Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Welcome to All the New Readers!


This is probably your first visit to my blog.  If so, welcome!  If you've landed on this page, it's likely because you typed "I hate Cheryl Strayed" or something similar into a search engine and BLAM, here you are.  If that's the case, you've come to the right place, friends.

Another reason you may have come here is because you were either the happy or unhappy recipient of one of these--

--happy, because friends of yours who also happen to be friends of mine have told you about this blog and excitedly introduced you to me, or unhappy, because I overheard you talking about how totes awesome "Wild" was and I felt the need to correct you.

Whatever brought you here, allow me to welcome you. I'm not a dick; I just play one on the internet. 


For those of you who found this blog because you hated "Wild" and thought you were all alone in the world, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Given, I may have been the only person crazy enough to spend several months tearing it apart, but I will now comfort you with the knowledge that this blog has been viewed nearly a quarter of a million times by people in over 130 countries at the time of this publication, and that number grows every single day (this is another reason why I'm writing this post-- I feel like celebrating a milestone).

**Shout-out to all the people who email me-- first off, thanks.  Seriously.  You guys make my day.  Second, I'm not a celebrity just sitting around with nothing to do while my millions roll in; I'm a real person with a real job that pays next to nothing and I have real things happening in my life.  I wish I could respond to all of you, but, goddamnit, I just don't have the time for that because THERE ARE SO MANY OF YOU.  For all of you who have written to me, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Please forgive me for not emailing all of you back.  I have a list and I will respond when I can.**

With that said, if this is, in fact, your first visit to the blog, I strongly encourage you to START AT THE BEGINNING. CLICK HERE.  If you try to go in reverse or just pick a random post all willy-nilly, you will immediately conclude I'm a crazy person and you will disregard everything I worked so hard to create.  I'm not saying I'm *not* a crazy person-- because I'm pretty sure writing this blog drove me over the edge and sanity is something to which I can dedicate this song-- but you should start at the beginning so as to witness firsthand my descent into madness.  It'll be fun for you.  I promise.  It will also explain, post by post, why I decided to write this in the first place.

Again-- if this is your first visit, GO HERE.  Once you've read everything, come back to this post and then go here.  I know I wrote in Part Four that distance hikers shouldn't try to write books about their hikes because they have nothing to say about distance hiking as hiking is apparently super boring, but I only wrote that based on what books I have read by other distance hikers.  I am going to walk across the country in less than five months from now and yes, I am going to write about my journey.  It'll be like "Travels With Charley," except without a dog, and on foot, and written by someone who would be the horrifically wonderful spawn of John Steinbeck and Drunk Uncle (if they were capable of making a baby together).

Yep, that's me.
Go ahead and read the whole shebang and then, if you were entertained, go here.  I'm gonna walk across the country and I'm going to write about it.  I will make it as entertaining as humanly possible.

Here's why I need a GoFundMe account--

Backpack + sleeping bag + tent = at least $500
Walking cart = $300
Phone bill for at least 8 months (so I can let loved ones know I'm alive on a daily basis) = $900
Shoes to last the journey at $120 a pop = $1200
Other gear (like clothes, socks, a ton of bug spray, a small stove, small pots, a water purifier and a ton of other things that will be necessary)
Food for 8 months = OMFG
Oh, hey, I'm gonna need to do laundry and stay at motels to maybe take a shower every couple weeks = Who Knows
Aaaaaaaaaand, when I finish, let's not forget that I will be homeless and unemployed = OH, GOD, MAYBE THIS ISN'T A GOOD IDEA.

To hell with all of that.  Walking across the country has been a dream of mine for over twenty years, so I'm going to do it.

Here's when I lay on the NPR-Fundraising-type guilt-- if this blog made you laugh and gave you joy, figure out how much that laughter and joy meant to you and then put a dollar amount on it.  I know you're laughing; you've told me as much.

I hate to be the person begging on the off-ramp, but ANYTHING WILL HELP.  Again, go here.  I promise to write about my journey and I will make it as entertaining as humanly possible.  As an extra added bonus, anyone who contributes will be mentioned by name in the acknowledgement section of what will undoubtedly be my super awesome book about my journey.  (For those of you who are hesitant to hand over money but still want to help, please email me at califohioan@gmail.com because there are other ways you can assist, like sending care packages or giving me a place to camp for the night.)

And that's the end of that.

If nothing else, welcome.  If you wish to fund my dream-- I cannot thank you enough.

Hugs and kisses,

Friday, July 17, 2015

If You Have Taken Pleasure in My Suffering, Please Consider This as a Thank You. From you. To Me.

Dearest readers,

I am going to walk across the country in 8 short months.  I plan on walking the American Discovery Trail and I will be starting in March of 2016.

