Category Archives: media

29

My birthday, sadly, comes but once per year on January 31. And on it I do feel obligated to post something profound, or sentimental, or funny. Something reflective. Something hopeful. It’s the one day during the year when I can, sheepishly, with four words justify anything I want to without looking like a narcissist or a glutton. “Well, it’s my birthday…” So yes, I’m having cake, a second cocktail, a long lunch, and I’m going buy myself something.

Allow me to say, as my Christmas and New Year Posts may have let on, that I am so happy to leave 28 behind. My husband and close friends have said that they feel I have aged (though they kindly say “grown up”) more in that single year than the 27 preceding it. So there you have it. However, blog readers aren’t paid therapists, so that’s all you get to hear about.

There were lots of really great things last year. So in no particular order…28 reflections on a year of being 28-years-old, and one on being 29.

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1) Complain all you want about Facebook birthday wishes being cheap. No one on Facebook should ever get to whine “everyone forgot my birthday.” Even if your mother, boyfriend, and co-workers do…your third grade babysitter and 2nd cousin from Iowa who you met for the first time last year, did not. I think we are a more celebratory culture for it. Thank you FB for acknowledging the importance of birthdays.

2) I wish life was an Aaron Sorkin ensemble drama. If he’s living in a fantasy world, which he is, I want to live there with him. The Newsroom made my summer and The West Wing coming to Netflix made my winter.

3) My last meal as a 28 year old was the most amazing bbq I’ve ever eaten. We had flights of craft beers, the best brisket known to man, and Texas Toast with bacon-drippings butter. UNREAL. My first meal as a 29 year old: a grapefruit.

4) Best discovery of the year: Birchbox. It’s helped me decide to start taking moisturizing and sun protection seriously. I think my 40-year-old self will thank my 28-year-old self for this.

5) All year I tried to mitigate the effects of sedentary desk work by getting up every twenty minutes (I work from home). Inevitably so much time would go by, and I’d forget to get up and walk around. Then we got a puppy. Problem solved.

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6) Best books I’ve read this year: Cutting for Stone, The Shadow of the Wind, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

7) Writing for the Rivard Report may be the best thing that has happened to me outside of getting married. And maybe living abroad.

8)  I actually really like grapefruit, and all these years I had thought I didn’t. Good thing, I guess.

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9) It’s a shame about me and science. I think, had a few things gone differently in high school, we could have had a long and loving relationship. I’m too late in the game to make a career of it, but thankfully the MacDonald Observatory and the Galapagos are open to the public.

10) I agree. Everyone should be in counseling.

11) There is nothing like working as an underling in ministry to make someone pro-union.

12) Balmorhea State Park is the greatest thing to happen to Texas.

13) I like running…I like hiking. But they should be kept separate.

14) Sometimes a side effect of something going incredibly right is the feeling that something has gone entirely wrong.

15) Non-New Yorkers have a really strong reaction against New York City because they feel like it’s elitist. Like the city has the personality of a sophomore English major with a design minor. Everyone I know in and from Manhattan is lovely and not the slightest bit elitist. But if they were, I think it would have something to do with their superior transit system, unlimited access to cultural institutions, walkable city layout, and the gold standard of public parks…times two.

NYC Highline

16) Biggest mystery of the year: why people are not flocking to the Lakes District in Chile.

Puerto Varas

CHile

17) Pets, plural, entered my life in full force this year, and I find myself enjoying caring for them. Whoever that girl was who didn’t want to be tied down…she’s long gone, and replaced with a snugglier, more motherly version who gets choked up watching “Love, Actually”

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18) It’s just not worth it to drink too much anymore. Who am I kidding? I’m not mourning some wild season of life gone by. I never liked drinking too much. I did it, but I never liked it.

19) Lewis got me a bicycle for Christmas.  I was scared about traffic, but before my year was up I navigated the Lasoya roundabout (which I avoid even in my car) on two wheels. I love my bicycle.

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20) Liz Lambert is my design idol. The diva’s in the details.

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El Cosmico

21) The meaning of Christmas hit me full force when I heard the San Antonio Symphony playing at Haven for Hope this year.

