i would’ve had us swerving through those streets

I read a lot, but I also watch a lot of TV. I have TV on while I work, while I clean, while I sew and make jewelry, and sometimes I like to put Netflix on my laptop on the edge of the sink while I’m in the bathtub.

I watch newly-released shows and shows I haven’t seen before, but mostly I watch things I’ve already seen. Give me a line from the X-Files and I can tell you which episode it was, which season that episode was in, and possibly even who wrote it. I can quote nearly entire episodes of Bob’s Burgers or early Simpsons. Sometimes things I say out loud are lines from TV shows that pop out of my mouth without my even realizing it.

My TV-watching used to bother me. A whole lot. I used to beat myself up for the habit, because I was better than that, or I should be writing instead, or successful people don’t watch TV. But mostly I’ve come to terms with it. As I’ve said before, it allows me to not think so much about my own life, and that’s good for my mental state.

Also TV shows are stories, and I love stories in whatever form they take. A well-done television show has plot and character development and themes and subtext to rival plenty of good movies and books. My old English-major habits die hard, and I usually examine the TV I watch as if I were writing a college paper on it.


There is a phrase that I use only in my own head, that I don’t usually tell anyone about. It’s “now is now and it’ll never be now again.” I wish I knew when it first came to me, but as far as I can recall it’s always been there. I say it in my mind when I want to capture and remember specific moments from my life, moments when I am particularly happy or content or when I’m doing something cool I’ve never done before. I say it to myself and I see

a little Texas valley in the winter, as two close friends and I look out over it on horseback

the sunset out the driver’s side window on a highway in Austin, this song on the stereo, a freshly-pressed plaid shirt

late afternoon light reflecting off the frozen Charles River

a red neon sign in Manhattan that blinks CO FF EE over and over, as I’m sitting on a bench talking with a friend

a specific little mailbox on a narrow street in Onset, MA

wooden posts submerged underwater as I glide past in a kayak

watching the sun set over Lake Somerville from the back of a crowded pickup truck

sitting at a sushi bar with friends, bouncing in my seat because the food is so delicious

streetlights mirrored in wet city pavement at night, walking too fast across the street

snow falling on the windshield of my old black Acura

I replay these and other moments in my head when I’m feeling depressed or bored or missing someone. Or sometimes they just pop up unannounced, and it’s like I’m there all over again. Now is now.

But those moments make me a little sad, too, and that’s the second part of the phrase: it’ll never be now again. Sometimes I re-watch my favorite episodes of a TV show over and over again, noticing little things about them that I hadn’t seen before: a billboard in the background, a character’s facial expression, a line I didn’t remember.

I have a freakishly good memory, but I still can’t examine my mental snapshots that way: try as I might to picture what color my horse was or what I was wearing or what street we were on or what the house behind the mailbox looked like, I can’t.

And I know that life can’t always be Good Times, otherwise the Good Times would become just Times, but it still frustrates me that I can’t rewind and watch the best parts of my life over and over again for new details. When I believed in God as a child, I used to say that in my version of heaven, I’d be allowed to sit in front of a TV in the clouds and watch my life unfold all over again on the screen, my finger hovering just over the fast-forward and rewind buttons on the remote.

I have plenty of things to look forward to in my life, of course: upcoming travels, pretty sunsets, seeing friends, watching my nephew learn to walk and talk. But sometimes I’m sitting in an airport or in traffic or on my sofa having normal Times and I think, why can’t now be now again?

(P.S. I made a public Twitter account, so you can follow me there if you like.
P.P.S. Post title is from here.)

my twenties: a review

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

This sentiment has been expressed in lots of different ways by lots of different people, but I first heard it from Don Draper, and it has resonated with me ever since. It might embarrass some other English majors to have one of their favorite quotes come from a television show, but this English major slash TV junkie is fine with it.

Listen, my twenties were terrible. And exciting. And then terrible again. And then exciting, but in a really, really terrible way. My friend Helen Jane would say that years 20-30 are everyone’s time to be stupid and crazy, and she’s right, but lord was I ever stupid and crazy.

  • I was in ten different monogamous relationships, three of them with people at least nine years older than myself.
  • I had three nervous breakdowns.
  • I got arrested.
  • I sort of broke up with one person twice.
  • I flirted briefly with alcoholism.
  • For three years, I hardly ever left the house.

I was kind to people who were cruel to me and cruel to people who were kind, and above all, I was unspeakably cruel to myself. I sat around waiting for my life to start, berating myself day and night for waiting for my life to start. I existed in a constant liminal state–between jobs, between relationships, between careers or goals. I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough for anything or anyone.

But mostly, the problem was the dating. I’m the child of parents who are both very straightforward and honest. They don’t manipulate people, they don’t say things they don’t mean, and they’ll own up when they’ve done something wrong. For those and other qualities I’ll always love them, but I went into the world somewhat unprepared for people who lack those qualities. I didn’t listen when people told me who they were, and I paid for it.

So this is what happened. I dated someone whose backpack made a loud CLUNK on the table whenever he came to stay at my house, indicating that he’d brought his gun over again. I dated someone I was afraid of, and the first time we broke up, I took him back because I was afraid of him. I dated someone who’d had a recent stint in a mental hospital, and we got drunk together every night. I dated someone whose son kicked my dog. I dated someone who found my email password and used it. I dated someone who made me change my locks.