I will need financial support to realize this dream.

Here's the thing.

If some hole-in-the-wall, anti-gay pizza place can raise ALMOST ONE MILLION DOLLARS for refusing to cater a non-existent gay wedding, surely I can raise a handful of money to help me walk across the country.

I mean, really.

Almost one million dollars was raised for a couple of jackasses who decided they would *never* cater a gay wedding and ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.  WHO, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, ASKS A PIZZA PLACE TO CATER A WEDDING.  NOBODY, THAT'S WHO.  ESPECIALLY NOT GAY PEOPLE.

So, yeah.  That happened because people are stupid.

I'm going to walk across the country next year.  I'm going to do it whether I'm financially able or not.  Then I'm going to write about it.

Would you like this to happen?  Would you enjoy reading my take on America?


Here's where you can make it happen:


I'm going to do something amazing, friends.  Come along for the ride.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Goodbye and Hello.

I'm done with this.  I can't take one more minute of Cheryl Strayed. 

There are so many other stupid things I could be addressing, and it's time I start.  You can find me over here from time to time:


But wait-- there's one more link to click:


It's been a good ride, friends.  It's time to move on.

Thank you for reading.  I'll catch you on the flip side.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Tiny Beautfiul Things, Letter # Who Gives a Shit, This Book is So Awful

Fuck this book.

I can't deal with this book. 

Wild was a different story.  I was personally invested in destroying Wild because, as a hiker, all of her obvious lies offended me and insulted every single person who has actually hiked the length of the PCT.  On behalf of real hikers everywhere, I was gonna call her out on all of her bullshit even if it killed me (and it came close to that several times).  This book?  Who fucking cares.  I don't give a shit about any of it.  I hate "the people" asking questions (aka Cheryl Strayed) and I still hate Cheryl Strayed and all of her asinine, self-absorbed responses, but I don't enjoy reviewing this book.  This book makes me stabby in a different way-- not a good way.

This book can suck it.  I'm not going to address every single letter because some of them are too stupid to deal with.  I can't tell you how many times I've literally thrown this stupid book across the room in a fit of disgust.  I need to stop doing that before I break something or injure the dog.

That said, let's get on with it.

"Hell is Other People's Boyfriends"

This letter is entitled "Hell is Other People's Boyfriends" because Cheryl came up with that all by herself and we all know what happens when Cheryl comes up with something she deems clever: she beats the living shit out of it.  You'll see.  Let's get to the totally real letter from a totally real person who is definitely not Cheryl Strayed.

Dear Sugar,

I'm a freshman in high school, and everyone knows how high school is-- drama, drama, drama.  Except for you, pretend person, because you're new to high school.  I already know that this was not written by a child.  And my best friend (let's say her name is Jill) is at the center of it.

See, Jill's dating this guy (let's call him Jack) who has a girlfriend who goes to another school.  As Jill's best friend, I already don't like Jack.  He doesn't want to break up with the girlfriend for Jill (he and his girlfriend have been together over a year), but, in my opinion, this situation is unacceptable.  Jack seems like a nice guy, but there's that underlying scumbag quality that I can't get past.  There's no way a high school freshman composed that sentence.  I'm pretty sure "scumbag" isn't part of the teenage vernacular these days, and no high school freshman would use the term "underlying."  It's obvious that Jack really likes Jill, but he just won't drop the girlfriend-- or Jill.

I don't know which way I want it to go.  On the one hand, I want Jill to be happy, so I want Jack to break up with the girlfriend.  On the other hand, I want to punch Jack in the face and I think he would do the exact same thing to Jill that he's doing to his girlfriend.  I've been thinking about having a "talk" with Jack, but I'm not sure if that would help the situation.  Sugar: How do I make at least one of them see the light and realize that what they're doing is wrong?

Worried Friend

Oh, please.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was thirteen years old.  Given, I was the youngest in my class, so let's go ahead and assume that "Worried Friend" is fourteen years old.  Did that letter seem like it was written by a fourteen-year-old?  Yeah, I didn't think so, either.  Also, what fucking fourteen-year-old has heard of The Rumpus or Dear Sugar?  Is that what teens are looking at on the internet these days?  What a load of crap.  This letter was clearly Cheryl Strayed's lame attempt at trying to write like a young teenager, and she failed miserably.  So.  Fucking.  Stupid.

