choosing to keep you around

A good friend died seven years ago, in a car accident. It was late Summer, and I was seven months pregnant with my daughter, Ruby. I'd lost friends before, and braced myself as well as I could for the viewing and funeral, but I had no idea. We drove four hours, to a tiny little town in Ohio where she'd grown up. I'd been very close with her--she'd spent Thanksgiving with us that year--but I'd never met any of her family. We walked into the funeral home for her viewing, and were immediately ushered into the line that had formed, ending at Jolene's coffin. A woman walked up to me, smiled, took my hands, and introduced herself: Marla. She knew who I was; she could tell I was me because of the belly. I was Jolene's "pregnant friend." She hugged me and told me that she could understand why Jolene and I were friends; she said that she could tell by my eyes that I was a sweet person and had been good for Jolene. It was a wonderful and dear thing to say, but at first I was taken aback by how open this woman was being with me right away. She'd just lost her sister-in-law and was going out of her way to make me feel welcome, to make me feel better. And then, suddenly, I was at the front of the line, looking down at Jolene. And the gravity and finality and truth of everything made me woozy. I put my arms around my belly and cried. I'd lost a lot of friends in high school; accidents, and drugs, a suicide--but my grief had always been all about me. I was sad. I had lost this person. They had left me. But standing there, next to Jolene's amazingly sweet, honest, open family, it occurred to me that she'd been a daughter and a sister and an aunt. Her parents had lost their child, and that was something that I couldn't even begin to comprehend. For the first time in my life, I looked down at my dead friend and tried to put myself in her parent's place. I couldn't do it. I had no idea how it was even possible. I got dizzy and had to go sit down.

We met at the cemetery the next morning for the burial. It was bright and sunny, the service was short. Jolene was buried in the family plot; next to two of her little cousins. They were Marla's babies, the woman who had come up to me at the viewing and had been so sweet. She came up to me again after the services and gave me a big hug. She handed me a package. 'I didn't make this,' she said, 'But I wanted you to have it.' I opened it, and inside was a bright yellow, soft, crocheted baby blanket. I don't remember much about our subsequent trip home that day, but I do remember sitting in the car, clutching that blanket, and crying. Wondering how a woman who has already suffered so much loss could still be so kind, and sweet, and good.

Tony and I got new cell phones this week, and we switched providers. My old phone wasn't a smart phone, so I wound up having to enter all of my contacts into my new phone manually, one-by-one. Half-way through, I came to Jolene's name. I looked at my phone for a long time, wondering what to do. I didn't want to delete her name or information, but making a conscious decision to keep the non-working number of someone who isn't alive anymore stored in my phone struck me as being something a not-quite-sane person would do. In the end, I decided to keep it. Manually, I entered her name, her old phone number, and her old email address into my new phone. Because I want to carry it with me. Like the fluffy yellow blanket that Ruby still uses, I just want as many reminders of her and her family around as I can get.

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Next Story — up the creek: a very small prayer
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up the creek: a very small prayer

Last Saturday I was waist deep in a creek when the sky turned dark out of nowhere and a few fat drops of rain started to fall. I had my phone in my hand (because I’m prone to bad decisions) and I took a video of the sky. The dark clouds were getting closer and thunder was rolling in the background. I said, still the same 12 year old shit who was asked to leave Sunday school and never come back: come and get me god, let’s go, you little bitch.

And this is what happened: I strapped my phone back into my bag and walked across the creek to a little island that I had never inspected before. Right as I pulled myself up by some tree roots and found something that looked like a path, the rain came down in sheets. Everything was immediately soaked. My bag wasn’t waterproof, so I found a big fallen hollow log and stuffed it inside to keep it dry. I couldn’t cross the creek again without it, so all I could do was find a good place to sit and wait.

