Privileges of Adulthood

Forging my own path

Figuring out what you do and do not like, and leaning into the former, is one of the great privileges of adulthood.

-Brett McKay, Art of Manliness

The other day my mother was visiting, and she was ordering me around.  We were just kidding, and I said, “This is my house, so I make the rules.”

(Side note:  I would not recommend saying that to your mother, not matter your age, no matter that she knew it was a joke, and no matter that we were in my house where I do make the rules.)  

All jokes aside, I got to thinking about it later.  It is my house.  I do make the rules.

Welcome to the privileges of adulthood.

Adulthood gets a bad rap.  I’ve written before on this blog my disdain for the word “adulting” when used by younger people to give themselves a pat on the back for doing some mundane task like washing dishes.  Don’t worry, I won’t go down that road again.

Childhood is often idealized.  Don’t get me wrong, mine was near perfect.  But it doesn’t beat adulthood.

This sentiment is best described in the last bit of a puff piece from Today in 2018.  Savannah Guthrie interviews Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein, the stars of the television show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

You can watch the entire video if you’d like, but the bit relevant to our discussion today comes at 6:00 into the video and lasts less than a minute.

Guthrie:  Is there one luxury you have now that you would not want to give up?

Brosnahan gives the practical answer of a dishwasher.  But Alex Borstein, who has been wise-cracking her way through the interview, gives a surprisingly profound answer.

Borstein:  I am the grownup and I would never go back.  I get to make all the decisions.  I get to decide what’s in my fridge and my pantry, what time we get up.  If I’m too tired, then maybe the kids just don’t go to school that day.  ‘Cause I get to decide.  I’m in charge. 

And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?  No matter how great my childhood was, I still had to eat Sloppy Joe sandwiches and tuna boats.  When my mother thought I was sleeping too late, she ran the vacuum cleaner in my room. 

But I got my license for adulthood long ago, and I’ve been the one driving for so long that I would never again want to be relegated to the back seat. 

I’ve got a quicker trigger finger these days.  When I was a teenager, I’d nearly always stick with a film or a novel until the bitter end.  Oftentimes, something that started out slow surprised me.  Now, that rarely happens.  I know what I like, and when I see something that isn’t it, I’m quick to turn it off.

I will never eat another Sloppy Joe. I will never solve another calculus problem.

Life’s too short and I’m not in school anymore.

I can spend my time as I like, reading the books I like, writing the things I like, wasting an afternoon the way I like.

Sure, I have to go to work, and clean the house, and pay my taxes. If I waste that free afternoon watching You Tube videos instead of taking a hike, I have no one to blame by myself.  If something breaks, I have to fix it.  If I run out of money, I have to make more or go without.

As Spider Man’s uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

But I get to do all these things on my terms, in my own way.  We adults call our own shots.

Except for the taxes, of course.

None of gets to choose our death or taxes.

Pandemic Regrets

Regrets, I have a few.

But then again—oh hell, you know I’m going to mention them.

That’s why we’re here, after all.

As we approach the one year mark of the covid-19 pandemic, I decided it was time to take stock. 

Literally.

Like nearly everyone, last March I bought a little extra of some things.

I’d watch the news, or read the paper, or see the empty shelves at my local Target, and I’d start revving up for a curbside pickup.

Some people drink.  Some people stress eat. I stockpiled cleaning products and dry goods.

I threw everything into my laundry room and called it my bunker. The bunker grew in fits and starts. Sometimes when the talking heads predicted a surge in cases, I’d make a run for essentials. Other times I’d just buy an extra can or box of whatever I was most afraid of running out of during my normal shopping trips.

It was only over the holidays when I organized and inventoried the contents of my bunker did I realize how far I had gone.

No one can come over, so I have to stage my own intervention.

The TSA has their no fly list.  I now have my no buy list.  Item number one?  Scrubbing bubbles.

This was—and remains—a difficult to find item.  So every time I found it in stock somewhere, I’d buy a can.  Then I found a four pack at Sam’s Club.  (Actually, I think I forgot about the first four pack and bought a second one.) Let’s be clear—there is exactly one bathtub and shower in my house.  I now own enough Scrubbing Bubbles to get me into the next decade when we’ve barely begun this one.

