Blog

Into the Ocean of Almost

Whenever I return to my diary after having not written for about a month, (a now typical increment of time, mind you, age can make personal gossip a little boring) I begin the entry by apologizing profusely. This act is inherently counter-productive, not to mention downright silly, as I’m basically just apologizing to myself. No one else reads my diary! Imagine that. (Though I do have a hazy memory of handing a diary over to a boyfriend so he could read how much I liked him, and yes, I did cook the pages ahead of time so that he could read something beautiful and profound, which is not at all how I write when I write for myself. Was it you I let read my diary? Well I’m sorry, that seems really awkward for you, but take solace in knowing that I’m none too comfortable with it either.) I suppose in years from now, when my diaries all live in special collections at my alma mater, a young reader will quietly forgive me as they read a new entry, one that begins “I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy month!” And then that future student will continue writing their thesis paper about Katie Markovich, the great apologizer, who really only takes to her diary to voice anxiety about not getting enough photo likes on Facebook.

Oh, right, the point: I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy two weeks! Did you notice I didn’t write a post last week? Judging by the single-digit number of daily clicks I see in my analytics, I’ll take that as a maybe!

I’ve recently had a strange run of Almosts. Almost getting pieces published, almost getting noticed by readers at festivals, almost getting hired at impossible-to-get jobs. And I don’t feel bad about not completing the full rotation, for not sticking the landing. I’ve been quietly submitting and working and writing for lots of years, at times putting in entire full-time shifts at home after a full-time shift at a day job. This doesn’t make me unique, by the way. Lots of people do this. Lots of people want to leave a piece of themselves behind, to show that they did more than simply Got Through It. I guess this is both an admission and an acknowledgement to you that I am no stranger to rejection, and to also remind you that this is what I signed up for. I will also admit that it’s hard to know how much time I put into my work when I am met daily by social media posts boasting #riseandgrind, talking about the hustle, how one must set goals if they intend to get anywhere in life, how it’s easy to succeed if you just put the work in. You don’t need to tell me this, I think. This is just the best I can do right now. Sometimes I rise and I grind and I hustle and I goal and I action verb and I #hashtag. Other days I just get through it. There should be no shame in that. Though I understand the empowerment and visibility in touting your own successes (something you must do; self-advocacy is important), I also long for the day where we will all quietly do our work–hell, maybe some of us will even half-ass that work–and that will be totally ok. Millennials will change the world, this is true. Millennials are also going to burn out super fast. What is my point? My point is that I’ve chosen a nontraditional professional path, one that cannot be conquered by merely checking off boxes and taking the right classes and completing the right amount of hours and experiences. It is one that is solely dependent on literally some person liking something you’ve created from inside your heart and your brain. No checkboxes, no right or wrong, no correct path. So as insane as it sounds, as frustrating or sugar-coated as it might be to some, a week of Almosts for a writer is a big. fucking. deal.

I was blindly fearless when I was 22. Maybe we all were, but I was really, especially, naively fearless. I suspect it was equal parts precious and terrifying from an outsider’s point of view. But there I was, fresh out of college and fully convinced I could do anything. I even gave a speech to incoming college first years at an orientation event in which I basically said, “It’s easy! Just be brave.” I was accepted to the first publication I ever submitted to. Imagine: For a brief moment, I was batting 1000. I was like, “It’s easy, just be a really great writer,” and then I tossed my hair over my shoulder and went back to being unemployed and living with my parents. But then it got harder. I got better, but the time and place and luck elements wore thin. Which is normal! At first I didn’t think it was, but now I deeply understand and know that it is. When my first piece was published, I got an amazingly kind email from a kind of famous MSNBC news commentator and journalist (and not to mention super cute pro-Obama pundit, heeeyyy) who just wanted to reach out and let me know he had read my piece and loved it. But then he said something to the effect of (and I am not quoting verbatim), “Lots of people wait years and years to get anything published anywhere. You’re really lucky to have done this on the first try.” And again, because I was 22 and flipping my hair, I probably thought, “Well, sure I’m lucky, but I’m also good.” But he was totally right: Luck. I see that now. Thank you handsome political correspondent, where ever you are. (I Googled it; he’s in New York.)

The other night at dinner, Tony and I talked at length about what each of us seeks and aims to create in our own writing. I said truth, Tony said beauty. After some more dissection, we realized we were probably talking about the same thing but calling it by different names. At one point we landed on ecstasy, on release, on truth and beauty being a part of both of those concepts. The most thrilling part [for me] about living in California is the beauty, the release one experiences when driving towards ocean or mountains. I cry every time we drive north out of LA. It’s too beautiful to understand, so I cry. And I think about how I want to let go of everything that’s inside me, put it all out there, because there’s so much sky and water and rock into which it can go. It can handle all of me, every truth I have to tell. This is why people come here, I think. This is it. The bigness of this world makes the Almosts manageable, sought after, treasured. It’s hard not to feel endless possibilities when you see an endless horizon. But know that my day-to-day is often spent looking into my living room, out on the courtyard bike racks if the blinds are open, wringing inspiration out of what is sometimes a dry bone of a day, not grinding at all but just getting through it, thinking about what else I can do to make myself better at what I do, to convince others that I am the best at what I do. And I chose this. I almost didn’t, but then I did, and I’m not sorry.

 

Note: These same basic sentiments will also be handwritten into my diary, but there will be more shouting and curse words and sentences that don’t make sense and weird tangents about a person I haven’t seen in 10 years but I’m really into everything they post on Instagram and I just wanted to record that truth somewhere. 

 

Mixed Bag of Stories

I am writing to you LIVE from the Super Bowl! Which is to say, the Super Bowl is on TV and I am on the couch typing quietly. Tony went to Target to buy a pillow. This is how we celebrate the sport in our home. There was a time in my life (high school) when major sporting events were an integral part of my social life; not going somewhere “to watch the game” meant you missed out on something important and cool and possibly life-altering, so you definitely had to be there if you wanted any of your friends to remember you exist. And now I don’t care. It’s freeing.

I thought perhaps I should give a quick recap of this past week. It was between that and writing 2000 words about The Waves by Virginia Woolf, so suffice it to say, you’re welcome. (But on a very real note, The Waves is like, getting into my bones and into my dreams and sometimes I really zone out and think about my life and about people who have died and what it means to grow old and what it means to have friends that you’re growing old with and apart from and I’m like, wait, why am I thinking about any of this? And then I remember, oh yeah, I read The Waves.)

On Monday I had a doctor’s appointment. I made it to have my IUD checked and to ensure it’s still in the right place, and to also have a follow-up conversation about a cyst on my ovary. The last time I was there, while having said IUD clamped into my body, my doctor said, “Oh yeah, you should have surgery to take care of this cyst.” She wasn’t that nonchalant about it, but her overall demeanor is actually kind of nonchalant, so I guess it was hard to get a read on how much stress I should put into the concept of surgery. WELL you’ll be happy to know that I chose to go with an all-or-nothing approach, being full-on stressed the fuck out about it for the last month and a half. I should mention that I had it tested back in December and those results were all normal, which is great and it negates a different kind of stress, but then I was still bummed about having grown this thing inside me and then needing to get it cut out. I went into this appointment having already visualized the surgery, already cramming it into my life sometime between now and getting married, already imagining the pain and the recovery and the 24-hour-in-advance fast, and also strangely, already looking forward to all the TV I would watch in my bed. So imagine my surprise when my doctor, studying my uterus on the ultrasound monitor said, “Oh wow! Your cyst is gone.”

