I’ve always been skittish around people who can’t read a room, but I could never explain why until today. Jerimiah sent me a couple of podcasts he’s been listening to and one of the podcasts was about how we are always trying to understand the intentions of other people. It’s from the “Hidden Brain” podcast, have y’all heard this? You should check it out, it’s a pretty interesting podcast. In this particular podcast the host, Shankar Vedantam explores “Theory of Mind,” which is what psychologists call the way we are consistently trying to read the intentions, desires, and motivations of other people during social situations. We do this subconsciously. But also, not all of us are able to do it as well as others.
It all made sense to me, because I had already realized this about myself. I am quite aware that I constantly try to understand others in social situations, it’s what makes me so empathetic. Too empathetic. Like, I’m not being a braggart here. I wish I wasn’t so fucking empathetic. I think my life would be a lot easier if I were less so, but empathy is exactly the key to all of this.
On the podcast the psychologist said that people who “can’t read a room,” also lack empathy. You know those people, we all do. They tell jokes that repeatedly fall flat because they aren’t reading the room. They have no concept of what people around them are doing or saying because they are so focused on their own thoughts that they seemingly randomly blurt something out and everyone is like, “What the hell, Steve? What does that have to do with anything?” And then Steve just assumed we are going to move the conversation or activity or whatever to whatever it was that he brought up. In that case Steve (aside from being a bit of a narcissist) lacks this “theory of mind” ability, and therefore also lacks empathy.
This made a lightbulb go off in my brain! I know people who lack empathy and these people absolutely cannot read a room to save their lives. It’s exhausting to deal with them in social situations because I am constantly trying to find out what their intentions, desires, and motivations are, meanwhile they don’t give a shit about mine and most of the time are so damned aloof that it is distracting. This is why I have always been skittish around them. Because it’s mentally and emotionally taxing on me, when I’m already pretty much always mentally and emotionally taxed. I have had to actually separate myself from these people, like walk away from the situation, put space in friendships. And now I’m learning that it’s not really through any fault of their own, they actually lack an important part of social functioning hardwired into our brains. You see it a lot in children with autism, for example, who generally lack the same ability.
Whew. I feel a little relieved actually. I always thought I was just being super-sensitive toward those people, or that they were just assholes (again, and I can’t stress this enough, some of them are just assholes) but others really have no idea that they lack this ability and go on about life like this and it makes me feel kind of bad for them. Like, they must get weird looks from people all the time and I’m sure that others do not understand this about them and don’t really know how to treat them or handle them.
And listen, I’m not saying we need to treat them any differently, I don’t even think I can because of how hard it all is, but at least we know now that some people, through no fault of their own, can’t read a room to save their life and maybe we just try to be more patient?
Or maybe not.
Click for the link! And trust, there is more to the podcast than my aha-moment, but it was mine, damn it, Steve! Get your own!
I know, I know, I’ve been away. I wrote on my blog every, single day last year and this year it’s been sporadic at best. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today, in fact, I’ll talk about that tomorrow, is that okay? Catch you all up with my life? It’s been pretty nuts! Thanks for understanding. Today I’m here to talk about the supposed labor shortage, though to be honest everyone I know who was unemployed last year now has a job, and the thing I find slightly odd is that many of them applied to several (like more than twenty jobs depending on how long they were out of work) and didn’t even hear back from some of them, some of the places that proudly had “Now Hiring” signs or “Thank the ones who showed up” signs in their windows, so what gives?
I happened upon a documentary the other day from 2009. It was following people who were on unemployment during The Great Recession back in 2008 and it caught up with a group of people in Long Island, NY who were part of the 99ers. The 99ers are people who were still on unemployment at their 99th week of unemployment which is the last week you can legally get unemployment benefits. These people had applied for literally thousands of jobs over those 99 weeks, you have to when you’re on unemployment because you have to log it with unemployment, but aside from that these were people who had worked all their lives in good, high-paying jobs on Wall St. for instance and when the recession hit they were booted out.
The jobs they were applying for though, were far from where they had worked. They were applying to work the register at Home Depot, to drive a truck for FedEx, to work the make-up counter at Macy’s. Essentially they were looking to take any job at that point, but no one was calling them back. Meanwhile, the media was screaming, “Lazy people need to get a job! Get two jobs if you have to!” These people, these people who had previously made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year were trying to get a job at Target, they would get two jobs if it meant not having to sell their homes or foreclose, but they were being told they were “overqualified.”
This is a real thing that I went through as well. Jerimiah lost his job in that same recession and I had just quit mine to stay at home full time with our kid. Then boom, he lost his and we found ourselves trying to live off the $325 a week from unemployment. Meanwhile he was applying for at least 40 jobs a week, and I started applying too thinking maybe I could snag a lower-paying job since I didn’t yet have a college degree and he did. I was actually turned down at Target to work the cash register because I was “overqualified.” Do you know what that meant in my case? It meant that when they asked what I made in my last job and I put $14 an hour they decided that was too much to pay, so they didn’t even attempt to interview me. Why would they when someone was willing to take the job at $8 an hour? I would have taken that job at $8 an hour too, but I was never even given the opportunity.
Why I am telling you all this? Because I think the same thing is happening now. I think the suppose “labor shortage” isn’t one at all. It’s people who are writing that they want to make $15 an hour on their application are getting overlooked in lieu of people who will make less but it’s taking the companies longer to find people who will work for that low of a wage so here we are. Some people actually believe that these same companies are full up on employees but are looking for ones they can pay lower, or just like to have the “Now hiring” signs up for what? Fun? Belonging? To maintain this idea of a labor shortage? That feels too cynical to me, but not way off base. I’m just saying that it’s the businesses greedy practices that are certainly driving the “labor shortage” not an actual “labor shortage” and it’s probably high time we call it what it really is.
