Sunday, September 2, 2012

ATL, One Month In

I have now been living in Atlanta for one month. Before I tell you all about my experiences here in all their nuanced glory, allow me to make a few sweeping remarks on subjects that invariably arose when I began to announce the impending move:

1. Weather
It's been 90+ degrees and absurdly humid every day since I moved, which is unsurprising in a place that is colloquially referred to as "Hotlanta." There really isn't any mystery to this. It's fucking hot. As an over-corrective gesture, businesses crank their air-conditioners to goosebump levels, so I still manage to put all those scarves, shrugs, and sweaters from my corporate days to good use.

2. Danger
My loved ones worry for my safety, which is to be expected when migrating to any city where rappers are from  that has more than a million people in it.  Not to worry, for I carry pepper spray and have learned where not to venture alone at night ever.

3. Traffic
I heard the warnings and read the statistics about the notorious traffic problem, so I was not too shocked when I spent nearly an hour on I-85 the day I was stupid enough to venture out in the world during rush hour. I cheerfully resolved to avoid "bad roads" at "bad times" (I can barely write this sentence without chuckling like a bitter, jaded old-timer who went native decades ago), until I started driving to things that were actually scheduled - such as the kickoff events put on by the school for graduate students. They were all held in different neighborhoods, at different times of the day, and within 10 miles of my apartment, and yet it took me the better part of an hour to get to each one. The lesson: There is no good time, or good way, to get anywhere. Ever. Atlanta traffic is rigoddamndiculous.

4. Bugs
The bugs are giant and gross and fly out of nowhere and smack you in the face or surreptitiously suck your blood while you're sipping your beer on the outdoor patio of a bar, laughing to themselves about how you'll wake up the next day groaning, "Fuuuuuuuuck why is my shoulder so itchyyyyy?" Pretty shitty PR for a balanced ecosystem, Mama Nature.

5. Ethnicity
Certain family members, friends, and acquaintances have brought to my attention, on varying occasions and with varying degrees of subtlety, that I would encounter people of color in Atlanta. This has, incidentally, turned out to be correct.

I'm still getting a feel for what Atlanta is about. I have read that one cannot really write about a city until (s)he has lived there and then been away from it for a while. Hell, I have hardly been able to write about Granville, the town where I grew up, even though I have lived elsewhere for seven years now. Who knows how long it will take to give my adopted city the proper treatment?

Like any city, it has its different enclaves: sprawling suburbs with garish mansions; artsy streets with grungy hipsters; busy downtown with homeless people shaking filthy cups and asking for change; moneyed business districts with suited professionals driving luxury SUVs and sportscars; trendy intersections where the young and sexy go to get drunk; dilapidated neighborhoods with pawn shops and check-cashing stores and people milling around aimlessly. I can still sense that Atlanta is different somehow, that it's unlike any place I have ever visited (and certainly ever lived), and I cannot yet pin down why. There are the obvious, superficial differences between it and other places, but there is always an undercurrent that can neither be immediately identified nor easily articulated. Come back in a few years, and we'll talk about it.

Thankfully, modern technology enables me to supplement my vague prattle with visual aides. Please allow me the indulgence of pictures.

The MARTA Train



The POlice. Trying to catch me walking dirty.

Because driving in Atlanta isn't confusing enough, some genius decided to name every other street some variant of Peachtree.

Downtown, by the Five Points station

Giant Coke sign

Southern HOspitality

Buckhead - rush hour

More Buckhead

Fancy-ass mall (think Polaris, Columbus-ites)

Post-rush hour Buckhead traffic

Fox Theater


Midtown at midnight - traffic is STILL ridic

Downtown from the North

There was this other thing I was going to talk about....I dunno, something I was doing here? Oh yeah, school or whatever. I'll have to talk more about that another time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

What is a Meme? I don't know, but check this out! - Part 2

Sometimes I marvel at the cultural phenomena that spring up each year. Given that I am not always the most up-to-date with the latest trends, I feel as though I am in a constant state of surprise when I see the ferocity with which large groups latch onto things. From Kony to Bronies to #YOLO, every other day I'm checking my Facebook newsfeed and mumbling to myself, "What the fuck are these crazy bitches talking about?"

