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The Digressions announcements, extra content and musings.

Filtering by Category: Musings

3 Things I Should Know About As An Adult That I Don't

jordanmca

baby business

Having a terminal degree, working a full time job and being nigh-thirty, one would assume from the outside that I am a fully functioning adult. You know...that I've acquired the knowledge that is necessary to live competently and independently in this world. The reality is that it's an honest-to-God miracle that I pay my rent every month, have any sort of paying job and keep enough food in my refrigerator to feed myself. (If I weren't married, I wouldn't be able to claim that last one.)

baby business

Here is my small, incomplete list of embarrassingly scary adult things that I should know about...but don't.

1. Taxes

"Hello, Mr. Government. You would like to take all of my money? That seems fair - just please don't put me in jail. Bye!" - Me in a panicked voice every year

I have a Howie Mandel-like relationship with the government. Don't touch me, bro.

I live in a small one bedroom apartment in Queens where I try very hard to ignore the giant, rusty hole in my bathtub. I take the subway to work every day and stare at the floor the whole way so that I don't get shanked by a crazy person. I work at a nonprofit organization. Like, an organization whose sole purpose it is to not make any money. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM ME? All I know is that when I look at the amount on my pay statement and see the amount deposited in my bank account, there is a lot less money. What happened to it? I don't know! Some congressman used it to paint a mural of himself healing the sick on his office wall or something. I don't care! Just don't talk to me, Government! We don't need your kind around here!

I used to do my taxes myself. And by "do my taxes myself" I mean I would spend 8-10 hours on TaxAct one day in late March sweating profusely and wringing my hands while I clicked and unclicked certain options and watched the amount I owed go up or down because of some sort of mystery equation. After vomiting several times and figuring out the right number of boxes to leave blank that equaled zero dollars owed, I usually opted to immediately change it all back to the maximum amount owed because, like, if I overpay I can't get in trouble, right?!

Pretty sure an audit would outrage me more.

Last year I started paying a magical money troll to figure it all out for me. The good news: I got a tax return! The bad news: it cost my tax return to have someone else file my taxes! Heh...no big deal, right? My peace of mind is about a soul's worth.

2. The Stock Market

Wait. I got this. In eighth grade we played a stock market game, so I totally know how it works. First you wear a pin striped suit and slick back your hair with an entire bottle of LA Looks. Then you take some money and buy some stocks. Then you watch CNN Money and see if the stocks go up or down. When they suddenly go up, you scream, "Sell! Sell!" and then you get sent one of those giant Publisher's Clearing House checks that reads "One Million Dollars."

Pretty sure that qualifies me for the Pro Elite account on etrade.com.

Is this a thing that actual people do? Should I be doing this? Will this make me rich? It seems like one of those things that can only go well for you if you're already rich. But...like...how do you get rich in the first place? Oh, right - don't go into debt pursuing a degree in art. That's like investing in unicorns.

"I resent that statement." -Unicorn Business Man

3. My Personal Health

I won't even burden anyone with talk about not understanding health insurance in this post because, currently, no one in America understands what's going on in that arena. I'm just talking about everyday, basic personal health.

Sure, I floss and I kind of jog up the stairs when I'm trying to get on the train before it pulls out of the station. But I think, like many in my generation, I'm scarred from the days when my health insurance details were dicey. For a while there, my insurance plan was to pray that my feeble yoga practice in graduate school was clearing up any sort of physical issue that I may be having at the time (when in reality, because of my lack of flexibility, I was probably only exacerbating any ailment) and looking maybe 4 times instead of 2 times when I crossed the street. Because of this, I actually got in the habit of not going to the doctor.

Now that I'm older I've adopted an alternative lifestyle choice known as "sedentary," and I should probably have that shortness of breath and acute pain in my left arm checked out. But I also have the knowledge now that just because someone has a job, doesn't mean they have to be good a that job. So do I go around town now making doctor's appointments every day shopping for one I trust? And isn't it a thing now to grow all your own food because grocery store food is poisonous? At what age do you have to start letting the doctor stick a finger in your butt?

Never mind. I think I found a legit alternative.

I'm not prepared to face any of these things. I feel like I need a college degree in all three of them just to begin to understand the basic precepts of any one of them. It's too late for that. I used up my shot at an education with learning to play pretend.

Hey - now there's a thought - perhaps the reality is that no one actually understands these things and I'm better equipped than anyone to be an adult. By being really good at pretending to be one. I'll have one order of stock, please.


Season 2 of The Digressions airs November 26, 2013. Get details of our Season 2 Launch & Screening Party here. (You're invited!) Watch the Season 2 trailer here.

The 5 Ways Your Life Is Just Like The Digressions

Jordan McArthur

kenley-cleanse

Exiting your twenties can be a frightening experience. Your problems and feelings can feel so singular. But it doesn't have to be that way. We're actually all in this together. In fact, just on the other side of that line is a whole world of slightly-less-in-shape adults waving and saying, "We feel your pain." Here are just a few ways that The Digressions are just like you. Take heart.

1. You get creepily excited when you actually have big news to share.

spencer-laugh

2. Sometimes you have to take a break in the middle of a stressful conversation to cleanse karmically.

kenley-cleanse

3. Other people's issues weird you out.

michell-rightwell

4. You can't seem to get on board with everyone else's music tastes.

preston-mumford

5. You don't understand how it is in any way possible to take an attractive selfie.

theo-ohgod


You can watch all of Season 1 of The Digressions here. Click here to view the teaser trailer for Season 2 - debuting November 2013!

3 Reasons Why Game Of Thrones Has Turned Me Into A Terrible Person

aubreysaverino

jamie lannister

Honestly, I’ve never been much of a fangirl. Sure, I dress up in costumes, pretend I’m someone else with pretend feelings for other pretend people. But that’s my job. Offstage or off(computer)screen, I don’t tend to obsess over fictional stories or characters. Of course there have been a few notable exceptions over the years -- most recently, the HBO show Game of Thrones. I admit, for reasons I cannot entirely explain, I am obsessed. How obsessed? Well, this past weekend, instead of watching the Tony’s like every other good little theater girl, I stood elbow to elbow in a crowded bar full of fanboys and girls and watched the Season Three Finale of Game of Thrones (then I came home and watched the Tony highlights on YouTube and pretended I’d seen the whole thing-- how great was NPH, btw?). I also catch myself saying things like, “You know, Jamie has really transformed. He used to be such a jerk but he’s been through so much and now I’m really starting to like him...” Never mind the fact that Jamie DOESN'T ACTUALLY EXIST.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

But the real problem isn’t that I’m embarrassingly obsessed with the show-- we are, after all, allowed to like at least one thing shamelessly (see: Episode 4: The Facebookist). The real problem is that the show has made me realize (despite my previously high-minded thoughts to the contrary), that I am in fact a terrible, twisted person. And here are the three reasons why:

1. Apparently, I’m a pervert.

You know those ratings right before an HBO show that let you know if there is violence, foul language or adult situations in the episode you are about to watch -- AC, AL, V etc...? Every time my husband and I sit down to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, we wait in breathless anticipation for the “N” for Nudity rating. When we get it, we do a few fist pumps in the air and let out an extended “yessssss!”. When it isn’t there we are, admittedly, disappointed. After all, what's the point of watching an hour long HBO show if you can't also get your soft core porn fix at the same time?

Can we skip to the T&A, please?

2. Turn the other cheek? F*ck that. More like stab them in the face with a knife.

I spent twelve years at Catholic School, countless Sundays in church, and while I am no longer what I would call “practicing”, I do still believe in the whole “compassion/kindness/treat people as you want to be treated” idea. Or at least I thought I did. That was until poor little Arya, after witnessing family member after family member die in brutal and horrific ways, finally stabs a guy in the face -- and I yelped with glee.

What is wrong with me?? We know an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, right? Fighting violence with violence is no way to right the world, but in that moment I realized I’d been waiting for some Stark revenge violence for months. And it made me think -- what if, deep down, that's the way I (or worse, everyone) actually feel and we're all just covering up these dark desires with a thin veneer of polite social etiquette? Then we are seriously fucked.

Stab! Stab! STAB!!! ...too much?

3. Incest is hot.

(But only between the Lannisters). Seriously though, am I the only one rooting for Cersie and Jamie to get back together? I mean, it's clear he really loves her and when you think about it, it's really sweet that he's only been with one woman. Never mind the fact that it's his twin sister...

What kind of twisted thinking is that? Sure, most of us want what we can't have, and a little forbidden fruit is always alluring, but siblings?? George R.R. Martin -- what are you doing to me?? Before I met you I was perfectly happy thinking that I was a good person. But since you've come into my life I've started thinking maybe I'm just a sadistic, sex-crazed asshole. In other words, human. Maybe that’s why I like the show so much. Because Game of Thrones -- and other twisted books, films and stories like it-- remind me that we are all flawed, imperfect beings who, despite our best attempts, sometimes fuck up and fail miserably in our pursuit of what we think will make us happy, and maybe that reminder can instill in us a little extra compassion for our fellow fucked-up humans.

Or maybe I just like the sex scenes.

"I know I do." - George R. R. Martin

Baby's First Haircut

adahly

Flowbee

I got my first real haircut the other day. Well, that’s not fair. I got my first haircut that cost more than $14 the other day, is what I should say. It didn’t cost all that much more than $14. More than twice as much, but less than three times as much. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it cost $33. Cheaper than a Flowbee. This guy's name is Rick Hunts. Not making this shit up.

It was also my first haircut in a very long time that wasn’t administered by a surly Greek, Russian, or Uzbek man. It was a woman and I think she was Russian and she was beautiful. She didn’t feel the need to talk to me, which was great as far as I was concerned. Talking to barbers/stylists gives me the social anxiety sweats.