Eventually Jerimiah found work in 2009. He went from being a recent-college grad making $50,000 a year to making $12 an hour, but hey, it was something and he took it. I never got an interview, not one interview from the 40 or so jobs I applied for. I even called my old job back and asked to just come and serve, wait tables, and they told me they already had too many people vying for shifts.
Last week we were traveling to New York and we stayed over at a hotel in Fort Lee, Virginia. The next morning while we were loading the car DuPont, the company that makes pretty toxic chemicals, was having a job fair at our hotel. When we walked outside the job fair line was wrapped around the building at 8:00 am. There were men and women, young and old, some were in three-piece suits, some were in jeans and hoodies. The wages they were advertising were anywhere from $16 to $21 dollars for entry-level jobs and people were there. There was no labor shortage. They would have more than enough people to choose from for their new crews. But all I see when I turn the television on is people screaming, “Get a job! Get two jobs if you need to!”
How are you supposed to get two jobs if you can’t even get one?
As an aside I’ve talked recently to people who believe that a $15/hour federal wage mandate is too much, and all I can think about is how that line at the hotel was wrapped around the corner. How people trying to figure out how to feed their kids in Fort Lee, Virginia were practicing their elevator pitches for a $16/hour job working with toxic chemicals. How if we don’t mandate it federally, states like Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri will give advantage to the companies, not the people, and we will will never climb out of this generational poverty.
Of course these people aren’t from generational poverty, so how would they know. We have to start thinking outside of ourselves or we won’t ever get better.
I don’t have all the answers, and I’m sure I’m seeing this from only one side. But if I’m gonna be on one side, I want to be on the side of the unemployed. That makes me sleep better at night.
I bought Jerimiah and Jackson matching shirts that said, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” which is of course a lyric from the Killer Mike song, “Reagan.” I will include the link to the video so you can watch it if you are so inclined, it’s pretty good and incredibly informative. Anyway, they LOVED their shirts because they are big Killer Mike and Run the Jewels fans and so they wanted to pose for a picture and have me post it to Instagram so people can see their shirts, so I did. Then I went on with my life as one does. Then a couple of days later I got a Facebook message from a white woman that said, “I just don’t understand, why would you want a shirt that says, ‘I’m glad Reagan’s Dead.'” I responded, of course, very kindly. First I hoped she was having a great holiday season, I remarked about her fun pictures and hoped that she was having a nice time with her family, as one does. Then I politely explained the reasoning behind the shirt, in a condensed version of course. I told her how we have been talking about racial justice in this our country, backtracking what Jackson has learned in school as “America History” and told him some truths. It’s a tough, labor-intensive process, but incredibly necessary.
Then it occurred to me that the audacity of white women truly knows no bounds.
White women get offended by something, a t-shirt that a person 1,000 miles away from them who has no real connection to them is wearing and they demand an answer for it. It sort of boggled my mind.
I personally would never ask about something like that. I would never take the time from my day to demand an answer to something that someone is wearing (unless it was overtly racist, in which case I would publicly shame them for it even though Mama Brene Brown says shame is not an effective educational tool. I know Mama Brene, I know. I’m working on it, it’s hard to change when you grew up that way.) Maybe it’s an age thing? This woman is the mother of a childhood friend. Either way, my own mother didn’t even ask about the shirts, just accepted it as something quirky I did, I assume, and went on with her day.
It was bizarre, to say the least. But still I figured if one white woman questioned it, others probably did too but were just too afraid to ask so I made a Facebook post explaining the shirt (saying I had multiple people ask me, but really it was just the one, I just didn’t want to make her feel bad. But she should kind of feel bad, ya dig?). This is that post, condensed:
Hi Everyone! Jerimiah and I have had people question the “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” t-shirts I bought for Jackson and Jerimiah for Christmas.
So if you want to know why I would give my 12-year-old a shirt that says, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” or you want to know why anyone would be happy to say that, then please do read on. Warning: This is tough stuff, because you might be enlightened to a world, community, and culture that is different than your own, and that makes people uncomfortable. So fair warning.
Let’s start with the song lyrics that the phrase is taken from. The song is called “Reagan” and it is by Killer Mike, a member of the two-person group “Run the Jewels” who happened to win Spin’s “Artist of the Year” for their RTJ 4 album, the one they released free to the masses on account of how horrible the year was going. They wanted to brighten some lives and they did! The song “Reagan” is not on that album, but Jackson and Jerimiah love all the albums and they love Killer Mike (I do too on account of all his grassroots, community work here in Atlanta) and so they did a deep dive on all his work this year where they came across the song, which, in short, lists the litany of Reagan atrocities toward the Black community and atrocities toward other minority communities worldwide and the backlash it had on the ones here in the US, including:
Iran/Contra Scandal (trading arms for hostages), “Oliver North introducing Cocaine on military planes”, the “War on Drugs” which we all know disproportionately affected the Black community and allowed for “policing for profits” leading to “Super Predators” which was a made up term to arrest Black men on drug charges, and allowed the courts to “give drug dealers time in double digits” which of course led to fathers, brothers, uncles, in the Black community being locked up years and years longer than the white people doing the same things, because as Killer Mike says,
“Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison, you think I am bullshittin’ then read the 13th amendment.”
