Put A Lid On It

“Do you have anything in that cup?” 

It took me a second to answer because 1) I was wearing headphones, 2) I had said hi with a weird grin because 3) I am never sure if I have enough money on my bus pass. But the driver pointed to my mug again, and I unplugged one earbud. 

“Oh, yes it’s just coffee.” 

“Just” as opposed to what, exactly, I don’t know, but last week some guy popped open a bottled beer inside an actual paper bag like a 1920s hobo on a train, so at least not that. 

“You need to have a lid.”

“I’m not going to spill it…” 

“That’s what they all say.” 

I laughed a little because do they all say that? Also I was trying to lighten the mood because the bus was already ten minutes late, I could feel myself getting angry about nonsensical rules, and I didn’t have a lot of options left to get to work on time if I got kicked off the bus. 

“Next time I can’t let you on the bus without a lid.” 

“OK,” I said. But I didn’t say it in a nice way. I said it like I was 15 and in trouble for talking too much in class, which I have a lot of practice saying while rolling my eyes. I wish I had more practice saying effective and adult things, like, “how is this more of a problem than the man eating an onion salad on the Sunday bus?” 

But alas, I spent the rest of the ride preemptively clutching my almost-empty, air-temperature coffee in a reusable mug because I’m trying to save the planet, worried both that I would spill it by accident or reflexive spite, and that I would be banned from Culver City busses for life. 

Of course there are rules, otherwise public transit would be a seething pit of sticky messes and everyone would slosh on, solo cup in hand. And yet I have legitimately seen a woman clip her toenails on the bus, and one time I sat in Doritos. 

This is where I’m supposed to tell you how yoga makes you a better person who never gets angry, but the indignity of a double standard will get me every time. Being fired up about something isn’t inherently bad, and has created many and important waves of change throughout history. 

This is not one of those times though, and it is equally important to check in with how a singular, personal convenience relates to the bigger picture. I don’t particularly care about having to use a lid on my mug. I just hate being told what to do. 

“I’m not four, I don’t need a sippy cup,” I explained to my friend after I got off the bus in a huff. 

“Wait, you don’t have a lid for your mug?”

“That’s not the point.”

“Yeah, but what happened to it?”

“I dropped it on the ground and it shattered.” 

But like, we can all agree on the toenails, right?

False Positives

A few weeks before this challenge started, I posted a video to Instagram about the trap of forced positives. It was partly on the heels of a discussion with a friend about general yoga culture annoyances, and partly in response to specific classes I had taken.

It’s a well-established fact that I hate being told to smile. As if some outward social nicety has any bearing on my actual feelings, is any of your domain to demand, or specifically belongs in a practice designed for introspection and neutrality. Among other things. 

In much the same way, and because as a theme I hate being told what to do even if I like to do it, I find the current yoga world narrative of “be positive at all costs” nauseatingly shallow. 

One of my articles on a yoga website in 2013 had a fair amount of traffic, and contained a large amount of snark. The comments weren’t moderated, which meant people could be as shitty as people are on the internet, without fear of retribution. One guy called me a douche. Another called me a bitch, but I’m used to that. 

But one lady took the time to spell out just exactly why I am a horrible person, and then signed off, “In Love and Light.” 

That is not how this works. You cannot negate all the bad shit you said by deciding it was well-intentioned, thus deserved, and absolve yourself of treating people badly. 

When I first moved to Boston, I had an audition at a newly opened yoga studio wherein we each had to teach part of a class while smiling throughout our segment. One girl actually cried the whole time. Tears of joy from how moved she was by taking us through two poses, which I thought was kind of breaking the rules, but then again, I really struggled with the whole constantly-grinning-while-talking thing. 

These might seem sort of extreme as examples of inauthenticity, but take any of the popular hashtags or yoga culture phrasing:

Good Vibes Only

Attitude of Gratitude

Choose Happiness

Any of these are well-meaning and if applied carefully, can create a healthy mindset. If applied with the sense gathered from white-washed social media, they simply feed into an avoidance tactic masquerading as an agent of change. 

You can’t ONLY HAVE GOOD VIBES. It is not possible, nor is it valuable. 

“Thank you sir may I have another,” isn’t what most people would rank as a mantra. 

And I would like to choose happiness, in the same way that I would choose to be a millionaire or to not get stuck outside in torrential rain, but it doesn’t exactly work like that. 

It works like work. Like practice. Like having the tools to be able to direct your energy in productive ways while also feeling the feelings you have. You have to be able to sit with things and get to the center of them before you can send them on their way. Otherwise, you’re really just shoving them in the closet and telling your mom you cleaned your room, and I can tell you how that ends. (Not well.)

“Leave your problems at the door,” is another phrase that gets looped into this. As if you could step out of your own life when you walk into class. As if you should. Not only are we in the business of literally bringing things into union, not compartmentalizing, but your emotions live in your body because you live in your body. You can’t actually get out of it, you have to go through. 

There is a ton of value in going to therapy, and it cannot be replaced by taking a bunch of yoga asana. I think people forget that. 

There are some ways in which yoga, and asana specifically, becomes a useful tool in the deeper version of a progression into positive mindsets: 

  1. Focus on the breath. When things get tough, go straight to basics. What is happening now, and how can I get to a steady place in order to think it through? Full inhale, slow exhale. 
  2. Be in your body. Along with the breath that you have, where are your feet, how are you standing, what is clenching? If one shoulder hikes up, slide it down. If your hands are making fists, soften them a touch. Notice if any of these small changes affect what you’re thinking about or how you feel. 
  3. Sit with your feelings. Not to give them any unnecessary weight, but to know the story that you are telling yourself. See if it’s true. 

One of my very favorite teachers says to do things “without judgment or praise.” Generally, if we aren’t critiquing ourselves we are giving ourselves props. Can you do neither and just do a thing? 

It’s actually nearly fucking impossible, but wildly important. It’s where we get to that zero hour. The place of neutrality where there is room for life again. Because only when no one is shouting at you to smile can you truly find what it means to be happy. 

Gaslighting

Heaven, if it exists, begins with someone washing your hair, and a deep scalp massage. I don’t know what happens after that, but at least you are clean and presentable for the afterlife. 

When I was little, I was convinced the stars were angels, and that this was why, “I wish I may, I wish I might,” worked any at all. It wasn’t wishing so much; it was praying. Then I saw It’s a Wonderful Life, and loudly proclaimed that they stole my idea, which everyone laughed at since the movie premiered in 1946. 

