A Parable Of Talents

I sit down at the keyboard my parents bought me — a thoughtful gift meant to let me continue doing something I loved as a kid. But as I squint at my well-worn music binder with its Xeroxed music, the notes have become a foreign language. My fingers feel stiff, my eyes get lost between my hands and the pages. The instrument now feels like little more than a bitter reminder of a gift I have lost.

 

******

 

I used to be really good at the piano. I mean pageant-girl good, with the dramatic banging of chords and the swaying to and fro. When was 18 I even did an hour-long solo recital, where I played Liszt, Ravel, Grieg, and Gershwin, plus a ten-minute Bach concerto alongside my teacher.

Weeks prior, my teacher had suggested we film the recital, but I flatly refused, because I knew by then that I fell apart under pressure. I’d get nervous, my hands would freeze up, then I’d botch a piece I’d played well a million times at home and suddenly the joy of my talent would be tainted. I thought if I was being filmed, I would get too nervous and not be able to play well, and so I refused to let her record it. I invited a few friends and my immediate family, and the memory of myself as the solo-recitalist has all but faded into obsolescence.

My love for the instrument had nothing to do with performing it. My love developed as I sat alone at the piano bench, safe in my parents’ home, in a world that felt like my own. My love grew as I plunked out note after note, enthralled in the puzzle of black dots that, when sorted out, created something beautiful. It was a sort of therapy for me; my mind engaged, and yet free from the woes of teenagerhood. Eventually I got better and the puzzle grew more puzzling, scribbled over in a neon mess of marker that still calls to mind my teacher’s passionate voice saying, USE YOUR WRISTS or DON’T RUSH! I spent hundreds, maybe thousands of hours practicing the piano, and it taught me the joy that is using my mind and body to create.

Three months after my senior recital I went off to BYU, where my talent for the piano was as ordinary as my blonde hair. The most available piano was conspicuously placed in the Cougareat, where hundreds of kids sat eating every day. It shocked me how often the bench was occupied by some over-achieving BYU student playing Jon Schmidt or The Man From Snowy River. I’d sit eating my L&T wrap and think, what a showoff.

My fingertips became otherwise occupied by my new major and minor, typing up stories and poems, headlines and taglines, all at the breakneck WPM that was the undoubted result of so many scales.

I threw my next ten years into developing a talent for writing, and it’s strange, because even though it is an entirely different art, I still find myself paralyzed by the fear of sharing it.

 

******

 

A few months ago, I went to a church activity centered on sharing talents. The flier made references to how we should not hide our lights under a bushel, but place them on a candlestick for all to see!

Before it started, a friend expressed her nerves to me – she’d been asked by the gung-ho activity coordinator to sing the song from Moana.

“Wait – do you sing?” I asked her.

She shrugged, “I mean – in my car.”

She took the stage and sang anyway. She sang the Moana song, complete with strolls across the stage and looks off into the distance. And everyone stood and cheered and sang with her, and it was such a joyous three minutes.

As I watched her and others that night, I saw women reclaiming talents as nothing more complicated than that – a source of joy. I saw them saying to hell with perfection and finding more pleasure in sharing than skill. It struck me as sad that I hadn’t been asked to perform, not because I would have agreed to, but because under the guise of modesty I had done such a good job hiding my talents, no one even knew I had any.

In the days following the activity, I got thinking about my lapsed talents. I remembered my very first piano instructor, with her hairsprayed bouffant and pink frosty lipstick, who would stand before each recital and say, “Now remember, there is nothing tragic about making a mistake. The only tragedy is in playing your piece without expression.”

I remembered her basement music school – how we got to shop for candy twice a year with the Music Bucks we’d earned. I pictured her signature drawing of a curved finger, and how she would exclaim, “hot dog!” when I played with an especial amount of expression. I thought of her coming to my wedding, and how touched I was she’d remembered me after all those years.

From so early on, I was taught there was nothing wrong with making a mistake. Why did I not internalize that message?

 

******

 

I didn’t want to post this piece. I was worried the mere mention of having talents would sound like a humble brag, or even an overt brag. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to not put it out into the world.