Blah, blah, blah, it went on. Explaining more about Killer Mike, about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the community, asking people to vote consciously and to donate money to Black businesses, etc. It was liked by a few people, loved by some of my Black friends, and thankfully no one commented. Of course I blatantly told white people not to comment, cause I know a few other white women who would normally hop on a post like that like flies on a shit sandwich. I didn’t want to have to unfriend anyone over the post, at the same time, I kinda did want to unfriend some people over the post. You know how it is.
Anyway, I’m sharing today to remind white women to chill the fuck out and sit the fuck down. And yes, I am aware that I am a white woman. Which gives me the power to say that to y’all. Cause Black women who say it get screamed at, and called mean names, and ostracized. I don’t care, y’all can scream at me and ostracize me, Jesus I welcome it, but leave people alone.
No one owes you an explanation for a damn thing, and more importantly your opinion on the matter doesn’t in fact matter. Literally no one from the Black Lives Matter camp is looking at you to help them. I’m included in that. They don’t give a fuck about me, and I don’t need them to. I don’t need a pat on the back or a nod to know what I am doing is right. I just need to figure out how to walk this line of keeping white women in check and not overstepping any boundaries with my BIPOC friends. I’m working on it, always working on it.
But white women, for the love of all that is holy, no one is looking at you to be the moral center of our country, so stop it. That job is for Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks alone.
That is all, good day sirs!
PS… “I’ll leave you with four words: I’m glad Reagan Dead.” –Michael Render, aka Killer Mike
As the year draws to a close I’ve been thinking back on how crazy it has been and wanted to share a story. On Sunday, March 8th of this year, my friend Torey messaged me to see if Jackson wanted to go to the movies to see the movie “Onward.” “Absolutely,” I told her excitedly. Jackson and I had just been talking about that movie that day, discussing when we would go see it. “Next weekend?” I asked Torey. She responded quickly. “I think we should go tomorrow after school.” I sat looking at my phone for a minute. We have rarely, if ever, gone to the movies after school. In the summertime we might go to the movies in the afternoon, but generally speaking we go to the movies on Friday or Saturday nights along with all the rest of the crazy world. “Sure,” I said. After all, it is cheaper than the weekends and with the three kids, Jackson and Torey’s two, Megha and Taran, there would be less people to worry about. I told Jackson we were headed to the movies after school the next day with his friends and that was that.
When we met Torey and Megha and Taran at the local theater, the Movie Tavern with the brand-new plush seats that recline all the way back and have tables attached so you can order giant meals (and wine) and have it brought to you, Torey was so happy to see us. The first thing she did was thank us for coming on such short nice. “Of course,” I said, “it’s a good idea.”
“I thought so too,” Torey said, “I was talking to my family in Hong Kong over the weekend and they were telling me about Covid-19 and I figure this is our last weekend of freedom.” She said this with a small laugh and a wave of her hand at the concession stand, as the kids mindlessly scanned the glass to pick out their favorite candy.
I smiled, but inside I was very confused. I had not been paying much attention to the news. I was trying to stay away from social media too. The only thing I had heard up to that point about Covid-19 was what Jackson and Megha had told us at dinner a week or two before. Torey and I had taken the kids out for dinner at their choice of restaurants back in late February. They chose IHOP, because of course they did. So there we were, the five of us, Torey’s husband Vishnu was at work still and Jerimiah was on a plane back from Baton Rouge, and we were one of two tables at our local IHOP. Megha and Jackson started telling us all about Coronavirus and how it works and what they knew about Covid-19.
Their fifth grade teacher Mr. Budd had enlightened them all. Jackson said Mrs. Budd worked for the CDC and that Mr. Budd was a little concerned about the Covid-19 virus and wanted the kids to know the facts. Jackson and Megha then enlightened us with those facts. Torey was nodding along as they talked, our waitress Maria and I listened intently, eyes wide.
“It’s a particular strain of Coronavirus,” Megha started.
“It came about in 2019, that’s why it has the 19 after it,” Jackson interjected.
“Yeah,” Megha said, “And it transmits from person to person like other viruses.”
“Like the flu,” Jackson added.
“Yes,” Megha said, nodding her head at Jackson.
“Oh, and it’s already here in the US and the CDC thinks it is about to get very bad here,” Jackson was on a roll now. “We have to wash our hands for 20 seconds and cover our mouths when we talk.”
“And tell them about the social distancing, Jackson,” Megha said.
“Oh yeah,” Jackson started. “We should start social distancing, staying at least six feet from people when we are out in a crowded place.”
This was the first time I heard the term social distancing, from a pair of fifth graders at an IHOP table. Torey looked at me and smiled that smile that said, “We do have the smartest kids ever,” and of course she was right. Maria walked away smiling and thanking them for the information, and I sat a little nervously at the other side of the table while the conversation turned to some Korean pop band I also did not know anything about.
The next afternoon at the school pick-up picnic tables I sat around and listened as other parents discussed the coronavirus. Mainly they were saying that it was just a bad flu and it was nothing to worry about. In hind sight, that is what they were being fed from the top down. That is what we were all being fed. Our President was down-playing it. The media was too focused on other things. And really, really what was happening was that people were not okay with the thought that life as we know it might end, even temporarily. People were scared and they didn’t know what to do or say so they said, “It’s no big deal” and “I’m not worried.”
Meanwhile Torey, whose family and friends back in both Hong Kong and China were telling her to prepare for the worst, and she was listening. She was listening to her family, to the science, and to the rest of the world. And she was preparing. That’s why on that dreary Monday after the movie was over (and we were all crying, it’s a great movie!) she gave me the biggest hug and whispered that she didn’t know when she would get to see me again. I smiled a nervous smile, but I wanted to say, “Oh stop, I’ll see you next week,” since we had plans to do something fun with the kids the following week, after Jerimiah and Jackson and I got back from our short trip to Kansas City. But I didn’t say anything. There was something so ominous about Torey’s face, so sincere, so truthful. It was the first time I knew for sure that life was going to change and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.
