GAHHHH HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK – or, My first time getting a Brazilian.

Dear reader,

I’m trying to veer into more personal topics with my blog posts, and what’s more personal than my privates? Nothing! So get ready. We’re going to get a little weird tonight.

Today I did something I swore that I would never do. As you may have guessed by the somewhat ambiguous title of this post, I voluntarily went and received a Brazilian wax this afternoon. “Why?” you surely ask. Let me Lizsplain.

You should understand that there is no man involved behind-the-scenes of the waxing incident. Not even Channing Tatum on his knees begging me to get a Brazilian would have made me do it, not even if he was naked, not even if he was offering to make hot, hot facelove to my vagina. No. It would take even more than that to let a stranger shmear searing wax onto my labia.

I did it as part of a little gift to myself for getting out of debt, and getting all fit, and also for being very cute and kind of fun. I bought a boudoir photo shoot. Yes. I asked the brilliant Emily Gualdoni to take pictures of me wearing ridiculous/extremely sexy lingerie. I figured, hey. I’m not getting younger. I’m in the best shape of my life and before you know it, I’m going to be 62 and practically dead. I want to look fondly back on my prime, and have proof for my upstart granddaughters that once I was young and hot and buff, as they surely will be.

Thus it was that I arranged the shoot and began to get ready. To prepare for the shoot, I got a pedicure, a french manicure, my first facial (by an esthetician, heh heh), a haircut and color, a teeth whitening, several adorable outfits, and the Brazilian, which I saved for last.

~ We now interrupt your blog post for a brief soapbox ~

I’ve never minded if my partners had a bush. Ya know? Everybody has hair there. Kind of like we grow hair on our heads, but because humans are weird and shameful about private parts, we complicate our pubic hair by insisting it look a certain way or go to great pains to make it disappear altogether. As long as it’s trimmed and free of debris, I actually find well-groomed pubic hair infinitely more attractive than a hairless pussy or ballsack. (Also, is it just me, or is there is something perversely childish about an adult human with no adult hair? I think it’s weird.)

~ the end ~

Once I decided I was ripping the hair off my nethers, I did what any self-respecting woman spoiling herself would do: I visited Groupon. The choices were overwhelming – there are so many waxing parlors, and so many great deals! Seriously! It’s almost like women do this to themselves all the time. Naturally, I chose the cheapest one, and then I made an appointment.

On the big day, I went to the salon and was promptly shown to a room of dubious sanitation and instructed to “get myself set up.” I looked around at the hot tubs of wax, the elevated bed with the doctor’s office-style paper running down its middle, and the itty bitty purple towel that I assumed was somehow supposed to cover me, and I panicked. I lurched desperately at the woman as she walked out of the room.

“Um, ah, hey?” I said, with confidence. “This is gonna sound really stupid, but it’s my first time, and I, actually, ah… what am I supposed to do here?”

To her credit, my waxer (wax-lady? waxess?) was incredibly kind and instructed me in the ways of proper wax positioning. I listened carefully, and then I got onto the table and lay there, uncomfortable, a wash-cloth sized towel over my pubic area. An eery chiming noise sounded every few seconds. I looked at the ceiling and twiddled my thumbs. I appreciated that the salon wasn’t drafty, although it had terrible decor. Then my waxer came back in and got to work.

If I may flatter myself but for a moment, I have always considered my pain threshold to be fairly high. As an adult I’ve never cried from pain, I stick myself with needles for egg donations, I kind of enjoyed getting tattooed, etc.

Getting waxed really, really fucking hurt. And in a shocking, extremely present way. There’s no avoiding it or thinking about something else. You are right there in that moment. It feels like every single pain receptor in your pelvic area explodes with white-hot activity. It feels like a professional slapper just slapped your beaver with his best slap. It feels like all your pubic hairs were individually and simultaneously torn from their roots, their pores unexpectedly and rudely opened, their follicles damaged forever. It feels like death.

You may think I exaggerate, but I assure you I do not. The only thing that kept me from yanking the waxing sticks out of my esthetician’s hand and throwing them at her face was my incorrigible pride. If other women did this, I could do it, dammit. If I wouldn’t let myself yell in pain, I would laugh maniacally. If I couldn’t run from the room, I could white-knuckle grip the table and endure. So I did, and I stayed for the whole damn thing. Even the butt.

After she finished, the esthetician offered witch hazel and sunflower oil as a post-wax reliever, so I used them, and calmly got redressed. Although it was much, much worse than I thought it would be, I lived to tell the tale, and to join the ranks of all the women before me who have tortured themselves thusly in the pursuit of being beautiful. I was able to walk out with my pride intact, weighing just a little less than I did when I walked in.  And to finish up photo shoot prep, tomorrow I’m getting my asshole bleached.

Just kidding. And I’m never getting waxed again. Now excuse me, please. In order to get the best value for my money, I’m going to spend the next two weeks appreciating my beautiful, hairless vagina in the mirror.

 

Meet Nephi, the Ex-Mormon.

Dear Reader,

What the fuck is wrong with a woman who considers herself a blogger and only blogs but a few times a year? I don’t want to indulge my Mormon guilt by self-flagellating too much here, but I really suck at keeping up with things. I have a few excuses, all of which I’ll enumerate upon, but suffice it to say that I’m vowing to write more. Also suffice it to say that I probably will not write more.

First, what’s going on – a brief update. I’ve been working my ass off in the gym because I’m working towards a physique competition! I’m really excited about it, but it’s in June – which means I have to be incredibly disciplined over the next four months. I have a trainer and I get up at five every morning and my diet sucks. That is all on that subject. Just watch out for me on the street, because if I’m raging on pre-workout (plus the fact that I can’t drink or eat empty carbs) and I catch you coppin me a mean mug, I will kick your ass.

Actually, not really. I know being fit doesn’t make me a badass, but humor me and let me keep that illusion, yeah? Because I’m actually actively working in the opposite direction of badassery when it comes to my career. You see, in July, I will sojourn to the great city of San Francisco for a three month “bootcamp” course in software engineering. That’s right. I am about to join the ranks of incredibly weird people who don’t shower very often and build peanut butter castles in their parents’ basements. Perhaps I shall also move back home with Dad and get my hands sticky with ground-up legume goo. Just kidding. People in the tech world are, for the most part, pretty cool, as am I, and my Lizard gut feels good about making this change. I’m flying out to SF for an interview next weekend, and have another interview a couple of weeks after that. I am not ashamed to admit I literally cry when I think about leaving some of the most groovy people here in Chicago, but I’m ready for a big change and life must go on. I love Chicago, and I’ll be back all the time.

I’m sure you’re all curious about Lois – she’s doing well. I almost beat her senseless today when I came home from work because she ate roughly $50 of beauty products. Don’t worry – the products are all natural, so Lois and her indefatigable bowels of steel are perfectly fine. I’d like to also mention that only a couple of weeks ago, I hosted a brunch party for my girlfriends. The night before the big day,  during the darkest hour of the early morning, Lois ate a dozen and a half carefully made cupcakes off the counter – complete with wrappers. Again, I was sorely tempted to make her suffer, but because I love her, and because she is stupid, and because it’s not her fault she is stupid, on both occasions I shut myself in my bedroom and walked myself through self-calming exercises until I could once again behold her visage and feel the love bloom within my heart.