Let's get right to Cheryl's super awesome response to Worried Friend herself:

Dear Worried Friend,

Drama, drama, drama indeed!  Oh, but this one's easy, sweet pea.  And hard.  Go fuck yourself.  But best to learn it now, since, as a freshman in high school, you're only at the very beginning of these sorts of hijinks.  Hijinks?  Really?  Jean-Paul Sartre famously said that "hell is other people," which is true enough, but truer still is hell is other people's boyfriends (or girlfriends, as the case may be).  Cheryl, I know you think you're being clever, but you're really just talking out of your ass at this point.  Hell is not other people's anything.  Hell is a personal thing, and while I understand that you want to sound super smart for referencing Sartre, you failed.  You sound like an asshole.  OH MY GOD, I'M IN SUCH HELL BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.  OH GOD, PLEASE HELP, I'M BURNING.  Cheryl, go fuck yourself.

I've been witness to those I care about cheating and being cheated on, lying and being lied to, emotionally abusing and being emotionally abused by their lovers.  I've consoled and counseled.  I've listened to long and tedious tales of spectacularly disastrous romantic woe that I predicted from the start because that same friend chose the same wrong person yet a-fucking-gain.  But the sad news is that this is the way or the world, darling, and there isn't a ding dang damn thing you can do about it.

Please know that I very much want to insert the exploding-head guy GIF right now and I am just barely controlling myself.  There isn't a ding dang damn thing?  Also, "yet a-fucking-gain?" This is the kind of language you choose to use when addressing in child?  Really?  Motherrrrrrrrrfuckerrrrrrrr........

Have you read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet yet?  They do all kinds of crazy, stupid, sweet, tender, amazing, self-destructive things.  You aren't going to make anyone "see the light and realize that what they're doing is wrong."  You just aren't.

And you shouldn't even try.  What's happening between Jack and Jill is between Jack and Jill.  Jill knows that Jack is involved with someone else.  She chooses to be in a romantic relationship with him anyway.  Jack chooses to deceive a young woman he presumably cares for and string along another.  These are not pretty things, but they are true things.  Kind of like how you were fucking anything with a pulse while you were married, right, Strayed?

Don't get me wrong: I sympathize.  I know I sound calm and collected, but the truth is I rather regularly come at least internally unglued over some buffoon or scoundrel that one or the other of my intimates has deemed to "love" (see: hell is other people's boyfriends).  Third time.  Told you.  It's dreadful to watch a friend make choices that you fear will cause her pain.  But this is where boundaries come in, my dear Worried Friend.

Do you know what boundaries are?

As referenced in the introduction, Cheryl responded to a very vague question ("WTF, WTF, WTF?  I'm asking this question as it applies to everything every day") with a load of virtual word-vomit about how she supposedly had to give her grandfather handjobs, which was unnecessary and uncalled for, to which I responded, "BOUNDARIES, Cheryl.  It's a thing."
 It just gets worse.
The best, sanest people on the planet do [understand what boundaries are], and since I have no doubt that you will become one of those sorts of people, you might as well learn about them sooner rather than later.  This little pickle with Jack and Jill and the young woman at the other school has given you just that opportunity.  It's clear to me that the emotions that have arisen in your concern for Jill and your subsequent dislike of Jack have blurred your ability to understand appropriate boundaries.  Your impulse to swoop in and set these lovebirds straight tells me that you're overestimating your power and influence, and you're also disrespecting Jill's right to romantic self-determination-- which she absolutely has, no matter how maddening her decisions may be to you.


This isn't to say you should remain silent.  Another thing that the best, sanest people on the planet do is they have the guts to tell the truth.

You should tell Jill what you told me-- that you want her to be happy, but because Jack is a two-timing tomcat you fear he will someday treat her the way he is treating his other, "real" girlfriend.
Listen to what she says with an open heart and a critical mind.  Love her even if she doesn't do what you hope she does one you point out the fact that her paramour is a scumbag.  Wish her the best without getting yourself emotionally tangled up in a situation that has nothing to do with you.  (Remember those boundaries?  Her life is not yours.  Yours is not hers.  Et cetera.)
And then, Worried Friend, just let whatever happens between Jack and Jill happen.  Laugh if they end up proving you wrong.  Be there for Jill if you got it right.  And in the meanwhile, cultivate an understanding of a bunch of the other things that the best, sanest people on the planet know: that life is very long, that people both change and remain the same, that every last one of us will need to fuck up and be forgiven, that we're all just walking and walking and walking and trying to find our way, that all roads lead eventually to the mountaintop.

