12 1/2 Rules For Having A Happy Marriage

Guess what, you guys? We did it! We made it all the way to two entire years of marriage, which is like 17 for people who aren’t naturally as irritable and annoying as Mr. and Mrs. Meanopause are!

And because, as everyone knows, 17 is the “List Anniversary,” I have decided to share with you all this special present I made for Mr. M (who I’m sure is frantically busy coming up with an Anniversary List of his very own, unless he screwed up and bought me something I actually need or want, like a necklace or a bag of Candy Corn).

As the old saying goes, no truly useless internet list has ever been compiled without the help of a committee, so I must give credit to the three thousand Rules for Having a Happy Marriage lists I found while trolling for material to steal inspiration, and to Mr. Meano, whom I may or may not be directly quoting in places, as well as to the precocious and uncanny wisdom of the only child left in the house after the rest of them selfishly decided to go to college and leave their poor mother to stand around asking for advice from a bunch of people this last one, whoever she is, isn’t, until I finally arrive at her name, whatever that might actually be. She cut her hair, so I have no goddamn idea.

Thus, here is a list of the 12 1/2 most important rules you need to observe in order to have the very best Meanopause Marriage that ever was or will be. I’ve listed them in order of importance, but I’ve already forgotten whether that was from most to least or vice versa (or maybe I put the really important stuff in the middle where no one will read it, because then Mr. M and I win! Ha Ha, Jk! Kk, time for beddie-by!).

  1. Never Go To Bed Sober.

This is not just good advice for a healthy marriage, but an excellent life strategy in general. Because, let’s face it: you are that much nicer a person when you are the teensiest, tiniest bit sloshed.

Also way smarter, and full of useful information about how the PSAT/NMSQT program worked thirty years ago, as well as an excellent strategist and anagrammammer.

Anagrammammist.

Arranger of words in games played on mobile devices.

  1. Never Go To Bed Angry.

This is not usually a problem if you carefully and religiously observe Rule #1. But in the rare event that you happen to be a really mean drunk, or you’ve run out of vodka, or you have a pesky medical test for insurance purposes in the morning, you should try not to go to bed feeling angry at your spouse.

This is because you are much better at fighting in writing than you are in person, and you will most likely get out of bed to draft a strongly worded email at some point in the night, and then you will remember that there is a nearly full bag of Candy Corn in the desk drawer just below your computer.

2.5. Never Go To Bed After Eating A Nearly Full Bag of Candy Corn.

I mean, maybe you should walk around the house for a while, or watch some Netflix on the treadmill?

  1. Always Tell The Truth To One Another.

Unless lying will make you more popular.

And definitely don’t tell the truth about telling the truth to the cop at the DUI stop just outside the airport in Albuquerque that you drank a Bloody Mary on the plane 7 hours earlier, because your husband and his family will make fun of you throughout the rest of your sister-in-law’s wedding weekend, and here you’d had this dream of bonding with them by making fun of someone else.

  1. Keep It Interesting.

And by “it,” I mean, of course, the story about the podcast you heard on the drive home from work.

  1. Always Kiss One Another Goodbye.

Especially if one or more of your many children is standing nearby.

In which case, remember to be audible. Say “Smoochie-smoochie!” as you kiss, loudly and with feeling, because it is important to set a good example in case they ever decide to have children of their own to gross out.

  1. Agree To Disagree.

Because you are almost always right, and how are you ever going to watch the rest of this interminable House Of Cards episode if you keep arguing about how the PSAT/NMSQT program worked thirty years ago? Sure, you could Google, but what if it turns out that you are wrong? Better to just pat your spouse’s hand reassuringly and say, “Okay, Honey. You just go ahead and believe whatever you’d like, and remind me again who that Remy guy is really working for, because I thought he hated Frank.”

Note: if you do find yourself watching complicated television programs at bedtime, try waiting until at least halfway through the episode before you start your nightly drinking.

  1. Don’t Play Games.

Especially not Words With Friends.

Because you are not friends, dummy. You are spouses, and every Z or blank you draw near the end of an otherwise extremely close game has a direct effect on your sex life, so think really hard about playing “zeugma” on any triple-letter/triple-word spaces on the board, and why the fuck isn’t “hrtl” an acceptable word, anyway, if a stupid made-up word like “zeugma” is?

Or “rthl”??

Come on! Not even “thrl”???

  1. No Matter What Stupid Things You Do Or Say To One Another, Remember That You Will Always Love Each Other.

Though now just a little bit less.

  1. Ha Ha, Just Kidding! See, That Is Also A Good Rule: Make Jokes. All The Time! Never Stop With The Crazy Jokes! Especially If You’re Going To Have That Stupid Rule About Always Telling The Truth! Because After A While, Who Can Tell, Amiright?
  2. Never Bring Up Mistakes of the Past.

Unless they will help you to score points in your argument.

For example, should someone decide to use the Google to find out the thing about the PSAT/NMSQT thirty years ago, you can swiftly change the topic by reminding someone that he mispronounced the word “effete” when telling you that fascinating story about the podcast he heard on the drive home.

  1. Always Admit When You’re In The Wrong.

Unless it will make you look bad.

In which case: stand your ground, while making up new rules.

  1. Never Google In Bed.

Whelp, there you have it! Here’s to another 17ish great years of marriage, my darling! Happy Anniversary to all, and to all a thrl night!

Rainbow Swift

My name is “Pittsburgh,” and for a couple of magical hours on a balmy, almost-summer night, I am one of Taylor Swift’s besties, along with, according to the video that runs on gigantic screens on either side of the stage, a couple of cats, Lena Dunham, and a bunch of other famous girls in black, none of whom I recognize and some of whom have accents. And, of course, the 54,999 other people in the audience at Heinz Field.

“Hello, Pittsburgh,” my girl Tay-Tay shouts, and though, confusingly, she then launches into “Welcome to New York,” I and all her other besties light up, sharing in her glittery glow.

Literally.

And sort of involuntarily, tbh: when we arrived at the stadium, we were given milky wristbands that looked like the chunky watch you’d wear if you didn’t care anything about fashion (or, for that matter, time). The wristband was accessorized with a little pull-tab thingie, which one of my daughters immediately pulled, just before we were told to wait for the signal. But no matter: the minute the curtain collapsed on the stage and Swift appeared in the first of her eleventeen glittery micro outfits, everyone’s ugly watches, including my daughter’s, sprang to colorful life. It was time to shine!

For, apparently, all of us.

Except that it isn’t.

It’s Taylor’s.

But somehow she keeps making the night also be about everybody else. Her opening acts are young men given incredible breaks: Australian Vance Joy, it’s clear from the response of the audience (and my daughters), has gained some recognition with the ukelele-laden “Riptide,” but it’s pretty safe to assume that Shawn Mendes, who is 16 and probably doesn’t even shave yet, is unused to audiences in the 55,000 range. Midway through the show, Swift brings out a band who had once given her a break, country artists Little Big Town, to return their long-ago favor, letting them spend a significant amount of time singing a song about a pontoon. (“Wait,” one of my daughters says, “what even is that? Is a pontoon a country thing?”)

Downtime throughout the show is filled with Friends of Taylor returning to the big screen, and while it’s true that much of what they say is about her, the videos also function as advertisements for these others (though they are clearly aimed at people who already know who these women are). Also, and I don’t mean to sound bitter here, but Swift’s cats, Olivia and Meredith, get way more screen time than any of my cats have ever gotten (just sayin’).

Her presumably hot male dancers (we are very, very far away from the stage, in the Mommy-Daughter ghetto where I am easily the oldest mother by at least a decade of covering up our gray roots) take the stage nearly as often as Swift does (though with far fewer costume changes). One of her musicians gives a lengthy guitar solo at one point, and at the end of the show, Swift very generously names and thanks each of his band mates.

And then there’s me, “Pittsburgh.” Throughout the show, my girl Tay-Tay pauses the music to give the audience what I can only describe as pep talks, strolling to the end of the catwalk to remind us that we are not “someone else’s opinion” of us, that we are not “damaged goods”; we are not “going nowhere just because [we] haven’t gotten there yet.”

“Thanks for being here tonight, Pittsburgh,” Taylor shouts. “You don’t know what it means to me. You don’t know.”