I found a big flat rock overhanging the creek, low enough that I could dangle my feet in. The rain came down so hard on the water that it made a mist almost a foot high. There was no lightning but there was thunder, loud and low and slow. The trees were darkly shiny and heavy, drooping in the rain. Maybe fifty feet down and to my right, where the creek was a little bit deeper, two little boys in bright colored t shirts shrieked and laughed and tackled each other in the water; jumping and spinning around, joking and shouting in Spanish.

I cried sitting on that rock! Lucky enough to see THIS, this moment in which every single tiny detail was so beautiful.

And I didn’t even realize until just now: I guess It DID show me, the little bitch. Amen.

Next Story — The Ghosts of Germantown
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germantown kids/ credit: Log Cabin Animal Hospital

The Ghosts of Germantown

(A Disordered List Of Things I Love About My City)

At 18, my first apartment was on the corner of 36th and Washington Blvd. in Indianapolis, Indiana: The Crossroads of America. Not quite our busy, old, and medium-dangerous downtown, not quite the upscale urban reconstruction with its pillared, brick houses and giant oak trees. My apartment was 310 sq. feet—two rooms and a tiny kitchen—and I lived there alone. It was quiet, and I was never afraid to be on my own there. Down the street, at one of the busiest intersections of our entire city, was a Manpower employment office. In front of that office—every single day—a tall, skinny, and smiling man would dance. All day, with his straight-out-of-the-80s boom box, he would dance. He didn’t need that Manpower office to find him a day job; he already had one. He was a dancer. I drove past him every day on my way to work, and every single day he made me smile.

Today, I live in the shadows of an affluent neighborhood. Built along a reservoir—the second-largest man-made lake in Indiana—my neighbors’ neighbors live in four-story, waterfront houses with boat garages and enough square footage to happily house entire neighborhoods. The reservoir was built in the 40s, right on top of a place called Germantown. City workers evacuated and flooded the small village, and today if you were to wade into that ski-do-infested liquid pleasure den with the means to somehow see deep under the water, you can still see evidence of the old town down there. When someone from that part of town is particularly rude to me, I console myself by imagining them being haunted by the Ghosts of Germantown: wailing stoic women in sensible, dark, stiff dresses dragging rusty chains through bamboo-floored, open concept living rooms; grubby-faced urchins “re-organizing” shelves upon shelves of imported spices and designer quinoa kits; gruff bearded men in suspenders leaving trails of ancient tobacco smoke wafting down endless hallways. The inhabitants of these sprawling, waterfront mansions will wake up in the morning and descend their curving staircases to find their plasma screen TVs re-installed upside down; their couches and chairs stacked on top of their refurbished-barn-door kitchen tables; their picturesque lawns full of wagon wheel ruts and boot prints. They will raise slender, manicured hands to botox-injected temples and murmur aloud, “What is to become of us?”

The corner of 96th Street and Mud Creek Road used to be the home of Earnestine, The Best-Dressed Fire Hydrant. Years ago, a mysterious individual gave Earnestine the gift of big, blue eyes, and a full, pouty red mouth. I’m not sure if this same person continued to care for Earnestine or if she became a community project, but for years she was the best dressed fire hydrant in our city. On Easter, she was shrouded in purple silk; the blonde wig on her head topped with a glittery crown (thorns implied). On Thanksgiving, a culturally insensitive brown felt vest and feather-headdress combo. She spent the entire month of December in a little red Santa suit. Last summer, someone who hates wonderful things stripped her of her blonde wig and painted over her big, blue eyes and pouty, red lips. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried actual tears. I still miss her.