Anyway, the real reason I’m writing today is because I recently reestablished contact with a very old friend who I knew in college. I know Rhett because a long time go, in a galaxy far way, Rhett wrote an article on me because of my controversial column in the USU Statesman. Rhett claims our conversation was his first critical look into Mormonism. And what do you know – Rhett has left the flock of the Lamb of God and is only the most recent person in a string of apostates who have come to me and shared their stories. I’m not going to be stingy with words here (partly because I enjoy swearing, but mostly because it’s true): Rhett’s story of leaving the Church is really sad. Really fucking sad. His wife left him. He became incredibly depressed. He lost his job and his blood family currently thinks he sucks. His entire concept of life, the afterlife, and everything in between has been torn down and now he has to start, as an adult, from scratch.

And the saddest thing about Rhett’s sad story is that is it just one of SO MANY SAD FUCKING STORIES about people leaving the Mormon Church. It’s been such a long time since I left the Church, and I’ve intentionally removed myself as far as possible from Utah culture, so it’s been easy to put out of mind the fact that this kind of fucked up shit happens all the time. I probably don’t need to iterate for most of my readers the details of what happens when people leave the Church, but for those of you who don’t know, this is basically a small sample of what happens to the average apostate in their journey out of the Church. We’ll make up a sample dude – let’s call him Nephi.

Nephi is a 25 year old faithful Mormon man, who wakes up one fine day and is reading up on his online Mormon literature. He sees some news stories about the Church’s recent policy change regarding the disallowing of baptism for children who live in households with same-sex parents. This new doctrine makes Nephi a little queasy, because to his understanding, the sins of the parents are not supposed to fall on the children. Utah ain’t easy on its LGBT families, and kids of gay parents already have to deal with a lot of doody (Nephi hasn’t started swearing yet). Young men can’t hold the Priesthood without getting baptized, and not being able to be a baptized, priesthood-holding member of your Church can be a pretty conspicuous thing in Utah. So is being a non-baptized young woman who can’t go to the Temple with her friends. So Nephi feels a little uncomfortable, but he doubts his doubts before he doubts his faith and carries on.

Well, one click leads to another, and pretty soon Nephi is tumbling down the black rabbit hole of internet information. One of the pages Nephi comes to is a Wikipedia page detailing the wives of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the supreme commander of early Mormonism. “What the fetch?” Nephi mumbles under his breath as he reads that Brother Smith not only married multiple women, but that some of those women were as young as fourteen, and some were already married to other men. Nephi did not know this. The weird feeling in his gut grows stronger, but Nephi tries to ignore it and goes on with his day.

A couple of weeks later, Nephi (who is a great reader) is perusing the shelves at his local library. In the religious studies section, he comes upon a book called Rough Stone Rolling – a forbiddingly large tome which is a biography on Joseph Smith and early Mormon history. Nephi’s curiosity is peaked. Surely this can’t be bad – it’s not anti-Mormon literature, look! It was written by a Priesthood-holding member. So Nephi takes the book home and mentions it to his wife, who is a good, god-fearing woman.

Nephi finds out some very troubling things as he reads his new book, but he can’t put it down. All the claims are backed by documentation, much of which is held at Brigham Young University (where Nephi and his wife met and married at the ripe old age of 21). Was it true that Joseph Smith looked at rocks in a hat while he translated the Book of Mormon, and not, in fact, at the Golden Plates themselves, as the LDS Church teaches? Was it also true that Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered, not because the persecuting mob hated Mormons and were acting under Satan’s influence, but because Joseph Smith had pressured a man’s wife into eternal marriage and sexual relations? Was it really true that Joseph Smith ran for POTUS (coulda given Trump a run for his money, amirite)? The Mormons were building an army! The Mormons slaughtered a band of immigrants as they crossed in southern Utah! The United States Government threatened to disallow Utah statehood because of polygamy, immediately after which God conveniently revealed that polygamy was to cease until the afterlife

Cheese and rice, these are serious accusations. But the evidence is easily verifiable – the information on the internet is one of the Mormon Church’s biggest enemies. And Nephi is no fool – he happens to be a geneticist who loves his cold, hard facts. Nephi experiences an alarming amount of anxiety over these things he learned, and returns the book to the library without finishing it. But he can’t stop thinking about it. So he goes to his bishop.

In his bishop’s office, Nephi confidentially reveals his concerns. The bishop, who in fact already knows most of what Nephi has learned, emphatically and somewhat callously tells Nephi that’s what he gets for reading “anti-Mormon literature” and to pray and have more faith. The Lord’s ways are higher than ours, and Satan has a sneaky way of making false history look like fact to throw doubts upon us. Stay strong, brother Nephi.

So Nephi goes home and he prays. He prays and prays and prays, but though he sweats right through his garments so fervently does he appeal to God’s grace, he receives nary an answer. So Nephi makes a major decision – he tells his wife. As often happens in these situations, because every Mormon secretly has their doubts and insecurities regarding their religion, Nephi’s wife reacts with ten-alarm bells. “How could you do this to me? To us? To God?!” 

At this point, you might be thinking, Bullshit, Liz. You’re making this up. I solemnly swear to God – no, I solemnly swear upon Buffalo Trace whiskey – that I am not and that this shit happens every day in Utah. People confess their doubts and the reaction from their friends and family ranges from deranged anger to obsessive fixing of a situation that cannot be fixed.

So, driven further downward by his wife’s behavior, Nephi sinks into a depression and his performance at work begins to seriously suffer. At this point, Nephi is fairly convinced that the Church isn’t true. So he starts doing more research, and what he finds absolutely astonishes him. All it takes is a little digging for him to discover multiple wide-spread sex abuse coverups in the Church. Then he reads this article on the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which Nephi didn’t even know existed. Nephi knew the Church had money, but gosh dang, it has that much? And for an institution supposedly focused on doing the will of Jesus Christ, the Church spends a pathetically small amount of its finances on helping its fellow men. That doesn’t exactly give Nephi the warm fuzzies.

Thusly, Nephi turns from confusion and sadness to disgust and anger. Ten percent of his hard-earned money has gone to the Church for his entire life, and for what? He went on a mission and dedicated two years to bring people to this? One day, while Nephi is getting dressed, he picks up his white temple garments out of his underwear drawer and looks at them carefully. He’s worn them every day since he received his temple blessings six years ago. They promise him safety and security, and they might even be bulletproof. But Nephi puts his garments back in their drawer. He never wears them again. His wife notices.

Several months later, after Nephi has stopped going to Church and paying his tithing, his wife informs him that she is leaving him. Nephi is devastated – he dearly loves her – but he isn’t surprised. Since Nephi became inactive, they have found very little common ground, and she doesn’t want to be with a man who won’t baptize her children and have millions of skybabies on their own planet in the afterlife.