Maybe not, but I, Pittsburgh, know something of what it means to the rest of us that she is here, if only because of the signs her fans hold up to the stadium camera as it zooms around the stands: I GAVE UP MY GRADUATION PARTY, reads one. Not to be outdone, another reads: I CANCELED MY FAMILY VACATION. A sign carried by two girls, one wearing an emerald ball gown, lets us know that they have SKIPPED THE PRIDE PROM to be here, together, tonight.

And, to thousands upon thousands of young girls in the stands, Taylor Swift being here tonight means that they, for a few hours, get to pretend to be her. Two by two (because to be Taylor Swift means that you are, first and foremost, somebody’s best girlfriend), they incarnate a decade of Swift: there are Country Swifts in ten-gallon hats and cowgirl boots; there are Cheerleader Taylors and Tay-Tays in Tutus; Angel Taylors brush wings with their Unicorn-Headed sisters while Sexy Swifties saunter down the stadium steps in black-and-white striped shirts and vivid red lips.

And while hundreds line up for the honor of blowing thirty-five bucks on official Taylor Swift 1989 Tour t-shirts, countless others arrive in hand-lettered homages (“Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream” is the reigning slogan, though my personal favorites are the girls whose backs boast Long Lists of Ex-Lovers, with checkmarks in the boxes next to “Noah” and “Jacob” and “Kirk” and so on).

But as night falls, we become indistinguishable from one another, save for the constantly shifting colors of our wristbands, controlled by some unseeable force. We pump our fists in the air and throw our green lights to the sky, just before they turn blue, or pink. We wink our lights at one another, waves of color rippling through the stands.

We are watching the spectacle but we are also of it, a lightshow that a cynic might read as a gimmick, but there is something about it that is also generous, and lovely, and, I suddenly realize, sad.

Because I am struck by how much our glowing wristbands look, in the dark, like the scales of a giant and glittery fish.

I have a confession to make: I am one of those mothers who banned a book from their children’s home library. That book was Rainbow Fish, a tale that wasn’t so much written by Marcus Pfister as assembled from glitter glue and text copy-pasted from some jealous middle-schooler’s wish-fulfillment diary. “The rainbow fish was the most beautiful fish in the sea,” it begins. “But he never played with the other fish. I’m too beautiful, he thought.”

Let me break it down for you (though doing so will involve more words than actually appear in the book): nobody likes Rainbow Fish, and so Rainbow Fish is lonely. He seeks the wisdom of his fellow sea creatures, who tell him that the reason he has no friends is not that he’s an asshole, but that he is too pretty, and his prettiness makes his fellow fishies feel bland. So rather than learning to be more humble, and maybe just a teensy bit less of a self-involved douchefish, Rainbow Fish (spoiler alert!) decides to help make all of his would-be fish friends as beautiful as he is, so that he no longer outshines them all.

By giving each of them one of his shiny scales. From his actual body.

Needless to say, it is a stupid, stupid book. Amazon describes it as a story “about a beautiful fish who finds friendship and happiness when he learns to share,” but an inability to share is most definitely not Rainbow Fish’s problem. Is Taylor Swift selfish because she has an adorable face that squinches up like Samantha Stevens’ when she’s about to cast a spell, or hair the color of Iowa corn in August, or legs that are at least a shin bone longer than normal, human legs? Is she somehow keeping the rest of us from having these things, hoarding the pretty that would otherwise be ours?

No, she is not, and neither is Rainbow Fish. Rainbow Fish’s real problem is twofold: 1) he thinks the fact that he is more beautiful than everyone else means that he is too good for everyone else; and 2) everyone hates him because they know he thinks this.

The book’s solution, that he parcel out his shiny scales so that he becomes less beautiful as everyone else grows more beautiful until magically every single fucking fish is equally lovely, completely misses the implicit lesson about arrogance and goes right into some hellish morality where it’s better not to outshine others because then you won’t be loved.

And this is why our wristbands suddenly make me sad: because what if there is more than just generosity motivating Taylor Swift to share so much of herself and her stage time and her lightshow and her fame? Is she worried that people will think she’s a jerk if she doesn’t, the sort of fish who looks around a stadium and thinks: I’m too beautiful to swim with the likes of you?

Because here’s the thing: some people, like Taylor Swift, really are more beautiful than others. And smarter, and stronger, and funnier, and way better at rhyming words that don’t actually rhyme. Some people have a defter grasp of the pop sensibility; some people can throw on a black leather catsuit and strut around shouting about bad blood and still somehow manage to not look either delusional or insane.

If all the fish are special fish, then “special” becomes synonymous with “gefilte,” and I’m not prepared to live in that particular sea.

Nor do I want my children to.

And definitely not my Tay-Tay.

So here’s my pep talk back atcha, Taylor: you are not a douchefish, and you don’t need to make everyone else shine just because you can’t help but give off light. Most of us have big enough hearts and gills that we can still love someone even if she has way more pairs of glittery shorts than we do, and maybe even if she has much much much more famous cats.

Love,

Pittsburgh

Storage Solutions: Where to Put the Pain

Thanks to climate change, we’ve gone from light snow to heavy shvitzing in the space of a couple of weeks. For some of you, this shift comes as a relief: you missed the opportunity for a thorough spring cleaning (unless you managed to do it during spring, which this year fell between the hours of 9 am and noon last Tuesday). The more organized and efficient among us, however, are now scrambling to clean up the messes the endless winter has left behind. Some of this work is relatively easy: you swap out the space heaters for the window fans; you stack the winter coats in plastic bins and set them on top of the bins of Barbies and Legos; you pull out the flip-flops from beneath the boots and set them on top of them again, in a footwear version of that slap-hands game that nobody ever really wins.

But some messes defy easy fixes, like your son’s six trillion Magic cards that blow lightly about his room when the AC is running, or all the hurt and resentment you collected over the various winter gift-giving occasions and holiday parties that is still drifting about your heart and making it difficult to dust.

While I don’t have the perfect solution to the Magic card problem (oh, you think it’s easy? Remember: they’re Magic cards, which means that as soon as you put them in a box, they multiply, until the box groans with the effort to contain them and they start slithering out from the seams), I am happy to pass along some of my Professional Know-It-All wisdom about how to tackle the problem of gathering all your psychic injuries and storing them in accessible containers so that they don’t interfere with your daily life, yet are effortlessly recovered the moment you need them for your next stewing session, festive pity party, nervous breakdown, or any other activity that is best fueled by a piece or two of dried angst.

As with any storage project, of course, the best way to begin is by Sorting:

First, let’s crawl into your heart and take a good hard look around the pain room (it’s that cavernous place just to the left of the love closet). Open your eyes wide, to let in as much light as you can. Once you do, you’ll probably notice that there’s a lot of pain just below the stuff you accumulated over the winter; in fact, unless you are extremely emotionally tidy, there are going to be layers and layers of lumpy, caked-on injury just below the surface. Why not seize the opportunity to organize all of it?

It’s easier than you think!

First, drag out all the hurt in your heart and set it into piles. You can organize the piles by Date (Childhood Pain; Teenaged Wounds; Shitty Boyfriends; Performance Reviews; Literary Rejections; Marriage [various]; and so on), by Size (Ouch; NoNoNoNoNO; Oh My God, OUCH; The Anguished Screams of Farm Boy/Dread Pirate Roberts when Prince Humperdink Cranks the Torture Device to “Death”; etc.) or by Type (Rejection; Exclusion; Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth; Accidental infliction; Deliberate Infliction of Emotional Distress; Fallout From a Previous Relationship; et al.).

Once you’ve assembled all your piles of pain, you can more easily determine which injuries you’d like to hang on to and which ones you’re probably better off jettisoning, either by 1) Donating them or 2) Tossing them out. Let’s start with the latter two, since getting rid of your hurt entirely is not only the swiftest step toward achieving a fresh, sparkling heart, but it creates tons of space for all the future psychic injuries you’ll be acquiring before you even register the next twist of the knife!

Donating:

In times of plenty, it is almost never a bad idea to share the wealth, particularly with those in need. Perhaps you know someone who could really use a good slap in the face, or maybe a fine comeuppance; is it too much to ask that you throw a couple of mortal insults from someone you once loved into a Hefty bag and drop them (anonymously, of course) on his or her doorstep?

