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.


  1. I have been with her step dad from sept of 91 till now 24 years and and I don't want nor would I ever hurt him like that my dad side you can't ride two horses with one ass and if you are cheating on your baby maybe your baby is cheating on you no one wins you want something new get a divorce first then you can fuck like a bunny

    1. "You can't ride two horses with one ass." Beverly, I just adore you.

  2. 3 years ago a friend gave me "Wild" for my birthday. I had zero interest in reading it until 2 days ago when I was struck with a violent stomach virus and was stuck in bed all day with nothing to read. At some point it became unclear what was the result of the virus versus the result of reading "Wild" so I googled "does cheryl strayed cause vomiting" and luckily I came across this blog.
    This is extremely important work you are doing and I thank you for it. Though you say you are not a writer, you are about a million times better at it than that mother-eating, pudenda-saying liar. Sorry, I know that is not much of a compliment comparing you to someone who can't even write a coherent sentence but hopefully you know what I mean.
    Anyway, I am concerned about you. The effects of reading large quantities of cheryl's "work" are not known. Though I am thinking can't be good for brain cells, digestive system or faith in humanity. Maybe take a break with some Michener? Of course I say this as someone who just found you yesterday and still has several blog posts to catch up on. I might have different advice once I am all caught up and need more;)

    1. "Does Cheryl Strayed cause vomiting?" BAHAHAHAHA. That's fantastic. Of course, I think we all know the answer to that.

      Welcome to the party, Justine. Start from the beginning of the Wild review. It's a goddamned goldmine. We are all concerned for Cali's health, but the immortal words of my t-shirt, her pain makes us giggle and giggle and giggle.

    2. "Does Cheryl Strayed Cause Vomiting"

      OMFG, your post is causing me LOL-ing!

    3. "Does Cheryl Strayed cause vomiting?" BAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA, oh god, I love you already.

      Welcome! Thank you for reading. I hope you're feeling better.

  3. Wait. What?? Having sex with someone doesn't solve all the problems?

    Shit. I have seriously been misleading my poor clients.

    Cheryl. She's just so stupid. This question doesn't even make sense. It just doesn't. And clearly her response makes even less sense.

    Obviously, if one's mind is lusting after another, one should try to determine the cause of the lusting.

    Maybe their marriage is dull and lifeless. Maybe they never have sex cuz he's a turd.
    Maybe they got married super young and are different people now.
    Maybe he's just remembering the early, more exciting times in the relationship.
    A million things maybe.

    But the advice to shove it all down and go have sex with your lady, nope. Not happening. No therapist would say that. I promise.

    Figure it out. Work it through. Perhaps the marriage is over and perhaps it isn't. But you'll never know if you deal with it by having sex. I think even the most delicate of thinkers knows that sex does not equal a healthy relationship. I mean it can if that's the deal going into it. But that isn't what the letter writer has going on, is it?

    So here's where I disagree with you a teensy bit Cali. I think he is cheating on her. And my bar for this is set quite conservatively. I say "would you do that exact same behavior with that exact same person in front of your spouse/significant other?" If the answer is no, it is cheating. Plain and simple. It cuts through all the crap about "innocent" texts and facebook messages. Maybe it isn't hot and heavy cheating. But emotional affairs are real and very dangerous to relationships, and are just as damaging.

    Here is a totally made up scenario based on absolutely nobody I know: Lets say Cathy goes out with her lady friends. Her partner knows ahead of time that she will flirt with people, lets guys buy her drinks, maybe take a few stupid selfies with them, maybe they'll even exchange phone numbers. Cathy knows she isn't ever going to see these people again and has no desire or plans to call them. And let's suppose that Cathy's partner is okay with all of this. And, if Cathy's partner were out with her and her lady pals, she would behave the exact same way. She doesn't hide things from him. Otherwise it's lying. And when you're lying about your relationship with other people, that's a kind of cheating. People call it other things to justify their behavior to themselves.

    But let's get back to the real issue: none of this matters because Cheryl Strayed WROTE THIS LETTER HERSELF AND SHE IS A BIG FAT LIAR.

    1. You're totally allowed to disagree with me. I'm not Bad Cheryl; I'm not gonna block you from the blog because YOU DARED TO HAVE AN OPINION DIFFERENT FROM MY OWN. Hahahaha

      She's so awful.

  4. OH MY GOD. Cali, you are spot on. What is with Cheryl? It's like she's giving him license to blame his SO for all his problems if the sex isn't amazing. Freaking talk to your SO. Keeping secrets and pretending like it isn't happening IS cheating your spouse. It leads to A LOT of hurt down the road when the SO realizes something is wrong, but doesn't know what or why, and accordingly, becomes a disaster when the innocent person tries to address it. Suddenly, when they do, it's all their fault. I don't even.

    Can you tell I've been through some form of this? Cheryl, tell this person NO GAMES. NO SECRETS. You will already cause hurt by facing this. But by facing it, you will be honest. If you don't face it, your SO will find out and any semblance of trust will be GONE and you will never get it back.

    Love, Lauren

  5. "Crushed" is one of Strayed's favorite words. It is used 17 times in the Sugar articles. Sugar is often "crushed" by any number of things. I'm so sad-face for her.

    I know you're curious; "profound" is used 34 times.

    This was Sugar's 70th article and in its original form was a collection of short "questions" supposedly written to her to which she was able to give relatively short answers. There is no question in my mind Cheryl wrote at least four of the five questions she "answered." This one in particular is a glaring example. Read it out loud, it's identical to the "voice" Cheryl uses in Wild. "Delightfully distressing energy?" Only Cheryl says things like that.

    No, these were things Starved was daydreaming about while sitting in a coffee shop stuffing her face full of blueberry muffins and washing them down with sugary coffee-esque breakfast beverages. I'm sure she was behind on her deadline and had to whip the article out at the last minute. In fact, she even uses the words "whip out" in her intro:

    "Dearest sweet peas: It’s become my tradition that every time I reach a new decade of columns I do a Q&A, in which I whip out shorter answers to several questions instead of the usual longer, single question column. Enjoy the read and come back for more next week."

    Cheryl doesn't know how decades work.

    Cali I have to say you answer is FAR more considered and introspective than the garbage our Deceitful Dame provided. I've heard emotionally repressed men give better responses than Cheryl's when talking about situations like this. Can you imagine?

    Guy 1: "Um, so I'm totally crushing on this chick who aint my wife."
    Guy 2: "Just do your wife dude. Do her GOOD."



    1. "Delightfully distressing energy." You nailed it. That was the exact line that convinced me that she wrote this one.

  6. Hi!

    When I read "Wild" I was about six weeks out from losing my dad--being in the hospital ICU and holding his hand as he died and like a certain author--I was absolutely shredded by the experience. Have I done anything like go shit-stir-crazy? No. I learned from my dad the importance of enjoying your life--even if it takes you thirty years to realize a dream--you have to take control of your situation and you make no excuses.

    Too bad Strayed didn't get that point. You have put some great truths out there; the whole Mary Jane complex, the narcissistic personification, the stuff that just doesn't make sense. I really don't think it can be looked upon as a memoir...and certainly not a guide to the PCT.

    Strayed scares me as someone who would love to write. My late dad could tell intricate tales that kept people spellbound and attentive and I wish I could have gotten him to write his tales down--they'd been profoundly better than a perceived and contrived hop-skip-jump trip up a trail that had more to offer than Deliverance- esque Bow hunters (dueling-banjo's) and how everything just loves the blistered shit out of her.

    Anyway--thank you. You are far more entertaining. . . .

  7. When I first read this letter I automatically thought it was a woman who wrote it. I went back and read it about five times and it never indicates that the writer is a man and I watch enough criminal minds to recognize that that letter was written by a woman. Not a big leap for me to then decide that bad Cheryl was that woman.

  8. I have enjoyed all of your critiques of wild and Strayed's other works. What long-form hiking narratives would you suggest in place of Wild? I am a total novice but would like to learn.

    1. There are sooo many books! I'm not familiar with the PCT or AT, but a lot of people seem to like A Walk in the Woods, Zero Days, and A Blistered Kind of Love, but others are better able to provide suggestions regarding those trails. I'm right in the middle of The 1000 Mile Summer: In Desert and High Sierra, and so far, I really like it! I'm a Grand Canyon girl, and good hiking narratives outside of trail guides don't really exist (yet) - with one exception - Grand Obsession, which I highly recommend. Also, a guy named Andrew Holycross just became the 3rd known person to traverse the length of GC on both sides of the river and rumor has it that he is writing a book, which I am anxiously awaiting!

    2. Thank you thank you!! The 1000 mile summer looks great--I'll try that one!

    3. Awesome! Colin Fletcher is an oldie but a goodie and is widely considered to be the father of backpacking (a la the 60s and 70s). He inspired a generation. The AT and PCT books mentioned are more recent. If you ever go to grand canyon, which everyone should do, Grand Obsession is a must-read.

  9. Does anyone know why people thought Cheryl would be a good person to ask for advice?

  10. I love the Jon Stewart gif with the caption! Perfect!