lady hormonal thing? What, pray tell, the fuck?
  6. The time before people mentioned carbohydrates SO OFTEN.

HOW DARK IS THIS MACHINE

Vote tomorrow, Chicago! Yeah I know, all of you have been telling me smugly for like a month how you voted already. I just can’t get behind early voting, it takes the fun out of it somehow. So I’ll be there in the booth bright and early, even though I don’t particularly want any of these assholes to become mayor and my alderman’s race is a “who will do the least damage” situation. There are ballot proposals too, and I figured out I’m voting yes on all of them. Those things usually infuriate me because they are always written so poorly and have the most misleading titles. The Efficiency And Safety Everything Is Great Initiative With No Proposals As To Paying For It! The Fairness And Happiness Completely Toothless Constitutional Amendment! Do you not want a thing to not not happen? Check YES or NO.

—mimi smartypants just died in your arms tonight.

the holding of land in exchange for services or labor

By mimi smartypants

SOMETIMES I THINK I’M SMART BUT THEN

I put so many books on my “to read” list. I read book reviews and book blogs and get recommendations from people in my (real and virtual) life. Then I get the books from the library, oh do I ever. I get like a graduate student at a buffet. THIS IS FREE? GIVE ME ALL OF IT!

I currently have 33 books checked out from CPL this minute, please don’t yell at me, they are being read and renewed online (I have not paid a late fee in years, my shit is TIGHT), and sometimes books, especially nonfiction books, are returned quite quickly without needing to be renewed at all. (See below.)

Maybe you do this too? You read or hear about a book and you get big dreams! You get aspirations! You think “I am definitely interested in the history of banks/urban planning/lobster life cycles! I will check out this book and learn all about it!” But then you grab said nonfiction tome off the “to read” stack and 30 pages in you think “man, I don’t care about this shit AT ALL.” Life is short so back to the library you go, book.

The weird thing is, if I met someone who was cool and funny and told good stories* about her expertise in lobster reproduction, banks, or deciding where to put the sewers, I would be totally fascinated and we would have drinks and that would be great. I am just not going to read a whole book about the thing if I don’t care. I overestimate my caring! I blame the book reviewers for making everything sound interesting.

*THIS IS NOT A SHOUT-OUT TO ANYONE IN PARTICULAR okay maybe it is but he’ll never read it. Please be careful when talking about work in social situations. “What do you do?” is not an invitation to teach me about how Tableau interacts with MATLAB. For 20 minutes. Without ever asking me a question. Thanks!

RAGE AGAINST THE MENU

A friend’s tweet reminded me of my personal rule, which I suggest you adopt immediately. Don’t give in to the menu if the menu is stupid. Don’t play the menu’s game. If the menu says, “Potachos,” you’re allowed to order “the tater tot nachos.” If it says, “Lobster Hysteria,” you can just order the “lobster roll.” You never have to say the fake word “egg-cellent” out loud to another human being. Use your own words and point if necessary. Stand up for yourself. Later, in the quiet of the night, you can consider whether you want to continue a relationship with a restaurant that puts that kind of nonsense out into the universe.

IT WAS WAY BETTER THAN THE PLASTIC BAG IN THAT TERRIBLE MOVIE

Walking south on State, starting just south of Kinzie, on a windy day, and I hear a weirdly loud metallic noise from the other side of the street. It was an empty can of Heineken, rolling along in the gutter, pushed by the wind. The can, amazingly, is keeping pace with me—the wind was that serious (and admittedly there is a downward slope toward the river).

I walk onto the bridge and I still hear it. Little empty can of Heineken is crossing the bridge!

I keep walking south and for a while don’t hear the can. But then I do! Heineken can has made it across! I shit you not, it finally rolled to a stop in front of the Wow Bao at State and Lake. That is a little less than a QUARTER MILE, a fantastic journey for a recyclable. Nothing but respect for my future President EMPTY CAN OF HEINEKEN 2020!

OKAY THAT’S ENOUGH

Other than the beautiful moment I shared with a piece of beer trash, 2019 has not been too great so far, at least since I went back to work on the first full week of it.