The first time I went as blonde as I am now was by accident. They sat me in the dryer with foils all over my head, as I’d been doing for a year with soft highlights, and then forgot about me. I read a whole, outdated magazine with a bunch of stories I already knew, and I wondered at the construct of time and how anyone functioned without checking an iPhone display with every fidget. 

My hair turned out to be exactly what I never thought I wanted, but loved. When I asked for the same thing next time, they didn’t believe the color I was suggesting.

“No, we never go that light for you.”

“That’s what it was last time - I have a photo.”

“No. I always write the color down, see, yours is not that blonde.” This, in fact, proved nothing to me as it was just a string of numbers. I felt strongly that the photo was a better argument, but I acquiesced to some kind of compromise which was, at its core, not bad and not not bad either. 

It’s difficult to make yourself heard when you aren’t the one holding the bleach. 

“Are you allergic to anything?” I was filling out paperwork, and we were at the medical history section. 

“Bees,” I said. 

“Um, how about medicines? Penicillin, or…” 

“Oh. Morphine.”

“Morphine? That’s it?”

“I mean, I think? I had it in the hospital once and I got very hot and my throat started squeezing.”

This to me seems like a poor reaction to something designed to give you ease, but it never fails to garner a raised eyebrow, like maybe a rapidly closing airway isn’t the worst that can happen. 

The ghost I had in my Wrigleyville apartment tried to choke me once. I woke up gasping and swatting the air. He was a trickster, not a pervert. I think he was ten or twelve. Once I saw him bouncing a basketball into the street. 

He snuck all around the building, and wasn’t always in my place, but when he was, he’d slam the doors, make like a breeze with all the windows closed, and constantly turn off the heat. Occasionally, and only for company, he would turn the shower off mid-rinse. One time he knocked the bedroom doorknob out in the middle of the night, you know, just for funsies. 

I wasn’t bothered by him until the choking, which I’m pretty sure my then-boyfriend did not believe. 

“You do have terrible dreams,” he said. 

“But I don’t wake up like that. It was like when the ghost at home used to sit on my bed,” I said, derailing all of my credibility. 

I moved shortly after that, but my next place had mice and I kind of missed the pre-teen angst. I hope he found some solace, and moved up to that head massage we all long for.  

In the weeks before I moved to California, as more and more people found out, I got a flurry of unsolicited advice. 

“Good luck out there with all the other yoga babes.”

“I couldn’t live out there because I’m too career-driven, but maybe you won’t care as much.”

“You kind of look like everyone else, but I hope it makes you happy.”

All real things that real people said because people are not self-aware nor very helpful. And I am glad that I didn’t listen to any of them beyond writing them down so I could do exactly what I’m doing now, which is list them as evidence of wrongness. 

That line between knowing when to fight for what is true and when to let things be false is a dotted one I think. Porous. You are able to float between sides like a ghost. 

I always wish the same thing on stars. I won’t tell you what it is, but you can know it’s never changed. Sometimes I pick a star and realize it’s a plane and I get sad that I wasted sacred breath on something less than an angel. 

We all have a story and we want it to be right. For life to have meaning and for hurts not to be in vain, and to be special and different and true. 

When my dad was little he never understood the big reveal in The Wizard of Oz. They didn’t have a color TV, so when Dorothy landed in her magical new world, it looked to my dad as pretty much the same. It wasn’t until he was an adult that he saw it in color. 

“Did you know it was supposed to be in color?” I asked. The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie as a kid, and I couldn’t imagine unknowing the yellow bricks into grey bricks. 

“I mean, I guess I had heard that. I don’t know, it was still cool. It was still a different world with talking scarecrows and singing. But it was wild to see it in color!” 

I have a hard time letting things be false, but sometimes there is more magic in that state. When a plane is the brightest star you’ve ever seen, coming straight for you, at least for a moment. 

Shark Baby

For a stretch of time, my dad and I would watch old movies in the middle of the night. Somewhere in my college years, I think, when we were both trusty night owls. My dad flips through channels slowly, in a way that makes you think, “possibly we will watch this channel until the TV dies.” 

C-Span, PBS symphonies performing atonal horrors, closed-circuit county courthouse footage, anything really, my dad gives it a full chance. 

“Let’s just see,” he will say. 

We’d entertain a few lame options before the late-night, black and white movies would show up on the higher numbers. 

We watched Rear Window this way. And The Bad Seed, which in retrospect, was not a good choice for 3AM because it is scary AF. 

And, of course, The Hustler

This was a few years after my dad had taught me how to play pool. Taught me and then we didn't keep up at it, so my skills were rough-hewn at best, though this didn't stop me from being fully invested in the movie’s plot-line as if it were my written destiny.  

I have always wanted to be good at pool. In the same way I want to be good at knowing about cars or playing poker, neither of which are things I can do in any way. 

To walk into a room, (looking like me and not Paul Newman obviously,) pick up a pool cue and just nail it? That’s a kind of power they make (one very iconic) movies about. 

Instead, I can awkwardly hold a pool cue while wondering where to grab it, sometimes not hit the lampshade with it, and most of the time I don’t miss the cue ball completely. 

Last night I only lost by three, almost all of the times I played. The other time I lost by like the whole set of solids. 

There’s a Donald Duck cartoon about the math involved in billiards, that I think I also watched in the middle of the night, where he pictures all the angles in his head before the shot and it breaks down how it bounces. It is simultaneously overwhelming and triggers some kind of challenge instinct in me, wherein I think if I could just turn my brain off enough, I would be able to have geometric visions and suddenly become the pool player I’ve always wanted to be. 

This, however, works less well than just aiming higher on the cue ball, or, as discovered last night, looking at the ball itself instead of staring off into the distance where you’re hoping it ends up. 

But, let’s just see. 

My dad is now more of a morning person, while I have remained a night one. It will be my birthday in exactly an hour and a half - nearly 3AM. I feel like it is no surprise that I am so drawn to the quiet and spaciousness of that hour. It is how I came into things. 

Extremes

In the grand balancing act of Polite But Direct, I can generally hold my own, but today I was stumped twice in a row because how do you explain to a stranger that everything they are doing is what you hate most in the world of living in public and also take off that atrocious hat that I definitely had, in brown, found in the basket of winter things when I was seven? You know, but politely. 

What are we calling hipsters these days? Or the special subset who look like someone’s weird and potentially dangerous uncle who lives in the basement but then you see their face close up and you’re like, “nah, you’re 22, and I think you’re wearing moisturizer.” 

That guy was at the end of the bar seating where I had my coffee today, singing exactly one phrase ahead of every part of every song while stomping his expensive-yet-tarnished low-tops on the metal foot-bar and shaking the entire row. 