Fuck this book.  Fuck Cheryl Strayed (not literally-- please, not literally-- think of your genitals).  I just can't even, anymore.  Despite what Better-Than-Jesus-Cheryl has to say, life *is not long*.  Life is SHORT.  Life is short enough that I can't waste one more minute of mine writing about this stupid bullshit.
Fuck you, Cheryl Strayed.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things, Letter #9

GODDAMNIT, THIS BOOK IS SO AWFUL.  I took a week off from the blog in order to read decent books and attempt to reclaim some of my sanity.  This probably wasn't the smartest idea because now I hate this stupid shit more than ever.
Letter #9
This is the first time so far when I hate the person asking for advice more than I hate Cheryl Strayed (YOU'RE A CLOSE SECOND, ELISSA BASSIST), but then again, there is no chance in hell that this is a real letter.  Cheryl likely wrote this garbage herself, which explains why I hate this "man" so much.  Let's get this over with.  Enjoy this very manly letter from a man.  It's totally real.
Dear Sugar,
Three of my best college buddies and I go away for an annual guy's weekend at a cabin in the woods.  We're all in our mid-thirties and we've been doing these get-togethers for close to a decade.  It's our way of staying in touch, since we've all got busy lives and some of us reside in different cities.  Though at times I'll go months without talking to them, I consider these guys my closest friends.  We've seen each other through several relationships, two weddings, one divorce, one of us coming out as gay, one of us realizing he's an alcoholic and getting sober, one of us becoming a father, dysfunctional family issues, the death of another one of our close college friends, professional successes and failures, and-- you get the picture.
On our most recent get-together a couple of months ago, I overheard my friends discussing me.  Before this incident occurred, the four of us had been on the subject of my love life.  My longtime girlfriend and I broke up last year for reasons I won't go into here, but I did go into with my friends back when she and I decided to end things.  Not long before my weekend with the guys, she and I got back together and I told them my ex and I were making a go of it again.  They didn't say much in response, but I wouldn't have expected them to.
Later that day I stepped out for a walk, but soon realized I'd forgotten my hat, so I returned to the cabin to get it.  The moment I opened the door I could hear my friends in the kitchen discussing me.  I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but I couldn't keep myself from listening, since they were talking about my girlfriend and me.  I wouldn't say they were trashing me, but they did make critical remarks about the way I "justify" my relationship and other things about my personality that were unflattering.  About five minutes into this, I opened the door and shut it hard so they would know I was there and they stopped talking.
I tried to pretend I hadn't heard what they'd said, but soon I told them what had happened.  They were extremely embarrassed.  Each of them apologized, assured me they meant nothing by what they said, and claimed they were only concerned that I'd gotten back together with my girlfriend, who they don't think is good for me.  I played it off like it was cool and acted like I wanted to let bygones be bygones, but it's been two months and I'm still bothered by what happened.  I feel betrayed.  It's none of their business who I choose to date for one thing, and for another I'm pissed they were running me down like that.
I recognize that I'm possibly taking this too hard.  I'll admit that I have talked about each of them with the others over the years.  I've made statements I wouldn't want the person in question to hear, even secondhand.  The rational part of me understands that these sorts of discussions among friends are to be expected.  It sounds weak to admit this, but I'm hurt.  Part of me wants to tell them to go fuck themselves when it comes to the weekend at the cabin next year.
What do you think?  Should I forgive and forget or find a new batch of buddies?
Odd Man Out
OMFG.  Seriously?  We're supposed to believe an actual man wrote this?
Gentlemen readers, please enlighten us.  Is this the sort of stupid bullshit that goes on when you fellows have your Man Holidays?  Do you gossip about each other as soon as someone leaves the room and eventually at least one of you ends up crying?  Does this happen before or after you braid one another's hair and watch all of the Twilight movies?  Women are dying to know.
Sweet baby Jesus.  Fuck this nonsense right in the face.  Fine, though, whatever.  Here's my advice to Odd Man Out:
Get the fuck over it.
Hugs and kisses,
That's really all that needs to be said.  Bad Cheryl, however, has to spend six goddamned pages on this idiocy, even though she and I are pretty much in agreement about the fact that OMO needs to grow a pair.
She starts with,
"What a disaster.  How dreadful it must have been to hear your friends saying negative things about you.  How mortified they must have felt when they learned you'd been listening.  You have every reason to be upset and hurt."

No.  No, you don't.  You stood there in the doorway and secretly listened to your friends talking about your dumb ass and your bitch girlfriend and for that, you deserved to hear every fucking word.  "I wasn't trying to eavesdrop" is a load of bullshit.  If you weren't trying to eavesdrop, you would have quickly retrieved your dumb fucking hat and gone on your supposed walk or, if you were a mature human being capable of dealing with reality, you would have walked into the room and said something like, "I just heard what you guys were saying and, as good friends, I feel like we should be able to talk openly about this because your opinions mean a lot to me."  Instead, you stood there listening and got all butthurt about what they were saying.

Insert yourself into your own vagina and sqeeze, douchebag.

Bad Cheryl follows up her pretend condolences with this shit:

"And yet... and yet-- you knew there was going to be an 'and yet,' didn't you?"