Crown Hill is a sprawling 55 acres of mature trees, beautiful lawns, and dead people; a cemetery, home to more than 200,000 graves. My grandfather is buried there. He was Slavic. SLAVIC Slavic. His funeral service was held at a tiny orthodox church that looked like it was cut straight into a giant boulder. Every pew held straight-lipped, white-haired women in somber black dresses. He was outlived by both of his parents; at the end of the service when his casket was officially closed, his 90-year-old father dragged himself—not so much weeping as wailing—to the front of the sanctuary for one last look at his son. With the casket closed and the final words spoken, we filed out of the church, started our cars, and started the procession to the cemetery. Crown Hill was on the other side of town, and the hearse got lost. For an hour, we followed the hearse as it drove in circles around the city. Eventually, we all stood in the cold, shoulder to shoulder, around the grave of my grandfather. We listened to the priest, we said our words, we hugged and cried, and then went back to the church for the funeral dinner. During the quiet and miserable meal that was served in the basement of the church after his burial, there was nearly a fist fight over the last piece of potica on the buffet. We each sat in silence, dutifully raising fork-fulls of starchy Grief Casseroles to our mouths, until it was time to return to our cars and go home. And still, more than a decade later, every time I drive past Crown Hill Cemetery and look through the giant stone arches at the 55 acres of mature trees, beautiful lawns, and dead people, I think about how much my grandpa would have laughed at the ridiculousness of his funeral services and I feel close to him again, even if it’s just for the length of two city blocks.

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Next Story — the littlest hobo
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the littlest hobo

I have a bad habit of becoming emotionally attached to random objects. I've done it since I was a kid; I see things on the ground, I pick them up, and then I can't put them down again for some reason. Even now, the kids and I will come home from the playground and I'll have a bag full of random junk: scraps of paper with handwriting on it, half of a Chester Cheetah eraser, flat rocks. I let my kids do it, too, since it is my full time job to ruin them. MOMMY! they'll yell, holding up a bottle cap or a plastic barrette, TREASURE!

I find it difficult to see things discarded in the road. A few months ago, around the corner from our house a child's pink sneaker lied in a busy street for weeks. I'd pass it all the time and seeing that shoe would make me feel miserable. When I was pregnant with Ruby, Tony I were in my car on the way home from the store when we drove over a pool noodle that was in the middle of the road. Tony, because he knows how I am with these things and he likes to mess with my head, started talking about how the pool noodle was probably just like The Littlest Hobo, moving from family to family and helping them with their problems. As soon as the family realized that they couldn't live without the Littlest Pool Noodle and were about to embrace him as One Of Their Own, The Littlest Pool Noodle would move on to the next needy family. He was never able to settle down and find a home; never able to rest his weary head in one place for more than a few nights in a row. By the time Tony started singing the Littlest Hobo theme song to me, I was crying hysterically and begging him to stop. Not rolling my pregnant body out of that moving vehicle and sprinting down the center of the road to rescue The Littlest Pool Noodle was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

I work about fifteen minutes away from my house, in a wealthy suburb. The office where I work is surrounded by those 10-bedroom, million-dollar, waterfront homes that usually house two people and one tiny dog. There's this one stretch of road that I drive on every day. The ditches and shoulders that border this road are always impeccably clean. Except! For the last few months, every couple of weeks I've noticed crushed boxes of wine. Just hanging out along the side of the road. They're spaced far enough apart to not be the same box of wine, I'm pretty sure of that. And I just haven't been able to get it out of my head. I mean, either someone is using this part of the road to ditch their box of Car Wine, or one of these Rich Folks is hiding their evidence. Carrying their crushed wine boxes out into the world under the cover of darkness; tossing them in the ditch down the road because they're terrified their Richie Rich neighbors will spot the Franzia box in their recycling bin. Or maybe, the wine boxes are just blowing down the road, in search of the next kind, hard-up individual in need of a little help.

I noticed a new one this afternoon. Maybe I'll stop in the morning and pick it up.

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Next Story — The Shocking Reason Millennials are Binging on Songs about Binging on Drugs
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The Shocking Reason Millennials are Binging on Songs about Binging on Drugs

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If you, like me, enjoy listening to other white women sing songs about how depressing it is to be a white woman, then you’ve probably noticed how many right now are about a female protagonist doing a ton of drugs. Not for fun, per se, but because her life sucks so much and drugs are the only way she can cope.