Or say that you have so much self-loathing that you can barely pass a mirror without flipping yourself off, while others are unable to post on Facebook without adding the words “Yay me!” to the end of every sentence. Quit being so selfish! Clearly, those Facebook friends have as yet to receive the sort of treatment that triggered your own low self-esteem. Consider reaching deeply into your pile of Literary Rejections, freshening one or two of them up, and posting them as replies! (Example: “Due to the extreme volume of posts about completing a two-mile run in one and a half hours, we regret that we cannot individually respond to your status at this time.”)

Whatever you do, though, try not to hand your pain down to your children. If they’re anything like you, they probably have more than enough of their own already, and they’re never going to fully appreciate what your pain meant to you when you first took it on. If you’re hell-bent on preserving your pain for the next generation, then do everyone a favor and put it in a memoir, because no one ever really reads that shit, even if they say they did.

(Note: go ahead and take all your residual pain about your writing and put it back in the storage pile. Apparently, you still need to hang on to it.)

Tossing:

Sadly, some of your emotional injuries are so old or worn or specific to your circumstance that they’re of little use to others, no matter how needy those others might be. For example, look in your Childhood Pain pile at that time in middle school when you wore a maxi-skirt, floppy hat, and platform shoes, and that mean girl asked you who you thought you were, Miss America or something? Do you remember thinking: but wait, Miss America contestants don’t dress like this, do they? Of course you do. So you knew, even back then, that this was a lame and possibly misguided insult, and yet here you are remembering it, nearly forty years later. It’s the sort of psychic injury that, while pervasive, is never really going to fit anybody else, and so if you try to pass it along it will just get bundled with a bunch of misspelled t-shirts and sent off to Africa, where they don’t even have a Miss America contest, because it’s Africa. This is the sort of hurt you can safely throw out, without worrying that you’re wasting something of value.

Equally important to toss are the emotional wounds that no one ever intended you to have. Look in that pile of Accidentally Inflicted angst: were you supposed to get upset about the fact that your husband wore a stained shirt to your birthday dinner? Of course not! It meant absolutely nothing! Even though you do the laundry every fucking fifteen minutes or so, which makes it incredibly hard to even find a stained shirt to put on, this was, clearly, an honest mistake. You just take that particular injury and toss it straight into—

Wait, what? Your husband should have known that stain was on the shirt, since it was right there, in the front, where everybody could see it?

Now, now, remember that not everyone could see it. Like the people at the back of the restaurant, by the bathroom, or people who forgot their glasses. Or the people who weren’t even at the restaurant that night, which was, like, maybe seven or twelve.

Also: blind people. So, truly, it was no big deal. He probably didn’t even know it was there!

Although, theoretically, it is possible that he knew about the stain and wore the shirt anyway. I mean, it’s possible that he wore the stained shirt because he hates going to expensive chain restaurants, and this was his little protest, or something. But so what? Big whoop! You protested Apartheid in the 80’s, remember?

Of course, it’s always possible that he wore it because he didn’t think your birthday was that big of a deal or something, if that’s the way he dressed to celebrate it.

Ha ha, just kidding! But this reminds me of an important sorting point: sometimes, you have to move your injuries from one pile (“Accidental”) to another (“Deliberate Infliction of Emotional Distress”), once they’ve been closely examined.

Once you’ve tossed, donated, or relabeled as much of your old heartache as you can, it’s time to figure out where to put the stuff that remains. Which brings, us, finally, to the question of Storage.

But first, a word of caution: the thing about pain is that it has a liquid state as well as a gaseous one, and, depending upon the climate of the storage area, can even manifest as a solid (if you store it in your throat, for example, it often becomes a lump). In fact, really powerful psychic injuries can occasionally even come to life, and make you appear to be a petty little swearing person who keeps bringing up the same old injury, over and over and over again, even though you are actually just some sad little skin suit your pain is wearing.

In other words, the really perfect container for every single pain simply doesn’t exist: if you poke holes in the box for the living, breathing form your hurt might take, the pain will turn into tears, and soak all the Barbies and Legos you’ve stored below.

Thus, it’s important to remember that most of the following suggestions will only work for some of the forms your hurt might take. The trick is to try to anticipate which injury will become what, and select a vessel that is most likely to control for that variable. You may even want to combine some of the storage devices for the really rough stuff (example: for marital pain, you should probably create a sort of nesting doll of containers, because that shit often morphs, and always leaks).

Useful Storage Devices for Your Pain:

  • A Sturdy Mental Filing Cabinet. Make sure you label your files by perpetrator as well as pain, so in the unlikely event that you hurt someone else, you can quickly flip to the harm that person has done to you, and pull it out and wave it, triumphantly, around.
  • Shopping Bags from Expensive Stores. In order to get these, of course, you will need to go shopping, first. And buy things, preferably on someone else’s dime. Probably a lot of things, if you want to get big enough bags. Be sure to buy things you don’t really need, but that look so incredibly cute on you that you can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to hurt you again.
  • Your Computer. This device not only allows you to store your pain so you don’t have to carry it with you, but it creates excellent opportunities for you to transform it (for example, you could write a short story about it, and turn your pain into “fiction,” or maybe a blog post, in which you disguise your pain as “advice”). Caveat: remember, though, that mostly no one will read this stuff, and so you might be creating new pain even as you store the old. See “Sorting,” above.
  • Bottles of alcohol. Perfect for storing now and sharing later, though it’s true that pain, like hope, floats. Thus, you’ll need to drink a lot of that alcohol down before you can put anything else in the bottle. Vodka is preferable, but sometimes you need something hard and nasty, like cooking sherry, or maybe some of that Slivovitz from Passover, to really let the pain sink in before you bottle it up.
  • Your iPod. As with alcohol, storing your pain in this requires you to first empty some of the contents out, but this can be a win/win. Does your spine ache from hunching over your computer, sobbing while you write that “This is why you suck” email? Get up and do an angry dance while you release some of your songs! Good choices: Lily Allen’s “Fuck You” (Look inside/Look inside your tiny mind), or Florence & the Machine’s “Shake it Out” (and I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind/I can never leave the past behind).
  • Bottles of Cleaning Solution. Again, you will have to contract in order to expand, but here the payoff is immediate and obvious, and sometimes you even release some of your hurt while you’re spritzing the 409 around.
  • Make Yourself Bigger. This allows you to more easily contain the hurt if you can’t find anywhere else to store it. You can do this literally, via gummy bears or chocolate, or maybe pizza. Or you can do this metaphorically, by becoming an emotionally bigger person. This, in turn, will allow you to fill up with other, more useful emotions, like empathy and forgiveness, which are naturally so expansive that they tend to squish the nastier ones out.
  • A Low, Flat Box. Ultimately, this can be the best storage device for pain, because, when you find yourself hunting down your winter coat in mid-June and you stumble upon it, you can, as they say, get over it. And move on.

Time After Time

Listening to music isn’t just about hearing melodies and parsing lyrics, but about replaying the memories a song evokes. Just as a movie’s soundtrack can vividly summon its scenes (the way “Stuck In the Middle With You” can give you the Reservoir Dogs shudders, or “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” suggests that a fun thing to do after a funeral is wash dishes with the cast of The Big Chill), we retrieve little sensory blips of our lives each time we check out a song from our mental libraries.

That’s because, during the years that we’re actively accumulating new musical input, we’re storing along with those songs the people we were when we heard them. Each time I hear Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” for example, I cruise the Avenue once more with Lisa and Gitta and Sue, the windows of Lisa’s silver Camaro rolled down for the boys who are also cruising, until we all draw too near the stinky Quaker Oats plant, and roll them, swiftly, up. The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” takes me on a visit to my brother at Iowa State, where I slam-dance in his dorm room with his cute new friends. Whenever Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” plays, the air blues over with cigarette smoke and the smell of cashews heating in the Nut Hut of the bar I tended in college. Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” brings me home from grad school, where I shuffle around the house in rhinestone-encrusted sandals, singing “Diamonds on the TOPS of my shoes” until my mother suggests I take myself outside and see if there’s a neighbor I could also irritate.

