Common Sense (Or “How to Be a Music Fan on Social Media”).

As a professionally amateur music blogger, I would say that most of the people I follow on Twitter have something to do with music, be that as a performer, a label, or a fan. Most of the time, this allows for a lot of interesting discussion, debate, excitement, and enticement. The Internet is very liberating when it comes to expressing yourself and following your interests. But oh. Oh, the pitfalls.

I was inspired to write this today when someone I follow (a manager, not a celebrity) asked for movie recommendations out of three possible choices. He settled upon viewing one. Someone didn’t like that, so rather than, I don’t know, taking a breath or doing something else productive, replied to him, “whatever kill yourself you retarded lard.” I’m not naming names or including links because I don’t want to give her more attention. When people started to respond to that aggression, she took two paths: being proud that she’d been noticed and being indignant that her “joke” was misunderstood. Maybe since I’m on the downward slope to 28, I no longer understand “the kids” and how they communicate with aggression even regarding people they’ve never met and whom they supposedly admire. Maybe the more popular celebrities are, the more likely these really weird messages. Have no fear, I have suggestions that will help you look like a saner fan in five easy steps.

1. Don’t use hate language. Why does this even have to be said? It’s the online equivalent of throwing rocks at your dad’s motorcycle or chopping off all your sister’s hair while she sleeps to get attention. Being noticed is a reward in itself, right? Um, no. Bullying is ugly and disgusting, and when you make “jokes” like telling, say, Groot to kill himself, Groot isn’t going to like that very much. Chances are Groot won’t reply to you over it (since his vocabulary is limited to “I am Groot” and all), but you might catch the eye of someone on a smaller scale or incite other fans to get upset. It’s just stupid. If a teacher assigned you homework you didn’t like, would you tell him or her to go die? No, because there are consequences. You don’t think about consequences online, but you should. Spoiler alert: You’re not going to be One Direction’s new best friend by being a dick to them online. Also, white people? STOP USING ANY VARIANT OF THE “N” WORD. You know what I’m talking about. I see teenagers banter with it on social media all the time. It’s not cute or ironic or reclaiming a word. Just shut the fuck up.

2. Don’t “COME TO (INSERT COUNTRY HERE).”¬†You know what’s incredible about tours? The fact that they are scheduled months in advance because venues, equipment, crew, and more must be arranged in order for everything to work. When you shriek about being denied tour dates, what you’re saying is basically, “I have no interest in what you’re doing right now. Mememememe. You don’t matter to me unless you’re in front of me so I can try to steal the shirt off your back.” Try to imagine having a conversation with someone like yourself. (All examples are chosen at random, and I have nothing against people in said regions.)

Friend: Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet?
You: COME OT ARGENTINA!
Friend: What does that have to do with anything?
You: WE LUV YUO IN MILAAAAAN!
Friend: That’s not even spelled right.
You: IF YOU DON’T PLAY IN LONDON AND MAKE IT ALL AGES ILL KILL YOUR GF’S DOG.

And so on. Going directly to the source isn’t going to get you jack shit unless they specifically ask you where they should do something like busk or if they decide to have a social media Q&A session. I understand your pain, I do. I grew up in West Virginia. Do you know who toured in my town when I was a kid? 98 Degrees. That is it. Did I see any concerts as a teen? Not until college. Now I sometimes get to go to shows for free! You can live the dream one day. Be patient and stop using your location as a greeting.

3. Don’t spam.¬†I don’t know how this started to get popular. Is it because of trending topics? Maybe I should blame hashtags. Mostly, I blame people. If you set up a separate Twitter account simply to bombard someone else, you are a Grade A asshole. There’s really not wiggle room here. Celebrities do not have the time to read every single tweet/message/smoke signal. They might not ever answer, or they might just answer a select few. Resist the urge to just send out a constant stream of the same fucking thing in order to be seen. Your idol will not think¬†Wow, I simply admire this person’s tenacity and adoration!¬†They will think¬†something more along the lines of¬†Haven’t I seen this before? This is annoying¬†or¬†I’m getting way too many messages. Fuck this. I’m going to go be famous now with other famous people. You screw over others and yourself, and you’re the one left looking stupid.

4. Don’t ask them¬†to follow you.¬†This is such a weird, modern bragging right of sorts. As far as I can understand, the more famous a person is, the more elite it is to be followed by them. Beeeecause why? They might see your embarrassing, hysterical tweets of ‘hOGM TAY LOR IS TWET ING IRHT NOW!” (You should really not act like that either, for what it’s worth, but I know that I don’t have enough brain bleach to go around.) Despite infinitesimal chances of mere plebs being followed by the stars, people still ask for this. People who are followed offer to spam the inboxes of the mighty with lists of more people they ought to follow. (Does that ever even work?) Twitter or Facebook will never make them leapfrog into your actual, personal social circle. It translates to nothing of substance outside the screen. Let it happen if you are a magnet of awesome, but don’t ask for it. You are not distinguishing yourself as worthy if you have to beg.

5. Don’t be fucking creepy. I thought I’d end on a note as obvious as my first. Sometimes people have good intentions. Misguided ones, good ultimately good. They find inspiration in a person’s writing. It changed/saved/brought meaning to their life. In return, they just want to share a bit of this changed/saved/meaningful life with the person who made all this possible. And so every tweet tags a musician and is directed to them like a protracted poem of longing. Here I am in Florida, and I am without you, Fabio.¬†Look at this bacon, Lou Bega, for it reminds me of your smile (yes it does!). Tapping into who I really am. Corsets rox. Thx 4 the confidence B*witched! On the one hand, it’s a little oblivious and sad, but on the other, we really should know better. Responding to posts in a topical manner is great and encouraged! Interact to your heart’s delight. The occasional quip thrown their way or even a heartfelt message can be fantastic. Just don’t make your online life all about one person/group and one person/group only. It’s like standing outside someone’s window and drawing pictures in the condensation left behind by your breath. Friends, no one likes a mouth breather. Just think, okay?

Now, friends, you are a bit more socially aware! Go forth and tweet smarter, or stay brilliant if you already are. Just don’t direct any hate at me, particularly if you aren’t able to embrace your backspace or shift keys.

The one rule of Kurt Vonnegut.

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies‚ÄĒGod damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

In some ways, Kurt Vonnegut was a lovely, grumpy old man, but he was also as insightful in a way that most of us will never even hope to accomplish. Vonnegut was (and is, let’s be honest) one of my favorite authors, but this quote has always lingered in my mind. I love the juxtaposition of “God damn it” with “you’ve got to be kind.” His frustration and urgency cannot be neglected. We live in a frustrating, frantic world, and greed is the name of the game in the Western world. It’s all too easy to get caught up in our own feelings and curse those who stand in our way, particularly when they are powerless or faceless, someone you’ll never encounter again. It ems easier to vent those frustrations (and hopes) at infants who can’t understand rather than confront the adults who simply refuse to follow some damn good advice.

