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:
 
 
Ma'am,
 
Get the fuck over it.
 
Hugs and kisses,
Cali
 
 
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?"

Ugh.

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.
 

Cali


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."
SHE'S ALWAYS 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."

GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHY DID IT TAKE SIX PAGES TO SAY THAT.

Oh, right.  Because Cheryl Strayed.

I hate this book so much.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter #7


I AM THIS CAT.
 
 
 
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?

Sincerely,
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?"
HOW AM I STILL ALIVE.

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."
WHAT?
 
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."
CHERYL STRAYED: ALSO AN EXPERT COAL MINER.
 
 
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."

WE'VE NEVER MET BEFORE.
 
 
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.

Love,
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!

Sincerely,
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."

Huh?

"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."

WHAT.  THE FUCK.

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--

YOU KNOW WHY.
 
 
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."
ADVICE JUST HAPPENED. 

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.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter #4


This book is so stupid.  I can't even tell you.

Remember when I started the review of this book and I was all, "I'm gonna need a few days to read through the whole thing and take notes and blah blah blah whatever?"  Yeah, that didn't really happen.  I tried; I skimmed through the first few letters and ultimately decided that it was necessary to momentarily take a break from everything Bad Cheryl in order to partially reclaim my sanity after the whole "Wild" escapade.  Letter #4 was the last letter I read before I threw up my hands and said, "Fuck this noise."  After this post, everything from here on out will be written as I'm reading it.  Get ready for the last thing I bothered to read ahead of time.

This is the dumbest fucking letter.  I don't even feel the need to paraphrase.


Dear Sugar,

I'm crushing in middle age.  That's pretty much it.  I'm middle-aged, married, and crushing on a friend.  And it's full-blown, just like in high school, sweaty palms, distracted, giddy, the whole shebang.  So far it has gone no further than flirting and I really, really know better.  My question isn't what should I do (I'm pretty clear I should behave), but what should I do with all this delightful but distressing energy?

Crushed


Why did I decide to review this book.
 
 
What a stupid fucking question. 
 
If you disregard all the preceding juvenile bullshit, the question itself is, "I have a giant boner; what should I do with it?"
 
Okay.  Let's do this.  Time for me to give my own inept advice.  Get ready.
 
 
Dear Crushed,
 
Instead of trying to figure out what you should do with your newfound sexual energy, maybe you should be more concerned about your marriage and its future.  Maybe you should be asking yourself why you're getting all googly-eyed over your friend instead of the person you vowed to love forever.  Maybe you need to reassess your marriage and your priorities and your life, because if you genuinely don't know what to do with your sexual energy, you're failing at marriage.  You're cheating your spouse.  You're not cheating on your spouse (yet), but you're cheating your spouse out of your affection.  If you're supposedly so sure about how you should be behaving, you wouldn't be asking this question in the first place.  Since, however, you feel the need to ask this question, I would strongly advise you to reevaluate your life choices.  I would advise you to ask yourself if you really love your spouse and truly wish to spend the rest of your life with this person, and then force yourself to be painfully honest in your response.
 
Do not involve your spouse in this inner struggle.  Do not play emotional games with your spouse just so you can get your rocks off, because if and when you come to the conclusion that you no longer want to be married, you will have only managed to hurt this poor, unsuspecting person more than necessary, and you will have done so for unacceptable, selfish reasons. 
 
Get your shit together.
 
Cali
 
 
It seems as if Bad Cheryl and I have very opposing views on this matter.  "Sugar" writes,
 
"Steer clear of the object of your crush and use that 'delightful but distressing energy' to reinvest in what matters most to you-- your marriage, it seems.  Do something extra sweet for your spouse this week.  Have sex tonight and make it hella hot and good.  Go for a long walk or a lingering dinner together and lovingly discuss how you're going to keep your love as well as your romance strong."
Hella.  That word happened. 
 

OHMYGOD, OOOHHHHHH STROKE, STROKE, IT'S HAPPENING, I'M HAVING A STROKE.

So, essentially, Bad Cheryl's response to this is, "Bang your spouse!  It'll be great!"  I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a cheating whore like Bad Cheryl thinks that sex is the answer to everything.  HOW MANY OTHER MEN DID YOU SLEEP WITH WHEN YOU WERE STILL MARRIED?  Like, 18,000, something like that?  YOU'RE PRETTY MUCH THE BEST PERSON TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION, except the opposite of that.