As we age, however, we eventually stop listening to new music. Maybe we settle down with a partner of a different generation, and grow weary of arguing the merits of Elvis Costello over those of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Maybe we have children, and not only do we no longer switch on the radio, but we’re forbidden to sing any lyric that wasn’t first voiced by an imaginary animal. Maybe the technology shifts, and none of our REM cassettes works in the CD player of our new minivan.

By the time we return to ourselves for long enough to listen to music we’ve chosen again, we inevitably choose the music of our youth. The question, then, is why?

Well, partly because we already have it: we take all the brand new technology and use it to transfer our albums, cassettes, and even the stray CD we bought for that rare moment in the minivan when all three kids would fall asleep, to a miraculous place called an “iTunes library.” There, we discover a process called “shuffling,” which, like a manic DJ, arbitrarily arranges our old songs in fresh new ways, the Fine Young Cannibals chasing the Talking Heads until the Police show up and take them to the Queen.

But we also return to our music because we miss being the people we were when we heard it. Oh, sure, we’d like to be more current, but what a thrill it is to summon our pasts and twirl them around the room.

This phenomenon, as much as anything, explains why many of us feel a certain age in our heads that is jarringly distant from the age of our bones. For me, that age is, roughly, 27—just a little more than half the age I am right now. And while getting stuck in time is one of the ironic markers of advancing through it, there comes a point for all of us when we can simply no longer listen to the same ten songs, time after time, without longing for the lyrics, and their associations, to shift. Yes, girls just want to have fun, but what about middle-aged women who have once again torn the meniscus in their knee?

How do we get unstuck?

The answer: find some teenagers and give them the password to your iTunes account.

Yes, at first it will be unsettling to find artists you’ve never heard of, like Marina and the Diamonds or Mumford and Sons, jockeying for position with your beloved INXS, and you may be tempted to shake your fist at your computer and order Ed Sheeran and Regina Spektor, whoever the hell they are, to get off your iTunes lawn.

You could just keep hitting “skip” until the shuffle returns you to 1982, which is a fine place to live in your head, I suppose, if you’re still happy to have Ronald Reagan as your president, your term paper on Chaucer due tomorrow morning by 8am, and seven dollars left over after this month’s bills for the purchase of either beer or Ramen, but not both.

But if you do this, and if you have enough teenagers (say, for the sake of argument, that you have three), you’ll eventually find yourself skipping more music than you’re listening to (as well as marveling over the charges on your credit card). And while you are a relatively adaptable “old” and can almost determine, without adolescent help, how to make a playlist that includes only your 30 year-old songs, iTunes will change its location the very next day, and you will have to once more endure the whites of a teenager’s eyeballs when you ask her to show you where your playlist has gone.

Or you could give in, and listen.

Before you know it, you will have created brand-new memories to store with these new-to-you songs, like the beatific expression on your son’s face when you took him to see the stage adaptation of “Monkey: Journey to the West” in New York City, because now both of you really liked the animated band Gorrillaz.

Or the time you took your daughters to a pumpkin patch, even though they were way too old for that sort of thing. On the way you there, you listened to Florence and the Machine, and decided that “Dog Days are Over” would be an excellent song for one of those musical montage scenes they throw into movies to help zip you through the boring parts. Later, when the three of you found yourselves in the middle of the world’s lamest corn maze, you each started to sing the song, all at the same time, and though parents pulled their toddlers close, you were, magically and suddenly, having an excellent time.

Cage the Elephant will become your go-to band for running whenever your bum knee allows you to hit the street, and the lyrics to “In One Ear,” a song about how people don’t listen (it goes in one ear/and right out the other/people talkin’ shit but you know they never bother), resonate just as much for middle-aged mothers as they do for angry young members of bands.

Hozier’s “Like Real People Do” will be the haunting place you store your bewilderment and delight over finally finding, in mid-life, the kind of love the songs of your youth, endlessly, sought.

And while some of the songs might well take you back, as your old songs do, to the person you used to be, there’s something reassuring about returning to that place from a distance, with something approximating wisdom. Lourde, for instance, is the sort of artist I probably wouldn’t have listened to when I was her age (she’s only 18 at the time of this writing), because her music would have rebuked my desperate-to-fit-in teenaged self. But oh how valuable she is for the mother of teenaged girls now, reminding them that it’s okay to be “kinda over gettin’ told to throw [your] hands up in the air/so there.” That the concept of a “team” can be about supporting one another, instead of choosing up sides.

And then there’s Taylor Swift, or, as nobody likes to hear me call her, my girl Tay-Tay, who doesn’t so much remind me of the girl I used to be as represent the girl my inner 27 year-old would like to be and is trying to be as she becomes unstuck in time: buoyant. She’s aging quickly now, but even so, she “keep[s] cruisin’/Can’t stop, won’t stop groovin’.”

“It’s like [she’s] got this music/in [her] mind/sayin’ it’s gonna be all right.”

You Are Here

I woke up on my 53rd birthday a few weeks ago (no no, don’t worry–I’m not one of those sad little people who refuses a gift out of spite, just because it’s late) with a startling revelation: that I am a bad witch.

And while, as a bad witch, I can’t possibly have any idea what you’re thinking, I’ve drawn on my professional Know-It-All powers of Observation and Inference, and divined, from your muttered “Duh,” that you, on the other hand, are not at all surprised to learn this.

If so, that’s because you’re thinking about witches visually, in the Glinda sense, as in when she asks Dorothy, in what is probably the meanest moment in recently colorized cinema history, whether she is a good witch or a bad witch (even though, just seconds earlier, she had trilled her little booze-soaked laugh and assured her that only bad witches are ugly). So yes: if that is what you’re thinking, then you aren’t wrong.

Mean, but not wrong.

(And let’s just agree that this doesn’t help at all with your whole forgetting to buy me a present thing.)

But you’ve also totally missed the point: Yes, I am old and ugly, but these are not the only things that make me a bad witch.

Other signs and indications: lack of functioning crystal ball; tragic dearth of cat familiars; inability to cackle (seriously, I sound like a Muppet with a cold); and, most important: the fact that I woke up on my 53rd birthday, at all.

You see, I don’t know when it happened exactly, nor why, but at some point in my youth, I looked into my future and predicted that I would die at the age of 52. Maybe it was because I was experiencing a mid-life crisis in my 26th year, or maybe it was because 52 seemed like a completely plausible number for a reasonably elderly death, given my family history.

Also, obviously, I was a morbid twit.

More important, though, is the fact that in doing so, I was following the example my mother had set, and once again getting it wrong (see: MFA vs. MBA).

Fact: Somewhere in the 1960s, my mother, in a fit of boredom, took up the occult arts, housewife-style.

First she began reading palms, which was kind of a hoot, as well as an excellent party icebreaker. One cup of sake in and the adults, seated on cushions on the floor by our Japanese table, would stretch out their hands to my mother, beseeching her truths. “Good lord!” she’d say (because that’s the sort of thing good witches from Iowa utter). “I see at least two more children. And,” she’d say, tilting a potentially philandering hand to the light, “at least another wife.”

To be honest, I was none too pleased with my own reading, which pointed out the very clear break my lifeline made at its mid-point, squiggling foolishly toward my heart line when it was supposed to curve to my thumb and my far-off death. (Note: the Good Witch read this as an indication of how closely connected love and health would be for me; me, I was like: dying young? Got it.)

Then my mother took up handwriting analysis, poring over the swoops and curves of our jottings to prove intelligence, or sociopathy, or laziness, or (according to “Zolar,” author of Success at your Fingertips) the “fact” that illegible writing reflects a neurotic or even evasive nature (to which I say: fuck that. But never mind why).

Then she took up astrology, but the way she did it had nothing to do with the horoscopes you’d find in the Sunday paper (which, for you young people out there, was an early form of Buzzfeed). She did charts. She did graphs. She MAPPED that shit, starting with the moment that a person was born and looking up the alignments of the planets and moons and stars to find their houses (which were definitely cheaper then, though harder to search, without Zillow).

She pored through books that said things like “let us first consider sun transits to your natal sun” and contained page after page of some primitive form of Sodoku, but with squiggles. She’d fill these in with more squiggles, and then sit you down to tell you that in 1978, say, you’d experience some great personal crisis (and if anyone’s keeping track, let me just say that I’m still bitter about not making the football cheerleading squad).