But then in yoga today, my instructor Lisa told a story about an ancient sage, who spent his lifetime studying yogic philosophy and became an expert, but died alone having shared his knowledge with no one. The gods grant him another life, which he spends the same way – filling his mind with knowledge but dying alone. Finally in his third life, the man decides to share his knowledge. He becomes a teacher, a guru, and after this death, the gods grant him the exaltation of a sage – having finally found the purpose of life, he can finally move on from it.

I love the way Lisa weaves stories into her classes. She gives them to us in snippets, sharing another chapter each time we come to down dog, theming each class so that your peak pose coincides with the yogic parable that inspired it.

Her theme in yesterday’s class was that true joy lies not simply in having gifts, but in sharing them. I felt an amen in my body, and then it struck me – she calls them gifts, not talents.

There is a difference between those words.

It struck me that perhaps I have acquired so much grief around my talents because I see them as things that win beauty pageants.

I see them as things to be shared only when or if they can be flawlessly performed. I see them as things you put on a resume, things you earn and then turn around and use to earn more praise and adoration.

Lisa sees them as gifts. “Gifts” implies a level of grace and godliness and divinity. Gifts are inherently social – their purpose is to be shared in order to bring joy. Gifts are given, not earned.

 

******

 

I unearth my piano binder again, with its broken spine and sticky plastic cover, and flip it open to my favorite of the pieces from my old repertoire – a sprawling Liszt dazzler I don’t quite remember well enough to play with expression, however imperfectly.

It is torturous, how clumsily my fingers now play it. I am forced to play one hand at a time, slowly, using the cursed metronome.

Playing it with fresh eyes, I now see that the piece is an essay. The first page is its thesis statement, and each section thereafter an iteration on the theme of those original eight notes. It is something my brain would never have noticed had my fingers not spent so many years writing.

I sit at my keyboard, puzzling over the tangled mess of music, re-engulfed in that old familiar world of my own, where I look at the clock to see an hour has passed and wish I had more time to give.

I don’t quite know how to reconcile my talents with the fear that always accompanies sharing them. Maybe it simply takes practice. Maybe they don’t always need to be shared. But I am trying to shift how I view them — from performing to creating, from something earned to something given.

From talents, to gifts that are meant to be shared, with mistakes and much expression.

 

 

Water At The Roots

I remember when I first realized as a little girl that in order to make a flower grow, you had to water its roots.

It didn’t make any sense.

But what about the petals? I thought. The petals are the pretty part! The part everyone sees! Surely they were the part that deserved the water.

It seems such an obvious foreshadowing of the person I became – always chasing perfection and approval, dousing my petals in so much useless water.

I care much more about my roots these days. I will say it is a much less glamorous existence.

It means going to therapy and unfollowing certain accounts and having hard conversations with difficult people. It means taking jobs I like instead of jobs I could brag about. It means accepting hints of wrinkles and trying to remember that my body is just a body.

As with any habit, my petal-watering will take time to break. But I do feel it breaking. And I feel myself starting to grow.

Water at the roots.

Water at the roots.

Water at the roots.

The Most Adjective Books Of 2017

Bad news: I spent a lot of time commuting last year. Good news: audiobooks!

I read (and heard) more books last year than I think any other year of my life, which has made me feel incredibly smart and more than a little bit superior to my previous self.

And so I bring you my year of books, in Yearbook form. All voting was done by me. All opinions are subjective. You’re welcome to sign it in the comment section.

 

Most Mind-Melting: Annihilation

I only finished reading this a few days ago and am still in the wait what just happened? phase. This book will get in your head and give you goosebumps and you will like it.

It’s also coming soon to a theater near you, starring Oscar Isaac, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and was done by the same writer/director as possibly the only truly original movie in recent memory, Ex Machina.

Shout out to brother for recommending it. Now to read the rest of the trilogy before the movie comes out.

 

Most Fascinating: Elon Musk: Inventing the Future

You have likely heard enough about Elon Musk to get the general sense of his brilliance* and lunacy,  but hearing the details behind PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and every OCD email he’s sent his employees in between is fascinating and well worth a read.

*You will also feel largely like a big fat failure who has done nothing with your life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Most Honest: Hunger

This is an excruciatingly painful memoir, told in beautifully simple language. It was a one sitting, effortless read that I felt in my bones. Attempting to give it the Cliff’s Notes treatment feels distastefully blunt, so I’ll leave you with a snippet.