Let me quickly paint you a picture. My doctor has these space-age chairs that flip you over so that your body is at a 45 degree angle, the head at the bottom, and your feet in stirrups at the top. It ingeniously combines whimsy and sheer terror. It’s designed this way so that she can stay standing while remaining level with my pelvis. I was upside down when I heard her say “Your cyst is gone,” so I had to awkwardly adjust my body and my weight in order to make eye contact with her and say, “Huh?” And she pointed onscreen to the ovary that was formerly with cyst, and said again, “Your cyst, it’s gone.” And again I said, “Huh?” This was an amazing core exercise, by the way, all that leaning up with my abs and trying to make eye contact with a human who was between my legs. She proceeded to explain what had happened to my cyst (it popped; “like a zit!” I offered enthusiastically and she said, “You got it! Just like a zit.”) and why it was okay that this particular kind of cyst popped (“I bet that’s why you were in so much pain after your IUD went in,” she said, “it was your cyst bursting!” and I said “I bet that’s exactly why!”) and then she gave me the medical term for my cyst, which I have since forgotten, and then I asked her three more times in three different ways if the cyst was really gone and if everything was really okay and she was like, “Yes, please look with me at your ultrasound,” and I adjusted my body again into another terrible position and was like, “Yes, I see what you’re saying now.” This whole appointment took about 4 minutes.

After my appointment, the one in which I learned I did not have to have surgery, Tony took me to lunch where I ordered a tuna melt with a side salad, and our waitress gave me a real hard time about getting a salad. I don’t know how this mini-anecdote fits into the theme of the larger anecdote, but you should also know that she gave me a big wink when she brought extra dressing that I didn’t ask for.

Another cool thing that happened this week is that I saw Jason Schwartzman in public. I will not bore you with all the ways I am a big-time nerdy fan of his, and I won’t even share the photo I have from years ago of the two of us together, but just know that he is a big deal for me. I have also paid money on two other occasions to see him in person, but this time it was for free! Nearly any time I leave our apartment, I walk up to the closest major street and turn right. Come to think of it, I have never not turned right in the 4 months I’ve lived in Los Angeles.”You’re nuts!” you’re saying to yourself, and I agree! What might possess one to change their routine? I am not typically a person who puts any stock into astrology or signs or houses or retrogrades (I don’t even know what these words mean, contextually speaking) but I can’t help but think that the Super Blue Blood Moon was somehow a factor. Because that’s what day it was! So I took a left and had decided to buy dinner at a grocery store where I never shop, to hang out at a coffee shop I’ve never been, and to just generally be in a new part of my neighborhood. I also wanted to read my book (The Waves; it was written by Virginia Woolf in 1931. Have I mentioned this? That I read this book and now I dream about it because it crept into the folds of my brain and implanted itself?) and the weather here is always perfect, so I landed on an outdoor patio with a delicious iced tea, staring straight into the main entrance of the Scientology Celebrity Center across the street. As you can now see, the set-up is already inherently strange. And then from my right came a voice I know so well, chatting with a friend, enjoying his afternoon: it was one Jason Schwartzman. My brother later asked if I “shrieked or froze” and I said that I went deep inside myself to a place of total zen. Which is true! I did great. Tony said he was incredibly proud of me for being so cool and not staring and then he asked if I was going to cry and I said “Yes” and my eyes welled up with tears. Then some minutes later my new best friend, Jason, walked by again with grocery bags from the very store I had planned to go to and yes, a tiny squeal left my body. I don’t think he heard. (I also ask you to not share this story with him, because it’s a little lame. I mean, it’s mostly endearing and charming, but then it’s lame again.) After we finished our teas and did our planned grocery shopping, Tony and I walked home in the dusk, pausing at the end of our street to stare up into the hills. It looked like something was on fire, the way the hillside was all lit up in orange. Then we realized it was just that big ass super moon, making weird (but great) things happen all over town.

We also went to Malibu this week and a man on a surfboard in the ocean exclaimed, “I LOVE Malibu!” Then he said, “But I HATE cardio.” Again, how does this mini-anecdote relate to the larger post? I don’t know, but I love that I was there to witness it.

 

Facing the Music (about all the hair on my face)

A favorite game I play with myself is to open the internet browser on my phone and compare the open tabs to one another. I feel this is the truest representation of a person: impulse searches, emergency searches, drunk searches, bored searches, I-know-I-recognize-you-but-from-which-show searches. Tabs with noble causes or lofty ideals: a link to Save the Food; a New Yorker article about immigration; a list of most anticipated books to come in 2018. Tabs with no lofty ideals, but I will keep open forever: images of lewd cake toppers; a direct link to a Florida Orange Juice commercial featuring Robert Loggia. And then there is another tab, one that I have returned to again and again, because it is too important to dismiss.

It’s the search results for “best bleach creme.”

What are you trying to bleach? You might ask.

It is my mustache,  I would say in response.

I’ve written about this topic before (or at least I did years ago on some other now-defunct blog) and the topic comes up so often because it’s on my face and I look at it everyday. I am also a vain, vain woman who still maintains a host of crippling physical insecurities, so obviously I am aware of it, and yes, I think about it all the time.

A brief history: I started getting my upper lip and eyebrows waxed when I was, I believe, 12. It was necessary. I walked into my first day of 7th grade, fresh from the full facial waxing, and I was greeted by a classmate saying, “Awww. Katie got her eyebrows waxed!” And I was like How can she tell but, come on, you could tell. I had a whole new, hairless face! And it was awesome. I continued to get my face waxed every 4 weeks for the next 10 years solid. Then I moved to Chicago and just stopped doing it. It was crazy how quickly I went from being fully dependent on getting waxed (I would drive home from college to have it done) to just not seeing it as a necessity. It was a financially-motivated decision, a I-don’t-have-time-to-research-this-I-don’t-even-know-where-the-grocery-store-is decision, a I-don’t-think-I-care-about-this-anymore decision. All the anxiety about what I looked like was eaten up by the anxiety of being a new college grad and not knowing what to do next. And then that anxiety turned into a different one, evolving and expanding and taking on the form of things that had never before been anxiety-inducing. And so it goes.

And yet, here we are, back on the upper lip train. The truth is that I never fully got off.  I have used creme bleach off and on over the years and I like it so much because, frankly, it doesn’t hurt. Getting your lip waxed hurts. I had a good callous built up for a number of years but I don’t know that I can go back. I was braver when I was young, willing to do whatever it took to be smooth and hair free. But now, I just don’t wanna. I’m scared! I’m not going back. I also had an unfortunate incident in college where I tried to give myself cleavage and to do so, I used duct tape, and when it eventually came off (ripped off) it was a real bad scene. Anyway, this is all to say, there was a time when the sound of my face getting waxed awakened some traumatic memory in my bones, and I could feel the tape ripping off all over again. (There is a WHOLE story about that, complete with what led me to the tape in the first place, why I felt my cleavage was insufficient, if it made a difference at all and if anyone ended up caring. Let me pitch this story to your publication! The personal essay we need right now! Or I’ll type it up and whisper it under this rock, aka, My Blog.)