And then she abruptly quit doing charts, though I wouldn’t find out why until years later. She switched to another kind of magic entirely, returning to school to get her MBA. And, because she was a good witch, as well as bewilderingly good at math, she got it.

Then, in 1983, about a week or so after my older brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, I found her in the kitchen one morning, staring into her cup of tea. I didn’t think much about it, since this staring into something for no reason, for hours, while whatever it was we were studying grew cold or dark or changed in no way at all, time passing, unmarked, across these narrow vistas of grief, was a practice we’d all suddenly taken up.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and joined her at the table, casting about the room for my own visual resting place before settling, finally, on our scorched toaster oven, which was full of a very interesting arrangement of crumbs. A few minutes passed, or maybe an hour, or maybe night had fallen, when it occurred to me that my mother might be doing something other than what I was, which was nothing.

“Are you reading it?” I asked.

She raised her vacant eyes to me. “What?”

“The tea. Are you reading the leaves?”

My mother reached into the cup and pulled out a tea bag and set it, with its withered Lipton label, on our plastic tablecloth.

“Oh,” I said. “Right. You can’t read a tea bag.”

“Anyway,” she said, her voice raspy from lack of use. “I don’t do that anymore.”

I can’t remember her exact words from there (and truth to tell, I don’t even remember the ones I’ve recounted already, though I’m pretty sure this is how it went), but she preceded to tell me why it was she had stopped all the occult stuff so abruptly, so many years before: she had looked into the future and found her own death.

Which was supposed to have taken place, according to her chart, just about a week ago, give or take or a few days.

“I thought it was mine,” she said. “But I was wrong. It was Tommy’s.”

But here’s the thing: even though she lived another twenty years or so from that day at the table, she was still right: much of my mother’s spirit fled with my brother’s, to wherever it was it had gone when it left his body the week before.

So even though I consulted no chart or graph or mystic rune when I arrived at my own death prediction half my life ago, I still broke a sweat when I realized that that was exactly what I was doing: peering into my future and seeing its end. Or seeing a future in which something catastrophic would, if not end my life, then at least strip it of reasons for wanting to live it.

As the daughter of a witch, I knew there was a savage land just south of coincidence that you could find if you used the right maps; as the daughter of a witch who’d lost her son, I knew it was a place you could manifest, whether or not it was really there.

Which is one of the reasons I have been loath to post this. For weeks now I have pasted this into my blog and then deleted it, as fearful as any other daughter of a witch of the imprecision of vision, and as appreciative as any other middling writer of the spells that irony can cast.

But after learning this weekend that a step-cousin has entered hospice at the age of 34, and that an Aunt-in-law (and friend) has died at the age of 58, what I find myself mostly taking away from the fact that I woke at 53 and discovered that once again, I had failed to follow the example my mother had set, is: relief.

Yes, I am a bad witch. I’m an even worse accountant. And while I may not ever be able to understand how it is that north can be a fixed place, when, if you turn a map upside down, it’s now clearly on the bottom, I don’t have to be a good witch to know that if I start walking, I will, eventually stop.

I am going to die. We are all going to die. Until then, waking up glad that you haven’t is a damn good way to start your day. Particularly if most of the things in life that make it worth living—your loved ones, your shelves of books, that vase of yellow flowers, your seven or eight couches, the sun, rising, like a witch, in the east—are still here.

(Except your birthday presents. Which are bound to show up, if you just wait a bit.)

Non, Je Ne Gret Rien (Nor Am I Planning to Gret Again)

Let me just say this straight out: Yes, it is exhausting to be a professional Know-It-All. From the moment I wake, people are always seeking my advice, asking me complicated, intricate questions like “What time is it, anyway?” and “Seriously, 3:15 a.m.?” and “Why the fuck don’t you ever sleep?

And it only gets worse as the day goes on, with inquiries ranging from the mathematical (“Why would you put two water bottles in my lunch, but no sandwich?”) to the philosophical (“Mother of God, are your eyes full of blood?”).

Thus, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when my new sister-in-law (whom I’ll call “Budith,” to protect her privacy) (and because it’s a really fun word to say!) (No really, say it: Budith! Budith!) (Like a tiny, adorable little religion!–

–Wait.

Where was I?

(<–Inside this?

Or no, maybe outside this–>) ?

(Fuck it. Let’s start over.)

Thus, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when my new sister-in-law, “Budith,” who is months away from her own second marriage, asked me last week for some important wedding advice. Specifically, she wanted to know whether there was anything about my wedding to her brother, um, “Back,” that I regret.

Now as an expert, professional Know-It-All, it’s my job to figure out when to take a question seriously (hint: no swears or exclamation marks). Clearly, this was a serious question that deserved some serious pondering before I could even attempt to answer it. So I sat myself down at my Know-It-All desk and pondered about it, really hard.

Really, really hard.

Then I closed my eyes, for just a second, because, as every professional Know-It-All knows, closing your eyes helps with your,

um,

thinking stuff.

And also your pondering stuff, as well.

So I closed my eyes and pondered really hard, and when I woke up finished, I poured myself a cup of coffee, drank it, and suddenly knew, with certainty, two very important things: 1) that there wasn’t a single detail about my wedding to “Back” that I regret, because I never gretted anything about it in the first place, and 2) oh my God, you guys, you have to try adding vanilla syrup to your coffee, because it’s an uhMazing burst of flavorosity that allows you to just drink, like, twice the amount of coffee you would have had drunk drinken dranken before!

But then I thought: Heather, please! (and not just because I am naturally polite, but because every professional Know-It-All knows that you must treat others as you would treat yourself, and that goes double for when the others are you): you can’t tell Ju–, you mean, “Budith,” that you wouldn’t change a thing, because she’ll think you’re not taking her question seriously enough!

But then, what am I gonna do? I asked myself, and my reply didn’t surprise me, because both of us are professional Know-It-Alls (though one of us is obviously better at our work, since she wasn’t all “Oh boo-hoo, help me, what am I gonna do?”).

The answer was obvious: Make something up.

And then I laughed at myself, because clearly I was kidding. Professional Know-It-Alls can go to jail for that shit.

No, I knew that what I really meant was that it was time for what is, besides Shark Repellent, the most important tool available on a professional Know-It-All’s utility belt: Comparison/Contrast.

Because while there wasn’t anything I could think of about my second wedding that I would go back and change if I could, there were at least a shmajillion things about my first that I would have altered even as they were taking place! Thus, it struck me that I might be able to arrive at a regret about my second wedding by reviewing the many things I have gretted and regretted about the first, for years!

I started by breaking them down into categories, because as every professional Know-It-All knows, bold print helps you to stay awake organize your thoughts. So, without further ado (but with plenty of “I do!”), here is the list I came up with.

The list with which I came up.

Fuck.

Here is the list. Of stuff.

  1. Stupid Stuff. At my second wedding, we didn’t really have a wedding party, so we never told anyone what to wear. At my first, however, we made people wear tuxes. For an afternoon wedding! With a reception on a llama farm! On the Fourth of July! In Wisconsin, during tornado season! Which is, if you think about it, a terrible spice!
  2. Really Stupid Stuff. While we had rabbis officiating at both ceremonies, my first wedding was actually a half-Jewish/half-Quaker ceremony, even though one of us was neither of these things! Thus, while my second wedding ceremony took about 25 minutes, my first went on for twelve years in 100-degree heat in an un-airconditioned synagogue full of people who wanted to talk during the Quaker time while they sweated through their tuxes!
  3. Really, Really Stupid Stuff. At my second wedding, we didn’t even have a guest book, but at the first, we thought it would be a great idea to have everyone attending sign our kettubah! And, because we wanted to have the fanciest Jaker (Quewish?) kettubah of all, we put out an actual ink bottle with an actual quill pen, so people could sign it in an extra fancy way, just before joining the reception line! And even though the first reception line was luckily canceled by the tornado siren that went off just as we were forming it, who here can guess what got all over my actual wedding dress when the all-clear was sounded and we came up from the basement and everyone signed and lined up to hug us again? Just guess, just go ahead, just guessitty guess!
  4. Hang on. Hafta pee.
  5. And also get more coffee.
  6. Okay, I’m back! I’m back backetty BACK!
  7. Stupendously Stupid Stuff. Whereas, at my second wedding, the caterers served appetizers and drinks before the ceremony even started, so that guests wouldn’t get all cranky and anxious as the vows were going down, at my first wedding, you had to wait out three tornado evacuations before driving for twenty-five minutes from the synagogue to the llama farm, and even though the caterers had gone ahead and set out not only the appetizers, but the main course and the dessert all at the same time, at least an hour before everyone arrived, in 100-degree heat, they put all the food away about ten minutes after everyone was seated, and hid the champagne because they wanted to go home because did I mention that it was the Fourth of July? Which is a monumentally—hang on, let’s jump down a ‘graph!
  8. Monumentally Stupid Stuff. –which is a monumentally stupid day on which to get married, because just go ahead and try to go out to a restaurant and have a romantic celebration of your anniversary, I dare you, just try, especially if you mark the first one by having your water break (and then go to the hospital, where they evacuate everyone except for the laboring moms-to-be, because, did I mention, tornado season? And oh no, I’m inside another parentheses and now I don’t know how to get

) out!

out(!

out!).