The gravity with which Mormons approach the situation of their loved ones leaving the church is almost comic in its intensity. But consider it from their perspective: You have to be a righteous Mormon to earn a spot in the afterlife. If you love your spouse and children and they decide to leave the Church, you just lost your chance at eternal happiness with them in it. There’s a lot at stake.

So this sucks. Nephi decides to resign from the Church, and his bishop, who knew Nephi from way back when Nephi hoped to grow a foot or two, contacts his goodly parents and informs them of their son’s decision. They’re pretty fucking upset about it and can’t bring themselves to speak to Nephi. Meanwhile, Nephi is on to real swear words, and finds he has a taste for fine bourbon. He oscillates wildly from despair and anger to a newfound ecstasy in the realization that he has complete ownership of himself and his decisions. Nobody is actually in his mind, reading his thoughts. He doesn’t have to spend hours upon hours doing useless Church callings, and he suddenly has 10% more in savings.

But Nephi is in for a long, slow haul towards acceptance and self-love. Mormon guilt and weird sex inhibitions will plague him for the rest of his life. Every so often, Nephi catches himself feeling bad for masturbating to porn or speaking about the Temple covenants to his new friends, who drink coffee (and amazingly aren’t miserable criminals because of it). Most of Nephi’s new friends are also ex-Mormons, because all Nephi wants to talk about is the Church, and nobody else really gets it. His family still thinks he’s marching merrily down the path to fire and brimstone. His wife has served him divorce papers.

I wish I could tell you that every Nephi who leaves the Church has a happy ending. Let’s say our Nephi does, and that over the course of the next few years, he achieves powerful self-actualization and finds a real badass chick who likes bourbon and thinks Nephi is fine just the way he is. But not everybody’s stories end that way. A lot end in suicide or overdose, particularly for LGBT Mormons, even more particularly if they’re young. A lot fester in this never-ending spiral of depression, self-hate, yo-yoing back and forth between trying to go back to Church and then leaving again.

And for what? So a group of old, white men can maintain the powerful status quo and make a shitload of money off lying to people who depend on them for their faith and happiness. That’s really what it comes down to. There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that the Mormon hierarchy actually believes the Church is true. They can’t. Even if they did before they got into the upper echelons of leadership, at some point they have to realize that God isn’t actually talking to them. Peruse the internet – Apostles are, in fact, paid a substantial salary with major benefits, and the internet is rife with rumors that they are granted enormous personal loans which are written off as losses for the Church. It’s hard to comment on speculation like this, but some truth trickles down through the layers of membership. As in any other power structure – follow the money and you’ll find what you need to know.

And that’s why me, and Rhett, and my Dad, and my best friend Leslie, and most of my brothers, and most of my high school friends, and so so so so SO many more people cannot just “get over” leaving the Church and move on with our lives. In some ways, the Mormon Church and the process of leaving it will continue to shape who we are for the rest of our lives. It stays with us forever because it has such a powerful impact on our personhood and it makes us angry that the Church continues to hoodwink so many otherwise good and sane people. And every time I hear stories like Rhett’s, it takes me right back to where I was eight years ago, as a confused 17 year old who just couldn’t believe the Church’s shit anymore.

Talking about leaving the Church is important. It’s incredibly cathartic, and it never really gets old. Sometimes I need the reminder that Rhett’s experience and my experience and the experience of so many others continue to happen all the time, and that conversations about it also need to continue to happen. There are so many of us and there’s always more to say. But in the meantime, for anyone this is happening to, know you’re not alone. And also know that it is deeply, deeply uncool that you’re suffering for doing the right thing – which you are doing. I hope I can assure you that, as someone who has been there and back again, there is life on the other side. A life that involves whisky and pornography and no guilt, and it is pretty awesome. Hang in there.

Now, it’s getting a little late, and I have a training session at 6 tomorrow morning. Subscribe, leave comments about your experience with Mormonism, and keep an eye out for a project I’m working on. I can’t say what it is yet, but it has to do with Mormons and swearing and it’s going to be really fucking funny. Stay tuned!

Soul Mates

Last weekend, a dear friend of mine from college came to visit for Thanksgiving. B, who is a 35 year old gay man, is the kind of friend you talk to once every couple of months – but when you talk, you talk. You always pick right back up where you left off, and in a matter of minutes you’re knee-deep in an intense, existential conversation about the Mormon Church. What, you don’t talk endlessly about Mormonism? You’re weird.

With this person, you can’t help but agree on everything, because your reasoning, the way you make sense of the world, is the same. You develop righteous anger over the same offences. You think the same people are idiots. Maybe your individual life stories even mirror each other (B and I have 15 siblings between us. And we both left the Church because our sexuality didn’t exactly match the Church’s standards and we knew we deserved to be happy anyway).

The very root of you is the same as theirs. You can feel it. It’s the kind of connection that makes you lifelong friends with the person you sat by on an airplane. It glues together people from the strangest walks of life; sometimes it’s so strong that it makes Democrats slip up and marry Republicans. And when you find someone like that, you just… know. (Also, you probably both find the idea of Kolob hilarious.)

So this person is then your… what? Best friend? Not necessarily. You could meet someone you intensely connect with, who’s visiting from out of country, and then never see them again. My own personal Best Friend Forever in the Whole Wide World  is not B. And these people are often not your lovers, either. What do you call them?

Recently, a friend and I were discussing the idea of soul mates, and I doubted aloud that someone would just have one potential romantic soul mate. He agreed, but then said he felt like he’d also had soul mates who were just his friends. And the moment he said that, I realized he was right. I loved that idea. I could list my soul mates without hesitation:

There’s one where our mutual hangovers always force us to get stoned, snuggle each other, and talk quietly for hours until we have to stumble into the kitchen for food. There’s the friend forty years my senior, who recently admitted that a problem of mine stumped him and he’d be damned. There’s the one who died, and along with him the horseback rides in the majestic orange and flaming red fall leaves of Utah mountains. There’s the one who was the one who got away. There’s Lois.

I don’t know. I’ve thought about this a lot since then and the more I reflect on it, the more I believe it. Although the cynical, cold-hearted atheist part of me recognizes that all this soul mate sentimentality is probably just some self-constructed bullshit, the writer in me thinks that the idea of soul mate friends is pretty fucking cool.

If in closing I can quote Sister Emily Bronte (please read in General Authority voice):

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

That’s how I feel about B. It was great to see you, my dear friend.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

The Gratuitous Holidays Post

I just finished putting up my Chreestmas tree, along with accompanying lights and bulbs and glittery things. Rather than listening to Christmas carols, I was listening to Dan Savage talk about dicks and the new Mormon gay policy. Savage makes excellent festive company. Highly recommended.

As I sat back to admire my luminous handiwork, being the sentimentally existential skeptic I am, I couldn’t help but reflect on previous years’ Christmases, and last year in particular. If you had told me last year that I would be where I am this year, I would have picked up my Christmas lights and strangled you with them out of sheer disbelief. Okay, maybe I would have only thrown sharp objects at you, but the point (so to speak) remains. It would have seemed impossible.