Part of my job involves answering phones. Most of the time people are polite, if a little confused. Occasionally, they’ll get condescending when they hear a woman answer the phone, because all we’re paid to do is file our nails and stand between the public and what they want, am I right, ladies? I happen to bite my nails, in no short part due to the stress caused by people like this, so I don’t even need a nail file, thank you very much. But there is one injustice so egregious, so deplorably uncalled for that I couldn’t resist ranting. That, my friends, is the indignant telemarketer.

I would estimate that my place of employment receives at least five sales calls a day. Of those, almost all involve someone saying, “Can I speak to the person who handles your phones?” No, no you cannot. Firstly, we are under contract for our phone services for years. Secondly, if your phone number comes up as “PRIVATE” on my caller ID, chances are that you are not contacting me from a reputable company. Third, unless you’re brand new, you generally don’t have to call people to solicit business. People don’t like that. They’re generally busy at work, or they’re worried that you could be pulling a scam. (At least three times a day, we get automated “THIS IS NOT A SALES CALL” messages that are, yes, fraudulent sales calls about cruises or Google listings.) I usually say sorry, we are not interested/are under contract, and I hang up. There is no need to prolong the conversation.

Only three have I had someone call me back. The first time, a telemarketer called me back just to hang up on me. Touche, brother, touche. The second time, a man was screaming that I didn’t know what I was fucking talking about because I’m not the fucking boss and he’ll fucking report me to the fucking Better Business Bureau, profanity profanity profanity, so I transferred him to my boss, who promptly put him in his place. And then there was today.

INT. OFFICE BUILDING

Casey settles in to sort out some issues after arriving to work twenty minutes late due to train delays. She is frazzled but preparing to make a cup of tea. The phone rings. Casey greets the caller with the firm’s name.

CALLER
Hi, how are you?

CASEY
I’m doing well. How can I help you?

CALLER
Could I speak to the person who handles your phones?

CASEY
I’m sorry, we’re not interested.

Casey hangs up the phone. A moment later, the phone rings again. She notes that the caller ID says “PRIVATE” and braces herself as she says the firm’s name.

CALLER
Can I speak to the person who handles your phones?

CASEY
I’m sorry, we’re not interested. We’re under a contract.

CALLER
You’re going to save money!

CASEY
Sorry.

Casey hangs up the phone again. When it rings, she dutifully repeats the firm’s name in her mind that it is the same person on the other end.

CALLER
You. Little. Bitch!

CASEY
Excuse me?

The caller does not respond. Casey hangs up. End scene.

The rational part of me says not to be offended. That woman probably has people hang up on her all day long, and some of them probably say particularly caustic things to her, just because of her job. On the other hand, what happened to self control? What happened to kindness? It’s easy to spew profanities at someone over the internet or on the phone. There’s no accountability when your only tag is “PRIVATE.” The fact is, we could all consider others more. We could all do better. God damn it, you’ve got to be kind!

I’m an emotional person, and I cannot always make myself feel less just because I know it’s silly to respond to senseless cruelty. I can’t undo the weight in my chest or that dread of what might be looming around the corner today. But I can be kind. I can make sure that the asshole behavior directed at me does not make being an asshole contagious. I will be a better person, not better than that woman on the phone, but better than who I was this morning. I challenge everyone to do the same.

Unless you weren’t a little bitch before, in which case carry on.

Writer’s block.

It’s easy to retreat into a crab shell existence. Work is eight hours a day of sitting in front of a computer, answering a phone, enduring the berating of the entitled and the sob stories of the hopeless. Halfway through the day, I have my “lunch” break, when I invariably restore myself with a cup of coffee and some reading if I have no pressing errands to run. My commute is roughly forty minutes each way on a good day, but when anything from a one to ten minute gap between trains during rush hour is considered “good service,” there are rarely good days. I’m away from home roughly eleven hours a day if I go straight back to my apartment, and combined with the onslaught of polar vortexes, Netflix looks pretty damn tempting to fill the three or so hours before I try to sleep.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve suffered a fit of writer’s block. I’ve put off writing reviews until they pile up (perhaps the fault of Netflix and binge mentality, or my desperate attempts to finally get through tv shows like “Breaking Bad”). I’ve left stories in the brainstorming phase and told myself that I just had to wait for the right inspiration, the right mood music, the right shower that would bestow upon me all of the ideas lacking.

Mostly, though, I’ve found myself abandoning writing here, because I have had that obnoxious voice in my head insisting¬†You have nothing interesting to say. The logical part of me knows this is silly on multiple levels, because the people likely to read this are friends who would read just about anything (thank you for being supportive), and if people abandon reading something, it’s not like I will know. But the longer you go without sharing a word, the harder it gets. The more you want to be perfect.

Winter’s probably the most stressful time for that sensation. We’re cooped up in our homes, sick of the cold and snow and ice and bullshit, but it’s still early enough in the year to feel the pressure of new year, new you, new regrets! Some stores already have bikinis out. The 14 Street-Union Square subway station is plastered in advertisements for Macy’s right now, with each inelegant, hideous, monochrome outfit draped over the slender, bored models with care. The only common theme seems to be that the poor girls are swamped in cloth, which doesn’t seem to matter since the crop tops show off their perfectly toned abs. (I accidentally wrote “ads” at first. Freudian slip.)

The other day I thought it would be an interesting experiment to write down every ad I saw out in the world. New York probably bombards more eyes than most, Internet aside. What did I discover? Well, that I forgot to look. I am so used to seeing naked people running on the beach (Equinox), women posing in lingerie (Chicago), and insistence upon change in order to love oneself (YMCA) that I no longer take it in consciously, intelligently. I absorb these messages, and many of them intrinsically make me feel like shit about myself. I spent more time looking at ads in a day than I do at my own face or words, and that is an alarming setup for self-sabotage, a need to retreat into the fiction that’s already been provided for me.

So this is my attempt to find the words again. To spend more time with my voice and build it up, to push back against the negativity of winter. I joined a gym for $10 a month, and even though I only go a couple of times a week, I am sure I will have stories to share, like how all the women who change directly in the locker room seem to wear thongs and nothing else for underwear. My friend Allison and I are trying to co-write a crime novel of sorts, and I will spend more time actually working on that rather than obsessing over who/what The Yellow King is in “True Detective” (aka the best show on television right now, making me a firm believer in the McConaissance). I entered a writing contest and had to write a romantic comedy about a limousine driver and “anger,” so I may share that when I inevitably fail to make it to the next round (not because I think I suck since I’m so rusty, but because I’m kind of a dude and have no idea how to rom com).