Then came memes. I kind of get them, but I'm not particularly good at explaining them. All I need is to see one, and I understand immediately - that must be the whole appeal. Although the word "meme" encompasses way more than this, the most common incarnation seems to be pictures with captions which follow certain formulas. Memes often tackle and explore huge socio-political and cultural issues in less than a soundbite - for this reason, I find them highly underrated. People post them to Facebook all the time, and while I often have a good chuckle, I rarely post them.

Well, that was the case - until yesterday. I went on memegenerator to kill time (hey, it's my last week at work - no judgy). After reading through some of the popular categories and moving on to other things, I suddenly thought of one.

Then I thought of another. And another. It turns out that composing these can be as addicting as reading them, if not more. Trouble is, thousands of these get generated every day - and if you're not cool enough to get upvotes, they get buried in the stack faster than you can say, "LOLZ."

So, for my amusement (and perhaps my vanity), I will be taking the uninitiated on a tour of my favorite categories. I guess there is no way to prove without a doubt that I made these. Does intellectual property law even apply to Probably not. Anyone who claims ownership that fiercely is probably a douche. I probably unwittingly copied a few existing ideas myself.

Condescending Wonka
Dripping with sarcasm, he is always calling someone out on his/her pretentious bullshit.

Sometimes, life isn't fair... :

...or people just get a little too proud of the things they buy:

Memes can be recognizable in other ways, too, even if the pictures aren't of people you've seen before. A whole crop of characters has appeared out of this trend. They are relatable, because nearly all of us knows a version of them.

Annoying Facebook Girl
She overposts, overshares, and has an inflated sense of self-importance. If you have a Facebook account, you have a "friend" like this - and you can't delete her because she's your neighbor's niece or a friend of a friend you run into all the time.

Once is enough for us to get the point:

Butthurt Dweller
He's a nerd, but not the lovable kind. Instead, he's resentful, pompous, and dirty.

Irony is usually lost on him unless it involves him being right:

When he does get a girlfriend, he assumes SHE'S the lucky one:

Lazy College Senior
I think we all got a little like this at the end of college.

This one is vaguely autobiographical:

Scumbag Steve
You know this guy, too. He borrows your things without returning them, hits on your girlfriend, and treats his friends and family like his personal ATM. However, like Annoying Facebook Girl, there is probably some reason you have to put up with him.

Nothing is sacred:

Irony is lost on this one, too:

Self-serving acts such as banging college girls will always be twisted into a good deed:

Good Guy Greg
For every Scumbag Steve in your life, there is hopefully also a Good Guy Greg. 

He always owns up to his actions... : 

...and respects women:

He indulges Annoying Facebook Girl... : well as Scumbag Steve:

Then there are the characters based illustrations that probably started in some comic somewhere.

You know you've said this before, while making this face, at times when life just got too frustrating. Or, at least, you smiled through it while your insides burned.

That moment you realize you've screwed yourself over on a road trip:

Those precious minutes of life you waste for what turns out to be no reason:

If you've read the comments section on anything, you've run into a troll.

Not only does (s)he say something nasty, but the comment often has little or nothing to do with the content:

Trolls strike any time, anywhere - even outside of the internet:

Y u no
Using the formula, "Y u no [verb]," this guy points out others' maddening actions and lack thereof. This is the pinnacle of illustrations ironically drawn poorly; while the face is highly detailed, the head is way out of proportion and the body stick-figure-like.

I made this with a few co-workers in mind:

I hadn't a clue who this was until this meme started. Captions usually juxtapose rap lyrics and/or slang expressions with old-style language (you can see why I particularly enjoy this one).

50 Cent's "Candy Shop":

Ludacris's "Act a Fool":

Ludacris's "Area Codes":

Drake/Lil' Wayne's "She Will":

PTSD Family Photos
You have probably seen these pictures if you look at Awkward Family Photos. Aside from displaying the horrible fashions of the 80s, these editing tactics suggest that these people have been through something far more sinister than an uncomfortable photoshoot.

Karate Kyle just won't let it go:

PTSD Clarinet Boy haunts us all:

Vengeance Dad protects traditional family values:

Finally, some memes refer not to specific characters, but states of mind.