I ended up in this slightly upscale salon after getting the last in a long string of haircuts that were not at all what I wanted. I’ve made do but I’ve essentially spent my adult life with hair that I slightly regret. Please withhold your pity and spend it on people more deserving*. My last haircut was an exercise in comedy. I walked into a Greek barbershop in my neighborhood** looking to get my hair trimmed for a play I was in at the time. I surveyed the premises: two young-looking barbers cutting the hair of two young men whose haircuts I wouldn’t mind having. This was good.

Please help me avoid this.

There was an empty chair but no barber to man it, so I sat down and picked up a copy of the least embarrassing magazine I could find. Then, out walked the oldest, crustiest looking Greek barber on the face of the earth. He had a couple days growth of stubble, two or three gold chains, and moved at the speed of Feta cheese. He motioned to a chair for me to sit down.

I began to launch into my lengthy and overly-complicated spiel*** but he cut me off after two words with a knowing nod. I wanted what I essentially wanted from every haircut I had ever gotten which was to a) make it look like I hadn’t gotten a haircut b) not be too clean or preppy-looking and c) not look like a mullet. Clearly, he had gleaned all this from the “Well, I-” I was able to sputter out before he began slicing into my hair. With two snips of the scissors it became abundantly clear that I was not getting anything close to what I wanted. I immediately had the impulse to speak up but what was I going to say? “Could you tape that back on please?”. It was too late.

translate

He asked me who had last cut my hair. This is something that surly barbers apparently like to do: insult your hair by asking who the last idiot was who cut it so horribly. He then asked me if it was “some woman”. At this point, I would love to say that I stood up for my counterpart gender. I would love to say that I ripped off my smock**** and said, “What the fuck does that mean, asshole?” or perhaps something more eloquent. But, I am not a confrontationalist. Not in general, and certainly not in a situation in which it was now my sole goal to get out of there and never come back. So, I smiled weakly and accepted the misogyny, just another silent accomplice.

Andrew Dahl

The haircut I ended up getting from him was fine. There was nothing wrong with it besides the fact that it was not at all what I wanted. So, I vowed to make an upgrade the next time. Which led me to a salon on 30th ave. in Astoria at the recommendation of Eric. I walked in and immediately had no clue what to do. There were at least 4 or 5 sections of chairs (as opposed to the requisite waiting and cutting areas of a barber shop). I wandered up to the front desk, absolutely unclear as to where to sit. Thankfully, the man running the place (who looked like what I assume fashion designers look like) pointed me to a seat next to three very well-dressed women*****. I felt like a hobo in an art gallery. I texted Eric to let him know that this place gave me the working-class sweats and he texted back that I should take advantage of one of the complimentary glasses of wine they hand out. This was a game-changer. I didn’t have any work later in the evening so I absolutely could have taken advantage. But then I second-guessed myself. What if Eric was messing with me? Or even if he weren’t, what if they had recently discontinued that service? Or what if they didn’t give it out this early in the day?****** The thought of asking for a glass of wine at a salon and having the person say no or look at me like I was crazy made me want to stick an expensive curling iron into my eye, so I abstained.

But DAMMIT it would have been so classy. Have to go back in the evening...

Next was the shampoo. I was way too tall for the chair/sink set up so I had to maneuver myself into a sort of horizontal yoga pose and lock myself that way for the five minute process. The beautiful woman massaging my scalp asked if I used conditioner. “Should I?” I answered, defensively. “No,” she said, “I was just asking.”

Mercifully, it was pretty standard from there on out. My...stylist? haircutter? barberess? was very kind and gentle and quiet and I ended up with a nice haircut for not a whole lot more than I usually spent. Was the haircut...better? It’s hard to say. At the very least I got more or less what I asked for*******. And next time I’ll get the wine.

*Mumford and Sons fans

**Not the one I usually go to. I had just gotten a haircut from them, was dissatisfied with it, and didn’t have the courage to go back in and ask for it to be re-cut.

***I don’t know how to describe what I want in terms of haircuts. I don’t know what any of the terms mean and I’m afraid to ask.

****Is that what they’re called?

*****I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans with holes in them.

******It was 2 pm. Don’t judge.

*******Even though I still don’t really know what I want.

Getting Sucked Off On The Bus

Eric Pargac

schoolbus

schoolbus Unlike Theo, I have never been in a real fight before. I say "real" fight because in the third grade, I was in something. Something like a fight. An awkward skirmish on the school bus one afternoon. It couldn't possibly have been a fight because a) no punches were thrown and b) I was not written up by the bus driver. Everyone knew that if you got in a fight on the school bus, you got written up, and if you were written up, you got kicked off the bus. I was afraid of being written up. I was a good kid. Well, I was a scared kid.

My parents ruled by fear, and I existed in a constant state of terror that I would get in trouble. For all intents and purposes, fear of getting in trouble is the same a being good except your underlying motive is not to be good, it is to not get in trouble. I did plenty of bad things, but the moments I really remember from doing all those bad things is not the bad act itself, it is the panic of "Please sweet Jesus, don't let me get in trouble for this!" Then the hand-shaking, fist-wringing moments of trying to figure out how to stay out of trouble.

That fear ruled me growing up, and that fear kept me out of fights. When things got tough, all my energy turned to how can I not get into this fight because this will get me in trouble. And that was what I was thinking the day I got into "something" on the bus.

It all started when a slightly younger, slightly huskier kid than me sat by me on the school bus. I think his name was Ronnie, but honestly he lived on my bus route for such a short amount of time that I might be wrong about that. I'll just call him Ronnie for the purposes of this blog. I point out that Ronnie was husky, not to make fun of him, but to show we had some common ground. I too was a husky kid, or rather I teetered on the husky side.

When I was growing up the definition of a husky kid was simple. If you shopped at Sears and wore Toughskins jeans then there were only two sizes: "regular" and "husky." I always teetered. The regular jeans were a little tight for my densely boned frame, but if I tried the husky jeans, I looked like a circus clown. Although I never really wore husky jeans, I knew the husky kids were my brethren. If you're not old enough to have been through the shame of trying on "husky" Toughskins, consider yourself lucky. This was how it was for all jeans. You were either "regular" or some euphemism for a chunky kid. The best day of my life was the day Levis came out with "Loose Fitting Jeans." I finally became normal. But I digress.

Ronnie sat next to me on the bus and we hit it off. I don't remember quite what we bonded over (other than both being on the huskier side), but it must have been one of my two favorite things at that age: cartoons or Gobots, the cheap ripoff of Transformers for all of us less monied children who had to shop as Sears. Things were going great until suddenly Ronnie grabbed my backpack strap. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but then he proceeded to put it in his mouth and suck on it. Laugh and make all the sexual innuendos you like, but we were in second and third grade--who knows what he was thinking.

Regardless, he was sucking on my backpack strap, and I tried to make him stop. He wouldn't. I tried again. He continued sucking. I tried repeatedly, and he kept sucking. Finally, I yanked the strap away from him. Time stopped. Ronnie got a crazy look in his eyes. Suddenly he sprung out of his seat and attached himself to the top of my head like one of the face suckers in Alien, only he was straight up on the top of my head, not attached to my face. I don't know how this little husky kid did it, but he went from sitting to clamping his entire body on top of my head. Not only was Ronnie now attached to my head, but he had also started CRYING, so I had this weeping, husky mass attached to the top of my head.

I was totally panicked. This was a fight now. No two ways about it. I just got into a fight, and I was going to get into trouble. I tried to get him off, but he was hysterical. There was nothing I could do. I realized I had to fight back so I reached up and pushed him off of me as hard as I could. Apparently as hard as I could was pretty hard. There was some muscle under my husk, because he flew off my head and smacked into the window with a violent cracking sound. I checked quickly and the window wasn't broken. I looked forward on to the bus driver and she was eyeing us. "Oh Heavenly Father, please save me! I just got caught in a fight."

The bus driver slowed down and stopped the bus. Ronnie got up and went crying to the front of the bus. I knew I should follow. The bus driver stared back at me in that giant rear view mirror that can see everyone on the bus. I prepared myself of the worst. Then she opened the bus door. Ronnie got off. It was his stop. He simply stepped off the bus and kept walking. The bus driver closed the door, and continued on to the next stop. Other than a knowing glance, she never acknowledged what had happened between Ronnie and I.

That was my almost-fight. Kinda like the husky jeans, I tried it on, but it didn't quite fit. I could carry on with my life in a mildly uncomfortable state of fear, never having actually been in a fight. I was not in trouble. The only thing that happened was a husky kid sucked on my backpack strap… I sorta wish I'd punched him.

Confessions of a List-o-holic

aubreysaverino

url

Who doesn’t love a good to-do list? Crazy people, that’s who. Come on, those little open boxes getting ticked off one by one? Those little check marks filling spaces where there was only emptiness before, check marks that say “I’m accomplishing!” “I’m productive!” “I’m alive!” Really, is there anything more satisfying? Trust me, I’ve spent plenty of time searching the iPhone App store for the perfect To-Do List (enough time to complete an entire To-Do List, but that’s beside the point), and based on the array of applications available, I know I’m not the only one who gets her rocks off every time she ticks off: Check me. Yes! Scratch. Me. Out. Yessss! Oh god, that feels so good...

Excuse me. Having a moment.

Okay. I’m back. And I admit, maybe I’m a little obsessed. Maybe I’m a bit of an outlier in my intense love of the to-do list. I’ve used them for just about everything at one point or another. Of course I’ve made the standard lists for weekly necessities— like: pick up toilet paper and Tom’s toothpaste at Duane Reade, get Gluten-free Brown Rice Tortillas and Tempeh Fakin’ Bacon at the Astoria Fresh Start Market, buy a $4 bottle of Blue Fin Petite Sirah from Trader Joes. Scratch that. Buy 3 bottles.

Now flouride, cruelty AND health benefit-free!