But most importantly, I’ll cut myself some slack. After all, the Oscars are Sunday, and that requires wine-infused hate-watching.

Fuck the Tea Party (yes, I’m mad and I swear).

Fuck the Tea Party.

Seriously, I have no kinder words for these people. Fuck them. If you think that’s harsh and unfair, I’m going to do my best to explain my opinion, but if you still disagree at the end, you should probably just roll your eyes and move on because I won’t be able to lift my jaw off the floor to even fight with you.

As a young, single woman who has spent much of her post-college life uninsured, I am a fan of the Affordable Care Act. I don’t think it goes far enough to correct the overwhelmingly awful health care model we have in America, but it’s a start. We are the only country of power and wealth that has this sort of backwards system. “But I don’t want to pay for the lazy to have health insurance!” you may cry. Are you saying I was lazy for the three years when I was working full time in a depressed economy? Under the ACA, I would have been covered by my parents’ health insurance until I found my current job, which finally gave me a break so I could see a doctor (but not a dentist, but that’s a rant I’ve already covered, methink). “But it’s hurting employers!” No, it’s not. That’s stupid. “But I don’t want to cover some slutty slut’s slut pills!” Look, if you’re not going to support programs to feed children in poverty or let ladies have the right to choose safe, legal abortions, you’re going to have to concede some free birth control. When individual aspects of the ACA are polled on their own, they get overwhelming support by the public. Call it “Obamacare,” and people freak out. Misinformation about the law is rampant, so educate yourself before you slam it.

You see how I called it a law? Because it’s a law. It was passed by both houses of Congress. The president signed it into law. The Supreme Court upheld it. Obama basically made his reelection campaign about it, and he won. Republicans have tried to repeal this law several times, and they’ve been defeated every time. I repeat, this is a law that will not be repealed under normal circumstances. To take the entire nation and, now for a sexy twist, WORLD economy hostage to try to repeal a law you can’t repeal through the proper legislative process is stupid, dangerous, and unprecedented. I’d call it childish, but that would be an insult to children, who have to take social studies/civics class and therefore have a firmer grasp of how the government is supposed to work.

Our country has basically been living paycheck to paycheck for a while now. Congress has been having debt ceiling fights for years, and yes, we spend an awful lot of money and don’t do a very good job with it. But that’s why liberal and conservative minds get together and hash out ideas that can please both sides to a certain degree. Obviously that should be a priority of government at all times, to be as efficient and good to your people as possible, but raising the debt ceiling was never controversial before Obama. There’s even an episode of The West Wing (RIP, one of the best shows on tv) where Democrats try to attach a minimum wage hike to the debt ceiling bill. The Republicans are scandalized that anyone would play political chess with the debt ceiling. It’s routine! How could you? The solution: the minimum wage amendment becomes its own bill, the debt ceiling is raised through a clean bill, and America gets a $10 minimum wage. Oh fictional world, I wish I lived in you.

We’ve been under sequester conditions for months. We never fixed that. Instead it’s all been about passing another CR and then getting to the debt limit. The fact that we even had to endure the sequester is bullshit since it was supposed to be so horrible that everyone would just give up and find a compromise. Apparently that was as successful as my great-grandmother’s hopes that I would eat some chicken last month because chicken is obviously vegetarian-friendly. So the government needed to pass a CR to keep paying its shit. Rather than do that like, I don’t know, representatives of the people who elected them and pay their salaries, one fraction of one party in one house of one branch of government decided the death of a law they didn’t like. This did not work out, so they tried to delay and castrate the law instead. This also didn’t work. If you don’t have permission to shoot a law point blank, then asking to merely poke it all over with a steely blade until it bleeds to death isn’t going to go over either. Just sayin’. And it didn’t. And now our government is almost entirely shut down. All the House had to do was pass a clean CR. Their stance is, “Well, all the Senate had to do was pass one of our ridiculous bills.” It’s like a bank robber blaming the police for a hostage getting hurt because they didn’t hand over a helicopter.

Let’s be perfectly clear here. House Republicans, or really the core Tea Party nutjobs puppeteering this shitshow, are the ones responsible. “But Obama and Democrats won’t negotiate!!!!” you might cry breathlessly between involuntary utterances of “Benghazi” (as Rand Paul has already linked the two, like the creative chap he is). How do you negotiate with someone who wants to give you nothing? Sane people want to keep the government running. Insane people think it’s okay to risk everything to get rid of a LAW. The only thing they’re open to negotiating is the form of execution and whether Obama would like to smoke one last cigarette while it happens since oh my god he used to smoke and he’s afraid of his wife and let’s misquote a joke! The only thing that Democrats stand to gain is the government reopening, which should not be an accomplishment since the government should be able to keep the fucking government running. Republicans have everything to gain, except they don’t because their demands are stupid and ridiculous. Even if you don’t care for the ACA, and you can have an opinion that doesn’t match mine, if you think this unprecedented political circus is worth saving us all from, gasp, better health coverage at almost universally lower rates, I feel really sad for you. Genuinely sad for your lack of empathy. How do you relate to other people? Because wow.

Now we’re approaching our country defaulting. This is unreal. Do you know what the Republican response is? Well, some people feel the heat and realize that this needs to get wrapped up to save some face since most Americans blame the Republicans for this mess (while blaming Democrats and Obama too, admittedly, but quite a bit less). Others just want to pass mini-bills to pick and choose which sections of government to open, because they only want to take social services hostage, not the parts of government to which they pander. And then there are those who have their heads so far up their own asses that their brains must not be getting any oxygenated blood, like Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican and one of the architects of this mess. Proving he has absolutely no clue what he’s done or how to fix it, he said this to The Guardian: “I don’t know if the drop dead date on the debt limit is going to be 17 October because the government is not spending any money now. This might get pushed back a little bit further.” This man knows fully well that parts of the government are open, that he and his peers will get paid in full, and that his party is trying to open even more bits of government to keep this crisis going. His response? To close his eyes, stomp his feet, and pretend that there’s nothing at risk but the freedom to die because you can’t afford health care coverage in this humiliating country.