Let me tune you into this very depressing mixtape:

Lana Del Rey — High on the Beach

In “High by the Beach” Lana Del Rey wants to get high by the beach because she can’t stand being sober around a boyfriend she knows doesn’t love her while dealing with the nihilistic dread of existence:

Loving you is hard, being here is harder
You take the wheel
I don’t wanna do this anymore, it’s so surreal
I can’t survive if this is all that’s real
All I wanna do is get high by the beach
Get high by the beach, get high
All I wanna do is get by by the beach
Get by baby, baby, bye bye
The truth is I never bought into your bullshit
When you would pay tribute to me cause I know that
All I wanted to do was get high by the beach
Get high baby, baby, bye bye
Sia — Chandelier

Sia’s “Chandelier” admits openly that she’s binge-drinking because she can’t handle how much it hurts being conscious:

Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight
Phantogram — You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

In “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” the singer is complaining that her repeated efforts to obliterate her feelings with drugs have left her with such a high tolerance, she can’t get high anymore.

Cut it up, cut it up, yeah
Everybody’s on something here
My godsend chemical best friend
Skeleton whispering in my ear
Walk with me to the end
Stare with me into the abyss
Do you feel like letting go?
I wonder how far down it is
Nothing is fun
Not like before
You don’t get me high anymore
Used to take one
Now it’s takes four
You don’t get me high anymore
Tove Lo — Habits

And, oh my, in “Habits,” Tove Lo describes not just one addiction, but an apparent check list:

I get home, I got the munchies
Binge on all my Twinkies
Throw up in the tub, then I go to sleep
And I drank up all my money
Days kind of lonely
You’re gone and I got to stay high
All the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
High all the time to keep you off my mind, ooh ooh
Spend my days locked in a haze
Trying to forget you babe, I fall back down
Gotta stay high all my life to forget I’m missing you
Pick up daddies at the playground
How I spend my day time
Loosen up the frown, make them feel alive
I make it fast and greasy
I know my way too easy
Staying in my play pretend
Where the fun ain’t got no end
Oh, can’t go home alone again
Need someone to numb the pain
Oh, staying in my play pretend
Where the fun ain’t got no end
Oh oh can’t go home alone again
Need someone to numb the pain

And of course, Lily Allen just comes out and say it in “Everyone’s At It:”

I’m not trying to say that I’m smelling of roses
But when will we tire of putting shit up our noses
I don’t like staying up, staying up past the sunlight
It’s meant to be fun and this just doesn’t feel right
Why can’t we all, all just be honest
Admit to ourselves that everyone’s on it
From grown politicians to young adolescents
Prescribing themselves anti-depressants
Now how can we start to tackle the problem
If you don’t put your hands up and admit that you’re on them
The kids are in danger, they’re all getting habits
From what I can see everyone’s at it

So where are we to take this? While I’m sure depressed people have been abusing drugs since time immemorial, what I think is interesting about this trend is what women are saying openly about their drug use. There is no literary allusion to Alice in Wonderland. There’s no fun symbolism wrapped around this pain.

These lyrics demonstrate extreme self-awareness. They say quite articulately that women are using drugs as a coping mechanism so that they might numb or blot out completely the pain of everyday life.

That’s some take for pop music.

I’m not passing moral judgment on addicts here. I generally reject personal accountability explanations for the pandemic of addiction since I think, ironically enough, the sobering personal accountability narrative is why so many middle-class women are turning to drugs.

Why?

Well, here’s my thinking. Little girls of my generation were born post-liberation. That means that girls my age were told that they would enjoy sexual freedom and get to make their own choices with their bodies. Once offered this choice, society up and absolved itself of accountability. Women, we’re now fully accountable for everything that ever happens to us and whatever messes we find ourselves in.