She ends it all with some kind of twisted math analogy:

"My inbox is jammed with emails from people who are... tortured by indecision and guilt and lust.  They love X but want to fuck Z.  It is the plight of almost every monogamous person at one time or another.  We all love X but want to fuck Z.
"Z is so gleaming, so crystalline, so unlikely to bitch at you for neglecting to take out the recycling.  Nobody has to haggle with Z.  Z doesn't wear a watch.  Z is like a motorcycle with no one on it.  Beautiful.  Going nowhere."

"It is the plight of almost every monogamous person at one time or another."  NO, IT IS NOT, YOU STUPID WHORE.

So, there we have it.  I want this person to take a life inventory and make some tough decisions.  Strayed wants this person to have sex and call it a day.

I'm not saying that I'm right-- not at all.  I'm just saying that I think matters of life and love and reality are far too complicated to be solved by a romp in the sheets.

Your turn.  Go.
 



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter #3


OH MY GOD, it's like every chapter is worse than the last.  I've been dreading this one for a couple days now.  I can't even believe that I'm going to have to deal with this question.  I really thought about going straight to Letter #4, but I know that dozens of you are now reading this pile of crap book along with me just to see what I'll say and you'd never let me get away with skipping it (I love getting your emails, but please stop telling me these things).  Goddamn this stupid book.  Also, goddamn you people for spending money on it just so you can follow along.  What are you thinking?  At least I know I'll never be sued for doing this.  I'm actually making Cheryl Strayed richer with every post. 

PSA:  Libraries.  They exist.  You can borrow books for free.  It's a thing.

Let's get started.  Remember, words in bold type are actual quotes from the "person seeking advice."  (You know why I put quotations around that.  We all know who wrote this letter.)


Letter #3


Dear Sugar,

I'm a twenty-one-year-old guy.  I'm in college right now.  Though I work full-time to pay for some of my bills, I'm still dependent on my parents for room and board.  I also use their car.  I also can't write very well.  Look at these sentences.  I have no problem living with my parents-- at least I wouldn't if I wasn't gay.  I should have used the word "weren't" right there, but I didn't because college isn't doing much for me; I probably won't get my college degree because I'll fail to write a 5-page paper.  My parents are fundamentalist Christians.  They believe that being a homosexual is a "sin" that someone struggles with similar to alcoholism or drug addiction and that gays should repent and see Jesus and this confuses me because I'm a dude and Jesus is a dude and "seeing him" sounds sort of gay.  Should I buy him a promise ring?

My parents know I'm gay but they don't acknowledge it.  They believe I've repented and found Jesus.  When I was seventeen, my mom threatened to kick me out of the house because she didn't want my "diseased behavior under her roof."  In order to avoid getting kicked out, I had to go to Christian counseling to de-gay myself, sort of like that camp from "But I'm a Cheerleader," but it totally didn't work because I couldn't find my Root.  I don't hate my parents, but I strongly dislike them for their treatment of me.  They think I'm straight, but they don't trust me.  Please don't notice that the first sentence of this paragraph was, "My parents know I'm gay but they don't acknowledge it," because that completely contradicts what I just said there.  My mom constantly checks on me, often barging into my room seemingly in hopes of catching me doing something, and I'm like, "MOM.  Wouldn't you rather watch Dad masturbate?  You're being creepy."  If I go out, I have to tell my parents exactly who I'm with or I won't be able to use their car.  They refuse to leave the Internet connected if I'm at home alone, and they hide the modem when they go to bed because they are afraid that I'll look at "sinful" material that will pull me back into the "gay lifestyle" because apparently I wrote this letter like twelve years ago and I'm just now getting around to sending it.  From my smart phone.  Which requires no modem.

Though I act straight around my parents and sister, I am out to friends and co-workers and also to my brother (who accepts me unconditionally).  It's a huge strain to live a double life.  I've had two gay relationships.  My parents know my current boyfriend is gay and they treat him like he's going to reinfect me with his gay-ness.  Wait, what the fuck did I just write?  "My parents know my current boyfriend is gay."  I'm so confused.  Nothing I'm saying makes sense.