But eyes up here. I was fully reintroduced to my facial hair when I took stock of all the zits that had broken out on the left side of my face. This was last week. They were mostly hidden by my grown-out bangs, but when looking closely, the zits were a deep red, blood immediately under the skin types, tiny molehills ready to burst into full-fledged mountain ranges. And from the temple they cascaded down, turning into big lonely pimple oasis,  sprouting arbitrarily from oily pockets in my cheek. And then finally, of course, the chin zit cluster, tiny dermal boulders arranged just so: craggy, rough to the touch, only ever on the verge of popping or having just popped. Why the break out? I don’t know, skin is weird, I guess. I suppose it was a perfect storm of periods, sleeping on my left side, and being right-handed, therefore, having my left hand available for face-resting and chin rubbing. I’m also extremely oily. I mean we’re talking, like, a lot of oil. This actually isn’t much of a mystery. The point is this: I was following the trail of acne when I stumbled into the brush.

And I looked at my face and kind of had that moment of Whoa! Hey, that’s my face! Which is a little insane sounding, but a valid reaction nonetheless. And I took note of the ever-darkening upper lip hair, yes, but I also saw how tired I looked, and wondered if it was just for the moment or a new normal. And I inspected the bump on my nose and I ran a finger over my weird pointy chin and then I smiled as big as I could to see the dimple on my right cheek. I checked each item off, one, two, three, all there as they have always been, but just a little different. And to be clear, this is not commentary or a reflection on beauty, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the features of one’s face and how one day you look in the mirror and things have changed. “Aging,” I think, is the official term for this, but I know better than to tackle that topic at age 28. But I do reflect on my own relationship with my face, the hours I’ve spent removing hair, rubbing the driest eyes, shellacking perpetually chapped lips; all the upkeep and the maintenance required to simply be comfortable. Imagine if I regularly wore makeup! I would be writing a different post, perhaps. But this is no complaint, merely a reflection on what it means to be a vain woman who also happens to have a host of physical insecurities. But who isn’t?

The zits are all gone, they’ve had their way with me this month, and the upper lip hair is here for now, until I bleach it and it’s invisible for a little while. And then I’ll grow my bangs out and cut my hair and start wearing under eye liner to look less tired and I’ll decide that bright lipstick is the best way to distract from zits and facial hair and it will all be okay because I will have made all these decisions on my own. And then I’ll find myself in the bathroom mirror again, staring at a woman I know and understand to be me, but also kind of asking Wait, but really? And then I’ll pull out my phone and see all the photos of lewd cake toppers I have saved, just because they’re funny and I want to imagine a wedding cake topped with the weirdest most hilarious items imaginable and then I will say Yes, really. 

 

 

One More Wedding Thing Then I’ll Stop Alienating Some of You

Two things:

The first thing is that we’ve selected a date and place for getting married and then celebrating said marriage. We have signed all our documents and sent all our deposits. So that’s done–and it only took a small amount of anguish!

The second thing is that I bought my wedding dress this past Saturday. It was fast, easy, and not stressful at all. I’m being serious, it was a perfectly breezy experience. It was breezy because I stacked the deck in my favor; the Hornberger System of wedding dress shopping, really. This entails that you know which thing you want. But in order to get buy-in from other people, you feature it as part of a series of things, each item in the series making the thing you want look better and better, until the thing you want emerges as an obvious but organic choice. I have provided this simple, typed out explanation of the Hornberger System because YouTube does not feature a clip from this particular episode of 30 Rock. The only failure of the system was that I didn’t end up buying the dress I had picked out ahead of time; instead, I picked out a better dress. What’s it called when your strategy works but then you abandon the strategy for another, cooler thing? Is that called living your best life?

Prior to my appointment, I had found a dress online that was pretty and cheap. To be clear, It was more than just pretty; it looked like me, it fit the kind of wedding we were planning, the reviews were high, and yes, the cost was low. In my appointment request, I asked to try on this dress (knowing I would buy it) and then selected two other gowns that an algorithm had decided were garments I “might like.” A few days before my appointment, I was sent a mildly terrifying email from the bridal shop, telling me that if I didn’t confirm within the 24 hours before my appointment, they would cancel me and give it away to one of the countless bridezillas-to-be on the waiting list. This is a Beverly Hills shop we are talking about–there was no way in hell I was losing my spot to some lady who double-parked her Land Rover and didn’t have the foresight to make an appointment. As instructed, I emailed my confirmation the day before the appointment. And then, because I had a feeling my email confirmation was not enough, I also called. To reiterate, I confirmed twice. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my appointment the next day and I was met with two stunned employees, telling me they thought I had canceled.

“We have it here that you canceled,”said the now-nervous hip girl behind the counter, adjusting her large fake frames and flipping through pages of schedules and lists.

I looked down and saw a large black X over my name.

“No.” I said. “I confirmed twice.”

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the joy of LA is that everyone is exceedingly nice to you on account of not knowing to whom you might be connected.  They don’t know who might have a meltdown; they don’t know who will threaten to sue; they don’t know who will tell their famous dad that they were dicked around at a bridal shop. It’s a game of chance, interacting with other humans in LA. So with this in mind, it goes without saying that I was immediately assured that yes, of course I would still have my appointment today and yes, absolutely, it was their fault for the miscommunication and please, please, look through the dresses, pull anything you want! (Some minutes later, the source of the issue was revealed. Turns out another Katie canceled her appointment. Normally I would be a little critical of this no-last-name system they are apparently using, but they were truly so nice that they needn’t be ridiculed further.)

My stylist, Catherine, took my dresses and me back to the changing area. I had selected a 4th dress to try on, because it was the most expensive one I could find. On my way back, I made my way through throngs of future brides, many of which were in full-on ball gowns, veils that started in one room and finished atop their heads in the other. I saw mothers with pursed lips and Botoxed foreheads, murmuring, “Well, that’s nice, if that’s how you want to look at your wedding.” I heard one woman in a wedding dress pleading with her stylist, “I’ll be smaller for my wedding! I promise! I know it!” Her stylist simply reassured her, reminding her that she’d just order it in her size, which only made the woman more upset.

I had invited two friends, and they weren’t quite there yet, so I opted to try on the worst dress first. Catherine followed me into my changing room, and it occurred to me then that there was likely the expectation that she would watch me get undressed and then physically put the dress on me. I have always been a person to change clothes in private, even amongst best friends. I was the person in high school theatre who put on a full crinoline in a bathroom stall before I dared took anything off in the hallway with the  other girls in their bras, gleefully singing the complete soundtrack of “Rent.” Am I a Never Nude? I don’t know, maybe. But the point is, there were these heavy few seconds where I wasn’t getting changed and Catherine just stood there and no one said anything. Finally she said, “So I can help you….or you can just put on the dress yourself.” And I tried really hard to pretend like I’m cool and so whatever, man but it’s very possible I was physically pushing her out the door as I gave a carefree, “Doesn’t matter to me!” laugh.