She spends an entire page talking about ways to talk about friends behind their backs, after which she then spends two pages talking about how much Odd Man Out's friends totes love him and--

Wait, what was that first part?
WTF.  If I love you, I will not talk behind your back.  As uncomfortable and painful as it may be, I will tell you to your face what's on my mind.  If I think you're making bad decisions, I will tell you.  THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS DO.  Bad Cheryl, on the other hand, thinks it's totally fine to talk shit about her friends behind their backs.
Dear "friends" of Cheryl Strayed,
I'm so sorry.  Please find a better friend.


BC then spends two pages discussing a friend's personal problems and how she totally gave her friend the totes best advice ever and because her friend didn't listen, everything went down the toilet.

"It took another several months...before she believed I was right."
Blah, blah, blah, this shit goes on forever, and she ends the whole thing with,
"That's what you have in these men, Odd Man Out.  True friends.  Real blessings.  Forgive them.  Feel lucky you have them.  Move along."


Oh, right.  Because Cheryl Strayed.

I hate this book so much.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter #7

I feel like I should start every post with that picture.
Oh, god.  You have no idea what's in store this time around.  Bad Cheryl is going to give some writing advice and I am going to lose my fucking mind.  Do whatever you need to do to mentally prepare yourselves for everything that follows.  Honestly, nothing will prepare you, but tequila might help.
Letter #7

The letter will be in bold, italicized type.  The comments I will be unable to refrain from making will be in regular type.  Let's do this.

Dear Sugar,

I write like a girl.  I hate you already.  I write about my lady life experiences, and that usually comes out as unfiltered emotion, unrequited love, and eventual discussion of my vagina as metaphor.  Please stop writing right now.  And that's when I can write, which doesn't happen to be true anymore.  Thank god.

Right now, I am a pathetic and confused young woman of twenty-six, a writer who can't write.  I totally agree with everything you just said.  I am up late asking you a question, really questioning myself.  I've sat here, at my desk, for hours, mentally immobile.  I bet.  I look up people I used to love and wonder why they never loved me.  I lie facedown on my bed and feel scared.  I get up, go to the computer, feel worse.  That's probably because you write things like this.

David Foster Wallace called himself a failed writer at twenty-eight.  You are no David Foster Wallace.  Several months ago, when depression hooked its teeth into me, I complained to my then-boyfriend about how I'll never be as good as Wallace; he screamed at me on Guerrero Street in San Francisco, "STOP IT.  HE KILLED HIMSELF, ELISSA.  I HOPE TO GOD YOU ARE NEVER LIKE HIM."  Don't worry, then-boyfriend.  Elissa will never be like DFW.  Also, the mention of Guerrero Street in San Francisco really added something special to the story.  I'm glad that was in there.  It's the sort of useless fact Cheryl Strayed likes to pepper into her stor--  hmmmm.

I understand women like me are hurting and dealing with self-trivialization, contempt for other, more successful people, misplaced compassion, addiction, and depression, whether they are writers or not.  Think of the canon of women writers; a unifying theme is that so many of their careers ended in suicide.  Yeah, instead of that, I'm going to think of all the female writers who didn't commit suicide; they outnumber the ones who did by a long shot.  STFU, you melodramatic assheap.  I often explain to my mother that to be a writer/a woman/a woman writer means to suffer mercilessly and eventually collapse in a heap of "I could have been better than this."  Being a woman has nothing to do with being a writer.  Also, being a "writer/woman/woman writer" decidedly does not automatically mean one has to "suffer mercilessly and eventually collapse in a heap of 'I could have been better than this.'"  You sound like a self-absorbed asshole.  She pleads with me: Can't it be different?  Yes, Elissa's mom, it can be different.  Your daughter is a twat.

Can it?  YES.  I want to jump out the window for what I've boiled down to is one reason: I can't write a book.  The window is right over there.  But it's not that I want to die so much as have an entirely different life.  I start to think that I should choose another profession-- as Lorrie Moore suggests, "movie star/astronaut, a movie star/missionary, a movie star/kindergarten teacher."  I've never heard of Lorrie Moore, but none of that bullshit made any sense.  Good job all around, everybody.  I want to throw off everything I've accumulated and begin as someone new, someone better.