I could move out like a normal fucking adult, but even though I have this full-time job, I can't afford to do so.  One option that has arisen recently is that a good friend asked if I wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest with her-- I live on the East Coast-- and I'm seriously considering it, especially because I know that YOU, Sugar, live in the Pacific Northwest and isn't this terribly convenient.  The thing is, I don't want to run away from my problems and I really like the guy I'm in a relationship with, but right now I feel like I'm stuck in a situation that is hopeless.  I feel suffocated by the expectations of those on both sides of my double life.  One side would damn me to hell if they found out I was gay.  The other side wants me to cut myself off from my family.

Is there any advice you could offer that could help?

Cheryl Strayed  Some Gay Dude


Motherfucker.  Are you kidding me with this question.

Let's get this over with.  This time, instead of my own advice, I'll answer with what Bad Cheryl should have written:

Dear Some Gay Dude,

No.  I don't really have any advice that could help.  I'm an asshole.

Love,
Sugar



I don't even.  I mean, this clearly is not a real person asking for real advice.  This is Bad Cheryl writing a letter in the way she thinks a troubled gay person would write a letter, and she does it so she can respond in a way that will make her seem BRAVE and then say SUPER SUPPORTIVE THINGS to make herself seem PROFOUNDLY ACCEPTING and WORTHY OF OUR WORSHIP.  You know what?  It's 2015.  If you support gay rights, congratulations on being a normal, decent person.  I'm not gonna fall to my knees and weep with gratitude over the fact that you're not an asshole.  Frankly, if you still have a problem with gay people at this point in time, go fuck yourself.

This letter makes no sense.  NO SENSE.

You know what?  I'm gonna turn the tables just this once and go Full Cheryl.  Yeah.  I'm gonna do it.

If you've been following along from the start, you already know that I'm gay.  For those of you just joining, SURPRISE!  I'M GAY!  I came out to my family when I was 13 and came out to the rest of the world when I was 15.  In the early Nineties.  In Ohio.  Before Ellen, before 'Will and Grace,' before 'Queer as Folk', before anything-- before it was the norm. 

I was a very active volunteer in the Gay Community as a teenager.  I did a lot of public speaking: I went to different high schools in the area and talked about being a gay youth as a guest speaker in health classes; I was a speaker at the Cleveland Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.  I was a speaker at the Cleveland Clinic for a regional conference for doctors and guidance counselors.  I worked on a crisis hotline for suicidal gay youth.  I was also openly gay in high school and went well outside my comfort zone -- not to confront, per se-- but to talk to people who felt the need to shout out offensive things at me.  Instead of ignoring it all and walking by, I would stop, pull up a chair and say something like, "Look.  You probably think you don't know anyone who is gay, and that's why you feel comfortable insulting me the way you just did.  I'm assuming you don't like gay people because you don't understand what gay people are all about, and ignorance of something justifies fear and hatred.  I'm sitting here, now.  Ask me anything.  I will answer as truthfully as I can."  Geeeeeez, the pair of lady-balls I had on me.  But you know what?  It worked.  They'd sit there for a moment, stunned, and then they would open up.  I would always let them ask their questions and I would always answer as honestly as I could.  Without fail, I would walk away from those conversations with a handful of new friends.  By the time I graduated, not a single person in school gave me a problem about my homosexuality (with the exception of the school board).

In the 20+ years I have been openly gay, I have been spit upon, verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, threatened with death, refused service at a restaurant, denied a scholarship and almost fired-- JUST FOR BEING GAY.  Over and over, I have had to watch laws being put into effect to prevent me from marrying the person I love.  I have had to come home from work, just to turn on the news and see that EVERYBODY IS GOING TO CHICK-FIL-A TO PUT ME IN MY GODDAMNED PLACE.  I am strong.  I am resilient.  I fight through it and I try my best to shrug it off.  But that's the thing-- it's a fight.  I wish I could tell you that there haven't been times when I've gotten so angry and frustrated and just plain hurt that I spent evenings fighting back angry tears after watching the news.