22) It’s worth it to pay for a tour guide. When we were younger, and backpacking, getting lost was a luxury we could afford. We had all time and no money. Now that our time is money and vacations aren’t 40 days long, hiring a guide keeps the vacation in the “wow, that’s fascinating” zone and out of the “I told you the buses don’t operate on Sundays”

23) I have two age spots on my cheek. They will never go away. If you hold out long enough, your don’t need to get a tattoo. Your body will start marking itself up on its own.

24) I finally like fancy dark chocolate better than M&Ms. Lewis has won.

25) Having a beer or a glass of Pinot Grigio while watching the Colbert Report is a perfect way to end stressful days. This is a downgrade from tequila and Mad Men, which was how I was ending most days 6 months ago.

26) Prospect and refuge. It explains so much, and is perfectly illustrated by our puppy, who hides under the coffee table waiting to attack our shoes and steal Wiley’s toys.

27) The fact that semi-automatics, high-capacity magazines, and other guns designed to kill people are allowed to be bought or sold in any way completely baffles me. Completely. And I don’t really want anyone to explain it to me.

28) My husband loves me very much.

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29) Everyday I am waiting for the answer to strike, as though God will throw it down like lightening, rather than unfolding it slowly like the way the sky looks before it it rains.

How to live a life worthy of teenage cult cable

Hey there, girls! So, you want to live the glamorous life of your onscreen BFFs? Look no further, ‘cuz I’ve got all the inside secrets on how Aria, Serena, Blair, Spencer, Hanna, and their posses manage to keep their blood pressure sky high without having to get fat.

Where to be:

  • Conduct all of your most dubious business in front of open windows. This includes 1) confrontations with persons whom you previously pretended not to know, 2) kisses you should not be bestowing or receiving, and of course, 3) perplexed staring. Perplexed staring is not dubious, but it gives your stalkers time to snap some photos of you in a flattering pose for once. (Note: make sure you have a stalker. If you don’t have one yet, just change clothes in front of your open window.)
  • Another great place to conduct business: the rain. If it’s raining, go outside! This is prime atmosphere for kissing, crying, hunting, and hiding. Since those four activities make up 90% of your waking hours, chances are if you stand in the rain long enough, you’ll get to maximize your investment.

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How to speak:

  • Make sure to be totally obvious when you are lying or upset. The best way to do this is to eliminate the natural pauses from conversation. Note to self, you can never shift your eyes too much.
  • Lying is always in your best interest. But if you must tell the truth, make sure to blurt it out in haste, including lots of redundant details. If you must share, over share. Preferably in public with maximum emotional casualties.
  • This adage will help you make wise choices in tricky situations: If it’s not worth hiding from someone you care about, it’s not worth doing.
  • Just because your mouth is open doesn’t mean words need to be coming out of it. Staring slackjawed into a crowd (or just space) is a great way to signal to frenemies, nemeses, and tender-hearted-manchildren that you are emotionally vulnerable.
  • Don’t waste your brain cells explaining yourself to those outside the loop. Answer all questions with the same question, but change the emphasis of the words and heighten the intensity from anxious curiosity to indignant fury. For example:

Rightfully Worried Parent: What are you doing?

Teenage Cult Diva: No, what are you doing?!?

or

Vacuous-but-Hot Boyfriend: Are you telling me the truth?

Teenage Cult Diva: Are you telling me the truth?!?

Social scene:

  • Always pause when entering social gatherings, to survey the crowd. Despite being the prettiest girl in the room, it’s always a safe bet to look mildly uncomfortable and shy. To be convincing, simply  imagine that the rules of the universe might have been recently turned on their head, and you could spend the night as a miserable wallflower. This will also give the nerd who is hopelessly in love with you time to pine while you search for the hair-model/misunderstood-bad-boy you were hoping to find.
  • On that note, live in an affluent community with plenty of semi-formal events. Fashion shows, charity dinners, dances, and at least one masquerade ball. Masquerade balls are a total necessity because you get to look fancy and mysterious at the same time. Schedule all confrontations with the baddies around a masquerade ball for maximum thrill.