I have similar quantities of Soft Soap, Dawn Dish Soap, and bar soap. I figured if the world went to hell, I could wash everything—my clothes, my dishes, my body—with Dove Beauty Bars.  Such was the state of my mind in March 2020.  I bought about thirty bars of soap last March, and I have not even used up the soap I had prior to buying that box.  That’s right—I had a year’s supply BEFORE I started stocking up for the pandemic.

And the cat litter.  Because confession is good for the soul, I have to show you the cat litter.

But my regret over these purchases is minor.  It’s mainly a matter of inventory management—I went overboard, sure, but they will never go bad and I will eventually use them up.

There’s a whole second category of purchases that I truly do not know what I was thinking when I bought them.

Let’s start with hand sanitizer and wipes.

I don’t normally buy hand sanitizer or wipes.  I find the sanitizer kind of sticky and gross, and I prefer to just frequently wash my hands.  As for Clorox Wipes, a spritz of Formula 409 and a paper towel does the trick for me.

But I bought hand sanitizer because I’d need to use it now when I was out and about and couldn’t wash my hands.  The problem, of course—is that I wasn’t going anywhere!  When the pandemic is over, I will likely never use hand sanitizer again.

Actually, that’s not true.  I hate to waste things.  I once made thirty-five stuffed red peppers and it turned out that I hated stuffed red peppers.  But I put them in the freezer and ate them one at time for two years until they were gone.

(Actually, I ate thirty-four stuffed peppers.  I was looking at the thirty-fifth one day for lunch in my office, and my co-workers said, “Melanie, you hate those peppers!  Just give it up already!  You’ve done enough!”  So I threw out the peppers and we went to Chipotle.  That was the best burrito of my life.)

So—I will likely be using hand sanitizer for the next five years, pandemic or not, because I won’t be able to throw it away.

As for the Clorox Wipes, well, they did me a favor and dried up.

Like everyone else, I decided to bake.  Yeast packets were scarce, but I bought not one—but two—pounds of yeast.  (My only defense was this was at Sam’s Club, and therefore the smallest package available.  I could not find yeast anywhere else.)

You need about a tablespoon of yeast to make a loaf of bread.  I’ve made four in the past year, so only sixty loaves to go.  At the current rate, I’ll be applying for Medicare around the time I use up the yeast.

I bought powdered peanut butter, powdered milk, and powdered eggs.  I have no idea what I am going to do with any of this.

Regrets? I have a few.

For everything but the cat litter.  Blinker’s picky about her cat litter, and you saw what she did to the marshmallow.

Those Darling Bluestockings Sure Had Moxie

Just like fashion, words change.  When I was growing up in the nineties, it was all about the bling, people needed to take a chill pill, and talk to the hand.  Let me tell you, we were cool.  Psych!

Today everyone is extra, people are coming for you on social media, and spilling the tea.  And don’t forget—you got this.

I’m not advocating bringing back 90’s slang…as if!  But there are some great words that have never been widely used during my nearly forty years on this earth, and I really think we need to bring them back into circulation. 

Let me give you three examples:

Darling

If you spend your time watching old movies as I do, you come to love the world darling.  Today it’s the stuff of melodramatic movies and novels.  You have a single darling, your one and only love.

But in the 1930s and 40s, the word indicated non-exclusive affection.  Women tossed it out constantly.  They called their fathers darling, their mothers, their close friends.

“Hello darling,” they’d say, as they breezed into the room. 

I honestly can’t think of anything more glamorous. 

In 1961, Audrey Hepburn dropped the word dozens of times in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

If it’s good enough for Audrey Hepburn, it’s good enough for me. 

So the next time I see you, if I call you darling, you’ll know why.

Bluestocking

I first came across this word in Virginia Woolf’s seminal essay on writing, A Room of One’s Own.  I’d never heard it before and had to look it up.  The Merriam-Webster website defines it blandly as a woman having intellectual or literary interests.

I thought nothing of it at the time, but then I came across the word again in Olive Higgins Prouty’s Pencil Shavings, a memoir of her writing life.  Prouty gained literary success with her 1923 novel Stella Dallas and eventually became a mentor to Sylvia Plath.  Prouty was an excellent writer but tortured by the idea that she was neglecting her duties as a wife and mother when she worked on her novels.