The rest of the week was sort of a blur. Torey had started to send me news articles from the BBC and other international places that were actually being truthful about Covid-19. Jackson was coming home with new bits of information each day from Mr. Budd who was getting the info from Mrs. Budd. It was sounding bad. Really bad. But still we pressed on. By that Thursday after school most of the mom’s were in complete denial, while the kids, after dismissal, ran around playing, “Covid is Coming for You” which was just a game of tag wherein the person who was “It” was actually a deadly virus. Hmpf.
Finally, on Friday, March 13th, we got the messages. First, there was the text from Honor Band. “Honor Band is cancelled for the rest of the school year.” Then came the baseball team, “No more baseball practice, will most likely resume later in the spring.” Then, as Jerimiah and I debated calling Delta to cancel our flights, the big one came from DeKalb Schools, “School is closed out of an abundance of precaution.” And that was that.
I messaged Torey.
“Oh my goodness, I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when you said we may not see each other for a while.”
“It’s okay,” my friend said, “It’s tough news.”
All I could think was, this can’t be. This just can’t be. Then Torey said,
“At least we got to see Onward!”
I smiled. I had no idea what was next, but at least we had “Onward.”
On Christmas Even Jerimiah and I had just gotten Jackson to bed when the fireworks started. I immediately remembered the very long, very loud fireworks from the Christmas Eve before, the one that took us totally by surprise. Last year we were a bit annoyed, asking each other, fireworks for Christmas?! Who would do such a thing? The truth is though, it isn’t horrible people who just want to keep your kids up and your dogs terrified. Bringing in Christmas with fireworks is actually a Latin America tradition and honestly we’ve just lived such sheltered lives (read: such white lives) that we have never encountered this before. But here in Atlanta, where the diversity kicks it up into double digits, we have been exposed to numerous things we never have been exposed to before and honestly, I wasn’t even mad this year. All I kept thinking was, it’s been one shitty-ass year and if people want fireworks, let them have their damn fireworks!
Of course the people on Next Door were not so thoughtful.
I was perusing the site for sale items, something I do a lot at night when I am trying to fall asleep. Occasionally, between Craigslist and NextDoor I find some gems, and people were bitching about the fireworks. As I lay in the dark, my phone screen illuminating my face and the sound of fireworks bursting around me I read:
“I don’t care who celebrates this way, I’m trying to sleep!”
“This is America! They can go back to their own country to do that stuff!”
“How dumb are these people? Dumb and tacky.”
“Call the cops, it’s illegal!”
The truth of that last one is no, it isn’t. Christmas Eve is one of the nights here that fireworks are legal because we have so many transplants from other countries that they made it legal here. That got me to thinking about all the calls flooding DeKalb’s Police force on Christmas Eve and how mad these nasty, white people are when the dispatcher on the other end tells them they won’t be sending a police officer out. I smiled in satisfaction.
Because the truth is last year when I first heard fireworks on Christmas Eve I Googled it, as any of the people on NextDoor are capable of also doing, and I found out all of this information.
The other truth is this: What the hell is wrong with you people? You white, privileged people? What makes you the superior people? Oh, you don’t have to answer that we already know the answer: Structural racism makes you believe that.
One of the things I have always loved about America is the diversity. The learning of other cultures I would not know about if I didn’t live in a melting pot of a country. As Americans, as such a young country, we don’t have many traditions. The ones we do have are from other countries, brought here by the immigrants who are still coming to the “Land of Opportunity,” so to have the audacity to say some shit like, “This is America, we don’t shoot fireworks on Christmas Eve” is crazy. Because yes, this is America and those people shooting off fireworks are American, so yes, we do shoot off fireworks on Christmas Eve.
A couple of weeks ago Jackson asked about the nutcracker that sits on top of the mantel. I explained that it was a decorative one, not a real one. He asked if we could get a real one and I said yes. So I ordered a real nut cracker from the internets and bought a bag of assorted nuts for him to try his hand at and we had everything ready to go yesterday morning. So while Jackson was finishing up the dishes after breakfast, I grabbed a bowl and went back to the table with the nutcrackers in hand. Jerimiah was sitting there watching as I opened the bag of nuts and poured them in. They were the assorted kind with pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and Brazilian nuts. The kind we both remembered from our childhoods back in the Midwest.
I pulled a walnut out first and cracked it open. Jerimiah said that was his favorite kind, so I used the pick to dig the rest out for him. Then came the almond, then the hazelnut. Then I pulled out the Brazilian nut and I stopped, my hand holding it up in the air when I had a memory blaze across my mind. Jerimiah had the exact same memory I had, even though we lived in two separate places, hundreds of miles away from each other. We looked at the nut, then at each other. We weren’t sure what to say, so Jerimiah spoke first.
“Talk about overt racism,” he said, and I nodded.
The memory that Jerimiah and I share from our separate childhoods is horrific. I’m full of shame just writing about it today, but certainly we are not the only ones who were forced to hear this as children and certainly we can’t shy away from the facts of this here country and the way white people are. The nickname passed down from generation to generation for this particular nut is a “N-word Toe.”