“I AM NOT HERE FOR THIS.” I texted my best friend. 

But in real time, it was either sit still and stew, or run over, snatch the beanie and scream-cry, “IT IS 65 DEGREES, YOU SOCIOPATH.” 

I sat and stewed because today I have no in-between. 

Eventually he left and made way for a group of three, who seemed promising until the guy closest to me broke out a vape pen and tried to hide it by blowing the smoke under the lip of the bar, directly onto both his thigh and mine. 

After the fourth surprise attack of aerated Flintstones’ vitamins, I turned my back on him and visibly coughed. It felt cheap and I hated myself for not just saying something, especially since I would have been right, but what exactly do you say? 

“Um, excuse me, I hate that because it smells like hospital death and raspberry chalk.”

Actually that is exactly what I would have said if I wasn’t second-guessing how angry I was from all the pre-singing earlier. 

By the time I turned around again, the group was gone and I was alone with no one to ask if they could watch my stuff so I could use the bathroom like you are supposed to in times like these. Instead, I went to Rite-Aid and pretended to be fascinated by Easter candy and ladies’ hand weights, which wasn’t really a stretch because why is there a separate section for Girl Workout Things, tucked in the same aisle as the feminine products, when two rows over one whole aisle houses Regular Workout Things, alongside tools and toys? 

A couple of months ago, I went to Ulta for similar reasons (see: wasting time by making errands last too long) and happened into Workout Makeup

Designed not to wipe off with sweat! 

I was LIVID. 

Do I need to explain why this is such a bad idea? I feel like it’s obvious, but I also feel like a lot of things are obvious, and anyway I have only extremes today, so let me just say, “FUCKING NO.” 

Power in Numbers and Rhythm

Wandering into the March for Our Lives today felt wrong in all the ways it should feel wrong. It was also an accident and I stayed on the sidewalk, but I don’t think that makes anything better. It’s just true. 

In between classes one and two, I stopped to get coffee because I slept three hours and, well, it was morning, and in my stumbly brain I wondered why everyone around me was holding sticks. Some of the signs had been repurposed from the Women’s March, and there were exactly zero people chanting anything, so it took me until I was inside the coffee shop to put it all together. 

It’s not like I didn’t remember this was happening, or didn’t want to be a part of it - I certainly did, and did! This was a strange Santa Monica offshoot of the main March though, so nobody working in the neighborhood knew about it, and there were a whole lot of White people. So many White people. 

I watched videos of the speeches in Washington on my way home from class number three, sobbing on the bus like a loon. The single most encouraging thing about the momentum of Parkland is how intersectionality has been swept up into it, like a stream filtered into this wave and now it can mean something. 

Now it can knock you over with the depth of what has been happening all along. 

All along, and all still, and if you haven’t watched Naomi Wadler’s speech yet, do it now. It’s HERE for you. 

For all of my adult life except for my two TFA years, I have worked weekends. I have worked almost every Saturday for the past 13 years. I missed the Women’s March last year, and again this year, for all the same reasons - I had to work - and every time it gets me thinking about how I can make a difference when I keep missing these pivotal, historic events. 

Because there is not just power in numbers, but power in the voices we hear.

About halfway through someone’s class I start to pay attention to the music. For the first twenty or so minutes, I let myself absorb, find some kind of rhythm. At about halfway, I dissect. 

How many female voices have there been? How many male?

How many White voices have there been, and in what capacity?

Have there been any voices from any other cultures or languages and if so, how were they used? 

I do this because I do it for my own playlists too. The sound we take in is the auditory diet we feed ourselves, and if it’s getting a steady stream of racist narratives, it throws a serious dam into any sort of change with which we have started to flow. 

Think of the greater implications of if the only time you hear a voice of color is in a Hip-Hop song for a fast-paced or difficult sequence, and the times you hear a White voice is the end of class, toward Savasana. One might start to associate Black voices with aggression and White with ease and passivity. We can change that horribly offensive story by intentionally placing the voices diversely, mixed all up in a playlist, giving power where it's due, and where we don’t always hear it. 

And subsequently, we can stop playing so much goddamn Bon Iver before I lose my shit. 

Yoga-mergency

Because I watched too many episodes of ER and did not have occasion to buy drugs from anyone at an early, or any, age, when I see someone with a beeper, I assume they are important rather than delinquent. 

I realize it is 2018.

But the guy with the pager in class who kept checking his phone mid-class? I figured he was a doctor. When he started eating snacks in half-pigeon I had my doubts, but maybe he’s diabetic and had to stay on top of it? 

Everyone has the occasional alarm foul, and I can certainly forgive an emergency, but I am slightly unnerved at how anyone keeps their phone right next to their yoga mat, pretty much ever. 

This might have to do with how I started a yoga practice before personal cell phones existed, a fact about which I’m not even exaggerating, but am also possibly 1,004 years old. Or how when I took Ashtanga for a full year they made us take off all jewelry because it restricts the energy flow, so if we’re going to look at energy that carefully, the phone is the first thing to go. I relish the opportunity to turn my phone off, or on silent, or shove it so far down in my bag that it causes a slight panic after class. 

I turn my phone off on planes. Not airplane mode - off completely. 

I let my phone die if I’m not stranded, don’t need Spotify, or don’t have to incessantly check Google Maps. 

I have a hard time keeping my phone on airplane mode overnight because my family all live far away, and if I had to construct some rules for this, I would say I treat my phone like a land line. You can always get a hold of me when I’m at home, it’s there for emergencies, and I screen my calls. 

Part of the ease of having so much information readily available is that, were there to be an emergency, and had you mentioned to your loved one(s), “Hey, I’m going to yoga,” that they could then quickly google the studio number, call it, and have someone pull you out of class. 

You know, hypothetically in the worst case. 

Otherwise, what we are left with is not worst cases, but regular cases of whatever else is happening. 

I have a work email that I can’t access very well from my phone, and I only catch up on IG posts once a day, (late at night before bed,) and even still today I spent two hours making playlists, so easily available that by the time I got on the bus I hid my phone from myself. By the time I got to the studio I had spent so much time staring at a screen I couldn’t remember how not to be awkward. 

Remember when ER did that live show and it was super uncomfortable? (Me, today.) 

Oh, you don’t? You probably don’t have a pager either, what a loser. 

Commercial Break

“Steroids are not magic,” I said. We were watching a documentary about performance-enhancing drugs, and my friend had wondered about the desired effect. About why the main guy hadn’t just won everything. I was not surprised. 

“I mean Barry Bonds without drugs was still a better hitter than almost everyone.” 