  • Masquerade or not, remember that, for you, every day requires a costume. The more improbable the better. First off, you’re going to have to get up early to get all that hair and make up in place. And forget ever breathing, eating, or feeling your toes again. Next, you’re going to need to requisition a substantial line item in your parents’ budget for keeping this up. (Note: you’ll need to find yourself some parents who live in Siberia or under a rock or something, because half of what’s in your closet is what was once considered hosiery).  Chunky wedges and impossibly high heels are a must, as you need to be able to fall down if a baddie is chasing you.
  • Another benefit of living in an affluent community: beach houses, lake houses, etc. Great locations for making future secrets. Which you should hold onto until the opportune moment when you can remember all of the over-informative details so that you can publicly vomit them out all over your friends who knew you were hiding something (because of your shifty eyes and refusal to answer direct questions…)

Basic High Drama Etiquette:

  • Never turn off your phone in intimate situations, as you should always be expecting scandalous texts and emergency phone calls. But leave it lying around if at all possible.

  • Rushing and storming are the only ways to leave a room. The only ways.
  • The most versatile excuse for getting out of situations you don’t like: “I just can’t do this right now.” Also useful: “I want to tell you, I just can’t right now.”
  • Always remember your priorities. No matter how urgent the stakeout, deadline, or escape, there is always time for a breathless heart-to-heart with your estranged boyfriend (preferably at a masquerade or in the rain). Fortunately for you, while those conversations endure painstaking hours for most of us, you’ll be able to reunite, kiss, interrogate, and abandon him in the course of one dance or cup of coffee.

I guarantee, if you follow these simple steps, your life will very much resemble the addictive cable fantasies we all love so very much.

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The Fertile Cliff

Aside from the copious amounts of shouting and weird, weird, too weird moment where Schmitt describes his sexual technique to a lesbian gynecologist, last week’s episode of New Girl, “Eggs,” did raise a notable topic:  waning fertility.

Cece and Jess contemplate their fertility.

Cece and Jess contemplate their fertility.

I was dubious at first that the egg-count blood test Jess and Cece took actually existed, but apparently it does. Actual fertility testing can be much more invasive (and I suspect would render sex about as romantic as trying to grow salt crystals on a string in 5th grade), but if all you want are hormone levels and an egg count, the blood test will do the trick.

As my contemporaries and I round the corner and start looking down the barrel of 30, this seems to be coming up more and more. Suddenly, we’re like the carton of milk that hasn’t been opened two days before the expiration date. If I eat cereal for every meal and make some creamy soup will that get me in under the deadline?

  • It was the earnest plights of the friends sharing their real (and doctor-abetted) fears of declining fertility.
  • It was the box of pre-natal vitamins given to me by a nurse, “because it can’t hurt to be ready.” (Funny, how unsolicited reproductive swag switches from condoms when you are 18 to pre-natal vitamins when you are 28).
  • It was Jessica Valenti’s book Why Have Kids?  She critiques the fertility panic induced by the science that demonstrates that women lose the majority of their eggs by age 35.

At some point in your late 20’s the world looks at you, raises their eyebrows and says, “No, but really. It’s time to get serious and make some babies.” Not that some women need the outside pressure. Plenty of friends report that every time they see a pair of tiny little baby booties they feel their uterus burning (I take cranberry pills, so that doesn’t happen).

If external and internal pressures magically align in a financially, relationally secure situation, then you are set. You’ve got all the support in the world to grant your own greatest wish. That only happens, maybe 2-3 times in life, so enjoy it.

However, if you are: 1) single, 2) enjoying your career, or 3) apprehensive about motherhood, then run a hot bath, pour a glass of wine, and put on your favorite “I can do anything!” anthem, because here comes the next great female dilemma.

If you are single…

It’s ironic that Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel on Friends that brought up issues of 1) dating with babies in mind (The One Where They All Turn Thirty), and 2) having a baby as a single woman (seasons 8-10). Then she made the movies about it, The Object of My Affection and The Switch.  And now, real Jennifer Aniston’s baby-making is long term tabloid fodder to a frenzied, fanatical degree. Her personal and professional identity are inseparable from her womb-status.

(Jennifer Aniston and Eddie Cahill as Rachel and Tag, a romance doomed by family planning, photo from friends.wikia.com)

Jennifer Aniston and Eddie Cahill as Rachel and Tag, a romance doomed by family planning, photo from friends.wikia.com

When you are in your early 20’s, finding “the one” and having babies is like this sort of epic adventure with trolls and witches and even the precious golden ring.  My friends who are older and single tend to be more pragmatic. It’s really healthy, because they are no longer looking for an NFL quarterback who runs a Sub-Saharan philanthropy in the off season, and has a couple of best-selling records as a little hobby on the side. You know, just his poetry set to music.

