Yesterday I saw someone put salt in his coffee. At first, I thought, “maybe he thinks it’s sugar.” But that made no sense, since it came right out of a big box labeled “SALT.” I’ve never once seen someone add that particular mineral to their morning brew. Was he confused? Did he do it for the shock value, waiting to see how I’d respond? Is it a way for him to cut down on his potato chip intake?
I was too in awe to ask him, so now I’ll never know. It will just have to stay with me as one of life’s great mysteries, along with the location of my missing socks and why I only ever have to pee once I leave my house.
My coworker recently asked me to be on her podcast. She wanted a big group of us to share a few lines of advice that we’d tell our younger selves. She gave me lots of time to prepare, but I obviously forgot about it and had to make something up at the last minute. In the moment, I felt like I was overcome with important guidance, but I wasn’t sure it was the kind she wanted to record. Here are a few things that initially came to mind:
- If you’re at a sketchy restaurant, do not order the salad.
- If you can’t walk to and from your closet in those shoes, you will not be able to walk to and from the club.
- If you really want to eat a piece of pie, a carrot is never going to satisfy.
In the end, I decided she probably wanted something a little more Oprah-like. She held up her phone and I said, “Be kind to yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend. If you wouldn’t say something to her face, don’t say it to the mirror.” She was very impressed, which is what happens when you channel Oprah while speaking. That and you go bankrupt promising gifts you can’t afford to strangers.
I have short hair—so short that my stylist pulls out the buzzer when I sit in the chair. The second most common thing people say to me about it is “What does your husband think of your hair?” I respond to them in one of three ways:
- Nothing. He thinks nothing about it. Because he’s been in a coma for seven months.
- Well, he has a compulsive hair pulling condition, so it’s an unfortunate measure we have to take as a couple for my protection.
- He think it’s great, because he wants to make sure strangers get the opportunity to ask me uncomfortable and sexist questions.
Luckily, the most common thing I hear about my cut is “Whoa, your hairstyle is so badass. You must be a super fly chick who makes unconventional but awesome choices.” Because I say that to myself in the mirror every morning.
Nearly every day Dave and I walk to the metro together in the morning. It’s just a two block trip and the walk has become a lovely routine. I forget to shut our gate, Dave pulls it closed, we step over the garbage some high schoolers have dropped, and turn the corner. We comment on the excessive decor of our neighbor’s home, walk over a big crack in the sidewalk, and avoid an unruly bush. We stop at the mini-library and don’t pick up anything. We check out the garden that the house full of rehabilitating felons never tends. We wait for a break in traffic, say hello to the man handing out newspapers at the Metro station, and then head down the escalator. We could probably do it all with our eyes closed.
But since that would add an unnecessary level of danger to the journey, we decided to try a less drastic way to spice things up. Well, we didn’t so much decide as we just accepted one random circumstance. Specifically, we saw a sign in front of our house that forced us to move our car, so we did. We parked it around the corner and walked to the metro on the opposite side of the street.
At first, this seemed like no big deal. Then we started to realize that everything was different. We peered down the alley where we’d seen a guy being chased by the police one morning and we heard the voices of construction workers at a home being remodeled. We got an up close look at a house that’s normally hidden behind big wooden planks. We were both thrown by the change that just 30 feet made.
It was like a whole new world. I only wish we’d taken the opportunity to break into song like Aladdin and Jasmine.
Today I saw a ghost on my couch. It was four centimeters in diameter and furry—obviously a bug in its past life, coming back to haunt me. I immediately scooted over to the other cushion to avoid any possible ghost-bug possession. It was the perfect size to crawl into my ear and eat my brain. At second glance, I noticed it wasn’t moving. This gave me some confidence and I investigated further. Turns out, it was a ball of white lint. So we’re safe. For now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the crisis in Flint. I’ve felt what most of us have—disappointment in our leaders’ skewed priorities, sadness over the struggles this poisoning will cause for families in the city, and anger that a solution will take too long for those who need it. It’s easy to fall into those feelings, to get frustrated and forlorn about it all.
Then today I read an article about 300 union plumbers who spent the weekend in Flint installing water filters for residents for free. This story struck me because these people feel like my people. They’re who I come from. Not just because I was born of the mitten, but because nearly all the men in my life as a child were tradesmen, builders, and mechanics—my dad, my uncles, my almost-uncles. I didn’t know people hired experts to fix their house or car until I was a teenager. I thought your dad just did it. And if he couldn’t do it alone, he’d get a friend to help. I grew up around construction sites, saws roaring and hammers pounding. I learned to wear closed-toed shoes and to be careful where you walk. But most importantly, I learned that when something needs to be done, you do it. You don’t wait to be told it has to happen and you definitely don’t stall until you find out what you’ll get in return.
The politics of this situation run deep. There’s no easy solution to its root or its result. It’s important to elect responsible, selfless officials and to remove ones that create dangerous and harmful circumstances. But sometimes that gets complicated. People get a few too many steps removed and it muddies up the remedy. It’s not complicated to help your neighbor. It’s not complicated to bring forward what you have in a time of need. I’m proud that these unnamed workers are doing what they can, without orders or payment or reward, to help strangers. I’m proud to come from that stock.
I don’t have a joke here. I’m just going to try and sit with that notion for awhile.
When I was growing up, we had a wonderful, smelly, sweet, dumb dog named Sage. She was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which meant she was built to hunt ducks and never get cold. She was deathly afraid of birds, so she couldn’t fulfill that particular calling, but she could brave our freezing Michigan temperatures like a Yetti—a lovable, clueless Yetti. In the winter, my dad would strap her to a sled and she’d pull my sister and me up and down the street. Looking back, it seems strange and just a little bit unkind, but she loved it. I think. We definitely loved it and she seemed to be pretty pleased. She served as both an exciting means of transportation and a great friend. Since the runs filled her with so much joy and we were such excellent company (and maybe because her brain was a little stunted), she couldn’t recognize her exhaustion. We would spend hours romping around in the snow and climbing all over her. Eventually, my dad would force her inside to rest and we would all collapse in front of the heater.
Now when I’m walking down a really snowy street, I think about how much better my journey would be if I had Sage around to pull me through it. The downside was that she left a trail of stink wherever she went, but there’s always a trade-off in life.