That’s how I knew the nut growing up and I had completely forgotten about that particular part of my childhood Christmases, then there it was, quite suddenly in front of me once again. Jerimiah told me his grandparents called it that. I told him my mother called it that, and so did all her friends. My mother was born in 1944. She was 13 years old before she saw anyone who was not white, only heard about people of color in terms not so polite. The N-word was used regularly during her childhood, on the tobacco farms my grandfather tended and in the rural schools she attended in Platte County, Missouri.
This was a normal way of life, but why this particular nut was nicknamed that I do not know. I refuse to know, actually. I refuse to Google it, give it any validation. I have suspicions of course, but we will leave them where they lie. All I know is a pit came up in my stomach when I saw that nut again after all these years and I didn’t know what to do. Neither did Jerimiah, so we did what we thought was right. We explained all of it to Jackson.
Jackson sat and listened intently, but when we shared the nickname his jaw dropped. I wasn’t sure how to take that. First I thought how good it is that he’s astounded to hear such nonsense, then I wondered if I am shielding him too much from the way structural racism, including covert and over racism, works. I wondered whether we need to do a deep dive into how just 20 years ago this was the way of the world, and explain in some parts of the country, in some small towns, in some homes, homes of family members we know and love, this is still the way of the world. I was at a crossroads and I guess I still am.
I’m not incredibly sure why I’m sharing this today. I could have kept this a secret. I think, however, that shameful secrets can bog you down. And I know, like with most of my writing, that I hope to evoke some kind of social change by sharing. But that’s at the macro level I suppose. Quite specifically, most days I feel a large responsibility toward others. Toward validating the lives of people who carry shame from their families and their childhoods and who are still working and learning to get things right, as well as toward the people who are oppressed and hurt by people like me. That’s a tall order, I know. But one I will keep plugging at for the rest of my life.
I’m sitting here reading the news that I missed last week, and I’m thinking about the Trump family and all their seedy business dealings and I am thinking about the handful of people I know who are fervent Trump supporters and who are also small business owners. The ones I personally know (who are both) have all admitted, unsolicited to me, that they have done some illegal, criminal, or really shady business dealings at one point or another within their small business or to benefit their family and now I’m like, oh yep, that makes sense. It makes sense that most of the Trump supporters I know, who are still holding steadfast to him and believe all this election shit are criminals in some capacity.
Friends who have admitted to “cooking their books” to save money or completely get out of taxes in the small business. Trump supporters.
Friends who have lied about their income (one spouse saying she doesn’t work even though she owns a small business and so does her husband) in order to secure medical insurance from the state for their children. This same family also likes to hire undocumented workers because you can “pay them less” while at the same time they scream, “Build that wall! Build that wall!” Still supporting Trump.
Actual literal people who have been to prison for embezzling money from their employers. Trump supporters.
These are actual people I know in real life and have openly told these things to me in a way that is prideful, or full of shame, but still willing to do it.
Which got me to thinking. These people love Trump because he is like them. He is a liar, a cheater, a criminal. And all these people if given the opportunity would lie, cheat, and steal. They already have, particularly from the government or committed a federal crime. And so has Trump and his family. Meanwhile if I think I shortchanged Target I have to go back into the store and tell them. That’s a story for later this week.
Just last week Ivanka was taken to task for charging way too much in a Trump hotel that she was in charge of, for the inauguration party back in 2017. Her claim was that she asked for a “fair market price,” which some of the hotel people came back at with a tens of thousands of dollars a day for a “fair market price,” but she decided they should charge well over $100,000 a day. Umm. Yeah, liar, cheater, thief. And believe me, those kind like to stick together.
I’m so ready for this family to be over and out of our lives, but listen, just know that there still are, always have been, and always will be people who will scam the system in this way. And generally speaking the align with the Republican Party.
It’s late, 1:15 am and everyone is asleep in my house but me. Me and that damn Elf on the Shelf. Yes, he’s back. And yes, he’s a hot mess. And yes, Jackson whole-heartedly believes in him and in Santa and doesn’t get why people could believe in Jesus, a man who causes so much pain, but no Santa, a man who brings so much joy. To be honest, I’m at a loss myself. I guess as for me and my house, we will serve the Elf.
Our Elf on the Shelf’s name is Jackson because Jackson got him when he was four and that is when he had just learned to write his name and he had to write the Elf’s name in the book, so there you go. Jackson Elf is a little bitch. He makes messes in the kitchen, he creates works of art from my magazines, he once built a zip line from one end of the dining room to the other and invited his other elf friend, Elf Cam Newton (hey, we lived in North Carolina) to ride it with him. The hole zip line was made from paper clips. Literally hundreds of paper clips clipped to gather then carefully arranged into a zip line, all awhile we slept. And of course, they were my paper clips.
Jackson Elf doesn’t operate like he is intended. He doesn’t sit on a shelf all day watching, judging, then report to the big man at night about the chaos and sin he has witnessed. He’s not a priest. He’s an elf, and elves have fun damn it. Plus, we’ve never needed to scare our kid with Santa or Elf on the Shelf, though we once knew a little boy who only listened to his mother when she said two things: “Wait until I tell your Daddy!” and “Santa is watching!” Whew. What a life that must have been.
So Jackson the elf is plotting downstairs right now. I can hear him. The dogs can occasionally here him. The floor creaks, the boards rumble, the lights flicker. I don’t know what he is doing but I’m sure whatever it is it will bring a giant smile to my child’s face and shit man, isn’t that worth all the paper clips in the whole world?