Okay. Okay! That was scary, but we’re all right now. Let’s have another little cup of coffee and carry on, shall we?

  1. Fuck.
  2. Which One of You Dranken All the Coffee Up?
  3. Which One of You Dranken Up All the Coffee?
  4. As a PROFESSIONAL Know-It-ALL, I Guarangoddamntee That I Will Pretty Soon Figure it Out, So You Might as Well Go Ahead and Confess Now, and Save Us the Trouble (Not to Mention the Heartache of What is Pretty Clearly Going Oh My GOD I Forgot to Close That Last Parenthesis and Now We’ll Never Get Back to My, Um, Threat-thingie, Whatever it

was goooo—oh-oh-oh-ing toooo–ooh

 

Oh, hello there! You’re still here. I was worried you might have left while I was threatening pondering with my eyes closed. Aaaanyway, where were we?

Oh, right: regrets.

Look, as a professional Know-It-All, I could go on for years about the many things that were wrong about that first wedding, but I think we’ve all overlooked a very important reason as to why I should not: I’m too fucking tired I’m not getting paid.

But I think even an amateur Know-It-All could have probably figured out, thanks to the skillful application of Comparison/Contrast, the greatest gret I do have about my first wedding (one that I have gretted and gretted, again and again, for years): the date.

No? You thought I was going to say the groom?

AMATEUR!

Clearly, you’ve forgotten that this advice was specifically intended for Budith!

Who, and I’m just guessing here, probably doesn’t really want to marry her brother, “Back.”

Nope: my one big gret about my first wedding is that, instead of getting married on July 4th, 1994, we should have gotten married, um, never (provided, of course, that we still managed to have each and every one of our eleventy kids, and that each turned out exactly as they are now, despite the fact that some of them would be freakishly tall and/or inexplicably un-blue-eyed, given their parentage).

Because oddly enough, the only real gret I can come up with about my second wedding is also the date: instead of getting married on September 29th, 2013, we should have gotten married earlier.

Much earlier.

By, say, maybe twenty or twenty-five years.

(That’s it. I’m not taking any more questions at this time.)(Not even about the Shark Repellent.){Or about how Budith is supposed to make use of this advice. And oh my God what fresh hell of a punctuation is this ->[<-, and how will I ever, ever get

Are You Okay, Blog? You Look…Tired.

taylor swiftUma Thurman

Me? No, I’m fine.

Are you sure? Because you’ve got that thing going, on your masthead? You know, like, just below where it says “Meanopause,” there’s like, this, divot?

What, that?

Uh huh. Like a worry divot, maybe, or, like, from frowning?

That’s just some dirt on your screen or something.

Okay, but also, it’s just lately, you don’t, I don’t know, seem like yourself.

Oh? Like who do I seem?

There—right there, that’s a perfect example! The old blog would have said, “Like whom do I seem?” The old blog would have been all–

Wait. You’re complaining because I’m not pretentious enough for you?

Um. I mean, kinda?

LOL.

I—I just, what? Did you just L-O-L me?

Do you literally see someone else here?

Okay. Okay, let me ask you this: what am I thinking?

How’m I supposed to know?

[sputtering] Because you, you, like, hooked my brain up to the microwave and now you can read my thoughts on the timer display or whatever, or like, you’re having me followed by telepathic rabbits or—I mean, go back and read yourself! You used to always “know” what I was thinking!

I don’t get it.

And where IS everyone, anyway? Where’s the ghost, and your college boy, and those girls you can’t tell apart, and that Jack, whom you call “Jack” like it’s not his name, even though it ISN’T?

Dude, can you even hear yourself?

The rumors are true, aren’t they?

Rumors?

That’s NOT a divot, is it? Oh my God, you’re—you’re tranSITioning!

You know, you kinda sound like a hater.

You’re having blog reassignment surgery!

That is a sick beat™, dude.

That’s not what that means! You don’t even know what that means! Quick: rhyme something for me.

“Play, play, play.”

That’s not rhyming. That’s repeating.

Fine: “Hate, hate, hate, shake, shake, shake.”

STOP IT! You’re 52 years old! You do know that you can’t just reassign yourself into Taylor Swift, right? Have you seen Uma Thurman’s botched blog?

It wasn’t botched. She just stopped using as many adjectives.

The whole point of Meanopause was to talk about aging with grace and humor, and to give the world a glimpse into how our lives’ second acts can be just as happy, even bewilderingly happier, than our first! You’re not Madonna—you don’t have to wrap up your assets in fishnets!

But they leave such cool diamond-shaped imprints on your paragraphs!

It’s February 13th, and not only did you never finish your Christmakkah poem, but now you don’t even have a loving Valentine post for your readers!

I think you mean “readers.” Or maybe “reader(s).”

The point is, I think you’re getting a little too caught up in youth culture. Face it: you don’t belong on sites like Tumblr. Do you have any idea how many Es you typically use in a single sentence, let alone an entire blog post?

Probably a lot.

Although, so far, not any.

Wow, still not any.

I could probably go on and on without using any.

Such as how I’m not using any right now, at all.

Are you done?

Ha! You can’t do it.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that you already have a bunch of kids. You don’t need to be one.

No, but THAT’S JUST IT. As of tomorrow, I’m down to one.

You’re getting rid of all your kids except one? What a great idea! Think of all the money you’ll save! Which one will you keep? Oooh, wait, let us help you choose! We could make it a contest, and whichever kid gets the most votes—

No no no. One of my girls is turning 18 tomorrow.

Which one? The one who was looking for the other one in the mall last week, and saw herself in a mirror and thought she’d found the other one?

No, the other one. With the wavy hair.

Oh. For real?

Yep.

Oh.

And last night, she was making cupcakes to hand out to her friends at school today?

She was making cupcakes to give her friends? For her own birthday?

Yep. And her sister was helping, and Taylor Swift was blasting, and the room was glowing with this pretty warm orange color we’d painted it last week, and my tiny little almost-18 year-old said something about how this was the last birthday she’d be spending with us, since she’d be away at college this time next year.

Wait: her birthday’s tomorrow? On Valentine’s Day?

Yep. So I got to thinking about the Valentine’s post I was writing, which was all sort of mushy and gushy and about how I can’t imagine ever being happier than I am right now, and how every time I think that, it turns out I’m wrong, and I thought: but what if, this time, I’m right? What if this is as good as it gets?

And?

And I looked at my tiny little almost-18 year-old daughter and remembered the Valentine’s day she was born, and how my mother lifted my 18-month old son onto the hospital bed so that he could kiss his brand-new sister, and I remembered thinking the exact same thing that day.

The thing about how what if this is as good as it gets?

Yep. And thinking, last night, well, in a way, that was as good as it got. Because my mother’s been gone a long time. And thinking how terribly, terribly sad it is to get old.

Okay, but what about the other one?

The other what?

The other daughter. The one with the straight hair. She wasn’t even born yet that day, so how could it possibly have been the happiest you could get? Plus, not to mention, where was “Jack”?

Huh.

I mean, it sounds like he wasn’t even there last night, right? And your son’s already gone off to college?

