Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter #1

I still haven't quite figured out how I want to go about all of this.  I may have to test out a few different approaches until I find the appropriate one.  This time around, I'm going to start by paraphrasing the reader's question, follow with my own (admittedly) inept advice and then compare my advice with what Bad Cheryl had to say.  While paraphrasing is going to be super fun for me, I'm going to put actual quotes from the letters in bold type so you can see what kind of stupid bullshit I'm dealing with.  Please know that my paraphrasing-- while understandably snarky-- will be pretty accurate.

Let me know how this approach works.  I'll modify as necessary as time goes on.

Okay.  Let's get started.

Dear Sugar,

I was married for twenty years before my wife decided she wasn't willing to spend the rest of her life with a big fucktard like me.  I will take no responsibility for the divorce and say things like, "Whose fault?  Mine?  My wife's?  Society's?  I don't know." 

I've been in three relationships since the divorce.  The first one was just for my dick's entertainment.  The second was super cool, too, because I got laid all the time, but then she was all I-love-you and I was all I'm-fucking-out-of-here, but then I stuck around anyway because I like to stick my dick in things.  After an entire year of getting to stick my dick in her, I finally said "I love you" to this lady, and then I pretty much bailed because love is icky and makes me uncomfortable and stuff. 

Now I'm in another relationship and we've been boning for like four months now and even though she's in the middle of a divorce, we're totes serious and stuff.  Because I'm so awesome, she's totally falling in love with me, but she won't say "love" and that's perfect because I'm afraid of that word.

My question to you is, when is it right to take that big step and say I love you?  And what is this "love" thing all about?

Giant Toolbag

Seriously?  People ask shit like this?  Okay, so, here's how I would respond:

Dear Giant Toolbag,

You sound like an asshole.  I'm glad we're not dating.

Love is pretty much the greatest thing ever.  What's it about?  It's when you're lucky enough to find someone who gives you hope and laughter and joy and you find yourself smiling despite whatever else is going on in your life because you're grateful for the existence of another person.  It's super fucking easy to love someone, and it's also super easy to say "I love you."  Say it as soon as you realize it's true, because you never know when you or that person may unexpectedly die.  Say it because it's beautiful.  I can't even tell you how many people I love.  In fact, I'm *in love* with a whole mess of people; they're *my friends*.  They all know that I love them because I've told them so.  Why are you making such a big fucking deal about it?

Grow up.

Hugs and kisses,
This is why I don't write an advice column.

Now, let's get to what Cheryl had to say about all of this.

HOLY SHIT, YOU'RE NOT EVEN GOING TO BELIEVE IT-- the first thing she wrote was,

"The last word my mother ever said to me was 'love.'"

I know.  I was shocked, too.  Did you even know that her mom had died???!?  She then spends the next FIVE GODDAMNED PARAGRAPHS ignoring the question and talking about herself and her dead mom because the whole point of her "advice column" was to talk about herself.  In the sixth paragraph, she tries to justify all of her self-centeredness by saying,

"I suppose you think this has nothing to do with your question, Johnny, but it has everything to do with my answer.  It has everything to do with every answer I have ever given to anyone.  It's Sugar's genesis story."
Fine.  So his name was Johnny.  Not Giant Toolbag.  You got me.

I wish I knew how to spell out the sounds I'm making.  It's something like, "Kkkkk, kkkkaaahhh, kkkkkkitch," and then the sound of vomiting.
Cheryl then spends an entire paragraph saying stuff that makes me want to destroy things, like, "The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love."
Goddamnit.  Obviously, I have no problem with profanity.  I fucking love the shit out of it (see, Johnny?  I *love it*).  But you do not "tackle the motherfucking shit out of love."  YOU'RE SO HARDCORE, CHERYL.
Then these two sentences happen:
"I love the way you wrote to me with your searching, sacred, knuckleheaded, nonchalant, withholding dudelio heart on full display.  I love that you compelled me to write 'dudelio,' even though-- on top of the fact that 'dudelio' isn't a word-- I am morally opposed to the entire dude and dude-related lexicon."

What the goddamn-- you know what, I'm just gonna let you guys destroy this one because you're fucking hysterical and I love you.  AGAIN, SEE HOW EASY THAT WAS TO SAY?

