in recent years

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the mortifying ordeal of 'get bent'

I take great pride in being unembarrassable. Incapable of shame. I think of myself as existing Above and Beyond the mortal realm of humiliation. Some of that’s an act, obviously, because I am still human despite my best efforts. But by committing to the act for so long, it’s become truer and truer as time goes on. I don’t get embarrassed at things that I know other people would and I’m often joyfully and enthusiastically willing to do dumb shit out loud and in public that would likely horrify other people. I just want to be myself. If other people don’t like it, well. That’s not really a me problem, is it?

So, recently, I made a tank top. I had envisioned this shirt — I wanted a floral print tank top, fairly femme, and I wanted big white iron-on letters spelling out GET BENT across the chest. I say and write, “Get bent” a lot. I like that it’s both pretty aggressive and weirdly inoffensive. I like that the delivery can really sell your meaning. I like that it’s kind of old school.

I wanted this shirt in time to go to a concert in Denver and Crystal helped me get it made in a hotel room in Wyoming since we don’t actually own an iron with which to iron-on letters. I got frustrated and wanted to quit, but she made me persist! Because she is a very good wife and carries me through when I try to wimp out on stuff.

So I made this shirt! And it turned out fucking great! And I wore it to the show in Denver for Frank Iero and the Future Violents! And I took a picture with the whole band in it! And I have worn it a couple times since, including to see Ghost in Minneapolis and Ludo in St. Louis and I’ve gotten a bunch of compliments on it! Especially from drunken middle-aged women! Including a couple who have gently grabbbed me in the friendly way that only women can and went, “GET BENT! HA! That is GREAT!” And I get the bonus of getting to watch men look at my chest, read it, then look up at my face as they interpret it as a message for them and that is… Transcendent.

So I have warm feelings for this shirt and I’m happy about its existence. But then, while perusing Tumblr as I am now occasionally wont to do because the whole internet is a wasteland and who needs principles anyway, I came across a picture of the Frank Iero from Frank Iero and the Future Violents playing with his Future Violents about a week before I saw them in Denver. In the photo, he is holding his guitar flipped up against him so the back is showing. (He often puts words on the back of his guitars — numbers, his kids’ initials, whatever — so not unusual to see writing there.) But on this guitar… It says… Get… Bent…

Frank Iero And. You know. Coincidences, right?! Frank Iero and I have… similar tastes? We are… close in age? It is… Not weird! That we would both! Be partial! To the phrase! Get bent!

But also, Frank Iero was/is (DON’T GET ME STARTED! The last week has been WILD.) a member of My Chemical Romance and has fans who are… Very Devoted! And they sometimes dress up like him and/or his My Chemical Romance bandmates! And then go to his shows! With his new band! And would probably very much make a shirt that said something he had put on one of his guitars!

And… while I love and respect these fans Very Much because they are, let’s face it, the ones who make the gears turn, the machines work, the reunions happen, I am… Just… Not one of them. Which is fine! I am obsessive and devoted in my own way!

But the idea… that Frank Iero might have looked at this shirt I was wearing while I was PAYING TO MEET HIM (An already, admittedly, kind of mortifying thing to do!) and which I had very clearly made myself… And thought I did it… Because he has that same phrase… on one of his guitars… … …

The Retroactive Embarrassment…. My soul left my body… I transmuted briefly into a toad as if cursed by a wizard I had wronged… I curled so deeply into myself that I returned to my fetal form… When what was left of my soul finally returned to my wombless wormy body, I burst outward into Humiliation Fireworks and then slowly returned to the earth as embers and ash… My body reassembling piece by piece… Even now, thinking about it, the molten lava of residual shame is the only glue holding me together.

I’m still gonna keep wearing it though.

no i won't make my bed

I’m 34. I’ve been 34 for a little while and I’ll be 35 fairly soon. I’m an adult. I own a house. I get oil changes when my car tells me to. I get up and go to my job five days a week and work 40 to 50 hours. I help keep two animals and two adult people alive. I pay my bills on time. I successfully use most of the fresh food I buy. I get a flu shot every year. I have a skincare routine. I usually have clean clothes when I need them. I’m never late to things.

I will never, ever, as long as I am alive, make my fucking bed every morning.

First of all, I’m not doing anything because a fucking Navy Admiral tells me to. Second of all, making your bed prevents your sweaty sheets from drying out adequately enough to kill the bacteria and microbes that thrive in them. Third, and most importantly, I. Don’t. Want. To.