I get it.  I understand.  Cheryl Strayed does not.  Cheryl Strayed is going to use her own made-up question to make us all worship her brilliance, and after every real thing I've ever had to survive, I'm disgusted with her need to use gay rights as a means to make herself seem awesome.  Not okay.


My apologies.  I know that this blog is supposed to be funny.  Let's put an end to my Full Cheryledness and get back to the job at hand.

This time around, I'm not going to give my own advice because I don't believe for one second that this was a real question, and I'm offended even by the premise.  I'm going to skip right to Bad Cheryl's response, and I'm probably going to sum it up very quickly because I'm not cool with any of this.


Good job, Bad Cheryl.  For everything you're about to say--



You know what?  I can't.  I can't do this.  I can't go sentence by painful sentence.  Not this time.  Let's just cover the highlights.

"It's miserable that your parents are ill-informed bigots.  I'm sorry they've made you suffer so, sweet pea."

"Your lunatic parents are going to figure out you're gay whether you tell them or not.  In fact, they know already.  They aren't banishing you from the Internet so you won't watch Scooby Doo, doll."

She then writes a load of bullshit that makes me want to throttle her and follows it up with,

"I know I'm being a bit glib about it, but only because if I look at it stone cold serious it smashes my heart into smithereens."

EVEN IN MY CURRENT STATE OF ANGER AND DISGUST, I AM STILL IRRITATED WITH HER LACK OF GRAMMATICAL KNOW-HOW.

Oh my god.  I haven't told you.  Guess who was the editor of this book.  Go ahead.  Guess.
 

 
Thanks again, Robin Desser.  Bang up job.  I thought for sure you had killed yourself while editing "Wild," but apparently you survived long enough to improperly edit something else.


Bad Cheryl goes on to say some things that genuinely harm my soul-- even though it's possible that she meant well-- but, for personal reasons, I can't deal with any of it.  Just know that she's totally the GLAAD Person of the Century because she attends Pride Parades.

She ends the whole disaster with,

"...it always strikes me as sacred, all those people going by.  People who decided simply to live their truth, even when doing so wasn't simple.  Each and every one of them had the courage to say, This is who I am even if you'll crucify me for it.
Just like Jesus did." 

All I can do is shake my head and clench my fists.

 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter #2


After spending the past few days struggling with the moral dilemma presented by my decision to tackle the contents of this stupid book, I made a choice.  I concluded that people who are dumb enough to ask goddamned Cheryl Strayed for advice deserve no mercy.


 
 
 
Same format as last time.  I will paraphrase the question, but actual quotes will be in bold type (be advised, this question is very long).
 
Letter #2
 
 
Dear Sugar,
 
Almost two years ago, I got pregnant.  In a move that surprised both my boyfriend and me, we decided we wanted to keep the baby... When I was six and a half months pregnant, I miscarried.  Since then, I've struggled to get out of bed.
 
I'm having a very hard time with this and I think about my baby every single day, imagining all the different milestones that would now be happening, but aren't.  Sometimes, all I can think is the word "daughter" over and over and over.
 
Of course, it seems that everyone around me is having a baby and everywhere I go all I see are babies, so I have to force myself to be happy for them and swallow how empty I feel.  Most of my friends are total assholes and they're all "Meh" about it, and one of my asshole friends even went so far as to say, "It was only a miscarriage."  God, my friends are dickheads.  I also feel guilty about being so stuck, grieving for a child that never was when I should just walk it off or something.
 
I'm super good at repressing everything and I act like I'm totally fine, so even though my boyfriend is super great, I want to punch him in the head for not feeling the way I do despite the fact that I am in no way being honest with him and letting him know how I really feel.  Obviously, he's an asshole for not being able to read my mind. 
 
Then there's the reason I lost the baby.  In the hospital, my doctor said he wasn't surprised I lost the baby because my pregnancy was high risk because I was overweight.  It was not an easy thing to hear that the miscarriage was my fault.  Part of me thinks the doctor was a real asshole, but another part of me thinks, "Maybe he was right."  Stupid fucking doctor.  Who does he think he is?  How dare he say anything to help prevent me from having another miscarriage. 
 