This is more than a financial crisis. People are not receiving the social services or incomes that they need. While you may think that it’s great that you’re not paying for the food of some lazy asshole who won’t get a job, what about the cancer patients who can’t get treatment? What about the children denied food? Not everyone with government assistance is lazy. Not everyone has the ability to lift himself or herself up by the bootstraps. We are punishing our citizens while the punishers get paid. I don’t care that some of them are giving their salaries to charity, even though one Congresswoman in favor of the shutdown, Renee Ellmer, refuses to surrender her pay because she needs it. Get that? She needs to get paid many times more than the average household wage in America. The people furloughed? Fuck ’em. Randy Neugebauer (Republican, Texas) told a park ranger she should be ashamed of herself for keeping veterans out of national parks that have been closed by the shutdown that he helped create. She had no say in that room, but he did. He is the one failing veterans (not just in access to parks, but inevitably other services soon if things don’t change), and no amount of stupid PR walking some veterans to memorials will change the facts. Congresspeople should be working on a clean CR and a raised debt ceiling and a resolution to a fuckton of political and economic issues. They should not be out taking photos and sucking up to veterans. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks that they can’t get to memorials for their fallen comrades, but the parks never should have been closed.

It boils down to sabotage, plain and simple. These delusional Tea Party assholes are putting us through all of this for one law. You may say the Democrats ought to cave since it’s one sticking point. But the Democrats have negotiated many, many times over debt ceiling crises, crises that are all manufactured since Congress refuses to operate the way it did under other presidencies, and it has only gotten them more crises. These few members of Congress are impeding the very nature of constitutional democracy, and they should be ashamed of themselves. They are no patriots, for if they loved their country, they would do their damn jobs and deal with changing laws during a normal session. Instead, they inflict this suffering upon us all and claim to represent their people. That is disgusting and embarrassing. Their behavior is nothing short of insane, and I truly hope my Republican friends will speak loudly within their party encouraging these shameful individuals to stop putting the world economy at risk.

But I stand by what I opened with. Fuck the Tea Party.

PS – Let me shoot down two things I’ve seen on Facebook. Amendment 28 to the Constitution? It doesn’t exist. Google is your friend, as are facts.

And as for this:

1) “Democrat” and “Republican” do not mean the same thing today that they did back then. 2) This is really irrelevant if you’re saying Democrats have a history of evil, since I would like to remind you that Donald Trump is a Republican. 3) If you think generations of forced labor, torture, poverty, rape, and murder is comparable to the possibility that maybe if you’re rich you’ll have to pay more so other people can have health care so maybe they won’t burden other social programs your taxes already pay for, you are beyond help. To put it in my best Jesse Pinkman way, check your privilege, bitch! This disgusts me. I give up and will now go back to writing funny things and praising music.

Why Is Everything Sexist?

It’s not easy having a unisex name. Roughly half of folks read my name and assume I’m a guy, and the other half responds with “Really? I’ve never known a guy Casey. I always think of it as a female name.” Then there are the few stragglers who assume that since I am denied a Y chromosome, my name must be manipulated into the more feminine “Cassie” or, worse yet, “Cassandra.” The occasional hopeful has asked me what my middle name is in order to establish firmer gender grounds. Alas, while “Jo” is the female spelling, it is also short for nothing. Said out loud, my name is pretty damn neutral. Simply presented, such as through writing, people assume what they will, and I’m sometimes met with surprise…even disappointment for not being a dude. I assure you, I’m bummed too, guys. Bras are really expensive, not to mention the other costs associated with being a woman.

Why am I leading in with that blurb? Because I’ve seen gender bias all my life. It’s everywhere, and it sucks. Sometimes I can suspend my disbelief and righteous fury in order to actually get through the day without blowing my lid. After all, I am a fan of horror films, and those can be notoriously sexist. But really, honestly, I have to ask: why is everything sexist now?

It’s not new that our lady popstars are critiqued mostly on how they look and how capably they can gyrate their bodies than how they can sing. That’s what autotune is for, right? It’s also not new that there’s a tendency for male lyrics to subjugate women in rather disturbing ways. But for the love of God, every time I hear “Blurred Lines” on the radio, my impulse to shake my shoulders along to the catchy beat is defeated by my absolute disgust. “I’ll give you something to tear your ass in two”?! I know I can’t speak for the entirety of womankind, but I personally like to be able to sit down from time to time, and I’m much more interested in someone who doesn’t serenade me with ‘sexy’ threats. If you haven’t seen the comparison of Robin Thicke lyrics to the words of rapists, please give that link a click. The overlap is beyond creepy because the song is too. Then you have the music video where topless women dance around fully clothed men who need balloons to tell the world that they have a big dick. They’ll claim that it’s all in good fun. To that I say: your penis is likely very small, and your brain smaller.

It’s not that this video is worse than decades of hip hop, pop, and rock videos with women dancing in little or no clothing. It’s just that we’ve made so little progress that this can be crowned “The Song of the Summer” with uncensored nudity on YouTube (because ART), but parodies that subvert men in similar ways are decried as being sexist, going too far, hating men. If you tell a woman that she wants to have sex with you when she doesn’t, and you act on that impulse no matter what her opinion is, she is an object to you, not a person. You are the problem. You can laugh off how “charming” and flippant Robin Thicke is, but the guy has appeared with naked women on multiple occasions for press, claimed his wife insisted, put his hand on another woman’s ass (and likely did much more), and gets away with it because he’s a guy. When Miley twerked all over his body, she was the one crucified, even though his Beetlejuice outfit was arguably more garish than her PVC flesh colored bikini…thing. If it sings like a creep, leers like a creep, and fondles like a creep, it’s a creep.

But let’s move away from music before my brain explodes. I never had a vested interest in Robin Thicke’s music anyway, so of course I can roll my eyes and shake my fist. What about something I enjoy? Well, folks, I have an example for you there as well. When I moved to New York City all by my lonesome, it took me a while to find a job. In the midst of the depression that came from all my rejected applications, I had only Netflix to keep me company. That was when I first binge-watched Dexter. As I’ve said, I love horror, so I’m used to separating my lady senses from the rest of my brain to enjoy a bit of gore. There are some spoilers from here, so tread lightly.

Dexter’s appeal is its emotional manipulation: the coldhearted serial killer trying to pass as normal while doling out his moral justice to more heinous criminals. We want to see him defeat the Big Bads and take out some other guys on the way. Dexter was driven to kill by seeing his own mother hacked to pieces when he was just a baby, and he tends to take a firm stand when women are raped and/or murdered. What could be more feminist than that?

Well, a lot. Women on the show only exist to be victims, nags, or love interests, often occupying more than one box. Even when women are a threat to Dexter, they inevitably meet their doom in a rather convenient way. The show was even gracious enough to give Dexter’s adoptive sister Deb some super incesty feelings toward her brother-from-another-mother, because the poor girl didn’t have a bad enough time falling in love with pretty much anyone who would die a horrible death anyway. For the record, the incest thing doesn’t work as well on a modern show as it does on Game of Thrones.