Because the unexpected shift in life direction has to do with many personally sensitive subjects, both for me and others whose privacy I respect, I won’t dive into the sordid details. I don’t think they really matter anyway. This isn’t the first time I’ve watched my anticipated life path shift dramatically and unexpectedly in an entirely different direction. And each time that happens, I find myself a little sad, a little confused, and a little saltier about life (fuck you, BYU!).

Just kidding. It’s actually been the opposite. Alongside the bittersweet windstorm of major life changes is this overwhelming gratitude that things have turned out the way they have. That, when the debris settles and I start putting myself back together, the shape my life takes is actually better for the explosions along the way.

This isn’t to say I believe in destiny. It might simply be a matter of optimistic perspective, or a basic lack of regret due to basic lack of a soul. But as tacky as it sounds, the times I have followed my gut and done what I felt to be right, even if it was really fucking hard, I have been grateful of the consequences. Let’s hope that’s an going thing.

IMG_4846 (1)
Behold, the tree of eternal sin.

 

The Happiest Day of my Life

Summer of 2003. I’m almost thirteen years old. My parents separated a year ago – and by separated, I mean my mother took all eight of us without warning and moved across the country because she realized Dad had left the Mormon Church for good. That their relationship had been on the rocks for a long time was no secret us kids, but we had no concept of divorce when we abruptly left behind our bantam chickens, our newborn pygmy goat, and our ten acres of Kentucky farmland.

The night before we left Kentucky, we awkwardly killed all the roosters with a blunt axe (follow the big mean black one through the nooks and crannies of the barn until it bleeds to death! Isn’t it funny how that red one runs and jumps with its head flopping around at its side?) and threw their bodies in the garbage. We divvied up the remaining farm animals – mommy goat, baby goat, two sheep, dozens of chickens – amongst our church-going neighbors, left the cats to fend for themselves, and took Delilah, our dog, with us. Mom chastised me for bringing a whole garbage bag of my stuff. She told us we’d be coming back.

But we never did go back, and so a year passed by and it was summer again. By now, I had stopped sneaking away into the unfinished parts of my grandparents’ house so I could cry in private, sobbing so hard I had to stifle my choking. I didn’t think so much about the old back pasture with spring daisies and a wide tree whose biggest branch was perfect for sitting and watching the neighbors’ horses. I didn’t miss the mama pygmy goat, Sweettart, that I had unsuccessfully tried to milk with my big awkward fingers. I hardly missed my old best friend, the yellow-haired Joanna who was in love with my older brother. I hardly missed my dad.

Now, I had a new best friend who lived right across the street and whose older brother loved, much to my friend’s consternation. I played basketball for my church team, babysat for a couple of families, and was generally liked by the girls I went to church with. My hair was finally long again, albeit with a horrendous perm, recovered from the even more horrendous buzzcut I’d had in Kentucky.

That summer, I went to a special camp for 13- and 14-year-old Mormon girls called Oakcrest. My camp counselor was a young woman named Carebear whose boyfriend lived overseas, on a mission for the Mormon Church. Carebear loved the Lord, and right away, I knew that she loved me. Every day during the week we were there, she gave us so much special attention that we probably each felt we were her favorite. I thought Carebear was beautiful and perfectly exemplified a good Mormon young woman, and I adored her. She told us her real name on the last day of camp, but I can’t remember it anymore.

During the week at camp, we hiked, we prayed, we ate and sang and did all kinds of fun, silly camp activities. I tried to keep up socially with the girls, some of whom had known each other for a very long time. Because I was homeschooled, and, as they say of homeschoolers, “didn’t get out much,” I found myself picking up colloquialisms and repeating them until I irritated the people around me. “My bad,” I’d say fifteen times an hour, whenever I dropped a pencil or misinterpreted someone. Or I’d loudly proclaim, “That’s garbage!” every time something required vocal disapproval.

But I had a great time. I was a mighty pious little Lizard at that time of my life, and I took God, Jesus Christ, and the gospel very seriously. During one sermon about only listening to that which uplifted us, I vowed to go home and snap all my pop music CDs in half (which I actually did, and later regretted sorely). I had prayerful moments late in bed at night that felt so powerful they threatened to lift me right up and ascend me into heaven. I trembled at the thought of the Second Coming, and hoped with fingers and toes crossed that I had been good enough to make the cut.

One night, the last night we were at camp, we did an exercise. Us campers were blindfolded and let out into a large field. All around us, our counselors were assigned to act as the influence of either the devil or God. I’d stumble along for a few steps, when I’d hear someone yell in a very wicked way, “Turn left! Do not go right, what are you thinking? Go left!” And, startled, I’d bump into a chain link fence and find that I had listened to Satan. Dang it.

So along I bumbled for quite some time. Into trash cans, other people, potholes, trees, etc. I wasn’t moving quickly so I never got injured, despite the urgent insistence of Satan to “Run! Move faster! Come with me, I have a special treat for you.” Suddenly, a gentle hand laid itself invisibly on my forearm, and a soft voice said, “Liz. Come this way. I’ll take you home.” The voice was Carebear’s, spoken almost in a whisper, but I knew right away. She took her hand off of my arm, but continued to urge me quietly in the right direction.

Carebear, a.k.a. the Holy Ghost, led me until she described an iron rod to my left. Just as I reached out to find it, a hideously loud shout in my ear: “STOP! Do not touch that! Back away now, and come with me!” I jumped and withdrew, but the H.G. found me again and at last I grasped the cool, smooth surface of PVC pipe/iron rod. The rod led upward, upward, through a bumpy trail, until at last I was directed to stop. Gentle hymnal music wafted from a distance. Save for the music and the birds, it was silent.

My blindfold was removed.

Standing before me was a lifesized portrait of Jesus overlooking his flock. The picture was softly lit and stood in gentle contrast to the darkening evening. My eyes, which were used to total blackness, did not wander from the picture.

After a few moments of silence, Carebear said, “What do you see?”

I started to cry softly. “Heavenly Father,” I whispered.

“He loves you, Liz. He loves you so much. Do you know that?”

Yes, I nodded. Yes, yes, I knew – God loved me. I felt it with all of my heart. A joy so total, so redemptive, encompassed me. I felt wrapped in the gentle arms of God’s care. The sorrow of the last year was gone, wholly and completely, as I stood and looked at this beautiful picture, and I was happy. I knew, right then, that that was the happiest day of my life and would be for a very long time.

I’m sharing this story because this was a powerful experience. I’ve obviously never forgotten it. But I’m also sharing it because I want you to know that I get it. I’m not just this God-hating, gun-slinging, take-no-prisoners bitch of an atheist, although sometimes I am that.

I take the positions I take having been on the other side, having stood in those shoes, having felt what I truly believed to be God’s love. Of course, now, I don’t think that’s what it was, but I can save that for another time. Suffice to say that for thirteen-year-old me, in that moment, that shit was very real. And I’ll always appreciate and remember that.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the who’s right and who’s wrong of the religious argument, we forget that on the other side of the aisle sit normal people. Some of those people have a greater proclivity towards assholishness than others, sure, but we’re all basically normal folks with histories, backgrounds, worries and cares. We all poop and we all love our kids. Neither side is necessarily smarter than the other. Neither side is necessarily nicer. The nature of humanity casts a broad net over us all, ensnaring even the kindest among us in the trap of being a dick on a bad day.