“They mean well, my parents. They love me. They understand the world as it is, and how there is no room for people of my size. They know that the older I get, the harder it will become to live at this size. They worry about my health and my happiness. They are good parents. My parents also want to understand — they are intellectual, smart, practical. They want my weight to be a problem they can address with the intellect they apply to other problems. They want to understand how I could have let this happen, let my body become so big, so out of control. We have that in common.”

 

Most How Did I Go So Long Without Reading This: East of Eden

Honestly what was I even doing for the 28 years of life before I read this book? Who were the English professors who denied me such a treasure?? I have come to cherish this book like scripture and do believe I will read it every year until my death.

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

Truly, words to tattoo yourself with.

 

Most Banned: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

This semi-autobiographical young adult novel is equal parts hilarious and tragic.

In real life, Sherman Alexie grew up on a Spokane Indian Reservation in Seattle. In this book, 14-year-old Arnold Spirit Jr. is born on “the Rez” but decides to do a year at the all-white public high school in a neighboring town. The book reads like his diary, complete with clever illustrations that are charming and sad and true.

Apparently it is banned from most Elementary Schools – but if you aren’t in Elementary School, you’re in luck! If you do happen to be in Elementary School, please find an adult who can white-out the bad words and let you read their copy.

(Special thanks to Jill for recommending this, as well as so many others.)

 

Most Kooky: The Book Of Laman

Kooky is not a good (or even real?) adjective, and yet it is the only one I can summon to explain this book.

It was written by a Mormon woman whose writing I’ve followed and really like, and is a retelling of the first chapter of The Book of Mormon from the perspective of the black sheep brother, Laman. I have to say the book felt almost unfinished to me and the pacing was a bit strange, but I loved the idea of it and really enjoyed challenging my perception of a story I’ve come to be so familiar with.

You can buy it on Amazon or BCC Press.

 

Most LA: Beautiful Ruins

As soon as this book sucked me into its shiny Hollywood romances, I would realize I was being mocked for being sucked into its shiny Hollywood romances and think noooo! I found the writing bright and entertaining, if not crass at times, and because it jumps between stories and time frames, it’s another super quick read.

“This is a love story,” Michael Dean says.

But really what isn’t? Doesn’t the detective love the mystery or the chase, or the nosey female reporter who is even now being held against her wishes at an empty warehouse on the waterfront? Surely, the serial murder loves his victims, and the spy loves his gadgets, or his country or the exotic counterspy. The ice-trucker is torn between his love for ice and truck and the competing chefs go crazy for scallops, and the pawnshop guys adore their junk. Just as the housewives live for catching glimpses of their own botoxed brows in gilded hall mirrors. Because this is reality, they are all in love, madly, truly, with the body-mic clipped to their back-buckle and the producer casually suggesting, “Just one more angle,” “One more jello shot.”

 

Most Brainy: The Undoing Project

I felt so smart when I decided to read a Michael Lewis book. I felt so smart while listening to it. I am entirely unable to summarize what it was about in a way that is coherent.

(You know Michael Lewis from Moneyball and The Big Short. Maybe they’ll make a movie about this one…?)

 

Most Fun: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Bring this one to the beach. I lol-ed many times, and I don’t use that acronym lightly. It’s also very touching in parts, which is a term I try even harder to avoid than lol.

“I tried to love Dad and not hate him for his fake cheer and the way he gets dressed. I tried to imagine what Mom saw in him back when she was an architect. I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who finds every little thing he does a total delight. It was sad, though, because the thought of him and all his accessories always made me sick. I wished I’d never made the connection about Dad being a gigantic girl, because once you realize something like that, it’s hard to go back.”

 

Most Haunting: The Handmaid’s Tale

Like any respectable American, I was motivated to finally read Margaret Atwood’s dystopian thriller after it was announced Hulu was making it into a TV show. Though I liked both versions, in my opinion there is no comparing an on-screen adaptation to her gorgeous, poetic prose.

“Falling in love, we said; I fell for him. We were falling women. We believed in it, this downward motion: so lovely, like flying, and yet at the same time so dire, so extreme, so unlikely. God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always, for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.