But (here’s a potentially embarrassing admission), I also make Life Lists. Yep. To-Do Lists for my entire life. These lists look something like this (and by “like this” I mean these are direct quotes from lists I’ve made at some point or another): Read 12 new books in the next six months, get into The Old Globe MFA Graduate Acting Program, explore 20 New York sites this year (these can be parks, museums, libraries etc, preferably, but not necessarily cultural), perform in 3-4 plays in the next twelve months...

Ridiculous? Perhaps. But for the most part, these lists worked. For instance, the first year I moved to New York City, I wrote “See 24 shows” on my handy-dandy Life List, and I got soooo excited about ticking off that little check box that I saw every single play I possibly could. By the end of my first year, I had seen 57 plays. And my goodness was I proud of myself. I checked that box off and gave myself a big ol’ pat on the back. Because in a world of complications and uncertainties, this seemed like a very simple equation:

To-Do Box: CHECKED = Goal: ACHIEVED = Life: SUCCESS!

According to this formula, all you have to do is think about what you want, formulate it into a concise sentence, put it next to a small open box, give yourself a specific time frame to check off that small box and WHA-LA! Whatever you want, it’s yours!

But if you don’t check it off?

If you leave an unfinished, uncompleted, necessary action item unattended-- unchecked on that to-do list? And it just sits there? Staring blankly back at you. An empty space taunting you with things you didn’t do, or worse - couldn’t do. What then? What does that say? Because what kind of person doesn’t check off all the boxes on her list? What kind of person can’t manage to check off one measly stupid little sentence on a fucking list???

Not me, surely. I know what I want. I'm a hard working person. Therefore, it follows that not only am I perfectly capable of checking off those boxes, I also should get whatever my little heart desires. At least that’s what my well-meaning parents told me. And my teachers, and Oprah, The Secret, The Artist's Way, and every self-help book every written, and every single fucking inspirational ever movie made in the history of the entire world. Maybe not directly, maybe not in so many words. But it was implied. Know what you want, work hard, and you’ll get whatever you desire. So if my goal is, hypothetically, "to star on Broadway opposite Laurie Metcalf, Alan Rickman and a shirtless Eddie Redmayne in a beautiful new play written by Tom Stoppard, directed by Emma Rice, in a production that is completely and wildly successful -- not in a cheesy commercial way, but in a this-is-what-theater-should-be way, in a this-play-sends-electricity-through-my-head-my-heart-and-my-gut-until-I-am-utterly-transported-with-rapture way, and goes down in history as one of the most influential and memorable performances of the century” then, theoretically, assuming I wrote this goal down (or at least had it clear in my mind), and divided it into short and long term goals, then worked backwards creating individual, achievable steps then, conceivably, I’m up in there on a marquee in Times Square by the end of 2016.

I might have to settle for First Wives Club The Musical.

And if that doesn't happen? If I don’t get what I want, what does that mean? That I set my goals too high? That I didn't try hard enough? That I'm lazy, or worthless or somehow undeserving? What if I did everything I knew how to do? Am I a failure? Should I aim lower next time? Aim for something I can feasibly achieve so I can hang on to that sweet little narrative in my mind? The narrative that says-- you can do whatever you set your mind to, you can check off every little box on your perfect little list...

What’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge?

I want to terrify myself. I want to be brave to reach for the impossible, to ask for things that are laughably illogical or unreasonable, things that I may never achieve even if I live a hundred lifetimes. But if I really want that, and I truly mean it, I have to come to terms with the fact that, at the end of my life, there will inevitably be a box or two or twenty unchecked, a dozen goals unachieved, and countless attempts utterly unsuccessful. In short, I have to be brave enough to fail. In a sloppy, messy, miserable way.

So, does anyone have Eddie Redmayne's email?

10 Things That Happy People Do That You Don't, You Miserable Asshole

adahly

behappy

If you frequent Facebook you've seen them. Lists accompanied by new age-y images, delineating the behaviors that happy people engage in that presumably make them or keep them happy. Smile more! Fuck you. Don't hold grudges! Go eat a dick. They're meant to be encouraging, but they come off sounding pompous and completely patronizing. "Oh, you're not happy? Well, that's YOUR fault. Just change these 10 deep-seated-inextricably-intertwined-with-your-personality behaviors and you'll be fine!" Choke on a rusty cock. Will do. Getting right on that.

Language, I know. But this stuff does actually drive me a little crazy. I saw one list online that was twenty two items long (twenty fucking two!) and contained such gems as "Eat Well", "Live Minimally", and "Establish Personal Control". Oh GOD! All I have to do is establish total personal control and I can finally be happy all the time?! Well, what have I been doing all these years?! Seriously, that's like saying that the way to succeed is to be successful. THANKS! That's HELPFUL. And you know what sort of people "don't hold grudges", "avoid social comparison", "never compare themselves to others" and "live minimally"? Vegetables.

Literally.

Much more informed people than I have written about this sort of thing but I'm incredibly wary of the constant pursuit of happiness. Life is insane and random and unfair plenty of the time and people who are not affected by that sort of thing are LIARS. And I don't like being around liars. I've always wanted to start off a first date by saying, "You know, we're going to die some day. Some day soon in comparison to the length of the universe. Not theoretically, literally. How am I supposed to function?" And when I find a person who responds with, "I KNOW! What IS that shit?" then I will get down on one knee and we will live terrified ever after.

"Let's get this over with."

And look, everybody has to live their lives. I recognize that the majority of the world has gone through much more serious, genuine adversity than I have. So, if you've been through the ringer and you just need to put on a smile and ignore the dark side of life - there's no way for this not to sound patronizing - go for it. Seriously. The caveat to everything I'm saying is, at the end of the day, do what you gotta do.

But if we could all be a bit more honest about feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, impotent rage, etc. I think the world would be a better place. So much great art comes from an intimate relationship with pain. And there's happiness too, in art and in life, of course. But when the endgame is always death it's hard for me not to find happiness at least a little false. Pleasure, yes. Joy, sure. Happiness? I don't know. And I love a good comedy but do you think there might be a reason why Shakespeare is much better known for his tragedies? A reason why movies like Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and The Godfather routinely top "Best Films of All Time"-type lists? And even good comedy so often comes from deep, deep pain. Woody Allen, Louis CK, etc.

"How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes!"

A therapist would no doubt have a field day with what I'm saying here, and maybe one day something truly crushing will happen to me and I'll be forced turn in my gleeful frown and my gallows humor for some meditation and gratitude but for now I will embrace my inner dark side. My inner Theo, if you will.

You won't? Ok, got it. Sorry.


Something that will make you happy: watching previous episodes of The Digressions. Check them out here!

We Just Worked

adahly

ipod2

Sometimes it all just comes together. If you've been watching carefully, you'll notice that, "The iPod Maneuver 2", or "iPod 2" as we call it, is the first episode of the season that happens outdoors at night. And while we don't shoot the episodes in order necessarily, it happened to be our first time shooting this way as well. And it almost didn't happen.

A lot goes into making a web series - even a modest one like ours. We don't have much physical action - no special effects, no long scenes or trick shots - but the amount of effort and care that goes into making sure the lighting and sound are uniform and convincing on each episode is significant. So, at a certain point last summer we decided to help ourselves out and enlist some more technical assistance. Eric, who plays Theo and is our resident technical expert, has a solid amount of camera experience but he is but one man (and is often IN the episodes), so we were excited about bring in some new blood. One of our cast members (who shall remain nameless) knew a couple young filmmakers who had recently moved to the city and were hungry for projects. They had cameras, equipment, and, most importantly, experience. We met up with one half of the duo at a greasy Thai restaurant near Union Square to discuss the possibility of working together. Our new friend was clearly very confident, capable, and surprisingly assertive. The only problem (besides the seaweed salad I ordered, which tasted like worms) was that the duo was tired of simply shooting projects and wanted to be more involved in the creative decision making process. An alarm went off in my brain. I'm not against creative input; I collaborate well. But I'm very careful about whom I collaborate with. We are, again, a modest web series but we've got a good thing going. The four of us have a strong democratic partnership. We know each other very well at this point and know how to give each other input, advice, and direction. We have a clear vision and a specific and, might I say, airtight style. So, I was hesitant.

After the meeting, the rest of the team was much more optimistic than I. This is essentially constantly true (I have a touch of the cynic in me) but I was still a little surprised. They thought we could involve our new friends in creative decisions without having to make any concessions. They even thought the new duo didn't entirely mean what they had said - that they would be happy to be involved and wouldn't feel the need to manhandle the style. We planned a rehearsal as a sort of dry run of the collaborative relationship.

We met up at Aubrey and Eric's UWS apartment and began working through the script. It quickly became clear that the duo was unaware that we had already a) written a bunch of episodes b) decided on a season order and c) shot several of the episodes. Distressing. We discussed possible changes to one joke (that was already fine) for a half hour. Upsetting. One member of the duo started all of his/her comments with the phrase "what if…?". No bueno. They tried to give Aubrey notes about her delivery on one of her lines. Aubrey's a pro and considered their notes respectfully but I could see her bristling. We mercifully segued out of discussing the script and began to go over how we would approach the episode in a technical sense. This conversation went markedly better. They had a lot of great ideas about shots and were excited about finding a good outdoor location for a night shoot. They were enthusiastic and confident. This was encouraging.

We parted ways under the agreement that the duo would scout and confirm a location and we'd shoot the episode in five days. We were cautiously optimistic. We still hadn't worked out exactly how to handle the creative input but the added technical boost seemed worth it. And things so often just work themselves out.

A couple days passed and we didn't hear anything. I sent an email to the two of them, checking up on the location scouting. I received a short email back saying that they hadn't looked yet but were thinking of shooting on the sidewalk outside a bodega at 125th and Broadway. Another alarm went off in my head (I have many at the ready). This location was problematic for many reasons, the main two being that a) it's a loud area, which would be a nightmare for editing and b) it's a highly trafficked area. Shooting outside is not especially illegal (at least not without an expensive permit) and the more busy the area, the higher the chance of finding ourselves in a conversation with the police (rarely pleasant). We were worried but put our faith in our new collaborators. What else could we do?