I don't have a bad life.  I didn't have a painful childhood.  I know I'm not the first depressed writer.  Go fuck yourself, Elissa.  "Depressed writer"-- because the latter is less accurate, the former is more acute.  Learn how sentences work.  I've been clinically diagnosed with major depressive disorder and have an off-and-on relationship with prescription medication, which I confide so it doesn't seem I throw around the word "depression."  First of all, anyone with a pulse can get prescription medication, you fucktard.   You're not special.  Secondly, while I'm no doctor, I suspect the vague term "major depressive disorder" is synonymous with "nothing actually wrong, but asshole patient can't get over the fact that she's a shitty writer," so whoa, yeah, big problem you got there.  Sounds serious.  Lastly, you actually seem to enjoy throwing the word "depression" around.  You've used "depressed" or "depression" six times now.  Eat a bag of dicks.

That said, I'm high-functioning-- a high-functioning head case, one who jokes enough that most people don't know the truth.  I bet you're super funny.  The truth: I am sick with panic that I cannot-- will not-- override my limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude, to write well, with intelligence and heart and lengthiness.  Your panic is justified.  And I fear that even if I do manage to write, that the stories I write-- about my vagina, etc.-- will be disregarded and mocked.  Oh, come now.  I bet "Elissa's Vagina" will be a New York Times bestseller.

How do I reach the page when I can't lift my face off the bed?  How does one go on, Sugar, when you realize you might not have it in you?  How does a woman get up and become the writer she wishes she'd be?

Elissa Bassist

Holy shit, this dumbass used her real name.  You know how I feel about fact-checking, so it goes without saying that I immediately Googled the shit out of Elissa Bassist.  As it turns out, she has her very own website.  She has a bunch of tabs on the top of her page, one of which is "Books Published."  I clicked on it.  Here's a screenshot of what happened when I did that:

This is when I howled with laughter and couldn't stop for a good five minutes.  I guess Bad Cheryl's super awesome advice didn't do one or two or even three bits of good for Elissa Bassist.  Let's see what she had to say to Elissa.
(Please note, it takes Bad Cheryl THREE FUCKING PAGES to write anything that even starts to resemble advice.  She needs to talk about herself first because Cheryl Strayed.)
Let's get on with it.
Bad Cheryl starts with,
"When I was twenty-eight I had a chalkboard in my living room.  It was one of those two-sided wooden A-frames that stand on their own and fold flat.  On one side of the chalkboard I wrote, 'The first product of self-knowledge is humility,' Flannery O'Connor, and on the other side I wrote, 'She sat and thought of only one thing, of her mother holding and holding onto their hands,' Eudora Welty."

What is with this woman's giant boner for Flannery O'Connor.

"The quote from Eudora Welty is from her novel The Optimist's Daughter, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in  1972.  It was a book I read again and again, and that line about the woman who sat thinking of only one thing was at the heart of the reason why.  I sat like that too."
 --except not, because Bad Cheryl doesn't understand what "only one thing" means--

"Thinking of only one thing."
That's not a sentence.

"One thing was actually two things pressed together, like the back-to-back quotes on my chalkboard: how much I missed my mother and how the only way I could bear to live without her was to write a book.  My book.  The one that I'd known was in me since way before  knew people like me could have books inside of them.  The one I felt pulsing in my chest like a second heart, formless and unimaginable until my mother died, and there it was, the plot revealed, the story I couldn't live without telling."

OH MY FUCKING GOD.  "Two things pressed together" ≠ one thing.

She continues, telling Elissa Bassist that she was totes bummed out by the fact that she hadn't written a book by the age of twenty-eight.  She notes, however, that she was still super awesome and way better than Elissa Bassist in one of her signature sentence fragments:

"Without a book, but not entirely without literary acclaim."

She's too amazing for failure.  I'm in awe.  She then brags about how she "read voraciously" and "practically memorized the work of writers" she loved.  In a display of modesty, she explains,

"I recorded my life copiously and artfully in my journals."

She finishes up the paragraph with,

"I wrote stories in feverish, intermittent bursts, believing they'd miraculously form a novel without my having to suffer too much over it."

This sentiment sounds so familiar...

"As I hiked, I pondered the ice ax that would be in my resupply box.  The ice ax that allegedly belonged to me.  It was black and silver and dangerous-looking, an approximately two-foot-long metal dagger with a shorter, sharper dagger that ran crosswise at the end.  I bought it, brought it home, and placed it in the box labeled Kennedy Meadows, assuming that by the time I actually reached Kennedy Meadows I would know how to use it-- having by then been inexplicably transformed into an expert mountaineer."
--Wild, Chapter 6, page 89 
Why does this woman think that she is under no obligation to put forth any effort in any circumstance?  Why does she seem to be under the impression that things should just magically happen?
Oh, wait.  I spoke too soon.  She has an epiphany.
"As my thirtieth birthday approached, I realized that if I truly wanted to write the story I had to tell, I would have to gather everything within me to make it happen.  I would have to sit and think of only one thing longer and harder than I thought possible.  I would have to suffer.  By which I mean work."