Then Cheryl dazzles us with one of her signature punctuation-be-damned run-on sentences, and this one really wins the prize for what-the-fuckery.  This is all one sentence:

"I love that one recent evening when I was lying in bed with Mr. Sugar and he was reading The New Yorker and I was reading Brain, Child, I had to stop and put my magazine on my chest because I was thinking about you and what you asked me and so then Mr. Sugar put his magazine on his chest and asked what I was thinking about and I told him and we had a conversation about your troubles and then we turned off the lights and he fell asleep and I lay there wide awake with my eyes closed writing my answer to you in my head for so long that I realized I wasn't going to fall asleep, so I got up and walked through the house and got a glass of water and sat at the kitchen table in the dark and looked out the window at the wet street and my cat came and jumped up on the table and sat there beside me and after a while I turned to her and said, 'What will I tell Johnny?' and she purred."

I can't even tell you how many times I broke down laughing while transcribing that "sentence."  I genuinely mean it.  I had to stop three times because I was laughing too hard.  WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?  Did she even *have* an editor for this book?

So this morning I got up and took a shower and got dressed and drove to work and gave direction to my employees and then I read my email and checked for corporate directives, and then I got a soda from the vending machine and I drank it and then I starting doing stuff, after which I did more stuff and then I kept doing more stuff and then I made a few phone calls and I did some more stuff after that, and then I took a short break and then I did more things and some shit happened and I dealt with it because that's my job and then I worked on some other stuff and then I made a few more phone calls and I--

I would fucking punch myself in the face if I actually wrote like this.

Anyway.  Let's get on with the rest of Cheryl's response, even though it's TWO AND A HALF PAGES OF BULLSHIT.  You know, my advice wasn't really all that bad, now that I'm reading it, and I neatly summed it up in one paragraph.  Cheryl can't control her word-vomit.  It keeps spewing out like the aftermath of a tequila blackout.

"You aren't afraid of love.  You're afraid of all the junk you've yoked to love."

And this is when I just sit here, shake my head repeatedly and wish for a handgun.


I just-- I can't.

Cheryl then goes Full Cheryl by making it all about herself again, except, wait, I'm so confused--

"There's a saying about drug addicts that they stop maturing emotionally at the age they started using, and I've known enough addicts to believe this to be true enough."

WHAT THE FUCKITY FUCK WAS THAT ABOUT.  From what we've been led to believe from her totally true memoir, "Wild," she was totes a hardcore heroin addict and she was super proud of this "fact."  What's all this nonsense?  Shouldn't she know *firsthand* about drug abuse?   I'M SO CONFUSED AND PROFOUNDLY SHATTERED BY THE NOTION THAT SHE MAY HAVE BEEN LYING TO US.


I'm tired.  I really am.  I had a long day.  But as much as I genuinely want to just sum up the rest of her dumb fucking response with, "blah blah blah, stupid bullshit, the end," and go to bed, I can't.  I can't because--

"'I love you' can mean I think you're groovy and beautiful and I'm going to do everything in my power to be your partner for life.  It can mean I think you're groovy and beautiful but I'm in transition right now, so let's go easy on the promises and take it as it comes.  It can mean I think you're groovy and beautiful but I'm not that interested with you, now or probably ever, no matter how groovy or beautiful you continue to be."

WHY DO YOU KEEP SAYING THE WORD "GROOVY" LIKE IT'S STILL A THING?  Also, "I think you're groovy and beautiful but I'm not that interested with you, now or probably ever, no matter how groovy or beautiful you continue to be," IN NO WAY TRANSLATES INTO "I LOVE YOU." 


*face palm*

I'm not qualified to give advice, and I openly, happily own this fact.  But I can tell you now that Cheryl's version of "I love you" is total crap.  I am convinced that Cheryl has no fucking idea what love really is.

Because I'm just very tired, I will skip a couple paragraphs of bullshit so I can go to bed and say that she ends the whole disaster with, "We're all going to die, Johnny.  Hit the iron bell like it's dinnertime."

I hate her so much. 

It's your turn now.  Go.


  1. Love the format! And your response was fantastic! Have you considered a career as an advice columnist for dudelio douchebags?

  2. Every time I think I've reached peak hate for Cheryl Strayed, she makes me hate her even more.

  3. Where is everybody? C'mon, guys, we can't let Cali go this alone! More later...

    1. They're here, Mary. I know, I was getting worried, too. I only write this for the comments now.

  4. I can't... I just can't... :-(

    I seriously thought you were making some of this up, so I went and bought the damn Kindle version. HOLY MOTHERF*CKING SH*T! I'm sitting at my favorite coffee shop and couldn't stop giggling (like a person shouldn't do while they are alone in public) until my favorite barista came over to make sure I was okay. I tried reading the run-on sentence to her. It took me three tries to make it all the way through without losing consciousness due to lack of oxygen from laughing, snorting, snotting, and wheezing. (Is snotting a verb?)