First World Problems
For 21st century Western society-dwellers above the poverty line who have the ability to poke fun at themselves.

I genuinely got upset about this the other day:

While some of my co-workers genuinely got upset over this:

When being healthy doesn't pay:

More to come in a future fever of boredom-inducing downtime.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

30 Letters: Day 16 — someone that’s not in your state/country


I did not fully realize how much I missed you and the good times we had, until I went to Katie’s bridal shower last weekend. I used to just feel jealous that you moved to Scotland; now, I just feel sad that I haven’t seen you in so long.

Like I told Katie and your mom, I always think of you when the Outkast song “Hey Ya” comes on Pop2K Radio, because you hated it so much that you had a disconcertingly violent reaction to it. We were also ruminating on your deep loathing of frogs and the word “moist.” It’s funny what you remember about a person, even after so many years.

The good news is that you’re coming back for the wedding in October, so get ready to watch me get in a drunken fight with one of your friends in my underwear. Just like old times.

Moistly yours,

Katie’s Ex-Husband

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

30 Letters: Day 15 — the person you miss the most

The series continues at last.

Fer (otherwise known as “Loving Sister”),

I know I already wrote you a letter, but I guess you’re just so effin’ special that I had to write you another one. ‘Cause you’re the one I miss. While I’m all for people moving where they need to move and getting their own lives (after all, I will be shortly doing the same), the sucky consequence is that it takes the better part of a day to drive to each other’s homes. (The other sucky consequence was that I cried at your wedding reception in front of everyone like an asshole, but I think that bothered me more than it bothered anyone else because everyone else was all like, “Awwwww,” which made me feel even weirder.)


I do miss you, but I will be three hours closer after I move. And with the baby coming, I have more of a reason than ever to come visit you. Hopefully by then, the distance won’t feel so great.

Redundantly yours,


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

From the Vault: What We Say vs. What We Think: Mailroom Edition

About a year after I posted this on my blog, I created a sister post that dealt with the experience of working in a mail room.

Recently, while waiting for an elevator on the mail run I was covering, a woman complained to me about how management was circling around her area and nitpicking on everything. She then eyed me and my cart, adding,

"You must be so peaceful right now. Just doing your thing - nobody bothering you."

Not really. I was sweaty, exhausted, and about thirty minutes behind - in part, because every time I left the room someone would stop me to inquire about this package or that envelope or want to buy stamps. People are often under the mistaken impression that those of us who push mail carts and haul boxes don't have to deal with other humans. If that were true, I would be much happier about lifting cases of paper and dealing with unruly carts.

So this, if you want to know, is what the mail girl/guys in your office are probably thinking:

What We Say
What We Think

Do you have a tracking number?
Okay, I'm going to need a LITTLE bit more description than "a medium-sized box arriving for me, or maybe somebody else in my department sometime this week," dumb shit. 

We don't sell stamps. [listens to whiny protest] I'm sorry, we just don't.
Am I wearing a dorky-looking blue outfit and hat? Is this a government office? No? Then, fuck off.

Yes, it is heavy.
Congratulations on winning the Most Obvious Statement of the Quarter award. See the bulging veins in my temples? Now, could you at least hold the door for me, you lazy prick?

Sure, I'll bring it to you right now.
God forbid you wait 20 minutes for the mail run, princess.

Hahahahahahaha, no, there's not a bomb in there.
Wow, I haven't heard that joke since, like, the second floor!

I'm not sure what it is.
Do I look like  I know, or care, what you ordered? Perhaps you got high and had your Dildo of the Month shipped to your job -anyone dumb enough to forget placing an order would probably be capable of that, too.

Okay, I'll keep an eye out for it.
Yes, my life's mission will be finding your "very important shipment," along with all the other 99 "very important shipments" I got calls about today.

I'm calling to let you know that you have a pallet of boxes down on the dock...No, we don't break those down.
Hahaaaaa, not my problem, bitch!

That's the soonest it will get there.
Here's an idea: don't wait until 4:45 on Thursday to try to ship a box to Reykjavik, Iceland by Friday morning.