Oh, man.  You're gonna have to *work* for something?

She then spends three paragraphs writing sentence fragments until,

"In short, I had to gain the self-knowledge that Flannery O'Connor mentions in that quote I wrote on my chalkboard.  And once I got there I had to make a hard stop at self-knowledge's first product: humility."

Then this happens:

"Do you know what that is, sweet pea?  To be humble?"

We're then treated to a Latin lesson on the origin of the word humility and I'd totally tell you all about it, but I'm busy sponging my brains off of the wall.

She spends a couple paragraphs explaining how she's pretty much the best at being humble and starts the next paragraph with,

"I hope you'll think hard about that, honey bun.  If you had a two-sided chalkboard in your living room I'd write humility on one side and surrender on the other for you."

Oh, jesus.

"The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there's arrogance at its core."

Cheryl Strayed is writing about humility and arrogance because Cheryl Strayed.

Blah, blah, blah, then she tells Elissa that she probably won't be taken seriously as a writer because she's a girl and what the fuck.  She follows with,

"It's still true that literary works by women, gays, and writers of color are often framed as specific rather than universal, small rather than big, personal or particular rather than socially significant."
I don't even.  She finally gets to something that could pass for advice, and she fucks it all up:
"Write so blazingly good that you can't be framed."

Yeah.  WRITE GOOD.  Excellent advice.  Brilliant.  I guess now we know why Elissa hasn't written a book yet.
"Writing is hard for every last one of us-- straight white men included.  Coal mining is harder.  Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal?  They do not.  The simply dig."
Illustrating what it means to write good, Bad Cheryl says, 
"You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug."

She finishes everything with,
"So write, Elissa Bassist.  Not like a girl.  Not like a boy.  Write like a motherfucker."

That's it?  Write good and write like a motherfucker?  Good luck with that advice, Elissa.  Can't wait to read about your vagina.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter #6 Because Fuck Letter #5

Letter #5 was so incredibly stupid that I couldn't deal with it.  Maybe I'll circle back and cover it at some point, but probably not.  Here, let me sum it all up for you:

Dear Sugar,

Blah blah blah, stupid bullshit, blah blah blah, super dumb fucking question that any SEN child could answer.  Omg, I heart you, Sugar.  You're totes the most smartest.

Some Asshole

Bad Cheryl then spends eight goddamned pages talking about herself, her dead mom, her supposedly horrible father and she sorta answers Some Asshole's dumb question at some point, but not really.  The End.

Not worth our time, people.  Trust me.  Let's move on.

Letter #6

Paraphrasing is fun, but sometimes I feel like you should read these questions for yourselves.

Here it is in its glorious entirety:

Dear Sugar,

I'm in my early twenties.  I've been in a serious relationship with the same guy for six years-- on and off (the "off" portion taking place when I was younger).  I have been very distracted and have been second-guessing the relationship for a while now, but I can't come to grips with losing this person that seems to be right for me permanently-- and of course I don't want to break his heart.  Then again, I don't want to settle and have regrets later in life.  I feel like we want different things out of life and we have different interests, but I just can't decide.  I have talked to him about my feelings, but to no avail.  We went on a little "break," but breaks never work.

My biggest fear is being alone and never finding anyone that measures up.  It doesn't help that my closest friends are settling down with their boyfriends and are talking about marriage.  Please help, Sugar!

Scared and Confused

[sic] <--- Is this not a thing anymore?  Have we finally achieved a level of (borderline) illiteracy that allows for grammatical errors to go unchecked?  'Merica.

                                       See how that works?  I should be a teacher.


Okay, let's start by pointing out that Scared and Confused didn't ask a question.
"Please help!"
=Not a question.
Whatever.  Let's explore Bad Cheryl's response.  With no preface whatsoever, she begins her profoundly wise response with,
"I lived in London when I was twenty.  I was technically homeless and desperately broke, but I didn't have the papers an American needs to get a job in London, so I spent most of my time walking the streets searching for coins that people had dropped.  One day, a man in a business suit approached me and asked me if I wanted an under-the-table job three days a week at a major accounting firm that has since collapsed due to corruption.
"'Sure,' I said.
"And this is how I became coffee girl one two three." 

I don't know what this has to do with anything, but we can tell already that this is gonna be super insightful.

"Coffee girl was my actual job title.  The one two three was tacked on to communicate the fact that I was responsible for providing fresh and hot coffee and tea to all the accountants and secretaries who worked on the first three floors of the building.  It was a harder job than you might think."

No, it probably wasn't, but okay.  She then goes on to describe her coffee girl outfit because apparently this detail is imperative in helping Scared and Confused figure out her relationship issues.  Then,

"...and I was almost always out of breath.  Banned from the elevator, I had to race up and down steps in the back stairwell that ran along the back of the building to get from one floor to the next."