And sometimes it happened, for a time. That kind of love comes and goes and is hard to remember afterwards, like pain. You would look at the man one day and you would think, I loved you, and the tense would be past, and you would be filled with a sense of wonder, because it was such an amazing and precarious and dumb thing to have done . . .”

 

Most Worst: The Secret History

Oh, I hated this book. I made it through a whopping 14 of 22 hours of the audiobook before I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I even tried her latest book The Goldfinch (it won a Pullitzer!) but after two hours of essentially nothing happening, I gave up on Donna Tartt forever.

 

Most Life-Changing: The Neapolitan Novels

Book three was my favorite of the four

I experienced this series on such an intensely personal level, I had to take a few month-long breaks to get through it.

 

Plot-wise, it’s really just about a friendship between two Italian women. That such a simple premise could inspire four of my all-time favorite books should tell you how thoroughly developed these characters are – messy and imperfect and so real-feeling, I now think of Lenu and Lila as friends.

 

If you take one recommendation from this list, it’s this series. Here’s a link to book one.

 

Most Pwned: Ready Player One

 

So I don’t exactly know what pwned means, or whether people still use it, but I do know it has to do with video games. And that pretty much sums up how it felt to read this book.

It was an entertaining read, but certainly would have been much more entertaining had I cared about video games or spent more than two years of my existence in the ’80s.

It’s also coming soon to a theater near you, because this is (was) 2017.

 

Most Nerd: Mistborn

Growing up, my brothers read these Robert Jordan fantasy books that were so thick and so many, my family began referring to them as simply “Nerd 7,” or “Nerd 13.” Fast forward two decades, and I’m reading the same nerd books by the same nerd authors!

I have yet to read the rest of the trilogy, but I thought Mistborn was so original and am just in general impressed by Brandon Sanderson and his gazillions of books.

 

Most British: H is for Hawk

 

In my imagined ideal future where I am a cardigan-wearing professor of something English-ish, this book is what I teach in our memoir unit.

It is to me a textbook memoir, in that it takes one event (the death of the author’s father) and examines it through a super-specific lens (training a young Goshawk as a means of dealing with grief.)

It shed fascinating light into a subject I knew nothing about, was insightful and honest, and just so delightfully British. I would absolutely recommend the audiobook on this one, which is read by the author.

(Thanks to Sarah for the recommendation. I have smart friends.)

Most Likely To Be Read In 2018:

Mennonite In A Little Black Dress, A Man Called Ove, Lilac Girls, Authority, The Well Of Ascension, Belgravia, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.

What else do I need to read in 2018? Tell me your most adjective books!

Plant Killer

I’m a plant killer. The evidence is now irrefutable.

I feel wronged by this reality, because the recipe for keeping a plant alive seems so simple: pour water onto dirt.

Right?

I always thought I would be a plant person because my mom is a plant person. Growing up, I loved watching her garden — the pride she took in it, how she’d dream for weeks about which flowers would bejewel our yard that year. I loved going to the nursery with her to pick them out — petunias, pansies, snapdragons, marigolds, day lilies. She taught me their names, as well as which were the toughest, which needed special care, which the deer liked to eat. Of course I became less interested once it was time to actually plant the things. But I loved watching as she removed each precious flower from its plastic carton, cradling the dirt pods with their fledgling roots as she transferred them into a little hole in the earth, a home prepared just for them.

Having lived in an apartment for the entirety of my adult life, I don’t exactly have access to a garden, but I’ve still tried to cultivate my green thumb.

When a recipe called for fresh basil, I bought a basil plant instead. I daydreamed of being a person who knew which dishes could do with a dash of fresh basil, plucked right off the stem. I saw myself casually tossing it into my gorgeous, sizzling pan, to the delight of all who would taste some signature dish.

The basil plant died after one use.

I tried to decorate with cute mini succulents in trendy little pots, but within days they inexplicably withered.  I thought succulents were cactuses? Aren’t they supposed to survive anything?

For a while I made a habit of picking up a potted plant from Trader Joe’s — a mini rosemary bush or poinsettia at Christmas or springy baby roses, before killing them all and finally moving on to cut flowers instead.