Enough pontificating – you get the point. But I’m just sayin’ – I get it. Let’s break bread together and have a conversation about it…

I will bring you to the dark side.❤

An Open Letter to the Spider in the Front Yard

Dear Not-So-Dear Arachnid from Hell,

Good evening, sir/madam. I’m writing you because a situation occurred tonight which I would like to immediately address so that it does not happen again.

You should know I don’t consider myself a homewrecker. Indeed, I have gone out of my way to avoid situations where those laying snug in their corners might feel violated by my behavior. You should also know, therefore, that when I destroyed the northernmost anchor of your web tonight, it was because you forced my hand. Nevermind that my “hand” was really a stick, gingerly held many feet away by my actual hand. I had to blast apart the very foundations of your household just so I could get into my household. And therein lies the problem, Mr./Mrs. Spider.

I’m mostly okay with you inhabiting the corner of the tall front-yard shrubbery – my tall front-yard shrubbery. I am aware that you may consider this area highly wooded and therefore suitable for you to stake a claim here.

However, I must enlighten you that, in fact, the heavily wooded area consists of but three small non-deciduous tress that run exactly perpendicular to the walkway most often used by the inhabitants of this home (you can see here that I am selflessly looking out for others, not just me). To further exemplify my great selflessness, I’ll let you know that on my way from the garage to the house tonight, I purposefully avoided the shortcut down the alleyway between houses, just so I wouldn’t accidentally destroy the web that one of your idiot cousins rudely built in between the buildings’ walls. I took the long way around, despite knowing you were lurking by the front walkway, no doubt watching for my return, plotting how best to ensnare me in the sticky vestiges of your lair.

And I still tried to avoid you. Are we getting somewhere yet? No?

Let me persuade you further. You may not be aware of this fact, so I’ll just briefly enlighten you. In human law, there exist the concept of aerial property rights. You may or may not be familiar with the Latin term, “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad caelum et ad inferos” – If you are not, I highly suggest you review your root words. You are welcome to use the underground – i.e., infero – until your little exoskeletal heart explodes. But goddammit, araneae, the caelum is mine! Mine, I say!

So listen up, you fat, hairy bitch. It is unacceptable for you to spin your surprisingly strong web in any area that I may accidentally walk face-first into. It was to both of our advantage that I am so sensitive to your locale that I did not plunge into your trap, inadvertently dragging you and all your dead prey into my very cute hair.

If there exists even the remotest possibility that a human may pass through any of the air above the ground which said human possesses, your presence is exceedingly unwelcome. You may not reside there. You may not even think about residing there. Your siblings and descendants and in-laws may not think about residing there, and if they complain, you can tell em Liz sent ya, and then shake an imaginary can of bug spray for effect.

So learn to anchor your web elsewhere, spider, or God so help my little white terrified butt, I will slaughter you. I don’t care how much you help the environment by eating bugs. I can eat my own bugs. Whether you face death by spider spray, blunt force trauma, or slow, intimate dissection, you will die.

Look, I think we can find some common ground (I hear you eat your men post-coitus). All that I ask is, during your standard housekeeping procedures, you stay far, far away from any area of my home that could even be remotely crossed by humans, particularly me. It’s not that hard.

Kiss my fucking ass, sweetheart.

Yours,

E

THIS JUST IN: God Sends Dying Homeless Man some McDonalds, Forgets to Cure His Cancer

About a week ago, some guy named John Brantley shared an inspirational story on Facebook. I’m using his name because the story now has over a million shares, and it’s been featured on several news stations. The garish publicity is part of the silliness, and tragedy, of this whole situation, but suffice it to say that John has no issues with people knowing who he is. You can go on to Facebook and read the story here, and I highly encourage you to do that, but I’ll write up a short summary for your viewing pleasure.

John Brantley is walking to his car and sees a man digging through a dumpster, looking for food. This man isn’t begging, he isn’t talking to anyone else, he’s just minding his own business and picking discarded morsels out of the trash.

Saint John’s heart goes out to this homeless man, and decides to do him an enormous favor: Dinner at McDonald’s. So Steve the homeless man follows John to McDonald’s, and then John drives away. But John can’t shake the feeling that he should have done more for Steve.

So he turns around, goes back to Steve, and buys him some more McDonald’s. Then Steve reveals that he’s been homeless since his sister died a year ago, and then lifts up his shift and reveals a gut-wrenching tumor in his belly. Steve shares with John that he’s in great pain, that he hopes he dies soon, and that he is so grateful for John’s assistance. John asks Steve if he knows Jesus. Steve replies in the affirmative, and then they pray together. Steven informs John that he prayed for someone to bring him a hot meal, and Bam! As fast as Elijah sent the bears to kill the taunting lads, John shows up with a credit card and a big ol’ heart.

John then leaves Steve, and spends the rest of the post praising God for his greatness. What a generous God! His Almightiness sends John to buy Steve the cheapest meal on the block. But wait – He doesn’t stop there. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also uses Steve to teach John to be more grateful for how blessed he is. John reiterates his feelings of being blessed several times before he ends his post. Then the gratuitous back-patting ends and we are left to vomit freely as we will.

The craziest thing about this post was actually not how self-congratulatory John is. People bust out their inner Pharisee all the time. I’m sure I’ve done it. But 1.2 MILLION people shared the story, and local news outlets picked it up. Praise God! Thank God for John! Thank God for Steve! I’m literally crying my eyes out! Praise McDonald’s! God is great! God is merciful! God loves salty french fries, and so do we!

Are you fucking kidding me?

Let’s just break this scenario down a little bit further.

John, who wants everyone to know what a good person he is, begins the story by asserting this: “My heart literally hurt for him. I am not someone who just hands out money or even helps homeless people because so many are not truly homeless.” So it’s not like John is leaking compassion for the homeless out the ears. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. John only feels Steve is worthy of his assistance because Steve isn’t bothering anybody and he isn’t begging. John believes that most homeless people aren’t “truly homeless” – whatever the fuck that even means. It takes Steve quietly digging through trash, looking for food, for John to feel moved enough to help his fellow man. And where does he take Steve? To a sit down restaurant? To a grocery story store filled with healthful foods? No. John takes Steve to McDonald’s, the cheapest possible place to buy a friend a meal. Christlike? You decide.

John and his groupies spend so much time jacking off to the idea of God using John as a tool to help Steve that they miss what are, to me, a few critical things.

  1. Steve. Is. Dying. Of Cancer.
  2. Steve is dying of cancer.
  3. STEVE IS IN GREAT PAIN AND HE’S DYING OF CANCER.
  4. God’s way of coping with this is sending John to buy him… McDonald’s.
  5. John worships a God who uses a homeless, dying man digging through garbage to teach John about how “blessed” he is.
  6. God blesses John more than Steve.
  7. Steve is dying of cancer.

So this wonderful, caring God who blesses John with great abundance is happy to see Steve’s cancerous belly full of hot, fatty food, and that’s where His goodness stops. That to me is not one Facebook share-worthy. It’s certainly not 1.2 million shares worthy.