By the day before the shoot we still hadn't heard much. Aubrey and I were out in Astoria drinking margaritas when we got an urgent email from one half of the duo saying that the other half had sprained his/her ankle in a pick-up basketball game and was in horrible pain. They weren't going to be able to make the shoot and they were so, sooooo, sorry. I sent an e-mail back inquiring if the ankle injury was somehow so serious that it had affected both of them or would the ungimped half of the duo still be able to make it? But I already had the sinking feeling that was this their way of bailing without really bailing. I never heard back from either of them.

Now what the hell were we going to do? We had 24 hours, no location, and no real prospect of one. I sent out an alarmist e-mail to the team recommending that we either switch to an indoor shoot or cancel entirely. Eric, as always, had a significantly less doomsday outlook. He e-mailed back that he was already out and about on the UWS, scouting locations and had found an elementary school near his and Aubrey's apartment that was relatively well lit and located on a lightly traversed block. He e-mailed us pictures that looked promising. We were back on.

We gathered at Casa Pargacerino the following evening ready to rock. We grabbed the equipment, some snacks and bottled water and headed out. The part of the school that Eric had scouted the previous evening was now gated so that option was out, but we were able to find a small ledge by a stairwell a couple doors down that would fit Aubrey and Jordan nicely. I was on sound duty and space was limited, so I stashed our gear near a planter on the sidewalk, trying to keep a low profile from passersby and police. Cars would zip by with unsettling regularity and there was a surprising amount of foot traffic for a weeknight. And it was sweltering. Temperatures had flirted with 100 during the day and weren't a whole lot lower by 9 pm. We knew that episodes surrounding "iPod 2" in the season would have a fall/spring look to them and didn't want to have an episode full of tank tops and shorts sticking out like a sore thumb, so we forced Aubrey and Jordan to suffer in light jackets and pants.

And the lighting wasn't right. The overhead fixtures at the school created a sickly glow and some unsightly shadows on Aubrey and Jordan's faces. We had a portable LED light that we could use but couldn't find a good place to set it. So, I went on a duct tape run. I had had a bit of a taste of the "hurry up and wait" style of film/tv shoots (I was an extra on The Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift. Oh yes.) but it still surprises me from time to time how different the whole thing is from theater. For theater you essentially need bodies and you can go. For film so much time and thought goes into the technical preparation. If you need to take two hours to set up a shot, you take two hours to set up the shot. If you need duct tape for a light for a shoot that was supposed to have started already, you go get the duct tape.

We taped the light to a part of the school's fencing and fired it up but things still looked a little off. And cars and pedestrians kept zipping by, feet away. We tried a run-thru of the scene and things just weren't right. Jordan and Aubrey wouldn't admit it but it was clear that the nearby traffic was making them nervous. People would walk by and stare at the two actors sitting on the steps of an elementary school late on a weeknight and Jordan and Aubrey couldn't help but notice.

I raised the idea that these were less than ideal shooting conditions but Eric wanted to press on. We had already sunk thought and time into this location and Eric didn't want to bail on it without giving it a solid go. This is a common occurrence in my life. My pessimistic instinct to distance myself or give up on things outweighed by wiser parties. Surround yourself with good people.

Then a janitor came out of the school and began gating and locking an area identical to ours a couple doors down. Clearly our little stairwell would be next. We were out of options. I suggested throwing in the towel. It was late and hot and we could always shoot another night if we needed to; we were on no one's schedule but our own. It was then that Eric suggested shooting on the roof of their apartment. This was a wild card option that had been mentioned before but quickly dismissed as dangerous. We didn't know if we had access to the roof, if there was anywhere to set up a shot, or if our clomping around would cause the residents of the building to call the police. All I'm saying is I wouldn't do well in prison.

Eric was confident that we could make it work, so we put our trust in him (usually a good call). We took the stairs up to the top floor and cautiously opened the door to the roof. Mercifully, it wasn't locked or alarmed. The second we got out onto the roof, our worries began to dissipate. There was room to sit and set up shots. We could arrange it so that we were only walking on the part of the roof directly over Aubrey and Eric's apartment. The sides of the roof extended high enough to block out a little of the New York night sounds and there also happened to be a pretty gorgeous view of the skyline. We couldn't find a reasonable place to set the LED light so we lugged up a standing lamp, duct-taped the LED tight to the top of it and led an extension cord back down to their apartment. DIY filmmaking at its best.

It was almost midnight at this point and the temperature had dropped to a tolerable 80. Aubrey and Jordan were no longer uncomfortable in their outerwear and the roof made it seem as if there was no one around for miles. We had carved out a tiny little space for ourselves, above the hubbub, below the stars. It's incredibly difficult to find solitude in New York. I often don't notice it until I've stumbled upon a little pocket of it. We had created a little solitude.

I leaned against the doorway leading back down into the building and set up the sound equipment. Eric began framing shots and Jordan and Aubrey ran lines a couple times. We soon found that the LED light made it impossible for Jordan and Aubrey to see anything but each other. Like or dislike this episode, love it or hate it, I don't care, but I think it has an intimacy that's sometimes hard to find. There's a quality, an ease, in their performance that the technical side of filmmaking can sometimes encroach on.

We took our standard shots (wide, two shot, close-ups from both angles) as well as a shot from each angle that changed focus from time to time. Eric would adjust with each take and I would make sure the audio was clear and complete. Jordan and Aubrey tried out several different choices for various moments and jokes. And we just worked. For three of four hours on a hot summer night in New York we did what we wanted to do, the way we wanted to do it, together. It can get crazy here in New York city (slash life) and it can be easy to question one's place, one's…correctness. But for a little while we felt like we were in the exact right place at the exact right time.

Somehow it all works out.


To see this episode and others, check out our Episodes page.

Raised By Muppets

jordanmca

jim henson

When I was a kid, nothing got me going like puppets. I was crazy for them. I couldn't get enough of them. I wanted to live and breathe puppets. It was to the point that I still, to this day, think about the obsession fairly regularly. Mostly in the "I was so weird" sense. But sometimes in the "whatever happened to that" sense. It kind of haunts me, actually. Let's start with a little background first. It's no secret I was an odd child. Much of my time was spent figuring out what could come after the phrase, "Hey, wach this!" And even if I didn't have anything planned, I couldn't be stopped. I would just spew nonsense and gyrate until someone looked at me. And I played like all kids, of course - but it was on a different level for me in some way. It was like an early childhood career choice. And I don't think it was my fault.

Mostly I blame Fred Penner, but that's a whole other blog post. And if you get this reference we have now entered into an unbreakable bond.

You see, my father and his two brothers were serious about playing. Pathologically serious about it. When they were kids, they built elaborate sets for turn-based war games played with hundreds of tiny, meticulously painted lead figures (wash your hands afterwards!), they once created a giant underground fort made entirely of an elaborate network of tunnels dug by hand in their backyard (with sandy Michigan soil - deathtrap anyone?), and they also invented snowboarding (actually called "snurfing"). Their childhood was like if Boy's Life Magazine and Opie Taylor had offspring. And it didn't stop after adolescence. My dad has spent the greater part of my life thus far building a professional-grade model train set and once berated me to the point of tears because I didn't make good enough exhaust sounds while playing with Matchbox cars.

The shit-eating self-satisfaction of original Matchbox lovers was apparently a top-down side effect.

His younger brother, however, was the king of playtime. Nothing was off limits for Jamie. My mother once had to very firmly put her foot down as he plotted to put me into a climbing harness and hoist me to the top of a hundred foot tree just for the hell of it. To me, though, he was like some kind of magical wizard that only ever had the coolest ideas anyone could ever think of. So, of course, he gave me one of the best gifts I will ever receive - he built me a puppet theater.

At age 5 I couldn't think of anything holier in this world than watching and playing with puppets. I had a whole cast of characters in my basement and they would get dragged out for a few weeks at a time while the puppet theater was in business. And thanks to my dad, they all had names and distinct personalities. There was the plastic dinosaur that was some Pizza Hut promotional item from the original Land Before Time. There was a troll doll puppet dressed as a policeman who, in a throwback to comedian Bill Dana (I later learned), only said one thing: "My name is Jose Jimenez." There was also the shy green finger puppet that looked like a booger, and a pink snake-looking thing made of felt with yellow yarn glued to its head that my sister's Bible School teacher let her have since she was just as obsessed with this shit as I was. Its recurring bit was to gag and heave until it eventually turned itself inside out.

At first I was wondering why I was allowed to have these, and then I saw this. 99 cents for your bratty kid to shut up and entertain himself for hours?! Guess what's for dinner!

Sometimes I try to think how this even came about. We're all products of our environment, right? So who was telling me to obsess over puppets? I mean, I guess it makes sense. In the late 80's and early 90's they were everywhere. I was raised on Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Eureeka's Castle, The Neverending Story, Mr. Rogers, and a worn out VHS tape of classic Muppet Show segments. It's no wonder that I was making sense of the world by continuously talking to my own hand. Was it healthy? I think that still has yet to be seen. It certainly played into my "you can be anything when you grow up" child of the 90's mentality. I would watch hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes taped off of network tv specials where Jim Henson would lovingly explain how animatronic Doozers worked and think to myself - "This is a totally reasonable life-pursuit."

Jim Henson's death was the first time I remember having the whole concept explained to me. RIP, old friend.