I feel like all I write about is going to the dentist. Probably because as a writer I write about my life and my life is just a series of times in between my next horrific dentist appointment. What gives, y’all? I went to another dentist visit yesterday, this one was with the Endodontist. What the heck is an endodontist, Missy? Great question, so glad you asked. Endodontists have additional training that allows them to focus on diagnosing tooth pain and performing root canal treatment and other procedures relating to the interior of the tooth. The experts say that in many cases, a diseased tooth can be saved with endodontic treatment. I’ll give you two guesses what I have?
If you didn’t know, like I didn’t know, some root canals can fail. The very first one I had when I was 20 years old has failed. Thanks Heartland Dental in Leavenworth, Kansas. Now sometimes it isn’t the dentist’s fault, things just happen. In my case though, well it would appear that the root canal was never actually finished correctly, and here I am two decades later paying for it, figuratively and literally (about $1,000). They didn’t actually pack both roots. Bitches.
Nevermind all that, have you or have you not ever had lidocaine accidentally shot into a nerve in your mouth?
If you have, you probably just grabbed the area in which it happened, involuntarily. When I asked Jerimiah this question he make a pucker face, tilted his head to the left, and tried to remember. No need. If you need time to think about it, the answer is a big no. You don’t forget pain like that. The pain that feels like you stuck your tongue into an electrical socket. Right after the first jolt yesterday the endodontsit asked me, “Does it feel like your were shocked?” Yes, yes it does. Then she told me that she must have struck the nerve. What she didn’t tell me was when the needle came out the shock came again. Fun times.
Turns out, are you ready for this, the diseased tooth was infected and had to be packed with penicillin and I had to be put on a course of amoxicillin and pain meds after she drilled down into the old root canal, dug around, and pulled out the stuff. Which by the way, smelled of rotting flesh and infection. Sort of like what you think a dead body that has been left in the sun and half eaten by lazy house cats might smell like.
Christ, that might be enough for today. I’m sorry you read this. Consider it a cautionary tale, per usual.
Today is a day to celebrate America’s Indigenous People, and while I support today as that day, I implore y’all to not forget about Indigenous people tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after. In fact, too little is said about Indigenous people, the way our country has treated them, the reparations they are owed, and how the colonization of their lands has negatively impacted them, and if this isn’t on the forefront of your mind most days, you will miss an opportunity to help.
For starts you can follow accounts on social media like: @IndigenousPeoplesMovement, @IndigenousRising, and @DecolonizeMyself, as well as @ChiefLadyBird for starters. You can also follow hashtags like: #IndigenousPeople or #IndigenousArt or #DakotaPipeline which can be a good way to start getting more recommendations for pages and accounts to follow so you can learn more about the struggle Indigenous People live through in “The land of the free.”
Please educate yourself on Indigenous People. Please vote with them in mind. Please respect and honor those before us, and those still struggling.
Things are a hot mess in Atlanta right now. We had a deadly Fourth of July weekend, several children have been shot in the last week, and Covid-19 never really left. But yesterday morning our governor decided to be a real governor and say something about the violence. I mean, God forbid he take action to help save us from the global pandemic that is sweeping our state, or listen to what the people in Atlanta (the largest municipality and the capital of the state) are angry about, but “extra” violence in Atlanta, that warrants a stern talking to. Matter of fact he said, “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace and maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.” Well, hold up, let me rephrase, he Tweeted that. So he didn’t actually address the problem on a public stage, he didn’t actually do anything, he just sat at his desk and Tweeted his ideas. Sound like anyone else we know?
The problem isn’t so much the fact that he threatened the city, it’s that once again he didn’t do shit about a problem until a domestic spotlight was shone upon us, then he threatened. Remember how we have talked about leadership coming from the top down? Atlanta, like all other large municipalities, has a very particular set of problems, and because of it’s shear size, it makes it difficult to fix many of these problems, especially when you want to just fix them overnight. Listen, I’ve only been here a little over a year, but I can already see that the way things have been going, are not helping. This is an instance where, “But it’s always been done that way,” isn’t working and things need to be changed, and I know I sound like a broken record here, but it starts with voting. Then it moves out from there. Volunteering. Donating. Sharing knowledge you gain. Educating people.
When we moved to Atlanta a year ago we were nervous. We had heard horrible things about the city we have come to love. The horrible things were mainly racist bullshit that out-of-towners don’t feel comfortable talking about. That was our first lesson. Because when you really strip Atlanta down, down to its roots, it isn’t pretty, but it’s important. Vital, even. Like did you know Atlanta and the Black vote was the single biggest game-changer in getting John F. Kennedy elected back in 1960? I didn’t either, until I came here and had a history lesson.
Say what you will about Atlanta, but until you are here, living in it, taking the Marta to historical places, reading about the culture and society (which by the way some people who have lived here for 20 years don’t even do or know about) then I won’t listen to you anymore. I can’t. I won’t listen to our racist, hypocritical governor either. I can’t. Too many people are dying here. Too many people need help. And I’ve been waxing for a year now about how I can help. Saying I can’t, or I shouldn’t, it isn’t my place. But the fact is, this is my place. This is my home. I don’t know how long it will be, but it is now and that is all that matters. I’m a Georgian now. I live in a suburban town just steps outside the perimeter and I have two choices: I can tell people I live in Tucker, where the schools are sweet and the people are all wonderful, and the houses are big and there is opportunity for growth, or I can say I live in the Atlanta Metro and we need help. A lot of fucking help.
When I was little and I needed to make a decision about one thing or another, about what my actions needed to be, and I was stuck and so very afraid my mom would say, “Welp Missy, it’s shit or get off the pot time,” and I’m finally feeling that here in Atlanta. It’s time to either dig in and help, put in the time, and the effort, and the heart, or it’s time to leave. Stay my happy-ass in the comfortable parts of life. I’ll give you one guess what I’m about to do…
It’s time to shit or get off the pot, y’all. What are you gonna do?