Before my appointment, I was also sent a list of things I was supposed to bring. Those items included a strapless bra, a pair of nude underwear, and heels that would more or less be the same height as my wedding heels. Once Catherine was out of my changing room, I took to my bag of tricks (which is a canvas bag that basically says “Books! Books! Books!” on it.) I made some changes and then slipped the dress over my head. This all took about 15 seconds; Catherine was back in the room as though she’d never left. (Some might argue she didn’t need to leave at all, and there is a reason they change you into the dress in the first place.) Now, because I wanted to prove to Catherine that I had read the instructions, and that I deserved an A+ for Being the Very Best Bride To-Be, I said to her, “I brought some shoes…like the email said.” I deeply and truly wanted her to tell me I’m great for reading an email. She came close though, telling me that was cool, and then asked if they were kitten heels. Here’s the thing: they were not. I had actually brought a kind of shitty pair of black pumps, because the heel height was the closest to what I would eventually buy. But I said, “Yes.” I don’t know why I said “yes,” but I wager it had something to do with wanting to prove how very good I am at being a bride/human who can read emails. So I said “yes” but then I proceeded to pull my shoes out of the bag, assuming she would want to adjust the dress accordingly. Or to prove to her I owned shoes. I’m not too sure about the thought process on this part. What I pulled out was one black pump and one black high-heeled bootie.

“I thought these were the same when I packed them,” I said.

Instead of waiting for a response I awkwardly put on the one pump, all but toppling over. See? my face said to Catherine. A shoe! I was standing on one foot at this point, trying to channel Audrey Hepburn, while Catherine patiently waited for me to stop showing her my one shoe. She was very very nice about it before she told me that she actually didn’t need me in heels for this fitting. I also want to note that one time (at a different store) I went to a bridesmaid dress fitting, didn’t bring shoes, and they gave me god damn earful about it. So. I just want my baggage to be known.

My friends arrived for dress number 2, and they brought a nice camera! So I was able to see how the dress and subsequent dresses photographed. That was a very happy accident, and I think that’s probably a good tip for any of you readers who plan on trying on a white dress someday. Dress 2 was supposed to also be a part of the Hornberger System, but what do you know, it was lovely. Too lovely I thought, eyeing myself up and down. The peanut gallery agreed, though; it was a pretty good dress. #3 was meant to be the ringer, and while it was also very lovely, AND I had told them out of Catherine’s ear shot that this was the dress, I found myself not believing the plan anymore. #4 was pricey and I looked Catherine in the eye and said, “You know I’m not buying this, right?” In the end I tried on #2 again and chose it for the following reasons: 1) It showed a clear choice and represented a specific point of view 2) Spoke for itself without accessories 3) Looked and felt adult 4) Small dramatic details. 5) Butt-centric; one must know what to emphasize.

I’ve heard that some shops will ring a bell or do something showy to announce the selection of a dress, but Catherine was like, “I’ll bring you some paperwork.” She also brought us cans of champagne, which we drank while sitting  directly in the middle of another bride’s fitting. She was up on the step, in front of the mirror, the whole Say Yes to the Dress thing, and we knew we shouldn’t be there when we realized we were oohing and ahhing along with her family. We moved on to another faux-Victorian pink sofa, and found another bride at which to ooh and ahh.

I know I’ve made my opinions pretty clear when it comes to my wedding. No ceremony! No walking down a thing to meet another person at the end of the thing! No more aviator sunglasses! (I haven’t explicitly written about that one, but woof, can we get a memorandum on synchronized dancing into a banquet hall wearing aviators, I mean, Christ, if there is something on my top 5 list of things to do away with forever, it would be this. Anyway.) YES PARTY! But there was a time when I was “no” to the wedding dress. I thought it was too frivolous to have a place in my “simplest wedding ever” plan. It didn’t make logical sense, like there would be no buy-in from anyone else if I asked for one thing but not the others. But it was enough people telling me I was going to want one, and then looking at dresses online and deciding I did. The Hornberger System can only work for so long until a disrupter comes along, throwing the whole thing off. Like Dress #2. And lots and lots and lots of other disrupters before it, and I’m sure, many more to come.

 

 

 

Weddings and Walnuts (but mostly weddings)

When I started writing this post (which was yesterday, if you can believe it) I began with this little joke about it being a week into the new year and then asking if everything was fixed yet. Since then, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the leader of our country (Donald J. Trump) spoke up about certain “shithole countries” from which we are allowing immigrants. I don’t know about you, but there is rage happening in my home, about these comments, this language, these sentiments, how that affects children, how that affects humans, etc etc. We are grossed out and appalled as usual. And also as usual, I am going to ask you to give time, money, energy, and kindness when and where ever you can because none of those things are coming from those in power or leadership.

Ok, now time to blog about how…annoying it has been to find a place to get married. Consider the privilege checked.

____________________________________________

This has been a rough week for coming up with something to write about. No particular reason for it, the well of creativity and keen observation just feels a little dried up after all the excitement of the holidays. I made a short list of ideas, focusing mostly on what I’ve been up to, but the list ended up being mostly about how I keep incorporating walnuts into everything I cook. (Does that sound interesting to you? Please advise.) But when I asked Tony what on earth I could possibly write about, he looked at me with confusion. His face read you know what we’ve been up to and then he literally said the words, “You know what we’ve been up to.” And that’s when it hit me: Oh, right. We have been living in the endless hell scape of trying to find a place to get married.

Let me walk you through some history.

A long time ago, before we were even engaged, Tony and I talked about the shared dream of an elopement and then a big party to follow. (To get ahead of your questions, yes, we were talking about this plan as it pertained to us and our future together; not just like, Oh hey, new person I am dating, let’s have a very serious conversation in between episodes of Cheers.) This idea worked on several levels, chief among them being cost and my deep, deep desire to not have to walk down an aisle. (I’m very grossed out at the idea of like, presenting myself? to a man I’ve already been living with for a pretty long time? and to my family and friends? I just…look, I think I look pretty everyday. It’s insulting to think that a crowd of people might want to get a picture of me on on this one day because god only knows when I’ll ever be that cleaned up again. And I also think the wedding ceremony is an antiquated ritual, one rooted in women being objectified and monetized, that’s all I’m saying. I feel this way FOR ME. For you, betrothed readers, you are killing it in whatever way you want to plan your wedding. Also I would never, ever make a friend buy a bridesmaid dress. Use that money to take me to the Magic Mike Live Show in Vegas, FOR EXAMPLE.)

After we got engaged, though, (which was our first mistake; “elopement” entails you literally just disappear for a weekend then come back married, like Jim from work) we had a few family members mention that they of course would be there. And frankly, I didn’t say no. Because as it turned out, I didn’t want to say no! Yes, ok, our tiny, shared inner circle of people could be there. We are talking a single digits guest list, with big party to happen in the future. It would be fine.

When we got to California, we decided we would get married in California. We decided this because California is fucking gorgeous. That’s literally the extent of that thought process. In addition to being beautiful, California (Southern California in particular) also boasts an impressive amount of historical courthouses that are known for being used for intimate marriage ceremonies. It was perfect, really. We would invite our immediate families out to California for a nice weekend and at some point in that weekend we would have a courthouse wedding (but a beautiful one!) and then everyone would smile and sigh and say, “Gosh, Katie and Tony sure did this the right way. And look at that view!”

And yet. This task has not been easy!