But whether your approach is pragmatic or idealistic, most women don’t just get to say, “Alight. I’m going to get married now.” There’s this other person involved. This other person who will be fertile until he dies, and may or may not be in any rush to divert money from his travel/entertainment fund. Not to mention, if mating, not dating is the goal here, you have to consider whose genes you want to pass on. Here’s a hint: they may not be the ones that are most liberally scattered throughout the state.

In your 20’s the matrimony mavens tell you not to compromise. In your 30’s it’s like you’re President Obama and the dating pool is Congress (though probably still more likeable) and those kindly mavens become the pundits prattling on about the fiscal cliff. Or rather, the fertile cliff. The Bush Era tax cuts and your ability have children are about to expire.

So why not just hit up the sperm bank and have kids as a single woman? Best I can tell, unless you are a megawatt Hollywood star who can afford a full time nanny, chef, and chauffer, single motherhood is really hard. I can’t say that living childless into your 80s will be easy, but it seems less risky. Just my opinion.

If you like your career…

Here’s the rub, your late 20’s are the same time when you are probably either 1) settling into a new career( one that you actually like), or 2) finally making some headway in your career of choice.  Your most biologically fertile years are also your most professionally fertile. And nothing says, “thanks for the health insurance,” like getting pregnant.

In a country without mandatory paid maternity leave where very few companies offer child care or nursing flexibility, women bear the brunt of the professional sacrifice of having children. Not every time, but most of the time. It’s a mammary gland thing.

So the career that you love will enter a tenuous balance in which you are at the mercy of your employer to be able to tend to sick kiddoes, nursing infants, and doctor appointments without suffering professional repercussions. Legally, I don’t think they can fire you. But they don’t have to promote you.

Maybe you have a loving, pro-family, progressive work place. Maybe you don’t. Only one way to find out (convince the girl on the second floor to have a baby first and get her to tell you how it goes). My opinion: it is bat shit crazy that we do not have federally-mandated maternity leave and breast-feeding allowances.

On the other hand, if a woman wants to stay home, and her circumstances allow for that, I think she should. Nothing makes the office more thankless and dreary than comparing it to something else you’d rather be doing.

Women who are raised as equal achievers to men and then choose to stay home are incredibly industrious. They were raised to dream big, and that energy gets diverted into the business of home. They tend to do creative stuff with their kids, home, and food, and often venture off into other pursuits that are enhanced by home life. Hence most good Etsy merchandise, the plethora of part-time professional photographers, realistic cookbooks, and half the content of the internet.

Inevitably, both sides— those who choose to stay home with their kids, and those who go back to work— will feel like the world is against them. Our insecure ears have a special sensitivity to the insecure rants of the opposition. If you stay home, you’ll feel judged by feminazis. If you work, you’ll feel judged by the mommy blogs. Welcome to the world, new mom. You’ll never get it right.

Which leads me to my last Fertile Cliff crisis point.

Those who fear motherhood…

You are married to a successful, supportive, loyal man. Your job is very child-friendly. Or maybe you are just ready to be done with the corporate grind. So why are you not taking your temperature and keeping a fertility calendar?

Because the very assumption that if you are a normal female then you should want kids (badly) tells you there’s something very very loaded here. Your relationship to reproduction and the things you reproduce is going to define you more than you might want it to.

If your kids consume you, you’re getting it wrong. “You’ve got to have a life, or you’ll have nothing to give!”

If your kids don’t consume you, you’re getting it wrong. “You are the only mother your children will ever have.”

If you go to work, you’re getting it wrong. “Letting someone else raise your child.”

If you don’t go back to work, you’re getting it wrong. “Letting down the women of tomorrow.”

If you never complain, other moms resent you. If you complain too much, no one wants to be around you.

You cut your energy level in half for the next few years due to less sleep, more illness, and frequent trips to the doctor. Yet you’re expected to perform at the level of someone who had not recently been inhabited by another nutrient-sucking life form and then kept up all night being gnawed on by the same person.

They keep telling you it’s worth it…but then they say something about how they just want to pee without interruption. And the childless woman has no frame of reference for the “worth it” part, but she does know what it’s like to have sleepless nights and interrupted poops.