Somewhere in there I decided that I would rather be the puppet and got two laborious degrees in acting, only to discover later what I knew all along - I would much rather be the one with the hand up the ass than the ass-hand-recipient. No one wants to be Kermit. At the end of the day Kermit is just a felt sack of reticulated polyfoam. What we actually want is to be Jim Henson - Kermit's heart and soul. I want to be the one that can suggest the iconic humble-pie-eating-gulp with a slight shift of my knuckles. I want to make Lady Elaine piss you off with one jerky twist of my wrist. I want to be the one who undercuts Billy Baloney's self-centered movie pitch with shifty eye movements, revealing his own deep seated insecurities about being a lowly ventriloquist dummy (deep cut for all you puppet lovers).

It's funny because, as I continue to tread my path towards being a proverbial puppeteer, I can't help but notice that maybe I had it right from the beginning - even if I was simply making Count von Count tally his own farts.

A Compromising Position

aubreysaverino

banana

I am probably the most annoying person to invite to dinner. Not because I'm actually annoying (I hope), but because it can be a pain in the ass to accommodate my specific dietary needs-- I’m a vegan and ninety percent gluten-free. The only thing worse would be having a nut allergy so severe you couldn’t take me anywhere within a five mile radius of Pad Thai. The percentage of me that's still addicted to gluten.

“Dinner with Aubrey? Great. Guess I better Yelp ‘vegan-food-that-doesn't-taste-like-cardboard restaurants, NYC'. What’s this? Three places off a train I’ve never heard of in Brooklyn and one place in the East Village that only serves organic kale and cabbage soup cooked at forty degrees Celsius? Awesome. I must really love Aubrey's exceptional conversational skills and charming smile…” (right, friends?).

You may be wondering how I came to make this bizarre and inconvenient lifestyle choice (or you may just be wondering why the guy sitting next to you on the subway smells like burning tar and Cool Ranch Doritos). Frankly it's a long story that includes a high school speech competition and an upsetting experience with a gallon of milk. Suffice it to say I've spent way too many hours searching YouTube for "animal rights", "factory farms", and "Hamlet The Mini Pig Wants His Bottle" (don't ask). The point is, it's a decision I made years ago based on a number of factors that were, and still are, deeply and personally important to me.

Can you see where I'm coming from here?

But I know how it goes. You hear "vegan" and think you'll be spending the evening with someone who will look askance at the rack of ribs on your plate and ask, just as the first delicious bite passes your lips, "Um, did you see Forks over Knives?"

I promise I won't do that. I've spent years attempting to balance between strength in my own personal convictions about what I put in my body, and respect for other people's choices about what they put in theirs. But it isn't always easy. Especially when new friends, or frankly, in-laws from Texas, are involved. I hate offending people, hurting people's feelings or asking people to make concessions for personal choices I've made - especially choices that have nothing to do with them. But we all have to eat somewhere, right? And if I don't speak up I could be stuck at a steakhouse eating pickles and lettuce garnishes for the rest of my life just to keep other people happy. And I love food WAY too much to do that.

TEETH!

So what do I do? Do I give up on ever enjoying a satisfying meal and sit there with new friends or family members, sulking on the opposite end of our culinary-taste table? Do I compromise and eat the way other people think I should eat? Ugh. Compromise. I hate that word. It has terrible connotations. Say for instance, someone is in a 'compromising position', or someone's email account been 'compromised', you don't think-- "Yay! How awesome for them! I wish I was being compromised right now!" Why? Because compromise sucks. Be honest. How many times have you been thrilled to give up something you wanted, so someone else could get what they wanted? I'm sure you've done it. We all have. And making little sacrifices now and again for the good of a relationship is a necessary and important thing to know how to do. But it's about as fun as scrubbing a public toilet in Times Square with a toothbrush.

Ah Times Square - where even the toilets are sponsored. Don't be fooled - still a hobo shower.

And how does all that compromising stuff work anyway? You'll eat at my favorite vegan sushi place one night and I'll eat at your favorite BBQ place the next? What if I can't eat anything at your favorite BBQ place? Ever? What if every time we go out to eat you're the one who has to compromise for me? And each time you do, your soul erodes a little bit until one day, as you are swallowing that last bite of tofu cheesecake at Peacefood Cafe on the Upper West Side, you erupt in a murderous rage and scream "WHY THE FUCK AM I EATING SOYBEANS FOR DESSERT??".

You know, maybe we should rethink this entire relationship. Maybe we should just admit that it will never work. Think of all the things we'll never be able to do together -- we'll never sip the same Cookies and Cream milkshake from two straws at Johnny Rockets, or split a pastrami sandwich at Carnegie Deli, or enjoy a late night gyro at a the 53rd St Halal Cart after drinking too many Irish Car Bombs at The Pig n' Whistle. So maybe the best thing for both of us to do is save ourselves a lot of future heartbreak and give up on this whole thing right now.

Or maybe we could just get coffee.


Want more from The Digressions? CLICK HERE to get caught up on our webseries!

Searching for (Burt) Sugarman

jordanmca

moonshoes

I think it's fair to say that I was an odd child. I viewed everything through the lens of a film or stage production - still do, in fact. And I was kind of scared of being alone - even if people were in the next room - so I would carry on a continuous mental conversation with all the inanimate objects around me. And I had a thing for digging through the office supplies in my dad's old desk drawer. For fun. Just the thought of that kneaded eraser in a Walkers shortbread tin is making me antsy.

I also had this recurring childhood fantasy that one day there would be a little box invented where you could just say whatever you wanted to see and it would play for you on a little screen. Music videos, movies, home videos, whatever. I was just totally in love with the idea that you could capture anything in this world and then replay it infinitely. That probably has something to do with why I sat on a boombox and recorded my farts, only to play them back a million times while cackling with pride.

I was reflecting on that weird little daydream about the Enchanted Video Box the other day and realized that - HOLY CRAP - that thing was invented and it's called YouTube.

Since its inception, YouTube has literally become one of my best friends. Whenever I need a personal recharge I just type in the words "soul train" and my day is instantly 1000% better than it was 5 minutes ago.

Clicking this will be the best decision of your life.

But why is this? Why do I turn first to "The Tube" (that's what I call it - I'm trying to make this catch on, so join in kids!) for these little infusions of joy in my day? Why not read a book? Or watch a classic movie? Or study a new language? Or learn how to draw?

Well, first of all, those search terms would all pull great results on YouTube. And second of all, why would I read a book and have someone else string together tired ideas for me when I can curate my own perfect entertainment-a-thon from the world's largest collection-of-everything-that's-ever-existed?

Here's a great example of an instant YouTube pick-me-up. Take a look-see at REO Speedwagon's 1978 hit "Roll With the Changes". Go ahead. I'll wait.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGgLPriZUSA&ref=0]

Feeling good? I figured. Like you could hop on a 1971 Triumph Tiger 650 and leave your small town problems in the dust? Same.

Everything about this song and video is absolute perfection. The performance is taken from Burt Sugarman's long-running late night musical program called The Midnight Special. Take a long, hard look at Kevin Cronin's closeups. Some tv director knew what was up when he was calling the shots on this one. The intensity of those hazel lady-killers, the inexplicably beautiful pillow-wreath of curly brown hair perfectly framing his face, the way his thin lips are constantly kissing the mic like it's some sort of magical rock and roll ice cream cone he must gently sup upon to continue to emanate the musical genius pouring from his maw - it's all a flawless recipe for feelgoodism.

You know - it's the opposite feeling you get from listening to Mumford and Sons.

Not afraid to be self-referential.

And without The Tube where would I ever have seen this time capsule of a performance? How else could I have learned that my cultural tastes point to the fact that I was supposed to be born in 1957? In what other arena could I guiltily and inexplicably watch 30 straight minutes of live Bee Gees performances?

Like it or not, I don't think YouTube is going anywhere. And as our computers become more and more a part of our bodies - so will YouTube. Which actually makes me feel better about my co-dependency, oddly enough. So the next time you need a little kickstart to your day, pull up The Tube and type in a phrase - I suggest "Stevie Nicks", "Queen Live Aid", or "The Digressions" - and enjoy the comforting caress of an old friend who just so happens to know everyone and everything.

Swallowing Like A Woman

aubreysaverino

britney

Oh for goodness sake, get your filthy minds out of the gutter! What would your mother say if she could hear those thoughts? (Btw, hi Mom!). Just to be clear, this blog post has nothing to do with sex or the exchange of bodily fluids.  Who am I kidding? It has everything to do with sex and the exchange of bodily fluids (sorry, Mom), but in my defense—what doesn’t?

This maybe?

If you are a particularly loyal follower of our blog (first of all, we love you), you might remember when Andrew Dahl got his testicles in a twist after discovering the pill he was prescribed to stall the inevitable shrinking of his precious hairline, could also cause shrinking of a different kind... His article got me thinking about another little pill. A pill I swallowed every day for ten years, since I was seventeen — the same pill popped by approximately eleven million women in the United States every year.  In fact, it’s so popular, let’s just go ahead and call it THE PILL.

In some ways, it’s a bit of a miracle drug. By simply swallowing one tiny pill a day, college co-eds all over the country can avoid some seriously nauseating morning-after regrets -- you know, those ones where you wake up after a particularly wild night at the Alpha Tau Omega White Trash Bash in a cold sweat, absolutely convinced that you are now carrying the offspring of a guy whose only claim to fame is holding the fraternity record for the longest keg stand… and then you realize, wait a minute -- you’re on the pill! No babies! Hooray for science!

Not that I was ever quite hip enough to experience those thrill-seeking regrets. I went to a catholic school most of my life, where “don’t have sex” was the extent of our sexual education and like a good little girl I vowed I would wait until marriage (and I tried Mom, really). But still, every responsible, respectable girl knows it’s better to be safe than sorry, so freshman year of college I marched over to the health clinic on campus and got myself a prescription for birth control. At the very least it curbs cramps and clears up your skin, right? I mean, it couldn’t hurt, right?

Typical day at a catholic school. Nothing sexual here.