I will let you know as soon as I find your package.
That's what she said.

There's more to it than you'd think.
Oh really, you want my job? Because you think it's easy? Because you think I'm dumb and unworthy of your exalted call center job? Sure, we'll trade places. I'll sit in my ass all day and whine about stupid shit like how bad the vending machines are. YOU can cut your pay in half and run around the building with carts stacked taller than you are with heavy ass boxes.

Monday, July 23, 2012

From the Vault: A Delightful Assortment of Douches

In honor of The Bitchy Waiter publishing one of my old restaurant rants as one of his vacation guest posts, I am pulling a few recipients of my weekly "Douchiest Customer Award" feature.  

First of all, if you're a new reader brought here by The Bitchy Waiter or Facebook, welcome. (If you're an old reader, sorry...I know my neglect has been reprehensible.) Before we begin, let me explain: my blog used to be one of those food service bitching blogs, until I got a corporate job. Then, once I realized corporate land sucked only slightly less than the food service, it became an office worker bitching blog. After about two years of writing on Prose Therapy (which also happened to be one of the most unhappy periods of my life, which no doubt informed the overall tone), I made a few positive life changes and removed most of the vitriolic posts, saving them in a separate Word file, because let's face it - I'm not The Bitchy Waiter. I'm just kind of a bitch.

Still, a dose of snark here and there never hurt anyone (okay, that's not true, but at least I never named names). Now that I am leaving town to go to graduate school and, as such, will leave both jobs behind, perhaps this is as good of a time as any to reflect on why, in part, I chose this path.

Unlike our Bitchy friend, I (thankfully) never waited tables. I cashiered at a bakery-cafe chain (whose name may or may not mean "time of bread") for three years, near a very large college campus. While I was spared the horrors of refilling people's water seventeen times, relying on tips to sustain me, and dealing with people for more than a few minutes at a time, my experience was similar to any restaurant worker's - I was, after all, dealing with customers.

Oh, customers. Customers and their money. Customers and their food. Their egos. Their children. Their demands, lies, condescension, cheapness, messes, and entitlement. Sometimes it was hard to pick just three of them for my Douchiest Customer list each week.  

From October 31, 2010: Keep the Change, You Filthy Animal

You ordered an iced tea from me. You were overly nice and called me by my first name. This, of course, made me suspicious from the beginning. You paid with a $20, and I gave you your $18 and change.

Or, at least, I was pretty sure I gave you $18 and change. I was tired, hungry, and dizzy, and by that point had been hoping a break for that action long enough to get a drink of water for three hours. I really just wanted you out of my way, so I was not paying attention when you apparently hid the $10 underneath your receipt, in your pocket, or up your ass. 

You showed me $8 and asked me, as if you were trying to figure it out yourself, wasn’t the change supposed to be more than that? Typically I’m very careful about counting change, about counting it in my hand so I can see and feel it and know it was correct, but this one time I thought to myself, ‘Finally, a low-maintenance order,’ and didn’t.

I saw the $8 in your hand and said that I was sorry, and yes, you had paid with a $20 and not with a $10 bill—that much I did remember clearly. Because I have screwed up before and given people the wrong change or forgot to altogether, and because I don’t trust my own instincts, I entered my manager numbers to open up that drawer and handed you $10. 

So tell me, MOTHERFUCKINASSWIPEPIECEOFSHITASSFUCKERSCUMBAGFUCKFACESHITHEADDOUCHEFUCK (as I referred to you in the office later when my deposit came up $10 short), where did you go with those extra ten dollars? Was it worth it? Would it have been worth it if I worked for the kinds of people who would fire me on the spot for shit like that, instead of telling me it was okay and that they knew I didn’t steal it and they would fix it? What then?

What did you buy? Cigarettes, booze, a sandwich, a $10 hooker? Whatever it was, I hope that iced tea gives you the jitters, the pack of smokes gives you cancer, the alcohol gives your liver cirrhosis, the sandwich gives you a heart attack, or the hooker gives you AIDS. 

Had you gotten me fired, I would have found a way to do at least one of these things myself.