About her desire to go to college in 1900, she writes:

Both my parents, like many others, were skeptical about a college education for their daughter.  College was apt to make a girl opinionated, undomestic, unmanageable and also unmarriagable in the opinion of many a young man who wanted no “blue stocking” for a wife.

I realized then that bluestocking—a woman having intellectual interests—was an insult.  After a little more research, I found that the term originated from a group of British women in the mid-eighteenth century who were bored to death playing cards and pianofortes and decided to form a society to discuss their literary interests.  They invited men as well, and the story goes that one man declined to attend the meeting because he did not have the formal dress required for such an evening.  One of the women told him to come in his “blue stockings,” a term for the worsted wool stockings worn informally.  He did come, and critics who wrote the women off as pretentious dilettantes termed them bluestockings.

But I think the bluestockings were pretty bad ass—grandmothers to the suffragettes, great-grandmothers to the feminists of the 1960s, and great-great grandmothers to today’s women.

The bluestockings were rebels in their own way, readers and writers in a time when such activities would garner patronizing pats on the head at best and expulsion from the marriage market at worst.

So let’s bring back the word, but make it our own.  Say it with me, literary ladies—I’m a bluestocking and proud of it!

Moxie

And finally, moxie

The term comes from a soft drink of the same name that originated in 1876 and is still sold today.  The Moxie Man has appeared in the advertising throughout much of its history, pointing confidently forward and inspiring the expression, “the kid’s got moxie.”

Men—and women—with moxie won’t let anything stop them from getting what they want.

Neil Armstrong had moxie.  So did Ruther Bader Ginsberg and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So for that matter does Tom Brady.

You don’t make it to the moon, the supreme court, or destroy a hellmouth without moxie.

You don’t win six Super Bowls without it either.

To have moxie is to have guts.

You know, like those darling bluestockings.

Marshmallow: Found!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a happy ending!

After being missing for thirteen days and presumed dead, the marshmallow was found alive and unharmed early this morning.

The marshmallow had been missing since December 26, when she and her friend, the hot chocolate mug were kidnapped from their place on top of the microwave by Blinker Novak, a notorious one-eyed bandit.  Blinker has been arrested multiple times on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering crinkly toys, but has never been convicted.

It was widely believed that Blinker was responsible for the kidnapping, and the marshmallow was indeed found with Blinker. 

Blinker had taken the marshmallow from the top of the microwave in retribution for her missing Christmas Eve dinner.  She dragged the marshmallow into the last place her owner would ever look—into her cat carrier, which she normally avoids like the plague (covid?) as it means a trip to the vet.

Blinker and the marshmallow were found cuddled together in the carrier.  The marshmallow insists she is quite happy, though the authorities strongly suspect Stockholm syndrome.

The marshmallow has declined to press charges.

Have You Seen This Marshmallow?

Friends, as of this morning, the marshmallow is still missing.

I can only hope she has escaped the house and is out there, alive somewhere.  Though she’ll be shivering in the cold, she has plenty of fluff to keep her from freezing to death.

If you see the marshmallow, please contact me immediately.  If she is accompanied by a black one-eyed cat, do not approach.  Assume the assailant is clawed and dangerous.

With each day that passes, hope is slipping away.

The hot chocolate mug is inconsolable.

The Case of the Missing Marshmallow

I planned to write about my hopes and dreams for the New Year.

Unfortunately, I must instead begin 2021 with a disturbing story. 

On Christmas day, my parents had a gift for my cat, Blinker.  I accepted the crinkly stuffed marshmallow and cup of hot chocolate on Blinker’s behalf, as she was practicing extreme social distancing and refused to leave our house.

Due to heavy snow and ice, I spent the night at my parent’s house.  I was away from home overnight for the first time in a year.  As a consequence, Blinker missed her Christmas Eve dinner.

This is when the trouble began.

If you have a cat, you know they always let their owners know when they are displeased.

She shunned me, of course.  Sure, she purred a bit when I first came through the door to make sure I served her missed meal, but afterwards she had her tail in the air and her butt in my face.

I decided to hold off on giving her the crinkly marshmallow and mug.  I’d wait until she was in a better mood, ready to play instead of sitting around giving me the stink eye.  When she was out of the room, I hid the toys.  She knows she isn’t allowed on the kitchen counter, and even if she went up there, she’d have no reason to explore the top of the microwave, especially since I sandwiched the toys between the loaf of bread and sleeve of English muffins I keep there.

