Adult Home Again

August! Where did you come from?

I think that’s the only way to react to where we are in the year, some combination of shock, awe, and disgust at how quickly the calendar is running out of pages. Maybe you can relate to this—you blinked and you’re already seeing sponsored posts by Wow! Autumn Feelings on Facebook. Meanwhile, you thought you were still on track to complete all the items on your Summer Bucket List, but the only checked-off box is a piddly “Get ice cream.” I know this because I’ve been there. Assigning meaningless value to designated seasonal activities, then proceeding to beat myself up when I don’t do them well enough. Anyway, the good news is that we still have all of August for whatever it is people like to do during the summer (which is, as you know, my least favorite season. Blech, the sun, gross!) and there is no rush on stocking up on your favorite fall scents just yet. (Lay off, Bath & Body Works email blast, am I right?) I am still, however, trying to grapple with the fact that I’ve already lived in Los Angeles for 10 months, I feel betrayed by time, and all I have to show for it is the list of books I’ve read this year. And yes, I know, I got married. But this book list is pretty good!

Tony and I recently traveled back to the Midwest (the heartland, as it were) for 9 whole days! A slight sidetrack: Tony and I have theorized that some of the people we’ve met here think of us as “country mice,” two small town kids in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, taking in a real city for the very first time. Nothing specific has been said, but it’s a lot of head tilts, a lot of soft tones, a lot of “Aww, going to dinner, huh?” like we don’t have restaurants where we come from. So we were both a little tickled when we told people that we were “going back to the Midwest for a week” then watched their concerned faces silently wonder if that meant we were going back for good, because of, you know, fear or whatever. But alas, the visit was for high school reunions and bridal showers and other people’s weddings and meeting new babies and basically all the major life events you miss when you don’t live in the same city as your friends anymore, so you cram it all into 9 days! It was also our first appearance as a married couple (to many people) and I have no shame in accepting congratulations from pretty much anyone who offers. Could have done with more FREE DRINKS, but I guess hugs and well wishes are nice, too.

There was admittedly some anxiety about returning to Chicago. The only other home I’ve ever left behind is Akron, and as far as I know, I will always have a reason to return. But Chicago is different. Leaving your first adult home is hard, because it means two things: 1) Maybe you were wrong to have ever moved there in the first place, if you only ended up leaving or 2) Maybe you were wrong to leave it, being arrogant enough to think there’s some place better to live, and signaling that maybe you didn’t know what you wanted in the first place. You know, this reminds me of something that happened to me right before (and I mean, days before) I moved to Chicago in 2012. I tell this story A LOT so, I mostly apologize to Biz, who has heard it the most, but also to you if I’m repeating myself. I was out with some friends in Akron when one member of this group turned to me and said “I just don’t understand why you’d move to Chicago. What’s there for you that isn’t here?” And it kind of blew my mind that anyone would even ask this. I was 22, fresh out of college, all my friends from school were moving to a million different amazing places, yet I had someone looking me in the eye and questioning why I thought I deserved the same. And it’s really stuck with me, this surprised reaction that implies I’m crazy for thinking I have permission to go away. Even with all the endless support given by Chicago friends when we moved to LA, I still wondered, did I really have permission to go? Not just literal permission, but cosmic permission? Was it really time? This question weighed heavily on my mind in the days leading up to our trip. I didn’t know how I’d feel, if I’d be confronted with a million reasons why we should have stayed, if it would all become clear to me that I was supposed to stay there instead of coming here. I was far more nervous abut this portion of the trip than I was about my high school reunion, I can say that much.

And reader, guess what? It was fine! You can go first-adult home again. You can look at a place, feel good that you ever picked it at all, feel happy about the memories and relationships you made there, and then feel even happier about returning to the new life you’re working on. You can also look at the same place and miss it—miss its people, miss its architecture and its food and its weather—and know that those feelings are normal. What you don’t have to do is feel guilty or wrong for leaving, even if other people or your own brain try to convince you otherwise. It’s exhausting to have to live your life within the confines of other people’s comfort zones. Which is why you should all move across the country!!! Just kidding, you don’t have to do that either. It’s expensive and stressful and you can’t watch any local baseball games because there’s a content blackout in the greater Los Angeles area so you just watch any game on ESPN which is somehow always the Mets. But you have permission to move, if you want. Not mine, specifically—you probably shouldn’t listen to much of my advice, I make a lot of weird decisions. I mean, I had bangs for a very long time—but the universe’s, the ephemeral junk that makes up your life and adds grit to your gut.