Even though I said in the very first paragraph that I've struggled to get out of bed ever since the miscarriage, I will now claim that I got a personal trainer and went on a diet and started losing weight, and I will go on to explain that sometimes, I don't eat for days, and then sometimes I eat everything in sight and throw it all up.  Apparently, I also spend hours at the gym even though I can barely get out of bed because I can't remember what I wrote a couple minutes ago.
 
Everyone close to me thinks I'm doing super great because this is what I've led them to believe and also because they're horrible people who clearly aren't paying that much attention.  I completely blame myself for the miscarriage.  I am slowly killing myself with my eating disorder and my binge-exercising because I no longer care about my own well-being.
 
I want to know how to care again.  I want to know how to not feel so guilty, how to not feel like I killed my baby.
 
Best,
Stuck
 
 
Man.
 
Okay, here's my very brief, relatively unhelpful advice:
 
 
 
Dear Stuck,
 
I'm so sorry.

Google "miscarriage support groups."  You will likely find dozens in your area.  You need to talk your feelings out with people who understand.  You might also want to consider finding a therapist who specializes in this sort of loss.  You need to seek help from people who understand what you're going through. 
 
Get better,
Cali
 
 
 
Sixty words.  That's my whole response.  Why?  I've never suffered a miscarriage, so I know exactly dick about what this woman is going through.  (Also, I don't believe for a second that Cheryl didn't write this question herself.)
 
 
 
How long is Bad Cheryl's response?  Go ahead.  Guess.  TEN FUCKING PAGES OF TOTAL INSANITY.  This is probably because Stuck's question took up two entire pages, and we know that Bad Cheryl cannot be outdone.
 
 


 
She starts the same way I did, by telling Stuck that she's sorry, but she can't even do this without sounding like an asshole.
 
"Though we live in a time and place and culture that tries to tell us otherwise, suffering is what happens when truly horrible things happen to us."
WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU LIVE?
 
She then tells Stuck to ignore all the people who are telling her that she should be over her daughter's death because,
 
"They live on Planet Earth.  You live on Planet My Baby Died."
Oh, jesus.
 
She talks about how there are many women out there who have also experienced miscarriages and holy crap, it's almost like Bad Cheryl and I are saying the same thing, except she has to go Full Cheryl about it by saying things like, "You need to find these women.  They're your tribe." 
 
Then, inexplicably, this sentence happens:
 
"I know because I've lived on a few planets that aren't planet Earth myself."
 
WE KNOW.

 
That sentence, by the way, was also its own paragraph.  I have no fucking idea what it was supposed to bring to the table.
 
I once again wonder if the end is nigh because Bad Cheryl then suggests that Stuck should find local support groups and online communities and what the hell is going on.
 
She takes it one step further and also tells her to be honest with her boyfriend, which I think is fair because I suggested as much in my paraphrasing of the question.
 
She concludes with a bunch of flowery bullshit about grief and healing, the end.
 
Oh, but wait-- it's not the end.  SHE KEEPS WRITING FOR EIGHT MORE GODDAMNED PAGES ABOUT SHIT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING.
 
The next paragraph starts with,
 
"To be Sugar is at times a daunting thing."

Everything HAS to be about her.  All the time.  That same paragraph ends with,

"And so while it's true that you should find your tribe and talk to your boyfriend and make an appointment with a therapist, there is something truer that I have to tell you and it is this."

WHAT.  THE FUCK.  DID THAT WOMAN JUST SAY.

I know you have problems and everything, but let's talk about me now.

Know that nothing-- NOTHING-- in the remaining eight pages of her response has ONE FUCKING THING TO DO WITH MISCARRIAGES.  It's just eight pages of CherylCherylCherylCherlCheryl.

Bad Cheryl decides to tell us about how she used to be a "youth advocate" for "poor white [girls] in seventh or eighth grade" and how all these girls were abused and on drugs and whores and I get the feeling she wrote this after she watched "Precious."  She explains how it was her "mission" to help these girls succeed in life, and then defines success:

"Succeeding in this context meant getting neither pregnant nor locked up before graduating high school.  It meant eventually holding down a job at Taco Bell or Walmart."



Motherfu-- I-- can't.  I just can't.  Just-- oh, forget it.