After a few more hours of snow, I suited up and went out to shovel the driveway.  The snow was heavy, and I helped a few neighbors, so I was outside for nearly an hour.

When I walked in the front door, I heard whimpering.  I ran up the stairs and found Blinker, curled around a red object, her claws sunk deep into the soft fabric.

“Oh no,” I said.  “No, it can’t be.”

She’d found my hiding spot.  She was torturing the poor whimpering hot chocolate mug, kicking him with her claws, biting him, licking him until he screamed.

Reader, it wasn’t pretty.

I left him to his fate.  There was nothing I could do.

I ran into the kitchen, which appeared undisturbed but I knew better.  I flung aside the bread and English muffins and raised my hands to my head in terror.

The marshmallow was gone.

“Where is he?” I demanded.  “What have you done to him?”

She didn’t reply, just looked at me with that one eye and an expression that said it all.  It was retribution for her missed Christmas Eve dinner.

Like any good mob boss, she hadn’t taken her revenge on me directly, but on the ones I was sworn to protect.

I searched everywhere for the marshmallow—beneath the bed and the couch.  I searched her bin of toys, and the basket of blankets, and behind my office desk where she likes to bat my pens when I am working.

No marshmallow.

She resisted my interrogation.  I offered her head scratches, an extra can of Fancy Feast, a new Amazon box.  I promised to ask for brown paper bags the next time I went to the grocery store.

Nothing worked.  She didn’t cave.

Even a night in the clink didn’t weaken her resolve.

As of this hour, the marshmallow is still missing.  I fear he has come to a bad end.

Pray for him.

Goodbye 2020: The Year that Didn’t Happen

I don’t keep a scrapbook, but if I did, this untorn ticket stub is the only thing I’d put in it to symbolize 2020.  Scheduled for March 20, 2020, its abrupt cancellation with the promise of a reschedule was an early omen of all that was to come.

The NBA shut down the week before this concert was to have taken place.  Days later I was sent home from work with my laptop and assurances we’d be back in two weeks.

I haven’t seen the place since.

Mandy Moore never rescheduled.  The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust gave up in early November and refunded my money.

Goodbye 2020:  The Year that Didn’t Happen.

For some, 2020 has been marked by horrific loss—loss of a family member, a job, or a small business.  But for those of us lucky enough to have thus far avoided those fates, 2020 is going to be hard to remember.

I know what you’re thinking—how could we forget this unprecedented, crazy year?

But on the other hand, what is there to remember?  This is the year we didn’t go to concerts, or weddings, or dinners out with friends.  We didn’t celebrate birthdays or holidays together.  We didn’t go on vacation.  Sure, we Zoomed. 

But we all know deep down that Zoom doesn’t count.

“There was Trump and there was covid,” we’ll tell our great-grandkids about this year.  “And that’s all I remember.”

“But what did you do?” they’ll ask us.

“I have no idea,” we’ll say.

And isn’t it true already?  March seems so long ago and yet I cannot think of the things I’ve done in the past nine months.  I can only remember the things I didn’t do.

Five years from now, I won’t remember that I was ever planning to see Mandy Moore at all.

We’ll forget all our plans that never came to fruition.

I’ll bet you can’t even remember that when this all started you binged Tiger King.

Goodbye, 2020.  You won’t be missed and won’t you be remembered.

Here’s to 2021:  The Year of the Vaccine and the Roaring Twenties Redux.

See you then.

Slowing Down To Speed Up

I’ve got another rant.

Blame yourselves.  Readers responded so well to my rant about the spaghetti man and his ridiculous paper plate date, that I have no reason to hold back now.

I want to talk about podcasts. 

My beef is not with podcasts themselves.  I love getting regular updates on news, politics, entertainment, and inspiration from hosts I’ve come to think of as friends.  They say podcast listening is down in 2020 due to less commuting.  While I agree that driving is the ideal listening place for podcasts, I’m not sure how I would’ve survived 2020 without them.  While some people use radio or television for background noise while they’re working, I use podcasts.

So what’s the problem?

1.5x speed. 

For those not familiar with podcasting, there are settings on podcast player that allow you to speed up the sound.  You can literally listen to podcasts on fast forward.  The most common speed is 1.5x, which allows you to get through a 60 minute podcast in 45 minutes.