A couple months later, I settled into a steady relationship with a nice boy from Iowa and my “wild nights” were spent rehearsing Shakespeare or Ibsen or Chekhov, or curled up on the couch in the boy’s quad while my boyfriend and his friends played the latest version of Tony Hawk or Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64 (you’re jealous, I know). So by sophomore year, when that same steady boyfriend and I decided we were ready to take the next step (holding hands, Mom), I had been on the pill for six months. In fact, I stayed on the pill for the entirety of my six-year relationship with that sweet boy from Iowa, through my very brief bout of single-hood (consisting of a couple dates with a cute biologist who studied snails and a two night stand with a guy I met at my best friend’s bachelorette party), and was still on the pill when I met the man who would eventually become my husband (and also, coincidentally, star in episodes 2 and 3 of The Digressions).

Hubba hubba husband.

So what’s the problem?

Well, about two years ago I stumbled upon something my doctor neglected to mention when she first put me on the pill (or maybe she did, but it was like those commercial voiceovers that detail the various side effects of the latest drug so rapidly you can barely make out what you think are the words “internal bleeding” and “possible death by crocodile”) and it sent me into a full blown panic attack.

First of all, I found out that the pill puts a big ol’ wet rag on your sex drive. Yep, that’s right. Apparently it decreases your level of testosterone (otherwise known as the horny-making hormone), lowering your libido and decreasing your orgasms. Stop. Wait. What? I’ve been on this thing for 10 YEARS! Are you telling me that I could have been having more sex and more orgasms for 10 YEARS? I want my money back! How much is an orgasm worth? 10 dollars? 50 dollars? I want to be reimbursed for every orgasm I never had on the pill!

Another satisfied defendant.

But that wasn't even the worst of it! I kept digging and discovered an actual scientific study called The “Sweaty T-Shirt Experiment” (who funds these things?), where women were asked to sniff T-shirts men had been wearing for a few days with no showers (who participates in these things?). The research found that most women were attracted to the scent of men whose immune system differed most from their own. Makes sense, right? Find a guy with a different immune system, combine forces, swap fluids and have tons of super-immunity babies. Evolution is brilliant. But here’s the kicker: women on the pill didn’t respond to the same kinds of sweaty-scented men! They couldn’t sniff them out and sometimes sniffed out men with immunity too similar to their own. Think of the biological implications! Think of all those sickly little children born to genetically modified freaks! Like me! Oh god, I thought (and here's where the fear really set in), I was on the pill when I started dating my college boyfriend AND when I met my husband! What if my sense of smell was out of whack? What if they didn’t smell the way they were supposed to smell and I just wasted years of my life with the wrong sweat-scented, immunity-deficient men??? 

Mmmm...Twi-like...

So in a moment of complete panic, I cancelled my prescription, threw away my pills, and waited to find out what the heck would happen to my body when it wasn't being flooded with synthetic hormones. Would I still be attracted to my husband? Would I have better sex? More orgasms? Or would I run directly to the nearest strong-jawed man I smelled sweating on the Astoria Subway platform and demand to carry his genetically superior children my belly?

To tell you the truth, two years later I still don't have any concrete answers, but I do trust that whatever happens inside my body now, happens the way mother nature intended (and sometimes mother nature can be a real bitch).

The Brink Of Tears

jordanmca

rock of love

She held the bar at chin-level, shuddering like a seasoned alcoholic suffering from fresh withdrawal. The weight on the other end of the contraption seemed immense to the point of metaphor. It carried the realized burden of her fears and insecurities and every unkind word she had ever spoken against herself. As she slowly looked to her right she saw a woman of comparable size completely outstretched - hanging on to an identical bar with only the tips of her fingers. She knew if she could hold out for only a second more than her opponent she would prevail while the other hurtled down 20 stories, screaming in defeat. "I can do this," she thought. "A stranger looks at me and only sees weakness at first glance. But they are wrong. I am strong." And with that last thought a well of strength arose in her and she felt her shaking arms steady. As she dared to open her eyes and take stock of her opponent, she watched the adversary let loose the bar. And in an instant the challenger disappeared down the side of the building - only leaving behind the shriek of defeat. For the first time in her life, she had won. She could have held on to the bar for an eternity - strengthened only by her pride - but it was no longer called for. And as she released the weight from her grasp she released her self-loathing and savored every last millisecond of plummeting 200 feet. Immunity...

And then I ALMOST shed a tear. I do that a lot. And not just while watching The Biggest Loser. It can happen during The Bachelor, SYTYCD, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. Sometimes it will happen when I'm looking at a piece of art...or a screensaver. I mean, what's wrong with me? Am I pregnant?

Do you blame me?

Like many man-boys, I spent my early puberty perfecting fart jokes in an attempt to ignore the fact that a crazy whirlpool of feelings had taken up permanent residence in my gut. Crying was out of the picture. No way, no how. And after years of not-crying practice it was as if I didn't even remember what it was like to cry. As if the organs it took to kick off the whole affair had become vestigial.

But then I started doing grown-up things: moving 3000 miles away, paying income taxes, trying and failing, trying and failing again, trying and failing again again, abruptly succeeding in ways I didn't expect, watching my wife walk down the aisle. And suddenly, crying seemed more appropriate - even if the mechanics of it had been long lost to some strange, personal forced-evolution.

Stop crying or I'll hit you with this stick.

These days it's very rare that I can bring forth a full-on cry. It more often pops up as a throat lump. And as I get older I actually find that I've started to crave that feeling. It's like a wet rag that wipes the emotional slate clean. And, dude, I get my fix in the absolute weirdest places. Like I find myself pulling up the closing number of the 1979 Bob Fosse autobiographical fantasy film All That Jazz on YouTube just to let the pure imginativeness of it all wash over me and overwhelm my creativity-meter until there's a rock solid lump in my throat. How did that guy come up with such a fantastic, narcissistic freak fest? It's amazing. I've never even seen that movie all the way through, but just the immense idea of the whole thing makes me teary.

Bye Bye Dignity

Crying is like the perfect expression of all emotions wrapped up into one. At the same time, it can be sad, fearful, happy, hilarious, proud, surprised, scared, in love, out of love, Rock of Love.

Permanently Ashamed

Why then can't I just let 'er rip and turn on the water works every week or so to cleanse my palette? Why can't we all just do it whenever we want? I'm sure the world would be a better place if we all had a designated cry time every Sunday at 7 pm.

I suppose it's just that everyone has their hang ups and we're all too damn busy to break down and admit what a mess we are on such a regular schedule. But I imagine that if I continue at my current rate, I'll break the cry-barrier somewhere around the birth of my first child and proceed on that path until I'm nothing but a blithering idiot by his or her college graduation. Which is the perfect age, incidentally, for me to be past embarrassment and onto embarrassing; bestowing upon my progeny a world of their own hang ups about crying.

Why I Hate Facebook

Eric Pargac

url

Facebook does a lot of wonderful things. It keeps me connected to old friends. It makes me laugh. It keeps me up to date on the latest news and/or latest pop culture fad. Heck, if it wasn't for Facebook, I bet a lot fewer people would have known why I chose to simulate riding on a horse while screaming, "Hey, sexy lady!" on the dance floor the other night, and I'm certain far fewer of them would have had the inclination to chuckle. url

That said, Facebook is ruining my life. It makes me feel so much closer to happiness. I read about all these happy people out there and think, "Well, if I know all these happy people, surely I can find exactly what I want at any given moment. Surely, the person who will grant all my wishes is out there just waiting to read my next status update."

So I stare at my news feed…

OK, I got a few 'likes', and maybe even a comment or two, but this post hasn't taken me to the next level. My dreams haven't suddenly come true. I guess my dream genie must be in a meeting. That's it, right? Hmm, maybe if I go through my news feed, I can piece together this worldwide puzzle and connect the dots to just the right person who needs to see what I have to offer. Oh dear God, I can feel my happiness slipping away. Wait, what's that little black thing in my belly button. Let me stare a little closer. You know, if I look closely enough maybe I can see what I had for dinner. Oh there it is! That was a really good burrito, but why did I get it extra hot? Look at my stomach lining. It's all red and inflamed. Hey, there's my navel again. Let's see what's on the other side. Damn, it's just reality again. All the navel gazing in the world won't make my reality any better at this particular moment.

Well...give me 5 more minutes.

So I scroll…

What are other people doing right now? I'm tired of examining myself. I need to look at other people. They must have the answer. Tommy's on vacation. Wish I could go to Iceland. Wouldn't my life be so much better if I was on vacation in one of the northern-most inhabited places on earth. I mean they have all those healing, volcanic waters. Oh look, Francine finally got that promotion. Too bad I can't get a promotion. If I got a promotion, I could make more money, and even afford to get a new TV. No one has a 4x3 ratio TV anymore. Everyone has joined the HDTV revolution and gone to 16:9. Wouldn't my life be better if I watched TV at a 16:9 ratio? Nice, Frank just took a beautiful picture of the sunset. Why is it always so overcast here? We can't even see the sun, much less a nice sunset. Whoa, what is that flushing noise? Oh right, that was my life going down the toilet! Wasn't it?! Sweet baby Jesus, it was!!

url-1

OR, was I just comparing the most mundane part of my life to the most noteworthy parts of everyone's life I've come into contact with who've chosen to put their face on this infernal online book.

Breathe…

I never put the boring parts of my life on Facebook. Why, because I don't want to bore my friends. I don't post about feeling bad, unless, of course, I think it'll make my friends laugh. I don't post about how I wish I was doing something better, because if I have time to post about that, I have time to go out and do something better. Oh right! I could go out and do something better. I could take a walk. I could drink an iced coffee from Brooklyn Bagel. I could start writing. I could do anything other than read about the amazing things I'm not doing.

Get outta there, Facebook!