Women who fear motherhood are frequently cast as selfish, too. As though 1) their eggs are suffering psychological damage from neglect, and 2)  having your identity subsumed by a relationship is something trivial. A professor of mine, told this story:

“I had this student and she was brilliant. But she got married and had kids. And all I can think is that those kids are going to have no idea how talented their mother is.”

It’s true. Your mom could have been the first female President of the United States. You still woke her up in the middle of the night so she could feed you. You would not have loved her any less if she had been a washerwoman, as long as she hugged you and fed you. While that is immensely comforting, it’s also a little unsettling. It means that it will be incredibly hard to explain to my kids that there is something more important for me to do than to fix them a snack or read them a book sometimes. I thought my mom was awesome…”now drive me to soccer practice.”

It all adds up to the reality that motherhood is, yes, a very noble calling. But it’s a big one, and understanding that makes things a little…nervous.

For women facing the fertile cliff, every option seems perilous. Either have kids before she’s ready or maybe never get to have them at all. Or risk the expensive possibility of having to bring the medical industry into your bedroom. Whatever our choice,  there’s a Grover Norquist and a Timothy Geithner of fertility out there ready to tell you that if you’d just do what they say, you’ll avert disaster.

GY 4?? Feminism in Current Pop Debate

Occasionally I like to construct an alternate course of events that my life could have taken. In today’s fantasy, I have become achingly famous and been asked to teach a class on contemporary women’s issues. Yes, that’s right. In my fantasy world (today) I’m a professor. What about it?

My class will be about feminist issues in contemporary discourse (media, mostly). Which means mostly mommy wars, body issues, and women in the workplace…if you even consider those to be separate issues.

I will not assign all of the books I found to be helpful. I remember grad school. I didn’t read whole books. I read articles and excerpts amounting to the length of War and Peace. I didn’t read whole books, however concise and helpful. Graduate school is like a scavenger hunt for research paper sources, and once a book has been cited, it’s use to the researcher diminishes by about 94%, and no one ever read a book they considered to be 6% useful. Enjoyability is not really a factor, I don’t think.

Instead of a small library of course texts, I will instead assign a course pack. I discovered coursepacks in gradschool and I think they are marvelous. For 50 quid ($100) I got the 800 pages we would actually be discussing in class, saving myself so much time mining journals and hauling books to and from the library. I still have the coursepacks too, because I actually think I may need to brush up on Postcolonial theory one day.

For my fictional class on contemporary gender issues, I would thus create a coursepack including the bits from contemporary non-fiction and feminist works that have had a particular impact on my thinking, or have simply made me say, “YES! That’s IT!”

Note: obviously this would be an elective in the Women’s Studies department and everyone in my class would have read the basic works of feminist writing. It will be one of those places where Steinem, Levy, and Greer are thrown about like they wrote something as practical and necessary as the OED and Cooks Illustrated, because in some ways they did.

In addition to all of this, my students are going to have to read some blogs and follow tabloids, news, etc. People are going to love my class, because much like my own media studies graduate degree, it’s basically a licence to do what I would be doing anyway, but to call it “research.”

This is what will be in the coursepack for my class, GY4?? Feminism in Current Pop Debate (I chose GY because that was the prefix for gender studies at LSE, where I went to school. Much of the fantasy school where I teach looks like LSE.).

  • Valenti, J. Why Have Kids? Houghton Mifflen, New York. 2012; Chapter 5: “The Hardest Job in the World”
  • Moran, C. How to be a Woman Harper Perennial, New York. 2011; Chapter 2: I Become Furry!; Chapter 4: I am a Feminist!; Chapter 5: I Need a Bra!; Chapter 7: I Encounter Some Sexism!; Chapter 11: I Get into Fashion!; Chapter 12: Why You Should Have Children; Chapter 13: Why You Shouldn’t Have Children; Chapter 14: Role Models and What We Do with Them; Chapter 16: Intervention.
  • Martin, C. Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters The Berkley Publishing Group, New York. 2007; Chapter 2: From Good to Perfect: Feminism’s Unintended Legacy; Chapter 3: The Male Mirror: Her Father’s Eyes; Chapter 5: Sex as a Cookie: Growing up Hungry; Chapter 6: The Revolution Still Will Not be Televised: Pop, Hip-Hop, Race and the Media; Chapter 11: The Real World Ain’t No MTV: How the Body Become the Punching Bag for Post-College Disappointment; Chapter 12: Spiritual Hunger.
  • Sessions-Stepp, L. Unhooked Riverhead Books, New York. 2007; Section 3: How We Got There; Section 4: Hooking-Up: Why It Matters.
  • Barger, L. Callas Eve’s Revenge Brazos Press Grand Rapids. 2003; Chapter 2: The Body is My Alter

I will also include one non-contemporary text, available as a complete book, though it is a collection of essays:

  • Sayers, D. Are Women Human? Wm. B. Eerdmens, Grand Rapids, 1971

Clearly, some days I just miss being in school.