    At any rate, I guess my reply to Johnny would simply be:

    You are too old to not understand these things. Please do us all a favor and just leave the women folk alone. Save your money for all the X-Box games, pizza, and porn you can handle... alone... while living back in your mother's basement.
    - The Management

    Now I'm just sad and worried about you. Seriously - I hope you have a hobby to let off some steam, sister!

    1. Horus, goddamnit.

      After all we've been through, you actually thought I was making this stuff up?

      You know, my sister had the same reaction when I first started reviewing "Wild." She got to the part about the nurse's penis and immediately texted me to say that she didn't believe for one minute that was actually in the book. That's when I had to take a picture of that page of the book and send it to her. She never doubted me again.

      I AM NOT MAKING ANY OF THIS SHIT UP. *That's* what makes this worth doing. IT'S JUST SO BAD and that's why I feel the need to address it. This is also what makes it so funny.

      Go buy "Wild" and read it along with my blog. Tell me that I was not completely honest and accurate the entire time.

      Same with this piece of shit. I will always be honest about what I'm reviewing. You have my word.

      While I hate that you actually paid good money to purchase this book, I'm glad that you can now see that what I'm saying is all true. Did your barista find that "sentence" amusing? Or did she walk away while mumbling, "There's something wrong with that man..."

    2. Also, "snotting" is now officially a verb.

    3. You bought the book, Horus? Way to take one for the team! I am probably going to waste a PPV coupon on "Wild". Why should Cali suffer alone.

  5. Part 1:
    Mmmkayyyy. Therapist here. Too.many.things.wrong.with.this.it.hurts.

    And you know, honestly, there are some parts of Cheryl's answer that are glimmers of what a therapist might say. But as My-Person-I-Say-I-Love-You-To-All-The-Time always says, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while..."

    So here's the thing about your answer Cali - it totally demonstrates why oh why oh why one cannot answer questions like this in an advice column.

    I LOVE your answer. It is true and real and honest. And that is fabulous. And it is a perfect answer for you. It is absolutely preposterous that Stupid Cheryl would think that she could answer a question in a useful manner in a book. Particularly given that as far as we all know, she has not one iota of training as a therapist. And no, going to therapy does not in any way enable one to dole out advice to someone else...

    Also, Stupid Cheryl, that thing you say about addicts not maturing past the point at which they started using drugs. Uhhhh. You know who says that? Addicts. Do therapists say it? Not so much. And the ones that might say really don't mean it. The thing is, you don't stop "maturing," rather your experiences and perceptions change based on how you interact with the world. This is true of all the people. ALL THE PEOPLE. For addicts, this means they adapt to living and coping in a world that doesn't respond well to addicts. When that happens, and because of the nature of being an addict (difficulty maintaining relationships and jobs etc), people must start changing the way they behave to continue their addiction. This is often an adaptation filled with deceit maladaptive manipulation. So no, one really does not stop maturing at the age at which one begins using drugs. That's just kinda silly and a very simplistic and uneducated way of looking at it. And understanding it for that matter. When someone says that to me, I say to myself "Whoa. They have a long way to go."

    Cali, if I'm correct, I recall that you have served in our military (from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for protecting my freedom), and perhaps you saw or did some things that changed you. Deep into your core and your person. But it doesn't mean you stop maturing. It means that you now have a different outlook on life based on your experiences. You respond to things based on new information. The same thing happens with addicts. Based on addicts' experiences, they come to rely on alternate means of survival because the ones they were utilizing before don't really work for them anymore. It just doesn't work to show up three hours late for work with a heroin needle sticking out of you arm.

  6. Part 2:
    And so now onto the love part...

    This issue is so huge it clearly cannot be tackled in an "advice column." And while we are at it, can I just say that my Great Aunt Sandy always said "the worst vice is advice," so make of that what you will.

    Generally speaking, when people have a problem saying that they love somebody, there are issues of being deeply wounded in the past. To be vulnerable is scary. So for some people, opening oneself up to love is scary. At least *that* kind of love. Yes, I love my friends. But there is a lot of security that comes with having loving friendships. With romantic partners, it can definitely be way more scary because we are afraid of being hurt. Okay, okay. That's obvious (though it doesn't seem to appear in Stupid Cheryl's answer...).

    So if I had someone sitting in front of me asking me these questions, I would clearly need to have THEM define love. Because it isn't my definition of love that matters, is it? And you know what else I would do? I would ask him if, even though this person he is involved with doesn't actually say "I love you," perhaps he can begin to identify ways in which she SHOWS him she loves him, and possibly he can identify those ways in which he shows her how he feels about her. Because let's face it, at a certain point, talk is cheap (hint, hint: CHERYL STRAYED YOU ARE AT THAT POINT). It really isn't enough to just say it.

    One more thing about therapists (which I realize is a far cry from an advice columnist, but honestly, it is a major difference between Stupid Cheryl and Dear Abby) - we don't talk about ourselves. Not really. There's a word or two for that: COUNTER TRANSFERENCE. Your therapy isn't about me. If I am talking about me, it means *I* have some work to do with whatever your therapy is bringing up for me (which is normal - therapists are people and we have our own issues {clearly}). Yes, sometimes I will relay a story or share something about my life - but here's the thing - before I cross that boundary, I ask myself "How is this helping the therapeutic relationship?" and "Does this information change the subject from THEM to ME?" I don't just say "my mom died," EVEN IF SHE JUST DID, if I don't first know how that is going to impact the therapy. Maybe I say "I have a family situation..."

    BECAUSE IT ISNT ABOUT ME. It is their hour. They paid for it and they deserve it. Same thing with this question. It was HIS question (assuming Stupid Cheryl didn't just write it herself). He deserved an honest answer that was not about someone else. Cali, even though you reference yourself, your own answer really wasn't all about you.

    Ugh. Cheryl. Your narcissism is painful to observe. And like a true narcissist, you spew it out onto other people under the guise of love and light. And that's a lot of junk you've yoked to yourself. But no matter. Your #CherylStrayed. You can take it.


    1. So well said. I'm genuinely grateful to have you as a reader. I will be in charge of the snark and the outrage. You can be in charge of saying intelligent things.

      It's Jackie, right? Thank you for being on here, Jackie. This is going to be fantastic. You're a delight.

    2. Yes. It is Jackie. And thank you. This blog has been hysterical and funny and full of truthiness. Which I love. So very, very much.

    3. I'm back - obviously I can't stop myself from responding to month old comments way past the time anyone actually cares.

      Anyway, nothing much to say about knitlore/Jackie's comment, except to ask: why do so many Americans think that their military protects their freedom? That seems an extremely unsophisticated view to me. Nothing against those who serve in the military personally, so nothing against this blog's author, but it the US military's primary purpose is destabilising the Middle East, either directly (by ground war, bombs and drones) and indirectly (weapon sales), to keep oil prices low. While this maintains US petrochemical supply security, a freedom of sorts, its breeds animosity to the US with very real consequences. Its obvious that since 9/11 Americans have had less freedom than before. The use of cheap Middle Eastern fossil fuels also inhibits the development of low energy living and sustainable energy technologies, and that limits ecological freedom —the freedom to live without pollution and the effects of climate change, which impact our freedom to grow food and share water and other natural resources. Not too mention the other problems caused by the fossil fuel economy, like not being able to cross a fucking road without getting run over by a speeding SUV.

      Yeah, this is off topic for this blog, but it strikes me that for a blog concerned with snarky criticality, that comment is highly uncritical.

    4. Hold on. Did you just say that our military is responsible for people who drive SUVs like an asshole? And Knitlore is the unsophisticated one? Allow me to educate you a little on how the military works. We (yes, I am in the military) don't get a say. No one asks our opinion about the causes for which we have chosen (that means voluntarily) to give up a plethora of basic Constitutional rights, including the one you and I are exercising here. The vast majority of service members choose to give up those rights because we continue to believe in what our forefathers and foremothers believed in. That's the sacrifice we make TO PROTECT YOUR FREEDOM, whether we agree with what our leaders tell us to do or not. You've heard of the Commander in Chief? There's a reason he's called that -- because he gets to command us to do things (that means not voluntary). In no way is it the MILITARY's primary (or secondary, or any, for that matter) purpose to destabilize the Middle East (in case you weren't aware, the military was in existance about 200 years before most Americans could even find the Middle East on a map). Whether it is my CIC's purpose is not my concern because that, again, is a right I have voluntarily given up. As for your military, please don't preach about the "very real consequences" of our actions; we are intimately familiar with them. But if you ever spent any time on the ground with the military, you would see that the vast, VAST majority of us want to do good in the world, sometimes to a fault, as we put ourselves in danger every single day to make lives better for everyone -- Americans and non-Americans alike. So whether you personally appreciate the protection we provide for the freedoms you enjoy every day, you're welcome, because WE believe that those are freedoms every human being deserves, and are willing to die or be injured or be separated from our families for months and years at a time to guarantee them.

  7. One more thing.

    I just bought this book, dammit. And what the literal hell is the introduction all about??

    Sorry but no. Empathy IS NOT when someone tells you about a pain they are going through and your response is to tell them about a pain you are going through. NO!!!!!! That is narcissistic behavior (and sometimes sympathy, but not in Cheryl's case as her behavior is attention-seeking and selfish).

    Empathy is feeling ANOTHER PERSON'S pain. Not telling them yours. That would be the narcissistic response we have come to know and expect from Stupid Cheryl.

    Empathy is truly taking on another person's emotions. Truly feeling what they feel. Empathy is seeing your friend in a dark place and instead of saying "yup, there you are down there suffering," you say "let me come down to this dark place with you," {not my analogy}. Empathy is joining your friend where they are, even though it is uncomfortable and hard. Empathy is sitting with them and sitting with the feelings.

    What Cheryl does is say "hey, you had a shitty experience. Me too! And I'm tired of hearing about yours so let's focus on me because mine was better, harder, badder, worser, more challenging...."

    Empathy is a difficult thing to fully grasp and it is a skill that is learned and learned and learned and learned (sorry to be Cheryl there for a second - my point is, to be truly empathic, you keep working at it because it is hard and different people have different needs, and people work really hard at getting it right because it turns out that there are different levels of empathic responses. But hey, that's just educational mumbo-jumbo that obvs doesn't apply to the Great Cheryl Strayed).

    I suggest this video {cuz it's totally cute and super informative and that hardly ever happens} by Brené Brown:


    And please God. Make it stop.

  8. I am so glad I read this chapter because of YOUR advice, Erin. I just love you. What you said, was just so beautiful, kind and loving. Over the last few months of getting to know you, just from your writing...well, no more gushing...you're just the coolest, ever.

    I pretty much doubt this was a real letter. I think, because it just sounds too much like the way Bad Cheryl talks (the way she wrote/talked in Wild), that she made this letter up so she could write the asshole, never-ending response she wrote. She wants to be seen as some tough-talking, hip chick. Sadly, a lot of people seem to be lapping this shit up. Yeah, enough with the "groovy", you sad, attention-seeking nutball!

    1. Cindi, I love that you have no problem telling me that you love me, but felt apprehensive about telling me that I'm just the coolest. This is why I love you.

  9. Really enjoyed reading all of your reviews and now your responses to this piece of crap. As a therapist and an avid backpacker, I find Cheryl's endless narcissistic ramblings, as she desecrates the wilderness, irritating in more ways than one. Keep up the responses! You make me laugh instead of just being pissed off that I wasted so much time and money on "Wild." I will be seriously having withdrawals when your blog ends.

    1. Thank you kindly, Pamela. Don't dread the DTs just yet; I still have 55 more letters to go (and she also has a book called "Torch" that I could review). This isn't going to end anytime soon.

  10. Oh, I wrote a long comment before logging in aaaand it's gone! Anyway, you have another follower from Argentina, who hates that phony Chery just as much as you (maybe not as much because I did not read her crappy books) and I'll be here supporting you from now on on this sort of cruzade to unveil what a fucking liar this lady is. Can't believe people actually thinks she is a guru or something. Even worse, how people dare to call her writer!? These are the first books that they ever read?
    Thank you, Erin, for putting a smile on my face after the pain of watching Wild.
    (who could believe she actually did that hike after seeing her with that stupid backpack?)
    One last note, how can anyone define something with such a broad concept like she did on love? Oh, well. Love is wanting to bone someone and them watching that person turning into a pizza and also wanting to spend your life with that person to the point of catching a bullet and die for her/him. And also just not giving a fuck and whatever. I profoundly hate her!

  11. I get so depressed reading the CRAP that is Cheryl Strayed, and it's been published. As a one-time writer myself, I feel like just shooting myself in the head because if this CRAP can make it into print, there is something seriously amiss in the publishing industry...I guess my English teachers' admonishments to "write what you know" must have also made it into Cheryl's pea-brain, because she sure writes a shit-ton of lies out of her narcissism.

    This has to be one of the saddest excuses for a book I've ever seen. Ever.