What would have been really incredibly is if, instead of asking Steve if he knew Jesus, John had said, “Hey, Steve. Do you know any local medical practitioners? Do you know that there are clinics who can provide discounted services for poor people suffering from terminal disease? Steve, do you need help finding these places? Do you need help finding a regular source of healthy food? Can I help you live out the remainder of your life in slightly better living conditions?”

But no. John was so busy gawking at how fucking blessed he is that he walks away, practically breaking his arm so vociferously does he pat himself on the back, leaving Steve to return to the same place he was before he met him. And, apparently, everybody in the whole world thinks John was sent by God to bless Steve.

I have issues with the concept of being blessed in the first place. Any good Christian knows that blessings come along with being righteous, obedient, and recognizing God’s love. No matter how much you believe God loves his children, as a Biblical Christian, you accept as fact (or allegory, whatever) that God pretty consistently blesses those who believe in him and follow his word, and punishes those who don’t. It’s the biblical modus operandi: Good folks, even the unfortunate Job, get rewarded. Bad folks get Sodom and Gomorrahed.

God bestows blessings on whom he sees fit, and in this case, God wanted to remind John of how blessed he is. John has food. John has a home. John has never dug through garbage to find what he needs. And rather than John thinking, “Wow! I am extremely grateful, and recognize the factors that have led to the difference between Steve’s lifestyle and my own, most of which are entirely out of my control!” John thinks, “God blesses me sooooo much!” (and presumably follows all of his thoughts with, like, so many heart-eyed emojis).

Worse than this is John’s finishing words: “Sometimes God sends situations our way to remind us of how blessed we are! … Yes, I have been blessed, God’s so good to me! … God has been good, so good! I have been blessed!”

In John’s bizarre universe, not only is he more blessed than Steve, but Steve exists to teach John a lesson that makes John feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Steve’s purpose in this interaction is to bless John even further. Steve functions in this seriously fucked up role of being impoverished and miserable, so John can realize how much God loves him, Boniface John, the chosen and cancer-free one.

So yeah. That about sums up how shitty this stupid post by John is. And if you want me to give John some credit for buying Steve food, I will. It was nice. John did a nice thing for Steve. Good John! That’s a very good John! And even though I’ll lose a few friends by admitting I wouldn’t mind if a stranger bought me a meal at McDonald’s, I will say that John probably did more in that situation than your average Christian would have. It was nice for John to go back and buy Steve more food on a gift card, and it was nice for John to talk to Steve and try to comfort him.

But Christ almighty, 1.2 million shares? And none of the commenters, not one, felt inspired to do anything but pray for Steve and praise the Lord. I’m guessing those prayers haven’t done much to change Steve’s living situation. I’m guessing the Lord hasn’t done much to change it either. Just a whole lot of people with tears in their eyes who feel mighty blessed.

Now I’ll admit that, more than once, I have seen something and been reminded of how truly lucky I am. It’s important to remained grounded by gratitude, and unfortunately, one of the easiest ways of doing that is by seeing those who have much less than we. What better way to act upon that gratitude than by going out of our way to help others, privately, without boasting? In Matthew 6:3, we find one of the most useful lessons in the Bible: “But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does.” I’m not sure if the author of Matthew exactly foresaw John repeatedly high-fiving himself like one of those little wind-up monkeys, but the boot fits.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, but I think it bears repeating: Stop praying. Start doing. You’ll notice that billions of prayers have never made a dent in poverty and hunger. You know what has? People getting off their prayer-sore knees and doing something about it. And John, on the off chance that you read this, I dare you to go back, find Steve, and actually do something that will change his life more than satiating his hunger for a day or two. And then keep it to yourself.

Moving Towards Middle Class

Happy birthday to me! Blah blah blah blah blah blah. This year as a gift, I received a Kate Spade wallet. It’s new. Whoa. Not gently used, not opened and unwrapped and resold. Brand-spanking-gleaming-fucking new. Also, I’ve been shopping this last month, and gotten swell new shoes, bodacious outfits, and really nifty makeup.  I have to say that it feels mighty good.

But before you think this is simply obnoxious birthday braggadocio, let me continue.

Last year, if you had asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I would have said money. The year before that, if you’d asked me what I wanted, I would have said money. The year before that, the same, etc., all the way back to when my baby brain thought our dirty green currency was only good for chewing and barfing on.

That’s because, until a few months ago, I was in debt that spiraled out of my control. During and after college, I’d never had a job that paid the bills and still had some dough left over for luxuries like non-ramen dinners. Nearly all of my wardrobe had been donated or bought second hand, and my shoes were always on the brink of wearing out. Every once in a while, I’d splurge ridiculously, and I’d berate myself for days, weeks, even months. Why did I spend that money? How would I pay it back? I’d lay in bed after going out with friends the night before, agonizing over the $60 I’d spent on food and drinks that could have gone towards *insert bill here*. I’m not asking for pity. I didn’t live in poverty, and I didn’t starve or suffer. I worried, yes, I was constantly stressed, yes, and I endured embarrassment and the occasional nervous breakdown over finances. But I paid my important bills (usually), I never lost my car (although I got very close), I managed to look like I knew what the fuck I was doing with my clothes and makeup (although I was shocked to learn that when you pick up your clothes from the dry cleaners, you just throw away the hangers and paper-wtf?).

But despite the fact that people admittedly have it much worse than I, I can still remind myself (and hopefully you) that it isn’t a contest to see who suffers the most. Sometimes I have to remember that just because I didn’t have it the worst doesn’t mean I had it easy. There were days where I’d call up friends, steeped in anxiety, crying because I was sure the next time I went out to my car, it would be booted and I would be fucked. I’d pace in my living room, hand on the “Call” button, embarrassed to ask somebody if I could please join them for dinner because if I had to eat ramen noodles with eggs one more fucking time this week, I’d puke (in which case, Lois would have gladly eaten it, but that’s besides the point). I’d lay awake in bed, sleepless for hours, wondering if I’d feel guilty for defaulting on that credit card so I could take my monthly payment and put it towards a gym membership so I could finally lose that fucking weight I gained from eating like shit for years. (Not that you care – but I did default, I got a cheap gym membership, I lost 40 pounds, and I never regretted it – even after I finally paid off the balance of the card in collections, plus numerous late fees, etc.)

But okay, you get it. Enough about how tough things were. How did things untough themselves?

Well, in my opinion, I caught a couple of very lucky breaks. First, even though I’ve always been sexually active, thanks to #PLANNEDPARENTHOOD and other sliding-scale health providers, I have never had children. That alone makes a huge difference. Second, I found a job that I loved that paid a decent living wage. Third, a few months ago, I was matched with a recipient family and donated my eggs. Between the small financial windfall of egg donation and a consistent paycheck from a job where I feel respected and valued, I’ve managed to get myself out of debt except for my car and my student loans.

That feels fucking good. It feels too good to be true. And now, I have more pocket money every week than I used to have for my monthly food budget. Every bill is paid on time – no more late fees, either. I’m not rolling in dough. But I don’t need anything bad enough that I’m going to take my Kate Spade wallet and sell it for cash. And that feels miraculously lucky.