Why don’t my friends let me yell at them?

A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of New Girl, and my dog left the room. He got up from his comfy spot by my feet where he had been snoozing for almost an hour, and agonizingly plodded into the next room, casting a resentful glance over his shoulder as he left.

Wiley hates loud, angry sounds.

Much of the dialogue on many sitcoms— not just New Girl, but especially that one—takes place at a register usually reserved for lambasting unhelpful tech support representatives. Characters yell at each other as much as they talk. They storm out of the room constantly. They throw things at least every other episode. When was the last time you threw something across a room…in front of people?

I threw something once. I smashed it on the ground. I took a clay pot and I smashed it on the ground at our office. The word “smithereens” pretty much covers the aftermath. My office mate instantly dropped to the floor and began cleaning it. Other work mates stopped by to make sure we were okay, and I gave some paltry evasive explanation, while pleading with my co-worker to stop cleaning. The smashing did not have the desired effect, unless mild shame and general irritation was the desired effect, which it wasn’t.

A lifetime of cinemaphilia has given me unrealistic expectation in every realm. I expect my abs to be flat with no more exercise than hearty laughter and Sorkin-esque pedeconferencing. I expect tragedy to strike at any moment. I expect sex to be a soft lens montage of smooth thighs and candlelit backs, or else to be somehow weightlessly suspended against a wall without anything jamming into my back.

I expect my friends to be supporting characters.

Onscreen people are allowed to have very public meltdowns that increase our sympathy for them. They blow up at friends/family/strangers, and the explosion is somehow justified. Having hurt feelings imparts impunity. And no matter how long they retreat into their den of self-pity, they are guaranteed to waltz back into the sunlight and no one says, “You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.” (If only Ricky Ricardo could meet the trainwreck cast of New Girl.)

Onscreen friends are always ready to accept the self-analysis of the person who, not 24 hours earlier, was shouting at people in grocery store and throwing things.

Ultimately, the reason they don’t have to explain their epiphanies to their longsuffering friends, is because it would be redundant. The audience already watched the realization unfold on screen in the form of an angsty ballad or a comedic mishap, or some long walk through empty streets in the rain. Why would we want to be bored by a prosaic retelling of what was so obvious with the Weepies playing in the background.

If onscreen friends do hash it out, they do so in clever, logical one-liners. And there’s usually a winner. Someone ultimately concedes the point.

That’s not my life.

I live in a world where public meltdowns, water-throwing, pottery smashing, hyperbolic ranting (however witty), and self-imposed exile are met with pity and exasperation.

Off-screen friends say terribly inconvenient things like, “Do you understand that what you are saying is hurtful?” or, “I’ve thought about what you said, and I think you might be jumping to conclusions.” They are not witty, infuriating, or apologetic. But they are often correct. Cinema moment killed.

[Or they realize that you are CRAZY and carefully disappear. Or they get angry and hurt and the whole thing become far messier than anything that could ever be summed up in 22 minutes.]

The main difference is that off-screen friends are not the supporting cast in a show about me. They don’t conveniently go flat when I need to be dynamic and complicated. They are starring in their own sitcoms, and in that episode, my meltdown just ruined their day.

Here’s the catch though, onscreen friends don’t get protagonists through the drama, the director does. Off-screen where the repartee is nothing like Gilmore Girls, The West Wing or Sex and the City, I’ll keep my off-screen friends, because there are no empty streets, no rain on the horizon, and Leonard Cohen doesn’t pipe through the atmosphere like I wish he would. So the likelihood of me having an epiphany by myself is slim. As much as I thought I wanted onscreen friends who would give me carte blanche to behave as badly as I needed to, I need them more to keep me from devolving into someone who sends dogs fleeing from the room.