Essays, opinions and rants

The Journal of the Screwed-up

The Journal of the Screwed-up

I got some hate mail. Hate email. Which was weirdly exciting for a second. A stranger wrote to me about my blog! (Most blog commentary and correspondence is from people I know either IRL or through mutual friends.) Any pleasure I had at being apparently widely read enough to invite random vitriol was extinguished by being called an arrogant asshole who’s not as funny as I think I am. 

Buzzkill. Spirit-squasher. Blower-out of the creative flame.

There’s surely some truth in their charges. Who among us isn’t arrogant sometimes? The human condition and all. I immediately re-read Spasiba, the post the hate emailer responded to. Combing through it, looking for what triggered them, I thought…not the funniest? Okay. But I didn’t see arrogance. What I found was the rantings of a crotchety old lady. A crone-in-training. 

Elizabeth Gilbert described the crone inside us all here– I won’t try to gild her Chernobyl-soil lilies; she explains it perfectly.

People love bitchy old crones when they’re characters on TV shows. Once upon a time it was Bea Arthur’s Maude. It’s Betty White today, someone else tomorrow. They entertain at worst, illuminate at best. Often in the same sentence. They’re like human Easter egg hunts, surprising us with little gems amid the weeds. Their hair and footwear seem bonkers. 

Then you live awhile longer and things happen to you or people you care about that result in hair and footwear choices that probably appear bonkers to others, like thinning hair, foot ailments, unspeakable heartbreak that renders exterior appearance the last thing on your list of what to care about for all eternity. And you get it.

The crones are out of it, and they don’t care. Yet they are still completely in it. Which leads us very, very gradually to understand that “in it” and “out of it” are irrelevant.

That may be the crones’ most profound work. But I’m equally enamored of their B-sides; the I-want-to-speak-to-the-manager stuff that carries us from one of their epiphanies to the next: the bitching.

TV crones who never cross our real-life paths are charmingly hilarious when they bitch. If they’re not, we mute them. The real-life version doesn’t come with a laugh track and goes against several grains: that negativity is toxic and unproductive, that older women shouldn’t make a ton of noise.

Like crone footwear, bitching is unfashionable and underrated, which is a shame. It’s challenging to get people to bitch, what with abundance-gratitude-positivity messaging constantly bombarding us. But when they do, the human connection is a delight.

Recently I met some people, and in the course of a conversation someone asked what food trends everyone hated the most. People ripped on wiggly squirts of sauce, harissa, burrata, food arranged into towers, poke bowls. We could have gone on forever, could have branched into other areas of exasperation and derision until we lost our voices. 

Airing annoyances is satisfying. Try it. In addition to your gratitude journal, there’s no shame in giving voice to the flip side of life in a literal or figurative journal of the screwed-up. 

Fellow bitchers and crones-in-training, I know you’re out there.  You are fine. We are not the problem. The world is the problem. We are just taking note of it.

A few from my journal, to get things rolling:

I’m Sick. To. Death. of people complaining about getting older. Change your head. Getting older is a privilege and an experiment. It’s fascinating and surprising and weird. Above all it’s the way of the world. Living creatures age. Do we constantly bemoan gravity, seasons, the earth’s rotation on its axis? The distance between us and the stars? The aging of other living things? Give. Yourself. A Break.

Periods between every word for emphasis – overused.

I’m tired of:

  • Hot takes – what was this before?
  • The feels – why? They’re feelings. Feels sounds pervy.
  • Yaaas queen – no idea what this even is or how to use it which is surely part of the issue.
  • Something or other “Is everything” – too much everything!
  • Selfies with duck lips and peace signs – what is with you people, vary your photos for the sake of interest for your bored, beleaguered viewers.
  • Letting that sink in – everyone come up with your OWN phrase and stop using this one.
  • Retailers exhorting us to buy things in order to elicit coveting or obsessing – I do not wanted to be pitted against other people thankyouverymuch.
  • Women complaining about their bodies to each other – especially thin women calling themselves fat in front of other women who are visibly heavier. Just talk about something else, like, oh I don’t know, impeachment and democracy?
  • AF or any first letter of a curse word followed by asterisks – what are you afraid of? We obviously know what you are indicating. The asterisks convey fear and tentativeness which is not what you’re going for when you’re f-bombing. Write the motherfucking word ferfuckkssake. 

You’re making your list in your mind, aren’t you? Or you’re arguing with me about my list. Lay it on me. Maybe my hate emailer was a crone! She must have felt such satisfaction when she hit send with her irate message about my shittiness.

The crone is coming; she gets in moods and doesn’t feel pressure to hide it like she did in her youth. She’s cynical and she has a sinus infection and she hasn’t been stretching enough. She seeks epiphanies but knows they’re not always on the menu. Prepare your emails of exception and dispute accordingly. She can take it.

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