So even though 2018 is flying by at an alarming pace, and I’m not exactly sure if I’ve “done” anything of note this year (that book list! I know!), it feels good to have ripped the Band-Aid off of the first visit home. The place I chose to move to, then chose to move from. I might be a little “country mouse” in LA, but at least I know the country is still there, just as I left it.

Now go get ice cream!

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.)

What I’m Thankful For or For What It Is I Am Thankful

Earlier today, I was at the Phoenix International Airport. Layover. It was hell finding a direct flight out of Los Angeles. Anyway, I was sitting at the gate with a Vanity Fair magazine opened across my chest, a Starbucks holiday cup in one hand, and my phone open to Instagram in the other. I was laughing uproariously, tears welling in my eyes, the magazine threatening to slide to the floor, and the coffee sloshing over the sides of the cup. I was shaking with laughter at Instagram; complete, unadulterated delight. Ina Garten had posted a positively absurd photo of a gigantic gleaming hot dog slathered in mustard and it killed me. It absolutely slayed me. Why did it slay me? Just look at it! Look at that picture of a gigantic hot dog and tell me it’s not hilarious. Bonus: scroll through the comments and find the one posted by happylakegrandma and then proceed to not be disappointed. Nay, read all the comments! There are so many layers to this post being amazing! Ina is my queen but this photo is too much. Tony had gone to the bathroom and when he came back, I could only show my phone in order to convey why I was laughing so hard. Motioning to my array of goodies and entertainment he said, “Just look at you.” I said, “I know. This is who I am.”

This Thanksgiving, at a particularly transitional time in my life, I am thankful for all the things that keep me tethered to who I am.*

When I first got to LA (a whole month and a half ago), I was having a conversation with a friend who has also made his way to the west coast from Ohio. He said, “If your experience is anything like mine, you’re about to feel more Midwestern [but also] more connected to your Midwestern-ness than ever.” I imagined the space station Midwestern-Ness, careening around the earth in orbit; and me on a space walk, attached by nothing more than an umbilical cable, my space-suited appendages floating in anti-gravity, the craft Midwestern-Ness barely visible in the distance but assuredly still attached to me. I’ve never been sure of how to define “Midwestern” as it applies to me. It always felt like a label that was foisted upon me out of geographic convenience, but not necessarily true from a cultural standpoint. I might be making this up, but I swear my grade school Social Studies classes never talked about Ohio being solidly “the Midwest.” If you don’t know, Akron, Ohio is not rural (as in, farmland) at all. This isn’t to assume that Midwestern necessarily means rural, but to most people, that’s exactly what it means. Akron is quite eastward in the state, actually, not all that far from the hilly and wooded Pennsylvania state line. The area in which I predominantly grew up is in the Cuyahoga River Valley, making my childhood one of winding, steep roads, lush trees, peaceful creeks, and plenty of unique wildlife. I don’t like going outside, so I saw all of this through car windows. But this is all to say: I can’t stress how not rural it is.

In addition to the nature, though, it also boasts a thriving population, lots of concrete and railroad tracks, and the decrepit remains of rubber factories. You can view these by looking at a Black Keys album cover or a Cleveland Cavaliers pump-up video. In a pinch, that burnt out shoe factory in Jumanji is pretty close, too. It’s solidly Rust Belt, both because of its one-time monopoly on the rubber industry, as well as its residents having what I call the Rust Belt Chip On the Shoulder. That’s when your first instinct is to be defensive and to respond with some variation of, “Hey! You don’t know me!” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then congratulations, you’re a bigger person than me, but that doesn’t make you better than me, ok?) ((See, that was an example of another way you might suffer from Rust Belt Chip On the Shoulder: deciding that you are not better than me.)) (((The third defining factor of Rust Belt Chip On the Shoulder is not wanting to be told what to do, i.e., “Don’t tell me what to do!”)))**

When I moved to Chicago, one of the first things someone said to me was, “…And to move here from such a small town in Ohio? My god, you must be so scared in such a big city.” A resounding angels’ chorus of You Don’t Know Me’s filled my head in that moment, as it always does when someone thinks they know me or where I come from. This is only tangentially related, but in college I was working a new student program and a woman (a new student’s mother) approached me and had some questions. We got to talking and she said she was from [redacted Coastal Elite city]. I said that was cool and that I was from “around here.” She then looked me up and down–head to toe and back up again, the fire of boho- yuppie scrutiny in her eyes–and said, “I know.” In other words, she had sensed my Midwestern-ness. I also Didn’tGAF that whole summer about ways to make my orientation t-shirt look stylish and I didn’t have a haircut yet. But all the same! It is always shocking when other people are disgusted by or worried about their perception of my Midwestern-ness. This happens all the time. Do you see why the Rust Belt Chip On the Shoulder is a thing?