So this is the last season of Dexter. I believe it ends Sunday or the week after. I’m not sure since I stopped watching. I’ve made it through the incest, the women who die for Dexter, the rape victim who physically throws herself at Dexter for saving her, the serial killer he couldn’t dispatch because she was just too damn sexy. Now? I’m just over it. Of course when a long-lost daughter turns up to give Masuka a bit of well-deserved back story, she works in a topless restaurant. (The actress who plays her, by the way, is 21. Gotta get those barely legal tits in there!) I’m not going to moralize and tell women what to do with their own agency, but as the show winds down, it’s apparent that women only exist to fall in love with Dexter (the equivalent of falling in love with a monotonous piece of cardboard that is a really shitty father who’s never around) or stand in his way. It doesn’t matter how many women appear to save Dexter only to be murdered in a terrible fashion. All we’re supposed to care about is Dexter getting away with it, preferably with his leggy blonde who returns to him even though she’s wanted for murder and really ought to avoid the city where she committed her crimes. It makes no sense, and I’m sick of women only existing as accessories on an increasingly poorly written and plotted show. Don’t tell me the ending; I’ll roll my eyes at Wikipedia instead.

So Modern Culture, yes, we’re free to take off our clothes and be free, but could you please, please give us an option between being sexy or being utterly ignored? We can take things in stride–we have to every day just to avoid having strokes on a biweekly basis–but give us a fucking break. Not all of us want to hump wrecking balls naked to get attention.

Dear Musicians: Just Stop. Please.

Hello! I’m certain that I have now claimed the attention of all the prominent musicians on the scene, so I’d hate to waste your time fumbling around verbally. I write to you today to address one key issue: some of you have just lost the fucking plot.

Obviously the music industry is a big, muddled mess right now, with the people on the top wanting to keep their profits while technology makes it easier and faster to discover new talent and consume music, whether you pay for it directly or not. I won’t even go into the streaming services and how many of them don’t give artists their fair share. I’m here to talk about the art itself. Kanye West’s latest release, the insanely hyped Yeezus, seemed to build hype by simply refusing to play the game. This supposedly wouldn’t be about dropping singles for the radio, though a video leaked for “Black Skinhead” demonstrates that West does care about gaining and keeping an audience, rather than creating art in a vacuum and then isolating himself from response. I even saw a Buzzfeed article about why Yeezus as an album was unleakable; I believe it hit the Internet the very next day. If Kanye’s not even immune, how the hell do you create buzz?

Well, if you’re Jay-Z, you get some time during a big basketball game to announce your upcoming record, available for free early to one million people if you used a certain phone with a certain app. I’m an Apple user with an iPhone and a Macbook Pro, and I’m not even mad that I couldn’t get my hands on this for free, especially since the app itself has been widely criticized for data mining. Yes, a lot of apps do that anyway, but it’s a fucking album. If I go to buy a physical CD, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a tracking device in the jewel case to study where I’m going and to bug my apartment to listen to all the phone calls I don’t make (except to my mom at least once a week; hi, Mom). A music release is about what a musician does in the studio to capture that moment in his or her career. It is not about collecting your audience’s personal information in order to know your demographic and then react accordingly. Make the music you want to make, not what you think people will want to hear! Incidentally, I don’t like his other publicity stunts, including putting Magna Carta…Holy Grail on display next to an original of the Magna Carta, trivializing the importance of the document while NOT granting Jay-Z an unlikely audience since let’s face it, nobody going to check out the Magna Carta is going to feel compelled to go buy an album because they saw the cover art. It’s just endless article fodder for free because a rich, popular person has the means of being that cocky.

I’m also not thrilled by his six-hour rap performance for his “Picasso Baby” music video. Whether a tongue-in-cheek approach to the art world or a sincere attempt at performance art, such stunts have been done recently, even in New York. In collaboration with Ragnar Kjartansson, an actual artist, The National performed at the Museum of Modern Art for, yes, you guessed it, six hours. Unlike Jay-Z’s exclusive event, again more about press and a video than actually giving to fans, The National’s performance was open to the public, announced in advance, and not a song from their latest album anyway. The National’s performance feels to me like actual performance and art, particularly given the venue and the individuals involved. Jay-Z’s feels like a means to an end, even if he is a talented person.

So I don’t want you to strut your stuff in the art world for six hours. What’s left? Well, Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke have recently taken the creepy sexist approach. Music videos are nothing new, and even Whitesnake were sure to have a scantily clad woman roll around on the hood of a car just to get some attention. But since when do women have to get naked while a man remains fully clothed? There’s enough sexual harassment to go around in many artists’ lyrics these days; you don’t have to generate buzz by making women into objects. And while we’re on the subject: Miley, girl, no. I’m all for you doing your own thing and reinventing yourself, but you’ve taken cultural appropriation a step too far. Own your sexuality, whatever, but when your music video involves a man seemingly to achieve orgasm while eating bread, you cease to be someone that an audience can take seriously.

One final thing you should stop doing: apps. I already aired my grievances about Jay-Z’s app. Bjork’s endeavor I do consider interesting because she’s Bjork, but I never got the app and feel no need to see it. If you launch an app to keep up with news, images, videos, then that’s cool. If you’re doing it to create games, chats, and a Whole New World (¬©Aladdin, of course) for your fans, then just slow down a bit, buddy. Lady Gaga has gone and finally announced release dates for her new album, new single, and new app. I’m not a fan of Lady Gaga’s anyway, but this is just indulgent tripe. It makes it so the best fans are the ones who have the devices necessary to access the “full package.” If you don’t have an iPhone, or a certain Samsung device, or constant Internet access, then you’re just not good enough to be the target audience. When big artists want to make big waves, they have the money to get up in your faces, and they want a return on that investment.

So, dear musicians, how do you get an audience for your music? Make a good album. That’s it. You consume music with your ears. Most of the rest is optional. Start there, and please don’t treat your fans as customers or broken souls who need you to connect them to mend and become something greater. You’re human, we’re human. Let’s dig some tunes.

10 Reasons to Respect West Virginia

On this day in 1863, West Virginia became its own state. Since then, it has endured jokes about incest, dirtiness, redneck shenanigans, moonshine, NASCAR, stupidity, and much more. As my friends know, I grew up in West Virginia, and while I don’t love everything about the state, I can honestly say that it gets a far worse reputation than it deserves. Buckle in, do some reading, and have a little goddamn respect. You can make fun of Kentucky instead. (Just kidding.)

1. It’s the only state to carve itself out of the territory of another state…without that state’s permission. John McCain only wishes he could be this much of a maverick.

2. It’s also the only state to be created by Presidential Decree. Lincoln had our backs. Oh, and this was the Civil War, so we became part of the Union, and the rest of Virginia went on to lose. Because they were losers. Unlike us. Good timing.