So, I’m turning 25 and sitting in my cozy queen-sized bed with a feather comforter, with my iPhone charging next to me, and my Chromebook on my lap, my fancy anti-aging cream on my face that I bought on clearance from Amazon, and my kinda fancy perfume and jewelry on my dresser, and my piano against the wall, and my closet full of reasonably priced clothing from Target. I feel humbled that I have enough pairs of underwear and socks to go two weeks without doing laundry. I’m amazed that a parking ticket or a necessary doctor’s visit doesn’t spell financial disaster anymore. I’m #blessed that I don’t lose sleep over how to pay the rent. All kidding aside  – I am solemnized by gratitude.

Some might argue that I was always middle class because I’m white, in possession of a college degree, and more literate than most native English speakers. That’s true. Some would say that I didn’t have it all that bad because I had a solid cohort of people I could go to for help. That’s also true. And I’m on my dad’s health insurance, I’m tall, I’m fairly good looking, I have a name that doesn’t keep me from getting callbacks on interviews, and all those other stupid, superficial attributes that make it easier to be successful in America.

Due to circumstances out of my control, I had so many things working for me that when I paid my dues (whatever that means – I think there’s a way to give people a decent living without requiring them to suffer beforehand, right?), I got out of petty debt and into a surprisingly easy standard of living.

And it was hard. So how much harder is it for people without any privilege whatsoever? Because they’re out there. In, like, droves. Copious numbers of poor people have we here in good old America. There’s a lot of them and they could all use a lucky break. Maybe, as some of us move into the middle class, we can do a little less self-congratulation and think (aka do) more about others less lucky than us.

I have yet to figure out how best to do that – suggestions accepted.

Jewish Holidays + Nannying = Record for Longest Job Held

One year ago today, I officially started my nannying career (and yes – it is a career, but I’ll jump on that soapbox in a few). Happy Workaversary to me! And how fun that it falls on the first day of Rosh Hashanah! This has already been the longest I’ve ever kept a job – the closest runners up were a couple of bars and a teaching assistant job in college that required about 3 hours a week.

Lest you think me a total flake (rather than a partial flake, which I am), do consider that I’ve been in college until fairly recently and had a few false career starts after that. But hey, I figured if I’m going to be food insecure anyway, it’s better for me to get out of a job I hate before the suicidal midlife crisis sets in. I followed my gut when it came to ending jobs that may have had promising potential, and that has paid off.

And not just because I make more in childcare than I did in any other post-college career field I’ve worked in. Every morning, I get to work and am blasted awake by either a screaming toddler – or, more often, big smiles, food-smeared hugs, and a detailed account of the places a four-year-old has planned for us to go that day. What with the every day processes of getting dressed, figuring out which toothpaste to use (Thomas? Lightning McQueen?), driving to and from school, and using enough dinnertime reverse psychology to make Freud proud, the days go by pretty quickly.

I happen to work for a Jewish family (No they don’t take advantage of me, yes they have big curly hair, no they’re aren’t miserly, yes they keep kosher). And over the last year, if nothing else, I’ve been amazed by how much I’ve learned about Judaism. I think part of the reason that I’ve enjoyed my time with this family so much is because the parents are both well-educated, kind-hearted intellectuals who are willing and able to answer the myriad questions I have about Jewish law, Jewish history, Jewish culture. They also have a great library which I borrow from liberally. As a total outsider, Jews are a people who fascinate me – in no small part because it’s entirely possible to be an atheist Jew who practices culturally. How awesome is that? Particularly in Mormonism, where absolute belief in the doctrine is mandated, it is virtually impossible to separate beliefs from culture. But boy howdy, the Jews can do it. (Not all, I know, but a lot).

And Sam, the 4-year-old – I’m sorry, 4-and-a-half-year-old – has thoroughly educated me on all things pertaining to Jewish holidays. He and his brother, Micha, both attend a Hebrew preschool, and Sam’s mind is this black hole of knowledge retention. (“Watch out,” warned my boss on my first day. “If you don’t want us to know something, do not say it in front of Sam”). Sam slowly and patiently makes me repeat new words in Hebrew until I get it right. Then I get a congratulatory “Good job!” Or once: “Liz, sometimes I can’t understand what you’re saying. Then I just say ‘Good job!’ anyway.” I can recite the first half of many of the most common brachot. I know a fair number of silly children’s songs in Hebrew, and even more in English. I can count to ten in Hebrew, I can keep a kosher kitchen, I know what to announce before the shofar blows, and I can even blow a miniature shofar, which is fucking hard, btw. Google it. It’s really interesting stuff to learn about.

And when I’m not getting Hebrew Immersion 101, I’m eating dinner with the family. Visiting the super awesome Museum of Science and Industry, or the Lincoln Park Zoo. Hanging out at parks. Playing outside with chalk. Drawing pictures. Changing poopy diapers and instructing the boys in basic anatomy. I love all of it. It’s a really fun job, and it’s often a really challenging job, and I just love it.

And it’s shown me things about myself that I didn’t know. You don’t know how far you can push your boundaries of patience until you’re nicely telling someone else’s child for the umpteenth time to Stop laying on the bathroom floor and put on your pants after you finish pooping! Or when you’re waiting for a raging toddler to finishing throwing himself at the foot of the stairs because he’s suddenly forgotten how to get up by himself. Sticky hands in your clean hair. Shit spilled all over the floor the second you get it clean. Piles of crisply folded laundry devastated in one fell swoop. Or when you think to yourself, “What’s that smel- Oh, good God, no! Nooooooooo!” and the call in the Hazmat team.

A few weeks ago, I was with the kids at a museum and we went to the bathroom. It was one of those full-on-everybody-in-together-lets-steal-the-handicapped-stall trips. I went potty. I coerced Sam into going potty. I changed Micha’s poopy diaper. We got everybody’s hands washed and dried, using both the towels and the hand dryer of course, and then we were out and on to the next adventure. Some point shortly thereafter, I realized I had not even looked at myself in the mirror once while I was in the bathroom. I had forgotten to. Getting the little dudes in and out without pissing off the fickle baby gods was my only priority, and for maybe the first time since I turned eleven, I unwittingly walked in and out of a mirror-equipped bathroom without looking at myself.

That might seem stupid. But we know why there are more mirrors in women’s bathrooms than men’s. I fix my hair, check my makeup from every angle, sneak in a quick teeth check. We all do it. But having kids around you makes you less self-absorbed. Yes, even if they aren’t your own. Taking care of someone whose needs constantly supersede your own brings you to your knees – literally, metaphorically, emotionally.

Nannying is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, and yet now, I really understand those assholes who say that you should do what you love. I always thought that was stupid – like, who loves their job? – but at the end of the work week, or the short weekend trip by the family who’s in from out of town and needs a babysitter, or the three-hour walk to the park so somebody’s mother can take an elusive nap, I get paid. And I think to myself – every fucking time – “Sweet! I just got paid X bucks at hour to hang out with kids.

I just love it. And here comes the nannying soapbox.