Dollar General and Jesus. Lakes and guns. Fishing and methadone clinics. Oh my! We just got back from the Ozarks yesterday and I wanted to share some pictures I took while I was there. I’ll let you form your own opinions about where exactly some of these were taken, but I’ll give you a hint: Very near Arkansas. It’s important to keep an open mind about what is beauty up there, but some things you just have to see to believe. Glad to be home. Hope you’re all well, let’s touch base about our mental health tomorrow, today take a gander of some of the wonders of the Ozarks.
I’ve decided to take part in the #AmplifyMelanatedVoices Challenge created by @blackandembodied and @jessicawilson.msrd. I won’t be blogging, posting on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook from now until June 7th in an attempt to #MuteTheWhiteNoise. Instead I’ll be listening to what Black people have to say. I’ll be watching and looking at art created by Black artists and activists. I’ll be reading Black authors. I’ll be looking inward and reflecting on what I’m learning, how my world views need changing, and how I can help elevate the Black Community. Please follow the hashtags and the original creators of this challenge on Instagram.
Below you will find links to articles about white fragility and anti-racism by Black authors, as well as Black activists to follow on Instagram. I hope you can find time to educate yourself on these topics and listen to the unheard voices in the Black Community. Please remember that Google is your friend. Don’t rely on the people below, or any of your Black friends, colleagues, or Black people in your community to educate you. They are too busy and it isn’t their job. White supremacy and racism work because white people do not take a stand against it. It is a problem that white people created, and it is one that we need to work to end. It is time to take a stand, even toward people you love and admire. Our silence is deafening to the Black Community.
Read, read, read! Read the books listed in the illustration above for starters, and follow the authors on social media or on their paid Patreon accounts. Please keep in mind that some of these books have become very popular in the last few weeks (which is great), but I have heard of price gauging online. This in no way benefits the authors. Whenever possible, order the title from your local independent bookstore who supports Black writers. It may take a couple of weeks to get the book, because some are on backorder, but it is worth it. The titles from the illustration above are:
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu-Jamal The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge Good Talk by Mira Jacob Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz Citizen by Claudia Rankine An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Mindful of Race by Ruth King Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell & Aurélia Durand
In the meantime, here are some articles to get you started reading and thinking now:
This post isn’t about Reading Rainbow, but do you remember that show? I loved the shit out of some Reading Rainbow. LaVar Burton was an actual celebrity at my house, in my school. In fact, every week my teacher would wheel in one of the tv’s and pop a VHS tape in and we would get to watch a Reading Rainbow. It was usually Friday afternoons, right after lunch and recess. Right about the time we would want to fall asleep, but shit nah, man, ain’t nobody sleeping when Reading Rainbow is on! For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, please Google it! And also look at this sexy MFer:
Whew! Let’s all take a minute to compose ourselves. My fifth-grade ass was certainly in love with LaVar. Anyway, like I said that is not what this post is about. It’s about reading in general, but more specifically what I am reading.
People text me, inbox me, call me, and DM me and ask shit like, “Whatchu reading, Missy?” And I’m usually not reading some shit other people want to read. I’m all, “Oh, I just finished The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats,” or I’ll be all, “Omigod, have you even read The Sacred Wisdom of the Native Americans” or “Oh, I’m just re-reading Joan Didion.” And they are like, “Oh, okay.” Then under their breath they are like what the hell is her problem? But turns out when we started a book club a couple months ago (that is now disbanded because of Covid-19) I made a list of more “popular” books to read, and I’ve been sticking pretty closely to that list while in quarantine. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on what I’m reading, what I plan to read, and what I have read. Ready? Here goes!
I read Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. I like Irby. I like her style, her sense of humor, I like her balls to the wall attitude. I like that she shares it all, puts it all out there. She’s kind of like me in that way, but of course much funnier and her stories are way ‘mo better. Mine are always sad and shit. Gotta work on being less sad. Anyway, I was introduced to Irby when I downloaded her audiobook We are Never Meeting in Real Life a couple years back when I started walking my senior dog to try to help her shed some pounds (and me too). Turns out it was HILARIOUS, and I would actually laugh-out-loud on my walks around the ‘hood in Charlotte and my neighbors thought I was crazy. So I ran and grabbed her book, Meaty and that cemented my love for her. I anxiously awaited for the release of Wow, No Thank You which happened since we’ve been in quarantine, and I ordered a copy from an independent book store in Chicago (that’s where she is from, and I had stopped into a shop that sells her books while I was there, so I ordered it from them) and had it shipped to me. Hilarity ensured. Listen, Irby is crass, sure. She’s a little too open for some people, and she sometimes make you think, like for real? Did that really happen? And yeah, it did. But mostly she’s just funny. Her books are all collections of essays about her own life, and she’s like the kind of person you want to be friends with, but neither of you ever make meeting up a priority cause you’re a little nervous around each other, and also you’re both introverts and really don’t like to leave your house, so you just admire each other from afar. Yes, that’s it. I’m an Irby admirer. Also, look at these covers!