3. We’ve spawned celebrities and major figures too. Do you like “The Andy Griffith Show?” We had Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife. Prefer drama? John Corbett, Brad Dourif. Comedy? Steve Harvey. Music? Brad Paisley. Books? Pearl S. Buck. Gymnastics? Mary Lou Retton. Tim Burton? He’s not from West Virginia, but Jack Skellington himself, Chris Sarandon, is. Breaking the sound barrier? CHUCK YEAGER.

Hell, even if your only interest in life is One Direction, we brought forth Morgan Spurlock, director of the upcoming One Direction documentary and previous writer/creator/director of…you know, much better things.

4. You can legally purchase 153-proof Everclear. The 190-proof stuff is illegal, much like owning semiautomatic weapons, because people are stupid and prone to killing themselves and one another with that much power. Basically, we’ve got your back in the booze department, and if you’re that dumb, you can find moonshine.

5. Do you like Golden Delicious apples? We made them, motherfucker. This helped bring about my favorite apple, Cripps Pink, so I approve.

6. West Virginia is Jay Gatsby approved. Raise a glass, old sport, and check out Leonardo DiCaprio wearing a West Virginia hat (with bonus, jealous Mick Jagger). Here he is again. Here he is doing so with a vuvuzela. He isn’t the only celebrity, but this should persuade a great many people.

7. It’s the only state completely nestled in Appalachia. That means we have awesome music from folk origins and aren’t afraid of a little fiddle, banjo, dulcimer, mandolin, and autoharp to go with our guitar. You might think Appalachia is lame. Tell that to Kevin Cosner after his career finally got a shiny new Emmy for “Hatfields & McCoys.” We’re a musical, storytelling culture set in some natural beauty you wish you had.

8. The Greenbrier Resort held more than a thousand foreign prisoners during World War II. This hotel was turned into an army hospital and place to keep diplomats and their families until they could be traded back to hostile countries. Later, the resort put prisoners to work around the grounds.

9. Speaking of the Greenbrier, there was a secret bunker built beneath it to shelter Congress in the case of nuclear attack. Is that James Bond enough for you? This was called Project Greek Island, and I’d recommend reading up on it. It was exposed by none other than my brilliant journalism professor Ted Gup, and you can read the article here.

10. You already get drunk and sing “Country Roads.” Admit it, you know all the words. It’s catchier than Rihanna. So kick off your shoes, pour yourself a bourbon (or all the bourbon), and let John Denver take you away.

People: what a bunch of bastards.

Forgive the title; I’ve been watching a lot of “The IT Crowd.”

During my recent spell of unwellness (documented here in no short measure), I’ve had a lot of time to just read. As a reformed journalist, I am a news junkie, but at the first hint of feeling poorly, I am reduced to consuming simple sentences with lots of pictures. Pop culture becomes my fix. Accordingly, I have a few rants, and they all center on the same focal point: being a woman.

First of all, I love Nigella Lawson. I her to hug me and use her free hands to back a cake behind my back as we become girly pals. When photos recently emerged of her husband clasping her throat and twisting her nose in public, I felt shocked. These are disturbing actions to happen in public, to be documented rather than stopped, and to be distributed. Worse yet was the response by some readers/viewers. I saw many articles where people said we mustn’t jump to conclusions and he was probably just feeling her glands, as though reaching across a dinner table and squeezing each gland with either four fingers or a thumb were perfectly normal. I’m all for our legal system’s “innocent until proven guilty” approach, but I loathe that we’re living in a time when people call for the death of a whistleblower (name one, any of them, and it’s true) while saying we should try to place ourselves in the shoes of a man who makes his wife cry in public.

Sadly, this isn’t surprising. For as much as we scream, fight, reproduce, work, and write, we’re still living in a World of Men. Jezebel contributor Lindy West pushed back against men in comedy making unfunny, malicious rape jokes, and what did she receive in return? Read for yourself the vitriol thrown her way. If she infringes upon a male comedian’s right to talk about a hypothetical rape, she’s stomping all over their rights and must be silenced by being murdered, by being raped, or by being reminded that she is too fat/ugly/stuck up to be raped since nobody would ever want her (because obviously rape is about sex and not at alllll about power). Rape is obviously one of the darkest things that can happen to a person, and people use humor to cope with darkness, but we’ve reached a point where the joke’s on the victim, not the horrible person who just couldn’t keep their penis (or hand, or object, or WHATEVER) out of another person’s body. It’s not funny, and if people keep conditioning themselves to think it is, then we’ll have even worse sexual assault statistics. I already have multiple friends who were sexually assaulted. You probably do too. Is that okay to just accept? (The answer, by the way, is absolutely not.)

You can’t even escape this in entertainment.¬† Women are sex objects everywhere, meant to be looked at critically (and approved of or cut down) and consumed. The fact that we have a whole “Law and Order” spinoff dedicated to sexual assault is telling, and you can’t even get new shows without rape cropping up. Special shout out to “American Horror Story” here, which had rape in both of its seasons so far! But it doesn’t just have to be about rape or something so blatant. I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, but when Alice Eve stripped her perfectly toned body down to her matched underwear FOR NO REASON, I felt angrier than any other point in the movie. (If you want to argue that James Kirk also loses some clothing, I’ll remind you that he was with multiple women at once, making him not the object but the objectifying party since I’m sure he wasn’t courting them all for polygamous marriage.) Film studios shouldn’t apologize about such scenes after the fact; they shouldn’t include them in the first place. I’m really not bothered by sex scenes or tits, but we have reached a saturation point, and only Michael Fassbender seems to be fighting back with some full frontal of his own. Shame was viewed as either brave or deplorable, but women are expected to lose clothing without a peep.

Linda Holmes’ blog over at NPR shows that the problem gets worse. We lady folk want an alternative to being objectified, but we don’t even have much of a choice other than not going to the movies at all. The last movie I saw was The Purge, and I would argue that the women in that film hold their own against the men (though they take time to build up the nerve). I’ll confess I kind of hated Bridesmaids because it did have a spectacular female cast, but the lead still needed to turn back to good old baking and a man in order to be happy! (Apologies to Chris O’Dowd. I’d want you at the end of a movie too.) We consider it progress when one woman kicks ass in an ensemble flick, or we tell ourselves that we ladies don’t have to be defined by romantic comedies since we too can enjoy the movies men do. I promise you, I loathe rom com and adore me some horror, but when wildly popular shows like “The Walking Dead” make their female characters incredibly annoying before killing them off (as opposed to in the comics, where they are people rather than whining moving targets), I get really fed up.

So you can’t really deal with TV or the movies. Surely there’s music? My Twitter feed has been obsessed with Kanye West’s leaked album. The media’s abuzz with it. I decided to read some articles about it since Kanye’s not my cup of tea. As an aside, if you go into a coffee shop or restaurant and ask them where your damn croissants are, I fucking hate you. End of. Back to the point, behold these lyrics: “I wanna fuck you hard on the sink/ After that, give you something to drink/ Step back, can’t get spunk on the mink.” Look, I get it. I get that he’s supposed to be this egotistical rich guy with a god complex who thinks that he can own anything, from fashion to women. I get that a lot of rappers are like that. But does that make it okay? No. It’s gross. It’s not amusing swagger. This guy just had a little girl and is engaged. Regardless of how I feel about Kim Kardashian, I wouldn’t want her to be treated with that power complex. Those lyrics don’t hint at rape, but it’s like they’re looking across the dancefloor and smiling coyly at it. If you aren’t a sexist, why don’t you just stop writing sexist things? It’s not entertaining. It’s not cool. It’s not swagger. And if you’re just “trolling,” then you’re pretty desperate for attention and have an empty life that mink won’t fix, even if it has a little sperm on it. By the way, jackass, it’s your own ejaculate, so you deal with it.

I’d go on and on about other people who have sexist lyrics, not the least of which Rick Ross with his song “U.O.E.N.O.” that actually DEPICTS rape, but fuck, I’m exhausted.

So what can we do about all of this sexism? Well, we can talk about it. We put up with this shit every day, from the way people talk to us to how we’re made to feel about ourselves, so we should let it be known. The majority of men out there are pretty cool dudes who don’t like making anyone feel like shit, and they wouldn’t want to be aligned with any of these actions. We have to build a network and push back. It’s not about “Leaning In” since that book was basically bullshit for anyone making under six figures a year. We have to challenge the frivolous and call out those who would excuse crimes against women as mere misunderstandings, amusements, or whatever. The act of rape isn’t funny, and many jokes about it aren’t. Domestic violence is not the victim’s fault and shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. We’re more than half of the fucking population, and so to the shitty guys out there, vocal minority that you are, grow a pair of balls and learn how to respect us. If you’re so threatened by women speaking out, that might just make you a pussy, and what’s worse than being associated with a female sex organ?

Why I’m Broke, or Modern Medicine: A Kick in the Pants.

Allow me just a bit of time to bitch.

Ever since my wallet and I parted with more than $300 just to have a wisdom tooth yanked out of my face in under 15 minutes, I’ve felt somewhat victimized by The Man. You know how it goes. I’m a “Young Professional” who took on student loan debt to study at a pretty great private university away from home rather than staying within my own state to study for free. Now somewhere around a fourth of my income goes to paying back student loans each month, so my expendable income is not what it should be. (If you’re thinking that I should’ve stayed in-state and used it as a springboard, shut up. We’re not going to get into my IQ, my qualifications, my desire to move, and the fact that I wouldn’t have this decent paying New York City job with a West Virginian education. Deal with it.) I made my choices, I prioritize when necessary, and I live within my means.

The lovely dentist that I went to two weeks ago does not accept most dental discount programs, and her practice does not allow for payment plans, so I rescheduled my dental appointment until after payday. It would make things tight regardless, but I figured it would be best to stop putting off addressing those cavities. You’re only born with one mouth, unless you’re a conjoined twin, but my twin is independent, so there you have it. I made a grown up decision. I’d go to the dentist of my own volition. I’d be proactive.

My body had other plans.

I woke up Tuesday morning with a vague stomachache. I assumed that it was just nerves from going alone to see one of my favorite artists ever, David Ford (check him out, I demand it), who I had interviewed over the phone some weeks before. I had a bit of that giddy schoolgirl feeling going on because he’d shared my review of his latest album (which is brilliant), and I wanted to introduce myself as said writer. Work ended, I moseyed on down to the show, and I managed to nab a seat at a table with his parents, as fate would have it. Mr. Ford put on a spectacular solo show with the promise of a completely different setlist and a backing band the following night. I decided to put off socializing after the show because my two Half and Halfs (Half and Halves? Whatever. Sweet tea vodka and lemonades) hadn’t settled very well on my stomach. I had time, right? I had another gig in me!

Wednesday was shit. I woke up feeling even worse but forced myself to go through the motions in the morning, preparing a cup of cinnamon tea to settle my stomach. Calling out from work would just make me feel worse and guilty to boot, and I might talk myself out of going to Manhattan to see the gig. This would not do. I took about two sips of tea and three drinks of water before the body rebelled. I don’t care what you want, I thought bitterly. I’ll buy breakfast on the way once you calm yourself. Of course, my train got all sorts of delayed because that happens every single time I want to get to Manhattan early. The only place with a short line was the cafe across the street. The yogurt parfaits looked so simple, so tempting with the base settling the acid in my stomach. I didn’t think about how sour stomachs and dairy don’t mix. I forked over five dollars because I am a crazy person, then brought my bounty to my desk, thus sealing my fate for the day.

Friends, this parfait was disgusting. The overly sweet yogurt was topped with granola that had appeared to just have blueberries, strawberries, and a kiwi that quickly made its way into the bin, I saw the monstrosity the green disc had covered. There were raisins and maraschino cherries in my granola. I like raisins in my granola when there aren’t other fresh berries involved. A dried grape feels like an insult. And maraschino cherries? Only acceptable when they are doused in alcohol. My stomach turned as I tried to consume my breakfast. About an hour later, I politely excused myself to throw it up in the bathroom, then stayed at work another hour to be sure I was sick. Why? Because I’m crazy. Crazy responsible. Crazy irresponsible. Then I booked it home for hours of watching MasterChef, eating only Triscuits, playing fetch with my kitten, and having a fever. I tried to snap a photo of the thermometer hitting 100.8, but apparently when you have a fever, the device blinks and beeps like a smoke detector, so use your imagination.

So I missed the gig. One of my gigs of the year. I’m still gutted.

I then set my alarm for Thursday normally. I got up at 6:45 to shower and noticed a pain in my chest, a little to the right. My first thought was I’m having a heart attack, followed by I refuse. So I went to shower anyway to see if the pain would last. It did, but it didn’t lead to any further complications. Still, I called out sick from work and decided to go to a walk-in clinic in Williamsburg. I saw online that their hours were from 8 am on. At this time it was around 7:30, so I booked it out to be there when doors opened.

Friends, Thursday is the only day they open at 9.

If you’ve never been stranded in Billyburg, let me tell you that many of the hipster cliches are true. I wandered aimlessly to find a place to get some breakfast (Huzzah, returned appetite!), but since it wasn’t brunch, few places were open. I settled on a bagel shop where I could get tofu spread (natch), and when I heard “Chasing Cars” play, I had a momentary crisis since I was wearing a Snow Patrol shirt and wondered if that was weird. Then I nearly cried. Being sick makes me emotion. So does chest pain, apparently. Filled with bready and tofuy goodness, I went to the drugstore to get some Wisps to brush my teeth prior to the doctor. I tried to remember which pop star was in an ad for Wisps a long time ago. Mandy Moore I think? Near the cash register was a giant tower of Pabst Blue Ribbon to remind me that I was in hipster heaven. I nearly took a photo, but I didn’t want to encourage them.

So I went to the doctor. For $25! Insurance! So much better than not having insurance, looking at you dental community. After waiting an hour, I was in. The doctor was very amused to hear that I had once had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, because clearly the peak moment of my life was being paralyzed from the waist down for a week at the age of four. She checked my symptoms and then gave me a very profound medical opinion worth my $25: “I have no clue what’s wrong with you.” Thanks! Due to my chest pain, she sent me to get an x-ray to rule out pneumonia, but she prescribed Tamiflu just in case. “I think what you have is probably viral,” she said. “The prescription might be able to lessen the symptoms. You may get over it a day earlier, but you need rest.” With that, she sent me on a half hour walk to the x-ray clinic. In the pouring rain. Physical fitness!

By the time I got there, my chest was in agony, and an old Polish dude had hit on me, because that’s how you know when you’ve crossed from Williamsburg to Greenpoint. I got in pretty early, stripped down for my x-rays, and didn’t even mind when the technician told me that he had to reposition my “tresses.” I had to raise my arms over my head and hold very still, and even in my agony I thought, Thanks for making this pose easy, yoga! Boom, boom, two x-rays and I was done. I saw the technician adjust the contrast on my scan, and seeing inside your boob is surreal. I guess the rest of your body too, but man, my boob was too big to fit in the image. Awesome. (For the record, my x-ray was fine.)

Utterly trampled, I caught the train back to the same drugstore as before to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist just had to check my address. I told him, and he said that was incorrect. Apparently I lived in Cleveland. You know you’ve shunned medicine for a long time when your last known address to the medical community is your college dorm. We got that nonsense sorted out, and I handed over my insurance. I was feeling good since this was not the dentist.

Your total: $106. You saved $36!

What the fuck? This is for ten pills. That’s $10.60 a pill, or the rough equivalent of eating out for lunch and dinner every work day for a week in New York City. I swiped my debit card. It didn’t go into the system, so the taunting bastard made me swipe again. I signed (well, PIN numbered) away basically a day’s wages, then came out of the store with a tiny bag of tinier pills. The tower of PBR mocked me. In the land of cheap beer, high medical expenses won again. I couldn’t afford cheap beer, let alone drink it since it’d interact with my newfangled medication.

On the way back to the train, a woman balancing a binder on her head called out to me. (Fucking hipsters, I thought.) She was wearing a Greenpeace shirt. “You look like an Earth lover!” she cried.

I held up my prescriptions in supplication. “I just spent a lot on medicine and have no money!” I retorted, making my retreat.

“Well, I like your shirt. Snow Patrol’s a great band!” she said to my back. And that was the first and last time I’ve felt good since contracting this flu/viral infection/plague.

Insert “lack of wisdom” pun here.

Confession: yesterday was my first visit to the dentist since I was a child.

Most of my 20-something readers, particularly those who live in New York as well, will understand how this came about. Low pay, high student loans, and high costs of living collude to make you really prioritize where your limited funds go, and by the time you save enough to visit the sort of doctor you want to see, something goes wrong to rob you blind. Oh, and I don’t have dental insurance, so paying $100 just for the pleasure of another person’s company feels much more like a less fun version of prostitution.

Also, I killed my dentist when I was a kid, so there’s that. But that’s a story for another time.*

Anyway, I was having some pain on the right side of my mouth. Like any Brooklyn cliche, I assumed that my everything bagel had just lodged some sort of seed or topping back there. I brushed and flossed vigorously, doing my best to ignore the pain. That worked for a few days.

Wednesday was of course A Day. I forgot my cell phone at home, the trains were all messed up, and, naturally, I couldn’t chew with the right side of my mouth. After scrambling to find any sort of dentist who didn’t seem to charge a thousand dollars to yank out a tooth, I managed to book an appointment for Thursday online. The only problem: you have to enter a PIN number texted to your phone. Yes, even without making an appointment through my phone, I needed my phone. My friend Meghan kindly obliged to receive the text for me, and I was on my way.

Fast forward to Thursday. The pain had certainly gotten worse thanks to an ill-advised gum chewing test, so I was relieved when I entered the dental practice at 5 PM sharp. The soundtrack of Journey, Kelly Clarkson, and Pink did its best to make me grind my teeth, but I resisted the impulse. It was only when I was in the dentist’s chair that I began to really worry. Actually shaking levels of worry. I don’t know what really got to me other than the absolute lack of sharp tools out. I was prepared for nearly anything, but to be thwacked repeatedly by blunt objects inside my suffering mouth seemed too punishing to imagine.

Of course the dentist expressed dismay over my lack of dental visits, though I pointed out I have no insurance. After declaring an extra cusp on one of my molars “very cool,” she found the offending wisdom tooth. My first, even at the tender age of 26, had become abscessed.

“Your appointment’s only for fifteen minutes,” she reported. (Thanks, technology!) “I can hook you up with some antibiotics and painkillers and have you come back next week, or we can extract the tooth right now. We can do that in fifteen minutes easily.”

I considered my options. After days of favoring the left side of my face, a little narcotic bliss was tempting. But if your tooth is dying, it’s dying, and there’s no point in adding hundreds of dollars to an already outrageous bill just for a week of putting off the inevitable. “Let’s take it out,” I said.

My dentist seemed surprised, but she was quick with three needles to numb the area. I haven’t experienced all that much pain in my life I suppose, but the worst may just be the sensation of needles slipping into my gums and then pumping in the liquid. I felt like giant bubbles were swelling up inside my mouth. “You’re very brave,” the dentist said. Very stupid, I felt. A single tear fell along my cheek like that fabled Native American in the commercial where he observes litter upon his precious land.

My tooth had grown in fully, so it was a matter of prying it out. You would think there would be some delicate way of doing this. No. Instead the dentist pushes, pulls, wiggles, wedges, and finally yanks it out. Fortunately mine went out in one piece, so that was it. Fifteen minutes and $328 of my hard-earned money. For the record, the $8 part came from an extra fee to use my debit card. Because obviously I should carry hundreds in cash at all times.

I don’t know if I am “brave” after all or just particularly lucky, but I haven’t needed prescription-level painkillers (that the dentist didn’t give me anyway) and feel decent other than the disgust I have from the coppery taste of blood lingering in my mouth. The dentist wants me to come back to deal with those cavities I’ve been ignoring forever, but we’ll have to see what the wallet says about all that…