Steroids are not magic. They do, however take the baseline of the elite and move it up just enough that it then pressures all of the elite into taking some kind of supplement to stay relevant. But relevant at the celebrity level, not for us plebes. 

In middle school I really wanted brown eyes. All the cover models had brown eyes, and who didn’t want to look like Niki Taylor? The only green-eyed women I had seen were Maleficent, and the knock-off Belle doll at Big Lots. 

Katherine Heigl* was on the cover of Seventeen magazine in the fall of 1994, wearing a short plaid skirt that I desperately wanted, though I wanted to also look like her in it. I did not have the legs nor the confidence for such an outfit, but to be fair, Katherine’s actual legs were not what one would see in the photo. Air-brushing was an accepted norm, but even as such, I assumed it was to models what PEDs are to athletes - that you had to be abnormally beautiful for it to even have the desired effect. 

I imagined that air-brushing on a middle-school-me would turn me into just a warped copy of myself with a large head. 

In the back of those magazines was a section in which celebrity women would talk about all the things they carried in their purse. An accompanying photo of said purse showed the contents artfully splayed out with product descriptions, and absolutely zero pieces of lint, used gum wrappers, fuzzy mints, or the 87 bobby pins that are constantly in mine. 

Occasionally, of course, would be the actress with the good luck charm her grandmother gave her, or the discontinued perfume, but the woman from the Olay commercials had Olay products, as did the Noxema spokeswoman with her Noxema cream. And even dumb, 13-year-old me, searching for green-eyed role models with athletic thighs, even I, knew that they were paid to say these things even if they liked the products a whole lot. 

There is some controversy on Instagram currently, a part of which includes encouraging paid spokesmodels to label their paid endorsements with #ad or #sponsored. Do you really not know, though? Does anyone plug products without having a vested interest in them? You either like them enough to tell everyone about them, or you like them enough to get involved with them in a paid arrangement and then tell everyone about them. 

What we are lacking here is not transparency, it’s critical thinking. When presented with information in a commercial platform, do we accept it as gospel or do we do our own research and make our own opinions? 

I should never be able to create your opinion, no matter what my influence is. Sure, I have some responsibility to not be an asshole, and wouldn’t it be nice to live in a commercial-less society, but I can give you my opinion, and you can read up on objective facts from vetted sources and come up with your own. I cannot give you your mind. 

This is, of course, how we ended up here though, in a garbage-fire presidency, but at least athletic thighs are in now because I still want product info on that plaid skirt.

 

 

 

*Also has brown eyes. Originally I thought it was Niki Taylor on the cover of YM in 1993, but research brought up this photo below, so I may have conflated the two covers unless there's another one from 93/94 with a plaid skirt, which is highly likely. 

IMG_1053.jpg

Interview Questions

In between becoming irrationally angry at the price of razor blades* and drinking an excessive amount of caffeine today, I got a notification that the interview I did last week went up online. 

The Native Society contacted me with a list of questions, and while I could have used this as my #500wordsaday, I will not because I am pious and self-regulatory, and so you can read the interview HERE

Most of my answers were things I have said before, or at least have believed firmly enough for long enough to come up with readily. The Biggest Challenge question, though, that one stopped me. 

One of my biggest pet peeves in the yoga industry is how many classes are led by teachers who act like this is all easy or simple or like nothing bad happens in this rosy world of stretchy limbs. Look, the human condition is difficult, and breathing is surprisingly hard, so if you tell me that everything is perfect and all we have to do to fix the world is hold a plank, well, I might think you haven’t had anything real happen to you. 

The flip side of this, of course, is running the risk of using challenges as a sort of “being real” badge. A martyr syndrome. I am doing the most because I’ve had it the worst. This, though, happens less frequently in yoga circles where “nothing bad happens,” and more often in social justice circles where “everything bad happens.” 

In thinking about my own challenges, it occurred to me that navigating between those extremes is the biggest one. 

I started out, just out of college, with a charge to change things (lo, the Achievement Gap!) but with no regard for the lifestyle** I could have under such a weight to bear. When it came time to, as my mom said, “put beauty back” in my life, I had no clear picture for how to do it without erasing all of the work I had fought for and still believed was so necessary. 

This is partly because there is no clear picture for that, which in turn is partly because everything around us is separated so drastically that no one is actively painting one. No one tells you that if you make yourself comfortable, that you can also change the world. 

But you can, so let me be that person, the one who paints this for all of us - you can have joy in your life and also make a difference. 

As long as we are living within the confines of a human experience, one in which we are pulled in drastically differing directions, I would argue that knowing what beauty is in your life gives you a stronger sense of what is true and important. 

 


 

*BUT WHY? I had to talk myself out of buying a single, whole razor rather than the 5-pack of blades because I have to remind myself of foresight sometimes, but also this has to do with income inequity and the survivalist trap and might have to be a whole post on its own. 

**A lifestyle of eating only peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon and crying a lot. 

Hostess

I think if I could sum up all my annoyances with other people, it would be:

STOP MAKING MOUTH NOISES.

Currently though, it’s, “stop making mouth noises and glaring at me for sitting near you when I was here first and your boyfriend is wearing cuffed jean shorts and talking to you in a baby voice.”

It’s at this point that I do the Temper Tantrum Checklist.

Am I hungry?

Am I tired?

Do I need a change of clothes/scenery?

(All of the above.) 

I would really like to believe that we are all just walking each other home, or whatever other romantic quote expresses well the intent to connect, but then I spend so much time trying to avoid snacking sounds and unwanted stares and the general grab-iness that is strangers in public. 

When I worked in retail for a hot second*, we were encouraged to connect with guests through “authentic conversation.”

"Avoid the tired, 'can I help you find something,'" we were told. 

Rather, we were to treat our job as if we were hosting a cocktail party, and therefore greeting our friends. 

This for me turned into a lot of shallow compliments.

“Ooh I love that bag!” I would say.

Or, “Gah, I have that shirt in black and I wish I got it in every color.”

I mean, it was retail so it wasn’t strange to be talking about clothes and accessories. But even a week or so in I was thoroughly annoyed with my own voice. This cannot be what anyone means by “authentic.”

Before I went off to France the second time, I read an article about how truly American it is to compliment external things so frequently in public. It is second-nature as an American to smile at other people, to tell them we like what they are wearing. French people don’t do this. If they give you a compliment, it doesn’t mean they are casually striking up a conversation or trying to make sure you know they are friendly. 

The close-held opinion means something. It carries weight. And a smile should be earned.