Wait, so are you trying to say that happiness is elastic, and that I should quit trying to measure it because it’s always changing shape? That the advancement of time is as much about gain as it is about loss?

No. Actually, I don’t even get what you mean by that.

Yeah, me either. It’s like the poem says: “I’m just gonna shake shake shake shake shake, shake it off. Shake it off.”

Happy Valentine’s day, Blog.

Happy Valentine’s day, Disembodied and Unidentified Voice. And to all the Meanopauses and the extended Meanopause fambly. And to “all” the Meanopause “reader(s).” And to Uma Thurman, who, quite frankly, looks beautiful now. And happy birthday, Baby Girl.

Summary of Important Changes to Our Privacy Policy

contract images

Summary of Important Changes to Our Privacy Policy

 

As of January 23st, 2015, MEANopause™ has revised its Privacy Policy.

This summary is meant to help you understand how these important changes may affect you in the upcoming months.

Section 1 — Introduction

  • To the paragraph that begins “We recognize that some stories . . . [are] simply too painful and/or embarrassing to tell,” we add the following: “but this has limited our readership and chilled the writing process, so we’re totally going to tell everything from now on, especially if it’s not about us (such as participation in a cult, or how your parents used to call you ‘Cutie Buttons’).”

Section 1.6 — Cell Phone Usage

  • We note that we use automatic scanning technology to detect malware, spam texts, and group communications about upcoming parties and/or street gatherings that may include consumption of substances not approved in our Addendum 4.75JSN.

Section 2.5 — Third-Party Usage

  • After the words “depersonalize plugin impression data,” we include the following: “If you have more than two (‘2’) parties in one (‘1’) weekend, we reserve the right to remove one (‘1’) or both (‘connecting to bathroom’) bedroom door(s).” [see Code FFjlc, “Privacy is a privilege, Anna.”]

Section 3.4 — Cookies

  • If we find cookies in your room, we will eat* them.

*Unless they have gluten.** In which case we will read your journal and/or go through your Google history.

**See attached for list of commercial Cookies that exclude gluten, as well as links to gluten-free cookie recipes.

Section 11ty.1 — Location Data

  • We clarify that we may use your location data for fraud prevention and security purposes, as well as for teenager detection and retrieval and/or verification that you cannot, in fact, stop at the grocery store on your way home because you are at a “meeting.”

C Section — Scars

  • So? Let’s see YOU wear a bikini after you’ve had a couple of them.

Section 5.4 — Your Obligations

  • We deleted this section because it was redundant.

Section 6.9 — Definitions

  • We added the following definition: “Redundant means no longer needed or useful; superfluous.”

Section 6.9.a — More Definitions

  • We added the following definition: “Superfluous means extraneous.”

Section 6.9.a.A — Oh My God Just Look It Up

  • Hint: it means pretty much the same thing as “Redundant,” which means that yes, you are still obligated to turn your clothes right-side-out before putting them in the hamper, as well as to scrape off and rinse all dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.

Section 6.9.a.A — I Can’t Stress This Enough

  • You do not ever — EVER — put your tableware back in the drawer, because I guarantee you will have forgotten that you did, in fact, use your knife to spread butter on your bread, and now I swear to God you have spread butter on all the other knives in the drawer for not the first, not the second, but the third [edited for space considerations].

Section 18005559878 — Sharing Information with Third Parties

  • Okay, so this isn’t really a section. It’s a phone number. Whose phone number is it? We don’t know. We could dial it ourselves and find out, but our new privacy policy dictates that you tell us. Because it looks like one of those chat line numbers from twenty years ago, and we cannot afford to “accidentally” call a long-distance number from twenty years ago unless it’s absolutely necessary, which, thanks to our new privacy policy, it is not.

Section 18005559878.1 — Why are you on a chat line twenty years ago, though?

  • Are you talking about the O.J. Simpson trial, or something?

Section 8 — Housing

  • What you will be applying for if we find out* you lied about whoever it was you called on that number that looks like a chat line number from twenty years ago.

* By calling it. Duh.

Section 11ty1 — Rights to Access, Correct, or Delete Your Information, and Closing Your Account

  • After the words “Ha ha, you make us laugh. LOL. JK!” add the following: “Not.”

Click to ___ Accept or ___ Accept Changes

By clicking “Accept,” you agree to all of the preceding changes, as well as to forgoing arbitration in the event of a dispute and just admitting that I’m right. Again

If you do not click either “Accept” or “Accept,” then MEANopause™ reserves the right to nag you about it until you do.

Hey Blog, Bae, Where You Been?

texters

Hello and Happy New Year from the corporate offices of Meanopause™, here on the icy banks of the River of Trucks that are Always Blocking my Driveway!

We hope you’ve had a very happy holiday, and that you weren’t too inconvenienced by our recent outages. We’ll be up and running weekly again by the end of the month, but first we wanted to tell you about some exciting new changes we’ll be rolling out at Meanopause™ in 2015, including the following:

–adjustments to our Privacy Policy;

–the purchase of our seventh (7th!) couch (we’re thinking fuchsia, or maybe magenta);

–some restructuring of personnel (I’m lookin’ at you, Expo Fairy, along with whoever it was who left half a muffin in the giant tupperware container on the counter);

–a shift in product focus from wedding dress to college applications;

–and, best of all, the opening of a brand-new franchise outlet on Tumblerrr (Tumbllr? Tumbrrr?), along with a brand-new emphasis on youth culture and all it entails (including a switch from R.E.M. to Taylor Swift songs for our hold music)!

That’s right, bitchez, Meanopause is shifting from freak to fleak (or maybe fleek? Our intern is taking an Algebra final, so we’re not really sure)!

What does this mean for you, our “audience”?

First of all, over the next few weeks, you can expect to see up to 50% less rhyming, as well as the complete elimination of dairy milk in our chocolate coating!

Also, we’ve gone paperless–

(Text. Sorry. Hang on.)

Anyway, so: also, we’ve gone paperless! In the bathroom! So you’re probably gonna wanna swing by Target before you visit the corporate office (and maybe pick up some Conversation Hearts or something, because the Christmas ribbon candy is all fused to the Hanukkah plate).

In addition, there will be sweeping changes to our shotgun policy, which will shift from a “turn” system to more of a meritocracy, in that it will reward best hair or outfit days.

We have created a list of words and phrases that are no longer acceptable in the workplace, including “chores,” “smoochy-smoochy,” and “where are my keys,” and will soon be instituting a cost-of-living increase to our allowance that more accurately reflects the price of thrice-weekly bubble teas and pumpkin lattes.

Finally, we’ll be tweaking our logo so that it is more in keeping with our youthful image.

Thanks for your continuing patronage from all of us here at MEANopause™! Our new–

(sorry. Text)

Wait, what? Oh, right, right. Our new motto?

We know what you’re thinking, but we don’t really care!

Forensic Guiles, Cont. (Sort Of)

elf arrest

Actual Ghost: Hey guys, long time no see!

Exposition Fairy: Ha! That’s what she said.

Actual Ghost: I’m sorry, what?

Exposition Fairy: That’s what she said.

Actual Ghost: I’m not following you.

Exposition Fairy: Great! I’m not going anywhere.

Actual Ghost: No, I mean, I don’t get it. That’s what who said, and what did they say?

Exposition Fairy: No.

Actual Ghost: Mmmokay?

Exposition Fairy: No, I am not doing this. This is not my job.

Actual Ghost: Seriously, I have no idea what you’re—

Exposition Fairy: I am an exposition fairy, NOT an explanation fairy. If you cannot understand a simple joke wherein an innocent comment, e.g.: “That went quicker than I expected,” is made to sound salacious by a rejoinder that suggests that a sexual partner uttered the phrase, then I cannot help you. My job is simply to magically appear and, through stilted dialogue, summarize events that would otherwise take pages and pages of scenes to reveal.

Actual Ghost: That’s your job?

Exposition Fairy: And also harmony on any vocals, but yes, that is my job.

Actual Ghost: But I mean, you should so do that. Like, right now. Because it’s been four weeks since the last post, and we still have no idea who Heather’s other ex-boyfriend was and why he was on “Forensic Files,” and it’s already Hanukkah, it’s practically Christmas, the boy is home from college and the workmen we booked months ago are all suddenly showing up at once, hoping to earn some holiday cash, drilling and banging and making us move the same stupid lamp seventeen times, and people are too busy returning the cashmere sweater they bought for their vegan stepdaughter to read anything more than a bitter Facebook meme about Elf on the Shelf, am I right?