The “task” in question is selecting one of these historic courthouses, which is what we’ve been up to for the past week. We began this process by Googling “best courthouse weddings Los Angeles” or some combination of those words, and the same basic list popped up over and over again on several different websites. And it was easy to see why: all these places were gorgeous. It was an embarrassment of riches, really. How could we pick just one? Oh, how young and naive we were.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of our sometimes-petty list of preferences, Locations 1 and 2 were both viable options, but with a healthy list of pros and cons. Neither stood out as the clear winner. We took a day trip last week and another one this week to see for ourselves. (And because they are both viable options, I’m not not going to disclose their exact locations to you.) The pros and cons were such that neither of us could really agree on one over the other, and the more we focused on the cons, the more we kind of drove ourselves (and each other) crazy. And I don’t think it had anything to do with winning or being right, it was just that the more I thought about certain details, the more I couldn’t unthink them. For example, I was (and remain!) very focused on a burnt-out and boarded up Subway restaurant across the street from one of the courthouses. For Tony it was learning that the doors to the other courtroom had to remain open at all times, thus making your private ceremony, well, public. But these were just things that once we saw them, we couldn’t unsee them. We couldn’t stop playing out scenarios in which the burnt-out Subway or the open courtroom doors somehow ruined our day. (My second mistake was telling myself I really didn’t care about this stuff, and then when I found out I did care, it was weirdly earth-shattering. I am having my “I’m a princess” moment.)

But then there was Location #3. I am going to out this location, because it broke our hearts and it deserves to be mentioned by name. (This is how “dragging” works, right? Am I using that correctly?) Rated as the number one City Hall Wedding on nearly every list we saw was the Pasadena City Hall. It’s rated number one because it’s drop-dead gorgeous. The city of Pasadena is gorgeous, too; out of towners would be so impressed! Tony and I walked the courtyard and the building, oohing and ahhing at every turn. The landscaping! The fountain! All these trees! No burnt out Subways here! But then I noticed that the building directories had no indication of wedding spaces or offices where one could obtain a marriage license. I also saw no women in wedding dresses milling around. At the other two locations, these indicators were very very obvious. But not in Pasadena! I thought that was odd, but I stayed positive. I also stayed quiet because I knew in my heart of hearts, just by looking around, that it was not a place where people actually get married and I didn’t want to say it aloud. Because if that were true, then that would mean the internet lied to us. Not just the internet, but several highly reputable crowdsourced websites, claiming that this was a top City Hall wedding spot! Finally, I called a phone number and inquired as to the specifics of a Pasadena City Hall wedding. Here is what I was told:

  • You can’t actually get married at Pasadena City Hall
  • The city of Pasadena doesn’t even distribute marriage licenses
  • The city of Pasadena doesn’t do civil services
  • We would have to legally get married somewhere else, like say, Los Angeles. But THEN we could rent City Hall…as a venue for our ceremony
  • What do I not want? That’s right, it’s a ceremony
  • Venue rentals begin at 3,000 dollars plus a shit ton of fees and permits, for example, obtaining and hiring private security for your event
  • But yes, Pasadena City Hall is a beautiful spot for wedding…photos! And that’s it.  That’s kind of what you’re interested in, right?
  • In conclusion, you tricked us, Pasadena; you are neither a City Hall wedding nor a courthouse wedding nor anything that is affordable and low-maintenance

If I were a smaller person, I would take this to Yelp. But alas, I will only complain about it on my personal website, like a grown-ass woman.

These hiccups are minimal, almost non-existent, and I know that, but any hiccup at all when you plan to have zero can be a little jarring. But assuming there will be zero issues at all is very naive and out-of character for me, since I have a running list of things-that-can-go-wrong going in my head at all times. (Walking with a hard candy in my mouth? Forget about it.) I don’t know what else to chalk it up to other than wishful thinking. Oh! And back-patting. A healthy dose of ego led me down this road of Katie-and-Tony-did-it-the-right-way. Which, for the record, I still think we did.

 

For your troubles, here are two excellent recipes that include walnuts:

This pasta is nuts! 

This chicken is…also nuts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year New Jacket

Three years ago I walked into a store in Akron and bought the dress on display in the window. I’d always wanted to do that, to see a dress on a mannequin and just know that it’s the one, like Cher does in Moonstruck. And since the dress was perfect and I’d just gotten some cash for Christmas, I decided to make the movie moment a reality. The dress had a gold sequin- covered bodice and no back, with a black tulle and taffeta skirt that almost looked like a tutu. It was unlike anything I owned or wore, and the sudden deep dive into shiny things seemed like the perfect way to start a new year. At the time, I had just been through a breakup and my bangs were only a few months old. It was time for a small reinvention of self. The dress with the sparkles would be one of those early steps.

Fast forward to three years later, yesterday, New Years Eve 2017. I was at the Marshalls at Western and Hollywood Boulevard. To begin, I am not, historically speaking, a Marshalls shopper. I would sometimes go to the Marshalls on Halsted in Chicago, the one connected to a Michaels craft store, where I would cut a deal with myself that IF I gave Marshalls a chance THEN I would be rewarded with going to Michaels. (And if I was really really good, I promised myself a gyro from Gyro Mena. What constitutes “really really good” behavior you might wonder? I’m not sure, but I do know I went through an aggressive gyro phase.) I recognize the many good qualities had by Marshalls, but I am deeply stressed out by the Every-Man-for-Himself element of the shopping experience, the rummaging through racks and racks of unorganized clothing, the near-constant body-to-body contact that is unavoidable on account of all the people who all love discounts. It’s why I can’t go to Nordstrom Rack. I found myself at Marshalls yesterday, though, because I needed to buy a pair of tights. Also, if you throw a rock really, really hard from the front gate of our apartment, the rock might hit the Marshalls. I was dead-set on wearing the sparkle dress again, the one I had worn to welcome the new me three years prior. This time, however, it was a welcome to the city of Los Angeles, a welcoming of myself to this new place, a leaning-in to the gold and glitter of Hollywood in the most literal way possible. But I needed tights. I had thrown away most of my sock drawer when I moved west, and part of that purge was all the hosiery and tights. That is why I went to Marshalls.

Upon my entering the Marshalls at Western and Hollywood, I was immediately overcome with both a sense of dread and of manic delight. There were a lot of people at Marshalls, all of whom swiping frantically through hangers like bad Tinder options. It seemed everyone was on a mission to find the best deals before the clock struck midnight. As you know, I was on a focused mission, one that would not be distracted by all the other stuff happening around me. I tracked down a sales associate toot suite.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Where can I find the…hose.”

I hesitated before I let “hose” leave my mouth. It occurred to me mid-request that no one says “hose” anymore. In fact, I don’t even think I say “hose” anymore, nor do I ever really find myself saying or thinking about “hose” often enough for it to matter. The sales associate was young, maybe a teenager, and I watched her eyes grow wide and confused upon hearing my request.

“Like, you know, tights,” I clarified.

My guess is that she heard “tights” but assumed I meant “leggings.” I have to assume this because her very earnest and not ironic response was:

“Oh. They’re just like, hanging up. With all the other stuff. So. You’re gonna have to look. You know, like, look for your size. Like everyone else is doing.”

Look for my size like everyone else is doing…at Marshalls? This is not what I signed up for. This was not supposed to be part of the focused mission. But I said “ok, thanks” because I TRUST OUR TEENAGE YOUTH and off I went to elbow my way through the throngs of ravenous shoppers.