And then a few months ago, Scott and I bought a house plant. A 5-tiered Dracaena that would prove, once and for all, that I am not the angel of death. When we brought it home, it was like the entire apartment was transformed. There was life! Inside! It was green, it was cleansing our oxygen, why I had gone so long without knowing the simple joy of a house plant?! We bought a tool to measure the light and soil, we Googled how to care for this species. We filled a big pot full of water and let it sit overnight just like the internet said. We watered until we saw drainage.

We drowned it.

The shortest tier died first. The leaves went droopy and then flopped completely flaccid and finally in a moment of rage, I pulled them all off. The next tier followed, and the next, but I told myself the top two might still make it! They had to make it.

Now, the top two tiers have started drooping. I avoid walking by the plant, because to touch it, even gently, is to cause a cascade of falling fronds. I should throw it away but it’s heavy. Which is a metaphor for it being super depressing.

I’m a plant killer; there’s so much proof. It’s making me sadder than it should.

The 7 Stages of Working from Home

1-Smugness

You wake with the clear knowledge that you have pulled one over on the world. Today you will not commute. You will not put on makeup. You will not even look at a bra. Your poor co-workers at their desks in their outfits, mwahaha what fools!

2-Productivity

You hunker down at your laptop for the next two hours. You get more done in this time than your entire last week in the office. You’re on a roll, unstoppable, can’t fathom how or why anyone, no everyone, is wasting their time going in. It has begun to sound like a backwards, lowly thing and you will never do it again.
 

3-Efficiency

You dial-in to the conference call but put it on mute so they won’t hear you doing dishes. Or breathing heavily while riding the stationary bike at the apartment gym — how clear your mind is while your heart is also going! Maybe you spend the meeting in repose; double pigeon or legs up the wall pose, closing your eyes to rest them from that harsh computer screen. Whatever you do, it is something that would never be done in the office.

 

Look at this image. The internet is an amazing place.

4-Laundry

All that efficiency goes to your head and you decide to take it up a notch. Why not throw in a load, free up your weekend? Plus it will get you out of the house (apartment living yall) and doesn’t take long. Ooh! And if you time things just right, you may even be able to be folding the laundry by the time your next conference call rolls around!

5-Distraction

It’s hard to know how it started. You came back from laundry and had every intention of re-entering Productivity but are now five pages deep in a Google image search on Chris Pine. It’s just that you always thought he was only a rom-com guy but are confused after watching Hell or High Water because he was legitimately great and yet all those superhero movies. You learn that his fans call themselves “Pine Nuts.” You hate this very much, and click away quickly lest you become one of them.

6-Guilt

You look at the clock. It’s been an hour since entering Distraction and you are suddenly flooded with guilt. But but but, you were on such a roll this morning, why has your brain forsaken you now? Why will your fingers only type FACEBOOK.COM? How many hours per day are you productive when you’re at the office?

You attempt a rough calculation: there’s the necessary socializing/team bonding time, meeting time, time spent finding the right dongle in said meetings, lunch time, texting time, rooftop time — what do we even do when we’re at the office? You tell yourself you’re fine, in fact your co-workers are probably watching RuPaul’s Drag Race this very moment.

Plus, you can work late if you need. You could work ’til midnight, you could work forever, you’re at home where there are no parameters to this workday it never ends it might never ever end

7-Existential Crisis

 What even is a job? JOB JOB JOB what a strange word, it gets stranger the more you say it. But really how do you measure a job that’s an idea job where so much is intangible, and there’s intellectual property, plus the gig economy etc. etc.

You practice handstands against the wall. You are terrible at handstands. You put on Green Light and dance around the apartment. I’M WAITING FOR IT! THAT GREEN LIGHT! I WANT IT!

You return to your desk, a little embarrassed, despite the fact you’re alone. All alone. Maybe you should talk to someone today. Yes! That’s what you need, you should text someone. But who? Do you…have friends…?

You force yourself back to some semblance of reality. You read your email and make a to-do list of whatever your brain refused to accomplish today.

All traces of smugness have evaporated. You can’t wait until tomorrow when you can go into the office.

Five Songs To Listen To If You Like Songs That Are Good

All are newish. All are good.

1: Sampha // Timmy’s Prayer

Sampha pulled a Sia and went from vocalist to soloist and the results are A++.

 

2: Arcade Fire // Everything now

I didn’t love Reflektor except for the stuff from the Her soundtrack, but this one is prettttty good.