From October 9, 2010: You Don’t Even Count as a Customer…
…because you walked up to the counter, asked the cashier for a coffee, and acted all shocked and shaken when he put out a cup and told you it would cost $1.69 (oh, the horror—shit costs money!). So then you asked if he had change, and when he said no had the nerve to ask if you could get coffee for free.

I have to hand it to you, man. You have balls.

From October 2, 2010: Pick Two Soup is Still Soup 

Any time I open the store on a Saturday and my first customers are 20-year-old males with bloodshot eyes, I know a few things instantly: 

1. You’re an obnoxious prick. 
2. You’re still drunk and/or high. 
3. You’re an obnoxious prick. 
4. You did not go to bed last night, unless you coerced some poor young skank into sleeping with your grody ass. 
5. You think it’s really impressive that you’re “up early” (doesn’t count if you didn’t go to bed, sorry) and want free shit. 
6. You’re an obnoxious prick. 

You met all these criteria (except #3, most likely, because I cannot imagine anyone sleeping with you). You were also hilariously disoriented. 

You: So, um, what’s like the easiest thing for you to make right now? I know you’re probably getting ready to close so I’ll just have whatever you can make. 
Me: [Thinking] Oh, dear. 
Your More Coherent Friend: Dude, I’m pretty sure the sign says they just opened. At 6. 
You: Oh. So, what can I get? What’s good? 
Me: [Draws in breath to answer] 
You: Can I get soup? 
Me: No, we don’t have soup ready. We have breakfast, and can make sandwiches or salads. 
You: Oh. Do you still have that pick two deal, with the sandwich and soup? 
Me: We don’t have soup ready. 
You: Oh. You don’t have any soup? 
We do have soup--fresh from the freezer. It’s sitting in a plastic bag, which is sitting in a giant vat of filthy hot water.
Me: No. No soup. 

You ordered a couple of bagels, and your friend ordered a sandwich. About fifteen minutes later, I noticed you passed out, face-down on the table. 

August 28, 2010: Here Are Some Foreign Words for You, Fuckwad

I knew you’d be a stronzo when I heard you in line telling your friend about the German word for such-and-such, but I greeted you anyway and figured none of this pretension would affect me in any way.

You looked at me through your thick-rimmed glasses and asked for a “cwah-SONT,” as minchias who want to let the world know they spent a summer abroad (not necessarily in France) or took a quarter of French tend to do. Your friend, who seemed far less of a stunad, said,

“Dude, do you really need to pronounce it like that?” and you made some snarky remark about how it was correct, as if none of us was aware that this was a French word. 

I, like an idiot, decided it would be a great time to make a joke, and said,

“Yeah, this is Amuuurrrrrrica!” in my best hick voice, to which you responded,

“Um, if it weren’t for France, then there wouldn’t be an America. Thank you, Mr. Lafayette.”

Mmkay. First off, I took history too, maricón. Second of all, it was a fucking joke – learn to take it like a real man. Thirdly, while I’m all for respecting the role that our friends across the pond played in shaping this country, we’re still in this country. We’re stubborn and butcher languages of origin and don’t give a fuck about it. (According to, my authority on everything English,” kruh-sahnt” is an acceptable alternative pronunciation.) France’s relative historical impact on this country has absolutely nothing to do with this croissant you’re ordering, which was made by a woman named Andrea while country-western music blared on the radio.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the accomplishments of others do not earn you the right to tell other people how to pronounce certain words or lecture them on the importance of people with whom you have no affiliation whatsoever. Lafayette, French pastries, and European culture are not any more yours to claim than mine, you schweinhund.

From Saturday, August 7, 2010: Businessmen Are Self-Absorbed Assholes, Part 2

You ordered a large caramel latte. My boss made said latte. Upon finishing she got ready to add the whipped cream topping, and instead of politely informing her you did not want the whipped cream you shouted,

"Whoa, whoa, WHOA!!!!!!!" at her as if she were holding the cup underneath her crotch and getting ready to piss in it.

Was the whipped cream really a matter of life and death, or do you just feel more powerful if you try to make it so? Like, if you pretend having whipped cream on your latte is a nightmarish catastrophe that you miraculously managed to stop, you can pretend you saved the day at the firm?