First: I lost my ATM card somewhere but HOW. I barely ever use it (I am very bad about carrying cash; post-apocalypse you will find me in the smoking ruins of the city trying to pay for worm-infested rice with my Starbucks app). There is no weird activity so I just have to cancel it and get a new one. But when I called the bank to do so, they were like “What’s your password?”

Me: What? Like my PIN?

Bank Dude: No, you have a verbal password you have to say out loud [Ed. Note: yes, that is what “verbal” means] to confirm it’s you on the phone.

Me: I have no idea. Since when is that a thing?

BD: You requested it 5 years ago.

Me: Great.

BD: Any guesses?

Me: Scro-tiddly-tum-tious?

BD: That is… not it.

So anyway I have to go to an actual bank branch with ID because 5-years-ago-me apparently requested a secret, magic, non-scrotum-related password for confirming my identity.

Second: Our dishwasher started doing a weird thing, and the dishwasher guy who came to repair it confirmed that it was probably more our old-house wiring than the dishwasher itself, but it could be the dishwasher itself, hard to say until the electricity gets looked at—so there’s a whole other set of phone calls and service calls and bills to pay. As well as washing dishes by hand, which is awful, but thankfully LT is doing it. I don’t care for “wet work,” do these hands look like they were made to be soaked in dishwater? (*holds up tiny, bitten-cuticle, ragged-nail paws*) (Never mind.)

Small, good thing in the above small bad thing: the dishwasher guy was awesome. His name was Boris and he was kind of weirdly intense about the whole repair, showing me the electrical problem with his beeping thing, calling me back to troubleshoot one more thing even after he had already left, etc. When Boris came in, Rocko cat was at the door, and Boris immediately reached down to pet his head and said something to him in Russian. Normally Rocko yells at guests so I said, “He’s a little old and crabby,” and Boris said, “Aw, he seems cool with me” and did more petting and more Russian, and Rocko WAS cool with him. Which makes a total of 2 people outside the family that Rocko has been cool with: our former cleaning lady (Polish) and Boris the dishwasher repair man (Russian). Rocko cat only likes demonstrably Slavic peoples.

Third and Last: I went to the dentist for a cleaning and she told me I have a lump in my neck and that I should “get it checked out” by my internist. I actually do have a checkup scheduled for the end of February but that seems like a long time to wait when one has FUCKING LUMP NECK and a brain that goes automatically to worst-case scenarios. So now I get to call and see if they have anything sooner. In the meantime I get to be all lumpy. I can actually feel it now that she’s pointed it out (gross) and of course I feel it all the time (uncool, anxiety-provoking, probably troubling to strangers). I am trying to wear a lot of scarves.   

—mimi smartypants is a soft-bodied, marine gastropod mollusc that sheds her shell after the larval stage.

absolutely zippo

By mimi smartypants

A week:

  • Murphy Bad Kitty knocked over the Xmas tree. Everything was mostly fine, only one broken ornament and not a favorite one. But so BAD!
  • Someone on the street exhaled cigarette smoke more or less directly in my face.
  • As a pedestrian, was nearly run over twice, once by a Gonnella bread truck, which at least would have been a locally owned way to die.
  • Garage door would not close and the reason was that a wad of flattened disposable diaper, from some other set of garbage cans in the alley, had frozen onto the bottom of said door and was triggering the safety thing. I had to use a broom handle to pry it off and then I used the broom to hockey-slapshot it off into the alley from whence it came.
  • And THEN I felt bad about not adequately dealing with (someone else’s!) refuse so I went back into the garage for a shovel to scoop up the frozen diaper and put it in the trash.
  • In small personal-growth news, I took the Facebook app off my phone so now if I want to go look at stupid-ass Facebook I have to sit in front of a computer, and who wants to do that. The only part of stupid-ass Facebook I may miss is the theatrics of my neighborhood group, such as being told that I am a bad person who hates animals because I said I would call the appropriate authorities about a large aggressive loose dog rather than trying to catch it myself. Sorry but I think that maybe “no half-feral dogs” is the bare-minimum bar for a pleasant neighborhood. Crazy, right? I’m so crazy.
  • Went to an all-ages show with my kid for an indie-folk/bedroom-pop type of guy. It was a very young, very Tumblr, crowd and the amount of screaming WE LOVE YOU and YOU ARE A PERFECT SWEET BABY CINNAMON ROLL and hugs and love and selfies w/peace sign fingers was kind of…gross.
  • Not gross, that’s the wrong word. I’m glad all these teens have their glowstick-unicorn-rainbow-kneesock-positivity support of each other, and it’s cool that there even is a musical niche for an ambiguously-presenting skinny British ginger in a Cosby sweater who plays guitar and ukulele and kazoo with just himself and a loop pedal. It’s just…so, so far from my formative musical aesthetic that I guess I can’t relate. At that age I wanted my performers remote and scary and inscrutable, basically. I wanted hiccup David Byrne and Peter Murphy emerging skeletal from a fog of cigarette smoke and Courtney Love showing you her underpants for no clearly definable reason and Corin Tucker being so much cooler than you.
  • I actually enjoyed this guy’s music and lyrics but his whole “oh wow this is amazing” and “hug your friends!” deal is just not what I expect in a musical experience. However, with all these sorts of musicians starting out on the internet I think it is EXACTLY what these kids expect. You’re my pal, let’s hang out, here’s a little song I wrote, oh gosh you guys are so nice to clap hee hee. The difference does not make this scene good or bad. It just makes me old.
  • (Based on our discussion in the Uber home, Aaron mostly agrees with me re: liking the music but side-eyeing the scene kids. So I am not being a jerk about this.) (Well, not entirely.)
  • Learned a lesson that if the gas company is like “hey, we’ve been guesstimating your heating bill for a long time now, let’s set up a time to actually read the meter” you should ignore that shit. IGNORE. Because if you are a good taxpaying homeowner citizen and allow them to read the meter, your next heating bill will be a million goddamned dollars. DON’T TOUCH THAT THERMOSTAT, yells Grandpa Mimi. PUT ON A SWEATER IF YOU’RE COLD.

—mimi smartypants will celebrate with a cool glass of turnip juice.

couldn’t trust my homies just a bunch of dirty rats

By mimi smartypants

So it seems that washing my hair every day makes it look bad, but washing my hair every other day means that it looks bad about 12 hours before it is due to be washed again, so I…need to wash my hair every 36 hours? That is going to be complicated. It could work if I were a lady of leisure with an odd sleeping schedule but I am not, I am a lady of INDUSTRY (with a somewhat odd sleeping schedule). Give me all your dry shampoo recommendations! Speaking of, I kind of love that this was a thing in the 1960s (according to my mom) and then it totally disappeared (I never used dry shampoo as a teen) and now it is back! What does that mean, hairstyle-zeitgeist-wise? I want everything to have a secret meaning, suitable for lengthy, Adderall-and-Old-Style-fueled pseudoacademic discourse.

BORING CAT ANECDOTE

We have BIG NEWS in the arena of CAT MENTAL HEALTH because Rocko the Anxiety Taco was observed PLAYING WITH A TOY. I don’t know if he was just having a good day or one of us accidentally double-dosed his meds, but Rocko bumbled his fat mopey self around the dining room in pursuit of a jingleball and it was super crazy adorable (to me and the other two humans who love him). Also adorable was Murphy’s astonishment—you could tell he hated being left out of a play session but he knew better to than to interrupt the world’s grumpiest old man.

SEASONAL

We are hurtling toward the black hole of the holidays. We already, believe it or not, had one Xmas-related one-side-of-the-family get-together because everyone’s rest-of-December was terribly messy. It was a little bit of a live-and-in-person debut of my kid and his new name and no one even screwed it up. I was ready to gently correct, and of course I was ready to POUNCE on anything truly rude that was not just an honest mistake, but it was not needed. That freed me up to drink wine and poke at my cousin’s new baby. The baby is not truly interactive yet but it is at the stage of being truly fucking astonished at every little thing, and that is fun to watch and in fact a good strategy for taking care of a baby that age: just astonish it all day long.