It takes some getting used to, or so people say.  People often work their way up to 1.75x speed, and even 2x in which a 60 minute podcast is played in 30 minutes with the hosts sounding like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Why do people do this?

To make sure they hear all of their favorite podcast during their morning commute?

To fit in more podcasts—to be better informed, more inspired, more entertained?

To—

Oh, let’s be honest.

People do this because they’re insane.

I had a great analogy to use here—that people could watch movies in fast forward to get more movies in, but they don’t do that because it’s crazy.

Except that there’s now a Chrome Plug-In that lets you watch Netflix on your computer at double speed.

To all the people who listen and watch on double-speed, I have a news flash for you:  you will never be able to watch and listen to everything good out there.

I guess it’s like trying to learn to speed read.  But speed reading is to get through boring school material.  You don’t speed read your favorite novel.

You savor it.

But really, people can do what they want.  If they want to listen to their podcasts on 2x speed, it’s no skin off my nose.

Except now it is.

Because I was listening to my favorite podcast host recently, and he mentioned that over the years he has learned to speak more slowly and take longer pauses during his podcasts.

Why?

So that people listening on 1.5x and 2x speed can understand him.

Podcasters now have to slow down so that we can speed them up.

And now those of us who listen on normal speed have to listen on slow-mo.

Are movies next?  Are directors going to have to make three hour cuts so we can watch them in an hour and a half?

This.  Is.  Lunacy.

Right?

Too Good To Be True

In late November, I wrote about a noise in my house that sounded like a train rumbling through the walls.  Before I decided to do anything about it, my local water municipality contacted me saying there was a problem with my water meter reading.

The meter man came to the house and fixed my water meter free of charge.

I had a house problem that cost me no time or money to fix.

I ended the blog with a question:  Can it really be this simple?

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our answer:  No.

No, when it comes to home repair, it can never be simple.

This is the second part of what I’d hoped would be a one-part story.

(To those of you who are older and wiser homeowners, this is likely a plot twist you saw coming a mile away.)

For forty hours after the meter man left, I lived without the sound, blissful in my delusion that the problem was fixed.

But then it came back.  As loud and as frequent as ever.

This was going to require a call to the plumber and a credit card after all.

For those of you who are interested, it was the water pressure regulator (as well as the water meter) that was the ultimate culprit.  The plumber had the problem diagnosed and replaced in a few hours, and we’re going on 168 hours—a full week—with no noise.

I think we’ve got it licked this time.

Let’s hope this is the end of the story.

My Visa card can’t take a part III.

Spaghetti Man

I try not to rant on this blog, but today, I must make an exception. 

I beg your pardon and forgiveness.

But have you seen this new idiotic commercial for Dixie paper plates?

Before my rant commences, please review the 30 second video below:

For those of you who didn’t watch, the commercial depicts a man who has spent all day cooking his grandmother’s special spaghetti and meatballs recipe to impress his girlfriend.  He serves her dinner on a paper plate, and spills it onto her lap before she takes a single bite.

This petulant man-child then has the audacity to leave the paper plates a one-star review.

“Ruined our meal,” he types furiously.  “I spent all day trying to master my nana’s recipe.  I got everything right, except for the plates.”

Everything right except for the plates!  Napoleon got everything right except Waterloo.  The 2007 New England Patriots got everything right except Super Bowl XLII.  The Titanic got everything right except for the iceberg. 

To repeat:  HE SERVED SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS ON A PAPER PLATE TO IMPRESS HIS GIRLFRIEND.

And by the way, there is nothing on the dinner table but a jug and a glass of water when he serves her the spaghetti.  No crusty Italian bread and butter.  No salad.  No napkins.  No charcuterie board (which is the way to my heart, in case anyone is wondering.)

No wine.  That’s right, ladies, this Casanova didn’t even buy her a drink first.

I’m guessing he has a football game on a television just behind her head.  No need to miss a play while you’re slurping up noodles.

If this is what passes for millennial romance, no wonder I’m still single.

Hey buddy, wanna know why you’ve never seen a girl naked?

IT’S BECAUSE YOU SERVE THEM SPAGHETTI ON PAPER PLATES.

I mean, nothing says one-night stand like paper plates.

If you want a woman to know you’re going to respect her in the morning, at the very least you use Chinet.

Everybody knows that.