If I remember you don't want whipped cream on your latte next time you come in will you praise me for my initiative, take me under your wing, and offer me a position at your company? And then, would I earn a six-figure salary and the right to act entitled and boss around random people, disqualifying them from my "people in the world who know what I want and therefore what matters" list every time they are unable to read my thoughts?

No, you won't, mostly because next time I'll put whipped cream (and maybe more...wink wink) in your drink.

Sunday, July 25, 2010: Leave the Product Knowledge to the Employees and We'll Leave the Faux Food Snobbery to You

Arrogant Asshole Sack of Dung: [In an extremely condescending tone] Every time I order this sandwich, which says ‘asiago cheese’ comes on it, I get some other type of cheese [pointing to a sandwich that says it comes on asiago bread]. Do the managers not know what asiago cheese is?
Manager: Actually, the asiago cheese is baked into the bread [points to same sign, which clearly states that cheddar cheese comes on the sandwich].
AASOD: Well, what about the panini [points to a sandwich that does come with asiago cheese]? I never found asiago cheese on that one.
Manager: The asiago cheese actually comes in flakes, not slices. It’s an oven-baked sandwich, so the cheese is melted onto it and kind of blends in with the spread. 
AASOD: Oh. Well. Um. It was just my wife’s question anyway [points to woman next to him, who has not spoken a word the entire transaction].

From July 17, 2010: A Compilation

“Is this mine?”

I dunno. Let’s figure this out together. Did you order a lemonade? Okay, check. Now, let’s make sure this very drink is meant for you, and not the others sitting up here. Wait a minute…my stars, this is the only drink sitting on this counter! Yes, I do believe that when I shouted, “Lemonade!” six times this was the lemonade to which I was referring, and therefore yours. And it must be yours, because when the ticket came out it also had ‘deaf, bleach-blond sorostitute with ostentatious sunglasses and a gaudy pink sundress’ printed on it, so it’s not like you would have had to bother to tell me what you ordered when you asked if this was yours anyway. Actually, never mind. Come to think of it, this is the wrong drink. Could you wait just a moment while I get you my specialty lemonade, otherwise known as piss over ice?

From July 6, 2010: Walk of Shameless

One bright Saturday morning two springs ago, you came in to order food like all the other hungover students out to cram carbs into their queasy stomachs. 

You were wearing the following: A man's oversize t-shirt, tucked into a man's boxer shorts (which were rolled several times), last night's makeup, and heels.

You were not wearing any of the following: A bra, pants, or your dignity.

You smiled at me and politely placed your order as if you were pretending it was two hours from now and you had showered and properly dressed. I apologize if I laughed at you - perhaps it was a sociology experiment and you were testing me?

From July 6, 2010: Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell

One unseasonably warm night early in the spring I was closing the dining room, and you and your husband walked in a couple of minutes before my manager locked the doors. You each ordered soup and sat down. Not wanting to disturb your late dinner, I found a few other things to do until I had nothing left except to start floors. As I started to get a few feet away from your table with the broom, you looked into my eyes for the first time and said, 

"Oh honey, come back later. I don't want any dust in my fur."

I was delighted. I thought that rich people only talked like this on TV. I immediately put the broom down and darted into the office, where my startled manager was counting drawers, and told him what happened. I then proceeded to find each of the other four closers and tell them all individually also. I wanted to write a song, a poem, and a story about it. I was too amused to be mad; most people shy away from such blatant "I wear fur when it's 50 degrees out, you sweep floors" classism but you, Mrs. Howell, were not shy about it. For this I applaud you.

June 12, 2010: Gaggles of Graduating Girls 

Congratulations on finishing finals and four (or five, or six) years of undergrad! Either you had too much to drink at last night’s senior bar crawl or our food didn’t agree with you. I don’t know and don’t really care which was the culprit, but I do know that every time a female employee or I would use the bathroom on Friday one of y’all was in the other stall either throwing up or spewing explosive diarrhea into the toilets which some unfortunate soul would be cleaning later that night. Way to celebrate being officially educated! 

...andddd that pretty much sums up three years of my life. 

Once again, new readers, welcome. Feel free to stay a while.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Facebook is NOT evil.