Within seconds it became clear that neither hose nor tights nor anything nylon and vaguely transparent were hanging up on the racks, which I knew because that’s not how they’ve ever been sold in the history of time, but I had chosen to trust our teenage youth instead of trusting my own experience buying hosiery (big mistake!). But as I started going through the racks in any effort to show my respect to the sales clerk’s guidance (New Years Resolution: be less patient with teenagers), a mad sense of giddiness washed over me. “This place is so stupid,” I cackled to myself, holding up kitty cat t-shirts to my torso and checking the mirror. “My god this is ugly!” I said about a thin little jacket with feathers on the sleeves, adding it to the growing pile in my arms, a pool of sweat forming on my upper lip.  What is it about the blue and white Marshalls tag that tricks you into thinking you’re special? What is it about seeing the price that everyone else pays, but truly believing that Marshalls has set this new price just for you? “This is their Katie price!” I said, picking out a workout top that looks exactly like one I already have at home. It goes without saying that the mission had been abandoned.

I eventually made my way to the socks and hosiery display, which was shockingly picked over by the way, I assume because everyone also threw out their tights before moving to Los Angeles. I settled on a pair of footless tights, which would certainly do the trick. Also, they were out of tights with feet. I sighed to myself, seeing how easy it would have been to only buy what I needed, but instead I had accrued a hodge podge of hilarious but endearing shirts. So endearing, in fact, that the ugly little feather jacket I had picked up earlier was worn over my perfect sparkly dress for New Years Eve. How strange and comforting it can be to combine the old with the new. I also bought a t-shirt with a cat on it.

I don’t know what the takeaway here is, though it might be something along the lines of “Take risks” or “Remember what makes you feel good” or “Buy more cat t-shirts in 2018.” I think these are all very good things to remember. And though I’ve never really subscribed to the school of thought that says New Years resolutions are necessary, I do think it’s beneficial to have a mantra or two, or three or four, just a quick reminder of the goal of which ever mission (or missions) you’ve decided to embark upon this year. The new year is upon us! May we all bask in the freedom of this fresh start.

 

 

Thank you for giving me the confidence to take this bar bathroom selfie, weird feather jacket!

 

(I also want to note that I think teenagers are totally fine. You should trust them!)

 

 

 

You Earned It!

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house,

Tony and Katie weren’t sleeping when they were supposed to sleep

but then sleeping a lot when everyone else was awake

because of time changes and recovering from a red eye flight,

which is only a guess, I don’t really know what’s happening.

End of poem.

This doesn’t really make sense, when you think about it. Why would gaining three hours result in an all-out assault on our sleeping patterns? Will the whole next week be like this? Will I take a red eye flight ever again, even if it means saving 2,000 dollars again? (Ok, probably yes to that one.) This is all to say, Ohio is gray and wet, and the room where we sleep is very dark, so perhaps our retiring to a cave doesn’t help our chances of being functioning humans during the daylight hours. Again, this is only a guess.

The journey east was altogether easy, though, as we managed to find a direct flight to the state of Ohio. Which was a miraculous feat! A majority of our options consisted of 16-, 17-, 18-hour travel times with layovers in every other city between here and Los Angeles. I understand that I was supposed to sleep on my red eye flight, thus avoiding this whole “can’t sleep/can only sleep now” situation, but I did not. That is my cross to bear. Luckily, I was provided entertainment by the guy sitting across the aisle from us. He was convinced there was some kind of secret tray table in his arm rest, and he proceeded to pull on it until it literally broke apart, electrical wiring spidering out in different directions. He tucked the wires haphazardly back into the arm rest, though it didn’t take much detective work to look at his seat and see that it was jacked up. This same character proceeded to watch movies for the full duration of the flight, but not just any movies. He was watching movies that I have dubbed “Who are these for?” movies. Those are movies, often comedies, that have a funny joke or two in the trailer but as a whole doesn’t seem to be that funny, and when you really think about it you’re like, “Ok, but who is this for? This seems passable but, who is going to pay money to see this?” Well, this guy watched three of those. He didn’t just watch three of them. He barf-laughed through three of them. “Barf-laugh” is another term I’ve coined and it means laughing so hard you might barf. This guy was making all KINDS of noises. Can you imagine having that much fun on an airplane? The woman sitting to my right was also having a great time, as she had clearly smoked all her pot before getting on board, and then proceeded to talk on the phone and eat cheese. What a life! What a time to be alive! I hope these two characters meet and fall in love.

Besides enjoying the hustle and bustle of holiday traveling, we also got in the festive spirit by going to Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios this past Monday. Did you know that Universal Studios California is a mere 7 minute drive from our apartment? Well, it is! It’s probably a good thing that tickets are not cheap, or else we might find ourselves there every weekend. You know, it’s funny. I read all the Harry Potter books (and loved them), waited in line at midnight, saw the movies, did all the basic HP stuff of the mid-2000s. It was fun, but then it was over. And I was ok with that. I am a person who is good (I think) at understanding that things are over. No point in drawing things out. But then. THEN. Freeform started running Harry Potter weekends and Tony and I would literally just keep them on for hours upon hours while we wrote, cooked, read, napped, did chores, you name it, those movies were just the ideal things to have on. And, the more we watched, the more we realized how rife they are for hilarious bits. For example, we have developed an alternate narrative that focuses solely on Seamus Finnegan’s obvious American frattiness. We have posited that Seamus’s room of requirement consists of a half-drunk keg, a St. Pauli Girl poster, and an Xbox. This is our favorite version of this character, and we think of him now in only this way. If you watch any HP movies in the near future I ask you, please, see Seamus through this lens. Pretend his name is Mike or Ben or Nick. It will still make sense.

But, right, Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I don’t know that I need to offer a review aside from it being, well, magical. Every last detail was considered (as it should have been, it cost 300 million dollars to build). It was immersive and charming and everything was for sale (can you believe it?) and little kids in robes were running around with their newly bought wands at perfect knee (or testicle, sorry Tony) whacking heights. I drank butter beer and bought a chocolate frog. It was all good things.

Tony getting one step closer to becoming his idol, Seamus Finnegan

Leading up to our day at CaWWoHP, I was having some serious arguments with myself about the concept of “earning it,” or more specifically, had I really earned a day at a theme park? I’m not working right now, and the idea of doing something fun just because felt off. I’ve been having the same struggle with Christmas: am I even allowed to look forward to the “break”? On the flip side, though, just because I live in a sunny place does not mean everyday is vacation now. My new normal is applying to jobs or working on writing for 8-10 hours a day. And even though writing seems like a hobby to some, it’s work to me, and submitting to (and being rejected by) publications is a not-always-fun part of the process. It goes without saying that I ultimately gave myself permission to have fun at Harry Potter world, and giving myself permission to relax is slowly but surely happening, too. It’s also possible that this solves the mystery of sleeping-so-much/not-sleeping-at-all: my body and brain are still at odds when it comes to understanding when they’re allowed to be off and on.

This is all to say, I hope everyone can grant themselves permission to enjoy the holidays, in whatever way that means for you. You are allowed to have nice things. Even if particular societal constructs and expectations have taught you not feel deserving of nice things, I think you do. Now go take a nap!