And, like always, I am here, not to shame the bed-makers (Do your thing, whatever makes you happy, etc.) but to tell you that you also do not have to make your fucking bed every fucking morning, especially not just because a whole bunch of people say you should.

I do all those ‘adult’ things up there without making my bed in the morning or, actually, ever unless I just changed the sheets and am feeling fussy/fancy/froggy. I do all of those ‘adult’ things despite and in the face of my sometimes debilitating depression and anxiety. I do all those ‘adult’ things to keep myself alive even though sometimes I’d rather not be alive at all.

So many of our conceptual notions of adulthood are based on some Baby Boomer’s idea of what you should be doing at 25 and 30 and 35, but 2019 isn’t 1979 and I have zero desire to base my lifestyle habits on the opinions of people who believe in bootstrap ideology and think c+ping a block of incoherent text somehow protects the intellectual property rights for the Minion memes they share on Facebook.

Life is so, so short. Please stop beating yourself up because you can’t or don’t want to do things that other people say are necessary for success. If you woke up this morning, you’re already ahead. Figure out what feels like success to you, what feels like achievement, like progress, like action, like functioning and define yourself. Everyone’s normal looks different and there is such a good chance that you’re doing just fine in life, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

You ultimately have so little control over the way life plays out, decide what adds value to yours whenever you can and ignore what other people have to say about it. You don’t have to make your bed. You don’t have to define success with other people’s words. You’re doing just fine.

you don't have to finish that thing

Today, I removed a TV show that I have not finished from the “To Watch” list I keep in my Wunderlist app.

It felt… good. It felt… free. It felt… transcendental.

It doesn’t matter at all what it was — I add like, everything to this list that sounds even remotely interesting when I see somebody talk about it — and it isn’t because I even think it’s “bad” or whatever (I don’t, actually. It’s good!) but just because I didn’t really want to watch anymore episodes. It just wasn’t a thing I needed to see through and for like, one of the first times in my entire dumb life I just… decided not to.

I have always been finicky about Finishing Things. (Well, watching/reading-type things. If only I could produce the same kind of energy for producing things instead of consuming them. The books I could finish writing! The screenplays! The chores!) I’ve only ever really given up on a book TWICE (Both of which were boring and pretty bad. One or the other… I stick those out constantly. I have been ”’reading”’ House of Leaves for fourteen years.) and I am constantly having the incredibly stupid thought, unbidden, that I have to take in an Entire Thing before I’m like, allowed to decide whether I liked it or not.

But the older I get, the more I realize that life is just TOO SHORT to finish every single thing I start. I have no idea how much time I get on this planet, why the hell do I keep wasting it on stuff that I’m not even that into?!

This feels like a real evolutionary moment for me. I can change! I can reclaim my time! And stop wasting it on things I don’t really care about!

And! I walked the talk and doused the stupid little burning need I had to tell everyone about how This Thing Was Just Not For Me because… Who cares? Lots of things aren’t for me! (That’s like, a product of being alive in a time where there is more content being created every day than in the one prior: not all of it can or should be made for everyone. That actually rules, knowing there is SO MUCH media being made, that like, you don’t have to care about kind of a lot of it at all. That’s awesome.)#

(It’s almost like… I can be the person I actually want to be? Sometimes? If I try? Sounds fake, but okay.)

So, in case you need it, I am here to tell you: You Do Not Have to Finish That Thing.

Whatever it is, no matter how good it is or how much you want to be part of the zeitgeist or which one of your amazing friends recommended it, you can just stop reading or watching or following it. And you don’t even have to tell anyone about it. Just Quietly Quit That Thing and On To The Next. Liberate yourself. Bask in that freedom. You deserve it.

#: I hope it is obvious that this doesn’t apply to, like, diversity and representation in media. We always need more and everyone should be able to see themselves in the media they watch. This is a Mob Movies Aren’t For Me, not Movies Should Be For Straight White Cis People Only thing. Fuck white people. Including me.

to the stars

I love space.

I have always known that I would never go to space.

I was an uncoordinated, fat kid who didn’t trust the military (Of course there are civilian astronauts. Lots of them! Neil Armstrong even, technically!) and I knew I would never have the discipline for it.

But I have always wanted to be part of the space program.

More than any other dream I’ve ever had — publishing a book! writing a movie! — I wanted to help explore space. It was my second dream job — edged out by paleontologist because, dinosaurs are amazing obviously — and the first I knew, almost as soon as I dreamed it, that I could never do.

Space is incredible. Vast and beautiful and endless. Every single thing we learn about space teaches us something important, but also opens us up to even more knowledge, to an even more expansive universe than we previously imagined, to an infinity so broad it’ll break you if you think about it too hard.