People: Like the one where he’s got a wad of dollar bills, and he’s watching Barbie pole dance on a paper-towel holder?

Actual Ghost: See? That one doesn’t even have any words.

Exposition Fairy: I see your point. But I must warn you: my winter break begins in exactly seventeen minutes, after which time I am forbidden by my union to summarize any stor–

Bookshelf Workman: [noise like a dentist’s drill, but with percussion]

Actual Ghost: What?

Exposition Fairy: —tales, or events until the stroke of mid—

Window Workman with Earring: Ma’am, would you mind moving that lamp so I can access the windows in the tv room?

Exposition Fairy: —ember 31st. Is that clear?

Actual Ghost: Well, not exac—

Closet Workman #4: Wow, that’s a cool lamp, with all them, what are those, Japanese, Chinese, like whattayinz call ‘em?

Exposition Fairy: [sighing]: Sorry, not gonna tell you. Not that kind of fairy. Do you want to hear the story, or not?

People: Is it really long? Because we have to go to the mall to return a sweater.

Bookshelf Workman: [pounding like a hammer, but with sorrow]

Window Workman Who Doesn’t Seem to Do Any Work, Ever: I wanna hear the story!

Exposition Fairy: Swell. But now I only have sixteen minutes, so I’m not going to stop again. [Clears throat.] Okay, so when last we saw Heather, she had just bid farewell to her husband after they’d watched a Forensic Files episode about a murderer who just happened to share the name and nationality of one of Heather’s many ex-boyfriends. Happily, though, the murderer turned out not to—

“Jack”: Wait, “many”? What do you mean, “many”?

Closet Workman #4: Weren’t yinz listening? She’s not that kind of fairy!

Window Workman with Earring: Exposition, Dude. Not explanation.

Exposition Fairy: —only to discover, in the very next episode, the image of a man she actually had dated. As it happened, this was the boyfriend she had dated in—

Closet Workman #2: Ma’am, the water guy is here to read your meter.

People: That seems kind of gratuitous, even to us.

Water Guy: Yeah, but what you gonna do? I’m as real as everyone else, except for maybe that Fairy.

Window Workman with Earring: Not cool, dude.

Actual Ghost: No, I think he means the Exposition Fairy.

Water Guy: Gah! Who said that?

Bookshelf Workman: [All the tortured souls of a tiny nation expiring at once, but with sawdust]

Exposition Fairy: –who was pretty recognizable, because he was very, very—

Closet Workman #1: Well, I’m no expert, but I do believe most water meters can be found outside of an establishment, so I’m not sure why you would need to come in the house. But what do I know? I didn’t even know that cashmere was a kind of meat.

Exposition Fairy: –which is why he had seemed familiar to her in the first place. She shrieked, stopped the DVR, went back to the image, and froze it. Without question, this was–

Son Home From College: What’s all the noise down here? I was trying to sleep!

Window Workman with Earring: Dude, it’s like, 1:15 in the after–

Actual Ghost: Careful, don’t trip over the—

Son Home From College: Fuck! Who put that lamp here?

Exposition Fairy: in fact, she had even seen him wearing that very shirt. The memory of it floated back to her, along with his scent, which was an odd combination of lentils and—

“Jack”: I don’t think we need to know this. Does anyone think we need to know this?

Closet Workman #4: Nah. I mean, I dahn’t, ya gnaw I mean?

Daughter With the Straight Hair: I feel like I’m not getting enough attention in this post.

Daughter With the Wavy Hair: That’s because you’re not even here. You’re at school. We’re at school. We’re the only people who aren’t in the house.

Daughter With the Straight Hair: Then why is Jack—I mean, “Jack,” in the house?

“Jack”: Me? Oh. Well, I just dropped by to get, umm, a tie.

Daughter With the Wavy Hair: So you could…go back to work? Where you weren’t wearing one?

Daughter With the Straight Hair: This story doesn’t make any sense. Why would you–

Exposition Fairy: –a terrible dancer. But in the video–

Bookshelf Workman: [drill noise, drill noise, swift, staccato hammering, drill noise; faint smell of smoke]

Exposition Fairy: –until she realized that she didn’t even know what crime this particular episode was about. She clicked “play” and let the story resume, her heart—

Window Workman Who Doesn’t Seem to Do Any Work, Ever: Ma’am, would it be okay if I used your bathroom?

Son Home From College: Question: do we have enough cashmere left over for sandwiches?

Stepdaughter Home From College: Okay, knock it off.

Heather’s Friend Many: Hi, I heard someone was asking about me, before.

“Jack”: Oh, sorry, no, I said “many,” not “Many.”

Exposition Fairy: –but as far as she could tell, no one had died. Then, suddenly, his image reappeared, this time—

Closet Workman #3: Yo, it’s occupied! Can ya knock?

Let’s Just Call Him Window “Work”man: Whoa. Sorry, man.

Water Guy: Ma’am, could you come outside? Technically, I’m not allowed in the house.

Closet Workman #1: But what if the water meter is located inside of the premises, as they sometimes are?

Window “Work”man: Heh heh. That’s what she said.

Son Home From College: That doesn’t make any sense. That isn’t, in any way–

Exposition Fairy: –as the car drove by. According to the announcer, arrests were—

Closet Workman #5: Could somebody please move this lamp so I can access the hallway?

People: Shut up. Five closet workmen? Nobody’s going to believe that.

Closet Workman #2: Oh, and I suppose you don’t need extra money for the holidays? My kid wants that Elf on the Shelf.

Bookshelf Workman’s Wife, Who Helps Him Carry Stuff Because He Can’t Afford to Hire Extra Workmen, I Guess?: Oh I love that Elf! Isn’t he just the cutest thing? Did you see the one where the little Lego figures have him tied down like that, whosit? That giant, I want to say, Oliver?

Window Workman with Earring: Gulliver?

Exposition Fairy: –to the FBI for testing. Shockingly, the strain—

Bookshelf Workman: [drilling noise, drilling noise, thwap thwap thwap, drilling noiiise]

Heather’s Friend Many: I like your tie, Jack! That’s a pretty color.

Daughter With the Wavy Hair: Wait, he’s wearing one?

Daughter With the Straight Hair: Don’t ask me. I’m in Spanish class.

Daughter With the Wavy Hair: Then why are you texting? Levenson will kill you if she catches you.

Daughter With the Straight Hair: I’m not!

Daughter With the Wavy Hair: Then, how are we talking to each other?

Daughter With the Straight Hair: No clue.

Son Home From College: I think it’s like, there are so many people in the house right now that Mom’s just kind of manifesting extra ones, accidentally.

Daughter With Wavy Hair: Daniel, is that you? What are you doing up? It’s only 1:30.

Exposition Fairy: –which is how forensic science played an important role in uncovering the plot. As to whether he–

Bookshelf Workman: [crashing noise, as of a lamp decorated with kanji]

Closet Workman #4: That’s it! That’s what they’re called, them Chinese letters!

Son Home From College: Actually, although they’ve been appropriated from the Chinese, “kanji” is a Japanese term used to describe the modern writing system used in—

Water Guy: Ma’am? There’s a policeman outside, asking to speak to somebody name of Jack?

Window “Work”man: Whoa, somebody’s got some explainin’ to do.

Window Workman With Earring: Whatever you do, do NOT ask that Fairy.

Exposition Fairy: –the world, and Heather, will never know. But she wondered, as she clicked off the television, whether this was the last of her many boyfriends that would appear on the program. Aaand: that’s it. I am officially on break. Happy Holidays, y’all.

Heather’s Friend Many: Wait: did she say “many boyfriends,” or “Many boyfriends”?

Actual Ghost: Ha! That’s what did she say.

Daughter With the Straight Hair: I don’t get it.

People: That’s it? I waited around for that? Do you realize how crowded the mall is going to be right now?

Bookshelf Workman: [drilling noise, drilling noise, drilllllllling noise, driiiiiiiillllling nooooiiiiiise, driLLLLLLLLLLLING NOIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISe]