This is what I get for ordering dog treats online. I’ve known a few guys who measure six inches this way… but seriously. Are we really worried about the pig’s feelings at this point?
Category Archives: Humor
When I married into a Chinese family, I learned that the number four is very unlucky. I thought it was maybe just my in-laws, or maybe it was just a Cantonese thing, but it wasn’t. I learned this one day when I wrote a check (it was the 90s, we still did that back then) at my local Chinese restaurant (Chop Suey Louie’s) and the guy almost didn’t take it because it was check number 444. The problem is that the Chinese word for “four” is a homophone for the word for “death.” I wrote a death death death check.
I’ve been thinking about this because I just had my 44th birthday. My death death birthday. I feel like it’s a good excuse to have a midlife crisis. Because honestly, I don’t want to live beyond 88. That’s when I assume shit just goes to hell. (I reserve the right to change my mind when I am 87.)
My therapist asked me why I hate birthdays so much. She wondered if it was because so many women have such a hard time celebrating themselves or being the center of attention. I don’t like those things as a rule, either, but I don’t think that is it. I think it makes me confront my mortality. It makes me take stock of what I have, and – more to the point – have NOT, accomplished. It makes me scrutinize my skin and lament my sagging jawline.
No, that last one was a lie. I lament my jawline every morning; I don’t need a birthday.
Most of all, however, I hate the let down of birthdays. It is just like New Year’s Eve, except worse, because when the last midnight of December strikes and nothing really happens and you just have to pretend you got some magical satisfaction from closing a calendar year, you are all in it together. When your birthday arrives full of promise and cake shaped joy, it’s just you that has to celebrate the let down. You have to put on a show for everyone who showed up and pretend you wouldn’t rather be crying in a dark room while listening to cello music.
God I’m such a downer.
Since my therapist asked, I have been thinking about the reason I do this to myself every year. The fact that I have all this time to sit around and sulk over my jowls and all of the things I want to do but probably won’t have time to check off my list tells me I don’t have any real problems; I understand that. I’ve accomplished enough. I’ve traveled a bit, I made a lot of art, I’ve loved and been loved. I had a turn with a trim jawline and there are photos to prove it. My turn is over, but I had it! I’m good, I really am. I could focus on being grateful for that.
Meditating on the question, however, I did remember a story. A birthday story that started it all, setting me up for a lifetime of disappointing birthdays.
It was August, the end of summer in the year 1982, and “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor was the #1 song in America. It was a Monday, my first day of kindergarten, and my fifth birthday. I hadn’t seen any of the Rocky movies, but I like to think that I was as pumped to go kick ass. Just in a painfully shy little girl kind of way.
The night before, my mom got my outfit ready and we talked about what school would be like. They probably had preschool back then, but I never went. This was going to be my first time being away from my mom for more than a few hours and I felt so grown up, I couldn’t believe it.
“And it’s going to be your birthday!” my mom was saying. “Kindergarten birthdays are the best because all the other kids will sing to you and make you a birthday card… and there will be snacks and games…” Suffice it to say there were big promises made. I. Could. Not. Wait.
Only it didn’t go down like that. First of all, I think I cried when my mom left me at school. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, but I wasn’t happy about this freedom when it came to reality and I was watching my mom walk away. But, as directed, I took my spot on the strip masking tape on the carpet as class started and my teacher, Mrs. Robinson, called us to attention.
“Boys and girls,” she said, “welcome to my class! I’m so excited about all the things we are going to do this year! But that’s not the only reason today is a special day! Today is a very special day indeed for one of you in particular! Let’s all join together and say a very happy birthday to… JAY!”
If you were still hearing “Eye of the Tiger” in your head then maybe this is a good moment to end it with the sound of a record scratch.
I knew not to interrupt. I sat there quietly like the other kids, trying to figure out which one was Jay. Then we sang to him and later we made cards with crayons and construction paper, just like Mom said we would. It took some time to work up the courage and then find a moment where I could walk up to Mrs. Robinson when she wasn’t talking to the class or someone else.
“Mrs. Robinson,” I whispered, pulling on her pink polyester pant leg, “It’s my birthday, too!”
“Now, Rachel,” she said, leading me by the shoulder back to my tiny chair with the orange plastic seat atop shinny steel legs. “You don’t have to make up stories to get attention. We will celebrate your birthday when it comes.” Then she went back to passing out graham crackers and juice.
When I got home, Mom gave me a big hug and asked if everyone sang to me like she predicted. I told her about Jay and that Mrs. Robinson didn’t believe me it was my birthday. Then I went off to play with my sisters and the my presents while my mother made a phone call to the elementary school.
The next day, we were back in our seats on the masking taped rectangle on the carpet and Mrs. Robinson jumped in right away. “Boys and girls!” she began. “We made a mistake yesterday!” As if she and the entire room full of crayon eating thumb suckers were equally culpable. Then they sang and there were cards and more graham crackers. And I played along, pretending to be fine with it, pretending to accept Mrs. Robinson’s non-apology for having accused me of lying. But it wasn’t my birthday. My birthday was over. And even at five I couldn’t pretend otherwise.
You know the worst part? This was back when they would actually hold kids back when they were struggling and Jay ended up repeating kindergarten. So I never got a real kindergarten birthday, and that little dunce got two! I might as well have been born in the middle of the summer, making sure I never had a school birthday! (Those poor tragic dears.)
It’s a funny story, and maybe Mrs. Robinson did feel bad. Maybe in the 80s they taught you never to apologize to your students because that would hand them too much power and then you’d have an “inmates running the asylum” situation, which could get ugly. I bet they teach how to make a proper apology in school now, what with all that equity / safe space stuff we have these days.
And yet, it seems to have left me with some cognitive wiring that connects birthdays to disappointment and reluctance. I feel like I’ve spent 39 years trying to lower my expectations to avoid another let down. It doesn’t really work, though. A jawline always has further to sag. That’s the thing with gravity. It stalks it’s prey at night (and morning… and afternoon) and it’s watching us all… with they eye of the tiger.
PS how great would it have been if the #1 song that year was Mrs. Robinson? I would have to be ten years older and would basically be storing nuts and small wheels of cheese in my jowls by now… but that would have been comedy gold!
Hello friends. I’ve been a bit distracted and I took an unintentional break from blogging. I’m getting back in the saddle; I promise.
Meanwhile, I wrote a thing and someone published it! Yay for me! You can read it here if you are so inclined.
I think I wrote a few months back that I participated in the Pfizer COVID-19 study. If not, surprise! That was me! (And 29,999 other people.) I was “unblinded” last week and learned that I received the placebo. Good thing that I told myself to pretend I KNEW I got the placebo all along!
The researchers brought me in for a shot of the real stuff yesterday, which was very nice of them. While I was sitting in the clinic waiting for my dose to thaw I got a breaking news alert that the US officially passed 500k deaths. It was a surreal moment, taking that in while in the process of getting my first vaccine. So heartbreaking and also crazy at how routine this has all become.
I’m grateful I had this opportunity to participate in this research and soooo grateful to have my first shot for realz!
Side note: I was given the shot by a girl named Joy. Could that be more perfect?
The year 1863 was a rough one in the United States. On January 1st, the new year began with Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, stating, “I never in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper.” Let’s not give him too much credit though; this was a calculated military decision, not a humanitarian one. The civil war was in its third year and far from over. As such the proclamation was not enforceable in the rebellious South. Lincoln hoped that emancipation would inspire a mass revolt and exodus of Southern slaves to the North, bulking up the Union army and sapping the labor force of the South.
Unsurprisingly, the proclamation received mixed responses. Abolitionists, who had been fighting slavery in the U.S. since before the American Revolution, celebrated the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the progress it represented. White supremacists in the North and the South were outraged, of course. It was fresh meat for the already bitterly divided country to claim and combat over.*
In March, the Civil War Conscription Act was issued, making military service mandatory for all men between the ages of 20 and 45. If you could find a substitute or pay a fee of $300 you could be excused from this “draft,” which was clearly unfair to the poor. The South, also hurting for recruits, took a similar action. This caused a backlash for both military campaigns, and large riots broke out in New York City.
1863 would see many significant Civil War battles. The Battle of Chancellorsville and The Vicksburg Campaign both commenced in May. Then, on the first day of July, The Battle of Gettysburg began. The Union prevailed after three days of fighting. They stopped Lee’s advance into Northern territory and the battle would prove to be a turning point in the war (still two years away from its end), but victory came at a terrible price. Collectively, there were 23 thousand casualties, and seven thousand Americans died on the battlefield. (For comparison, note that a total of 6,800 died in the entire Revolutionary War.)
In short, 1863 was a shit year. They didn’t have dumpster fires back then, so if they had sold jokey holiday ornaments, it would have been an outhouse on fire with dead bodies all around it and a bright shiny “1863” stamped on it.
Then, in September, a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale (you’ve never heard of her, but she wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) wrote Abraham Lincoln a letter, asking that Thanksgiving be “made a National and fixed Union Festival.”
We all remember learning about the story of the “First Thanksgiving,” which is more or less apocryphal. There was a gathering in Plymouth Massachusetts in 1621 where Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe shared a feast. Other feasts of thanksgiving happened earlier than 1621 in several other states.
In October of 1789, President George Washington commemorated these stories by creating a holiday, giving “the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving.” It wasn’t formalized, however. For the next 74 years, Thanksgiving was a sporadic holiday, with the celebratory date determined state by state.
In her letter, Hale asked that President Lincoln write a proclamation appointing the last Thursday in November as a national holiday, “thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.” Hale, who was the editor of Lady’s Book (sometimes called Godey’s Magazine), had been championing this idea for fifteen years. Abraham Lincoln was not the first president she petitioned, but she would not be disappointed this time.
I don’t know what Abraham Lincoln said exactly, but I watch a lot of Drunk History, so I imagine it was something like, “we should like totally do this [belch]. I’m going to make this a thing.”
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (which was written by Secretary of State, William Seward) reads:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
And so, November 26th, 1863 became the other first Thanksgiving. The nation was in morning and searching for its soul. More than 600 thousand soldiers would die in the war by its end in 1865. Lincoln lost his own young son to illness just a year before, in 1862. There is a way in which calling for a festival of gratitude seems like an insane act in this year. At the same time, it seems like the sanest thing Lincoln could have done to begin the healing was to ask everyone to come together around the one thing we can all agree on: food.
Obviously, I’m making a little parallel here. I don’t think you can compare the tragedies of 1863 to 2020, though the death and suffering of both years have left a mourning nation. I want to think they will both be remembered as periods that transformed us for the better. I’ve heard some people in my group of friends say they were forgoing Thanksgiving this year, partly because of the pandemic, but also because of the racism associated with the story and with the colonists and Native Americans in general. That’s fine; everyone must find their own path. But when I think about Thanksgiving I think about 1863 and all those years where the creation of “a more perfect union” was an excruciating labor of love and not just a theoretical exercise. I think of a nation torn in half, digging deep to find gratitude.
I know we weren’t able to gather with our loved ones last week, and that was really hard. Still, I hope you gave thanks. I hope you called your people. I hope you sent a text to that friend that you think of often but rarely speak to. I hope you broke bread with someone you love, and I hope you ate your feelings until it hurt. That’s what I did, anyway.
*Footnote: at four o’clock this morning I sat up in bed in horror, realizing that my inclusion of the Emancipation Proclamation in my list of big events in 1863 implies I think it was a bad thing, when that isn’t what I meant! I’m including it only because it was divisive. Obviously, it was a good thing, and a huge undertaking. (I know this because I saw Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. Great movie!) True emancipation wouldn’t come until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, but we celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation for good reason.
Okay. I can go back to bed now.
But the rest of the sticker still applies!
So… this happened.
A few weeks ago, Matt and I were watching a movie and I was drinking a la croix which gave me the hiccups. When I couldn’t get it to stop by holding my breath I went upstairs to drink from the faucet with a spoon in my mouth against my cheek because Matt SWEARS by this technique.
No dice. I decided to take Murphy out for some yard time while I waited for it to stop.
We were out there for a few minutes when I had one of those pee attacks where it’s now or never. I knew I wouldn’t make it back to the house and into the bathroom, so I dropped trou and crouched in a corner. Just then, Matt came out to see what the hell was taking so long and caught me red… butted.
I was yelling “no no go back inside” as I pulled my denim shorts on but I wasn’t done so I peed my pants anyway. Then I ran in to explain and he said, “My God, Rachel! There are children in the next yard!”
(They couldn’t see me I’m sure)
I briefly considered committing hari kari but didn’t want that to be my last act on earth so I swallowed my shame.
Anyway, it got rid of my hiccups!!! I highly recommend this cure. Works 100% of the times I tried it.
In other old lady news I just caught someone checking out my butt at Smith’s grocery store. I was grossed out and walked away pulling my shirt waist down to my thighs to hide my ass, when I remembered that I will turn 43 this weekend.
I’m in my mid forties and I can’t control my bladder sometimes, but I still appear fuckable from certain angles.
I’ll take it.
I am obsessed with dogs. I don’t think that’s new information. But I have developed one dog obsessed habit over the years that I haven’t really talked about, which is this: if I see someone walking their dog, I have to turn my head and see the dog, and it has something to do with seeing what kinds of people choose what kinds of dogs. I find that most people are well matched to their dogs, but the more mismatched they are, the more it delights me. Exempli gratia: the biggest gruffest man in the world walking a dog so tiny, white, and puffy that it looks like the puff of a dandelion = my week made.
And so, yesterday, I was driving up the main thoroughfare that leads to my house, and… I saw a man out of my peripheral vision that my brain decided was walking a dog. In retrospect, what my brain registered was a man on the sidewalk with his had at hip level and a line going from his hand to the ground in a very leash like way. However, when I turned my head there was no dog. My eyes followed the line back up to the hands, which were holding a penis. And that’s how I saw a strangers wiener on my street yesterday. And even though I didn’t want any part of that experience, I got a close enough look at the piss stream that the first articulatable thought that went through my mind was, “he seems dehydrated.”
Here’s the crazy part. No, actually… that was the crazy part. But the thing that I keep thinking about is the fact that he was a clean cut silver haired gentleman in a button down shirt and salmon pants. He looked completely not homeless. And he was passing on the sidewalk of a busy street, at 4:30 on a Thursday, very near a secluded parking lot. And yet, he gave no fucks, only urine.
I’m just hung up on the Venm diagram of salmon pants and public urination. I realize, of course, that the percentage of me who would urinate in a public space under certain circumstances is 100%. But when do those circumstances include salmon pants? My instincts tell me there is little overlap there. Obviously my instincts need recalibrating.
Is it the pandemic? Have we all lost our attachments to norms? Has the implied social contract we all hold for one another’s safety and comfort disintegrated so completely in three months?
I’m picturing this salmon pants / street pissing / pandemic Venn diagram, and I see a cartoon rendering of a savage and bug-eyed looking germ each gripping one of those circles. They laughing while pushing them together until they over lap significantly. And in the shaded area of the overlap is a label that reads “the world can go fuck itself.”
My state is starting to open up. My city got the word yesterday that we have gone from “orange” (moderate risk) to “yellow” (low risk). Restaurants are opening patios and people are excited to get out and enjoy the lovely May weather.
I haven’t felt great about it, as our cases of virus as well as the deaths have continued climbing. But now, I have this completely insane data (I realize it is anec-data with a plot point of one, but sometimes that’s all you need) that men, who otherwise would be cast as models in adds for a Vanguard retirement fund, are openly pissing on the sidewalk in broad daylight and that tells me that people are NOT OKAY! And it is NOT SAFE to go out there!
Full disclosure, I’m a total introvert and I’m thoroughly enjoying keeping up with people via Zoom from my basement and if things stayed like this for a while I would probably be just fine. But still. That shit is a bad sign.
PS I know you are wondering and the answer is no: he was not wearing a mask.
This is definitely not a blog that will tell you how to get through COVID 19 with grace and ease. There are plenty of those and I don’t have anything original to add. I wish I did.
One thing I implemented in my household that has lasted more than a weekend is the revival of hankies. You know the cloth thing your grandpa always had in his pocket? I have a basket of hankies set out like Easter eggs and you can get a new one each day. Matt and I decided that “big blows” go in disposable tissue but occasional wipes can get the pocket hankie. That made it less weird.
You are judging me as totally gross right now but I am impervious because yesterday, for the first time, the new puppy pushed his way through the bathroom door to discover that I actually “do my business” in The House! No judgment you send will match the intensity of those chocolate eyes. I destroyed his innocence, forever!
This is less gross and more gross at the same time… When I do decide a blow is “Kleenex worthy,” I get a tissue but then I put it in my pocket and I later use it as toilet paper. Yeah, there is a risk of getting boogers on my butt hole, but this is an emergency, people! We MUST conserve!
You can judge me all you want but I grew up poor and if you threw a tissue away without having smeared boogers on each quadrant, my mother’s WRATH would have been upon you! Yes, she checked the trash. With her bare hands. Apparently, she was more concerned about waste than germs. It was a simpler time.
So… that was all an example of how I am making this up as I go along and DO NOT HAVE THIS! We are at week… what? 500? I don’t know. I work from home anyway so I was at a disadvantage at noticing the difference between leading a sad solitary life and living in a pandemic from the get-go. Time is like a cesspool of headlines and vague concerns, all blending together in a impressionist painting of HELL. I have kinda been feeling that since 2016. Y’all are just catching up with me.
This is the one thing I have been doing for the last six weeks or so that I think is actually helpful and I encourage you all to do the same. I have dug out my collection of stationary. You know, those packs of 12 thank you cards or blank note cards you bought when you only needed three, so they pile up endlessly in that drawer you hate to look in? I discovered a box of cards that (I shit you not) I bought in 1996. They are all portraits of Tibetan people and they are so beautiful that I never parted with a single one. Also, what occasion do those suit, really? Happy bat-mitzvah! Here is a photo of an ancient vegetarian! (Maybe that would be acceptable but it certainly wasn’t the perfect fit.)
Point being: I dug out those cards and whenever I feel a longing for connection, I sit down and – here is the important part – before I can over think it, I write to someone and I send it. Who doesn’t love a hand written card? Who isn’t craving connection right now?
I’ve sucked Ethan into it also. Each week he gets a vague assignment from his second grade teachers that says “write X many sentences about whatever you want.” I have converted that into “write to a grandparent using a card from my stash!” He has two bio parents and two step parents, so there are plenty of grandfolks to choose from! And God Almighty, do they need that right now!
I’m not trying to give myself any credit here; it is a simple thing. But if you are reading this, I implore you: make a list of people in your life that you could lift up with a card (or note on scratch paper! It doesn’t need to be a fancy card!), and make that happen this week/weekend. It’s small but it makes a difference.
PS If you are wondering who received the precious Tibetan portraits from the mid nineties, I’m sad to say that I haven’t sent any of those. Apparently, my inner hoarder wants to be buried with those. My inner hoarder is strong willed, so I better start saving up for a super sized casket.
I really didn’t want to write about COVID19. I know it’s impossible to escape right now. But honestly, it is all I think about. Maybe in another week or two this will just be my new life and I’ll be back to worrying about things other than how quickly my household is going through toilet paper.
Because I am lucky enough to have a job, my health, and family, this is an example of how the virus is affecting me:
Last week, I got an email from work which, at first glance, appeared to indicate that I had made a large mistake. Before I could register what I was reading or go back and look into the matter, Matt called to me from the other room in a panic. He needed help tuning Ethan’s violin before his online lesson started in three minutes. I do not know how to tune a violin, but I was needed so I shot off an email to my coworkers, apologizing profusely for being an idiot, and dashed off to learn about tuning pegs. Between Matt and I, we made the violin much worse. But once Ethan’s lesson started, his instructor was able to talk us through it and most of his lesson wasn’t wasted. I returned to my computer, re-read the email and opened up a few files to see what had happened. Turned out that everything was fine. There was no mistake in action on my part, only a small mistake in communication on someone else’s part, and I had leaped onto my sword in my apology email for no reason.
I’m not sure, but I think my blood-pressure broke a record high in that 15 minute interval.
This is what I am going through, because as I said, I am very lucky. My sisters and most of my friends have full time jobs and multiple children to home school, also full time. And I don’t know anyone who is sick! I can’t even imagine what those folks are going through.
I’m just trying to keep on top of things at work and home, but it is tricky. I feel like a big part of living with this pandemic is like playing a multi week long scavenger hunt. I’m finding out what I need to collect just a little too late, however. First it was toilet paper, then paper towels, eggs, flour, then paper towels again. Then, a few days ago, we got the “order” (a gentle request from our Republican governor with zero consequences for ignoring it) to wear homemade masks while in stores.
The homemade part is important because they want to save all the medical supplies for health care workers. I have heard just how important this is multiple times on NPR. And that matters NPR is the closest thing that I have to a religion now. It used to be the second closest but brunch has been cancelled until further notice.
I set about making masks and again, I am very lucky here. I have a sewing machine. I can sew. Not well, but I can. It occurred to me that I was being called to use my least favorite crafting skill for my country and I was a little irritated by this fact. If this were a knitting crisis, I would be kicking ass. I would be the equivalent of the mom in the Incredibles at knitting the country back together. But no. It had to be sewing.
I have plenty of fabric laying around, so that wasn’t a problem. This is when I realized I missed out on another important item from the scavenger hunt list: elastic. I saw people online using hair elastics but I was concerned about making that work if the mask was either a little too big or a little too small. I decided to go to Joann’s Fabric and see what I could find. The only elastic they had was for waistbands, which was much too wide. I found a lot of ribbon though, so I decided to use that and just tie the damn thing.
As I was poking around looking at ribbon and thread, I noticed that everyone else in the store was already wearing a homemade mask, and they were all perfectly executed. Hang on! I said in my mind. I’m working on it!
I heard on NPR that it takes about five minutes to sew one of these masks. I knew that it would take me longer, but it took about one hour and forty five minutes longer. I found a free pattern online and immediately had to start improvising with it because it was so large it would have covered my entire face. You remember that kid from So I Married an Axe Murderer? The one that has a head “like an orange on a toothpick”? I have the opposite problem. I am more of the pin on a tangerine shaped human.
I messed with it and messed with it. I had to add several more pleats than the pattern called for. It did not look like the perfect masks on the ladies of Joann’s. For one thing, it was still too big. But I got it done.
The next time I braved the grocery store, I put on my mask with some pride. I made this for my country! I thought. It’s like a tiny victory garden, right on my face!
But the grocery store patrons were quite different from the serious crafters of Joann’s. First, I was one of the only people wearing a mask, (as I said, it wasn’t required) and second, the other masked people were all wearing the medical looking ones that we weren’t supposed to buy. The feeling that I got at Joann’s was something like shame that I hadn’t done this already. The feeling I got in the deli aisle was something like embarrassment for being the goody-two shoes who listens to NPR and our governor’s gentle suggestions. Both felt like high school, all over again.
Oh well. I made it and I’m wearing it. I may take crack at sewing a new one. I still have a ton of fabric and I found a pattern that might fit on my face (and stay on my nose!) much better. If I’m too busy with work or violin triage, however, then I’ll make do with this.
In that same address, our governor asked everyone to try to help local businesses by getting take-out three times a week. This was the best news I received since this whole thing started. Get take out for my country? Hell yes! I’m suddenly patriotic AF!
If there is a knitting need that arises, by all means let me know. I’m ready to help! Meanwhile, I’ve got some noodles and tacos to attend to. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!