 

3: Liv // Wings of Love

Liv is a hybrid of Lykki Li, Miike Snow, and Peter, Bjorn, and John. What?? I have Jason Bentley to thank for this one, and many others.  Thank you Jason for making my mornings so very eclectic! (And don’t mind the very uh, Georgia O’Keefe-ness of this album art.)

 

4: Frank Ocean // Chanel

So I didn’t love Blonde as much as Channel Orange. I know. Did I just not get it? Was I expecting way way way way way way way too much? It’s likely.

 

5: HAIM // Want You Back

When did this song come out and how did I not know until yesterday? I was so scared to listen because I was so afraid of them having a sophomore slump. BUT THEY DIDN’T. IT’S SO GOOD. NOT EVEN BEING IN T-SWIFT’S CLIQUE CAN MAKE ME DISLIKE THEM.

P.S. I’ve Lived In Orange County For A Year

livin that billabong life!

 

Recently a friend asked how close I lived to Marina Del Rey.

Me:         Uh, an hour. Without traffic.

               We moved to Orange County, did I not tell you?

Friend:     Wait what? When? 

Oh just…it was only…it was last July.

It’s been eleven months and I’m still not telling people. It’s like I’m dating someone who is super hot but dumb.

The idea behind the move was that it was maybe time to settle down a bit. That we were nearing our thirties (super old) and thinking about a family (all current joys will cease) and it was time to leave the hustle of L.A. for the beautiful, boring suburbia that lies beyond the Orange Curtain.

At first I said, it’s just temporary! And it was. But I really settled into that word — “temporary” — telling myself we would never live here long term. We were city people! We went to museums! I mean, sometimes. We sometimes went to the museums and ate the food and saw the movies that hit theaters a week earlier in our neighborhood than the rest of the nation. But whether we actually did those city things or not, we were cultured through osmosis.

After I found not one but two (!) possible OC jobs in offices on the beach, I gave up both for a gig in DTLA. And now I drive an hour both ways on the dusty 5 freeway behind behemoth semi-trucks to a warehouse off Alameda that I would not walk around alone at night. It’s a good job, and I like the work. But it was also the city fix I needed when temporary became permanent.

I tell myself I am still an Angeleno – I can access city life whenever I want, I have the same friends. And then I meet up with said friends after work and am livid at the traffic. I am enraged at the existence of a parking meter and I grimace at the questionable smells wafting up from sewers along the cracking streets. I go floating down to my ocean-side bubble and must resist admitting that what I feel is deep relief.

I don’t want this change to happen, this settling into some idea of suburban life. I am scared of it – of my dwindling tolerance for city grit, of the possibility that I may be getting boringer.

I don’t care to live in Surftown, U.S.A. I don’t need famous shopping malls. I am dead on the inside as evidenced by being immune to the “happiest place on earth.”

I don’t tell people I live here, and yet it’s becoming home.

I don’t know what that means.

 

More Time, Please.

Somewhere in my brain there exists a sticky note with thoughts I want to write on this blog. Or another blog, or anywhere really. It feels like they are festering in there, tapping my skull like HEY! LET US OUT! They are not ideas that will change the world or maybe even be read by anyone but me, but I still need to write them.

It feels like a bad thing, letting ideas die. And yet where does one find the time?

“Protect the time and space in which you write,” says Zadie Smith. “Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.”

I feel like I’ve spent the last three years fighting to make time to write. I’ve altered my career to support it. I’ve said no to family and friends. I’ve spent countless hours toiling inside my apartment while the beach lies 15 minutes away, all on ideas that have a good chance of never being read. I think if I quit everything and never slept, I would still want more time.

What torture, this thing we call writing. What absolutely life-wrecking joy.

Great Songs with Terrible Messages

It is difficult when you are raised and generally still believe that songs with bad messages are bad songs. What happens then, when said songs are so catchy that to hear them is to love them immediately and against your will?!?!

Here are five of my guiltiest pleasures.

#1: Katy Perry, Teenage Dream

“LET’S GO ALL! THE WAY TONIGHT!” I shout-sing in my car, with the windows down and the wind whipping my hair. Then I cringe — can my parents hear me? Can God? Surely this is not the message teenage girls should —  “NO REGRETS! JUST LOVE!”