So. Back home we put up our tree, it is not beautiful but it is very homegrown and still has the T-Rex head from a long-ago tube of “Jurassic Park”-branded lip balm at the top instead of a star or angel. But a T-Rex is a star! And it would be a kick-ass angel, as they were reportedly rather freaky-looking if you believe the Bible (I’m not at all sure that you should). This week we will make several batches of ravioli, the traditional Xmas food. And Aaron and I will continue our yearly wintertime “watch an entire television show” project—this year it is The Americans, which I like quite a bit, as it is a family drama disguised as a spy thriller. My favorite character is the FBI mail robot.

MATURITY

Also this weekend, my child wrote a 5-page English paper WITHOUT flopping around for several hours panicking about how it was an impossible task, and WITH notes and first drafts and sketching out how, in general, he wanted the thing to go. I read it over and inserted exactly one hyphen and it was very, very good. Like, first-semester college-freshman good.

Aaron has always been excellent at things you can just sit down and DO—math, science, answer-the-question-type work—but has tended to suffer Analysis Paralysis about anything that took planning. It used to make me crazy to see him sit down in front of a blinking cursor* and just try to write a school paper from the top, and to fiddle about with word choice and trying to get something exactly right without even planning what needed to be said. You need a blank page full of things like INTRO and MAKE THE POINT ABOUT HISTORICAL CONTEXT and CITE SO-AND-SO HERE and TRANSITION??? before you can even start putting sentences together!

*It is ironic and hilarious that I would be bitching about this since “sitting down in front of a blinking cursor” is 100% what I have been doing in this stupid little blog since 1999—but I am not being graded on this blog. (Oh shit! I’m not, right???) Also I don’t think too many English teachers would be fans of No-Delete Thursdays.

—mimi smartypants, defensive rookie of the year.

coffee chugged. homies hugged.

By mimi smartypants

SHE’S CRAFTY

I’m back to drinking the Sleepytime “Extra” tea before bed and I think the valerian gives me extra (SWIDT?) weird, extra detailed dreams. Which of course I write down, just so future biographers who find my scribbly bedtime notebook can be more thoroughly confused. A recent favorite included me working on a porn film with a dolphin protagonist; we did not have a real dolphin but were using a human dude, and I was trying to fashion a dolphin-dick prosthesis out of dixie cups and masking tape. It was going about as well as you might expect. Is that an anxiety dream? A sex dream? A work dream?

THOUGH WE REALLY DID

For some reason today I remembered how as a 5- or 6-year-old child I had memorized Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” (why?) and would often belt it out in the bathtub. That must have been weird for my mom to overhear. I have a lot of bathtub memories and I’m sure my kid will too, because every smart parent has learned (once they’re past the drowning age and the dumping-water-over-the-side age) that a good long little-kid bath, with bubbles, boats, containers, funnels, eyedroppers, little plastic people to drown, etc, is a great way to get a goddamned minute to oneself.

(There sure are a lot of ‘70s songs about breaking up, aren’t there? Or if not breaking up, then “baby we’re going to make it if we try” kind of songs—ie, being with you is a difficult slog but we’ll do our best! Someone needs to write a graduate thesis on changing sociocultural heteroromantic relationship standards as expressed through AM radio hits.)

So between dreams and childhood memories and exactly zero actual Life Events this entry is already way less dramatic than the last one, which is good, right? Let’s bring it back on brand with Mundane Mimi, Mistress of Minutiae. And about that last entry, just about everyone has been perfectly lovely and amazing: all your emails, your reply tweets, your direct messages. Thank you. Really the only replies that I felt even moderately grumpy about were those that seemed to express an inordinate amount of “sympathy.” I am probably too sensitive but you pet me the wrong way when you imply that there is something wrong with my child and you need to feel sorry for us as parents.