While there may be no one around to help, there will always be someone available after bad shit happens to audit our biographies and ask:

“Well, why didn’t you say ‘no’ then?”

“Why didn’t you know the bad shit would happen?”

“You should have known better that bad shit always happens.”

It’s enough to — hey! — drive someone to drugs.


“[M]ost Substance-addicted people,” wrote DFW in Infinite Jest, “are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking.”

I know he’s right. I hate myself most of the time. And as one of those people with hyperfast brains, oh, I can come up with about twenty reasons to hate myself per minute. And I’ll admit it: the quickest way to end that noise is to go on a drug vacation.

But why do women like me hate themselves so much?

I’ve thought about this hard. I have come to the conclusion that the reason so many women are this unhappy at this scale is because they’ve been raised to police their own thoughts for the thoughtcrime of victimhood and blame themselves for systemic fuckery. Nevermind that the fuckery is real, women’s adolescent curriculum is to learn how to hate yourself for everything you are and everything you’ll never be.

Because women are hated.

There’s no escaping how much society hates women.

And instead of being told this, you’re told you have to be hyper-responsible, hyper-vigalent, hyper-sensitive all the fucking time. No one actually gives a shit about your best interest. No one gives a shit about you at all. Men won’t take responsibility for themselves, so now that’s your job, too.

Deal with it.

And meanwhile, hey, you have to pretend like none of this patriarchy bothers you because, hey, now we can fuck on the first date, yay!

We get to fuck without even knowing the guy’s last name!

Freedom!

No one ever asks women what they want. They feed us bullshit like Sex and the City and tell us it’s feminist. Instead, we get books like Hanna Rosin’s End of Men where she takes a single study based on a few dozen college students and snowballs from it a ridiculous theory that actually women don’t want love anyway because — get this — it gets in the way of their careers.

WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.

Right, so presently we’ve got a sexual culture where women’s desires for love and intimacy are continually shat on by a society that hates women, that renounces anything feminine, including love and intimacy, and instead promises us hermetic sexual encounters from the comfort of our own phone as if that’s anywhere close to how we as little girls really hoped sex would work when we grew up.

And just how men’s perpetual boyhood turns out to be absurdly profitable, women’s consequent depression is also hugely profitable!

“HAHA THIS IS OUR NIGHTMARE PILLS”

I don’t think women’s depression is all attributable to the rise of manbabies and jobs being so ridiculously demanding that no one has time to love. But I do think they’re pretty significant in the grand scheme of things.

A lot of these songs are hitting on one theme: women are ostensibly offered tons of choices but none they desire. Most of these songs are about women having given up on getting what they want and trying to cope with what they get by binge-drinking and blacking out.

Tove Lo in “Habits” is so besides herself with so much daily pain that she’s taken up fucking sad men in the park because it takes her mind off of what she actually wants. When she’s done with that, she binges on junk food and throws it up because nothing is filling how empty she feels.

People spent a lot of time exploding the moral panic of middle-class housewives taking to stims so that they could cope with the isolation of their existence. But no one really cared about how they felt, then, either.

People wrote songs about that, too:

Turns out, now? Society is so fucking cracked, millennials dance to literal cries for help.

This adds a whole new layer of weirdness to this guano cake.

Putting this level of self-awareness into a pop song is to say to the world, “Look how much searing agony I face just living in this fucked up mess I’m being offered but haha no one gives a shit about me because I’m white, college-educated and 25.”

Because no one ever gives a shit about young women’s pain.

The drugs help her manage what no one else gives a shit about.

And it’s so apparent to us that no one will give a shit, we’ve decided we’re just going to dance to it.

No one gives a shit about women’s pain until it lands her in rehab where millionaires can mine her insurance for $30,000 worth of “compassionate care.”

If she’s lucky enough to have any.

Then, I guess, then people care about young women’s problems.

At that point, someone gives a shit.

Until then, I guess we’ll just keep churning out dance hits about finding a vein that still takes.

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