I read Crossing to Safety back in March, because I had already started it for Book Club before we had to cancel. Crossing to Safety legit made me say aloud, “It’s kind of like Seinfeld.” Because it was kind of like Seinfeld. It’s a book that seems to be about a lot of nothing, just a pair of couples who “grow up” together in a sense, have careers, children, stresses, fun, highs, lows, and all the in between. So it seems, on the surface to be about nothing, but it’s actually about a lot of things. Really, really, real things. It’s about love. About that sort of intimate love that comes along with friendship. It’s about growing up, into ourselves, into our relationships, into the people we are supposed to be. It was released in 1987 and written by Wallace Stegner. It’s semi-autobiographical, and it defiantly feels like you could be reading creative non-fiction. It also had an Olive Kitteridge vibe to it for me, because it was so inside these relationships, and these people. It was sad, it was happy, it was funny, it was all the things. I definitely recommend it. Jerimiah read it with me (Book Club and all) and he liked it too. Though he did note some slow parts, and there are some parts where you are like, wait that has to be important, and it is, so pay attention!
In between Crossing to Safety and deciding what book we were going to read together next, I made Jerimiah read one of my favorite short stories from George Saunders so we would have something to talk about. I have only read a few of Saunders stories, even though I bought 10th of December a couple years ago in hopes to read it all quickly. Haha. I have a lot of hopes. Anyway, the story The Semplica Girl Diaries is one of my favorites because the first time I read it I was so throughly confused by it, that I had to read it again, and now every year I read it just to be like, what they hell? And also, how can people write like this? It’s one of those stories that keeps my faith in writers alive. Anyway, Jerimiah read it, then when I asked him about it, he was like, “Oh no, I have to read it again before I can talk about it.” So yeah, there’s that. Read The Semplica Girl Diaries and also if you have time My Chivalric Fiasco.
When Jerimiah and I actually decided on a new book, it was Little Fires Everywhere, because it had been suggested in Book Club. The television version had just released on Hulu, so we thought it would be fun to read the book (another I bought eons ago in hopes to read one day) and then watch the series. I mean, we have the time… Anywho we were wrong. The show is so totally different than the book that I am now mad and a little pissed off at Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Misdirected anger, I know, but come on people! I get that there are certain things that have to be changed to catch the attention of television watchers, but I’m just, well maybe I’m not mad, just disappointed. To be fair we are only on episode three, so it might get better, but so far we don’t like it. We were a fan of the book though. We had only heard good things, then when I said I was reading it people came out of the woodwork to tell me they thought it sucked. And I could see why some people would not like it. First, it’s a short read. We did it in a weekend. Not too much “thinking” happening, unless you let it take you there, but there are really A LOT of things to dissect in that book. Race and class are the most evident, of course, but the idea and the topic of motherhood really took my breath away. I think maybe people who identify with Elena Richardson might not like it as much as us Mia’s out in the world, ya dig? Either way, I’d say give it a shot. Don’t be a Mrs. Richardson about it, assholes.
That brings me to what we are reading now and what we are planning to read. We just started one of Jerimiah’s picks, The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the DetroitNumbers Game by Bridgett M. Davis, and I am smitten! I had no idea what to expect from this book. Jerimiah heard about it on one of his “numbers” podcasts and suggested it knowing that I like creative non-fiction and he likes numbers. I’m only on chapter five, but I think Davis does a great job explaining her mom, the Numbers (which is not a thing I had any idea about) and Detroit in the 1960s, particularly Black Detroit, another topic I have no idea about. I’m laughing, learning, and thoroughly enjoying this book.
Now my To Read list is nuts you guys. I finally ordered Untamed by Glennon Doyle, I know you guys are tired of hearing me talk about this book, but I think I was sort of putting it off because I know it’s going to be a hard read for me. A lot of truths I don’t want to deal with. But I ordered it (from an Indie Bookstore, duh). Then there is The Gum Thief which was another Book Club pick that I had already bought and readied myself to read (and I think Jerimiah might like). Then there is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng who several people have told me is better than Little Fires Everywhere, then there is Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, which I think is gonna be hella sad, so I keep putting it back on my shelf, then there is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, and D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose. Lastly, there is Biloxi by Mary Miller, who is teaching one of my classes in the fall so I’m kinda scoping her out before I scope her out. You know how it goes. I’m obvi really into female authors and female stories right now. And I won’t apologize for that.
But you guys! This amazing thing happened to me. The other day I was sitting here minding my own business when a package arrived from one of my best friends and it included the following: The recipe to her famous chocolate chip cookies, a letter, two cassette tapes (Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits and a homemade mix tape of Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind from 1991), AND a signed copy of Objects in the Mirror: Thoughts on a Perfect Life from an Imperfect Person by Stephen Kellogg. I’m not kidding. Phew. I’m booked solid you guys.
Hoppy Easter, y’all! Not even gonna pretend to know what today is about for you, but for us it’s about the Easter Bunny visiting (yes, still) and that makes us very happy. He did come! He brought dog toys, and filled eggs, and even a candy bunny for me! Yay, Easter Bunny! More importantly it’s the last day of Jackson’s spring break so we go back to school tomorrow, virtual school of course, but school no less. Tomorrow is also the day I officially register for my fall classes at Mississippi University for Women. So a lot to look forward to, but for now I just wanted to say Hoppy Easter, or Christ Coming Back Day, or Happy Sunday, or whatever today is for you!
I’ve been fighting the urge to say, “Happy Day Covid-19 is Gone and Life is Back to Normal Day” because I distinctly remember our president saying today would be the day. (I guess I didn’t fight that too hard.) Oh well, it’s never a bad day to remind us all that our president is a steaming pile of dog shit!
Okay, whew! So much to tell you this week (like how Bernie is awesome but I’m voting for #Biden2020, and that we did a family campout last night) but that will all have to wait until later this week because well, our family did a campout in our backyard last night which means I’m exhausted, so I’m going back to sleep.
Stay safe and sane out there, y’all. Remember, you matter in this world.