 

#2: One Direction, Perfect

I was sure I’d outgrown my “Backstreet Babe” phase, but then one day I got curious and listened to a song, which turned into an entire album, which turned into a deep dive into all five singers’ auditions for Simon Cowell when they were 12 years old, which turned into more terrible shout-singing in the car.

I might never be your knight in shining armor
I might never be the one you take home to mother
And I might never be the one who brings you flowers
But I can be the one, be the one tonight

Is it any wonder we females have to unlearn the habit of loving terrible men? I mean, it’s not even subliminal, or attempting any subtlety — this message is OVERTLY TERRIBLE and my daughters can never know how much I loved it.

 

#3: Usher, I Don’t Mind

Plot summary: Usher’s girl is a stripper. And yet he has generously, magnanimously decided that since “her body rock and her booty poppin,'” he will give her permission to continue in this profession. He’s not one of those old-fashioned types — no, he’s open-minded, progressive in supporting her dream of twerking in the splits!

I despise this message, and yet ten seconds in find myself doing involuntary body rolls.

 

#4: Lady Gaga, Do What U Want

I know this album was a flop, but THIS SONG IS AWESOME. It has the best beat and is almost sort of somehow feminist — I think?

You can’t have my heart and
You won’t use my mind but
Do what you want with my body
You can’t stop my voice, cause
You don’t own my life but
Do what you want with my body

 

#5: Next, Too Close

What a delightful, beautiful classic that in the seventh grade I thought said, “Baby when you’re cryin’ I get so excited,” and was thoroughly confused. The maturation clinic said nothing about this “grinding.”

 

What are your favorite songs with terrible messages? Let’s feel guilty about liking them together.

Sad About The Internet: Barnes & Noble Edition

I think I was meant to be born before the internet. I feel this every two weeks when I remember that Snapchat exists and open it to find long-forgotten snaps, to which I dutifully reply although their jokes are so dead.

I felt it today when I tried to go to Barnes & Noble. I was out running errands and realized with delight that one of said errands would take me next door to the book store. I had cozy visions of wandering the shelves, the air buzzing with literacy and proof that people do get books published.

I wasn’t planning to buy anything, but I did need to check on a few things. See, I’ve been listening to audiobooks (hi, endless commute!) and though they are rescuing me from certain misery, they leave me just a teaspoon unsatisfied. I recently finished The Underground Railroad. It was so brutal and yet so poetically written, I felt I needed to see the words, as though somehow my ears’ attention wasn’t adequate respect to the author. Before that I listened to Hillbilly Elegy, which was fascinating but left me with a nagging question — how does the author spell his wife’s name? He pronounces it “oo-shuh.” Usja? OOSHA? I have googled to no avail. And suddenly, although she is among the most minor of characters, she is the only one I’m left thinking about. My eyes needed answers!

And so I walked out of errand #1 with much anticipation, approached Barnes & Noble to find a horrifying sight: closed doors with ugly white stickers spelling, “NEW RETAILER COMING SOON.”

I stood there for a solid minute, not wanting it to be true. Was there some sort of misunderstanding? Had they merely switched locations? It’s the year 2017 and I’ve had what, a decade to get used to book stores going under? It’s not like I haven’t seen You’ve Got Mail, but what happens when The Shop Around The Corner AND Fox Books go down?

Image brought to you after 20 minutes of reading You’ve Got Mail quotes. What a classic.

I felt genuine sadness. I wanted to hold Cora’s story in my hands and I NEED TO MAKE SENSE OF YOU, OOSHUH!

The worst part was knowing that I am complicit in Barnes & Noble’s demise; I had no intention of purchasing anything today — I already did so, through the internet. The internet made it possible for me to not only purchase both stories without having to leave the house but listen to them, while I drove. Without the internet I likely wouldn’t have had (read: made) time to read them. Without the internet I couldn’t be complaining to you now!

And yet the internet has taken away my cozy, neighborhood Barnes & Noble. It has filled, but not satisfied my yearning to read books. It has made life easier and yet so much less.

I pulled out my phone to snap a photo of the closed book shop to my Story (crying emoji, angry emoji, book emoji), but decided against it.

I hate you, I love you, dear Internet.