 

 

Like Abdomen Pain for Chocolate

Greetings from my couch! Here I lie supine, heating pad on my abdomen, Motrin bottle at arm’s length, realizing I have used the word “supine” for the first time in my life and finding it sort of freeing. It must be IUD placement week, baby! That’s right, as of this past Monday I am the proud owner of a cute new uterus piercing, one that my doctor and friends described as, “Oh, it hurts.” The pain has been manageable and mostly comes in waves, but today has been a little on the bad side, so here we are. I can best sum up this experience in three stages: 1) The time I spent looking at a puppy Instagram account immediately before the IUD procedure 2)  The time during the IUD procedure when I cursed at my doctor a lot and she said “I told you this would hurt!” and I said “I know—but then it did.” 3) And the time after the IUD procedure when I laid in bed, having decided to start The Crown on Netflix, thinking the pilot was pretty good so far, then hitting that scene where King George sings Christmas carols with the village children and he’s wearing the paper crown and I cried SO hard that I had to stop and take a nap. WOW, a case of the Mondays indeed! I am relieved for it to be over though, as this has been a nagging to-do since before I even got to Los Angeles. The to-do even more nagging, of course, in that it was time-sensitive (running out of pills!), health-sensitive (my blood pressure!), and insurance sensitive (hey, quitting a job rids you of your insurance coverage, did you know that?). This is all to say, I do expect you to be very impressed with my ability to figure all this out, create an action plan, and then see the plan through, even though the plan was painful.

What comes after dinner? In a perfect world, more dinner!

Aside from that, this week has also welcomed a new tradition in our home, one that I hope grows into an infamous and hilarious legend far into our twilight years. It’s the chocolate drawer! That’s a drawer for all your chocolate. The concept was first introduced to me in an interview with Kumail Nanjiani in which he said he keeps a drawer filled with chocolate in his kitchen. It’s pretty self-explanatory. I don’t know why I became so transfixed with the idea, especially as I don’t have a sweet tooth (What comes after dinner? In a perfect world, more dinner! In college I used to eat a bowl of cereal for dessert, which I thought was a very moderate take on the contemporary dessert concept, though you must bear in mind that this was usually after a dinner of french fries and mayonnaise. One time my friend Casey made me a salad, which still remains one of the kindest and most condescending things anyone has ever done for me.). But to me, the chocolate drawer seemed like the most harmless indulgence, a nice collection of not-expensive things that’s always there if you need a morsel of something sweet. I talked for weeks about the chocolate drawer like it was an expensive car or a house in the hills, wistfully looking into the future and declaring that some day, I would deserve to have a drawer filled with chocolate bars. Finally, in a moment of weakness (or perhaps great bravery) I selected the first bar for my collection: dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt. It was under 2 dollars. And since that day, the drawer has grown into 6 bars of varying styles and flavors, and we have more or less behaved ourselves, though my unofficial mantra has become “Don’t forget—the point of the chocolate drawer is to have chocolate—” and then Tony says, “in the drawer,” before grumbling a little and wrapping up the rest of the bar in foil. I also want to add that if you any issues, objections, or general annoyances with this frivolous story about all the chocolate I own, then I implore you to recall that I’m in pain! I have no job! Let me have something! Thank you.

Dramatization of me eating my first salad in college (courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK)

Aside from the aforementioned topics (my uterus, chocolate) I can honestly say that all sights are set on getting to Ohio for Christmas. That isn’t necessarily commentary on getting out of Los Angeles; rather, my brain and my body just know that it’s time to travel and go do Christmas. It makes even less sense this year, seeing as I will be on a break from nothing and I will not have really earned it. But it’s hard to ignore that big blocked off amount of time in your head, the same amount of time that you’ve observed every year of your life. Also, and if I may rail for a few lines, airfare was outrageous. OUT. rage. ous. Searching for tickets, even months ago, was panic inducing. It seemed hopeless. Members of our Chicago/LA Facebook group are arranging CAR POOLS back to the midwest because it’s so expensive to fly. Please keep in mind that I am a person who had to work up weeks of courage to purchase a bar of chocolate, for fear it was not a necessary enough purchase. Then the plane tickets!!!! I will not divulge what we ended up paying but know that a) I ended up finding a decent-enough deal that kind of hurts but is not impossible and b) I cobbled together this deal by taking a red eye AND talking my brother into picking us up in Columbus, which is not at all where I should be landing, based on where my family lives. But do you see what I mean? This year is not merely rolling my hungover self up to O’Hare and being on a cheap flight for 45 minutes. The stakes are higher! The prices are higher!  But the good news is I now have a longer fight in which to make up a story about what I’m doing in Los Angeles.

In conclusion, we’re almost there, everybody. You’ve all earned your chocolate drawers this year, even if it might not feel like it.

(Oh, and “Cat Person” is a work of fiction. Please. Repeat that to yourself over and over again, ask yourself if you would have the same emotional reaction to a similar piece of fiction written by a man, then remind yourself again that it’s fiction. Then, go read other works of fiction. Fiction is the one where it’s not a think piece on Thought Catalog or Uplift or Manipulate or wherever else you find your opinions on the internet.)

Stranger Things

I don’t need to tell anyone that 2017 was strange. I think “strange” is the mildest–and most ambiguous–way of describing this year, but a descriptor I’ve purposefully chosen nonetheless. It’s the same feeling of  strangeness I addressed last week, that being one of time and place that I’ve felt since moving to Los Angeles. When I zoom out, though, I realize that maybe that’s how I’ve felt for a long time (322 days and then some), each day like another episode of the Twilight Zone. Again: I know I’m not alone in this. I don’t need to break this down further or to provide anyone with a new and illuminating hot take on how hurtful, shocking, and downright confusing the news cycle has been, and how I hold my breath before looking at my phone every morning. I don’t need to offer the same opinions and sentiments that you’ve been seeing on your own social media platforms, assuming you, too, are also part of the liberal echo chamber. And if you’re not, then dear reader, let me make it very clear: Trump’s presidency has made me very sad. Again, this is mild and ambiguous, but it’s the most succinct summation I can come up with. Never mind the anger and embarrassment and again, the confusion: this is an issue of baseline sadness. It bums me the fuck out. I want you all to know that if you’re also feeling bummed the fuck out, I am here for you. We have fought and called and marched and written letters and given away our money and volunteered and we will continue to do so next year but still, it’s sad, and I think we are entitled to that feeling. That’s been the point of this bummertown opening salvo: to express that this holiday season, all I can offer is an understanding “I hear you, I feel you. This is a bummer.” This is not even taking into account all the sexual assault allegations, the hard but important work that women are doing as part of this reckoning, and the countless people who have asked “if I’ve been sexually harassed since moving to LA,” as though that’s a behavior that’s only reserved for Hollywood. I hope to see you all at a bar in the coming weeks!

But then.

THEN.

Los Angeles literally caught on fire.

Talk about strange. Talk about a thing I have certainly never had to deal with before. Talk about a level of destruction that I simply could not have comprehended. Thankfully we have been safe in our neighborhood, and there is no foreseeable threat in the future, but it doesn’t help that the now-famous hellfire video was taken only about 20 miles from where we live. I watched it and was like, “Wow, California is so big! Good thing this is definitely not happening near us!” Then it sort of was. To reiterate! We are safe.  But don’t let our fortune distract from the hundreds of people who have lost their homes right before the holidays. Send a little their way if you can.