Those types of emails are most likely my fault for leaning a little too hard on the “path to acceptance” part of the narrative in my entry, but neither did I want to write a sunshiney, this-is-no-big-deal post when it comes to something as pervasive as gender identity. Classic rock/hard place, I tell you. You write something! You think “I’ll write it THIS way so no one takes it THAT way” but sometimes people take you too much at your word. UNFAIR, we writers yell. WE MEANT IT BUT WE ALSO DIDN’T MEAN IT. Words: an extremely flawed system.

BEVERAGE TAX

Last week was rather horrible for me work-wise, as I had to host a large dinner and organize a meeting and speak clearly and cogently at said meeting, complete with slides and handouts. That last part got in the way of me having as much wine as I wanted at the dinner, which was a shame because deep inside me there is still a broke-ass college graduate thinking “we paid for a three-hour wine and beer package and thus I am going to drink steadily for three damn hours” but no. I had to be an adult about it and hand over my corporate AmEx at the end of the night, all the while knowing that the restaurant won that battle.

THE EVOLUTION OF MY PUBIC HAIR

“Evolution” made me want to do a Pokemon joke, but it was not working considering the subject matter (“PIKACHU! MUFF DIVE!”), and anyway we shouldn’t put “Pokemon” and “pubic hair” in the same sentence because that’s just asking Very Bad Tumblr Porn to make an appearance in your life.)

ON TO THE ACTUAL LIST

Stage 1. None, because I am a baby.

Stage 2. Some. Then lots! I pay it no mind. (This stage lasts well into my 30s.)

Stage 3. I get bored during a Wine Bath and shave it all off. Surprise! Decide that I like it and keep it up.

Stage 4. Why not pay a professional for a similar, but more thorough, service? I start visiting the Intimate Waxer. Like my hairdresser and myself, she is a former Chicago 90s goth so we get nostalgic about bars and shows while she rips the hair off my private area.

Stage 5. No offense to gothy wax lady, but I decide I’m tired of paying $60/month for ingrown hairs. Hello, Groupon? It’s me, and my groin.

Stage 6. Laser hair removal package! Listen: this is fun. I LOVE THIS. The machine goes “ping”! It’s over in moments! Expensive but effective! It honestly barely hurts! You get the sci-fi goggles and you and your junk are living in the future! Lasers and fast and pew pew pew ping ping ping! The laser lady is very sweet but a little odd, she and I tend to have lots of conversations about her detailed nutritional philosophies. She’s one of those “digestion begins in the mouth” people and is all about EXTREME CHEWING and I’m like, “you’re not exactly wrong but you are also about 2 steps away from handing me a whole-wheat cracker to quell my harmful sexual urges.”

Apparently the laser is prejudiced and the hair-removal wavelength only works well on certain hair-skin color combinations. I’m sure science is working on that—it’s probably third in line for science, right after alternative fuels and antimicrobial resistance. But if you have Done The Research and are on the fence about laser, do it! You can ask me questions. I am happy to be Marlow guiding you down the Congo of high-tech hair removal; WHO KNOWS WHAT WE MIGHT FIND. It could be Pikachu, with Bulbasar heads on stakes, yelling “Pika pika! Exterminate all the brutes!” Or it could just be a better form of hair removal for your Area, if you are the Area Hair Removing type. (And of course you don’t have to be!)

I will leave you with an excerpt from Sylvester Graham’s A Lecture to Young Men on Chastity: Intended Also for the Serious Consideration of Parents and Guardians. It could describe any one of us wankers in this age of Trump. Eat your crackers.

—mimi smartypants is a fiend of darkness.

 

an extraordinary machine

By mimi smartypants

This entry might be a surprise. But it probably is not. “Surprise” is a frame I kept using when telling friends and family that our child is transitioning genders—changing his name, his pronouns, his outer shell—to better match who he knows himself to be. “I have some news,” I’d say. “This may come as a surprise,” I’d say. Over and over again, the response I got back was along the lines of “we figured” or “makes sense” or “not really all that surprised.”

For me, the word “transgender”—when I first heard it from my kid in 2015, was indeed a surprise. I could be dumb, or blind, or maybe I had been doing parenting “weird” for years. We never put limits on any sort of gender expression—you refuse all dresses as soon as you can speak in full sentences? Fine. Boys’ clothes only by kindergarten? Okay. Boys’ haircut by age 8? Not a problem. Maybe if we had been more insistent on You Are A Girl And Girls Do These Things, our kid would have found the word earlier. Maybe he would have had something to kick against. Who knows.

Puberty was full of unpleasantness. The world got smaller, the anxiety got worse. The coed, full-contact hockey team started insisting on segregated locker rooms. (Nonsensical. Opposite genders can body-check each other but not sit on the same bench all sweaty in their hockey pads?) Our once-confident child spoke up less and went outside less. We had terrible conversations that sometimes turned loud. There was a very gentle and vague therapist, who turned out to be so gentle and vague that nothing actually got discussed. (Bad.) There was (and is) a equally gentle but more efficient therapist, with actual gender-issue experience. (Terrific!)

I know I have a tendency to do Life Stuff under the cover of night and then KAPOW announce it on the internet as ALL DONE. A secret little back-and-forth with a publisher and KAPOW parts of my dumb blog are turned into an equally dumb book. All done! Nine months of secret paperwork and another nine of secret waiting, KAPOW we’re adopting this baby from China and leave in a week, photos when I get back. All done! I don’t want to give the impression that this has been simple or easy or unconsidered. There were some modified “stages of grief” after his announcement. Denial: not that he was transgender or that he was feeling what he was feeling, but does he really need to *do* anything about it? Anger: not at him, never at him, but at the unfairness of everything. Bargaining: not “pretend to be a girl, please” but “maybe we could delay this whole conversation for a year or two?” Depression: for sure, on everyone’s part—just because change is hard. Acceptance: always, always, of my baby. But acceptance of the situation, along with a real understanding of how, at a deep level, nothing has really changed, is such a relief.

(And the relief in the kid! If bigoted-jerk parents could really see that, the before and the after, they would not be bigoted jerks any more. Back to hobbies, talking to friends, sharing opinions. Back to saying “yes” to things.)  

(Another way for the parent of a transgender teen to feel relief: fill out the intake form at a comprehensive gender clinic. Check “no” to question after question: has your child run away from home, attempted suicide, been a victim of violence, flunked out of school, been arrested, used drugs or alcohol, etc etc etc. Realize you have insurance and resources and have the time and the inclination to read and learn and get help and figure things out. Realize how incredibly lucky you are.)

Today in family court, we were successful in our petition for Aaron’s legal name change. (It suits him, and it also happens to be Nora backwards + a bonus vowel, which I admit does appeal to the poet in me.) We have been to family court once before, in September 2004, to do an Illinois “re-adoption” and get a Certificate of Foreign Birth (which now has to be amended, along with a million other pieces of identification—O Gender! O Paperwork!) I remember the judge asking, “Are you a good girl?” and Nora immediately responding “Noooo!” We all laughed about that, focusing the rejection of “good” in the judge’s question, but maybe we should have been focusing on “girl.” (Note: Before you email me, I am not seriously suggesting that my toddler was asserting gender in the courtroom at that time.) (But isn’t it a great story? Who would ruin such a great story with all these explanatory parentheticals?) (Me!)

No one in my life has actually been an asshole about this. I know you won’t be either. I have not watched any of the rebooted Twin Peaks, but my sister alerted me to this David Lynch moment. He has a message for anyone who feels like being an asshole:


And seriously, it’s good advice.

Anyway, since this is my diary and I’m sure he’ll get mentioned from time to time, I want to introduce you to Aaron Smartypants, beloved teenage son, guitarist, outdoorsman, woodworker, flannel enthusiast, gentleman and scholar; formerly of Chongqing, currently of Chicago, on course to be happy and comfortable in the entire world. Same kid. Different wrapper. We’re honored to love him.

—mimi smartypants, a mom for all seasons.

 

❌