The things that happened to me in my twenties make me feel like I’m different from other people. My friend J has dated lots, too. She said once that she has a hard time discussing her relationship issues with her close friend M, because M married someone she met in college and therefore doesn’t understand What It’s Like. And I get that, but I think J was referring to What It’s Like to be really lonely for a long time, and that’s not how I feel different.

I have never had much trouble with loneliness. I’ve always spent lots of time by myself, and can avoid feeling lonely even when single if I maintain some close friendships. The thing I miss most when single is having someone to whom I can tell really boring stories. Some asshole ran a stop sign on my way home from work! I read this article online about blah blah blah today. Tonight for dinner I ate a peanut butter and chocolate syrup sandwich. That sort of thing. But otherwise it’s not a huge problem.

I have a divorced friend who is currently single and looking for the right guy to be with. She gets upset when she talks about it sometimes, and again, I get that. But that particular longing, that “When will I find my someone?” feeling, isn’t one I’ve experienced much. Loneliness looks pretty bad when you’re comparing it to being with someone who is right for you, but compared to being with someone who is wrong for you, it’s fucking cake.

I feel different from other people because I think all that disastrous dating has made me a little, well, callused. Untrusting. And another word I can’t think of. It’s not introverted, because I’m pretty outgoing. It’s something that means that I don’t reach out to people emotionally like I used to, or that I let my inner life take priority over the needs of others. I don’t know if I ever believed in the idea of a Right Person for everyone, but I definitely don’t believe in it now.

I am in a relationship now, and have been for the past four years. He’s a wonderful guy, I love him lots, and I trust him nearly unconditionally. We live together, but we have no current plans to get married. Given everything I’ve been through, getting married feels like pushing my luck.

Soon after I turned 30, the turmoil of my twenties just sort of went away, like a calm after a drama hurricane. Part of that is due to my boyfriend, who is refreshingly easygoing and straightforward (and doesn’t have much of an internet presence, god bless him), but part of it is also due to getting older. Whatever was in me that made me do all the regrettable things I did in my twenties just isn’t there anymore, and I’m glad.

(I hate when people end their blog posts with questions for people to answer in the comments, but, uh, I really want to know if your twenties were as insane as mine.)

misogyny bowl

I’m not much of a football fan. When I was a waitress, I’d always volunteer to work on Superbowl Sunday, in hopes that someone would volunteer to work for me on Oscar night. Since then, my Superbowl-watching has been confined to the years when someone I know has a Superbowl party or people come to my house or whatever. Left to my own devices, I spend Superbowl Sundays sewing or knitting or watching DVDs or whatever.

This year my boyfriend wanted to watch the Superbowl, so we invited my sister and her husband over for food, drinks, football-explaining (my boyfriend’s forte) and general mocking (my forte). Dear readers, if you saw the Superbowl, I’m sure that my anger regarding a number of the ads will come as no surprise to you.  The message in many of them was: Women are bringing you down, men! Bitches have removed your spine! They’re making you watch vampire TV shows! They’re bossing you around! They’re inferior to a set of tires! It’s time to remedy this by buying stuff and acting like an asshole.

(Side question: Regular Superbowl watchers, is there always this much misogyny in the ads? I don’t remember it being this bad before, but as I said, I’m a sporadic viewer.)

Anyway. The worst, most rage-filled ad as far as I’m concerned was the Dodge Charger one (which you can see here; I’m not going to embed it). I found this clever response to that ad and posted a link to it on Twitter:

A woman I follow on Twitter wrote that she didn’t watch the game, but from what she could tell, the ads were pretty alienating to the female audience. I responded:

Yeah, a LOT of the ads were of the “WOMEN BE SHOPPIN'” variety. Made me wish @sarah_haskins was still doing “Target Women.”

Then I said:

Our superbowl: leftover party food, @meganheadley falls asleep, @luiztauil watches the game, I bitch to @bpriker about sexist commercials.

I got these two replies within two minutes of each other:

@bluishorange yuck. I hope the fallout from the critiques doesn’t further it with “women are too sensitive and can’t take a joke”

@bluishorange I tried bitching about the sexist commercials, but everyone thought I was being an overly sensitive whiner. ARRRG.

It took a lot of exposition for me to make this point, but here it is: Thinking critically about the portrayal of your gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, etc, in the media does not qualify as being oversensitive. Speaking up about it does not mean you can’t take a joke.

The fact that two people I know worried at nearly the same moment about being thought of as oversensitive whiners is evidence to me that this sort of “Oh, lighten up!” response is still pretty common. Well rest assured, people, I’m not planning to lighten up on this issue anytime soon.  It’s not that hard to create TV shows and movies and advertisements that are funny, interesting, enlightening and engaging without insinuating that women are bitches; and it’s up to us, the viewers, to demand that standard.

I’m fortunate to have a boyfriend who is happy to discuss sexist commercials and sexist other things and general feminism with me. He maintains that the ads like the ones aired during this year’s Superbowl are offensive to both sexes: they’re hostile towards women, but they also assume men to be thoughtless, anti-intellectual cads. And I think he’s right. Gentlemen, if you’re part of the “lighten up” contingent, you may want to start evaluating how you’re being portrayed.

P.S. Matt Haughey made a good response video as well:

Parisian Love, Part II from Matt Haughey on Vimeo.