My meandering affirmation brings me to this: I am thankful for moments where I can read Vanity Fair, because the interest in the magazine is something my mom and I have always shared, and her 6-year-running housewarming gift to me is my subscription. I am thankful for a sense of humor that allows me to fucking lose my miiiiind in public when I see a very fancy lady post an egregiously phallic photo of a hot dog. I am thankful for every new person I’ve met who has asked “Which one is Ohio? I don’t know any of the ones in the middle.” I am thankful to be tethered to a thing I never thought I was tethered to in the first place. I am thankful to be a 21st century person who still earnestly says, “You don’t know me!” I am thankful to have seen Lady Bird, loved it, but booed quietly when the titular character declared that Sacramento is the Midwest of California, in that it’s where your soul dies. I am thankful to not live in the Midwest anymore. I am thankful to be allowed to go back.

 

 

*To review, the things that “keep me tethered to who I am” was: 1. A small coffee 2. An article about Margaret Trudeau in which she talked openly about taking peyote before a state dinner and 3. A picture of a hot dog. I am a woman of simple tastes.

**This is not the correct usage of parentheses, don’t use them this way. 

 

I stopped writing a cover letter to tell this story

Baked beans are disgusting.

I think the flavor profile is acceptable and the smell is nice. But I attended one too many barbecues as a kid in which a big old aluminum tray of baked beans sat out in the sun, gathering weird liquid at the bottom, developing a matte finish in the hot Ohio sun, turning from alleged food to mush before my very eyes. When I see food remnants caught in the kitchen drain now, as a baggage-free totally undamaged adult, and I see those soggy chunks of dinner that can only be tackled with a paper towel, I think, “Man, this reminds me of baked beans in its inherent grossness.” Don’t get me started on adding hot dogs to baked beans. The number of child lunatics I encountered with baked bean juice crusted to their lips, dirt under their nails, a demonic craze in their eyes, and exclaiming “Beanie Weinies! More Beanie Weinies!” was just enough to make me sick.

When I was in high school I had a huge crush on a guy whose feelings towards me could best be described as the action of patting someone on the head. His graduation party happened to be the same night that I had to work (at an ice creamery), which was not unusual in those days. I rolled into a lot of graduation parties with ice cream kneaded into my arm hair, my fudgey hand prints outlined on my back pockets. I hugged a lot of moms with my Superman blue-pink-yellow arms just inches from their Eddie Bauer pullovers. The same can be said of this particular night. There’s only so much you can do when you’re already running late and a bag of hot dairy trash tipped over on you while putting it in the dumpster.

So I rolled in late and all my friends were already drinking around a bonfire, and they greeted me with like a half-hearted “meh.” You know why? Because I was a COOL GIRL and I demanded literally nothing of any of my male friends and it has taken me years and years to understand that I should have been demanding a lot more the whole time. Anyway. I went inside to say hello to the parents, because that’s what you do when you’re in high school and you want adults to think that you, too, are an adult. The crush in question was still outside; I wasn’t even sure if he saw me come in. (Again, I asked for nothing of anyone.) But when I greeted his mom, she apologized for having put all the food away already. She stopped and said, “You know what? I know exactly what I can warm up for you. They’re kind of my specialty.” That’s when she pulled a gallon of baked beans out of the fridge and spooned them out onto a styrofoam plate.

My mouth filled with saliva, the kind the kind your body makes in preparation of barfing. I had to look away. I had to breathe through my mouth. I couldn’t be near it, and yet, I also had to eat it. I had to eat it with a god damn smile on my face and make yummy noises. No you didn’t!!! you are saying. Well, yes I did. When you’re standing in a very nice house, and you’re hyper-aware of strongly you smell like sprinkles and soiled milk, and you just want people to finally figure out how great you are, you gratefully accept a plate of food that gives you nightmares.

I ate every last bean outside in the dark and dreamt about going to college.