Facebook, I don't hold it against you. I won't cut you off. I will continue to use your amazing network, to keep my friends informed of what's going on with me, especially those I don't get to see or talk to much anymore. BUT! I won't let you get me down. I'll rejoice in the success of all my friends. I'll like things that are interesting to me. I'll occasionally comment on someone's wall I haven't talked to in a while because I feel less vulnerable doing that than calling a busy old friend who might not have time to return my call. Perhaps I should be braver and not rely on your social network so much, but I'm getting older and life is getting harder. And you know what, sometimes I may take a few days and not read your feed. Don't hold it against me. Just like I'd expect my friend's not to hold it against me if I don't happen to go on Facebook on their birthday. Speaking of, why didn't I tell Jonathan happy birthday! Oh man I hate you, Facebook. Will you marry me?

Concrete Junk Hole

jordanmca

aeropostale

I'm a New York City fraud. I'm not fooling anyone, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I moved away from my suburban safety nest quite some time ago, but there are certain small town sensibilities that will be forever baked into my psyche. And even as I walk the streets of New York City as a resident, I always find myself pulled more towards the Taco Bell than El Rey del Taco. You better believe I'd be eating endless soup, salad and breadsticks every day for lunch if they didn't charge you $30 just to walk into an Olive Garden here.

Deuteronomy 8:3 - And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna.

You know, whoever decides what goes into Times Square is a genius. They knew that the country bumpkins of America (anyone who wasn't born in New York City) step off the plane at JFK and immediately begin to fear for their lives. Take Melissa, for example. She's taken the brave step to see the lights of the big city and she bought her ticket to see Phantom eight months ago. But the second some shady "cab driver" starts mumbling "You need ride? You need ride?" as she's forcing her way to the ground transportation area next to the baggage claim, she starts to doubt every decision that led her to this point.

Climbing the Aggro Crag is easier than getting out of JFK without being assaulted by drivers.

She's shuffled into a yellow cab by some stranger, who looks official enough to trust for now, and manages to mutter "Times Square" to the Jordanian driver murmuring very rapidly into a hands-free headset. And, as if by some miracle, 35 minutes later she arrives right in front of her hotel. She shoves 3 crumpled twenty dollar bills through the window of the plexiglass divider and dashes as fast as she can into the lobby of the Marriott, purse clutched tightly to her chest. 24 stories up, she enters her room and looks down on the mind-boggling arrangement of honking trucks and people clusters dwarfed by aging, sooted skyscrapers. Like some sort of Polly Pocket: Urban Nightmare Edition.

Oops...I meant Mighty Max.

Several panic attacks and cold showers later, she makes the decision to step outside and explore. She's in New York City! It's meant to be fun, isn't it? She intuits she should probably ignore the enthusiastic man who wants to know if she likes comedy as well as the mangy, potbellied Elmo waving at her. There's also a man lying on the ground rolling back and forth while he cry-sings. He's either having the worst or best day of his life - it's hard to tell which.

Then, thank heavens, a welcome sight! Aeropostale! Forever 21! The Disney Store! Toys R Us! It seems New York is really just like the mall back home, but the stores are all in giant buildings and you have to push your way through a thick wall of sweaty Europeans to get into any of them. (That, and it smells not-so-faintly of rotten eggs constantly.) It's kind of fun when you think about it! It's everything they sell me at home, but more expensive and harder to access!

Was I wrong in thinking that this is just off-brand Abercrombie? How is this here?

She eats a quick $50 dinner at Applebees (it really did taste better than the one at home, though), thoroughly enjoys her Broadway show (the chandelier actually crashes down to the stage!), and even takes a minute outside her hotel to turn around and create a mental snapshot of what it all looks like. She did it. She survived. She'll just go ahead and move her flight up to tomorrow because, well, I mean she saw everything, right? She had her New York Experience. No need to ruin her "perfect vacation" by outstaying her welcome. She really does ♥ NY and she's a better person for experiencing it.

Now, I'm not making fun of Melissa. I am Melissa...even though I live in (the not-cool part of) Queens and have the lifestyle of a born-and-bred middle class New Yorker. I take the 7 train home just like everyone else, trying to ignore the fact that an Asian woman just farted in my face because I won't stand up for her. But I can never seem to shake the feeling that I'm trespassing in some way. And is it wrong to want carpet, a dishwasher, and a washing machine that doesn't make your clothes smell like a YMCA locker room after they've been washed?

I took you for granted, baby. Please come back to me!

They say it takes at least 5 years of living in New York to become a "real New Yorker". I'm more interested in how long it takes for me to forget that I grew up in relative comfort and with full-sized appliances. When I'm alone at night, however, walking to the subway and a man looks at me dead in the eyes as he's peeing on a mailbox, I can't help but feel pride in the fact that I'm actually both of those people. Melissa and the public urinator. Soft and suburban; serrated and citified. If only I could just get to a damn Chick-Fil-A once and a while.

3 Reasons To Not Procreate

jordanmca

kids with an iphone

I have a terminal degree. I’m married. I work 40 hours a week. So really the only thing that’s left for me in this world is having a child, right? I mean, either I make a little person in my own image to validate my existence, or I start wearing khakis every day, begin parting my hair down the middle and enroll in my local community college's Lifelong Learners program. lifelong learner

But let me ask you something. Have you seen America recently? It blows. And not only that, it seems that everywhere I turn I hear the steady clip-clop of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Who would want to bring children into a world only to have them witness its collapse? Take a look at 3 things that are ruining your children's lives (and subsequently your life) before they even begin:

1. PEAK OIL

The Peak Oil theory examines the moment that our demand for fossil fuel exceeds our ability to meet that demand with production. It also examines the moment that America turns into a lawless, bandit-ruled wasteland. Everything we do depends on oil. Oh but you're too urban for a car, you say? You're fine riding your fixie around Williamsburg? You're too busy fulfilling orders for knitted classic Nick Toon characters to leave your Etsy shop (apartment)? Well you're the only one. 95% of American households own a car. And everyone you know and love live on products brought to us by oil. Your food, your soap, your Season 3 of Gilmore Girls on DVD - all delivered by a fuel-burning infrastructure of death. Eh, come on though: the world has 763 billion barrels of undiscovered oil. That'll last a while, right? Wrong. By some estimates we actually hit peak production in the late 1960s and are just now starting to figure it out. Start hoarding essentials like toilet paper now. As for your kids? Forget it. They'll never know the rippled reassurance of a good Cottonelle ass wiping.

The bell curve of your imminent chafing.

2. SMARTPHONES

Steve Jobs changed the world. He also ensured its destruction. I remember needing to think long and hard about whether or not I was going to join the smartphone crowd. It's not natural to be in touch with everyone at every second of every day, right? But soon it will be. You may not have witnessed first-hand evidence of evolution before, but in twenty years when babies are being born in a hunched-over position with their hands cupped 6 inches away from their face it will all become clear. One in five children under 16 now owns a smartphone in the UK. (That's obviously more than the number of children that have orthodontic care in the UK.) But here's the mind boggling thing - who the hell are children emailing in the first place? The answer is they're not emailing anyone. They're sending naked pictures to each other using Snapchat. Naturally, it takes adolescents exactly 0.2 seconds to figure out how to use the next-big-thing to ruin their life. And is it their fault? Who gave them that magical device to begin with? Their mother did because, well, everyone else has one and I don't want my kid to be a loser, ok!? Face it, we live in a world where one of the major questions we have to ask ourselves as parents is, "At what age do I give Junior his first mobile device?" And then we commit seppuku.

"Mom's Instagram account all kinds of weird!"

3. THE DEATH OF THE POSTAL SERVICE

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" reads the inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City. But yesterday Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe (metaphorically) marched to 8th Avenue, (metaphorically) climbed the columns and (metaphorically) etched the addendum "except Saturdays" onto the prominent Corinthian colonnade.  He told us that the amount of mail being delivered drastically decreases each year and that the United States Postal Service will no longer be delivering mail on Saturdays in order to save $2 billion a year. Oh, and also that everything and everyone that you could ever rely on as a constant in your life will eventually be torn away from you without warning. It's more than just the Postal Service dropping a day of delivery. It's a government institution admitting to its people, "We have no money and we can't do anything about it. In the near future nothing real will exist and we will all live empty, hollow lives from within a crappy version of the Holodeck. Our world is crumbling. Think Wall-e directed by Oliver Stone."

"I think, therefore I leave the Holodeck and ruin your life."

Perhaps I'm wrong.  Maybe we'll reverse humanity's taxation of this planet and it will lead to an age of peace and harmony and our children will be the first generation in the history of the earth to experience a society without conflict. Or maybe we'll all wise up and realize that children will only slow you down when, in the near future, you're running at a dead sprint from marauding cannibals after foraging for dead subway rats.

Balding Like A Man

adahly

Buffalo Head

My father will turn 65 years old this year. Time has had its way with him here and there but he still has a bushy, impressive, full head of white-blond hair. The men on my mother’s side of the family, however, do not. Now I, like the rest of you probably, was inculcated at some point or other with the mistruth that baldness comes entirely from your mother’s side of the family. So, it was a quite a relief when, in freshman year biology class, Mr. Stefan disabused me of this notion and described that male pattern baldness is not in fact sex linked, merely sex-influenced. Huzzah! There was hope for me! Thin hope, but hope nonetheless. Maybe my father’s robust, hirsute genes could ward off the (dashingly) cue-balled DNA of my mother’s clan. Alas, this was not so. After years of eyeing my hairline suspiciously in the mirror, mentally willing it to stay in place, I had to come to terms with the cold, hard truth: my hair was going the way of the buffalo*. Buffalo Head

As a true over-thinker, I had my whole response to baldness mapped out by the age of 19 or so. I would never wear a toupee. I would never go for visually-upsetting-and-not-fooling-anyone plugs or surgeries. I wouldn’t even do medication. I would bald like a man. Unfortunately, I was 40 in all of these fantasies**, not 29. Why couldn’t it wait til I was at least 30?! Of course, if I was 30 I would say, “why couldn’t it wait til I was 35?!” etc. on down the line until I was, I don’t know, 70. So, at the age of 29, I was faced with what I saw as two options: audition for bald guy roles for the rest of my life or seek some chemical assistance. Now, I know what you’re saying***, there are many successful bald actors. And you’re right. But they don’t play leading men. Quick, let’s play a game. Name a bald leading man that doesn’t have ridiculous muscles. You were going to say Bruce Willis or Jason Statham before you read the second half of that sentence, weren’t you?! And look, I’m no Gosling. I know my money won’t be made in making women swoon. But I still hold out a hope that I can I can protagonize here and there.