I’ve had a lot of jobs. My boss always teases me whenever I mention them: “Was this before you were an assassin for the CIA? Was this after you were an astronaut?” My stunts in various professions include, but are not limited to: Auction House Secretary, Dental Assistant, Editor, Bartender, Waitress, Car Salesperson, Bank Teller, Banker, Children’s Photographer, Research Assistant, Mashed Potato Scooper at KFC, Clothing Retail Bitch, etc.

Never, in any of those jobs (probably combined), did I get any kind of intrinsic fulfillment that compares to the kind I get now. There was never a sales goal or piece of paperwork or meeting that was more important to me than making sure these two little guys make it out into the big fucked-up world a little more well-adjusted and loved because of how I showed up to work every day. No promotion or bonus measures up to pre-naptime snuggles from Micha and the gut-busting laughs I get from the shit Sam says.

I get asked a few questions about nannying pretty often, usually with this weird, “Don’t mean to offend you but I’m about to say something offensive” tone.

  1. How do you not swear in front of the kids?
  2. Aren’t you bored?
  3. But you’re not going to do this -*awkward pause*- forever, right?
  4. Don’t you think you could be doing something more intellectually stimulating?
  5. This isn’t, like, a career, though?
  6. What are you going to do when they grow up?

My answers:

  1. How do you not have sex in front of your parents? There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s not that hard to sort out.
  2. No. Absolutely not. Things change every day in this  job. The kids get older and start doing new funny and adorable and weird shit. They stop doing other things. Family comes to visit. Holidays are celebrated. When I do “boring” things like laundry or dishes during naptime, I put on NPR podcasts and learn something.
  3. I very well fucking might. It pays well, it’s fun, it’s one of the few careers that often lets you bring your own children to work with you.
  4. Such as…. sitting at a desk, trying to convince people to take out loans they don’t need? Writing? (Which I do on the side). Music? (Which I do on the side). Art? (Which I do on the side). I have time and money to pursue my interests because of this job, and I’m plenty intellectually stimulated, even when I’m not trying to explain to Sam why the sky is blue (you try doing that for a four year old and get back to me on how that works out for you.)
  5. Yeah, it is. You get raises and PTO and everything, by golly! You get better jobs with experience. You learn new things. Some people are lifers. Have you been in your career forever, anyway?
  6. Cry a little. Be happy for them. Miss them. Find another family, repeat. Maybe start fresh as an FBI operative. I don’t know! What did you do when you were fired? When you company merged? The kids growing out of needing a nanny ins’t some existential career crisis, even if it’s a little sad.

Anyway, down from my soapbox. That about sums up what I have to say about that.

Shanah tovah, motherfuckers! 🎉

The Profound Philosophy of #ShortHairDon’tCare

When I recently cut off more than a foot of hair, I made my appointment with the salon only three hours beforehand. I didn’t make up my mind until right before I made the appointment, and I wanted to cut it off before I had a chance to change my mind again. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going and why. I just went and did it.

Sitting longhaired in the salon chair, I was overcome by the feeling that this was the right thing to do. I guess after all those years of ignoring Mr. Jesus, he still decided to bless me with the Holy Ghost’s warm spirit, letting me know that He gave a shit about my hair and that he condoned the decision I was about to make. Or maybe it was the bubbly.

Anyway, the stylist asked me if I was nervous. “Nope,” I said, in my most cavalier tone. “Not at all.”

“Wow,” she said. “You’re, like, so brave.”

I’m really not, though. Because a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a rather unusual thing happened, and lucky you, you’re about to hear all about it.

Nigh unto fifteen million years ago, in that aforementioned galaxy, there existed a remote solar system; in that remote solar system there existed a small, bizarre planet called Kentucky. And somewhere in the deepest, darkest corner of Kentucky sat Millersburg, population 750.

In Millersburg, it was perfectly acceptable for the wife of a dead cosmetologist to run her deceased husband’s business, as if his license posthumously passed on to her. Ah, Millersburg: the clarion bastion of all that is good and fashionable in the universe. (It is also socially acceptable to marry your first cousin there, but that’s beside the point.)

So thus it came to be that Marjorie* – who was lovely, albeit egregiously underqualified – owned the sole barbershop/luxury hair salon in Millersburg. Like her husband before her, may he rest in peace, Marjorie performed all functions necessary to a salon owner, including leaving in perm solution for so long it burned off the front of her clients’ mullets. Just for the sake of brevity, we’ll withhold speculation on whether Marjorie was making a commentary regarding whether mullets should be worn at all, nonetheless permed.

Some time after Marjorie began operating her late husband’s salon, a small family of ten moved to Millersburg; and not long after that, several family members were in dire need of haircuts. One day, half of the intrepid young family sojourned into the heart of Millersburg, braving the presence of many a large cow and neighbor, both of which roamed freely throughout the region.

One of the family members was a young girl – we’ll call her Liz*. Liz was in the twilight of her eleventh year; taller than all the boys, Liz had no boobs and no ass, and wasn’t old enough to wear makeup. Accompanying Liz were three brothers, and Liz’s father. At the time, Liz’s hair was a very grown-out pixie cut; and when Liz took a seat in Marjorie’s sole styling chair, she requested that Marjorie simply give her another pixie.

“A pixie?” boomed Marjorie, ex cathedra. “Are you sure?”

“Well,” said Liz, a little hesitantly, “Yes?”

“Describe it to me.”

“Okay, well, it’s short all over, you know? With uneven bangs in front.” Liz shook a hand in front of her face to show what she meant.

“Mmmhmmm,” said Marjorie. “Okay.” And she turned on the clippers.

By the time Liz’s paternal parental unit looked up from his colossal subway sandwich, several inches of shorn hair sat around Liz’s shoulders, and Liz herself sat trembling mightily. Their eyes met, and in hers he saw fear, and extreme dubiety.

“Liz,” said her father reassuringly, “You’re getting a buzz.”

And later, after they got home:

“Liz,” said her mother kindly, “You guys left with three boys. And you came back with four.”

“Liz,” said her brother sincerely, “Even though you look like a freak, we still love you.”

To Liz’s credit, she only cried once, after she got home. To her father’s credit, Marjorie was paid (and tipped) for all five haircuts. And to Marjorie’s credit, there have been worse buzzcuts – not many, yes, but a few.

Later on that infamous day, Liz had a pool party with her Girl Scout Troop, which she had been looking forward to with great zeal, but which she now feared. What if everybody thought her hair was just too damn weird, and nobody would talk to her because of it? But in the end she went, and made friends with another eleven year old named Midge*, who was also pretty damn weird, because she only had one arm. So the two weird girls spent the evening together, had the time of their lives, and remained friends until Liz left Kentucky for another, stranger planet called Utah. 

From that experience, Liz took away this: Arms don’t grow back, but hair does. And even if it didn’t, the fact remains that there is a lot more to a person than superficial things like a haircut or how many arms one possesses. People liked Liz whether or not she had long hair or no hair, and ever since then, when Liz is considering whether she ought to be adventurous with her hair, she almost always answers Yes.

The end.

*names in this story have been changed

As seen on national television.
Liz’s new hair, as seen on national television.