I would very much like to not rely on the cheap and easy ways in which we commodify relationships, and when I put these wants together with hope and belief in the best of humans? Well, this is the work then. Because it is a difficult conversation to start.

 

 

*I worked for a holiday season at a popular and much-maligned yoga retailer. While I am not cut out to be good at selling pants, it was a much more valuable experience than I intended it to be. 

Rules

This morning I subbed a couple of classes for another teacher who is either out of town or doing something interesting, but I couldn’t remember what kind of exciting event took her away from the studio. 

“She might be on vacation,” I said. “Who knows - you should ask her how it was when she comes back.”

“It must be hard for you yoga teachers to go on vacation,” one of the students said, after class. 

“It just takes a lot of logistical planning.”

“Yeah but you’re yoga teachers - you should be able to be spontaneous and free!”

Well, sort of. 

There’s a certain amount of spontaneity afforded by a schedule made up of hour-long increments and splotchy days. Like going grocery shopping on a Tuesday afternoon or sleeping in on Fridays. 

There’s also quite a lot of organizational skill required for a job that involves multiple independent contractor agreements and the idea that if you show up late for work, everything is ruined. 

Not to mention, if you truly care about providing a safe and dynamic physical practice, you spend a good amount of time planning out an intelligent sequence. Even if some of that is intuitive and even if no one else will know you did it. 

What looks like being spontaneous and free is often just a careful balance of riding the rails of society while following a set of rules you have designed for yourself. 

I knew I would be running late for the play last night because I’m me, but also because there was no way around my me-ness coming straight from the studio. 

“What row are you in?” The usher asked me. I had tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but I was checking my phone while walking, which is never a good idea, and I’m pretty sure my shirt was halfway up my stomach. 

“I’m going to F.” I had a moment of doubt that must have also clouded my face. Or she caught a whiff of my sweaty, studio hair. 

“Are you sure? Let’s look at your ticket.”

Shit. 

“Uhp, your ticket says L!” She said it like she was auditioning for a revamped Trix commercial. One where everyone is fully irritated by the rabbit and they make no attempt at masking it. 

“Sure, but my friends are in F, so I’m just gonna go say hi.” The theater was half-empty and as far as I’m concerned, if you’re late you forfeit your preferred rewards privileges. Even though I also was late and this is only something I think when it applies favorably to me. 

“Ooh, actually, I can’t walk you to F because your ticket says L.” 

I looked forlornly down the row, unable to bring myself to sprint away down the aisle. She walked me to the L seats. There was an empty seat on the innermost side, which seemed ideal for stealing across to meet my friends once the pre-show ended. 

“So you can have either seat eight in the middle, or all the way down at the end!” If the Amazon Alexa is ever bought out by Disney, her voice would be ideal. 

She stood, blocking the wide expanse of the aisle and waited for me to shuffle past the only two people in the row and into a seat, surrounded by no one. 

I remained in exile until intermission, when she finally stopped pacing by me and I joined row F, wishing I were actually a touch more spontaneous and free. 

Destruction of a Fantasy

This is not how I wanted to start this, but I feel like you should know that I rubbed my mascara-laden eyes and now my hand looks like Dumbledore’s dead, black fingers in book six. 

I so rarely wear makeup that I forget about it until it itches and I inevitably ruin it. There is a metaphor there but my eyes are tired and heavy with smear, and I can’t get to it. My face bears a striking resemblance to Beetlejuice at the moment, which is taking all of my concentration. And my soul, if you believe in the hype. 

My friend Vanessa and I went hiking a few months ago with her son, Jonah. He was very interested in a small stone labyrinth at the top of the mountain, specifically in “making the art better.” This mostly consisted of rearranging some errant pebbles and a lot of high kicks, but to his credit, it did seem to improve things. 

“What happens when you die, Mommy?” Jonah asked, mid-kick. 

“Well, what do you think happens?” Vanessa employed the same tactic as my parents when confronted about Santa Claus. I, not quite as seamlessly, also high-kicked in the labyrinth. 

“Hmm. I think that’s it, you’re dirt,” said Jonah. He resumed humming the refrain of the song he had sung on repeat on the way up the mountain. 

I wish more of my daily conversations were both this deep and this simple, if not quite this creepy on account of the humming.  

What kind of other world would you want to live in?

Which version of death scares you the least?

Why does the Buzzfeed Muppet quiz keep giving me Miss Piggy when this is clearly not accurate? 

What is worse, and what is more of an immediate threat - Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World? 

Why did we make plastic and why didn’t we see how bad it could be? 

How do you make the art better in the labyrinth?

Answers are not enough. I want to live in these questions for a while. I want to know the information on all sides - to surround a thing and take it down. Ruin it. 

At the Universal Studios tour on Wednesday, they took us through some of the famous sets from Universal shows and movies. Immediately behind the iconic Bates Motel in all its desolate glory, towered the glittery, snowy, domed houses of Whoville. 

I suppose you can’t want to live in a world of magic and at the same time learn illusory tricks. You’ve either committed to destruction or fantasy. But please excuse me while I hum Harry Potter theme music on repeat to myself and try to sleep.

Teflon

All that was necessary was for him to scoot over in the backseat. Instead, he got out, waved me in, and walked around to the street side of the car to get back inside. 

It was quite chivalrous, and in return he looked over my shoulder to read my phone, tried to make eye contact with me for rest of the Uber pool ride. 

These are things I have to come to expect. 

Twice this month I have been followed off the bus and into Trader Joe’s. 

“Excuse me, I think you’re really pretty and I’d like to take you out to dinner,” he said, pushing an empty cart and whispering at the back of my head. 

“Oh, I’m very flattered, how nice, but no thank you,” I said. I kept walking. He returned his sham of a cart and left the store. 

The time before that, a man with no cart followed me around, hiding behind end-caps and slowly picking up objects nearby. I told the store manager and they walked me to the corner. 

Which things do you ignore and which things are worth getting riled up about? And why is there a distinction?

When I started teaching in Chicago, my mom told me to, “be like Teflon - let everything just roll off of you.” Sort of the adult version of, “I’m rubber, you’re glue.” I think they discontinued Teflon, though. 

A few months ago, tired of feeling like too much glue in too many conversations with girlfriends, I decided to sort this out. Literally. It’s been a while since I took a math class, but a Cartesian graph still seemed like the most efficient choice. 

IMG_9716.jpg

Benign v Malignant on perceived intentions, and I generally give people the benefit of the doubt. Tolerable v Intolerable on a can-I-be-Teflon scale. 

In relaying my multiple Trader Joe’s encounters, I tried to downplay it because that is what we are conditioned to do. 

“I think maybe I’m just approachable.” 

“You are not approachable,” my male friend said. He laughed. “Like not at all.” 

We had been out for the day, in public, waiting in lines, being in crowds. He told me he had counted how many times men stared at me, and that it had struck him, stuck to him, glued.  

But these are things we have come to expect. 

If I let every stare from every person on every day get to me, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. None of us would. We have to draw the line somewhere, chart it somehow in the sea of Patriarchal Problems. 

As my Uber pool co-rider left the car, he made eye contact, told each of us to have a good night. He waited for me to smile at him. 

“You too,” I said. I did not smile. 

 

 

Note: I fully expect every woman’s graph would look different, and I actually would love to see what other people come up with on this. 

Enter: Viola Swamp

About a hundred and five years ago, or “2003,” I was a substitute teacher in Chicago Public Schools before I got my permanent placement. I spent five weeks filling spots all around the city - a city I did not know and had never driven in before. This was before Google Maps and almost at the start of the Internet at all. 

MapQuest directions, (which I had to print out at home and take with me,) often sent me to dead end streets in neighborhoods where, if my brand-new Toyota didn’t give me away, my corduroy skirt and button-down blouse surely would. 

“Hi, I’m supposed to sign in, in the office,” I would say. 

“Are you meeting someone?”

“No, I’m teaching eighth grade special ed today.” I was always teaching eighth grade special ed, though I was in no way qualified for this. 

“Oh, I thought you were a student!” Every. Time. 

Granted, I was a couple of months out of college, but I taught K-8, and to this day I truly don’t know how anyone thought I was 13, at most, every day for a month and a half. Especially in the corduroy skirt and button-down blouse. 

As a middle or elementary school student, you have one true aim for a substitute teacher: push them until they break. There is a lot to be said on the topic of how students in low-income areas push back on adults in general to see if they will leave. If they do, it is what the kids have come to expect, and if they don’t, well they passed the test. A test, however, which is never really over. 

In the case of substitutes, it’s no-holds-barred because you only have to push this one around for one school day. It’s like Miss Nelson Is Missing except there is no Viola Swamp to fear, just pure chaos. 

As a middle or elementary school substitute teacher, you walk into a room of grinning kids who are waiting to eat you alive. 

Until this week I was subbing more yoga classes per week than I taught of my own on a schedule. Every room has different music controls, lighting, orientation, props. Every format is only as detailed as its online description. Beyond that, it’s whatever the regular teacher has developed in style, voice, and vibe. People in LA go to class for their teacher. 

So far no one has thrown any chairs at me, none of the desk staff thinks I am a teen, and to my knowledge, no student has called me a “crazy bitch” or threatened to kill me. 

Yoga: 1; Public Schools: 0

But I regularly walk into a room a glaring adults who are greatly disappointed that it is me at the front of the room. Viola Swamp.

That fall of 2003, in between sub appointments, I had at least three interviews a week for my permanent placement. In every interview, the principal asked the same question.

“Do you think you need to love your students in order to teach them?” 

I always said yes because I thought that was the answer they were looking for, but I still don’t know what the correct answer to this was because I didn’t get any of those jobs. By the time I had my interview at my permanent school, I had been yelled at by both students and other teachers, lost an entire classroom of special needs children, unearthed a used latex glove on a teacher’s desk, and felt a general despair about creating lesson plans from nothing but a daily newspaper and one Sharpie marker. 

“I don’t think you need to, but I will.” 

I will because you don’t need to, but it does fucking help if you can find some compassion. 

There’s a teachable moment somewhere now in the yoga community about walking into class having so many expectations for the experience you're about to have. I do get it though. No one takes class hoping it will be nothing they understand or know, and for that I can sit at the front of the room and absorb some glares. 

It is, I admit, pretty wearing, and I am beyond thankful for my regular classes with my familiar faces. I don’t need to love you, but I really do.

Starts and Stops

Part of why I like the #500wordsaday challenge is that I’ve done it a few times now, and have seen it all the way through. The first time I was convinced I wouldn't make it, since I tend to start things and fade out. Quietly but all at once like I never meant to try it at all. 

Now that I have proven to myself I can get through 30 days of this, let me cheat for a day and give you a listicle. 

Things I Have Started and Did Not Finish:

  • Modern Dance, 1986 (no rhythm)
  • Playing the Violin, 1987 (hated practice)
  • Basket Weaving, 1998 (supplies were fairly limited)
  • Handmade Paper Dolls, 1989 (artistic talent paled in comparison to existing dolls)
  • Pen Pal in California, 1990 (liked stationery more than actually writing)
  • Girl Scouts, 1991 (not a good salesperson, had to buy almost all cookies)
  • Pen Pal in Spain 1992 (enthusiasm waned post-Olympics) 
  • Handmade Cards, 1993 (see also: 2007; difficult artist’s market)  
  • Babysitter’s Club Business, 1994 (more work and less friends than the book series)
  • Collecting Basketball Cards to Sell and Get Rich, 1995 (did not get rich)
  • Basketball (Playing,) 1996 (as it turns out, I’m quite short) 
  • Learning to Drive a Stick Shift, 1997 (frustrated by the failure rate, seemed inefficient)
  • That Marble Game Where You Try to Get Down to One Marble, 1998 (might be ready to tackle this one again) 
  • Trying to Be Cool, 1999 (shrug emoji)
  • Step Aerobics, 2000 (more shrug emojis)
  • Singing, 2001 (couldn’t afford voice lessons anymore, wasn’t getting discovered fast enough to warrant debt) 
  • Keeping a Diary, 2002 (tried a Bridget Jones-type narration and hated myself for it) 
  • Cooking Anything of Value, 2003 (see also: 2011, 2015, 2018; have very little patience to wait for food when hungry) 
  • Not Eating Sugar, 2004 (this was dumb; remembered the existence of cookies)
  • Spin Class, 2005 (huge quads, made me hungry all the time)
  • Reading All the Classics, 2006 (made it through Lolita, panicked that the list of books is longer than I will be alive to read; gave up from existential dread)
  • Drawing Sketches of Everyone I Know, 2007 (creepy)
  • Hanging Frames in Just the Bedroom, 2008 (no explanation; hung frames in every other room of the apt)
  • Watching “Lost,” 2009 (just couldn’t)
  • Teaching Myself Russian, 2010 (didn’t have money for Rosetta Stone, would go to Borders and read “Russian For Dummies” in the cafe; ran out of time for this)
  • Writing a Children’s Book, 2011 (and every year since)
  • Fashion, 2012 (thought could pull off “teal pants” and “scarf-as-shirt”; could not)
  • Writing On a Set Schedule, 2013 (lol routine)
  • Making Jewelry Out of Found Four Leaf Clovers, 2014 (bead shop closed, fell adrift)
  • Pinterest, 2015 (think I’m not alone here)
  • Plants, 2016 (see also: now)
  • Not Panic-Reading the Internet, 2017 (super shrug emoji; see also: The New York Times, 2017) 

In related news, I renewed some Etsy listings, and I have over a hundred four leaf clovers if anyone has any suggestions.