Buscemi

So, Propecia. Many of my friends were/are on it and have had great success. It’s expensive, but if you can get your doctor to be a little creative there’s a prostate medication that has the exact same ingredients as Propecia and is 4x cheaper. You just have to have the patience to cut an already tiny pill into 4 tinier sections. Fuck it, I’ve got time****. So, when I was home for Christmas I got an appointment and went in to sheepishly waste a doctor’s time for a large chunk of money*****, and went home with a bottle of tiny green pills.

Only then did I think to look into the side effects I’d heard to be related to Propecia. Side effects that are, shall we say, private in nature******. I’d heard whispers about them in conversations with friends but had never fully looked into it. I also hadn’t looked into it because I do my best not to look into that sort of thing. See, if you don’t know me then you don’t know that I dabble in hypochondry. A headache is brain cancer; an itch is an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection, etc. So, for the most part, in the interest of my sleep and blood pressure, I avoid looking up illnesses/side effects on the internet*******. But not this time. I had to get the dirt before starting on what would potentially be decades of medication.

Hypochondry

It turns out the dirt was not pretty. In fact, the dirt was junk-shrinkingly terrifying. I will take this moment to recognize that it is damn near impossible to tell what is viable information and what isn’t in the giant, gaping maw of the internet. Conspiracy theory and well-researched truth run together willy-nilly; Big Pharma funded bullshit poses as hard science. I know. I know. But there were enough legitimate websites describing cases of “permanent sexual dysfunction” to make a man cringe. Apparently, in some cases, the embarrassing side effects of Propecia were not going away when people stopped taking the medication.  It’s important to state that this is incredibly rare. Only 2% of men suffer any side effects at all and it appears to be much less than half of those that suffer permanently.

But still.

It’s a relatively new medication in the grand scheme of things and this sort of information may be coming to light more and more in the future. Who knows.

At the end of the day, this was a cosmetic medication that I was thinking of taking because I am vain and afraid of change. Regardless of the veracity or lack thereof of these studies, was I willing to gamble my manhood on a baldness pill? And the answer was no. I would have spent the whole time on the medication worrying that my balls were going to stop working instead of marvelling at my luxurious hair. And that’s a trade-off I’m not willing to make.

Deflated

So, call me crazy. Call me alarmist. Call me maybe*******. But I’ll be willingly following the path of the Willis, the Statham...the Tobolowsky. So, next time you see me on the street and I’m looking a little thin up top, put your hand on my shoulder and give me a tight-lipped smile of sympathy, eh?

*The buffalo went bald, right? **My fantasies are really exciting. ***In fact, I’m inside your house right now.  Hi.  Nice furniture. ****I’ve definitely got time for you, girl.  No, sorry, not you, the other one.  To your left. Yeah.  Hey, what’s up? *****I don’t have good health insurance.  I am playing chicken with life. ******Penis and balls stuff. *******A girlfriend once described me as, “The Man Who Googled Himself Cancer”. ********I’m so sorry.

Regret Dot Com

jordanmca

oldwomanstretching

We've all got things we're not proud of. Little regrets that chip away at our soul. Decisions that, with just a bit of foresight, could have been prevented and saved us a world of hurt and sorrow.  But as we grow older we (mercifully) learn that we aren't necessarily the same person we were when we were 17 and we can find peace with that and move on. Yesterday was a different day and it doesn't matter that I willfully chose to keep my seat on the train and deny that small, defenseless, hungry, feeble, elderly woman respite from her achy-leg syndrome. No one will ever know anyway.  Right? oldwomanstretching

Wrong.  You're forgetting one all-important, all-knowing being. Oh - you're an atheist, you say? You don't believe you have to answer to a higher power? There is no such thing as an omnipotent, omniscient entity that will call on you to answer for your wrongs? Let me introduce you to someone. This is The Internet. He can't wait to meet you! In fact, he's devoted his life to curating a giant regret museum that features all of humanity, and you're the next rotating exhibit!

"Well I don't Instagram a picture of myself every time I don't get up for an old lady on the train," you say. Oh, okay. Well three other people did it for you.  You have no privacy.

I only thank The Internet that this sort of technology was in its infancy while I was in middle school. Imagine if every note you had written to a "crush" at age 12 was actually a text message that was still littering the information highway as a series of bits and bytes, only to resurface on your wedding day. Imagine if you had written a blog documenting your gender-defying love of crafting beaded necklaces and Dropboxed all your secret PowerPoint files detailing the histories of obscure Star Wars characters. DELETE DELETE DELETE.

pondababa

Of course, this doesn't really seem to affect anyone nowadays.  We're learning to celebrate the regret. After all, one-seventh of the world's population shares their daily dump schedule on Facebook. And nearly 50% of Americans own a hand-held Regret Documentation Device (smartphone). Our children are primed to start memorializing their horrible decisions at an early age when we pawn them off to Angry Birds so they'll shut up or - FML - get their own iPhone for Christmas. They might as well learn sooner rather than later that they have no hope of being noticed in this world without publicly making a series of rash, uninformed decisions.

goths

Look, the bottom line is that anyone born after 1990 has no hope of ever being a credible parent. When your kids have access to archived pages of your Tumblr, you might as well apprentice them to a carny. At least it's more useful than a liberal arts degree. But then again, perhaps all this sharing is making us a more honest society - more accepting of the other and the unique. A world where the other and the unique are rewarded and featured. Either that, or it's turning our lives into one big episode of The Bachelor. But there is no First Impression Rose. And your boss replaced Chris Harrison. And the Bachelor is the personification of the unrealistic expectations you have for your life.

You know what? Forget I said anything. I don't want to be remembered as being so pessimistic. Is it too late to remove this post? Yes. Yes it is.

The Exact Second I Became An Old Person

jordanmca

The other day I realized that my taste in music has evolved into that of a dad. Not like a guy that has a child, but like...my dad. Bring on the Korg, baby. Send me down the sweet, sweet rabbit hole of the prog rock synth riff. Kansas? Uh huh. Yes? Yes. Alan Parsons Project? Alan Parsons Party! I’m not ashamed of it.  But, then again, my antiquated tastes aren’t getting me anywhere in today’s now-obsessed social media popularity contest. I’m pretty sure after two mentions of Jethro Tull, they revoke your Twitter account. It’s not like I’m some quirky music producer that can be dropping samples of Gates of Delirium into the next Kanye West single. And I never wanted to be the guy who buys his last pair of jeans at age 29 and cryogenically freezes his ability to adapt to technology and absorb pop culture. It’s bad enough that I’m starting out with tastes that went out of fashion before I was born.

I decided to go on a little fact-finding mission. I came up with a plan that during my morning commute, while walking to the subway, I would cue up Pandora and listen to the "Today’s Hits" station. Up until this point, I had really only ever created one Pandora station. Why would a person need any more? Just surgically stitch together your favorite songs and musicians into one continuous feed, and thou shalt not want for personally relevant music. With hesitancy, I began streaming my way towards a brave, more with-it, new world.

What I heard wasn’t awfully surprising. One fails to realize how pervasive pop music is in every cranny of our culture. Even if I hadn’t “heard” the song, I had heard it. I eventually discovered that I had chosen to avoid a few particular artists outright. Namely Justin Bieber. And Nicki Minaj. Look - of course I know who they are. I’m not dead. He sings a song about babies and she wears a clown wig or something. But imagine my surprise when I look down at the screen to see that they had collaborated on a song. How did that even come to fruition? Was she babysitting him?

The opposite of my prom.

It’s called Beauty and the Beat. Hm. I like that. It appeals to my childhood connection to the Second Golden Age of Animation. Pretty standard rhythm and hook. Definitely has that magical catchiness formula. But the more I listened, the more turned off I became.  I started listening to the lyrics:

We gonna party like it's 3012 tonight. I wanna show you all the finer things in life. So just forget about the world, we're young tonight. I'm coming for ya, I'm coming for ya.

3012? What is the significance of that? 1000 years from now? Was that foretold as a really great party year and I missed it? Are they celebrating the millennial anniversary of defying the Mayan apocalypse? And what does an 18 year old know about “the finer things in life”? Like going to college and feeling great about not calling your mom when you’re going to stay out late? And why does it end with a predatory threat?

I was racked with questions. Then, rather unfairly, while I was grappling with my confusion, here comes Nicki Minaj to the party. Like some sort of creepy fairy mixed with a schizophrenic rhyming troll, she twisted words and phrases into unintelligible squawking and slurring, eventually, inexplicably rhyming “Bieber” with “wiener.” And that was it. That was the moment that I lost. Lost my youthfulness. My desire to understand and participate in our culture. To live outside my safe zone.

I took a moment to reflect. I thought back to 2002 when the number one song was “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne. And I let the lyrics wash over me. Why did you have to go and make things so complicated, Time? What happened to the days when I could just blindly like whatever was on the radio and be in conversation with the real decision makers of this country: its pop stars. And then I realized Time was the problem. I’m old. And I fall and I crawl and I break and I take what I get and I turn it into honesty, you promised me I’m never gonna find you fake it. No, no.

Two pretty girls