Let me get this straight.  Your whole job was to deliver hot beverages to everyone on the first three floors of an office building and for reasons left unexplained, you were banned from the elevator?  Did you take a dump in there on your first day?  I don't understand.

"During my breaks I walked down to the first floor and went outside and sat on a patch of concrete that edged the building that housed the major accounting firm that has since collapsed due to corruption."

Yes, we got it.  You already mentioned the fact that this unnamed accounting firm would collapse due to corruption.  In fact, you used the exact same words the first time.

One day, an old lady came along and had such a nice little chat with Bad Cheryl that she apparently made a point to show up every single day just to enjoy Bad Cheryl's company because of course she did.  Who wouldn't?

Brace yourselves--

"She wasn't the only person who came to talk to me.  I was in love with someone at the time.  In fact, I was married to that someone.  And I was in way over my head.  At night after I made love to this man I would lie beside him and cry because I knew that I loved him and that I couldn't bear to stay with him because I wasn't ready to love only one person yet and I knew that if I left him I would die of a broken heart and I would kill him of a broken heart too and it would be over for me when it came to love because there would never be another person who I'd love as much as I loved him or who loved me as much as he loved me or who was as sweet and sexy and cool and compassionate and good through and through."

What the fuck was that.  The paragraph isn't over, though--
"So I stayed.  We looked for coins on the streets of London together.  And sometimes he would come and visit me at the major accounting firm that has since collapsed due to corruption while I was on my breaks."

STOP SAYING THAT.  GODDMANIT.  NO ONE CARES.  Also, what the hell is this repeated crap about looking for coins on the streets?  This is ridiculous.  I've typed every variation of "where the fuck did Cheryl Strayed live in London" into Google and I can't find anything.  She says she was "technically homeless," which means "not homeless."  How many coins did these two assholes find on the street?  I'm moving to London.  The streets are apparently littered with discarded money.  Here's a close-up Google Maps image of Oxford Street:

Oh, christ.  Anyway, her husband shows up one day after what we can only imagine was a productive morning of picking oodles of money off the street and the old lady is sitting with Bad Cheryl.  They say hello and stuff and then the old lady walks away.
"The man I loved was silent for a good while, giving the old woman time to walk away, and then he looked at me and said with some astonishment, 'She has a bundle on her head.'
"'She has a bundle on her head?' I said.
"'She has a bundle on her head,' he said back."


"And then we laughed and laughed and laughed so hard it might to this day still be the time I laughed the hardest."

Of course.  You laughed and laughed and laughed.  Wait a minute, though.  What the fuck are you talking about?

"That old woman, all that time, all through the conversations we'd had as I sat on the concrete patch, had had an enormous bundle on her head.  She appeared perfectly normal in every way but this one: she wore an impossible three-foot tower of ratty old rags and ripped-up blankets and towels on top of her head, held there by a complicated system of ropes tied beneath her chin and fastened to loops on the shoulders of her raincoat."


Only Cheryl Strayed could be so self-absorbed to have failed to notice a fucking garbage heap sitting atop a woman's head.

It only gets worse--

"She has a bundle on her head! we shrieked to each other through our laughter on the patch of concrete that day, but before long I wasn't laughing anymore.  I was crying.  I cried and cried and cried as hard as I'd laughed.  I cried so hard I didn't go back to work.  My job as coffee girl one two three ended right then and there."

This woman hosts writing workshops.  She charges up to THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS.  She will teach you how to write and write and write.

So, she's sitting there crying and crying and crying and,

"I was crying because there was a bundle on the old woman's head and I hadn't been able to say that there was because I knew that that was somehow connected to the fact that I didn't want to stay with a man I loved anymore but I couldn't bring myself to acknowledge what was so very obvious and so very true."
I can't-- oh, god, it's happening again--

Let's see how Cheryl ties all of this bullshit into anything to do with Sacred and Confused's "question."
"That was such a long time ago, Scared & Confused, but it all came back when I read your letter.  It made me think that perhaps that moment delivered me here to say this to you:  You have a bundle on your head, sweet pea.  And though that bundle may be impossible for you to see right now, it's entirely visible to me.  You aren't torn.  You're only just afraid.  You no longer wish to be in a relationship with your lover even though he's a great guy... The end of your relationship with him will likely also mark the end of an era of your life.  In moving into this next era there are going to be things you lose and things you gain.
"Trust yourself.  It's Sugar's golden rule.  Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true."

I guess since Scared and Confused didn't really pose a question, she deserved this response.

I'm tired and confused.  I'm going to bed.