Girl Dog

We are dog sitting the most adorable puppy in the whole world until Wednesday. I say “we” like I have done anything other than give belly rubs and throw toys all over the apartment. But I will argue these are the most important things. 

Pepper belongs to one of my roommate’s friends and we have all individually wondered how to, respectfully, keep her and make her ours. There’s just something so wonderful about someone being that excited to see you every time you walk by. Or open the fridge. 

At one point though, as I folded laundry - the fourth and never-ending round of laundry because I work best under deadline - Pepper nosed my door open. It slowly swung open and she stood frozen in the door frame, staring at me as if she was disappointed to find me here. In such a state of human diligence. She sniffed and walked away. 

My roommate said she got moody on their walk too. Someone bent down to meet her and Pepper lost her shit, growled. This is the same dog who laid on her back, spread eagle, hoping for belly rubs from me after 46 seconds of introductions. The same dog who stands on her hind legs and claps for a stuffed alligator, hugs it, and then naps. 

It’s because of our collective inability to allow for more than one emotion at a time that I am very aware that Pepper is a girl dog. And in a lot of ways she is how we talk about female humans as well. 

“Amanda is a psycho.” The guy next to me at the coffee shop laughed. His friend agreed. 

“Oh, she’s an actual crazy bitch.”

I couldn’t hear the rest of the context due to the headphones I was wearing. Headphones that, while not playing any sounds, were on to lessen the effect of people on my worn-out energy field. Extroversion be damned, teaching too many classes will drain you of your ability to give out any more attention from your senses. 

“My sister is doing an experiment: Whenever men walk towards her, she doesn’t move out of the way first. So far she has collided with 28 men.”

A tweet that I screenshotted in 2014, and an experiment that I, also, try out from time to time. I usually can’t last the day. 

There are days when I can take up this mantle, and there are the days that wear me out. When I cannot have this conversation again. The one where I explain to you that the sidewalk is for sharing. 

How exhausting it is to be told to smile. How painfully frustrating to convey that i am not a thing you are entitled to when you get bored, that I do not have to always be happy because you are always so sad. How, standing in a doorway, staring disappointedly, I realize that you call all of your exes crazy, and that this would now include me. 

Pepper is certainly allowed a full range of emotions, but she likes naps as much as me, and I am so very tired.

Blame It On The Rain

“Today I learned that Kate is a romantic.” One of my students proclaimed, walking out of class. 

I am always surprised when people know my name. It makes me feel famous even if I have just told it to them. Even if I am the instructor and the only one talking and I’ve met you a hundred times. Still. 

“I’m a romantic?” 

“Debussy, Liszt, Chopin?”

“I tried to fit some Mozart in there too but it just didn’t work.” 

“It’s OK; you had Bach.”

I don’t know how much classical music it takes to make one a romantic. Or how much Krishna Das it takes to burn out on the yoga scene. I imagine there’s a recipe in there somewhere but I’d rather it be a mystery. 

“So,” my student said, “what do you see when you look out the window today? More like Boston or more like Chicago?” 

It rained today and not a quick rain. An all-day adventure rain. Grey and cloudy, which before living in LA I would have told you were the same thing. 

They are separate and unequal. 

Foamy, spritzy clouds you wear like a stole when they roll in, pirates dredged from the ocean. 

Faded photograph grey like all the light you know has been scratched away, kept at arm’s length. 

Grey will always be Chicago. Grey like concrete, like abandoned playgrounds, like broad alleys behind three-flats with vinyl siding, also grey. Like October and February, both but separately. 

Cloudy was Boston. Unsure but full, snowy and spitting.

So what do I see when I look out the window today? I wish I could tell you that it reminds me of something, that I feel a kinship to this weather even in a negative way. 

Cloudy and grey together creates this entirely odd experience known as LA in the rain. The pirates have hijacked your vibrancy, holding it away in the mountains, and you navigate your day as though everything is familiar but wrong. 

People keep asking me if I’m homesick and I don’t want to disappoint anyone when I say no. I feel homesick for people, not for places that so often remind me of how hard it is to be outside. To be a person. 

It’s so strange that we have covered so much of the ground with pavement. We have taken this breathable space and smothered it, sealed it, capped it over with concrete. Why did we do that? I think about this when I walk around. LA gets a bad rep for being a sprawling mess of strip malls and roads, but the truth is if I space out enough, everything here reminds me of somewhere else. Nowhere is pristine nor fully alive, and when I look out the window all I see is rain. 

Today I learned that I am a romantic. 

Five Stars

It was an entire day of hazards. The light was out, either causing or because of an accident at Sepulveda and Venice. There was the lady who backed up a whole block just to get a parking spot. And, of course, the bus just never came. 

I waited 35 minutes, even though 22 would have been enough to know, and then I called a Lyft. Lyft Line to be precise, because at 3:15 it said I would be there no later than 3:38. My first class is at 4PM on Fridays, at my new studio wherein this is my second Friday. 

The driver was 10 minutes late to pick me up. Ten minutes later than the expected seven minutes.

“Just give me a second,” the driver said as he turned into an alley to press some buttons on his phone. The phone dinged with a second rider request. 

“I’m actually in a rush now, could you cancel the other rider requests? I have to get to work.” 

“You’re in a rush? Why did you get the pool then?” He laughed.

“Well, you were supposed to be here ten minutes ago, sir, and ten minutes ago I wouldn’t have been late.” 

He turned off the requests. 

I think if he hadn’t laughed, or maybe if he hadn’t started driving with his flashers on for a whole block and a half, or if he hadn’t followed the truck with the refrigerator strapped badly on its bed without any attempt at passing, I might have felt more passive, not said anything, and had just been late. 

But he laughed and none of this was my fault.

There is a Black Mirror episode about rating other people that I saw once and have thought about every single day since. It’s horrifying. It is where we are headed and I hear the way people talk about the periphery of it as if it is helpful, and all I can hear is how likely it is that the world will end with superficial judgments and a staggering lack of empathy. 

We want to blame something when things go wrong. It was the bus and the driver and the light at Sepulveda. But sometimes you sit in the back of a Lyft, listening to the Grease soundtrack playing on medium volume in a gas-efficient car and you panic-breathe at your dying phone, realizing you have no control over any of this, and, to quote your mother, “This too shall pass.” 

Nothing like living your yoga minutes before teaching it. 

I took another pool ride back from the studio because it was too late for the bus. The driver sings in a church on Sundays, but not this Sunday because they are doing home service. I do not know what this means, but I nodded. 

I helped the girl in the back seat find a liquor store near her drop-off to get a bottle of wine as a hostess gift for a house party. 

“If you do not have patience, you have no love in your heart,” the driver told me as he waited for a guy to walk across the road, out of turn and without motor control. 

“Mmm-hmm.” I wasn’t convinced of this blanket statement, but mostly for selfish reasons.

I was nearly home, but we picked up another lady a few blocks away, and given the driver’s views on patience and my own self-immolating penance due to my earlier ride, I resisted the urge to jump out of the car and run the rest of the way. 

“Am I supposed to sit in the front?” She was drunk. She didn’t realize she had called a pool. She turned all the way around to see me. “And you are?”

“Hi.”

“How old are you?” This she said not so much as a question but the way you would say it to a grown adult doing something strange, like wearing only a diaper, or eating paste. 

“Oh, no thank you.” This is my reaction to anything offered to me that I do not want to be a part of, conversation not excepted. 

“She’s rude,” she said to the driver. “You need to drop her off. Get her out.” 

“Actually she’s very nice,” the driver said. “You asked her something rude and she didn’t want to answer.” 

I’m so very glad we can’t rate other humans based on minute interactions because there are a lot of these scenarios and they shouldn’t prevent people from buying houses or having friends. 

But as for the driver, five stars, sir. 

Show Up

By 8AM I had already forgotten how terribly shitty it had been to get out of bed before dawn and had recommitted to this life of mornings. 

Coffee and planning in the sunshine with every available seat in the room open to me? So magical. Playlist? Done by 9AM. I took a long walk between classes one and two, sauna and shower between classes two and three, and got to explore the newly opened Eataly* in Century City. 

At precisely 2:24PM I began to crack at the seams. Almost lost my jacket. Couldn’t find my way back through the escalator system that I had just ridden. Spilled kombucha all over myself and kept spilling it for a solid twenty minutes. 

It’s actually quite reassuring to me that there is a drawback to this morning business. That to enjoy the foggy brightness and hush of the early risers, you would have to concede the warm and dim of night owlery. That nothing is perfect, morning people get tired too, and Idris Elba likes to DJ house music in his spare time. 

I’m reading Marcus Aurelius’ diary, which only (debatably) sounds cool when you say it like that. Because when you say, “I’m reading Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius,” you sound like a dweeb. I also thought it was going to be a little more angsty, a little more “Antoninus was such a ho today,” a little more Burn Book maybe? 

It is not. 

It is mostly recommendations for how to live a life. 

He also name-drops a lot, and in that respect it is very “XOXO, Aurelius,” but humanizing. Antoninus left a huge legacy, but he still died, and you will too, and so will I, so what about it? What are you going to do now, because at some point it won’t matter. 

“Shame on the soul, to falter on the road of life while the body still perseveres.” 

In other words, get it together while you’re still alive. 

Instead of my reusable shopping bag, I handed the cashier at Trader Joe’s my spare underwear out of my bag today. I felt a profound sadness for the ways in which I cannot function as a morning person. 

But that question - that what are you going to do now question - has no temporal quality other than present tense. 

Show up. Show up. And it doesn’t have to be 8AM for you to show up. 

It is now 2AM and I am awake and alive and writing and at some point it won’t matter, so back into the ease of midnights and meditations I go. 

 

 

*Spoiler: it’s like all the other Eatalys, only no one knows which one of the 65 doors you are allowed to enter, and you are somehow always in everyone’s way, and nope, that was still the wrong door.

All The Things I Didn't Buy at TJ Maxx Today

 

  • A St. Patrick’s Day t-shirt

Why I wanted it: St. Patrick’s Day cheer, duh.

Why I didn’t get it: By far the worst option of any of these shirts. It is amazing what you want based purely on timing. 

  • A candle poured into a gold ceramic owl, with a lid

Why I wanted it: OWLS. 

Why I didn’t get it: Gold isn’t part of my current color scheme. Also flames shooting out of an owl’s head seemed less calming than other candle options. 

  • A lantern carrier

Why I wanted it: Seemed romantic, rustic, and looked like something from that idyllic store on Abbott Kinney where I can’t afford anything but where I want to hide in the patio area until they close and can’t find me and then I can live there forever. 

Why I didn’t get it: Seemed less important than shelves for all the clothes currently living on the ground in my room. 

  • A bar stool

Why I wanted it: Could work as a modern-ish chair for the desk that I stand at, wishing I had a chair. 

Why I didn’t get it: Could only work if I set the desk up on a stage. Not the right vibe. 

  • A kimono, size XX large

Why I wanted it: Been dreaming of a robe to wear around the house that doesn’t make me look like I should be filing for unemployment or eating cereal for all meals. 

Why I didn’t get it: I am not a size XX large, even though does it matter for a kimono? This was a close call. 

  • A pair of Saucony sneakers, color pale pink

Why I wanted it: Um, hello. 

Why I didn’t get it: Already own a pair of Saucony sneakers, AND a pair of pale pink sneakers.

  • A shelving unit, on sale, “as is”

Why I wanted it: Need furniture, matched decor.

Why I didn’t get it: Missing all panes of glass, still over $100. TJ Maxx, this is some bullshit. Do less.

  • A tray

Why I wanted it: Desperately want to display candles on a tray, curated over a fuzzy blanket on a low table for maximum effect. 

Why I didn’t get it: Don’t have any of the other things for this ensemble. Thinking the tray might need to be the last piece, not the first. 

  • A different tray

Why I wanted it: See above. 

Why I didn’t get it: See above, but barely, because this tray looked like a marbled universe and how can you refuse that?

  • Honey butter popcorn

Why I wanted it: I had been in the store for 1.75 hours and would have eaten anything in my sightline at checkout. 

Why I didn’t get it: I didn’t have any free hands to grab it on account of all the things I was about to buy. 

Moral: With enough self-talk, you too can convince yourself not to buy almost 87 percent of the things you don’t need at TJ Maxx, and only return with a furry rug, a pom-adorned basket, and a pair of boots that look very much like the ones you wore to the store in the first place.