I love Facebooking, blogging, tweeting (albeit infrequently), and staying up until the wee hours of the morning watching stupid YouTube videos.

There seems to be a backlash against social media lately, so I wanted to throw that out there first.

It has been eight years since Facebook first launched and Twitter first tweeted, and blogging is so grown up now that some people do it for a living. Musicians and performers are getting their big breaks through viral videos. It's only natural at this point that we're going to take a step back as a culture and ask ourselves and each other, "What does this say about us?"

The conclusion that I've observed many experts and non-experts making (if the articles my Facebook friends link to their profiles are to be believed) is that we are the most narcissistic generation ever, and that such websites have only exacerbated our collective exhibitionism and navel-gazing. Never mind that parents and grandparents have begun using these sites en masse. Never mind that most people still prefer face-to-face interaction over any other form of communication. Never mind that the world is still spinning and making its way around the big fireball every year, just like it did before we started tweeting each other cat videos and pictures of what we ate for dinner.

Never mind that I found most of the articles I've read on the subject through links posted on blogs and my Facebook news feed.

It seems that, in order to allow ourselves the indulgence of social media, we first feel the need to assuage our sense of guilt by conducting, publishing, writing about, interpreting, and re-posting all these studies about why it's bad. On news outlets. Which contain links at the bottom that allow thousands of readers to instantly "share" the news of such studies with our social networks.

And why do we, the common users, keep posting and re-posting links to such stories? To distance ourselves from social media and deny our very human hunger for validation? To communicate to our little universe, "Yes, I use these sites, but I'm not like that"? It's like admitting that one watches four hours of TV a day and then adding quickly, "but only PBS," in order to secure at least a little intellectual high-mindedness. It's a little silly, and definitely unnecessary.

Every decision we make in how we dress, what we say, and which actions we take originate, in part, in the identity we're constructing. The same goes with our online selves: the photos we post or allow to be posted by friends, the status messages and tweets we write, the number of "friends" we add (and how many of them we really feel we know), and - I've realized lately - the types of articles we share. Think about what types of articles you read, and which ones you ultimately post on your blog or profile. You don't just post what you read; you post what you want other people to know you read.

What I'm trying to say is that our online identities are a reflection of who we are, but don't make us who we are. Some time after this what-does-it-all-MEAN??? hysteria blew up, narcissism inextricably linked itself with social media in the eyes of the public. I was mostly a B student in math, but the correlation ≠ causation thing from Stats 135 has stuck with me over the years, and I'm pretty sure still applies in this case. Were there not self-absorbed people before the 21-st century? Did people not talk about themselves to excess? Did young people not display arrogant bravado and change friends every two minutes and say things for no other reason than to create shock waves?

Social media did not start this behavior, or increase it; it simply provided a novel and public way to display it. Narcissism was clearly not invented yesterday, kids. The word's origins are, after all, ancient.

Let me own up to my own narcissism, readers: I, like each of you, am self-absorbed. Every action I take is done with myself and my feelings in mind. I post on my blog so other people will read and appreciate my words. I write status updates on my Facebook that I think will make people laugh, and am thrilled when they get "liked." I scribble in my notebook for self-indulgence and catharsis. I choose clothes, cosmetics, and accessories that make me look as attractive as possible, and post pictures of myself in which I look my best so that other people might think me attractive. Every "selfless" act I have ever performed has been done to make me feel warm and fuzzy, and every relationship I've ever had with another human has been entered into with the end goal of feeling loved, validated, needed, just good. Every itch I scratch on my body, every adjustment I make in my seat, every food or drink I consume is for my own relief, my own satisfaction.

I don't think this is wrong, or bad, or scary, or the result of my generation's deplorable upbringing. I think it's normal. I think this is how it's always been, but we're too busy pretending like we care more about our gods, families, lovers, and friends to admit that this is reality.

Social media is self-expression, and while it's not for everybody, it seems to be addressing, in a small way, a need that billions of us have. What's the result? We can control what we present to others, and in turn possibly how they see us. Sometimes we make shitty, and even destructive, choices to that end, but the choice is ours to make and put out there. 