And I wanted to be part of it more than almost anything I have ever wanted.

And I knew I never, ever could.

Math and I have always been enemies. My lowest grades were always math. I had to repeat high school algebra. I preemptively took the ACT, well before I took the SAT, because I’d heard that the math was easier and I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D that my SAT score wouldn’t hit the minimum to avoid college placement tests. (It didn’t.) I didn’t want to struggle through at least 3 quarters of remedial math before also struggling through college algebra. (My ACT did.) I had to take a no-credit in my college algebra class because I couldn’t hack it. I ended up taking a logic class to satisfy my one single math requirement. I don’t think my final grade was very good. I excelled in sciences until they required math — here’s looking at you, high school chemistry — and I knew, deep down in the dark cave-like places where disappointment lives, that it would never get better. I would never make it through anything harder.

I took physics in college anyway, probably through a fluke of class requirements, availability, and timing, and it was torture. I understood the concepts, the ideas, the big stuff, the theoretical. I understood it and I liked it. I cared about it. Physics is… as close as humans get to magic. But the math bewildered and confused me. I tried. I read. I studied. I have never been a good studier, but GOD, did I try. I tried. And I just… couldn’t.

After putting in my second lackluster test performance, my very smart, very kind professor — a woman who worked for NASA and JPL and took students to the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Kennedy Space Center every year — asked me to stay behind after class.

I think I’d gotten a D and I was unhappily resigned. I wouldn’t call myself an overachiever, but with the exception of math, school had always been easy for me. Not just easy, but natural. It has always felt like learning was what I was supposed to be doing, the only thing I’ve ever been particularly good at.

This woman looked at me with this awful kindness, the kind that strips you down when you’re not expecting it, and she said, “You just. You can’t do this math, can you?”

And my breath caught in my throat because I’d had teachers who sympathized with my struggles before, ones who tried their best to help, but no one had ever, ever looked at me like they actually got it — that I was trying my absolute fucking hardest and I just could not do it.

And I just nodded.

She smiled at me, soft, and she told me she would do everything she could to give me partial credit so I could pass. And she did. And I did.

I took an astronomy class with her later, a class I anticipated and dreaded in almost equal measure, because I still loved space and because I wanted to learn about it, and she smiled and nodded at me when I took my seat at the front and some of the dread faded because I knew she still got it and I knew she had my back.

I cried after that class a lot. Because I love space. And learning so much about it — it was a surprisingly in-depth class for even an upper division entry-level — was moving, but also devastating because I knew this would be the end of organized space education for me. There was nowhere else for me to go.

She told me once, about midway through, as we went over a test after class that she had never had a student who so clearly and easily grasped and engaged with conceptual information, but who couldn’t do the math. It was the kindest, most flattering knife I’ve ever had through my heart.

I’ve always told people that, if the opportunity arose, even if I knew it was a one-way ticket to certain death, I would go into space. This is true every single day. This has never, even for like, one minute in my entire life been not true. To reach into the rich dark and see the limitless sea of our existence, to leave the bounds of earth, I would give my life. In a heartbeat. In a nanosecond. In a Planck second.

I won’t set foot on an airplane, but any space vessel will do.

The privatization of space exploration pains me. The increasing incuriosity of the American public and their unwillingness to fund NASA and further exploration of our universe is nauseating to me. We are so small in the scheme of everything and we have so much to learn. We are a species built from survival instincts and yet our curiosity compels us to do so much more, to learn so much, to seek out the edges of our universe and understand them.

Math may have defeated my dreams of exploiting that curiosity to its fullest. It may have even crushed my dreams, but it can’t stop me from learning. There is always more to know. And if Opportunity could outlive her mission by 14 years to teach us as much about Mars as she possibly could, we can be curious enough to learn something from her and curious enough to care about what comes next.

The static from your television is 1% residual radiation from the Big Bang. You and I and everyone we love, we are made of star stuff. We are the universe, walking and talking and seeking. Stay curious. Don’t stop learning.

totally top five 2018: the other stuff

I started this post the same way I start most of them: with too many words and a lot of unnecessary information, but I got tired about halfway through because it’s been a hard month and enthusiasm meter is on E. And that bummed me out! Because I consider myself an enthusiast and I don’t like when that’s taken from me!

So instead of dwelling or letting this post feel like a chore, I’m going to make it (kind of) short on words and (pretty) long on stuff.


crys & ash at panic in mpls being rained on with confetti ash screaming while being rained on by panic! at the disco confetti
ash and crys with the members of ludo


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