And then, when I thought it couldn't get worse, this paragraph:

"I was not technically qualified to be a youth advocate.  I'd never worked with youth or counseled anyone.  I had a degree in neither education nor psychology.  I'd been a waitress who wrote stories every chance I got for most of the preceding years.  But for some reason, I wanted this job and so I talked my way into it."

I literally just threw this book across the room.  Then I got up and threw it across the room again.  Then I seriously considered taking it outside and setting it on fire.  I wish I could tell you that I'm kidding.

So, what we're to believe is that a heroin-addicted waitress/whore was allowed to work with troubled youth because I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO FINISH THIS SENTENCE.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.

I'm having a very hard time believing any of this.  Wait, what's the address for this blog?

Oh, that's right.
 
 
Fine.  Whatthefuckever.  Let's go with this.
 
So, Bad Cheryl explains how she tried to "silently, secretly, covertly empower them" by taking them to rock-climbing gyms and the ballet and how the fuck could she afford to do this with a group of girls while she was making waitress wages.  I call bullshit.  She makes a clumsy metaphor about rock-climbing and brings up Walmart again like it's everyone's dream in life to work at Walmart.  Get ready for another one of those punctuation-be-damned sentences:
 
"And while we did those empowering things, I was meant to talk to them about sex and drugs and boys and mothers and relationships and healthy homework habits and the importance of self-esteem and answer every question they had with honesty and affirm every story they told with unconditional positive regard."
GODDAMNIT.
 
She says that she was "scared of them at first.  Intimidated.  They were thirteen and I was twenty-eight."  Then this happens:
 
"They hated everything and everything was boring and stupid and either totally cool or totally gay, and I had to forbid them to use the word 'gay' in that context and explain to them why they shouldn't say the word 'gay' to mean stupid, and they thought I was a total fag for thinking that by 'gay' they actually meant gay and then I had to tell them not to say 'fag' and we laughed and after a while I passed around journals I'd purchased for them."

STOP.  JUST STOP, YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER.  There is no possible way I can address this without throwing my laptop out the fucking window, so we'll just move on.

So, she gives them these notebooks and they act like they've never seen notebooks before.  She then tells them to write down "three true things about themselves and one lie" in their special notebooks and then,

"...we read them out loud, going around in the circle, guessing which one was the lie, and by the time we were about halfway around the room they all loved me intensely."

Fuck this woman right in the face.  Once again, we are forced to believe that she is the new Jesus.

"I had never been the recipient of so much desire.  If I had a flower clip in my hair, they wanted to remove the flower clip and put it in their own hair.  If I had a pen, they asked if I would give it to them.  If I had a sandwich, they wondered if they could have a bite."
I HATE YOU.  I HATE YOU SO MUCH.
 

Goddamnit.  What the fuck does any of this have to do with Stuck's question.  Oh, that's right, nothing.

She then describes one of the girls in a way I find completely inappropriate:

"One of the girls was truly beautiful.  She resembled a young Elizabeth Taylor without the curvy hips.  Flawlessly luminescent skin.  Water-blue eyes.  Long shimmering black hair.  A D-cup rack and the rest of her model-thin.  She'd just turned thirteen when I met her."

You just referred to a thirteen-year-old's breasts as her "rack."  I will see you in Hell, Strayed.  Not okay.

So she takes Young Elizabeth Taylor to Planned Parenthood to get a Depo-Provera shot but the girl refuses to get the shot.  You'll never believe how Bad Cheryl describes what happened:

"She cried and cried and cried."

She describes another girl who wasn't nearly as fuckable as Young Elizabeth Taylor and compares her to "a feral cat."  Then she claims to have "tamed" this girl-- no, seriously, she says this--

"...when I tamed her, when she parted her hair and I saw her pale and fragile and acne-covered face..."

Fuck you.

This sort of bullshit goes on for three and a half more pages and it has nothing to do with anything, so I'm not going to address it.  She concludes with an awesome story about how, six years after she quit her fake job as a "youth advocate," she went to Taco Bell and holy fuck, one of her girls was working there-- the one she had "tamed."  The girl pretty much falls down and worships Bad Cheryl because omg SHE WORKED AT TACO BELL AND WE ALL KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS-- SUCCESS!!! 

And that's Letter #2.  Let's not forget the original question.

Your turn.  Go.