Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Hi there!  Welcome to I Hate Cheryl Strayed.  You're likely here because you read Wild and after you threw the book across the room in disgust, you hopped on Google to search for other people who hated it in order to validate your own loathing for the book and its author.  If that's the case, welcome.  You're in the right place, friend.  You're not alone.

If this is your first time visiting, I suggest you start at the beginning.  Enjoy.

I created this blog because I had read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and it was the only book I'd ever read that had made me furiously angry.  Due to the complete lack of critical reviews, I decided to write my own 39-part review to call out all of the inconsistencies, exaggerations, "literary embellishments," flat out lies, plagiarism, and shitty writing.  This book is a steaming pile of crap, and Cheryl Strayed is the Stolen Valor poster child of the hiking community.  Her "memoir" is an affront to every person who has ever completed a true thru-hike, and she likely inspired this ding dong to fake her own hike this year.

If you're thinking I'm just some jackass internet troll sitting on my couch, eating chips, throwing in my uninformed two cents about hiking, and tearing Cheryl Strayed apart for no particular reason other than for my own sick amusement, know this: I've been a distance hiker for years, and this year, I walked across America.  I spent 192 days walking 3,200 miles from Rhode Island to Oregon.  I did this alone, while hauling just over 100 pounds of gear and supplies in a pack and a cart--

Hey, there I am!

-- so, while I may, indeed, be a jackass, I also know a little something about thru-hiking, and I certainly know enough about it to strongly suspect that Cheryl's hike was total fiction.  If-- and I'm talking to you, Cheryl fans-- you still feel the need to leave comments on this blog about how you think I'm just totes jealous of The Strayed or how I need to get a life, you go ahead an embarrass yourself.  Have a blast. I'll go back to my sad, pitiful existence of sitting around and wishing that I could be as amazing as Cheryl.  I mean, walking across America doesn't even compare to the awesomeness of pretending to have section-hiked part of the PCT, so... right.  Boy, I sure wish that I, too, could do something incredible.

Oh, wait.

For the rest of you, enjoy some photos!  Unlike Cheryl "I Only Took Four Pictures the Whole Time I Supposedly Walked 1,100 Miles" Strayed, I took over 2,000 pictures during the six months I was on the road.  Here are some of the milestone photos:

Leaving Rhode Island and entering my second state.
March 25, 2017

Glad to be out of Connecticut.
March 31, 2017

Crossing the GWB into New Jersey, April 2, 2017

...and there's the sign.

Pennsylvania didn't have a welcome sign, so I had to settle for this Pennsylvania Lottery sign.
April 8, 2017

Ohio also neglected to welcome me, but here's the state line.
April 30, 2017

This will have to suffice.

Indiana had a strange way of welcoming me... I fixed it.
May 14, 2017

Entering the Land of Lincoln.
May 22, 2017

About to cross the Mississippi...

...June 4, 2017

Entering Iowa, but only Davenport welcomed me.
June 4, 2017

So we'll do this instead.

Crossing "The Bob" into Nebraska.
June 27, 2017

Taking a breather in Omaha.

Finally out of Nebraska.
July 23, 2017

Big milestone for every thru-hiker.
August 10, 2017

Photo taken roughly one minute before the eclipse.
August 21, 2017

Attempting to protect my lungs from the smoke when every state was on fire around me.
September 6, 2017

The joy of reaching the last state.
September 14, 2017

Last time zone.
September 16, 2017

Last mile.
October 2, 2017

I made it.
Newport, Oregon, October 2, 2017

Do I plan on writing a book about my journey?  You bet!  If you enjoyed Wild, you won't enjoy my book.  It will not be a long, weepy account of all my personal bullshit and hang-ups that have nothing to do with the hike, or how everyone I met thought I was the toughest, most beautiful, amazing person they had ever met.  I won't be talking about myself incessantly, because the story won't be-- nor should it be-- about me.  I intend to write about the places I went, the things I saw, the people I met, and of the experience of spending six months alone on the road.  I know, SO BORING, I DIDN'T EVEN SLEEP WITH ANYONE OR KILL ANY HORSES.


Enough.  Go enjoy the blog.


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.

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?


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.
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. 


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.


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."


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,

" 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.