I have been contemplating all these ideas for a while, but felt inspired to discuss them after reading and commenting on Chio's post on How To Stop Being A Douchelord on Facebook (or in general) (also because I think "douchelord" is one of the funniest words I've ever heard). I write about this because I think that the role of social media in our lives is an important discussion to have, but that the conversation need not be dictated by the aforementioned backlash - especially because my generation seems to bear the brunt of the criticism for what it has brought to light.

What do you think, readers?

30 Letters: Day 14 — someone you’ve drifted away from


Oh, the good times we had freshman-junior year. You were my best gay, and I your favorite fag hag/flame dame/fruit fly. Pretty much all of my good stories from college involved you, Laura, or Chris, or some combination thereof. And yet, there was some substance to our friendship; we both confided in one another certain things we couldn’t tell others. You told me I wasn’t like your high school girl friends, that I was “real” and “genuine.” I felt that you were a friend who would care about me unconditionally, and without judgment. 

There was always an undercurrent in the friendship, though, that kept it from really flourishing. You had this need to be part of the “in” crowd (and, yes, there is one, even though we are adults now), and I always got the sense that if you had to choose between them and me, you would choose the former. It turns out I was correct.

Four years ago, after not having seen each other for a long time, you came over, drank a little too much, and told me (crying, of course – you always had a flair for the dramatic) that while you had partied with your “other” friends (read: catty, tanorexic, high-fashion-loving, spends-parents’-money-on-unnecessarily-luxurious-apartments friends) during the preceding months, you had lost a sense of who your “true” friends were, and wanted to get back to us.

That was the last time I saw or heard from you.

Back in the prime of our friendship, when I would watch you screen your phone calls, sometimes rolling your eyes and sending the callers to voicemail, it should have occurred to me that that might be me one day. I guess I believed you when you told me I meant more to you than the “fake bitches” I would later notice you reconnecting with once our friendship was on the decline. I know I’m not the only one, and try not to take it personally. People who were once on our speed dial can very quickly become nonentities in our lives, and this is just a reality of adulthood. That still doesn’t make it fair. But it was your choice to make.

I held out hope for a while, because you had a habit of disappearing and resurfacing either weeks or months later. Finally, years passed by, and I decided that there was no reason for me to wait around being ready for someone to decide I was worthy of his friendship again. It’s difficult to say who drifted away from whom, and when; all I know is that we both drifted pretty far.

Wistfully yours,


Monday, March 26, 2012

30 Letters: Day 13 — someone you wish could forgive you


I cannot be certain of who belongs in this category. I guess that depends on how accurate our memories are. Some of you may not remember clearly enough to know that I owe you an apology, while others might remember more than I do, and would therefore deserve one without my knowledge. So, this goes out to anyone I ever said or did hurtful things to when I was young.

You see, I was generally a nice kid. But I was also an insecure kid. Until I reached high school, I wanted nothing more than to be popular. I wanted to be pretty and have a nice body and have boyfriends. For some reason, that mattered to me more than the good people and good things I already had in my life. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t exactly unpopular. I was average, and like most insecure, average people, I tried to make sure that those I considered beneath me stayed there.

I wasn’t exactly a bully. I didn’t generally go out of my way to find people to pick on; I simply went along with whatever the established opinion was of a certain person, and acted accordingly. I’ve come to realize that I was just as cowardly as a bully; not only did I pick on kids who didn’t deserve it, but I didn’t even have the balls to decide for myself who it would be.

For anyone who was ever hurt by me, for whatever reason, I am truly sorry. I wish I could say I didn’t know better, but I did, and made my choice anyway. I hope you find the peace, success, and dignity as an adult that some of us denied you as children.

Apologetically yours,

A (Semi-) Reformed Asshole

Sunday, March 25, 2012

30 Letters: Day 12 — the person who caused you a lot of pain

Readers, I put this one off for a while. I considered writing a watered-down letter in order to have something suitable to put up, but any letter other than the one I came up with would have turned out weak and contrived. Finally I wrote the thing, because I want to stay true to the prompt, but I just can't post it on here. I hope you understand. I will post the remaining eighteen letters starting tomorrow.



[Adverb] yours,

[Another name]