This is a surreal story that involves some NAME DROPPING but whatever, the specific name needs to be dropped so you can understand how totally weird everything is. We went to see The Killing of a Sacred Deer the other night. First of all. Holy. Shit. Mom: do not watch this movie. If your sensibilities align with my mother’s then, you know, make a call based on that. It was incredible. Gorgeous. Violent. Morosely charming. Claustrophobic to the point I almost walked out, and I do not walk out on movies. Jarring. Deeply frustrating. I will never watch it again. I hope it wins so many awards. Anyway, my party and I walked silently from the movie to a restaurant, all of us attempting to digest what in the hell we had just experienced. We were sitting outside, eating empanadas. Then, Giovani Ribisi walked past us. He paused next to our table and cackled for several seconds at a video he was watching on his phone, the volume up quite loud. Five blonde women (presumably friends) approached him, huddled around the phone and laughed, and then they all walked off together. The three of us at the table stared in mild disbelief. Then, all three of our phones buzzed with a wildfire Emergency Alert, telling us not to evacuate yet but to, you know, keep an eye on it.

How strange! Every last detail. That evening was 2017 in a nutshell. Total confusion. Surreality. Destruction. Giovani Ribisi.

Let’s add to the strangeness by quickly reviewing some of the things I did in 2017:

  • I wrote a play!
  • I got engaged!
  • I quit my job!
  • I read Infinite Jest!
  • I moved to California!

These are kind of big things to all happen in one year. I mean, I read Infinite Jest in like, 3 months, so I’m not kidding when I rank that as an achievement. (Did David Foster Wallace inadvertently invent Netflix? I mean, yeah, probably.) I also got to argue about this book…with a dude who has never read this book. I was about to say that’s very on-brand for 2017, but let’s face it, that’s just timeless.

I feel good about the things that happened in my own life this past year. How could I not? I’ve always been relatively lucky, or at least able to discern the cool stuff from the not cool stuff. But there is still work to do, because it can only get stranger. In the meantime, though, I want to reiterate this: I hear you. I feel you. This* is a bummer. Now let’s hug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*You know I’m talking about the world at-large, right? Not my day-to-day life? I add this footnote because if I don’t my mom will text me and be like “Um, are you ok?” And I’ll have to be like “Yeah I’m fine I just have to add a little drama to the blog or else the readership kind of drops, and I have to like, talk in a serious tone sometimes or else people will just think I’m some idiot who eats empanadas and looks at celebrities all the time, which is closer to the truth, let’s be honest.”

 

Trees, Time, and Tricking Yourself

I have been a lover of Christmas for many years. This doesn’t make me unique; in fact, this makes me every other white woman on the internet who claims to be “basically Joanna” or “such a Clark Griswold.” It’s become cool to love Christmas in the same way it’s cool to love brunch, to love athleisure wear, to love calling your dog “the doggo.” It’s a low maintenance and high vanity form of showing how good you are at “adulting.” It’s cute, it’s cozy, it photographs well. It’s almost cheating to tout Christmas as a grown-up thing, but alas, here we are, cooing over Crate and Barrel catalogs while we think up the cleverest caption for our tree pics on Instagram. All in the name of being #soadult, of course.

When I was young (and then, frankly, even when I was not so young) I paid homage to Christmas in myriad, overly-sentimental ways. I gave myself a specific amount of Christmas to do each day, like I was punching a timecard. I drew pictures of living room scenes in houses not my own, always featuring a Christmas tree, a fireplace, a banister with garland, a cushy armchair, and many gifts wrapped in purple paper (because purple is my favorite). I would finish one drawing and then immediately draw another. I flipped solemnly through a book we have called Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book, awarding double points to myself if I absorbed it by the light of the tree. I baked Christmas cookies that were not very good. I made a boyfriend slow dance with me in my family’s kitchen to Christmas music. I put on pajamas and made hot chocolate in my special snowman mug and then forced myself to just think really hard about Christmas for a totally arbitrary amount of time. I wrote a story about an old rich man who met three poor (but charming!) children and his Christmas gift to them was letting them decorate his mansion, and everyone in the story agreed it was very generous and magical and in no way exploitative or strange. In middle school I wrote a book report on Peter Pan, positing that Neverland is just heaven and it’s where the dead kids go, and my personal Neverland would be the North Pole. In high school I had to plan my wedding for a class called Christian Lifestyles and I planned a Christmas themed wedding, complete with a gingerbread house wedding cake. That really pissed off my teacher, which was kind of my goal, but nevertheless, I was–and still am– deeply committed to the concept of Christmas.

But it’s strange to have the Christmas tree up and the air conditioning on.  It’s not upsetting, it’s not depressing, it’s just bizarre. Does anyone know if there is something similar to jet lag, but instead of sleep being affected, it’s just your general sense of time? Time of day, time of year? If that’s a thing, then I have that. I haven’t known when I am for a few months now. Summer in Chicago immediately transitioned into a still-very-hot Los Angeles fall, where I continued wearing all the same clothes and keeping all the same seasonal habits (like toenail polish looking fresh, for example). Summer didn’t have the hard stop that it usually does: no switching over wardrobes, no digging out wool socks, no eating soups. The light here is different, too. By about 2:30, the sun is very low in the sky–very much a winter sun– but it’s still bright and it’s still hot. It’s dark out by 5, and even then, still warm. We walk to dinner in total blackness, wearing a light jacket, and it’s 6 o’clock. It’s the combination of temperature and time of day and the palm trees; my god, the palm trees look so alien and beautiful against the moon, but they don’t do much in the way of frame of reference either. My body and my brain can never agree on what time it is, and even if they could, neither would really believe it. It’s not the lack of snow that makes Christmas lights seem strange; it’s the smell of things still blooming, still breathing.

There’s something to be said, I think, about feeling like a fraud. Imposter syndrome is real, sure, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I feel like I invented a whole season and am alone in my observation of it. That’s not literally true, of course; Los Angeles is very into Christmas. In fact you’d be hard-pressed to find a city in the US that is not very into Christmas. That doesn’t negate the second guessing I do every time I turn on our Christmas tree lights, pour coffee into a Christmas mug, watch a Christmas movie. Is it really time to do this? I ask myself. And I ask myself because, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t know what time it is anymore. This has less to do with Christmas and more to do with the feeling that I’m driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s one of the strange, intangible adjustments you never plan for and no one ever warns you about: the sneaking suspicion that you’re making it all up. Maybe I am talking about imposter syndrome.

I think it makes sense that Christmas decorations (and beautiful food and interior design and writing blogs and anything else that can be both passion and distraction) have become so conflated with being a functioning adult human. They are tasks on a checklist, busy work to keep you believing it’s all real: certainly not made up. And I think it’s effective. It’s nice to be in control of something, to curate perfectly, to create an illusion, to punch your made-up timecard, to have done a sufficient amount of Stuff in a day, to have done a good job. It’s the sudden stop and subsequent realization that maybe you haven’t been doing it right that gets you. It’s remembering you don’t know what time it is, and the possibility that your clock was never set right in the first place. But it doesn’t take much to just turn your Christmas lights on anyway, trusting that you’re at least a little right, that it really is the right season, the right time.

Anyway. Here’s a picture of my Christmas tree AND my air conditioner, because sometimes things are strange! But my commitment remained and I unpacked each ornament with care, decided which characters get to be nearest the star this year, which critters could not be near each other (because of personal differences that I made up), and then looked lovingly at each piece. Just think: this whole post could have been a character breakdown of every critter I own. (There’s still time for that, don’t worry.)